The SkywalkerSwartz Blog

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Another Reason Why Old Star Wars Better Than New Is

Geoff Pullum analyzes Yoda's syntax in a fun Language Log post, noting how Yoda tends to do two separate things: First, pull various phrases to the front of their clauses (in "XSV ordering"), as in "When nine hundred years you reach, look as good you will not." Second, "Yoda also extracts verb phrases that are catenative complements of auxiliary verbs, so those auxiliary verbs are left stranded at the end of the sentence" as in "Begun, the Clone Wars has." The second kind of Yoda-speak seems artificially backward to me, almost a caricature of the first, more natural "backwardness."

The interesting thing is that almost all of the examples of more normal/natural (in the sense of being like human natural languages) patterns come from episodes IV through VI, while the second kind of backwards-ness almost all comes from I through III. In other words, George Lucas seems to have made Yoda's speech even more unusual in the "prequels," thus making his once-sage pronouncements seem comical.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Open TSP to All Americans

I recently emailed Senator Feinstein--always a fun part of democracy, even though her website pretty much admits that at one's opinion is merely "tallied"--about Social Security. Here's the substance of the letter:

Like many Americans, I am concerned about the long-term viability of Social Security. However, like many Americans, I recognize that the Presidentís plan to divert money into private accounts will only exacerbate the problem.

However, there is a simple way to allow citizens to establish their own accounts without undermining Social Security: Open the Thrift Savings Program to all Americans.

As a member of the military, I enjoy TSP's easy, low-cost, straightforward way of saving for retirement, just as many government employees enjoy the program. If it's good enough for the military and government, why not let all Americans contribute some of their income to TSP?

Now, this isn't a new idea--indeed, even the conservative Heritage Fund supports a similar measure called KidSave...but I think it's a good way of framing the debate. I'm not opposed to private accounts, just as I'm not opposed to the President's portraying Social Security as being in "crisis" (because it is at least a looming crisis): I'm merely opposed to making the problem worse by siphoning off Social Security money into those accounts.

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