The Jury Talks Back

9/29/2009

Cross supporters: it’s a universal, transcendent, common symbol

Filed under: Uncategorized — aunursa @ 8:18 pm

Next week the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Salazar v Buono, another church-state dispute involving the presence of a cross on public land.  In this case, the controversial symbol is a war memorial located on a lonely road in the middle of Mojave National Preserve, a 1.6 million acre park in southeastern California.  Ten years ago the National Park Service rejected a request by a man to erect a Buddhist shrine near the cross, and the subsequent legal action resulted in the case now before the Court.

What I find remarkable is a claim made by some of the petitioners arguing in support of the continued presence of the cross.  In a Brief of Amicus Curiae the American Legion Department in California said that the cross is “a uniquely transcendent symbol representing the decision to lay down one’s life for the good of others…  In short, the cross is one of the most common — and significant — symbols of our society.”  The petitioner, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, also argued that the monument was a secular symbol.

Such an argument contradicts the overwhelming evidence of the past 2000 years.  For my entire life I have observed Christians displaying the cross and describing its inherent meaningful, religious nature.  Indeed, in this very case conservative Christian groups such as CatholicVote.org, the American Center for Law & Justice, the Christian Legal Society and the National Association of Evangelicals have filed briefs in support of the petitioner’s position, suggesting that the cross is a “passive religious symbol.”  The cross is a passive symbol?  Puhleeze!

Those supporting the respondent’s position against the cross include several atheist, Jewish, and interfaith groups, and at least two Muslim organizations.  Easter sunrise services have been held at the base of the cross for years.  Can anyone say with a straight face that these groups — the Christian groups and the other groups — would be involved in this case if the cross were a “passive” symbol, and not universally recognized as the most recognized and unique sign of the Christian faith?

The idea that a cross can be divorced from its deep religious symbolism is laughable and ridiculous.  I would expect that sincere Christians would protest the devaluing of their most cherished symbol.

(Note: This Wikipedia page includes images of various crosses considered symbols of Christianity and other religions.  The specific dimensions of the Mojave cross clearly distinguishes it as a Christian symbol. ie. The smaller horizontal bar is centered about 2/3 of the way up on the longer, vertical bar.)

If the offence is heinous

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fritz @ 8:09 pm

Hat-tip to Keith Burgess-Jackson who linked to A.C. Grayling’s piece on the Polanski controversy.  Patterico has already written a ton about this subject,  but I thought that Grayling’s take might be instructive, if for no other reason than to point out what the ground for pursuing this kind of case against this kind of crime might be.  Grayling writes,

Once again, the point is only partly to punish the perpetrator himself; it is as important to signal the continued resolution of society that there will be no hiding place — not even advanced age — for those who do serious harm to others.

Also,

It is easy for people to be swayed by considerations of personality in such cases as the Polanski arrest. In general the law does well if it addresses itself to individuals and their circumstances rather than imposing rigid blanket laws that contradict justice as often as they serve it, precisely because they ignore the special individual circumstances. But with the great crimes of rape, murder and genocide, prosecution and punishment are about society’s struggle to protect itself now and in the future against the worst aspects of its own members’ behaviour. There is room for a degree of compassion towards prisoners even if they have committed monstrous crimes, but there is no room for failing to punish the crime itself.

This leaves open the position that Polanski ought to be brought back to the United States for sentencing, but that his punishment once that’s done ought to be as light as it was likely to be when he was originally facing the court.  Perhaps as light as 48 days.

9/25/2009

Halo 3: ODST Review

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Jacobs @ 8:14 pm

First, I have to admit, I’m a Halo fanboy.  I’m not one of the scary, “spend every free moment playing multiplayer”, “rank 50 on all the playlists” kind of fanboy, but I really do love the story behind this series.

Halo 1-3, in case you didn’t know, follows “Master Chief”, a SPARTAN super soldier. Sole survivor of the project that made him, he’s a near-silent, face-never-seen hero who throws himself into the fight.  He’s that ultimate ass-kicker every guy who plays these games wishes they could be.  Nigh un-stoppable, relentless, etc.  His “partner” through almost every moment of all three games is the AI Cortana, who is the perfect side-kick – smarmy, sarcastic, and opens doors for you without getting in your way.

If only all games had such a partner.

Anyways, Halo 3: ODST is different.  You never see the Chief, you don’t have shields, and hitting aliens does almost nothing.  You are a normal human, a member of the highly trained ODST, Orbital Drop Shock Troops.  The story starts somewhere (not sure where the scene takes place) during Halo 2, where you (as The Rookie) and the rest of the team (three voices being provided by Firefly cast-members) drop into New Mombasa.  The Rookie gets knocked out during the drop, so he missed most of the fun, coming to that night in a city controlled by the alien forces.

As you make your way through the city, you find items that hint at the fate of the rest of the team, and each one starts a flashback mission where you play the part of one of your team members.  Slowly you see what happened to them as you move through the game.

Each is fun, and none are insanely difficult (though I’m a big wuss and played on Normal, I’ll eventually have to play through on Legendary to get the achievement).  They contrast very well with the night-time Rookie mission, having a completely different feel – in the flashbacks it is hard fighting, with the Rookie there’s a LOT of sneaking, since it is just you vs. the world).

On the side of all of that, there is a side story you unravel by finding certain terminals and what not.  Each gives you a bit more of the audio of a girl stuck in the city as the Aliens attack.  It is really gripping, and the way it all plays out is pretty damned cool.

The whole look of the Rookie missions is way darker, and a lot of it has a soundtrack that sounds like it belongs to an old detective movie (appropriate, since they were going for a film noir feel), and the loneliness of one guy in a city filled with things that want to kill him really comes through during the solo campaign (up to 4 people can co-op the campaign).

The sound track, btw, is maybe Marty O’Donnell’s best work yet.  I have only ever bought the soundtrack to a game once, and that was Halo 3′s.  This will be the second I’ve ever bought.  It’s just amazing.

The multiplayer for ODST is new to the franchise, but Bungie’s take on “survival mode” is rock solid.  Gone are the days of being beaten down and the tea-bagged by some 12-year old while the call you a bitch – the reason I never really get into MP for any game.  Here to stay is 4-man team vs wave after wave of aliens.  There’s no way to randomly find people to fill that 4-man team, so it will always be you and your buddies, which makes for a far, FAR more entertaining time.  I’ve heard of some runs lasting upwards of 71 minutes.

There are new weapons, and new versions of old weapons, and I just have to applaud Bungie.  With a small team working on this, they spent a mere 14 months, and shipped a tight game.

All in all, this is an awesome game.  Even if you aren’t a fan of the Halo, if you even remotely enjoy First person Shooters, this is a must buy.  While maybe not “Game of the Year” (I suspect Modern Warfare 2 will claim that spot), it will be a great addition, and you will likely see people on your friends list playing Firefight for a long time to come.

9/23/2009

Halo 3 ODST

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Jacobs @ 7:34 pm

Review will be started sometime tomorrow.  I’ve had like 4 or 5 hours sleep in the last two days, so I just can’t play any tonight.  I’ll get it done tomorrow (I hope), and give as good a review as possible.

Update: I have become obsessed with finding all the audio logs before I go on with finishing the main quest line.  Seriously…  It’s a damned engaging story, and Joe Staten did a great job with it.

That said, it will likely be friday before I finish this one off.

9/22/2009

Bleg: A Question

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fritz @ 9:27 pm

I was out walking the dogs and I had a question that I thought the collected knowledge of the blogsphere might be able to answer:

  1. What was the greatest amount of rank mobility in America’s armed forces during World War II?  Where there any privates who became generals or lieutenants who made it to admiral during the time from Pearl Harbor to V-J Day?

Not a terribly important question, but one that popped into my head, almost unbidden, that I would be interested in seeing answered.  Well, not completely unbidden.  I was thinking about how much I’ve enjoyed the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian, and I was wondering if it would be possible to do a modern version.  Of course, their’s was a longer war, and O’Brian sets five or six of the books in one historical year anyway, but still…

9/21/2009

Le sigh

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Jacobs @ 10:18 pm

I had hopped that I would be able to put up a review of Halo 3 ODST later on the 22nd, but since Amazon still has my Release-Date Shipping pre-order showing a status of “shipping soon”, I am not entirely hopeful.

I am not happy.  Had I placed a pre-order with NewEgg.com, I would have had the game a WEEK ago (god damn broken street dates).

*grumble grumble*

Update: At 1:44am I got an e-mail saying my item had shipped…

It still better get here…

Date Time Location Event Details
September 22, 2009 02:14:00 AM LOUISVILLE KY US Shipment received by carrier
September 21, 2009 06:46:27 PM Whitestown IN US Shipment has left seller facility and is in transit

This list makes no sense to me.  Shit better be here, damnit…

Update x2: Yay!  Now it still needs to hurry up and get here…  almost 4:30…  Don’t they know who I am???

Date Time Location Event Details
September 22, 2009 06:37:00 AM BLOOMINGTON IL US Out for delivery
September 22, 2009 06:37:00 AM BLOOMINGTON IL US Arrival Scan
September 22, 2009 06:34:00 AM BLOOMINGTON IL US Arrival Scan
September 22, 2009 05:40:00 AM PEORIA IL US Departure Scan
September 22, 2009 04:27:00 AM LOUISVILLE KY US Departure Scan
September 22, 2009 04:25:00 AM EAST PEORIA IL US Arrival Scan
September 22, 2009 02:14:00 AM LOUISVILLE KY US Shipment received by carrier
September 21, 2009 06:46:27 PM Whitestown IN US Shipment has left seller facility and is in transit

Newset Czar

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin M @ 7:42 am

race-bait

9/20/2009

Fixing California: Property Taxes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin M @ 2:11 pm

There are three big problems in the California tax system: very high sales taxes, “soak the rich” income taxes and a broken property tax system. Taking the most contentious item first, Prop 13 and the property tax:

We are told by those-that-rule that we need to split business property off from residential property to even things out. This would be a mistake. As nearly anyone who owns or runs a small business will tell you, the business property tax burden does not fall on fat cat real-estate owners, but on those that lease from them. It is often passed along directly as a line-item addition to their rent, but it is figured into the rent in any regards. Furniture, fixtures, equipment and other business property are also taxed directly by the state. The road to recovery in California requires making things better for small business, not worse. Bad idea.

The idea of Prop 13 was to limit taxes to realized values. Instead of taxing people on the paper value of their property, it would only be re-assessed when the value was realized in a sale. Otherwise only a nominal appreciation value would be assessed. This kept people on fixed incomes from being taxed out of their homes because of paper profits. It also allowed buyers some confidence in planning their finances and discouraged short-term real-estate speculation.

Unfortunately, Prop 13 allowed some realized gains to escape property taxation. Rather than sell a house to capture appreciation, people started borrowing against the unrealized paper value. Lines of credit allowed them to escape both taxes on sale profits and increased property taxes on a new purchase. These credit lines also decreased mortgage security since more mortgages now were leveraged to the edge, and have been a major contributor to the foreclosure crisis.

So, I would suggest that it would be stabilizing and fairer to treat the sum of all loans taken out on a property as a voluntary reappraisal for property tax purposes. I would suggest that this be phased in, or delayed, so that it not collapse the housing recovery, but this loophole in Prop 13 is increasingly unfair and dangerous and should be addressed. And yes, it would hit me, too.

If it was desired to make this revenue neutral, a small business exemption on non-real property could be instituted.

Fixing California: A challenge

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin M @ 1:40 pm

I have a challenge for my fellow posters here, and even for those on the main site: Name one or two reforms that 1) are practical, 2) can take effect quickly, and 3) would have measurable effect in getting California out of its fiscal mess.

We see many of the usual suspects (e.g. the L.A. Times) repeating bad ideas like a Constitutional Convention, or restricting the Initiative, or making tax increases easier. What do we have to offer besides “No!”? If that’s all we have, even a bad plan will beat no plan.

9/18/2009

Irving Kristol, R.I.P.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fritz @ 2:28 pm

At The Weekly Standard, Irving Kristol asks, “What exactly is neoconservatism?

Hannah Giles in a Bikini, or a Sex Video, or Nude?

Filed under: Blogging Matters — Fritz @ 1:10 pm

Looking for Hannah Giles in a bikini, a thong, in lingerie, or whatever?  What about pictures of Hannah Giles nude?  What about the sex video?

In your search for pictures of Hanna Giles in a bikini, pictures of Hannah Giles nude, or the Hannah Giles sex video, I’ve heard that The Other McCain might be able to help.  Please try Desert Cat’s Paradise as well.  More after the jump.

(more…)

The Unbelievable Ignorance of Congressman Nadler

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amphipolis @ 7:39 am

BigGovernment links to this statement from Representative Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, claiming that the ACORN defunding is unconstitutional because it constitutes a Bill of Attainder:

Congress must not be in the business of punishing individual organizations or people without trial, and that’s what this Amendment does. Whatever one may think of an organization, the Constitution’s clear ban on Bills of Attainder is there for the protection of all of our liberties.

A Bill of Attainder is a legislative act declaring someone guilty and punishing them without trial.

Leave it to a Democratic Congressman to claim that denying government funding is akin to declaring guilt, or that not giving an organization taxpayer money constitutes punishment.

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