Archive for October, 2005

The wrong verb

October 30, 2005

From a story in today’s New York Times by Richard W. Stevenson and Robin Toner (italics mine):

After weeks of political turmoil, capped by the indictment of a senior administration official, President Bush will try to give his second term a fresh start by naming a new conservative nominee to the Supreme Court and intensifying his drive to cut government spending, White House officials and other Republicans said.

Intensifying his drive to cut government spending?

George W. Bush has been the most financially profligate president since Lyndon Johnson.


Why they called him “Tricky Dick”

October 29, 2005

The 1952 [presidential] campaign also saw what [Earl] Warren considered his “betrayal” by Richard M. Nixon. [Nixon] had, like all the California delegates, signed a pledge to support [Warren] at the [Republican National] Convention. Despite this, Nixon worked, both in and outside the delegation, to obtain support for Eisenhower. Nixon joined the Warren campaign train in Denver, on July 4, the night before it was due in Chicago for the Convention. The train was in a festive mood, as the delegates had been celebrating in orange baseball caps, with the letter “W.” Nixon and his supporters went through the train, shaking hands, and whispering that Warren did not have a chance and they should jump on the Eisenhower bandwagon.

— Bernard Schwartz, Super Chief: Earl Warren and His Supreme Court — A Judicial Biography, pg. 21.

Garbage in, garbage out

October 28, 2005

I once read that translating a passage into a foreign language can be an excellent test of how well you understand that passage.

Something tells me that the following (from the Macedonian Press Agency) made no sense in the original Greek, either:

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in statements he made after the formal doxology at the church of St. Dimitrios in Thessaloniki today stressed that the morbid climate cultivated by certain circles will not stop the efforts underway and declared that the government will proceed with the reforms it has announced.

He stressed that the cries of those who want things to remain as they used to be will not have an intimidating or disorientating effect while he noted that the people condemn the practice of bulldozing everything.

Main opposition Socialist Party President Giorgos Papandreou stated that the people feel that Greece is stagnant in the rationale of political party interests, cliental relations, lack of transparency and vision.


I love Portland, Part 4

October 28, 2005

I walked home yesterday down Ash Street, through the early evening gray. The air was crisp and cool. My arms were goosebumped, but my chest was warm (layering at work). The drizzle was strong enough to feel, but too weak to soak, even given 40 minutes.

Being away for so many years, I had forgotten how much I missed weather like that.

Habit molds style

October 27, 2005

Our favored [psychological] defenses become habitual mental manuevers. What has worked well in key moments, keeping anxiety under control with rewarding results, is likely to be tried again. Epstein, the novelist, found as a child that isolation fended off the sorrow of his father’s death; that same cutting off of feeling offers itself years later when he confronts the horrors of Holocaust. Anna Freud’s patient, whose feelings were damaged by her father’s scorn, grows up to be a sarcastic, scornful woman.

Successful defense becomes habit, habit molds style. […] We set bounds on the range of our thoughts and feelings, limit our freedom of perception and action, in order to feel at peace.

— from Vital Lies, Simple Truths by Daniel Goleman, pg. 131 [italics mine]

When I was a teenager, I was an avid reader of George Will. I liked the style of his writing; a style that seemed learned, authoritative, and acerbic; qualities to which I aspired.

Reading those columns from the 1980s now, though, I see a different side of that style: peevish, obtuse, strangled.

The difference? When I read those columns the first time, 20 years ago, I was wound very, very tight. I feared. Feared everything. I circumscribed my life. I thought I needed to protect myself.

Will’s style resonated with my way of living. If I could be confident in my grasp of reason and tradition, and ground myself in those, then I would not need the self-confidence I did not have. And, as a bonus, I could see myself as a better person than people without as strong a grounding in philosophy and history (i.e., everyone around me at the time).

Habit molds style.

Thank God it can re-mold it later.

How does your style reflect you?

Sherrod Brown: Sneaky

October 26, 2005

Representative Sherrod Brown (D-OH) entered the race for Michael DeWine’s Senate seat a short time ago. Many Democrats considered his entrance to be opportunistic, because Brown had shown little interest in contesting the seat when the GOP in Ohio was stronger. Such Democrats are inclined to support the other announced candidate in the race, Paul Hackett.

One of Hackett’s strengths is the financial support he receives from blog readers. Upon entering the race, Brown sought to cut into that strength by making large ad buys with various widely read blogs. Some bloggers thought Brown was trying to buy their support, and at least one was vocally unimpressed.

So Brown changed tactics. Instead of asking bloggers for money for himself, he is asking them to contribute money to the eventual winner of the Democratic nomination.

This change in tactics serves three purposes for Brown:

1. He looks magnanimous, and gets some good press for himself.

2. He might convince blog readers to contribute to ActBlue instead of to a candidate, which would hurt Hackett more than himself.

3. He designed an ActBlue ad that makes him look good. The ad features an attractive picture of Brown, who looks at the viewer with a winning smile. It also features a bad picture of Hackett, who is looking not at the viewer, but at Brown, as if he were looking at his leader.

Sherrod Brown is clearly the candidate with more experience playing politics.

A message system

October 26, 2005

When I charge my cell phone, I keep it on a narrow window ledge. The phone vibrates when someone calls, and the vibrations jostle the phone off the ledge to the carpet below.

Finding out if I missed a call can’t get much easier than that.

President Bush is a fragile flower…

October 26, 2005

…who needs to be handled with great care.

Just ask Irish journalist Carole Coleman.

(The video of the Coleman’s interview of Bush is here [SMIL format].)

You can’t beat somebody with nobody

October 25, 2005

I have never understood the point of polls that match an unnamed candidate from one party against a named candidate from the other party.

The most recent example comes from the Gallup organization, which says that an unnamed Democratic candidate would handily defeat President Bush in an election held today.

But if such an election were held today, it would be between Bush and another person, not between Bush and a generic Democrat on whom we can project our hopes and wishes. And that person would have strengths and weaknesses, and a particular public image that would work for or against him. John Edwards and Hillary Clinton might appeal to significantly different groups of voters, and those differences could decide the race.

So what is the point of these polls?

Communicating clearly

October 24, 2005

Paraphrased from “Logic and Conversation”, an article by H. P. Grice:

1. Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purposes of the exchange).

2. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required — do not add any potentially distracting extraneous information.

3. Do not say what you believe to be false.

4. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.

5. Avoid obscurity of expression.

6. Avoid ambiguity.

7. Be brief (avoid unnecessary words).

8. Be orderly.