Shuy @ language log

The latest development is that a number of courts in the US are now forbidding lawyers and witnesses to use certain words during trials. Words like “rape,” “victim,” “crime scene,” “killer,” “murder,” “drunk,” “homicide,” “embezzle,” “fraud,” and “robbery” are now not allowed in some courtrooms. Language engineering like this usually has a social or political basis. In this case it’s more a problem of trying to treat the accuser and the accused fairly. District Attorneys want to keep on using words like these as they prosecute alleged criminals, while some defense attorneys claim that using such words violates the presumption of innocence that has been held dear by the legal system. They call the forbidden words, “loaded terms.”

"A hard, dark gem": Some short remarks on Thomas Bernhard’s "Frost"

I am a great admirer of Mr. Bernhard’s work, all of it. It’s almost devoid of women, yet judging from his treatment of them when they appear, this may be a good thing. His work is still amazing, possibly because of all that bile stored in his pen.

My two favorite novels of his are his first and his last one. Bernhard is a bleak writer and his last novel, called Extinction (Auslöschung) is maybe his funniest novel, his most playful, and yet ful with all his marvellous bleakness.

His first novel though is hard as a rock. You can see the humor briefly before the frost grabs it, breaks its neck and laughs bitterly. It’s very well written, incredibly so for a debut novel. As in Bernhards other work there are many repetitions, many musings upon the rotten nature of the world, yet it is his bleakest novel and that is saying a lot. There are several critics who confessed to have capitulated on their first attempt to tackle this relentless lecture in pain. The plot isn’t important, the setting is rural Austria, and the characters are a painter who went there to die and a young student who is sent there to spy on the painter and compile reports on him. The novel, which is, on top of all that, one of his longer ones with the German pb clocking in at just under 400 pages, basically consists of walks taken by the writer accompagnied by the student who strikes up a friendship with the bitter old man.

The old man lectures him on the desolate state the world is in. There’s a solution shining through (art!) but its like seeing the sun miles away while you’re standing in the rain, pummeled by a cold wind and always in danger of being hit by lightning.

Bernhard is one of the best prose stylists in the German language post 1945, and as early as Frost, he’s almost at the top of his game. Whether its the descriptions of the hideous whore that is the landlady of the inn where both protagonists are staying or of the peasants who are all sick, inside and out, and of the Frost, who dominates the landscape and eats into the hearts of the citizens of the area.

This novel reads like a development of his poetry (he started as a poet, then turned to prose and drama), sharpening it, hardening it into the dark gem that it is. Much of what is developed here returns time and again in his work, but most noticeably in what is, beyond any doubt, his masterpiece: Extinction (Auslöschung). ISBN

"…said the repulsive old Jew"

Adam Roberts in the Guardian on old English translations of Jules Verne

But when I checked the 1877 translation against the original my heart sank. It was garbage. On almost every page the English translator, whoever he, or she, was (their name is not recorded), collapsed Verne’s actual dialogue into a condensed summary, missed out sentences or whole paragraphs. She or he messed up the technical aspects of the book. She or he was evidently much more anti-Semitic than Verne, and tended to translate what were in the original fairly neutral phrases such as “…said Isaac Hakkabut” with idioms such as “…said the repulsive old Jew.” And at one point in the novel she or he simply omitted an entire chapter (number 30) – quite a long one, too – presumably because she or he wasn’t interested in, or couldn’t be bothered to, turn it into English.

And here is a second article, same author, a few days later (for completists)

Harry Crews: A Feast of Snakes

A Feast of Snakes is suprising. Not in the way it all comes together at the end, because the reader expects that, somehow. It’s surprising how complex a 177 page novel can turn out to be that starts off as ferociously and genre-attuned as this one.

The book is steeped in poison, blood, sweat and brutality, laced with a big dose of humor. Love doesn’t have a place in Mystic, Georgia, the place where the novel’s events take place, a place that’s more about power than anything else. The power, at first glance, appears to be favoring white males, they call the shots and theirs is an authority no one cares to question publicly.

However, as is said of the main character: “His job was to be the nigger” and “as soon as he was not around a white man, he quit being a nigger.” Whiteness, as we have known for a while, is indicative more of power relations than of anything else, and the power wielded by the white ‘niggers’ such as the main character, Jon Lon, is a very restricted sort of power. People can be bullied by money and by complex arrangements of words and both of these things aren’t to be found in Mystic, Georgia.

This leads Mystic’s white men to use brutality extensively to legitimize the power structure in place in town. It is not necessary to enforce it, the brutality is more of a show of strength, like a Soviet arms parade.

The novel’s language is reduced and rich at the same time. Descriptions are written in a simple yet never simplistic style that is careful and elegant. The dialogue is almost completely in dialect. The difference between that dialect and the standard English of the descriptions and of the out of town visitors is very pronounced and, again, sheds light on the power relations in and around Mystic. Whereas the white men feel superior enough in their control of language to admonish blacks thusly: “Lottie Mae, try not to talk nigger talk to me.”, the difference to out-of-towners shows that their own language is ‘nigger talk’ as well.

It’s always easy to bully those in a position that those apparently in power perceive as weaker than their own, but it, and the accompagnying false feelings of superiority, blinds the seemingly powerful to his own role in other power structures. As easy as you bully someone, you are bullied, and a generous spirit can help you see this. Many people, though, don’t. Some of which live in Mystic, Georgia.

In the bigger picture, all these whites are ‘niggers’ and their refuge, Mystic, Georgia, is about to be swallowed by the modern world, the richer, smarter and more literate world around them. Theirs is a doomed archaic civilization, where everyone turns a blind eye on rapes, having your dick sucked after cornholing someone is the height of true love and murder is almost an accepted way of meting out justice. And Harry Crews is capable of finding the right words and images for all this, in 177 paltry pages. Diving deep into myth and other granaries of language and culture, he says only what needs to be said. He never overpowers the reader with his language, which he uses only to say something, every word, every image is put to work in the service of the story.

It seems that Mystic, Georgia is beyond the grasp of either government or modern society. It’s governed by its own laws and, at the moment that it faces destruction, its laws turn out to be more of a trap than a help against a foe that doesn’t attack the way the people of Mystic expect it to. They cannot deal with a foe who does not use corporeal violence to conquer them but that is all they have left to deal with the unknown.

Harry Crews’ novel Feast of Snakes is highly recommended to anyone who enjoys novels about the American south or good novels in general. It may seem slight, but it packs a wallop. Very much worth reading.

[if you made it to the end of this erratic, self-important crap I applaud you and apologize] ISBN

On thinking

“You think of yourself as an open-minded pluralist – but you’ve got a single compact little philosophy of life, all unified, all tied up comfortably together, a few soothing ideas which let you off thinking! But we must think – and that’s what’s such hell, philosophy is hell, it’s contrary to nature, it hurts so, one must make a shot at the whole thing and that means failing too, not really being able to connect, and not pretending that things fit when they don’t – and keeping hold of the things that don’t fit, keeping them whole and clear in their almost-fittingness – oh God, it’s so hard -“

Iris Murdoch, The Book and the Brotherhood


Zwei Zitate aus Leben und Abenteuer der Trobadora Beatriz nach Zeugnissen ihrer Spielfrau Laura von Irmtraud Morgner

Der Soldat vergaß nicht zu erwähnen, daß Manöver und Rüstung entbehrlich wären, sobald die Ausbeutung des Menschen durch den Menschen in allen Ländern abgeschafft wäre. “Und die Ausbeutung der Frau durch den Menschen.” sagte Beatriz. “Wie”, sagte der Soldat. Sein Unverständnis erklärte sich Beatriz mit den idealen Zuständen seiner Heimat.


Als neulich unsere Frauenbrigade im Espresso am Alex Kapuziner trank, betrat ein Mann das Etablissement, der meinen Augen wohltat. Ich pfiff also eine Tonleiter rauf und runter und sah mir den Herrn an, auch rauf und runter. Als er an unserem Tisch vorbeiging, sagte ich “Donnerwetter”. Dann unterhielt sich unsere Brigade über seine Füße, denen Socken fehlten, den taillenumfang schätzten wir auf siebzig, Alter auf zweiunddreißig […] Wegen schlechter Haltung der schönen Schultern riet ich zu Rudersport. Da der Herr in der Ecke des Lokals Platz genommen hattem mußten wir sehr laut sprechen. Ich ließ ihm und mir einen doppelten Wodka servieren und prostete ihn zu, als er der Bedienung ein Versehen anlasten wollte. Später ging ich zu seinem Tisch, entschuldigte mich, sagtem daß wir uns von irgendwoher kennen müßten, und besetzte den nächsten Stuhl. Ich nötigte dem Herrn die Getränkekarte auf und fragte nach seinen Wünschen. Da er keine hatte, drückte ich meine Knie gegen seine, bestellte drei Lagen Sliwowitz und drohte mit vergeltung für den Beleidigungsfall, der einträte, wenn er nicht tränke. Obwohl der Herr weder dankbar noch kurzweilig war, sondern wortlos, bezahlte ich alles und begleitete ihn aus dem Lokal. In der Tür ließ ich meine Hand wie zufällig über seine Hinterbacke gleiten, um zu prüfen, ob die Gewebestruktur in Ordnung wäre. Da ich keine Mängel feststellen konnte, fragte ich den Herrn, ob er heute abend etwas vorhätte, und lud ihn ein ins Kino. Eine innere Anstrengung, die zunehmend sein hübsches gesicht zeichnete, verzerrte es jetzt grimassenhaft, konnte die Verblüffung aber endlich lösen und die Zunge, also daß der Herr sprach: “Hören Sie mal, Sie haben ja unerhörte Umgangsformen.” “Gewöhnliche”, antwortete ich, “Sie sind nur nichts Gutes gewöhnt, weil Sie keine Dame sind.”

On Marxism

“I don’t know whether Crimond is “really” a Marxist, or what that means now, they don’t know themselves. I suppose he’s a sort of maverick Marxist, as their best thinkers are. The only good Marxist is a mad Marxist. It’s not enough to be a revisionist, you’ve got to be a bit mad too – to be able to see the present world, to imagine the magnitude of what’s happening.”

Iris Murdoch, The Book and the Brotherhood

stuff white people like: knowing what’s best for poor people

Stuff White People Like:
#62 Knowing what’s best for poor people

White people spend a lot of time of worrying about poor people. It takes up a pretty significant portion of their day.

They feel guilty and sad that poor people shop at Wal*Mart instead of Whole Foods, that they vote Republican instead of Democratic, that they go to Community College/get a job instead of studying art at a University.

It is a poorly guarded secret that, deep down, white people believe if given money and education that all poor people would be EXACTLY like them. In fact, the only reason that poor people make the choices they do is because they have not been given the means to make the right choices and care about the right things.

Too Lunatic To Be True

I have been talking about these issues several times now, but still, I find it astonishing when smart people read a clearly aggressively xenophobic article like this one and find themselves nodding in time to the beat which is so obviously wrong in so many respects. The first sentence should ring several alarm bells

It seems too lunatic to be true. But here a hair salon boss reveals how she was driven to the brink of ruin – and forced to pay £4,000 for ‘hurt feelings’ – after refusing to hire a Muslim stylist who wouldn’t show her hair at work

It hits all the right buttons for its clientele. How the hairdresser is introduced, how the issue is both played up and played down, in all the right ways. It’s nauseating, right there.

And the smart people all readily jump to the flimsy excuse put forward by the woman, the rag that calls itself the Daily Mail and the BNP: of course, a hairdresser can’t cover her head. Bah. Has a person who agrees with this article never asked him- or herself, whether the scarf is just a marker of something alien and is not accepted because it represents, in a way, The Other? I know many, many bald hairdressers. I wonder if a white, plainly ‘British’ person, who wanted to wear a scarf for whatever cooky reason, would have similar problems? But the ugliness resides deeper.

Funny that even that hateful article cannot hide what, in many countries, is part of an ugly truth:

But, speaking last year, she admitted she had attended 25 interviews for hairdressing jobs without success.
But Sarah, she told the tribunal, had upset her the most.
She said: ‘I felt so down and got so depressed. I thought: “If I am not going to defend myself, who is?” Hairdressing has been what I’ve wanted to do ever since I was at high school.

No deconstructive reading necessary here, just openness, really. A certain anglocentric mindset might overlook it, but the situation described here is a common problem for Muslims and colored immigrants all over Europe. They have a tough time getting jobs. The job market has become selective, weeding out non-whites, people living in the wrong neighborhoods, ‘wrong’ unfailingly meaning an identification with an unwanted ethnic group. It’s become difficult to get a credit with a mainstream bank, CV’s are often rejected just because of the photograph. In France this situation has lead to the uprisings in the banlieues of Paris in 2005.

In other countries, too, Muslims are driven to the margins, to create their own networks to support those who are not supported elsewhere. These networks, then, appear to alienate a good portion of, for instance, the British electorate, making the situation worse and the networks more necessary. It’s a horrible situation and by making arrogant “ah what’s she complaining aboot” comments about it, comments that smack heavily of cynicism, no-one’s helping anyone.

So what is she complaining about? This hairdresser-in-the-making has had many rejections, and, as this article in the Guardian correctly points out, the reason why the poor white woman was sued, has had more to do with her honesty than with her being an exceptionally racist person. Probably more than 70% of those rejecting the girl share the hairdresser’s opinion, as I explained above.

Is that a reason not to sue? They’re all bastards, sue all or none? That’s daft, no? But, read the article again, the constant discrimination may have weakened the girl’s resolve, but being explicitly rejected because of her belief (and let’s not mince words here, please) has humiliated her. Would the hairdresser have been sued if she’d lied? Probably not. Should she have been sued? Yes. So why is it any argument to persist in saying that all this case ‘teaches’ us is to be dishonest? Do I hear a trace of a scornful Republican hizz “zzzzz it’s all that political correctness mumbo jumbo” here? Why would someone smart say that? I don’t know. It’s too lunatic to be true.

Angriffe auf das Türkentum

Aus einer Entscheidung des Bundesverfassungsgerichts, hier die Zusammenfassung der Verhandlung vor dem Amtsgericht:

Das Amtsgericht verurteilte den Beschwerdeführer wegen einer Straftat nach § 90 a StGB zu einer Geldstrafe von 150 Tagessätzen zu je 25 DM. Er habe durch Abspielen des Liedes bei einer Versammlung die Bundesrepublik Deutschland beschimpft und böswillig verächtlich gemacht. Dies ergebe sich aus dem eindeutigen Wortlaut des Liedtextes und den konkreten Umständen des Abspielens. Die Strafbarkeit des Beschwerdeführers nach § 90 a Abs. 1 StGB sei auch dann begründet, wenn das Abspielen des Liedes im Verlauf der Demonstration dem so genannten Wirkbereich eines Kunstwerkes zugerechnet werde, so dass der Schutzbereich der Kunstfreiheit, dem der Beschwerdeführer auch als bloßer Vermittler eines Kunstwerkes unterliege, berührt sei. Als rechtsstaatlich verfasste Demokratie sei die Bundesrepublik Deutschland in ihrem von der inneren Zustimmung ihrer Bürger abhängigen Bestand auf ein Mindestmaß an Achtung dieser Bürger ihr gegenüber angewiesen, auch um die Grundrechtsausübung und damit die Kunstfreiheit selbst wirksam gewährleisten zu können. Darin liege ein verfassungsrechtlich, aber auch durch § 90 a StGB geschütztes Rechtsgut, das im vorliegenden Fall betroffen sei und gegenüber dem die Berufung auf die Kunstfreiheit unter den konkreten Umständen versage. Die Berufung des Beschwerdeführers gegen dieses Urteil wurde vom Landgericht verworfen. Nach den tatsächlichen Feststellungen habe sich der Beschwerdeführer einer Straftat nach § 90 a Abs. 1 StGB schuldig gemacht. Er könne sich auch nicht auf die “Kunst- und Meinungsfreiheit” berufen. Der Schutzbereich dieser Grundrechte sei durch § 90 a Abs. 1 StGB eingeschränkt.

On Headscarves

This @ Jezebel

Perhaps you have already let out a long woebegone sigh re the news of the two Obama volunteers who barred headscarf-wearing Muslim women from sitting near him at a rally in Detroit on Monday so as not to generate any more photographic fodder for the insane wing conspiracy. […]

The biggest community of hijab-wearers I ever met worked with me at the phone sex call center, where I would regularly watch one habitually fiddle with her scarves as she regaled clients with detailed descriptions of her denim miniskirt and red lace thong and horny San Fernando Valley cheerleading squad’s locker room antics.

Obviously, one cannot bear witness to such a spectacle and emerge without entertaining thought: “God I love this country.” Which is, seven years on in this dumb Terror War, what makes this headscarf thing so infuriating: where K-Mart is free to peddle track pants that advertise abstinence from sex on their asses and the Secretary of State can don boots that look swiped from an S&M dungeon and pop culture celebrates bearded cross dressers…what does anyone give a shit about headscarves for? Where the perpetuation of conformity and envy is still the primary role of fashion, a lot more civilians will die at the hands of those who covet their Nikes than those who hate their “freedom” to wear them.


Kristol, who is a huge idiot, reprimands Obama

More striking is Obama’s sin of omission. In the rest of the speech, he goes on to detail — at some length — the “so many ways to serve” that are available “at this defining moment in our history.” There’s the Peace Corps, there’s renewable energy, there’s education, there’s poverty — there are all kinds of causes you can take up “should you take the path of service.”

But there’s one obvious path of service Obama doesn’t recommend — or even mention: military service. He does mention war twice: “At a time of war, we need you to work for peace.” And, we face “big challenges like war and recession.” But there’s nothing about serving your country in uniform.

It can’t be that the possibility of military service as an admirable form of public service didn’t occur to Obama.

And later:

[…] He felt no need to remind students of a different kind of public service — one that entails more risks than community organizing. He felt no need to tell the graduating seniors in the lovely groves of Middletown that they should be grateful to their peers who were far away facing dangers on behalf of their country

Nor did Obama choose to mention all those college graduates who are now entering the military, either for a tour of duty or as a career, in order to serve their country. He certainly felt no impulse to wonder whether the nation wouldn’t be better off if R.O.T.C. were more widely and easily available on elite college campuses.

Um. He didn’t, did he? I wonder why. *coughs*
And Kristol finishes with this:

Obama failed to challenge — even gently — what he must have assumed would be the prejudices of much of his audience and indulged in a soft patriotism of low expectations.

Thank God for softness, I say.

Schon wieder Broder

Broder spricht sehr eloquent und sehr treffend über Antisemitismus. Transkript bei Liza:

Der Antisemitismus, über den wir immer noch am liebsten reden,[…] ist, um mit Bebel zu sprechen, der Sozialismus der dummen Kerle, die noch immer einem Phantom nachjagen. […] Diese Art des Antisemitismus ist hässlich, aber politisch irrelevant, ein Nachruf auf sich selbst.

Der moderne Antisemit dagegen tritt ganz anders auf. Er hat keine Glatze, dafür Manieren, oft auch einen akademischen Titel, er trauert um die Juden, die im Holocaust ums Leben gekommen sind, stellt aber zugleich die Frage, warum die Überlebenden und ihre Nachkommen aus der Geschichte nichts gelernt haben und heute ein anderes Volk so misshandeln, wie sie selber misshandelt wurden. Der moderne Antisemit glaubt nicht an die „Protokolle der Weisen von Zion“, dafür fantasiert er über die „Israel-Lobby“, die Amerikas Politik bestimmt, so wie ein Schwanz mit dem Hund wedelt. […] Oder er dreht kausale Zusammenhänge um und behauptet, die atomare Bedrohung gehe nicht vom Iran, sondern von Israel aus […].

Der moderne Antisemit findet den ordinären Antisemitismus schrecklich, bekennt sich aber ganz unbefangen zum Antizionismus, dankbar für die Möglichkeit, seine Ressentiments in einer politisch korrekten Form auszuleben. Denn auch der Antizionismus ist ein Ressentiment, wie der klassische Antisemitismus es war. Der Antizionist hat die gleiche Einstellung zu Israel wie der Antisemit zum Juden. Er stört sich nicht daran, was Israel macht oder unterlässt, sondern daran, dass es Israel gibt. […]

Denn der moderne Antisemit verehrt Juden, die seit 60 Jahren tot sind, nimmt es aber lebenden Juden übel, wenn sie sich zur Wehr setzen.

stuff white people like: grammar

Stuff White People Like
#99 Grammar

White people love rules. It explains why so they get upset when people cut in line, why they tip so religiously and why they become lawyers. But without a doubt, the rule system that white people love the most is grammar. It is in their blood not only to use perfect grammar but also to spend significant portions of time pointing out the errors of others.

"An Engine of Hypocrisy"

Daniel C. Dennett on a case of political correctness that never gets labeled as such even though it should

It is fascinating to see how cautiously the candidates are approaching this issue in the run-up to November’s election. Everybody apparently thinks — probably rightly — that this is a race to be lost by a single fatal misstep, not won by a bold stroke. So nobody is going to come out in favor of secular values or visions, and secularists, like me, are not so foolish as to try to goad any candidate into acknowledging their sympathy for a secular world view if that could cost them the election. Of course, this tradition of mealy-mouthed lip service is something we should try to discredit and dismantle as soon as possible. But not sooner!

We are stuck, for the time being, with what I have called an engine of hypocrisy.

"Yeah, Right."

Judith Warner is bitter

Righteous indignation is so easy, so pleasant, when you can sit back and fling it overseas.
I had that edifying experience on the D.C. Metro Wednesday morning, reading in the Times about the Muslim women in France who are going to cosmetic surgeons for hymen replacement surgery so that they can bleed as seeming virgins on their wedding nights.
It’s a practice that has, apparently, become relatively common in the immigrant communities of Europe. But, of course, it seems like hair-raising news in a country like ours, where a young woman’s right to do with her body as she sees fit has, for decades, been enshrined as perhaps the most essential part of her God-given human dignity.
As my 11-year-old says,
Yeah, right.

Night Cap

Friday Contemplations @ Mr. Stross’ abode

I have a loaded Smith & Wesson 357 Magnum, 7 shot revolver..pretty unique actually. It has a four inch barrell and black pistol molded grip. It is base stainless and loaded with chrome jacketed Winchester silver tipped hollow points. I keep it in a Galco leather (a Phoenix, Arizona company…my birth town) hip belt holster inside my Harley Davidson black helmet bag. […] By the way there is no way in Gods’ green and blue world I would ever end my own life. […] Whenever it got too bad I would grab my prayer book and bible…they have more power than any Smith & Wesson

A Poet’s Quest

Frieda Hughes (yes, the Frieda Hughes) on poetry

We must always remember that the reader can’t see what was in our mind unless we give them something to go on. A good poem uses the best words for the job. But we shouldn’t just throw them in the air and hope that they will fall in a cohesive heap; they require structure and a sense of responsibility. And we should always be looking for new ways to describe something.

Not Power, Just Business

William Gibson is interviewed at i09

Canada is set up to run on steady immigration. It feels like a twenty first century country to me because it’s not interested in power. It negotiates and does business. It gets along with other countries. The power part is very nineteenth century. 99 percent of ideology we have today is very nineteenth century. The twentieth century was about technology, and the nineteenth was ideology.

Clintonian Feminism

Maureen Dowd spake thusly

The Wall Street Journal reported back in March that some women were worried that “the resistance to Senator Clinton may embolden some men to resist women’s efforts to share power with them in business, politics and elsewhere.”

It’s a reasonable fear. Every fizzy triumph of feminism I have covered — Geraldine Ferraro’s selection, the Anita Hill hearings, Hillary’s co-presidency — ended up triggering awful backlashes. In the end, feminism sputtered out as a force.

Hillary has brought back that old feminist religion, at least for now.

"Part of the Therapy"

Louis Menand on Pound

“He was in his own way a hero of his culture, a genuine representative of both its more enlightened impulses and its self-destructive contradictions,” Moody says about Pound. This seems fair. Pound was, in the end, a poet’s poet—he looked like a poet—and, despite the shambles of his political beliefs and the limitations of his poetics, he does stand for something. His claims for literature were free of supernatural mystification, and he believed that the proper organization of language was supremely important. If you are a poet, or any serious kind of writer, you have to believe that, whether you think Pound’s formula is workable or not. Getting the words right is, at a minimum, part of the therapy.

Obit to a wondrous Campaign

Gail Collins in the NYT

Clinton is very much a product of the generation that accepted a certain amount of humiliation as the price of progress. […] She would never let her daughter, or anybody else’s daughter, think that she quit because things got too tough. And she never did. Nobody is ever again going to question whether it’s possible for a woman to go toe-to-toe with the toughest male candidate in a race for president of the United States. Or whether a woman could be strong enough to serve as commander in chief.

Her campaign didn’t resolve whether a woman who seems tough enough to run the military can also seem likable enough to get elected. But she helped pave the way. So many battles against prejudice are won when people get used to seeing women and minorities in roles that only white men had held before. By the end of those 54 primaries and caucuses, Hillary had made a woman running for president seem normal. […]

For all her vaunting ambition, she was never a candidate who ran for president just because it’s the presidency. She thought about winning in terms of the things she could accomplish, and she never forgot the women’s issues she had championed all her life — repair of the social safety net, children’s rights, support for working mothers.


As a German, this short piece on the rise of the BNP sends shivers up my spine.

The party’s electoral success came after it began concentrating its attacks on Muslims. Since 9/11 and the Asian riots in the North of England in 2001 it has gained representation on local authorities from Burnley, Kirklees and Rotherham in the North to Stoke-on-Trent, Sandwell and Nuneaton in the Midlands and Epping in Essex.

(This could be) Life on Mars

At last, scientists have discovered a form of life that could have evolved on Mars. Geologists unearthed a treasure trove of fossilized remains in a salty, acidic lake in remote Australia — the creatures, probably about 250 million years old, were, according to New Scientist, “made up of a mix of inorganic crystals and ‘hairs’ stuck together in a mass” (pictured). The lake where they lived was filled with water whose extreme levels of salinity and acidity are a near-match for Martian water. Find out more, plus see more cool pictures of the blobs, below. […] Scientists are still divided on whether these crystal-hair creatures actually count as “life.” As they run further tests on the fossils, the mere existence of such creatures fuels hope among astrobiologists that life could indeed have evolved on Mars and we might get a chance to meet it — or at least, to find its fossilized remains.

Follow the i09 link to see a batch of pictures

"weary of charging Ms Bardot"

news from BB

A French court has fined former film star Brigitte Bardot 15,000 euros (£12,000) for inciting racial hatred.

She was prosecuted over a letter published on her website that complained Muslims were “destroying our country by imposing their ways”.

It is the fifth time Ms Bardot been convicted over her controversial remarks about Islam and its followers. This is her heaviest fine so far. […]

The fine – equivalent to $23,000 – related to a letter she wrote in December 2006 to the then Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, which was published on her website, in which she deplored the slaughter of animals for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. […]

She said she was “tired of being led by the nose by this population that is destroying us, destroying our country by imposing its acts”.

In a letter to the court Ms Bardot, who is a prominent animal rights campaigner, insisted she had a right to speak up for animal welfare.

The prosecutor said she was weary of charging Ms Bardot with offences relating to racial hatred and xenophobia.

Water Torture

Dana Milbanks on a really gruelling day in the life of a candidate

It was the beginning of a day-long water torture for Hillary Clinton and her campaign, as Obama aimed, by day’s end, to reach the 2,118 delegates needed to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination — with a combination of superdelegates and regular delegates from the last two states to hold a Democratic vote, South Dakota and Montana.

And she’s right, you know. Cuz waiting is torture, right?

Pop Science

Pullum rants at the Log

a paragraph at the end of the story reveals that the BBC still brings out its most gullible writers […] as soon as anything to do with the cognitive or linguistic sciences comes on the scene. The last para says this:

The African Grey parrot is considered one of the most intelligent birds and is said by experts to have the cognitive ability of a six-year-old.

They mean a human of age six. There are people writing purportedly serious stories for the British Broadcasting Corporation who think that a grey parrot has the cognitive ability of a normal six year old human child. Have these people never met a normal six-year-old human child?


I realize that what most journalistic writers on animal language use as a measure of linguistic development is the singularly stupid yardstick of number of words known. But even so, no one has provided evidence of parrots being able to utter more words than a six-year-old human knows.

Da erinnere ich mich aber anders

Reinhard Mohr schreibt bei spon:

Erinnern Sie sich in diesen sonnigen Tagen noch an die WM 2006, an den Traumsommer mit dem eigentümlich neuen Deutschlandgefühl – fröhlich, ein bisschen stolz, aber ohne falsches Pathos und dumpfe Aufdringlichkeit? Wenn damals im Feuilleton von einem “neuen Patriotismus” die Rede war, dann ging es nicht um einen nationalen Fahnenappell, sondern um die Neuentdeckung des eigenen Landes: Ach so, wir können auch anders. Schwarzrotgold goes Leichtigkeit des Seins.

Wat? Ohne Aufdringlichkeit? Ohne falsches Pathos? Dafür aber mit doll viel echtem Pathos, was….besser ist? Genau. Die Deutschen müssen sich selbst wiederentdecken, das heißt für Mohr: sie müssen rausfinden, daß sie ganz doll gute Typen sind. Das kann man dann auch gut finden. Tja. “Wir” können auch anders. Echt? Na, nu.

Dirty Work

Kristof, whom I do like, hasn’t thought this through. Let’s see if you can spot the mistake.

Normally, the Chinese government downplays security risks, but human rights groups argue persuasively that China is using concerns about Uighurs as an excuse to crack down on peaceful Uighur dissidents. After 9/11, China declared its own war on terror in Xinjiang, but Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented that this often has targeted Uighurs who are completely nonviolent.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration has largely backed this Chinese version of the war on terror. Indeed, a Department of Justice report this month suggests that American troops softened up Uighur prisoners in Guantánamo Bay on behalf of visiting Chinese interrogators. The American troops starved the Uighurs and prevented them from sleeping, just before inviting in the Chinese interrogators.

That was disgraceful; we shouldn’t do China’s dirty work. It was one more example of the Bush administration allowing the war on terror to corrode our moral clarity.

We should encourage China to tolerate peaceful protesters even as it prosecutes terrorists. But instead of clarifying that distinction, in recent years we have helped China blur it. The risk of terrorism during the Olympics is real, but that shouldn’t force us to do violence to our principles.

Power Poems

Politician’s Favorite Poems

Welsh independent Parthian Books (via the Bookseller) is publishing “an anthology of poems chosen by international political figures […]”. I thought it would be fun to take a look at what poems our “leaders” like to read, or say they do!

* Gerry Adams: W.B. Yeats’ The Lake Isle of Innisfree

* Gordon Brown: James Stockinger’s The Hands of Others

* Ariel Sharon: Naomi Shemer’s We are Both from the Same Village

* Dr Ian Paisley: Pastor James Kyle Paisley’s I Must Go On

* Gerhard Schroeder: Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Panther

* Tony Blair: Rubert Brooke’s The Soldier

* Anders Fogh Rasumussen: Piet Hein’s Living in the Moment

* Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga: Kahlil Gibran’s Pity the Nation

* Hans Goran Persson: Par Lagerkvist’s The Path on Which You are Walking

* Carlos Diego Mesa Gisbert: Jorge Luis Borges’ The Game of Chess

* Jose Maria Aznar Lopez: Rudyard Kipling’s If