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April 23, 2008


"Them" in the previous comment meant the Iroquois.

JanieM, more small-world stuff, in a different sense -- I'm currently a software engineer (small company, so I do both the analysis and most of the coding), have a degree in lingustics, played the violin, and currently accompany my church's children & youth choirs on the piano. And yes, I too have a dilettante's interest in the law.

It has been suggested that since the topic of the Philippine-American War (AKA the "Philippine Insurrection") arose here, and since that falls within my area of expertise, I might comment thereon.

I haven't jumped in hereto because there are no egregious errors on either side, AND because I'm d**ned if I can think of a clear lesson we might learn from the PAW experience.

On the one hand, the US Army was guilty of remarkable cruelty and barbarity in some provincial campaigns - especially Batangas and Sama - though not all. This included, but was not limited to, torture (such as "the water cure" - i.e., waterboarding), the torching of villages, the execution of (some) prisoners, and the forced relocation of entire communities to "reconcentration zones" (roughly coincidental in time with the British in South Africa putting Boers in "concentration camps").

On the same hand, both the original entry of the USA into the invasion/occupation of the Philippines and the conduct of the war were publicly opposed by a sizable number of articulate people, including most Congressional Democrats (I believe), Mark Twain, William Jennings Bryan, Andrew Carnegie, William James, &c. It was possible, in other words, to find out (roughly) what the US was doing and fight against it.

On the OTHER hand, this opposition was singularly unsuccessful. They lost the 1900 elections (and 1902, 1904, 1906. 1908, &c.); they forced Senate Hearings in 1902 which provide us with a great deal of evidence, but led to no change in policy; they succeeded in getting a few military officers (e.g. Jake Smith) publicly shamed (or scapegoated); and that is about it. Look up the Anti-Imperialist League for more details.

I leave it to most of you to draw parallels (or not - I'm mindful of the whingeing of younglings upstream that we pay too much attention to history instead of being Now and With It and, above all, YOUNG) to current events.

I see many points of comparison, with the most obvious (to me) divergence being the comparative pliability of Congressional Democrats and wannabe presidents. Maybe they, in their own way, learned this lesson from the career WJB: Don't Criticize An Administration At War. The more correct you are, the worse you'll lose.

Is the USA, as a country, more restrained, more moral, than we were in 1898-1902? Maybe, but you'd be hard put to prove it by our Philippine adventure. One major difference, of course, has to do with the technology of warfare. A century ago one actually had to see - if at a distance - most of the people one was killing, whereas nowadays, and arguably since Guernica, at least, we can kill from a range which makes the victims literally invisible to us, and hence less human. I suspect we're still squeamish about mistreating other humans in person (hence the embarrassment of Abu Ghraib), but so long as we can kill at a distance - or, better yet, indirectly, through the arming of "natives" who will kill each other - I don't see great advances in evolutionary ethics.

I'd be happy to supply more details about the PAW for anyone interested. As for my judgment as to lessons to be learned - YMMV.

kenB, that's pretty cool. I'd say a little eerie, actually. Statistically it's not too surprising that 2 people have a list of 4 or 5 things in common, but that they comment on the same blog, out of the gazillions....

If you're willing to say, where did you study linguistics?

For many years I did a little of everything: analysis, coding, documentation, interfacing with users... But times change, the company I do most of my work for grew, "younglings" started forging ahead into new worlds (the world wide one especially), and I finally got tired of the coding part, luckily just at a time when there was a high priority project that needed a couple of dedicated analysts, and I got to be one of them. Having taken a half-a$$ed approach to career-planning all my life (i.e. I did none), I feel pretty lucky to do what I do.

Having taken a half-a$$ed approach to career-planning all my life (i.e. I did none)

Hey, me too. Hmm, at this point I'm a little scared to say anything else about myself -- for all I know, you could simply be my other personality, posting your comments during my occasional lapses of consciousness (why can't remember what I was doing at 12:06 AM??).

I actually wasn't in linguistics proper, I studied Slavic linguistics in the Slavic dept at Yale, though I took a few general linguistics classes. But the Slavic well dried up during my time there (not that it was terrifically deep to begin with), so I moved on to other, more immediately lucrative things. How about you?

First, yay congratulations! Congratulations are fun!

JanieM: Software, music, academics, even a dilettante's interest in the law...gee, I may fit in better here than I do in the real world.

Good lord, it's like we were separated at birth. By, um, several decades.

OCSteve: Knowing that I may make 4 times more doing what I do than what a person such as you make teaching our best and brightest...

Trust me, this semester? Not our best and brightest. At. All.

[And that, folks, is why academics blog anonymously!]

russell: Strength is irrelevant.
Prepare to be assimilated.
Resistance is futile.

Welcome to the dark side!!

Thanks -


Thank you.

But the Slavic well dried up during my time there (not that it was terrifically deep to begin with), so I moved on to other, more immediately lucrative things. How about you?

This wasn't addressed to me but I'll chime in.

My undergraduate work was in music. The school I went to emphasized musicology, generally, and 20th Century performance.

If there is any musical career that offers a greater opportunity to starve than jazz, it's 20th C. performance. Would you like fries with your Varese, sir?

I think there are about 27 people in the world making a living playing the modern percussion repertoire. I know at least two of them.

Worked for a while as a janitor and book store clerk in Philly for a year or two, then got some basic skills together attending a trade school that advertised on the subway. This was back in the early 80's, when you could still sneak in the tech back door.

It's all on the job training since then. Been almost 25 years, imagine that.

You could never get away with that now. I lucked out.

That's my walk down memory lane.

Thanks -

Memories from a slightly earlier (I think) generation, though not my own experience.

My college roommate - who started in physics and switched to German, IIRC, though he fulfilled one sophomore requirement in "History of Civilization" by conducting a choral recital - went on for a PhD in linguistics. Phonetics it was, and back in the day (1960s) he had to teach himself enough primitive computer technology to be able to measure/model ever-so-slight variations between "eeEee" and "eeeEe" (or at least so I envisaged it).

Got his PhD from UChicago - not too shabby - and no job offers whatsoever, in linguistics. But was head-hunted for his computer skills by some defense contractor in Dallas, and off he went to a successful career in computers.

Oh yes - along the way he transformed himself from a useful amateur baritone to a world-class counter-tenor, performing, e.g., at La Scala.

Life is what happens to you when you're making other plans.

Russell, everything is addressed to everyone, right? But adding a name is useful sometimes because it flags someone one might be directly responding to. I love to hear these stories.

kenB, curiouser and curiouser. I went to grad school in English at Yale in the early 70's. By the time I was job-hunting there were no jobs, which may have been just as well because I don't know that I would have survived academic politics (being learning-disabled in that direction, as a friend of mine put it). I wandered off into other things, started programming as a temporary expedient, stayed for 31 years and counting.

Several years ago, looking for something interesting to take a course in (having dabbled previously in peace studies but not finding anywhere to go with it), I did the intro to linguistics course from MIT's open courseware website. I loved it. Later I discovered that the University of Southern Maine has a small linguistics department and took some courses. I've had a great time with it and have thought about going back to school, but I just can't see myself doing what it would take to focus that hard for that long on one thing (more or less) in a field where there are (does this sound familiar) no jobs...


For me, undergraduate started in horn, gave up after 4 years and got linguistics degree, which, at that particular cow college, was a catchall degree rather than an actual program. After teaching abroad (with a half year stint in an munitions factory, a very eyeopening experience), ended up doing an MA in linguistics in a real program. Met my wife after thinking my Japan days were pretty much over and here I am. Still play horn, still feel I am massively underqualified for everything, so am grateful to the gods that I found something I can do that I can tolerate and seem to be decent at, though I seem to have never found anything that I was ready to chuck everything to do. When asked about what it is like to live with me, my wife replied 'shumi ga oosugiru' (he's got too many hobbies...)

I seem to have never found anything that I was ready to chuck everything to do

Me too. I may sometime come to peacefully accept that that's a feature and not a bug of this particular program.

I seem to have never found anything that I was ready to chuck everything to do

Aha! Someone has given me a cue to quote (once again) one of my favoritest poems of all time. Note in particular the last stanza.

the lesson of the moth
by archy (Don Marquis)

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then to cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is to come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself


Actually, since we have such a confluence of software types: is it possible to negotiate one's salary upwards in the tech industry and, if so, how?

Also, changing gears slightly, as the one who prompted dr ngo to comment upthread, thanks! And eventually, one day, maybe, just maybe, I'll listen to him...

is it possible to negotiate one's salary upwards in the tech industry and, if so, how?

Dude, you haven't even started the job yet! Yikes!

The short answer is yes, but the details depend on what your skills are and the industry you're working in.

Dr. Ngo, great poem. Many thanks.

Dude, you haven't even started the job yet! Yikes!

It's simple enough: I'm in an incredibly odd position where I can be valued in two completely different ways. Their offer is right in the middle, so by one metric, I'll be significantly underpaid (boo!); by the other, I'll be massively overpaid (hooray!). As such, I have the bizarre ability to negotiate without caring what the outcome is (provided I don't cost myself the job completely) since I can always consider the glass half full. And since you only get better at negotiating by practice, well, what the hell!

...of course, this would work better if I actually knew how to negotiate but, well, see above :)

Anarch, I may not be the best to advise you; I am an independent consultant and my contract negotiation experience usually revolves around intellectual property rights rather than money. Back in my salaried employee days I had a few hard knocks from which perhaps I have learned something but the following is based more on management experience in general rather than directly on salary negotiation. Still, I think it is relevant and may help.

My personal style when dealing with new people is to be open and gentle at first, giving the benefit of the doubt. This is exactly the wrong strategy for negotiation. It's much better to start firm and soften only after becoming more familiar with the other party. Some people do not negotiate in good faith and if you give at the beginning and become firm at the end you risk a confrontation that benefits neither side. This was a hard won lesson for me so I hope you will not repeat my mistake.

For me, also, it's important to decide up front what I believe is a right outcome. I may not achieve my ideal, but I have to consider how far I'm willing to bend to achieve an agreement I can be satisfied with. Sometimes one has to draw a line.

This advice is a little bit trite and you can probably find it in a book, too, but since you asked I offer it. It is from personal experience.

Anarch: Actually, since we have such a confluence of software types: is it possible to negotiate one's salary upwards in the tech industry and, if so, how?

Once upon a time… Seriously, in the late 90’s we were so in demand that it wasn’t even funny. I mean it got embarrassing at one point. These days though, things are getting rougher. Used to be that my company could run ads for a new position everywhere for months and get little response. These days there is an absolute flood.

My advice FWIW – if it’s a decent offer, jump on it and don’t push your luck too much right now. Prove yourself, and then go for a nice increase in a year.

OCSteve, here is my problem. I jump in for a quick glimpse, then can't come back for several hours (sometimes a day or two) and your last comment directed to me is three miles upthread.

The respect goes both ways. The main problem I had with your cite was that it never really produced any facts that had any real relevance to the judgements the author of the article was making.

I don't consider Ayers some kind of folk heron. I graduated college in 1969, I was well aware of what was going on and basically disgusted with most of it.

My point is that there is the Ayers of then and the Ayers of now, and there is too much conflation of the two.

Secondly, the relationship between Obama and Ayers is extremely tangental at best. The closest they connect is working on the same charitable board. I suppose Obama could have resigned from a position that allowed him to do something very important to him and the community because (gasp) somebody with a bad past was on the same board.

The party at Ayers house is inconsequential.

And I would be willing to beat that over 70% of the American public had no idea who Ayers was when it was ludicrously brought up in the debate.

OT, did anybody see the Wright interview. It gave a much clearer view of the man, his thinking and even his love of this country. Of course you wouldn't know that based on how it has been reported in the media.

Way up thread OCSteve explains that as a person who understands how Republicans think, Obama has to reject and denouce connections people make between him and tohers or he will have his ass handed to him.

The problem is that he can't because some people (the media pundits especially) won't accept the rejectgion or denunciatin no matter how many times they are given.

Obama has rejected Wright's works repeatedly. He made a speech that put the Writh sermons in to a historical perspective. he rejected some more. Still not enough,

Some people ( hard rightwingers, people looking for an excuse to reject Obama and the MSM ) have a vested interest in refusing to accept his rejections. Oh and Hilllary Clinton, too. So they never will.

What we need to do--all of us who cara bout the process of demcracy--is to rejecta nd denounce this sort of smearing by the MSM.

OCSteve: I'm with Wonkie here. Rejecting/renouncing/repudiating won't do any good. It's a game with no way to win.

It's smear-by-association, and not all the tossing under the bus will work.

The only way to win is, effectively, not to play the game. In years past, that didn't work so well -- too many people bought into the game.

I think that particular game is getting pretty stale, and if there's anyone who can pull of breaking the game -- it's Obama. Half his message is "Isn't everyone sick of these stupid games?".

He's got a lot of advantages when it comes to shrugging off the usual GOP attacks. Sure, they'll still work on the GOP base -- but those guys still think Bush is a great President. There's no point appealing to them, and there's a lot less of them then there was.

Just as an example -- the GOP likes to paint African-Americans as thugs, criminals, gangsters, and sub-humans. They like to paint Democrats as ivory-tower elites.

It's fun watching their gay-baiting, race-baiting, and homophobia baiting collide in an orgy of contradiction. Sure, the base will accept it -- but the more contradictory their message, the harder to sell at the margins.

"Obama has rejected Wright's works repeatedly."

Only after Wright's rants became a news story. Before that, Obama was mute about the revs excesses

"Just as an example -- the GOP likes to paint African-Americans as thugs, criminals, gangsters, and sub-humans. They like to paint Democrats as ivory-tower elites."

Generalities to the left of me, generalities to the right...

Jay, when you can come up with something factual, let us all know.

BTW, Jay, you do realize that Clinton worked for a law firm where two of the partners were self defined communists dedicated to defending Black Panthers and other radicals, weren't you.

And this was done knowingly, and she was paid for it, and she has never disavowed this activity nor rejected and denounced those she worked for or defended?

And obviously, Jay, you are another one who never watched the whole sermons nor saw the interview.

And btw, I don't condemn Hillarly for those associations mentioned above, but obviously they are even worse than the Obama associations with Ayers or Wright.

For OCSteve and anyone else who is open to taking a second look at Rev. Wright: a good account of his appearance on Bill Moyers' show by Paul Rosenberg at OpenLeft.

I saw Moyers and Wright last night. I agreed with virtually everything he said. He didn't repeat the comment about HIV, which is the only portion of his comments I found objectionable in the first place.

To my mind, the fact that Obama runs away from what Wright said is the disappointing aspect of the whole affair, though I understand people think he's got to do this to have any chance of winning. But if that's true (and it probably is), it doesn't speak well of our country.

I clicked on Nell's link and it made me mad all over again--last night my wife and I watched Wright and both of us were saying "This is supposed to be a crazed preacher drunk on hatred?" This is the guy even the" liberal" New York Times condemned in an editorial the other day? Wright is the kind of pastor that would make me proud to be a Christian, as opposed to the cringing I usually do when some preacher appears on TV.

To get biblical for a moment, the people spitting on Wright aren't fit to tie his shoes.

jay here's something for HRC to reject and denouce: Bill's decsion to grant clemancy to fifteen FALN bombers. They were responsible for thierty some bombings resulting in several deaths. They were given clemancy two days hafter a NYC politicians qwrote a letter to Hillary requesting her to use her personal influence with Bill to get clemancy. Two days later the clemancy was granted. Amazingly this all happened while she was running for the Senate in NY and need the vote of Americans of Puerto Rican descent. When asked about this she told a barefaced lie: stated that she had no prior knolweldge and ino involvment in the decison.

That's the lady who says she is vetted and there are no surprises. That's also the lady who thinks that it is legitamate to keep persevderating on forever about Ayers, even thought Obama was in elementary scholl when Ayers was bombing places (not people)and had no role at all in the legal process that Ayers wnet through.

So should HRC have to keep rejecgting and denouncing this all the way up to Nov 7?

john miller: "BTW, Jay, you do realize that Clinton worked for a law firm where two of the partners were self defined communists dedicated to defending Black Panthers and other radicals, weren't you."

john - if you're referring me to the Black Panther/radicals topic because of Obama's association with Ayers, I've never said anything about it - because it's not an issue for me if Obama knew him socially and they sat around together, Ayers reminiscencing about the good old days of bombing draft boards and getting naked with flower girls in the back of VW busses…

I don't care if Obama chatted with Ayers anymore than I care that Obama got stoned now and again twenty years ago: though if you've seen him lately at the end of a campaign day, his eyes look a little glazed and dull: Maureen Dowd says he "seems uneven and gauzy" and she ascribes it to a lack of 'pizazz' that's crept into his recent speeches. But maybe after all the stress Hillary's been subjecting him to, he's inhaling a couple of tokes on the sly to calm his nerves.

Of course, I should point out that an associate lawyer working at a firm defending criminals doesn't choose those client associations, and of course I hope you forgive me for saying I find your statement that two of the partners at Hillary's law firm were 'self defined communists' somewhat facetious. Since so many of the Rose Law Firm's clients are establishment corporations (Wal-Mart, etc) you're assertion borders on the nonsensical-- but I'm sure you'll counter this with plausible links to the contrary and prove me wrong.

Rev. Wright, however, is a different kettle of fish (out in the sun too long, and growing more and more rancid). And sadly, I have to chastise you for asserting without evidence that I'm another one who never watched the whole sermons nor saw the interview.

I've seen whatever relevant Wright sermons are available on the internet, in their entirety. In fact, I was linking to Wright's controversial statements weeks before they hit the national media spotlight, and also referring to other controversial statements published on Wright's Church web-site (many of them since removed) which indicated the depth of Wright's anti-white racist beliefs.

And yes, I did see the Moyer's tv interview, and I've subsequently re-examined the transcripts (here), and can say with absolute certainty the interview was a whitewash (or it that blackwash?) with Moyers exhibiting as much (or as little) critical objectiveness as an ad agency public relations rep making an obsequious commercial for a client.

Moyers treated Wright with kid gloves. It was like a love-fest interview between two old pals, chatting it up: Moyer 'warming up' the audience with the fond reference to Martin Marty (an old acquaintance they had in common) and then lobbing soft-ball questions at Wright, but never asking hard follow-up questions, the kind of cross-examinations a journalist is supposed to make.

In one instance, Moyers didn't even follow up on a topic he himself mentioned at the beginning of the show: Wright often repeating 'the canard heard often in black communities that the U.S. government spread HIV in those communities.' But the HIV subject conveniently slipped through the cracks of the patty-cake interview.

Moyers also defused the equally controversial topic of Wright's promotion of Black Liberation Theology by reducing it to a 'bumper sticker' reductive definition (as merely the "interpretation of scripture from the oppressed"), sidestepping the more incendiary elements of Black Liberation Theology doctrine, such as statements from founders of the movement like James Cone, who said:

"Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the black community. If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him."

So, Kill The Whitey God equates with Scripture From The Oppressed, does it? Well, as a 'confirmed' NeoAgnostic I don't have much faith in religious doctrine to begin with, but come-on... isn't there some kind of implausible divide between what Moyers and Wright defined as BLT doctrine, and the way it's preached from the pulpit by ministers like Wright?

One of the things in the interview I did find interesting (not you, apparently, since it seems to have escaped your notice) was Wright's response to Moyers's question about Obama's so-called 'rejection' of Wright's controversial remarks:

MOYER: And, yet, he, in that speech at Philadelphia, had to say some hard things about you. How, how did it go down with you when you heard Barack Obama say those things?

REVEREND WRIGHT: It went down very simply. He's a politician, I'm a pastor. We speak to two different audiences. And he says what he has to say as a politician. I say what I have to say as a pastor. Those are two different worlds. I do what I do. He does what politicians do.

Which sounds a lot like Wright's saying Obama wasn't being sincere in those renunciations of the God Damn America remarks.

RMJ doesn't blog that often, but when he does it's always worth reading. IMVHO, of course.

Here's his take on the Moyers / Wright interview.

It's the piece titled "For the wicked carried us away".

Thanks -

That was a very nice post, thanks Russell.

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