Thursday, December 31, 2015

Language Log » A new grammar of Mandarin

Dutch linguist Jeroen Wiedenhof's `A Grammar of Mandarin' is an exciting book. Can one say that about a grammar book?  Yes, if it is one that elegantly captures the language and identifies the structures which one hears.  And elucidates and explains them, placing them in the context of the language as it is now spoken.  I have been reading two or three pages a day for the last three months.  I am nearing the end and will be disappointed when I do.  Fortunately the last chapter is said to be a tour de force on the history of the script -  the Chinese language's major obstacle to learning and a key resource for grasping the language.
Language Log » A new grammar of Mandarin
by Victor Mair
I am happy to report the publication of Jeroen Wiedenhof's A Grammar of Mandarin (Amsterdam, Philadelphia:  John Benjamins, 2015).
This is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in Mandarin, both specialists and non-specialists alike.  I recommend it highly particularly for general linguists who do not know any Chinese language but who want a reliable, well-organized, and linguistically savvy treatment of all aspects of Mandarin.
“Jeroen Wiedenhof’s grammar offers a radically fresh look at how Mandarin is actually spoken, revealing on every page aspects of the spoken language which other descriptions have overlooked. Richly illustrated with examples drawn from real-life conversation and texts, the grammar is linguistically informed but uses a minimum of terminology, making its insights widely accessible to language learners.”
— Stephen MatthewsThe University of Hong Kong
“This is an important work that linguists have long been waiting for. Wiedenhof's erudite yet accessible grammar avoids presenting Mandarin Chinese from a Western point of view, thus challenging theorists and providing ample food for thought to all readers.”
— Martin HaspelmathMax Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
“Lucid and comprehensive, Wiedenhof's grammar is a significant contribution to Chinese linguistics. It explains and illustrates the structures of Mandarin faithfully and elegantly. An indispensable book for students and teachers of the Chinese language.”
— Charles N. Li, University of California, Santa Barbara

Ties that bind // Police and Prosecutors - Guardian

Ties that bind The Counted - The Guardian
The fate of police officers who kill often rests in the hands of the prosecutors they typically work alongside. Amid calls for reform led by the White House, a Guardian analysis reveals district attorneys cleared colleagues in more than 200 cases this year

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A History of Violence, The International Terrain of Murder

Why is our society so violent?  Why do we have so many murders compared to other societies.  Slavery.  The Americas have a high rate of murder.  The Americas were built on slavery and forced labor.  Remember that only 5% of the slaves kidnapped in Africa came here.  The other 95% went to the Caribbean and Latin America.  Slavery created a culture of violence.  Josh Marshall explains. -gwc
A History of Violence, The International Terrain of Murder
Josh Marshall//Talking Points Memo

This brings us back to the US crime rate and particularly the Southern murder rate. Why has the South always had a much higher murder rate than the rest of the country? The answer seems obvious: slavery. The role of violence and labor is much, much more similar to the Greater Caribbean than any other part of the United States. And when we look at the relatively high rates of violent crime among African-Americans, though this is a highly fraught and complex question, the sort of alienation from police authority, which goes far, far back into our history, is in my mind almost certainly a central part of the story.
In any case, let's circle all the way back to what are still the relatively high rates of violence and murder in the US versus Europe and some other parts of the world. Some of the mystery is simply that our frame of reference is wrong. The United States is part of the Americas and not just in the obvious geographical sense. While it is distinct in many ways, the US (and not just the South) had its fundamental origins as a settler society, which created basic patterns which are still with us today.

Why the drug war should learn from the battle against smoking // Washington Post

Image result for cigarette warning labels canada
Right wing federal judges barred the FDA 
from mandating graphic cigarette warnings, 
citing the right to free speech.  From Citizens United
to cigarettes to contraception the First Amendment has become
a reactionary tool. - gwc

Why the drug war should learn from the battle against tobacco
by Danielle Allen
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. In January 1964, the Beatles first broke onto the Billboard chart with “I Want to Hold Your Hand”; by June, Ringo Starr had collapsed from tonsillitis and pharyngitis. In January , the surgeon general announced that scientists had found conclusive evidence linking smoking to cancer and thus launched our highly successful 50-year public- health fight against tobacco. In August, the North Vietnamese fired on a U.S. naval ship in the Gulf of Tonkin, which led to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the public phase of the Vietnam War. Alongside an accelerating deployment of conventional troops would come their widespread use ofmarijuana and heroin.
By 1971, cigarette ads had been banned from radio and television, the surgeon general had called for regulation of tobacco, and cigarette smoking had begun its long decline. T he impact of drug use among troops and returning veterans provoked President Richard M. Nixon to declare a war on drugs.
This was followed, of course, by the 1973 passage of the Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York. These set the model for criminalization and increasing penalties for the country as a whole, especially regarding drugs.
In the contrast between what has happened since 1964 with tobacco, on the one hand, and marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other banned substances, on the other, we have an instructive lesson in the comparative effects of choosing a public-health or a criminalization paradigm for dealing with addictive substances.
The approach to tobacco has worked. Between 1964 and 2014, smoking rates declined by half; between 1996 and 2013, the number of eighth-graders who had smoked within the past 30 days fell from 21 percent to 4.5 percent. The progress against smoking has been steady and impressive.
It’s an altogether different tale with banned substances. While levels of illegal drug use have risen and fallen since 1971, current levels are equivalent to those we had in the mid-1970s. According to the Monitoring the Future r eport, daily use of marijuana by 12th- graders was at 6 percent in 1975; in 2014, it was 5.8 percent. The picture with heroin has shown similar stability. In 1975, 1 percent of 12th-graders had used heroin within the year. In 2000 that figure was 1.5 percent. In 2014 it was down to 0.6 percent, but it may be climbing again.
And for every year of the past decade, Americans have spent $100 billion to buy banned substances.....

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Prosecutor's report on the death of TamirRice | The Marshall Project

Prosecutor-s-report-on-the-death-of-Tamir-Rice | The Marshall Project
The essence is the judgment at page 66. If that is the law, the law needs to be changed to say that a policeman must be reasonably sure of an immediate threat to his life to fire his  weapon.- gwc

Monday, December 28, 2015

Obama's Leadership Style: Chessmaster or Pawn - The Atlantic

Donald Trump's bluster combines the nativist faux populism of  Ross Perot and George Wallace.  An irony of the current moment is that after the election of Barack Obama - a shift toward the Republican Party began.  They won Congress, statehouses and governorships.  Yet Obama was re-elected. Meanwhile cultural shifts to the left progressed (e.g. gay marriage), and the power of the presidency enabled Democrats to hold on to the Affordable Care Act despite mean-spirited and selfish opposition.  Now the Paris climate change agreement has been announced, and Iran has backed off its nuclear ambitions.
One of James Fallows readers speaks bluntly about how the vitriol of the last seven years has unleashed ugly expression.  - gwc
Obama's Leadership Style: Chessmaster or Pawn - The Atlantic
by James Fallows

A reader writes in...

Trump/GOP America is not afraid. I think we do ourselves a disservice to credit them with actual fear. And it causes us to misunderstand the challenge we face.
GOP America is afraid of Muslims in the way the Klan and mobs of 20s feared blacks and drinkers and Catholics. Islamic terrorism gives people permission to assert dominance over one of the smallest, weakest groups of in our country -- and fancy themselves bravely standing up for good by shitting on people.
It's a win all the way around. It feels good. Lynchers thought themselves carrying out a noble, hard duty. And they took joy in it. The sentiments on display at the debate are precisely the same. GOP voters eat it up because it feels good. They're not looking for reassurance. They're demanding indulgence.
This follows up on the social permission that electing Barack Obama gave many Americans to indulge racist instincts and bile they long hid. Can't be racist, I live in Barack Obama's America. Inoculation and permission.
I saw this quote in a story about what Americans fear:
"I am very careful taking my small children into large crowds or celebrations - particularly those celebrations of our faith," said one mother."
This is obviously horseshit. And even if it's not, it might as well be. The line between honest delusion and indulgent drama barely exists.
The point of this is that we won't convince people not to act on the permission that their bullshit "fear" gives them. We have to revoke the permission to enjoy how this makes them feel. And that takes confrontation, not reassurance. We just have to beat them.
That's our challenge.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Haskell Wexler, Oscar-Winning Cinematographer, Dies at 93 - The New York Times

The great cinematographer Haskell Wexler's son made a movie about his father.  The title tells much" Tell Them Who You Are.  He did. - gwc
Haskell Wexler, Oscar-Winning Cinematographer, Dies at 93 - The New York Times
...“When Paul Robeson came to town he stayed at our house,” Mr. Wexler said in 2010. “We had civil rights discussions early on and were actively supporting the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, less hostile relations with the Soviet Union, supporting the federal anti-lynching law.”
Mr. Wexler attended the University of California, Berkeley, but dropped out after a year and joined the merchant marine. During World War II, the ship he was on was sunk by German torpedoes, and Mr. Wexler spent nearly two weeks in a lifeboat with 20 other people.
“And it was a terrible experience,” he recalled. “They say when people get close to death, as we were, it probably has some effect on you.”
Mr. Sayles said Mr. Wexler had once told him the story of being torpedoed. “He said the U-boat surfaced as the sailors were swimming to their lifeboats,” he said, “and they all were afraid it was coming up to machine-gun them. Instead, the captain lifted a small movie camera to document his kill, and Haskell remembered thinking, ‘I wonder if he’s shooting color or black and white?’”

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Republicans Are Revolutionaries, Not Conservatives: A Response to Thomas Schaller |

Mike Lofgren, a long time Republican GOP staffer, analyzes and laments the GOP rise.  Trump is no fluke, nor are the 32 Republican governors.  Democrats hoping that demography will seep the GOP away are unrealistic.  The Republicans are relentlessly on message and committed to their regressive agenda.  - gwc
Republicans Are Revolutionaries, Not Conservatives: A Response to Thomas Schaller |
by Mike Lofgren

....The comprehensive national failures of the last decade and a half have contributed to a pre-revolutionary mood in America. Obama’s 2008 campaign tapped into the Zeitgeist, but the president repudiated the very mood that elected him. Occupy Wall Street was another sign, but it fizzled out when Democrats distanced themselves. The Tea Party is yet another indication and has endured longer because of better funding and its incorporation into the GOP’s tactical infrastructure. And while the two figures are certainly not equivalent, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders show that there is a deep hunger for something different, something – at least within the framework of the contemporary American political system – revolutionary.
But revolutions are just as likely to breed radical reaction as rational progress; even more so, if the history of twentieth-century Europe is any guide. Ironically enough, the Democrats are now the stand-pat, conservative party. With the exception of a miniscule number of marginalized individuals, the organizational structure of the Democratic Party is dedicated to preserving the status quo and not upsetting its contributors. The Wall Street wing of the party, led by former Obama chief of staff Bill Daley, is now organizing to torpedo Sanders’ candidacy.
Because of its militant rhetoric, Manichean worldview, demand for ideological purity and bare-knuckle Leninist tactics, it is the GOP that fits the bill of a revolutionary party. To the erstwhile party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, politics is now war in all respects except the shooting. In a post-9/11, post-financial meltdown atmosphere of lingering crisis, the GOP is well positioned to wage such a war.
As I finished this piece, news broke that Republican Matt Bevin (described by CNN as “controversial,” a press euphemism for far-right wing), won the governorship of Kentucky by a surprisingly large nine-point margin. This brings the number of governorships in GOP hands to 32. Those who still imagine the election of Donald Trump or Ben Carson to be a metaphysical as well as demographic impossibility may have lost touch with the mass psychology of the country in which they live.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Paris - Climate Change and the 2016 Elections

I returned from China's airpocalypse to 72 F on Christmas eve in New York .  It prompts thoughts about global warming.  Climate change should be a key issue in 2016.  But the most recent CNN Republican presidential candidate debate ignored the issue, despite the recent Paris agreement.  President Obama's speech in Paris at the world climate change conference helped to yield a historic agreement to commit to mitigating climate change. Here at home the Republican candidates are relentless skeptics.   Conservative governors repudiate the Obama administration's historic commitment to reduce carbon emissions.  They denounce it as tyranny, etc.  In another sign of the normalization of the crazy, even the supposedly reasonable Senator Marco Rubio is a climate change denier and opponent of the carbon emission reduction plans.
Fortunately no such delusions afflict the Democratic Party. -gwc

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

NFL says pain~killer claims are barred

Monday, December 21, 2015

Safety Risks Contributed to Shenzhen Landslide, Chinese Reports Say - The New York Times

A mountain of excavation earth and debris collapsed in Shenzhen, crushing buildings and killing many. China's code enforcement is often weak. And as I argued last weak in a lecture in Shanghai, its courts do not have adequate systems for managing mass disasters.
The central government will probably step in ~ with some compensation scheme. Those who dumped the debris and perhaps local officials will face prosecution, and perhaps the firing squad.
But the bigger need is stronger codes and enforcement agencies. Genuinely contested elections might help too. ~GWC
Safety Risks Contributed to Shenzhen Landslide, Chinese Reports Say - The New York Times
by Austin Ramzy
HONG KONG — As rescuers searched Monday for survivors of a catastrophic landslide in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, a series of failures and ignored warnings that contributed to the disaster began to emerge.
The Ministry of Land and Resources said the landslide that destroyed at least 33 buildings on Sunday was caused by the collapse not of a hillside but of a sodden mountain of dirt and construction debris in an industrial area. At least 91 people were missing as of early Monday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The rain-soaked material had built up for nearly two years at the site of a former quarry, Xinhua said, citing residents there.
China’s rapid construction of new buildings, and the short life of many of those structures, have long created problems with unregulated dumping of construction waste. Often the result is illegal, multistory piles of debris that appear on the outskirts of cities, creating problems with dust and flooding because of blocked waterways.
The landslide on Sunday appears to have been one of the most destructive episodes yet connected with the practice. The destroyed buildings included at least three worker dormitories, and an unknown number of people may still be buried.

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