Some stuff Ampersand is reading today

  • Unimpressed discusses the “first mover advantage” and asks: even if opportunity did become equal between women and men and all races, wouldn’t white men still retain their “first in” advantage?

  • Language Hat reproduces a couple of terrific accounts of life in the Great Depression gathered by 1930s WPA workers, and provides links to find more.
  • Mark Kleiman talks about prison literacy programs: fiscally smart, seemingly effective, and politically a loser.
  • Aron’s Israel Peace Weblog reprints an astonishing news story – an Israeli Arab (actually, part-Arab) has been “granted political asylum by the United States, on grounds of economic persecution due to his ethnicity and religion” by the Israeli government. Honestly, if the source wasn’t Haaretz, I’d wonder if the story were true.
  • On a happier note, the Head Heeb reports on a program which allows Palestinians and Israelis to talk for free on the phone, in the hopes of increasing peace, understanding, and the like. I wonder if things like this aren’t too hippy-dippy to work, but maybe I’m too cynical. In any case, I’m pleased that someone’s making the attempt.
  • In case you need convincing that many right-wingers are idiots, check out the new Right Wing News survey - “Bloggers Select the 20 worst figures in American history.” Highlight: Bill Clinton is far worse than Timothy McVeigh, by their lights. (Or maybe I should say, “by their dims.”) To be fair, some smarter right-wingers have been criticizing this.
  • The dullest blog in the world. It really is. Via Suzanne.
  • The Green[e]house Effect reports on a public housing project designed to be as environmentally efficient as possible, including decorations that are actually solar panels and wind design intended to make air conditioning unnecessary.
  • PLA discusses “The Tao of Deb” – the costs that all of us are paying for Republican addiction to debt.
  • Welcome Silipups, a blog written by a Palestinian living in Jerusalem, to the blogroll.
  • Pedantry has an absolutely fascinating post on Islamic Financial Institutions (which have to find ways to function without charging interest to borrowers).
  • A sarcastic kid has been charged with making a “bomb-threat” for putting the following note in his luggage, where the luggage-inspectors found it: ”[Expletive] you. Stay the [expletive] out of my bag you [expletive] sucker. Have you found a [expletive] bomb yet? No, just clothes. Am I right? Yea, so [expletive] you.” Boing Boing has the story.
  • Usually, I hate blind links – you know, links that say, “go see this,” but give you no clue what “this” is. But in this case, I have no idea how to describe it, other than to admit that it gave me serious giggles. Via Boing Boing again.
  • Eugene Volokh argues, I think persuasively, that it makes more sense to vote a party line for all elections than to worry about the merits of individual candidates running for individual positions.
  • Trish Wilson has a giant, giant, giant post on Joint Custody. Unsurprisingly, Trish is against it (at least, when it’s mandatory instead of chosen), and she has the links explaining why you should be against it too.
  • Kip and Penny have both posted links to this way-cool optical illusion, so I thought I would, too.
  • The Associated Press reports on Afghan Women’s attempt to have sex equality written into the forthcoming Afghan constitution. I’m not optimistic, but I sure hope they succeed.
  • Cowboy Kahil discusses the real division in the Democratic party – those who want to placate the South, and those who don’t.
  • James Wagner points out a genuine historic milestone: “On 1st August 2003, with the entry into force of a new penal code in Armenia, the last law in any country of Europe outlawing relationships between people of the same sex will be eliminated.” Wow.
  • Nathan Newman has posted a number of times on his opposition to judicial review – even judicial activism that may help the left in the short term. I tentatively agree that we’d be better off if the Courts didn’t practice judicial review at all; over the course of US history, judicial activism has been overwhelmingly a tool for helping the wealthy and right-wing. Given the reality that the Courts do practice judicial review, I’m not sure it makes sense for the left to give up fighting for favorable decisions when the right-wingers certainly won’t do the same.
  • Neato! This AP story reports on a glove someone has invented which, when worn, will translate sign language into spoken language. Some Deaf activists are worried that this will harm Deaf culture; although I’m usually sympathetic to such worries, in this case I don’t see the harm. Via Boing Boing.
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25 Responses to Some stuff Ampersand is reading today

  1. 1
    James Russell says:

    That RWN poll makes me sigh very deeply. Not only is Clinton a more heinous human being than Timothy McVeigh, so is Noam Chomsky. Good to see people have such perspective when it comes to matters like this. Things like that make me wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to just give into that sort of insanity than it would be to keep fighting it…

  2. 2
    Dean Esmay says:

    Am I right wing? Oh I guess so, I do like Bush.

    But I should point out, we really can overreact to these things. Different people had different reasons, I’m sure, and some things were a joke I’m sure, and…

    I doubt many seriously chose Hill and Bill as worse than all the above, I’m sure some it was just a “ha ha” inclusion, or, “Well I chose this guy because he’s a horrible murderer, and this guy because of how he hurt the country,” or whatever. It’s all very subjective.

    It still comes across as batty when you read it.

  3. 3
    Prometheus 6 says:

    I had to answer Unimpressed:

    The current concentrations of wealth would be dispersed among the descendants of the holders of that wealth. Meanwhile, new wealth aggregations would occur proportionately across all populations. It would take a while, but the disparities would eventually even out.

  4. 4
    John Isbell says:

    Nice post – I like these too.
    1. The Tao of Deb?
    2. Remember the inner-city Saturday night basketball program and the GOP outcry about it?
    3. Armenia is IIRC over the other side of Turkey. In some ways, the US really is well behind Europe. People forget that.

  5. 5
    John Isbell says:

    Amp, you have this post up three times.

  6. 6
    Michael says:


    Your “Boing Boing” reference links directly to the Boston Globe story. I’m interested in checking out her/his blog — can you please post the link? Thanks!

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    John, thanks for pointing that out. It’s fixed now.

    Michael, Boing Boing’s URL is

  8. 8
    Joe Grossberg says:

    Armenia isn’t in Europe! It’s east of Turkey.

  9. 9
    crazysoph says:

    Fair enough, when you describe the effect of visiting any tag bearing the label “this”. I needed the giggle, and the link surely provided it – thank you!

    Just loved the Live Journal icon of the link… and the entry currently at the top, with the picture which I presume provoked the spoof letter from “The American People” to “The Japanese people”.

    Crazy(and I’ve nattered enough)Soph

  10. 10
    Stentor says:

    Eugene really has a talent for breaking things down into all the sub-category possibilities.

  11. 11
    Roger L. Simon says:

    Thanks for the “smarter,” I suppose, but don’t call me a right-winger, please… or a left-winger, for that matter. I think those are big TIRED cliches. (Check my background too, in the “about” section of my blog. You might be surprised).

  12. 12
    ScooterD says:

    re: the dullest blog in the universe.

    Hey, looks like Jim’s Journal has finally hit the new millennium.

  13. 13
    Ampersand says:

    Sorry, Roger, I call ‘em as I see ‘em. For what it’s worth, however, I see the “wings” as relative, not as absolutes; relative to me, you’re right-wing. If you look through my blogroll, you’ll see that many people who most folks consider lefties are listed in the “to Alas’ right” catagory.

    (If you want to seem less of a right-winger, by the way, you might consider diversifying the ideology in your blogroll a little. You may not be conservative, but your blogroll certainly is.)

    From your bio, it seems you used to be an extreme left-winger; but plenty of lefties of your generation turned right over the years. See David Horowitz, for example.

  14. 14
    Lefty says:

    Deaf culture, just like any culture, will evolve. Slang will fool the machine just as it fools any translation device.

  15. 15
    Scott Martens says:

    One of my old profs was invovled in cochlear implant research and said the same sorts of things about the deaf community: That there is a substantial number against the implants, even though they are able to restore at least some hearing ability to people with an undamaged auditory nerve.

    This really baffled her. I wasn’t shocked, but still, I tried to do some reading on the subject and was surprised by the level of hostility to implants, which are really quite effective nowadays, although they are hardly a cure for deafness.

    BTW, no one in the deaf community need worry too much about this sign interpreting machine. I tracked down a technical paper on it, ( and it looks like a small step forward in gesture recognition rather than a big one, but the fundamental problem of machine translation (in short, my profession) has not been addressed. It may be able to translate single signs or finger-spelled words, but that’s about it.

  16. 16
    Seth Gordon says:

    Back when I was a deaf ed major, the first generation of born-deaf children with cochlear implants were just graduating high school. On average, their speech and lipreading abilities were equivalent to their counterparts who had ~90dB hearing loss. In other words, the implant turns a stone-deaf person into a profoundly-deaf person.

    This level of hearing can be useful for people who grew up hearing and became deaf later in life, but not so much for someone who was born deaf and has never learned a spoken language.

    As for the glove — as a technology for helping deaf people communicate with hearing people, how does this improve on, um, paper and pencil?

  17. 17
    Scott Martens says:

    Seth, I’m not into cochlear implant research, I’ve only had the one class on auditory prostheses and I haven’t looked at CI research beyond the manditory reading, so you would certainly be well advised to take what I say as less than authoritative, but…

    Any implants done more than ten years ago bear no resemblance at all to the current technology. I agree that putting implants in young deaf children and then using oral teaching is almost certainly a bad idea, but, I have actually met a postlinguistically deaf person with a CI who is able to use the telephone unaided most of the time. Full spectrum hearing, no, but there are people with modern CI’s who have far better hearing accuity than profoundly deaf people. My prof’s data was pretty remarkable considering what a simple hack CI is.

    But, as far as I know, CI hasn’t done that much to help the prelinguistically deaf. I’m told it’s good enough now to help make lip-reading easier, but there is no way oral-centred education will cut it for a fully deaf child with no previous language skills, even with CI.

  18. 18
    barry says:

    I have a correction. The Palestinian blog is silipups, not slipups. You have the URL right, just not the name.

    The author is a friend of mine and is Palestinian, having grown up in East Jerusalem.

  19. 19
    Ampersand says:

    I think the objection to CI makes more sense. CI can have the effect of encouraging some hearing parents of Deaf children to keep sign language from their children, preferring that the child learn to speak English very poorly than that the child learn to be fluent in a language the parents don’t know. Some Deaf folks feel that, even with CI, children will be robbed of true fluency in any language if they don’t learn to sign.

  20. 20
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks for the correction, Barry.

  21. 21
    QrazyQat says:

    Here’s what I wrote over at Unimpressed (and I was on that idea) about the idea of “first mover advantage”:

    Yes, the first-mover advantage idea sounds perfectly sensible. It’s surely why Japan makes no motorcycles or cars, no trains, no pianos, no electronics equipment. Wait, what’s that? Japan is a world leader in all those categories, depsite not being even close to having a “first-mover advantage”?

    Oh well, another beautiful theory destroyed by an ugly fact.

  22. 22
    Thom says:

    Assuming that sign-language glove ever gets off the ground (and it is pretty ridiculous that anyone would pick this over paper-and-pencil), the one way it could harm deaf culture is that the grammar in ASL is radically different than English, and deaf people would be encouraged (forced?) to destroy their own language and use isolated signs in English word order, instead of normal ASL sentences. Of course, this is exactly what well-meaning but misguided white women teachers have tried to force on deaf people since the ’60s. (Before that, they tried to keep them from signing at all). Hopefully the glove will never catch on. (remember the SegWay, that was supposed to revolutionize transportation?)

  23. 23
    Ampersand says:

    It’s certainly not true that only “white women” teachers have done that, Thom.

  24. 24
    Aaron says:

    My 20 Worst Americans. No paranoia about Hillary Clinton here, I’ll assure you.

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