“Just keeps coming”: Daily Bullshit, May 23-27, 2017

Updates

  1. May 24, 7:09 am:
    • Geoffrey Pullum debunks William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White’s The Elements of Style.[1] (Style Guides)
  2. May 25, 2:47 am:
    • The Congressional Budget Office scored the bill already passed by the House to repeal and replace Obamacare.[2]
    • James Comey’s decision to publicly announce his decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton may have been based on a Russian document of doubtful authenticity. Comey seems to have wanted to avoid the appearance of participation in alleged collusion between the Clinton campaign and the Department of Justice to prevent the investigation from going too far.[3]
    • “The [Bill] Cosby team (now) cares about how the public and maybe even how the black community feels about this whole situation [referring to Cosby’s trial for sexual assault], which is striking given his diatribes against the most vulnerable people in that community.”[4] So he’s none too subtly pushing a narrative that his predicament is due to racism.[5] (Bill Cosby)
    • Attorney General Jeff Sessions failed to disclose contacts with Russians in applying for a security clearance, but because these contacts allegedly occurred on Senate business, the FBI allegedly advised him (possibly erroneously) to omit the contacts.[6] (The Trump administration and Russia)
  3. May 25, 12:40 pm:
    • There’s more reason to think Uber is doomed.[7]
    • The courts just aren’t buying Donald Trump’s allegations of a national security rationale for his Muslim ban.[8]
  4. May 26, 2:01 am:
    • Vox has an explainer on why Donald Trump’s loss in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on his Muslim ban is bad news for his policy.[9]
    • Donald Trump demanded that NATO allies contribute their “fair share” in defense spending and refused to reiterate Article 5 of the NATO treaty.[10]
    • Brian Resnick argues that the “Goldwater Rule,” imposed by the American Psychiatric Society, is of dubious merit especially in the case of Donald Trump, whose finger is on the nuclear button.
  5. May 26, 11:28 am:
    • CNN reports that the FBI knew the aforementioned ‘dubious’ document that James Comey relied upon in deciding to publicly announce his recommendation that Hillary Clinton not be prosecuted was fake.[11]
  6. May 27, 1:46 am:

Uber

So when, today, House Minority Whip Heny Stoyer said, “Just keeps coming,” he was reacting[13] to another story in the Washington Post about Donald Trump apparently attempting to interfere with the investigation that James Comey’s FBI was conducting into allegations of collusion between Russians and the Trump campaign.[14] But you know what? Even more so with Uber, it “[j]ust keeps coming.”

Eric Newcomer, “Uber Plans Millions in Back Pay After Shorting NYC Drivers,” Bloomberg, May 23, 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-23/uber-said-it-shortchanged-nyc-drivers-will-pay-out-millions


James Comey

“If further reports are accurate that White House staff also tried to persuade personnel at these agencies to help get FBI Director Comey to back off an investigation involving Michael Flynn,” [House Intelligence ranking member Adam] Schiff said, “the specter of possible obstruction has grown larger and more troubling.”[15]

John T. Bennett, “Lawmakers React to Latest Trump-Russia Bombshell: ‘What Now?!’” Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, May 22, 2017, http://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/lawmakers-react-to-latest-trump-russia-bombshell-what-now

Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima, “Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence,” Washington Post, May 22, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-asked-intelligence-chiefs-to-push-back-against-fbi-collusion-probe-after-comey-revealed-its-existence/2017/05/22/394933bc-3f10-11e7-9869-bac8b446820a_story.html


Style Guides

I pretty strongly suspect that someone could find similar issues to those Geoffrey Pullum found with The Elements of Style[16] with Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Really, the issue is deeper—and demands a critical examination: Who has the authority to decide what ‘correct’ usage is? How do they acquire that authority? Why should we recognize it? And what is the validity to preferring the usage of certain classes or of certain ethnic or racial groups over others?

Admittedly, that renders Geoffrey Pullum’s methodology suspect as he debunks William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White’s work. I’ll applaud his effort anyway.

Something to remember with style guides is that language and culture are intertwined. The answer to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (that never seems to go away even as it fails to gain empirical support[17]) is probably that language, culture, and the concepts that a culture recognizes in its vocabulary almost certainly arise together in a relationship of mutual causation. Sapir-Whorf fails because it instead relies on linear causation.[18] And by definition, style guides prefer certain usages over others, seeking to establish these through an authoritarian relationship of imposed linear causation as when we might follow a guide’s alleged authority.

Here’s the problem: We keep looking to linear causation when we should be looking at mutual causation. Adding an authoritarian relationship only makes it worse, leading unsurprisingly to Geoffrey Pullum’s blistering (by scholarly standards) conclusion that “[t]he fact is that Strunk simply doesn’t bother to look for literary evidence to support his prejudices.”[19]

Geoffrey Pullum, “Dracula, Strunk, and Correct English Usage,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 23, 2017, http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2017/05/23/dracula-strunk-and-correct-english-usage/


Obamacare

I wouldn’t call it “blue chip” quality yet, but a bet that Republicans will fail to repeal and replace Obamacare is seeming safer and safer.

Paul Demko and Jennifer Haberkorn, “Peril for Republicans if they push forward with Obamacare repeal,” Politico, May 24, 2017, http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/24/republicans-uninsured-cbo-obamacare-repeal-238798

Peter Sullivan, “New CBO score triggers backlash,” Hill, May 24, 2017, http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/335058-new-cbo-score-triggers-backlash

Stephanie Armour and Kristina Peterson, “House GOP Health Bill Would Add 23 Million Uninsured, Cut $119 Billion in Deficit Through 2026, CBO Says,” Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/house-gop-health-bill-would-add-23-million-uninsured-cut-119-billion-in-deficit-by-2026-cbo-says-1495658914


Hillary Clinton

Karoun Demirjian and Devlin Barrett, “How a dubious Russian document influenced the FBI’s handling of the Clinton probe,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, May 24, 2017, http://www.startribune.com/how-a-dubious-russian-document-influenced-the-fbi-s-handling-of-the-clinton-probe/424132973/

Dana Bash, Shimon Prokupecz, and Gloria Borger, “Sources: Comey acted on Russian intelligence he knew was fake,” CNN, May 26, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/26/politics/james-comey-fbi-investigation-fake-russian-intelligence/index.html


Bill Cosby

MaryClaire Dale, “Culture critic: Cosby seeking new solidarity with blacks,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, May 24, 2017, http://www.startribune.com/culture-critic-cosby-seeking-new-solidarity-with-blacks/424239643/


The Trump administration and Russia

Manu Raju and Evan Perez, “AG Sessions did not disclose Russia meetings in security clearance form, DOJ says,” CNN, May 24, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/24/politics/jeff-sessions-russian-officials-meetings/index.html

Ellen Nakashima, Adam Entous, and Greg Miller, “Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin,” Washington Post, May 26, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/russian-ambassador-told-moscow-that-kushner-wanted-secret-communications-channel-with-kremlin/2017/05/26/520a14b4-422d-11e7-9869-bac8b446820a_story.html

Matthew Yglesias, “The dueling scoops about Jared Kushner’s plan for secret communications with Russia, explained,” Vox, May 26, 2017, https://www.vox.com/2017/5/26/15703668/kushner-secret-russia-communication


Muslim ban

Dara Lind, “The Trump administration just lost its best chance at a legal win on the travel ban,” Vox, May 25, 2017, https://www.vox.com/2017/5/25/15692698/trump-muslim-ban-fourth-circuit

Lydia Wheeler, “Appeals court upholds injunction blocking Trump’s travel ban,” Hill, May 25, 2017, http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/335163-appeals-court-upholds-injunction-blocking-trumps-travel-ban


NATO

There is, apparently, only one time that NATO has ever invoked Article 5, guaranteeing that members will come to each other’s defense, of its treaty: In response to the 9/11 attacks, NATO countries joined George W. Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan. And “[Donald] Trump is unveiling a memorial to the victims of 9/11 while in Brussels.” But “[a]fter bashing ‘23 of 28 nations’ in NATO for failing to live up to their defense spending obligations, Trump made no mention of American commitment to the promise of mutual defense that underpins the organization.”[20]

Zeeshan Aleem, “Trump didn’t say the one thing about NATO he was supposed to say,” Vox, May 25, 2017, https://www.vox.com/world/2017/5/25/15691198/trump-nato-article-5-brussels


Donald Trump

Brian Resnick, “Psychiatry’s “Goldwater Rule” has never met a test like Donald Trump,” Vox, May 25, 2017, https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/5/25/15680354/psychiatry-goldwater-rule-trump


  1. [1]Geoffrey Pullum, “Dracula, Strunk, and Correct English Usage,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 23, 2017, http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2017/05/23/dracula-strunk-and-correct-english-usage/
  2. [2]Stephanie Armour and Kristina Peterson, “House GOP Health Bill Would Add 23 Million Uninsured, Cut $119 Billion in Deficit Through 2026, CBO Says,” Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/house-gop-health-bill-would-add-23-million-uninsured-cut-119-billion-in-deficit-by-2026-cbo-says-1495658914; Paul Demko and Jennifer Haberkorn, “Peril for Republicans if they push forward with Obamacare repeal,” Politico, May 24, 2017, http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/24/republicans-uninsured-cbo-obamacare-repeal-238798; Peter Sullivan, “New CBO score triggers backlash,” Hill, May 24, 2017, http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/335058-new-cbo-score-triggers-backlash
  3. [3]Karoun Demirjian and Devlin Barrett, “How a dubious Russian document influenced the FBI’s handling of the Clinton probe,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, May 24, 2017, http://www.startribune.com/how-a-dubious-russian-document-influenced-the-fbi-s-handling-of-the-clinton-probe/424132973/
  4. [4]James Braxton Peterson, quoted in MaryClaire Dale, “Culture critic: Cosby seeking new solidarity with blacks,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, May 24, 2017, http://www.startribune.com/culture-critic-cosby-seeking-new-solidarity-with-blacks/424239643/
  5. [5]MaryClaire Dale, “Culture critic: Cosby seeking new solidarity with blacks,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, May 24, 2017, http://www.startribune.com/culture-critic-cosby-seeking-new-solidarity-with-blacks/424239643/
  6. [6]Manu Raju and Evan Perez, “AG Sessions did not disclose Russia meetings in security clearance form, DOJ says,” CNN, May 24, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/24/politics/jeff-sessions-russian-officials-meetings/index.html
  7. [7]Elizabeth Knight, “The death of Uber: Australian investor predicts company will be broke in 10 years,” Sydney Morning Herald, May 25, 2017, http://www.smh.com.au/business/comment-and-analysis/the-death-of-uber-australian-investor-predicts-company-will-be-broke-in-10-years-20170524-gwc8gt.html
  8. [8]Lydia Wheeler, “Appeals court upholds injunction blocking Trump’s travel ban,” Hill, May 25, 2017, http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/335163-appeals-court-upholds-injunction-blocking-trumps-travel-ban
  9. [9]Dara Lind, “The Trump administration just lost its best chance at a legal win on the travel ban,” Vox, May 25, 2017, https://www.vox.com/2017/5/25/15692698/trump-muslim-ban-fourth-circuit
  10. [10]Zeeshan Aleem, “Trump didn’t say the one thing about NATO he was supposed to say,” Vox, May 25, 2017, https://www.vox.com/world/2017/5/25/15691198/trump-nato-article-5-brussels
  11. [11]Dana Bash, Shimon Prokupecz, and Gloria Borger, “Sources: Comey acted on Russian intelligence he knew was fake,” CNN, May 26, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/26/politics/james-comey-fbi-investigation-fake-russian-intelligence/index.html
  12. [12]Ellen Nakashima, Adam Entous, and Greg Miller, “Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin,” Washington Post, May 26, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/russian-ambassador-told-moscow-that-kushner-wanted-secret-communications-channel-with-kremlin/2017/05/26/520a14b4-422d-11e7-9869-bac8b446820a_story.html; Matthew Yglesias, “The dueling scoops about Jared Kushner’s plan for secret communications with Russia, explained,” Vox, May 26, 2017, https://www.vox.com/2017/5/26/15703668/kushner-secret-russia-communication
  13. [13]Heny Stoyer, quoted in John T. Bennett, “Lawmakers React to Latest Trump-Russia Bombshell: ‘What Now?!’” Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, May 22, 2017, http://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/lawmakers-react-to-latest-trump-russia-bombshell-what-now
  14. [14]Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima, “Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence,” Washington Post, May 22, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-asked-intelligence-chiefs-to-push-back-against-fbi-collusion-probe-after-comey-revealed-its-existence/2017/05/22/394933bc-3f10-11e7-9869-bac8b446820a_story.html
  15. [15]John T. Bennett, “Lawmakers React to Latest Trump-Russia Bombshell: ‘What Now?!’” Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, May 22, 2017, http://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/lawmakers-react-to-latest-trump-russia-bombshell-what-now
  16. [16]Geoffrey Pullum, “Dracula, Strunk, and Correct English Usage,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 23, 2017, http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2017/05/23/dracula-strunk-and-correct-english-usage/
  17. [17]Richard Connor, “‘Arrival’ linguist: ‘I had never thought about communicating with aliens before,'” Deutschewelle, February 25, 2017, http://www.dw.com/en/arrival-linguist-i-had-never-thought-about-communicating-with-aliens-before/a-37711115; Ben Panko, “Does the Linguistic Theory at the Center of the Film ‘Arrival’ Have Any Merit?” Smithsonian, December 2, 2016, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/does-century-old-linguistic-hypothesis-center-film-arrival-have-any-merit-180961284/
  18. [18]David Benfell, “Of course hermeneutic inquiry is bound to culture—and a few other things,” October 26, 2011, https://parts-unknown.org/drupal7/journal/2011/10/26/course-hermeneutic-inquiry-bound-culture%E2%80%94and-few-other-things
  19. [19]Geoffrey Pullum, “Dracula, Strunk, and Correct English Usage,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 23, 2017, http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2017/05/23/dracula-strunk-and-correct-english-usage/
  20. [20]Zeeshan Aleem, “Trump didn’t say the one thing about NATO he was supposed to say,” Vox, May 25, 2017, https://www.vox.com/world/2017/5/25/15691198/trump-nato-article-5-brussels

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