Esperanto Rekomendo kaj Nekredeco

[en] Translation of this post into Esperanto.

(Tradukita el ĉi tiu angla afiŝo.)

La “Lessig Blog” (jes, la sama unu mi malbondiris pli frue, kaj ankaŭ de la sama aŭtoro) poŝtigis iu interesajn informojn pri Esperanto, kaj per mia instigado. (Ĉu vi scias ke alta oficialulo de la usona oficejo “FCC” parolas Esperanton?) La komentario interesiĝis, sed ŝajnas ke mia respondo ne plaĉas al la komputila kodo, do mi devigis forlasi tiun diskutaĵon.

La plej interesa komento fariĝis je S-ro. Mortazavi, kiu aperas havi interesan retlogon ĉi tie. Li ankaŭ reskribis sian komenton en sia retlogo.

Li havas multajn bonajn temojn pri diverseco kaj multa-kulturismo, sed malatingas:

Do, okazoj por diverseco estas multa pli bona kaj pli rekompencanta ol la okazoj por inventita, unuforma tutmonda lingvo, kiu ofte ne havas vivanta kulturo, riĉa literatura historio kaj tradicio. (Je la “vivanta kulturo” de lingvo, mi signifas la kulturo de socioj kiuj plejparte parolas tiun lingvon.)

Kiu estas cirkla. Nur naciaj lingvoj povas havi kulturo; tiel, oni ne kulturiĝas sen lerni naciajn lingvojn. Mi kredas ke Esperanto havas veran seriozan kulturon, kiu ŝajnas al mi malpruvi la tutan aferon.

Sed antaŭ io plu okazas. Ĉu oni povas lerni pri aliaj kulturoj per traduko? Sr-o Mortazavi ne ŝajnas pensi tiel. Mi cedas ke nenio estas tiel lerni la indiĝenan lingvon por profunde partopreni en kulturo. Sed oni nur povas profunde partoprenas en kelkaj kulturoj ĉi tiel, dum tute de la kulturoj de la mondo estas havebla al la Esperantisto. Ĉu profundeco estas pli bona ol larĝo? Mi ne pensas tiel.

Kaj profundeco havas malavantaĝon. Kiu elektos fosi en la profundecon de, ekzemple, la kulturo kaj historio de Katalunujo? La katalunoj povas diri al vi: tre malmultaj, tial estas kial ilia kulturo foramasiĝas per la “grava” hispania lingvo kaj kulturo. Nun, mi ne supozas diri ĉu Esperanto mem haltus la tendenco, sed certe helpus se katalunoj decidus uzi neŭtrala lingvo kiam trakti pri la eŭropa burokrataro anstataŭ deviĝas uzi hispana por fari tiu. Certe, reduktanta la premon sur tia malplimultaj lingvoj plibonigas diversecon, ĉu ne?

Certe mi ne povas paroli tutajn mondajn lingvojn, aŭ tutajn “gravajn” mondajn lingvojn, sed mi povas ligi kun pli multaj homoj ĉar mi povas paroli, legi, kaj skribi en pli sa unu lingvo.

Simile, povanta ligi kun pli multaj kulturoj je partopreni facil-lernadan alilandan lingvon parolitan je iu homoj ĉie faras onin pli diversaj, ĉu ne?

Mi dubas iu ajn kiu provis nek lerni nek legi nek skribi ĉine kaj ne lernis aŭ vivis ĝin tradukus (ne laŭvorte, sed figure parolanta) tiun vivanton, tiun historion, tiun tradicion tute en iun alian lingvon, ĉu esperanto aŭ anglalingvo.

Mi ne povas analizi gramatike tiun. Ĉe nominala valoro, li ŝajnas zorgi pri la fakto ke neĉinparoluloj plej certe estas malbona ĉe dissendado ĉina kulturo en alilandan lingvon. Mi konsentas ke indiĝena ĉinuloj certe faras pli bone, kvankam mi ne vidas la problemon. Do, mi kredas ke mi maltrafis lian punkton.

Almenaû, estas interesa ke li elektis la ĉina lingvo ekzemplo de kulturo nealirebla al Esperanto. Ĉinio havas unu de la plej daŭra gazetoj ie ajn. Ili lastatempe finis gastigi ilian duan Universalan Kongreson de Esperanto. Ili dissendas hodiaŭe en esperanto. Do, se lia punkto estas ke Ĉinio ne povus dissendi signifa kvanto de sia kulturo kaj mesaĝo en esperanto, ŝajnus ke la ĉinujoj mem ne konsentas.

Nekredeco esperanta certe ne estas malvalida, sed estus bona vidi iom informita nekredeco por ŝanĝo, nekredeco kiu aŭskultas al la punktoj tiu esperantistoj faras kaj atingas respondi al ili. Rigardanda al tiu kaj tiu estus bona komenco.

Dividing Texas

From InstaPundit, we find this article in OpinionJournal (an online publication from the Wall Street Journal) by two law students. In it, they propose increasing Republican dominance in the Senate by splitting Texas into four states:

Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution says that new states may be created out of existing ones, but only with the consent of “the States concerned as well as of the Congress.”

These days, a partisan Congress would never agree to a Texas carve-up, since any resulting new states would surely be politically conservative. But Congress need not take any action at all today: It granted its consent to Texas’s potential subdivision 159 years ago.

It’s as well that their proposal is a bit tongue-in-cheek, because the good law students have their history wrong. The authorization Congress granted was acted on at the time.

The borders of the Republic of Texas, as annexed by the United States and as fought over in the Mexican War, were greater than the current border of the current state of Texas. This map shows how the territory claimed by the Republic was eventually divided: one full state of Texas, plus portions of Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.

Astute readers will note that this makes for a total of six states, not four, and that the territory of Texas ended up yielding only one full state. Does this mean that the old Congressional authorization is still valid? I doubt it; the explicit reference to “territory” is good evidence that the authorization only extended to the creation of new states, not the subdivision of existing ones. Plus, while “portion” is still accurate when talking about New Mexico, it’s clear that we’re talking a Texas-sized portion when compared to the state in its final form.

Of course, all of this is in fun; I don’t expect even Texas Republicans will take this seriously. But even in fun, historical accuracy is important, especially when writing for such a high-profile publication as the Wall Street Journal.

Esperanto Boosting, and Skepticism

[eo] Kial Esperanto ne havas kulturon. Tradukita Esperante ĉi tie.

The Lessig Blog (yes, the same one I slammed on earlier, and by the same guy too) posted some interesting information about Esperanto, at my prompting no less. (Did you know that a high official at the FCC speaks Esperanto?) The comment discussion got a bit interesting, but it seems Lessig’s blog software didn’t like one of my responses, so I’ve been forced to abandon that discussion.

The most interesting comment was by M. Mortazavi, who appears to have an interesting blog here. He echoed his comment on his blog as well.

He has a lot of good points on diversity and multiculturalism, but falls short:

So, opportunities for diversity are much better and more rewarding than the opportunities for an invented, uniform global language, which will often lack a living culture, rich literary history and tradition. (By the “living culture” of a language, I mean the culture of communities that primarily speak that language.)

Which is circular. Only national languages can have culture; thus, you can’t become more cultured without learning national languages. I’d say that Esperanto has a pretty serious culture going on, which seems to me to disprove the whole thing.

But there’s something else going on, too. Can one learn about other cultures through translation? Mr. Mortazavi doesn’t seem to think so. I’ll grant him that there’s nothing like learning the native language for getting deeply involved in a culture. But, then again, one can only get deeply involved in a few cultures in this way, while all the world’s cultures are available to the Esperantist. Is depth really superior to breadth? I don’t think so.

And depth has a drawback. Who will elect to delve into the depths of, say, the culture and history of Catalan? The Catalanese can tell you the answer: very few, which is why their culture is slowly being crowded out by the “important” Spanish language and culture. Now, I won’t presume to say whether Esperanto would stem the tide by itself, but it certainly could help if Catalanese could choose to use a neutral language in their dealings with the European bureaucracy instead of being forced to use Spanish to do so. Certainly, easing the pressure on such minority languages improves diversity, does it not?

I certainly cannot speak all world languages, or all “important” world languages but I can connect with more people because I can speak, read and write in more than one language.

By extension, being able to connect with more diverse cultures by virtue of sharing an easy-to-learn foreign language spoken by some people everywhere makes one more diverse, right?

I doubt anyone who’s neither tried to learn nor read nor written Chinese and has not learned or lived it could translate (not literally, but figuratively speaking) that living, that history, that tradition in full into some other language, whether Esperanto or English.

I can’t parse this. At face value, he seems to be concerned about the fact that non-Chinese speakers are most likely poor at transmitting Chinese culture into a foreign language. I agree that native Chinese would likely do better, though I don’t see the problem. So I expect I’ve missed his point.

At any rate, it’s interesting that he would pick Chinese as an example of a culture impermeable to Esperanto. China has one of the longest-running Esperanto periodicals around. They just got done hosting their second World Esperanto Congress. They broadcast in Esperanto daily. So, if his point is that China could not possibly transmit any significant amount of its culture and message in Esperanto, it would appear that the Chinese themselves do not agree.

Esperanto skepticism is certainly not invalid, but it would be nice to see some informed skepticism for a change, skepticism that listens to the points Esperantists make and seeks to address them. Looking at this and this would be a good start.

Kontraŭ Esperanto (Against Esperanto)

(English version follows.)

Kiam mi interesiĝis en Esperanto, mi serĉis en la reto por opinioj kontraŭ ĝi. Mi volas scii ke mi ne malŝparis penon kiam lerni ĝin. Neniu de tiuj opinioj ŝanĝis mian opinion. (Evidente!)

Hodiaû, mi vidis unu de tiuj paĝoj en Vikipedio, la “Ranto” de Justin Rye (anglalingvo). La ideo de praktiki mian Esperant-lingvon per kritiki tiun paĝon plaĉas al mi, kaj mi bezonas praktiki.

Lia tendenco estas la plej granda problemo:

It looks like some sort of wind-up-toy Czech/Italian pidgin.
(Ĝi ŝajnas kiel ia volv-ludila ĉeĥ-itala piĝino.)

This crazed inventory [of phonemes] is a splendid demonstration of Dr Z’s linguistic incompetence…
(Ĉi tiu freneziĝita inventaro [de fonemoj] estas grandioza manifestacio de la lingveca nekompetenteco de Dr-o Z…)

Same, iom da lingvoj ne plaĉas al li:

The distinctively Central/East European dependence on guttural consonants, closed diphthongs and strings of affricates is generally acknowledged as unappealing – and no, this isn’t a matter of subjective opinion, it’s a matter of statistical databases.
(La aparte centra/orienta eŭropa dependo de guturalaj konsonatoj, fermitaj diftongoj, kaj kordoj de afrikatoj ĝenerale agnoskiĝas esti nesimpatia – kaj ne, tiu ne estas afero de subjektiva opinio, estas afero de statistikaj donitaĵaroj.)

Mi havas neniu ideo kiel listo de stereotipoj konvinkus min ke Esperanto estas malbela. Ĉu la slavoj ne rigardas siajn lingvojn belaj? Se jes, ĉu ili malpravas? Kiu rajtas diri?

Kiam oni ignoras ĉi tiuj, oni havas neniu krom iuj supozaj eraroj. Mi kredas ke multaj de liaj eraroj supozas ke latino estas la plej bela lingvo, aŭ havas aliajn stereotipojn, sed ne gravas. Se ni bezonas perfektecon en nia internacia lingvo, ni neniam havos ĝin. Iu ĉiam povas trovi erarojn, speciale se ni ne havas klarajn normojn. Komunikando, ne perfektecigando, estas la celo.

When I became interested in Esperanto, I searched on the Net for opinions against it. I wanted to know that I wasn’t wasting effort learning it. None of those opinions changed my opinion. (Evidently!)

Today, I saw one of those pages in Wikipedia, the “Ranto” of Justin Rye. The idea of practicing my Esperanto by critiquing that page intrigued me, and I do need to practice.

His bias is the biggest problem:

It looks like some sort of wind-up-toy Czech/Italian pidgin.

This crazed inventory [of phonemes] is a splendid demonstration of Dr Z’s linguistic incompetence…

Similarly, he doesn’t like some languages:

The distinctively Central/East European dependence on guttural consonants, closed diphthongs and strings of affricates is generally acknowledged as unappealing – and no, this isn’t a matter of subjective opinion, it’s a matter of statistical databases.

I have no idea how a list of prejudices would convince me that Esperanto is ugly. Do Slavic people not consider their languages beautiful? If so, are they wrong? Who is entitled to say?

When you ignore these, there’s nothing left but some alleged errors. I believe that many of his errors assume that Latin is the most beautiful language, or have other prejudices, but that’s not important. If we need perfection in our international language, we will never have it. Someone can always find mistakes, especially if we lack clear standards. Communication, not perfection, is the goal.

Why Blogs Don’t Need Editors

A while back, Orin Kerr from The Volokh Conspiracy posted a story about how the Census Bureau provided the Department of Homeland Security with profiling information on Arabs. The New York Times and Reuters implied that this was a disturbing privacy intrusion, without mentioning that the data is publicly available, and that anyone can perform such queries themselves if they wish.

It turns out that this information was in the original article, but was removed by an overly aggressive copyeditor, who apparently considered this fact to be unimportant to readers of the Times.

There’s an idea out there that blogs really need editors to do serious journalism, for, among other reasons, fact-checking and accuracy. Those who would rely on blogs for “serious” news are prone to being misled, according to some:

How can we know which blogs are accurate, [and] which are not? Should we depend on a blog of blogs to steer us in the right direction.

Judge for yourselves who was steered in the wrong direction, and who did the steering.

Esperanto: Huh? (Esperanto: Ĉu?)

You may have heard of Esperanto, either from me, or perhaps from other places. For those who haven’t: Esperanto is a language designed to be easy to learn and useful as a second language for communicating around the world. Here is a good introduction to the language, and here is an index to a lot more English-language information.

Esperanto has been my folly for quite a while. I’m intrigued by the idea of a simple language, useful for accessing cultures around the world. It’s true that many of the world’s works have made it to English translation; it’s also true that English is difficult to learn as a non-native language, and thus the barriers to entry for many “lesser” works are less when translating to Esperanto than English. Plus, because of the aforementioned difficulty with learning English, it’s a lot easier to converse in real time and actually be understood in Esperanto.

In my effort to learn the language, I intend to post in it every so often. Most of these posts will be in the Esperanto category, or accompanied with English translations, like this one. Feel free to skip the funny-looking stuff if you’re not interested, or check out some of the online resources for learning Esperanto if the idea of holding conversations with Frenchmen, Japanese, Iranians, and Brazilians at the same time interests you.

And if you’re an old hand, feel free to follow up in Esperanto, or correct my usage, which is likely still poor.

(Ĉi tio estas defendo de Esperanto, kaj tial nenio dirita necesitas traduki esperante. Ĉar mi estas nova Esperantiso, mi penos traduki ĝin en Esperanto. Korektu min, mi petas, se vi vidas erarojn.)

Vi povus informiĝi je Esperanto, aŭ de mi, aŭ eble de iu. Por la ne informitoj: Esperanto estas lingvo desegnita por esti lernita facile kaj utila kiel dua lingvo, por komunikiĝi tra la mondo. Jen bona prezento al la lingvo, kaj jen indekso al multe pli da informoj anglaj.

Esperanto estis mia stulteco por longa tempo. Mi interesas en la ideo de simpla lingvo, utila por aliri kulturojn ĉirkaŭ la mondo. Estas vere, ke multaj de la verkoj de la mondo atingis traduki angle; ankaŭ estas vere, ke la angla lingvo estas malfacila lerni kiel dua lingvo, kaj ĉar la obstakloj eniraj estas malpli por multaj “malpli bonaj” verkoj kiam oni tradukas esperante anstataŭ angle. Krome, ĉar la antaŭmenca malfacilo kun lerni angle, estas pli facile paroli kaj vere kompreniĝi esperante.

En mia peno lerni Esperanton, mi intendas enskribi en ĝi iam. Plej da ĉi tioj skribantoj estos en la kategorio “Esperanto”, aŭ havos tradukon angle, kiel ĉi tio estas. Ignoru la strangajn vortojn, se vi ne interesigas, aŭ envidu iom da rimedoj interretajn por lerni Esperanto se la ideo de paroli kun francoj, japanoj, irananoj, kaj brazilianoj samtempe interesas vin.

Kaj se vi estas spertulo, respondu esperante, aŭ korektu mian uzadon, kio verŝajne estas malbona.

NOVA: Mi korektis la poŝto en Esperanto laŭ la komentoj malsupraj. Dankon al ĉiuj. Mi daŭre korektos ĝin sen rimarko, do la esperanta parto signifas pli precize kiel la angla parto signifas.

In Defense of Willful Blindness

Background: Michelle Malkin has written a book about the forced removal and internment of people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast during the Second World War. In the book, she questions the conventional wisdom, saying that the internment was at least partly justified. Several people are not amused with this, the most notable being Eric Muller, who posted a series of critiques while guest-blogging at The Volokh Conspiracy (start here and scroll up for all ten parts). Malkin has responded, and Muller has continuted the discussion on his own blog. I’m sure the debate isn’t over as of this writing, so there may be more.

First of all, if you’re a history buff, or if you think about how to deal with radical Islamists in this country, you really should read the whole thing, including Malkin’s posted motivations for writing the book. I knew very little about the incident before this debate started, and I am getting a first-class education into the details by following the points being debated. I have to say that I’m not convinced that Malkin is right, or that the standard view of the Japanese internment is wrong, at least not yet. But before today, I certainly wasn’t letting this incident affect my views on current events, such as the question of tolerance for Muslim minorities here.

What was really disappointing, though, was this reaction from Larry Lessig. While I disagree with Professor Lessig on many things, I also agree on many others, and have come to respect his scholarship especially on issues of copyright law and freedom online. I had come to expect better from him.

Now, this isn’t because of his conclusions. Indeed, Eric Muller (and Greg Robinson, who has been assisting Muller behind the scenes) come to the same conclusions as Lessig does. But while Lessig simply scolds, Muller and Robinson rebut. The latter pair is not opposed in principle to the concept of challenging the received wisdom; they just disagree that Malkin has done an effective job. They provide plenty of meat for Malkin and others to sink their teeth into:

Malkin does not respond to my criticism of her case for the military necessity of mass evacuation, which relies on the shelling of Goleta by a Japanese submarine on February 23, 1942. Since this was 12 days after mass evacuation was approved by President Roosevelt and four days after Executive Order 9066, it cannot have impacted the decision. Instead, Malkin repeats her claims on pp. 90-92 of her book, namely that “the Goleta shelling and the famous “Battle of Los Angeles” air raid scare a few days later precipitated the forced evacuation of Terminal Island in Los Angeles harbor, which, by the way, had been singled out in MAGIC messages as a hotbed of Japanese espionage activity.”

(Robinson, quoted here by Muller)

Contrast the richness of this rebuttal with Lessig’s feeble conformism:

But there is more than historical accuracy or the career of a silly journalist at stake. The role of the Constitution in wartime is defined by a consensus that Korematsu was wrongly decided. Thankfully, that consensus is unlikely endangered by this soon-to-be-forgotten leaflet. If you want to be radical, you have to actually be good.

This in a post with no links to Malkin and no discussion as to why this consensus is so vitally important that it must not be questioned. Instead, such questioning is merely evil; better to live in unexamined error than to jeapordize our beloved dogma.

Of course, received wisdom isn’t always good. Consider this hypothetical quote from Jack Valenti:

But there is more than studio profits or the career of a silly professor at stake. The role of copyright in modern society is defined by a consensus that Eldred was rightly decided. Thankfully, that consensus is unlikely endangered by this soon-to-be-forgotten leaflet. If you want to be radical, you have to actually be good.

(Lessig fans will recognize Eldred as the case he argued before the Supreme Court against allowing the indefinite extension of copyright.)

This is why we should not be afraid to question received wisdom, and why Lessig’s arrogance beats Malkin’s irreverence as the far greater sin. My fond hope: that this is an aberration in an intellectual life I have otherwise found compelling, and even world-shaking.

UPDATE: It appears that Tim Wu, not Larry Lessig, posted the story on Lessig’s blog. My apologies to the good Professor.

Online Media Registration

Slashdot highlights the ongoing problems with online registration for “old media” sites, such as the New York Times. They mention a Wired article on the subject (see also this article by the same author), which led me to this blog entry.

The basic idea is that people are avoiding registration sites, or using tools like BugMeNot to fake out the registration systems, both for privacy concerns and because people find it impossible to keep track of all the accounts. It’s certainly true for me, what with the three or four browsers I switch between, the three-plus systems I find myself on, and my annoying habit of busting my browser configuration on a regular basis. Why go through all this effort to read an occasional story linked from an interesting blog, especially when the blog will usually give me a helpful summary and thought-provoking commentary on its own?

In this article, Clay Shirky talks about classified ads, among other things. Classified ads are very local, but they can also benefit from efficiencies that come from centralization. On the Net, it’s easy to do both. The result: classified ads are starting to centralize, and local classified sections are likely to suffer.

News is the same way. All news is local, at least in the sense that it happens in one place. Yet it also benefits from centralization, for its own reasons. We want to pay attention to news in our own locality, and we also want someone to look at all the other localities and highlight the stuff most important to us.

In times past, you had to be a big company to do that, because you needed a broadcast license, or you had to pay for paper. Big Media still acts that way. In a sense, they have to, because it’s very difficult to scale down a big organization. So, they feel they have to extract value from their readers through things like registration and intrusive ads and so on, and they feel that the news is still somehow their domain, as if they create the news in some way that your neighbor whose aunt was in New York on September 11 doesn’t.

But if all news is local, why can’t we rely on local people to cover the stories? And if we don’t need big expensive broadcast licenses or bales of paper to act as aggregators and filters anymore, why do we need news organization cruft?

And it’s now, when people like me are thinking that we don’t need news organizations as much anymore, that these same news organizations are looking for new ways to exclude us. Why, I can’t gather. Will they be happiest when no one reads them anymore, because they can get the same thing better from people like InstaPundit? Somehow, I doubt it.