Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

December 21, 2005

Is there anything you can NOT get a restaining order from?

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:28 pm

I am not making this up.

Michael Schiavo’s PAC

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:14 pm

Jamie Jeffords reports:

Michael Schiavo, who moved heaven and earth for the right to kill his brain damaged wife, Terri, has started a Political Action Committee exclusively to target politicians who tried to stop him from dehydrating Terri to death. That is disgusting on so many levels, I can’t even begin to elaborate. At least now everyone can see what kind of evil mind and black heart this chap has. For me, this isn’t any different than Scott Peterson forming a PAC to go after death penalty supporters.

Success in Iraq

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:09 pm

I’ve been thinking lately about how odd it is that Democrats like Harry Reid and Howard Dean are going around talking about how success in Iraq is impossible — while Iraq is holding its third democratic election in the space of a year (one for a constitutional convention, one to approve a constitution, and once to elect the first regular government under that constitution). It reminds me of the adage that “The one who says something is impossible is usually interruped by someone doing it” — but they aren’t hearing the interruptions, and they keep saying it’s impossible. The alternative, of course, is that they don’t view free elections in Iraq as part of “success.” Is it really possible that the Democrats are against democracy? It sounds strange, but it seems more and more like that as time goes on.

James Taranto made the same point, only better:

Watching President Bush’s political recovery on Iraq, one is tempted to think that this has all been part of a rope-a-dope strategy. In recent weeks Democrats have taken a host of outrageous positions on Iraq: John Kerry accuses our troops of “terrorizing kids and children.” Howard Dean says victory is “just plain wrong.” On Friday the House voted 279-109 in favor of a resolution “expressing the commitment of the House of Representatives to achieving victory in Iraq,” which means that 108 Democrats and socialist Bernie Sanders are now on record opposing victory. (Fifty-nine Dems voted for victory, and 32 of them, along with two Republicans, voted “present.”)

Most of the pro-surrender Dems — including last month’s media darling, Jack Murtha — also voted against Murtha’s proposal for immediate withdrawal, so it seems they want to turn tail and run, but not before taking some more casualties–a position they seem to have calibrated carefully with an eye toward completely discrediting themselves.

Meanwhile, Iraq held a successful election (or a “surprisingly successful election,” as a New York Times news article calls it), and London’s Daily Telegraph reports from Tal Afar, a Sunni area that was until recently a center of the terrorist insurgency, that “the approach of an American military convoy brings people out to wave and even clap.”

The president last night addressed the nation, and he crystallized the issue:

We will continue to listen to honest criticism, and make every change that will help us complete the mission. Yet there is a difference between honest critics who recognize what is wrong, and defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right.

Defeatism may have its partisan uses, but it is not justified by the facts…

I also want to speak to those of you who did not support my decision to send troops to Iraq: I have heard your disagreement, and I know how deeply it is felt. Yet now there are only two options before our country–victory or defeat. And the need for victory is larger than any president or political party, because the security of our people is in the balance.

All of which places Democrats in an untenable position. Do they continue insisting on defeat, or do they flip-flop and embrace victory? Either way they look silly, though less so in the latter case.

Communist Science

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:00 pm

If you are one of those people who thought Communism was not really a threat to democracy, and politicians just made up the cold war for their own purposes — or if you think science pursued without a profit motive is inherently better than science for profit, consider this, from The Scotsman:

The Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ordered the creation of Planet of the Apes-style warriors by crossing humans with apes, according to recently uncovered secret documents.

Moscow archives show that in the mid-1920s Russia’s top animal breeding scientist, Ilya Ivanov, was ordered to turn his skills from horse and animal work to the quest for a super-warrior.

According to Moscow newspapers, Stalin told the scientist: “I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat.”

In 1926 the Politburo in Moscow passed the request to the Academy of Science with the order to build a “living war machine.” The order came at a time when the Soviet Union was embarked on a crusade to turn the world upside down, with social engineering seen as a partner to industrialisation: new cities, architecture, and a new egalitarian society were being created.

Mr Ivanov was highly regarded. He had established his reputation under the Tsar when in 1901 he established the world’s first centre for the artificial insemination of racehorses.

Mr Ivanov’s ideas were music to the ears of Soviet planners and in 1926 he was dispatched to West Africa with $200,000 to conduct his first experiment in impregnating chimpanzees.

Meanwhile, a centre for the experiments was set up in Georgia – Stalin’s birthplace – for the apes to be raised.

Mr Ivanov’s experiments, unsurprisingly from what we now know, were a total failure. He returned to the Soviet Union, only to see experiments in Georgia to use monkey sperm in human volunteers similarly fail.

A final attempt to persuade a Cuban heiress to lend some of her monkeys for further experiments reached American ears, with the New York Times reporting on the story, and she dropped the idea amid the uproar.

Mr Ivanov was now in disgrace. His were not the only experiments going wrong: the plan to collectivise farms ended in the 1932 famine in which at least four million died.

For his expensive failure, he was sentenced to five years’ jail, which was later commuted to five years’ exile in the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan in 1931. A year later he died, reportedly after falling sick while standing on a freezing railway platform.

But at least they weren’t in it for the money…. hah!

“Botax” update

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:55 pm

Almost a year ago, I posted a story about how some states were considering taxing Botox injections and other cosmetic procedures.

My point at the time was that taxing something like that is not really a very good way to generate tax revenue, since anyone who can afford to get Botox can also afford not to get Botox. It’s similar to the case in 1990 when Congress imposed a 10% tax on luxury yachts — and instead of raising money, they caused unemployment, when yacht sales dropped 90% and yacht-building workers were laid off.

Now, the Sacramento Bee is reporting that doctors and “patient advocates” in California are raising another issue:

More than three dozen consumers, businesses and health groups sent that message to the [California] Board of Equalization this month after the state agency raised the idea of a sales tax on the popular wrinkle treatment.

In letters to the Sacramento-based board, Californians argued that medicines like Botox should never be taxed because such a move might open the door to taxes on other drugs and even medical procedures.

“Even a healthy individual like me can see the problems inherent in looking to medicines as a way to raise sales tax revenue,” wrote Kimberly Jenkins, a Woodland resident who said she is against a Botox tax.

“There’s no guarantee that a person whose election depends on getting the budget under control is going to make sound decisions about what medicines to tax,” added Jenkins.

(And how, exactly, is that different from taxes on anything else? ;-) )

That request came after state tax auditors started asking dermatologists why they hadn’t charged sales tax on Botox treatments for cosmetic purposes since 2002, the year the substance was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for cosmetic treatments.

Doctors argued that prescription medicines were exempt from sales tax, but auditors pointed to state regulations specifying that the exemption applies only if medicines are used to treat “disease,” not to erase wrinkles for cosmetic purposes.

A lobbyist for the physicians raised concerns about tax auditors peering at confidential patient files, asking what expertise the auditors had to decide which treatment was cosmetic and which was medical.

“I don’t believe legislators are better able than doctors to decide which prescription medicines are necessary,” Villarreal wrote. “We Californians are already paying very high taxes, and certainly some of the most expensive health care costs in the country.”

(If that last argument is right, what business do legislators have telling us which medicines are legal? How do they know that, say, Vioxx is too dangerous but Celebrex isn’t? What, because they created an FDA run by doctors and scientists? Well, they also created a Board of Equalization which, in theory, can hire whatever experts they want.)

Sales of the drug have exploded and have come close to hitting $1 billion a year since the FDA authorized its use for cosmetic treatments three years ago. While that could make a nice tax revenue generator for the Golden State, it also could affect sales of the product.

(A rare correct use of economics in a news story! Though it would have been nice to explain it so people without a college course in economics would know why it could affect sales of the product. I bet a lot of this reporter’s colleagues don’t know!)

Anti-Christian Fundraising

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:40 pm

The Washington (state) Democratic Party has been selling this car magnet on their web site:

What are they thinking? They want to offend 80% of the voters?

Quantifying Media Bias

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:35 pm

A political scientist and an economist, Tim Groseclose of UCLA and Jeffrey Milyo of the University of Missouri have found a way to quantify bias in the media.

Groseclose and Milyo based their research on a standard gauge of a lawmaker’s support for liberal causes. Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) tracks the percentage of times that each lawmaker votes on the liberal side of an issue. Based on these votes, the ADA assigns a numerical score to each lawmaker, where “100″ is the most liberal and “0″ is the most conservative. After adjustments to compensate for disproportionate representation that the Senate gives to low‑population states and the lack of representation for the District of Columbia, the average ADA score in Congress (50.1) was assumed to represent the political position of the average U.S. voter.

Groseclose and Milyo then directed 21 research assistants — most of them college students — to scour U.S. media coverage of the past 10 years. They tallied the number of times each media outlet referred to think tanks and policy groups, such as the left-leaning NAACP or the right-leaning Heritage Foundation.

Next, they did the same exercise with speeches of U.S. lawmakers. If a media outlet displayed a citation pattern similar to that of a lawmaker, then Groseclose and Milyo’s method assigned both a similar ADA score.

Of the 20 major media outlets studied, 18 scored left of center, with CBS’ “Evening News,” The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ranking second, third and fourth most liberal behind the news pages of The Wall Street Journal.

Only Fox News’ “Special Report With Brit Hume” and The Washington Times scored right of the average U.S. voter.

An additional feature of the study shows how each outlet compares in political orientation with actual lawmakers. The news pages of The Wall Street Journal scored a little to the left of the average American Democrat, as determined by the average ADA score of all Democrats in Congress (85 versus 84). With scores in the mid-70s, CBS’ “Evening News” and The New York Times looked similar to Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who has an ADA score of 74.

The full paper is available here and here; it is forthcoming in the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Bar Mitzvah Extravagance

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:15 pm

In case you happened to read this article in the Washington Post, please note that this is NOT what a bar mitzvah is supposed to be like, let alone what it’s supposed to be about.

Some very brief excerpts:

For a girl named Lexy, [event planner Pat] James devised what he called a “Lex and the City” theme, for which he rented a pink couch that was an actual prop in the similarly named HBO show.

Hundreds of New York bar mitzvahs cost $100,000 or more. Many top the quarter-million-dollar mark. If you’re ready to spend that sort of money on a five-hour shindig for an eighth-grader, Pat James is the man to see.

His go-to move is something called a “fantasy video,” which plays on TV screens right before The Moment arrives. Most of them are filmed and edited weeks in advance, by professionals whom James hires.

“We had this one kid who was really into the Yankees and we sent him to Tampa, where the Yankees were in spring training,” he says. “And we filmed him in a Yankees uniform, around the park, pretending to play with the team. We even had a couple Yankees say, ‘Happy bar mitzvah,’ I think. Then you saw him waking up in his bed, realizing it was all a dream. And he looks at his clock and sees that he’s late for his bar mitzvah party.”

Her first daughter, Amanda, was bat mitzvahed a few weeks ago, and during the cab ride she and James leafed through a scrapbook with photos of the event. The room, you can see, was festooned with poster-size, glamorous photos of Amanda, who looks like a model. You can’t tell from the photos, but Stoopler says a performer from Cirque du Soleil was there all night, hanging and twisting from a silk rope attached to the ceiling.

The phrase we used to use to mock extravagant bar mitzvahs (“Too much ‘bar’ and not enough mitzvah.”) doesn’t even begin to describe the monstrosities described in that article. Last weekend, I was actually at a bat mitzvah in that vein, if not quite at the same level of extravagance (no one was actually hanging from the ceiling), but in just as poor taste.

If you are not Jewish (or even more, if you are) and you get invited to one of these, please — please! — don’t think that that’s what Judaism is about! Judaism is about having a special relationship with God through, among other things, living according to the commandments (Hebrew singular: “mitzvah”) of the Torah. To become a bar or bat mitzvah means to achieve the age of religious adulthood; that is, to be old enough to be obligated to obey those commandments. (Obviously, a two-year-old can’t be expected to have those obligations, and a 50-year-old can. The age of bar or bat mitzvah is the cut-off, kind of like turning 18 and getting the right to vote.) Since we consider the Torah and its commandments to be a gift from God, it is appropriate to celebrate the occasion of entering into that obligation. But it is most certainly not appropriate to engage in a display of extravagance for its own sake — not to mention by engaging in activities that violate the commands that have just — in theory — been taken on. For example, at this one I attended last weekend, they served non-kosher food, and had the hired dance coaches (what do they call that job?) dancing in an erotic fashion with persons not their spouses — i.e., parents of the girl whose “bat mitzvah” this was.

In other words, they celebrated her taking on the commandments by violating a bunch of them!

Along, of course, with a brief interlude of seriousness in which the girl’s father spoke about his daughter’s new responsibility and how proud he was that she was taking it on, and that she “knows what it entails.” Sadly, she didn’t and he didn’t.

In a certain sense, it’s not completely their fault, since they live in a social circle in which everyone does this sort of thing, and they probably don’t know any better. But just the same, it’s sad — and embarrassing.

AFTERTHOUGHT (12/22/05): Perhaps this is to Judaism what the commercialization of Christmas is to Christianity.

UPDATE (1/1/06): Batya Medad shows us how it can be completely different (via Havel Havelim).

Soldiers’ Conduct

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:46 pm

VariFrank has a story and some thoughts.

Odd Banknote Honorees

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:39 pm

Switzerland may soon have banknotes honoring the AIDS virus (intentionally) and the role of the Swiss banking system in propping up dictators (inadvertently — we hope).

Liberals Against Values?

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:08 am

Every once in a while, someone “veers into the truth” and says something themselves that I’ve been thinking about them and that makes them look really bad. Liberal critic Harold Bloom of Yale writes in the Guardian:

Politics, in the United States, perhaps never again can be separated from religion. When so many vote against their own palpable economic interests, and choose “values” instead, then an American malaise has replaced the American dream.

Clayton Cramer comments:

One of the assumptions that Bloom and other Democrats make I at least understand–the left believes that material possessions should matter more to the masses than values. They seem to think that if the masses were given the choice of an extra $20,000 a year in income, or recognizing gay marriage, well of course they should pick the money. It simply does not occur to the left that much of the population of this country considers morality sufficiently important that they will not abandon their religious beliefs for filthy lucre.

Would the left be insulted if we suggested that for enough money, they rationally should abandon their demand that the states recognize gay marriage? Of course. So why are they perplexed and confused that the majority isn’t prepared to put money over values? Is this simply an elitist contempt for the masses?

He also points out that it’s far from obvious that voting Republican is against the economic interests of most people. But that’s a separate issue. The interesting thing is that, 25 years after liberals mocked Reagan voters as “voting for their pocketbooks” instead of the good of the country, it seems to be a basic principle of liberalism that it’s immoral to vote based on anything other than one’s pocketbook!

Powered by WordPress