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All of a sudden and with no warning, a low-flying Boeing 747 circled lower Manhattan, then some F16 fighter jets came and joined it.

That was a photo op, what else? The plane was one of those in the fleet that comes with the job of President of the United States. In another photo op, Barack Obama stood in crowded Washington office building lobby and sneezed loudly, while Joe Biden passed out pink slips.

Ahem. This was monumentally stupid, of course; the FAA stopped watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force long enough to send New York’s Finest an e-mail, but told them not to tell anyone. Because when something really fucking scary is happening, nothing is more calming than the cops ignoring it. The best that can be said about this is that I, personally, don’t think Al-Qaeda is going to fly any more airplanes into buildings, because they’ve done that, and any copycats would have (tried) to do it already in the past seven and a half years.

Of course, it’s still an understandable reaction. The president has been described as “furious”; the FAA is silent (the most recent press release about New York is almost eight months old and bears the headline “Unique Traffic Management in New York Skies.” Indeed). White House Military Office Director Lewis Caldera took full responsibility, for certain values of “full.”

This seems, utimately, to come down to a Stalinesque obsessive secrecy that says the default should be to not tell. And that’s not how government should be run.

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Swine flu is back. A variant of the disease that killed almost 600,000 Americans in 1918 has resurfaced not quite a century later, though not for the first time.

Typicallly, swine flu affects one person every two years, so the seven cases in Texas and California are cause for alarm.

But not too much alarm. In 1976, President Gerald Ford, a weak incumbent campaiging to be elected to the office that had been bestwed upon him by the ITT and the Watergate scandals, ordered everyone in the country be vaccinated after swine flu killed a soldier. Pvt. David Lewis indeed turned out to be the only fatality of swine flu—but 500 people were killed or permanently sickened by the vaccine causing an alllergic reation. One employee at the CDC even predicted that, Project Censored noting “[h]e was fired from the FDA by Commissioner Alexander Schmidt for ‘insubordination.'”

So it’s important to take action, but more important to ensure it’s the right action.

(h/t Puck)

Without even trying abstinence-only education, the Federal government has gone right to HBC to combat an alarmingly high birthrate.

This is causing a huge outcry, even though it’s not people. Rather, it’s wild horses, who roam the American Southwest, fucking*.

The outcry is . . . very hard to explain, frankly, but it appears to be over the fact that the government is involved, which is feminine. Or something like that. Real men, it would seem, deal with the problem by simply shooting the horses (don’t they?)

That’s not at all like drowning unwanted puppies; horses are much bigger. And less cute, I suppose. It’s not sporting to shoot a dog, they come when you call anyway.

Horses’ lives, however, are no less valuable

*Presumably they stop roaming temporarily in order to do so.

“It’s so awful when uncreative, dumb people try to be symbolic. So embarrassing.”
Jeffrey Rowland

Yesterday was the American Tea Party, a chance to come out, get to know your neighbors, and complain that the U.S. government isn’t meeting its expenses with pixie gold.

The income tax, you see, is unfair and unjust, at least the part where people with more money are taxed more (which they really aren’t; the wealthiest ten percent of Americans have half the wealth and pay less than a third the income tax). Levying a tax on citizens’ incomes is exactly like imposing a use tax on items needed by a subject people with no franchise, so we protest by waving teabags around in commemoration of the actions of the 18th century colonists (who wouldn’t recognize a tea bag, incidentally).

No, actually it’s a protest of . . . well, actually, of the fact that a Democrat won the election (which proves that it was rigged), but ostensibly of the tax hikes that, um, well, actually there haven’t been any significant tax hikes proposed, but, y’know, the idea of tax hikes. In the abstract.

It should be noted that if you got a tax refund, you have actual reason to be aggrieved: the government took more money than it was entitled to, earned interest on it (or at least prevented you from doing so) and is now giving you back the principal.

Happy Passover, the time of year when scientists scientifically explain the ten plagues, the burning bush, the parting of the Red Sea, etc.

Uh-huh. Fascinating. Pass the tsimmes.

What’s the point? I don’t think any faithful Jews are going to say “it was all done with mirrors? Well then, gimme that razor!” Conversely, skeptical atheists aren’t going to say “wow, that scientific explanation shows the hand of God after all!”

Ultimately, the exodus story is a post facto explanation of contemporary laws and traditions. It should’t matter, to the faithful or anyone else, if the events actually happened or if the story as narrated includes metaphor and exaggeration. It’s not about the details, it’s about the moral and ethical lessons.

As a first-born, I am taking off for the Passover holiday; Tuesday is a weekday and I’ll be back then

Eskimos have some number or other words for “snow.” No, bad example, not least because it isn’t exactly true (the Inuit language does have a dozen or so roots—it’s a polysynthetic language—for snow, but only about two or three best rendered in English as “snow”). Russians have two words for blue. This supposedly says something important about the Russophone mind, unless you look at it from their point of view and say that English having only one word for both голубой and синий reveals something about the Anglophone mind (since we are always normal, whoever “we” are).

It doesn’t, however, because most people are, well, smarter than that. As an English speaker, my language doesn’t ditinguish between light blue and dark blue, but my eyes certainly do. A siniy object shows up as well against a goluboy background as well as a purple object does against a green background1.

This might, however, come as a surprise to Prof. Lera Boroditsky at Stanford University. She recently found that speakers of gendered languages perceive nouns as belonging to the sex corresponding to their gender. This is why speakers of Welsh (in which the so-called dummy pronoun—”it’s raining”—is “she”) are incapable of sexism, and across the sea the Irish think stallions are female.

The major problem with this (as presumably the certain knowledge that a stallion is male overrides the grammatical gender of the word) is that despite the name, “masculine” and “feminine” are not the only options for grammatical gender (or human gender, when you get right down to it). Do speakers of Dutch and Danish see things as being either common or neuter, whatever that means? One African language has genders for “male human” and “female human” and a third for all other animals of any sex.

Boroditsky even says English speakers, despite the lack of grammatical gender in the language, are the same way. She knows this because she told a buch of English speakers that some things were male and some things were female and those English speakers started calling those things male and female respectively. In other words, native English speakers, who hadn’t grown up with a grammatical gender distinction and gotten inured to it, associated gramatical gender with sex.

I’m also not quite sure what makes “slender” a female adjective and “useful” a male one. That suggests that this—like backmasked Satanic messages in Obama’s campaign speeches—is a Bible code: you find what you’ve already decided you’re going to find.

1I used to have a coat that I would insist was green, and which my partner referred to as “the blue coat.” Colors are subjective.

Among sapient anthropoids, verbiage is utilised to effect transmission of concepts and perceptions from a primary ratiocinational system to a secondary ratiocinational system.

Ahem. People use words to communicate from mind to mind. Politicians, by contrast, too often appear to use words to prevent communication. While this is most frequently the result of carelessness, indifference, and ingrained habits developed after years in a culture that places no value on clarity and no to negative value on openness, it contributes to citizens’ sense of detachment from government.

Now Hawaii’s Daniel Akaka has introduced a bill to require goverment agencies to say what they mean. This is a valuable piece of legislation, as communicating with the people is an essential part of the democratic process.

Now if only we could pass a law requiring politicians to mean what they say.

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