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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Our Shame

I'm embarrassed to say I get more numb to these shooting tragedies and I think it is because at this point we know with a moral certainty that absolutely nothing will be done to keep guns out of the hands of the rageful, narcissistic, delusional or psychopathic individuals who commit these atrocities.

-- Josh Marshall

The Court and the World

Courts using law from other nations is particularly controversial in such cases like applying the 8A, but Justice Breyer's new book is more about other matters. Overall, it is about how legal matters require knowledge of international matters such for treaty application, international commerce and so forth. Engaging with the world and back/forth influence is a smaller part. Somewhat more technical, important message to promote but not sure the general reader would find it as smooth as his last book. I didn't, skimming certain parts. Also, the mostly post-WWII focus is probably a bit misleading; there has been a great growth in recent years, but the interaction was there the whole time. Again, still worthwhile.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Latest Mass Shooting

The 22nd execution is wrong but so are a lot more innocents dying in ways that should be preventable including in other areas like needless medical deaths. See, e.g., those who die per denial of health insurance or work place deaths. Some think focus on the death penalty crowds out other criminal justice harms. Many needless deaths. Basically, I think a sea change of culture is necessary here akin to homosexuality and smoking.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Two Tuesday Events: PP and Execution

The battle against Planned Parenthood continues, but a nod to a woman who went into the lion's den and defended the faith. Well, you get the idea, with or without an overdose of metaphor. 

Irin Carmon tweeted during the appearance of Cecile Richards, the President of Planned Parenthood, in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Committee. This is a big p.r. move really, since the Republicans are not likely to actually accomplish defunding. Much respect for the woman from the tenor of the few questions that I saw and heard. For instance, check out the first question here regarding the early apology she made, which to me was clearly a public relations move that was not really in response to something that really warranted (except for public relations) an apology. She explains why she apologized, but the person does not want to accept her answer.

The implication seems to be that some lie had to have occurred when Richards notes she apologized -- early on before the breadth of the b.s. behind the videos was shown -- because of the tone of some of the remarks (supposedly made to representatives of a lab or something) and doing so in a public place. As if such clinical talk is never made on a regular basis and sometimes one assumes during some sort of public business lunch.  But, this was a major thing that was harped on, underlining the sort of irrationality of it all.  Other comments were that abortion is not "health care," that there was no need to fund Planned Parenthood, fun with charts and so forth.  These "hearings" can often leave a lot to be desired, but in the long run, perhaps these have been productive.

[One thing that annoys me, realize it is a venial sin, is when it is said the "no" funding goes to PP for abortions. If that means "federal" funding, not quite true -- rape and health are exceptions to the Hyde Amendment.  States also allow funding in various instances, some states generally. Again, realize it isn't meant to be misleading but it's important to be fully accurate. Plus, my own state (NY) evenhandedly funds abortion as health care, which it very well should.  One other thing -- PP doesn't deal with the few post-viability abortions that occur.  Something of a footnote, but somewhat interesting.]


Georgia executed a woman for the first time in seventy years (that one was a dubious affair), this time for plotting the death of her husband with a boyfriend for the insurance money and so forth. The boyfriend did the actually killing but took a plea deal and got life without parole. Kelly Gissendaner refused to take a plea and was sentenced to die.  Word was she was a good prisoner and found her faith or something. There was first deemed a problem with the drugs that was deemed corrected as well as interference with the clemency process. A few judges (and Sotomayor without comment) found this of merit but in the end appeals failed. 

Overall, my sentiment here is that often we are dealing with the "worse of the worst" and at least one of the others due to be executed soon are reasonably so labeled. This is not what I think should be so labeled especially when she herself did not kill him, the means of killing often a aggravating factor. (Reading over the details, to be fair, the death and disposal of the body was grisly and she had a part in how it was carried out. But, still don't think as a whole she is akin to the worse of the worst on average.)  I'm against the death penalty, but if we have it, it should be limited to a select few, including those who can be dangerous in prison. And, I don't think this execution or the threat of it was necessary to prove the crime (from what I can tell).  Not that encouraging pleas in these cases with what is after all a sort of coercion lacks its own problems.

The fact a gratutious deprival of life by the state is involved leads me to be more receptive than in other cases of various due process challenges.  Did not examine them, but let's grant her claims are not that compelling.  Nonetheless, my sentiments would be that even if a few judges did believe so, especially in a case like this, it would be damning.  Beyond the death penalty itself being wrong, there continuously tends to be some individual issues such as questions over procedure, the drugs used and so forth. These might not be compelling enough to stop the execution all things considered but they do warrant continual notice.  But, the bottom line for me would be she is not a very good choice for execution.

Finally, I am somewhat upset that Breyer and Ginsburg continue to be silent as executions go forward. I wonder, since claims of innocence actually have been raised, if the same will occur during the expected forthcoming execution of Richard Glossip.  If her case and so forth are deemed not significantly worse than others, fine, but I cannot be the only one a bit confused at their silence as executions go forward after they said the death penalty was likely unconstitutional.  A brief statement (in proper legalese) saying something like "we still think so, but don't have the votes, so do not think repeatedly saying so is warranted" is fine.  But, executions have occurred, now with one justice dissenting from denial of a stay.  Something like that might be warranted.

Update: Without comment, Breyer alone on record stated he would grant a stay in the Glossip case.  Why?  If you think a person should not be executed, shouldn't we know why? Anyway, the governor pushed things back to early November to deal with execution protocols that some might have thought were met in June.  Innocence concerns still out there.

A third execution, of a serial killer who was the "easiest" case though issues were raised, has just occurred as well (10/1).  The state didn't bother to wait for the Supreme Court, including the liberals, to silently reject his final pleas. A bit in bad taste, maybe it will annoy someone to actually say something (questionable), but guess they figured it was just academic.  SCOTUS got around to declaring the petition moot without comment. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Late Nite Sunday Viewing

John Oliver was back and got a couple soap opera stars (including one killed off) to take part in the segment on refugees (a teen girl learned English watching their show). Show is getting some prime guest actors. Cyborg 2 was on again -- basically a straight to vid sort of deal that is a late performance of Jack Palance being hammy and a chance to see Angelina Jolie topless in an early role. The Closer reruns is a nice way to end the weekend.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

NL East Champs

And Also: So nice to see everyone have fun on Saturday -- various people like to toss out the vitriol against the manager etc. but this is a great bunch. Jets were down 24-0 on Sunday, but really seemed to have a shot. But, couldn't get out of their own way all day. And, though Pappy is the worst, darn the Nats really took a dive. The PHILS made them look pathetic.

Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church

I am Irish-Italian, so it would not surprise that I was raised Catholic, though my dad was not overly concerned with religious matters and my mom was more indoctrinated than one to drill things into you as well.  By action, this was a pretty freethinking atmosphere in that if you were a good person and such, they would be satisfied. I think this was fairly typical for many Catholics and helps explain why so many can be pretty liberal while the official doctrine is not.  Noting as well that the Church does have various liberal beliefs, including in regard to social welfare matters.

Thus, as I briefed noted, various people are highlighting certain things the Pope has said, many ignoring some of the more conservative aspects. This is in part a matter of this specific pope purposely changing the focus of things, the last couple more conservative about things. This was noted in the subject book, the 1980s a notable period there that overlapped with conservative dominance in the presidency and a rising power elsewhere.  Even there, Rachel Maddow included an excerpt of Pope John Paul II being against the death penalty without noting his other less savory focuses.

I respect the good aspects of the Catholic Church and many people have done great work while being self-professed Catholics. Am I being unfair with that qualifier? The subject book concerns people who believe themselves to be Catholics, including theologians and members of the clergy in various cases, who dissent from official doctrine on matters the hierarchy deem core -- abortion being but one, along with women as priests, homosexuality and euthanasia.  There is an argument that there are matters of doubt, not related to basic matters of faith, that there can be dissent over, even if the Pope himself disagrees.

Good doctrine, though if the leadership is so wrong about it there is a problem either way, but at some point doesn't quite seem "Catholic" to me. Perhaps, it is just my bias, but to me the Catholic Church is a hierarchical institution where if the leadership says something about basic aspects of the meaning of "life" and "marriage" and so forth, it is correctly seen as basically what the Catholic doctrine is at the time.  At least, at some point, where views about women as priests, birth control, sexuality and the idea that any one person (even on basic matters of faith) can be infallible are so wrong, that it is something of a lost cause. What exactly is "Catholic" as compared to Christian overall about the remainder?

Religion often is cultural and not tied to specific matters of doctrine, so I do understand basically, I guess, but it still doesn't really work for me.  At least, at some point.  It's possible to argue that being Catholic can include "x, y and z" perhaps, but if the laity can challenge the hierarchy on basic things, and these are basic things, it starts to look like Protestantism.  The logic of contraceptives at least being acceptable using Catholic dogma, as many thought was possible in the 1960s, makes sense. So is allowing dissent -- not allowing those who disagree with official Church doctrine (which does change over time) to teach in Catholic institutions is absurd.

But, there is some limit.  Still, who am I to say what is right here?  I'm all for changing meanings and this includes Catholic doctrine and practice. The book provides an interesting account of dissenters there, starting with the issue of contraception and then abortion itself. Catholic views over abortion did change over time though basically in scope -- abortion was always seen as wrong for some reason but it being "murder" from the time of conception as compared to necessary to regulate sex and marriage developed over time. This is important since the Catholic Church grew to be able to live with legalized contraception but not abortion.

The book is more focused on "the battle," including the lobbying on both sides, than a complete look at the full understanding of the beliefs of the abortion choice side. Some of that is there, including pioneer women theologians, but it isn't really the focus. The conservative values summit is going on now.  A decade ago, "value voter" was used as if such a thing only applied to conservatives.  This is fictional.  Stephen Colbert is a prime case in point.  Comes off as a very nice guy with a strong moral center along with the snark and such.  A liberal Catholic.  Hopefully, along with the usual stuff, the value summit focuses on basic things we all can support.

Putting aside my own inclination to question Catholicism that seems more Protestant (not that there is anything wrong with that) to me, bottom line, my belief is that we should try to do good and however that works best for you is fine with me.  Whatever my sentiments, loads of people believe they are Catholics and darn are considered Catholics and hold liberal beliefs that conflict with conservative Catholic doctrine. Good for them and hopefully they will have a good influence. The basic negative aspects of the doctrine, like Jesus in the gospels once noted about the poor, will be with us for some time.  The best we can hope for there is tempering it the best we can.

This book is a helpful history of the attempt, including informing us of the efforts of the conservatives in the Church and elsewhere to react as well as affect public policy.  It ends with ongoing fights over health policy. I continue to look with disfavor with special snowflakes who think snide remarks about sky gods and such make them special. Too many good people are Catholics, I will forgo the "self-expressed," to allow such things to go on without comment.  As noted in the book, religion was early on seen as an important matter for feminism to address, including showing how you can be a believer and a feminist too.  Likewise a good person overall.

[I read this before finishing it, but nothing much to add. The book got to be  bit repetitive after a while with standard themes repeating itself.  Do think that the book could have used more on what various pro-choice Catholics believe instead of focusing so much on the "battle," in particular the work of one organization.  The book covers this somewhat, but would have liked more of it. There is no one position there, but it often basically is that abortion can be immoral in certain cases even if criminalization isn't the answer.  This is not simply a libertarian pro-choice viewpoint.

IOW, what specifically "Catholic" is present here other than the people being raised Catholic.  This might help those, and I'm in there to some extent, who wonder why do people stick around given the intransigence of the official hierarchy?  At some point, there really should be a "sorry, I can't be part of this if you joint change" moment.  Simply put, understand why many don't (though as the book notes quite a few have left the Church), but again this would make explaining what about Catholicism in particular works for them that much more important.]


Special Note: I have in the past noted that freedom of choice is in significant part a freedom of conscience matter and this book touches upon that issue as well.  See, e.g., Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Unfortunately, when it comes to funding issues, one side is too often favored, burdening some people from practicing their faith. People who profess the importance of religious freedom have a duty to recognize this, even if the people involved act in ways they personally oppose. 

An evenhanded recognition of the conscience principle would result in Hyde Amendments being deemed unconstitutional.  Harris v. McRae was  a missed opportunity here, the dissents focused on other concerns. This is unfortunate especially since one did cite a case involving unemployment insurance and religious belief, opening up a clear bridge to case law. Justice Stevens later argued that abortion laws (and those applicable to refusal of treatment) can have Establishment Clause implications.  Same here.

The opinion addressed the religious liberty claims by arguing that "traditional" views on respect for life was not religious any more than a law against murder.  But, a complete ban on abortion funding, except for very narrow cases, is not quite that. We are here dealing with matters of complex religious debate and the funding ban by purpose and effect favors one over another.  There are Establishment Clause concerns there. 

The free exercise claim (deemed compelling by the lower court unlike the EC claim) was avoided because the organization in question was made up of individuals with various views (but wouldn't the ability to have funding to freely choose matter even there?) and a specific person whose religious beliefs was burdened was not involved. The others either did not raise religious claims or were not on Medicaid/pregnant.  This particularly seems dubious and just a matter of waiting for the right claimant. Since there clearly are numerous people whose abortion are funded by the government and who had the procedure in some significant part out of religious beliefs.

Same sex couples were denied a chance to have their marriage recognized for years, only able to have private / often religiously based ceremonies. Now, equal protection there is deemed by some as a burden on the religious beliefs of those who oppose same sex marriage.  This religious favoritism position is found in the reproductive liberty area as well.  Many who support reproductive liberty are not religiously focused as such, but this book underlines quite a few are.  Don't leave God to the trolls.

Democrats Running

A liberal reaction to the 2016 race led me to respond. As noted, I think the also rans deserve some credit though hard to take Lessig seriously. Sen. Whitehouse on Citizens United shows that even if not all of it was wrong, it is a dubious decision at least in its breadth.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Changing Channels

Late nite viewing shows that at times Disney has throwback shows after midnight such as Lizzy McGuire last night. Cute show. Her dad on the show is part of an acting trio of brothers and is familiar for various roles. Bikini Spring Break is not actually a highlight, but is amusing fare, if taken in the right frame of mind. Also on various times late nite.

Pope Visit

Will avoid links, but places like Stephanie Miller (radio), Rachel Maddow (tv) and Talking Points Memo (blog) highlighting various left leaning pope stuff like climate change, immigration and anti-death penalty. A few like Andy Humm (Facebook) reminding Catholic Church leaves something to be desired in some areas (like gay rights). Yup.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

RIP (insert saying here) as Mets Edge Closer To Clinching

Various playoff teams are scuffling some (Astros fell out of first; Dodgers lost four in a row) but various Mets fans don't care about them, annoyed about their own team. I am somewhat impatient -- wish they were a bit closer, but a magic number of six, a 6.5 game lead, an easy schedule and 11 games to play is pretty good. Lots know that; some are pains.

Update: #5 now ... not great couple games though.