Saturday, October 25, 2014

I wish I could be as saguine.

Small article, or report of a talk I suppose, In his own words: Ben Bradlee on liars,

about truth telling.

As I said in the subject, I am not sanguine about ultimate truth telling

    "In a democracy, the truth emerges — sometimes it takes years —

that is how the system is supposed to work and eventually


     I take great strength from that now, knowing that in my

     the truth does emerge. It takes forever sometimes, but it
does emerge.

I think that what Buchwald said is truer: You Can Fool All the People All the Time.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kasserine Pass

Anyone remember the Battle of Kasserine Pass?  It was the first real confrontation between US and Nazi armies, the latter under Rommel's command.  We did not acquit ourselves well.

There is a point.  It was the first battle (and followed the first seaborn landing, which was also sub par).  But it was the first, and was followed by reorganization, retraining, and forward movement.  (Cue the appropriate music.)

Nothing works from the start, and no plan survives contact with reality.  Handling Ebola is no different.  (I doubt anyone thought of the issue of a staffer going off on a cruise.)

So this is to be expected. 

It would help, if leaders wouldn't say 'it's all OK', but instead said something like 'There is a plan, Here are its broad outlines.  It will no doubt have faults.  We intend to adjust.'

Unfortunately, we don't.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Meanwhile in Europe...

A street scene in Schilderswijk, the neighborhood in The Hague where a Jewish resident’s efforts to erect a sukkah have sparked controversy.

I found the content of this article from, Sukkah Sparks Controversy in Mostly Muslim Dutch Neighborhood – not unexpected, which makes it more depressing.

The Jew involved was told
...he could build his sukkah only on condition that he dismantle it by 9 o’clock each night. According to Schomberg [the builder of the Sukkah] , the police had advised the city against allowing a sukkah at all, since it might invite Muslim vandalism*. (Emphasis added.)
I am old enough to recall that during the civil right movement, the excuse of potential violence was used to try and deny pro-civil right protesters parade permits.*

However it was decided, by courts in this country, that the civil authority had a positive responsibility to protect legitimate public displays of opinion, which would include religion. 

That does not appear to be the opinion of the Dutch state.  One wonders, if this issue were to come before  the European Court of Human Rights, whether it would rule that state's have a positive responsibility to protect such rights, like Google's positive responsibility to allow the past to be forgotten.

It does appear to be an attitude that divides the Muslim population from the rest of society and infantilizes it -- that you aren't really fully human, so we can't require you behave in a civil way. 

The behavior of the local Jewish leadership is not uplifting: "his [the Sukkah builder's] behavior puts the entire Jewish community in the Hague (and the Netherlands) at risk."  -- 'Who will be for me', indeed (, Pirke Avot I.15).

As a Jew, this tends to reinforce the view that Europe can never be a home for us.

As a member of 'western civilization' ("It would be a good idea" -- Ghandi), if this is as typical of Europe as it sometimes appears, I despair.

*For the record, I supported the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, so I suppose I am a fundamentalist on this issue.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I can feel safe now, the Constitution protects me...

The New Yorker's Andy Borowitz written to reassure us that we don't have to worry -- because change is impossible.

Integrity Disqualifies Sanders for White House - The New Yorker

The effective Unites States Constitution maintains that, in addition to being native born and 35, one must be  part of a "network of cronyism and backroom deals [which is] required under our system to be elected."

This is a triumph of social engineering: "Our political system has been refined over the years specifically to keep [certain types of people]  out of the White House...The system works.”

And to think, I was just writing about feeling glum about Scottland.

Liberty and Union...

I have looked, rather glumly, at the Scottish move to secession, and one comment encapsulated my problem with it.

On Weekend Edition Sunday, there was an interview with Val McDermid, in which she said:
And so I looked at the kind of decisions that have been coming out of the Scottish Parliament since we had some power over our own affairs. And it seemed much more in tune with my own ideas than what comes out of the Westminster Parliament.
The Scotts represent a region which votes with differently (and with greater uniformity) from the (much) of the rest of Britain.  I am hard pressed to see much difference between this and the petitions to secede following Obama's reelection, or those who want to create new states out of old ones.

In the early part of the 19th century, one of the issues that caused conservative in Europe to doubt the staying power of the American 'Republican Experiment', was the belief that a system which derived its legitimacy from some popular consent could avoid be torn apart by faction and secession.

Though we do not hear it with our ears of today, this was what Lincoln was referring in the Gettysburg address, particularly in the closing sections -- people had predicted that a Civil War and dissolution was the natural end of 'government by the people.'

The appetite for secession, not only in Scotland, is fundamentally a challenge to a notion of nation and representative and constitutional democracy (I would use the work republicanism, but that is not apropos when there is a monarch).  That if we lose we leave.  Never mind that the prior PM was a Scott, or that the union allowed Scottland to have a higher standard of living than most the the rest of the UK, at least up through the first several decades of the 20th century.

The mirror of this was the majoritarianism of Thatcher, who savaged the industrial economy of the UK -- which hit the Scotts particularly hard -- on the basis of "We won the election, we don't have to listen."  I know some who argue that these actions and the finanicalization of the British economy justify Scottish secession.

In either case, 'my' triumphs over 'ours'.  'My ideology' is ascendent (for now) so I don't have to listen to you, 'my ideas' have not convinced the rest, so I will not stay with you.

Neither of these acknowledge to temporary nature of the present or that there is anything permanently of value in a larger community.

What this means for the EU (which the Scotts wish to join) is open to question.

We are in a "Thyestean Feast," in the west, with the break down of any notion of an organic union in our communities. I think because it is so useful for the powerful deny a common good -- and so the lowly believe it too.  We thus become unwilling to sacrifice, and worse yet are never even asked.

So, I am glum about the Scotts, because this is a sign that I am a fool to want to still be able to think big, be bounded to a community of real value and scope, and secure liberty.  I fear that it is a symptom of lights going off.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The gay marriage case that should matter

A gay man,  married in Massachusetts and living in Alabama, (see
Gay Widower Shares Heartbreaking Story Of Why He's Suing Alabama) to have the state of Alabama recognize his marriage.  This is the case I think should attract the most attention and support from Gay Marriage advocates.

Most of the other  court cases about gay marriage bans in various states are working through the federal judiciary  require an extension of logic of Loving v. Virginia (the ruling that invalidated anti-miscegenation statutes) -- that:
Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival -- Earl Warren
I have always been uncomfortable with that logic, preferring Potter Stewart concurring opinion (repeating an argument in another case McLaughlin v. Florida) that
it is simply not possible for a state law to be valid under our Constitution which makes the criminality of an act depend upon the race of the actor.
I don't see marriage as a 'right.'  As I said before,  I see marriage anthropologically: that it is a useful contract by which the state manages various property, inheritance and other economic issues, (see Two cheers for gay marriage).

That is why I am not wild about the current court cases -- I think they are high risk, and that the court may well decide that the decision would involve it in a "political thicket", and use that as an excuse to rule the issue non-justiciable.  Given this court, they could well write a decision would have an extensive effects (I wouldn't put it past this court to use it as an excuse to over turn Baker v. Carr).

The case in Alabama has more power, and I think simpler Constitutional basis -- relying solely on the text:

From the Constitution  of the United States
Article. IV.Section. 1.Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

Section. 2.

The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.
There used to be something called a "Reno divorce", where people married in states with restrictive divorce laws went to Nevada and got divorced.  The Supreme Court eventually rule -- so long as no obvious fraud was involved -- that states had to respect these divorces.

Though cumbersome, applying this would effectively gut the anti-gay marriage laws  -- a state would not be required to provide the service, but would be required to recognize it. 

This is not as 'nice' as having every state required to provide gay marriage as an option -- but it would protect gay marriage once it had been performed.

I like this, because no new rights would be required to be read into the Constitution, it has precedent, and a pleasant in your face quality.  And I have hope that it could get through this court.