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Wednesday, August 29, 2018


I watched the Monty Python sketch that MS linked to, and midway through realized it was an OxBridge version of that old African-American word game, Playing the Dozens.  


David Palmeter said...


This is an extremely encouraging sign. Yesterday, the Sanders-endorsed, African-American mayor of Tallahassee won the Democratic nomination for governor of Florida. His major opponent was Gwen Graham, a former Democratic member of the House. The Miami Herald reports:

This is exactly the kind of attitude the Democrats need and so seldom seem to have. The Sanders-wing will win some of these primaries; the establishment wing will win others. If the candidate who loses--and that candidates supporters--don’t pout, sit on their hands, and stay home on election day out of spite, but instead react as Graham has reacted, things will be bright on the day after elections this November.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I have seen him on TV and he is very impressive. His opponent is a Trumpist creep. Lord, I hope he wins. I think he has a really good shot.

Écrasez L'infâme said...

This side of the Pond the saying is that a good flyter can “rhyme a rat to death”. Always liked that dea that words alone can even the odds, and that the rodents of the world - botth literal and metaphorical - should watch out. As if, alas.

Anonymous said...

Also off topic, but since so much space has been given--one way or another--to McCain, maybe it's forgivable to draw attention to the death of David McReynolds:

TheDudeDiogenes said...

Since we're sharing links, 1. Here's an interview published yesterday from Jesse Singal with the inestimable Kwame Anthony Appiah, and 2. Recently, in Portland, antifa attacked and severely injured a liberal who was ALSO protesting the right-wing Proud Boys, for the horrific act of carrying the US flag with him.

marcel proust said...

In keeping with the spirit of this comment thread, this link more properly belongs in a thread from a couple of weeks ago, but I figure that no one will see it there. So I link to it here.

David Palmeter said...

Below is the text of David Leonhardt's NY Times email newsletter concerning the Democratic nomination of two progressive, African-American candidates for governor of Florida and Georgia:

David Palmeter said...

Florida is a state so closely divided between Democratic and Republican voters that differences in turnout levels often determine election winners.
In 2016, 81.2 percent of the state’s registered Republicans voted, according to Daniel A. Smith of the University of Florida. Only 74.4 percent of registered Democrats did so. If Democrats had voted at close to the same rate as Republicans, it would have been more than enough to erase Donald Trump’s 113,000-vote victory over Hillary Clinton in the state.
For years, Democrats have tried to win statewide races in purple states like Florida — and red states like Georgia — by nominating moderates who could woo swing voters. But now the party is trying something different. With a push from Democratic primary voters, it has adopted a strategy that the left has long urged. The party has nominated unabashed progressives for governor in both Georgia and Florida — and will try to win by inspiring left-leaning voters whose turnout has often lagged, such as younger adults and non-whites.
It’s one of the most fascinating subplots of the 2018 midterms.
If Andrew Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor, can win in Florida, and Stacey Abrams, a former state legislator, can win in Georgia, it will suggest a big lesson for the 2020 presidential race: A turnout-first, persuasion-second strategy can work. That Gillum and Abrams aren’t only proud progressives but also African-American would only add to the lesson.
I’ll admit to being uncertain about the wisdom of the strategy. On the plus side, those 2016 Florida turnout numbers show that Democrats do have room to bring new voters into the electorate. In the primary, Gillum won partly by increasing turnout.
Gillum and Abrams are also both smartly emphasizing economic issues, which can both increase turnout and win over swing voters. The American public is decidedly left-of-center on such issues, including health care, the minimum wage and corporate taxes. Those are all Gillum priorities.
But persuading people who don’t normally vote to do so can be extremely difficult. Voting is time-consuming and inconvenient, and many Americans think their vote doesn’t matter. And in basic arithmetic terms, winning over a swing voter is twice as valuable as turning out an infrequent voter from the left.
In Gillum’s case, I think he is emphasizing a couple of issues that will turn off some swing voters. These issues include gun control and the abolishment of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE.
“The tactical logic of Gillum’s primary campaign persuaded Democratic voters, but it persuaded them partly because it’s what they wanted to hear,” as The New Yorker’s Benjamin Wallace-Wells says. “They liked the idea that you could nominate an outspoken progressive and think that that is the tactically right choice. But we don’t know that for sure.”
We’re about to find out.
For more on Gillum, I recommend Darren Sands in BuzzFeed News. The editorial board of The Tampa Bay Times notes the stark choice between Gillum and Ron DeSantis, the Trump-loving Republican nominee.
“There have only been 2 black governors elected in the history of this country. Now three are on the ballot in one cycle,” writes Errin Haines Whack of The Associated Press. (Benjamin Jealous in Maryland is the third.) “This is no small thing. I’ve seen it in my reporting: Black voters are galvanized and mobilized headed into November.”

MS said...


It seems to me that the Democratic strategy could be unsuccessful, or backfire, in another way. While nominating a progressive candidate may succeed in persuading younger voters who may ordinarily not vote to come out and vote, it could also have the adverse effect of alienating more moderate Democrats who are less interested in the progressive issues to not vote at all, or, perhaps, to vote in favor of a Republican candidate who is more vocal on an issue that they deem more important than the progressive issues. In Florida, in particular, I have in mind issues relating to Israel. Florida has a fairly large population of retired Jews who, when they lived in the North, generally voted Democratic. But for them, support of Israel is an important issue. A progressive Democratic candidate may try to avoid alienating these Jewish voters by expressing support for Israel, but this in turn could alienate younger voters who do not support Israel and view it as an oppressor of the Palestinians. On the other hand, trying to avoid the issue altogether by not expressing any opinion about Israel could alienate the Jewish voters, whose support the Republican candidate will enlist by vocally supporting Israel. Granted, the demographic of retired Jews may be less important because, being retired and older, their numbers and influence may be diminishing. If this is correct, which segment of the Democratic vote can the Democratic candidate not risk to lose?

MS said...

marcel proust,

Thank you for your link to the humorous cartoon about the meaning of “begging the question.” (By the way, that book you wrote is very abstruse.) The cartoon that you linked to prompted me to look up the meanings of the two words “nauseous” and “nauseated.” Actually, the person who says, “I am nauseous.” is not incorrect, since one of the definitions of “nauseous” is “nauseated.” Is this, perhaps, what the cartoonist meant by introducing the concept of “begging the question” at the end of the cartoon?

The cartoon’s reference to “begging the question” and your link to Prof. Wolff’s posting noting the difference between the two meanings of the phrase – “That poses a question so urgent that it virtually demands to be raised” (first sense) vs. “That simply assumes what you claim to prove and thus reduces what you have said to a miserable tautology.” (second sense) - led me to thinking whether, in fact, the two meanings merge into one and are actually interrelated. A classic example of an argument that represents the first sense is the argument between a theist, who believes in the existence of God as the creator of the universe, and the atheist who believes in the Big Bang theory (I recognize that there are physicists who believe in the Big Bang theory who maintain that they are not atheists, but I believe they are the exception.) The theist says to the Big Bang theorist, “You are wrong, because everything must have a cause, and the notion that the universe suddenly emerged out of nothing contradicts this undeniable axiom.” The Big Bang theorist responds, “You are begging the question (in the first sense) because, if everything must have a cause, so must God, and you are then committed to an infinite regression, which is equally irrational. Otherwise, God emerged out of nothing, and your belief is no different than mine.” The theist responds, “You are incorrect, because in my doctrine God is the the first cause, the uncaused cause, which has existed for eternity and does not require a cause.” The Big Bang theorist responds, “Your doctrine then begs the question in the second sense, because the first premise of your argument is not that everything must have a cause, but that everything must have a cause, except the first uncaused cause. But this premise assumes the conclusion and begs the question in the second sense. In sum, your argument is erroneous because it begs the question in both senses.”

So, do not the two meanings of “beg the question” actually entail each other?

Anonymous said...

MS: I’m not getting back into that begging the question free-for-all, but your reference to the proper uses of nauseous and nauseated (which I’m also not going to get into) reminded me of an amusing exchange that the 18th century English giant Dr. Samuel Johnson purportedly had with some woman. (Johnson of course had single-handedly written a dictionary of the English language and was a stickler for definitions.) The exchange went something like this: The woman: “Dr. Johnson, you smell.” Johnson: “Nay, madam, you smell; I stink.” He was insisting that she should be using ‘smell’ here as a transitive verb. Etc. Make of that what you will.

MS said...


Thank you for the very amusing anecdote about Dr. Johnson.

It seems lexicographers cannot resist correcting others' misuse of the English language. Noah Webster, who apparently was something of a libertine, was caught by his wife coddling their much younger chamber maid. Mrs. Webster shouted, "Noah, I am surprised!" Nosh reportedly responded, "Madam, I am surprised. You are astonished."

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