The Long View 2008-02-08: The Year of the Rat; Clinton & Rasputin; UK Sharia; More AH McCain


I can remember this post years later where John J. Reilly pointed out that sharia, like canon law for Catholics, is frequently used to decide family matters. I am surprised he didn’t bring the Investiture Controversy into it though.

The Year of the Rat; Clinton & Rasputin; UK Sharia; More AH McCain

The Year of the Rat began this week, and like any new year celebration, it occasioned forecasts for the coming year. I was intrigued by this one from a source in Hong Kong:

The Year of the Rat threatens to see a build-up of international tensions, natural and air disasters, and a more turbulent stock market, soothsayers and analysts say...Feng shui master Raymond Lo says this year will see the earth element sitting atop water, suggesting an outward solidity built on sliding foundations....Lo added that the Chinese calendar follows a 60-year cycle, so 2008 will be similar historically to 1948, when Israel was established and the blockade of Berlin started, both events part of the build-up to long-standing conflict....The Rat is the first of the 12 animal signs, so marks new beginnings, which Lo said will be reflected in changes of leadership in the United States, Russia and Taiwan.

One might predict leadership changes in those countries without consulting the I Ching. The interesting point, however, is that the characterization, "outward stability on sliding foundations," could be taken as an oblique reference to the state of affairs in China. Perhaps the same thought occurred to the AFP writer who produced this piece, since he took care to quote another feng sui master:

Lee believes the US and China property markets will enter another chapter and will see stable development for the property market and economy...He predicts a better economy for China after the 2008 Olympics.

"2009 will be its most prosperous year in history," he added.

So what have we here: hedging one's bets, or plausible deniability?

* * *

We have an example of implausible deniability in today's cautiously gleeful column by Peggy Noonan, who asks whether Hillary Clinton knows how to lose:

Politicians lose battles, it's part of what they do, win and lose. But she does not know how to lose. Can she lose with grace? But she does grace the way George W. Bush does nuance...

This column does not mention Mitt Romney's notably dignified withdrawal yesterday from the Republican side of the race. In the context of the news, however, the comparison screams from every line.

I ruminate in this way because something is happening. Mrs. Clinton is losing this thing. It's not one big primary, it's a rolling loss, a daily one, an inch-by-inch deflation....Political professionals are leery of saying, publicly, that she is losing...Deep down journalists think she's a political Rasputin who will not be dispatched. Prince Yusupov served him cupcakes laced with cyanide, emptied a revolver, clubbed him, tied him up and threw him in a frozen river. When he floated to the surface they found he'd tried to claw his way from under the ice. That is how reporters see Hillary...And that is a grim and over-the-top analogy, which I must withdraw...

That's the implausible deniability part.

Mr. Obama will not be easy for Republicans to attack. He will be hard to get at, hard to address. There are many reasons, but a primary one is that the fact of his race will freeze them...the mad are ever with us, and this year their work will likely stay subterranean

Noonan surmises that that if the Republicans tell the people that Obama will raise their taxes, the people will believe the assertion, but vote for Obama anyway. If Republicans talk about smaller government rather then effective policies, they will lose, and deserve to.

Incidentally, the vulnerability of Obama is not race, but alienage. There is a substantial difference between being an American of African extraction and being an African-American. His friends will talk about Kansas; his enemies about Kenya and Indonesia.

* * *

The Archbishop of Canterbury has endorsed sharia for England ; well, not for everybody in England, or at least not yet, but for people who are interested in that kind of thing. For Damian Thompson at the Telegraph, it just does not get any better than this:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has told Radio 4 that the adoption of parts of Sharia law in Britain “seems unavoidable” and will help social cohesion. A friend of mine has just sent me a link to the BBC website, and for a second I thought it might be a spoof.

This is the most monumentally stupid thing I have ever heard an Archbishop of Canterbury say, and I’ve heard a few. In fact, it’s more than stupid: it’s disgusting.

The idea that “one law for everyone” is “a bit of a danger”, as Williams argues, goes against every tradition of English law and culture that the Primate of All England is supposed to uphold.

To be fair, we may note that you can enjoy the blessings of sharia in civil cases even in the United States, if you have a mind to: you just agree to arbitration using sharia rules and procedures. And in fact Jews and Catholics have their own courts for family law matters that can substantially affect the lives of their members within their own communities. What the Archbishop was talking about, though, seems to be something more radical: not just whether you can remarry in a Catholic church, say, or how much alimony you owe, but whether you are married at all, as far as the civil law is concerned, and what constitutes a marriage. Polygamy would seem to enter into it. Also, there are elements of sharia that do not interface seamlessly with Western commercial law. Frankly, it is not at all clear why sharia could not extend to some features of criminal law. Criminal blasphemy, at least for Muslims, would tend to limit the free-speech rights for which people come to Western countries in the first place. The interesting question would be whether people would be born into sharia, or whether they could opt in or out.

And no, such a system would not bring peace. Quite the opposite.

* * *

Readers may have already noted my own John McCain Alternative History piece. Lazy fellow that I am, I found out only after posting it that other people have had thoughts about a counterfactual McCain presidency in 2000 or 2004. As I look over those earlier comments, I see how much damage his advocacy last year of the open borders bill did to his reputation.

Nonetheless, I have prepared a graphic that other AH buffs who are inclined to forgive and forget are welcome to use. (Copy it, please: have pity on my bandwidth):


And if he does not choose Huckabee as his running mate? Well, it's alternative history.

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