Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Saturday, October 2, 2021
Thursday, September 30, 2021
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.>> ( https://greenwald.substack.com/p/an-nba-star-and-new-yorks-governor )
[Direct link to the interview for convenience of the reader: https://youtu.be/xVS6aUWAWDg ]
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
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. https://www.scribd.com/book/350613212 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
Monday, March 8, 2021
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:
(MN) 609.195 MURDER IN THE THIRD DEGREE.
609.04 CONVICTION OF LESSER OFFENSE.
Subdivision 1.Lesser offense prosecution.
Thursday, January 21, 2021
“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.”>>