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

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Rev. Joe Gets Vapors At Blog Post Headings

Ask someone who has actually struggled to get healthcare and now can, and wasn’t really put off by a couple hour wait to finally get coverage:
This. I'm taking a week blog comments post hiatus.

Walter White (S1)

The group cast/crew commentary on the first episode was pretty good but did not like the next two episodes -- too drawn out both realistically and dramatically. Would have worked better if the material was combined into one episode.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

"Due Process and Targeted Killings: A Law Professor’s Suggestions for Enhancing Procedures"

I have clashed with some who I think exaggerate the problems with the Obama Administration's approach, but repeatedly note that there is a reason for some concern. The "issue brief" (a great resource generally) here provides helpful discussion.

Walter White

Seeing hints (including an article marked "spoiler") about some big/controversial thing happening on Downton Abbey, now running in the UK. Killing Matthew isn't enough? Meanwhile, giving into the crowd, saw the first episode of Breaking Bad. Guy does drama as well as he does goofball comedy. Like the one shot of breasts -- hey we are basic cable!

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Government Takes A U-Turn On Warrantless Wiretaps"

Verrilli told the Court, would have standing to challenge the wiretapping. However, Verrilli later learned that, in two recent terrorism cases, prosecutors had not made those disclosures.
SCOTUSBlog links to the NPR story and has a five part series interviewing him as well.

"The Weight of Capital Punishment on Jurors, Justices, Governors, & Executioners"

Good guest column examining the effects on the "other" parties involved.

I Spit On Your Grave

I have seen this, including the inferior remake (did not see either sequel) a few times over the years, and still think it a serious effort (the original title: Day of the Woman). In one "director's cut" DVD, Joe Bob Briggs provides a mostly serious commentary and respects the effort though has some appropriately snarky moments. The director also reflects/provides a commentary. An interesting diner scene is not included in this cut.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Seminoles Agree To College Football Usage

The tribe helped university boosters create the costume for the Chief Osceola mascot, approving the face paint, flaming spear and Appaloosa horse that have no connection to Seminole history.
So it was in 2005, and so it is today, looking at today's paper. The practice to me and some of the tribal group is offensive, but the local tribe consents. That's their prerogative and it makes it different from the Redskins, including the offensive nature of the name itself.

Looks Like It Will Win 2-1 but ...

C-SPAN was airing audio from DC Circuit orals on the argument that for profit corporations can deny -- because of the religious beliefs of individuals behind them -- employees the right to use their own money for contraceptive coverage which in effect forces those individuals to give up a bit of their own rights. I find this argument so aggravatingly wrong.

Not taking them off the hook but ...

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) contended Thursday that Republicans deserve some of the blame for the Affordable Care Act's bumpy rollout.
Has a point. Like Prof. Adler over Volokh Conspiracy being a bit of an asshole sniping at problems caused by PPACA not going to conference without telling us why (59 senators = filibuster), only one side being grown-ups causes problems. Sorry, it's not wrong to note this.

A New New Testament

I saw this in the library and am intrigued by it -- it is in effect a modern translation (by some accounts a bit too sex neutral -- "person of humanity" over "son of man" type stuff) and an addition of ten books, looks like basically gnostic works. Anyone see it?

Website Horrors!

First, let us remember PPACA has been on the books since 2010 and various things have in effect already has been "rolled out." As to the problem with the website for a key part, it's troubling, but I'm not horrified by it. People have a while to sign up and glitches are not shocking. Realize it is a f-up and looks bad. Perspective please.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Citizenship of Haitians in Dominican Republic for decades threatened by court ruling"

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States
One result of another path, perhaps wished by the "anchor baby" crowd exception to the 14A, is discussed by here today. The column doesn't pick up the comparison. Meanwhile, his paper shouldn't have included photos of an alleged 17 year old criminal in a sensitive case.

‘Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight’

Caught this dramatic account of the inner workings of the Clay v. U.S. proceedings mixed with actual footage of interviews with Muhammad Ali and the like. Some recognizable faces, including Maria's hubby as Justice Harlan, a sort of hero of the piece. Mixed bag that at times seems like a chance to throw out some good lines. Justice Douglas comes off particularly lame here. Good try and wouldn't mind other attempts like it.

Online Blues

In a discussion of "designer babies," I made what seemed to me a bland statement as to due care, but it suggests the perils of that online. First, the inference was that I was saying more than I was. Second, I had a tedious back/forth over just what being "careful" means and what "concerns" I have. I provide a long reply and that STILL isn't enough. Give me a break.

"Can Corporations Pray? The Next Big Fight over Obamacare"

I don't know if the USSC has to go as far as the principle (e.g., there is no substantial burden and there is a compelling state interest) stated in this well argued "issue brief," but it underlines why the challenges to for profit business corporations are so weak. A related if somewhat more expansive argument can be found here. Concerned about this case.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

World Series -- Yawn

When a local morning sports guy polled the office, so to speak, about the WS, the general sentiment was little or no interest. He also agreed the Giants played poorly though his partner did note the defense played well. Vikings sucking there did help.

NJ Begins Same Sex Marriages

[As I type this, in a pretty badly played game -- though the Giants showed some more life in the Second Half -- the Giants finally won, finding a team more inept than themselves.  The 10-7 score at the half was a bit scary.]
Governor Christie’s office said that the opinion released last Friday by the state supreme court “left no ambiguity about the unanimous court’s view on the ultimate decision in this matter.” While the governor “strongly disagrees with the Court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people,” he said that the court had now ”spoken clearly” on New Jersey law and he would carry out the ruling through state agencies.
The "elected branches" voted for same sex marriage already, let us recall, and he vetoed it, saying it was public referendum or nothing.  So, any cry of judicial activism is a bit weak.  Gov. Cuomo (Sr.) blocked a legislative move to re-establish the death penalty, but didn't claim he was just doing it so the "people can decide" or something.  I would note there that when the legislature's action was upheld under Gov. Pataki, the law was struck down by the state court of appeals, the legislature never getting around to correct the provision that caused the problem.

Someone I know was upset at the turn of events here, though accepting (like many, a change from not that long ago) the idea of civil unions. I think the person's understandings is important here, in part because that is how it is supposed to work -- that is, in our republican democracy, the understandings of the average person is important. The understandings are going to be imperfect (someone at Volokh Conspiracy wrote a book on political ignorance and made various somewhat confused/drawn out points on the matter in recent days, but the basic idea of political ignorance, including it being in various cases rational as a matter of limited time and resources is not that profound), but we should try to do our best to make it as sound as possible. It's an uphill battle.

The basic logic of the ruling is that the NJ Supreme Court eight or so years back held that NJ needed to provide equal benefits to same sex couples as different sex couples, but marriage is not necessary. Shades of Vermont back at the start of it all. This was somewhat reasonable given the state of affairs at the time, if not really enough as to equal protection, less so as over ten states now have same sex marriage.  It is somewhat dubious, especially given it was a split vote then, that the NJ Supreme Court would rule the same way now -- it very well would do what the Connecticut Supreme Court did and require same sex marriages.

Anyway, after Windsor, state marriages now will have federal benefits, even in various cases when the persons reside in states that do not recognize them (as long as the marriages were performed where they are).  So, civil unions are not enough.  Now, there is an argument to be made that the federal government should treat NJ-like full civil union regimes like marriages for federal benefits (William Baude at VC has talked about this issue), either as a matter of policy (as the laws are written now) or as a constitutional matter.  I'm iffy there -- civil unions are imperfect creations and are not marriages. They might not be recognized by various states.  If the feds provide benefits to civil unions, I think they should change the laws first. And, since civil unions are not marriages, there is a reason to not provide the benefits under current law. And, unlike DOMA, sec. 3, it is not that the feds are denying benefits out of their own animus.

But, this is a state court case and under state constitutional law the courts do not have some ability to force the feds' hands. They are left with the situation at hand -- same sex marriages get federal benefits, same sex civil unions do not. This is not equality under the law pursuant to the state constitution per the earlier ruling.  If you accept, like the person I mentioned, same sex couples should get equal government benefits, what is the right move there?  I guess pressure Congress to pass a new law supplying benefits to civil unions.  This still won't truly supply equality, including as a matter of social understanding, which is partially important in various situations involving rights (at the hospital, e.g.).

The person, however, if forced to consider the point, probably would accept some problems given that "marriage" just doesn't mean same sex couples.  Why?  Well, the person was explicit -- God does not want that. That cannot be a grounds for the law under the First Amendment. There has to be a secular reason. But, many people ultimately oppose things on what amounts to be religious grounds, including here and in the abortion context.  The person did not want to accept that various religious groups, including Christian in nature, accepted same sex marriage.

As Mayor Booker, awaiting his swear in date for the Senate, marries same sex couples, my overall concern here is for people to understand the basics of this litigation. First, the NJ legislature, not the courts, were ready to recognize same sex marriage.  Second, without federal action, state civil unions are not equal to same sex marriage. Even if you don't like it, if you support basic equality of benefits, there is no easy solution there. At the very least, you should, on principle, push Congress to support a civil union benefit law, which Obama did when running for POTUS. 

I think that is not true equality, but it's better than nothing. Which same sex couples had as to federal benefits, underlining the court was right.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Jets Win in OT

I actually only saw the Jets kneel and play for OT, but that was fun too, including the missed FG/first application of new penalty/making more reasonable FG. Also missed a good SNF game where Manning's replacement won. KC had a shot to lose too, but a bad team let them off hook. Redskins/Bears was a score-fest/Bears QB hurt. Giants tonight.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

World Series Sucks

The Cards are like some sort of playoff machine, a somewhat cheaper form of the Yanks, and then we have the Red Sox ... the beards alone (sadly, no Beard World Series, the Dodgers out) are annoying. Beltran (former Met) going as a Cardinal is also annoying.

Friday, October 18, 2013

SSM New Jersey (Pretty Much)

The NJ Supreme Court somewhat dubiously held civil unions were equal enough, but with Windsor bringing forth federal marriage benefits, it was on weaker ground. The legislature would have likely passed a SSM law by now without Gov. Christie using it conservative political football.  Everyone should just deal with the likely futility of further fighting here.

Kiss Me First

The idea of examining life in the world of the web, including created identities, is an intriguing one for fiction and the book here has some amusing (intentional?) satirical touches. The lead character is a bit much, not very pleasant either. Not that the somewhat exaggerated comments on the book jacket are quite right (e.g., making it sound like a scary thriller; the cover image is curious too). Overall, too long and in the end not very satisfying.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Persons Day

The five women then appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, which as a vestige of empire served until 1949 as Canada’s court of last result. There the outcome was different. A newly appointed Lord Chancellor, John Sankey, rejected the originalist approach. It was wrong, he wrote in the 1929 decision, “to apply rigidly to Canada of today the decisions and the reasons therefor which commended themselves, probably rightly, to those who had to apply the law in different circumstances, in different centuries, to countries in different stages of development.” Driving the point home, Lord Sankey went on to say: “The British North America Act planted in Canada a living tree capable of growth and expansion within its natural limits.” Women, the court concluded, were indeed persons. Soon enough, they were senators as well.
This is from an interesting Linda Greenhouse piece on "Persons Day" (10/18) in Canada, which honors a ruling that determined that women were "persons" for purposes of  eligibility to serve in the Canadian Senate.*  It can also be -- as Linda Greenhouse clearly means to do -- seen as as honoring living constitutionalism.  Scalia v. Kennedy is discussed here, but as the piece suggests, Scalia's brand of "originalism" (see, e.g., Shelby) leaves a lot to be desired even if we take it as a credible approach.

Repeatedly, I have seen this being sneered at (up to Justice Scalia) as akin to making shit up.  But, what I and others have called a type of "common law" constitutionalism to me honors not only overall republican / democratic values, but the true spirit of the founders. As Chief Justice Marshall noted, if for the purposes of determining the contours of the "necessary" and "proper" means of carrying out congressional powers:
Constitution intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs. To have prescribed the means by which Government should, in all future time, execute its powers would have been to change entirely the character of the instrument and give it the properties of a legal code. It would have been an unwise attempt to provide by immutable rules for exigencies which, if foreseen at all, must have been seen dimly, and which can be best provided for as they occur.
Yes, the Constitution is "living" -- it "endures."  Why wouldn't it? If we look at how it actually was crafted, play in the joints was the very point:
In the draught of a fundamental constitution, two things deserve attention:

    1. To insert essential principles only; lest the operations of government should be clogged by rendering those provisions permanent and unalterable, which ought to be accommodated to times and events: and

        2. To use simple and precise language, and general propositions, according to the example of the constitutions of the several states.
Just what "interstate commerce" entails or "equal protection" would be a matter of fact and analysis that is determined by current understandings based on the wisdom gained from experience. The application will be done by the various institutions set up or referenced by the document -- the three branches of the federal government, the states, the people, the press, religious groups and so forth.  They will in some fashion be limited by those "essential principles" and "general propositions," but just what they mean -- the individual branches of the tree -- is not set. When the document makers wanted to remove such a thing, they used more specific language, such as the age required to be a President or senator. This doesn't answer specifically how the courts should operate, such as when to determine popularly passed laws should be declared unconstitutional.

The basic principle, even when applied in a system where parliamentary supremacy gives more complete power to the legislature (and thus if anything might warrant more judicial restraint, given legislatures can "update" as necessary), is shown here as being of long standing. A ruling in the 1920s is just one sign of many that the approach is not some latter day means to "make shit up" but to faithfully apply the law.


One issue here was the common law principle in place at the time that held "women were eligible for pains and penalties, but not rights and privileges." The inequity of this can be seen and it also influenced the women's right movement in this country. Citizenship brings with it both duties and benefits, equal rights feminism respecting both.

Strip Club Denied Again

Stephen Colbert had a segment regarding applying an artistic tax exemption to exotic dancing, which turned out to be a close question.  The USSC denied review.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dodgers and Detroit Win

With Kershaw, even down 3-2, Dodgers have a shot to take this the distance. Detroit held serve or something. Mariano Rivera was on Charlie Rose!

Hey, Losers?

Can you stop screwing with the country for your performance art shit? Thank you. And, screw you to all their enablers while others have to play adults, who, both parties aren't the same # whatever, seem mostly to be Democrats. We need a better second party.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Rev. Joe -- Russell's teapot

Passed upon this just now. Not claiming either is alone is enough to make the case, imho "Why I Am Not A Christian" convinced me more than C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity," which to me was poorly argued and a bit of a trudge. Update: To give Lewis a second chance, reserved his book on grief and "The Great Divorce" one. Not into Narnia.

Red Sox Win 1-0, Up 2-1

Lost 1-0 and came back late via a grand slam to win ... this round is about pitching.

Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action

A voice from the past, one Beverly Mann, was cited in the SCOTUSBlog round-up today with an analysis on how consistency (without hobgoblins?) will require upholding a lower court ruling that struck down an measure that inhibits certain types of affirmative action. We shall see, especially with Mr. "guarantee equality to all people" Scalia. [My view.]

Monday, October 14, 2013

Still ... Jets Won (Well, in Hockey)

NY Daily News coverage has a basic "Geno Smith messes up" theme, but sounds like only one mistake was blatant and the end result probably could have been just a less lopsided loss. A 19-16 affair would look nicer, but it still would be a loss. A mistake-free outing might have done it. Didn't happen. Disappointing, especially after a good end of the First Half.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

"The Liberty of Free Men"

And Also: A "don't get too big for your britches, boy" (no racist overtone) game/loss for the Jets. One earned run in two games last night. Cards, ugh, up 2-0. Ugh to Boston too.

Finally, the record of the past in which all battles are decided and many pains forgotten whereas the most distinguished characters, actions, and works stand out more clearly and in a more final form than they did in their own time, may lull us into a false security and indolence in view of the pains we have to suffer, the decisions we have to make, the actions we have to accomplish, without yet knowing the outcome.

— PAUL OSKAR KRISTELLER: The Classics and Renaissance Thought. [qtd. by Chafee]
Zechariah Chafee, who we saw in a recent book on Justice Holmes' Abrams dissent, knew a bit about that.  He was a leading scholar/promoter of the liberal view of free speech in the age of repression back in Holmes' era and was still around when McCarthy came to town.  The quote introduces a collection that looks to the historical origins of constitutional rights, but with a bit less humility, it applies well to Chafee (related to the politicians and somewhat similarly of the old school New England Republican school of that name) himself. 

I have a book that collects Chafee's lectures on "three human rights in the Constitution" (legislative freedom of debate, barrier to bills of attainder and the freedom of movement (quoted in Kent v. Dulles; the whole thing is available in the above link) as well as a second boo, The Loyalty of Free Men for which he provides an introduction. This book is by Alan Barth, who in his time also had a reputation for promoting civil liberties, here -- in 1951 -- in effect dissenting from the McCarthy Era as it barely had begun as well a passing denunciation of the "basic stupidity" (or some such statement) of Japanese internment.
Great constitutional provisions must be administered with caution. Some play must be allowed for the joints of the machine, and it must be remembered that legislatures are ultimate guardians of the liberties and welfare of the people in quite as great a degree as the courts.
-- Justice Holmes
Prof. Chafee cites this early statement of a recurring theme of Holmes, but  even when judicial restraint is appropriate, he does so to remind us that "liberties and welfare" must be protected by "the people" and their representatives.  For instance, he argues that just because the Speech and Debate Clause provides broad discretion to legislators, even to say things that might be deemed slander elsewhere, this doesn't mean they should be left off the hook. Maybe, if we thought litigation was the only way to protect the rights of others. But, here Congress is given the power and responsibility of self-regulation -- including expulsion.

The ultimate responsibility of liberty comes in various forms, which is something to remember as one reads Barth's book, which provides a basic instruction book of freedom in a perilous time. Concern for loyalty campaigns, academic freedom, free expression of scientific and other things deemed sensitive, punishment by publicity and the perils of the growing power of the FBI (including surveillance*) has applications for today. Liberty and due process for Barth was not only essential for basic freedom, it had pragmatic value. So it was in 1951, so it is today.

I will now add some more discussion of Barth's book. One impressive chapter takes the time to fairly express the motivation of those who joined the Communist Party, being sure to  reaffirm the party proper is a bunch of reprobates and colleges would be within their rights to not hire (putting aside later questions of tenure or removal) communists since one has to be pretty misguided to seriously be part of such a party, at least after the 1930s. Also, especially by the time of the writing, the party is just too small in America to be a threat. It really is silly for let's say Hoover, who is deemed a reasonable sought overall, to take at face value, e.g., their allegations that for every one party member, ten are in the wings. They in effect exaggerated their membership, especially with fellow travelers and such techniques as groups with most "names" merely on the letterhead. 

Still, especially given the state of affairs in the early 1930s and the ability of Russia to mislead regarding their own totalitarian tactics, it was understandable some joined the party. Various reasons were give, such as their social gatherings, personal guilty of some for their good fortune, moral confusion, the idealistic ends they supported (such as racial equality) and overall their basically religious revival nature. The party had a creed, code of conduct, ritual and even the priesthood of sorts of a church with the evangelistic drive of those that sought converts in early Christianity. The "crusading religion" theme is also reflected by the beliefs of some that going against the party was really an act of heresy.  Such an approach can also be applied to other political movements, down to the Tea Party. One need not support them to say this.

The historical distaste in English history of test oaths was an important theme and an argument made in response to oaths demanded after our own Civil War was cited.  One folksy example made concerned a Quaker who told his dog, Tray, that he would not kill his loyal friend. But, he did give the dog a bad name and let Tray go ... "somebody else did kill Tray." And, putting a person in prison or making something a crime is not the only way to punish. When one's livelihood, perhaps one's long career, is at risk because of rumor or bad words, is this not penal? Is this not as much of a deterrent at times then a criminal sentence?

An early use of Godwin's law, much closer to the Nazis, is also cited. The fact that the FBI is not the Gestapo, nor generally has a malevolent purpose does not mean its actions are wrong or problematic. Insert appropriate quote from Brandeis' Olmstead dissent.  Also, it is noted that cops generally are not seen as heroic figures -- seems a lawyer, newspaperman or other amateur solves the crimes in popular fiction. But, the FBI is somewhat of an exception here. Today, people often similarly distrust the police in various respects, except when they do not.

In the chapter on the importance of open discussion of matters of science, it is noted that the public needs to understand the basics to be informed about public policy questions. They need not be experts in nuclear physics here. The same general thing applies to other matters, so enough with the humble pie "I'm not a lawyer" preface.  Washington was not a lawyer.  Also, in respect to the use of the nuclear bomb (or even killing a burglar), the basic principle that even if a serious act is right or rational does not mean one will have no guilt about it, will not second guess. This is only human given the stakes. And, the hubris of the idea of a "preventive war," and the trivialization of potentially nuking a few Soviet cities was noted. Finally, balance was deemed necessary -- total openness of nuclear secrets is not demanded to not overdo the secrecy overall.** 

Chafee in his introduction says Barth's book is important for at least two reasons -- it is a "fresh and persuasive presentation of the strongest arguments for determined maintenance of freedom of thought in a self-governing country like ours."  Others have done that, but it's useful to provide it in the language of the current era, using immediate examples. Barth does this with various quotable statements and examples. Second, he "tells us what has been going on." He is a "sort of war correspondent," the war here on our civil liberties.  You know, like blogs today.

Chafee has a bit of that in the book cited too, if not quite as smooth in its prose.  One good line -- "History should be a jailer to enlighten us, not a jailer to shut us up."  The Constitution "is the skeleton of a living nation," the words "for meeting the needs of our time," even if the history (as his account shows) is useful to know and understand. To finish the metaphor: "All of the Constitution grows while the life of a great community changes."  A "living Constitution" is no epithet to him.

The "Americanists" of today, good intentions or no, who are disloyal to our basic values would not likely be a surprise to either of these two distinguished characters of our past.  "Political discussion has been debased ... by shrill" people today as well, the "accusations of disloyalty" of only somewhat different sorts -- we even have McCarthy's double in Ted Cruz.  This basic lack of maturity includes those who apparently think park closings are the most important aspect to the current governmental shutdown.  Current voices, latter day Barths and Chafees, provide some light, but they will do in a pinch as well.

And, a special thanks to libraries and used book sellers from which I can get such items, even the ability to download Chafee's book for me not a great alternative to having them in my hands.


* The book cites a 1930s federal law that limits the power to divulge information, even if obtained by governmental wiretap to investigate and prosecute crimes.  Given the actual text of the Fourth Amendment, it is suggested, if not stated crystal clearly, that wiretapping per se would be unreasonable. This seems unlikely today, but on principle it sounds sensible -- by nature, a wiretap is a "general warrant" that vacuums up everything, not very "particular" (to allude to the 4A) to what it picks up.

** The tendency of certain classified or otherwise secret material, including files on certain people deemed security risks in some fashion, to be leaked was also addressed. This was deemed unfortunate, but total openness here was not demanded. How the author would react to current data dumps such as Wikileaks or Snowden is an interesting question.


These days, with so many options, movies do not have the same flavor for me as in the past when going to cinema was a special weekly event. But, film still has its charms, including indies like this that are enjoyable character studies. Loses a bit late, but has a realistic sensual feel, including hints on how to re-ignite a marriage. Meanwhile, checked out Dan In Real Life again, interesting commentary. A bit too precious, but enjoyed the film overall.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Note the cover

VP's name dominates with the co-author in tiny font. Then, we have the title and a reference that alludes to a series just beginning.  The cover pic is a bit vague with a James Bond-like silhouette. Somewhat generic, like the book, which is I guess okay for its kind.

Happy Halloween! (After Another NYG Horror Show)

Usual case of early Halloween episodes. This one was okay.


It seems to have taken a while, but Valerie Plame's spy thriller (co-written by a genre writer with a goal for a series) is now out. Light (so to speak given its plot), quick reading largely has its now celebrity author as a draw. On its own, somewhat bland with trite elements.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sports Thursday

Verlander shined again; the As starter was human this time. Series: Tigers. Giants were driving late down by six and then yet another turnover. 0-6. This is sad.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Pirates Lose

Two shots at it, but the Cards are like a f-ing bad penny.

Anna Chlumsky is All Grown Up

While apparently the whole pitching staff took part in a Rays 3-1 loss, watching Veep on DVD -- the first four episodes each have two commentaries (Veep/crew & rest of cast). Repeats have been repeatedly on, but never manage to watch parts of these episodes. And, darn, I remember My Girl. How you have grown. Oh, Tigers won a run-fest. Series tied.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

"How Do Liberal Supporters of Citizens United Feel Now?"

Guess many deem me a "liberal," don't know if I'm a "supporter," but I warily at least thought the result was right in some respects. Still (as noted here) appreciate a clear understanding of what is at stake and don't think all campaign laws illicit (Kagan's dissent here seemed convincing). I'm unsure where I lie on this case. Meanwhile, remember Tom DeLay?

Supreme Court Begins -- Campaign Finance

This coverage underlines the difficulties of relying on school and work to provide health care. Talking about those at Jesuit institutions, the well named "Zephyr Teachout" is guest blogging, including about today's campaign finance case (various posts). She is informative and nicely is engaging with comments. Interesting on "corruption."

Baseball Playoffs

Some excitement -- Rays held on for another day, each closer blowing a save. Braves blew it -- got ahead of Kershaw on an error, Freddy Garcia pitching well, but after a failed sacrifice, a two run homer did the trick for the Dodgers late. They are the first team to advance. Pirates have one more shot at that. Go Pirates! Tigers aren't scoring, down 2-1.

Jets Win v. Champs

After a messy penalty filled win and a turnover fest loss, it was a fairly clean game with no turnovers on the Jets side. Down 17-7, the Falcons decided (no FG) to go for it twice at the end of the Half. The Jets won it by two via a go ahead FG after blowing a 13 point lead (soft scoring drive/penalty extending drive). Ha ha. Game the rookie and team can build on.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Part III: Jesus Christ

Reza Aslan begins his book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, a case when the title and subtitle is quite telling, with an account of his passionate belief in Christianity as a teenager. The book ends with a discussion how Jesus, the man, not Jesus the Christ, is "worth believing in," though it is unclear to what degree is deemed warranted.  The two are not the same; in fact, the book argues that the moment the basic origins of the current view of Jesus Christ, the one put forth by Paul, came about, the historical Jesus largely disappeared. Paul in fact had little interest.

My question would be why exactly.  I understand, up to a point, why Jesus, the zealous reformer put forth in the book is worth believing in.  Someone concerned about following "the law" of God (good?), reforming its corruptions and the injustices of the society he lived in and willing to risk his life to promote what he believed in.  But, it is a sort of limited vision, one focused on a particular group (the Jews), labeling others akin to "dogs."  And, apparently, the person was confused on what exactly would occur, that the end of days would come in the time of some who then was alive.  The whole demon stuff also seems a tad bit off.

I would move to support a more universal prophet, which is not surprising, since this is ultimately what Jesus was said to be. Take his very crucifixion, argued to be a grand sacrifice. But, others were "messiahs," and risked death.  If he actually knew his death was to save mankind, it would be a grand thing, but others risked death for a lot less with much less expectation of survival.  The understanding here has a sort of primitive flavor, a "sacrifice" that continues to this day in some ways (e.g., the death penalty is seen by some as a just retribution, life for life). 

Also, as the book notes in its third section, after he died, nothing really appeared to change. The change was later taken to truly have occurred in a supernatural plane, the final judgment to occur after we die, but this is not a "historical" thing to believe in, is it?  Finally, as with miracles, the book cheats -- the Resurrection is not supposed to be "historical," but the people thought it as such. The gospels had Jesus rise and eat, Thomas sticking his finger into the very holes where the nails were drilled into, even a vision something that occurs historically. To the degree some died because of their beliefs, it is a belief in what they thought actually happened.*

Aslan moves past the problematic issue of the Resurrection to address how the after Jesus leaves the scene (one assumes the normal way?), the apostles staid in Jerusalem (though other than Peter and John, the latter only briefly showing up, they basically disappear -- the first martyr is actually Stephen, a Hellenic convert) and were basically Jews who thought Jesus was the Messiah.  Jesus' brother (probably Joseph/Mary's son) James took control and opposed Paul when he decided (by direct inspiration) Jesus Christ didn't actually think followers had to follow the Law.

Paul might not have ever won that battle (Acts, with an apparent historical reference to help date it, has him clash with James until right before he made his trip to Rome ... by the way, James was the "first pope" -- to the degree that meant the head of the community of believers -- the "on this rock" business probably a late edition), but time was on his side. First, the Jewish Wars made Jesus, Jewish Zealot not exactly an ideal model. Second, numbers-wise, gentile Jews and pagans provided a much more sizable base of converts.  The idea of a "son of god" would be a lot easier for them to accept than firmly monotheistic Hebrew Jews.

Paul, not concerned with the historical Jesus, in effect was the Father of Christianity.  But, the book is concerned with the historical Jesus. Not that Jesus promoted in that evangelical youth camp when the author was fifteen. Both are of interest -- it is valuable to learn about the origins of the movement, including the "life and times" of its founder.  It also is important to learn about how it developed into the movement it is today, which also helps determine just how to understand and worship today and judge those who do so.  Today is ultimately what we need to worry about the most.

This book helps this effort, if taken with a grain of salt. 


* The book cites "one after another" who died for this belief at the time, but we only are told of a few who actually directly saw Jesus rose from the dead that were martyrs.  This would include the likes of Peter, James the Just and Paul, the last not seeing any sort of physical Jesus akin to the later gospel accounts, but clearly some sort of vision of Jesus.

The book also in passing suggests "John" the evangelist is the Apostle John and the "beloved disciple," but that doesn't appear to be the case. It also at times hedges and cites events mentioned in the New Testament, other times without comment assumes (like the agreement set forth in the Apostolic Council in Acts) did occur, when it is unclear that it actually did. 

Long Day of Football

The As playoff game pushed the Charges/Raiders game back, so it finished early in the morning on the East Coast. The game was a key example of the offense losing it, including an early decision to go for it against a weak offense and most of the points off turnovers.

Jesus Bio: His Ministry

I finished the middle portion of the book, which covers Jesus' ministry. Again, we are reminded that many of the events portrayed should not be found to be historical fact, such as Pilate's concerns for his "innocence." Somewhat strangely, Judas Iscariot is left to brief reference in the notes section, though there is an implication that general agreement by the gospels suggest he had an actual historical role in Jesus' arrest.

Also, the gospels' message is not given too in depth of an analysis while various possible interesting matters (such as his involvement with women) is lightly touched upon. Mary Magdalene gets only a passing mention (Bart Ehrman's book is an interesting analysis.) The book does comment on the somewhat strange paucity of references to Joseph, including a quite notable reference of Jesus as the "son of Mary," a very rare example of matrilineal notation.  It also is noted that it is strange that Jesus was not married while also not being part of an isolated community (like the Essenes) or in the wilderness (like John the Baptist). 

The book argues (again a bit too firmly at times) that Jesus somehow decided to be baptized by John the Baptist, who spoke of the end of days being near, not a rare event. Aslan also reminds us just how unstable things were, including great social unrest, economic upheaval and major violence in recent memory, particularly in Galilee. This would all influence Jesus' beliefs as would his lowly origins and the anti-clerical sentiments of his area overall.  Jesus become a discipline of John and eventually went back home to start on his own, particularly filling in a void later after John was arrested.  Jesus particularly became (in)famous when he started to perform miracles, which did not make him unique, though his reasons (as a sign of what was to come) and not doing it for money were more so. 

The book says that it is not really important to determine what 'really happened' here as much as what people believed. And, people believed he committed miracles, including casting out demons, something many today simply aren't comfortable about -- healing the sick? fine. The Exorcist? No.  Well, I do wonder what actually happened there -- it also is relevant to understand the historical Jesus. To know just what he did and how the people understood his actions. Still, again, it is notable that -- and this is not something many would know -- he was not somehow uniquely doing these things.  Others did miracles.  Maybe, the scope of what he did was different -- who knows -- but that is quite a different matter than him being fully unique. 

Jesus was "zealous" -- sort of like an evangelical firmly believing in following the true path, not corrupted by priests or government. He believed the ends of days would come soon, which included the upheaval of the wrongful occupiers of the land promised to the Jews.  The third part of the book will discuss how this "historical" Jesus would eventually be replaced by "Christianity."  The famous question when he is asked about the legitimacy of Rome taxing the Jews is given an interesting spin -- it is sort of a trick answer that in effect says the Roman coins should be given back to Caesar, but that is all he deserves. The land is for the Jews. This in part involves the phrasing of the language used though we get it in Greek, not the Aramaic he used.  Anyway, not sure if -- like the parables -- some Roman would get what he was saying, even if that is what he meant.

I think the overall idea of the book as to his message sounds reasonable enough though it puts forth a somewhat darker view of things, Jesus in effect somewhat toned down after the Jewish Wars to a more establishment figure, so to speak. It also leads one to think that the end was expected. It didn't take much of a prophet to determine that talking about the "ends of days" and temples being destroyed and denouncing the high priests will get you in trouble at this time. People were killed for a lot less by Pilate and company. Thus, the end is briefly discussed, though it takes a lot of space in the gospels.  The book also argues that Jesus saw himself as a "Son of Man," a rather obscure term at that time that seems to suggest an agent of God to lead the Jews into the Kingdom of God.* A treasonous concept.

To be continued ...  


* It is interestingly noted that other Jewish writings somewhat of the same era as the later gospels spoke of such a concept [Jesus himself apparently influenced by its usage in Daniel, a book that was written in the Second Century BCE.] and gave it a more deistic quality. Jesus himself, however, would not see himself as divine, but a divine agent.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Sports Update

NY baseball/football fans might want to look into hockey -- who would have thunk that the presumptive 6/7 win Jets would be the better option? Giants are 0-5 now. The weak division would have led them to be one game behind even at 1-4! Dallas manage to goof again, on the cusp of a possible upset vs. Denver. Upset so far is Bengals over Pats. After a rookie outpitched Verlander last night, Pirates up 2-1 on Cards, Dodgers ready to be up 2-1.

California Solo

This is a good indie about a former Scottish guitarist, now working on an organic farm (good use of setting), who gets into some legal trouble and has to examine his life and choices. Good lead (from The Full Monty etc.) and supporting cast. I like its overall realistic point of view, down to his (non)sexual friendship with a younger struggling actress.

Rev. Joe -- Jesus Bio (Part 1) and Conscience

A couple updates on past posts.

First, I read the first section of Reza Aslan's (isn't that the lion in ... okay) Jesus book. More so than his book on the history of Islam, he has made this a dramatic account, in some cases reading like a historical drama as much as a biography of Jesus. A major point here is that we can best understand Jesus by understanding his times, so this first part is basically a summary of about a hundred years of Palestinian history from the when Rome took control to the the fall of Masada. This brings us to about when the Gospel of Mark is thought to have been written, so it's a good cut-off.

The first section is a very good look* into the period in question, helping you to get the lay of the land. One notable thing was the number of "messiahs" and the like, at least one other one wit the name "Jesus."  Also, we get a look at the "zealots," which the title suggests is where the author puts Jesus (no spoilers, please!).  [One of the apostles is labeled a "zealot," but the book from a quick look only briefly notes him.] We also get a few reminders that the authors of the gospels don't mean to be historians.**  A literal reading of the gospels will run in various problems like is the case for other sacred books, and many believers today manage to be such not doing that.

In fact, the argument is that the readers at times clearly knew even basic "historical" events simply didn't happen. They were provided to send a "truthful" message on the meaning of certain things and/or show scriptures were fulfilled (this seems tricky -- if the messiah is to be from Bethlehem and Jesus was not actually born there, it seems a problem that in effect, sorry this seems the right term, making it up, doesn't quite help).  Also, I think he exaggerates. For instance, Matthew and Luke is written to a gentile audience some time c. 80.  Why would they know about some singular tyranny of Herod (who killed at will at times), especially after so many Jews were wiped out in the 60s war?   If the slaughter of the infants or even some census few would know about (did someone look it up and say, "hey!") didn't quite happen, I doubt many would know 80 years later.

So, it's a good start, and I will say more later. Next, I referenced an article entitled "Disentangling Conscience and Religion," which  fits into an interest of mine.  I finally had a chance to read the darn thing and it was fairly interesting.  The article is not that concerned with providing a specific meaning of 'religion," saying at one point that he would define it broadly. For instance, not rejecting it, he noted:

Theorists put it variously, but many suggest that religion for purposes of religious liberty is a cluster of ideas meant to encompass the variety of beliefs and actions, personal and social, that respond to the experiences of birth, learning, failure, love, death, and the awe of being small in a grand universe.
For instance, I think a person can see a marriage as a "religious" act, even if they don't believe in God. On the show Army Wives (which I stopped watching), a character wanted to have a ceremony for her new child, in effect a baptism, but you know, "not really into the God thing."  But, the even was still "religious," a means to make the daughter a part of the community, to bless her. Anyway, it is unclear where "religion" stops, and given the Ninth Amendment, equal protection and so forth, other things should be protected too. Still, the First Amendment does single out "religion," which has some effect. And, making religion and conscience have some differences also makes the article possible!

The article has some nice asides (e.g., a good one early about Huck Finn, including how he has meaning even beyond what Mark Twain [who is not quite Samuel Clemens!] says it is).  It also supplies a good historical look at how the religion clauses of the First Amendment (focusing on Thomas Paine, since he would be particularly radical) were understood -- "conscience" generally was assumed to be "religious" in nature, and not the open-ended one I just alluded to either.  As the article notes, while not having an originalist bent as such, many now use constitutional terms in a different way as originally intended. 

The article also discusses a bit of religious history (including Paul) to show how "conscience" and "religion" were seen as interrelated but not quite the same. This would include those cases where conscience demands what official religious institutions or standard rules (e.g., rules agaisnt murder) would demand. Such rules are important given the imperfections of conscience resting alone. Likewise, various examples are cited where in law "conscience" is used as a factor, not always matching "religion," such as the rules of when a person can refuse to advocate a position as a lawyer. There is for me a somewhat confusing thumbnail sketch of John Rawls with the overall purpose of showing that as compared to the Founders, who saw "conscience" as just "religious," Rawls doesn't do enough to differentiate conscience from a general moral/religious/conscientious mass. 

Basically, I probably am simplifying, the author sets forth conscience as "the faculty that leads to moral judgments," which would suggest it is an aspect of religion, or something important for the freedom to formulate religious beliefs etc. (see my past discussion), but not the same thing. Also, religion as noted often includes rituals and practices that are themselves not really "moral" though the example of the yarmulke can be said to be if we look to see what is behind the practices. 

Anyway, the "reflection and judgment" involved in conscience is worthy of protection as a fundamental right by itself.  It is essential for personal integrity (a good citation of Socrates and how we always have to live with ourselves, explaining why for many it is worse to do wrong than be wronged, since you cannot get away from yourself). Those without a conscience are sociopaths. It also is a check on governmental power, they (or society) do not have a total monopoly on what is right and wrong.  They will at times have the power of the law, but even then, conscience provides a reminder of how serious this would be, not to be used lightly.

The article ends admitting that it is not trying to answer all the answers as to the specifics of a right to conscience. One important issue would be what happens when conscience runs into the commands of law. The article does say the "challenge is to not mistake the grand cases for the petty," referencing "morally profound issues such as those related to killing." Hannah Arendt (one of those greats I have not really read directly, to be honest) is cited ('"somewhat by contrast" -- not sure about that) as a major influence of his thoughts here and for her "boundary situations" or "special emergencies" are where conscience matters the most.  Nazi Germany was of special interest to her, but over the years, other examples would include slavery, the Vietnam War and so on.

It was an interesting article and helpful for those who at times dismiss religious freedom as all about some fantasy. I think that unfair and unrealistic, but it is even more so when it is seen as part of a wider range of liberty that includes freedom of conscience. The last part about petty v. grand comes up these days regarding contraception mandates. I think, cheapening the liberties at stake in the process, this is missed by some today.  Disagreeing with them, and this annoys me when it is suggested, doesn't mean we disrespect the overall principles. I strongly believe in them.  But, they are too important to lose perspective over the matter.***


* There are other books that cover the history of the period, but as a thumbnail sketch for the lay reader, this section is an impressive effort. Bart Ehrman has noted that it is a shame more don't know the full context of their faiths -- particularly the background of the gospels so forth -- and this sort of thing helps a lot. Might be time for another epic film!

** It is my undemanding that Luke might have wanted his account to have some degree of "historical" feel, including the normal practice of inserting speeches (see also, of Pericles) that in effect are a paraphrase of what "should have" happened, since no one was present to take notes for later usage.  This somewhat slippy use of facts is acceptable, but inserting infancy narratives that many seriously think happened? A bit different.

*** This should be understood when addressing the "right" of this or that cited by the Bill of Rights and so on.  Such things can be written in quite absolutist language, but it warrants looking at just what is said. It doesn't say the government can pass no laws about speech or limiting it in any fashion.  etc.  It speaks of "rights" and "freedoms," which in society is part of an overall whole.  I do think when "no" is used, it is pretty strong.  But, it is not absolute, and it is in a certain context. 

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Debt Ceiling Trilemma

Prof. Dorf co-wrote an interesting and pretty convincing argument about the choices the President has, but ultimately, it would be better if we didn't have to keep on dealing with this game of chicken. The idea the medical device tax repeal is a "compromise" is a joke -- all this for that? It's not even good policy-wise. ACA helps them, they pay a small tax. Horrible!

Friday, October 04, 2013

Government Shutdown "Unconstitutional" Even If A Political Question

John Dean has a good essay here, examining things beyond the "14A" options debate. That section speaks of things authorized by "law" that "shall not be questioned," but then I read about "wish lists" and such other places. Unfortunately, such bad analysis is not just made by anonymous online comments. This is why any "deal" is so much of a risk, encourages them.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Reza Aslan's Jesus bio

In the introduction, he speaks of "works attributed to but not written by a specific author" and says "by no means" should this be seen as a fraud. Bart Ehrman (who along with Elaine Pagels and Karen Armstrong is not listed in the bibliography) differs. Book looks interesting, but it seems "grain of salt" will be appropriate. Some time back, read a bio of Jesus (and Paul) by the historian Michael Grant. So, he is on paved ground here.


Conservative blogs are harping on closing of private run places in certain cases, for some reason (see "Me" -- not me) not doing much to fully examine the question. Meanwhile, the "not 100% pure" police is on my case again here. I used a qualifier ('some' respect), but yet again, skipped over. Meanwhile, two more lame playoff games, the second 4-0 so far.

ABC: Police Protecting Capitol Are Unpaid Due To Shutdown

The events are unreal, this is just ... no comment.

Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish

I am not familiar with the author (RIP), but this final work of interconnected stories via rhyme is overall quite witty and powerful.  Neat cover too.

Rays and Pirates (Go Pirates!) Advance

Game 163 and the two one game playoffs seemed to be repeats — one team had a stud starter (David Price the stud-est), had an ability to add on runs/hit home runs while the other made enough mistakes, didn’t hit and their starter didn’t go that long.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Government Shutdown Watch

The latest episode of Good Luck Charlie was one of the better ones of late and used the Internet minister theme. Again, the only to point local legal precedent rejects giving such people the right to officiate weddings, at least in 3/5 of NYC and certain surrounding areas. Bronx and Manhattan not covered by the appeal. Meanwhile, could not obtain the specific government webpage of a person mentioned in a recent discussion (with a last name nearly like mine) because of the partial shutdown. Joining the pain.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Sports Update

Three teams had to keep on winning late thanks to earlier sketchy play (especially the Texans, who fell apart again late). David Price's complete game effort dominated the Rangers. While they wait for the Indians, Reds/Pirates play again (ended the season playing each other). NY Giants haven't just lost all four games, but were was plummeted each time.

Willing Executioners?

A federal judge notes the "great harm to other human beings by faithfully executing the extraordinarily harsh national criminal laws," which is good to keep in mind. That is what those who execute and interpret the law do -- they carry out policy choices of others. They have some discretion, more than some claim, but only so much.

Marshall Lee Gore Executed

The First Monday start of the new Supreme Court term is late this year, but the "long conference" led to orders, notable denial being a death penalty case. After a few more boilerplate orders, the end came, after a slight delay because of political reasons. This really upset some, and it was crass, but really, in the scheme of things, wasn't overall upset.

A Certain October

A quick read for the beginning of the month involves a teenager girl dealing with tragedy and just being a teenager, which is tricky in itself. Also, looked at a book by a Lincoln scholar meant for young readers/fans of the film, but also might work well for adults who are not very good readers. Many books for teens these days are quite mature, after all.