Saturday, June 05, 2004

CNN needs a new fact checker.
At least, they need someone to bone up on their knowledge of the Constitution. This story discusses potential contenders for Kerry's VP. Former-President Clinton is listed as an "Other Contender." Key quote:
"While federal law prohibits a person from seeking a third presidential term, the Constitution does not specify whether or not a former commander in chief can become vice president."
Hey, CNN, ever hear of the 12th Amendment? Again, key quote:
"But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States."
Seems to describe Clinton, doesn't it?
As a grammar god
it should be plain that I can be somewhat anal when it comes to syntax and such. My wife gets a certain amount of entertainment watching me correct my own grammar when I speak (e.g, "So and so gave that to Bob and I, no, Bob and me").

What has raised my ire today is the misuse of the phrase "beg the question." A headline on Fox today: "'Sopranos' 5th season finale begs the question: Who'll get whacked?" (the quote's on the main page, so I won't bother linking to it; it'll change in a few hours anyway). No, no, no, this doesn't "beg the question;" it "raises the question." "Question begging" is a term used in argumentation to denote circular reasoning, as in, "I know Bob is truthful because he assured me of his honesty." This statement begs the question of Bob's veracity. If the only assurance you have that Bob is honest is Bob's say-so, then his say-so depends on his honesty, which is only established by his say-so, ad infinitum. That's question begging.

It may be too much to ask most people to know the difference: They hear the phrase and misappropriate it without knowing what it really means. But I see it more commonly used by journalists. Supposedly, these people are trained in the art of English grammar, construction and syntax. One would also presume that they've been taught a little about logic and methods of argumentation. Is it too much to ask that these people be more careful?

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Hand Made is Better
E-Bay tempted me once again with an 8" telescope mirror grinding kit. I get to spend the summer happily grinding my mirror to exacting standards that seem impossible to meet. Do you think that you can prepare a surface that is within a few millionths of an inch of being a perfect parabola? Sounds hard to believe, but it's possible with the right techniques. Here is a wonderful website that has step by step details of the mirror grinding process. The author is certainly mechanically inclined as well as a computer programmer. There is a wonderful community of Amateur Telescope Makers (ATMs) out there! Mel Bartels is one of their finest.
Wanted: CIA director
This just in: George Tenet has resigned for "personal reasons". Personal reasons? Yeah, right, uh huh.

The key question is, why'd it take so long?

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

The Libertarian Party has a candidate
Michael Badnarik won the nomination. His Issues page addresses Iraq but not the overall War on Terror. Not an encouraging sign.