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Archive for the ‘Stupidity’ Category

Asleep at the intersection

Today, while waiting to cross the street, I saw something that should never happen.

Here in BC, at many intersections, there are left turn lanes. In some of them, the traffic light will show a green arrow that gives right of way to those turning left. The crosswalk I was at was one such intersection. And as you might expect, the left turn arrows came on in both directions. However, there were no vehicles in either left turn lane.

Is it not obvious that the above situation leads to unnecessary idling, and therefore wastes energy? I see no reason why it is impossible to put a sensor in a left turn lane that, that while the light is red, detects and counts the cars passing over. Perhaps it could detect cars by pushing down slightly when a set of wheels passes over. This will happen twice per car (once per axle). The cars’ weight could press the sensor down. While not perfect (a semi or other long vehicle with more than two axles would result in an incorrect number of vehicles) this will be a good enough approximation to form a sensor system. The number of cars passing into the left turn lane could then be used to decide whether to activate the arrow the next time the light turns green. This system would prevent unnecessary idling due to unneeded turning arrows, and ought to be relatively simple to implement (a computer could probably do it).

FAIL of the day

Today, I had to take a carpool home from work. Since the Lower Mainland is right near the US border, we get a couple of US radio stations. The driver had on one such station. And do you want to know what ad I heard on the way home?

An ad for the US’s Small Business Administration loans.

During a government shutdown.

FAIL.

And another irony meter bites the dust

Look at this rubbish by one of Serena Joy’s relatives. I’d like to draw your attention to the big photograph accompanying it at the top (screenshot below).

Screenshot

Does the big photograph right below the title look familiar?

Look familiar?

It should, because the photograph is actually one of Lela McArthur (left), and Stephanie Figarelle (right), the first same–sex couple to get married at the Empire State Building.

In other words, a screed against gender equality is accompanied by a photograph of a same–sex couple, an example of an institution that helps to increase gender equality.

You really, really can’t make this up.

And speaking of same–sex marriage, I strongly suspect that much conservative opposition to it is rooted in misogyny. As Echidne (and others) have argued, same–sex marriage subverts traditional/stereotypical gender roles. In (say) a marriage between two women, it can be a partnership of equals or not. If it is a partnership of equals, than neither is in the stereotypical submissive “feminine” role. If it is not  partnership between equals, than one partner (who, be definition, is female) must be in the stereotypical dominant “masculine” role. It therefore means that some woman is adopting a stereotypical masculine gender role in her marriage. The same reasoning applies to a same–sex marriage between two men. If it is a partnership of equals, than neither partner is dominant or submissive. If it is not a partnership of equals, than one man must be in a stereotypical submissive feminine role. Either way, either neither partner is in their sex’s stereotypical gender role, or else one partner is, but you cannot tell which purely by determining their gender. As Echidne put it (my emphasis):

“I cannot help thinking that those who are opposed to same-sex marriage might be opposed to the idea of a marriage where they cannot tell, right off the bat, who should be the high priest and who the congregation in the family. In other words, they treasure the patriarchal form of marriage more than the idea that the partners should be of different genders.”

Via Jessica Valenti.

Update: The picture has been removed. But I saved a screenshot. The internet never forgets.

Update 2: Figarelle released a statement. You can read it at Feministing.

Russian to ban words

This is a bit rich coming from someone whose own endonym is a loanword:

“We’re tormented with Americanisms,” the leader of Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, complained last week. “We need to liberate our language from foreign words.” He is drawing up a list of 100 words which he would like it to be illegal for broadcasters, writers and academics to use in public. Fines and unemployment could face anyone caught saying café, bar, restaurant, sale, mouton, performance or trader. Some of the words have come into use since the fall of the Soviet Union; others have been around for decades, if not centuries. “There are perfectly good Russian words you can use,” Zhirinovsky says. “Why say boutique when we have lavka?”….

The reality is that the Russian language is in no way threatened by loanwords from other languages; indeed, it is actually Russian that is threatening other languages, as the indigenous peoples of Siberia and elsewhere in Russia are increasingly shifting to Russian and abandoning their own (mostly) Altaic or Uralic languages. And even if those peoples are not shifting, they are still heavily borrowing words and sometimes syntax and idioms from Russian.

And a handful of loanwords does not threaten a language. Consider English. It has many layers of loanwords, in particular from French. Some of these date back to time contemporary with the Norman Conquest. And yet, English was in no way threatened by the French language and is in no way Romance in character. For example, it retains many typical features of Germanic languages, such as genitives using a sibilant suffix;* verb classes contrasting weak (dental suffix), strong (vowel change) and a few smaller classes;† (remnants of) a system of three genders, and so on. Now, the Russian loanwords are far fewer in number than English loanwords. Since loanwords did not substantially change or threaten the character of English, there is no way a smaller relative number could possibly threaten Russian.

And if Zhirinovsky is going to be consistent, he’d have to abandon all loanwords. There are a number of them from the Proto–Slavic period. Some of these have descendants in modern Russian and therefore fully qualify as loanwords. He cannot explain these away as being “old” as that is simply saying the desirability of a loanword depends on when it was borrowed, which is absurd and incoherent. Indeed, as I mentioned before, his own language’s endonym (and name for itself) are themselves loanwords. (Specifically, and skipping over the specifics, it ultimately comes from a Norse word meaning “the men who row”, which was something like *rods–). This must be why Zhirinovsky wants to change the name of his country, because it’s one of those “tormenting loanwords”. Right?

Hence, I conclude that the Russian language is not under threat from loanwords, that those who complain about them are incoherent, and that any consistent attempt to exorcise loan words from the Russian language would require excessive changes that would be taken to a ridiculous extreme. Indeed, banning certain loanwords is about as necessary as declaring onion domes the official architecture of that country.

Via.

* The ‘s is not actually a suffix, but its etymology is as a genitive suffix. Cognate forms appear in many other Germanic languages.

Child of the random stuff

In no particular order:

Worst punctuation complaint ever

I just found this ridiculous rant concerning punctuation. The guts of that post is that English punctuation is illogical because we don’t use Spanish–style inverted question marks to begin questions (and, mutatis mutandis, inverted exclamation points). By reading his rant you’ll notice that the writer seems not to know the difference between a tag question and a tag itself. The reason for his belief is that it is confusing to rely on context to determine when a question begins. The fact that he makes such a claim shows why he has no clue what he’s talking about.

Heres why.

What happens when you ask a question in the English language? In almost all cases, either you invert the subject and an auxiliary verb (if there’s no auxiliary, add one), or you do the preceding and also begin with one of the wh–words. The main difference between the two question forms is that the former is a yes–no (or polar) question, while the latter is a wh (or non–polar) question. The other form is a tag question. Tag questions are a semantically a subtype of yes–no questions. Let’s look at examples:

  • (Declarative): You went to the store.
  • (Polar) Did you go to the store?
  • (Wh) Where did you go?
  • (Tag) You went to the store, didn’t you?

What do wh– and yes–no questions have in common? The first word(s) (or implicitly, the word order) in either of them indicate that the following sentence is a question. In other words, the beginning of these sentences indicates that what follows is a question. Hence, there is no need for a beginning of sentence question–marking punctuation mark because the words and word order already do that. Tag questions are rare enough that they won’t need special punctuation rules. Indeed, in speech, tag questions have no “marker” at the beginning that tells us a question is coming, but this in no way hinders our ability to make ourselves understood. The same applies to writing.

This post has been edited for clarity.

Jeannieology of a not–Poe

I’ve seen any number of ridiculous objections to the birth control mandate in the US, but this one has got to be one of the loopiest. I found it at Sadly No!, and I swear that it is not a Poe. It’s by someone named Jeannie DeAngelis, and is titled “Is Obama purposely altering America’s religious complexion?”. Considering that Ms. DeAngelis’ writing has also been found at websites like The American Stinker pretty much sums up all you need to know about her. And since I haven’t done a fisking in so long, DeAngelis’ screed provides the perfect target.

Just like a benevolent government that has worked hard to help provide naïve young girls with parent-free abortions,[…]

All women and girls have reproductive rights. Parents don’t own their kids, and they shouldn’t suffer because they happened to be born to fetus fetishist parents. Abortion (and contraception, although DeAngelis didn’t mention it in this context) are legal.

[I]t stands to reason that ‘patriarchal’ Christianity would be next in line to be undermined.[…]

If patriarchal religion is being undermined I’m all for it.

When it comes to challenging authority, the President seems to be particularly obsessed with using birth control and abortion as a weapon.

“Birth control and abortion as a weapon?” You have until the count of ten before I pump your guts full of pills!;)

[…]Barry seems excessively concerned about ensuring that everyone, regardless of age, credo or upbringing, can obtain free condoms, morning-after pills, sterilization, and abortion-on-demand.

Actually, economic and other barriers ensure that most women don’t have abortion or contraception on demand. Additionally, the Hyde Amendment and other laws ensure that federal tax dollars and none of your money™ are not being used to fund (most) abortions (cite).

The only religious group Obama respects and is careful not offend, whether religiously or parentally, is Muslims.

Bush emphasized on a number of occasions that he was fighting Islamic terrorists and extremists and not the vast majority of Muslims who are neither.

The Muslim faith has drawn a line in the sand and the President, who feels very comfortable defying every other authority from the Vatican to the parents of 14-year-old girls[…]

The Pope runs his own country. And again, children shouldn’t suffer because they had the misfortune to be born to parents who abuse them by denying them legal health care.

[A]cquiesces, without question, to the tenets of the Koran.

This conspiracy theory that Obama is a secret Muslim has been debunked a million times.

Barack Obama knows full well that “Muslims believe that health insurance is ‘haraam,’ or forbidden, because they liken the ambiguity and probability of insurance to gambling.” Thus, without question the Obama administration has decided that, unlike other faiths, “This belief excludes them from any of the requirements, mandates, or penalties set forth in [Obamacare].” Obama respects the Muslim stance on gambling, and presto! Muslims are exempt from health insurance, and more specifically the birth control, sterilization, and abortion mandates that accompany it.

Actually, as Snopes and FactCheck make clear, while some Muslim groups object to life insurance, most Muslims have no problem with health insurance or other insurance required by law. Considering that no Muslim groups objects to Social Security, which Christian groups granted exemptions under the appropriate laws do, it is unlikely that any Muslim would be granted an exemption. As Snopes puts it, “[N]o Muslim group has ever qualified for an exemption under the guidelines which define which religious groups would be exempt from the health care law.”

And furthermore, there is no abortion mandate.

DeAngelis then goes on to quote some Catholic dogma about human reproduction and sexuality. The appropriate response to this is, of course, to point out that if one is concerned about abortions (like DeAngelis herself mentioned as recently as last month) and wants to reduce the number of abortions, improved access to contraception is the number one way to do it. That, along with better sex education, is how places like the Czech Republic (cite), Georgia (cite), and elsewhere (cite) have reduced their abortion rates.

Barack Obama, who’s obsessed with everyone else’s sex life[…]

“[O]bsessed with everyone else’s sex life?” I thought this article was written by Jeannie DeAngelis, and not Yagotta B. Kidding.

The question arises as to why a President so focused on controlling so many Americans’ reproductive habits and overriding religion[…]

98% of sexually active Catholic women use contraception. A Majority of Catholics support no–cost contraception (cite). The only religion being overridden is that of the professional virgins almost no one listens to anyway. In addition, as David Frum (a Republican) pointed out, those who oppose the birth control mandate on the grounds of “freedom of religion” are incoherent, much less the fact that several states have required churches to follow similar rules several years already.

[…]Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Barack Obama have joined forces, blocked the exits, and are distributing free condoms at the contraceptive circus.

Contraceptive circus? Really?

Meanwhile, Islam is exempt.

See just above. DeAngelis mentioned this in the part of the paragraph that I skipped over. She sure does know how to rant, doesn’t she?

The President is urging and actively assisting in lowering birth rates in a Christian community whose tenets reject contraception and abortion and stands by while, according to Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life population projections, “Globally, the Muslim population is forecast to grow at about twice the rate of the non-Muslim population over the next two decades.”[…]

Ooooh, alert alert, it’s the scary foreign people! That aside, if you read such demographic reports, you’ll find out that the fertility rate in the Muslim world is plummetting. The reason for the continued increase is, of course, population momentum: When you have a large cohort of people of prime reproductive age, the population will almost certainly go up even with a low birth rate.

DeAngelis continues ranting the same stuff for her last paragraph, reiterating her previous wingnut word salad about Muslim exemptions and pretty much nothing that hasn’t been debunked above.

Update: This post used to have a picture, but I removed it on the grounds that it added no value to this post.

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