Monday, May 02, 2016

The Single Best Joke Told by Every President, from the 1780s to the 21st Century

“He’s not into the classic hokey punchlines,” said Brian Agler, a comedian and speechwriter at the Washington-based West Wing Writers. “There’s a level of detachment and a level of understanding about what’s going on, like, ‘this is kind of weird that the president is up here in a tux making jokes’ — all of his humor has that element baked into it.”
As the mainstream media oohs and ahs over Barack Obama's alleged mastery in the art of telling a joke, the Washington Post's Dan Zak presents The single best joke told by every president, from BO to Washington…

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Should the Semicolon follow the diastole, the trigon, the interpunct, and the diple?

INTHEBEGINNINGWASTHEWORD, and the word was run together. Ancient texts (like the Greek of the Gospel of John) had few of the devices that tell readers where words begin and end (spaces), which words are proper names (the upper-lower case distinction), where breaks in meaning come (commas, dashes, semicolons and full stops), who said what (inverted commas), and so on.  
Thus readeth Johnson's Economist column on how punctuation is being changed by computers and the internet.
Most people take punctuation to be something obvious and settled.

 … The first English writers, when they punctuated at all, availed themselves of long-forgotten symbols like the diastole and trigon, the interpunct and the diple. Printing began the process of settling the punctuation system, but even that took four centuries. Samuel Johnson’s commas, in the mid-18th century, were not only heavy; many would be ungrammatical today, and this style persisted into the first editions of The Economist in 1843.

 … As David Crystal, a linguist, points out in his history of punctuation (“Making a Point”) published in 2015, at the dawn of the 19th century, punctuation prescribers were still divided into those who insisted that punctuation follow grammar and those who wanted it to aid elocution. Even one of the grammarians, Lindley Murray, wrote in 1795, in a hugely influential grammar book, that a semicolon signalled a pause twice as long as a comma; that a colon was twice as long as a semicolon; and that a full stop was twice as long as a colon. (Try that next time you read a text aloud.)
This causes John O’Callaghan to write from Singapore:
One bit of punctuation that should follow the diastole, the trigon, the interpunct and the diple onto the scrap heap of history is the semicolon (Johnson, March 12th). Very few people know how to use semicolons correctly and The Economist’s constant overuse contradicts its advice—contained in its very own style guide—not to overdo them.
Kurt Vonnegut said it best:
“Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”
Montreal's Mark Lee provides a reply:
A reader called for semicolons to be thrown “onto the scrap heap of history” (Letters, March 26th). I disagree. A good guide is Lewis Thomas’s “Notes on Punctuation”, which says:
The semicolon tells you that there is still some question about the preceding full sentence; something needs to be added; it reminds you sometimes of the Greek usage. It is almost always a greater pleasure to come across a semicolon than a period. The period tells you that that is that; if you didn’t get all the meaning you wanted or expected, anyway you got all the writer intended to parcel out and now you have to move along. But with a semicolon there you get a pleasant little feeling of expectancy; there is more to come; to read on; it will get clearer.

• Related: 5 Punctuation Marks That Look Nothing Like They Used To
• 10 Obscure Punctuation Marks That Should Really Get More Play
Did the Serial Comma Take a Hit?

Saturday, April 30, 2016

From Across the Pond, A Nation of Cat Lovers

The Daily Telegraph sports a collection of photos under the title A nation of cat lovers (favourite British moggies in pictures), including a couple featuring Winston Churchill.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Meeting the rainbow bullies halfway never works because they see their struggle as a new civil rights movement

Yes, the meanings of words can change, agrees Benny Huang; but why is it that they always seem to change just at the moment the Left decides they should? (Update: thanks to Ed Driscoll for linking us.)
Gloucester County, Virginia wasn’t expecting to find itself in the midst of the never-ending culture wars when it told a female high school student named Gavin Grimm that she isn’t entitled to use the boys’ facilities just because she suffers from the delusion that she’s a boy. Grimm sued her school with the assistance of the Department of Justice and the ACLU. In a recent 2-1 decision by the 4th US Circuit of Appeals, Grimm won her case.

In order to find some accommodation for Grimm her high school went as far as installing three single-stall bathrooms throughout the school. I wonder how much those bathrooms cost and what was displaced to make room for them? For that matter, what will happen to those bathrooms after she graduates? This girl’s mental illness sure is a heavy burden on the taxpayers and her fellow students.
Grimm refused to use the bathrooms installed just for her because accommodation was never her goal. She wants to be treated like a boy and she will not be satisfied with anything less. Let this be a lesson: Meeting the rainbow bullies halfway never works because they see their struggle as a new civil rights movement. Their aim is absolute victory which necessarily requires your unconditional surrender. “Compromise” is not in their vocabulary; why is it in ours?

 … The bathroom issue can and should be hashed out at the local level because federal law is silent on the matter. The reason that isn’t happening is because control freaks in the Obama Administration won’t allow it. In 2015, the Department of Education issued a policy letter stating: “When a school elects to separate or treat students differently on the basis of sex… a school generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.” The 4th Circuit found that a lower court failed to give this policy letter its due deference—probably because the policy letter is not the law. President Obama does not have the authority to tack clauses onto existing statutes just because he wishes they were there. That’s what dictators do, not presidents. The policy letter is, at best, a suggestion. Or at least it should be.

This isn’t even the first redefinition of the word “sex” in Title IX to mean something else entirely. Today “sex” can even mean “sexual orientation,” which is almost always code for sexual conduct. It was not interpreted this way until 2016 when a Clinton-appointed federal judge put a new spin on a 44-year old law. Now Title IX is being treated as if it axiomatically applies to “sexual orientation.” In time people will forget that there was ever a time that it didn’t.

Title IX was supposed to be a women’s rights bill but it became a “gay” “rights” bill, then a “trans” “rights” bill because judges decreed it to be so. Some people I know wouldn’t see the problem with this expansion of “rights,” so let me explain. Besides the fact that it goes far beyond the federal government’s enumerated powers, it also sets a problematic precedent. The lesson people will learn is that they don’t have to go through the process of changing laws as long as they have right on their side. And who, after all, believes that they have wrong on their side? No one I know.

If a law similar to Title IX is necessary to protect homosexuals—and I’m certainly not saying that it is—then it can be passed the old-fashioned way through the legislative process. Merely changing the meaning of the operative word in an old statute is cheating and it will surely diminish the rule of law.

Ironically, all of this word-morphing has gotten out of control precisely because people want to hide behind a false “rule of law” façade while advancing the rule of men. The rule of law is the idea that our law is supreme and must be obeyed by all. The rule of men is what exists in most of the world; the population is obliged to obey powerful people simply because they’re powerful. Powerful people are not subject to the law themselves and can change it at their whim. The law is what they say it is.
By changing the meaning of words, powerful people can rule by decree while pretending to hold the law in the highest regard. To see how this works in action, let’s look at an example from New York City where a man named Shawn Thomas was fined for using an e-cigarette on a subway platform, which is not actually illegal. Thankfully, Mr. Thomas decided not to take it sitting down.

Vaping is not smoking and the two words cannot be used interchangeably. The very purpose of e-cigarettes is to allow smokers and ex-smokers to get their nicotine fix in places where smoking is not allowed—which happens to be almost everywhere in New York City these days. Predictably, anti-smoking zealots are beginning to show that they are no more tolerant of odorless, harmless water vapor than they are of actual tobacco smoke. I can only conclude that anti-smoking hysteria isn’t and never was about second-hand smoke.

In the case of the People v. Shawn Thomas, the state argued that there was no need to pass a new law against vaping in public places because the old one covering smoking suffices—which confirms my suspicion that existing law was never about second-hand smoke. In any case, the state was asserting its authority to make up laws on the spot through the redefinition of words. That ought to scare anyone, even the most strident anti-smoking crusader.

Fortunately for Shawn Thomas, this argument didn’t persuade the judge who actually seemed to care what the text of the law said. New York defines smoking as “the burning of a lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe or any other matter or substance which contains tobacco.” E-cigs do not contain tobacco and nothing is burnt or lighted. Shawn Thomas won his case—and so did the rule of law.

Smoking is not vaping. One is illegal on the subway and the other one is not. Pretty simple.

But for people who want to fine their fellow citizens for doing nothing illegal the distinction presents something of a problem. These people unilaterally change the meaning of the verb “to smoke” and then demand that others respect “the law.” What they really want others to respect is their power to issue diktats.

If words have no objective meanings then they are nothing more than tokens of power. Powerful people can change their meanings as they please—and change them back just as easily. As liberals like to whine, “The meanings of words can change!” Yes, I suppose that’s true. But why do the definitions of words only change when leftists want them to? Who died and made them the final arbiter of the English language? The rest of us need to stop letting them get away with this nonsense. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Do the Rich Not Pay Their Fair Share?

… retribution is a poor rationale for taxation
writes The Econonmist.
Nor is the current pattern of contribution to the public purse obviously "unfair": the richest 1% of Americans pay more than a quarter of all federal taxes (and fully 40% of income taxes), while taking less than 20% of pre-tax income.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Friday, April 22, 2016

Won't Americans be lucky, won't Americans be happy, when Bernie will finally be able do for the USA what Hugo did for Venezuela?!

My God!

After two and a quarter centuries of unabashed suffering, of weeping and gnashing of teeth, of constantly being in the wake of the forward-looking and more advanced Europeans (with the Europeans' second-to-none intelligence, with the Europeans' second-to-none compassion, with the Europeans' second-to-none intelligence, with the Europeans' second-to-none tolerance, with the Europeans' second-to-none intelligence, with the Europeans' second-to-none humanism), the American people have finally found leaders who will bring about what the suffering masses have always dreamt of, what the masses have been pining for for 240 years:

"Fundamentally transforming the United States of America" so that it is no longer the capitalist country, the nightmarish hellhole that Europe's élites have been generously warning us (and especially their own people) of since… Since when? Well, since the American Revolution, no less.

Thanks to Bernie (as well as Barack), Americans are finally at a stage to see their country leave barbarism behind and go boldly forward to a new degree of civilization and enjoy:
• as many taxes as the Europeans;
• as many laws, as many rules, and as many regulations as the Europeans;
• and as many officials, as many functionaries, and as many bureaucrats as the Europeans.

Won't Americans be lucky, won't Americans be happy, when Bernie will finally be able do for the USA what Hugo and Nicolas (gracias por Ed Driscoll) have done for Venezuela (gracias por Instapundit)?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

If only Barack and Bernie could do for the USA what Hugo and Nicolas have done for Venezuela

At least in South America, money doesn't reign (anymore).

Wouldn't Americans be lucky, wouldn't Americans be happy, if only (Barack and Liz and) Bernie could do for the USA what Hugo and Nicolas (gracias por Ed Driscoll) have done for Venezuela?

Six Further Controversial Bible Verses Are Tackled by a Believer

Jeff Sanders treates us to a further Six Controversial Bible Verses the Skeptics Love to Hate (thanks to brother Ed Driscoll). Here is one of the six:
Should you cut your hands off or pluck your eyes out if you sin? (Matthew 5:29-30) 

Jesus uses pretty strong language here, commanding His disciples to pluck out their eyes or to cut off their hands if those parts of the body cause them to sin. But no, Jesus is not commanding self-mutilation. Nowhere do any of His disciples ever do this, and the cause of sin is not the eye or the hand. We sin because of what is going on inside us, in our minds (which Jesus is careful to point out in all four Gospels).

Jesus is just using normal everyday hyperbole to get his point across. We exaggerate often ("I've told you a million times to stop!"). Here He is merely telling His people in rather charged language to do whatever it takes to stay away from sin. Sin has extreme consequences, so go to extremes to stay away from it.
And again, we get interesting information from the Instapundit comments section, just like last week.

Related: Bible Verses That May Not Be as Extreme or as Immoral or as Ridiculous as Initially Thought

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Double Standards: The left's activists and their “our money good, their money bad” propaganda

Four hundred protesters associated with the Democracy Spring movement were arrested in Washington, DC last week after demonstrators descended upon the US Capitol
writes Benny Huang.
They spoke out against money in politics, the Koch brothers, and the Citizens United ruling that overturned key provisions of campaign finance law. The demonstration was clearly a statement against corporate influence in politics.

The protesters aren’t entirely wrong. Yes, political influence is unequally distributed because money begets power and vice versa. A guy who changes oil for a living doesn’t have as much pull as a guy who owns an oil company. But what can be done about it?

Societies that have experimented with radical egalitarianism have yielded horrific results—and none of them can even claim to have achieved their purported goal of leveling the playing field for everyone.

We’re left to ponder why efforts to equalize political power always fail. Could it be that even those who demand equal voices in government don’t really want it? From observing Democracy Spring in action I can only conclude that the answer is yes. They’re neither class warriors nor small-“d” democrats; they’re just hacks.

Take, for example, Democracy Spring’s fixation on the libertarian Koch brothers, the Left’s new Emmanuel Goldstein. I’m sure that Democracy Spring would have you believe that they simply want the Koch brothers to butt out of politics because their substantial fortune buys them outsized influence; but that can’t be the real reason because they don’t want all filthy rich political donors to butt out. Tellingly, there’s no Two Minutes Hate against George Soros.

George Soros is exactly the kind of unscrupulous hedge fund manager that the Left should despise by default—and yet they don’t. Gee, do you think it’s because he’s their sugar daddy? A 2010 report from contrasting the Koch brothers’ contributions to Soros’ contributions revealed that both sides dump money into politics by the truckload. Trying to calculate who spends more is difficult because they spend differently.
"Ever since Americans were old enough to crawl in front of a television set," adds Kyle Becker,
they’ve been told that Republicans are the party of rich white guys, and Democrats are the champions of the poor. Prepare to flip that thinking upside down. … 20 of the top 32 donors lean Democrat, while only 6 lean Republican. The rest are on the fence. … if you factor in all the indirect benefits the Democrat Party gets from the non-profit sector, left-wing activism, public and private sector unions, Wall Street banks, universities, and superfund contributors, it has been estimated by Dr. David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin in their book The New Leviathan that the Republican Party is outspent in politics by a factor of 7-to-1by a factor of 7-to-1. Bear this in mind when the left goes off on a tirade about the Koch Brothers bogeymen, who come in 59th on a list of top contributors. Public and private sector unions leave the Koch Brother’s measly $18 million over 25 years in the dust.
Benny Huang continues:
But Democracy Spring, while claiming that it only wants to eradicate money’s corrupting influence, doesn’t mention Soros’s substantial contributions. Is it because Soros is funding Democracy Spring? Campaign Director Kai Newkirk says Soros hasn’t “given us a dime,” but the same cannot be said of its supporting organizations. Democracy Spring’s website boasts of endorsements from more than one hundred groups, some of which are funded with Soros money. The political titan, for example, is listed as a Democracy Spring endorser and has received funding from Soros. Other endorsing groups that have taken Soros money include People for the American Way and Demos.

One endorser, an organization calling itself The Other 98%, even has a handy infographic on its website to explain why the billionaire Koch brothers are bad but billionaire George Soros is good. I could find no evidence that The Other 98% is funded by George Soros though its infographic wreaks of agitprop. It depicts Soros as a public-minded philanthropist and the Koch brothers as greedy, evil tycoons who use their money to advance the devil’s agenda. It’s more “our money good, their money bad” propaganda—and that is why these people lack credibility. Despite their rhetoric, it’s not “We the People” versus the corporations, nor is it the 98 percent versus the super-rich 2 percent. It’s their favorite billionaire against yours.

Once you understand the endorsing organizations’ support from (and for?) George Soros it suddenly becomes clear why these crusaders against money in politics don’t protest his influence-peddling. Even if the leaders of this Democracy Spring movement are completely sincere in their desire to drive all the big donors from politics (and I’m not sure that they are) their endorsing organizations are not. There’s almost an unspoken agreement—the endorsing organizations will continue to support Democracy Spring as long as their own donors are shielded from criticism. Democracy Spring accepts this condition because it wants their support.

If Democracy Spring wants to end the corporate corruption of our democratic process they might want to focus their efforts on the troubling trend of corporations threatening states with economic sanctions. This tactic appears to work well because large corporations can inflict real pain upon the populations of states that refuse to do their bidding.

For example, the Walt Disney Company recently threatened Georgia that it would pull all film production from that state if the governor signed a religious freedom bill. The bill, which really shouldn’t be necessary in a country that already has the first and thirteenth amendments, protects private business owners from homosexuals who want to make them unwilling participants in same-sex weddings.

 … Why are these anti-corporate activists not raising hell? Disney is an enormous, out-of-state media conglomerate that issued an ultimatum to a state governor to veto a bill that was passed overwhelmingly by the people’s elected representatives—and the governor complied. A huge corporation said ‘jump’ and a Governor Deal said ‘how high?’ Sadly, I think nearly all of our state governors would have done the same.

I can hear the objections now—that the bill was terrible, awful, discriminatory, practically Jim Crow all over again. That’s nonsense of course, but it’s also irrelevant. What matters is that the people of Georgia wanted that bill and presumably still do but they can’t have it because the corporations sounded a resounding “No!”

The Left’s support for these corporate boycotts tells me that they don’t always side with the people against the corporations. When the people are “bigots” they like to see corporations thrash them into line. They can’t say unequivocally that the will of the people should prevail when it collides with the will of corporations. It depends, really. Are the corporations progressive? Are the people backwards hicks? These details matter.

If that’s your position you are neither anti-corporate nor pro-democracy. You’re not leading a People’s movement against corporate interests. Stop lying to yourselves and the rest of us. Hacks like you don’t get to claim lofty ideals because you don’t have any. You have an agenda, nothing more.

Other states have had fights with corporations over other bills, most of which involve protecting people of faith targeted by homofascist bullies. That’s because homosexuals, far from being the underdogs they pretend to be, are well-organized, well-connected, and extremely well-funded. When people try to defend themselves the homofascists unleash the corporate hounds. Works every time.

Walmart, for example, exerted a lot of political pressure on Arkansas’s governor to veto a religious freedom bill in that state. The governor signed a watered-down version. So it’s official—liberals took the side of Walmart over religious freedom. Walmart! Hating Walmart is reflexive for liberals, almost like breathing. The aforementioned Other 98% has even started its own Walmart boycott, though not because Walmart hates religious freedom or because it used its political clout to overrule the will of the people. They’re boycotting Walmart because it doesn’t yet pay its employees $15 an hour. Liberals would rather waterboard a baby seal than shop at Walmart but clearly they don’t hate Walmart as much as they hate Christians. That’s a special kind of hate.

It’s undeniable that people with big checkbooks exert more power than the rest of us. That’s a truism that will probably never change. But the people who complain the most about it should get real and admit that they aren’t really concerned about corporate influence or money in politics. That’s a pose, not a position. What they don’t like is when it’s used against them, to thwart their policy goals and block their legislation. That’s understandable, I suppose, but it shouldn’t be confused with principle.