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

Friday, December 30, 2016

She's On First

Watching Pitch, found this book from the 1980s (ballplayer salary: $65K), an enjoyable and professional (getting the feel of the game right) read. Read another account of the first female player (with a bit more melodrama) years back too (name eludes me). This one tosses in some personal dramas and provides different points of view. Meanwhile, in college.

Update: Three reject books, one I did skim significantly.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Health Care

Just in the last month, I had various instances of basic medical care (both check-ups and stitches) that out of pocket would cost hundreds a pop. One instance also required me waiting about five hours (somewhat luckily late at night, not missing any work etc.) to get treated. The PPACA helped things here some. Republicans wish to make it worse some. Yes, there are neutral and partisan concerns present here. And, you know, personal too.

Monday, December 26, 2016

One more thing ...

The film portrays a future basically like ours -- the earth is dominant, NYC is apparently basically the same, human aging appears the same (conceivably, they would be alive after 100 years) and she figures when she goes back/forth, things won't be much different when she comes back in around 200 years. For instance, what if there was a nuclear war or something. Other stuff similar too. Dubious but Star Trek isn't much better in various ways.


The visuals of this film should result in at least one technical Oscar and the performances (basically two with two supporting characters, one limited to a few scenes late) are rather good too. The two "passengers" on a space journey wake up a lifetime too soon, one by the other after a year of loneliness. This major ethical breach ("murder" by her sentiment later on) is tempered a bit by the later action which shows two were needed to save the ship. Liked it overall, visuals impressive and deeper questions (believably applied) adds weight.

My view: His actions were deeply wrong (and he knew it) but humanly understandable. She was horrified when she found out etc., so we don't just get his view there. The final action helps there but it is reasonably possible something would arise where one would need the other to save them. Some might still not be able to forgive but many would act as she did.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Certain Women

Looking at the director's former movies, including at least two (saw Wendy and Lucy) with Michelle Williams, the rather depressing tone of this film perhaps is to be expected. But, it is a bit much, some dark comic moments a bit of a relief. A trio of Montana women's stories, they are somewhat connected, provides great acting, sense of place and not much soundtrack. Saw it for $5 in a twenty seat theater room in a historical Pelham cinema.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

SALAZAR v. BUONO (Cross Case)

I said a lot about winter holiday display cases, including addendum, but since this is mostly my personal journal (even if a few come in weekly), will add some more here.

The basic comment here will be a case about an isolated cross put in place to honor WWI dead, which was one of the cases SG Kagan argued, and had procedural issues that Breyer at least thought was able to settle things. But, others did not, helping to lead to various concurring opinions and a principal dissent (Stevens, RBG, Sotomayor).  So, both the procedural and substantive issues were addressed. This is not the cross case discussed in the book God on Trial though that case too dragged on.

Justice Kennedy in his separate opinion (partial dissent) involving a holiday display in Allegheny suggested a permanent cross on top of a City Hall could be problematic.  OTOH, there are various other crosses that the Supreme Court today will think presumptuously acceptable, including large crosses put on the side of the road (flagged in Kennedy's plurality here) to honor the dead.  This would add to acceptance of a Ten Commandments display (outside of a school classroom and without illegitimate purpose). The isolated location of this cross also factored in.  So, as I noted last time, there is some balancing even here. 

The government here decided to end a dispute by transferring a government monument to private hands, but with certain conditions.  The net result as the dissent notes retains endorsement of religion since the legislation "designated the cross as a national memorial, and that endorsement continues regardless of whether the cross sits on public or private land." The plurality remanded the case for further review -- the purpose here is to speak generally so I won't address that -- but to me made it fairly clear that it thought the whole thing was okay.  Again, the government is provided a suggestive path to follow to avoid court challenges, dealing with blatant endorsement concerns.

The case to me underlines the basic problem -- the point here is to honor war dead. That's great. But, HOW is it done here, with governmental endorsement?  A cross.  Compare to the practice in veteran cemeteries, including war dead overseas, where there is a chance to put a personal religious marker on the grave.  So, e.g., a cross, Jewish star or crescent.  And, I recall a reference to an attempt to add another symbol was rejected.  Justice Alito actually flagged this alternative, but argued it was likely that the challengers would not be satisfied.  Maybe so.

But, a sensible middle ground should not be decided on concerns that nothing will please everyone.  Scalia was annoyed during oral argument when it was suggested the cross didn't really honor Jewish war dead.  It is not that the cross isn't in some fashion inclusive there.  A person of some faith might pray for people of all faiths. The symbol here still is of a specific religion and it is telling that people are given a chance to put personal emblems on their own graves.  Congress here singled out a specific religion's symbol and rather uniquely -- there was but one other example cited of a national monument (of a priest holding a cross) with such a blatant religious symbol.*

It is not anti-religious to oppose this sort of specific religious favoritism.  Again, we are not opposing all religions from having a chance to add a religious aspect to their personal space.  And, a general display that is in some fashion governmental can have some sort of religious content. That isn't the point here. So, a memorial for the dead can have some sort of religious content (see also, comments before a legislative day, as long as it was open-ended, including humanist etc.). A few might find this troublesome, wishing a more complete separation of church and state, but as in the Town of Greece legislative prayer case, there is a narrower problem here.

There is a basic principle here that seems to me fairly easy to state and important as well.  On some level, like the National Day of Prayer (which honors a certain sort of religion), this case seems trivial.  On another however, it is not, and seems to me fairly gratuitous.  Finally, Justice Alito cites the basically unanimous legislative support of this move.  But, nearly all of the people involved are Christians, and the rest very well might not want to put themselves on record as against a cross honoring war dead.

A whole point of the religion clauses is to protect everyone against possible majoritarian pressures.  In other contexts, Alito worries about such things. Respect of religious freedom comes in various forms.


* A similar issue arose in the Ten Commandment displays cases in which Scalia argued various varieties (different sects use different language) basically interchangeable to recognize God's place in our society. I support the justices who opposed the monuments in general there as unconstitutionally sectarian and that underlines why.  A truly generic Ten Commandments monument (which very well still might be bad, but less so) would have no verbiage.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Waging War: The Clash Between Presidents and Congress, 1776 to ISIS

Reading. As someone familiar with a lot of the material, the book is pretty good (easy reading etc.), but disappointing in what it leaves out and somewhat bland at times overall. Nearly nothing on the Mexican War, which warrants a few more pages. Skips Washington's presidency, basically. Caught a mistake here and there (e.g., the losing candidate in 1896). In a way, liked the long article he co-authored better. Barron himself is part of the story.

Monday, December 12, 2016

"Funerals" for Abortions

This has received some passionate pushback recently. A "mandate [of the] burial or cremation of embryonic and fetal tissue that results from abortions, miscarriages, or ectopic pregnancy surgery" can have various problems, including making public the names of the women having an abortion and costs. But, just using the word "funeral" doesn't do it for me -- the implication of some religious ceremony is misleading. Non-religious atheists have them etc. And, special rules, carefully tailored, to dispose human remains seems valid.

Football Update

Jets putative QB of the future looked pretty bad vs. lowly Rams (minus one drive) and didn't look good early vs the evenly more lowly (one win) SF team. But, won in OT. Giants offense (minus one key score) looked if anything worse but their defense won the game for them. Dallas' two losses came vs. them, and with three games left, their wild card spot looks fairly safe. Other NFC slot now held by Tampa Bay. Brown down to three games; Denver's loss might have cost them a playoff spot. KC might have secured the division by beating Oakland.

SCOTUS Ends 2016 (Scheduled)

After holding it for multiple conferences, SCOTUS (Kagan/Breyer dissented on the record, Breyer separately commenting in a dissent regarding another death penalty case) denied a request to decide if Ohio could try again to execute someone. After news reports of a botched execution just occurring, this is particularly depressing. Another brief unanimous decision and the scheduled orders/decisions of '16 are complete. Good riddance.

Update: A few more grants. Nothing looks that notable.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Friday, December 09, 2016

After split tied SCOTUS stay vote, Alabama completes last scheduled execution of 2016

Execution after a 4-4 vote is distasteful and (Glossip aside) sounds like there might have been issues with the execution itself. There were a series of orders yesterday, including two brief stays and the final vote. The jury here voted 7-5 to recommend life but the judge overrode them. The justices, a trend at this point, didn't explain themselves. A person died, four didn't think he should, but didn't say why. You know, screw you.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

A Couple Books

Found a couple interesting books on my library's free rack (only see this at my library so far) including The Tale of Despereaux (promo has stuff not in book) about a strange mouse's adventures and Ethel Rosenberg: Beyond the Myths. Note key information came out a few years after the book (a psychological history of sorts) was published but the implication she is guilty but the guilt exaggerated still seems fair. This is often the case.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Wave Hill

Used my IDNYC card to get a free annual membership to this mini-Botanical Gardens locale of sorts in Riverdale (no, not where Archie lives), which I believe most NYC residents don't know exists. Like a recent trip to Botanical Gardens, this isn't the best time to see it with less in bloom, but still is very nice with a great view. Interesting garden tour.