Radical Linguistics in an Age of Extinction

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An interesting essay on the equality of languages by Ross Perlin at Dissent Magazine:

. . . words are a way of fending in the world: whole languages, like species, can disappear without dropping a gram of earth weight, and symbolic systems to a fare you well can be added without filling a ditch or thimble. . . .

—A.R. Ammons

Modern linguistics is founded on a radical premise: the equality of all languages. “All languages have equal expressive power as communication systems,” writes Steven Pinker. “Every grammar is equally complex and logical and capable of producing an infinite set of sentences to express any thought one might wish to express,” says a recent textbook. “The outstanding fact about any language is its formal completeness,” wrote Edward Sapir, adding elsewhere for rhetorical effect: “When it comes to linguistic form, Plato walks with the Macedonian swineherd, Confucius with the head-hunting savage of Assam.”

Where native speakers are concerned, no language, dialect, or accent can meaningfully be described as primitive, broken, or inferior.

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Diary of an American Terrorist

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The Wall Street bankers and billionaires had better watch out. A new novel, Diary of an American Terrorist, by Chuck Darwin, pictures them mowed down by machine gun fire, dropped from high places, and having their throats slit – in general, being rubbed out in increasingly gruesome and wholesale ways.

“This is a startling document,” says Patrick Quinlan, president of Strawberry Books, the publisher of Diary. “There’s a lot of anger in it, and why not? The bankers have been getting up to all kinds of mayhem for a long time. A lot of jobs have gone overseas. Let’s face it: we’ve all been waiting for a novel where an ordinary working person decides to strike them back.”

In the story, an unnamed middle-aged man has lost everything – his family, his job, his very life. His humiliation becomes anger, which boils over into a murderous rage. He turns it toward the people he blames for his predicament – the very wealthy, who so often profit from the misery of working people.… Read the rest

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Rockefellers Selling Fossil Fuel Investments, Buying ‘Clean’ Energy Assets

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John D. Rockefeller

If the archetypal American oligarchs, the Rockefellers, are divesting themselves of fossil fuel assets and replacing them with so-called clean energy assets, have we moved past a tipping point or is it just propaganda? From BBC News:

Heirs to the Rockefeller family, which made its vast fortune from oil, are to sell investments in fossil fuels and reinvest in clean energy, reports say.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is joining a coalition of philanthropists pledging to rid themselves of more than $50 bn (£31 bn) in fossil fuel assets.

The announcement will be made on Monday, a day before the UN climate change summit opens on Tuesday.

Some 650 individuals and 180 institutions have joined the coalition.

It is part of a growing global initiative called Global Divest-Invest, which began on university campuses several years ago, the New York Times reports.

Pledges from pension funds, religious groups and big universities have reportedly doubled since the start of 2014.

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The Druid King Fights ‘English Heretics’ At Stonehenge

ArthurPendragonStonehengeSummerSolstice2010The autumnal equinox is upon us and the Wall Street Journal recognizes it with one of those quirky human interest stories that makes someone look like a total lunatic, this time giving the treatment to Arthur Pendragon, Druid King of Britain:

SALISBURY, England—Over a cup of coffee at a recent meeting of the Round Table, the managers of Stonehenge learned that King Arthur Pendragon, the Chosen Chief of the Loyal Arthurian Warband Druid order, was preparing his warriors for battle.

At stake: free parking.

For years, Mr. Pendragon, Druid King of Britain, has parked his ancient Kawasaki motorbike on a dirt track just off the A303 highway and walked the short distance across a field to conduct ceremonies at this ancient stone circle.

Now, English Heritage, the government unit that manages the site and other landmark buildings and monuments, wants to stop him and others from parking so close to the stones.

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4 Things You Should Know About Your ‘Third Eye’

Drawing from René Descartes' (1596-1650) in "Treatise of Man" explaining the function of the pineal gland. Via Wikimedia Commons

Drawing from René Descartes’ (1596-1650) in “Treatise of Man” explaining the function of the pineal gland. Via Wikimedia Commons

via AlterNet:

Located in nearly the direct center of the brain, the tiny pinecone-shaped pineal gland, which habitually secretes the wondrous neurohormone melatonin while we sleep at night, was once thought to be a vestigial leftover from a lower evolutionary state.

Indeed, according to recent research, we could be increasing our chances of contracting chronic illnesses like cancer by unnecessarily bathing its evenings in  artificial lightworking night shifts or staying up too late. By disrupting the pineal gland and melatonin’s chronobiological connection to Earth’s rotational 24-hour light and dark cycle, known as its circadian rhythm, we’re possibly opening the doors not to perception, but to disease and disorder. A recently published study from Vanderbilt University has found associations between  circadian disruption and heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

By hacking what  pinealophiles call our mind’s third eye with an always-on technoculture transmitting globally at light-speed, we may have disadvantaged our genetic ability to ward off all manner of complicated nightmares.

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Can blogging be academically valuable? Seven reasons for thinking it might be

via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

I have been blogging for nearly five years (hard to believe). In that time, I’ve written over 650 posts on a wide variety of topics: religion, metaethics, applied ethics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of law, technology, epistemology, philosophy of science and so on. Since most of my posts clock-in at around 2,000 words, I’d estimate that I have written over one million words. I also reckon I spend somewhere in the region of 10-15 hours per week working on the blog, sometimes more. The obvious question is: why?

Could it be the popularity? Well, I can’t deny that having a wide readership is part of the attraction, but if that’s reason then I must be doing something wrong. The blog is only “sort of” popular. My google stats suggest that I’ll clear 1,000,000 views in the next month and half (with a current average of 35,000 per month).Read the rest

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Google Acts Like Privatized NSA: WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange

Julian Assange as seen in 2013.  (Photo: Xavier Granja Cedeño/Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores)

Julian Assange as seen in 2013. (Photo: Xavier Granja Cedeño/Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores)

Andrea Gemanos writes at Common Dreams:

Google’s practices are “almost identical” to those of the U.S. National Security Agency and its British counterpart, the GCHQ, Julian Assange has said.

The WikiLeaks founder made the charge Thursday in interviews with the BBC and Sky News. He spoke from the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, where he has lived for over two years under political asylum.

“Google’s business model is to spy,” Assange told the BBC.

“It makes more than 80 percent of its money collecting information about people, pooling it together, storing it, indexing it, building profiles of people to predict their interests and behaviors and then selling those profiles principally to advertisers, but also to others.”

“The result is, in terms of how it works, its actual practice, is almost identical to the National Security Agency or GCHQ,” he said.

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Study finds that disability rates are rising fastest in high income families

via Vox:

Rates of disability among children rose more than 16 percent over the past decade — and researchers aren’t totally sure why.

The new data comes from an article in the journal Pediatrics, which charts disability rates among children between 2001 and 2011. In surveys used to figure this out, parents are asked to choose whether 14 different disabilities or limitations (including those that are physical, like birth defects, and those that are mental, including ADHD) affect their children. The rate of disability rose from 68.7 cases per 1,000 children in 2001 to 79.4 cases per 1,000 children in 2011.

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While rates of disability are higher among low-income children, although researchers noticed that most of the increase in the past decade is concentrated among higher-income families, especially between 2008 and 2010.

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