First they came for the grocers…

by Ted on August 23, 2004

George Bush:

“I can’t be more plain about it,” Bush said. “I hope my opponent joins me in condemning these activities of the 527s (political groups that sponsor to ads). I think they’re bad for the system.”

Uggabugga links to a list of 527s and asks, “Why does the Bush campaign object to ads that the Oregon Grocery Association might run? What are they doing that is objectionable?”

Sorry to keep harping on this, but it’s pretty incredible that a serious candidate would talk like this. I doubt that five people in a hundred would agree with Bush’s position if it was presented in a cooler-headed context. The right of people to organize and speak out is right at the heart of the First Amendment.

And yet, this has been Bush’s talking point: ban all the ads from unregulated groups. The Sierra Club. The Club for Growth. The League of Conservation Voters. GOPAC. The National Association of Realtors. They’re all bad for the system, and none of them should be allowed to advertise at all. Bush thinks that the government should have this kind of power; he claims that he thought that he had already banned these groups from speaking.


Greg Mankiw’s “Op-Ed”: made me feel much better, no matter “what”: Brad DeLong “thinks”:

Pleasant Surprise

by Kieran Healy on August 23, 2004

This morning I cut myself while shaving. It was just a “superficial wound”:, but as I was coming out of the bathroom the doorbell rang and there was this army officer in full dress uniform at the door. He presented me with a Purple Heart. I expressed some surprise but he just said “Standard medal-issuing “procedure”:, Sir,” adding that his job had been made much easier by “the new Homeland Security Surveillance Cameras.” I asked him did he want to come in for a cup of coffee, but he said he had to run down to Number 27 to award a Silver Star to a woman who’d just caught the pancake-batter bowl before it went all over the kitchen floor.


by John Q on August 23, 2004

I found this story of globalisation and soft power at charlotte street, via bertramonline. As bertram says, you can’t make this kind of thing up.

I had a look at related issues in this piece

Is This a Joke?

by Belle Waring on August 23, 2004

I know it’s hard to fire people who work for the government and all, but why does Teresa LePore still have a job?

Palm Beach County has introduced an absentee ballot that requires voters to indicate their choices by connecting broken arrows, sparking criticism that it is even more confusing than the infamous “butterfly ballot” used in the 2000 election.

Theresa LePore, the elections supervisor who approved the 2000 butterfly ballot, opted for a ballot design for the Aug. 31 primary that asks voters to draw lines joining two ends of an arrow. LePore said she selected the ballot after tests showed it was easier for voters.

Jesse at pandagon has more.

Pi in the Sky

by Belle Waring on August 23, 2004

A note in todays Washington Post describes a very interesting experiment:

Peter Gordon, a behavioral scientist at Columbia University, conducted an unusual set of experiments with seven adults of the 200-member Piraha tribe of Amazonian Indians in Brazil.

The tribe’s counting system consists of three words — one that means “roughly one,” one that means “a small quantity” and one that means “many.”

Gordon asked the Piraha subjects to perform various tasks in which performance would be greatly enhanced by the ability to count. These included laying out the same number of nuts or sticks that he had laid out; distinguishing two boxes whose only difference was the number of fish drawn on their tops; and knowing when a tin can was empty after watching the researcher put nuts into the can and then withdraw them one by one.

Gordon found that the Piraha were essentially incapable of following or accounting for more than three objects. When a task involved larger numbers — even five or six — the subjects’ answers were little more than guesses, even though they clearly understood the tests and were working hard on them.

He attributed this surprising finding to the fact the Piraha “have no privileged name for the singular quantity” — in other words, no one, no notion of an integer.

“The present study represents a rare and perhaps unique case for strong linguistic determinism” — the idea that language determines thought — Gordon wrote.

John D. Barrow explores similar ideas in his lively book Pi in the Sky: Counting, Thinking and Being. The most surprising thing, to me, is not the poor performance of the Piraha on these tests, given their linguistic disadvantage. Rather, I am amazed that anyone could get through life, particularly a no-doubt difficult struggle for existence in the jungles of the Amazon, with such a piss-poor numbering system. Perhaps the category “roughly one” has some unique areas of application which I am unable to appreciate. And it is by no means inconsistent with my strongly Platonic beliefs about numbers that it might take humans a long time to discover the existence of these supernatural, world-ordering entities. But the advantages of being able to count properly, even up to ten or twenty, seem so overwhelming, and the principles involved so obvious, that I am astonished anyone can get by without them.

Links 1 2 3

by Eszter Hargittai on August 23, 2004

A few sites of interest around the blogosphere (and beyond) in the upcoming weeks:

  • Judge Richard Posner is guest blogging this week over on Larry Lessig’s blog.

  • The Head Heeb has started the countdown to this year’s Arrival Day.

  • It’s not too late to get involved in The September Project, an opportunity to discuss democracy and citizenship with other concerned and interested folks in your local library or other public location. Over 150 300 libraries in over 30 45 states are already signed up to pariticipate. Is yours?