Sunday, July 23, 2017

Logophobia redux

Rod Dreher links approvingly to an article by Elizabeth Corey in First Things that tackles the concept of intersectionality. Corey dismisses the concept as "a wholly academic invention", then promptly refutes that characterization by citing a real life example of discrimination and the ensuing legal case, DeGraffenreid v. General Motors. Corey writes:
...five black women sued General Motors for discrimination. GM had not hired black women prior to 1964, and had dismissed all but one of its black female ­employees hired after 1970 on the basis of seniority. The plaintiffs claimed that the harm they suffered could not be addressed by suing as women only, because GM could point out that it had indeed hired women (white women) prior to 1964 and had retained those that were hired after 1970. 
Nor were they willing to sue on the basis of race alone. The discrimination they suffered was not merely racial, they argued, but a result of their combined racial and gender identity. The district court dismissed this claim, observing that the prospect of “the ­creation of new classes of protected minorities, governed only by the mathematical principles of permutation and combination, clearly raises the prospect of opening the hackneyed Pandora’s box.”

Monday, July 17, 2017

Encryption, security, the internet, and King Canute

Legend has it that King Canute, a canny and highly successful ruler of England,
Huts and seashore in Wales
Denmark, and parts of Scandinavia, had courtiers who like to flatter him; when some at court suggested that even the sea would have to obey Canute's wisdom and power, the king decided he had enough of this nonsense, and resolved to end it with a demonstration. He and his court accordingly went to the sea shore, and there Canute gave order to the incoming tide to cease, desist, and turn around. The tide, naturally, did no such thing. Having demonstrated his limits, he finished with an admonition to keep the flattery within the bounds of reality, and the court returned to the capital, doubtless to the relief of the chastened courtiers.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

The American gun organization the National Rifle Association has a new advertisement out on the web, full of standard right wing complaints about mean things the Left has to say about their president and their policies. This list of complaints noticeably avoids making any kind of case for gun rights. Indeed, it doesn't mention gun rights at all.

While this might seem surprising at any time,the choice by the NRA to talk about something other than gun rights at this specific time appears downright perverse, since a jury just acquitted a police officer for the most brutal possible violation of a citizen's right to legally carry a gun.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

One hundred and fifty years ago today...

the parliament of Great Britain passed an act uniting New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Canada (then Ontario and Quebec), under a single federal parliament and four provincial legislatures. The new country, called a dominion in deference to the phrase from the Book of Psalms: "dominion from sea to sea" would continue to have the British monarch as a head of state, and British diplomats would speak for it in international relations, but Canada's own legislatures would govern in all internal matters. Canadians greeted the passage of the British North America Act with modest celebration.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Pirsig, Bell, LaPadula, a different kind of braid...

Fredrik deBoer asks why so many people have so much trouble evaluating propositions to do with social justice on a continuum. He cites examples from cultural appropriation to campus hookups, asking in every case why so much of the conversation about these issues ends in extreme, opposing, and angry positions.

Clip art of a motorcycle, by By Theresa Knott, via Wikimedia CommonsI don't have the answer, I don't think a single answer exists. With multiple cultures rubbing up against each other, ideas and expressions may seem perfectly innocent to some people, and egregiously offensive from a different perspective. Some commentators have suggested the growth of social media has reduced dialog between people who disagree while concentrating and amplifying the dialog among like-minded people, thus encouraging the unchecked adoption of more and more extreme positions.

I don't know why this has happened, but I have a theory.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


Cast iron cover with the name "Manchester"Rod Dreher, in common with most of the rest of the world, struggles to make sense of the senseless: the bomb exploded in a crowd of women and girls at an Ariana Grande concert and the resulting slaughter of innocent people.

In the process, he makes a very interesting set of comments, and displays what I call "logophobia", meaning fear of and revulsion toward a specific word, rather than a repudiation of the concept behind it.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Size the office to fit the man

Donald Trump at the podium photo by Gage Skidmore
photo by Gage Skidmore
 Donald Trump’s recent behaviour has provoked dark thoughts among American opinion writers. Ross Douthait, a conservative columnist for the New York Times, has raised the possibility of declaring Mr. Trump medically unfit for his job and invoking the 25 amendment to the US constitution to remove him.

That is a spectacularly bad idea. It is, to paraphrase Orwell, a bad idea even though National Review says it’s a bad idea. For one thing, the authors of the 25th amendment intended it to deal with a medical crisis, not a policy disagreement or even justified reservations about the character of a president. For another, it doesn’t deal with the structural or even the psychological problems the Trump presidency raises.