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January 16, 2023

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wj: sometimes I forget that I can't post links under my formal handle, and have to use GftNC to do so. In those cases, I usually just repost. So what you have restored may be duplicates. In future, if a post is too long to do again, I'll just post a short plea here to have it rescued. So then, whatever else you find in the spam folder from me can be safely discarded.

Eventually, we'll get all this sorted out and running smoothly. Eventually. Hopefully. :-)

Sure, wj.
Right after the last bug is eradicated from Windoze.

Typepad's version of Movable Type is not yet abandonware, but seems to be headed in that direction. No one who has messed with WordPress seriously thinks it will ever get truly sorted out. I spent part of yesterday reading people whining about Disqus.

Right after the last bug is eradicated from Windoze.

Presumably you are not counting the possibility that they will just issue a blanket reclassification of any remaining bugs as "features"....

Sometimes, the enthusiasm of some folks to shoot themselves in the foot is simply awesome.

Start with a tweet from Kari Lake of Arizona. It contains, as you can see, images of several voters signatures.

Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fonte referred her to tha Arizona Attorney General.

Fontes pointed to state law involving public inspection of voter registration records. That law says records containing voter signatures “shall not be accessible or reproduced by any person other than the voter.”

Violation of that law, he wrote, is a felony.

She's a true discipline ot TFG.

I don't know the details about AZ's mail ballot system. In Colorado, and assuming the signatures in the tweet are in some fashion pairs of signatures that should match, they would get an envelope pulled out. Each election, about 2% of envelopes here fail. Many are "cured" by the election officials, either through phone calls, submission of additional paperwork, or even physical visits.

There is a court case in Colorado now to remove signatures completely from our mail ballot system. The lead plaintiff has ALS which makes it impossible for him to have a reproducible signature or travel to a polling place.

My sense, from a distance, is that the Arizona law is intended to help prevent voter fraud. By not letting would-be fraudsters have an example signature to copy. (Naturally, preventing voter fraud is not high on Lake's list of priorities.)

The signature law in California doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Mail ballots have to have a signature on the envelope, and those get compared to the file signature before the ballot is counted. But while anyone voting in person does have to sign in at the polls, there is no process to check that signature against anything.** And, if someone were to check later, no way to identify and remove that particular ballot. So, why do we bother?

** And, by law, poll workers may not ask voters for ID. Technically, if the voter offers one when asked for their name, we aren't supposed to look -- although in practice we do look whenever we aren't certain how the name is spelled, so we can find it in the voter roll.

And all of this because a nationaL ID card is considered blasphemy against the holy spirit ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_sin ) in the US...

(and I am talking about one that does not store vast amounts of personal data but one whose whole function is to determine ID whereever needed.)

a national ID card is considered blasphemy against the holy spirit

Including by people who don't seem to have a problem with the state departments which issue driver's licenses also issuing IDs for those who are not drivers. Which they do because everybody needs an ID at some point, so they are fulfilling a real need.

Consistency doesn't seem to be a core competency with these folks.

I hear that some consider it even un-American to have a passport and that some (GOP) candidates got actually attacked for this sin by their rivals.
Sounds outright Chinese to me (there's nothing outside China worth any attention for a proper Chinese person)

Sounds outright Chinese to me (there's nothing outside China worth any attention for a proper Chinese person)

More, I think, along the lines of "How dare anyone outside the US expect us to carry identity documents?!?!? And how dare the US government ask for proof that we are 'Real Americans' (TM) when we come home?" (Unsurprisingly, they are unaware of the difference between a passport and a visa.)

The cases I remember were explicitly about passports being an expression of a desire to travel abroad and thus equal to what used to be cosmopolitanism. Remember how Romney got attacked for that from the Right and how it was used as an insult that he learned French (being a Mormon missionary in France without speaking French would be slightly counterproductive one would think)?
Of course his French adventures got criticized from the Left too but not for cultural contamination of his soul but for thus evading service in Vietnam while at the same time condemning draft dodgers as unpatriotic cowards.

The 'how dare these foreigners asking for our ID' mindset looks more early 20th century to me (when even the British* mocked that attitude during WW1).
What I see now looks more like enhanced isolationism (keep THEM out and US in).
But I am just an observer from abroad who can only interpret what absurdities he gets from the news/net with no means to discern how widespread which mindset actually is.

*who used to display something similar

Oh God, as if anything was lacking to make the polarisation on trans/sex/gender worse, Trump comes out today to make it one of his main planks, although of course in his idiotic way his announcement conflated sex with gender. Perhaps he is scared of using the word "sex". Or, more likely, it is pure ignorance.

Donald Trump has vowed to pass legislation that recognises only two genders under US law if he is elected president as he seeks to shore up his conservative base and outflank rival candidates on the right of the Republican Party.

In a video statement on his Truth Social platform, the former president said that if elected again in 2024, he would “ask Congress to pass a bill establishing that the only two genders recognised by the United States government are male and female, and they are assigned at birth”.

I had no intention of returning to this very contentious subject now, but this (actually clearly foreseeable) development is likely to make the whole thing worse. And since I wanted to bring it to your attention, I may as well also post (for anybody who is interested) a fascinating paper on the whole issue of how gender has come to supersede sex in the English prison system. The paper is called Queer Theory and the Transition from Sex to Gender in English Prisons and I hope this link works:

https://journalofcontroversialideas.org/download/article/2/1/183/pdf

Oh God, as if anything was lacking to make the polarisation on trans/sex/gender worse, Trump comes out today to make it one of his main planks, although of course in his idiotic way his announcement conflated sex with gender. Perhaps he is scared of using the word "sex". Or, more likely, it is pure ignorance.

I think this very much misses the point.

Clickbait may or may not be afraid of using the word sex, and he may or may not be ignorant about terminology. But none of that matters, because his goal -- which isn’t the least bit novel or mavericky in the light of what his party is doing in a lot of states already -- is the erasure of trans and non-binary people (and, one presumes, eventually gay people as well) from open participation in any aspect of public life, or ultimately from being recognized as existing at all.

This is the kind of thing that is going on in the US right now:

https://www.politico.com/news/2023/01/18/desantis-trans-health-care-florida-universities-00078435

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/republican-states-aim-to-restrict-transgender-health-care-in-first-bills-of-2023

https://www.thecut.com/2023/02/florida-student-athletes-period.html

Clickbait doesn’t care about some fancy pants distinction between “sex” and “gender." It may appear as if he's conflating them ignorantly, but the distinction between them is part of what is meant to be erased. Whatever they are, there are only two of them, and if he and the rest of the R party have any say in the matter, any ridiculous notions to the contrary are going to be stamped out good and hard.

the erasure of trans and non-binary people (and, one presumes, eventually gay people as well) from open participation in any aspect of public life, or ultimately from being recognized as existing at all.

You left out shutting down sex outside of (heterosexual) marriage. Or, more accurately, ramming it back into the closet, where it was in the 1950s. In aid of which wiil be overturning Griswold. Followed by banning contraceptives -- except maybe for married couples.

Might even happen in a few states. Hard to think of a better way to lose elections in most places. (Not that the fanatics are capable of recognizing that.) And losing them beyond the ability of voter suppression or other shenanigans to reverse.

Yes, I guess I wasn't clear enough. I don't think for a moment that Trump cares (or necessarily knows about) the distinction between them. I was just taking a swipe at his general ignorance and stupidity.

My point really was that him taking up the cudgels on this issue can only make it worse, irrespective of what he calls it, and it's pretty bad already. The very definition of what they call a "wedge issue", actually, driving even more of a wedge between people who are trying to have humane and goodwill discussions on the matter.

But as to the distinction between them is part of what is meant to be erased I completely agree, and in fact this has to a large extent already happened and is what people like me are fighting a desperate rearguard action against. Words create or modify reality, as the developments of recent years have shown; why, even someone as clever and well-educated as lj didn't really see that he was conflating the two things when I pointed it out to him in one of our earlier discussions on this subject. And, as we now know, the way that gender has overtaken sex as any kind of criterion in many settings has led to the fact that, for example, in Scotland (a nation of 5.5 million people) there have been three trans women, previously convicted of rape or sexual assault on women, housed (or proposed to be housed) in women's prisons in the last year.

https://www.channel4.com/news/nicola-sturgeon-explains-scottish-governments-decision-to-pause-transfers-of-some-transgender-prisoners-to-womens-prisons

There is no doubt that the agenda of the extreme right is to discriminate against and otherwise prevent trans and non-binary people from attaining rights and protections, and legitimise discrimination against them, and gay people too, to the extent that they can to pander to the prejudices of their supporters, whether religious or otherwise. (Although FWIW I have to say I can't see how they could, under any conceivable circumstances, prevent gay people at least as ultimately from being recognized as existing at all. However, far be it from me to assume there is a limit to their ambitions).

No, I think it is extremely important (as nous implies) to remember who is the real enemy, and not to fall into the trap of either demonising reasonable people of differing views, or participating blindly in the obliteration of important concepts and categories.

There are definitions and facts, which are slippery to begin with, and then there's what we do with them.

There can also be more than one "real enemy."

I'm done.

There can also be more than one "real enemy."

A truer word was never spoke.

Charlie Stross has a post up about ChatGPT. The post itself doesn't say anything that hasn't been said before. But there are several paid writers among his regular commenters, and they seemed to think that there's an obvious constructive use: first draft of converting a novel to screenplay, or the reverse. Apparently ChatGPT does a good enough job of preserving dialog and story line in either direction to do away with a bunch of grunt work so the human can focus on the creative parts.

I believe it was nous who said something similar about having students let ChatGPT do an essay, and the students' assignment be to edit or rewrite that.

I believe it was nous who said something similar about having students let ChatGPT do an essay, and the students' assignment be to edit or rewrite that.

In my experience, there are far more people who know how to write something (adequate, if not great) than there are people who can do a competent job of editing something that someone else wrote. At the risk of causing offense, actually learning to edit well will have far greater career benefits than just learning to write -- less supply and serious unfilled demand.

In my experience, there are far more people who know how to write something (adequate, if not great) than there are people who can do a competent job of editing something that someone else wrote. At the risk of causing offense, actually learning to edit well will have far greater career benefits than just learning to write -- less supply and serious unfilled demand.

I really don't see much of any clear division between being able to write well and being able to edit. One cannot become a good writer without knowing how to revise and edit.

To be sure, there are many different hats one can wear as an editor that fill a particular need within the publication process. Many excellent writers and editors are not good at copy editing, or at developmental editing, and that opens up specialist roles for the people who do have those skills and mindsets. But in general one needs the ability to edit ones own writing to ever become accomplished as a writer. It's too deeply entangled in the revision process to be otherwise.

I believe it was nous who said something similar about having students let ChatGPT do an essay, and the students' assignment be to edit or rewrite that.

I think the ideal form for this would be to have the writer generate an outline and the information parameters to be included (indicating sources and selections to quote or paraphrase), then take the AI generated generic content and start revising it to give it life and purpose.

I think the ideal form for this would be to have the writer generate an outline and the information parameters to be included (indicating sources and selections to quote or paraphrase), then take the AI generated generic content and start revising it to give it life and purpose.

Part of their discussion was whether it would be better to do an independent outline, or to have ChatGPT "read" the existing novel/screenplay. "Give it life and purpose" is an excellent summary of what they all thought the writer would do to the AI's draft.

in general one needs the ability to edit ones own writing to ever become accomplished as a writer.

Yes, but....
The trouble with editing one's own writings is that you know what you meant, and what you intended to say. When what you actually wrote is different, it can be remarkably hard to spot. A second pair of eyes can make a big difference. IF that second pair of eyes belongs to a capable editor.

A second pair of eyes can make a big difference.

I'll chime in here just to shock wj. This is pretty much correct.

But...., just asking questions here, who was James Joyce's editor?

wj - that’s why writing teachers almost all say that good writers seek feedback. But a good writer doesn’t need their reader to offer suggestions for how to write those changes, they just need to be made aware of where and how they went wrong.

But...., just asking questions here, who was James Joyce's editor?

“My troublesome self and interminable composition” – James Joyce and his editor, Harriet Shaw Weaver

bobbyp, I am shocked! Shocked! Who knows where this might end. :-)

As for Joyce, there is a limit to how much even a good editor can do when faced with a writer who simply can't handle the English language.

a good writer doesn’t need their reader to offer suggestions for how to write those changes, they just need to be made aware of where and how they went wrong.

I don't think I agree. The biggest problem a writer, especially a non-fiction writer, faces is that he simply knows too much. In my experience, what's often needed are suggestions on how to communicate with an audience who don't know the background, the standard technical terms, etc.

Joyce and Weaver had a falling out over Finnegans Wake.

The biggest problem a writer, especially a non-fiction writer, faces is that he simply knows too much. In my experience, what's often needed are suggestions on how to communicate with an audience who don't know the background, the standard technical terms, etc.

That's not a good writer, though. That's a person who can document information with great accuracy, but cannot communicate it effectively with their intended audience. Good writing requires that the writer understands both subject and audience, and understands what that audience knows about the subject.

That's not just my bias, either. I know a few really good scientists who are also really good writers and have no difficulty adjusting their writing to fit a particular level of reader. They get quite voluble over how poorly written a lot of good science is, and how badly this damages outreach.

They get quite voluble over how poorly written a lot of good science is, and how badly this damages outreach.

Precisely my point. What those other writers desperately need is a good editor. Because, let's face it, there's no real prospect of getting them better at it. (When I was in college, engineering majors were not even required to pass Subject A -- AKA bonehead English. Let alone Freshman English.)

The demand for editors is enormous -- and growing every day. (And that's before you add in those who are not native speakers of English, and need help as well.)

Joyce and Weaver had a falling out over Finnegans Wake.

But she still paid for his funeral.

That's what great editors do. :)

Unfortunately, in the 'hard' sciences (with my personal experience in chemistry) 'good' writing is actively discouraged and a very bad style is enforced instead - at least in the usual journals where scientists usually publish their work. If the style guidelines contain something like 'no first person pronouns can be used' or a past tense passive voice is the only one allowed, use of any synonyms is frowned upon etc., one should not be surprised if the prose is wooden at best. Comparing it to papers from e.g. the 1930ies makes it even look worse. At that time one could feel that the people writing them were actually engaged in what they were doing. Information density may be a bit higher to-day in the texts of papers but it makes the experience no less dreary.

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