Daily Archive: 05 Sep 2016

Sep 05

Krugman on Media Coverage of Clinton Foundation

Paul Krugman - Clinton FoundationI and many others have the sick, sinking feeling that it’s happening again.

True, there aren’t many efforts to pretend that Donald Trump is a paragon of honesty. But it’s hard to escape the impression that he’s being graded on a curve. If he manages to read from a TelePrompter without going off script, he’s being presidential. If he seems to suggest that he wouldn’t round up all 11 million undocumented immigrants right away, he’s moving into the mainstream. And many of his multiple scandals, like what appear to be clear payoffs to state attorneys general to back off investigating Trump University, get remarkably little attention.

Meanwhile, we have the presumption that anything Hillary Clinton does must be corrupt, most spectacularly illustrated by the increasingly bizarre coverage of the Clinton Foundation.

Step back for a moment, and think about what that foundation is about. When Bill Clinton left office, he was a popular, globally respected figure. What should he have done with that reputation? Raising large sums for a charity that saves the lives of poor children sounds like a pretty reasonable, virtuous course of action. And the Clinton Foundation is, by all accounts, a big force for good in the world. For example, Charity Watch, an independent watchdog, gives it an “A” rating — better than the American Red Cross.

Now, any operation that raises and spends billions of dollars creates the potential for conflicts of interest. You could imagine the Clintons using the foundation as a slush fund to reward their friends, or, alternatively, Mrs Clinton using her positions in public office to reward donors. So it was right and appropriate to investigate the foundation’s operations to see if there were any improper quid pro quos. As reporters like to say, the sheer size of the foundation “raises questions.”

But nobody seems willing to accept the answers to those questions, which are, very clearly, “no.”

—Paul Krugman
Hillary Clinton Gets Gored

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Sep 05

Sudoku Meaning on Labor Day 2016

Sudoku MeaningIt’s Labor Day and I do hope that you aren’t working. I am of course working. There are a lot of reasons that are specific to me. One is that I work with people all over the world. International Workers’ Day is on 1 May. We have Labor Day because of the federal government’s disastrous response to the Pullman Strike. Those were the days when politicians actually worried about revolution (although not enough to do what was right in the first place). So most of the people I work with will not have today off.

The other reason is because I work all the time. The closest I’ve had to a day off since I returned from Mexico was on Friday when I worked about two and a half hours. The truth is that this work is kind of addictive. I’ve come to think of it as providing me with Sudoku Meaning. It’s the kind of meaning that I get from doing Sudoku puzzles. I’m very good at them. They engage my mind. They require a fair bit of creativity. But they aren’t deep. What television is to most people, Sudoku is to me.

Sudoku Meaning and My Job

I get Sudoku Meaning from my job. What’s more: I get paid to get Sudoku Meaning. I consider myself quite lucky in this regard. Just the same, this feeds itself. I shouldn’t work this much. But to stay with the television analogy, it’s like people who always watch The History Channel or whatever. They know there are other things on. But it’s just convenient. In this regard, my job is way easier than running Frankly Curious. I never know what I’m going to write around here. There’s no structure. There’s just a vague notion that I should write something interesting for the people who make a special trip here each day — and there are quite a number of them.

Frankly Curious Too!

But the truth is that Frankly Curious mostly provides Sudoku Meaning to me. There isn’t anything fundamental about it. There are times when what I write about transcends the format. Some of my work on Don Quixote works that way — providing me with sense of self-actualization. But way too much of it is facile craft. Give me any subject and two hours and I’ll give you an 800 word article, typeset with images. Hell: give me a first sentence! After writing over 7,000 articles for this blog, I’m good at that kind of stuff.

Rather than find meaning that has substance, we settle for a simulacrum…

It’s all Sudoku Meaning. So I’m looking for some deeper meaning. What that requires, I think, is slowing down. And that brings us back to Labor Day. We should have lots of them. But the truth is that most people don’t get one of them. Even if they get the day off, they don’t get paid for it. It’s hard to have friends and family over for a barbecue if you don’t have any money. But I think we lack leisure because we’ve embraced Sudoku Meaning.

Sudoku Meaning Is the Modern Sisyphus

Think about Sisyphus — the guy who rolls a huge boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back down, requiring him to repeat the process — for eternity. I see this — Quelle surprise! — in Schopenhauerian terms. It is the struggle of life that we live through each day just so we can repeat the same struggle tomorrow.

But we don’t need to struggle anymore. There is more than enough food for all. We can shelter everyone. In the west, we are doing quite well. So I think we developed Sudoku Meaning to help us carry on the Sisyphusian struggle. As Neil Postman put it in Amusing Ourselves to Death, “Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours.” Rather than find meaning that has substance, we settle for a simulacrum of it.

I see the problem very clearly in my own life. And I am fighting it. And losing. Badly.

Happy Labor Day.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2016/09/05/sudoku-meaning/

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Sep 05

Odd Words: Aliquant and Aliquot

Facepalm: Aliquant and AliquotWe are on to page seven of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition. I had planned to do a legal word, but then I found these two mathematical words that I just had to do: aliquant and aliquot.

You Say Aliquant and I Say Aliquot

I love math. You all know that! God is a mathematician. But that should tell you something right there. Jim Holt once speculated that “the universe was created by a being that is 100 percent malevolent but only 80 percent effective.” There’s no question but that mathematicians are an odd bunch. And the choice of these two words does strike me 100 percent malevolent.

So first up, we have: aliquant:

Al·i·quant  adjective  \al’-ə-kwənt\

1. (of a number) not dividing evenly into a larger number, as 6 is an aliquant part of 16. See also aliquot.

Date: late 17th century.

Origin: it comes from the Latin words alius (one of many) and quantus (amount or number).

Example: You don’t mean “aliquant” you mean “aliquot.” —Countless Mathematics Students

Next, we have: aliquot:

Al·i·quot  adjective  \al’-ə-kwət\

1. (of a number) dividing evenly into a larger number, as 6 is an aliquot part of 18. See also aliquant.

Date: late 16th century.

Origin: it comes from the Latin word aliquot (some, a small number).

Example: You don’t mean “aliquot” you mean “aliquant.” —Countless Mathematics Students

That’s right: these two words that sound almost identical mean exactly the opposite. It would be like deciding the best words for “yes” and “no” would be “yes” and “yef.” Only a mathematician would do this!

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2016/09/05/aliquant-aliquot/

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