February 19, 2008

"Since Housing Prices Always Go Up, We Really Have Very Little To Worry About."

via Good Megan, The Subprime Primer seems like a good summary of how the subprime lending crisis happened from the investors' side. (It doesn't concentrate on the "weird mortgages screwing over homeowners" side.)

Make sure to keep clicking right arrow at least until you get to the Czar of Accounting. (Which yields the philosophy connection, since I used to teach acccounting ethics.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 10:51 AM | Comments (5)

February 03, 2008

Indefinite Definite Descriptions

via Henry Farrell, this piece by Ron Klain contains a weird sentence:

Instead, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the two candidates who have drawn some of the sharpest criticism on progressive blogs, are the only ones who will make it to Super Tuesday.

It's weird partly because it ignores the obvious explanation why bloggers might focus their criticism on Obama and Clinton. But also because of this phrase:

the two candidates who have drawn some of the sharpest criticism on progressive blogs

What does that mean exactly? How do you figure out which are "the" two candidates that have drawn "some" of the sharpest criticism?

The "the... some" construction need not be impenetrable, as in:

the two Democratic candidates who have been endorsed by some sitting Senators

which picks out Obama and Clinton, as the only candidates who've been endorsed by any sitting Senators. (I think it reads better without "some," though.) But clearly Klain doesn't mean that, because the only way that makes sense is if there are (or could be) some Senators who didn't endorse anyone. And in the original example, there can't be any "sharpest criticism" that isn't directed at any of the candidates, since what we're talking about is criticism of the candidates.

Effectively, "the" makes it sound as though Klain is making a stronger assertion than he is; as though Clinton and Obama have a special place of disfavor. What I suspect happened is that he wrote or thought "the two candidates who have drawn the sharpest criticism" and realized that that was exaggerated, so he added "some of" without realizing that this made his definite description indefinite. (And yes, this is a nitpick.)

[Ari says to post more, to which I say in order to post more I'd have to post at all. And, if you ask me to post more, you get posts like this. And explanations about how I don't post.]

Posted by Matt Weiner at 06:59 AM | Comments (2)