Wednesday, February 11, 2009

From a few weeks ago: a neat op-ed by linguist Steven Pinker on the oath of office mix-up.

How could a famous stickler for grammar have bungled that 35-word passage, among the best-known words in the Constitution? Conspiracy theorists and connoisseurs of Freudian slips have surmised that it was unconscious retaliation for Senator Obama’s vote against the chief justice’s confirmation in 2005. But a simpler explanation is that the wayward adverb in the passage is blowback from Chief Justice Roberts’s habit of grammatical niggling. ...

In his legal opinions, Chief Justice Roberts has altered quotations to conform to his notions of grammaticality, as when he excised the “ain’t” from Bob Dylan’s line “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” On Tuesday his inner copy editor overrode any instincts toward strict constructionism and unilaterally amended the Constitution by moving the adverb "faithfully" away from the verb.
The essay is headlined "Oaf of Office," so I was hoping it'd hew a bit more closely to my own read on the situation (that Roberts simply forgot his lines, and scrambled) than it actually did. But it's an interesting read all the same.

Ars Technica has a neat piece on the current pseudo-controversy in the field of global warming cooling warming.

The facts are that 2008 was cooler than the last few years, but warmer than most in recent history, which lends itself to spin based on the predilections of the person talking about it. But some of that spin specifically plays upon the widespread innumeracy of the public, which isn't well prepared to separate trends from short-term variability, or recognize when certain figures are selectively chosen. We'll try to separate out some of these in a way that will hopefully help readers make a bit of sense out of the conflicting noise.

Monday, February 09, 2009

From The Onion:

Area Girlfriend Was Voting For Cardinals

SAN FRANCISCO—When asked which team she wanted to win the NFL's most coveted prize, local girlfriend and Super Bowl party attendee Christy Lester, 25, told those in attendance that she was voting for the Arizona Cardinals. "I'm voting for them because I like their quarterback Matt Lineman [sic]. He's hot," said Lester, who, though she has never filled out a ballot of any kind for a Super Bowl, added that in 2008 she voted for the New England Patriots, that she forgot who she voted for in 2007, and that in 2006 she voted for the team Jerome Bettis was on because that's the team her dad likes. "That commercial was so hilarious." Historically, NFL championships have been decided by tallying the number of points scored during four quarters of football and not by ballots cast by a public electorate.

Two other recent Wonkette highlights:

Wonkette (which is pretty consistently hilarious these days, incidentally) tallies Hill Republicans' stimulus objections.

So, here are some specific things the GOP will not condone, in this bill they’re not going to vote for, anyway:
  • A billion dollars extra for the 2010 U.S. Census, which is going to pay good money to many jobless people in every American town — and shore up Lockheed-Martin, which is getting $500 million to build the data systems and run the machinery.
  • $75 million for FBI employee salaries, because why would you want to pay America’s top cops to do law enforcement and investigations, in America?
  • $200 million for computer centers at community colleges, because if poor unskilled workers want to "learn the computer," they should just go to Stanford instead of complaining.
Say what you will about Republicans, but they do love Stanford.

Cleaning out the Google Reader backlog, and came across this. Relive our country's proudest moment!

Charles Gibson: No, no. Mr. Kenney. I didn't ask for the spelling. I asked if you agree with the Bush Doctrine?

John Kenney: Do I agree with what part of it, exactly? I assume, if it is a doctrine, as you say it is, that it has multiple -- what's the word I'm looking for? -- grommets.

C.G.: I don't think that's the word.

J.K.: No? How about parts?

C.G.: Possibly. Let me ask you this. Do you know what it is, sir?

J.K.: Me? Totally. Absolutely, Charlie. No, I was just thinking about your, um, your little microphone. On your tie there. I thought it was an ant.