Archive for the ‘society’ Category
This blog’s very first post concerned women’s rights in Saudi Arabia and we have since followed other developments in the desert kingdom, good, bad, and ugly. This one is good: King Abdullah has appointed a woman to the Saudi Council of Ministers for the first time. Noor Al-Fayez will serve as deputy minister for women’s education.
Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s few remaining absolute monarchies. The Council of Ministers is appointed by and responsible to the king and merely advises him on the formulation of general policy and assisted with managing the activities of the bureaucracy. The council consists of a prime minister, the first and second deputy prime ministers, 20 ministers (of whom the minister of defense also is the second deputy prime minister), two ministers of state, and a small number of advisers and heads of major, autonomous organizations.
Khaled Al-Maeena, editor-in-chief of Arab News, an English-language daily newspaper in Saudi Arabia, called many of the other appointments in what is the council’s biggest shake-up since Abdullah became king in 2005 very “progressive”, which is a very good thing.
King Abdullah appears to be, very slowly, moving the country in a more liberal direction, but considering how reactionary the place is it’s still just about the most conservative place on the planet. He is 84 years old and the Crown Prince is just two years younger. Succession to the Saudi Monarchy can be a messy process and it will be interesting to see how things shake out in the next two decades when the last of the sons of Ibn Saud, the nation’s modern founder, pass on.
The California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments to determine the validity of Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment approved by 52% of the state’s voters last November. Prop 8, which this blog is not a fan of, overturned a previous decision of the state’s high court that required the state to recognize and allow same-sex marriage.
The argument brought by opponents of the measure is that it violates not the Federal Constitution but certain provisions of the State Constitution, which contains several different amendment mechanisms including initiatives, which can be placed on the ballot by petition, and revisions, which can only be put on the ballot by a super majority of the state legislature.
The plaintiffs argue that a measure eliminating fundamental rights from a historically persecuted minority amounts to a revision of the Constitution and exceeds the power of initiatives.
A revision can be placed on the ballot only by a two-thirds legislative vote or by delegates to a state constitutional convention. The court has upheld such challenges to initiatives only twice in its history, in 1948 and 1990.
Opponents of Prop. 8 also argue that it violates the constitutional separation of powers by stripping the judiciary of its ability to protect a minority group. Attorney General Jerry Brown has sided with opponents of the measure and argues that it is invalid for another reason: that it abolishes “inalienable rights,” guaranteed by the state Constitution, without a compelling justification.
The plaintiffs clearly have a tough case to argue and, as a matter of law, I’m not sure if they’re correct about the measure constituting a serious revision. I didn’t think they had a case at first, but now I think they may. Imagine if a simple majority of the electorate could revoke the right of women or of African Americans to vote. Or if 50% +1 could take away the presumption of innocence or freedom of religion. (All of these are protected by the U.S. Bill of Rights, but the point remains.)
Keep in mind that the entire point of a Bill of Rights is to keep the majority from doing what it wants. If it can be overturned by a simple majority, then what’s the point? It’s just a speed bump, not any sort of true impediment to the mob or protection for political minorities.
Even if Proposition 8 is permissible under that wonderful document that is the California Constitution, it shouldn’t be. Amending the Constitution should take more than a few signatures on a petition and then a simple majority of the electorate. A simple majority to ratify an amendment proposed by a super majority of the legislature is fine; that’s what almost all, if not all states allow. But an amendment proposed by petition, if allowed at all, should have to secure 60% of the vote, I think.
The lead case is Strauss vs. Horton, S168047. The Court will also be hearing arguments concerning whether the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed prior to the amendment was approved are still valid. I imagine they would be, but the state just couldn’t recognize them—if Proposition 8 is upheld. The lead attorney for those seeking to overturn the amendment and limit marriage rights is Kenneth Starr, the former investigator of President Clinton.
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; it commemorates his birth on 15 January 1929.
Instead of reading some inane comments by me about Dr. King, why don’t you read something from Dr. King instead?
Once you’ve done that, you may want to watch this video of King’s last speech, which was rather prophetic, given that he was assassinated just a few hours later. It was just a few minutes long; here is the peroration:
Dennis Damon, a Democrat who serves in the 35-member Maine Senate, has introduced legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in that state. The bill is entitled “An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedoms.” Maine’s governor, Democrat John Baldacci, has opposed gay marriage in the past, but indicates he supports civil unions. The state already has a form of domestic partnership available.
According to the Washington Blade, an LGBT newspaper, Equality Maine collected over 33,000 signatures to send to the legislature in favor of same-sex marriage. A newly formed opposing group, the Maine Marriage Alliance, which wants to limit marriage rights, is advocating to make Maine the 31st state which prohibits same-sex marriage in its constitution; currently, marriage is limited only by statute.
The world’s oldest living person, Maria de Jesus dos Santos of Portugul, has passed on. She was born on 10 September 1893, making her 115 years 114 days old at her passing. The cause of death has not been reported.
She only got to enjoy her title of World’s Oldest Person, bestowed on her by the Guinness Book of World Records, for 37 days; she inherited it from American Edna Parker, who died at the age of 115 years 220 days on 26 November 2008, and passes it to American Gertrude Baines, who is currently 114 years and 272 days old. Ms. Baines, an African American woman, is reportedly in good health and living in a Los Angeles area nursing home. However, the last 15 title holders lived only an average of 278 days after inheriting the title. If Ms. Baines lives that long, she’d die on October 6th of this year.
But Jeanne Calment, who is the oldest verified person ever, who lived to be 122 years and 164 days old (44,724 days), held the title for 2363 days. While it is seems somewhat odd to wish Ms. Baines a long and prosperous life, (she’s already had one!) this blog certainly wishes her the best and hopes that her remaining days, however many they are, are healthy and fulfilling.
If you are interested in super centenarians, check out Wikipedia’s article on the World’s Oldest People.
Rajo Devi of Alewa, India has become the oldest woman ever to give birth, as reported by Slate. She is 70 years old; the father, her husband, is 72.
Obviously, she is two decades past menopause and incapable of having children normally. However, there are fertility treatments now by which a woman can have a child at virtually any age. But just because we can do a thing does not mean that we must do that thing. Or even that we should. Rajo Devi and her husban will be octogenarians by the time the kid is 10. I’m not sure what the age of majority is in India, but the mom will be 88 when the kid is 18. How is this a good idea?
The desire to be parents is natural and understandable. But if you can’t have children naturally, as Rajo Devi and her husband couldn’t, why not adopt? There are surely enough orphans in the world (a lack of them would be a problem worth having). Why create a new child who will be deprived of parents while still young? I think that maybe we should think a little bit more about this whole old people having babies after drastic medical intervention thing.