Archive for August, 2019

Wax, Franklin, and the meaning of whiteness

Isaac Chotiner, "A Penn Law Professor Wants to Make America White Again", The New Yorker 8/23/2019:

Amy Wax, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, is the academic who perhaps best represents the ideology of the Trump Administration's immigration restrictionists. Wax, who began her professional life as a neurologist, and who served in the Solicitor General's office in the late eighties and early nineties, has become known in recent years for her belief in the superiority of "Anglo-Protestant culture." […]

Last month, in a speech at the National Conservatism Conference, in Washington, D.C., Wax promoted the idea of "cultural-distance nationalism," or the belief that "we are better off if our country is dominated numerically, demographically, politically, at least in fact if not formally, by people from the first world, from the West, than by people from countries that had failed to advance." She went on, "Let us be candid. Europe and the first world, to which the United States belongs, remain mostly white, for now; and the third world, although mixed, contains a lot of non-white people. Embracing cultural distance, cultural-distance nationalism, means, in effect, taking the position that our country will be better off with more whites and fewer non-whites." […]

During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, Wax expounded on her beliefs that people of Western origin are more scrupulous, empirical, and orderly than people of non-Western origin, and that women are less intellectual than men. She described these views as the outcome of rigorous and realistic thinking, while offering evidence that ranged from two studies by a eugenicist to personal anecdotes, several of which concerned her conviction that white people litter less than people of color.

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How. Mike. Pence. Talks.

Sometimes, anyhow —

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One dyadic station shopping head elects

Somebody sent me this sign from a supermarket in China:

Yí zhàn shì gòuwù de shǒuxuǎn

一站式购物的首选

One dyadic station shopping head elects

This is one of the most bizarre specimens of Chinglish I've ever encountered.

If we omit "dyadic", the rest of it is easy to figure out (it should be "First choice for one-stop shopping" — no sweat).  Usually, even when a translation is incredibly peculiar, it doesn't take me long to figure out where the translator (whether human or machine) went wrong.  In this case, "dyadic" is so unusual, yet so specific, that I figured it must have had some basis, otherwise the translator would not have gone to the trouble of inserting it out of thin air (pingkong 凭空).

I was hooked.  I had to figure out where "dyadic" came from.

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Cockroach protesters

The world has been convulsed this week by the news that China (where all such American social media platforms are outlawed) has been using hundreds of fake Facebook and Twitter accounts to spread gross disinformation about the Hong Kong extradition bill protesters:

"Facebook and Twitter Say China Is Spreading Disinformation in Hong Kong", by Kate Conger, Mike Isaac, and Tiffany Hsu (New York Times, 8/21/19)

Here's an example of their dirty work from the Times article:

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Corpora and the Second Amendment: "keep and bear arms" (Part 2)

An introduction and guide to my series of posts "Corpora and the Second Amendment" is available here. The corpus data that is discussed can be downloaded here. That link will take you to a shared folder in Dropbox. Important: Use the "Download" button at the top right of the screen.

COFEA and COEME: lawcorpus.byu.edu.

This post will complete my analysis of the Second Amendment—for now. So far, I've focused almost entirely on the Second Amendment's specification of the right that it protected—the right of the people, to keep and bear Arms—and have said little or nothing about well regulated or militia. That doesn't mean I have nothing to say about those expressions, it just means that I'll defer that discussion until sometime in the future.

Meanwhile, here in the present, this post will try to answer the question that I raised in the last post: whether the Supreme Court was right in saying that the fact that bear arms appears in the phrase keep and bear arms means that bear arms couldn't have been used in its idiomatic military sense:

[If bear arms were given its idiomatic meaning,] the phrase "keep and bear arms" would be incoherent. The word "Arms" would have two different meanings at once: "weapons" (as the object of "keep") and (as the object of "bear") one-half of an idiom. It would be rather like saying "He filled and kicked the bucket" to mean "He filled the bucket and died." Grotesque.

It's true that interpreting bear arms as having been used idiomatically would mean that arms conveys two different meanings (a phenomenon known as copredication). But as explained in my last post, that doesn't rule out such an interpretation. Now, in this post, I'll argue that interpreting bear arms in that way is more than just a theoretical possibility. I'll discuss evidence that makes it reasonable to think keep and bear arms was intended to convey such a meaning, and that such an interpretation would have been more likely than the alternative.

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The origins of the Turkic word for "stirrup"

Ulf Jäger has just published this impressive article:

"A Unique Alxon-Hunnic Horse-and-Rider Statuette (Late Fifth Century CE) from Ancient Bactria / Modern Afghanistan in the Pritzker Family Collection, Chicago", Sino-Platonic Papers, 290 (August, 2019), 72 pages (free pdf).

In this study the author offers a first attempt to describe, discuss, and interpret the bronze statuette of a noble horse-and-rider of the so-called Alkhon/Alxon wave of the "Iranian Huns," dated to the end of the fifth century CE, from Northern Afghanistan.

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To boldly split

Past LLOG coverage

[h/t Daniel Deutsch]

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Cuccinelli, Lazarus, and Morse

In a recent interview ("Immigration Chief: 'Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor Who Can Stand On Their Own 2 Feet'", NPR 8/13/2019), the director of the Citizenship and Immigration Service suggested an update to the poem on the Statue of Liberty:

Q: Would you also agree that Emma Lazarus's words, etched on the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor", are also part of the American ethos?
A: Uh they certainly are — "Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet, and who will not become a public charge."

In a later interview the same day, Ken Cuccinelli suggested that when Lazarus wrote about "your tired, your poor, […] the wretched refuse of your teeming shore", she didn't mean that those people were actually indigent:

Well of course that poem was referring back to people coming from Europe, where they had class-based societies, where people were considered wretched if they weren't in the right class.

But the history is more complicated.

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Where the magic happens

From today's SMBC, an idea about AI that's obvious in retrospect but seems to be new:

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Readers in these times

It's common these days to lament the decline of civility caused by various forms of internet discourse. But for an eloquently uncivil condemnation of incivility, it's hard to beat the introduction ("To the Reader") of the 1598 edition of John Florio's Italian dictionary A Worlde of Wordes:

I knowe not how I may again adventure an Epistle to the Reader, so are the times or, readers in these times, most part sicke of the sullens, and peevish in their sicknes, and conceited in their peevishnes. So should I fear the fire who have felt the flame so lately, and flìe from the sea, that have yet a vow to pay for escaping my last ship wracke. […] But before I recount unto thee (gentle reader) the purpose of my new voyage: give me leave a little to please my selfe, and refresh thee with the discourse of my olde danger. Which because in some respect it is a common danger, the discoverie thereof may happily profit other men, as much as it please my selfe. And here might I begin with those notable Pirates on this our paper-sea, those sea-dogs, or lande-Critickes, monsters of men, if not beastes rather than men; whose teeth are Canibals, their toongs adder-forkes, their lips aspes-poyson, their eies basiliskes, their breath the breath of a grave, their wordes the swordes of Turkes, that strive which shall dive deepest into a Christian lying bound before them. But for these barking and biting dogs, they are as well knowne as Scylla and Charybdis.

There is another sort of leering curs, that rather snarle then bite, whereof I coulde instance in one, who lighting upon a good sonnet of a gentlemans, a friend of mine, that loved better to be a poet, than to be counted so, called the auctor a rymer, notwithstanding he had more skill in good Poetrie, then my slie gentleman seemed to have in good manners or humanitie. But my quarrell is to a tooth-lesse dog that hateth where he cannot hurt, and would faine bite, when he hath no teeth.

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Cryptic, allusive messages from Hong Kong's wealthiest tycoon

People have been wondering when Hong Kong's magnates would speak out on the prolonged protests in their city.  Finally one has.  That's Li Ka-shing, the richest of them all:  "HK Billionaire Li Ka-Shing Breaks Silence Over Protests" (8/15/19 newscast on YouTube).  He took out full page advertisements (both seem to be on the front page) in two of Hong Kong's most influential financial newspapers:  Hong Kong Economic Times and Hong Kong Economic Journal.  Here's the first:

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Murgers and biangbiang in London

Restaurant sign in Mayfair:

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Breath Ass Method

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