Court strikes down Obamacare

A federal judge ruled that the government cannot compel citizens to buy a particular product, striking down the key feature of the health care reform bill, which forces everyone to buy insurance.

The Obama administration’s requirement that most citizens maintain minimum health coverage as part of a broad overhaul of the industry is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled, striking down the linchpin of the plan.

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Richmond, Virginia, today said that the requirement in President Barack Obama’s health-care legislation goes beyond Congress’s powers to regulate interstate commerce. While severing the coverage mandate, which is set to become effective in 2014, Hudson didn’t address other provisions such as expanding Medicaid.

“At its core, this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance — or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage — it’s about an individual’s right to choose to participate,” wrote Hudson, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002.

The ruling is the government’s first loss in a series of challenges to the law mounted in federal courts in Virginia, Michigan and Florida, where 20 states have joined an effort to have the statute thrown out.

Constitutional scholars said unless Congress changes the law, its fate on appeal will probably be determined by the U.S. Supreme Court.

via U.S. Health-Care Law Requirement Thrown Out by Judge Update4 – Bloomberg.

You may recall that we talked about this on this blog, the difficulty of  the health care reform bill passing constitutional muster.  As someone said, it may have been in the national interest to preserve the U.S. auto industry, but that doesn’t mean the government has the authority to make every American buy a Chevy.

Materialism as myth

Joe Carter renders materialistic cosmology as a creation myth.  Here is the first part, but you should read it all:

In the beginning was Nothing, and Nothing created Everything. When Nothing decided to create Everything, she filled a tiny dot with Time, Chance, and Everything and had it expand. The expansion spread Everything into Everywhere carrying Time and Chance with it to keep it company. The three stretched out together leaving bits of themselves wherever they went. One of those places was the planet Earth.

For no particular Reason—for Reason is rarely particular—Time and Chance took a liking to this little, wet, blue rock and decided to stick around to see what adventures they might have. While the pair found the Earth to be intriguing and pretty, they also found it a bit too quiet, too static. They fixed upon an idea to change Everything (just a little) by creating a special Something. Time and Chance roamed the planet, splashing through the oceans and sloshing through the mud, in search of materials. But though they looked Everywhere, there was a missing ingredient that they needed in order to make a Something that could create more of the same Somethings.

They called to their friend Everything to help. Since Everything had been Everywhere she would no doubt be able to find the missing ingredient. And indeed she did. Hidden away in a small alcove called Somewhere, Everything found what Time and Chance had needed all along: Information. Everything put Information on a piece of ice and rock that happened to be passing by the former planet Pluto and sent it back to her friends on Earth.

Now that they had Information, Time and Chance were finally able to create a self-replicating Something which they called Life. Once they created Life they found that it not only grew into more Somethings, but began to become Otherthings, too! The Somethings and the Otherthings began to fill the Earth—from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the sky. Their creation, which began as a single Something, eventually became millions and billions of Otherthings.

Time and Chance, though, where the bickering sort and were constantly feuding over which of them was the most powerful. One day they began to argue over who had been more responsible for creating Life. Everything (who was forever eavesdropping) overheard the spat and suggested that they settle by putting their creative skills to work on a new creature called Man. They all thought is was a splendid plan—for Man was a dull, hairy beast who would indeed provide a suitable challenge—and began to boast about who could create an ability, which they called Consciousness, that would allow Man to be aware of Chance, Time, Everything, and Nothing.

via When Nothing Created Everything | First Things.

Milton the wordmaker

I did not know this about John Milton, one of my favorite authors.  The 17th century blind Puritan poetic genius contributed more new words to the English language than anyone else:

According to Gavin Alexander, lecturer in English at Cambridge university and fellow of Milton’s alma mater, Christ’s College, who has trawled the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) for evidence, Milton is responsible for introducing some 630 words to the English language, making him the country’s greatest neologist, ahead of Ben Jonson with 558, John Donne with 342 and Shakespeare with 229. Without the great poet there would be no liturgical, debauchery, besottedly, unhealthily, padlock, dismissive, terrific, embellishing, fragrance, didactic or love-lorn. And certainly no complacency.

“The OED does tend to privilege famous writers with first usage,” Alexander admits, “and early-modern English – a composite of Germanic and Romance languages – was ripe for innovation. If you couldn’t think of a word, you could just make one up, ideally based on a term from French or Latin that others educated in those languages would understand. Yet, by any standards, Milton was an extraordinary linguist and his freedom with language can be related to his advocacy of personal, political and religious freedoms.”

Milton’s coinages can be loosely divided into five categories. A new meaning for an existing word – he was the first to use space to mean “outer space”; a new form of an existing word, by making a noun from a verb or a verb from an adjective, such as stunning and literalism; negative forms, such as unprincipled, unaccountable and irresponsible – he was especially fond of these, with 135 entries beginning with un-; new compounds, such as arch-fiend and self-delusion; and completely new words, such as pandemonium and sensuous.

Not that Milton got things all his own way. Some of his words, such as intervolve (to wind within each other) and opiniastrous (opinionated), never quite made it into regular usage – which feels like our loss rather than his.

via John Crace on Milton’s contribution to the english language | UK news | The Guardian.

The man could speak Latin and Greek like his native tongue, and he was fluent in virtually all of the European languages. So when he wanted to express something, the exact word came to him, even though it didn’t exist before.

HT: Joe Carter

The greatest & the least in the Kingdom of Heaven

Yet another good sermon from our Pastor Douthwaite, preaching from Matthew 11:

So hear what Jesus has to say to you, in answer to your questions: “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

What does this mean?

There is no question that John was great. He was the last and greatest Old Testament prophet. He was the one who prepared the way of the Lord. Yet there is one greater than John. Who is it? Who is it who is least in the kingdom of heaven? . . .

Well, don’t feel bad – the disciple didn’t understand all this either, and so a little later they are arguing amongst themselves about who was the greatest, and they ask Jesus: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Do you remember how He answered them? He called a little child over and put him in the middle of them and said, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:1-4). Now, that doesn’t mean those who are cute and innocent. Rather, children then were seen as those who couldn’t offer anything, who needed care, and were a burden because they couldn’t contribute to the support of the family. This, Jesus says, is a picture of greatness in the kingdom of heaven.

So putting two and two together here . . . who are those who are greater than the great John? It is those who are the least in this world. Those who have nothing to offer, those who need care, those who are a burden; those we heard of earlier: the blind, the lame, the lepers, the deaf, the dead – can’t get much more helpless than that! – and the poor. Not the materially poor, but the spiritually poor, for they have the good news preached to them. They are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, for they receive the service and gifts and greatness of the king.

And we could add one more to that list today: you. You in the dundgeon of despair and sadness; you in confusion and pain; you who are lonely; you who are heavy laden by the cares and concerns of the world; you who are a poor, miserable sinner. Yes, Jesus is the coming one, for He has come for you. For in you and for you He is doing His kingly work, serving you with His forgiveness and life, washing away your sins, and making you His child. You who have nothing to offer Him but your burdens and sins. But these are the very things He wants! To set you free. And that is exactly what He has done in His death and resurrection. He is never more King for you than He is for you there – on the cross, and on that morning three days later.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Advent 3 Sermon.

My thoughts on Dawn Treader

I understand why some filmmakers make changes when they make a movie out of a novel.  The two art forms are different.  The movie version of Voyage of the Dawn Treader added some plot elements–the green mist, the seven swords–but, as my wife said, they sort of served the larger story, tying together an episodic plot that works better in print than on the screen.  The movie nailed the characters, though, especially Lucy, along with a Reepicheep wonderfully voiced by Simon Pegg.

The Christian elements were there, with lots of talk and examples about not giving in to temptation, something you don’t hear about in most movies.  In the book, Aslan scratched out Eustace’s dragon-nature, supplemented with some great baptismal imagery.  In the movie, once Eustace turns into a dragon, he does all kinds of heroic deeds, and then Aslan changes him back (without touching him, though).  One could construe that as implying that a person does good works, which then merit God’s grace.  Whereas the book has the grace coming first, and then the good works.  But I think the theology was unintentional.  In a movie, if you go to the trouble of devising a good special effects dragon, you need to have it do as much as possible.  The movie did include one of the Narnia series’ most important lines from Aslan, where he tells the children that when they go back to our world they will have to know him by a different name, and that the reason he brought them into Narnia was so that they could know him better in their world.

So I thought the movie was good.  I enjoyed it.  I recommend it.

And yet why do I feel so lukewarm about it?  I realize that a novel has characters, setting, plot, and theme.  The movie did an OK job of approximating those.  But a novel also has language.  It also conveys a feeling. I guess it was the feeling of the Narnia books that I was missing.

Because the story in a novel is happening in your mind, as  you picture the events in your imagination, the effect is deeper and, by definition, more imaginative, than just watching images on a screen.  Reading entails an inner experience.  In movies, we are more detached from the images we are watching.

There is another problem, though.  Movies today have a hard time rendering fantasy.  Yes, they can now create the most fantastical special effects.  But because they are so realistic, so hard-edged, the elements that make fantasy–namely, mystery and wonder–are dispelled.  Fantasy needs to have softer edges to work.  I had the same problem with Inception, an interesting movie about the relationship between dreams and reality, but there was nothing dreamlike about any of the dreams!   Movies and special effects today are just too literal! (Come to think of it, I recall Lewis making this same point, about how fantasy doesn’t work well on the stage or in film.  Does anybody have that reference?)

I do think a movie maker will one day figure out how to use special effects to create truly special effects in the imagination of the viewers.

I can think of one example, though, of a fantasy movie based on a novel that worked in its own terms and in capturing the feel and the imaginative rush of the original.  That would be the Lord of the Rings.

Why do you think the movie version of Tolkien’s trilogy worked so much better than any of the movies of the Narnia series?

We have no cynicism

Kathleen Parker, writing about diplomatic  fallout from the Wikileak documents, includes a poignant reaction:

Writing for the center-right Le Figaro, French journalist Renaud Girard said: “What is most fascinating is that we see no cynicism in U.S. diplomacy. They really believe in human rights in Africa and China and Russia and Asia. They really believe in democracy and human rights.”

Yes, we really do.

If Americans are guilty of anything, he said, it is being a little naive. Let’s plead guilty as charged and get on with it.

via Kathleen Parker – Can we become an America WikiLeaks can’t assail?.

I guess the rest of the world doesn’t really believe in all that stuff about democracy and human rights like we do.  So in our idealism we naively try to help the world and just get beaten around for our trouble.  I know that critics of America ascribe sinister motives to our policies–they are just in Iraq for the oil, etc.–but I think our real problem has been our good intentions, which just don’t work out the way our optimistic national character expects them to.

And yet I think it’s good not to be cynical about democracy, freedom, human rights, etc.  Is there a way to keep our ideals without being naive?


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