Low (Bush) & Lower (Cheney)!
The latest CBS News poll finds President Bush's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 %.
A French-American perspective on politics, culture, current events, religion, languages, and education
The latest CBS News poll finds President Bush's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 %.
It was our contention in our post on ‘The purity of English’ that there is no such thing as ‘pure’ English. Professor Labov in his “Atlas of North American English,” shows how diverse and changing American English is, and contrary to common belief, Americans are NOT growing more similar in their speech. Change does not occur in grammar but in pronunciation and particularly in vowel sounds as consonant sounds are comparatively stable.
In fact, it seems that the mass media, greater mobility and easier communication have not standardized the language and new pronunciations continue to arise while others disappear - and this what a linguist is saying.
According to Professor Labov, the greatest change is taking place in the Inland North dialect, which used to be the model for standard American pronunciation. This is the English spoken around the
This change of pronunciation is called ‘the Northern city Shift’. Here are some interesting examples:
According to Labov, the newest and most ‘invasive’ sound change is taking place in the
There is also a Southern Shift for which all words with the vowel of tame (bake, late, Jane, day) take on a pronunciation closer to the vowel of time.
The question as to why such changes have taken place is fascinating and hopefully we'll have to make another post on that fascinating subject.
NOTE: it is worth noting a similar thing has occured in French – today very few people will make a difference between the vowel sound of ‘un’ as in ‘brun’ and ‘ain’ as in ‘pain’ when it used to be quite different just a couple of generations ago.
In fact, keylogging's simplicity may be why it is suddenly so popular among thieves. "Phishing takes a lot of time and effort," said David Thomas, the chief of the computer intrusion division at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "This type of software is a much more efficient way to get what they're after."
The programming, too, is often trivial. "These can be developed by a 12-year-old hacker," said Eugene Kaspersky, a co-founder of Kaspersky Labs, an international computer security and antivirus company based in
That risk is one that Mr. Kaspersky believes is in danger of getting out of hand. "I'm afraid that if the number of criminals grows with this same speed, the antivirus companies will not be able to create adequate protection," said Mr. Kaspersky, who added that the time has come for increased investment in law enforcement and far better cross-border cooperation among investigators, who are overwhelmed by the global nature of cybercrime."There are more criminals on the Internet street than policemen," he said.
When Mr Anti-Virus himself says that the antivirus companies will not be able to create adequate protection, I begin to worry. So what to do? Just the usual stuff, it seems:
It is in the realm of reasonable probability that H5N1 will reach the United States this summer or early autumn.
Today the major news in France :
Tens of thousands of people marched through Paris and other French cities on Sunday to denounce racism and anti-Semitism following the torture and killing of a young Jewish kidnap victim. Politicians from left and right joined the marchers under banners declaring "France united against barbarism" to express their shock over the gang killing.It is a good thing that the French can get together and be united against barbarism and racism. The gang was barbaric indeed. However, I feel very uneasy when I see people call this over and over again an "anti-semitic" crime. Other non-Jewish people were also either targeted or abducted by this so-called gang. It is not clear whether greed or sheer hatred for whomever was not the real motivation.
It remains unclear whether anti-Semitism was the motive for the grisly killing, which may have been part of a suburban extortion racket.
To know whether they (Halimi's kidnappers) acted with anti-Semitism or partly with anti-Semitism is not important. Because anti-Semitism there was," Sarkozy said Sunday.
A similarphomenon also exists in grammar. For instance the subjunctive mood ( "far be it from me",
WOLF BLITZER: Terry, is
falling apart right now? Iraq
TERRY JEFFERY: Well, I certainly hope not, Wolf. But I think actually these attacks on Shia shrines can be attributed to the potential success of the Bush strategy.
Well, at leats he doesn't hope that 'Iraq is falling apart'. I got so worried for a moment...
[believe] that God is killing American soldiers because they fought for a country that tolerates homosexuality.
We have been talking a lot about 'freedom of speech' lately, what about 'freedom' of sharing?
Two days ago, the Swiss and Belgian police shut down a major peer-to-peer server (P2P) – Razorback, the biggest eDonkey/eMule server in the world (BBC). One administrator is reportedly under custody in
Now who do you think it behind this? Not some poor small association of starving artists, nop, but the Motion Picture Association (MPA), in other words, Hollywood itself.
"This is a major victory in our fight to cut off the supply of illegal materials being circulated on the Internet via peer-to-peer networks," said Motion Picture Association (MPA) Chairman and CEO Dan Glickman.
MPAA anti-piracy chief John Malcolm even called Razorback2 “a menace to society". Interestingly, John Malcom used to work for Ashcroft and is a member of the conservative Federalist Society which aimed to combat what they see as the 'orthodox American liberal' ideology found in most law schools.
Anyway, it looks like P2P has become
For those who do not see the hypocrisy of the whole thing, and put the P2P issue in 'moral' terms, just remember that one of the most important members of the MPA is Sony which is also a major maker of CD and DVD burners! How to make money both ways....
In the end, no need to panic for your pirate-friends and relatives. It is quite clear that the demise of Razorback will be like the fall of Napster – it’ll change absolutely nothing. Following raids and shutdowns file-sharers simply move to other networks. In fact, according to the BBC, notes posted on discussion groups by Edonkey users following the raid show that the numbers of people on the Edonkey network was back to normal a few hours after the server was shut down.
It’ll be interesting to see the follow-up though, particularly from a legal perspective since the technological side has already been lost by the rich and powerful producers.
One cartoon -- depicting the prophet with a bomb in his turban -- has drawn the harshest criticism. Angry voices claim the cartoon is saying that the prophet is a terrorist or that every Muslim is a terrorist. I read it differently: Some individuals have taken the religion of Islam hostage by committing terrorist acts in the name of the prophet. They are the ones who have given the religion a bad name. The cartoon also plays into the fairy tale about Aladdin and the orange that fell into his turban and made his fortune. This suggests that the bomb comes from the outside world and is not an inherent characteristic of the prophet.Fair enough. But that's just one way to look at it. However, when I look at the drawing, I see something quite different, I see man who does not look like a nice man who'd be surprised by what "fell into his turban", I see a fanatic whose eyes look very threatening. Besides, the very idea that, as Mr Flemming Rose says, what fell into his turban "made his fortune" (if that's indeed the correct reference) can be understandly offensive. Does the bomb make his fortune?
Should you go to jail because you say things that are obviously loathsome, odious and a denial of historical facts?
David Irving [see profile here] a Holocaust-denier, an anti-Semite and a racist was sentenced to 3 years in jail in
I still think, however, that it should
But it might be time for those (mostly) European countries to question the need for such laws and acknowledge that this is not a post-WWII world any longer. If what happened in the 30s and 40s can always happen again, it will probably take a different shape anyway. Surely there are other ways to fight anti-Semitism than putting such a pathetic guy to jail.
Besides, in addition to the questionable moral constraints on “freedom of expression”, those laws have a more practical downside: sending him to jail may turn him into some sort of martyr, it gives him and his views more media coverage and, last but not least, none of those laws have way reduced anti-Semitism in
As a side note, the most ridicule part of the
told the court that he had revised his opinion after seeing the personal files of Adolf Eichmann. Speaking in German, he told the court he now accepted that the Nazis had killed millions of Jews.Some sort of epiphany…?
"I made a mistake when I said there were no gas chambers at
Auschwitz," he said. "History is a constantly growing tree - the more you know, the more documents become available, the more you learn. And I have learned a lot since 1989.
"Yes, there were gas chambers. Millions of Jews died. There is no question. I don't know the figures. I'm not an expert on the Holocaust.".
A mistake? That guy, who is 'not an expert on the Holocaust' is just beyond belief, isn't he? I think the idiocy and inconsistency of his words speak for themselves.
"People in our study were convinced they've accurately understood the tone of an e-mail message when in fact their odds are no better than chance," says Nicholas Epley, from theHe also explains that
. Universityof Chicago
"People often think the tone or emotion in their messages is obvious because they 'hear' the tone they intend in their head as they write,".The reliability of the study may be questionable (the details show small sample size) but it seems fair to say that overall the results make very much sense and reflect something most of us have experienced before, doesn’t it?
It is all very simple after all – human communication relies not just on words, but on the tone of voice as well as on body language. So it is probably easier for most of us to have good communication when we see people, less so when we talk to them on the phone, and it becomes really hard to ascertain tone when writing or reading. It is also clear, as the study underlines, that interpretation of a message is also based on current mood, stereotypes and expectations.
From personal experience, I would also say, along with Kevin Drum, that your chances to get it right are definitely worse when you are emotionally stressed.
So what’s the solution? Well, it seems to me that the more complex the tone is – i.e. sarcasm, irony for instance– the more careful one has to be, and it should probably be avoided altogether in a business context. However, I think it can be fun to do when you know more or less whom you’re emailing. Moreover there are ways to communicate your tone better. There’s always the smiley face, :-) the wink of the eye ;-), or the single quotation marks to show irony in the use of a word or an expression. And then you should also be able to rely on the trust that binds relationships.
In the end, what I have learned lately is that it is probably better to wait and not email when you’re too upset, angry and emotionally stressed about something or about someone whom you want to send an email. The irony is that it is precisely when emailing seems to be an easy cop-out.
For such an influtential neoconservative ideologue like Francis Fukuyama to lash out so much against the Bush administration is a very telling sign of the cracks within the conservative family. Let’s just hope that the Democrats are going to seize the opportunity and be a bit more aggressive.
"Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support."
Like you couldn't tell it would be natural evolution of neocon ideology put into practive! Please! Now that so many (bad) things have come out in the light, the dangerous ideologues such as Fukuyama whose ideas have shaped the decisions of the Bush administration, making them responsible for the present situation are leaving the ship when they see it sink. Pathetic... and cowardly.
According to the N.Y.Times:
I.B.M. researchers plan to describe an advance in chip-making on Monday that could pave the way for new generations of superchips. The development, which comes from materials research in the design of advanced lenses and related technologies, will make it possible to create semiconductors with wires thinner than 30 nanometers, one-third the width in today's industry-standard chips. The advance potentially clears one of the biggest hurdles facing the progress of Moore's Law.
The I.B.M. researchers performed their research on a custom piece of equipment they call Nemo, referring to the character in Jules Verne's novel "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."
In the Telegraph today (via The Washington Monthly) :
Four out of 10 British Muslims want sharia law introduced into parts of the country, a survey reveals today.Overall, the findings depict a Muslim community becoming more radical and feeling more alienated from mainstream society, even though 91 per cent still say they feel loyal to Britain.
It is worth noticing a major political difference between France and the US – whereas “freedom of expression” is mostly defended by cultural icons of the left in France (think of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, or Libération, or even Le Monde), it is the conservatives in the US – and particularly the Christian conservatives who tend to support the publication of the cartoons. They see any refusal by the media to do so as a form of dangerous "appeasement," that will only bring more violence and weaken Western values. And that goes with their view of the media as the enemy.
So whereas most religious groups in
So it is interesting to see how regional history and political ideology shape the treatment of this highly sensitive issue. It also shows how hard it is to have ideas that are not just products of our environment and be able to go beyond that.
Robert Wright’s op-ed in the NYTimes who analyzes the question of self-censorship as a way to avoid legal censorship raises interesting questions.
First, he dismisses the idea of a ‘clash of civilization’, while acknowledging the obvious cultural gap between the West and the “Islam world”, then he makes a point I have not heard so far: even though he recognizes that most of the violent demonstrations have been politically orchestrated, he also reminds us that there has been also a tradition in America of using violence to make a point. I agree and think this is also true of
But Robert Wright’s main point is that he supports the Muslim’s demand for self-censorship by major media outlets. In his view, it is the kind of self-censorship that “has helped make
While I agree with him that you should be legally free to publish just about anything – and thus I oppose most of the legal restraints that exist in Europe, and if I also agree that freedom comes with responsibility, I don’t believe it is wise to “let each group decide what it finds most offensive, so long as the implied taboo isn't too onerous”. I think the responsibility is a personal one. I believe that ridicule and shame for saying offensive things should be enough to keep censorship out of the legal realm. That’s where education and public opinion should play their role, not pressure groups and lobbies as it is the case in the
The danger of the American model as it is defined by Mr Wright is that you end up with trying to satisfy just about everybody and any pressure group and you become paranoid with political correctness. Real meaning is replaced by tasteless platitudes through hypocritical euphemism on just about anything. You then live under the constant fear that you may have offended whomever. The problem is that self-censorship is the most successful and efficient form of censorship that comes cheap for any society but the result is conformity of speech and language which leads to poverty of thought.
Besides, the irony of having a top EU official talk about UN conventions on human rights in
When faced with a major decision, such as buying a car or a house, it's best to do your homework, then forget about it for a while and let your unconscious churn through the options.
According to the results of a novel study published today in the journal Science, unconscious deliberation may lead to a more satisfying choice than mere conscious deliberation alone, at least for major decisions.
Conscious deliberation is fine for the less important, more mundane everyday choices like deciding which shampoo or towels to buy, but not for bigger decisions, the report indicates.
There are several possible reasons why conscious thought sometimes leads to poor judgment, the researchers say. Consciousness has a "low capacity" causing individuals to consider only a subset of relevant information and they may inappropriately weight the importance or relevance of this information.
In contrast, the human subconscious has a higher capacity to integrate more information, which can lead to better choices.
"Once you have the information, you have to decide, and this is best done with conscious thought for simple decisions, but left to unconscious thought, to 'sleep on it', when the decision is complex."I have two questions on this one:
The novel finding from these studies is the "idea that we can think unconsciously and that unconscious thought is actually superior to conscious thought for complex decisions", the researcher adds.
"We find that unattractive individuals commit more crime in comparison to average-looking ones, and very attractive individuals commit less crime in comparison to those who are average-looking," claim Naci Mocan of the University of Colorado and Erdal Tekin of Georgia State University.
C'est levee! (excellent play of words) is the title of this year's Mardi Gras Parade in New Orleans.
Silvio Berlusconi, prime minister of Italy, wanted to set the record straight: He was "joking" when he compared himself to Napoleon.
"I am the Jesus Christ of politics," he corrected himself a day later in a speech on Saturday. "I am a patient victim. I bear everything. I sacrifice myself for everyone. IHT
The less funny part is that three people ended up dead during the demonstrations, including an 8 year-old boy. My first reaction was to think that this demonstration was probably not as orchestrated as the other ones in other countries – 70,000 is no small number. But it looks like things may be more complicated than they look. Many groups are obviously eager to embarrass Musharraf, who is not the most democratic leader in the world either. It’s hard to know, really:
A security official said members of the outlawed militant group Sipah-e-Sahaba and others from Jamaat al-Dawat -- which is linked to the outlawed Laskhar-e-Tayyaba group -- were among the rioters, and were trying to turn the cartoon furor against Musharraf's government.
"People belonging to outlawed militant groups participated in today's rally, and some of them attacked public and private property," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. "They were the ones who stirred up violence."
NOTE: Judging by McDonald's Corp.'s latest results, Ronald McDonald has all the reasons in the world to keep smiling. Who cares if they're trying contort his leg, or steal his shoes. There will eventually be a new one to replace him.
For obvious historical reasons, most Europeans are deeply shocked whenever someone makes anti-Jewish humour and especially when they deny humorously or not the Holocaust.
Some Muslims who live in the West are also offended by what they see as a double standard in the laws against inciting hatred and violence that have sprung up in Europe. They ask why it is forbidden to challenge the veracity of the mass murder of the Holocaust, or to espouse the Nazi's racist ideology, but not forbidden to criticize Islam.I must say that after more thinking and discussing over the issue, I have somewhat changed my mind a little and believe that religious offense does quite not equate denying the Holocaust, even if both are offensive. If we thikn about it, the former is, after all, about a personal belief while the other is about documented facts. I am not putting any moral status to either one, I'm just trying to acknowledge that they are quite different in nature.
The relevance of the following quote is pretty amazing... given when it was written and who wrote it:
To a very considerable extent the media of mass communications in a given country reflect the political, economic and social climate in which they flourish.
We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.
According to ABC news:
Roger Koeppel, editor in chief at German newspaper Die Welt, which published the cartoons last week, says that European societies have a right to make their own choices. "Every society has the right to have taboos, the things they don't talk about," he says. Mr. Koeppel says the cartoons were not published to annoy but to question a growing tendency for press self-censorship in delicate matters.
At times, he says, it may appear there is a double standard. "Evenhandedness cannot be a goal," he says. "It has to be clear that the majority culture rules and the minority culture has to accept the rules. If the rules are not acceptable, no one is forced to live there."
It seems Mr Koeppel is forgetting that most European Muslims were raised and born in Europe and have nowhere else to go. They ARE European. His words are a frightening reminder of a the underlying racism and intolerance of some influential people in Europe today. It is a scary comment from the editor in chief of a major German newspaper.
The Economist which cannot be suspected of propagating leftist views has a fascinating article on the measure of economic wealth in Europe and in the U.S.:
... a nation's well-being depends on many factors ignored by GDP, such as leisure time, income inequality and the quality of the environment.
The OECD's calculations suggest if people strongly dislike inequality, the gap between America and most other rich countries, which have a more equal distribution of income, should be greatly reduced. By this measure, adjusted income per head is higher in France than in America.
Longer holidays and shorter working hours increase an individual's well-being, yet conventional national accounts completely overlook such benefits. America is one of the world's richest countries, yet its workers toil longer hours than those elsewhere. As a result, adjusting GDP for leisure also narrows the gap between America and Europe.
Do you think this picture should be banned? Do you find it offensive?
's Catholic Church has won a court injunction to ban a clothing advertisement based on Leonardo da Vinci's Christ's Last Supper. The display was ruled "a gratuitous and aggressive act of intrusion on people's innermost beliefs", by a judge. (BBC) France
In today’s Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer makes an interesting point in his column. He suggests that while the US media have not shown the controversial Danish cartoons (last night, NBC News blurred the picture when the addressed the subject) out of fear, the European press (and sometimes television) has shown them out of defiance.
There is a "sensitivity" argument for not having published the cartoons in the first place, back in September when they first appeared in that Danish newspaper. But it is not September. It is February. The cartoons have been published, and the newspaper, the publishers and
itself have come under savage attack. After multiple arsons, devastating boycotts, and threats to cut off hands and heads, the issue is no longer news value, i.e., whether a newspaper needs to publish them to inform the audience about what is going on. The issue now is solidarity. Denmark
The mob is trying to dictate to Western newspapers, indeed Western governments, what is a legitimate subject for discussion and caricature.
The point is who decides what can be said and what can be drawn within the precincts of what we quaintly think of as the free world.
The mob has turned this into a test case for freedom of speech in the West. The German, French and Italian newspapers that republished these cartoons did so not to inform but to defy -- to declare that they will not be intimidated by the mob.
What is at issue is fear. The unspoken reason many newspapers do not want to republish is not sensitivity but simple fear.
The word 'mob' may be misleading - it is not spontaneous violence, it is the 'unleashed evil' of political propaganda allowed or fomented by non-democratic governments who are trying to switch the focus from their own troubles to an easy scapegoat.
This blog has already talked a lot about the ‘Danish cartoon’ controversy [here, here and here and here]. I am still baffled by the continuing violence in SOME countries. In the last couple of days, a few things have become clear and need to be mentioned. Even though the cartoons were published on September 30 in
Abu Laban, leader of the Islamic Society of Denmark, took the images on a tour of the
Middle Eastin December to rally support for his protest against the newspaper and Danish government. Tour spokesman Akhmad Akkari explained the three drawings had been added to "give an insight in how hateful the atmosphere in is towards Muslims." DenmarkAkkari claimed he didn't know the origin of the three images, saying they had been sent anonymously to Danish Muslims. But he rejected a request by the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet to speak with the people who supposedly received them.In a television interview, Abu Laban told Fox News the cartoons came from threatening letters, but he has not replied to the network's request to provide copies of the letters. (WorldNet)
Now Abu Laban said something a lot scarier:
The Muslim cleric told reporter Jonathan Hunt of his demand that Danish leaders "within their abilities and competence and within the concept of dynamism of liberalism to create … a new set of rules. … "
Hunt: So, you want a new set of rules for the way
Abu Laban: Yes.
So we must keep in mind that however offensive the cartoons may be, the sentiment of most Europeans is that it is for those countries to tell us how to run our own. I also believe this is the feeling of a majority of European Muslims, born and raised in
Europeand who not wish to be associated with the minority of extremists committing violence.( I guess we will see on Saturday as there is a demonstration organized against the cartoons in ). France
So I believe that we ought to differentiate between the issue on an international level which is highly political and utilized by religious fanatics and the issue within
As far as blasphemy is concerned, that’s a moot point – blasphemy is only for those who believe. As a Christian myself I am not offended by those non-Christians who make fun of my God. To use a famous quote by someone I most admire: ‘forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing”.
As for the question of ‘freedom of expression’, it is a difficult one. Everywhere in the West, including the United-States, there are limits to ‘freedom of expression and speech’ and the discussion in
PS: It appears that "one of the three especially inflammatory but undocumented Muhammad images distributed by a Danish imam as an example of an "anti-Muslim environment" in the European country turns out to be a poorly reproduced copy of an Associated Press photo taken at a French pig-squealing contest" (WorldNet)
UPDATE: Read today's NYTimes article on how Muslim leaders utilized the cartoon controversy for their political agenda. (Feb. 9) - someting we all knew but it's good to have facts.
A Stones spokeswoman Tuesday refuted the league's contention that Mick Jagger agreed to self-censor his lyrics during the band's Super Bowl halftime performances of "Start Me Up" and "Rough Justice"--and the NFL backed down from its initial contention that he had.Either they are telling the truth, or they just don't have the balls to admit they backed down to the financial pressure. It's all about money after all, isn't it? not about morality!