aparrish: (Default)
1. What measures will you take as President to ensure that George W. Bush and any relevant members of his administration are properly investigated, and if necessary, tried for war crimes and treason against the United States? How would your strategy change if, before he leaves office, Bush grants himself (and members of his administration) a retroactive pardon for such crimes?

2. One of you will be sworn in as President of the United States at noon on January 20th. How many hours will pass on that day before you give the order to shut down the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay?
aparrish: (Default)
You are a

Social Liberal
(86% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(28% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Strong Democrat

Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also : The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

Of pitbulls

Sep. 4th, 2008 12:23 pm
aparrish: (Default)
First off, I want to emphasize that Obama is not my ideal candidate, and he hasn't (yet?) earned my vote. He started out as the (ostensible) "liberal" alternative to Hillary Clinton. But as his positions slide toward centrism, he's been hanging more and more leftist liberals out to dry. It's a politically expedient strategy for the big O, I suppose, but it's a drag to be continuously and relentlessly rendered invisible.

Still, the strongest effect of Sarah Palin's speech last night was that it made me long for Barack Obama's acceptance speech. Nearly forty million people watched Obama's speech, and countless more on the Internet, but that's not even close to the amount of attention it deserved. It was an example of expert rhetoric and oration, and its last few paragraphs—complete with thoughtful, ambiguous scriptural reference—still give me chills.

Palin's speech, on the other hand, relies on an almost pornographic structure to extract its response, moving from money shot (i.e. sarcastic remarks about Obama) to money shot, only loosely linked by any kind of narrative. A good example (and this is the passage that I think will attract the most flak):

Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown.

And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves.

I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities. I might add that in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening.

Contrary to a number of liberal commentators or whatever, I think that having been a mayor of a small town is a kind of compelling qualification for national leadership—or, at least, that it's not a priori clear that this isn't a qualification. But Palin's speech doesn't bother to make the case either way. She mentions being a mayor only to set up two potshots at Obama—that "community organizer" is a made-up and unimportant position, and that Obama is a two-faced elitist.

Now, Palin's performance did convince me that she is a credible candidate in national politics[1]. Moreover, I don't expect the Republicans to "address the issues" in this election, because they don't have to (and they'd lose if they tried). But Palin's speech was just preaching to the choir (the "base," though I don't know why anyone would want to self-identify with that term), and I'm inclined to believe that's all the Republicans are capable of.

Obama, though, at least when he's on his game, is a masterful advocate—not just of his policy positions, but of the core philosophy and metaphors that form the foundation of liberalism. If he sticks to that kind of advocacy, if he doesn't get bogged down in defending his character and his policies, then McCain doesn't stand a chance.

[1] The speech was, of course, prepared for her, which isn't at all unusual. It's telling, though, that the turn of phrase most associated with the speech ("What's the difference between a pitbull and a hockey mom? Lipstick.") was ad-libbed. It doesn't appear in the transcript and it wasn't on the teleprompter.
aparrish: (Default)
Mitt Romney: My favorite novel is Battlefield Earth!
Ken Jennings: This is possibly the worst answer to a standard campaign question that I have ever heard in a lifetime of bad campaign answers.

If we must have a Mormon running for president, couldn't it be Ken Jennings? He's smart and funny and his name has the proper metrical characteristics (single syllable first name, trochaic last name, just like Bill Clinton and John Adams—Barack Obama's departure from this formula is the reason he won't get elected). And we wouldn't have to worry about sexual impropriety in the White House, since Ken doesn't even know what a ho is!

Let's get a move on this, people. A write-in campaign. Something.

Two items.

Feb. 2nd, 2007 02:04 am
aparrish: (Default)
ONE. State of the Union word count analysis done right. The included essay at least gives lip service to the idea that we should "be skeptical of the positivist implications of a statistical analysis of language," and has some other ideas about the iconicity of words in new media etc etc etc. Good software, good read. Does anyone know why Taft said "wool" so much?

aparrish: (nosblech)
I'm here this evening to talk to you about token frequency analyses of the State of the Union. Here are a couple that have been tossed around your interwebs over the past few days:
The ostensible goal of this kind of analysis is to determine, proportionally, what the President is talking about most. I don't think it does that. For the two following reasons.

First: What someone "means," what they're talking about, isn't localized to the individual lexical items in that individual's speech. In other words, there isn't a one-to-one relationship between a word and an act of meaning something. Because of this, token frequency analysis fails to capture what might be important references to a particular thing that don't use the word in question. Bush might say, for example, "the country where our military operations are focused," or even "For the rest of the speech, I will be referring to 'Iraq' with the word 'Smoo.'" Even though Bush is obviously talking about Iraq, the word count for the token "Iraq" wouldn't get incremented in those instances.

Moreover, some words might have their count incremented by uses that don't align with the meaning you'd expect. A President might say, "We should worry about the welfare of all our citizens" or "Now that I think about it, 'homeland security' is a pretty dumb phrase." Those words in italics would get bigger in the tag cloud, even though their meaning in context doesn't line up with what the word out of context seems to mean.

Our intuition about words is that they have a definition in the dictionary, and that's what they mean, regardless of context (except, maybe, in special circumstances). Token frequency analysis counts on this intuition being true: that a use of a word will, more often than not, correspond with its dictionary definition. This assumption works well for glib analysis, but I don't see any empirical reason to believe it. (In fact, it doesn't seem like a question particularly open to empirical investigation.)

The second reason is that token frequency analyses like the ones above arbitrarily reject certain words. The NYT analysis doesn't allow you to search for words with less than three letters; the historical tag cloud page says that its algorithm "removes the most common words like 'the', 'and', 'this', 'that' and some not so common language-specific words like 'hitherto', and 'notwithstanding.'" I can't see a good reason for doing this. If saying the word "Iraq" a lot means that the President is talking about Iraq a lot, why doesn't it follow that saying "and" a lot means that the President likes to conjoin phrases? That saying "the" a lot means that the President likes to pick out one salient referent among many?

Geoffrey Pullum at Language Log makes another good point, which is that a token frequency analysis needs to either decide to count word forms or lexemes. Counting word forms means that you'd have separate counts for bless, blessing, and blesses; a lexeme count would lump all of these together. Both methods have problems: a word form count misses generalizations among words, while a lexeme count lumps together words that might have significant semantic differences in context (Pullum's example is insure and insurance).

In conclusion, here are funny videos of talking dogs and hamsters or something doing backflips.

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