AIRPORT QUESTIONS: It seems that when I fly back to Philadelphia on Sunday, nobody will ask me about my suitcases. Though, I doubt they will have time to reprogram their e-ticket check-in machines by this weekend.
CONSTRUCTING A HISTORICAL IDENTITY: I hate the idea of group identity. I realized this first in the context of feminism. Simply hearing the word "feminism" makes me cringe. I want nothing to do with it - not even with the "good feminists" of iFeminists and other such groups. I hate it because I don't want people to see me primarily as a woman. I want them to see me primarily as an individual human being. I do not relate well with other women. Most of my friends in the past have been men. I feel more intellectually challenged and am more likely to speak up when I'm in a group of men than a group of women. Women get on my nerves, but I can hang out comfortably with men. My female friends are all as non-girly as me.
I also hate group identity for political reasons, of course. The victimization politics of the left are bizarre and dangerous, for all the reasons conservatives and libertarians are always talking about. I won't rehash them here.
I'm part of the priviliged class, of course. As a white, Protestant man, I can have everything I want in America. Oh, wait a minute - I'm not a white Protestant man. But I am part of the priviliged class, and I share the imagined historical identity of the priviliged class.
My family is Jewish. I was raised Jewish - going to Sunday school, keeping kosher, having a bat mitzvah. But the Jewish culture is not one I consider my own. I consider it someone else's culture that I happen to be very familiar with. I don't believe in God and I don't particularly care for the ethical attitude of the Jewish religion and culture. I don't consider that I've "renounced my Jewishness". Instead, I feel that I have examined the Jewish culture and have decided that it is not for me.
The gender bit I have explained already. I don't hate the fact that I am female - far from it! But I do not choose my behavior and attitudes based on the way other people of my gender behave. I behave the way I, as an individual, want to behave.
When we read certain bits of history, we have a tendency to think, "This is what my ancestors were doing/thinking/reading 300/500/2000 years ago." I have that reaction to the parts of history that I love. The history I claim as my own includes the Scottish Enlightenment, the Protestant Reformation, the Italian Renaissance, and the Roman Republic. It is important to note that my actual ancestors were in none of these places.
Other bits of history, though I learned them just the same, are foreign. The Chinese Dynasties, the histories of tribal Africa, the Aztecs and Incas, and the Spanish Conquistadors are not mine. My imaginary ancestors do not dwell in these places. Nor do my imaginary ancestors inhabit the places my real ancestors could have been found - eastern European Jewish villages in Hungary and Russia. My grandfather, who I have known since childhood, is an immigrant from Hungary, but I know nothing of his past and I do not particularly care to know. That place, that culture, that mindset is not part of my personal identity. Those stories might be interesting in the way ancient China is interesting, but they will never be mine the way a Parisian coffeehouse in 1750 is mine.
Individual as I am, groups are not wholly absent from my identity. The difference is that I have freely chosen the groups in which I belong. They have not been foisted upon me by my birth, and I am not trapped in any of them.
A hundred years ago, someone of my ethnicity would have been considered non-white, just like an African-American today. But I, and my parents, and millions like me, have left the "victimized immigrant group" mentality far behind and have become members of the "priviliged mainstream" by choosing our own identities. The main problem with imposed group identity is not that it is group-based but that it is imposed. Someone else looks at you and decides which group you are a member of, then treats you accordingly. The choice of identity is taken away from the individual.
A large part of identity is membership in groups, but your identity should encompass numerous groups and you should choose those groups yourself. So I am a libertarian, an atheist, a pagan, a geek, a policy wonk, an intellectual, and more. But I am not a Jew, a woman, a minority, or a victim.
THE PRICE OF A CHILD'S NAME: How much would you sell your child's name for? A video game publisher is offering $10,000 to the first baby named Turok. And two years ago, says the same article, 10 babies were given the name Iuma in exchange for $5,000 each.
MY FIRST PUBLICATION: I had an op-ed published last week in the Ogden, UT Standard-Examiner about ReplayTV and "ban the technology" lawsuits. They didn't put it online, but you can read the text on my website.
PUBLIC SCHOOL AS THERAPIST: Why do people think that schools need to be everything to kids? A school should be a place for learning about academics, not a soup kitchen, a church, a sex ed center, and a psychotherapist.
The NEA thinks kids need to learn about September 11 in school. But what is there to learn? These kids lived through it, and like every other American over the age of 4, they formed their own opinions about it. They know what happened. They know how it affected them. And they know as much about why it happened as they can absorb at whatever age they happen to be. A school's lesson plan is not going to teach them anything. All it can do is exploit the tragedy to support a political viewpoint.
NOTICE: Blogging will be light this week, because I am finishing a research project and presentation, packing up all my worldly belongings to travel back to Boston, and sharing a phone line and dialup connection with three other people.
SOME 'LIKE' A COMMA: Jeanne Devoto writes in response to my grammatical ponderings, saying that a comma should be placed both before and after 'like':
Punctuation such as commas, semicolons, colons, and sometimes even periods is commonly used to reflect the pacing of spoken language - the comma indicates a pause, the other marks longer pauses. In this case, the comma accurately reflects the way the phrase is spoken: "We were [short pause] like [slightly longer pause] what in the world is going on here [upward inflection]". In this case, I think the comma appropriately reflects the way the phrase is spoken and the internal divisions in such a sentence.
It's true that commas are often used to indicate pauses. I've worked in the past as a technical writer, which means I am very familiar with all the technically-correct places to put or not put a comma. But I find it useful to add commas where they are not required, or even where they are forbidden, to make the meaning of a written sentence more clear through pacing.
Still, I don't think there should be a comma before 'like'. I don't think there is usually a pause before 'like', but only after it. I, personally, would speak something like this: "We were like [short pause] what in the world is going [upward inflection] on [downward inflection] here".
IRAQ: You know, I read things like this and I think, why not just take over the whole middle east? It would be in our best interest, it would better ensure the rights of people in the whole region, and their current leaders are incompetent and evil anyway. Why do we think we need their help to attack one country at a time? Take over the whole place and get it done with.
UPDATE: Sasha sends along a link to a song on the same topic (first item on page). There's a link to the mp3 also, but I don't have speakers at work so I haven't heard it yet.
To Bush, Enron and WorldCom were aberrations, the fault of a few bad actors in an otherwise sound system. "We were, like, What in the world?" says Commerce Secretary Donald Evans of his conversations with Bush. "We were just kind of bewildered. It is unbelievable to us."
Most people who condemn the nontraditional use of the word 'like' see it only as a replacement for 'um'. And that's true in some cases, such as the following example:
She, like, wanted to know, like, what, like, you were, like, doing with, like, her boyfriend.
But clearly that's not the way it's being used by Mr. Evans in this example, or by millions of other Americans making similar statements, such as:
She was like, What are you doing with my boyfriend?
In this usage, it's a weaker version of the phrase "She said". It makes it clear that the speaker in question did not use those exact words, but conveyed a similar message. Perhaps the girl in question actually said, "What are you and Bobby doing here?", but the person recounting the story does not remember the precise phrasing of the message.
In the quote from Time, Mr. Evans is trying to convey Bush's general attitude toward the scandals at WorldCom and Enron. Bush probably never exactly said, "What in the world?" in relation to those events. Perhaps he uttered a similar short phrase, such as "How could this happen?" or "I can't believe what's going on here," but even that is not necessary. The Commerce Secretary seems to have accurately and succinctly summarized his attitude, without using a formal talk-around such as, "The President feels that the scandals are unexpected anomalies and not indicative of wider trends."
Time's choice of punctuation and capitalization for the phrase are almost right, but not quite. Let's look at that again:
"We were, like, What in the world?" says Commerce Secretary Donald Evans...
They chose to capitalize the first word in the phrase after 'like', indicating that it is the beginning of an indirect statement. But they did not enclose the phrase in quotation marks, thus indicating that it is not a direct quote. I think this is the correct choice to make. Placing a comma after 'like' also indicates to the reader that the sentence is shifting into a semi-quoted sentence, much like one would write
He said, "I like ice cream."
My only beef is with the comma before the like. One would never write either of these statements:
He, said, "I like ice cream."
He was, saying, "I like ice cream."
When 'like' is used as an interjection, like 'um' or 'alas', it is appropriate to set it off with a comma on each side. But when it is used as a preface to an indirect statement, there should only be a comma after it.
CEDAW AND PROSTITUTION: Robert Campbell wrote and asked me to clarify my position on legalized prostitution, since I criticized people who promote it when talking about the women's rights treaty.
I think that prostitution, like all victimless crimes, should be legal. If a woman wants to make a living in that profession, that should be her private choice and none of the government's business. I mentioned the issue in order to point out that the U.S. should not sign treaties condemning other countries for doing the same things we do ourselves. And I also think that if you're going to criticize women's rights in China, the illegality of prostitution would not be the most important place to start.
ZERO TOLERANCE: Security officials at the inappropriately-acronymed LAX stopped a hijacking attempt the other day by confiscating a 2-inch plastic gun from a G.I. Joe doll carried by a 55-year-old woman as a gift for her grandson.
IN CASE OF TERROR ATTACK, PLEASE PANIC AND DIE: The Washington Post reports on one of the worst government programs ever - the widespread practice of hiding safety information from citizens. At their website, they have a thorough but difficult to print or link guide to protecting yourself against terrorist attacks.
TERRORIST DONATIONS: The story of Rep. Cynthia McKinney's September 11 donations has been well covered (thanks to Best of the Web for the link), but there's one question that hasn't been asked: Even if the donations were not actually recieved on September 11, why was anyone even at work to record them that day?
A QUESTION FOR THE LAWYERS: In the case of the Chicago mob beating deaths last week, seven people have been arrested and charged with "felony murder based on mob action". One of them is a teenager, who is being charged as an adult. Based on my fuzzy knowledge of laws and psychology, these two charges seem to conflict.
When you're participating in a mob action, stupid and criminal things are much easier to do. You just ride the flow of what everyone else is doing, and find yourself committing acts you would never do on your own. It's also very hard to exit the mob, or to stop and think about what you're doing. So I'd assume that committing a crime while in a mob would be treated as an act of less culpability, unless you were one of the leaders of the mob. Sort of like vehicular manslaughter - a serious crime, but it's not like first degree murder.
But charging a teenager as an adult means that you think he had more control over his actions and was more aware of what he was doing. It seems reasonable to me that the younger you are, the harder it would be to break away from the mob mindset.
So it appears to me that this teenager is being accused of choosing, with adult rationality, to throw away his rationality and committ a mob murder. Am I missing something here?
CAN'T YOU COUNT? A teenager has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for murdering an old woman in a vampire immortality ritual. But that's not important right now. Look at this:
The murder sent shockwaves through the tourist village of Llanfairpwll PG, best known for having the longest place name in Britain. Its 56-letter full name -- Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch -- is so long that locals abbreviate it.
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch has 58 letters, not 56!
SUING FOR GRADES: FoxNews reports that some parents threaten lawsuits when their children are failed in school for cheating, plagiarism, or just plain failing. But it's actually worse than that. At my high school, some parents threatened to sue when their children made B's.
These parents seem not to realize that there's a difference between education and credentials. Having a high school diploma might get you a job, but it won't help you keep it once the employer realizes that you're stupid, irresponsible, and threaten lawsuits every ten minutes. They're not really helping their kids, no matter what they think.
Personally, I like individual blogs better than group ones. I don't want to have to shift context from post to post. Also, if I don't like one or more of the writers, it's annoying to skip past them all the time. Sometimes I just stop reading the whole blog to avoid the annoyance. But please - if you're going to have a group blog, put the name of the blogger at the top of the post, not the bottom. I need to know who I'm reading before I get to the end.
I found Bobby's post through Joshua Claybourn, who merits a perma-link for his Latin slogan.
WOMEN'S RIGHTS AND INTERNATIONAL TREATIES: I'd been intending to look for opinion articles about this for my mother, but OpinionJournal conveniently went and published a new one today. The people pushing this international treaty have objected to the following horrifying anti-women practices:
Belarus established a national "Mother's Day", which reinforces women's stereotypical position in society. (Note: The US has also done this.)
Only 30% of Slovenian children attend institutional day care. (Note: Many American children are cared for by their mothers or other relatives.)
China has failed to legalize prostitution. (Note: Prostitution is illegal in the US.)
Croatia allows doctors to refrain from performing abortions if they have ethical objections. (Note: US doctors are not required to perform abortions.)
Are you sure this treaty promotes the kind of values America wants to sign on to?
MAN KILLED BY BUREAUCRATS: With the mild headline Confusion over policy is major issue in train death, the New York Times reports that a man died of a heart attack on an Amtrak train because no one on the train crew would take responsibility for stopping at a station to call an ambulance. Just another hard day's work at your friendly neighborhood government train company.
ALPHABETICS: I've added Gary Leff of More Room Throughout Coach to the list. He pointed out that both of his initials are in the first half of the alphabet, as well as the title of his blog. But what's the connection between the title, his name, the slogan "Free Miles and Free Markets" and the URL "neat"? The world may never know.
Also with unimpeachable credentials is Bobby Allison-Gallimore of Caffeinspiration. Alas, his site design hurts my eyes - it's just too dark and multi-contrasted for me to read regularly. Perhaps it's just my crappy monitor at work, though. I'll check his site from home and give him another chance.