Sunday, August 26, 2012


Should Storms Not Be Named?

According to the Christian Science Monitor
Hurricane Isaac delays start of Republican National Convention in Tampa
Dim 26 Août 2012 à 02:30
As in 2008, Republicans scramble to adjust speaking and travel schedules to cope with the hurricane. The vote to formally nominate Mitt Romney shifts to Tuesday – for now. Stay tuned.
According to the Los Angeles Times
Tropical Storm Isaac postpones Republican convention in Florida
Dim 26 Août 2012 à 09:00
Republican Party officials decide to delay Mitt Romney's formal nomination in Tampa as Tropical Storm Isaac is forecast to become a hurricane.
TAMPA, Fla. — An approaching tropical storm, forecast to become a hurricane as it roars into the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, has forced postponement of the first day of the Republican National Convention here, party officials announced Saturday evening.

It seems quite plausible the the approach of the tropical storm has influenced and inspired the decision to postpone the convention. However, "approaching tropical storm...has forced postponement" is one step down the slippery slope toward imbuing the storm with will and mind. "Tropical Storm Isaac postpones" is that one last step too far, as is "Hurricane Isaac delays start".

The storm does not manage the agenda and send out memos by electronic mail and fax and make phone calls to change the time schedule of events. People do. The storm does not "act", it results and has effects and consequences. Calling a storm 'Isaac' is simply an artifice to make it easier to refer to information about a storm, easier than by identifying it by date and trajectory, particularly when more than one storm is in progress at a given time. It is not intended to imply that the phenomenon is a human-like (nor godly) actor.

People seem to have plenty of trouble understanding science, which is understandable given how much science there is to understand. When journalists use storms as the subject of verbs that should be reserved for people (and robots), it encourages superstition and misunderstanding. Surely journalists can avoid this mistake so meteorologists can continue to use their handy labels.

The Financial Times, for instance, reports

Tropical storm knocks Romney off course

Dim 26 Août 2012 à 07:27
The opening day of the US Republican convention in Florida has been cancelled as the state prepares for the arrival of severe weather
While the title is figurative, "knocking off course" is a consequence of a storm phenomenon, not an act attributed to the storm as an actor.

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Saturday, August 25, 2012


Up with which polling places ought not have to put

I am not in favor of categorical disenfranchising, such as using literacy tests. On the contrary, I would be in favor of proxy votes for parents of minors and curators and tutors of dependent adults to provide for enfranchising representatives of those probably incompetent to vote. But is knowing your own name an unfair 'literacy test'?

This week I received a [fund-raising solicitation] message saying, in part,
If you’ve ever gone by a nickname, you may not be able to vote in November.

Sound absurd? It is. But it’s the reality in states like Pennsylvania, where a new voter ID law could disqualify a voter named Robert if his driver’s license says Bob. All told, the law could disenfranchise nearly 10 percent of voters.
 Why, I wonder, would his driver's license say 'Bob' if his parents declared his name to be 'Robert'? He is mature and sophisticated enough to be allowed to drive an automobile and assume the responsibility for his driving (and vote), but not mature and sophisticated enough to know his legal (on his birth certificate and Social Security card) name when he named himself on the application form? I suggest
Why should potential voters who don't consistently identify themselves by the same name on state-issued documents be recognized when they attempt to vote using one of their aliases? Why should citizens be allowed to change their names from one state-issued document to another to begin with? I don't think they should.

Maybe it could be construed as the State's paternalistic fault for not requiring a birth certificate to issue ID such as a driver's license, but let's presume we are talking about adult, responsible citizens: who may not even know their own names!  And let's encourage individual responsibility and competence rather than authoritarianism.

There may be other problems with voter ID laws, but obfuscating one's own name on the ID one expects to use to vote seems to me something up with which polling places ought not have to put.

I live in a foreign country, where voters register and then receive a voter registration card to sign and present with ID when they go to vote. I suppose people show their ID when they register at their city or town hall and so their registered name matches their ID. Is that so complicated? Too much to ask? Is American government too underdeveloped to handle it?

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