Aug 15

SB Nation and the Failure of Capitalism

SB Nation and the Failure of Capitalism

We were having a conversation about Vox Media in the comments and someone sent me a very interesting article, How SB Nation Profits Off an Army of Exploited Workers. It’s long and deeply reported. I recommend checking it out. But I wanted to discuss it in a general sense: how companies manage to exploit free labor.

Rewards Don’t Follow Contribution

One of my main interests in economics is how rewards don’t go to those who do the best or most important work. Instead, rewards go to those who just happen to make a contribution at the right time. Any major innovation is the result of countless people working over variable time scales. But if you are unlucky enough to add to the innovation at a point when it can’t be monetized, you are largely out of luck.

What is going on with many internet companies is similar to this. Since most people weren’t on the internet in the 1980s, let me explain what it was like. Because it was something of a small community made up of relatively affluent people, there was great altruism. (It’s easier to be altruistic if you aren’t worried about making the rent.) People created software and just gave it away, for example.

Now, this is still true of the internet. The difference is that there are so many people trying to make a profit off all this free work. And note: it wasn’t just software. I remember in the early 90s, there was this guy on rec.arts.startrek.tng who each week wrote a narrative summary of the new Star Trek: The Next Generation episode in addition to a surprisingly deep analysis of it. He did it for no reason other than that he was a fan and wanted to share it. He got lots of positive feedback as well, of course.

SB Nation Steals From Creators

And that’s kind of how SB Nation works. It started with sports fan blogs. Tyler Bleszinski and Markos Moulitsas looked at this and said: light bulb! Just as DailyKos had been very successful that leveraging people’s natural tendency to want to share their political beliefs, SB Nation would leverage the same thing for sports. And it’s amazing how successful a company can be when all it does is sell work that people do for free.

If we lived in a rational society that hadn’t been fed capitalist propaganda from before living memory, we would see this for what it is: stealing. But trust me: I know what the capitalist apologist will say, “But these people had the brilliant idea of leveraging all this free work. Besides, no one is forcing these people to write for SB Nation!”

You can say the same thing for stealing, “But I had the idea of stealing that car you never use. Besides, it’s not like you need it!” The idea of economic systems is that they are supposed to distribute resources. Capitalism does a really bad job of this. It rewards the very worst aspects of human behavior.

And note: I’m not saying that distribution is valueless. It’s like banking. Bankers should make money for distributing capital to where it ought to go. But when you find that 40 percent of your economy is tied up in finance (as it was before the crash of 2008), then you know that something is wrong. And in the case of SB Nation, something is clearly wrong: their outlay for all their fan sites is in the low single digits of millions of dollars for a billion dollar company.

The Failure of Capitalism

My concern isn’t about SB Nation particularly. It is rather that we all accept the idea that those who are rewarded in our economy are not those who really create things. We accept, without thinking, that there is nothing wrong with the SB Nation model.

All of this brings us back to the “gig economy.” It is the polar opposite of the union economy. Businesses love it because they not only don’t have to deal with the combined power of labor, they don’t even have to worry that any union will be created. Those people at SB Nation who do get paid (extremely poorly — like $600/month for a site editor, which is a full-time position) are independent contractors.

Every time I bring these kinds of issues up, I get push-back from people. First they point out that the Soviet Union failed. Well first, I’m not proposing the Soviet Union as a system. But let’s assume I was. The truth is that people did much better under the Soviet Union than they did under the tsars. And I can’t say that they have done better since. So this idea that the Soviet Union was a failure is mostly just western dogma that few people take the time to think about. They just know.

Then they talk about all the great things capitalism has brought us. This I find bizarre. People get blinded by shiny objects. As Ha-Joon Chang pointed out in 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, the washing machine had a far more profound effect on our lives than the computer. So it’s ridiculous to think that unless we have people starving in the streets we won’t have iPhones.

Demand a Better System

So we could have a better economic system. We could have a system that more closely matches reward with contribution. (Note: I am not calling for a meritocratic economic system; I’m just noting that it would be better than what we have.) But such a system would never have the kind of economic inequality that the power elites now believe is their right. And the rest of us will never call for it as long as we are blinded by the idea our weird form of capitalism is an unquestioned good.

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Aug 14

Trump’s Grudging Condemnation of White Supremacists

Matt Yglesias - Trump's Grudging Condemnation of White SupremacistsDonald Trump’s statement today on Saturday’s murder in Charlottesville — a grudging, teleprompted address that came only after days of foot-dragging and criticism — is the latest edition of a well-warn tango.

Time and again, Trump loudly and clearly signals solidarity with the worst and most deplorable elements in American life, only to grudgingly back away in a manner designed more to give his fellow Republicans cover than to redress any actual harms.

There was nothing in today’s remarks that couldn’t have been said two days ago, and there was no hint of remorse or self-reflection over the pain his behavior has caused.

White supremacists like David Duke who see Trump as winking at them will, rightly, feel that once again the president’s willingness to take political heat on their behalf constitutes a not-so-subtle thumbs up. Americans who feel alarmed by the growing boldness of white nationalists will, rightly, feel that the president doesn’t take their concerns seriously. But Republican Party members of Congress and conservative media and institutional leaders who were discomfited by Trump’s odd behavior will have the license they need to pretend that everything is fine.

–Matt Yglesias
The Trump Tango Is Tiresome and Pointless

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Aug 13

A Better Deal?!

Chuck Schumer - A Better Deal?The Democrats have released a program to make all our lives better called A Better Deal. And there is much in it to like. But I think I can be forgiven for being a tad skeptical about it.

As part of it’s release late last month, Chuck Schumer wrote an op-ed in The New York Times, A Better Deal for American Workers. At the beginning was some language that sounds, well, familiar, “There used to be a basic bargain in this country that if you worked hard and played by the rules, you could own a home, afford a car, put your kids through college and take a modest vacation every year while putting enough away for a comfortable retirement.”

That’s taken right from Obama’s 2008 stump speech. And I just wonder: after 8 years of Obama supposedly trying to make that happen, the country choose as it’s president an incompetent bigot? Regardless, we sit here 9 years later still thinking back on that basic bargain. Now there’s a real question as to whether this bargain ever existed. It certainly didn’t for a huge percentage of the population. Just the same, I don’t think there is any reason that we couldn’t make it true today.

Mushy Thinking in A Better Deal

Looking at A Better Deal itself shows that it is a mixed bag. For example, it doesn’t call for a $15 minimum wage. Instead, we get this, “As part of the Better Deal, many Democrats are calling to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour and have cosponsored the legislation to make that happen.” I don’t know what that means. It sounds a lot like: as part of Obamacare, many Democrats are calling for a public option. You all know what happened to the public option: it was killed by conservative Democrats — most of whom go voted out anyway.

But what most upset me was the third part of A Better Deal, “Build an economy that gives working Americans the tools to succeed in the 21st Century.” The summary starts:

Americans deserve the chance to get the skills, tools, and knowledge to find a good-paying job or to move up in their career to earn a better living. We will commit to A Better Deal that provides new tax incentives to employers that invest in workforce training and education and make sure the rules of the economy support companies that focus on long-term growth, rather than short-term profits.

Two Problems

Get that?! There are two major problems here. The first is that this is the same old stalling tactic that we’ve been fed for decades. The unstated assumption here is that companies are not hiring because workers don’t have the right skills. Now to start with, the unemployment rate is 4.3 percent right now. The truth is that there is no skills mismatch. American workers are qualified for the jobs that exist. Saying they need “skills” is just a way of doing nothing. And if wages are down, that isn’t because of a lack of skills. How about the Democratic Party standing up for unions?

That all is bad enough. But the idea that workers lack skills and so we should give money to corporations is insulting. Do the Democrats want to see Trump have two terms as president? This is madness!

So to summarize: the Democrats think that Americans need more job training (which they don’t) and they think corporations should be given the money to do this useless job training.

Better Than Nothing

The rest of the proposal looks okay, but it isn’t as clear as it could be. We Democrats seem to be incapable of that. And some things hearken back to Obama, like reducing the price of prescription medication. Yeah, that’s something we were talking about in 2008. It seems like we could have done something about that. It seems like we could have done something about the big drug company giveaway that is Medicare Part D.

But I suppose we should give the Democrats some credit. They seem to be waking up to the need for a turn away from the road that led from Bill Clinton and NAFTA to Barack Obama and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Afterword

People bring up a lot of reasons why Hillary Clinton lost the last election. I wonder if having Obama running around pushing the TPP wasn’t also a drag on her campaign. It certainly reinforced the idea that Clinton was against the TPP now but that she would be for it once in office.

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Aug 13

President Trump Won’t Blame Nazis for Murder

President Donald TrumpWhite nationalists rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend against the removal of Confederate statues in public spaces. White nationalists attacked counter-protesters on Friday night, punching and kicking them and (reportedly) pepper-spraying them. One counter-protester was killed and several were injured when a car rammed into them after accelerating for over a block.

President Trump blamed both sides.

–Dara Lind
Donald Trump Refuses to Name the Problem of White Supremacist Violence

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Aug 12

Checking In

Frank MoraesHi, you all. I don’t feel like writing an Odd Words post, so I thought I would just check in with you. I also don’t feel like writing any of the posts that have been piling up in my head — one about Glenn Greenwald may be so out of date by the time I write it that I may not write it. But the truth is that I’m tired.

Early this last week, I wrote to my doctor, complaining of three things: breaking out into sweats; losing 15 pounds; and having high blood pressure. She set up some tests and told me to schedule an appointment after the results were back.

So on Tuesday, I went in to see the Kaiser Permanente vampires to give them four vials of blood. Because I walked the four miles to the office, I was somewhat dehydrated when I got to the draining office. And the phlebotomists had a hard time. I went through three of them. The last one got me in my hand. She was only just able to fill the fourth vial; the vein was giving out. And she left me with a pretty bad bruise afterward — which was kind of cool.

Nine Tests

My doctor had 9 tests run. I got to see the results before the appointment, so I was pretty sure what I was going to hear when I went in. Pretty much everything looked great. The only exceptions were that my cholesterol was a bit high — which is not surprising given how much I love cream sauces. And my thyroid was not functioning as well as it should be. So I figured she would increase my thyroid medication.

When I met with her, she did exactly what I expected. But the most interesting thing about my health this last few months is that I constantly feel — it’s hard to explain — dazed, perhaps? I feel like the outside world is unreal. It’s kind of like being a little drunk, but without the mental impairment. And so I asked my doctor if high blood pressure could do that. She said, “No. But stress will.”

Stress Kills — And So Much More!

From the moment we met, she took it for granted that I was suffering from stress. And I know that. It’s one of the reasons that I have avoided going to the doctor. It’s hard to seek help for something that you feel is your own damned fault. And that’s the thing with this stress: it is of my own making.

It would be one thing if I worked in an emergency room. But I don’t. I’m a writer. Nothing I do is that important. But I put a lot of pressure on myself — especially when I don’t think I’m doing a good enough job. And that has certainly been the case the last few months.

My doctor recommended that I see a counselor. (She shoved a bunch of papers at me with information on getting a counselor.) And she recommended that I go to a stress-reduction workshop. (She shoved a bunch of papers at me with information on when the workshop was offered.) And then she went over the standard stress-reduction things that everyone mentions: meditation, yoga, and binge-watching the entire Kung Fu series.

She also recommended a number of different teas. My doctor is a big tea drinker — as am I (I don’t know if that is on my chart). But I’ve never been big on herbal teas. But I’ll give it a try.

You Aren’t in Control

The whole thing is very weird, though. I feel like I should just be able to turn it off. But I can’t. I know that stress kills. And here is my mind — killing itself. It’s like a movie: watching yourself as the conveyor belt moves you ever closer to the spinning blade.

I don’t mean to be overly dramatic. But I fear all of us are hostages to parts of the brain we can’t control. I’m still hopeful. And tomorrow, maybe I’ll write about politics.

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Aug 10

Odd Words: Coelostat

CoelostatAre you ready for page 57 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition?! Well, even if you aren’t, here it is. It is mostly a rant about one word. And then we will get on to today’s word: coelostat.

Little Men

I have never heard the word “cockalorum” before. It is “a conceited or pretentious little man.” I am short, and for most of my life I was painfully thin. And it has always bugged me that small men have special words and phrases to describe them. The best known, of course, is the Napoleon complex. But isn’t that just like a short man to be bugged by such a thing?

Here’s the thing: we don’t have special words for big men who are conceited or aggressive or whatever. And what’s going on is exactly what’s going on with women. The assumption is that it is somehow wrong for a small man or a woman to be strong. So while a large man’s aggressiveness might be seen as him being “a go-getter,” it indicates some kind of pathology in a small man.

Women

The issue is obviously more important socially as it affects women. It tells half the population that they should be demure. Should they demand equality, there are lots of verbal smears that will be used on them. I might hate words like “cockalorum,” but there’s a whole industry devoted to creating words to keep women in their places. In some cases, it works well in that you know pretty much all you need to about a man who uses the word “feminazi.”

On the other side of this is that short men (and women) tend to be ignored. There is a joke I’ve seen a few times in movies and television shows. In it, a woman will say something in a business meeting, and everyone ignores it. Then a man says it and everyone congratulates him on his great idea. (See, for example, Miss Congeniality.) This has happened to me. I suspect I’m not alone among smaller men. And certainly this is something that happens to women commonly.

Small Men Are Less Aggressive

As a result, you would think that small men would exhibit signs of the Napoleon complex. The society certainly pushes them to. But at least one study found that this wasn’t the case. It found that taller men were more likely to lose their temper than short men. (I don’t think we need a study for women.)

Of course, if you think about it, it makes sense. When you find a hyper-aggressive short man, it sticks out. It’s not because he’s short; it is because it is so unusual. I find the whole thing ridiculous and annoying. But as I noted before, isn’t that just like a small man?

Coelostat

I probably should have known this word because I have used the device before. I used to be very involved with astronomy. But I always came at it from the computer end. I didn’t know anything cool like how to look up where a star is in the sky and then how to find it. Anyway, this is a great device, but not so great a word: coelostat.

Coe·lo·stat  noun  \sē’ləstat\

1. a telescope fitted with an adjustable mirror used to reflect the light of a star, etc, into the telescope.

Date: late 19th century.

Origin: from Latin caelum, which means “sky.”

Example: Naturally, Griffith Observatory is hosting a viewing event, featuring telescope viewing from the lawn, sidewalks, and on the coelostat (solar telescope) in the Hall of the Sky (note: personal telescopes aren’t allowed). –Gwynedd Stuart, Where to Watch the Solar Eclipse in LA.

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Aug 09

Odd Words: Cloche

Vilma Banky in ClocheToday, we do page 56 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition! It’s an excellent page, and it introduced me to a new kind of hat: cloche.

All the Words I Knew Before

Page 56 had a lot of words I knew, and I don’t see why I should deny them to myself. I was thinking about how we all know just when we learned some words. One example of that is the word “clique.” It is “a small, exclusive circle of people, especially with identical interests.” I learned it when I took Psychology when I was in high school.

Interestingly, it was taught by the music teacher. It was very much pop psychology. I think the instructor, Mr Wright, had received a minor in it when he was in college. You could get much the same education from reading Psychology Today. Or perhaps even that is putting on airs. Nevertheless, it was a fun and interesting class.

“Solitary, Celibate, I Hate It”

Similarly, I know when I learned the word “cloistered” (or close enough). It means “alone; separated from everything else; sheltered away from the world.” Or so the dictionary says. It has specific religious meanings. And I learned it when I was perhaps 12 years old. I was in the habit of checking out original cast albums of musicals from the library. One of them was 1776.

In the song “Yours, Yours, Yours,” Abigail sings, “I live like a nun in a cloister; solitary, celibate, I hate it.” So I looked it up. (It’s interesting that people consider me an intellectual; the only thing that is different between me and others is that I drag out the dictionary.) Here is the song. It’s very sweet:

Dropping Stock of Clone

Now a word I have no recollection of learning is “clone.” I won’t bother defining it. But it does seem that the idea of cloning had a great hold on our society in the early 70s. There were lots of movies about it. People were fascinated about it. Now that it is a real thing, people aren’t as interested.

All the Words I Didn’t Know Before

Some words seem too bizarre to be real. Thus it is with “clinker built,” even though I know it is a real thing. I’m sure for people into boating it is something they take for granted, but I have no experience with it. It means “(of ships) having boards or planks that overlap.” I was thinking of making it the word of the day, but I got distracted.

I often find myself looking for the name for a group of animals. There’s a great webpage for this: Animal Group Names. But only today I learned that there is a word for a group of cats: “clowder.” Although according to that page, a group of wild cats is called a “destruction.” That’s pretty cool.

There is also the simple word “cloy,” which is “to satiate or become distasteful through excess.” The word kind of makes me hungry. For the last month or so, food has tasted off. So the idea of eating enough to get sick of food sounds appealing. But this probably explains why I have now lost 15 pounds.

Cloche

I have a great fondness for women’s fashion. I used to really enjoy going clothes shopping with my wife. So I’m naturally drawn to any words that relate to women’s fashion. And I really like this: cloche.

Cloche  noun  \klōsh\

1. a glass cover, usually bell-shaped, placed over plants to protect them from frost.

2. a woman’s close-fitting, brimless hat.

Date: late 19th century.

Origin: from French for “bell.”

Example: The “flapper hat,” as it is often called, is actually a cloche hat. It works best with short, cropped hair, which was the style in the 1920s –Lena Maikon, Knitter’s Lib: Learn to Knit, Crochet, and Free Yourself from Pattern Dependency

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Aug 08

Odd Words: Clepsydra

ClepsydraAll I can say is “Happy, happy! Joy, joy!” as we do page 55 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition. It’s actually a pretty good page. And the word is odd indeed: clepsydra.

Civil Rights?!

The first entry on page 55 was “civil rights.” That’s interesting. The dictionary was published in 1972. I’m surprised they felt that need to define it. After all, it had been in all the papers! Today, I understand, that many people don’t understand what civil rights means. They think it means protecting the heads of “thugs” as they are put into the backs of police cars. But the definition is the same as it was then: “a citizen’s right to personal liberty as established by the US Constitution.” (Actually: there is nothing about needing to be a citizen in the Constitution.)

Clubs

There are two different words that have the exact same definition: “having the shape of a club.” They are: “clavate” and “claviform.” It’s odd to have two words that are so similar. What is even the point? I know: foolish me for looking for rationality in the English language. But still.

Other Words

There were a lot of good words that I already knew like “clairvoyance” and “clandestine.” But there were also good ones that I didn’t know. Even though it is easy enough to figure out, I like “cleptobiosis.” It is “a mode of existence in which one species steals food from another.” This is the mode of existence of the rich in the middle third of North America.

A really delightful word is “claque.” It is “a group of persons hired to applaud a theatrical performance.” That’s what I need. I need to hire a group of people to follow me around and laugh when I make a joke, applaud when I cross the street without incident, and otherwise murmur “Oh, very insightful” whenever I say something that isn’t funny.

And it seems appropriate to end with “climacteric,” which is “a period in life leading to decreased sexual activity in men and to menopause in women.” Although it appears to me that men have more profound changes than simply a reduced sex drive. Feel free to school me on this.

Clepsydra

Today’s word actually just means “water clock.” But for some reason, the dictionary wanted to describe it. So ladies and gentlemen, here is “clepsydra.”

Clep·sy·dra  noun  \klep’-sidrə\

1. an apparatus for measuring the passage of time by the regulated flow of water.

Date: late Middle English.

Origin: from Latin via Greek klepsudra, based on kleptein, which means “steal water.”

Example: The device above is known as a clepsydra (Greek for “water-thief”), which is a gourd with one hole in the top and one-to-many holes in the bottom. –Ethan Siegel, Yes, New York Times, There Is A Scientific Method

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Aug 07

Odd Words: Cirque

Cirque de Gavarnie

Page 54 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition was a very difficult one! I’ll explain in a moment. But first, today’s word: cirque.

Around the Page!

The entire first column on page 54, and a little bit more, was made up of circum– words. I can’t say that I knew all of them, but it was trivial to figure out what they meant. Or close enough. They started with “circumambient.” A surprising number of these words just meant what this one did: “encircling; encompassing.” People apparently need a lot of different worlds to say “around.”

This set of words ended with “circumvolve.” I’m sure few will be surprised to learn that it means “to wind about or around; rotate.”

The only really useful word of the bunch was “circumlocution,” which is about the only word that I specifically remember seeing. It’s a pretty common word meaning “excessive use of words to express an idea; an evasive or round about way of speaking.” I won’t name anyone, but it is a word that I associate very much with one of my close friends. (I’ll leave it to them to fight over who it is.)

My Side of Whatever

Almost a quarter of page 54 was made up of cis– words. In Latin, cis means “on this side of.” And that is what this prefix does to words. For example, “cisalpine” means “on this (the Italian) side of the Alps.” And then “cismontane” is a slightly more general “cisalpine,” meaning “on this side of the mountains.”

Similarly, there is “cislunar,” which is “lying between the Earth and the Moon.” And you know, even though it isn’t part of the classic thought experiment, if there were a teapot orbiting cislunar, we would very likely not have noticed it.

Cirque

And so, that takes us to today’s word, which despite a difficult page, is quite useful: cirque.

Cirque  noun  \surk\

1. a basin in a mountain forming a circular space like an amphitheater.

Date: late 17th century.

Origin: from Latin circus, which is a circular line.

Example: Each lake occupies a glacial cirque ­– a type of basin named for its shape — with steep banks. –Deborah Wall, Lakes Loop Trail a Highlight of Great Basin

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Aug 06

Odd Words: Cicatrix

CicatrixIt is not with a great deal of pleasure that I present page 54 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition. But it’s like a chore, so let’s get through it. I do at least like today’s word because it is very useful: cicatrix.

Useless Words

No words are truly useless. But some are so specialized as to make me wonder what they are doing in a dictionary of this type.

One such word is “chyle.” It is “lymph containing emulsified fats formed from chym in the small intestine.” And, of course, “chyme” is “the semiliquid mass of partially digested food formed by gastric secretion.”

Now I have little doubt that these are perfectly good words for biologists and doctors. But really: when would I use these words? And who could I be talking to who I could expect to know them?

Who? Nobody.

Useful Words

And then there are some very useful words. One of them is today’s word. Or maybe I just think that because I have scars.

The first word on page 53 is “chutzpa.” (The accepted spelling of it is “chutzpah.”) Most people know this word: “gall; audacity; impudence.” It’s a great word. And it sounds so great!

The last complete word on page 53 is “circuitous.” It is “roundabout; indirect.” I probably overuse the word. But it is so accurate, especially if it brings to mind a circuit board. And it does for me.

Cinema!

There were a few words related to the cinema. I believe they are all coined from the word “cinema” itself.

The first is “cineaste.” It is “an enthusiast for motion pictures, especially in their artistic and technical aspects.” That’s a word I’ve seen around a lot. There is also “cinema verite,” which is “motion pictures that are imitative of real life.” I just checked and before this article, I’d used the phrase in six articles on Frankly Curious.

But the third cinema word I have never seen and I kind of doubt it is a real word: “cinematics.” It’s easy enough to guess: “the art or technique of motion picture making.” I’m curious if anyone has ever run into it.

Cicatrix

And that leads us to today’s word:

Cic·a·trix  noun  \sik’-ətriks\

1. the scar that forms on a wound, which has healed.

2. a mark left on a stem by a fallen leaf.

Date: late Middle English.

Origin: from Latin cicatrix. which means “ulcer.”

Example: This apparatus was rather heavy and cumbersome and attended with the objection that the end of the thigh stump had to carry the weight of the body, and the stump cicatrix had to endure a constant pressure. –Berry Craig (quoted), Sixteenth Century French Barber Surgeon: A Man of Many Talents

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Aug 05

Odd Words: Chrysalis

ChrysalisSorry for missing yesterday. I took the day off and went to the fair. And then I was really tired and didn’t feel like writing. But I’m back at it with page 52 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition! Much like page 51, this page has a lot of space dedicated to two roots. I picked something different, however: chrysalis.

Two Big Roots

The first column on page 52 was made up almost entirely of two roots. The first is chroma–, which comes from the Greek chrōmatikós. So we get words like “chromogen,” which is “a substance, as a microorganism, which produces pigmented compounds when oxidized.”

The other root is chrono–, which is from the Greek word khronos — time. Most of the words have something to do with measuring time. Or the opposite, like with “chronopher,” which is “an electrical apparatus used to broadcast time signals.”

Church

About a quarter of page 52 was made up of “church” words and phrases — mostly phrases. I’ll just list them out because they are kind of interesting, even if kind of familiar:

  • Church invisible: “the whole of Christianity both in heaven and on Earth.” So let’s see, that’s all of the Christians on Earth plus zero. Got it!
  • Church Militant: “those Christians constantly active in the fight against evil.” I’d say about half of them. The second half are the ones they are fighting.
  • Church visible: the whole body of Christian believers on Earth.” So the same as church invisible.

There’s also “churchwarden,” which is “a tobacco pipe with a long stem.” Interesting that I didn’t know that one.

Other Words

One word caught my eye for personal reasons. I know it, of course: “chronic.” It means “perpetual; unceasing.” The reason it struck me was that I’ve been dealing with problems with my blood pressure. I normally have what is considered normal blood pressure: 120/80. But recently, I’ve had roughly 150/100 during the day. Then it reduces to 120/85 at night.

Yesterday, I took my father to the fair. It was a very pleasant day, as I plan to discuss later today. When I got home, I took my blood pressure: 112/80. Great. Then I went to work, and something went wrong. I decided to check my blood pressure: 161/105.

I may end up on disability if I don’t watch out. Of course, with the Republicans in charge of Washington for the next year and a half, at least, there may be none — so I can just work myself to death.

Chrysalis

Today’s word is a specialized biologist word. But it is still the kind of word that a lot of people know and one that is useful: chrysalis. Note that the definition below is very limited; the word applies to a lot of different insects.

Chrys·a·lis  noun  \kris’-əlis\

1. the pupa of a butterfly.

Date: early 17th century.

Origin: from Greek khrusos, which means “gold” since some pupae are golden.

Example: This year, in addition to the Painted Ladies, two Monarch butterflies were released into the Butterfly House, as well as a chrysalis and some caterpillars. –Kirsten Barnhart, Master Gardeners Hold Butterfly Release Party

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/08/05/chrysalis/

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Aug 04

US Has Never Been a Fair Arbiter in the Middle East

Mehdi Hasan - American Checks and Balances Are Out of WhackTrump’s son-in-law not only lacks the necessary qualifications, experience and knowledge, he also lacks even the pretense of balance or objectivity.

[…]

But here’s the thing: have there ever been “fair arbiters”? From the US side? Kushner, for all his many sins and flaws, is only the most extreme and egregious example of a long-standing and bipartisan trend in US Middle East policy: the appointment of special envoys, negotiators, and ambassadors who see themselves more as advocates and defenders of Israel than as neutral or honest brokers.

Don’t believe me? According to former State Department official Aaron David Miller, who advised six secretaries of state, US negotiators, himself included, have spent decades acting “as Israel’s attorney, catering and coordinating with the Israelis at the expense of successful peace negotiations.” Miller has admitted that he, Martin Indyk and other members of the US negotiating team at the Camp David summit in 2000 brought a “clear pro-Israel orientation” to the discussions and that their “departure point was not what was needed to reach an agreement acceptable to both sides but what would pass with only one — Israel.”

[…]

This isn’t rocket science. “There are many reasons for America’s failure to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians but the most fundamental one is that it is a dishonest broker,” observed the Israeli historian Avi Shlaim in 2010.

To be clear: the Palestinians and their supporters are not asking for the United States to attack or even abandon the Jewish state. What they want is fairness, not favors. But thanks to a mixture of factors — US strategic interests in the Middle East; the power of the military-industrial complex; the influence of Jewish American organizations; the rise of Rapture-obsessed Christian evangelicals — they tend to get neither.

Remember how Howard Dean, while running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, was pilloried by leading members of his own party, such as Nancy Pelosi, merely for suggesting that “it’s not our place to take sides” and that “the United States needs an even-handed approach in the conflict”? The former Vermont governor had to walk back his remarks and confirm that the United States had “a special relationship with Israel.”

In the context of US Middle East policy, “even-handed” is a dirty word. So too is “neutral.” Yet for the past two decades, according to polling data collected by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Cornell University, despite a clear majority of Americans offering greater sympathy for the Israelis than for the Palestinians, an equally clear majority says the United States ought to take neither side in the conflict. In 2015, for example, 66 percent of Americans thought the US should “not take either side,” compared with only 29 percent who suggested the US should side with Israel.

–Mehdi Hasan
Jared Kushner’s Pro-Israel Bias Is Nothing New for US Mideast Envoys — It’s Just the Most Blatant

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/08/04/middle-east/

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