Thursday, March 15, 2018

Public Schools as Center of Rebellion

Jeff Bryant
Why Public Schools Have Become the Epicenter of Rebellion
The revolution may not be televised, but it is happening in public schools. This is evident in the growth of student and teacher actions across the country, from walkouts to strikes. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who’s been paying attention. Public school communities – students, teachers, parents, and citizens – have seen their institutions targeted with deeper budget cuts, greater inequities in the system, harsher penalties for “underperforming” on arbitrary standards, and deadlier gun violence. Is it any wonder that these constituents are now standing up to say they’ve had enough?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Trump's Border Wall is Stupid and Dangerous

antiracismdsa: Trump's Border Wall is Stupid and Dangerous: The  W all (or  F ence) Yes, the U.S. can build a wall or fencing on the U.S. side of the border, except for that portion of the b...

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Kevin de Leon + Jeff Sessions

Hunting Russian Trolls, a field guide

How do you identify a Russian troll? It is simple, really. Scott Shane caught one by just noticing that the activist’s English was a little odd. It is a form of simple linguistic analysis, and it works. You may not know, but linguistic analysis was critical in catching the Unabomber. But you don’t have to be a linguist to catch a troll, because they are not as smart as Ted Kaczynski.

No matter how proficient one gets with a second language, the first language always “seeps in.” Unless you were lucky to grow up fully bilingual, the native language’s syntax and idioms will inevitably show up in your second language writing. The troll factory in Saint Petersburg is a massive operation, and they simply cannot afford to hire truly fluent people, or even reasonably smart people. Shane also shows that Americans who bought into Russian trolling efforts are, well, less than brilliant. So the troll infection is a case of the dumb leading the dumber.

Here is a few tips on how to spot a native Russian speaker who is trying to pass for an American:

  1. Because our language does not have articles, their use does not come naturally to us. My friend once told me, “You do not even hear articles.” That is true, Russian speakers tend to filter them out as noise, and that is why we are slow to learn article usage as adults. Besides, English has a whole class of article use that is purely conventional, especially in geographic names (The Hague, but simply Paris, for example). There is a whole slew of exceptions (you go to school, but go to the hospital) that simply needs to be memorized. Either missing or overused articles will point to the Russian origin of the author.
  2. The written form of Russian tends to have longer, more convoluted sentence structure, with dependent clauses placed at strange places. Russians are more likely to use awkward passive constructions. They may be grammatically correct, but not common. A Russian sentence has a free word order, and we tend to recreate this kind of variety of sentence structure in English. It often looks unnecessary complex. 
  3. Watch for weird idioms. If they do not quite make sense, they have probably been borrowed from another language. 
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