Corrections and Retractions

2009 01 02
Retraction: who/that edition

More than a year ago, I wrote:

You would never write this, would you, dear reader?
Socrates was a philosopher that believed . . .

No, of course you wouldn’t. You would write,

Socrates was a philosopher who believed . . .

In such cases you use “who” or “whom” for people and “that” for objects, right?

Almost every day since then I have encountered some counterexample to my claim. I hear it in spoken English in every register. I come across it on blogs, in newspapers, books, and even in the titles of books. It’s clearly standard English to use “that” for people as well as “who” or “whom.”

So, I was wrong. I hereby retract my previous post.

Howls of outrage (7)

2007 03 11
Because the key to sustainable blogging is recycling

Lots of old timers have been linking lately to their to March 2003 archives to show what a bunch of smarty-pants they were. Here are the March 2003 archives from my old blog, in case you’re curious.

Main impressions: There’s not a lot there that is flat out wrong, but I hate the emphasis. I’m so desperate to be fair-minded and balanced, so terrified of appearing shrill, that I keep bending over backwards to conciliate anyone who might disagree with me.

So much for tone. If there’s been a change in substance, I think it’s that I wasn’t ready at that point to reject American imperialism root and branch in the way that I am now.

Also, fucking hell, did I always have to be so damn earnest? Had I never heard about sarcasm and bemused detachment? Oh Jamie, I’ve learned so much from you in the intervening years.

Anyway, I enjoy exercises like this. One reason I started a blog was so that I would have a nice record of my views, so that I couldn’t revise them in my memory in a self-serving way later on. And it’s nice to have it public, for that extra little dash of humiliation.

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 10 06
Actual words less funny than mistranslation

OK, I’ll confess to being disapppointed. Here’s the NYT:

An article on Sept. 21 about criticism of President Bush at the United Nations by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran reported that Mr. Chavez praised a book by Noam Chomsky, the linguist and social critic. It reported that later, at a news conference, Mr. Chavez said that he regretted not having met Mr. Chomsky before he died. The article noted that in fact, Mr. Chomsky is alive. The assertion that Mr. Chavez had made this misstatement was repeated in a Times interview with Mr. Chomsky the next day.

In fact, what Mr. Chavez said was, �I am an avid reader of Noam Chomsky, as I am of an American professor who died some time ago.� Two sentences later Mr. Chavez named John Kenneth Galbraith, the Harvard economist who died last April, calling both him and Mr. Chomsky great intellectual figures.

Mr. Chavez was speaking in Spanish at the news conference, but the simultaneous English translation by the United Nations left out the reference to Mr. Galbraith and made it sound as if the man who died was Mr. Chomsky.

Since I got a laugh out of this at the time, I thought I would post this by way of correction. The NYT actually goes on to say:

Readers pointed out the error in e-mails to The Times soon after the first article was published. Reporters reviewed the recordings of the news conference in English and Spanish, but not carefully enough to detect the discrepancy, until after the Venezuelan government complained publicly on Wednesday.

Editors and reporters should have been more thorough earlier in checking the accuracy of the simultaneous translation.

Howls of outrage (5)

2006 09 10

Update #1: A while back I asked for advice about a teaching handout on writing. Many thanks for all the helpful advice. The link in the post now points to the revised draft of the handout. I took most of the advice I got, though a few of Anne’s better suggestions (by phone and email) had to be abandoned, since following them properly would have taken up too much time.

Update #2: I hate to admit when I’m wrong, but my fierce love of the truth obliges me to update this post on the miraculous powers of baking soda.

Update #3: 400 flights in an hour on the stairmaster, celebrated in this post, has now become fairly easy for me. This surprises me, since the first time I did it it nearly killed me, and that was less than a month ago. Also, it’s not as if I built up to it slowly. Before that my previous personal bests were 386 on Aug. 18th, 370 on Aug. 14th, and 351 on Aug. 12th. Yes, I record all that in a little book. Do you have a problem with that? (I put on a huge push to get to 400 because “A” and I had a family membership at Ballys, and “A” was sick of it. Since I strongly suspected that Ballys was too stupid to attempt to keep me as a customer, I had to get to 400 before I moved to the cheaper Y, which sadly lacks a stairmaster.) Anyway, I have a hard time believing that these gains are all physical. Rather, I suspect that something here is 90% half mental – probably the psychological aspect.

As for Ballys, wow am I ever glad that I didn’t commit to three years with them. I probably would have been content to stay if “A” hadn’t detested the Ballys at Tilden in Flatbush so much, but then I have more patience for things like buckets strategically placed all over the floor every time it rains, equipment that stays broken for long periods of time, etc. etc. etc. What kind of gym runs completely out of paper towels and then doesn’t do anything about it for weeks? Also, when I went to try to find out what would happen to my rates once “A” left the club, I had a series of irritating and inclusive exchanges which culminated in a phone call to a 1-800 number, at which point I was put on hold for 55 minutes. And seriously, what kind of company puts a customer on hold for that long? What a bunch of fuckers.

By the way, if you live in NYC, the Y is having a membership drive now. The joining fee will be waived if you join before the end of September, and if you’re a student, the rates are especially low.

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2005 01 25
On second thought . . .

. . . perhaps I should just delete this post. Probably harmless, but you never know.

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2004 12 31
A year in blogging (or not)

I started this blog partly because I wanted a public record of my positions on issues that I could look back on later and embarrass myself with. The end of the year is a great time to look over the past year’s posts and see how much I can already recognize as embarrassing, ill-considered, stupid, or tactless. Alas, I’m too lazy to do that, and I would be lying if I said that I’ll try to be better next year. Although I intend to continue blogging, one of my resolutions this year is to spend less time blogging, and a year-end retrospective would hardly be a good way to kick that effort off.

Off the top of my head, I can only think of one post I wrote this year which consistently gives me a headache whenever I think about it, this graceless post about Norm Geras, who deserves more respect than I paid him in the post. So, sorry Norm.

I’m sure I could find other things to cringe about, but as I said, I’m too lazy. Feel free to nominate posts in the comments section.

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2004 12 03
Bhopal, an update

It seems that Dow has finally accepted responsibility for the disaster. More details if I see them. Pile on in the comments if you know anything more.

Update: Nope. Sorry. It’s a hoax. Should have known that it was too good to be true.

A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2004 08 08
The end of instant temper-tantrums

A public outcry has forced me to reconsider my earlier bid to restrain impulsive posting.
Continue Reading »

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2004 08 06
The End of Instant Analysis

OK, I’m tired of impulsively posting something stupid or ill-considered and then posting half a dozen clarifications within the next few hours. Here is my new policy: From now on, there will be a one day delay imposed on all my posts. I’ll write it, then I’ll quarantine it, then I’ll reconsider it, and then – only then – will I post it. Some questions I’ll try to ask myself:
Continue Reading »

Howls of outrage (4)

2004 05 14
Correction: Daily Mirror Pictures confirmed faked

The Editor of the Daily Mirror in Britain has resigned, after confirmation that the Mirror’s pictures of British troops abusing an Iraqi prisoner were faked.

There was one passing reference on this site to the pictures, in a letter to Paul Berman. By the time I posted the letter to Berman on this site, the story was already in doubt, so the original post contained an updated correction noting that the authenticity of the pictures was in question.

It may seem silly to point this out, but I very much agree with Mark Kleiman that bloggers ought to correct things they get wrong.

Howls of outrage (6)

2004 05 04

Breaking news: I’m a doofus. Until about an hour ago, I had been certain my whole life (ok, certain since I first encountered it) that “erstwhile” meant “steadfast, reliable”.

But I was wrong. It means “former”. How did I get such a wrong idea so firmly lodged in my head, and how many other similar bedrock certainties are just waiting to crumble around me? I’m gonna go hide under the bed…

Thanks to Chris, who’s steadfast and not former, for correcting me.

Howls of outrage (4)

2004 02 29
A retraction, of sorts

I haven’t written on Haiti much, because I simply haven’t known what to say about it. But I did say this a little while ago:

Aristide has simply no legitimacy and has – against the odds – run Haiti into even worse shape than Venezuela is in the minds of the most ardent anti-Chavez crowd. The 2000 elections in Haiti were a sham, and to say that Aristide isn’t a populist anymore would be putting it mildly.

If the US government wants to signal that it is no friend of Aristide it has my full blessing.

The main target there was actually a reporter who compared U.S. interference in Venezuela with some mild statements declining support for Aristide. And I don’t back off of that.

But it was irresponsible of me to be so cavalier about the U.S.’s attitude to Haiti without thinking through exactly who was supposed to replace Aristide if he took the hint and left. And now, it seems, he’s done exactly that. Aristide, I am convinced, was an absolute disaster for Haiti. But if the armed thugs who just helped to force him from power are any indication, some of the alternatives may be even worse.

Since I expressed approval for the U.S.’s refusal to support Aristide, the admin’s position seems to have flip-flopped a few times. The front page of today’s Times seems to suggest that the final push was the President’s call, made after a meeting with all his advisors. I wonder what they said at the meeting. In particular, I wonder if they bothered to think through what would happen once Aristide left, and whether – having gotten involved to this extent – they would be willing to fill the power vacuum they just helped to create.

I really hope someone has a plan. I know I didn’t when I shot my mouth off in that earlier post.

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2003 08 11
Looks like I was wrong

Well, it look as if Charles Taylor is really leaving. I hadn’t believed he would actually go.

On the other hand, Taylor handpicked a successor (who is not considered a plausible compromise by the rebels) and is cagey on where exactly he’ll go (the rebels insist, reasonably enough that he must leave the country). If he doesn’t actually leave the country, I’ll retract this admission of error, since he will probably be controlling things from the sidelines.

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