My list of shame (unread books dep’t)

Thanks for all the responses to the unread-books thread! Helped remind me of a couple of overlooked omissions on my part.

To the interest of no one, here’s my current list of shame (no order):

Bleak House
Light in August
Tale of Genji
Don Quixote
Hegel’s Philosophy of History
Curtius’s European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages
J R (by Gaddis)
Art of War (Sun Tzu)

…. Aaaaand … the Tanakh. Never have read the “Old Testament” all through. But I’m starting to remedy this with the Jewish Study Bible … awesome annotations with midrashic & modern commentary. Lots of fun!

The book you’re most ashamed/embarrassed to not have read

So, which one is it? Which book are you saddest to say you have not, for some inexplicable (or all-too-explicable) reason, actually gotten around to reading?

Tell us in comments!

(Note: if your answer is either “the Bible” or “the complete works of Shakespeare,” please tell us your non-Bible, non-Shakespeare first runner-up.)


Via PubEditor, you can look up how liberal/conservative your name is, based on published names of donors to campaigns.

It seemed on first look that traditionally “white” names are more conservative, so I played around with “black” names.

“Lashonda” was a lucky guess: it’s the second most liberal name. What’s the first? “Natasha.”

The second most conservative name is “Billy,” exceeded only by “Doyle.”

How (not) to read a statute?

Today, in two parallel ops (which for no apparent reason were not consolidated), the Miss. Supreme Court affirms long sentences for armed robbery, against the argument that the defendants were so old that the sentences amounted to a life sentence.

Justice Coleman’s special concurrence in Hampton is an occasion to consider how to read a statute, in this instance Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-79:

Every person who shall feloniously take or attempt to take from the person or from the presence the personal property of another and against his will by violence to his person or by putting such person in fear of immediate injury to his person by the exhibition of a deadly weapon shall be guilty of robbery and, upon conviction, shall be imprisoned for life in the state penitentiary if the penalty is so fixed by the jury; and in cases where the jury fails to fix the penalty at imprisonment for life in the state penitentiary the court shall fix the penalty at imprisonment in the state penitentiary for any term not less than three (3) years.

Coleman says, “any term not less than 3 years” clearly doesn’t exclude a life sentence, right?

The MSSC had held otherwise in Stewart v. State, where, applying a rule arrived at re: the forcible-rape statute, the Court had held that

The statute before us places the imposition of a life sentence within the sole province of the jury and, in our opinion, no such sentence can be imposed by a judge unless he has the authority from the jury so to do. The statute presupposes, absent a jury recommendation of life imprisonment, that the judge will sentence the defendant to a definite term reasonably expected to be less than life.

But, says Justice Coleman, “Nothing at all in the wording of Section 97-3-79 prohibits the trial judge from setting a penalty of years greater than the life expectancy of the one convicted.”

This is superficially correct to one who’s only skimmed the ops (like me earlier this afternoon), or, upon due consideration, to a 9th-grader. It is not, however, particularly defensible as a judicial interpretation. True, the phrase “any term not less than . . .” does not specify an upper bound. But that phrase is not meant to be read alone. It is supposed to be read as part of the statute as a whole. And, as Tom Freeland chided me on Twitter, ” Defendant win on life sentence ought to limit judge’s sentence. Otherwise why jury?”

Why jury, indeed? This question does not seem to trouble Justice Coleman, or the other justices who agreed with him. It ought to, unless, of course, one does not particularly care about juries. The Legislature evidently thought that a jury’s being the one to decide whether to impose a life sentence was important enough to write it into the statute. Perhaps they did not spell out that the judge was not to impose a life sentence himself because they expected a little more judiciousness from the state’s highest judges.

So, look what happens: in the name of honoring the Legislature, and not “rewriting statutes,” Justice Coleman and some of his colleagues endorse . . . rewriting the statute, to allow a judge to impose a sentence that the Legislature had reserved to the power of the jury alone. This example illustrates how silly much of the “rewriting the statute” argumentation is, because the question is what the Legislature meant, to which the words are the main guide. If Justice Chandler and those joining his opinion are correct, the Legislature’s meaning is being flouted by the Coleman interpretation.

And in this instance, not even the words are being followed, because the “any term . . .” language isn’t being taken in context. The method of argumentation that claims that clause has no logical bearing on the range of sentence that the judge can impose is simply perverse. It certainly should be ashamed to call itself “judicial.”

… Note that this arrogation of judicial power itself expressly frustrates a limitation on judicial power imposed by the Legislature: juries, not judges, were supposed to have the sole power to impose a life sentence in this instance. Justice Coleman would evidently not respect this limitation, and seize for the bench what the Legislature sought to reserve for the people. That just makes the lip service to respecting the people’s elected Legislature all the more ironic.

Vatican: oh, not THAT translation, use THIS one

TBA was skeptical that the “midterm report” of the synod on the family was all that substantively earthshaking, as opposed to an improvement in tone & spin. Now the Vatican’s ratcheting down the tone, too – at least in English:

After a draft report by bishops debating family issues came under criticism from conservative English-speaking bishops, the Vatican released a new translation on Thursday.

A section initially titled “Welcoming homosexuals” is now “Providing for homosexual persons,” and the tone of the text is significantly colder and less welcoming.

The initial English version — released Monday along with the original — accurately reflected the Italian version in both letter and spirit, and contained a remarkable tone of acceptance extended to gays. Conservatives were outraged.

The first version asked if the church was capable of “welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities.” The new version asks if the church is “capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing … them … a place of fellowship in our communities.”

The first version said homosexual unions can often constitute a “precious support in the life of the partners.” The new one says gay unions often constitute “valuable support in the life of these persons.”

These changes are now reflected at the link to the report, so good thing I cut & pasted some of it in the prior post. How much does any of this matter, since the Italian (or Latin?) text governs? Is this just more spin, patting the pointy little heads of the bigoted bishops? Or would it be better just to resolve to treat homosexuals & everyone else with kindness and acceptance, instead of parsing ancient superstitions in the light of modern prejudices?

Public service announcement for women in patriarchal religions

It’s a pretty good bet that, if your patriarchally-devised religion includes a requirement that you get naked for some reason or other, that requirement was originally put there so that men could check you out naked. No? You got some other reason they came up with that?

And these become priests of the cult

Shimrod returned to his chair. “I am free for the rest of the day, and the night as well, if it comes to that.”

“You have a most casual attitude toward time.”

” ‘Casual’? I think not. It is a subject of great interest. According to the Esqs of Galicia, time is a pyramid of thirteen sides. They believe that we stand at the apex and overlook days, months and years in all directions. This is the first premise of Thudhic Perdurics, as enunciated by Thudh, the Galician god of time, whose thirteen eyes ring his head so that he may perceive in all directions at once. The visual capability, of course, is symbolic.”

“Has this doctrine any immediate effect?”

“I would think so. Novel ideas exercise our minds and enliven our conversation. For instance, while we are still discussing Thudh, you might be interested to learn that each year the Esq magicians alter a hundred human fetuses, hoping that one may be born with thirteen eyes in a circlet around its forehead, and thus would they know Thudh’s avatar! So far, nine eyes is their limit of capability, and these become priests of the cult.”

–Jack Vance, The Green Pearl