Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chomsky on US/China relations

It's just an aside, really, in his article, 'Who owns the world?' at TomDispatch, but it is so very right, and beautifully sarcastic.
There is also much concern about the growing Chinese military threat. A recent Pentagon study warned that China's military budget is approaching "one-fifth of what the Pentagon spent to operate and carry out the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," a fraction of the U.S. military budget, of course. China's expansion of military forces might "deny the ability of American warships to operate in international waters off its coast," the New York Times added.

Off the coast of China, that is; it has yet to be proposed that the U.S. should eliminate military forces that deny the Caribbean to Chinese warships. China's lack of understanding of rules of international civility is illustrated further by its objections to plans for the advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington to join naval exercises a few miles off China's coast, with alleged capacity to strike Beijing.

In contrast, the West understands that such U.S. operations are all undertaken to defend stability and its own security. The liberal New Republic expresses its concern that "China sent ten warships through international waters just off the Japanese island of Okinawa." That is indeed a provocation -- unlike the fact, unmentioned, that Washington has converted the island into a major military base in defiance of vehement protests by the people of Okinawa. That is not a provocation, on the standard principle that we own the world.

Addendum: Also on today's reading list, Lewis Shiner's Black and White, in which I find this:
“Who owns the world?” Robert’s father asked suddenly.

Robert looked at him in confusion.“I don’t know what you’re asking. The rich and powerful, I suppose?”

Robert’s father nodded.“I suppose. I would like to think that we all own it, in common.
– from p. 140 of the pdf version.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

New tense discovered by The China Post!

Drum roll... the singular tense!

In an editorial (criticising an open letter by eminent academics commenting on dirty tricks ahead of next year's presidential elections in Taiwan) they write:
that primary was described [in the letter] as “the primaries for next year's presidential elections,” which they should have written as presidential election, in the singular tense.

I'm a linguist and used to confusions between tense and aspect, but this is new to me.

What's even better (delicious schadenfreude...) they made the mistake in a failed attempt to score petty grammar points over political opponents*. As far as I can see, 'presidential elections' is absolutely fine: certainly there are plenty of examples of its use online by native speakers, e.g. here.

For the (shabby) political background to the editorial, see here and here and here (reverse chronological order).

There's incompetence, and then there's the kind of incompetence required to:

a) think ad hominem comments on grammar bolster a political argument
b) pick on a perfectly correct use of English and call it a mistake
c) not think twice about b) given the letter is signed by a who's who of Taiwanologists -- professors, emeritus professors etc -- at least one of whom surely would have noticed an error, you might think
d) invent the singular tense
and, I suppose,
e) rush it all into print

* Actually not opponents, but concerned academic friends of Taiwan, at least some of whom are supporters, like the China Post, of the current 'Nationalist' government in Taiwan. But the China Post takes a narrow --one might say Leninist -- view: criticise anything done by the Nationalist party and you're an enemy.