Thursday, March 07, 2002

Hermeneutics in Everyday life! Suppose you're traveling to work and you see a stop sign. What do you do?
That depends on how you exegete (interpret) the stop sign.
1. A post modernist deconstructs the sign (knocks it over with his car), ending forever the tyranny of the north-south traffic over the east-west traffic.
2. Similarly, a Marxist refuses to stop because he sees the stop sign as an instrument of class conflict. He concludes that the bourgeois use the north-south road and obstruct the progress of the workers in the east-west road.
3. A serious and educated Catholic rolls through the intersection because he believes he cannot understand the stop sign apart from its interpretive community and tradition. Observing that the interpretive community doesn't take it too seriously, he doesn't feel obligated to take it too seriously either.
4. An average Catholic (or Orthodox or Coptic or Anglican or Methodist or Presbyterian or whatever) doesn't bother to read the sign but he'll stop the car if the car in front of him does.
5. A fundamentalist, taking the text very literally, stops at the stop sign and waits for it to tell him to go.
6. A seminary educated evangelical preacher might look up "STOP" in his lexicons of English and discover that it can mean: 1) something which prevents motion, such as a plug for a drain, or a block of wood that prevents a door from closing; 2)a location where a train or bus lets off passengers. The main point of his sermon the following Sunday on this text is: when you see a stop sign, it is a place where traffic is naturally clogged, so it is a good place to let off passengers from your car.
7. An orthodox Jew does one of two things: a) Take another route to work that doesn't have a stop sign so that he doesn't run the risk of disobeying the Law; b) Stop at the sign, say "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast given us thy commandment to stop," wait 3 seconds according to his watch, and then proceed. Incidentally, the Talmud has the following comments on this passage: Rabbi Meir says: He who does not stop shall not live long. R. Hillel says: Cursed is he who does not count to three before proceeding. R. Simon ben Yudah says: Why three? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, gave us the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. R. ben Isaac says: Because of the three patriarchs. R. Yehuda says: Why bless the Lord at a stop sign? Because it says, "Be still and know that I am God."
8. A scholar from the Jesus Seminar concludes that the passage "STOP" undoubtedly was never uttered by Jesus himself because being the progressive Jew that he was, He would never have wanted to stifle peoples progress. Therefore, STOP must be a textual insertion belonging entirely to stage III of the gospel tradition, when the church was first confronted by traffic in its parking lot.
9. A NT (New Testament) scholar notices that there is no stop sign on Mark street but there is one on Matthew and Luke streets, and concludes that the ones on Luke and Matthew streets are both copied from a sign on a street no one has ever seen called "Q" street. There is an excellent 300 page doctoral dissertation on the origin of these stop signs, and the differences between stop signs on Matthew and Luke street in the scholar's commentary on the passage. There is an unfortunate omission in the dissertation, however; it doesn't explain the meaning of the text!
10. An OT (Old Testament) scholar points out that there are a number of stylistic differences between the first and second half of the passage "STOP." For example, "ST" contains no enclosed areas and five line endings, whereas "OP" contains two enclosed areas and only one line termination. He concludes that the author for the second part is different from the author on the first part and probably lived hundreds of years later. Later scholars determine that the second half is itself actually written by two separate authors because of similar stylistic differences between the "O" and the "P.
11. Another prominent OT scholar notes in his commentary that the stop sign would fit better into the context three streets back.(Unfortunately, he neglected to explain why in his commentary.) Clearly it was moved to its present location by a later redactor. He thus exegetes the intersection as though the sign were not there.
12. Because of the difficulties in interpretation, another OT scholar amends the text, changing the "T" to "H". "SHOP" is much easier to understand in context than "STOP" because of the multiplicity of stores in the area. The textual corruption probably occurred because "SHOP" is so similar to "STOP" on the sign several streets back, that it is a natural mistake for a scribe to make. Thus the sign should be interpreted to announce the existence of a shopping area. If this is true, it could indicate that both meanings are valid, thus making the thrust of the message "STOP (AND) SHOP."
13. A "prophetic" preacher notices that the square root of the sum of the numeric representations of the letters S-T-O-P (sigma-tau-omicron-pi in the Greek alphabet), multiplied by 40 (the number of testing), and divided by four (the number of the world-north, south, east, and west) equals 666. Therefore, he concludes that stop signs are the dreaded "mark of the beast," a harbinger of divine judgment upon the world, and must be avoided at all costs.
not original -- source unknown
Working. I've got a heavy day at work -- actually it may turn out to be a heavy number of days -- therefore, I won't be posting much.

I should note that I don't ever do this "on work time." This is something I do for fun in my own time, always giving priority to work. Sometimes the demands of work push into my own personal time -- I've got no problem with that -- I'm a professional and that happens. And so it's happening now. I'll post something fun to read in the meantime -- or go read one of the other blogs, noted above, on the left.
Celibacy -> Pedophilia? In Slate, William Saletan looks at the arguments of those opposed to celibacy and the counter-arguments of the tradition's defenders. Why is this a good essay? Saletan actually listens to each side.
Goodbye Gary, Hello Barry. The fun thing about living in DC is that we have an abundance of wonderful politicians. Therefore, there's always someone to replace those leaving. So now we welcome back Marion Barry and say good bye to Gary Condit.

Wednesday, March 06, 2002

Behind the Smarter Times. USC's Online Journalism Review:
Smartertimes' daily attacks on the Times over the past two years have proven that a small Web site can take on a venerable journalism institution. Indeed, with every passing morning, Stoll adds yet more of what he considers incontrovertible evidence to his case against the paper, claiming that "New York's dominant daily has grown complacent, slow and inaccurate."
It's places like Smarter Times that fulfill the promise of that brilliant Mac 1984 commercial.
The Book List. I'm not sure what to make of this. The following were ranked in this order this afternoon on the Top 25 book list:

22. The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton
23. Fall on Your Knees
24. Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm
Clinton Lies. This is news?
Freedom of the Press for all. A Federal Judge in Boston today "ruled that nonprofessional news gatherers have the same rights as professionals." Do you think that someone should tell John McCain that the citizens have the same rights as the media?
I vant to be a clone. I'm still waiting for a response from Murtaugh and Reynolds to this article in the Weekly Standard.

More. There's an op-ed in the LA Times today by Kristol and Rifkin.
The most divisive issue. There's a good couple of articles in the Dallas Morning News, which tends to have a pretty good grasp of religion stories, on the different Christian churches reaction to the homosexuality issue. The Catholic Church reaffirms its ban on gay priests. See also, Louder Fenn's essay in response.
Angliban. Perhaps it helps to be Anglican to appreciate this little bit of humor.
Quote. "...the researchers might be deluded by Mother Nature, whose principal object in life is to make fools of scientists." -Lawrence Crum, a physicist at the Applied Physics Lab at the University of Washington, on "table-top fusion."
Congratulations! To Orrin Judd and wife on the birth of a son, Archer Garner.
In Memoriam
Sgt. Bradley S. Crose, 22, Orange Park, Fla.
Sgt. Philip J. Svitak, 31, Joplin, Mo.
Spc. Marc A. Anderson, 30, Brandon, Fla.
Pfc. Matthew A. Commons, 21, Boulder City, Nev.
Aviation Boatswain's Mate-Handling Petty Officer 1st Class Neil C. Roberts, 32, Woodland, Calif.
Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman, 36, Waco, Texas.
Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham, 26, Camarillo, Calif.
Honor. Not meaning to be melodramatic, but it is fitting to dwell on this subject just before sunrise, on the anniversary of the fall of the Alamo. There is much that makes America great and as a nation we are elevated by those who serve the cause of freedom, righteousness, and honor. Americans do not turn and run. From the Alamo, to Bellau Woods, to the "Frozen Chosin" and now to Sirkankel the men of America have shown that we don't retreat, we don't surrender, and "We don't leave Americans behind." (Brig. Gen. John W. Rosa, Jr., explaining why the men returned to the Battle at Sirkankel.)

But the everlasting promise
Kept along each bloody yard
No one leaves behind the wounded
'Cause there ain't no fight that hard.
--Frank Gross
December 29th 1950

"Retreat Hell! We just got here!"
-Colonel Wendell C. Neville, USMC
May 28th, 1918

"I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country — VICTORY OR DEATH."
--Lieutenant Colonel William Barret Travis
February 24, 1836

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Driving in Paradise. The people of Hawai'i have a reputation for being politically liberal and accepting of government. But there's also a streak of independence and it's this streak that's showing itself in the local reaction to the traffic surveilance cameras.

When I was a teenager, I lived in Hawai'i and I learned to drive there. I can attest that it is different than on the mainland.
NFL Intelligence Test. Cool -- I'd read about this a few years (maybe 10) back and always wanted to see it. It turns out part of the NFL intelligence test is on-line. Its a test that gets progressively difficult -- ESPN has an article explaining it and giving a little background.
Kill the Messenger, while you're at it. In Britain, the results of a 14 year study are in, showing that the government's policy of supplying condoms and birth control pills is a failure. The report unequivically states this policy is "completely wrong and misguided." According to the Telegraph, the "report found a higher conception rate in areas where a greater number of girls aged 13 to 15 visited family planning clinics." So naturally, the government head behind this policy, Simon Blake, is rejecting this report. Wouldn't want to be confused by the facts, would we Blake, old chap?
Suspending the Priest. Theological conservatives in the Episcopal church have stood by and watched while Bishops and ministers who deny the divinity of Jesus and/or His resurrection, who favor the ordination of practicing homosexuals, the marriage rite being extended to same-sex couples, and so on, should be pleased to see that, finally, a maverick priest is being suspended.

Wait, you say the suspended priest is opposed to the ordination of gays?

Update. What I'm really trying to say is that the theological liberals are every bit as intolerant and bigoted and close-minded as they suppose their theologically conservative bretheren to be. Don't let their masks of piety and acceptingness fool you. They can't wait to throw the first stone.
No Decisions Today. It doesn't look like there will be any Supreme Court Decisons today -- I note that at 10 am, Justices Kennedy and Thomas will be testifying to the Senate Appropriations committee. I suspect there might be at least one question on judicial salaries, given that Justice Kennedy signed on to Stephen Breyer's dissent (.pdf) yesterday. It's interesting to note that three justices on the Court, apply an economic analysis -- adjusting for inflation and comparing to changes for other occupations -- to the Compensation Clause (judges “shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.” U. S. Const., Art. III, §1.)

Monday, March 04, 2002

Indian Century? With a tip of the hat to Iain Murray, here's a good essay by Jim Bennett on India.

Iain, the Edge, as I prefer to call him, thinks this might be India's Century. I agree that India is on the ascendency. However, I think the real boom is going to be in Africa and it's not just because of England, but because of England's real power legacy in Africa: the Anglican church. Nigeria alone has over 17 million active Anglicans, as opposed to 2 million in England, 2.5 million in the USA and 2.4 million in Canada. [All Anglicans in the U.K. are 27million]
Source: .
Rubes? Did Ralph Neas really refer to Pickering's black friends as "poor rubes...?" This from the Washington Times:
When blacks in Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr.'s hometown of Laurel, Miss., had almost nothing but praise for the federal appellate court nominee, liberal activist Ralph Neas "told the New York Times that this sort of local opinion didn't matter, because the poor rubes don't know the judge's real record," the Wall Street Journal observes in an editorial.
Mr. Neas, as president of People for the American Way, has led what even some liberals have described as an ugly campaign to falsely depict Mr. Pickering as a racist.
"What's going on here is that Mr. Neas has been caught red-handed," the Journal said. "He and his allies have been caught race-baiting for political purposes, and in a way that bears not even a passing resemblance to reality. The question now is whether Senate Democrats are going to keep playing the race card, too."
I searched both the NY Times and the WSJ and did not find a record of this. According to, a rube is "an unsophisticated country person. [Probably from Rube, nickname for Reuben.] . . . not very intelligent or interested in culture [syn: yokel, hick, yahoo, hayseed, bumpkin, chawbacon] .

Update. I think the "rube" comment must have been an editorial characterization by the WSJ.

Nat Hentoff has an essay today attacking Pickering's attackers. While acknowledging he would oppose Pickering and opposed Robert Bork, he lambastes the NAACP and PFAW for their "borking" of Judge Pickering. In the NRO, Byron York writes that the Republicans may be putting together a strategy for getting the nomination through.

Frankly, I think all these groups are doing is practicing the "big lie," tenderizing the nominee to make him easier to defeat, truth be damned. It's a form of artillary, designed to give their comrades in the majority on the Judiciary Committee the needed cover to vote down this nominee. That's the tactical attack -=- the broader strategic attack is to paint the Bush administration as extreme to prevent nominees who might be mainstream conservatives from getting nominated.
More Scores. This time on religion:

1. Seventh Day Adventist (100%)
2. Orthodox Quaker (96%)
3. Eastern Orthodox (91%)
4. Roman Catholic (91%)
5. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (89%)

Since I'm an Anglican, I wonder what I got wrong?
Notes on the SAT. First, did you know the SAT doesn't stand for anything anymore? My daughter asked me what it meant and I told her I thought it stood for Scholastic Aptitude Test, but if you search high and low for an indication from the College Board, they give no definition. I suspect that it's just a matter of trademark, but perhaps there's something more nefarious.

Second, the people who administer the SAT did revise the standards in 1995. Here is a note by the Edge. Here is a critique by Diane Ravitch; here is an explanation of the "re-centering;" here is a chart summarizing the impact of "recentering" at UVa and at MIT.

Finally, a few interesting things. Kaplan has a list of the top 100 vocab words (which will probably be banished as of Fall 2002). The Princeton Review has it's three basic tips. And PBS has a brief history of the test.
More Supremes. Okay, I'm done with the syllabus from each case: Three cases today, one a criminal procedure case, one a tax case, and the last, the FERC case mentioned below. Each one was virtually unanimous.

And I can see why Enron rings the media bell -- it was decided jointly with the Enron v. FERC case. Justice Stevens writes for the Court that FERC had the authority to preempt certain state schemes regulating power transmission. Moreover it had the authority to not proceed more agressively, as Enron was seeking. The dissent, by Thomas, joined by Scalia and Kennedy, argues that the federal agency did not properly engage in administrative decision-making. Justice Thomas is clear that he would not necessarily hold for Enron:
I would not, as petitioner Enron requests, compel FERC to apply the OATT to bundled retail transmissions. I would vacate the Court of Appeals’ judgment and require FERC on remand to engage in reasoned decisionmaking to determine whether there is undue discrimination with respect to transmission associated with retail bundled sales, and if so, what remedy is appropriate.
There's part of me that wonders if he would have to be so explicit with another company -- or if he has to spell this out because he's gunshy.

More. Fritz Schranck has a longer analysis of the tax case and demonstrates its import.
Supreme Court Report. Looks like the Court ruled the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission may preempt state power rules. No surprise.

I'll be interested in the voting breakdown and how this plays as an "Enron" story.

Update. Yep, the first reports from the AP see this as an Enron story: "...a partial victory for Enron, which had aggressively litigated over the regulations..."

Still no voting breakdown -- and I haven't seen the slip opinon myself. The AP indicates: "The court issued a mixed verdict in which it ruled unanimously on the major elements of the case, but divided over details."

Sunday, March 03, 2002

Bravenet. FWIW, Bravenet is down.
Cover Watch. Time magazine: a stark "Can we stop the next 9/11?" easily trumps Newsweek's "Schizophrenia" (Andrea Yates). At least Newsweek eschewed the sleaze approach this week (almost).
Blue-Eyed Gospel. Ashley Cleveland has a new album out. Who is Ashley Cleveland? She is the best singer you've never heard of. When I get a chance, I'll put up an .mp3 and maybe a short .wav file from one of her songs.

Here's what Shawn Colvin had to say: "When I hear Ashley sing, it's like I'm standing at some railroad tracks, and when I look away for a second, out of nowhere, a train comes roaring by at about a thousand miles an hour."