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Vote Obama 

I cast my absentee ballot in Illinois, which generally means there isn’t much suspense about what might vote could do. But in addition to voting for Kerry/Edwards this year, I couldn’t be happier than casting a vote for Barack Obama.

His life story is inspiring, he seems to be in the right place on just about every policy I can think of, and he has bags of charisma. Certainly the coming thing in Democratic politics.

And, as his weblog says, he has the honour of giving a keynote at the Democratic National Convention.

Imagining the future of the college 

Timothy Burke has a lengthy, fascinating plan for a 21st Century College. I’d have enjoyed four years of the kind of education he describes. Highly recommended to anyone interested in higher education. Via Crooked Timber.

The unprepared military 

It’s been amply reported that the US military is short of Arabic speakers, but Mark Liberman notes that the problem is deeper than that.

From Language Log: “I’ve heard that DLI [Defense Language Institute] used to teach a number of modern Arabic languages (often called ‘colloquials’ or ‘dialects’), but stopped some time ago because the military’s personnel system couldn’t deal with the distinctions. As far as the personnel system was concerned, Arabic is Arabic; but sending someone trained in Moroccan Arabic to (say) Kuwait is like sending a Portuguese speaker to Romania.So DLI decided to stick with MSA [Modern Standard Arabic], which is the language of formal discourse throughout the Arab world, though it’s no one’s native language. I don’t know whether this is the reason, but it’s certainly true right now that DLI teaches MSA rather than the local languages.”

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