Friday, July 05, 2013


This is an old joke about the English language:


The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the EC, rather than German, which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty's government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a five year phase in plan that would be known as "EuroEnglish".
In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump for joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of the "k". This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan have 1 less letter.
There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like "fotograf" 20% shorter. In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.
Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent "e" in the language is disgraseful, and they should go away.
By the 4th year, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v". During ze fifz year, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters. After zis fifz year, ve vil hav a realy sensibl riten styl.
Zer vil be no mor trubls or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi to understand each ozer.

English is a fun language to learn as a foreign language, because it's very easy to acquire some small skills in it.  It is, however, very hard to learn truly well after pupadom.  I should know as I have tried to do just that.

And yup, English is seldom written as it is spoken.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Happy Fourth of July

That's an old embroidery of mine,  an attempt to reverse the usual eye-of-the-beholder argument.  Flowers, in short, but curious ones.

Voting is Not Like Buying A Pair of Shoes Or A New Car. A Re-Posting

(Initially posted here)

Three odd things I have recently noticed (again) when people talk politics, both in the media and in private lives:

The first has to do with the idea that voting is just like buying a new car or a pair of shoes!  If you decide not to make the purchase, you won't have to pay for it.  So it's all OK.

But voting is NOT like buying a new car.  If you don't vote in a political election you get someone ruling over you anyway, and if that person causes havoc the fact that you didn't vote for him or her makes no difference.  The consequences are there.  You pay for the shoes or the car and someone else picks them out for you.

It's also true that the American political system throws a humongous number of votes down the toilet and then flushes it, while happily telling us who the winner in each state was.  I get that voters become discouraged about that, but the answer is not to take a consumerist stance.

The second odd thing has to do with judging political candidates as "deserving" to lose because of bad campaigning or bad debate performance or similar ultimately non-essential aspects.

Even that is OK if the task is to judge campaigning performance.  But when someone happily crows about a candidate "deserving to lose" they might spend a minute considering the fact that the political platform of that candidate then also loses, whether it deserves to lose or not, and that all those whom the platform would have helped more are among those losers.

I think both of these odd things (and several others) have to do with a confusion between our role as consumers and as citizens.  The former gets practiced all the time, the latter not so often.  But the media is not helping when they focus on the horse race aspect of politics.  The underlying policy questions are the crucial ones, after all, and I, for one, prefer to have a clumsy performer of the platform I prefer to a slick performer of the platform I frequently visit in my nightmares.

The third odd thing is not about voter or journalist behavior but about the way politicians offer us false dualistic choices.  For instance,  the Republicans tell us that women want jobs and a better economy for themselves and their families, not reproductive rights.

But reproductive rights don't clash with policies which push for jobs and such.  Indeed, providing women with reproductive rights is almost costless, as policies go, and the provision of free or subsidized contraceptives to poor women would save the government money in the long run (thus decreasing the deficit!).

We are asked to look elsewhere, pretty much.

Perhaps at the awfulness of the government subsidy to public television and radio?  The money that could be saved by killing Big Bird is miniscule.  The loss of information and childhood education would have an immense cost.  But the killing of public television is dear to the conservative hearts and the hunt goes on and on.

The same reason applies to women's reproductive rights.  Conservatives don't want women to have those rights, and that's why women are told that they must choose between jobs and reproductive rights.  Because the Republicans don't want women to have the latter.


Wednesday, July 03, 2013


I'm going to take the rest of July off.  I need the break.  I have prepared posts for the time in advance.  Some of them haven't been on the blog before and some old ones I have enlarged with more commentary.  If I get a chance I will do some vacation blogging, too.

I will keep an eye on the comments and check my e-mail, in case you need to get in touch with me.
Wish all you you a wonderful July!

From The Past

This is an interesting piece about women as bosses in 1956.  It's worth reading through it and thinking about what is the same and what has changed.  It would be more interesting to find an old story about women working in the labor force in general, but I doubt those were published in popular magazines even sixty years ago.

On Egypt

Contents:  Sexual violence

I have no special knowledge about what's going on, but it's beginning to look more and more like a military coup.  The argument that Morsi had no understanding of how a democratically elected president acts has some merits.  Democracy doesn't mean that the winner can then ignore the other side or try to destroy it completely.  Though the US politics has some of that same flavor.

I feel very bad for the Egyptians, even the ones who would like to see people like me without much rights.  The economic situation in the country is horrible, tourism is pretty close to dead and the current government doesn't seem to be equipped to run the country.

Or those are my fairly uninformed opinions.

On the other hand, the gang rape of a journalist at Tahrir Square demonstrates that Egyptian women face problems which will not disappear whoever ends up on top in these fights.

On Abortion, July 3, 2013

Florida is eagerly joining Texas, Ohio and other Republican-run states in  the abortion wars.  The idea is to ban abortions after twenty weeks of pregnancy, even though a small percentage of abortions  (1.5%) takes place after that point in time and even though that percentage includes essentially all the ones where either fetal abnormality or serious health concerns for the woman make continuing the pregnancy very difficult.

I've been watching this stuff unfolding with some horror.  What we learn about how those Republicans view women chills my heart.  In North Carolina strict abortion measures were tacked onto an anti-sharia bill at the very last minute, tho forced-birthers knew about them earlier!  The bitter humor of doing that in the context of sharia (which wouldn't exactly give women abortion rites) probably flew right over the heads of the politicians who were doing that.

In other views, a very large number of those regretting their abortions seem to be men.

Monday, July 01, 2013

10,000 Posts

I noticed that my previous post was the 10,000th on this blog.  Not all of those were written by me but most.  That's a lovely round number, 10,000. And I think the vast majority of those were served at least with some intellectual granola!  Mental pushups, perhaps, or deep knee bends with the little gray cells, eh?

My fiction-loving emotional side hasn't had such a great time all through this, but perhaps in the future I will post snippets from my Little Book Of Horrid Thoughts and similar stuff.  Or perhaps my emotional side better shut up in public, that goddess of doom.

Because there's a reason for my blog handle.  I was called Viper Tongue as a child, but I have worked very hard to turn that into a gentle and polite goddess chat with only hidden barbs.  Not completely successful but getting there, right? 

Some of you, my kind and sharp readers, have been along for the whole ride, and you have a special place in my heart.  I'm not sure how you did it, but my war helmet goes off for you.  And sincere thanks to all who read here and who teach me so much.


Speed-Blogging July 1, 2013: That War on Women And SImilar Stuff

Ohio Governor John Kasich proudly signs into a law new abortion restrictions:

The provisions in Ohio will make it more difficult for family planning groups to receive funding for preventive care; require ultrasounds for anyone seeking an abortion; and limit abortion providers’ ability to get transfer agreements with public hospitals.

Here's a picture of the general budget signing though it could be about the signing of that abortion law.  In any case, the global feminist conspiracy which runs the world, according to some MRA sites, is sorely missing in Ohio:

In Texas, however, some women and men are fighting back against Governor Rick Perry's desire to get similar abortion restrictions into place.

Picture credit.

I wonder how many fetal aquaria that picture contains?  Must get them under control.

In Egypt, one sheikh explains to us why female genital mutilation is necessary:

Female genital mutilation was made illegal in Egypt in 2008 but is still very widely practiced. Some estimates suggest over 75% of women, Muslim and Christian, still have had the procedure in some areas of the country.
Debate on the subject has re-opened after the recent death of a 13-year-old girl while having the operation. Studies have also documented cases of serious health and psychological complications.
Sheikh Yussef al-Badri is one of Egypt's biggest advocates for what he refers to as female circumcision, and has petitioned the country's courts to make it legal again.
He told Aleem Maqbool that it removed a woman's "need for man".
You can watch a video on the linked site.  The solution to control female lust is to cut that lust out, the solution to control male lust is early marriage.  That the men would be married to women who don't get any enjoyment from sex appears a trifle.

This speech about sexual abuse in the Australian army is a couple of weeks old but it's very much worth watching.   Thanks to WP for the link.

Finally, the reviews of these women's running shoes, worn by Senator Davis for her filibuster,  are  hilarious.

The Near-Invisible Economic News: Wages

If you think of the division of the economic gateau happening between labor and capital, the news we mostly get are whether the slices the capital gets are moist enough, have sufficient whipped cream and chocolate savings and so on.  We may be told something about the size of those slices but not much.

The slice labor gets is among those largely unreported things in mainstream news.  There are a few exceptions, such as this NYT story which shows how somebody may be legally paid less than the minimum wage, what with fees which are required to get hold of the wage package one has earned:

A growing number of American workers are confronting a frustrating predicament on payday: to get their wages, they must first pay a fee.
For these largely hourly workers, paper paychecks and even direct deposit have been replaced by prepaid cards issued by their employers. Employees can use these cards, which work like debit cards, at an A.T.M. to withdraw their pay.
But in the overwhelming majority of cases, using the card involves a fee. And those fees can quickly add up: one provider, for example, charges $1.75 to make a withdrawal from most A.T.M.’s, $2.95 for a paper statement and $6 to replace a card. Some users even have to pay $7 inactivity fees for not using their cards.
These fees can take such a big bite out of paychecks that some employees end up making less than the minimum wage once the charges are taken into account, according to interviews with consumer lawyers, employees, and state and federal regulators.

Another piece of economic news which hasn't got much coverage is this:  Wages Are Falling:

Breaking news alert! Wages fell at the fastest rate ever recorded during the first quarter of this year, the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
Hourly wages fell 3.8 percent in the first quarter, the biggest drop since the BLS began tracking compensation in 1947. Productivity rose half a percentage point. The result was that what economists call “labor unit costs” fell 4.3 percent.
In plain English, that means paychecks overall shrank, but work output grew. If you are a business owner, that is news worthy of a toast with a bottle of the finest Cristal champagne, which at $595 is more than the $518 that a median-wage worker earns in a week.

Here's the truly troublesome thing about those numbers:  Productivity rose, which would make a sincere economist ask why wages didn't rise as well.  If worker productivity rose and wages fell, guess who it is who is making more than before?   The division of that economic cake is changing, again...