Nullification in 2015?

Why not?
The judiciary has consistently ruled against the nullification doctrine, asserting its unique, judicial right to declare laws unconstitutional. But this executive order isn’t a law. And given its extremely shaky legal footing, it isn’t difficult to imagine a federal bench recognizing the states’ right to disregard federal orders that don’t clearly have the force of law.... It would force the Obama administration to go on offense, suing the states to enforce a law that isn’t a law. And I don’t think that case can be made.
There are a couple of the old options that are back on the table in terms of restraining runaway executive power. Once the new Congress is seated, expect to hear about Letters of Marque and Reprisal as an Article I power that the President has no control over whatsoever.

The Feast of St. John the Evangelist

Thanks to a helpful application, I'm learning a bit more about the twelve-day feast that begins on Christmas day. Today is the feast of St. John, presumed to be the author of the Gospel of John and other works.

Wren Day

Also, of course, the Feast of St. Stephen, martyr of Jerusalem, and the first recorded martyr of Christianity (unless one considers Jesus a competitor).

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Part II

On Christmas Eve, the story continues.

This translation is not my favorite, but it's nice to hear the tale.


Christmas Eve in Rural Georgia

The closest town to here is small enough that the Post Office doesn't deliver mail. It doesn't have a stop light, either, just a four-way stop in the middle of town. There are no extravagant displays, as the country about is rather poor, and much of the population is older as the young have chiefly had to move away to look for work.

It is small enough that the manager of the Post Office called me personally to tell me that we'd gotten a package, and I should get over there before they close to make sure we didn't miss having it for Christmas. We took her a basket with newly-potted plants, garnished with a candy cane.

A Christmas Story, On Christmas Adam

(So calls this night a child of an old friend of mine, because 'Adam comes before Eve.')

Proverbs 12:10

I never liked Dickens.

John Hawkins, Man of the People

You're only likely to disagree with everything or nothing he has to say.

Reminds me of something Waylon Jennings said: 'Only thing wrong with being a dinosaur is there's no future in it.'

A Much Easier (Hypothetical) Question

There's a Frenchman claiming that the US Navy shot down the Malaysian airlines Boeing 777 that went missing this year.

It's just a theory, but the argument for such a policy is much easier than the torture policy we've been discussing below. On the one hand, it's always wrong to intentionally kill the innocent. On the other hand, the people who put the innocent in a position of needing to be killed to avoid a great harm are not members of the US Navy, but members of the enemy organization that hijacked the plane for presumably terrorist purposes.

So unlike the case of torture-for-information, here we have a case that is really justified. If this was done, the harm lies on the wicked who hijacked the plane for evil reasons.

Getting Closer to Christmas

Not quite there yet. But a universal faith must appeal to all human modes.

Since Tex mentioned Die Hard:

Christmas in a rockabilly moment:

If you think your family is crazy...

Two days left of Advent, including today. See you at midnight tomorrow.


A discussion at Maggie's Farm:
A Politically Correct Zen Riddle
"One civil rights group is outraged at Bowdoin College’s outrageous punishment of students who dressed up as pilgrims and American Indians for a Thanksgiving party – calling it 'cultural appropriation'"
"Attorney General Eric Holder has issued an edict, through a memorandum, that cross dressing and transsexualism [are] now protected under federal civil rights laws which were designed to protect women from sex discrimination."
So is it punishable, or protected, conduct for a male to dress up as a female Pilgrim or Indian on Thanksgiving?
 Seems fair.  If a man can be a woman, why can't he be an Indian?

Reading Into Silence

Given the recent discussion of torture as practiced by the United States in the war on terror, dug up a 2006 article called "Aquinas on Torture." It turns out, actually, that Aquinas said nothing whatsoever about the practice. It is an interesting ommission, the author argues:
Here we are faced with something that, for this writer at least, is something of an enigma. It does not appear that Aquinas approved of this practice. Nowhere does he defend it... [H]e neither defends or condemns the judicial institution of torture. The omission is curious, to say the least.... What are we to conclude? One is tempted to say that Aquinas “copped out,” that he ducked the question, perhaps because the temper of the times would not have tolerated an honest answer.

The torture of witnesses, as mandated in Roman law, involves inflicting pain on persons who are, at law, innocent of any crime. In his discussion of homicide, he absolutely rejects the killing of innocent persons. In the following question, concerned with “other injuries committed against persons” he does not raise the question of mutilating, beating or incarcerating the innocent. One likes to think that for him, the question could not arise: the context is clearly that of justice. Here, as with Aristotle, there is no question of “justifying” actions otherwise reprehensible on the basis of some greater good. Punishing the innocent is quite simply unjust. Hence there can be no justification for it.

Yet he was faced with an institution which was not only practiced, but legislated, both by the Church at the highest level, and by all contemporary civil societies.
There's a signal difference between the cases, which is that judicial torture is designed to compel confessions that will allow us to settle at law matters that have happened in the past; the American cases involve an attempt to prevent a harm in the future. The person under questioning may be presumed innocent, as there has been no trial: there may not even be a crime for which he might later be tried if the questioning is successful. Some of those taken and questioned were not even conspirators, but drivers or associates who may not know the significance of what they know. They might simply know something that could stop a crime, were it made known to the right people in the right hour.

So we're running right into the teeth of the problem that Aristotle is describing, and about which Aquinas was silent. But Aquinas does speak to the question of things we would consider torture in terms of correcting slaves.
Now it is unlawful to do a person a harm, except by way of punishment in the cause of justice. Again, no man justly punishes another, except one who is subject to his jurisdiction. Therefore it is not lawful for a man to strike another, unless he have some power over the one whom he strikes. And since the child is subject to the power of the parent, and the slave to the power of his master, a parent can lawfully strike his child, and a master his slave that instruction may be enforced by correction.
Then the question becomes one of whether we have proper jurisdiction to administer the correction -- as for example by explaining that it is improper to withhold information that might prevent a terrorist attack! Oddly enough, we seem to have decided that we have the right exactly where we don't have the jurisdiction: an American citizen is normally protected by the Eighth Amendment, whereas those captured in Afghanistan who are not and have never been American citizens (nor, perhaps, ever on American soil) are the ones we tend to use these techniques against.

I'm not sure we haven't gotten this one wrong all the way around. Some things can't be justified. If we feel we have to do it anyway, because the matter of preventing terrorist assaults is so grave, we should not think ourselves justified in doing it. We should think ourselves guilty of a sin, at least; and that's what confession is for.

Falling oil prices a problem?

We like the lower prices a the gas pump, but everyone's worried about the effect of the falling price of crude oil on the oil industry and the economy. So, as my husband observes, "You asked for a miracle to reduce the oil supply and I give you the D ... O ... T."

Speaking of channeling that fine old holiday movie "Die Hard," I'm reading the recently re-released 1979 novel on which the movie was loosely based, and enjoying it thoroughly. Empty-headed nonsense.


C.S. Lewis believed that all old mythologies were shadows of the Christian truth, and liked to play with the influences on Earth of the five classical planets:  Mercury, Mars, Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter.  In "That Hideous Strength," the angel-overseers in charge of each planet visit our hero and his group of insurgents in a country house on Earth, bringing their different influences in turn. Last to arrive is Jupiter:
Suddenly a greater spirit came--one whose influence tempered and almost transformed to his own quality the skill of leaping Mercury, the clearness of Mars, the subtler vibration of Venus, and even the numbing weight of Saturn.
In the kitchen his coming was felt.  No one afterwards knew how it happened, but somehow the kettle was put on, the hot toddy was brewed.   Arthur--the only musician among them--was bidden to get out his fiddle.  The chairs were pushed back, the floor cleared.   They danced.  What they danced no one could remember.   It was some round dance, no modern shuffling: it involved beating the floor, clapping of hands, leaping high.   And no one, while it lasted, thought himself or his fellows ridiculous.  It may, in fact, have been some village measure, not ill-suited to the tiled kitchen: the spirit in which they danced it was not so.   It seemed to each that the room was filled with kings and queens, that the wildness of their dance expressed heroic energy, and its quieter movements had seized the very spirit behind all noble ceremonies.
Upstairs his mighty beam turned the Blue Room into a blaze of lights.  Before the other angels a man might sink; before this he might die, but if he lived at all he would laugh. If you had caught one breath of the air that came from him, you would have felt yourself taller than before.  Though you were a cripple, your walk would have become stately: though a beggar, you would have worn your rags magnanimously.   Kingship and power and festal pomp and courtesy shot from him as sparks fly from an anvil.   The ringing of bells, the blowing of trumpets, the spreading out of banners are means used on earth to make a faint symbol of his quality.  It was like a long sunlit wave, creamy-crested and arched with emerald, that comes on nine feet tall, with roaring and with terror and unquenchable laughter.  It was like the first beginning of music in the halls of some king so high and at some festival so solemn that a tremor akin to fear runs through young hearts when they hear it.  For this was great Glund-Oyarsa, King of Kings, through whom the joy of creation principally blows across these fields of Arbol, known to men in old times as Jove and under that name, by fatal but not inexplicable misprision, confused with his Maker--so little did they dream by how many degrees the stair even of created being rises above him.
At his coming there was holiday in the Blue Room. The two mortals, momentarily caught up into the Gloria which those five excellent Natures perpetually sing, forgot for a time the lower and more immediate purpose of their meeting.

A Little Battalion

As we sort out a very difficult moment, a tradition holds.
For 32 years, Steinbrenner's Yankee Silver Shield Foundation has provided for the education of the children of New York City police officers, firemen and Port Authority employees who died in the line of duty, and will do so for the family of NYPD officer Rafael Ramos, gunned down by a cold-blooded killer Saturday along with his partner, Wenjian Liu [who had no children]....

Steinbrenner started his foundation in 1982 after seeing a news account of four children flanking their mother and folding an American flag at the funeral of their father, an NYPD officer who had been killed in the line of duty. "Who's going to take care of these kids," Steinbrenner asked his friend, former Olympian Jim Fuchs, who would run the foundation until his death, also in 2010. "We are."
At a moment when little in New York's civic culture seems to work, this still works.

Outside the Walls of Jerusalem

Looking back at the city from the Church of Scotland.

From the gardens of Gethsemane.

Between the Zion and Jaffa gates.

The last month of the year

This rousing old gospel Christmas tune is also a folk mnemonic for the months of the year.