Saturday, February 23, 2008

Globish not English

The recent reappearance of ethno-nationalism in Qu├ębec belies a fundamental misunderstanding of the place of the English language. The world is not becoming dominated by English. It is embracing Globish, a dialect or creole derived from English, which is in turn a bastard language of Norman French, Anglo-Saxon and whatever words seemed handy in other languages, all mixed together.

I'm not sure how such a fluid language as Globish can consistently challenge the literature, and culture conveyed through more stable cultures. Indeed I suspect those languages will inflect and reinflect the changing forms of Globish. Globish will probably marginalise English over the next few generations, as English and other Germanic tongues marginalised the Frisian from which they developed.

English and Globish don't kill other languages- Other language users let them die. The real threat to the French language in Quebec is the high drop-out rate of francophone students.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Yes-men line up: Science done Right?

Nature the British science magazine has criticised Stephen Harper for appointing a partisan Science council.

Paul Wells asks why this is a problem if most Canadian scientists and academics have nothing to say about it;

" If Canada's leading scientists and university administrators agree with the Nature editorial, they are not saying so. When the Senate science committee held hearings last month on the Harper government's research strategy, which it announced last May, a chorus of leading research administrators lined up around the block to say it was a swell strategy."

What else would they say- they don't want a lead pipe to the knee by John Baird, eminent scientist and environmental expert. Canada's new government doesn't deal well with criticism- so if you rely on government funding, remember who currently signs the cheques.

Facebook: Conservative, Liberal or Other

Facebook has helped keep Ron Paul, for better or worse, a figure in U.S. presidential primaries. It had, I believe , an effect on the mayoral race in Ottawa, Canada. So it seems politically active people are there.

It might be worth getting other anecdotes as regards politics to Facebook and social networking sites in general.
The Facebook profile offers a kind of semiotic square to allow Facebook members to define themselves as some flavour of liberal or conservative, apathetic or Other. I recently joined a Facebook petition to leave the political affiliation option open as with the religious affiliation option in the Facebook profile.

Let's not confine our political definitions to Democrat, Republican and Independent. For one thing, that only applies to politics in the United States. Even Canada, home of inoffensiveness, has four different sitting political parties, with a fifth set to get into the Commons next election.

Many people are apolitical because too many think the only possibility is that 'Lemon' on the right and that 'Lemon' on the left. Opening up the option of other categories will reopen those possibilities.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Snob or elitist; A snarl for merit

As one wag noticed about half the population are below average by any standard of measurement.

As this article in the Washington Post notes appealing to the ordinariness of people is almost expected of a politician seeking higher office. Unfortunately this validates a celebration of ignorance and a will to stupidity that is corrosive to society and the individuals in it.

I'd like to draw a distinction here between the snob and the elitist. A snob offers an opinion they're better than you, and elitist offers evidence. One person is not as good as another at many things. Albert Einstein, Arthur Schlesinger, jr. and Martha Nussbaum are smarter than me. They have bodies of carefully thought-out work that demonstrate this.

Let us feel shame at our ignorance. Let us feels badly about our inadequacies. If they really didn't matter, they wouldn't be inadequacies, would they? If we feel badly perhaps we will work to overcome these inadequacies, instead of striving to deny them.
And let's feel pride in overcoming these lacks, for ignorance is a lack of knowledge and clumsiness a lack of practice.

This superiority of ability doesn't engender a greater set of rights in front of a court, but it doesn't mean "my opinion is as good as theirs".

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Confirmation of my prejudices:parenting

Among other things, I'm parent of a 4 year old boy. Having experienced permissive parents, observed strict parents- both the effective kind who strictly enforce many rules and ineffective kind who inconsistemtly enforce many rules, and the firm kind of parents (few rules, strictly enforced) it is nice to have experts confirm my prejudices. My prejudices- the beliefs I have without neccessarily a coherent arguement or broad range of data to support them- lead me to think that too many rules just offers many possible failures for a parent. Permissiveness seems to lead children to believe their parents don't care. Enforcing the rules such as they are- is more important than the rules themselves, for maintaing a healthy relationship.

Darling found that permissive parents don’t actually learn more about their children’s lives. “Kids who go wild and get in trouble mostly have parents who don’t set rules or standards. Their parents are loving and accepting no matter what the kids do. But the kids take the lack of rules as a sign their parents don’t care—that their parent doesn’t really want this job of being the parent.”

Pushing a teen into rebellion by having too many rules was a sort of statistical myth. “That actually doesn’t happen,” remarks Darling. She found that most rules-heavy parents don’t actually enforce them. “It’s too much work,” says Darling. “It’s a lot harder to enforce three rules than to set twenty rules.”

A few parents managed to live up to the stereotype of the oppressive parent, with lots of psychological intrusion, but those teens weren’t rebelling. They were obedient. And depressed.

“Ironically, the type of parents who are actually most consistent in enforcing rules are the same parents who are most warm and have the most conversations with their kids,” Darling observes. They’ve set a few rules over certain key spheres of influence, and they’ve explained why the rules are there. They expect the child to obey them. Over life’s other spheres, they supported the child’s autonomy, allowing them freedom to make their own decisions.

The kids of these parents lied the least. Rather than hiding twelve areas from their parents, they might be hiding as few as five.

Bronson,Po "Learning to lie", New York magazine, downloaded Feb 13, 2008

The legal principal of avoiding laws that can't or wont be enforced seems like a good idea. The law-and-order types should have a good think on that, when ten percent of the population is committing a crime regularly( yes, I'm talking about cannabis). How does failing to enforce a law rejected by the majority and flaunted by a plurality encourage respect for law and order?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sticks and Stones

Once again a powerful institution can't take criticism. Instead of refuting the criticism it is closed, insular and undemocratic, the Hamas-lead government in Gaza has banned a political cartoon characterising it as closed, insular and undemocratic.

"Deeds, not words" and even the the child's chant "sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me" seems unfathomable through-out much of the middle-east. Symbolism, not substance, seems to control political discourse there. Unfortunately, the current western obsession of "feeling good about ourselves" whether we deserve to or not(Should George W. Bush feel good about his terms in office?) seems to have skewed political discourse into a game of raw power and cheap glamour. Games that generate symbolic victories for the governing and practical defeats for the governed.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Federal election, 2008- Vote against the incumbent

Oh, you all probably wont do this- the incumbent seemed so nice, and wanted to do so much for your riding- that's why they're the incumbent. Yes, that Lemon over there on the podium, kissing hands, shaking babies and generally trying to lull you into believing the last few years were an unpleasant dream.

You'll have to vote, oh yes, probably because the opposition Liberals will finally gamble on defeating the Conservatives over our war in Afghanistan, that messy little bit of geo politics gone sour. The Liberals will show some spine, and we'll have another minority government. Between Adam's Ears stands by the prediction that the Tories will lose seats, but Grit arrogance will keep them out of the big chair, again.

A few will vote away from the status quo, giving the Greens a presence (look to Christian Heritage to take both heart, and a few seats from the Tories in the following general election). The NDP may get a seat count that better reflects their vote count.

But really, throw the bums out- flip the government, and vote away from the dinosaurs. Nobody is getting a parlementary dictatorship this election, so the worst we'll get is more of the acrimony and incompetence of the last 18 months.

Otherwise it's more of two sides of the same coin- Liberal lawyers vs Conservative lawyers, people usually from the same schools, cliques and backgrounds, looking for a ticket to corporate directorships, lobbying posts, and finally getting a partnership in a law firm.

Stand up, vote your heart like free people, not like bean-counting sheep- or at least vote gainst the incumbents.

"If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."
-E.M. Forster