Ablogwithoutaname's Blog

Kagan passes Judiciary Committee, but is she qualified?

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Today, Elena Kagan’s nomination was approved by the Senate Judiciary committeee by a vote of 13-6.  The vote was along party lines, with only 1 Republican(Lindsey Graham) joining the Democrats. I expect the vote to go along party lines in the Senate, ensuring that she will be the newest Justice.

But is she qualified? Much in the press has been made about that question, and the answer to that question I think is not as simple as it sounds.  On the surface, someone with no experience as a judge would seem like a long shot at best

History proves otherwise.  Of the 111 Justices, 40 of them have no experience as a judge.  Many of them don’t even have experience in the legal system, and include occupations such as governor and treasury secretary.

What is different about Kagan’s case are the polls. As the LA Times reported, Kagan would be the first Justice not to have support from the majority of Americans.  Of course, there is plenty of time for Kagan’s popularity to increase and make that a moot point. But still, it is a little disconcerting that a Justice could be confirmed and whom the majority of Americans don’t trust.

What is really a problem to me is not that Justices without judicial experience are confirmed, it is the fact that it is taboo to talk about their opinions of law and how they might handle issues that may arise. The rare time that nominees are asked about specific legal issues, they often dodge the question.

Let me ask you this: When was the last time you went to a job interview and were asked about how you would handle specific situations? Practically every interview you have been in right? So why would justices be any different?

Yes, I am aware that Justices should know the facts and opinions of a specific case before making a decision, but asking their general opinion about certain subjects doesn’t mean that they should be held to that opinion in every case(as they shouldn’t). Besides, they are appointed for life so it’s not like if they don’t do what someone thinks they will that they will lose their jobs.

My problem with Kagan’s eventual confirmation isn’t that she has no judicial experience, it’s that, so far, the country doesn’t support her and we will go through an entire confirmation hearing and learn very little about her. With someone who has a very little track record, that’s a problem.

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Written by Matt

July 20, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Posted in Politics

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Cross Bones

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Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs is a forensic crime novel featuring Temperance Brennan, the character upon which the tv show Bones is based upon.  I have been a fan of this show for a while, and the main reason I decided to read this book.

Cross Bones tries really hard to be like the Da Vinci Code, with more forensic science. The book is based upon the absurd premise that Jesus survived crucifixion and joined Jewish rebels at Masada, where he died. During the excavation of Masada, the bones of Jesus and his family were discovered. A cover up ensued, including a murder.

Reich’s writing style does not do much for me either. Much of the prose is short, choppy sentences that I imagine are supposed to showcase Brennan’s matter of fact attitude, but mostly just grated on my nerves.  Most of the characters are paper-thin. Even references to Tempe’s alcohol problem comes off as shallow, as it is presented randomly and seems like an after thought.  What’s more, so much of the book is spent discussing the Jesus at Masada theory that the murder that started everything is left mostly to the wayside, until the end. This causes the conclusion to feel rushed and unsatisfying.

I will always be a fan of the series that these books helped create, but I can’t say I enjoyed Cross Bones. If you like forensic sciences, you may enjoy this book. However, for me, the forensics and the conspiracy theory encompassed too much of the book, leaving the characters and main plot feeling really thin.

Written by Matt

June 15, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Posted in Book Review

What does blogging, social networking and Web 2.0 really mean(and matter) anyway?

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The term “Web 2.0” somewhat annoys me. I understand why it is used, but the concept needs to not be passed off as a new technology because it is not. Underneath the fancy web pages, increased interactivity, comments, Flash animations, videos and graphics, it is the same architecture. The “backbone” of the Internet is essentially the same.  Web 2.0  isn’t a completely different way of doing things, it is just an expansion.

I know, I know you say “but that is what 2.0 means.” We aren’t saying that it is a new thing, just an upgrade. Yet many people talk about Web 2.0 as if it were completely removed from the Web of the past.  They’ll talk about the Internet as it is today as if it were a completely different animal than it was originally. They are partly right of course, the Internet has expanded far beyond what it once was.  But calling the features now available through the Web “2.0” and treating it as a completely different animal is kind of like putting ketchup on a hamburger and calling it “hamburger 2.0.”  Sure, the condiment may make it taste a little different, but underneath the ketchup, it is the same meat.  Just because new formatting and scripting languages are released that allow for more bells and whistles doesn’t mean that the Web is suddenly an entirely different thing as it once was.  Fundamentally, the Internet and the Web work the same way it always has.

Also, I find the idea of blogging and social networking being a collaborative effort in which people share their ideas in an effort to better humanity or some other altruistic goal to be a bit flawed.  Often times, I find blogs  and social networking to be more about the originating creator rather than a desire to better a community somehow.  Put another way, most blogs have a lot of  “I feel” or ” I thought”. Sure, we occasionally post or tweet links or things we think our friends may like, but ultimately it is about the original author.  Social networking and blogging is more about making the author feel something, rather than to further some universal understanding on a subject.

Finally, there is the concept of people collaborating together on blogs to further an understanding on a news story or current event to which I’ll simply say:  Have you seen the average comment?  To put it mildly, most of the comments especially on stories related to politics are people spouting of ideology, usually with little to no evidence to back up their viewpoints. Very little adds anything of substantive value nor does it change anyone’s opinion. Think back to the last time you had an “ah-ha” moment from reading a comment from a news story. You can probably count on one hand the number of times that has happened. But then again, it isn’t about you, it is about them.  The idea of blogging and social networking being about anything other than selfish personal expression is flawed.

Yes, a reader may get something out of it but that is not the reason it exists.

Written by Matt

June 4, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Grave of the Fireflies

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Tonight I watched what is perhaps the best anime I have ever seen.  Grave of the Fireflies is a simple, yet powerful movie about a boy and a girl trying to survive during the firebombings of Japan during the last days of World War 2.  Few movies have captured the devastation and tragedy of war upon the civilian population so personally and intimately as Grave of the Fireflies has.

Based partly on a true story, the tragedy revolves around a boy and his sister trying to survive, often forced to beg or steal for food. Ultimately,  his pleas are met with indifference and sometimes even hostility by his own countrymen.  The poignant story not only shows the ugliness of war but explore ugliness within the human heart, as well as what love really is.  While this movie could have been told with live actors, I doubt it would have the same power.  The exaggerated facial expressions and emotions that are characteristic of anime provide a powerful and emotional story. The movie is not only a condemnation of war, but a look at the human condition and its capacity for love, hate, indifference and selfishness.

I highly recommend this for fans not only of anime, but for anyone wanting a different take on a war movie.

Written by Matt

June 1, 2010 at 11:41 pm

Posted in Movie Review

Should a mosque be built near Ground Zero?

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Last Tuesday, the Community Board responsible for approving construction projects in an area that includes Ground Zero approved a plan to build a mosque and Islamic Center two blocks from Ground Zero.

Obviously, the mosque, called Cordoba House has sparked intense debate especially amongst survivors as well as families and friends of 9/11 victims.   Many(but not all) families of 9/11 victims call the project insensitive, saying that the mosque would be a constant reminder to them of the people who killed their loved ones.  To a certain extent, I empathize with them. I can not imagine the grief the families went, and probably continue to go through.   Even for rationally and usually tolerant people,  I can understand the hatred one would feel for a religion that a family member was killed in the name of, even if I do not believe that Islam advocates murdering people(which I don’t).

What I do not have tolerance and sympathy for are comments like those made by Tea Party Express chairman Mark Williams called the mosque a “monument to the terrorists’ monkey-god.”  Now to be fair, he has apologized for those comments and also stated he was referring to what the terrorist’s worship, and not Muslims as a whole. However,  his personal blog contains several posts attacking Islam specifically casting doubts on the sincerity of that apology. Also, his comments still suggest an opinion that all mosques breed terrorists.

Personally, I feel this could be an opportunity for Cordoba and the Muslim American community, if they play their cards right. The group’s mission, it should be noted, states that it “aims to achieve a tipping point in Muslim-West relations within the next decade, bringing back the atmosphere of interfaith tolerance and respect…”. The institute are involved in a number of initiatives that I feel many Westerners would approve of, including advocating for woman’s rights throughout the Muslim world.

While I sympathize with the anger of the families of the families of the victims of 9/11, I feel that this could be an opportunity here to help cultivate religious tolerance amongst Christians, Muslims and Jews as well as work to break down stereotypes held by both U.S. citizens and Muslims alike.

The website for the Cordoba Initiative can be found here:

http://www.cordobainitiative.org/

Written by Matt

May 28, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Posted in Politics

Welcome to my little corner of the blogosphere.

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Welcome! Thanks for stopping by my little corner of the Web.  If you wish to know more about myself and this blog, please check out the About page.

Written by Matt

May 9, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Posted in Introduction

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