essentialsaltes: (that's not funny!)
"The book is regularly listed as one of the best non-fiction books of the 20th century."

But I gave up. I couldn't take any more. (Speaking of giving up, I'm slowly figuring out what to do and where to go with the journal. I mean, just about everyone's gone already, and the new Russian TOS is not inspiring confidence.)

I really found the writing style(?) uncongenial. I think my main beef is that Arendt is primarily a political theorist and philosopher, and not a historian. So there are airy passages of theses and ideas, but I found it not tied enough to supporting factual detail. Often a reasonable story was being spun, but it all felt like a free-floating structure, moored only by tenuous lines to shore. And worse.

The book is organized in three main sections: Antisemitism, Imperialism, and Totalitarianism.

The most interesting idea I found in Antisemitism was that, in the feudal age, Jews could be categorized and understood as the Other. It was easy. Sure, there's an enclave of Jews in Paris. But we're Franks, and they are Jews. Or we are Teutons, and they are Jews. As the modern nation-state developed, suddenly everyone had to be categorized as citizens of some nation. What? We're all French? But they're Jews, they're not French! (I don't think Arendt mentions it, but it occurs to me that another state-less people that had maybe even more difficulty getting tied down to a world of 'nations' were the Romany.)
Many, many pages are devoted to the Dreyfus Affair, but I found it maddening that it mostly talks around the Dreyfus Affair, and not really about the Dreyfus Affair. I mean, it's a good thing I knew the basic details, because you will learn more about Zola than Dreyfus (the first foreshadowing of what ultimately made me throw the book across the... okay, okay, to snap my iPad shut quite forcefully).

The most interesting idea I found in the first 75% of Imperialism, was that one of the things that led to imperialism was there was excess capital in the major European countries, and there was nothing much to invest in. And there was some excess labor force in these countries with nothing to do. And imperialism is the outlet for this. Betraying some Marxist tendencies, Arendt sees this as an unnatural alliance of capital and mob-labor to go exploit the world.

There's a discussion of imperialism in Africa with a lot of focus on South Africa, but also long quoted passages from Joseph Conrad. As her attention turns to Asia, she delves a bit into The Great Game, and then inevitably to Kipling. And then it really started to bother me -- the discussion is light on facts, but heavy on allusions to works of fiction. However much they may reflect the zeitgeist of imperialism, I can't take this seriously any more.

Now it's time for the home game: what author is about to become inevitable? How long into the passage does it take you to identify him?

The Home Game! )
essentialsaltes: (atheist teacher)
"Club Monarch, an afterschool bible club, was run in part by teachers and routinely given preferential treatment at Mariposa Elementary School in Brea, Calif. The club was mentioned in the weekly newsletter and listed in the school calendar. The newsletter announcements asked students to "Stop by the office to sign up." There were posters around the school exclusively advertising the club. At a back-to-school night, the principal effusively praised and recommended the club. And the club was allowed to begin its meetings a mere five minutes after the school day ended.
...
The school was distributing Club Monarch registration forms to its students and coordinating registration, instructing parents to return the forms to the school office or to their child's teacher. Records showed that school staff members were routinely planning and coordinating Club Monarch meetings via their school email accounts, often during the school day. Superintendent Mason actually spoke at a Club Monarch meeting in February, "sharing ... the heart of Jesus with the children," according to the club's Facebook page."

Now, after school religious clubs (indeed 'worship clubs') are allowed (so sayeth the Supreme Court) if schools open their doors to any and all comers, but the context has been for outside groups coming in, and without any support from the school: "the children required their parents' permission to attend the Club's activities; they were not permitted to "loiter outside classrooms after the schoolday has ended". The Club was using space on the school grounds into which elementary school children did not typically venture during school hours, and ... The instructors are not schoolteachers."

In this case, it was very much an inside job, and with plenty of support from the school and its employees. I bet the meeting between the district lawyers and the super was interesting. Perhaps in an overdose of CYA -- though indeed this is what the FFRF called for -- the final decision was to disband the club entirely.

(* I went to high school in Brea)

Prop 50

Apr. 26th, 2016 10:51 am
essentialsaltes: (poo-bush)
Only one prop on the CA ballot.

Seems like a good idea, but maybe isn't.

Currently, CA legislators can be suspended (with pay, it turns out, after this happened for the first time ever) by their fellows with a majority vote.

Or they can be expelled with a 2/3 vote.

Prop 50 would change suspension to be without pay, but now requires a 2/3 vote.

Lawmakers could have very easily closed the loophole, by just changing the way pay is handled. But instead it also sets the bar for suspension as high as it is for expulsion. Rather than making this a harsher suspension, it may have the effect of becoming a lighter expulsion. Or making legislators safer in general from censure in general. Fortunately, both suspension and expulsion are so rare that it probably won't make much difference no matter what happens.

It'll probably pass, because people will angrily shake their fists with their non-voting hand as they think of their anger at those criminal lawmakers keeping their pay. But I say NO.
essentialsaltes: (facegouge)
It will likely cost $260 million more to create the much needed high speed rail link for travellers to get from Merced to Bakersfield. This is a 5% increase on the initial $5 billion segment.

"The construction is running more than two years behind schedule, though the rail authority has said it has enough “float” to complete the work on time. Its own funding plan shows that it will not finish until 2019. The original plan was to compete the work in 2017, when federal grants expire."

But at least the project has raised $0 in private funding. Of course, such funding is not expected until "the system is generating positive cash flow." I should live so long.
essentialsaltes: (shoot)
I was idly poking around Supreme Court decisions about ranching land. As one does. And stumbled across this great description of authentic Zane Grey era cattle ranchers versus sheep ranchers sorta stuff. McKelvey v. United States (1922). The legal stiffs just need to punch up the word choices a little bit.

"One of the defendants then requested his comrades to line up with their rifles, which they did, whereupon he proceeded to make a hostile demonstration against one of the employees and to chase him about, obviously as a matter of intimidation."
...
Early the next morning, before the employees started the sheep again, one of the defendants returned and inquired what was going to be done and, on learning what the owner had directed, said: "You can't go through there." "Something will happen to you this morning." "Are you willing to take the consequences?" This defendant then rode away and a little later others of them rode up on a gallop, ordered the employees to put up their hands, which was done, and then began shooting. They shot and seriously injured one of the employees, threatened to finish him, and did other things calculated to put all three in terror."
essentialsaltes: (secular)
I got an auction catalog of autographs, and was struck by the content of this letter from Jefferson Davis.

Unlike the US Constitution, the Confederate constitution mentions "Almighty God" in the preamble. Otherwise, it hews close to the US constitution in many places, including the 'no religious test' clause and essentially the First Amendment.

Anyway, to provide the rest of the background, some were giving Davis some grief for not referring specifically to Jesus in certain proclamations. And there was some widespread sentiment that this was because Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin was a Jew. Two of these angry letters are also part of the lot: "Alas! that Jefferson Davis should fear a Jew more than he honors Jesus! . . . Sir you are . . . doing a gross wrong to a Christian people: above all insulting God by the Judaising [sic] of your very proclamation . . . to please a Godless & prayerless Sect'y of State!"

Anyway, Jeff's response:

"Many well-disposed persons do not understand the constitutional restriction upon my conduct... It might have been well that our Constitution should not only have recognized a God, as it does, but the Saviour of mankind also; that it should have had not merely a religious but a Christian basis. But such is not its character, and my oath binds me to observe the Constitution as it is, not as I would have it, if in any respect I should wish it changed."

A weak leader and rebel scum, but clear on constitutional principles.
essentialsaltes: (atheist teacher)
A History of American Secularism

A fascinating look at the idea of secular government from the Founders to the present, and how the idea has shifted from Enlightenment ideals to the Golden Age of Freethought in the 19th century, when the Great Agnostic Ingersoll could give the nominating speech for a Republican candidate for president (even in the good old days, when Republicans were the party of abolition). To the emergence of fundamentalism in the early 20th and its later common cause partnership with conservative Catholicism, and the response with the freethinker's coalition with liberal Protestantism and (secular) Judaism.

The historical detail is quite excellent, but as the time grows nearer the present, a hint of polemicism arises. I don't disagree with her, but the shift in tone is noticeable in the last chapter or so.

And yes, the blockquotes )
✓one-word title
essentialsaltes: (cognitive Hazard)
Slate tipped me off to South Carolina's amicus brief to the Supremes.

"Furthermore, the traditional family, with the husband as unquestioned head, was the foundation of the Fourteenth Amendment framers’ world. The framers deeply believed the family was the “primary unit of social and political action at the time. . . .” Farnsworth, Women Under Reconstruction: The Congressional Understanding, 94 Nw. U. L. Rev. 1229, 1236 (2000). One senator feared giving women the vote would disturb “‘. . . the family circle, which is even of higher obligation than the obligation of Government.’” Id., (quoting Cong. Globe, 42nd Cong., 2d Sess. 845 (1872)). Thus, Section Two of the Amendment eliminated women from the franchise.
Having this mindset, the Amendment’s framers certainly did not intend to dismantle, but fought to preserve, state marriage laws. Indeed, skeptical congressmen insisted that these remain unaffected by the Amendment. Many feared that state disabilities placed upon married women, such as property ownership, would be undermined by an earlier Amendment draft. However, such concerns were al- layed in the Amendment’s final wording."

I guess this is what happens when you double-down on the definition of traditional marriage -- you know, the kind where wives have no separate legal existence and cannot own property in their own name.

On the lighter side, there's the brief from the gay men married to women, who argue that they would be harmed by legal same-sex marriage: "A constitutional mandate requiring same-sex marriage sends a harmful message that it is impossible, unnatural, and dangerous for the same-sex attracted to marry members of the opposite sex."

Lotsa people want to kibbitz on this one.
essentialsaltes: (islam)
So a Vegas wedding chapel where you get married by an Elvis impersonator refuses to perform same sex marriages.

Less sensationally, a couple of ministers in Idaho who run a wedding chapel have filed a lawsuit calling for a temporary restraining order. For some reason, many religious media have incorrectly characterized the situation as the city suing the couple.

Anyway, the point really comes down to the fact that a wedding chapel is not a church. It is a for-profit business.

“The difference between a church and a place of worship and a wedding chapel, is that a wedding chapel is a business so that is covered under the Public Accommodations Law of Nevada,” said Tod Story of the ACLU.


Obviously, it's complicated by the fact that the employees of this business are ministers, but I can't help the fact that they decided not to carry out their religious activities in their church, but rather have prostituted them by opening a storefront where they do their mumbo jumbo (possibly Elvis-clad) for strangers who walk in off the street and give them money.

An analogy occurred to me, strengthened by a coincidental rhyme.

A few years back, there was a flap when Muslim cabbies in Minnesota were refusing to take fares if the people had alcohol with them. They lost their legal fight.

And in both cases, it seems like they are the victims of their own choice of employment.

If these people didn't want to carry people who had alcohol, they shouldn't have gotten into the business of carrying people.
If those people didn't want to marry people of the same sex, they shouldn't have gotten into the business of marrying people.
essentialsaltes: (Secular)
First the North Carolina school wouldn't allow the Secular Students Alliance club to form.

Then the school would allow it to form.

Then due to threats and verbal abuse against her and her family & friends, the would-be club founder has decided not to form the club after all.
essentialsaltes: (essentialsaltes)
An Oklahoma lawmaker, reacting to the court decision to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage, says:

“[My constituents are] willing to have that discussion about whether marriage needs to be regulated by the state at all.”

Now, the title of the article is "Oklahoma Lawmaker Wants To Ban All Marriages".

IANAL, but banning something is different from unregulating something.

Now, there's only a shell bill, so we don't really know what the tactic is going to be. I expect something like: "OK will no longer issue marriage licenses, but other laws (such as the one that requires officiants to only perform ceremonies for couples with a valid marriage license) remain on the books." That would effectively ban marriage. And I wouldn't expect it to last long, for one reason or another.

But if the law actually did eliminate all state regulation of marriage... and the state is no longer in the business of determining what is and what isn't a valid marriage... then you could marry your refrigerator and your goldfish. OK, it would no longer have any legal meaning within the state, and I imagine(?) the Federal government would not need to recognize a marriage without any state paperwork. But you could do it. Yay liberty?
essentialsaltes: (Haha)
A difficult inmate plaintiff.

Plaintiff began filing frivolous motions on a weekly basis and, in that relatively simple civil rights lawsuit, he ended up filing more than seventy-five pleadings, all of which required the considered attention of this Court and Judge Bowen. These motions included "Motion to Behoove an Inquisition" and "Motion for Judex Delegatus" and "Motion for Restoration of Sanity" and "Motion for Deinstitutionalization".
...
The motions ranged from the mundane, such as "Motion for Change of Venue", to the arcane, such as "Motion for Cesset pro Cessus" and "Motion for Judex Delegatus", to the curious, such as "Motion for Nunc pro Tunc" and "Motion for Psychoanalysis", to the outlandish, such as "Motion to Impeach Judge Alaimo" and "Motion to Renounce Citizenship" and "Motion to Exhume Body of Alex Hodgson".
...
In the instant case, Plaintiff has sued all of the judges and one magistrate judge from this District as well as one judge and one magistrate judge from the Middle District of Georgia. Plaintiff also unsuccessfully tried to join Judge Michael Karpf of the Superior Court of Chatham County and United States Senator Sam Nunn. His five motions to amend are overshadowed by the "Motion to Kiss My Ass" which Plaintiff filed [in which he moved "all Americans at large and one corrupt Judge Smith [to] kiss my got [sic] damn ass sorry mother fucker you."]
essentialsaltes: (Mr. Gruff)
This post has been a long time coming. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean it's particularly good, informative, or insightful.

[livejournal.com profile] jimhines' cartoon has been flying around recently:


While this was about science fiction cons, it applies perfectly well to atheist/skeptic/secular cons. That community has had some recent high-profile incidents, and some longer simmering arguments. I've been mostly watching from the sidelines; not because I don't care, but because I haven't been directly involved. I haven't been to any of these conventions. I don't really know the people involved, and certainly have no knowledge of the actual incidents. So I didn't think I had much to add other than a huge chance of foot-in-mouth disease.

essentialsaltes more than likely puts his foot in his mouth somewhere in here )
essentialsaltes: (Diversity)
While I'd like to be optimistic about the (effective) removal of the preclearance requirement of the VRA, the examples of relatively recent naughtiness pointed out in Ginsburg's dissent are not very encouraging (refs removed):

In 1995, Mississippi sought to reenact a dual voter registration system, “which was initially enacted in 1892 to disenfranchise Black voters,” and for that reason, was struck down by a federal court in 1987.

Following the 2000 census, the City of Albany, Georgia, proposed a redistricting plan that DOJ found to be “designed with the purpose to limit and retrogress the increased black voting strength . . . in the city as a whole.”

In 2001, the mayor and all-white five-member Board of Aldermen of Kilmichael, Mississippi, abruptly canceled the town’s election after “an unprecedented number” of African-American candidates announced they were running for office. DOJ required an election, and the town elected itsfirst black mayor and three black aldermen.

In 2006, this Court found that Texas’ attempt to redraw a congressional district to reduce the strength of Latino voters bore “the mark of intentional discrimination that could give rise to an equal protection violation,” and ordered the district redrawn in compliance with the VRA. ... In response, Texas sought to undermine this Court’s order by curtailing early voting in the district, but was blocked by an action to enforce the §5 preclearance requirement.

In 2003, after African-Americans won a majority of the seats on the school board for the first time in history, Charleston County, South Carolina, proposed an at-large voting mechanism for the board. The proposal, made without consulting any of the African-American members of the school board, was found to be an “‘exact replica’” of an earlier voting scheme that, a federal court had determined, violated the VRA.

In 1993, the City of Millen, Georgia, proposed to delay the election in a majority-black district by two years, leaving that district without representation on the city council while the neighboring majority white district would have three representatives. DOJ blocked the proposal. The county then sought to move a polling place from a predominantly black neighborhood in the city to an inaccessible location in a predominantly white neighborhood outside city limits.

In 2004, Waller County, Texas, threatened to prosecute two black students after they announced their intention to run for office. The county then attempted to reduce the availability of early voting in that election at polling places near a historically black university.


In principle, I guess Congress could come up with a new criterion for picking places that need to have continued preclearance oversight (not a bad idea) but I'm guessing that's not gonna happen (a bad idea).
essentialsaltes: (atheist teacher)
Objecting to religious messages on license plates isn't just for atheist scum, anymore. This guy is going ahead with his suit against the 'Rain God' on the OK plates:



"The appeals court’s decision says Cressman “adheres to historic Christian beliefs” and believes it is a sin “to honor or acknowledge anyone or anything as God besides the one true God.”"

To be fair, we have no idea if he objects to other religious license plates that have been issued (or proposed) by various states.




From the incandescent rage desk comes this story of a teacher fired from her job at a Catholic school because her abusive ex-husband is "threatening and menacing". Unfortunately for her, she taught religion classes, and the Supreme Court has indicated that religious schools have much greater leeway to fire employees who are 'ministers'. Anyway, since they're worried about the safety of the students, I guess it only makes sense that the school kicked out her four kids as well.
essentialsaltes: (Shoot)
Jury acquits escort shooter

Gilbert's actions were justified, [his defense] argued, because he was trying to retrieve stolen property: the $150 he paid [the escort]. It became theft when she refused to have sex with him or give the money back, they said.

The escort "died about seven months after she was shot in the neck and paralyzed."

Quoth the killer: “I've been in a [entirely metaphorical] mental prison the past four years of my life. I have nightmares. If I see guns on TV where people are getting killed, I change the channel.”

Boo-fucking-hoo.
essentialsaltes: (atheist teacher)
Though filed on April 1, it seems this proposed law in North Carolina is no joke.

"The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion."

HuffPo link.

I'm not an expert on the Constitution, but I did get the home game as a lovely parting gift. So my understanding is that the Supreme Court has ruled that the guarantees of the First Amendment have been incorporated to apply to the individual states.
essentialsaltes: (Whiskey Tango but no Foxtrot)
North Carolina Republicans have introduced a bill to change the divorce requirements from one year of living apart, to a two year waiting period with some required classes. First, I congratulate them on a law that will actually 'protect marriage' in the sense of preventing or delaying divorces. But when I put on my rules lawyer hat, I notice that since "there is no requirement that the husband and wife live separate and apart," Tarheels should clearly file for divorce immediately after they get married. That way, if the time comes, you just have to take a few classes, and all the requirements are met (assuming you made it at least two years). Probably much faster than the previous 1 year period, though an obstructionist spouse could make it difficult if he or she refuses to take the classes.
essentialsaltes: (Dead)
"after admitting its error, Wells Fargo foreclosed on Delassus anyway and sold his condo."

Delassus sued the bank, but died of a heart attack in court.

No wonder Eric Holder is afraid to prosecute banks.
essentialsaltes: (Haha)
Improbable Research pointed to Lowering the Bar's Case Law Hall of Fame.

This one is quite a winner:

"Before proceeding further, the Court notes that this case involves two extremely likable lawyers, who have together delivered some of the most amateurish pleadings ever to cross the hallowed causeway into Galveston, an effort which leads the Court to surmise but one plausible explanation. Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact--complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words--to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed. Whatever actually occurred, the Court is now faced with the daunting task of deciphering their submissions. With Big Chief tablet readied, thick black pencil in hand, and a devil-may-care laugh in the face of death, life on the razor's edge sense of exhilaration, the Court begins."

True to word, that is just the beginning of the merriment. Or at least such merriment as can be derived from a legal document.

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