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Posts tagged ‘International’

Marriage equality is coming to France

The National Assembly of France has voted 331–225 to enable marriage equality (via):

French lawmakers have legalized same-sex marriage after months of bruising debate and street protests that brought hundreds of thousands to Paris.

Tuesday’s 331-225 vote came in the Socialist majority National Assembly. France’s justice minister, Christiane Taubira, said the first weddings could be as soon as June….

And regarding those protests, they were weird in light of something I mentioned years ago:

The number of PACS [the French acronym of the Civil Solidarity Pact] celebrated in France, both gay and heterosexual unions, has grown from 6,000 in its first year of operation in 1999 to more than 140,000 in 2008, according to official statistics. For every two marriages in France, a PACS is celebrated, the statistics show, making a total of half a million PACS[‘]ed couples, and the number is rising steadily.


Perhaps more important as an indication of how French people live, the number of heterosexual men and women entering into a PACS agreement has grown from 42 percent of the total initially to 92 percent last year [2008].

Notice how all those PACS were actually reducing the number of marriages? Enabling same–sex marriage eliminates this justification for PACS. But the protestors would rather there be fewer marriages rather than marriage equality.

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.


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

Shut up because the views must be the same

A guest blogger at the Volokh Conspiracy is doing a series of posts about treaties and the United States’ Congress’ powers and the ability to enforce them.

Rather than offer my own views on that subject (which is way beyond my expertise, in part because IANAL), I’ll instead draw attention to a curious contradiction among many in the religious right wrong. In concerns the United States’ Constitution’s Supremacy Clause (Article VI, Clause 2), which reads as follows:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

The people in the religious right wrong use this section to argue that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, if ratified by the US Senate, will somehow threaten “parental rights” or homeschooling or other such stuff. (As every other country [except Somalia, which hasn’t signed] shows, such claims are nonsense, but showing why is beyond the scope of this post). In other words, they are required to believe that any international treaty overrules whatever laws are in force in the US, even if Congress legislating in that area would be ultra vires (beyond its powers).

The religious right wrong also believe that the US is founded as a Christian nation. This is in spite of the Treaty of Tripoli, which the US Senate unanimously ratified over two centuries ago. The relevant section is Article 12, which reads as follows (spelling and wording in original):

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

In other words, the religious right wrong believes that treaties overrule law when they provide rights to children, but not when they refute the Christian nation myth.

Those two positions are contradictory. One cannot rationally believe both. If they truly believe that the US was founded as a Christian nation and that the Treaty of Tripoli does not apply, then they can forever shut up about the UNCRC overruling any other law and threatening parental rights. If, by contrast, they believe that the UNCRC does overrule other laws, they then can shut the fuck up about the US being founded as a Christian nation.

At least someone’s bringing the hammer down for public health

A hospital in Indiana has fired eight employees because they refused flu shots (via). Good. It’s about time someone grew a spine and stood up to religious extremists who put the health and lives of the public at risk. And can we start doing this in BC, now? Update: My apologies, I didn’t read the date carefully enough. This is from a year ago. But still, the principle behind it still holds.

And to those who want religious exemptions from doing the job the voluntarily signed up for, be careful what you wish for. (Indeed, I think that it is pretty likely that the same people who support the people in Indiana would object to this second group, even though both are using the same justifications for not doing what is necessary for their job).

Something that should happen, but won’t

This will probably one of the very few times I might have something nice to say about Republican obstructionism. ThinkProgress reports (my emphasis):

House Republicans let the five-year farm bill expire at the end of September without a new law to replace the massive measure covering billions of dollars in programs, including food stamps and agriculture subsidies….

I’m against cutting food stamps, but in the unlikely event that this obstructionism results in the end of American agricultural subsidies I will be really glad. Agricultural subsidies are one of the worst possible things a government can do with its money. For the most part, these line the pockets of agribusinesses and cattle barons. Contrary to popular believe, only a minute fraction of agricultural subsidies go to family farmers. The chief effect of these unnecessary subsidies is to distort the food market, mostly by artificially lowering prices. The effect is to give an income to agribusiness that the free market won’t (or can’t). In almost every other circumstance, wingnuts would be screaming “SOCIALISM” until their vocal cords broke. But in this case, we usually end up with bipartisan agreement to squander government money. It should come as no surprise that an overwhelming majority of economists agree that agricultural subsidies should be eliminated.

In many cases, these market distortions skew people’s food choices, especially towards unhealthy foods. Elimination of agricultural subsidies would hence improve public health.

Eliminating agricultural subsidies has an additional benefit. Agriculture is one of the few areas where poor countries have a comparative advantage. Eliminating agricultural subsidies (in all countries, not just the US) would allow farmers in those countries to make more money, causing economic growth and development. This is exactly what foreign aid is supposed to do. Therefore, if agricultural subsidies are eliminated, we will get most if the advantages of giving foreign aid, without any of the costs. Indeed, since eliminating these subsidies would have much of the effect as giving aid, we could even cut foreign aid, therefore saving more money.

You go girl!

I can’t say I endorse her methods, but still this is full of win.

International human rights groups ought to defend this woman, as she is likely to face heavy jail time for standing up for her rights.

Update 201209–22: According to information I found at Muslimah Media Watch, attacks against such clerics are not rare, and that the particular cleric that was beaten did not file charges, although the local judiciary might still do so.

Child of the random stuff

In no particular order:

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