You be the judge

Two Supreme Court cases. . . .

(1)  A man was shot.  Just before he died, he said, “Rick shot me.”  So Rick was arrested.  The problem is, the Constitution requires that the accused be able to face the witnesses against him so they can face cross-examination.  In this case, the witness–who was also the victim–is dead.  Therefore, according to the Michigan Supreme Court, the victim’s dying words identifying his killer are not admissible in a court of law.

The Supreme Court overturned that ruling, 6-2.  Rick will have to pay for his crime, on the testimony of his victim.  Justice Antonin Scalia, a Constitutional originalist, wrote a bitter dissent.  In this case, the court favored what might be called common sense over and against the literal reading of the Constitution.

Court: Victim’s dying words may be used at trial.

(2)  Westboro Baptist church has a ministry of picketing the funerals of dead servicemen, carrying signs that say things like  “Thank God for dead soldiers,” and “God hates America.”  Efforts have been made to keep the picketers away from the funerals and from the families of the bereaved.

The Supreme Court, with only one dissenting vote (that of Justice Samuel A. Alito), ruled that the free speech provisions of the Constitution protect the protesters, who must be allowed to show up at funerals with their offensive placards.  In this case, the court favored the literal reading of the Constitution over what might be called common sense.

Supreme Court rules First Amendment protects church’s right to picket funerals

Conservatives are supposed to take the Constitution literally.  That would suggest being against allowing a victim’s dying words to be used as testimony AND supporting the free speech rights of the funeral protesters.  Is that what you believe?  If not,  what is your constitutional basis?

The greatest LCMS literary figure. . .

. . .would surely be Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.  He was a life-long member of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Yesterday would have been his 107th birthday.

Celebrating Dr. Seuss.

What does Dr. Seuss tell you about Lutheranism, and what does Lutheranism tell you about Dr. Seuss?

Pakistani Christian official assassinated

Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Ministry of Minority Affairs, was assassinated for opposing that country’s anti-blasphemy law, which is being used to persecute his fellow Christians.  He was the second official to be killed for taking this position.  At the link, see also the video in which he confesses his Christian faith and says that he is willing to die for it.

via Pakistan’s Only Christian Official Killed Over Blasphemy Law Opposition » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

HT:  tODD

Preaching “the King’s speech”

I was glad that The King’s Speech took all of the top prizes at the Academy Awards:  Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and (the critical but much neglected category) Best Original Screenplay.

The Lutheran Church of Canada has a nice reflection on how that movie about Prince Albert and his stuttering problem has parallels to what pastors have to do when they, in their stammering way, preach God’s Word, the true “King’s speech.”

Read it here:  Canadian Lutheran Online » Blog Archive » Stuttering kings and imperfect pastors.

Let us now praise the internet

A new study has found that young people who are active on the internet are actually more engaged with civic affairs than those who are not.  As opposed to the stereotype of teenagers plugged into their own virtual worlds and never interacting with real people and oblivious to the outside universe.   See  Does the Internet make for more engaged citizens? – MacArthur Foundation.

We have often criticized the new information technology for its baleful cultural effects–doing so, of course, using the new information technology–so let’s look at the other side of the coin.

How has the internet made you more involved with issues, improved your relationships, helped your church, or otherwise been an actual blessing, a good gift from the hand of God through the vocation of those who made all of this possible?

HT:  Webmonk

Google turns to farming

The most cutting edge information technology meets the most ancient survival technology, as Google invests in weather-insurance, backed by meterological computing, for farmers.

Google Inc.’s venture capital arm is backing a start-up founded by ex-Googlers that insures farms and other business against the whims of Mother Nature.

Launched four years ago, WeatherBill Inc. is announcing today $42 million in Series B funding from Google Ventures, Khosla Ventures and several previous investors.

Founded by two ex-Googlers–Chief Executive David Friedberg, who worked on Google’s corporate development team and Google AdWords, and Chief Technology Officer Siraj Khaliq, who worked on Google Booksearch and other technical projects–WeatherBill aggregates large amounts of weather data from the National Weather Service and other sources and applies statistical analyses to run large-scale simulations that assess the probability of weather occurring several years in advance anywhere on the globe, the company said.

According to Friedberg, more than 90% of crop losses are due to unexpected weather, and these losses are exacerbated by the increasing number of extreme weather events caused by climate change. Friedberg cited recent droughts in Russia and China and flooding in Australia, while one of WeatherBill’s customers–Steve Wolters, a farmer who grows corn, soybean and wheat in Celina, Ohio–cited a very dry growing season in Ohio nine years ago followed by a year in which 14 inches of rain fell in 10 days.

“The flip flop of weather from one year to the next is the biggest challenge farmers face,” Wolters said in a statement.

WeatherBill’s flagship product, called Total Weather Insurance, acts as a subsidy to government-subsidized crop insurance by enabling farmers to hedge their risk on crops. Farmers can create contracts that lock in profits based on their locations and how much damage they could incur from rain, drought, heat, cold or snow. WeatherBill pays automatically based on measured weather conditions within 10 days of when a policy ends. . . .

“Agriculture is an unusual area for venture capital, but we submit that agricultural technology has the same potential as biotechnology had in pharmaceuticals or chips had in telecommunications,” Khosla said on Monday.

Google Ventures, meanwhile, is attracted to WeatherBill by “the power of massively parallel computing infrastructure, which was not possible even 10 years ago,” said Managing Partner Bill Maris. “We understand the problem and are looking forward to deploying resources to help them solve it. We have a cloud looking for big problems to solve.”

via Google Ventures, Khosla Make Rain For WeatherBill – Venture Capital Dispatch – WSJ.

Here is the website for the company, should you want to insure some crops: Weatherbill.

HT:  Rich Shipe.


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