Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Looking Down From the Hill: Roe v Wade revisited before the Supreme Court

The purpose of courts is to resolve disputes in order to allow the Public Peace to remain. Those resolutions do not need to be to the liking of both parties-- or necessarily of either-- but they must be such that society can live with them. In a fallen world with imperfect and perennially messy human beings, that is often the best we can do. It is the sworn duty of justices to carry out this task, not for their own sake or their ambitions or political preferences, but for the maintenance of the Public Peace under Public Law within the limits of the federal ("of equals") Constitution on top of the framework provided by our great Declaration which itself bows to the laws of "nature and nature's God".

Roe v Wade transparently, empirically, objectively, undeniably accomplished none of this. Rather than resolving a dispute under the Constitutuon, the majority simply made its own law in the guise of a compromise over "viability" that the court never kept and seemingly never intended to keep. Rather than resolve or dampen conflict, it has become the incessant flash point for strife and violence for decades.

<<Even pro-abortion advocates do not defend Roe on its merits. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg publicly criticized the decision for its invented doctrine and judicial overreach. Pro-abortion advocates have drafted an entire book of faux-Roe opinions that aim to replace Roe’s reasoning with something more defensible (it’s called “What Roe v. Wade Should Have Said”). Indeed, the only justice ever to defend Roe’s original reasoning in writing is Justice Harry Blackmun —  Roe’s author.  >> ( )

The initial-- "victorious"-- plaintiff, Norma McCorvey neé Jane Roe, has expressed intense regret over the outcome and had begged the court to reopen the case by filing a (failed) "motion for relief from judgement" in 2003. ( )

Roe was a bad decision. It needs to go. It threatens the legitimacy of the court and the survival of our nation like a cancerous ulcer, open and fetid.

What we replace it with is a much bigger and tougher question. As a society, we need to come to grips-- well, that bare phrase, "come to grips" would cover such a multitude of societal ills right now, but specifically-- with both the horror of abortion and the rights of bodily autonomy in some way. Of course, it is plain that we have done neither under the framework of the abortion that was the Roe decision. We today honor neither "life" nor "choice", neither unborn children nor medical autonomy (to say nothing of children who survive to be born). Ironically, it is often the same political elites who advocate the denial of both of these things.

Like many of these questions, it comes down to fundamentals. "All human activity is aimed at +some+ good..." But which good, how "good" a good? Do we have the foggiest idea, the most tenuous consensus, of what law is for? Of what it is supposed to accomplish? That is where we ought start, ought begin every public act and deliberation.

People are concerned that overturning Roe v Wade will lead to civil strife; they shouldn't be. We do not have peace now, we won't and we cannot as long as that opinion stands in the way. Overturning it is not a guarantee of success, but letting it stand does guarantee failure. If this experiment in self government is indeed destined  to "perish from the earth", then, on-demand abortion, like chattel slavery, is a fit instrument for its demise.

I would rather we come through this crisis as a people, bruised and chastened but better for it. If we cannot, if we do not have the will and fortitude-- not to magically fix this persistent evil but-- to even start on the long and difficult road to a better, higher good, then perhaps we deserve to fail here, on this hill. At some point, one hill may be as good as another...

--Written on this First Day of Advent, in the Year of Our Lord, Two Thousand Twenty-Two.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Defending the Boston Massacre- when "due process" hurts

I am going to put two closely-related posts back-to-back here, both of which make me vaguely ill about the way the 1/6 Riots are being handled. I will reiterate here that I have little problem with people being charged with appropriate crimes for rioting and, upon a fair conviction, punished-- as long as process is received as due and enforcement is even-handed: rioting is against the law, and it ought not change according to the people doing the rioting.

As this article mentions and I have discussed before, John Adams set the standard for due process in our fledgling nation when he personally took on the defense of British soldiers from the Boston Massacre because no one else would and he believed strongly in fair process: even (perhaps especially for) for an enemy. This is why a team of lawyers in the ACLU is called the "John Adams Group". This group, among many others, provided representation, usually pro bono, for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay accused of collaborating with terrorists generally and with the plotters of 9/11 particularly, in short, of being conspirators in mass murder on a historical scale.

This was a good thing. If you doubt that, pick up a copy of David Cole's and James Dempsey's "Terrorism and the Constitution" (@FIXME: link) to see documentation of a constant stream of missteps and abuse in handling terrorism cases in our history generally and the "War on Terror" specifically. Or watch the recent film, "The Mauritanian", or download a free copy of the guy's hand-written manuscript that he wrote in his years at Gitmo (@FIXME: add link). These people needed fair representation, no matter what they were accused of (some still do @FIXME: link). I have defended and advocated for this in the past and have caught a great deal of flak for it here and there. I fully supported activists on the Left fighting for these causes, even as we disagreed on other policy issues. This is why I strongly support certain left-leaning people like David Cole and Glenn Greenwald in the first place. I believe strongly enough in what thry do that I would willingly place my body between them and danger if it came to that.

Sometimes the issues are more personal. Our local unit was called up by the Sheriff's Office a few years ago for a manhunt. A prisoner had escaped custody during transfer, injuring a deputy from another county. He was on the run somewhere in Mount Vernon. We had volunteers in the field in six minutes from the first text alert, including myself. I was out there with a flashlight paired up with a volunteer who later became mayor. But this wasn't just any escaped prisoner. This was the man accused of the brutal murder of a friend of ours, a disabled gentlemen who grew plants for the farmer's market and sold them in the booth next to ours. I had... 'feelings'... about that, but they didn't matter. My job out there was not to convict or punish the guy, just to help locate and recapture him so that +someone else+ could decide those issues a touch more objectively. In the end, he was caught (not by us). My wife and I saw him dragged back to the jail (she at the time, had not yet realized just who it was we were after-- whose murder he was accused of). It was not that I was not angry over what happened or that some part of me didn't want an opportunity to hurt him, merely that my commitment to a fair process, the honor of the uniform I was wearing (little as that honor might be!), was greater than my need for retribution. It is the same for people accused of terrorism or, even, say, of the person who shot up my school so long ago and is still in prison.

So... how is the 1/6 riot being treated by these modern successors of John Adams? Not at all. As the link below describes, none of the law firms who were so eager to help (accused) global terrorists are interested in helping people held in unconscionable conditions accused of trespass or "interference with an official proceeding" (none are charged with insurrection, treason, or terrorism, but we'll get to that in the next post). None of the prominent political figures who provided attorneys or bail money for Antifa or BLM rioters are rushing to the aid of 1/6 detainees. In fact, the left has been interfering with people who are trying to help: shutting down donation pages, harrassing attorneys, or calling for investigation into those who donate or offer services. Many of the same people who shouted "Defund the Police!" are taking federal agents at their word, voting to expand the Capitol Police budget by $2 billion and expand its jurisdiction nationwide, taking a rather incomplete and puzzlingly-contradictory report on a officer-involved-shooting at face value, attacking people who ask questions about the shoot/no-shoot decision.

There are a few stalwarts, people who feel it is right to care about due process with accused Muslim terrorists AND 1/6 rioters, or who support (peaceful) free speech and assembly whether it is BLM, Antifa, or Trump supporters, who want all officer-involved deaths explained. They asked questions about police use-of-force with George Floyd and Ashli Babbitt. They are withstanding hate and vitriol from politicians, media, ordinary people for doing so. Again, that is why I continue to support them.

(Next post, involving the apparently very real conspiracy to breach the US Capitol, in a bit.)

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Smallpox Variolation in 17th Century Turkey and It's Introduction In England

Reading more of the 18th century "Commonplace Book of William Byrd of Westover", came upon this interesting item regarding the history of inoculation:

<<...of ingrafting or inoculateing the small[pox was fir]st brought out of the northern part of Ne[. . .]a into Turky, where it has now been in [use] about 70 years. At first they kept a Register [at Con]stantinople of all Persons who under went Inoculation, and out of all that number, there was only one old woman miscarryd by being very disorderly and ungovernable, and now this practice is grown so universal in Turky, that they have left off keeping any Register of them.>>

The page in Byrd's notebook is damaged and the entry is unsourced, but, as Byrd wrote this likely in the 1720s (and the source may be a bit older), this would put variolation in Turkey in the mid-17th century and in "Ne[...]a" earlier than that.

It turns out that variolation was brought out of Turkey by a Lady Mary Wortley Montague after her travels there from 1716-1718. Byrd was an avid reader of travel narratives and may have read of the procedure from her accounts. On her return to London she demonstrated the process by having one of her children inoculated in the presence of the royal court.

<<The English aristocrat and writer Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762) is today remembered particularly for her letters from Turkey, an early example of a secular work by a Western woman about the Muslim Orient. When Lady Mary was in the Ottoman Empire, she discovered the local practice of variolation, the inoculation against smallpox. Unlike Jenner's later vaccination, which used cowpox, variolation used a small measure of smallpox itself. Lady Mary, who had suffered from the disease, encouraged her own children to be inoculated while in Turkey. On her return to London, she enthusiastically promoted the procedure...>> but its spread was limited to high society for some time. ( )

It is also likely that Byrd read about it in reports to the Royal Society of London, published in the society journal. Byrd was a member of the Royal Society when he was in London and later corresponded with it in Virginia.

<<Variolation was also practiced throughout the latter half of the 17th century in Turkey, Persia, and Africa. In 1714 and 1716, two reports of the Turkish method of inoculation were made to the Royal Society in England...>> (ibid)

This history is drscribed in more detail in a 2007 piece, "The introduction of variolation 'A La Turca' to the West by Lady Mary Mantagu and Turkey's contribution to this" published in "Vaccine" (abstract: ; PDF: ).

The struggle in variolation was to reliably cause enough of an infection to generate lasting immunity without causing full-blown smallpox or causing a local outbreak. Some 18th century practitioners were extremely good at this, others less so. Abigail Adam's, who, like Lady Montagu, made sure her family was inoculated, describes recovering from the process in a 1776 letter. The eventual replacement of smallpox variolation with cowpox "vaccination" largely solved this problem.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Jonathan Isaac Interview Regarding Covid Vaccination

Attached to this article by Glenn Greenwald is a short and excellent video interview with NBA player Jonathan Isaac explaining why he has declined to vaccinate for Covid-19. As a lead in to that, GG makes this personal statement with which I fully agree:

<<That the unvaccinated are inherently primitive and stupid troglodytes was always a claim as baseless and offensive as it is counter-productive. Although I personally took the vaccine the first day it was available to me — as I repeatedly said I would in every forum where I speak, including Fox News — it was always clear that there were cogent reasons why those with different circumstances and risk factors (age, health, prior COVID status) might assess their own risks differently and reach a different conclusion. And what made me most comfortable about my choice to get vaccinated, or to decide whether my kids should, was precisely that it was my choice, after informing myself: the idea of forcing someone to do it against their will, or condition people's rights and privileges on vaccine compliance — as both President Biden and the ACLU astonishingly advocated — always struck me as inconceivable.>> ( )

[Direct link to the interview for convenience of the reader: ]

Having been vaccinated myself, let me emphasize two words he uses here to describe +coercion+ to vaccinate, "offensive" and "counter-productive". The attempt to force people to vaccinate is inherently offensive to the people who have or have not yet vaccinated as it violates their bodily autonomy and their moral authority to make their own medical decisions for themselves, privately. As the author here notes, it is also offensive (or darn well ought to be!) to those of us who vaccinated willingly because it denies our choice, violates our medical privacy in being required to furnish proof of vaccination status, and enlists us to participate in an unethical scheme to coerce others. Because this scheme is inherently offensive, it is extremely counter-productive: vaccination rates have plummeted since Biden's mandate was announced.

In the video, Isaac explains his choice clearly and well. At his age and in his condition, having already had and recovered from Covid, his personal danger of severe illness from Covid-19 is tiny and the chance of side-effects from the vaccine are low but also non-zero. Is it possible that vaccinating may have a benefit in improving immunity beyond natural immunity? Sure, some results suggest this, but not all, it is not scientific certainty and it HIS call how much benefit it is to him that a vaccine could move his risk of severe disease from near-zero to slightly-nearer-to-zero.

OK, so that is his personal choice. Being at higher-than-normal risk for severe disease, my internal calculus was a bit different. What about a duty to those around him?

<<But the attempt to suggest that some type of societal good justifies denying Isaac the right to choose quickly falls into incoherence. To whom is an unvaccinated Jonathan Isaac a threat? The reason vaccines have become so celebrated — the reason I took it — is based on the claim that they offer enormous protection against serious illness or death in the event that one contracts COVID. When President Biden addressed the nation about COVID on September 9, he said that “the vaccines provide strong protections for the vaccinated” and, for that reason, “this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” In other words, according to Biden, the vaccinated are no longer endangered.>> (ibid)

So, now, Biden, having "lost patience"(*), is taking the rather contradictory view that because the chance of severe illness among the vaccinated is "not zero", the unvaccinated are an existential threat to society and need to be forced. But, as Isaac points out, the chance of side effects is also "not zero" and there is no credible scientific reason to believe that any amount of coercion will reduce the risk of severe disease to "zero", especially since even those vaccinated can still spread the virus!. It has not halted spread in totalitarian China or Australia. It has not in vaccine-mandate Israel. It has not in US prisons. Having been vaccinated personally, my risk is not and will not be zero, even if I successfully held a gun to the head of everyone around me. So why would I feel the need to soil myself to that end?

And this is to say nothing of the "difficult optics" of a largely white upper-crust allegedly-"progressive" social elite trying to say that someone like Jonathan Isaac (who happens to be black) doesn't have the unfettered right to his own body.

(*) Biden and "lost patience": nu, and I should care?

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Commonplace Book of William Byrd II of Westover and Colonial Literacy

Having recently visited Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown and listened to an audiobook on Colonial Virginia history on the way there, I have become interested in William Byrd II of Westover, who was born in 1674. He was an author, businessman,  and statesman of the early 18th century. He left behind several diaries and a "commonplace book". A "commonplace" is a journal for random notes rather than a sequential account like a diary. The owner writes quotes, literary snippets, and discovered facts often with some kind of subject markings which can then be referred to later, further explored,  or copied out and filed elsewhere. A commonplace gives a running narrative, not of events in a person's life but the course of their self-education and research. These days, I use a tablet application to make and file very similar entries. The surviving commonplace of Byrd's is apparently only one of a number of such volumes he kept, posthumously transcribed, edited, and published.

Byrd was responsible for creating the largest library in Virginia at the time, some 4,000 volumes. Although we have a record of the books he collected, it is not necessarily known that he read and studied all of them. The commonplace gives us information about what he actually delved into, at least during the time this one volume was written. The breadth of subjects Byrd explored, referenced, and quoted is stunning. This was made easier by his early education at Felsted Grammar School in Essex starting at 7. Based on what we know of the school and Byrd's later writings:

<<He learned Greek, Latin, and Hebrew as well as mathematics, history, and other subjects. His mastery of these ancient languages is evident in his lifelong habit of reading Scripture and the classics in the original languages nearly every day.>> [Introduction to "The Commonplace Book of William Byrd II of Westover" ]

He had mastered these subjects before "university"-- in other words, as a teenager. I have not, at middle age (though I'm working at it.) Nor was this one school or single student an anomaly. Literacy during the Colonial and Founding period was very high. Many prominent men (John Adams, say), had little formal education, were largely self-taught or were simply handed books and expected to learn them, were multilingual, had a strong command of classical works-- ++and this was not thought very remarkable++. Colonial women were also highly literate-- well-read and writing frequent correspondence, often managing ledgers and farm records, here and there fully managing estates and businesses as widows. Literacy among Colonial women is thought to have reached 90% by the Revolution. Women's organizations in Northern textile mills drove and spread the literature of the Abolition movement during the early-to-mid 19th century as well as organizing for wages and labor conditions. Literacy tended to be lower in the South than the North by the Civil War, yet Confederate soldiers passed around battered copies of "Les Miserables" they read in the French.

So why are we so poor at learning/educating today? Why in a world where we have the lion's share of the collected works of humankind a few keystrokes away are we by and large +less literate+ than a day where a library of 4,000 volumes was a generational undertaking and many people still dipped pens in ink they boiled from oak galls and walnut hulls? Clearly it isn't because we need more education +money+ or more laptops/tablets in schools. Thomas Sowell (among others) writes at length of the complete lack of correlation between education funding and education +success+. Certainly schools in the US today can afford the resources available to a 17th, 18th, or early 19th-century student when books were so precious that they were named individually in wills and probate documents!

Somewhere, we have made a seriously wrong turn.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Rosh Hashannah Reflection: The ritual of Christian baptism as reported in Acts was (mostly) familiar to the period Jewish audience

So, I have been working through an in-depth commentary on the book of Acts as I have been learning and copying Acts in Latin. This passage on Pentecost and Baptism is particularly relevant right now during Rosh Hashannah 2021 (the Hebrew "New Year" preceding the Day of Atonement) as baptism, vis, ritual immersion in water as a symbol of atonement, was particularly practiced during the New Year, not inconceivably by Jesus of Nazareth Himself. It is, of course, recorded that he underwent baptism by John the Baptizer. John practiced and particulary emphasized atonement-by-immersion but hardly invented the practice.

My copy of the commentary, "El Libro de Hechos" por F.F. Bruce is in Spanish. "The Book of Acts" by F.F. Bruce is also available in English, I just don't happen to have it (nor have I the foggiest idea whether page numbers match), so I'll copy the relevant short bits of Spanish here and provide my own translation. Any mistakes are my own, almost certainly not that of F. F. Bruce. The  passage refers to Acts 2:38-41, the events immediately following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (an existing Old Testament Holy Day). Given here in English:

BSB  38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39 This promise belongs to you and to your children and to all who are far off, to all whom the Lord our God will call to Himself.”
40 With many other words he testified, and he urged them, “Be saved from this corrupt generation.”
41 Those who embraced his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to the believers that day.

Bruce's commentary text for v. 38:

Como en la predicación de Juan, la llamada al bautismo está unida a la llamada al arrepentimiento. Aparentemente el mandamiento de ser bautizados no ocasionó sorpresa. La práctica del bautismo resultaba bastante familiar a la audiencia de Pedro, a quien (como los oyentes de Juan antes que ellos) se les requería recibir el bautismo en agua como señal externa y visible de su arrepentimiento. Pero ahora había dos características nuevas en el rito del bautismo con agua: es la administración “en el nombre del Jesucristo” y se asoció con “el don del Espíritu Santo”. Esta nueva característica enfatiza, en las palabras de G.W.H. Lampe, que el bautismo cristiano “es todavía un rito escatológico, porque apuntaba hacia la redención final, la cual está aún por venir en el regreso en gloria del Señor; pero, considerado en relación a Juan el bautista, representaba la realización y cumplimiento de la esperanza de Israel”

And my rough English:

As in the preaching of Juan, the call to baptism is joined to the call to repentence. Apparently the command to be baptized occasioned no surprise [from the Jews there assembled]. The practice of baptism, it followed, was already familiar to Peter's audience, who (as with John's listeners before them) were called upon to receive the baptism in water as a visible and external sign of their repentance. But now he [Peter] required two new characteristics in the rite of baptism in water: it is administered in the "name of Jesus Christ" and associated with "the gift of the Holy Spirit". This new characteristic is emphasized, in the words of G.W.H. Lampe, that the Christian baptism "is in whole form an escatological [that is, of or concerning the end of days] rite, because it aimed to make that surrender final which is yet to come in the glorious return of the Lord, but, when considered in relation to John the Baptizer, represents the completion of the hope of Israel." [internal citation omitted]

--- Pasaje de: "El libro de los Hechos" por F. F. Bruce. Scribd. pp 161

As the commentary goes on to describe, both the existing (pre-Christian) ritual of baptism in water and the "gift of the Holy Sprit" whose outpouring that this (Jewish) assembly had just witnessed, are tied inextricably to the honest determination to repent and turn back to YHWH. Second Temple Jews immersing themselves (particularly but not exclusively) on Rosh Hashannah prior to Yom Kippur's communal Day of Atonement did not differ in that respect. Elsewhere, archaeologists have noted that the existence of basins for ritual immersion in water can practically be used to map the post-Diaspora spread of the remnants of Israel and Judea in ancient times.

The accounting imagery (not expressly anchored in scripture but an explanatory doctrine, likely never intended to be taken literally) of the between-time after sundown on Rosh Hashannah and before sundown on Yom Kippur is that YHWH, having closed the books on the previous year is writing his budget for the next, deciding who will be blessed and cursed, who will be written in the Book of Life and who will-- not. "On Rosh Hashannah it is writren; on Yom Kippur it is sealed." This in turn is obliquely, perhaps confusingly, referred to in Christian doctrine regarding the "Book of the Lamb" or "Book of Life of the Lamb" (e.g. Revelation 13:8). To a contemporaneous audience familiar with Rosh Hashannah and its oral tradition, the reference may have been much less opaque. But the expression here is similar to what G.W.H. Lampe is quoted as saying with respect to the essential eschatology of Christian baptism: that it is a poor bargain to endlessly petition to be left in the Book of Life for merely one more year (which many of us scarcely earn) against the chance of being written into the Book of the Lamb as an inheritor of the imminent and eternal Kingdom of the annointed Messiah (which not a single one of us has earned or ever will).

That all being said, the traditional ritual of periodic immersion in water as an external and visible sign of repentence is not without its use, nor is the yearly recognition of the Appointed Times for atonement. To the contrary, we can all of us use every reminder we can get. As linear creatures, we need timely reminders of our nature and duties. These were gifts to fallible forgetful humans intended to help us recognize and walk the steep path we are meant to daily walk. With the gift of the Holy Spirit and the constant help of divine grace, the impossible path becomes possible (though seldom easy). Thus the words of the Aveinu, "Our Father", itself a summary of Hebrew tradition:

Lead us not into temptation,

Yet free us from evil.

Min-hara (מן-הרע) in Hebrew, from (the) evil (one), is a reminder of min-hahar (מן-ההר), from the mountain, merely one letter off, referring to the traditional imagery of the steep path and constant struggle for right action. Sometimes-- no matter the tradition we come from-- we need to stop and wash off the dirt of the mountain to see the image of the divine within.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Latin Lesson: Stations of the Cross

While teaching our daughter first year Latin, it seemed appropriate to weave Good Friday into the lesson. I was brought up Catholic, later converted to Lutheran, and we have raised our daughter Lutheran. The Via Crucis (Way of the Cross), Via Doloroso (Way of Pain), or simply "Stations of the Cross" is an important and-- evocative-- observance in the Catholic faith which has largely been forgotten by Protestants. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer (WWII Lutheran theologian martyred by the Nazis) pointed out, sometimes Catholic traditions were dropped by Protestants reflexively because they were "too Catholic" but, like letting out the baby with the bathwater, some of the observances and traditions were extremely useful and important, worthy of consideration by Christians of all faiths. At the same time, they present opportunities for language education. So, to the blackboard:

The Passover Seder, another important observance often given too little attention by modern Christians, was designed to make a pivotal historical occurence real "from generation to generation". Each participant in a Seder is to consider that they, personally and individually, were lead forth from Egypt and delivered from slavery. The significance of the Paschal lamb, the unleavened bread, even the way the meal was to be eaten are brought into focus by the questions of the children: Why is this night different from all other nights? The traditions of the meal are designed to evoke imagery of a people on the verge of becoming, fleeing a bad but certain and familiar captivity into a promising but frightening and unknown freedom. For Christians, these symbols are not unimportant, the Paschal lamb sacrificed for Passover connecting to the Agnus Deii, the Lamb of God. The events of the Last Supper fit directly into the Passover meal: "And when the meal was ended, He took the cup..." fits directly before the Afikomen, the piece of unleavened bread which had been hidden in a cloth for the children to seek, making this cup the 3rd cup of wine in the Passover service, the "Cup of Redemption" and the bread he then broke the Afikomen itself. This then leads to the final cup of wine, the "Cup of Praise" which Christ says he will share with them "later". These enactments are important, but we seldom today stop to truly consider-- to wonder at-- them.
The Via Doloroso is also that kind of reenactment, to make the Road of Pain/Grief/Sorrow walked by a certain Ribbi Yeshuah Natzariim real and visceral, to put it in a concrete spiritual context often lost today in the midst of a new dress, eggs, bunnies, food, and family pictures. These gruesome scenes fall after the triumphant entry into Jerusalem of Palm Sunday, the Passover meal with friends and Disciples, before the cold tomb, and then the final triumph of the Resurrection. Traditionally, at the end of the enactment of the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, following a prayerful fast, the Paschal Candle in the sanctuary-- the light that burns in the church day and night-- is extinguished, placing us all in the darkness of the tomb, only to be relit during the Easter Vigil service.
But where did these "stations" originate? Some of us Americans may have gone through the Patriot's Trail in Boston, the marked path and information stations leading to places of importance in our road to the Revolutionary War. Our family: wife, daughter, and myself, physically walked this path together some years ago. The Via Doloroso was a similar fixture in Jerusalem: a physical trail walked by pilgrims from station to station on the same path taken (as far as we know) by Christ on the day He was condemned and painfully executed. Most of those stations are identified concretely in Scripture, others were early church traditions, filling in events along the way where-- most likely but not assuredly-- they physically occurred. At each station, small shrines were erected. The Pilgrims often received small tokens which they would affix (affigo, affigere) to a cord around their neck or wrist: this is where we get "charm bracelets" today. During Holy Week, the Stations were often physically reenacted in a long procession.
During and after the Crusades, this physical journey became rather difficult. Because it became hard for even a minority of Christians to make this journey on their own behalf, churches began to set up their own mini stations and reenact the events themselves in their churches. This is what you see when you walk into a Catholic Church, usually carved and numbered plaques along both walls of the sanctuary. Catholics, between noon and three p.m. on Good Friday, would go to a service which moved from plaque to plaque. Growing up, some of us would dress in costume for this, someone standing in for Pontius Pilate (Pon-tee-us Pi-lah-tay in Latin), someone for Jesus, Simon, and the weeping women appearing where appropriate, etc. I still remember participatng in some of these in school, lifting the end of the board and thinking what it must have been like for Simon, drafted at sword point by the Romans, to suddenly become part of this gory drama, with no understanding at the time of where it would lead.
On the chalkboard, I have the Latin for each of the 14 traditional stations. Be aware, there are several, slightly different arrangements in tradition; which one you use does not necessarily matter given that you use them for their devotional purpose of compassion ("cum passus", suffering with) in Christ's journey. Under each I have the English. These are not direct translations. The traditional Latin and typical English labels are actually a bit different. In particular, the Latin labels often includevand focus on the physical location, such as VII. where Jesus falls "ad portis urbanis Ierusalem", "before the gatevof the city of Jerusalem". This focus makes sense given the origin of Via Doloroso as a physical route pilgrims actually walked. In English, we focus on the action.
As noted, "condemnatur" in Station I. Is the 3rd Person Singular Present Passive Indicative. Early Latin students may not have been introduced to the Passive, but it means "he was condemned". Jesus was the unwilling recipient of the action. In Station II., the verb is "suscepit", the 3rd Person Singular Present Indicative Active: Christ is performing the action by "taking up" His cross. They are all written in the present tense. You are supposed to think of this as happening before your eyes, "Look! See what is being done to the Teacher! What can this mean?" Consider the horror of the people-- bystanders, followers, friends, family, as they see this and think about people today with eyes glued to a YouTube video of someone being beaten, but physically present in the crowd.
This attitude is exemplified in the beautiful poignant spiritual "Were you there when the crucified my Lord?" ( )
In the image of the paper copy below, I write out more of the vocabulary, with the full forms and glosses copied from Whitaker's Words so they can be copied and memorized by students if desired. I also found a printable booklet ( ) of the Stations, the images of St. Alphonsus Liguori, and some prayers side-by-side in Latin/English. Each printed copy of the PDF makes two booklets. You cut across the middle, then fold the pages together and tie with a bit of yarn. These can be colored, and my daughter and I will likely do so through the weekend.
In any case, have a blessed holiday.

[Draft 1.0- first full pass, formatting and links need some fixing]

Monday, March 8, 2021

Notes on homicide laws MN vs MO in context of Derek Chauvin Trial

The Derek Chauvin Trial (related to use of force in the attempted arrest of George Floyd and his subsequent death in custody) has become bogged down in complex issues of criminal law, included the definitions of the different kinds of homicide in Minnesota (a National Review Article describes these issues and the timeline of changes to charges, motions, appeals).

Most lay people are unfamiliar with these areas of law or how they differ state-to-state. I was, myself, surprised at how Minnesota defines 3rd degree murder and that it is not a lesser-included offense to 2nd degree murder but rather has a different, specific purpose. In support of debate, this post contains the definitions of related offenses in Missouri with links to equivalent offenses in Minnesota. The reader is encouraged to flip through the links and compare, particularly looking at the placement of terms I emphasize such as knowingly, recklessly, negligently, etc., as these are exactly the terms upon which legal cases turn. For general background and definitions, I particularly recommend Samaha's "Criminal Law, 11th ed." which is targeted at lay (non-attorney) readers.

The notes themselves are copied from my own Evernote entry which I created for personal reference:

RSMO 565.021.  Second degree murder, penalty. — 1.  A person commits the offense of murder in the second degree if he or she:

  (1)  Knowingly causes the death of another person or, with the purpose of causing serious physical injury to another person, causes the death of another person; or

  (2)  Commits or attempts to commit any felony, and, in the perpetration or the attempted perpetration of such felony or in the flight from the perpetration or attempted perpetration of such felony, another person is killed as a result of the perpetration or attempted perpetration of such felony or immediate flight from the perpetration of such felony or attempted perpetration of such felony. [This is "Felony Murder".]

  2.  The offense of murder in the second degree is a class A felony, and the punishment for second degree murder shall be in addition to the punishment for commission of a related felony or attempted felony, other than murder or manslaughter.


[ In MN, the equivalent is 609.19 ( )

RSMO 565.023.  Voluntary manslaughter, penalty — under influence of sudden passion, defendant's burden to inject. — 1.  A person commits the offense of voluntary manslaughter if he or she:

  (1)  Causes the death of another person under circumstances that would constitute murder in the second degree under subdivision (1) of subsection 1 of section 565.021, except that he or she caused the death under the influence of sudden passion arising from adequate cause; or

  (2)  Knowingly assists another in the commission of self-murder.

  2.  The defendant shall have the burden of injecting the issue of influence of sudden passion arising from adequate cause under subdivision (1) of subsection 1 of this section.

  3.  The offense of voluntary manslaughter is a class B felony.

RSMO 565.024.  Involuntary manslaughter, first degree, penalty. — 1.  A person commits the offense of involuntary manslaughter in the first degree if he or she recklessly causes the death of another person.
  2.  The offense of involuntary manslaughter in the first degree is a class C felony, unless the victim is intentionally targeted as a law enforcement officer, as defined in section 556.061, or the victim is targeted because he or she is a relative within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity to a law enforcement officer, in which case it is a class B felony.

RSMO 565.027.  Involuntary manslaughter, second degree, penalty. — 1.  A person commits the offense of involuntary manslaughter in the second degree if he or she acts with criminal negligence to cause the death of any person.

  2.  The offense of involuntary manslaughter in the second degree is a class E felony, unless the victim is intentionally targeted as a law enforcement officer, as defined in section 556.061, or the victim is targeted because he or she is a relative within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity to a law enforcement officer, in which case it is a class D felony.

[MN has only one Involuntary Manslaughter offense, 609.205 ( )]


(a) Whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life, is guilty of murder in the third degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 25 years. [This is referred to as "Depraved Indifference Homicide"; we do not appear to have this in Missouri law.]

(b) Whoever, without intent to cause death, proximately causes the death of a human being by, directly or indirectly, unlawfully selling, giving away, bartering, delivering, exchanging, distributing, or administering a controlled substance classified in Schedule I or II, is guilty of murder in the third degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 25 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $40,000, or both.

Missouri, Lesser-Included Offense:

565.029.  Lesser degree offenses in homicide cases — instruction on lesser offenses, when. — 1.  With the exceptions provided in subsection 3 of this section and subsection 3 of section 565.021, section 556.046 shall be used for the purpose of consideration of lesser offenses by the trier in all homicide cases.

  2.  The following lists shall comprise, in the order listed, the lesser degree offenses:

  (1)  The lesser degree offenses of murder in the first degree are:

  (a)  Murder in the second degree under subdivisions (1) and (2) of subsection 1 of section 565.021;

  (b)  Voluntary manslaughter under subdivision (1) of subsection 1 of section 565.023;

  (c)  Involuntary manslaughter in the first degree; and

  (d)  Involuntary manslaughter in the second degree;

  (2)  The lesser degree offenses of murder in the second degree are:

  (a)  Voluntary manslaughter under subdivision (1) of subsection 1 of section 565.023;

  (b)  Involuntary manslaughter in the first degree; and

  (c)  Involuntary manslaughter in the second degree.

  3.  No instruction on a lesser included offense shall be submitted unless requested by one of the parties or the court.

Minnesota Lesser-Included Offense:


Subdivision 1.Lesser offense prosecution.

Upon prosecution for a crime, the actor may be convicted of either the crime charged or an included offense, but not both. An included offense may be any of the following:

(1) a lesser degree of the same crime; or

(2) an attempt to commit the crime charged; or

(3) an attempt to commit a lesser degree of the same crime; or

(4) a crime necessarily proved if the crime charged were proved; or

(5) a petty misdemeanor necessarily proved if the misdemeanor charge were proved.

Subd. 2.Conviction; bar to prosecution. A conviction or acquittal of a crime is a bar to further prosecution of any included offense, or other degree of the same crime.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

EO Threatens Schools Who Will Not Let Men in Women's Sports

I wonder why it is so hard for people to grasp the simple concept that men do not belong in women's sports? That this discriminates against women who fought hard to have these sports in the first place? Why willful indifference to girls like Selina Soule who are displaced by men unable to compete in male sports?

<<The conservative Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a federal complaint on behalf of a Connecticut high school student, Selina Soule, who failed to quality for the New England regionals after losing a race to two biological male students who identify as girls.

“In fact, one of the athletes who displaced Selina previously competed against other male athletes in the winter 2018 season and failed to advance in boys’ indoor track events,” the ADF said. “It wasn’t until that athlete began competing in girls’ events during the 2018 spring season that the dominance began. This biological male now holds more than 10 records within the state of Connecticut that once belonged to 10 different girls.”>>

If Biden carries out his threat to cut federal funding for schools who do not go with him off the cliff, we, as a state, should take him up on it, and for better reasons than this: after being incompetently thrashed around first by No Child Left Behind then by Common Core, it is clear that the federal behemoth-- and the large corporate curriculum cartel it feeds-- having too much influence on education is bad for our children no matter who is in the Oval Office, no matter who is in Congress. DC Republicans have often been just as eager to expand federal power over our schools, especially when it expands budgets for corporate handouts. At exactly the time that more and more education resources become ubiquitous, low-cost, or even free, inpouring of federal money and the imprimatur  of thoroughly-captured standards boards has lead to inflation of education costs and consolidation of vendors.

This Biden EO is just the latest symptom of a deeper problem both parties created. If we do not have control of our own children's education, we will always be held hostage to corporate profiteering or misplaced ideological rubbish imposed from the top.

This is just one more place where it is past time Missouri minded its own business... and told others to mind theirs.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Capitol Riot Officer-Involved Shooting

This page will organize a set of sources and commentary on the Officer-Involved Shooting during the 2021 US Capitol Riots on 6 January in which Alisha Babbitt was killed. The intent here is to have these sources and links in one place for ease of discussion and debate, including analysis of police use of force involved by myself or by others. Gathering sources will come first and commentary will be added later. It will need to be reorganized as I go.
Version 0.4: 15 January 2021 (Added a number of links including more videos and more background on Babbitt.)

Disclaimer: This page and any commentary on it is my own and not an official statement of any organization. There are clearly both political and non-political issues here (or, at least, some issues which should not be political). A subset of these issues, those dealing with use-of-force and the shoot/no-shot decision separated (as much as possible) from the political context, will be discussed using these sources at the 11 January meeting of the Lawrence County Sheriff's Auxiliary. This page, however, does not represent that discussion. The use of force analysis will almost certainly have to change over time in any case as more information is known, so no such analysis could be definitive at this time. Clearly, the videos linked here are going to contain graphic content and this discussion will be of a violent subject: if you do not wish to be exposed to such content, do not continue.

What Are the Questions?

Let's start out with a decent framing of the questions. LegalInsurrection does a decent job in "Video of Shooting Death of Ashli Babbitt Raises Questions About Use of Deadly Force". Deciding on major questions (and dispensing with less useful questions) should guide inquiry and gathering of sources. The primary issues I am interested in here are:

* Was the individual officer's use of force correctly made and justified?

* Who actually made the choice? Was it the individual officer or did he act in response to an order given? Or was the choice part of a mission parameter/rule of engagement? (e.g. "Do not fire unless the barrier is breached, but do not permit protesters to enter this lobby.")

* Why was the officer who made the shoot/no-shoot decision put in the position of having to make that choice? In other words, were other failures made in the larger response which might have prevented the necessity of fatal confrontation. Potential "lessons learned" are crucial for security planning in future events in this crazy political climate.

* What larger liability might apply to others involved in illegal activity (i.e. the Felony Murder question)

* What were the actual and perceived physical threats presented by Babbitt and the larger incident?

Questions which I do not feel are terribly useful:

* Was what Babbitt did wrong/illegal? The answer to this question is rather obvious and there can be little doubt that climbing a broken barricade was not a lawful or peacable act. The further intentions of the deceased cannot be gauged and, as she is deceased, there is no question of further punishment.

* Did Babbitt "deserve to die"? This is often too ill-defined a question to answer and too wrapped up in political/ideological perceptions. It is clear that her act was willful, illegal, and dangerous. There is no reason to suppose that she was unaware that her actions were risky and might lead to injury or death. Nor does answering such a question change the fact that she did, in fact, die whether she "deserved it" or not.

Videos of the Shooting

Information on the Capitol Riots is frequently taken down. There is no guarantee that the following sources will continue to exist indefinitely. Please inform me of broken links in comments (or better sources) and I will attempt to fix them. The video of the incident itself are crucial for looking at use-of-force questions. commentary with Twitter link to the original Sulivan video: This video is the first one widely shared but shows little context and it is not easy to get a sense of the space around the incident. The LegalInsurrection link above also has the same video.

Two videos with commentary by the Washington Post showing a different viewpoint than the Sullivan video and more context before the shooting: (MSN link) This link also contains a map of the Capitol showing the area of interest.
Bell?ngCat's "The Journey of Ashli Babbit" has several video links in one place, including a link to a YouTube video which combines and sinks four videos into one. 

TheResistance has a 44-minute video showing the entire progression from entry into the Capitol to the Officer-Involved Shooting.

The question of the shoot/no-shoot decision is more complicated than justification. There is also a larger safety question involved. Training and policy typically dictates discharging a weapon only with a clear target and clean background. As can be seen from these videos, the "background" to the shot was quite complicated and rapidly changing, something which may be hard for people to appreciate if they have not stood behind a gun (in training or a live incident) and had to try to make such a decision. To the left of the barrier (facing into the lobby, opposite to the shooter's perspective) were more protesters and people filming (whether or not 'protesters'). To Babbitt's right were Capitol Police staging on the descending stairwell. Behind the doors in the lobby were more Capitol Police and officials sheltering. Behind the frontline of protesters were other protesters who may not have presented an immediate threat and, seemingly, other police. Any weapon discharge might potentially hit friendly, neutral, or unknown targets. It is possible that the shooter had (or perceived) a background which was only momentarily clean, while Babbitt was elevated above others and before she made it into the lobby proper. Only at that moment (arguably) could a round aimed at Babbitt at an upward angle avoid striking others. This may have determined the timing of the shot; any additional video or information to this question may be very important.

Legal Commentary
The question of whether what Ashli Babbitt did was illegal is clear (it was not) and moot (she is dead and therefore there is no point in charging her with a crime). The incident has larger implications for the use-of-force inquiry into the shooting and the potential charges for others who were present. This section will gather some relevant commentary as I find it.

A discussion of Felony Murder  in the context of the Capitol Riot and the death of Ashli Babbitt. Includes definition of Felony Murder, references DC statutes, and looks through the circumstances of her death in that light.

Ashli Babbitt

Some background on Ashli Babbitt from and NYPost. Also some (limited) information about past charges for property damage and a restraining order. Bell?ngCat has a detailed article, "The Journey of Ashli Babbitt" describing the chnages in political views over time from Obama supporter to Trump supporter to QAnon.

John Sullivan

Sullivan is a controversial individual because he recorded the first widely-distributed video of Ashli Babbitt's death while standing in the Capitol nearby. Sullivan is not a Trump Supporter (nor does he appear to be a member of Antifa) but from Insurgence USA, an organization for "racial justice and police reform" who is decidedly anti-Trump. So, ineveitably, the question arises: what was he doing in the Capitol and what were his motives? This link from PJ-Media includes a number of other links discussing this question and the more general question of who might or might not have been associated with Antifa. It also includes a video of Trump Supporters stopping someone who is (claimed to be) Antifa from breaking into a Capitol window. It is clear, therefore that the situation may have been complex and more research is needed on who was there, why they were there, and just what they thought they were doing.