Catastrophic spider

by Chris Bertram on February 12, 2004

“Today is the 200th anniversary of Immanuel Kant’s death”:,3367,1441_A_1112709_1_A,00.html , a day that shouldn’t pass unremarked on a site whose title is drawn from his writings. For comment elsewhere see “Normblog”: and “The Virtual Stoa”: (where Chris Brooke has assembled some of Kant’s choicest footnotes).


by Brian on February 12, 2004

I hadn’t noticed this before, but Mark Kleiman has on his website a fun collection of aphorisms he co-collated with David Chu-wen Hsia. I normally stay away from aphorisms because they remind me of Wittgenstein and anything that reminds me of Wittgenstein makes me irritated, but there’s some good stuff here. What I really wanted to comment on though was the following.

bq. Masculine pronouns, and “man” for “human being,” occur throughout. English needs neuter personal pronouns, but currently lacks them. We can’t do much about that now without great loss of force. (Those who doubt this sad fact are urged to try their hands at gender-neutralizing “Greater love hath no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.”) Our apologies to those offended.

That’s not the hardest challenge I’ve seen today. This isn’t a perfect translation into gender-neutral language, but it’s pretty close.

bq. No person has greater love than to lay down their life for their friends.

People who think ‘they’ is invariably a plural pronoun won’t like this, but they’re wrong for both etymological and ordinary language reasons.

Private No More

by Jon Mandle on February 12, 2004

The New York Times reports that “The Justice Department is demanding that at least six hospitals … turn over hundreds of patient medical records on certain abortions performed there.” This is necessary, they claim, in order to defend the new prohibition on “partial birth” abortions. This is bad enough, since as David Seldin, a spokesman for Naral Pro-Choice America, puts it: “This notion of John Ashcroft poring over medical records in a fairly unprecedented type of fishing expedition is exactly the type of privacy invasion that worries people.”

But the real news comes in paragraph 15, where we learn that the Justice Department argued that in light of “modern medical practice” and the growth of third party insurers, “individuals no longer possess a reasonable expectation that their histories will remain completely confidential.”

Equal-Split Parenting

by Harry on February 12, 2004

Laura has two interesting posts, the first on the desirability of equal-split houseworking and parenting, and how difficult it is to achieve (prompted by reading Naomi Wolf’s self indulgent whinings about the issue); the second a collection of vignettes from her readers about how they try to manage equal-split houseworking and parenting (and, in some cases, fail). Generally, it seems, the women do more than half. Laura’s response to Wolf is interesting, and less daring from her than it would be from me:

bq. My first thoughts were to advise all my single friends to stay away from careerist husbands. Girls, go for the slackers. They might not make senior partner, but they’ll make your dinner and play with the kids. You might not be able to afford a house in a town with a good school district, but so what. He’s made lasagna for dinner.

[click to continue…]

Conspicuous religious symbols

by Chris Bertram on February 12, 2004

Scott Martens at a Fistful of Euros has some “useful thoughts on the passing of the anti-headscarf law”: by the French National Assembly. See also Chris Brooke on this. “Chris is pessimistic”: about the law being struck down by the Conseil d’Etat but “its record hitherto”: on this issue has been quite liberal and tolerant — so I’m not so sure.

“Digital Cops in a Virtual Environment”

by Eszter Hargittai on February 12, 2004

Check out this conference on cybercrime and digital law enforcement to be held at the Yale Law School next month. It’s being organized by folks at the Information Society Project and features a list of interesting speakers from related fields. Some of them are frequent bloggers (Balkinization, so hopefully we’ll get to read about it as it happens. It’s not too late to get a spot on a panel (or a publication in a related special issue of IJCLP and YJOLT) thanks to a paper-competition [pdf] they are having.