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

Friday, August 26, 2016

SCOTUS Update (and other legal issues)

SCOTUS is so not busy these days that SCOTUSBlog is not keeping up with their morning briefings. But, there was a final summer order day today though there was the usual nothing much there. There were two denials not related to rehearings and attorney discipline. But, nothing on immigration or anything people are really paying attention to these days. A bit more of note, perhaps, is that there have been various noises that suggest there very well might be a decent chance of a Justice Garland.
Like people who believe in God, the plaintiffs have strong belief systems about what is right and wrong and how they should live their lives.  Like believers in theistic faiths, the plaintiffs meet in groups to discuss and act upon their beliefs, read and study seminal texts about their belief systems, follow leading authors of such texts, celebrate special days of the year on which they observe their beliefs, and provide volunteer services to their communities based on their beliefs.  Like theists, the plaintiffs are capable of giving inspiring and moving invocations, similar to nontheistic invocations that have been given in other communities across the United States.
Over the years, I have expressed a broad view of "religion" and of "religious" freedom, which would cover more ground.  The above is from a lawsuit from atheists blocked in Pennsylvania from giving invocations. (There are various complaints, but a basic concern is not allowing a non-theistic guest chaplain surrogate to give invocations.) And, it is true that groups like ethical culture groups (who since the 1950s have been treated like "religions" for tax purposes etc.) look quite like those that the average person would deem religious.  A true respect of the diversity of religious belief in our society would entail including this group as well. 

Bottom line, though the lawyer for the challengers in the last legislative prayer case (Town of Greece v. Galloway) was confused about it during oral argument (truly a joke performance there), there is a way to have invocations that are evenhandedly done to include non-theists. The concern there was that the New York locality in question in practice unconstitutionally favored certain faiths. The reply was that there was no way to truly be inclusive, to including non-theists too, since the nature of prayer would entail some reference to God etc. There are a range of "beliefs" out there and this includes those who do not believe in supernatural beings or forces.

And, many localities managed to realize this and welcome non-theistic speakers to provide invocations.  The policy here involves chaplains from a "regularly established church or religious organization or shall be a member of the House," which is a type of establishment.  What power does a state have to favor "regular" religious churches or organizations?  There very well might be a member of the House here that is either someone who shares the beliefs of the plaintiffs or would be open to providing such an invocation.  But, the overall effect is still discriminatory.

Anyway, the lawsuit argues that guest chaplains are regularly allowed and providing a non-theist a chance to provide an invocation would be an evenhanded application that respects religious diversity in an equal fashion. OTOH, if you want to endorse specific religions, that might not work.  We see some of this in the ongoing controversy in France over "burkinis," a sort of swimwear favored by Muslims (but not just them).  [Further reading: What is Veiling? covers this.] As some note, why aren't nuns being targeted here? Canada provides the appropriate alternative model by welcoming hijabs for Mounties. A court ruling in France did insert some sanity.

Some have argued we spend too much time on the U.S. Supreme Court while law and constitutional issues in general develops in other venues.  Sure enough.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Literature Book

Four thousand years and a hundred or so main entries (and more "further reading") in this volume of a collection of like compilations (psychology, sociology etc.). Some get single pages, other multiple ones. Decent way to get a flavor of all this material with limitations of course. Read a fraction of the books, but not bad considering my general predilections.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Anatomy of a Murder

The author spoke from experience, this novel (the film was more crisp, the wife younger and "panties" etc. added) based on a case he worked on. Found this in the sub-basement of the stacks at the library, an experience in itself. Anyways, easy reading procedural of a trial that probably could have been shorter and not quite as dramatic at spots as the movie.

"The Firing Squad as a 'Known and Available Alternative Method of Execution' Post-Glossip"

Good discussion that honors Sotomayor's dissent in Glossip as well as agreeing with her suggestion the firing squad (to me the problem is that people think it too much like criminal homicide, too direct) is the least bad option. It doesn't really cover nitrogen gas, except one negative reference. Unsure about that except for it not having the firing squad's pedigree. The other "positive" cited there is shooting is bluntly honest. Guess that is something too.

ETA: I think "cruel and unusual" is not merely a result of treatment of the accused (though clearly most important) but a societal judgment of proper punishment. So, effects on those who carried it out would matter some here. The appropriate approach is the rub.

Mets Blow A Great Spot Start From Lugo (Just Latest F-up)


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus

This is an interesting graphic novel with the subtitle of "Prostitution and religious obedience in the Bible." The author previously wrote an account of his experiences as a "john" and is concerned with the rights of sex workers.  So, the subject matter would be of special significance for him.  He also self-represents as a Christian, so biblical matters and specifically how it would apply to his concerns about sex work would be of importance.  See, e.g., this interview.  [As an aside, his subject matter welcomes some nudity, but he adds a bit more than necessary -- prostitutes wouldn't be hanging around topless as he portrays it, I think.]

The Bible has a lot of material that can be examined in various ways, especially if you work with guess work and try to fit in what we know from various sources.  Consider, e.g., my recent brief discussion of a recent book that tried to "search" for Sappho from the little we know about her and scattered other sources regarding women at the time.  This requires a lot of supposition, such as the nature of the Gospel of the Nazoreans and references like the 105th saying of Thomas or Mark 6.3.

Chester Brown here seems to push too hard at spots.  First, is the fragments we have of that "lost gospel" really an early Aramaic version of Matthew?  Plus, does this excerpt really help his case that in the "parable of the talents," the kicker is that one of the servants (or slaves) spent the money on prostitutes and it was deemed a good thing?
But since the Gospel (written) in Hebrew characters which has come into our hands enters the threat not against the man who had hid (the talent), but against him who had lived dissolutely - for he (the master) had three servants: one who squandered his master's substance with harlots and flute-girls, one who multiplied the gain, and one who hid the talent; and accordingly one was accepted (with joy), another merely rebuked, and another cast into prison - I wonder whether in Matthew the threat which is uttered after the word against the man who did nothing may not refer to him, but by epanalepsis to the first who had feasted and drunk with the drunken.
He skips over the prologue (which goes against his point!) to the translation which without more seems (in the order that translation is written at least) to match up with the prostitute buying one as the good guy. But, the Christian writer being cited surely isn't neutral enough to blithely let that go. It makes more sense that he is suggesting Matthew (and Luke) simplified by having two people who invested the money (getting different amounts in return) and one who buried it -- as Chester Brown notes, it makes more sense for each slave to do something else.  But, the writer says the one "who had lived dissolutely" (harlots/flute girls) is the bad one.

The book starts with an account of Cain and Abel. The notes -- an Afterword and long notes section is a key charm to the volume -- convincingly argues that it's likely that the author of the story supported herding animals, explaining why (without clear justification) Cain's offering was rejected. The book also argues that the Bible's God favors those who think for themselves, which would explain how people like Jacob (the founder of the Jewish people) won out against his more rules following if boorish/boring brother.  There is also repeated cases of concern about the core over the letter of the law (or Law; e.g., Tamar's story).

The author believes Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a prostitute. The genealogy of Matthew having various women who broke sexual norms is seen as a sign.  The inclusion of women at all is notable. Bathsheba on one level (to me) is not surprising -- at least, as the mother of Solomon. Matthew emphasized his parentage though -- "whose mother had been Uriah’s wife."  David had slept with someone else's wife and in the end had the husband killed to get him out of the way. The resulting baby died; Solomon came letter.  The reference in some sense seems gratutious.  The others are Tamar (sex with father-in-law to obtain rightful heir), Rahab (foreign prostitute who protected two Jewish spies) and Ruth (foreigner involved in a veiled seduction to attract her husband).  It is interesting that at least two of these people are foreigners (Rahab and Ruth).

There has been various discussions over the parentage of Jesus, including the true nature of his birth. There were some stories that Jesus was really the son of a Roman.  Hints like Mark 6:3 supposedly help the case that Jesus is in effect a single child.  But, see the discussions at the links above. For instance, a reference to the "son of Mary" in 30CE can also mean that Joseph was long dead.  Mary really isn't mentioned that much either (other than the birth narratives, you basically have the wedding scene and a few references late).  The book's suggestion that the birth narratives provide a way to explain Mary's pregnancy is possible, I guess, but the usual idea that it is to give a special meaning to Jesus' birth seems more likely.  

And, the book (not by a religious scholar or anything, let's note), ignores how it avoids the original sin problem --- all humans follow in the footsteps of Adam and Eve, but if Jesus was created a different way, that might not be a problem. Anyway, Mark and John avoids the narratives. Stray references that might help in those gospels can easily be interpreted a different way.  Another one offered: "said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God." This analysis references "fornication" as an allusion to Jesus' alleged idolatry, a connection (to temple prostitutes in particular) the book deals with in other places.  If they were suggesting his own mother was a prostitute, Jesus' reaction comes off a bit weak. 

The anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany is also given special place, it being a "prophetic" gesture of his true role ("the anointed one") and a preparation of his own burial. An important factor here is the use of her hair to do so, such a public exposure a sign she is a prostitute. This fits okay in the synoptic accounts, especially Luke's reference to a "sinful" woman.  However, John links her with Martha (the quiet one) and there is no implication the sisters Martha and Mary are prostitutes.  John's account has mention made to the expensive nature of the perfume used but not the washing of the feet with her hair, which sounds messy. Finally, it is far from clear that simply because she exposed her hair in this way that the woman in each case (or any case) was a prostitute. 

So, I question various conclusions he makes, even though sometimes his arguments might be possible. (This discussion isn't meant to be comprehensive.) But, overall, the book is worthwhile, including his particular religious views expressed therein. Graphic novels (and non-fiction volumes) repeatedly provide a promising way to tell different things, especially when this amount of commentary is included. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Night Monster

Pretty good atmospheric Svengoolie entry with a large cast (Bela Lugosi has but a supporting role). Rather high death toll for a 1940s film, I think, though the ultimate mystery is not a big payoff (endings in these films often a bit weak). Janet Shaw is good as a doomed servant. Very snarky. Mets won in extras so went OT (it's on at 10), but taped it.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Slaves as "persons" ("represented"?)

Over the years, I have felt people somewhat exaggerate how pro-slavery the Constitution is and this includes regarding the 3/5 Clause. I spelled out my beliefs some here, particularly that slaves were "persons." My "represented" argument is weaker but think it might work. This sometimes comes off as cheapening the evils of slavery but think carefully understanding situation doesn't do that. This includes constitutional possibilities.

ETA: This also is a case where my various readings led me to have a p.o.v. but citing sources online requires some effort. Would like to learn more about this subject too.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Mets Lose / Jets Win

Mets were swept by the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks (who Granderson like some sort of asshole made out to be world beaters -- his post-game "oh well" comments not selling well) but the Jets did win their first pre-season game with it ending with a game saving interception in the end zone. Missed most of 1/2 half but great kickoff return key.