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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Detainee/AUMF Sausage Making

This discussion (see also other posts) of the detainee bill seems on point though the "Udall solution" is limited. It failed but my senators voted for it. Gillibrand voted to end the the Iraq AUMF, part of Sen. Paul's principled opposition. I say a few words here.

Body of Proof

Ugh. The show is trying to force too much personal character stuff all at once and it comes off as phony. The actors can't pull it off; it's as if they know it too. Stick to the mysteries and the old path of less of that stuff! Everyone (but Curtis) doesn't need some "thing" going on.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Originalism Definition #878

I respect this guy's writings but the comments underline this spin on originalism is pretty telling. Also, it underlines even experts can be off on subjects outside of their immediate area of expertise. [More discussion added, including by "no comment" Balkin and me.]

NFL Update

Houston has a two game lead but also is down two QBs. The NYG lost, which adds to the "more of the same" (late season collapse, check) theme. The Closer is back and was pretty good.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Money Shot

Part of the "Hard Crime" series, this is a good read for those who don't mind some hard core ... crime. More here.

Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle

I received this book free from Book Sneeze in return for a review. The opinions are mine alone.

This book addresses the underlining reason why people view and obsess about pornography. This is a fairly mainstream attempt to argue that it is not merely for immediate sexual satisfaction but in place for broader reasons. Likewise, as do others, the reasons are far from benign.

Let me say upfront that I do not find it a problem to view some things of a pornographic nature. It is like watching or reading other fictional things that you would not do yourself, including some that are not ideal behavior.  For instance, action movies often have much too much violence to realistically or ideally express how things really should be like, or video games have a lot of violence. Doesn't mean the person is obsessed with violence. The problem occurs when a person is too obsessed with such things. Still, either way, it is interesting and helpful to understand what draws a person to this sort of thing, both mildly or in more obsessive levels.

This book offers an explanation with personal experiences and a biblical approach to our society's at times obsession ot pornography. In effect, it is a cheap and easy replacement to life's necessities, sort of how cheap sugar products lead to weight gain because we have a need for energy, but do not want or feel able to have more nutritious if harder to obtain regularly replacements. Since the goals here are love, companionship and so forth, there is (strange as it might sound) a divine connection.

 I think this sort of thing can be taken too far -- wanting a bit of porn is not really that 'deep' a lot of times, but it was thought-provoking and provided an interesting point of view even if you weren't with the author for the whole ride. Worth a look.

NFL Update

Don't really care about basketball coming back, but some do. Nothing too notable regarding the NFL, the Jets barely winning and Tebow coming back yet again etc. about bar for the course. KC held Pittsburgh to three points; the other ten gifts. The gifts cost them.

Friday, November 25, 2011

NFL Update

Can't rely on 3-7 teams: 20-19. Blah. Packers might have clinched the first seed, having a two game lead. Ravens won the 4Q. Detroit looked bad and now has to worry about getting to the playoffs.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lower Canadian Court Upholds Polygamy Ban

See here (I comment) and here. The ruling is rather long so I didn't read it yet and it is only a lower court ruling. The way to go apparently is to not "formalize" your marriage. And, if leadership is marrying children, target that. Sure. Consenting adults? I'm off the bus there.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"V" is for Vengeance

Sue Grafton's alphabet series of mysteries started out under three hundred pages, first person. Now, she started to add other characters, and the result is over four hundred. And, it's too much. Don't really buy the start and so much what comes off as filler.


A recent Eva Braun bio (miss) made Downfall a suitable re-watch, which also had a brief reference to the events in Sophie Scholl. The film at times seen through the eyes of a young Traudl Junge.

Pardon Me

It's time for the actually pretty new pardon turkey business. This brings to mind the paucity (see my comments there) of Obama pardons and even the few just given have a selective taint. Turkey is not necessary either way. I'm not having any. Go Miami!


The concept of offering thanks and to celebrate after the harvest has certain specific U.S. implications, but like winter celebrations, there is a more universal flavor to them. Happy holidays.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More on ULC

Looking at the original articles of incorporation (I have a printed copy) of the Universal Life Church, the church was originally formed to further the "Christian" religion, reflecting the religious background of its founder. It labels itself a "denomination" ("Life Church"). This is a somewhat limited reach and can also be seen in some of the courses offered that has a biblical or "western" religion focus.

A few years later, it re-establishes itself as the "Universal Life Church" that has a "philosophy of universal humanism." Its "doctrine" is that "each individual has the right to interpret God according to his own theory or concept." This allows "all religious beliefs" to be welcome, "for the underlining principle that will unite all people of all races, religions and nations is the universal idea of peace and prosperity." The use of "God" might bother some though one's "theory or concept" might see God as purely impersonal or a construction of society or a metaphor. Going to the website, "God" is not specifically cited here.

The church is still said to be "religious" in nature and non-profit, but there the "denomination" label disappears. The express interest to "unite" is shown by the "maxim" expressed in its booklet and website: "we are one," symbolized by a circle with various types of people inside. Their "goal" is to "break down the walls around all religion." In its opinion, this is done in part by education, including understanding "every religion is not complete within itself" and by combining various types, we learn we are "one people" with a certain combined place in the world.

A reasonable amount of content to separate it from other religions, again with shades of simplified / less organized Unitarian Universalism, down to starting out more specifically Christian and then expanding its scope to include more and more people with a "universal" flavor that promotes uniting (and respecting) various religions, each having something to offer. The "humanism" also connects it to ethical culture. 


The Pats whipped back to form KC (that is, sucks), not helping junior here. NYG fans are left to rooting for Miami on Thursday. Joy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

ULC Marriage Article

Part two of the article cited earlier is here. Notably, there is a court ruling that appears to override current NYC policy (who knows?), except in Bronx and Manhattan (First Department). Also, the satirical religions cited seem different, though perhaps not enough.

"The conservative case for healthcare reform's individual mandate"

In considering the individual mandate, conservatives need to address three questions. First, why is it so troubling that the government is requiring responsible individuals to purchase what they would purchase anyway? Second, is it fair or appropriate to make the responsible pay more in order to protect the rights of the irresponsible? Third, what should be done when the principle of limited government clashes with that of individual responsibility?

Or, put another way, is the principle of limited government so compelling that it should cause us to penalize the responsible and reward the irresponsible?
The whole op-ed is worthwhile, but it underlines that many "liberal" ideas (such as same sex marriage) can have "conservative" support, underlined in the latter case by Ted Olson (!) one of its leading advocates. This is different from the "libertarian" arguments in certain respects. Marriage, e.g., has certain conservative values that a libertarian might not support. Conservatives do support government power, even for moral ends, for certain purposes. For messaging purposes etc., they might want to pretend to be libertarians, but they are not.

This is far from surprising given this was a Republican idea. I'm unsure why they want to give Obama all the credit in that respect.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

NYG Choke ... Fans Totally Unsurprised

NFL Update

Again, nothing too interesting, though one reader will appreciate the Bears score. At the Half, the Giants are losing 10-3. Shocker.

NFL Update

Nothing too interesting in the first round of games, except the Redskins' D not stopping Dallas and missing two long FGs to hurt the NYG and GB and Detroit toying with lesser teams a bit.


"I want to recognize all the cats in my life whose purring kept me calm while writing and editing."

-- from Acknowledgments of Lab Coats in Hollywood

e pluribus unum

TPM has kept up with the Republican debate coverage, which to me looks like a somewhat depressing undertaking -- these people are the leading choices for 1/2 of the political leadership in this country. They have to be taken seriously on that level, though I simply can't take them seriously on another. The Dems had their share of losers in presidential races, but this crew is really up there. Last night it was a debate focused on social conservative issues with religious connotations.

It is a shame and other things that this bunch has taken the mantle of the "religious" wing of the political spectrum. As recent posts underline, the term is quite a bit more diverse than that. A post focused on three religions that are of particular interest for me (Unitarian Universalism, Universal Life and Ethical Culture), but any number of others (including members of mainstream churches that have conservative aspects, such as Catholics -- Ted Kennedy, Catholic, 'nuff said) can be cited. All in various ways have many left leaning members quite concerned with the moral status of the society, many quite upset about it at the moment.

As noted, my own beliefs lean toward the ecumenism reflected by the three listed above* and others of that ilk, but my overall concern is to stop the false limited view of "religion" that would limit it to those at the debate last night. I do think the need at the moment is to address major problems, partially in some fashion spiritual/moral/religious/whatever in nature, in our society. A divisive approach that shuns the e pluribus unum philosophy of our country (a better motto, I think, that the sectarian one some favor) that we should honor.

Meanwhile, I continue to watch my Vicar of Dibley DVD. Fitting.


* The three are interconnected.

The ULC's basic principle of doing right, importance of finding out what that means and a flexible approach in letting individuals determine it is the UU philosophy too, if with some more meat and organization involved. Ethical culture overlaps much with UU, though apparently the latter group has a more "umbrella" philosophy and retains certain labels familiar to Christian thought, if providing them with universal reach.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Rules of Engagement

Last episode was actually pretty good -- seemed to be more focused on the one liners though it also had some subplots. On average, the show has been getting pretty tired. Watching some episodes of The Vicar of Dibley. Amusing, if a bit forced at times.

A trip to the library

I went to the library recently and two things stood out. One, the "No Smoking" sign had advertising -- an url for some car related thing. Well, that's better than going to (true story) movie urinal and having people looking at you via advertising. I think the best thing to do with ads next to urinals is not to have humans in the ads. Sort of creepy.

Two, this book was available. Love the cover. There are a series of "hard case" paperbacks (read a couple; fun) with great covers, but that's a keeper. Don't know about the book itself. The "look inside" at Amazon has it starting off tediously. His Diet of Treacle, originally published in 1961, was a good read. I see some people did enjoy Getting Off. It's one of those books that "self checkout" is made for, I think.

The library is a sort of hole in the wall neighborhood one, which has certain charms such as convenience, but there are some nice branch libraries in the NYPL system. Battery Park City (Manhattan) has one with a lot of space and within view of the river. The new Kingsbridge branch also is pretty nice. Public libraries, provided for you thanks to the system one party finds so horrible today.

Re-Run Time

Came across an old blog post touching upon animal welfare, my vegetarianism, a broad view of religion and other issues.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Season for Miracles

A sweet Hallmark favorite, the lead in The Mighty Macs and other stuff, but it turns out the her niece in the film has some resume too.  Also, Queen to Play (Kevin Kline speaking French!) was an enjoyable "woman coming out of her shell" film.  Chess division.

Historical Lessons

John Dean has a perspective essay comparing the Occupation movement with Vietnam protests, the latter which he experienced firsthand as a member of the Nixon administration, including their importance and the dangers (on both sides) of violence.

Lab Coats in Hollywood

[E]xamines the interaction of science and cinema: how science consultants make movie science plausible, how filmmakers negotiate scientific accuracy within production constraints, and how movies affect popular perceptions
Interesting if a bit too technical at spots.

Tebow Does It Again

Tim Tebow is getting some mixed reactions (as he did via a past anti-abortion ad) for his religious expression, but he's have a nifty little run as a QB.  The Jets were his latest conquest, falling via another late comeback. A "D" for their "D" there. Oh well.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Stevens on Kelo

His speech on the infamous (as he notes) decision accepting taking of a home for economic development purposes is worth reading.  The final bit on a possible future case specifically addressing the home is my tentative path, the ruling itself open to question if reasonable.

Prop 8 and PPACA Definitions

I think the California Supreme Court telling the 9th Circuit that the Prop 8 challengers have standing makes sense, the alternative perhaps defensible on some level (the executive chooses when to appeal etc.),  but just seems unfair on various levels.  After all, the public is given an end around when public officials don't govern how they like and if they pass such a measure (support or oppose the process), should the powers that be then find a backdoor method to make their efforts effectually inert? The alternative here might have been for some a desired way to punt, but it didn't really feel right to me, even if again, an argument can be made.*

First and foremost is the so-called “individual mandate,” which goes into effect on January 1, 2014: it requires virtually all Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a fine.
I emailed the author of this Scotusblog "in plain English" analysis, challenging it on two grounds -- my past hobbyhorse that "virtually all Americans" do not have that so-called Hobson's Choice and for the lesser reason that the "tax penalty" or even "penalty" is quite arguably not a "fine."  A fine that is merely attached via your taxes is a somewhat curious use of the term, particularly in "plain English."  I noted the first issue was much more important to me, citing in part Walter Dellinger (former Solicitor General, has debated the constitutional issues here and testified to Congress on the point)  noting those who make less than 18K don't pay.

The reply:
Thanks for your email, and for your words about the blog. I appreciate where you’re coming from and put some thought into the framing of that point, but there’s just not enough space to explain all of the nuances to non-lawyers in a Plain English column, so we have to make some editorial choices. It certainly wasn’t intended to mislead or advocate on the issue.
Oh please.  First, the article is not two sentences long or anything.  There was enough space to note in a few words that the "fine" kicks in only if you make enough money and so forth, which doesn't cover a substantial group of people -- surely not "virtually" no one.  The point is not that there is an "intent" to mislead or advocate, but that the word choice is misleading and/or as I said "argumentative" (as applied to "fine").  It's one thing for some reporter to try this (which alone is annoying) but she's a lawyer and knows better, particularly my argument that "fine" has constitutional (such as the Eighth Amendment) connotations. And, this is a basic point, not some tiny nuance or something. 

The framing here misleads and in the process colors the "common sense" or "Plain English" statement of the question.  Like "Obamacare," people we assume to be neutrally discussing the issue, and very well they might be trying to do this, are misleading people about the issues.  When called upon it, they repeatedly try to defend themselves by saying that they had to mislead (not admitting they did, mind you) since the alternative would be a too wordy or confusing product.  The latter just what they did. 

This promotes "media bias," if not the simplistic left/right kind.


* [Update] This does advance the possibility that the USSC will hear the case, but various options are available. State standing does not necessarily -- though it would seem logical -- mean federal standing. Also, and I think this is best, the 9th Cir. could (with possible en banc review) focus on Prop 8 alone.

A Romer v. Evans type ruling could argue it, as compared to some state that didn't target same sex couples in this fashion (the district court findings will help here, the appellate court often inclined, at times as required by precedent, to follow them if deemed reasonable), would be limited in scope.  It would not protect SSM as such and would be limited to California's specific experience.  USSC review could be avoided.

PPACA & Civic Duty etc.

A law review citation dump led me to another defense of the PPACA that is helpful given it briefly goes over a lot of ground.  Again, a reminder of the many things some want to toss out:

The Act contains many other provisions whose constitutionality has not been questioned. For example, the ACA prohibits insurers from establishing “lifetime limits on the dollar value of benefits” or “unreasonable annual limits” on benefits and claims, id. § 300gg–11(a)(1)-(2); prohibits the rescission of insurance contracts, id. § 300gg–12; requires insurers to provide a simple, straightforward summary of coverage, id. § 300gg–15(b); requires insurers to include provisions for preventive care, such as immunizations, breast-cancer screening, and screenings for infants, children, and adolescents, id. § 300gg–13; and requires insurers to provide coverage for dependents to a specified age, id. § 300gg–14(a).
Jack Balkin (who defended the law in various venues)  is cited a few times, including respecting the "misleading" nature of the term "individual mandate," since many groups are not penalized for non-purchase. He also puts forth a "civil republicanism" defense that need not be the only one, but it does provide (for me and many others) a principle moral basis for the law. Racial equality was not enforced merely because the Constitution required it.  Popular acceptance of the immorality of the alternative was necessary.  Do we see the "mandated association" with blacks in supermarkets a problem?  The matter was seriously debated in the 1960s and even now Rand Paul just couldn't answer a question Rachel Maddow put to him on the question, but today it is not publicly proper to suggest something like that.  Public morality opposes it.

In the words of Jack Balkin:
This is a very modest request that individuals not be entirely selfish and that they contribute to the public good in a small way by helping to make health care accessible and affordable for all Americans. Indeed, under the terms of the Affordable Care Act, one doesn't even have to purchase insurance; one can simply pay a small tax instead. And one doesn't have to pay at all if one is too poor to do so or has a religious objection.

The notion that being asked to either buy health insurance and make health care accessible for one's fellow citizens--or to pay a small tax-- is a form of tyranny akin to George III's regime is simply bizarre: it shows how perverted and twisted public discourse has become in the United States. The assault on the individual mandate is really an assault on the public duty to assist other Americans in need, and in particular, an assault on the legal obligation to pay taxes to contribute to the general welfare. The assault on the health care bill is not a defense of liberty. It is a defense of selfishness.
The fact something is right doesn't mean Congress has the power to put it in place, but this re-enforces other arguments that show that they do have the power to enact the PPACA.  It provides a reason why, one that answers concerns that the measure will threaten individual liberty and limited government.  Quite true, and annoying to me as well, that the arguments put forth against it turn out to rest on sand.  We as a society tend to talk out of two sides of our mouths at times though and are known to be inconsistent.  "What have you done for me lately" is a standard approach for sports teams as much as anyone out. 

So be it.  The need to answer the overall message of the opponents is clear and involves various facets, including the good aspects of the law, the reasonable constitutional arguments, the limits in place and overall why this is right.  For me, at least, the bottom line is that I think the reasoning put forth here is particularly specious and yes, downright selfish. This brings some anger and disgust along with other things when I read about and debate people on this issue.  Such emotions come with the program when defending against bad things like discrimination and here deprivation of health care and stopping an attempt, however flawed, to deal with a core aspect to a good society in eminently reasonable ways.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Eva Braun: Life with Hitler

This was a disappointing bio that had some interesting perspectives from the German historian, but as a bio of Braun, lacking. It spent much of the time summarizing the things around her. Okay, but it's was supposed to be about Eva Braun. And, even there, a bit plodding.

ULC Church as a "religion"

I have been interested in some religious matters of late, including the place of humor and various alternative religious movements.  I noted that a columnist at this interesting legal website inspired one of my posts, involving the power of Universal Life Church ministers [Rev. Amy Long provides a nice intro to the church here] -- who can get ordained on request at their website as Conan O'Brien did [actually, he did it via an offshoot of which there is some confusion] -- could officiate weddings. A follow-up to the original article, particularly addressing NY (one of the states where doing so was challenged, NYC having different rules at the moment) has not yet been posted. 

I favor an ecumenical  approach to "religion" and the focus on "ultimate concern" appeals as it does to various scholars and lower courts who dwell on the subject (suffice to say, Allah has about as many alleged qualities than the various tests for religion out there).  To cite Universal Life Church v. Utah:
Ascertaining the sincerity of a belief generally involves assessing whether an activity is the good faith observance of religious belief. See International Soc'y of Krishna Consciousness v. Barber, 650 F.2d 430, 438-41 (2nd Cir. 1981). ["ultimate concern" cited] The goal, of course, is to protect only those beliefs which are held as a matter of conscience."
A few courts don't think too much of the ULC, though even those who rejected their ministers' right to officiate marriages pursuant to state law ultimately tended to rely on statutory arguments on basic requirements for officiants, not religion in general.  Such was the case in another context in Jones v. Bradley, which suggests the barebones nature of its doctrine makes its "religious" component debatable, but ultimately noted that the prisoner at issue had no case on other grounds: 
The ULC has no traditional doctrine. We, the organization, only believe in that which is RIGHT. Each individual has the privilege and the responsibility to determine what is RIGHT for him as long as it does not infringe on the RIGHTS of others.
The ULC concerns "beliefs which are held as a matter of conscience."  In fact, the basic point of the church is that each individual has the right to determine what is "right" based on just that.  The website references a "natural" right of this sort.  This to me has shades of standard Protestant thought in which the individual believer is able to determine the meaning of the Bible without use of hierarchical instruction from priests or ministers.  Even members of churches with such leadership repeatedly feel a right to determine various major issues on their own, such as use of contraceptives by active Roman Catholics, even if their religion forbids it.  At least as a matter of religious belief, individual discretion is wide open.  And, the church itself is rather lax in practice, by inaction in effect at least accepting this sort of thing.

The decision to give wide discretion and equality to each person is "doctrine" ("taught principles or positions"), traditional or not.  Various other religions do not allow that.  This is one difference in ULC doctrine.  Also, the church does not actually have an "anything goes" policy. First, unlike let's say the "Church of Satan" (one supposes), what is "right" is promoted.  Second, even if you think it is right, if it infringes the rights of others, it is no go.  So, a Nazi might think it "right" to target Jews, but the ULC Church doctrine refutes it.  The fact this sense of equal concern is in place is one reason why many like it, suggesting why same sex couples in particular was attracted to it.

Finally, the church takes a special stance on the issue -- it is a "privilege" and "responsibility" for "each individual" to determine what is right. This is not a trivial matter. Many religions do not have such a mission statement -- in fact, it is not the job of the individual as such to determine moral questions or if it is, such leaders (like rabbis, priests, imams etc.) should be particularly respected.  Cf. Quakers or other religions more individual focused.  The church's brief doctrinal statement is sure to include a type of educational concern.  It speaks of an obligation to determine something and sets parameters for so doing.  Like a right to privacy based on personal concerns that do not harm others, the ULC Church had a specific doctrinal principle to follow.  You are not just to believe anything you want.

The church also "ordains" ministers.  There is an actual church and leadership there who do this.  Any old ULC minister doesn't have the authority to do that.  A person does not merely announce to the world that s/he is a minister.  I realize the barrier to entry here is basically nil, but again, the church has some content.  The person requests to be ordained and it is made official and recorded. The church notes that actual human persons have to be involved, even if people play jokes or perhaps seriously submit names of pets.  ULC is "ordaining" (appointing by religious authority) you and there is an at least implicit agreement that you honestly intend to follow the doctrine of the church. That is, you will determine what is right and not infringe on the rights of others.  This is again your "responsibility." And, the church promotes those who become ministers to do what ministers generally do, such as perform marriage and other religious type rituals.  Their website suggests as much.  A religion very well may not support such things, perhaps like Paul in the New Testament, advising -- if possible -- not to marry.

The websites connected to ULC suggest other things that not all religions have, such as encouraging prayer and even signs of a schism.  Overall, seriously, the church does not seem to me a joke.  It is a way to each individual who desires to express their religious bent to do so.  The basic doctrine is egalitarian, which is notable given so many religions are not.  It focuses on matters of personal conscience and promotes various religious type activity and rituals.  It suggests an obligation to good behavior and a duty to continuously examine just what that entails. This is more than many people do and I'm sure a case can be made that many who join do not follow such duties, but such is the case for many religious followers.  The lack of a hierarchy is not too hard to imagine.  The idea is also found in other areas, such as anarchists who wish to govern by agreement, not established government based on specific leaders.  And, at times expressly, the ULC Church basically assumes limits, such as what is required by the civil law.  Again, certain religions are not so restrained.

If a person is willing to announce to the world that they are a minister and have the church record said fact, it makes sense to allow said persons to serve as officiants at marriages per civil law.  That is, if both wish such a minister to preside and they understand the religion the minister has joined.  The specific value or realistic ability to draw some reasonable line that denies this is very questionable.  See, e.g., "Marriage in the Time of Internet Ministers: I Now Pronounce You Married, But Who Am I To Do So?" The couple aren't marrying themselves, though this might be legal some places [later found it is], but chose someone else to solemnize the occasion. 

And, if having the likes of Conan O'Brien doing the honors seems not special enough or something, again who's to say?  If some elite group in some nefarious religion puts up higher barriers to entry, how impressive is it?  If the couple doesn't believe in such hierarchical standards is not forcing them to accept it counterproductive?  Would a Catholic priest be more likely to know the state rules of marriage?  If that matters, require a test or something. The state doesn't have to let ministers be officiants, after all.  They can simply hand out licenses and require the couple to show up at city hall or something. *

But, it's fine to let the couple so decide -- the state doesn't require it, it is just an option.  Just like the choice whether to "swear" or "affirm" in court or for other official reasons.  Some special "ceremony" is there to underline the importance of the occasion to the state.  The problem is depriving certain people of the right to choose.  Those who want broad based beliefs with more organization can focus on Unitarian Universalism or some such organization.  Religion is ultimate a personal thing and some don't find the need to be associated even with the minimal institutional aspects present here.  As with calling only certain people "value voters" as if others don't have any, it is presumptuous to say they really aren't religious or theirs don't really count.  A well rounded understanding of "religion" -- again Wikipedia is a good place to start (see also, the "spiritual" entry) as any really -- would so determine. 

American history will show many cases of individual believers determining what is right based on their conscience and using toward certain "religious" type things both with and without much institutional support behind them.  Overall, the ULC fits well in other democratic traditions in this country and I say to them and many other religions out there, more power to you toward doing what is right. **


* NY law says "ministers" can officiate, but a separate definition has been held (if not by a conclusive highest court ruling) to not cover ULC ministers. The cited article discusses the matter, but suffice to say I don't think the statute compels the result, underlined by the fact that NYC specifically lists the church on its officiant registration form though only in recent years.

** The article cited above lists a few more newer online churches (ULC started in the day of mail order), but two appear tied to the Bible, the third explicitly tied to "God," the ULC therefore still more open-ended.  To each their own, ultimately. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Amy Schumer

The NYT has an article about "blue" female comedians, including this one who has those always funny abortion jokes here.

Day by day

The ABC story on Rep. Giffords was impressive and touching. We hear of their first "date" at a prison -- she was visiting it as part of her re-examining her position on the death penalty. She was asked at one point if she was angry, saying that no, it's "life." Ah life.

Time To Go Over Old Ground Again

[And Also: This analysis, including addressing five ways the law handles the health care problem, is appreciated but has shades of what I criticize below.  Why is this thing in particular a concern for the Tea Party?  Since the case against claims a tweak in the tax law would legitimize it, especially.  Warrants comment.  I will say it until I'm blue in the face. "All" people don't have to buy insurance and merely living here isn't enough to penalize you if you do not.  When reasonable analysts say it, it becomes common sense.  It still is false.]
The ACA is a comprehensive, multi-faceted legislative scheme aimed at achieving near-universal and affordable health care coverage for every American citizen. It expands Medicaid coverage, ACA § 2001; requires large employers to provide health care coverage for their workers, ACA §§ 1511, 1513; creates new health benefit exchanges for individuals and small businesses, ACA §§ 1311, 1312; provides tax credits to allow a broad range of individuals and families to purchase health insurance, ACA §§ 1401-1421; eliminates Medicare copayments for a wide variety of preventive services (e.g., screening for cancer), ACA § 4104; and strengthens the Medicare Part D prescription drug program by filling in the “donut hole,” ACA § 2501.
A summary of the legislation, including a reminder to the misinformed that parts are in place now, shows this is if anything only a limited list. Two things stand out for me -- allowing parents to have their children under twenty-seven on their insurance and the pre-existing conditions measure. But, just focusing on them if anything is a misleading undersell of what actually is covered here. The breadth of the legislation is impressive, if the inability to fully promote it is not. We should have loads of promos and videos and accounts how people are helped and how not having such and such provision is a problem. As to all aspects not being in effect yet, it is eminently reasonable and common sense that something of this magnitude has to be slowly put in place.

Thus, though admittedly it seems some simply aren't aware this is not just a "force you to buy insurance" measure (the quotes implying the misleading nature of the argument), if this law goes, all of this stuff will as well. The Republicans didn't support all of that while opposing the insurance requirement. No, as with opposition to Medicare and so forth, they were more comprehensively wrong. So, no, I don't think this is a trivial law. Also, change doesn't happen all at once -- current safety net programs didn't all come into effect in the 1930s either. If this is struck down, how will stronger federal requirements be upheld?

Finally, as to the insurance requirement or be taxed (unless you don't make enough money etc.) measure, the desire of people to be freeloaders is duly noted. Unless, they want not to have the things listed, which includes federal spending that is threatened by bankruptcies and other federal obligations arising from those without insurance still getting health care. Federal legislation provides lots of things; this brings forth certain responsibilities. As with the constitutionality of the law, even if you don't like it on a policy level in some sense, this apparently needs to be repeated over and over again. So be it.

I think the brief quoted above does a good job telling Kennedy (and in a sense Scalia) that their previous opinions make the arguments against the constitutionality of the law unsustainable. By now, there has been a virtual cottage industry of such briefs, law articles and so forth. I guess it is a fait accompli that the Supreme Court will take this case and on some level it would be nice for the matter to be settled. That is, if they do not hold that a statutory provision prevents challenges to the insurance requirement until someone is actually targeted for not paying the tax. This won't happen for years. If the provision doesn't kick in -- and it is reasonable to decide the question -- they still need not decide, just as they did not decide under questions not deemed "ripe" for similar reasons. I still think that would be the right thing to do.

As to predictions, past cases do not show me why Kennedy (and maybe others) would overrule this law. It is not a type of one-off replacing something handled by the states (gun possession near schools, U.S. v. Lopez) or something arguably not "commercial" (gender violence, U.S. v. Morrison). A comprehensive regulation of the national insurance market is like Gonzales v. Raich, which upheld a federal law against the mere possession of marijuana. Scalia concurred and if anything this is an easier case. For one thing, there you can be put in jail for breaking the law; here, they can't even put a lien on your property to enforce the tax penalty. When did the USSC actually strike down a similarly broad law in recent memory on enumerated powers or federalism grounds?* The funding question is a stretch, so much even the 11th Cir. didn't accepted it. State actors are not "coerced" illegitimately just because refused federal funds is unpopular. No requirements ala Printz v. U.S. for state actors to specifically do anything. And, if we just think they are a bunch of conservative hacks, the drug case different because they hate druggies or something, insurance companies actually prefer this law and the specific infamous provision to the alternative.

But, we shall see. One last thing that keeps on coming up is the "Obamacare" label, which is used at times even by some liberal leaning sorts like TPM. It is not the biggest battle to fight, to be sure, and people can laugh/shrug it off or even adopt it (Obama cares etc.). I still don't like it. This is a health care law. It isn't about "Obama." Medicare isn't "LBJ-care." The U.S. Senate crafted this law with an assist from the House. Obama left them to it, too long in the minds of some. We are supposed to forget all of this, why? The use of the word by the opposition is malign -- it makes it about Obama with implications of some scary socialist measure where the government "cares" for you for your own good or something. And, to the degree it sounds like "Medicare," in fact, it is not that. It expands Medicaid somewhat, but it actually is a middle of the road, former Republican, approach. The use of the word sends the message that it is more left leaning than it actually is. Framing-wise, and framing is a major part of policy making these days, it has too many nefarious elements.

Again, there are bigger battles, and the confusion found in the public debate on this issue underlines the breadth of the fight. I admit to be tired of the whole thing, but Roe v. Wade is approaching forty, and we still are talking about it. It isn't just some sort of fait accompli, the issues common sense, without controversial. That's how life works.


* Bush v. Gore is tossed around, like the USSC does that sort of thing on a regular basis, but a reason so many were so upset there is that they actually don't. Upholding some criminal penalty or abortion restriction also doesn't point to a major federal law. The USSC dealt with federalism and so forth in various cases over the last two decades, but I nothing of this scope struck down. The comparison to federal drug policy only helps my point. Is this really where the Roberts Court will draw a line in the sand?

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (speaking of framing) as applied to states might be cited, though that is like 15 years ago, but there the Court was particularly upset that the Congress tried to in effect overturn Oregon v. Smith. Also, states accommodate religion in any number of ways that deal with local matters. Again, it is quite different than a national insurance market that no one state could handle on its own. And, literally anything can possibly be a federal case if burdens on religion have to be considered. This law is much more limited in scope.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Last time, the rookie from MN looked decent vs. GB, making a game of it. Not quite doing this in the rematch thus far. 24-0, early Third.

USSC to Hear Case Challenging Health Law

The Florida case is taken to cover various issues, including the little discussed Medicaid matter (upheld). The Virginia state nullification law seems to be the only major issue not covered. The Administration wanted this, so it was sort of inevitable, if "activist." To be cont.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

NFL Update (Briefly)

Ravens lose to sucky team again. NY/NJ are 0/3.

NFL Update

Raiders lead the AFL West, Eagles blew it again, Buffalo/KC/Detroit (vs. Bears) coming down to earth some more, Colts didn't win one of the few shots they have to win a game while Miami/Rams did.

Voice For Radio

The recent passport case had an old hand, a voice that seems fit for a Jewish retirement home, was on hand. The GPS case (on C-SPAN last night) also had someone with a distinctive voice.

More on Universal Life Church

A quick search provides various hits on wedding announcements where ULC ministers are involved. Earlier articles (e.g., 1970s) flag atttempted use of the church for tax avoidance, but there the money or property has to be solely or primary from church duties.

Republican Debates

TPM has been up on these. Overall, are we supposed to take these clowns seriously? The only one I could take seriously as credible are outliers, like Jon Huntsman. Mitt Romney comes off as a big phony. I'm repeatedly told he could beat Obama. I find this pathetic myself. Guy reeks of insider same old without personality. Really?

Xmas Is Here

At least, on t.v. and the movies (Harold and Kumar). In a few days, a favorite Hallmark movie of mine will come on, The Most Wonderful Time of The Year as will A Season For Miracles. Last night's entry was okay, the leads clicked. The other two have more substance.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

More on "Sister Wives" Case

I added a few comments on the importance given to the qualifications of religious officiant by various states as part of my discussion of religion, specifically marriage. The two-part article that was my immediate inspiration is due to be completed in a few days. I will provide a few more words on another topic, polygamy, which also was recently addressed again. A search on this blog provided multiple hits on the topic, which is an ongoing concern here and in Canada, including in litigation.

Marci Hamilton contributed to the latter case and wrote an article respecting the latter here, referencing another article (much less negative) by the same author of the two-part article cited above. Prof. Hamilton, who a past associate told me impressed her as a professor, has some conservative beliefs, but is a strong believer in the separation of church and state. She has also written passionately about the abuses of religious groups, who she believes have given too much discretion vis-a-vis other groups, in child abuse cases and in other cases (such as zoning issues).

Her article has a certain edge that bothers me, but regardless, I don't find her arguments too convincing. It is to be noted that the specific case addressed (which I talked about in the past) is not about the state recognizing multiple marriage licenses, but a couple being married and one partner (usually the man, but not always as noted by the literature of practice here and in Canada) cohabiting with others as well, particularly if s/he "purports" to be "married," including via a religious ceremony. This is done covertly enough times in non-religious cases (there were also historically Native American tribes deemed "polygamous") to be notable; it is in effect accepted especially if kept under the radar.

So, yes, certain types of "polygamous" relationships are being singled out. Reynolds underlines the selective nature of the attack. The opinion spoke of practices "odious among the northern and western nations of Europe," the changing nature of said "odious" practice suggested by the fact slavery and serfdom were accepted for much of the time cited. It is somewhat curious that an opinion in the age of coverture and women denied the right to vote was concerned about "patriarchal" results here. Quite a few think wives and husbands do not have the same roles today and it is troubling to be paternalistic about women who accept the result, particularly if you are selective about it.

To the degree there are abuses, does domestic abuse in some marriages mean marriage itself is bad? Some might make a somewhat more nuanced argument that as a whole the practice is too risky, but the harms often seem to arise from the criminalization. If the groups in question didn't feel a need to be overly secretive, given they are breaking the law, the abuses would be much less likely. For instance, there would be a bigger marriage pool and child abuse cases would be more easily handled. Some of the same things can be said about same sex marriage -- there official recognition sets forth certain reliance interests that strengthens the relationship, including societal recognition.

That also underlines that, contra Hamilton, "marriage" is not merely up to state definition. Same sex marriage should be protected, the alternative a sex discrimination approach to marriage. The allowance of those married to cohabit with others does not remove all limits, setting up marriage to the "whims" (a usual bit of disdain, more Scalia than her former boss, O'Connor, from the author) of those involved. In this very case, the people involved do not want separate marriage licenses, but the right to cohabit without being criminals. They very well might want official recognition as "married" to him, but the sister wives ("brothers" and "sisters" a common label in various groups, including gays/lesbians, the "incest" implication she takes from it a bit much) are not seeking this out here. Age and other limits are legitimate in place, regardless of opposition.

Prof. Hamilton ends with a requirement by the U.S. Congress that Utah ban polygamy before being given statehood. This suggests the special concern given by the state, various other states not having such strict polygamy statutes to the degree that cohabitation (a type of "common law" polygamous marriage, can we say?) is included. It is unclear to me if this more restrictive requirement was necessary to meet the original statehood condition. But, if a federal or state court decided for the plaintiffs here, it is likely that the holding would be that there was a constitutional flaw. If so, that would trump that "backstop" defense.

It is true that polygamy has been rejected over the years before and after the Mormon practice, but it has been handled in a somewhat selective way, particularly some of the more over the top things done (e.g., stripping voting rights for mere support of polygamous beliefs). The gender equality concerns have merit, but the overall matter is handled rather selectively when married couples are involved. And, there are some who would take part for which that wouldn't apply. Cohabitation alone is particularly dubious to target, marriage licenses still only given to two people in that situation. Criminalization also aggravates the problem.

Prof. Hamilton and others let their distaste of the beliefs interfere with a more neutral discussion of the issue, leading to some troubling results.*


* For instance, many are not big fans of that couple who will now have a 20th child, 20 kids not really a great means to gender equality either, but who disputes their right to have them? Polygamy is not the only way to cause a mismatch of numbers for marriage purposes either -- some special requirement can be imagined where only a limited number of females would be acceptable, the classification dealt in a gender specific way. After all, was not the virginity requirement selectively applied over the years? Again, we don't disallow such practices. etc.

Abortion Article

I think a complex view of this subject (just look at the cover of this recommended book)  is useful and only underlines the importance of freedom of choice. By now, new "frameworks" to solve anything is dubious to me, but I welcome nuanced discussion. See also.

Friday, November 11, 2011

We Remember ...

Those who served in good, bad and between situations, the day marking the end of the "war to end all wars" (sic), the holiday first marked as "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace."  Honoring vets includes keeping them out of harms way if possible.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

She Isn't TOO Smart, But She's A Looker with Punch

Good find in the Roosevelt Island thrift shop. Nice day trip.  Bus was a quarter.  The tram at night is nice too.  China Fun was yummy. 

Humor in the Well Rounded Life

Martin was interviewed at Duke Divinity School's Faith & Leadership blog when this book came out. In that interview, he said "We feel drawn to religious leaders with a sense of humor. It shows us that they understand their essential poverty of spirit and their own reliance on God. It shows humility, which is also essential in the spiritual life. You take God seriously, Jesus seriously and the gospel seriously, but you shouldn't take yourself too seriously."

-- from Amazon Review of Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life
Rev. James Martin was on The Colbert Report promoting last night this book, which I briefly referenced a few days back.  Again, I recommend the book, in part since it is "approachable, humorous and entertaining."  The author is a Jesuit (the meaning of "S.J." next to his name), but the title underlines his unilateralist message (shades of the Universal Life Church?*).  Some are not comfortable with the word "religion," but (as Carla Gugino noted on a Craig Ferguson appearance to promote the movie I just spoke about) say they are a "spiritual" person.  Wikipedia (with an equally open-ended discussion of "religion") notes:
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality;[1] an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.”
See also, the discussion here.  The point being that the message of the book is broad indeed -- the importance of joy, humor and laughter to a strong religious and/or spiritual life, which is basic to a good life.  This brings to mind The Mighty Macs as well, the nun explaining how she was told that "Jesus liked to dance."  After all, the official start of his ministry can be said to be a wedding -- where he turned water to wine.  Oh, let me quote the review, since it says it well:
While the film never veers into preaching territory (thank, God), there are a few lines with profound spiritual import that have stayed with me and that I have played over in my mind ever since. One of them is delivered by Sister Sunday at a roadhouse bar where she slips off her habit's head-covering while enjoying a post-victory beer with Rush. Sunday tells the coach a bit of her back story -- including her romantic history before becoming a nun -- and passes along wisdom from one of her mentors. "Jesus liked to dance," she said. What a marvelous image -- Jesus dancing and celebrating with other guests at the wedding in Cana and turning water into (really good) wine so that they party could keep on rolling.

Stephen Colbert underlines the value of humor and how it can be used as a good tool to teach and be part of a well rounded life.  Colbert is a Roman Catholic and Sunday school teacher, after all, and his seriousness does come through sometimes on his show, including his charitable causes.  Many probably would not get a taste of the diversity offered by his many guests, promoting a diverse number of books and causes.  As they say, a bit of honey helps the medicine goes down, including the medicine of life.


Looking into to it, NYC does allow ministers of this church to preside over weddings, the state as a whole having stricter rules (at least now).  So, when Conan O'Brien did so for a same sex wedding involving a staff member, it was legit. That is, if he got the proper paperwork. 

The whole idea of such an easy ministry seems like a joke, but I think it's legit too.  It is somewhat akin to marriage. In a way, true marriage is internal.  You swear your love and support to another.  The state or whatever makes it legal.  But, the true thing is personal.  A church that recognizes this respecting one's place in the universe seems right. 

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Okay, Where Was I Born?!

There was some interesting arguments in front of the Supreme Court this week, including involving GPS; this case concerning executive power over recognition is significant as well.  I agree with the author's stance on the concurrent nature of the power. 

The Kissing Game

Overall, a good selection of short stories.

More on The Mighty Macs

Looking at the Rotten Tomatoes page for this movie, I saw this review by Roger Ebert, who thought it nice enough, but boring and predictable.

He isn't really wrong -- it is predictable. I kind of wanted more out of the film.  As a whole, though, I thought it was impressive, leaning more toward this review though understanding why some might disagree.  But, I do respect him realizing that it still is nice enough and some (especially those who like "G" rated films that are not sickeningly sweet) will enjoy it.  I don't think only "younger" viewers (read "kids") will (the only people who call me young these days tend to be senior citizens) be in this class, but since reviewers (including him) selectively recognize that a movie can be decent without being superior, half a cheer.  And, heck, looks like I found something to agree with The American Spectator on. 

When I originally (briefly) cited this movie, I noted that real life was more complicated.  The actress might not lead you to know it (she's is around 40), the coach was in her early twenties at the time.  Also, the credits let us know the team continued to win, but curiously, only for a few years.  Why? Well, as links in my original post show, Title IX expanded the competition, a little Catholic college not being able to keep up.  One link also referenced the "ex-husband" of the coach showed.  It would be interesting as well to see how the nun portrayed as the assistant coach turned out -- how much was she like the person portrayed.  The film's website provides some "real life" background, sure to also be on the DVD.

Ebert's review suggests the selective take that can be involved, particularly when the person only has limited space. The penultimate paragraph brings up the "supporting actress" star of the film:
The other major character is a young nun, Sister Sunday (Marley Shelton). She confesses to Mother St. John that she's not sure she should be a nun. She's having a crisis of faith. Then she signs on as Cathy's assistant coach, and now she has a mission. Spiritual matters don't seem to enter into this. In fact, this movie has about as little religion in it as it's probably possible for a movie set at a Catholic school. The team doesn't even pray before games. Sister Sunday does walk into chapel and demand, in a clear ringing voice, for a message from God. Apparently the assistant coaching position is God's answer. He moves in mysterious ways.
This ignores a nice scene where the two coaches talk in a bar and Shelton's character explains her calling as a nun.  "Spiritual" matters are addressed; that is different from "religious" matters as such, which that scene nicely touches on.  The school itself is having a type of crisis of faith, the team seen as a way to have faith in the school and yourself, the usual theme in sports films of this type really.  This is deep down quite "spiritual." The prayer to God is a bit less as stereotypical than suggested here and the reason why coaching is "God's answer" is that it is a means to connect to the students in an exciting way. Why is this so "mysterious"?   And, we don't really see their pre-game rituals much at all, except in one scene.  So, how do we know that? As to it not being that religious, sure, it is trying to appeal to a broad audience.  But, I'm not sure what more it should have offered.  The coach even went to mass, kneeling down and giving the sign of the cross.* 

Yes, the film has various stereotypical touches and doesn't break major new ground.  The relationship with the husband is barely touched upon really, though it works okay.  I liked the nun assistant coach and various scenes (as touched upon in the review I linked) with the girls (young women).  I'm generally a sucker for the basic plot, especially if it is done in a somewhat low key way like this small independent film.  It reminds me of Believe in Me, another period young women's basketball film in some ways.  And, though I can't really say for sure, it overall looks true to life, the actresses in the roles as the players in particular (the AS article has a nice tidbit there).  That's not a bad bunch of positives.

Worth a look.  Too bad many won't see it, since it has such a limited run.  NYC theaters played it for about a week -- I had to go elsewhere to see the damn thing, at overpriced $9.50 prices for the matinee.  Sheesh -- no wonder I am seeing so few movies in theaters these days. 


* We can do with some more shows where a religious organization plays a major role that provides more complexity than some that have been in place.  I was something of a fan of Seventh Heaven, but the minister was a tad too good to be true.  The "reveal" on a show like Touched by an Angel also sort of annoyed me. Real life would be less obvious. There were also a few films and at least one show that portrayed the clergy a bit too human.  If done right with some nuance, it would make a good show, various religions providing a chance for women clergy as well. 

Some Good News on Election Day

The failure in Mississippi of the "personhood amendment" and in Ohio regarding an anti-union law provides a bit of good news. Take it where you can.  Toss in a recall of the backer of the infamous Arizona immigration law.  Not fully sure set terms should be overridden.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

More Conservative Support For ACA

A Reaganite judge with standing wrote the opinion while another conservative fav dissented, but did so on jurisdictional grounds because the "thing looks like a tax and acts like a tax," saying it is too soon to decide the challenge. I prefer that, if possible.


A bit less exciting than some games, but the Bears did come back, the Eagles again blowing it in the 4th.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Duane Buck Loses In The End

The Supreme Court did a few things of note today. It handed down a couple per curiams without recorded dissent, giving the sixth circuit this time a rap on the knuckles (I have been told that the Sixth Circuit has been known to be a problem ... the Ninth isn't the only one, just a familiar target). It will decide if a minor can be given life without parole if guilty of murder (the answer was "no" in a non-capital case, Stevens praising Roberts' concurrence which held it was unconstitutional in some cases).

The most notable, at least in coverage, is the disposition to a case the Court held for further review. It involved an expert that testified in a capital sentencing phase that race was a factor that statistically made it more likely a person would be dangerous. The earlier decision got some attention, particularly because Texas itself admitted error. As noted by the dissent today, the state said:
[T]he infusion of race as a factor for the jury to weigh in making its determination violated [Saldano’s] constitutional right to be sentenced without regard to the color of his skin.
The troublesome witness tainted various sentencing decisions, but (again from the dissent) re-sentencing was not too promising for many of the defendants:
Accordingly, in five of the six cases the attorney general identified, the State confessed error and did not raise procedural defenses to the defendants’ federal habeas petitions. Five of the six defendants were thus resentenced, each to death.
Such is often the case, underlining the limited nature of these rulings. Still, the principle here is important [see "loki" discussing the matter here] and that one defendant counts. The state opposed one motion, however, and after looking over it some, the Supreme Court denied cert. Sotomayor (with Kagan) dissented. Alito (with the strange bedfellows of Scalia and Breyer) concurred, noting that the defense called the witness this time. But, if the use of race taints the jury's judgment, why should that matter at the end of the day? Also, the state DID ask if race increased dangerousness and repeated the reference to his dangerousness in his summation. The defense's use (per dissent) also was different:
In this case, first on direct examination by the defense, Dr. Quijano merely identified race as one statistical factor and pointed out that African-Americans were overrepresented in the criminal justice system; he did not state a causal relationship, nor did he link this statistic to Buck as an individual). Buck did not argue that his race made him less dangerous, and the prosecutor had no need to revisit the issue. But she did, in a question specifically designed to persuade the jury that Buck’s race made him more dangerous and that, in part on this basis, he should be sentenced to death.
Troubling conclusion, particularly troublesome that Breyer needlessly concurred in Alito's statement. Ginsburg silently went along, for whatever reason -- who knows what goes behind the scenes in cases like this. For instance, it is known (sorry if this seems arbitrary) that justices count noses and Ginsburg might have saw this as a loser, something that did not have five votes. But, though it is not surprising that Breyer is not as liberal as the stereotype, it is annoying Breyer felt a need to go on the record here. The reasoning seems more form than substance.

Meanwhile, earlier Thomas was the only one who wanted to take a cross case that some thought was prime for review, a time for the Supremes to clarify its display jurisprudence. Thomas' unconvincing simplistic allegation that the Court really has no standards (close cases go different ways ... shocker) aside, it would have made sense to take the case to clarify things now that O'Connor is gone. It's a pretty good bet that Alito doesn't share her views on the matter. As Greenhouse notes, it is not that I actually would agree with the result.

But, maybe Kennedy wants to let the endorsement test lie, unlike Thomas, respecting the passage of time.  [Or, that life is complicated.]

Sunday Night -- Another Great Finish

Will the Bears and Eagles do it too? Some good football this weekend.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

More Football

They did it again -- after the Pats went ahead late in the 4th, the NYG (with help of a great catch & a penalty this time, already in position for the tie) went down the field and won. The other late afternoon games were pretty good too. Each NY team (3) is in first.

Sunday Sports Update

Bad Teacher was boring -- turned it off part way through. Messy First Half (3-0), but Jets D continued to dominate, offense (lots) added. Miami will finally win, the Colts won't. Other games unexceptional.

Charming Story of Day

Patrick Henry High School (San Diego) just elected a lesbian couple as homecoming king and queen. The Wikipedia article suggests the school has had an independent frame of mind over the years. The queen part of the couple noted:
'We have a lot of support, but there are also a lot of people who are angry about it.

'Anonymous Patrick Henry students are saying they're embarrassed and that it's wrong for a girl to take the spot of king.

'But there's no other way for us to run as a couple. It's not really fair for us not have the right to run as a couple.'
They did not originally plan to run but received encouragement from students and facility. The king part had this to say on Facebook to some critics:
For all the girls who think tradition should be continued, go back to the kitchen, stop having sex before you're married, get out of school and job system, don't have an opinion, don't own any property, give up the right to marry who you love, don't vote, and allow your husband to do whatever he pleases to you. Think about the meaning of tradition when you use it in your argument against us.
Yes. A key to education is repetition and it has to be repeated over and over and over again that "tradition" is a poor single reed to rest on when defending something.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Need a Minister For Your Marriage?

The first step to solving this conundrum is to unpack the different components of religion. In my own work, I have argued that all humans, even young children, tacitly hold some supernatural beliefs, most notably the dualistic view that bodies and minds are distinct. (Most Americans who describe themselves as atheists, for instance, nonetheless believe that their souls will survive the death of their bodies.) Other aspects of religion vary across cultures and across individuals within cultures. There are factual beliefs, such as the idea that there exists a single god that performs miracles, and moral beliefs, like the conviction that abortion is murder. There are religious practices, such as the sacrament or the lighting of Sabbath candles. And there is the community that a religion brings with it—the people who are part of your church, synagogue, or mosque.

-- Does Religion Make You Nice? Does atheism make you mean?
I originally quoted that in a a discussion on the meaning of "religion," which is one of those things that I think are defined too narrowly by many, along with words like "morals" or "value voters."*  The discussion includes a comment about Unitarian Universalism, which is defined by the cited source as "not an atheist movement, but a religious movement into which some atheists may comfortably fit."  Looking at the website of the UU church in my city, I found this interesting sermon that included a citation of the actress Mayim Bialik, an impressive role model.  She even manages to (in "Operation Hot and Holy") find a proper dress for the Emmys that matches her religious faith.

The sermon also speaks about current events:
Although participants might disagree, I see Occupy Wall Street as a fundamentally religious movement in that it’s struggling to embody the beloved community – asserting a vision of the world as it should be in the very midst of the world as it is.
The whole thing is interesting reading.  [Just heard Andy Rooney has died. Impressive career, not just as a curmudgeon.]  The church also joined a brief on the "ministerial exemption" case pending in front of the USSC.  Some might think UU is not a "religion" or would not be satisfied since its views are so diverse that it seems more like the United Nations of Religion than one faith.  It appeals to me.

Another organization, one that even some of its members don't treat as a "religion," is the New York Society Of Ethical Culture. NY state law expressly allows leaders of that society to preside over marriages. [The Texas case cited by the previous link is interesting and cites a broad based definition of religion that I have for some time found useful. The "report" on the ruling also is a telling discussion that mirrors some sentiments addressed here.]  The society to me is not merely "ethical" in nature, but has various aspects that would traditionally be deemed "religious." To cite the Wikipedia entry linked above:
Ethical Societies typically have Sunday morning meetings, offer moral instruction for children and teens, and do charitable work and social action. They may offer a variety of educational and other programs. They conduct weddings, commitment ceremonies, baby namings, and memorial services.

The footnote below cites case law back to the 1950s that confirms such an argument. The Universal Life Church is a more tricky case (though it does not merely involve a freestanding believer, who has been protected, but an actual church, one with ceremonies and leadership) and an upcoming article will cover the NY situation in particular. The church has a basic creed:
"Do only that which is right".

Every person has the natural right (and the responsibility) to peacefully determine what is right. We are advocates of religious freedom.

The Universal Life Church wants you to pursue your spiritual beliefs without interference from any outside agency, including government or church authority.
Since each person has such a right, under the church's philosophy, each can become a minister, one that, yes, many places will let solemnize weddings. This has shades of Quakerism. Conan O'Brien just presided over a same sex marriage of a staffer, noting that he did so under the authority of being a minister of this church.  More about the religion can be found here.  Again, some may not take this seriously, more so than the others.  But, is "religion" about some organized church or can it be a community of believers as a whole?  And, who decides who they are?  If there is not a proper gatekeeper (who decides?), does it not count?  Many do believe that they themselves have to determine the meaning of their faith and/or religion.  This so even if they are members of a church, sometimes one that can be rather hierarchical or touchy about doctrine.

As to the marriage thing, the important thing (for official purposes) is the state license. I'm not sure -- as long as there is a witness -- who "presides" over it. It is fact probably misguided on First Amendment grounds to favor certain "real" religions in this respect.

[The lack of complexity of doctrine is not too convincing and who wants to go there?  The lack of exclusivity of clergy is duly noted, but again, who cares?  They are merely witnesses ... for legal purposes.  Does it make you feel better if clergy from the Church of Satan do the honors? And, a religion can reject hierarchical lines -- it seems a dubious 1A matter to disfavor them, again when the real issue is a valid license.

Yes, legislators probably didn't have this sort of thing in mind, but they are not always able to know what is ahead and to the extent they could, it seems like religious favoritism to deny ULC ministers the right to preside.  Maybe, a required class or some such thing for all who wish to preside might be a good idea anyways.  Is it really so notable that a religious body with the suitable complexity and hierarchy selected the person who presides?  Many do not trust many religions overall.]

[A bit more: See this article for a discussion on internet ministers.

Looking at a few cases, the concern is sometimes raised that the religious presiding officiant is someone chosen with a certain amount of care, since they "sanctify" the proceedings and perhaps they might have certain obligations (like signing and returning the certificate).  The latter is better done by a test or providing instructions to the person, the former boils down to the people involved.  If the ULC or some other church matches their faith and/or beliefs, it "sanctifies" things. Depriving people of free exercise of religion here seems downright petty.

A notary in NY has the power to serve as a witness to oaths and affirmations, pursuant to passing a test and paying a fee.  This might not involve marriage, though it can involve a lot of important things, including public officials being sworn in.  The confusion over marriages here is silly. See also, here, as to online "congregations" and the issue of penitent privilege, which if we do allow, might very well be different, given the lack of witnesses, it not merely being a follow-up to a civil procedure (license) and the importance of testimony in a court of law.]


* The original footnote (slightly edited):

Religious freedom would include making choices regarding God and not favoring those that choose to model morality and such on God, but matters of conscience are probably also a necessary aspect ("penumbra" if you like) even if seen as a freestanding matter. As Justice Douglas (in a dissenting opinion also making the equal protection point) once noted:
It is true that the First Amendment speaks of the free exercise of religion, not of the free exercise of conscience or belief. Yet conscience and belief are the main ingredients of First Amendment rights. They are the bedrock of free speech as well as religion. The implied First Amendment right of "conscience" is certainly as high as the "right of association" which we recognized. Some indeed have thought it higher. Conscience is often the echo of religious faith. But, as this case illustrates, it may also be the product of travail, meditation, or sudden revelation related to a moral comprehension of the dimensions of a problem, not to a religion in the ordinary sense.
Citations omitted. On that general subject, many would agree that certain positions are not "secular," putting aside the fact that they do not necessarily rise or fall on the existence of God. And, there are "non-theistic" religions out there. The lower court rulings cited by that footnote provide useful open-ended meanings to "religion." 

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Mighty Macs

No NBA? Well, here's a replacement, even providing a former NBA ref in a small part. Good formula film (life a bit more complicated) of a small Catholic college women's team going all the way in the early '70s. Nice role for Marley Shelton as a nun / assistant coach.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Love Times Three

I discussed a "sister wives" legal case here, noting the difference between not providing civil recognition and making it a crime even without an attempt to fraudulently obtain that (bigamy). Polygamy is an ancient practice that continues to be legally practice in many cultures (e.g., Islam recognizes it), which over the years led to some legal recognition even in the U.S. And, of course, it is a usual bugaboo when same sex marriage is involved. More directly, I have addressed Utah's law that criminalizes "purported" marriages, in effect those declare themselves married to more than one spouse for religious or other reasons.

Love Times Three (by four Dargers -- three wives and a husband with Brooke Adams, a journalist) is not really about that though the laws clearly are of immediate concern to them. A few Amazon reviewers wanted them to justify themselves more, such as talking about the so-called "excessive male" problem. On that front, it is more like this review of an article. We do not get a complete discussion of why polygamy (polgyny) is required under their "independent fundamentalist Mormon" (I sometimes wonder if the term is appropriate, as compared to the more official Church of Latter Day Saints, but it seems to be here) faith or an answer to all the problems some have with it. It is more an account, the four taking chances speaking with a chapter that does the same for the oldest of each mom, of their lives.

On that front, it was a good book. A few Amazon reviewers were bored by it, but it is not like their lives are free from conflict. The third wife (the twin to another) came in a decade or so later than the other two after struggling as the sister wife of a much older man. One chapter is about the death of a baby and the concern when an official investigation was put forth. One wife had a bad time with one of her births, leading to conflict. And so on. The overall typical nature -- more or less -- of much of their lives is part of the theme of the book. But, it is not like everything is hunky-dory, no conflict or crisis. The bunch's overall down to earth style (the book link has some video; listen also here) appeals.

No, this isn't a "tell all" book with all the juicy bits.* Each came from polygamous backgrounds, so it is far from surprising that they continued that lifestyle (a word they use). One wife notes that she doesn't expect legal recognition of the marriages, just for it not to be deemed criminal. As to the reason why they chose the life, putting aside their background, family comes out to be the major reason. Each wife appreciates a big family and having such a big support system (the conflicts that arise are touched upon -- again, the book does not simply sugarcoat things). Another reason is hinted at -- the belief that spirits are waiting to be born. A big family, which polygamy of this sort furthers (one woman, multiple men, is rare in world cultures, though it de facto occurs in certain situations, such as when men are away at war or in prison) furthers this. But, again, like many religious and cultural beliefs, sometimes there is no big reveal. It is what they or we are familiar with and wish to continue.

Various reasons are provided to oppose polygamy though if we respect freedom of choice on the matter, criminalization appears to be a dubiously overbroad means of addressing it. And, though eight states directly criminalize the practice (see first link), only blatant cases tend to be addressed by the authorities. The fact some specific close-knit group supports underage marriage doesn't mean that is the way of all. Child abuse in the Roman Catholic Church underlines that sort of thing is not somehow "polygamous" in nature. If there is some sort of welfare fraud because "single" moms actually are being supported by the father, it is largely a result of criminalization. Conservative views about women or faith are not unique to this group and the moms here seem fairly liberal on various subjects. They even recognized, if not accepting it, the right of same sex couples to have unions like theirs.

The practice also is said to lead to inequality. The women do choose this path, like some choose other religious or moral paths with conservative aspects that might limit their discretion in ways I oppose. The idea -- suggested by some -- that it isn't really consensual raises red flags. How do we know if such and such religious belief is not really "consensual" then? I think the Roman Catholic faith has various very misguided beliefs as do many who actively take part. Are those who follow them, including on birth control issues, not really consensually doing so if driven by religious faith? The stance seems selective on that front. And, freedom of conscience is a special value that deserves more.

The three wives here seem quite happy in their choices and each are pretty independent people, more so than many monogamous wives probably. The system as a whole has some feminist support because of the support system involved, plus the realization that a women should have choices. Still, there is a problem with a system where one man marries three women. There is some inequality there though the women here in no way are "ruled over" by Joe Darger as such. If it works for them, okay, but I can see people having some concern. And, it makes some sense not to provide full civil recognition, in part since our system of marriage is set up as (per Griswold v. Connecticut) as a "bilateral loyalty." Various secular reasons, including involving decision-making, makes that reasonable. Sex classification is more problematic on that front.

The other concern is the children. We are talking over twenty here. Again, it seems they are doing fine. And, three moms is great on that front in various ways. But, again, one dad. Me, I would think it more reasonable if there were less children overall. You know, like ten. Still, not like I have any standing on family rules or anything -- I'm not part of some model family or anything. And, big families (REAL BIG) have thrived over the years. And, monogamous marriages have large families (Scalia has nine) while others have many children out of wedlock, various parents involved, often with one or the other not having much of a role.

I will end with the "excess men" issue, which is not addressed in the book. The concern seems more likely to occur in close-knit communities where there is limited resources, here marriage possibilities. The Dargers are independents, who do not live in such a community. As with Islam, polygamy is only allowed if each partner can handle it, financially and otherwise. This as well as personal choice leads only some fundamentalist Mormons (the same is the case with Muslims) to choose this path. In a closed community, this would mean choices would have to be made and there is some evidence of abuses. That is, expelling "excess" males, even as teenagers, or use of underage females.  

But, it is throwing out the baby with the bathwater to suggest polygamy -- again, a time-old practice (I have never heard, e.g., the abuses arising in nations that allow it, particularly the idea such cultures expel young men to allow others to have polygamous marriages) -- overall is the problem as compared to misuse. Alcohol use leads to abuse. The numbers of fatalities on the road underline the point. Is alcohol to be banned? I think not and nor should polygamy, even if many do not think it is right for them.  And, criminalization as with misuse of drugs and other issues, would make stopping abuses harder both because of decreased oversight and a smaller pool, the current practice only encouraging secrecy and closed societies. 

The Dargers have made a choice that seems to work for them; they should be able to make it without being deemed criminals, even if the reader might think it is a wrong one. 


* The makers of the HBO series Big Love, started by two gay guys who are open to alternate lifestyles, referenced a magazine story about the Dargers as partial inspiration. The book notes that it is not simply a carbon copy though, various bits not their life choices. The show at one point shows the husband getting worn out at his middle age from having to have sex with each wife. He eventually gets some pills to help.

I do find that a curious issue, one the book doesn't really address. Each wife has a couple days of intimacy with the husband, but marriage isn't quite that scheduled, is it? There is some flexibility for special occasions and such, but that seems a tad artificial though some reference to a husband away for business except for a couple days might be raised. Are sex toys used? The book is again not really that intimate about things.