03 September 2022

1618 + 404

Santayana you bastard.

  • At least this sausage platter isn't powered by crabcakes. Yet. Civilization runs not on generated energy, but on stored-for-controlled-release energy. And if crab shells take over, we'll have to take better care of their sources, in a disturbingly interesting feedback loop.
  • "He didn't slip on his tea, did he?" One wonders if, a few years from now, historians will be looking back at this as a/the Дефенестрация Москвы (rusty spelling) that marks another trigger point in an Imperial civil war… with similar consequences (especially for the Little People)…
  • In a slightly farther away part of the world, on all appearances pogroms are back in fashion for at least some insecure, always-seeking-an-ethnically-distinct-enemy dictatorships (which has been a subtext of that particular empire for about two and a half millenia).
  • But it could be worse. We could be using an inherently bigoted data set, gathered incompletely and inaccurately by happenstance based upon semirandom preservation from three centuries ago, to support contemporary self-interested policy preferences as the incontrovertible and inviolate Word of Godthe Founders (decades before even Papal Infallibility became a formal doctrine).

    Corpus linguistics can be a valuable tool to exclude concepts from intended meanings,1 which matter more to law than they do to the arts — even though one of those whose intent matters rather definitively rejected "more" being "definitive". All that this methodology can do is exclude insupportable-to-the-studied-subpopulation meanings, rather like the sculptural concept of taking a block of marble and chipping away the parts that don't belong. Remember: Corpus linguistics for periods prior to universal literacy depends upon documents produced by and for the literate classes that have been preserved sufficiently to be included in the data set. One wonders how many of Daniel Shays' MAGA-lite followers had their actual thoughts, their actual language entered into the corpus… and that's only five years off and one of the precipitating events for the US Constitution, so one would think that they would be highly relevant. Of course, such documents simply don't exist… and would reflect the opinions and personal interests of white male landowners at best in any event.

    Originalist/legal orpus linguistics is very much like using a hydrogen atom as the determinative explanation for all of chemistry — an atom that, except in outliers forming well under 1% of the population, doesn't even contain any neutrons and reflects the simplest possible atomic structure. Even that assumes, through theoretical extensions, an awful lot that we haven't (and by the terms of the theory itself, can't) experimentally verified. That's bad enough for nonvolitional subatomic particles; but the last time I checked, no electron really had desire — ambition — to shift between the s and p shells. Oh, wait, we're only looking at a hydrogen atom, so even though we've inferred the existence of the p shell, that's not a natural part of the system…

    Insufficient (or no) supporting data, drawn from a highly selective dataset (that ignores inconvenient inconsistent data and flaws in what has been accepted). Sounds an awful lot like theology to me, and that's outside the acceptable boundary conditions.

  • Application of the preceding, too-theoretical-before-caffeine sausage to contemporary tax policy and collection mechanisms is left as an exercise for the student. Consider a bit of wider context: What does it say about the tax collection system that the mere fact of being an "independent contractor" — like a ride-share driver or food-delivery-service provider — means one is not eligible to use the lowest/no-cost versions of three of the four major do-it-yourself software systems for US federal income tax? If one must file Schedule C, one cannot use the free versions… and given the offloading of so much of the "old" Form 1040 onto numbered "schedules," why is Schedule C not one of them? Inquiring minds skeptical of lobbyists for the tax-preparation industry want to know!

  1. If you have access to JSTOR, here's a PDF of the original piece. If, that is, you want to delve into just the original, in a bit of reflexiveness about twenty years ahead of the beginnings of postmodern literary theory — which is rather my point. And, arguably, was Milton's rhetorical strategy in Paradise Lost and Dryden's in Absalom and Achitophel, both of which form not-insignificant parts of the corpus that should be under study here.