petras and finkelstein debate american support for israel

there's a great discussion over here regarding the causes of american "support for israel". no raving zionist loons, just two leftist intellectuals having a serious conversation. if one had to characterize the sides, petras takes the position that the influence of the israeli lobby is decisive, while finkelstein maintains that coincidence of american and israeli elite interests is more significant. hagit borer, kickass linguist and member of KPFA's SWANA collective, attempts to moderate.


americans murder 19-year-old girl on dialysis

the U.S. embargo on the palestinians, combined with existing palestinian poverty attributable in significant part to american foreign policy, caused the death of 19-year-old olfat, a girl with a kidney disorder. the embargo has kept the necessary dialysis supplies out of palestinian hospitals for the last year, and when olfat's dextrose concentration started running out in february, her parents started diluting the remaining concentration to make it last longer. the diluted solution was insufficient, and she died shortly afterwards as a result.

the embargo was placed on palestinians last year after the U.S. and israel forced them, at gunpoint, to cut short the democratic mandate of the ruling fatah party and hold new elections. the palestinians elected hamas, a party militantly committed to ending israel's brutal and illegal occupation of palestine, which had occasionally reponded to israeli terrorism in kind. analysts attribute hamas's election in significant part to the widespread perception that fatah, had been bought off by the U.S. and israel, and had become ineffective at opposing israel's crimes against humanity.

the illegal occupation of palestine, carried on since 1967 for the purpose of preventing palestinian independence, has greatly impoverished palestinians, as israel, the occupying power, has plundered palestinian resources and has severely restricted economic activity, along with restricting the rights of palestinians more generally. israel has been censured repeatedly by the united nations for its crimes against humanity, as well as by civil society organizations such as human rights groups, unions and churches. however, israel has the full support of the republicans and democrats, and there is no hope that economically robust israel will be embargoed for its enormous crimes the way the destitute palestinians have been sanctioned for electing the political party of their preference.

israelis bear much of the responsibility for olfat's death. it is a supporter of the murderous embargo on medicine. the village of qira, where olfat is from, is forced to drink stagnant water provided by the israeli occupiers (palestinian fresh water is stolen by the israelis). this is probably the reason for the disproportionately high rate of kidney disease in the village. the nearest hospital could not be reached in time because israeli soldiers blocked access.

but americans bear responsibility as well. we keep electing republicans and democrats, both of which support the foreign policy goal of imperialism, and employ the means of terrorism to reach that end. in particular, both parties support israel's occupation of palestine and its attendant criminal brutality. besides offering moral support, americans give billions of dollars every year to israel, without which its crimes would be much more difficult, maybe impossible, to commit. it also exercises its veto to block peace agreements in the united nations security council, without which israel would have to allow palestinian independence.


review of tom roeper, "the prism of grammar"

tom roeper's "the prism of grammar", about child language acquisition and the insights into the nature of children and humans more generally that it reveals, has recently been published to rave blurbs by the likes of noam chomsky, steven pinker and marc hauser. i only received it a few days ago, and haven't had time to read it. so this is not really a review - i'm only blogging so i can brag that my research is cited in it several times. just go to the index and look up goat, disgruntled, and there i am.

or did he use my real name? i don't remember.


exceptions to non-universals?

thinking about my possible note has got me thinking about the semantics of exceptives. sentences like the following are bothering me:
most of the boys helped out with the chores, except the pre-schoolers
it troubles me because there's an exceptive phrase without an obvious semantic universal to support it. it's generally, and very sensibly, assumed that only contexts of semantic universality admit of exceptives. semantic universality can be expressed through overt quantificational words like every, all, each, and always. the following sentences illustrate.
every boy/all the boys/each boy did his chores, except alvin
alvin always did his chores, except once when he was sick
it can also be expressed in adjectives and adverbs of totality/completion.
the weasel was completely submerged, except for its head.
it also appears with modals that have universal force, like should:
alvin should work hard, except on the sabbath
and in generic sentences, which can be analyzed as universal (or so i claim):
alvin works hard, except on the sabbath
alvin hates potatoes, except blue potatoes
other cases are not straightforwardly universal but are amenable to analysis as universals. for example, negatives sentences are normally analyzed as negated existentials. but as everybody knows, "not some" is logically equivalent to "all not". it is therefore not surprising that negatives admit of exceptives.
nobody likes alvin, except alvin
i don't eat pork, except on passover
larry horn has a paper on exceptives with any, in which (if memory serves) he shows that not only negative polarity any, but also free choice any supports exceptives. negative polarity any is not a surprise, because it's normally taken to be a negative, hence should support exceptives like all good negatives do. but free choice any has properties of an existential, which should by no means tolerate exceptives.
few people saw anyone except alvin
anyone except alvin can see the logic of that!
i don't remember how horn deals with the free choice items, but having read a bit of his work, i'd be shocked if it didn't involve using scalar pragmatics to show that free choice any is in fact a universal in some sense.

now we come to the sentence that is puzzling me.
most of the boys helped out with the chores, except the pre-schoolers
there is no explicit universal in the sentence; nor is there there any discernible negative, generic, or free choice item. nor does there seem to be any discernible universal meaning. the best i can do is offer the following universal paraphrase:
[given a partition B of the set of boys, of which one element is the set of pre-schoolers P,] in every element X of B, except P, most elements of X helped out with the chores.
i bracketed off the first part of the sentence, which might be treated as a presupposition. this paraphrase seems to give the correct truth condition for the puzzle sentence. notice that this requires that it is not the case that most pre-schoolers helped out with the chores, which seems to be the correct meaning.

i like this fix, but it's got problems. two kinds of problems that i can see.

1. it calls for a reanalysis of an apparently not universal sentence for no apparent reason, and with no independent motivation that i'm aware of.

2. it works for most, but not for plenty of other options. the following all seem like bad sentences to me, yet all of them could in principle be reanalyzed as universals just like the sentence with most.
three quarters of the boys helped out with the chores, except the pre-schoolers
some of the boys helped out with the chores, except the pre-schoolers
three of the boys helped out with the chores, except the pre-schoolers
these ought to be good sentences, and paraphrasable as follows:
[given a partition B of the set of boys, of which one element is the set of pre-schoolers P,] in every element X of B, except P, three quarters/some/three of the elements of X helped out with the chores.
as marvin gaye would say, let's get it on. i mean, what's going on?!


disgruntled goat has a paper due at 9:10 am...

... and it's nowhere near done. must be time for a song parody.

this one is of "everybody knows", one of my favorite leonard cohen songs, and one of my favorite rhyme schemes.

everybody knows not to mess with magic
everybody knows not to anger god
everybody heeds the cautionary examples
of bathsheba and the wife of lot
everybody knows not to strike the boulder
everybody touches their head and their shoulders
and their knees and their toes
everybody knows

in praise of case western

the new US news rankings are out, and case law school is down a couple of spots to 53, still tied with (ugh) baylor, but now behind cardozo, which has still not sent me a decision (i'm *this* close to giving up on you, cardozo!).

if you're one of those neurosis-plagued cro-magnons like the folks who hang out at XOXO, this will make you less inclined to go to case. but i always encourage people who can stomach living in cleveland to come here. it's a good school and it's getting better.

now, i'm not big at all on school loyalty. for example, i'm a umass amherst alum who owns the domain name umass-sucks.com, and plans to use it. i've referred in public to various umass executives as con artists, thugs, liars, hypocrites, racists, classists, troglodytes, ogres, and neanderthals, and i continue to stand by all of those characterizations. i've drawn not necessarily favorable comparisons between vice chancellors and adolf eichmann, and exposed their intellectual shortcomings by shining a spotlight on their dreadfully-written doctoral dissertations.

but case is not umass, and i've been pleasantly surprised since i got here. the administration is so decent that the biggest controversies this year have been over whether paying for the use of printing paper and rented laptops for exams should be on an individual basis or spread out and charged as part of tuition.

and positive changes are coming. dean simson has been putting together a new center for social justice, details of which are still trickling out. this goes a good way towards alleviating one of my two main concerns about case, the lack of a social justice focus. the center kicks off in the fall.

the teachers are mostly good, the staff is good, the resources are good, the building is decent (it's no stata center, but at least it's not the lewis building). the school has an excellent reputation in the region. the cleveland legal community is bigger and better than you might expect. and the living is cheap.

palestinian woman invents "checkpoint socks"

ripped this off kabobfest.

a palestinian woman has invented socks that make apartheid a little less uncomfortable.