Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Sun Queen

During the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King, the most desired post in the court was for the man who helped the King put his shirt on in the morning. The reason for this has modern implications.

If you were a wealthy person in 17th century France and you wanted to make an appeal to the King you could go through official channels but it was unlikely that it would reach the king and if it did it was likely to be lost among similar appeals. Plus every step of the bureaucracy expected a bribe to expedite your request.

But there was a short-cut. The person who helped Louis dress was also the first person he spoke with each day. Louis made sure to choose someone he liked and trusted. So, that person was ideally placed to put a word in the King's ear. And he did. His fees for doing this were high but it was a way to bypass the bureaucracy. He couldn't guarantee how the King would act, only that your message would reach the King's ear.

That's how the Clinton Foundation acted during Hillary's term as Secretary of State. You could try going through normal channels but there was a short-cut for Clinton Foundation donors. The head of the Foundation had a direct line to Hillary's chief assistants. That didn't mean that Hillary would act on your request. Sometimes it was outside the control of her office. It also meant that you had a good chance at arranging a a personal meeting with the Secretary of State. Who knows what happened then?

Hillary has said that this issue is all "smoke but no fire" but she has a long and complicated relationship with the truth. The important thing is that donors to the Clinton Foundation didn't have to play by the same rules as the rest of us.

Confidence in the Vote

The Left is upset by Trump's suggestion that the polls and elections are rigged against him. While this is a serious charge, it is hardly as unusual as the Left pretends.

First there was the 2000 election. Bush won and Gore conceded to him then called back to un-conced. Gore spent the next few weeks insisting that the election-night count was flawed and that he would win once "every vote was counted". Things got out of hand and the Supreme Court finally called an end to the recount when it was obvious that different standards were being used in different counties. Gore was an ungraceful looser and many of his supporters believed that he actually won the election. That was reinforced when Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 showed an article claiming that Gore won. This was, in fact, a letter to the editor that Moore typeset to look like an article.

For years the Left referred to Bush as the Resident in Chief, or the Current Occupant of the White House instead of the president.

Admittedly, the fact that Bush won an Electoral victory but lost the popular vote also hurt and there calls that he shold have stepped down in favor of Gore because of that.

Things only got worse in 2004. At a fund-raiser, a Bush supporter said that they would do "whatever it takes" to see Bush reelected. He meant fund-raising but he was also highly-placed in the leading producer of voting machines and many on the Left were convinced that he meant tampering with election results.

After Bush won reelection, the Left went crazy looking for evidence that the vote had been rigged. MSNBC anchor Keith Olberman took the lead on that, pouncing on any report. When someone claimed that it was "statistically impossible" for Bush to have carried sections of northern Florida, Olberman was there (a later analysis showed that Bush's victory was in keeping with voting patterns going back decades). One major embarrassment for the Left during this period was that the cases of suspected fraud never turned out to have the newer voting machines that they suspected.

In the 2006 mid-term election Democratic operatives were still insisting that Republicans were influencing the vote but that this could be neutralized by a large enough turnout of Democrats. After the Democrats swept Congress in 2006 and took the White House in 2008, they stopped claiming that the election was fixed.

But Trump, who was a Democrat during the Bush years, remembers all that talk about fixed elections.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Burkini and the Problem with Headscarves

Violence broke out recently in France after several seaside towns banned the burkini - a swimming suit for Muslim women that covers the entire body except for the face, hands and feet. I've seen various columns and memes on the subject. They tend to deal in false equivalences.

A recent Facebook meme shows a woman in a burkini and a woman in a wet suit pointing out that only one is banned. This is a false equivalence for many reasons. The wet suit is used to protect a swimmer from cold water. It is not normally worn in a swimming pool or on a beach (unless the wearer is surfing in cold water). Men wear wetsuits at the same time, for the same reason as women. There is no cultural reason to wear one.

The burkini, in contrast, is worn instead of a western-style swimming suit. It has no utilitarian purpose. It is only worn by women and only because Muslim culture requires it.

Columnist Kathleen Parker wrote a column comparing the fight for Muslim women to cover themselves with the fight 100 years ago for Western women to bare themselves on the beach. This is another false equivalent since men were also fighting to show more skin 100 years ago. While concentrating on a patriarchal society telling women to uncover themselves, the burkini only exists because a patriarchal society demands that women hide themselves.

I'll make a few other points to put all of this in context. The burkini is a very recent invention. It is part of a general trend among Muslims to control women. While wearing headscarfs is the norm in Muslim countries today and enforced by law in many of them, that was not the case a couple of generations ago. Women in Muslim countries in the 1960s and 70s generally didn't cover their hair. That was something their grandmothers did (the great-great grandmothers of today's generation).

Similarly, when women from Muslim countries immigrated, they also assimilated and dressed like their Western neighbors.

All of that changed with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Even in Western countries, there is pressure on women to follow "traditional" dress.

In theory this is an individual choice but every time I see a woman in a headscarf (normally several times a day), I wonder about what other traditions the woman is being pressured to follow?

Is she allowed to drive a car or even go out by herself? Is she allowed to handle the family money or does her husband own everything and keep her on a small allowance? Did she choose her husband for love or was he chosen for her? Is she at risk for female genital mutilation? These are not idle questions. I live two miles from a radical mosque (two of it's members have gone to fight with Isis). Female genital mutilation is becoming more common in the US. Estimates are that it's been done to thousands of women living here. Arraigned marriages are also fairly common with the groom traveling to his homeland to meet his bride for the first time just before the wedding.

All of this should be troubling to anyone actually concerned about women's rights. Typically, though, concerns are dismissed as Islamiphobia by feminists as part of the theory of Intersectionality.