Different River

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

January 26, 2006

In case you thought all Jews were white Europeans…

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:12 pm

Arutz-7 headline: Translation of Torah for India’s Bnei Menashe Nearly Complete

January 25, 2006

David Adesnik Cracks the TNR Code

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:43 pm

David Adesnik of OxBlog has figured out the formula for The New Republic:

[A]ctually, I think I could write one of their articles in advance. Here goes:

This is an article about Subject X. Democrats say Y about X, but that argument is simplistic. Republicans say Z about X, but that argument is simplistic and dishonest.

At this point, the author pulls out a deck of cards and picks one at random. If the card is a ten or lower, the author concludes that the Democrats are right, but not for the reason given by some senator from Massachusetts.

If the author draws a face card, he thinks to himself, “I must agree with the Republicans for no apparent reason in order to show that I’m open-minded.”

If the author draws an ace, it means that his thirtieth birthday is approaching and it’s time to either go back to grad school or work for McKinsey.

I have to admit that’s a better (or at least, more detailed) explanation for why I stopped subscribing to The New Republic than what I told people — which is just that the quality of writing was bad, and I didn’t really learn anything from reading their articles that I didn’t know before. So, what was the point to read it? Time is valuable.

January 20, 2006

Clooney vs. Abramoff

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:00 pm

Jack Abramoff may be a crooked lobbyist, but some of his enemies are real jerks. Totally without class. And the Washington Post has taken steps to cover it up.

Different Responses to Crime

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:59 am

A couple of weeks ago, someone was beaten to death in an apparent robbery on the streets of Washington, DC.

Of course, this happens all the time — there are almost 200 murders a year in Washington, DC. But most of those murders are of poor people, tourists, or Metro commuters, so the cognoscenti rarely take notice. What makes this murder different is that the victim was a longtime New York Times reporter and editor, David E. Rosenbaum. Now that is an outrage! New York Times reporters are supposed to b exempt from these things!

More interesting, however, is the reaction of the local media. They have focused on the notion that “mistakes were made” in the investigation, the ambulance response, and that sort of thing. They seem to take as given that crimes are to be expected, and society’s job is merely to respond — to send an ambulance to pick up the victim, and, if possible, put the murderer away (say, for a “maximum sentence” of five years).

One blogger, “The Conservative UAW Guy,” has a more strident view, which challenges this whole world view, and refuses to take victimhood as a given. He expresses it rather sardonically, but I think he gets his point across:

I wonder if New York Times editor and reporter David E. Rosenbaum was saying
“Thank God I don’t have an evil, redneck, knuckle-dragger firearm.”, as he was beaten to death by his (at large) attackers. He was anti-gun; but all the way to the very end? I wonder.

How many deaths are attributable to liberals disarming law-abiding citizens.

The world may never know…

I’m quite certain the Times is glad he wasn’t armed.
“Think of the children, David.”

I guess the main thing is no one got shot. Don’t you feel safer?

Yay! Gun control works!!

My prayers are with him and his family. I hope his killers get shot.

David E. Rosenbaum wasn’t killed with a gun, but that is little comfort. He was probably attacked by people physically much stronger than he was, perhaps with a baseball bad or some similar innocuous object that could be used as a weapon. I don’t know the state of his health, but at age 63 he was probably not much match for (possibly) younger criminals. Had he been armed with a gun, he could have had a chance at defending himself — a gun can make a less physically strong person more than a match for a stronger person with only fists, a baseball bat, or even a knife — and an even match or better for an attacker with a gun.

The primary effect of gun control is to disarm people who are less able to resist attackers. Actually, in many cases it’s even worse than that, because those who are willing to disobey laws against robbery, assault, rape, and murder are more than likely willing to disobey laws against carrying guns as well. Thus, those willing to obey the law are disarmed and those willing to commit crimes are emboldened.

One of the underlying assumptions of gun control — and this doesn’t apply exactly to the Rosenbaum event, but the principle is the same — can be summed up like this:

A woman raped and strangled is morally superior to a woman with a smoking gun and a dead rapist at her feet.

And that is about as pro-crime a sentiment as I can imagine.

(See also: 40 Reasons For Gun Control.)

January 17, 2006

Sentenced To Attend Church?

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:15 am

Now this raises some interesting constitutional issues:

Racist Man Sentenced To Attend Black Church

POSTED: 6:51 am EST January 16, 2006

CINCINNATI (AP) — A judge has sentenced a suburban Cincinnati man to attend services for six weeks at a black church for threatening to punch a black cab driver and using racial slurs.

Judge William Mallory Jr. told 36-year-old Brett Haines, “It seems readily apparent to me that you don’t like black people. That’s OK with me. But you have to understand that you are at the whim and authority of a black judge.”

Mallory let Haines choose between attending the black church for six Sundays or spending 30 days in jail. Haines said he’d try the church, although he doesn’t usually worship on Sunday.

Mallory offered Haines the choice Friday after Haines was convicted of disorderly conduct. He was arrested in November after threatening cab driver David Wilson and Wilson’s wife.

Mallory said he was concerned about maintaining the separation between church and state, so the judge asked Haines whether the option would offend him.

Haines said he would like to try it.

The cab driver said he wished Haines had been jailed instead because, in his words, “Church don’t change everybody.”

Support Different River

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:03 am

We now pause for this commercial message:

blue sky

Blue Sky from American Express is a credit card designed to unlock the world of travel rewards. This one of a kind credit card offers members the opportunity to realize savings on any flight, hotel or rental car at any time, without backout dates or seat restrictions!
Of course, Blue Sky gives cardmembers flexibility and independence, too. Purchases can be paid in full or over time. There is no annual fee, a 0% APR for the first six months, and all charges are covered by the American Express’ Fraud Protection Guarantee. With Blue Sky, cardmembers can say good-bye to travel reward restrictions. The sky’s the limit.

How does this support Different River? If you apply for, and receive, that card through the above link, I will (allegedly) receive a small commission. I will apply to hosting and domain registration fees. (Hosting a blog is pretty cheap as hobbies go, but it’s not free.) In the event that I receive commissions in excess of my blogging expenses, I’ll apply the remainder to other worthy causes, such as charity, personal expenses, and income taxes. (OK, maybe that last one isn’t all that “worthy.” ;-) )

Of course, you can always support Different River in other ways — such as telling your friends to read this blog, linking to it in your own blog, and so on. In fact, since I write this blog to be read rather than to make money (since I don’t, so far anyway, make money at it), recruiting readers would be even more supportive!

And of course, if you need any books, shoes, or computer equipment, you could also click on the links on the right sidebar below the blogroll. Thanks! ;-)

January 16, 2006

MLK Day

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:13 pm

Given today’s federal holiday, I’d like to reprise this post from last week.

Squashing Freedom of Speech

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:30 am

Here’s “campaign finance reform” in action in the state of Washington, as reported by Brian C. Anderson in City Journal:

Early in 2005, the Democrat-controlled legislature passed—and Democratic governor Christine Gregoire signed—a bill boosting the state’s gasoline tax a whopping 9.5 cents per gallon over the next four years, supposedly to fund transportation projects. … [S]ome citizens organized an initiative campaign, as Washington law allows, to junk the new levy: No New Gas Tax.

Two popular conservative talk radio hosts, Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson, explained why the gas tax was bad news and urged listeners to sign the 225,000 petitions necessary to get the rollback initiative on the November ballot, though they played no official role in the campaign and regularly featured on their shows defenders as well as opponents of the tax hike. …

Meantime, however, a group of pro-tax politicians sued No New Gas Tax, arguing that Wilbur’s and Carlson’s on-air commentaries were “in-kind contributions” and that the anti-tax campaign had failed to report them to the proper state authorities. The suit sought to stop NNGT from accepting any more of these “contributions” until it disclosed their worth—though how the initiative’s organizers could control media discussions or calculate their monetary value remained unclear. The complaint also socked NNGT with civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and costs, and other damages. Even more offensively, to litigate the suit the politicians hired a private law firm, Foster Pepper & Shefelman, which serves as bond counsel to Washington State. The firm, which represents unions, hospitals, and retirement funds among its other clients, could thus clean up from the state’s plan to sell gas-tax-backed bonds. Appearance of corruption, anyone?

If you like reading — or writing — about politics on blogs, you could be next:

Campaign-finance reform now has the blogosphere in its crosshairs. When the Federal Election Commission wrote specific rules in 2002 to implement McCain-Feingold, it voted 4 to 2 to exempt the Web. …

But when the chief House architects of campaign-finance reform, joined by McCain and Feingold, sued—claiming that the Internet was one big “loophole” that allowed big money to keep on corrupting—a federal judge agreed, ordering the FEC to clamp down on Web politics. Then-commissioner Bradley Smith and the two other Republicans on the FEC couldn’t persuade their Democratic colleagues to vote to appeal.

Are the hundreds of political blogs that have sprouted over the last few years—twenty-first-century versions of the Revolutionary era’s political pamphlets—“press,” and thus exempt from FEC regulations? Liberal reform groups like Democracy 21 say no. “We do not believe anyone described as a ‘blogger’ is by definition entitled to the benefit of the press exemption,” they collectively sniffed in a brief to the FEC. “While some bloggers may provide a function very similar to more classical media activities, and thus could reasonably be said to fall within the exemption, others surely do not.” The key test, the groups claimed, should be whether the blogger is performing a “legitimate press function.” But who decides what is legitimate? And what in the Constitution gives him the authority to do so?

A first, abandoned, draft of proposed FEC Web rules, leaked to the RedState blog last March, regulated all but tiny, password-protected political sites, so bloggers should be worried. Without a general exemption, political blogs could easily find themselves in regulatory hell. Say it’s a presidential race, Condi Rice versus Hillary Clinton. You run a wildly opinionated and popular group blog—call it No to Hillary—that rails daily about the perils of a Clinton restoration and sometimes republishes Rice campaign material. Is your blog making “contributions” to Rice? Maybe. The FEC says that a “contribution” includes “any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office” (my italics). If your anti-Hillary blog spends more than $1,000, you could also find it re-classified as a “political committee.” Then you’ve got countless legal requirements and funding limits to worry about.

And if they get really nasty, “spending on your blog” could be defined to include the purchase price of your computer, which is quite likely to put you over some relevant limit even if you host your blog for free on Blogspot.

And if you think this is purely hypothetical, ask Leo Smith, who was told precisely that when he put some material on a web page urging people to vote against Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT) when she was running for re-election — and this was back in 1998, even before McCain-Feingold:

Underscoring the problem is an escalating debate over whether Web sites fall under a 1971 campaign disclosure law governing television advertisements. If so, sites promoting federal candidates or linking to official campaign sites might be required to disclose who is behind a site and report expenditures for erecting the site if they exceed $250.

A November 1998 opinion, for example, states that a Web site erected by Leo Smith of Suffield, Connecticut, fell under the disclaimer and reporting requirements. Smith’s site advocated the defeat of the Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Connecticut), and endorsed her opponent, Democratic candidate Charlotte Koskoff.

In reference to Smith, the commission concluded that Web sites endorsing or soliciting funds for federal candidates are considered political advertisements and must disclose the full name of the site’s creator, state whether the opinions expressed on the site are authorized by the candidate, and report expenditures.

“The Commission notes that there are minimal costs associated with creating the Web site,” the opinion stated. “These overhead costs would include, for example, the fee to secure the registration of a domain name, the amounts you invested in your hardware, and the utility costs to create the site.”

So they want to include not only the cost of your computer, but the cost of the electricity to run it when you are posting to your web site. As the FEC itself explains (PDF link):

Mr. Smith created the web site in September 1998 to protest House Republican efforts against President Clinton. On the site, he advocated Ms. Koskoff’s election and the defeat of her opponent, GOP Representative Nancy Johnson. …

Mr. Smith asserts that he spends no money in maintaining the web site, and that it cost him nothing to create it. …

The definition of expenditure includes anything of value made to influence a federal election. 2 U.S.C. §431(9). Mr. Smith’s web site is considered something of value because it advocates the election of one federal candidate and the defeat of another. Thus, any costs associated with construction and maintenance of the web site are expenditures. (Note that, although the web site includes express advocacy, under 2 U.S.C. §431(9), a communication does not necessarily have to contain express advocacy in order to qualify as an expenditure.) Whenever a person makes an expenditure to finance a communication that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate through general public political advertising, the communication must include a disclaimer. 2 U.S.C. §441d. The disclaimer must state who paid for the communication and, in the case of an advertisement that was not paid for by the candidate’s committee, who authorized it. In five advisory opinions, the Commission has concluded that communication via a web site is a form of communication to the general public. AOs 1997-16, 1996-16, 1995-35, 1995- 33 and 1995-9. Thus, Mr. Smith’s web site must include a disclaimer stating who paid for the communication and whether or not it was authorized by any candidate. Mr. Smith’s current attempt at a disclaimer is insuffi- cient. He only identifies himself as an “Independent voter in the Sixth District.” He must use his full name in the disclaimer.

The Commission also concludes that — contrary to Mr. Smith’s assertion — there are costs associated with this web site. A portion of the overhead costs could be apportioned to each web site created by Mr. Smith. Those costs include the domain name registration fee, the amount invested in the hardware (computer and peripherals) that created the web site and the utility costs associated with creating and maintaining the site. If Mr. Smith’s web site activity on behalf of the Koskoff campaign was completely independent of the campaign, then he would be re- quired to file independent expendi- ture reports with the Commission if the total value of the expenditures exceeded $250 in 1998. 2 U.S.C. §§431(17) and 434(c), 441a(a)(7)(B). If, however, Mr. Smith’s web site activity was done in cooperation, consultation or concert with that campaign, then the campaign would be required to report the expenditure as an in-kind contribution from Mr. Smith. 2 U.S.C. §§431(8)(A)(i), 434(b)(2)(A) and 434(b)(3)(A).

And that was the situation before McCain-Feingold. Now, it’s even worse — including a disclaimer is not enough; if it’s political speech about an election, you simply can’t say it within 60 days prior (30 days for a primary).

Warren of Coyote Blog notes:

I find this [the ruling in the Washington case above] offensive. And expect similar “in-kind” donation logic to be coming to a blog near you. And while Democrats may short-sightedly cheer as long as this logic is applied against conservative talk radio, this “in-kind” logic is a Pandora’s Box that will be very hard to close. For example, lets say my wife’s reading club organizes 200 women to go out to a 3-hour rally to support Hillary Clinton. In doing so, the club just mobilized 600 “man”-hours for Ms. Clinton, which at $10 an hour, which is a low value for a professional person’s time, is worth $6000. Have they violated the law? Or, lets say a lawyer who normally bills $300 an hour spends all day Saturday and Sunday marching in a rally for George Bush. Is he over the limit?

We are in the absolutely terrifying and historically unprecedented position of having had Congress pass a law that no citizen (except a few media people and a few government licensed political groups) can criticize a member of Congress by name within 60 days of an election. And the Supreme Court signed off on this travesty!

He’s right — when the FEC comes around to arrest bloggers for blogging about elections, you won’t be able to go to the Supreme Court, since they already ruled in the case of McConnell v. F.E.C. that the “government interest” in keeping money out of politics takes priority over the First Amendment freedoms of speech and press. Way back in 2003. If it makes anyone feel any better, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a blistering dissent, which read in part:

The First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” Nevertheless, the Court today upholds what can only be described as the most significant abridgment of the freedoms of speech and association since the Civil War. With breathtaking scope, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), directly targets and constricts core politi- cal speech, the “primary object of First Amendment protection.”

It is not difficult to see where this leads. Every law has limits, and there will always be behavior not covered by the law but at its edges; behavior easily characterized as “circumventing” the law’s prohibition. Hence, speech regulation will again expand to cover new forms of “circumvention,” only to spur supposed circumvention of the new regulations, and so forth. Rather than permit this never-ending and self-justifying process, I would require that the Government explain why proposed speech restrictions are needed in light of actual Government interests, and, in particular, why the bribery laws are not sufficient.

The right to anonymous speech cannot be abridged based on the interests asserted by the defendants. I would thus hold that the disclosure requirements of BCRA §201 are unconstitutional. Because of this conclusion, the so-called advance disclosure requirement of §201 necessarily falls as well.

The chilling endpoint of the Court’s reasoning is not difficult to foresee: outright regulation of the press. None of the rationales offered by the defendants, and none of the reasoning employed by the Court, exempts the press. … Media companies can run procandidate editorials as easily as nonmedia corporations can pay for advertisements. Candidates can be just as grateful to media companies as they can be to corporations and unions. … Media corporations are influential. There is little doubt that the editorials and commentary they run can affect elections. Nor is there any doubt that media companies often wish to influence elections. One would think that the New York Times fervently hopes that its endorsement of Presidential candidates will actually influence people. What is to stop a future Congress from determining that the press is “too influential,” and that the “appearance of corruption” is significant when media organizations endorse candidates or run “slanted” or “biased” news stories in favor of candidates or parties? Or, even easier, what is to stop a future Congress from concluding that the availability of unregulated media corporations creates a loophole that allows for easy “circumvention” of the limitations of the current campaign finance laws?

Although today’s opinion does not expressly strip the press of First Amendment protection, there is no principle of law or logic that would prevent the application of the Court’s reasoning in that setting. The press now operates at the whim of Congress.

January 15, 2006

Didja Miss Me?

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:39 pm

This fellow was kidnapped by Islamic terrorists, held for five days, rescued by American special forces — and then discovered that “the worst aspect of his ordeal” was, well, not so bad after all. As reported in The Guardian:

A British man kidnapped in Iraq and held for five days by armed men who threatened to behead him was rescued last week by American special forces and astonished to discover that no one had noticed he was missing.

Phil Sands, 28, a freelance journalist, was held by gunmen who ambushed his car in Baghdad. He said the worst aspect of his ordeal was imagining the anguish of his family. But his parents were holidaying in Morocco and knew nothing of his sufferings until he called them after he was released during a chance raid by US forces on a farm outside Baghdad.

Sands, from Poole, Dorset, has been to Iraq 10 times since February 2003, sometimes for three-month spells. On Boxing Day, shortly after 9.30am, he was blindfolded, handcuffed and forced into the boot of a BMW by men with balaclavas and AK-47 automatic rifles. ‘I just knew I was dead, that I wouldn’t get out alive. I began to think of my parents in Britain, how they would have to watch this on the news and what it would do to them. I felt I could cope with whatever happened to me; it was what they would go through that was unbearable.’

Sands’s parents, David and Jackie, were in a state of blissful ignorance throughout, as were the authorities. They spoke to their son on Christmas Day, then went on holiday. David said last night: ‘We were fortunate that we didn’t go through the nail-biting anxiety of knowing he was missing. I feel fairly philosophical about it, and so does my wife. He loves that place and I’m sure he’ll be going back.’
[...]
For Sands, the escape came after he had surrendered all hope. ‘I thought with absolute certainty, “I’m dead – it’s now just a matter of the technical details,”‘ he told The Observer. ‘I was strangely calm – there was no point in panicking.’

One of Sands’s captors told him, in Arabic, that if he was a soldier, or helping the occupation, he would be beheaded. He was made to record a video urging the British people to remove Tony Blair from office. The same thing had happened to Ken Bigley, the hostage from Liverpool executed in Iraq in 2004.

But the US army, on a routine mission, came to the rescue. He recalled: ‘I was in bed and heard helicopters, which I assumed would move on. But then there were footsteps and a banging at the door. It burst open and two young American soldiers came in with flashlights. They woke up my guard and shone a torch in my face. One of them said, “What the fuck?” I said: “I’m a Brit, dammit.”‘

(Truth in blogging disclosure: I’ve re-ordered the paragraphs around the “[...]” so the story makes more sense. Journalists have an odd way of ordering paragraphs… .)

January 12, 2006

Gay Groups Endorse Non-Domestic Violence

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:44 pm

Well, actually that headline is a bit of a distortion — but less of a distortion than their take on this story:

Domestic abuser goes free – thanks, gay marriage ban! An Ohio man has been acquitted of domestic abuse charges on the grounds that under the state’s new ban on civil unions – gay and straight- the defendant could not be guilty of domestic abuse because he was not married to his live-in girlfriend.

Well no, that’s not true — he didn’t go free. But, his charge was reduced to misdemeanor assault, according to this story in PlanetOut:

On Wednesday, the judge reduced the felony charge against Burk to a misdemeanor assault charge.

What is the relationship between a constitutional definition of marriage and a domestic violence law? According to PlanetOut:

[T]he language of Ohio’s Issue 1 was the most broad, prohibiting any state or local law that would “create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals.”

Ohio’s 25-year-old domestic violence law, however, recognizes relationships between unmarried couples. According to Friedman, Issue 1 has rendered that part of the domestic violence statute unconstitutional and thus unenforceable.

It should be obvious to anyone not wearing ideological blinders that the problem here is not “legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals,” but rather a law that treats non-domestic violence more leniently than domestic violence.

In other words, if The Advocate has the story right, Ohio law appears to say, “It’s OK to beat up someone who’s not your spouse.”

And that seems to be fine with certain gay-marriage advocates, as long as they can use this fact to get gay marraige legalized. See Apostropher, these commenters, The Advocate, and PlanetOut.

January 11, 2006

More Blog Carnivals!

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:18 pm

Here we have:

Whole Foods Buys Wind Energy to Increase Pollution

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:31 pm

I can’t believe this guy said this with a straight face:

Whole Foods Commits to Wind Energy

By Steve Quinn, AP Business Writer
Tue Jan 10, 6:56 PM ET

Natural-food grocer Whole Foods Market Inc. said Tuesday it will rely on wind energy for all of its electricity needs, making it the largest corporate user of renewable energy in the United States.

The Austin-based company said it is purchasing 458,000 megawatt-hours of wind energy credits a year — enough to power 44,000 homes annually — from Renewable Choice Energy of Boulder, Colo.

The decision follows the publicly traded company’s mission of environmental stewardship without losing sight of the bottom line, Whole Foods regional president Michael Besancon said.

“It’s a sales driver rather than a cost,” he said. “All of those things we do related to our core values: help drive sales, help convince a customer to drive past three or four other supermarkets on the way to Whole Foods.”

Right: so Whole Foods is buying wind energy so they look to the public like good environmentalists, to convince environmentally-conscious customers to drive more.

If this doesn’t convince you that environmentalism is a religion, what else is it? Environmentalism has rituals — like “use of wind energy” and “recycling” and “shopping at Whole Foods” that believers engage in because they believe in them — even if those activities demonstrably increase pollution, such as driving farther to get to Whole Foods, sending two garbage trucks down every street instead of one (the second to pick up “recyclables”) and so on. It also has beliefs that are not subject to scientific or logical scruitiny, like the idea that recycling is “good for the environment,” and the idea that both warmer temperatures and colder temperatures are evidence of global warming. (Which means, of course that no matter what happens, there never be evidence against global warming.)

Of course, a cynic might say that Whole Foods is just one big corporate scam artist taking advantage of consumers’ beliefs. Kind of like the Church of Scientology and the “Televangelists.”

This is especially the case when you realize that it’s all just a publicity stunt — no “wind energy” will actually end up in Whole Foods stores or offices:

Because power does not flow from wind farms directly to a home or business through a utility grid, Whole Foods is purchasing energy credits — like a voucher — that assure wind energy eventually gets placed on the grid.

So they are not actually “rely[ing] on wind energy” for anything, let alone “all of its electricity needs.” Even if the wind farms go dark, Whole Foods’ lights will stay on. That’s not “relying.”

But still, the gullible reporter writes:

The company began rolling out wind energy for all 173 stores in the United States and Canada last month. Prior to that, 20 percent of its electricity had been from renewable sources.

So, “power does not flow from wind farms directly” to their 173 stores, but they will, nevertheless be “rolling out wind energy for all 173 stores.” But if power does not flow from wind farms to the stores, what can that possibly mean?

Personally, I think it means that a publicity campaign touting their alleged use of wind energy will be rolling out at their 173 stores.

Besancon declined to discuss the cost of the purchase but said it was in line with the company’s current utility budget.

He won’t tell you how much his other adversiting programs cost, either.

MLK and Self-Defense

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:00 pm

The Virginia Citizens Defense League is a pro-gun-rights group in Virginia (obviously). They have no paid staff, just a bunch of volunteers. So, to ask members of the Virginia General Assembly to vote for gun-rights bills, they scheduled a “lobby day” for Monday January 16 — when they expect many members to have the day off from work in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. Their announcement of the “lobby day” had this interesting tidbit:

As usual the anti[-gun-rights group]s can’t get it right to save their souls. They also are planning on lobbying that day. In an email message they said that it was a fitting day because MLK was against violence — implying that by opposing their victim disarmament agenda that gun owners support violence.

I would like to point out that MLK had armed Deacons, who of course are [i.e., were] just normal citizens, providing security for him!

Indeed we are lobbying to protect the very right that those Deacons exercised back in the 1960′s.

The Deacons for Defense and Justice were a black self-defense group with a fascinating history. Founded in Jonesboro, LA to combat the violence of the KKK, they went on to provide security for civil-rights groups like the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Southern Christian Leadership Campaign (SCLC — Martin Luther King’s organization).

Larry Pratt writes:

The Deacons first emerged as a visible self-defense force in Jonesboro, LA. From the very beginning the Deacons represented a new force in the civil rights movement — leadership had passed from white northern liberals (and blacks who bought into that liberalism) to southern working class blacks who lived in the very communities where the Deacons were active.

The spring and summer of 1964 was a time of growing anti-segregation demonstrations in Jonesboro. The Klan responded at one point with a menacing parade through the black section of town — led by the chief of police. The Deacons informed the chief that if that happened again, “there would be some killing going on.” The Klan never did that again.

Cross burning ended suddenly the night that a cross was set on fire in front of a clergyman’s house. Shots rang out aimed at the Klan as the torch touched the cross. The Klan departed and never repeated that trick.

Hill found that the Deacons did not take just anybody into their ranks for this rather “high octane” volunteer work. They screened the applicants to make sure they were getting men who could handle the pressure and not go off half cocked.

During a desegregation effort at the Jonesboro High School, the authorities brought up fire trucks and prepared to hose the black students attempting to enter the school. The Deacons pulled up and four men publicly loaded shotguns and then made it plain that the lead was for the firemen if they turned the hoses on. The firemen wisely beat a retreat.

This was a very significant event. This was a self-defense effort in the spirit of the American War for Independence. The government was attempting to exercise illegitimate power (enforcing an unbiblical law which by this time also violated federal law) and it was repulsed by the use of community force — by the militia, if you will.

The Deacons were in the great tradition of American freedom — liberty is not given by tyrants and thugs, it is wrested from their hands by force.

Jonesboro saw one more exercise of defensive force before the Klan was finally convinced that they could not intimidate the black community. When Deacon Elmo Jacobs was driving a carload of white civil rights workers, they were fired upon and took a load of buckshot in the door of Jacobs’ car. Jacobs returned fire and the Klan attack ended immediately — and for good.

In Bogalusa, LA, Hill found that the police made no attempt to stop the attacks and in fact took pains to arrest blacks who had armed themselves in self defense. In other words, gun control was simply a tool of people control and had nothing to do with fighting crime. Had crime control been the concern, plenty of opportunities had come and gone to arrest the Klan.

FBI agent Frank Hicks warned Bogalusa blacks that any self-defense shooting by a black — of a white — would result in an arrest for murder. He did not explain where the FBI had any legal or constitutional authority for such a move, but the Deacons were not interested in a scholarly debate. They simply told Hicks that self defense is a constitutional right. Hicks got the message.

A lethal moment in Bogalusa shocked the Klan into the realization that blacks were no longer chattel punching bags. During a 1965 summer desegregation demonstration, white hecklers turned violent and threw a brick which struck Hattie Mae Hill. The white mob surrounded the car the Deacons were using to attempt an evacuation of the terrified girl.

As the mob threatened to break into the car, Deacon Henry Austin shouted that he had a gun. Then he fired a warning shot from his .38 into the air. The mob kept closing in. Austin then fired almost point blank into the chest of Alton Crowe who was in the front of the mob. While Crowe survived, the fun of beating up on blacks died that afternoon in Bogalusa.

When I discuss the Second Amendment with people, I often have to point out the right to keep and bear arms has nothing to do with duck hunting, and was not even originally enacted for purposes of self-defense against crime. It was enacted because of the belief that an armed populace is a protection against a despotic government; just as the popular militias rose up against the British colonial government in the 1770s, an armed population serves as a protection, and a deterent against despotism nowadays as well.

The inevitable response is that the old purpose is simply not realistic today. How could out government become oppressive when we have a democracy? How could armed citizens resist, when the government has tanks, fighter planes, and nuclear bombs? The Deacons give us the answer: A democratic government can become oppressive against a subset of its citizens if the majority support it, and “the government” might not be the federal government with tanks and nuclear bombs, but a local government with a police force that is on the side of the majority and has no qualms about oppressing that subset.

Could such a thing happen today? Well, 1965 is not that long ago. While violent oppression of Blacks on a large scale does not seem likely now, there are plenty of other groups who with unpopular views, unpopular religions, and unpopular people — and the Constitution is enough to protect their rights only as long as the government officials are sufficiently committed to it. That this is not always a sure thing is underscored by the fact that it took a century to properly implement the 14th and 15th Amendments — and only then at the barrel of the Deacons’ guns.

The Deacons have recently been the subject of two books: The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement by Lance E. Hill, and The Deacons for Defense and Justice: Defenders of the African American Community in Bogalusa, Louisiana During the 1960′s by L. LaSimba M. Gray, Jr., and a TV documentary, which has a review by Amin Sharif (with a picture).

January 9, 2006

For Assisted Suicide, Call 911

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:00 am

I wonder if this is what the “assisted suicide folks want — because here we surely have two cases of government-assisted suicide. This may remind you of the joke (maybe it’s not a joke) that suicide is a crime punishable by the death penalty.

From a 1999 article in the San Antonio News-Express (no link — found it on Lexis)

A 48-year-old armed man was killed in a hail of gunfire early Saturday by a special operations police squad during what police said was an attempt to stop him from committing suicide.

Well, I guess it worked. They certainly prevented him from committing suicide. This is actually getting increasingly common — sending SWAT teams to deal with suicide cases. Seems to me it’s a self-evidently bad idea. One of the more famous incidents took place in Albuquerque at about the same time as the case above. From a New York Times article:

Late on a chilly October night three years ago, Larry Harper told his family that life was no longer worth living and headed out the door with a handgun. He had slipped back to using crack cocaine after being in drug treatment and was ashamed to face his wife and brother.

The family called the Albuquerque police for help. In response, a paramilitary unit, nine men clad in camouflage and armed with automatic rifles and stun grenades, stormed into the park where Mr. Harper had gone in despair.

”Let’s go get the bad guy” were the last words Hope Harper heard as the Special Weapons and Tactics squad brushed by her on a hunt for her husband, leaving the family in the dark at the edge of the park. Police marksmen chased Mr. Harper through the woods, found him cowering behind a juniper tree and shot him to death from 43 feet away. He had committed no crime and had threatened only himself. The police said the fact that he was holding a gun made him a target.

Albuquerque’s SWAT team was notorious in the 1990s for being quick to pull the trigger. The city had more than 40 police shootings over a period of about four years, including 11 by the SWAT team — remarkable numbers for a city of its size. After a series of lawsuits and scathing independent reviews, the city put in some reforms, though it looks like in at least one case, by 2004 the SWAT team was back to answering suicide calls.

(Rarely do I quote another blog post in its entirety, but this is just too perfect — there’s nothing I can add, and nothing I can justify deleting. But click over to Radley Balko’s post anyway so he knows we’re reading it. (He’s got lots of other good stuff, too.)

January 8, 2006

Ted Kennedy recalls the “Goldwater presidency”

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:14 am

My brother just sent me this one, from the Washington Post:

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), hosting a morning roundtable with reporters, had nothing nice to say about Alito. “We here in the United States are not going to stand for monarchial tyranny,” he said, protesting Alito’s support for “unfettered, unlimited power of the executive.” He faulted Alito for belonging to a group that was “anti-black and also anti-women.” Kennedy wondered if “the average person is going to be able to get a fair shake” under Alito.

Briefly, Kennedy rewrote the outcome of the 1964 election. “This nominee was influenced by the Goldwater presidency,” he said. “The Goldwater battles of those times were the battles against the civil rights laws.” Only then did Kennedy acknowledge that “Judge Alito at that time was 14 years old.”

So first Kennedy says that Alito was influenced by the “Goldwater presidency” — and then “corrects” himself to say that Alito was [only] 14 years old at the time of the “Goldwater presidency.” That’s a correction?

And they say the “Bushisms” are bad!

(Note to the history-impaired: Alito was not 14 years old during the Goldwater presidency — because there was no Goldwater presidency. Goldwater lost the election of 1964 to Lyndon Johnson in what was the biggest landslide up to that time. And Ted Kennedy could be expected to know that, because Kennedy was not only not 14 years old at the time; he was 34 years old and was — with Goldwater — a U.S. Senator at the time!)

January 6, 2006

Your Phone Records Are For Sale

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:21 pm

And it has nothing to do with the PATRIOT Act, the NSA, or the Bush Administration. According to this article in the Chicago Sun-Times:

The Chicago Police Department is warning officers their cell phone records are available to anyone — for a price. Dozens of online services are selling lists of cell phone calls, raising security concerns among law enforcement and privacy experts.

Criminals can use such records to expose a government informant who regularly calls a law enforcement official.

Suspicious spouses can see if their husband or wife is calling a certain someone a bit too often.

And employers can check whether a worker is regularly calling a psychologist — or a competing company.

“Officers should be aware of this information when giving out their personal cell phone numbers to the general public,” the bulletin said. “Undercover officers should also be aware of this information if they occasionally call personal numbers such as home or the office, from their [undercover] ones.”

I want to know why any undercover officer ever thought doing that was safe. But now, getting the call records is not only possible, but easy — and while too expensive for most people to do it for mere curiousity, it’s cheap enough that most people could afford it if they had a serious reason to want to know:

To test the service, the FBI paid Locatecell.com $160 to buy the records for an agent’s cell phone and received the list within three hours, the police bulletin said.

How well do the services work? The Chicago Sun-Times paid $110 to Locatecell.com to purchase a one-month record of calls for this reporter’s company cell phone. It was as simple as e-mailing the telephone number to the service along with a credit card number. The request was made Friday after the service was closed for the New Year’s holiday.

On Tuesday, when it reopened, Locatecell.com e-mailed a list of 78 telephone numbers this reporter called on his cell phone between Nov. 19 and Dec. 17. The list included calls to law enforcement sources, story subjects and other Sun-Times reporters and editors.

Ernie Rizzo, a Chicago private investigator, said he uses a similar cell phone record service to conduct research for his clients. On Friday, for instance, Rizzo said he ordered the cell phone records of a suburban police chief whose wife suspects he is cheating on her.

“I would say the most powerful investigative tool right now is cell records,” Rizzo said. “I use it a couple times a week. A few hundred bucks a week is well worth the money.”

A glance at their web site shows a list of prices, and guaranteed service in 1-4 business hours for cell phone information (calls, name lookup by number, etc.). They also offer landline information, but they don’t list prices and have a “no information, no charge” guarantee, which implies they can’t always get that information.

I wonder if they have a discount plan for heavy users. Do they call it the “frequent spier” program? :-)

Seriously, though: Would it violate the Fourth Amendment if the government used this service to monitor people’s phone calls? What if the NSA used it to scan the call records for people calling terrorists?

January 5, 2006

Lobbying for Dummies

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:06 pm

Some of my best friends are liberals — and one of them just sent me an e-mail with this little taunt:

i hear there is a lobbist position available for the
rebublican party… and don’t forget to bring your
checkbook when you apply
:) :)

Now, I think he is trying to make a point — and I don’t think it’s a point about how liberals can’t spell or use capital letters, let alone to suggest I should become a lobbyist. I think the point has something to do with the recent guilty pleas of the formerly-famed Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Now I’m not a lobbyist, and I’ve never been a lobbyist, but in recent years I’ve had two sources from which I’ve learned a few facts about lobbying that I wouldn’t have known otherwise and that I don’t think most people know (except for #1 below). The sources are, (a) I work at a company that does research in a regulatored industry (health care), and we often do work for clients referred to us by lobbyists — who in turn use our research in their lobbying if it comes out the way they want — and (b) I live in a suburb of Washington, DC, where I have met some friends who are, or have been, lobbyists — a few of whom have talked to me about how it all works, and some of whom even know Jack Abramoff. How closely, I don’t know.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve learned, and my response to my Democrat friend:

  1. Lobbyists are not employed by parties. They are employed by people who want something, in order to influence parties. Some big companies hire both Republican and Democrat lobbyists, each to influence the party tow which they claim to be loyal. (They are actually loyal mainly to their employer, of course. At least as long as they work there.)

  2. You do not “bring your checkbook when you apply” to become a lobbyist. You bring your Rolodex. If you know lots of Congressmen — or even high-ranking civil servants — someone will pay you to contact them and tell them to do things that someone wants them to do (either favors, or vote a certain way). The lobbyist will also tell the client/employer who they should donate to in order to get things done. The client/employer pays the lobbyist to tell them this.

  3. The lobbyist never pays anybody. The client/employer pays everybody — the lobbyist (salary/retainer/fee), the politicians (contributions — campaign and otherwise, and golf trips), and the bureaucrats (golf trips, and high-paying cushy jobs after they do what the client/employer wants), and in the case of my firm, the client/employer pays consulting firms the lobbyist recommends to do research used to convince bureaucrats to do what the client/employer wants. Lobbyists also recommend that the client/employer pay other lobbyists in cases where the first don’t know the right politician/bureaucrat for a particular issue and they know another lobbyist who does. (So the lobbyist has to have a big Rolodex, but it also helps to know who’s in all the other lobbyists’ Rolodexes.)

  4. One question I had is, how do lobbyists (quasi-legally) get around the restrictions on explicitly giving money — like the $2,000 limit on campaign contributions? Not to mention, of course, the rules against explicitly trading contributions for actions. The first part is easy: lobbyists tell their clients to contribute, and the clients often have lots of people who can give $2,000 each. When the politician knows that a bunch of contributions are coming from people in a certain company or interest group, as recommended by the lobbyist, the both the company or interest group and the lobbyist benefit, because the politician appreciates the contributions from the company or interest group, and he or she also appreciates that the lobbyist recommended that they contribute (and he or she knows the lobbyist isn’t allowed to make that huge contribution himself). The second part is a bit more complicated. It works like this: A congressman once called a lobbyist who worked for a particular industry group and asked him to buy a table at his fundraising dinner. The lobbyist told him that his group has the following three policy concerns at the time, and they have a policy of supporting only those congressmen who’ve taken positions on their side of those three issues. He didn’t ask the congressman to change any positions, and didn’t promise him anything if he did. Within a few days, the congressman — who’d previously shown no interest on either side of these issues — released a press release supporting one position they liked, signed on as a co-sponsor of some legislation they wanted passed, and did some spoke on the floor in favor of their position on something. Then the industry group called it’s members, and the members bought a table at the fundraiser. (Of course, people can also “contribute” more than the $2,000 limit be seting up non-campaign organizations that unofficially do things to help candidates; this is how George Soros spent $35 million (or whatever it was) on John Kerry’s campaign despite the $2,000 “limit.”)

  5. Another way they get around the contribution restriction is this: Sure congressmen like campaign contributions, but they also like other kinds of contributions — like charity, for example. Maybe a Congressman is on the board of the Inner-City Youth Chess and Self-Esteem Foundation. The lobbyist finds this out, and has his clients give a large (no measly $2,000 limit!) contribution to the foundation. Now, why would this influence the politician? Well, for one thing, the politician may actually care about the charity. Even most politicians actually care about something besides getting elected. For another thing, it can be good publicity — the politician can get a photo-op at the ceremony where the company hands the poster-sized $50,000 check to the director of the foundation, and basks in the reflected good publicity that comes from being associated with charitable causes. Plus, the foundation’s staff or organizer or beneficiaries like the fact that the congressman has this magical ability to steer contributions their way, so they nice things about him and that means the money actually could help him get elected, even though he doesn’t have it to spend on his campaign. Plus, at election time he can tout his involvement in “the community” by saying he serves on the boards of all these foundations — foundations that would have no interest in keeping him on their boards if it weren’t for the fact that he can arrange contribution from the folks like Amalgamated Union of BB Stackers, which would not care about Inner-City Youth Chess except that Representative Bullhorn is on their board, and also chairs the House Subcommittee on Small Metal Objects, which has jurisdiction over occupational health and safety regulations in the BB-stacking industry. So, they donate $50,000 to the Inner-City Youth Chess Foundation because they aren’t allowed to donate it to Representative Bullhorn’s re-election campaign, and the Foundation is her (Bullhorn’s — did I say Bullhorn was male?) second choice.

As far as I can tell, Jack Abramoff is not in trouble for giving bribes, as such. He’s in trouble for directing client bribes to particular politicians — of both parties, although he himself is a Republican. He is also in trouble for directing client contributions to some charities he cared about by telling the client some politican cared about them. (As well as the Florida stuff, which as far as I can tell has nothing to do with politics.)

And to answer my liberal friend’s implied taunt, I’m only slightly embarrassed that he’s a Republican. Yes, Republicans should know better. But (like John Podhoretz), I’m more embarrassed that he’s apparently an (otherwise) Orthodox Jew — which means he really should have known better!

As for my liberal Democrat friend (also an Orthodox Jew), I wonder how he feels about this, as explained by someone who, unlike me, is an actual ex-lobbyist:

What is missed in the Abramoff hooplah is how the whole investigation … at least the lobbying side of it…came about. From the WaPo 12.29.05[:]

“Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (N.D.), the ranking Democrat on the Indian Affairs Committee, remembers first hearing “vague complaints” about Abramoff in June 2003 from three Democratic lobbyists. The tribes had traditionally supported Democrats, but Abramoff was capturing them for Republicans, getting them to boost their contributions and give two-thirds to his party.”

Only in D.C. will a group of lobbyists, lobby a Dem Senator to go after a Republican lobbyist because Republican lobbyist convinced clients to contribute to Republicans. In D.C., getting a donor to flip sides is the greatest of sins.

So, if Jack would have let the Dems have a fair share of the Indian money flowing to political campaigns, the lobbyists wouldn’t have run to Dorgan, who also got some $90,000 in Abramoff related money, and Jack could have kept bilking the tribes.

What brought down Abramoff was his success. He was getting better results than most lobbyists and making a pile of money and sniping clients from other firms.

And of course, getting the Indians to contribute to Republicans … on K-Street, that is the unforgivable sin, for while most lobbying interests are big business, their lobbyists tend to be former Democrat staffers, who still want the Blue team to win.

My K-Street and politics education came the old fashioned way. I saw Liberal Democrat lobbyists stear money to candidates who consistently voted against their clients interests. I saw a lobbyist from a Pharmaceutical company direct the company make a max contribution to a candidate who wanted to crack down on the Pharmaceutical Industry’s profits and require more stringent safety standards.

The Pharm company didn’t know what was going on. But their lobbyist, a part-time gay rights activist, was actually playing the marriage issue with his company’s money.

Big businesses are waking up to what has been happening to them–the lobbyists have been ripping them off.

I also learned an unwritten rule in lobbying–don’t be too good, then everyone will have to work harder and produce results.

If you are too good, the other lobbyists will turn on you. Remember, most lobbyists are long removed from being a middling staffer. Few of them come from the campaign side and to them it is a big machine. The ones from the campaign side, at least Republicans, rarely end up on K-Street. They are too philosophically oriented, too driven to win and not urbane enough for those whose father could buy them an internship to start moving up the D.C. ladder. There are very few winning campaign managers running around D.C. when compared to those who come up through the company.

For those who came in through the staff side, D.C. is a company town and they just want to keep the money flowing and pay the mortgage and help the party they came up through.

Abramoff broke the rules. He cut off a source of Democrat money, got results and stole clients.

All of which led some Dem lobbyists to complain to a Dem Senator who took Abramoff related money.

That is how messed up the place is and why I stayed on the campaign side and eventually got out of it all.

Liberals Protect Women and Children?

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:00 pm

Clayton Cramer points to a report on a judge who sentenced a serial child rapist to 60 days (not years! days!) for repeatedly raping a girl for four years starting when she was seven years old.

The judge said he no longer believes in punishment and is more concerned about rehabilitation.

Prosecutors argued that confessed child-rapist Mark Hulett, 34, of Williston deserved at least eight years behind bars for repeatedly raping a littler girl countless times starting when she was seven.

But Judge Edward Cashman disagreed explaining that he no longer believes that punishment works.

“The one message I want to get through is that anger doesn’t solve anything. It just corrodes your soul,” said Judge Edward Cashman speaking to a packed Burlington courtroom. Most of the on-lookers were related to a young girl who was repeatedly raped by Mark Hulett who was in court to be sentenced.

The sex abuse started when the girl was seven and ended when she was ten. Prosecutors were seeking a sentence of eight to twenty years in prison, in part, as punishment.

Judge Cashman also also revealed that he once handed down stiff sentences when he first got on the bench 25 years ago, but he no longer believes in punishment.

“I discovered it accomplishes nothing of value; it doesn’t make anything better; it costs us a lot of money; we create a lot of expectation, and we feed on anger,”Cashman explained to the people in the court.

Right — so this liberal judge wants to let a serial child rapist out on the street in two months just so he can save a few bucks?

And they accuse conservatives of trying to “balance the budget on the backs of the poor”! Liberals think it’s better to balance the budget on the vaginas of little girls?
Are they nuts?

(Well, maybe: Michael Savage titles his book Liberalism is a Mental Disorder.)

Hugo Chávez’s Antisemitic Christmas Speech

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:00 pm

Tom Gross reports:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced in a Christmas speech that “the descendants of those who crucified Christ” have appropriated the riches of the world.

Speaking at a rehabilitation center on December 24, the controversial left-wing president said “the descendants of those who crucified Christ… have taken ownership of the riches of the world, a minority has taken ownership of the gold of the world, the silver, the minerals, water, the good lands, petrol, well, the riches, and they have concentrated the riches in a small number of hands.”

The full speech (in a PDF file, in Spanish) is here; the relevant part is on page 18 of the PDF file.

My Spanish is not all that great, but it’s enough to confirm that this is not a gross mis-translation or taken out of context. My (Babelfish-assisted) translation of the surrounding passage is:

There was no money — and where was the money? The money in Venezuela was concentrated… as well as in the world, because this is a world-wide phenomenon, you know? This morning I finish reading the last report of the United Nations on the world situation, and it is alarming — and for that reason I say that today more than ever before in the last 2005 years we need Jesus Christ, because the world, the world, is exhausting every day, every day, the wealth of the world, because God, whose nature is wise, gave the world sufficient water so that all we had water, the world has sufficient wealth, sufficient land to produce foods for all the world-wide population, the world has sufficient stones and minerals for the construction, so that there was not anybody without a house.
The world has [enough] for all, then, but there are minorities, the descendants of such who crucified Christ, the descendants of such who threw to Bolivar from here and also crucified [them] in Santa Marta, back in Colombia. A minority has appropriated the wealth of the world, a minority has appropriated gold of the planet, the silver, minerals, waters, good land, petroleum — the wealth, then, and have concentrated the wealth in few hands: less than the ten percent of the population of the world own more than half of the wealth worldwide and … more than half of the inhabitants of the world are poor and every day there are more poor men throughout the world. We are determined, determined here to change history …

Clayton Cramer tries, but fails, to give Chávez the benefit of the doubt:

I found myself wondering: is he talking about the United States? But it wasn’t Americans who crucified Jesus. (Actually, it wasn’t Jews who crucified Jesus; it was Romans–but little details like history don’t usually bother anti-Semites.)

Clayton also says:

I thought that this sort of anti-Semitism was completely gone–but since the speaker is a bit of a hero to the left, I guess that I am not surprised[.]

We Americans (both Jewish and not) tend, if we think about it at all, to think that antisemitism is gone — because here in America, it basically is. The events in France in 2002-03 (and to a lesser extent, Germany and England) were a shocker to a lot of people, but antisemitism never really died in the rest of the world. In Europe, it was just submerged for a generation or two — probably because the Holocaust made people feel guilty for appaering, if not actually being, antisemitic.

There has always been an antisemitic undertone in Latin America. There’s a reason so many Nazis found refugees in Argentina, and I’ve heard the theory that Vatican II never really made it down to the masses in some of the poorer countries in South America. And of course, the fact that “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is a best-seller in Japan is proof that antisemitism can exist without any actual Jews — and even without a history of a religion that makes the accusation of deicide against Jews.

Except from the Arab countries plus Iran, we have basically had a honeymoon from antisemtism for the last half-century. But the honeymoon is over (except in the United States, and I pray that remains the case). In the UK, unlike in the US, they have Chief Rabbi, and he said recently:

In an interview with BBC Radio yesterday [i.e.,Jan. 1] to mark the Christian New Year, Britain’s normally mild-mannered chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, warned that a “tsunami of anti-Semitism” is threatening to engulf many parts of the world. Dr Sacks said he was “very scared” by the rise in anti-Jewish feeling, which had led to Holocaust denial, attacks on synagogues and a boycott of Jewish groups on university campuses.

Among British concerns, he cited the fact that since 2002, Jewish student groups on 17 British campuses have faced the threat of expulsion from fellow students who claim to merely be anti-Israeli rather than anti-Semitic. Dr Sacks said attempts to “silence and even ban” Jewish student groups were “quite extraordinary” because most of Britain’s 350,000 Jews regarded themselves primarily as “British citizens”.

And here in Virginia, we have seen a small part of the effect. Among our neighbors are a Jewish family who moved here from France about a year and a half ago, after concluding that it was not safe to raise Jewish kids there. They’re great people and we love them, but we wish they’d had a less discouraging reason to move here.

UPDATE (1/6/06): The English-language mainstream media is picking up on the story a day after the English-language blogosphere. At least if you count the Jerusalem Post, the Times of India, or the Houston Chronicle as “mainstream.”

Ariel Sharon’s Stroke

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:11 pm

When I first heard that Ariel Sharon had had a second stroke after the “mini-strokes” last month, and that the second was a hemorrhagic stroke, my first thought was that they’d put him on anticoagulants as a result of the mini-strokes, and they caused the second one.

Now, it seems that some doctors are saying the same thing. (I should have posted this two days ago; I’d have looked like a genius. But, a lot of good that would have done Sharon…)

You see, there are two kinds of strokes — and they are pretty much the opposite in terms of what happens and what causes them. An ischemic stroke is when a blood clot lodges in a artery in the brain, cutting off the supply of blood to the part of brain supplied by that artery. It’s basically the same as a heart attack, only the artery being blocked is in the brain rather than the heart. A mini-stroke is what they call a “transient ischemic attack” — a small clot that either dissolves by itself rather quickly, or blocks an artery that’s so minor the brain can sort of work around the damage. A hemorrhagic stroke — AKA, a cerebral hemorrhage — is the opposite — it’s when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and blood starts spilling all over the place, coming into contact with brain tissue it isn’t supposed be in contact with, and also causing pressure, since there’s not much room for swelling inside a hard container like the skull.

So, these two are opposites — an ischemic stroke is not enough blood where it’s supposed to be, and a hemorrhagic stroke is too much blood where it’s not supposed to be.

The main treatment for an ischemic stroke is to give anticoagulant drugs — drugs that dissolve clots, and prevent new clots from forming. If you’ve heard of that drug (tPA) that can stop a stroke, but only if is given within 3 hours of a stroke — well, that’s a drug that can dissolve blood clots. If it dissolves them fast enough, the severity of brain damage cause by the stroke can be reduced or maybe even eliminated. Someone who has an ischemic stroke — either a “mini-stroke” or a full-blown one — is normally put on milder anticoagulant drugs, such as warfarin (Coumadin®) for an extended period after the stroke, and perhaps indefinitely, to prevent a subsequent stroke. Warfarin works by inhibiting the blood from clotting.

And here’s the problem: Warfarin works on all your blood, so it slows clot formation all the time — not just when it would cause a stroke, but all the time. One of the effects of warfarin and other anticoagulants is that when you start to bleed (say, from a paper cut), you bleed longer since it takes longer for your blood to clot. And if you happen to start to bleed inside your brain, anticoagulants will prevent that bleeding from stopping, too.

In short, the same drugs that cure or prevent ischemic strokes can actually cause hemorrhagic strokes, or at least make them much, much, worse. And this isn’t really a side effect as such — anticoagulants make hemorrhagic strokes for the exact same reason that they cure, reduce, or prevent ischemic strokes.

People often wonder why people are not given tPA right away with they show up in the emergency room showing stroke symptoms. After all, could it hurt? Yes, it could — both kinds of strokes have similar or identical symptoms, so they have to do an MRI or CT scan or otherwise try to figure out whether the person is having a ischemic stroke or a hemorrhagic one — while if it’s ischemic, tPA could save the patient’s life, if it’s hemorrhagic, tPA could kill the patient or otherwise make the stoke a lot worse. And they have to do it very quickly, since tPA works much better when given sooner, and it loses its effectiveness rapidly after about three hours.

I’m not second-guessing the doctors here. I believe it’s standard practice to give anticoagulants to everyone who has an ischemic stroke unless there’s a known good reason not to, under the theory that if a person had one, they are susceptible and could have another. So, they probably did the right thing given the information they had at the time. I don’t know how common it is for the same person to be susceptible to both kinds of strokes, or if there’s any way to tell, or if it’s possible they misdiagnosed the events of last week. Perhaps a doctor reading this might be willing to leave a comment to clarify some of this.

Disclaimer: I am not a physician, and I don’t even play one on TV. Don’t take any of this as medical advice. If you think any of this applies to you, consult an actual medical doctor, not me. I do not guarantee that anything said about is true. I mean, I think it is, but I’m not a doctor so I might make a mistake, and I’m not licensed to guarantee it anyway.

Powered by WordPress