Monday, July 24, 2006

Legal humor

David Stone posts a great example of a judge with a sense of humor.

By the end of the year

Patriarch Alexy hopes the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia reunites with the Moscow Patriarchate towards the end of the year

Moscow, July 24, Interfax - The unity of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate may be completely re-established by the end of 2006, Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia thinks.

In the end of this year a joint liturgy may be celebrated by representatives of the two branches of the Russian Church in the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Moscow Kremlin, he said in his interview to Pervyi canal on Sunday.

According to Church canons that will mean the final overcoming of the schism.

‘We say that communion in prayer is needed. I think, however, it has already been achieved,’ Alexy II remarked.

He recalled that the delegation of Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia headed by its first hierarch had visited Russia last year and attended the three services celebrated by the patriarch, praying at them.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Privatized Welfare... Making it easier for the people?



...or just making it easier for private computers to steal tax dollars from Uncle Sucker?


HHSC Employee has a link to a blogger who talks about the new system from the perspective of one who is on the other side of the equation than the State employees who have been commenting on how bad the new system is. This is an important window and what a mess this new "customer friendly" system is, that supposedly was going to increase accessibility for those who need it.

As one who use to work in a state run call center that processed changes people report on their cases, I was incredulous to learn recently that those cases that are already completely in the new system (people in the Austin region, and those whose cases have already been converted to the hapless 300 million dollar computer system (that still doesn't work as well as the old system) who want to report a change on their case (such as that they are now working, or that their husband has returned to the home) are told that they must fill out a form to report the change. This form has to be mailed to them, or they can get one at their local state run office (which this new system is supposed to keep them out of, as much as possible... supposedly) -- however, experience has shown that when they ask for it to be mailed to them, they usually do not get it, and so end up back at the local office. Then they run into the problem of ensuring that this form is actually received by someone who will actually do anything about it. Mind you, they do not act on the change until this form is received... which means most changes are not being acted on at all.

In the state run call center, we would never have told a recipient to fill out a form for us to take the change. We always took the change over the phone, tried to verify the information over the phone if possible... and if not, we would send a letter requesting the information. One reason we always took the change over the phone is that we wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to report their changes, because most people will not bother to try to report a change more than once, particularly if the change is likely to result in a reduction in benefits.

I would not argue that the old system was flawless. Occassionally people dropped the ball. But the difference was that people had a name and a face, they could come into the office, and ask why something had happened or not happened... they could speak to a supervisor if necessary, and at the end of the day, if we had made a mistake, we would fix it. In the new system, they have a first name and no face, and no one to talk to when there is a people, other than another faceless first name, who generally gives them the run around. At the end of the day, their cases are not getting fixed unless they call their state representatives. It literally takes an act of a congressional official to resolves these problems.

This new system is completely dysfunctional. It is not saving the state any money. It is not delivering increased customer service. It is not even delivering the same level of service that was being delivered before this new system was implemented.... which is why it has not been fully implemented. Nevertheless, the powers that be continue to refuse to cut their loses, and acknowledge that this system is a disaster.

This reminds me of some other examples of Bureaucratic Stupidity, in which corrections are not made until the disaster is complete.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Wall Street Journal: The American Biblical Tradition



The classic title page of the 1611 King James Bible
1st Edition, 1st Printing



h/t Orthodoxy Today

The American Biblical Tradition
The King James Version used to be our common text.

BY MARK A. NOLL
Friday, July 7, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT


In 1911 the English-speaking world paused to mark the 300th anniversary of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, with American political leaders foremost in the chorus of exaltation. To former president Theodore Roosevelt, this Bible translation was "the Magna Carta of the poor and the oppressed . . . the most democratic book in the world." Soon-to-be president Woodrow Wilson said much the same thing: "The Bible (with its individual value of the human soul) is undoubtedly the book that has made democracy and been the source of all progress."

Americans at the time mostly agreed with these sentiments, because the impact of the KJV was everywhere so obvious. It was obvious for business, with major firms like Harper & Brothers having risen to prominence on the back of its Bible publishing. It was obvious in the physical landscape and in many households because of the widespread use of Bible names for American places (95 variations on Salem) and the nation's children (John, James, Sarah, Rebecca). It was obvious in literature, as with the memorable opening of Herman Melville's Moby Dick: "Call me Ishmael." And it was obvious in politics, with no occasion more memorable than March 4, 1865, when four quotations from the KJV framed Abraham Lincoln's incomparable Second Inaugural Address: Genesis 3:19 ("wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces"); Matthew 18:7 ("woe unto the world because of offences!"); Matthew 7:1 ("judge not that we be not judged"); and Psalm 19:9 ("the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether").

Because the KJV was so widely read for religious purposes, it had also become a source of public ideals. Because it was so central in the churches, and because the churches were so central to the culture, the KJV functioned also as a common reservoir for the language. Hundreds of phrases (clear as crystal, powers that be, root of the matter, a perfect Babel, two-edged sword) and thousands of words (arguments, city, conflict, humanity, legacy, network, voiceless, zeal) were in the common speech because they had first been in this translation. Or to be more precise, because they had been in the KJV or in the earlier translations, like those of John Wycliffe's followers (1390s) and William Tyndale (1520s), that King James' translators mined for their own version.

But during the past half-century, we have come into a new situation. For believers who read the Bible because they think it is true, a welter of modern translations compete for the space once dominated by the KJV. For the public at large, the linguistic and narrative place that for more than two centuries had been occupied by the KJV is now substantially filled by the omnipresent electronic media. The domains that have been most successfully popularized by television, the movies and the Internet are sport, crime, pornography, politics, warfare, medicine and the media itself. Within these domains there is minimal place for biblical themes of any sort, much less the ancient language of the KJV.

For some purposes, it is well that the KJV has lost its hold. Roman Catholics and Jews were once victims of coercive discrimination when they were forced to recite this Protestant translation of the Bible in the nation's public schools. And at many moments, like the Civil War, free use of this one version made it all too easy to transgress the boundary between the proper business of the churches and the proper business of the public sphere.

Yet if the KJV was sometimes abused, nearly universal use also meant that its spiritual themes of reproof and liberation, its stories of human sin and divine grace, also exerted a great influence for good. In the 1890s Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other aggrieved feminists published "The Woman's Bible" in an effort to counter interpretations of Scripture that had done women harm. When they asked others to comment, Frances Willard of the Women's Christian Temperance Union made a telling response: "No such woman, as Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with her heart aflame against all forms of injustice and of cruelty . . . has ever been produced in a country where the Bible was not incorporated into the thoughts and the affections of the people and had not been so during many generations."

It was the KJV that Willard meant as the Bible "incorporated" in American consciousness "during many generations." Today the legacy of the KJV remains fixed in the common speech, even if awareness of the language's debt to this translation is fading (another KJV word). Whether any modern translation of the Scriptures, or any other moral guide, can anchor the culture as the KJV once did, is a question worth serious consideration in the run-up to 2011 and the 400th anniversary of this unsurpassed cultural force.

Mr. Noll, professor of history at the University of Notre Dame, recently lectured on "The King James Version in American History" at the Library of Congress.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Gender Neutral Language and the Trinity

Here is a link to a cartoon that sums up the Presbyterian Church's move to come up with alternative names for the Holy Trinity. h/t Southern Appeal.

One thing I have often pointed out about the feminist push for gender neutral language that I have never heard a good answer to: there are two major languages that have no gender distinctions at all, and so the two cultures associated with these languages should have been feminist utopias throughout human history. The two languages are Turkish and Chinese. However, I think one could safely defend the argument that women in European cultures have been treated significantly better in the past two thousand years, despite them having to suffer the indignities of using languages that make gender distinctions. In fact, I think one would be hard pressed to find two literate cultures in which woman have historically been treated worse than that of the Turks and the Chinese -- and I say that as one who otherwise loves Chinese culture, but the way women were (and to a large extent, still are) treated is not the high point of Chinese civilization.