Monday, May 31, 2010

Nerd moment

One of my major geeky interests is religious history, particularly in the form of a) fairy stories/fairy lore and taxonomy (i.e. Irish folk history, Jungian and other analysis of the content of fairy stories, et. al.), b) ancient Mesopotamian history (anything and everything I can get, but the Sumerian and Babylonian polytheistic traditions are fascinating), and c) early Christianity (which is to say Judaism and early Christian or Christian-like sects in Palestine and the surrounding area in the first century CE). (Islamic religious history I place in another category, which is to say that it's a branching of my actual area of focus and therefore not simply an area of geekdom).

All of this is by way of saying that while some people may spend their Saturday nights out drinking and partying, I spent mine drinking and watching Blade Runner with my roommate (a deep meditation on existence and mortality if ever I saw one) and then watched a lengthy lecture on the location of the historical Jesus within Jewish sectarian and mainstream tradition. I share it because, as I said, I'm having a nerd moment.

Enjoy, if this is your thing!

Friday, May 14, 2010

So I've been watching the West Wing over again

And I love it as much as I always did. And I couldn't help but be reminded of Aaron Sorkin's distinctive cadence--and I know this is maybe going out on a limb a little--by this clip of NJ Gov. Chris Christie (R) calling out a reporter on, you know, caring about knucklehead stuff:

Gov Christie calls S-L columnist thin-skinned for inquiring about his 'confrontational tone'

So I got curious and I went and looked up his record--and by looked up I mean I went to his Wikipedia page--and it's kind of mixed for me. Not sure quite what I think of the man, not that it matters at all yet. (I'll be marginally surprised if he never runs for President.) Anyway, one to keep an eye on.

P.S. I don't know enough HTML to really know why there's that huge gap there or what to do about it; I also decided screw making the video fit entirely in the margins, since you can see all of him and if I did it it would be either tiny or very distorted. I hope everyone will manage to get through their day regardless.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I'm not qualified to talk about Elena Kagan in terms of jurisprudence, so I won't. I haven't really done much research on her politics, but from what I hear nobody really knows much, and while this is a (worthy) subject of much discussion, it's not what I want to talk about since I haven't done what's necessary to discuss it intelligently.

The main thing I feel like commenting on right now is the whisper debate going on regarding her sexual orientation. I have no idea if she's gay or straight. I can understand, I suppose, why some people think that she is. But I'm going to join Digby in saying that what Elena Kagan chooses to say about herself is her truth by right. I don't mean by this that a person can be nominated for a major political office and declaim whatever biography they choose; I mean, rather, that in this case and on this point if she says she's straight, she's straight, and that's good enough for me. Where does anybody else get off saying she's lying or mistaken in this day and age?

I can construct a vaguely reasonable argument for where they get off, of course, and the argument has no doubt been made; but the argument rests on the significance of her hypothetical homosexuality for future decisions on gay rights, and how that significance changes if she is out or not. It does not rest on the fact that she's denied it. I choose to believe her because to do otherwise is patronizing and disrespectful.

I won't lie; I would love it if President Obama would nominate and stand by an openly gay justice. I've been revisiting my favorite show of all time, The West Wing, a great deal lately, and my hunger for a lefty President with the courage of his convictions and a record of wins to back it up remains as real as it was when I was fifteen and convinced I wanted to be Deputy Chief of Staff when I grew up. But as far as I know, Obama's not the guy and this is not the fight I'd love to see. For that matter, this is probably not the universe in which that fight ends as I'd like it to.

Given all that, I have no problem with Elena Kagan other than a certain wistfulness which is certainly not her fault. I wish her a smooth, vigorous, and serious confirmation process and I wish everyone would shut up about why she has no kids and wears her hair short.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Burnt Ochre was always my favorite crayon name

We all have our burdens in life

I must say that all of this yelling about Miranda rights and the fact that it's now being referred to as "the Miranda debate" consistently leaves me very confused. This on top of years of people making jokes about how I should read them their rights upon being told my name.

Little did my parents know what they were burdening me with.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Are you--yes. Yes, you are crazy.

This one is not that fresh from the interweb presses, but the bouquet of its madness remains as aromatic as on the day I first read it: Israel must topple Assad in next conflict with Syria proxies.

I tried to find a money quote, but the crazy is so artfully laced throughout that I couldn't pick one. It's really in the way all the parts relate to one another. The parts are as follows:

1. Syria has delivered SCUD missile systems to Hizballah [though it seems the proof of this actually having happened is a tad iffy; I've seen it confirmed by sources I trust, too, though, so I'm not sure what I think about it].

2. Goldstone concluded that any and all deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure constitutes a war crime as a form of collective punishment. However, Israel need not obey this ruling, only find a way to dance around it or get away with violating it.

3. Therefore [?!], Israel should announce that any aggression by Hizballah will lead to a direct and unrelenting attack on Syria's infrastructure and the deposition of President al-Assad instead of/before retaliation to Hizballah. Further, Israel should make it clear that it has no choice in doing so.

4. This will act as a deterrent.

So, yeah, this is beyond crazy in a variety of ways. And who wrote it? Oh, no one very important, just the former head of the IDF artillery corps, which is, you know, no big deal--oh, wait, it is. I'm not saying this makes him the voice of the government, but it's not like he's ignorant of military matters.

I can't imagine who would support Israel were it to take such a step. Even the U.S. would be hard put in that situation, I think. Not to mention the "you break it, you bought it" rule--what happens to Syria after that? Does Israel just withdraw and assume that will be the end of things? Until the current president (Bashar al-Assad)'s father, Hafez al-Assad, took over, Syria was a realm of total chaos and massive political instability. (There's a reason Syria invited Egypt to form a political union with it and take over the country back in the late fifties, and it wasn't because they loved Gamal al-Nasser so much, okay?) I have no idea what it would be like without the Assad family in charge.

I just--it's nutso, okay? Let's just leave it at that and go about our lives.

File under "le sigh"

At least 10 states look like they'll be dealing with at least attempts to emulate Arizona's immigration law. Granted, it seems like lots of these ideas won't go far (Ohio, really?), but it's still...unfortunate, I guess.

I've never quite understood why states seem to go through fads with hot-button issues. One state moves on something and all of a sudden an equivalent is being proposed at the state house or offered as a ballot initiative all over the country--even though most of these issues don't affect all states in the same way or to the same degree.

I do understand the kick-in-the-ass effect of having one of your peers go where none has gone before or what have you, but it always feels stupid to me even when it's working in a direction I agree with. You'd think if it's that important, you'd want to take the time to do it right--or perhaps you'd already have done it--rather than waiting for one audacious (or in this case, totally effing crazy) state to lead a straggling charge.

For the record, my favorite of the initiatives discussed at the link is Missouri's:

The state legislature is considering a law that would make it unlawful for any person to conceal or shelter "illegal aliens," and would also make it a crime for illegal immigrants to transport themselves. Similar local laws have in the past been declared unconstitutional.

It just brings me back to when I was learning about the Underground Railroad in second grade, you know?