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January 22, 2014

Tim Geithner Threatened S&P with "Accountability" After The Firm Downgraded America's Credit Rating

Huge news. But not at all unexpected.

The shocking no longer shocks.

The media will not sit idly by while Chris Christie gets away with this. Wait, what?

Gangster Government.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner angrily warned the chairman of Standard & Poor's parent that the rating agency would be held accountable for its 2011 decision to strip the United States of its coveted "triple-A" rating, a new court filing shows.

Harold McGraw, the chairman of McGraw-Hill Financial Inc , made the statement in a declaration filed by S&P on Monday, as it defends against the government's $5 billion fraud lawsuit over its rating practices prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

McGraw said he returned a call from Geithner on Aug. 8, 2011, three days after S&P cut the U.S. credit rating to "AA-plus," and that Geithner told him "you are accountable" for an alleged "huge error" in S&P's work.

"He said that 'you have done an enormous disservice to yourselves and to your country,'" and that S&P's conduct would be "looked at very carefully," McGraw said. "Such behavior could not occur, he said, without a response from the government."

Allah has the backstory, including the fact that S&P did include a $2 trillion error in its calculations as regard the debt and our credit-worthiness.

And what of it? People are allowed to make mistakes without "responses from the government." (S&P concedes the error but says the error does not impact their overall call on the nation's credit worthiness.)

Here's some open thread stuff.

Yesterday soothsayer brought up the Great Vowel Shift when we were talking about the evolution of the English language. So obviously that's what I spent all last night learning about.

The guy has other videos on the evolution of English. They are, if I remember the titles right, "IE to OE" (Indo-European to Old English), "Morphology of Old English," "Syntax of Old English," "Morphology of Middle English," "Syntax of Middle English," and then "Morphology of EMnE" and "Syntax of EMnE."

"EMnE" means "Early Modern English," by which they mean Shakespeare. "Middle English" means Chaucer, and Old English means Beowulf.

If you have any interest at all, I do recommend watching these videos. The first seven or so are 20 minutes long each. The last two -- on Early Modern English -- are shorter, around 13 minutes, because there's less to cover by the time we're up to Shakespeare.

grandma winger recommended The Story of English, which I haven't watched yet, but that'll be what I'm watching next.

I learned a bunch but here's what I take away from it. I'll put this below the fold. Because it's of marginal interest. Before that, though, here's a Hedgehog Eating a Dinosaur.

Okay so I was slamming Latin yesterday, due to the complexity of its many, many declensions of nouns by case and its equally many inflections of adjectives to agree with nouns. I was wondering how such a complicated system came to be. Especially because when Latin was "vulgarized" -- by mixing with other languages, to become the proto-Romance languages and then Spanish, Italian, French, and etc. -- the first thing they did was lose all that stuff.

The Political Hat suggested to me that I just had a bias against that form of marking up language because that's not the type of language I've personally learned. Latin is "synthetic" language-- it indicates relationships between nouns by changing the nouns, "declining" them, adding new endings and sometimes changing the pronunciation of interior vowels. Thus the nominative (subject) case of "man" might be Homo, but the accusative (main object) case of man would be "homum."

Or something. I don't actually know. But you get the idea. You don't have to say I did something "TO the man" in Latin because the idea of "to" would be indicated by the declension of "Homo" into "Homum" (or, again, whatever the accusative declension might be).

English, on the other hand, is analytical, by which they mean this: Nouns are generally are not changed to indicate what case (subject of the sentence, direct objective the sentence, they represent.

(And adjectives are not inflected to agree with nouns. Curiously, there is one adjective in English I know of which still changes according to the gender of the noun it modifies: Masculine "blond," feminine "blonde.")

In English, rather than indicating whether a noun is subject, object (and there are multiple cases for different sorts of objects), we use syntax -- logic and especially word order -- and "particles," chiefly prepositions.

In Latin, famously, you could put the subject wherever you liked in a sentence, and there would be no ambiguity about what the subject was, because the noun was itself declined to indicate it was the subject.

But in English, we primarily use a Subject-Verb-Object word order to keep these things straight.

Now the Political Hat certainly had a point when he suggested that, given that I understand one system of indicating these things (the analytic way), the other way (the synthetic way) would strike me as too much work and bother. And English probably seems easier and more intuitive to me -- or you -- than it actually is, because we're all native English speakers.

We understand the language without knowing the actual rules. Foreign learners (or a Roman transported from 50 AD) wouldn't have that same "understanding without knowing why" advantage.

Anyway, here's what I learned on this point -- synthetic languages versus analytical ones -- from the videos.

First, I just have to mention this, because it's a fun fact. Old English was a combination of a barely-present Celtic substrate, and more substantially a mix of German (as far as vocabulary) and Latin (as far as grammar). Old English was in fact as heavily declined as Latin (or almost as much).

Here's the thing, though: They didn't get the Latin exposure from the Romans. The Romans (this professor said) hadn't actually had that big of an impact on Britain when they had colonies there.

No, the Latin influence in Old English came from... The Germans. The Germans, having lived under Roman rule for some time, had themselves been much-influenced by Latin grammar, and their own language now included all sorts of declensions and inflections. So it was the German invaders (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes) who actually brought Latin Lessons to England.

(Oh if you were thinking it was the Normans, yeah, there was a whole new influence of Latin later, post the Norman Invasion, but there was already a significant Latin influence on Old English before 1066.)

Over time, however, Old English began losing all of its declensions and inflections and Latin grammar.

Here's why, I think. The professor says most of this, but I'm going to add a little. During the Old English period, a big part of the country was occupied by other Germanic invaders (the Danes). The Danes offered a bunch of new words to Old English. However, as these were Danish words, English speakers didn't know how to properly decline them or inflect them. So they would drop the declensions and inflections on foreign words... but then they began to drop such things in their own native vocabulary as well.

What I think happens is that languages cannot keep all these complicated rules of grammar when they have frequent mixing with foreign language. The very process of language mixing forces a less intensive scheme of grammar and declensions and all that. The rules of language becomes simplified, because the mixing populations cannot agree on detailed rules of language. They have different details in their rules.

So the details get suppressed or ignored in favor of simpler, and less subtle, rules. The bias in English towards Subject-Verb-Object word order might be seen as a crude method of dealing with the problem -- a significant freedom is expression is lost when one must put words in a certain order to be intelligible.

Nevertheless, it works. Once the SVO word order is accepted and dominant in a language, you can shed the complicated declensions, and start borrowing words from any language you like. You don't have to add tricky endings to them; you'll rely on basic rules like word order for that.

It seems that any time a language goes through such a period of pidginization and hybridization it winds up shedding subtle methods of indicating grammar in favor of simpler methods. The ultimate pidgin, the lingua franca so famous we actually call it Lingua Franca, had an even simpler grammar (even skipping conjugation of verbs for tense).

A very simple language allowing mixed populations to speak to each other, whether an enclave of Jews in Algeria, or a pirate crew made up of cutthroats from a dozen nations.


At any rate, I guess this is an explanation to the question that was interesting me yesterday: Why is that so many languages -- English, most prominently, but also French, Spanish, Italian, German, etc. -- begin, in earlier centuries, with a much more complicated grammar, and over the years, become simpler in their grammar?

Wouldn't you imagine, at first blush, it would go the opposite way? That a language would begin crude and gain complexity through the centuries?

Instead the history of all the languages of Europe, at from the birth of Christ until the modern era, has been an evolution towards simpler grammar, almost all languages moving from "more synthetic" to "more analytic."

And it's all probably just due to languages smashing into each other due to migration or invasion and every new hybrid population moving towards a more "universal" method of indicating case (word order) than the old Latin-like schemes they had used when the languages were "purer."

Anyway, interesting stuff. I think it is, anyway.

Oh: I always wondered: Why does German have all these Latin-style declensions and cases when the actual languages descended from Latin do not?

I think I can guess at an answer: The Germans weren't invaded during 1 AD to 1700 AD. They were doing the invading.

France has a strong German invasion influence because the Germans took them over in 500 AD or thereabouts. The name "France" is a little confusing, because that comes from the Franks, and the Franks were... Germans.

So French actually probably lost its tricky Latin declensions due to a long period of mixing between the proto-French/vulgar Latin language and Frankish (which was Germanic).

Anyway, maybe that's why Germany managed to hold on to many of its Latin-esque cases and declensions.

Comically Wrong; I'm being told this last part -- the part about ze Germans -- is wrong, and that Old German had declensions and such for the same reason Latin did, but not due to Latin: because the hypothetical mother language, Indo-European, had cases and such.

Well that may be wrong. But that was my point, not the professor's. The guy on the video claims that Latin influence on English came via German invasions (which had by then acquired a Latin influence), and not so much due to Hadrian.

And the more important thing, to me, is the idea of why German could keep its declensions (or many of them) when the actual Romance languages shed them. I don't know if my "mixing languages forces them all to adopt a simpler grammar" is right, but it seems likely to me.

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posted by Ace at 07:31 PM

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