How Strange!

How Strange!

What could account for this?

But the president, whose popularity and powers of persuasion may well make him the reform effort's most effective spokesman, encountered the same difficulty he faced at a town hall meeting this week in New Hampshire: For the most part, the critics were nowhere to be seen.
Goodness, how odd. It's like how last week he asked a little girl at random, who turned out to be the child of someone who had donated thousands of dollars to Obama. Just bad luck, I guess.

Afghanistan's Women

The Shia Women of Afghanistan:

Some of you may recall that earlier this year, the Afghan government came under fire for approving a Shia marriage law that was unfair to women. It resulted in some protests by Afghan women, which are unusual, and so the government promised to go back to the drawing board.

The new law is reportedly not much better. Unfortunately, the text is not available online as yet. Human Rights Watch, which has taken quite a bit of criticism over the years, claims to have seen a copy of the final law.

The law gives a husband the right to withdraw basic maintenance from his wife, including food, if she refuses to obey his sexual demands. It grants guardianship of children exclusively to their fathers and grandfathers. It requires women to get permission from their husbands to work. It also effectively allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying "blood money" to a girl who was injured when he raped her....

The law regulates the personal affairs of Shia Muslims - who make up between 10 and 20 percent of the population - including divorce, separation, inheritance, and the minimum age for marriage. The initial version of the law included articles that imposed drastic restrictions on Shia women, including a requirement to ask permission to leave the house except on urgent business, and a requirement that a wife have sex with her husband at least once every four days.
This law sits in a very strange place in the Afghan legal system. The Afghan Constitution has some fairly clear and explicit statements about the rights of its citizens.
Article Twenty-Two

Any kind of discrimination and distinction between citizens of Afghanistan shall be forbidden. The citizens of Afghanistan, man and woman, have equal rights and duties before the law.
The Shia "exception" is here:
Article One Hundred Thirty-One

The courts shall apply the Shia jurisprudence in cases involving personal matters of followers of the Shia sect in accordance with the provisions of the law. In other cases, if no clarification in this Constitution and other laws exist, the courts shall rule according to laws of this sect.
Finally, there is a relevant article in the section on changing laws.
Article One Hundred Forty-Nine

The principles of adherence to the tenets of the Holy religion of Islam as well as Islamic Republicanism shall not be amended. Amending fundamental rights of the people shall be permitted only to improve them.
It would seem that Article 22 is exactly the kind of "clarification in this Constitution" that Article 131 considers. It seems reasonable to believe that the law should be unconstitutional for that reason.

Article 149 complicates the matter. To the degree that it declares Islam to be the model for Afghanistan, it harmonizes with 131 but clashes with 22. Shia jurisprudence is certainly Islamic, and certainly admits to the model the law proposes. On the other hand, it states that anything that could be considered an amendment to basic liberties is not constitutional -- unless it improves those liberties. (We could use a version of that language in our own Constitution!)

I don't know how Afghanistan's government resolves a constitutional clash like this. I'm guessing, since it is patterned on our own form of government in key respects (like having a nine-member Supreme Court), that it would look to its court system. The oath of office repeats the verbiage from 149, with two additional invocations to underline the importance of adhering to Islam: "In the of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, I swear in the name of God Almighty to attain justice and righteousness in accordance with tenets of the Holy religion of Islam, provisions of this Constitution as well as other laws of Afghanistan, and to execute the judicial duty with utmost honesty, righteousness and impartiality."

So: what wins out? The 'tenets of Islam,' or the Constitution's explicit text? They appear to be in direct conflict.

One Man Shall Drive a Hundred

Mrs. Palin Presses the Fray:
One man shall drive a hundred,
As the dead kings drave;
Before me rocking hosts be riven,
And battering cohorts backwards driven,
For I am the first king known of heaven
That has been struck like a slave.
The lady was handled as roughly and unfairly as anyone could dream, when she first came onto the scene; not only her, but her children. Yet Senators and Presidents recoil from her, and she presses her claim.
I join millions of Americans in expressing appreciation for the Senate Finance Committee’s decision to remove the provision in the pending health care bill that authorizes end-of-life consultations (Section 1233 of HR 3200). It’s gratifying that the voice of the people is getting through to Congress; however, that provision was not the only disturbing detail in this legislation; it was just one of the more obvious ones.

As I noted in my statement last week, nationalized health care inevitably leads to rationing. There is simply no way to cover everyone and hold down the costs at the same time. The rationing system proposed by one of President Obama’s key health care advisors is particularly disturbing. I’m speaking of the “Complete Lives System” advocated by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of the president’s chief of staff. President Obama has not yet stated any opposition to the “Complete Lives System,” a system which, if enacted, would refuse to allocate medical resources to the elderly, the infirm, and the disabled who have less economic potential. Why the silence from the president on this aspect of his nationalization of health care? Does he agree with the “Complete Lives System”? If not, then why is Dr. Emanuel his policy advisor? What is he advising the president on?....
In the fall, when the Senate and the House must come together in conference, perhaps it may not matter. Yet if it does, she will have won this battle as a private citizen, writing arguments on her Facebook page. She's nothing more than that: not a governor any more, not a candidate for any office. Just a blogger, really; another citizen, like any of us.

Like any of us but for one thing: she has a bigger audience, paid for with the slanders and cruelty aimed at her children. They struck her, and now they must answer her.

Music, Story

Change the Music, Change the Story:

The New Axis of Evil

The New Axis of Evil:

It's you, according to the Senate Majority Leader. He does have the good grace to be slightly ashamed of having said it out loud.

Palin on Death Panels

Palin on "Death Panels":

Mrs. Palin -- who, as a private citizen, has the honor of having the President address her arguments by name -- responds to certain claims today.

A few days ago, when we were discussing her earlier letter, I said that I didn't think she was talking about Sec. 1233. In today's piece, she discusses her reading of 1233 at length, since the President interpreted her comments as pertaining to it; but adds at the end:

My original comments concerned statements made by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a health policy advisor to President Obama and the brother of the President’s chief of staff. Dr. Emanuel has written that some medical services should not be guaranteed to those “who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens....An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia.” Dr. Emanuel has also advocated basing medical decisions on a system which “produces a priority curve on which individuals aged between roughly 15 and 40 years get the most chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get chances that are attenuated.”
I had a feeling that was where she was pointed, because that's where you get a "panel" whose job it is to make recommendations about who lives and who should be let to die. Pro-health-care-reformist Mickey Kaus notes that Obama's own words strongly indicate that he favors such a panel:
He's talking about a panel of independent experts making end-of-life recommendations in order to save costs that have an effect at an individual level. And he thought it would be in the bill that emerges. ... It's also pretty clear that something like the "IMAC" panel is what he has in mind. Whether or not the IMAC would actually do this--Harold Pollack says end-of-life issues are well down the curve-bender's list, for example--Obama thought it would do it. . .
Indeed, what the President said was that "the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill." If that's true, any savings would almost have to come out of care for them: almost all the money is being spent there to start with. Add in the fact that his advisor, Dr. Emmanuel, is pushing to focus our efforts on the remaining 20% of cases, and you can be pretty clear about what the President is thinking. We're going to save money, and we're going to do it by cutting the amount we spend on "the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives."

Mrs. Palin is right about that. In spite of the arm-waving, she's quite correct to say that this is the vision being advocated.

A Ruling!

A Ruling!

Articles posted by Arts & Letters Daily are usually worth the time it takes to read them. Today, for example, there was a debate between two scholars of feminism, one of whom has been challenging that the other's data is a collection of garbage. The other -- one Nancy K. D. Lemon (presumably Dr. Lemon but never so titled in the article) -- makes the following defense. The particular item they chose as the focus for their dispute is somewhat amazing:

In regard to the rule of thumb, for example, she asserted that Romulus of Rome, who is credited in my book with being involved with the first antidomestic-violence legislation, could not have done this as he was merely a legendary, fictional character, who along with his brother Remus was suckled by a wolf.

In fact, Plutarch and Livy each state that Romulus was the first king of Rome. He reigned from 753-717 BC, and created both the Roman Legions and the Roman Senate. He is also credited with adding large amounts of territory and people to the dominion of Rome, including the Sabine women. The modern scholar Andrea Carandini has written about the historic reign of Romulus, based in part on the 1988 discovery of the Murus Romuli on the north slope of the Palatine Hill in Rome.
Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers (whose biography states that she is a doctor, though she is also not given a title in the piece) disputes that idea.
Essentially everything in Professor Lemon's response is wrong.

She confidently informs us that Romulus actually existed and ruled Rome from 753-717 BC. That is preposterous. She cites Livy and Plutarch as sources. These first-century writers did not claim to be offering historically accurate accounts of events that took place some 700 years before their time, but openly professed to be summarizing beliefs, myths, and legends that had come down through the ages. She also cites the contemporary Roman archaeologist Andrea Carandini—a maverick figure who discovered what he claims might have been a wall of a palace that could have belonged to Romulus. As the July/August 2007 issue of Archaeology politely notes, his suggestion "represents a sharp break with two millennia of scholarship."
Well, it happens we have an expert on Roman history here among us. Mr. Blair, will you kindly give us a ruling on this dispute?


A Unique Honor:

"You know, this Congress comes home covered in a certain species of achievement. By the time the next elections roll around, it seems likely they will not only have spent more money than any other Congress in history, it's possible -- likely even -- that they will have spent more money than all the other Congresses combined."

"[Passing laws you have not read] is perilously near treason."

Bill Whittle, on the matter of the day.

Debate Update

Debate Update:

Things are not going well!

FreedomWorks’ August Recess Call to Action encouraged grassroots citizens to attend Congressional town hall meetings and listening sessions. We asked everyone to voice their opinions and communicate their opposition to the President’s proposed hostile takeover of the American health care system. Apparently, the very act of showing up and having an opinion is, in effect, to act like a “thug.” Opposing President Obama’s policy agenda on health care is, in and of itself, unacceptable, and has no place in our democracy. Bottom line: it’s “disgusting,” according to our friends on the left.

We didn’t know this. Evidently, we also didn’t know best practices in a respectful, dignified policy debate, but our leftist friends were kind enough to “take FreedomWorks to school”, so to speak.

Specifically, “school” included phone call blitzes from and the AFL-CIO that jammed FreedomWorks phone lines and filled up staff voice mail boxes. Callers’ consistently used profanity, vulgarity, ever-popular references to “Nazis” and “brown-shirters,” racial slurs targeting an African-American staffer, and even veiled threats of violence and bodily harm.

Making a point about the unity of first and second amendment rights is this fellow, who lawfully brought a gun to a place where the President would be speaking. I personally think it would be healthy if the government trusted rather than feared its citizens, but the relationship should work the other way according to Ezra Klein.
What we're seeing here is not merely distrust in the House health-care reform bill. It's distrust in the political system. A healthy relationship does not require an explicit detailing of the "institutional checks" that will prevent one partner from beating or killing the other. In a healthy relationship, such madness is simply unthinkable. If it was not unthinkable, then no number of institutional checks could repair that relationship.
Is it unthinkable? Consider today's Day By Day.

The White House is actually hiring union thugs to attend rallies to counterprotest. Those thugs have actually attacked American citizens, describing those citizens as terrorists. The White House response, after the attacks, praised the union's efforts, while making no reference to the attacks and no attempt to cool their behavior.

Other bad behavior by the administration is less worrisome, like stacking town halls with cute little plants and selling out Medicare to Big Pharma. Hiring union thugs, though, crosses one of those lines of trust. It's not unthinkable now that a union ally of the President's might come bust your teeth, because you had the temerity as a citizen to carry a sign protesting government seizure of control of our health care. Following as it does government seizures of our banks and auto industries, some people want to protest: but they find allies of the President physically threatening them if they do.

Nancy Pelosi said it's un-American to try to drown out the opposition.
I have a memo from SEIU Local 2001....

“Action: Opponents of reform are organizing counter-demonstrators to speak at this and several congressional town halls on the issue to defend the status quo. It is critical that our members with real, personal stories about the need for access to quality, affordable care come out in strong numbers to drown out their voices.”
The relationship between citizen and government has passed the point at which it's "unthinkable" that "one party" might "beat or kill" the other. Both sides have reasons to fear actual violence.

Let's look at the reasonable fears of the President's supporters, too. It appears there has been an increased use of the fellow's favored Jeffersonian rhetoric. The rhetorical point Jefferson was making was honest enough: he believed, based on his own experience and a reading of English history, that liberty could only survive if it was regularly defended. Such defenses took the form of cyclical wars: his own Revolution, the Jacobite wars, the English Civil War, etc., all the way back to the wars against King John that established the Manga Carta.

Such violence was easy for Jefferson to contemplate coolly, having just finished his own generation's participation. On what might prove to be the front side of such a cycle, it's hard to be as sanguine. Some are worried, noticing the increase in death threats against this President. They are worried enough to declare that the law should be set aside:
Now, this guy is carrying a legal weapon, says NBC News' Ron Allen. The local chief of police has no objections. Open carriage of licensed handguns is legal in New Hampshire, and the man is standing on the private property of a nearby church (!) that has no problem with an armed man hanging around.

But let's be clear: anyone watching the mounting rage over, of all things, health care — perhaps one of the most boring and complex policy subjects — has to worry that these people are going to try to kill Barack Obama. That's not an extrapolation from unhinged rhetoric, or a partisan reading of the imagined intentions of our political enemies. It's a rational reading of the anticipated behavior of a man who brandishes a gun at the location where the president is expected to imminently arrive while holding a sign that openly advocates his assassination. And the astonishing, breathtaking, maddening fact that he hasn't been violently taken to the ground by large men wearing suits and earpieces is an open encouragement to anyone else so inclined to give it a shot.
Now, I understand the fear. I regret that the author is so frightened of his fellow citizens that he refers to them as "these people," and suspects them of plotting murder. I hope that we can change that sense in the future.

Nevertheless, notice that the call here is to void the law entirely. It doesn't matter what the state law is; what the local police think; what rights the man may have under state and Federal constitutions; or what the property owner wants. It makes no difference that a handgun is no threat to the President's convoy anyway, as it is armored far above the level a handgun could penetrate, and guarded by men with M4 carbines, body armor, and endless backup immediately available. The man should have been taken down, the argument goes, and violently. The fact that he wasn't is worrisome -- apparently more worrisome than a rank violation of the law by Federal agents would be.

Here's some good news: The Secret Service, and the local police, did the right thing. Their obedience to the law in no way resulted in any threat to the President, as they were aware of the man and quite capable of dealing with him. Nobody trusted anyone else: the man didn't trust the unions, the Secret Service didn't trust the man, the President doesn't trust the protesting citizens. Everyone was anticipating violence from the other parties involved.

Nevertheless, the system worked. The rights of the people were respected both by law enforcement and by the unions, the President came and went without incident. Trust wasn't necessary. It's a wonderful thing, but something that we can't always expect to have. Therefore, the system doesn't require it.

Ezra Klein is wrong. The system we have isn't predicated on trust. It's predicated on checks and balances, and the assumption that tyrants and bad-actors will sometimes be in charge. Every part of the system works this way, not just the relationship between Congress and the Executive, or the two and the Supreme Court. The government isn't required to trust its citizens: it's permitted to defend itself from any who rise up against it, as the Constitution gives it explict permission to suppress rebellions, and the Secret Service has authority to perform its noble and nonpartisan duty.

By the same token, citizens are not required to disarm themselves and submit to beatings by hired union thugs in order to exercise their rights of assembly and petition. If you're going to insist on fielding union thugs whose clear and stated intent is to disrupt protests, you have no right to complain when citizens avail themselves of lawful Second Amendment rights in defense of their First Amendment rights.

It is for just such a moment as this that these checks were created. The hope is that they will prevent a war, by ensuring that both sides have something to lose by starting one. As someone who deeply hopes to see no more violence arising out of this business, I hope that both sides will begin to back away -- but it is both sides that need to do so. The White House, having money, power, and informal armies of "purple shirts," has to back off if they want to see rhetoric cool on the side of the citizenry. If they don't want citizens to feel they need a gun to attend a protest, they ought not to take steps making it likely that a citizen might receive a beating for attending one.

We could yet reach Jefferson's cycle, if the escalation continues. These checks and balances, though, are letting it operate relatively smoothly even at this high level of tension and distrust. Compared with what similar levels of tension and distrust look like elsewhere, the American way looks pretty good.
Best. Whiskey. Ad. Evar.

Good job there, Bobby.

(via American Digest)

Death Panels

Death Panels:

One of the fairest and most reasonable points that I've heard ObamaCare proponents make is that there is already "rationing" in our current system; it's just that the rationing is handled by the market, and particularly by the insurance companies. This lies at the heart of the claim that they are the "villains" of the story, because they make money while choosing who lives and who dies.

A lady speaks here with passion and fury about the death of her mother.

I’ve been part of a death panel conversation. I know about death panels.

You have no idea what it’s like to be called into a sterile conference room with a hospital administrator you’ve never met before and be told that your mother’s insurance policy will only pay for 30 days in ICU. You can't imagine what it's like to be advised that you need to “make some decisions,” like whether your mother should be released “HTD” which is hospital parlance for “home to die,” or if you want to pay out of pocket to keep her in the ICU another week. And when you ask how much that would cost you are given a number so impossibly large that you realize there really are no decisions to make. The decision has been made for you.
Unfortunately, we are not facing a choice of saving people or letting them die. What we are facing is the choice of who will decide when they die.

The fact is that those impossibly large numbers don't change when the government is picking up the tab. The only difference is that it will be a government official who has to decide whether or not to pay, instead of you. You will be spared going into that room; but in return, no one who loves your mother will be consulted.

The result may well be the same in any case.

A loving child might possibly sell everything to pay for a mother's extra week of life. Then again, even a loving child might believe that their mother wouldn't really want them to lose everything. They make a decision in pain, and out of love.

The bureaucratic solution that is proposed has no love, and no place for love. Love is not a metric that it can understand, account for, or factor into decisions across a broad number of cases. If you are going to have a system in place that makes reasoned decisions for millions of people, emotions have to be left behind.
Emanuel wants doctors to look beyond the needs of their patients and consider social justice, such as whether the money could be better spent on somebody else.

Many doctors are horrified by this notion; they'll tell you that a doctor's job is to achieve social justice one patient at a time.

Emanuel, however, believes that "communitarianism" should guide decisions on who gets care. He says medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled, not given to those "who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens . . . An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia" (Hastings Center Report, Nov.-Dec. '96).

Translation: Don't give much care to a grandmother with Parkinson's or a child with cerebral palsy.
That's what Mrs. Palin was writing about, and what bothers her. It is a system forlorn of love, where the decisions are as sterile as the room in which they are made.

Jesus the Horseman

The Horseman:

Lars Walker's blog, which I've been reading since I discovered that he had one, contains a review by one of his co-bloggers of Your Jesus Is Too Safe. I hadn't heard of the book before, though I suppose the only book about Jesus I've ever read besides the Bible is The Everlasting Man. Still, the review was interesting:

He doesn’t spend much time describing poor views of Jesus, like Hippie Jesus or the inhuman Flannel-graph Jesus. He touches on them in the context of healthy views on Jesus’ role as a shepherd, a judge, a prophet, a king, and many others.
As to which, how about Jesus as horseman?
Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither.
What happens when you sit a colt that no man has ever ridden before?

It's not safe, that's for sure.

Another Victim

Another Victim:

The PA shooting we discussed below had another victim: the theology of permanent security. Ideas have consequences, and if you teach that salvation is irrevocable no matter what you do after... well, you understand the point. His long-time preacher is said to be "really broken this week." Small wonder.

The same problem exists with predestination, which lies at the heart of the Presbyterian faith in which I was raised. If you're pre-destined, what you do doesn't matter: it may (or may not) be an indicator of how your destiny lies, but you can't change it. So why be good? God made up his mind about you before you were born.

The theology of peril is the best one.

When God put man in a garden
He girt him with a sword,
And sent him forth a free knight
That might betray his lord;

He brake Him and betrayed Him,
And fast and far he fell,
Till you and I may stretch our necks
and burn our beards in hell.
The first time I read the Ballad of the White Horse, I thought the theological parts were tedious additions to an otherwise-great war poem. More and more, I realize that they were the most important parts of all.

Frightening Video?

"Great, Beautiful Half-witted Men/ From the Sunrise and the Sea."

Almost 100,000 Swedes, many of whom viewed the clip on YouTube, have joined a Facegroup group called “I am scared of the girl in the Apoliva commercial” (“Jag är rädd för tjejen i Apolivareklamen”) in reaction to the film. Several other related groups, both in favour of and against the ad, have popped up on the social media site as well....

The description of the Facebook group reads: “Those of us who have a TV and like to watch commercials can't be bothered to reach for the remote are facing a problem. Apoliva has begun to run a commercial that is frightening. A woman singing a Nordic/Swedish folk song in freezing rain with lightning. I am creating this group for those of us who need somewhere to seek support and talk things out. It's only a matter of time before it creeps into our dreams and terrorises us in our sleep.”

So: fools? Or a very clever marketing campaign?
Good Food:

Tonight I took down an excellent cookbook, and made a bread described by its recipe as:

A Festival Bread
From the Land of King Arthur
I substituted the dried fruit with fresh blueberries, as we have them on hand here.

As you can see, the bread didn't stand uncut long enough for me to get a photograph. But it has a cup of brown sugar and a stick of butter in it, in addition to the blueberries; so that is small wonder.