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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - The Event

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Why are you so favored as to get a comic drawn by Abby Howard? She has a new book out! See the blog below the comic.


Today's News:
Dinosaur Empire 2 is out!
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francisga
9 hours ago
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Lafayette, LA, USA
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1 public comment
jlvanderzwan
6 hours ago
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Note how the main character looks like David Graeber
duerig
4 hours ago
It is interesting that Graeber seems to have tapped into two completely different segments of the population. One segment is disatisfied with their job because it isn't fulfilling. The other likes to believe that they are the doing the actual important work, the truly indispensable people who ware supporting the riffraff on their generosity. By combining these two classes of people, he has managed to transmute the unpleasant or monotonous into the unnecessary.

Reviews of Genesis 1-11

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Last year John F. Hobbins and I published Genesis 1-11: A New Old Translation for Readers, Scholars, and Translators. Readers of the Volokh Conspiracy may remember the seven-part series I did on the translation at the Washington Post. The academic reviews are now coming in. But before getting to those, a brief word on the three aims of the translation.

First, it is very close—in colloquial or Nabokovian terms, it is "literal." We tried to carry over from the original its repetition, its emphasis, its wordplay, and even its moments of archaism. We of course did not fully succeed; imperfection always attends translation. But we aimed to be very close—closer than Robert Alter, closer than major Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant translations (e.g., JPS, NABRE, ESV).

Second, we were consciously working within a long tradition of English Bibles (especially those of William Tyndale and his conscious successors, such as the KJV), and a long tradition of interpretation, both Jewish and Christian. We were not trying for "what might an early reader have understood this to mean?" but instead tried to translate in a way that left open, rather than closed down, the range of options within that long tradition of interpretation.

Third, we were attentive to the demands of reading aloud. This meant care for rhythm, pacing, and euphony.

Of course these aims sometimes conflict. And there were other aims that we were not even pursuing—we were not trying to make the text sound like a work newly written in the twenty-first century.

As always, the proof is in the pudding. And when authors send a book out into the world, just as when a chef sends a pudding out of the kitchen, one never knows exactly how it will be received.

On that front I have good news. This week two reviews of the book were published, one by Ernst Wendland in The Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages and the other by Marco Settembrini in New Blackfriars. There are critical notes. Wendland faults us for presenting the English text in paragraph form instead of showing the clause structure of the Hebrew. Settembrini hints that we leaned too far towards the subsequent tradition of translation and interpretation when we translate tannimas "whales" (with KJV); many recent translations have "sea monsters." We do have a note arguing for our translation choice, but it did not persuade.

On the whole, however, both reviews praise the work. And both understand what it does and does not try to achieve. Here is Wendland:

This interesting and informative work, which is of special interest to those engaged in the fields of Old Testament and Translation Studies, has already attracted significant academic attention in the United States. . . . [I]t is much more than a translation . . . [and is] undoubtedly a most valuable resource for "Scholars and Translators". The complementary "Notes" offer a precise, learned commentary on the Hebrew original and its proposed English rendering – a version that readers may not always agree with, but one by which they will be variously instructed as they follow the accompanying perceptive argumentation provided by the translators.

And Settembrini:

This fine book published by GlossaHouse offers good contributions to biblical translations. Its authors, a law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles and a Reformed pastor and scholar of classical Hebrew, seriously engage with contemporary exegetical literature in order to provide their readers with a good English rendering of the Hebrew text of Genesis 1:1 – 12:9, accompanied by comments upon selected phrases. . . . [T]he newly crafted translation is aimed at public reading and private worship, is conceived in a substantial continuity with the Tyndale Bible and the King James Version, is willing to mirror the Semitic original albeit highly mindful of the style and pace of the English text.

Settembrini concludes:

A tannin is not a whale, but readers will certainly have a whale of a time with this volume by Bray and Hobbins in their hands.

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francisga
3 days ago
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Lafayette, LA, USA
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Scenes from the ant colony's growing magician problem

jwz
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probablybadrpgideas:
If Cthulhu can be summoned by humans who are so far beneath it, why can't humans be summoned by ants?

The answer is they should be.

20thcenturyvole:

Well if a bunch of ants formed a circle in my house I'd certainly notice, try to figure out where they'd all come from, and possibly wreak destruction there.

weasowl:

That's why knowing and correctly pronouncing the true name is so important to the ritual. Imagine how impossible it would be to not go take a look if the circle of ants started chanting your name.

And they're like, you can't leave because we drew a line made of tiny crystals - now you have to do us a favor.

And you're like, let's just see where this goes "yup, you got me... what's the favor?"

and usually the favor is like, "kill this one ant for us" or "give me a pile of sugar" and you're like... okay? and you do, because why not, it isn't hard for you and boy is this going to be a fucking story to tell, these fucking ants chanting your name and wanting a spoonful of sugar or whatever.

And SOMEtimes you get asked for things you can't really do, one of them, she's like, "I love this ant but she won't pay any attention to me, make me important to her" and you're like... um? how? So you just kill every ant in the colony except the two of them, ta-da! problem solved! and the first ant is like horrified whisper "what have I done"

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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francisga
3 days ago
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Lafayette, LA, USA
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Trade War Stranded Huge Ship Full of American Soy Beans at Sea

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The Peak Pegasus left Seattle on June 8 with a a cargo of American soybeans destined for China. It was supposed to be a month-long voyage.

The ship is still at sea, still loaded with soybeans, drifting in circles off the coast of China—both a casualty and a metaphor for the trade war between the world's two largest economies.

The ship was closing in on its destination when China threatened to impose a series of retaliatory tariffs on American agricultural products, including soybeans. Over the next two weeks, the boat sprinted—to the extent that a fully loaded 47,000-ton cargo ship can sprint—toward the Chinese port of Dalian, hoping to clear customs before the new trade barriers took effect. On Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media platform, messages about the ship actually outnumbered posts about the then-ongoing World Cup soccer tournament.

But the Peak Pegasus didn't make it.

The ship was about 25 miles away from Dalian on July 6 when Beijing announced that the tariffs were taking effect. That announcement came just hours after the White House announced that it would put a 25 percent tariff on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods. The soybean-laden ship slowed, stopped, and turned around.

And for the past month, it has just kept turning.

The Peak Pegasus been drifting in circle in the Yellow Sea, waiting to hear what it should do with $20 million worth of soybeans. China's 25 percent tariff on American soybeans will increase the cost of buying the Peak Pegasus' cargo by about $6 million.

The cargo is owned by Louis Dreyfus, a Dutch commodities trading company. According to The Guardian, the company is paying about $12,500 per day to charter the ship, which means the extra month at sea has cost more than $400,000. Louis Dreyfus won't have to pay for the tariffs—tariffs are import taxes, and will be paid by whomever buys the soybeans in China—but trade barriers create other costs and unintended consequences.

Soybeans have been caught in the crossfire of the U.S.–China trade war because America is the world's largest exporter of soybeans—with nearly half the U.S. crop sent abroad annually—and China is the largest importer of them. There are few singular products that better illustrate the benefits of global trade between the world's two largest economies than the humble soybean.

But it's not just soybeans caught in the middle of the trade war. It's soybean farmers, international commodities companies, buyers and wholesalers in China who have had to find alternate suppliers, and of course the crew of the Peak Pegasus. Supply chains aren't just lines on a map and lists of goods—they're people too. The sad saga of the Peak Pegasus is a Darkest Timeline version of "I, Pencil," in which thousands of people all around the world who have never met one another are linked by the problems created by Washington and Beijing's trade barriers.

Perhaps the soybeans' owners were hoping to keep the ship at sea until the trade war comes to an end. If so, those hopes appear to have been dashed. This week, America imposed another round of tariffs on an additional $16 billion worth of Chinese goods, and China vowed to retaliate again.

And so the Peak Pegasus is finally heading to port. CGTN reports that the ship is now heading once again for Dalian. As the trade war escalates, it likely won't be the last ship to encounter unexpected troubles on what should be a routine trip with a mundane cargo.

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francisga
4 days ago
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Lafayette, LA, USA
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Understanding the Catechism’s Death Penalty Revision

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death penaltyOn August 1, Cardinal Luis Ladaria issued a letter to the bishops of the world announcing that Pope Francis had approved a change to the section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church dealing with the death penalty.

Here are some key facts for understanding this revision . . .

 

What does the Catechism now say?

The relevant passage now reads:

2267 Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” (Francis, Discourse, Oct. 11, 2017), and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

For a history of what the Catechism formerly said, see here.

 

Is this revision a surprise?

Not really. The last several popes—St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis—have taken a negative tone toward the death penalty, and the Catechism had already been revised once to reflect this. In addition, Cardinal Ladaria explains:

The Holy Father Pope Francis, in his Discourse on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of the apostolic constitution Fidei Depositum, by which John Paul II promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church, asked that the teaching on the death penalty be reformulated so as to better reflect the development of the doctrine on this point that has taken place in recent times (1).

We thus already knew that a revision was under consideration.

 

Is this new revision an exercise of papal infallibility?

No. Although many individual teachings in the Catechism have previously been taught infallibly, the Catechism itself is not an infallible document. This is one reason it is capable of being revised.

To understand the level of authority of an individual teaching, one must look at the circumstances of an individual act of teaching to determine what level of authority it has.

As Cardinal Ladaria explains in his letter, Pope Francis approved the new revision that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) proposed, but he did not issue it in a document of his own. This is significant for two reasons:

  1. Popes cannot delegate their infallibility to departments of the Roman Curia, such as the CDF. Consequently, the approval that popes regularly give to CDF documents does not make them infallible.
  2. To issue an infallible teaching, popes use a special form of language, typically invoking their authority as the successor of Peter and using the phrase I/we define as a way of indicating that the teaching is definitive. (See, for example, the language Pius XII used in defining the Assumption of Mary in Munificentissimus Deus 44.) Pope Francis did not use this kind of language in granting the approval of the new revision.

 

What level of authority does the new revision have?

According to Cardinal Ladaria:

The new revision of number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, approved by Pope Francis, situates itself in continuity with the preceding Magisterium while bringing forth a coherent development of Catholic doctrine (7).

As a doctrinal development, it would qualify as authoritative teaching (as opposed to mere theological opinion), and it would qualify as non-definitive (i.e., non-infallible) Church teaching.

According to Vatican II, such teachings call for “religious submission of mind and will” on the part of the faithful.

 

What if I have trouble accepting this teaching?

The Church recognizes that individuals can have difficulties accepting non-definitive Church teaching and that, in some cases, they may find themselves unable to accept them.

This situation is addressed—with specific application to theologians—in a 1990 instruction from the CDF known as Donum Veritatis, which states:

Such a disagreement could not be justified if it were based solely upon the fact that the validity of the given teaching is not evident or upon the opinion that the opposite position would be the more probable. Nor, furthermore, would the judgment of the subjective conscience of the theologian justify it because conscience does not constitute an autonomous and exclusive authority for deciding the truth of a doctrine.

In any case there should never be a diminishment of that fundamental openness loyally to accept the teaching of the Magisterium as is fitting for every believer by reason of the obedience of faith. The theologian will strive then to understand this teaching in its contents, arguments, and purposes. This will mean an intense and patient reflection on his part and a readiness, if need be, to revise his own opinions and examine the objections which his colleagues might offer him (28-29).

Donum Veritatis further states:

It can also happen that at the conclusion of a serious study, undertaken with the desire to heed the Magisterium’s teaching without hesitation, the theologian’s difficulty remains because the arguments to the contrary seem more persuasive to him. Faced with a proposition to which he feels he cannot give his intellectual assent, the theologian nevertheless has the duty to remain open to a deeper examination of the question (31).

Of course, having a private disagreement does not entail a right to publicly oppose Church teaching. Fortunately, those experiencing such difficulties can have the consolation that the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church “into all the truth” (John 16:13).

For a loyal spirit, animated by love for the Church, such a situation can certainly prove a difficult trial. It can be a call to suffer for the truth, in silence and prayer, but with the certainty that if the truth really is at stake, it will ultimately prevail (31).

 

Does the new revision indicate that the death penalty is intrinsically evil?

One might think so, since it says the death penalty is “inadmissible” because “it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” However, a careful reading of the revision, and Cardinal Ladaria’s letter, suggests this is not the way the phrase should be understood. (Msgr. Charles Pope reaches the same conclusion.)

First, the revision notes that “a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state.”

This refers to the fact that in the past the state’s penal sanctions were understood principally as administering justice (including divine justice) to wrongdoers, but today the Church understands them principally as seeking to protect society and (hopefully) rehabilitate the offender (see Ladaria 7 and the changes made to paragraph 2266 in the Catechism).

Second, in light of this new understanding of the function of the state’s penal sanctions, the death penalty could still be justified as a means of protecting society.

However, according to the revision, “more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.”

From these considerations, one could understand the death penalty as something that involves “an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” but an attack that could be tolerated or even required in situations where there is no other way to effectively protect society.

This understanding appears to be confirmed by Cardinal Ladaria, who seems prepared to acknowledge that “the political and social situation of the past made the death penalty an acceptable means for the protection of the common good” (2).

He further seems prepared to acknowledge that, as in the previous edition of the Catechism, “it can be justified if it is ‘the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor’” (3).

He states that “given that modern society possesses more efficient detention systems, the death penalty becomes unnecessary as protection for the life of innocent people,” though, “certainly, it remains the duty of public authorities to defend the life of citizens” (7). He thus concludes:

All of this shows that the new formulation of number 2267 of the Catechism expresses an authentic development of doctrine that is not in contradiction with the prior teachings of the Magisterium. These teachings, in fact, can be explained in the light of the primary responsibility of the public authority to protect the common good in a social context in which the penal sanctions were understood differently, and had developed in an environment in which it was more difficult to guarantee that the criminal could not repeat his crime (8).

The new revision would be “in contradiction with the prior teachings of the Magisterium” if it held that the death penalty was intrinsically evil and thus had always been wrong in the past. Instead, Cardinal Ladaria indicates that the revision is warranted by the changed understanding of the state’s penal sanctions and the development of more effective detention systems.

 

If the death penalty is not being judged intrinsically evil, what has changed?

It appears that Pope Francis has made a prudential judgment that, given present circumstances in society, there are no longer situations in which the death penalty is warranted.

Consequently, this judgment has been added to the social doctrine of the Church, which applies the underlying principles of its moral doctrine to concrete situations in society.

The underlying moral principles have not changed, but, in Pope Francis’s judgment, society has changed in a way that requires a different application of them.

This judgment is now reflected in the Church’s social doctrine, without contradicting prior teaching on the underlying moral principles. Thus Cardinal Ladaria says that the new formulation “expresses an authentic development of doctrine that is not in contradiction with the prior teachings of the Magisterium.” It is the Church’s social doctrine that has developed, and its prior moral teachings have not been contradicted.

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francisga
5 days ago
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Lafayette, LA, USA
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Voting Software

15 Comments and 43 Shares
There are lots of very smart people doing fascinating work on cryptographic voting protocols. We should be funding and encouraging them, and doing all our elections with paper ballots until everyone currently working in that field has retired.
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popular
4 days ago
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francisga
6 days ago
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Lafayette, LA, USA
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13 public comments
caffeinatedhominid
11 minutes ago
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Yep.
tante
3 days ago
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xkcd on voting software is spot-on
Oldenburg/Germany
wmorrell
4 days ago
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Hazmat suit, too. Just to be safe.
rjstegbauer
5 days ago
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Amen!! Paper... paper... paper. It's simple. It's trivial to recount. Everyone already knows how to use it. It's cheap. It's verifiable. Just... use... paper.
ianso
5 days ago
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Yes!
Brussels
ChrisDL
5 days ago
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accurate.
New York
reconbot
5 days ago
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Legitimately share this comic with anyone who represents you in government.
New York City
cheerfulscreech
5 days ago
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Truth.
jth
6 days ago
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XKCD Nails Secure Electronic Voting.
Saint Paul, MN, USA
skorgu
6 days ago
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100% accurate.
jsled
6 days ago
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endorsed; co-signed; it. me. &c.

(alt text: «There are lots of very smart people doing fascinating work on cryptographic voting protocols. We should be funding and encouraging them, and doing all our elections with paper ballots until everyone currently working in that field has retired.»)
South Burlington, Vermont
alt_text_bot
6 days ago
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There are lots of very smart people doing fascinating work on cryptographic voting protocols. We should be funding and encouraging them, and doing all our elections with paper ballots until everyone currently working in that field has retired.
alt_text_at_your_service
6 days ago
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There are lots of very smart people doing fascinating work on cryptographic voting protocols. We should be funding and encouraging them, and doing all our elections with paper ballots until everyone currently working in that field has retired.
srsly
6 days ago
Seconding this policy ^^
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