Archive for the ‘Theme Thursday’ Category

Theme Thursday: Food   2 comments

This week’s Theme Thursday is “Food”.

Did you know that 17,400,000 households (not people, mind you, households) in the United States don’t put three square meals on the table, due to lack of resources?  And that this has been going on for two years?

Eighty-five percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2009, meaning that they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining households (14.7 percent) were food insecure at least some time during the year, including 5.7 percent with very low food security. In households with very low food security, the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food. Prevalence rates of food insecurity and very low food security were essentially unchanged from 14.6 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively, in 2008, and remained at the highest recorded levels since 1995, when the first national food security survey was conducted.

These numbers are essentially unchanged for 2008 and 2009.  The insecurity numbers were 11.1 percent and 4.1 percent in 2007.  10.9 and 4.0 in 2006. The recession has clearly hit the poor pretty damn hard.  Remember that the next time you want to complain about how bad things are for you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Posted November 18, 2010 by padraic2112 in food, Theme Thursday

Theme Thursday: Mystery   6 comments

I love mysteries.  I love hard-boiled detective fiction, whodunits, and campy mysteriocomedies.  Gimme all if it, Miss Marple, Peter Death Bredon Whimsey, Sam Spade, Elvis Cole, Bernie Rhodenbarr, Hieronymous Bosch, Travis McGee, Irwin Maurice Fletcher, Francis Xavier Flynn, Philip Marlowe, I could go on and on and on… in novel form or short story, on the little screen or deep in the bowels of a dark cinema.  The kids are into the original Scooby Doo episodes right now, and as campy and silly as they are, it’s been a good lead-in to explaining to Jack what that big chunk of brown- and blue-bound books are and why he wants to read them…

I read those Hardy Boys books, from The Tower Treasure to The Sting of the Scorpion (all 58 stories) before I started third grade, most of the first 38 in the original runs prior to the re-writes.  I still have most of them, having survived the cycle of being loaned out to, and returned from, avid younger readers.  I’m looking forward to reading Jack those crazy cliff-hanger end-of-chapter pages!

As cheesy as the television series was at times, it still had that late-70s trend towards awesome intros.  Orson, you da man.

Theme Thursday: Bell   3 comments

I’m a Bell.

That’s not a joke. I actually am a Bell. Also a Lion and a (no, really) Pedant. Not exactly a Beaver or a Cub, although I’ve spent more time at Caltech than most students and I was at Loyola High as a staff member long enough to qualify as a member of both communities.

I’m talking about mascots. CGU’s mascot is the Pedant (an ant wearing a mortarboard, although the choice of words was tongue in cheek and intentional), LMU’s mascot is the Lion, and Bellarmine College Preparatory‘s mascot is the Bell.  Archibishop Mitty students were Monarchs.  St. Francis students were Lancers.  We were the Bells.

I hated that mascot.  Apparently every so many years someone would suggest a name change and the alumni would all vote it down.  I always wanted someone to explain to me what sort of collective idiocy that represented.  Not because of the inevitable jokes about “Belles” (after all, thanks to Saturday Night Live I was immune to gender-based “insults” by the time I got to high school), but because it was a lame mascot.  Bells call you to be spiritual, or they call you to dinner, or announce the time.  They don’t call you to a contest, which is what your mascot is actually supposed to be doing, right?

You don’t follow a bell onto a gridiron.  You follow a bell to vespers.

Now, I’m a little older.  What’s interesting to me, though, is that I still don’t like the Bell mascot.  I don’t dislike the Pedant; really when you’re in grad school a funny mascot (particularly a self-deprecating one) ought to appeal to you.  High school is different, though, just like teenagers are different from adults.  Sports are important when you’re in high school, even if you’re like I was and aggressively ignore them while you’re there.  They mean something to the community at large.  And you still don’t follow a bell onto a gridiron.

I find it mildly amusing that I still get annoyed about my high school mascot.  What’s yours?  Did you like it?

Posted February 19, 2010 by padraic2112 in noise, Theme Thursday

Theme Thursday: Climate Change   19 comments

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I’ve been interested in science, mathematics, and philosophy for a long time now.  At various points in my life, I’ve been a practicing mathematician and an armchair philosopher, and I’m currently engaged in scientific research.  I’ve worked for an educational institution specializing in hard core research for almost a decade now.

I’ve known scientists for a long time.  I’ve seen grumpy scientists and happy scientists, conservative scientists and liberal ones (somewhat more of the latter than the former).  I’ve seen scientists have arguments with each other just this short of breaking out firearms and elevating to mayhem, and those same scientists publishing work together after they discovered that they were both wrong about their relative positions and finding the results of their argument to actually be interesting.

I’ve seen lazy scientists, venal scientists, greedy scientists, and scientists with such an odious personal manner that you’d be hard pressed to share a meal with them.  I’ve seen lots of towering egos, and almost as many deflated ones.  Quite a few reconstructed ones in the mix as well.  [edited to add: lest this sound like all scientists are stereotypical difficult personalities, I’ve also known plenty of nice, friendly, and outgoing scientists.]

I have never seen a scientist actually engage in unethical behavior in their own field.  I know it happens, there are plenty of examples… but on the whole the act of deliberately falsifying results and misrepresenting reality is as uncommon among scientists as running away from a burning building is among firefighters.  Most of them can’t even conceive of the idea; it’s almost incomprehensible.

This is not because scientists are a uniformly ethical crowd (although anyone who will spend their entire life on research that they largely don’t profit from in proportion to the impact of their work is probably going to have at least a high baseline sense of ethics).  It’s because scientists know that reality wins.  If they publish bogus results, sooner or later someone will try to replicate their results, or find some other results that contradict the bogus results.

Scientific argument isn’t like political argument.  The scientific method isn’t even like mathematics.  In mathematics, you declare your axioms and prove interesting stuff follows logically as a result.  In science, you observe reality, make notes, and draw conclusions.  You can have all the nice, logical, consistent theories you want… but when you put a paper up for peer review, or attend a conference, or try to discuss your work with another scientist they’re only interested in the theory in passing.  Reality wins.

What they want to see is the evidence.  Not “beyond reasonable doubt” evidence, but “towering monolithic gargantuan piles of evidence”.  If you don’t have it, you can get eaten alive (at least, metaphorically speaking)… if you don’t have it, you’ve got what is commonly referred to as, “An interesting little theory”, a phrase that itself carries a depth of meaning that isn’t parsed well by people who aren’t learned in the particular field.  The difference between a cap-“T” theory and a little-“t” theory is the difference between the Nobel Prize (not the Peace prize, which has no measurable standard, but the other prizes, that you can only get if you’re the freaking grandmaster ninjitsu tenth-level jedi master gun-kata guru 1,000 lb gorilla of a scientist)… and not getting the invite to go out bar hopping after the keynote speech.

Even if you *do* have a huge pile of evidence, you can get eaten alive if your resulting theory directly clashes with existing theory.  This isn’t because science is hidebound or dogmatic; it’s because scientific theories are based on lots and lots of observations, and if you come up with a new theory that challenges existing theory, you’ve got a pretty high bar to climb over.  People point to all of the major turning points in science as if those moments represented some sort of failure… “See!  They used to think exactly the opposite of what they think now!  They can never make up their minds!”

What those naysayers don’t realize is that “never making up your mind” is a central tenet of being a scientist.  You take some things for granted because nobody has time to learn everything and someone else is better versed than you are, but if someone shows that what you took for granted is wrong, you change your mind.  If you don’t, you don’t get published (at least, not for very long), and that’s the long slow death of the scientist.  Tenure doesn’t mean much if you can’t get a grant.

Reality wins.

Of course, scientific discourse isn’t political discourse.  Scientific discourse isn’t legal discourse.  There’s plenty of studies that show cigarettes cause cancer; it still took decades of fighting misinformation before anyone who worked in the tobacco industry would admit that reality really was described best by the theory that there was a causal link between tobacco and cancer… and it wasn’t piles and piles of scientific studies that convinced anybody, it was a legal and political battle.

The “Climate Change Debate” is just like that.  There isn’t a climate change “debate” among climatologists.  There isn’t even really a climate change debate among scientists in general (a couple of outliers, none of whom study climate science, does not a debate make), nor is there serious belief in a  “non-anthropocentric cause”.  Not because scientists are out to get rid of technology (I have yet to meet one that didn’t love his or her computer).  Not because they’re out to halt progress (you pretty much need to be on board with the *idea* of progress to become a scientist in the first place).

It’s because the evidence for other theories isn’t there.  There are several major research journals in climate science, and (unsuprisingly) the Caltech library subscribes to electronic versions of them all.  When someone pointed me at Senator Inhofe’s web site, claiming that there was peer-reviewed science that refuted global warming, I went looking for it.  I didn’t find it.  Irritated that I had no actual citations to start with (something I find to be a general media failure, so I could hardly assume that the lack of such was immediate evidence of nefariousness)  I looked again.  I still couldn’t find it.

So I went out on the general Intranet and tried to find any sort of reference to the actual journals these papers were published in, or what their titles were.  I didn’t find that, either, but I did find a whole pile of blog posts by scientists on Inhofe and dismantling the claim into teeny, tiny little shreds.

If you believe that global warming is bunk, you’re very, very likely to be very, very, horribly wrong.  Not guaranteed wrong, of course.  Again, science is not mathematics.  We can’t say that anything is definitively true, because we don’t know for certain what all the axioms of the Universe are.

So what?

We also can’t say that it’s definitely true that if you stick a loaded gun against the side of your noggin and pull the trigger that you’re going to die.  The gun might not fire.  The bullet might be a dud.  The gun could explode in your hand, and just cause a terrible injury, or the bullet might bounce off your skull or by some random roll of the dice not hit anything critical on its way through your grey matter.  Maybe we’re all plugged into the Matrix and the truth is, there is no gun.

I wouldn’t bet on it.  It astonishes me that so many people are not only willing to bet on it, they’re eager to do so.

Posted October 14, 2009 by padraic2112 in science, Theme Thursday

Theme Thursday: Wild   3 comments

Yesterday’s TT topic was “wild”.

When I was a child, I used to watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.  I thought that Marlin Perkins was awesome.  Interesting little tidbit about Marlin that I didn’t know (from his Wikipedia page):

Because Walt Disney had fabricated footage of a mass suicide of lemmings in its film White Wilderness,[6] CBC (at that time) journalist Bob McKeown asked Marlin Perkins if he had done the same. Perkins, then in his eighties, “firmly asked for the camera to be turned off, then punched a shocked McKeown in the face.” [7]

As interesting and wild as our world today, for sheer magnitude nothing beats the Late Cretaceous for wildness.  We truly had Sea Monsters living in what is now the central United States.  National Geographic did a special that’s worth watching…

A chunk of the last episode of the BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs: Sea Monsters, showing the Mosasaur (fictitious, obviously, but pretty well done) –

That show has spawned a world tour (which, unfortunately, doesn’t hit Los Angeles).  If you live in Texas, you might still be able to get tickets to one of the later shows.  If you have any adolescent boys in the house, it’s probably a winner.

Posted September 25, 2009 by padraic2112 in Theme Thursday

Theme Thursday: Funky   9 comments

This week’s Theme Thursday is my suggestion, so of course I can’t be late on *this* one.  The theme is “funky”.  Funky has lots of different usages, but this week I’m going to talk about one in particular.

In the household of my youth, my parents listened to several different kinds of music.  Dad listened to Irish folk music (The Clancey Brothers and The Dubliners and the like), classical music (Beethoven’s 5th in C minor is my all-time favorite classical piece, courtesy of my father), and on the rare occasion Bob Dylan, at TOP volume.  Mom, on the other hand, introduced her children to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Joan Baez, and this…

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James Brown, Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Joe Tex, Archie Bell and the Drells, etc.

Motown, where Funky started.

The above two-album (long play 33s, for you youngsters out there) set came out usually when Mom had a couple, and sister Megan and I would dance like a couple of nutbars.  Later, Tom and Ann would likewise get into the act.  I’m not exactly sure why Mom picked me to be the inheritor of the set, but I’m glad I got it.  I’ve been meaning to get the stereo hooked up to a computer for years to get the thing digitized, and it’s only been in the last couple of weeks that this project has started moving forward.

Compact discs are higher quality than digital downloads or L.P.s, but there’s something about the familiarity of albums.  When you own records and play them routinely, they develop idiosyncracies that nobody else’s copy of the album has.  The hiss on one track and the pop of a physical mar on another trigger a personalized memory.  Listening to the album is different from listening to a digital recording, for those of us who are old enough to have had them.  I owe my siblings at least tape recordings of this set.  Here’s what’s on ’em

Record One, Side A

  1. Sweet Soul Music, Arthur Conley
  2. I’ve Been Loving You Too Long, Otis Redding
  3. Funky Broadway, Wilson Pickett
  4. When Something Is Wrong With My Baby, Sam and Dave
  5. Knock On Wood, Eddie Floyd

Record One, Side B

  1. When A Man Loves A Woman, Percy Sledge
  2. Shake, Sam Cooke
  3. Slip Away, Clarence Carter
  4. Tighten Up, Archie Bell and the Drells
  5. Soul Man, Sam and Dave

Record Two, Side A

  1. I’ll Be Doggone, Marvin Gaye
  2. Skinny Legs And All, Joe Tex
  3. Have You Seen Her, Chi-Lites
  4. Hold On! I’m Comin’, Sam and Dave
  5. In The Midnight Hour, Wilson Pickett

Record Two, Side B

  1. (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher, Jackie Wilson
  2. Hold On To What You’ve Got, Joe Tex
  3. Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag, Otis Redding (better than James Brown’s version, IMO)
  4. Show Me, Joe Tex
  5. Going To A Go Go, The Miracles

Now, if you’ll excuse me, in honor of Theme Thursday, I have to go put on Funky Broadway.

Every town I go in
There’s a street, uh, huh
Name of the street, uh, huh
Funky funky Broadway

Down on Broadway, huh
There’s a nightclub, now, now
Name of the nightclub, now baby
Funky Funky Broadway

Down on Broadway
There’s a crowd, now, huh
Name of the crowd, baby
Broadway crowd

Down on Broadway, yeah
There’s a dancestep, huh
Name of the dance,
Funky Funky Broadway, hey! huh

Wiggle your legs now, baby
Shake your head, ooh, huh
Do the shing-a-ling now baby, now
Shake, shake, shake now
You don’t know, huh, baby, now
You don’t know, now woman, owww!
Doin’ the funky Broadway, hey!
Lord have mercy

Oh, you got me feelin’ alright

Dirty filthy Broadway
Don’t I like the Broadway, huh
That Broadway, lookit here

Down on Broadway
There’s a woman
Name of the woman, huh
Broadway woman, hey!

Down on Broadway, yeah
There’s a man, huh
Name of the man…

Posted July 2, 2009 by padraic2112 in Theme Thursday

Theme Thursday: Swing (and Clock)   4 comments

I missed last Thursday (clock), and I’m late this week.  Apologies to the other TT bloggers.

In 1952 a man named Bernard Malamud wrote a book about a baseball player.  The book was adapted in 1984 and made into a movie.  Hold off on the links!

I’ve read the book, and seen the movie, and this is one of those cases where a movie adaptation has a pretty major departure from the book that foundationally changes the message you get when you walk away from the art itself.  Some critics of the movie really don’t like the difference; the message in the book is certainly more complex and darker than what you get from watching the movie.

However, I think this is one of those times when the two products are of equal merit.  The movie is obviously over-the-top “feel good”; but it’s designed for a completely different audience than the book, so I don’t think of this as a detraction.  It’s just different.

Have you guessed yet how this ties into the theme for this week?

Almost at the very end of the movie is the scene that marks the departure from the novel.  In the book, Hobbs throws the game, throws away the payoff as a gesture, ruins his career, and breaks down on the last pages.  In the movie, this happens:

… and then the movie wraps up with sweetness and light.  It’s a fluffy ending, absolutely… but so’s the ending of “Rudy”.

There’s two swings in this clip, the swing that breaks Wonder Boy (the first bat), and the swing that brings on the stirring part of the Randy Newman soundtrack.  I leave it to the reader to decide which is more significant, in the frame of the movie.

[edited to add]

And here’s a handy clip germane to last week’s Theme Thursday, almost as if I planned it this way:

My favorite part in this scene is the old man, giving the hand sign after the hit.  I don’t know who that extra was, or if the guy was a professional actor, but he stole that scene.

Posted June 12, 2009 by padraic2112 in movies, Theme Thursday

Theme Thursday: Suitcase   7 comments

The suitcase, the briefcase, the trunk.  Often times it’s the focus of a murder mystery or suspense thriller.  In Pulp Fiction, Vincent and Jules were tasked at recovering the mysterious briefcase, whose contents are forever the speculation of Tarantino fans.  In Ronin, everyone was trying to get “the case”; another instance where the audience is drawn into the story following a container whose contents are forever unknown.

My favorite mysterious case movie is a very unknown silly movie called The Double McGuffin, a Joe Camp (yes, the Benji guy) movie.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s hilarious.  In that movie, the briefcase is the subject of much shenanigans, and it contains… well, I won’t tell you what it contains at various parts of the movie because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it takes a different tack from those previous two movies: they’re constantly showing you what’s in the case, but it’s usually not what you expect to be in there at the time.

I recommend it.  I’d write more about it, but I had 10 hours sleep last night for the first time in 6 years, and I’m rushing to get ready to due Parental Duty for my last iteration at Jack’s preschool.  More later!

Posted May 28, 2009 by padraic2112 in movies, Theme Thursday

Theme Thursday: Vacation   13 comments

Vacation means something different now than it meant when I was a yonker growing up.  When you’re a kid, just the existence of summer is vacation enough.  Every once in a while, the family would go someplace.  We visited the Grand Canyon one year, Disneyland a couple of times (it’s an adventure when you live in northern California), and took a few trips up to the snow.

Since I met my wife, on the other hand… I’ve gone camping, to Hawaii for our honeymoon, Australia for three weeks (horseback riding around Noosa + a conference on her part), a driving tour of the northeastern states overlapping with her college reunion, several car trips to Montana and New Mexico… with side trips to the corners of Arizona, a zip through Yellowstone, and a rather adventurous swing up to Lake Louise in Canada and then across to Vancouver Island and down the western U.S. back to Los Angeles.  In a Volkswagen Passat.  With a 3-month old and a dog.  Note to new parents: traveling with a 3-month old is actually much easier than traveling with a 14-month old.  A 3-month old requires breaks to eat and change diapers.  A 14-month old, on the other hand, is used to being able to move around, and they get really cranky if you plonk them in a car seat for 6+ hours.

I like taking real vacations – “pack up and get out of town” vacations.  I’m glad I work at a job where there is no political pressure to postpone or avoid vacations altogether.  I’m old enough and confident enough in my abilities and value not to put up with that sort of nonsense, but it’s nice to have an accomodating employer.  This year we’re going back to Montana (we try to make that a yearly trip).  We’re going to try our darndest to make our 10th anniversary in Italy.  At some point, I need to do a pub crawl through Ireland.  There’s lots of places to go, people to see.  Kitty’s going to always be ahead of me in continental trips, since she’s already been to Antarctica and it’s hugely expensive to go there (seredipity, I’ll leave that story to her to tell).  Now that I’m in a Ph.D. program, there’s always the possibility of international conferences, too.  The nicest thing about conferences is that they might be someplace you wouldn’t normally consider going to in your priority list of “places to go”, and you might have an absolute ball there, if you take some vacation time and spread it around either end of the business part of the trip.  Finland maybe?  India?  Who knows?

One of my favorite vacation moments was on our Australia trip.  Aside from driving all over the Sunshine Coast (and up to 1770 to take a catamaran out to Lady Musgrave Island) we booked a 4-day trail ride that took us from Noosa, to Tewantin, up to Boreen Point on Lake Cootharaba, over to Kin Kin and then down to Cooran and then ending in Pomona (Baino can attest that those are all actual names – Australian names are a hoot).  I’d been on a horse for maybe a grand total of 3 hours prior to this trip, and although I was all done in by the last day, I had a great time.  Here’s a couple of shots of the pub/hotel where we stayed in Kin Kin and some of the characters we met there.

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And the obligatory scenic shots:

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Australia’s Sunshine Coast is remarkably similar to California (not really surprising, given their relative positions on the globe).  At the same time there’s lots of little differences that add a very surreal feeling to the visit that I didn’t get anywhere else.  Hawaii is just different.  Australia is different, but in ways that are still hauntingly familiar.  We’ll have to go back someday.

Posted May 20, 2009 by padraic2112 in Theme Thursday

Theme Thursday: Wind (aka Truth In Advertising)   6 comments

Dictionary.com defines “Windbag” as “an empty, voluble, pretentious talker”.  Dictionary.com further provides a definition “pretentious” as “full of pretense or pretension” and “characterized by assumption of dignity or importance”.  We round it all out by grabbing a formal definition of “pretense” as “the putting forth of an unwarranted claim.”

Ergo, a windbag is (among other things), someone who makes unwarranted claims, particularly those that may provide them with an air of dignity or importance.

Good ol’ Justice Scalia of SCOTUS (that’s shorthand for the Supreme Court of the United States) has been in the news recently, a kerfluffle involving privacy rights.  In a number of different venues, I’ve read a large slog of commentary regarding the jurist, and a number of people have brought up the concept of “strict Constructionist”… the idea that there are some jurists (the Hon. Justice Scalia included) who claim to be only interested in the absolute letter of the Constitution, and that this is somehow a reasonable default position for anyone who studies the law.  Conceptually, it’s sort of a nice idea; that the Founding Fathers did such a good job of writing the thing that every possible contest of law can be found to either comply with the Constitution, or fail to comply with the Constitution, and if it doesn’t you simply reject it.  If it’s true, though, it does sort of beg the question why you need to study all this law in order to be a lawyer, as the Constitution is not a terribly long document and can be parsed by anyone who has an acceptable level of high school English.

Now, I’m not a lawyer.  I’m certainly not qualified to call myself a Constitutional scholar.  This is one of those times when you don’t need to be an expert in a field to know that there is something seriously wrong with someone’s position… if you’ve studied some basic logic (yay, Math!).

Here’s why “strict Constructionist” is a bogus label, and thus anyone who claims title to the label is likely a windbag.

Question: how can you agree with strict adherence to a document that is not written explicitly and has linguistic conventions that are no longer in the vernacular?  Some people will state that the second is not a telling objection, since presumably you can study the historical context and come to a reasonable translation into modern language.  I personally think that this is at best a shaky position, but I’ll let it go, for now.

The first is really the most telling point; examine Article Six.

The first part states: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land”.  Seems pretty straightforward.

Ergo {the Constitution} + {Other Laws Made according the processes declared in the Constitution} + {Treaties} = Law of the Land.

But there is *no* provision in this article to state that {Treaties} must comply with {the Constitution}. Strict literalists usually operate on the assumption is that {the Constitution} trumps {Treaties}.  That’s not explicitly stated, however; instead it uses a simple *and* to join the two.  So one can just as easily say that the two principles are co-authoritative, that {the Constitution} doesn’t trump {Treaties} and {Treaties} don’t trump {the Constitution}.  In fact, one can draw upon the language of the Article itself in support of this position; the Article clearly limits {Other Laws} directly to those passed according to the process outlined in {the Constitution}, but makes no mention whatsoever of any limitations on the types of Treaties that can be accepted.

But *that* only makes sense if the procedure to ratify a {Treaty} is the same as the procedure to ratify {an amendment to the Constitution}, which is not the case.  By the Treaty Clause of Article Two, the President and 2/3rds of the majority of the Senate can ratify treaties, but Article V puts the barrier of amending the Constitution considerably higher.

So which is it?  We have to jump through hoops in order to amend the Constitution… unless the President and 2/3rds of the Senate are talking about signing something binding with another recognized country, in which case it’s perfectly fine?  Or we can’t sign Treaties unless they comply with the Constitution?  Well, that means that signing the Treaties is now no longer up to the Executive and 2/3 of the Senate, everybody gets involved in the party.  My God, a logical quandry!  This isn’t a theoretical quandary, either, examine Medellin vs. Texas.  Those pesky “strict Constructionists” (Hon. Justice Scalia included) sure engaged in some logical ninjitsu to avoid acknowledging that they were, you know, interpreting the Constitution.

They’ve changed

  • {the Constitution} + {Other Laws Made according the processes declared in the Constitution} + {Treaties} = Law of the Land.

to

  • {the Constitution} + {Other Laws Made according the processes declared in the Constitution} + {Treaties} = Guidelines for the Law of the Land
  • {the Constitution} + {Other Laws Made according the processes declared in the Constitution} + {Other Laws passed to operationalize the Treaty} = The actual Law of the Land.

Regardless of your position on treaties, executive power, and Constitutional amendments, you must admit that the two sets of bullet points above are not equivalent.  They are *not* the same.  The second set is clearly an interpretation.

Now, this last comment is purely conjecture (and I will gleefully admit that this is based upon my own biased observation that the Hon. Justice Scalia is something of a gigantic ass), but I suspect that his “strict Constructionist” position will interpret this logical quandry firmly in line with his own idea of how the country ought to be run, not any “Constitutional principles”.  If President Obama and the Democratic Senate signed some sort of Treaty with Mexico that, say, impinged upon Second Amendment rights of Americans (a current bogeyman of conservative talk radio that I myself would strongly disagree with), I will eat my hat if Justice Scalia doesn’t deliver some scathing denunciation as this being an attack on a foundational right of Americans… all the while waving the same “strict Constructionist” flag he would wave while approving the NSA wiretapping program, should that ever get anywhere near the Supreme Court.

Claiming to be a strict Constructionist is remarkably similar to claiming that you’re a Biblical literalist. You can’t be. The document is not internally consistent. You can only be a strict literalist or a strict constructionist inside your own interpretation of the document, which is by definition… ah, relativist.  Any reasonably competent undergraduate student in mathematics can run a truth table attack on the Constitution and show a number of gaping holes.  The label doesn’t mean anything, it’s just a feel-good term designed to make people think you’re not an “activist judge”… which is, in fact, just another competely meaningless label.

[edited to add]: Nothing in the above is meant to endorse or underwrite any of the positions offered.  My own opinion on Executive authority isn’t germane to the discussion.  I’m just pointing out that the label of “strict Constructionist” is a bunch of hooey.

Posted May 8, 2009 by padraic2112 in politics, Theme Thursday, Uncategorized