Friday, October 04, 2002

No Rotten Tomatoes Here. I'm a parent, which means I am subjected to the repetitious, be it songs, complaints, meal requests, jokes, or videos. Welcome is that which doesn't get tiring after the first 10K repetitions. This is why I hate Barney and love VeggieTales.

I know, you might think, well isn't VeggieTales religious -- isn't that why you like them? Fair objection -- that does give them, if not a leg up, at least a crack in the door. Nevertheless, religious claptrap and junque can be more annoying than the non-religious, if it is, well, a piece of crap.

VeggieTales is different -- I like singing "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything" for the 27th time in one day. The videos are equal parts of Sunday School, cartoons, and Monty Python, with some great songs.

Anyway, all that is preface to the Ken Turan review of the VeggieTales movie Jonah in the LA Times (he likes it, he likes it!):
. . . this animated retelling of the familiar Old Testament story is playful, high-spirited and unmistakably amusing. It's nice to see that a sense of humor and a sense of values don't inevitably have to cancel each other out.
Unfortunately, Jonah doesn't open in this area for another two weeks.
Strike. The WaPo Writers Guild is engaging in another of it's byline strikes -- meaning they are all captioned "By a Washington Post Staff Writer" instead of naming the writer. The funny thing is how easy to tell who writes what -- and not by writing style but by the slant the writer puts on it. They were joking about it the other day on a local sports radio show -- "yeah, that's Michael Wilbon." It's the same with the front page, as well. I'd love to see the columnists do this -- it's rare to see a Richard Cohen column that doesn't use "I" in the first seven words.
More Smart Judges. From the Schwartz book mentioned below, is this note about Judge Learned Hand on Chief Justice Earl Warren:
In fact, Hand questioned Warren's perspicacity from the start. Before long, he was calling Warren "that Dumb Swede," "Pontifex Maximus," and "Judex Maximus."

"As to the 'Chief,'" Hand wrote in 1959, "somebody is writing for him better than at the beginning, though the results are ------."[sic]
Schwartz Inside the Warren Court at 138.
Moses supposes . Well, since last night, I keep thinking of Danny Kaye:
Moses supposes his toeses are roses, but Moses supposes erroneously. For Moses, he knowses his toeses aren't roses, as Moses supposes his toeses to be.
Sports. I am very surprised that the Cardinals have beat both Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling -- although you can't pin the loss on Schilling.

ESPN has a nice little run down on the 15 best baseball games of the past MLB season. This is the one I would want to see (even though my A's lost).

Last -- a good note about the Wild West -- the AFC West Division -- in the WaTimes this morning.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

In Defense of Moses. A day or two after publicly agreeing with Eugene Volokh, I write to disagree (in part). In response to this Fox article, quoted only partially here, Eugene responded.
"Jesus set the example for love, as did Moses. I think Muhammad set an opposite example," Falwell says in an interview on the CBS program 60 Minutes. [from Fox]
[Eugene:] Hey, I'm no Biblical scholar, but wasn't Moses involved with that whole smiting of the first-born thing, plus of course a wide variety of biological warfare? And weren't there lots of other figures in the Old Testament -- figures who are generally viewed quite positively -- who were also "violent [men], . . . [men] of war"?

Now one can surely argue that their violence and warmaking -- even including the killing of innocent civilians, and not just as collateral damage but as a tool for creating terror (cf. the smiting of the first-born) -- was acceptable, because it was God's will, or because there were special circumstances that made it acceptable. But I take it that Muslims would say the same about Muhammad, no?

I have nothing against religious figures using religiously founded moral arguments, or even theological arguments, in debate about political issues. But this particular religious argument strikes me as highly unpersuasive; and I suspect that it will be unpersuasive to many deeply committed and theologically knowledgeable Christians as well as to secularists like me.
While I'd like to call myself a "deeply committed and theologically knowledgeable Christian," I know that wouldn't be accurate. I do have a mind for trivia and on that basis, I'll challenge what Eugene wrote.

Moses was violent -- it's recorded that he killed an Egyptian early in his life -- then went to live in exile for about 40 years (Moses' life, if I recall, breaks down into three periods of 40 -- the last was that wandering stuff -- better Realtor maybe?).

However, taking the Scriptures at face value, I believe this is the only person Moses killed. The rest of the time he was a messenger or agent of the Lord who did the killing or destruction. To be fair, you could objectively state that Moses was the one who turned the Nile into blood, killing the fish, and was responsible for the boils, among others (I'm not going to go through the whole list). Similarly, you could say that Aaron was responsible for the plague of the frogs or the gnats. But the flies seem to be the Lord's doing.

Ultimately, it is the slaughter of the first born that everyone remembers -- as that is the worst of the plagues. This one is the one that G-d clearly takes responsibility for:
So Moses said, "This is what the LORD says: 'About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. (emphasis added)
In the description of the event it is clear that the Lord is responsible for the killing:
At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.
In sum, my point is that I don't think you can charge Moses with being a killer of the first born. But as I noted above, Moses was violent, and therefore, Falwell's reliance on him is misplaced.

Where I am in strong agreement with Eugene is when he writes "there lots of other figures in the Old Testament -- figures who are generally viewed quite positively -- who were also 'violent [men], . . . [men] of war'?" The best example is that little shepherd boy, David, about whom there was a popular song that went like this:
"Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands."
David is a guy who would be known as a man after God's own heart. There are better examples of peace in the Scriptures -- perhaps Daniel -- but Moses wasn't necessarily a killer in the David mold.

But maybe I'm just straining at a gnat or trying to remove a speck instead of my own log.

More. In the comments, Kaimi Wenger references the destruction of the 3,000 Israelites who were worshiping the golden calf Aaron had made, Exodus 32:26-28. Last night, that occurred to me, but I remembered it differently. I always thought the ground opened up and swallowed them all up. That must be another passage. This one is very brutal:
Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, "Whoever is for the LORD, come to me." And all the Levites rallied to him. Then he said to them, "This is what the LORD , the God of Israel, says: 'Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.' " The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. (vv 25-29, emphasis added)

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Drive My Car. Kevin's looking for the best driving song. Here's my list:
1. Radar Love -- Golden Earring
2. Hot Rod Lincoln -- Commander Cody et al.
3. Autobahn -- Kraftwerk
4. Fun, Fun, Fun -- Beach Boys
5. 60 to Zero (the full 19 minute version -- Neil Young
6. Whipping Post (Live version) -- Allman Brothers (if that isn't 'road-related' -- is that a requirement? -- then perhaps Ramblin' man)
7. Born to Run -- Bruce
8. Jungleland -- Bruce
9. Racing in the Street/Thunder Road (Live from NJ 1978) -- Bruce
10. Dead Man's Curve -- Jan and Dean
11. No Particular Place to Go -- Chuck Berry
12. Wipe Out -- Surfaris
13. Born to Be Wild -- Steppenwolf
14. My Bike -- Ghoti Hook (hey, it's my kids all time favorite driving song -- got to have something for the under-age -- something besides "the wheels on the bus" that is...)
15. Train Kept A Rollin' -- Aerosmith (yeah, but it's not about a train, either...)

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Smartypants. Stuart Buck (the nerve of the guy taking a few days off to work at his job!) did leave an excellent article at TCS asking who's the smartest Supreme (I always favored Mary Wilson, but that's another story). Actually, it's more of a cautionary tale -- do we always want the smartest?

And who's to say who is the smartest? Lawrence Tribe is considered to be a pretty smart dude. But quite a few years back in a lengthy WaPo story he admitted that he changed majors when he realized that, although he was smart enough to do higher math (I mean really higher math -- like elliptic curves and modular forms), he would never be in the Andrew Wiles class. This way he could make more money. Smart move.

Meanwhile, Kaimi Wenger tries to backtrack from this off-hand comment:
I don't think Thomas has shown himself to be a particularly good Justice, and if Estrada turns out to be Thomas-like, I think a court would be the worse for it. Even most conservatives don't really like Thomas. (Sure, they tolerate him because he votes right, but don't tell me they wouldn't generally prefer an opinion from Scalia or Kennedy, or maybe Rehnquist.)
I can't disagree more. Thomas has been brilliant -- you may not agree with him -- but his opinions are very thought-provoking, consistent, and well-grounded. In some ways, he reminds me of a conservative John Paul Stevens -- both tend to take a different approach than a linear left-right approach. On the other hand, Kennedy lacks any form of consistency or brilliance. It is this which tends to make the charges that his clerks are the real intellect and not only the drafters of the opinions, but also the masters who cast the vote, not the puppet Kennedy (wasn't that implied in the Nation article?).

So who's the dumbest justice? Probably Kennedy, but that doesn't mean the guy's actually dumb, it's just the others have greater intellect. At least he's above the Charles Whittaker class of justice.

The late Bernard Schwartz writes that Whittaker used to leave the Supreme's conferences crying because Felix Frankfurter "used words in there that I'd never heard of." One time Frankfurter circulated a one page joke opinion in a pornography case. According to Schwartz (I think these are from his book Superchief) Whittaker sent a note advising FF that he was joining his per curiam.

Update. Right author, wrong book. My source for those stories was Inside the Warren Court by Schwartz with Stephan Lesher, 1983, at 137-8. This book is a shorter, more popular version of Superchief, both of which are excellent and worth tracking down, in my opinion.
Intersection. Last night, my daughter and I were discussing Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. At the same time my wife was reading an Aesop's fable to the little ones -- they wanted to know what a Satyr was. Then I picked up "The Transhumanists," the next article on my stack, written by Wesley J. Smith. Strange juxtaposition, huh?
Carnahan Gambit. It's really folly for the Dems to try to vitiate a state law to put a different candidate in place of the Torch. It seems to me the Governor should designate a replacement then the Torch and the replacement should campaign together. The Torch stays on the ballot, like the late Mel Carnahan did in Missouri, with the understanding that, if elected, he will step down and the governor will appoint the replacement. Of course, everyone understands that the real drawback is that the Torch wouldn't step aside if elected.

Update. Eugene Volokh likes this idea -- although he arrived at it separately from me.
Happy Birthday Chief. Today is William Hubbs Rehnquist's birthday. He and James Earl Carter were born on the same day in 1924.

For the record, and in order of seniority on the bench, the other Justices are Stevens (82), O'Connor (72), Scalia (66), Kennedy (66), Souter (63), Thomas (54), Ginsberg (69), and Breyer (65).

Back when Sandra Day O'Connor was first appointed there was a joke going around town:
All the Justices (Brennan, Marshall et al.) went out to dinner together and the waiter took Justice O'Connor's order: "I'll have the steak"
"How would you like it done?"
"And the vegtables?"
"They can order for themselves."
Day of Rest. On Friday there was this story about changes by the SoBaptists with respect to observing "the Lord's Day." I confess that this is the hardest commandment for me to observe, not insofar as worship goes -- I love going to church (although it is not as peaceful and reflective and refreshing as it was before children). My problem is with the injunction to refrain from work.

Last Sunday I spent the afternoon and evening doing work on my laptop -- that is work for my job -- while the TV was on so I could catch the games. Is that work? Earlier this year, I was talking with my Dad on the phone and mentioned that I needed to go mow the lawn. He said, "Aw, Will, on Sunday?" Is it work? I actually like mowing the lawn -- I sit around all day and this is refreshing to my body. But yes, it is work.

Here's an article on the subject that emphasizes the positive aspect of setting aside a day of rest:
We would do well to heed three millennia of Jewish reflection on the Sabbath commandment. Not good are work and commerce and worry. To act as if the world cannot get along without our work for one day in seven is a startling display of pride that denies the sufficiency of our generous Maker. To refrain from working—not every day, but one in seven—opens the temporal space within which glad and grateful relationship with God and peaceful and appreciative relationship with nature and other people can grow. Refraining from work on a regular basis should also teach us not to demand excessive work from others.

Monday, September 30, 2002

Sports. Right now, on the eve of October, all is right in the sports world, from a personal standpoint. My Raiders are undefeated, my A's have clinched the Western Division title and will be playing the Twins in the playoffs starting Tuesday. In college football, I follow Notre Dame and it looks like Ty Willingham has brought them back.

I like the A's chances of making it to the World Series -- but the Twins should not be underestimated -- neither should the Angels. In the senior circuit, it's hard to see anyone overcoming the D'backs dynamic duo. It's hard to believe the Rocket is still pitching -- I mean I saw him pitch to Bo Jax at Fenway back in 1986 -- several lifetimes ago.

Here's an interesting article about how the Raiders game could impact the ALDS.

Barring about 8 field goals from Jason Elam, my Blogger Bowl 2K3 team should finish the weekend undefeated. (This despite the fact that I benched Shaun Alexander -- in the first three weeks he netted me the grand total of 12 points -- the same as my TE Jeremy Shockey.)

Sunday, September 29, 2002

Newsweek is young and blue. Time has a headache. Last week's Time cover story is still the better choice: Abraham the Patriarch.