A wee bit mair fonetiks

I’m enjoying my phonetics class.  This is an easy week for me; my students are giving reports.  Today we heard about Korean, Kiswahili, German, and Hindi.  Megan introduced us to an online tutorial from the University of Iowa.  It includes a graphic display of the organs of speech in action, plus audio and video of a real speaker.  You can see examples in Spanish, German, or American English (here)

My new found blogging friend Berkeleyscot also posted a comment in Doric Scots today on her site (here):

Far aboot’s the Mannie Bush and his wee chum, Cheney?

They’re nithin bit big Jessies. The Country an the world is a geen tae Hell, an they’re doon in their bunker.

Fit we need is a BANKER ye twits – nae a BUNKER.

It would be nice if she could include an audio link so we could hear her.

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Still Learning to Speak

I’m teaching phonetics this semester, which is a new experience.  I have had some linguistics study in the past, and bits and pieces in the study of several ancient (and a few modern) languages–but I’ve never actually taken the course I’m teaching–so I’m learning from my students.  This week they are doing reports, so I’m sitting back and enjoying.  Yesterday we had two reports on French, one on Amharic, and one on Ojibwe.  The real name of the last-mentioned is Anishinaabemowin, but the white folks call it Ojibwe.  See if you recognize these words:

Mi sah (large) Zi be (river) = Miziziibi

Mi shah (great) Gah mi (sea) = Mishigami

Seka (urinating) unck (fox) = Sekunck

Taxman (Voodoo Economics -4)

No one likes paying taxes–even the Beatles had a song against the “Taxman.”

Yet, someone has to pay for the services government provides.  Voodoo economics has waged a war against taxes for nearly thirty years.  It is now considered unpatriotic to pay taxes.  Taxes are called a penalty for success.

The rich should pay more taxes because they have more money.

The rich also benefit more from the services government provides.  The largest recipient of tax money is the military.  The armed services protect us all, but oil companies, power plants, and large corporations have more assets to protect than I do, so they should pay more for the protection.

A curious thing has happened over the last twenty to thirty years.  States have turned to gambling–first lotteries, then dog and pony races, now casinos–as an alternative to taxes.  Conservative, pro-family religious leaders used to campaign against gambling, but they have focused their energies on other foes while the gambling lobby has slipped in the back door.

In Wyandotte County, where I grew up, there is an abandoned dog and horse track.  When lotteries failed to raise enough revenue the state legislature bet on race-track betting.  The track is now grown up with weeds.  After the failure of the state-sponsored horse raises, a NASCAR track was built, not to bring in gambling money but to attract those who are genuinely interested in the car races.  Around the track a shopping and restaurant district has sprung up and the economy has been revitalized.

Now plans have been announced to build a casino overlooking the race track.  I am afraid the casinos will bring crime and drive out the good restaurants and shops; but maybe not.  Whether gambling brings any general prosperity or not, we know it will bring bankruptcies, divorces, and suicides. So great is the aversion to raising taxes that our leaders are willing to pay that price.  I’m betting the casinos will turn out to be a losing proposition.

A Reader Comments on Unions

(My friend Alex sent this response via email.  By the way, it is now easier to post a comment.  Just click on Comments, give an email address and a first name.)

Mark, a good blog about unions: My grandfather worked for link belt as a millwright for 30 some years, and six months before retirement they fired him telling that they did not have to pay him a pension if they fired him.  It broke his heart and he died about two years later.

The Kennedys a few years later got some legislation passed to try and protect non union workers. I am union as you well know and would not have it any other way.  I do not trust any big business, as the wall street banking scandal can attest to.

But even my union can have its problems, as our last union president squandered away 600 million dollars of our pension fund before being kicked out. My pension is now only 75% of what it could have been…

Greed and lack or morals or just plain lack of morals is the problem that christians or people of faith can only solve. Enough for now.

Oh I do believe that Obama is our best choice, but we cannot always have everything we want in a candidate. The Palin lady is in no way presidential material and, as far as I am concerned, is not even a good parent.

Later Alex

Income Redistribution (Voodoo Economics -3)

In spite of the claim by advocates of Reaganomics that “the rising tide raises all ships,” the poor and middle class have seen their incomes fall during the recent economic boom.  Several policies of the “Reagan Revolution” have led to this kind of income redistribution from the poor to the rich.

The War on Unions:  Corporations are organized and the power structure is centralized; and in an economy with any substantial rate of unemployment, they have a tremendous power advantage.  Organizing and representation gave some power back to the workers.  During the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s union membership was strong enough to create a healthy middle class.  Even non-union workers benefited from the prevailing wage standards negotiated by the unions.

While many city and state governments during this period were rife with corruption, no one called for the abolition of government.  Yet anti-union forces used the fact of corruption in union leadership to discredit the concept of collective bargaining.

One of Ronald Reagan’s first acts as president was to destroy the air traffic controllers union.  Reagan had a legal and public opinion advantage in that the controllers were public employees and their strike was illegal.  Still, it was an impressive victory; people thought it couldn’t be done, because the air traffic controllers were a small corp of highly trained professionals, and the nation’s airline industry depended on their work.

The victory over this professional union emboldened private employers to break unions.  Frank Lorenzo took over Continental airlines and used the bankruptcy courts to cancel that airlines union contracts.  Now after more than thirty year of union-breaking activity, the percentage of employees in unions has fallen to 12 percent, down from 12.5 percent in 2005. Those figures are down from 20 percent in 1983 and from 35 percent in the 1950s.  (NY Times)

One union that remains strong, the teacher’s union (the NEA) is the constant target of attacks from conservatives, including candidate McCain.

Exporting Jobs. Under “free trade” agreements, factories have been closed and jobs have been shipped overseas.  According to Jim Webb of Virginia,

Because of a perverse part of our tax code, moving manufacturing plants overseas is actually a profitable exercise for companies that wish to avoid paying corporate taxes (Roanoke Times).

Much of this “free trade” is hardly free or fair.  Countries such as China are unencumbered by enforceable environmental or child labor laws.  We export jobs to China and they export smoke and smog to California.  Further, many other competing countries have national health care, in effect subsidizing one of the highest costs American manufacturers face.

The result is that the ratio of the pay CEOs receive to that of average workers has skyrocketed in comparison with our own past history and international standards.  In 2007 the compensation for top executives “averaged 344 times the average U.S. worker’s pay. Thirty years ago, the ratio was about 35 to 1″ (Kansas City Star, Thursday, Sep 25, 2008).

“According to The Wall Street Journal, in 2006, the CEO to average worker pay ratio was 11 to 1 in Japan, 15 to 1 in France, 20 to 1 in Canada, 21 to 1 in South Africa, and 22 to 1 in Britain” (Pepperdine).