Sunday, December 22, 2013

And I should care because ....?

The article What Jesus Says About Homosexuality? appeared a recently in the  Huffington Post, it makes a point that nowhere in the Christian Testament does Jesus mention the topic.

I have seen it referred to in several posts and Facebook pages, and I cannot for the life of me understand why.

  • Speaking as one who has done some study on Christian theology and history:

    I find this argument problematic; if memory serves, there is little mention of  Halakhic law (though there is the interesting comment about fulfilling the law), much less its dispensing in the first four books of the Christian Testament, and it isn't until the expression of Pauline marketing -- written after the gospel accounts -- that Biblical laws are devalued in Christian thinking. 

    Given that, one would assume that as far as Jesus was concerned, in silence there is consent with regard to the law.
    Mind, this does raise the interesting question of what role the Bible's laws have to Christianity -- some are to be obeyed, others not.  For example, the observation of Shabbat is Biblically more important that sexual laws, but seems largely to be waived, as is the injunction against images.

    From an outsiders position, there is an ad hoc quality to this legal thinking.

And as amusing as thinking about this is to me, sort of a mental ping-pong practice, a position as an outsider is the main reason for me to raise the question of why.

  • Speaking as a member of this republic:

    The specific teaching of the one of the gods of one particular religion should not be relevant to any debate.

    My position on the issue same sex marriage is founded on utility to the society,  people are jointly acquiring and transmitting properly and producing progeny, it is useful to have a common set of rules for governing that for all couples.

    Official impartiality about private sexual practices should stem from the fact is no reason to regulate the behavior.

    This republic was founded "like a bastard child, half compromised and half improvised" (from the play 1776), and not in allegiance to a given religion.
And finally
  • Speaking as a Jew:

    Should I care about what arguments are made between the various parts of the Christian continuum? 

    If I deal with Christians, as above, as members of a shared republic, then a conversation is reasonable.  We can discuss the good of our shared enterprise.

    But is it not more likely that I will be insulted instead than be swayed by the arguments advanced by other peoples gods or prophets? 

"Unhappy is the land..

".. that needs a hero." Bertolt Brecht, Gallileo

In that light, an article that does not attempt to deny that Mandela was good and important man, but reminds us how good is really accomplished: The Mandela coverage and the banality of goodness

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Anyone remember the Glomar Explorer

In the early 1970's' the CIA commissioned the construction of the Hughes Glomar Explorer, a deep sea drill ship platform, in an attempt to recover a sunken Soviet missile submarine.

The reasons for this (still undisclosed) were most likely to get cryptological documents and equipment and obtain an intact nuclear missile.

The project did not produce much (outside of a wonderful  McGuffin for the Charles Stross's novel, The Jennifer Morgue), but I remember that when it came to light in the mid 1970's. 

This was the time of the Church Committee, which was investigating CIA misdeeds, of which there were an elegant sufficiency. 

But what I remember to be most bizarre item about the whole story was the level of criticism the CIA received for this project -- not operational criticism (e.g. whether the project was well or badly undertaken) -- but criticizing the whole idea: Why should the CIA be trying to get information from a sunken Soviet sub.

What else is the CIA supposed to do, but try to get secrets from enemies?

This is all a preamble to my feelings about latest NSA disclosures -- that the United States was intercepting communications in France and browsing through the email of the Mexican president.

I may be simple here, but my response to the NSA spying on foreign governments (earlier it was Brazil) is "So?".  I suppose that should be "Nu?".

At least one of these countries has a history of tapping US phones, and in the 70's this was so well known that the CIA intentionally passed information on compromised lines to feed disinformation to the Soviets.  Which means there was more than snooping going on at that time.

The NSA's spying on United States citizens threatens liberty, and for that reason the secrecy of the program threatens the constitution.  But that is a constitutional matter, about how we try to govern the power of our state so it cannot become 'over mighty'.

We accord no such courtesy to other states -- and should not expect any in return.  I am morally certain that all these states maintain some intelligence presence in the US -- up to and including signals intelligence. If they do not, they are idiots. I would given better than even money that most of these states knew about it. The claim that this sort of spying is not what allies to each other runs into Palmerston's dictum.

It does point out why one should minimize the number and type of secrets one has.  Had the NSA gone through any public vetting of its programs, had there actually be some legislation, then I rather doubt Snowden et al would have bothered to leak this information. The fewer secrets one has, the better they can be kept.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bravo For Life's Little Ironies*

You have to admire the blindness to irony in these statements.

Norquist: Cruz 'Pushed House Republicans Into Traffic And Wandered Away'

Maybe, Norquist thinks that Cruz should have had people sign a pledge?

*From an old Doonesbury cartoon.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Consider the Poor Constitution

Something should be more important to us than whether chemical weapons have been used in Syria, and if so what strategy should be undertaken to deal with the issue.

The merits of entering a conflict in Syria are not, at this time, of interest to me.

What is important is that to do so without Congressional authorization cannot be squared with the United States' Constitution's vesting of the right to declare war in Congress*.  (For the record, though I thought the policy was valid, I considered the Lybian intervention to be unconstitutional.)

It can reasonably be argued that a President needs to respond to emergencies, just as a police officer in the field may have to shoot at a suspect.

This is not an emergency, there has been a great deal of time made available to discuss the issue.

The current president has no operationaly reason not to ask for an authorization to use force from Congress* -- this the Supreme Court stipulated is consistent with Congress having exclusive war making power.

A President's reluctance to request permission before taking action, while Constitutionally vile, is psychologically to be expected -- no one wants to ask permission if they can avoid it, particularly of Congress*.

The behavior of members of the Congress* is cowardice of the highest level.  They are will to foresake their powers, and undermine the law, solely to ensure they will have no ownership of the decisions.

So it will be that, the current president will not ask for an authorization, and the Congrees* will not assert its rights.  This is a making of war on the basic laws of the republic.

*"I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace; that two are called a law firm, and that three or more become a Congress!" -- John Adams, 1776.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Before it is irrelevant: Due Proceess and the Trayvon Martin/George Zmmerman Fiasco

To my mind, most people have missed the point about the whole that the Trayvon Martin/George Zmmerman fiasco.

The biggest problem is that reasonable procedures were not followed in the beginning.

Regardless (or because this is about Florida irregardless) of anything else, as a matter of good police practice, Zimmerman should have been arrested and investigated after the event.

This is not because he is or was guilty.  But because, a piori, if there is a death it should be investigated with some reasonable rigour.

This wasn't done, which violated both of Martin and Zimmerman.

The cops may well have come back and recommended to the procescutor that there was no criminal case to be made, or that a prosecution should be pursued, but this wasn't done (apparently over the cops' objections). 

This is called the appearence of due process, or, one hopes, actual impartial due process. 

This wasn't done, which deprived Zimmerman and Martin of their citizenship.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Mourning Clothes

An interesting note in the Huffington Post caught my eye (Jana Riess: Let's Bring Back Mourning Clothes)

As a historical note, I believe the end of the tradition of wearing mourning date from World War I, where it was deemed bad for morale.

I have always approved of the idea of  having visible signs of mourning, as it also also involves rituals for stopping mourning, and for remembrance. 

The sociology/psychology of this make sense to me. 

(On a sectarian note, it is also one of the reasons I have always disliked the practice in synagogs of having non-mourners rise with mourners for the Mourners Kaddish.  If everyone rises, how do we know who is really need of comfort.)

A piece of serendipity, a word my grandmother loved, I this has been a week of lighting yahrzeit candles for two people.