Different River

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

June 30, 2006

I want one of these

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:46 pm

Not a cellphone. A smellphone.

Shark Abortions

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:04 pm

Are Abortions Sad? Well, if they are accidental abortions of sharks:

SARASTOA, Fla. (AP) — The likely world-record hammerhead shark caught in May weighed 1,280 pounds because it was pregnant with 55 pups — the most scientists have ever seen.

“Although we are thankful that the fisherman gave this unique specimen to Mote, and we are learning a lot about this species from this large female shark, we were saddened to see so many unborn pups inside her so close to birth,” said Dr. Robert Hueter, director of Mote’s Center for Shark Research.

Would a director of human (e.g., medical) research say the same thing about unborn humans? In public, if he wanted to keep his job?

Recall also my previous post about the pro-life movement for dolphins.

“We ask fishermen not to kill sharks for sport and to remember that shark populations have been severely depleted by overfishing. Very large sharks like this hammerhead are often pregnant females that help maintain the status of the species’ population into the future. We advocate release of these large sharks and the tagging of them whenever possible.”

Is there similar concern for maintaining the human population?

If you ask the folks in the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, the concern is precisely the opposite! (Their motto: “May we live long and die out.” I am not making this up.)

June 28, 2006

Would You Donate Your Virginity to Science?

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:07 am

It seem like the old concept of “donating your body to science” for medical research has taken a whole new turn.

The New England Journal of Medicine just published a paper by a group of researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle studying whether condom use affected the probability of infection with Human Papillomavirus Infection (HPV), in which the researchers essentially asked female virgins to lose their virginity and report on their condom use at the big event, and for the subsequent 2-4 years. Furthermore, they failed to inform participants of all the risks of participating in the study — and in fact never even attempted to obtain consent of any kind, let alone informed consent, from more than half the subjects whose behavior was studied.

I’m sure you don’t believe me — no reasonable person would — so I’m going to quote directly from the article. (Italics in the original, boldface added.)

By the way, I don’t like the mainstream media’s practice of quoting anonymous “researchers” or claiming a study was done by a “university” rather than faculty, staff, or students acting on their own initiative, which is almost always what it is. The researchers have names, so I’m going to name them so they can take credit or blame. They are: Rachel L. Winer, Ph.D., James P. Hughes, Ph.D., Qinghua Feng, Ph.D., Sandra O’Reilly, B.S., Nancy B. Kiviat, M.D., King K. Holmes, M.D., Ph.D., and Laura A. Koutsky, Ph.D. All are from the Departments of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, or Pathology, or the Center for AIDS and STD, University of Washington, Seattle. And the authors state that the works was “Supported in part by grants (RO1-A138383 and T32-AI007140-24) from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.” Which means if you pay taxes in the United States, you paid for this study. The title of the article is “Condom Use and the Risk of Genital Human Papillomavirus Infection in Young Women” and it appears in the June 22, 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 354, No. 25, pp. 2645-2654.

Now fasten your seatbelts, this is going to be um, an interesting ride:


Background To evaluate whether the use of male condoms reduces the risk of male-to-female transmission of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, longitudinal studies explicitly designed to evaluate the temporal relationship between condom use and HPV infection are needed.

Methods We followed 82 female university students who reported their first intercourse with a male partner either during the study period or within two weeks before enrollment. Cervical and vulvovaginal samples for HPV DNA testing and Papanicolaou testing were collected at gynecologic examinations every four months. Every two weeks, women used electronic diaries to record information about their daily sexual behavior. Cox proportional-hazards models were used to evaluate risk factors for HPV infection.

Study Design

We restricted eligibility to female University of Washington undergraduates who were 18 to 22 years old and who had never had vaginal intercourse or had first had intercourse with one male partner within the previous three months.

Now pay attention — they are later going to change that “within the previous three months” to within the previous two weeks.

In addition, the women had to have a cervix, could not be pregnant, had to be in good general health, and had to be able to provide written informed consent. Since the goal of the study was to enroll a population of healthy women (rather than women presenting to the student health clinic with gynecological problems), between December 2000 and June 2005, we mailed invitational letters to 24,201 women who met the age criterion and who released their names to the registrar.

Let’s restate that: These researchers mailed letters to more than 24,000 female college students asking if they’ve ever had sex, and if not would they like to for a medical study. (And if they’d just started very recently, it wasn’t too late.)

Questions for the peanut gallery: (1) If you were a female college student between the ages of 18 and 22, how would you feel about getting a letter like that. (2) If you had a daughter who was a female college student between the ages of 18 and 22, how would you feel about her university’s registrar releasing her name so she could get a letter like that from her university’s faculty?

Given the restrictive eligibility criteria, we assumed that the number of participants would be low in relation to the number of letters mailed.

Translation: We don’t think much of the morality of our university’s female students.

Well, that might be the translation if the researchers thought that morality and sex were related. I’d bet it never occurred to them to consider that possibility, so they did not actually intend that to be a smear on the female student (er,) body. I don’t know if that makes the claim more or less insensitive.

We also provided informational flyers to contraceptive counselors at the student health clinic. Of the 243 eligible women who responded, 210 agreed to participate (86.4 percent). The protocol was approved by the institutional review board at the University of Washington.

One might conclude from this sentence that what they “assumed” in the previous sentence was in fact correct — that there were only 243 female students out of 24,201 who met the “restrictive eligibility criteria” (never had sex, or at least not until two weeks ago). In other words, that 99% of University of Washington female undergraduates were sexually active more than two weeks ago.

However, we could also give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that some significant percentage of the students either didn’t want to start having sex, even for the sake of “science,” or just had better taste than the researchers. In fact, I think you’d be hard pressed to find any statement that’s true of 99% of any large group of undergraduates.

Later in the report we find this little gem — students were excluded from the study if they didn’t cooperate by losing their virginity:

Excluded from the study were 65 women who reported having had no vaginal intercourse, 3 women who did not record any information in their diaries regarding sexual behavior, and 60 women who reported having first had intercourse more than two weeks before enrollment.

They even have a neat little chart explaining all this.

Normally human research subjects are paid a small stipend for their trouble. I wonder if those enrollees who didn’t have sex still got paid. (If not, the researchers were arguably violating laws against prostitution — they were paying women to have sex.)

Of course, this all sounds very “scientific”:

Marginal Cox proportional-hazards models were used to determine risk factors for HPV infection. Data from diaries were summarized into risk-factor variables during the eight months before HPV testing, since most infections associated with a first partner (before the report of a second partner) occurred within eight months after a woman first had intercourse. Data recorded less than 20 days before a given visit were excluded, because 20 days was the shortest observed interval between the time a woman first had intercourse and the detection of an incident HPV infection in this study. The time to an event was measured from the time a woman first had intercourse to the report of infection with each type of HPV or the last clinic visit, with each woman contributing at-risk time for each of 37 HPV types. Analyses were stratified according to the type of HPV, assuming common relative hazards across HPV types while allowing the baseline hazards to vary. Robust variance estimates were used to account for correlation within subjects. Analyses were restricted to intervals in which intercourse was reported.

Yes, they use fancy terms like “time to an event” and “measured” and — my favorite — “Marginal Cox proportional-hazards models.” (Get your mind out of the gutter — “Cox” refers to the world-famous British statistician, Sir David Cox of Oxford University. And yes, it is a real type of statistical model.)

What sort of data did they collect?

Potential risk factors included the total number of instances of vaginal intercourse (continuous variable), the number of new partners (0, 1, or >1), the frequency of condom use by partners (<5 percent, 5 to 49 percent, 50 to 99 percent, or 100 percent), the partner’s circumcision status (circumcised, uncircumcised, or unknown), and the partner’s number of previous partners (0, .1, or unknown). The frequency of condom use was calculated by dividing the number of condoms used for vaginal intercourse by the number of instances of vaginal intercourse during the eight-month study period. If multiple new partners were reported during an eight-month period, the circumcision status and previous number of partners were summarized.

Now hold that thought for a minute and go back to a statement made earlier:

The protocol was approved by the institutional review board at the University of Washington.

Now this is kind of interesting. It happens to be a federal law (actually a regulation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services) that every institution that does any federally-supported research, and does any research on “human subjects” — that is, any research involving people in any capacity other than as researchers — have an institutional review board (IRB), and that all research projects involving human subjects be submitted to the IRB for approval. The IRB is supposed to make sure that, in the words of the Department of Health and Human Services, “Human Subjects Research Must be Guided by Ethical Principles.”

But whose ethics are they supposed to use?

By the ethics of most religions practiced in the United States, people aren’t supposed to have sex outside of marriage, most 18-22-year-olds aren’t married, and of course they are want data on the number of partners, which has to be greater than one for some significant fraction of of the women to produce statistically valid results. So the researchers are clearly aiming for behavior that a significant fraction of people regard as unethical.

Obviously, then, then don’t mean those ethics.

Perhaps then, they mean more “modern” ethics, by which it’s OK for anyone to have sex with anyone who agrees, as long as they use “protection.” But the whole point is to see if the “protection” works, by seeing the the effects are different for those who use it than for those who don’t. To do this, the researchers depend on some fraction of their subjects having unprotected sex. And it has to be a large enough fraction to generate statistically significant results.

Obviously, they can’t be encouraging condom use any more than they could be encouraging abstinence — either one would ruin their research!

What they mean is, “(a) The Belmont Report: Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects of Research of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, or (b) other appropriate ethical standards recognized by federal departments and agencies that have adopted the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, known as the Common Rule.”

The Belmont Report was written in 1979 by government-appointed commission made up of three medical doctors, two lawyers, two non-physician scientists, a professor of bioethics, a professor of Christian ethics (is that constitutional?), and the then-president of the National Council of Negro Women. The report described three “Basic Ethical Principles”: Respect for Persons, Beneficence, and Justice. And it described three “Applications” of these principles: (1) Informed Consent, (2) Assessment of Risk and Benefits, and (3) Selection of Subjects.

In the section on Informed Consent, the commission stated:

Most codes of research establish specific items for disclosure intended to assure that subjects are given sufficient information. These items generally include: the research procedure, their purposes, risks and anticipated benefits, alternative procedures (where therapy is involved), and a statement offering the subject the opportunity to ask questions and to withdraw at any time from the research. …

Voluntariness. An agreement to participate in research constitutes a valid consent only if voluntarily given. This element of informed consent requires conditions free of coercion and undue influence. Coercion occurs when an overt threat of harm is intentionally presented by one person to another in order to obtain compliance. Undue influence, by contrast, occurs through an offer of an excessive, unwarranted, inappropriate or improper reward or other overture in order to obtain compliance. Also, inducements that would ordinarily be acceptable may become undue influences if the subject is especially vulnerable.

Now one interesting question is to what extent the consent given by the young women involved truly met the requirements above. I’m sure the staff was able to explain their purposes unambiguously. And they probably explained the “research procedure” quite well, if by that one means the procedure for filling out the electronic diaries — if not the procedure for, um, generating the information to put in the electronic diaries. This latter procedure was, by the nature of the requirements for the study, something with which the subjects were, um, necessarily unfamiliar. In fact, some of the “risks and anticipated benefits” were also something with which the subjects were necessarily unfamiliar. Obviously, the risk of HPV infection was there — that was the whole point of the study — and I’m sure the researchers could explain what that entailed, as well as the risks of other sexually transmitted diseases.

But what about the other “risks and anticipated benefits”? Prior to obtaining consent, did the researchers fully inform the subjects as to the emotional risks of engaging in sexual intercourse (a) for the purpose of a study, (b) if not for that purpose alone, then with the study in mind, ( c) with or without a committed relationship, (d) with the commitment level of the relationship formalized or not formalized in any particular way (e.g., marriage), (e) with more than one partner within the time frame of the study? What about the risks of increased emotional trauma when a relationship breaks up, if that relationship involved sexual intercourse? Did they fully inform the subjects of all this? I kind of doubt it.

And what about the “anticipated benefits”? Prior to obtaining consent, did the researchers fully inform their virgin subjects of the physical pleasures of sexual intercourse? What about the emotional pleasures that come from that form of intimacy? (Which, one might argue, turn negative without the appropriate level of commitment.) What about the benefits of parenthood, as opposed to the risks of pregnancy?

An even more interesting question is, did they get informed consent from the “male partners”? The study doesn’t mention that at all. They have copious detail about how the female subjects were recruited and screened, but the “male partners” are only mentioned when they (and their previous partners) are counted, and when it is asked whether they were circumcised. As far as we know, they were not informed of anything by the researchers — the researchers may not have even asked who they were. They female subjects were simply set loose in Seattle to involve unknowing males in a “research study.”

You might laugh, but this is precisely the sort of think the Belmont Commission was meant to address. One of the motivations for appointing the Belmont Commission was the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which 600 black men, 399 of whom had syphilis, were “studied” by being given medical care that, unbeknownst to them, did NOT include treatment for their disease. Neither they, nor their wives were informed the had syphilis, and they were “studied” until they died — in part to see how long it would take.

In this case, they aren’t even telling the male partners that they are part of a study. They are collecting personal information about them — such as whether the are circumcised, and the number of previous sexual partners they’ve had — and they are studying them in an environment in which the researchers know they are at risk at least for HPV, not to mention other things, and the are not informed of the risks, they are not informed they are being used for a study, and no consent of any kind, informed or not, has been obtained.

In short, this study is not only unethical from a “traditional values” point of view; it is also unethical from a “secular bioethics” point of view.

The fact that the University of Washington’s IRB was willing to approve this study calls into question whether the entire IRB system is just a bureaucratic rubber stamp for whatever some voyeuristic researchers want to do.

June 22, 2006

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:00 pm

For all you baseball fans who think you know better than your favorite team’s manager (and once upon a time this was me), here’s your chance:

The Schaumburg Flyers, a minor league baseball team in suburban Chicago has decided to let the wisdom of crowds determine its fate for the second half of the season. It will turn over to the fans decisions such as the lineup, fielding positions and pitching roster, in a project called Fan Club: Reality Baseball.

The idea is not entirely new to baseball either, as Bill Veeck, promoter extraordinaier and the owner of the White Sox, the Browns and the Indians at times in his career once had fans vote during Grandstand Managers Day at a St.Louis Browns game. The fans voted on the lineup and every major decision in the game. The Browns won too, one of their only 52 wins that year.

I read about that Browns game a long time ago, and wished I’d been there. What I want to know is how they decided what to vote on. Robert’s Rules of Order? (Imagine: “The fellow in the back moved we change pitchers. Do I hear a second?”)

Turns Out They Actually Did Find WMDs in Iraq

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:30 am

Well, waddaya know — it turns out there actually were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq!

WASHINGTON — The United States has found 500 chemical weapons in Iraq since 2003, and more weapons of mass destruction are likely to be uncovered, two Republican lawmakers said Wednesday.

“We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons,” Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said in a quickly called press conference late Wednesday afternoon.

Reading from a declassified portion of a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center, a Defense Department intelligence unit, Santorum said: “Since 2003, coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent. Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq’s pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist.”

You can read the recently-declassified document for yourself Howard Dean or Michael Moore to acknowledge this — they’ll keep on saying “Bush lied” about Iraq having chemical weapons, even though what he said was true.

Nor should we expect the pollsters that reported that most Americans are “ignorant” for believing tht Iraq had weapons of mass destruction to report that it was, instead, the pollsters who were ignorant.

June 20, 2006

Getting Revenge on Goldilocks

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:11 pm

Tribune News Service reports:

Bear enters house, feasts on oatmeal

Published June 20, 2006

WEST VANCOUVER, CANADA — It was a real-life version of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”– only in reverse — when a woman came home to find a young bear eating oatmeal in her kitchen.

The bear apparently entered through an open sliding glass door, broke a ceramic food container and started eating, West Vancouver police Sgt. Paul Skelton said.

“It sounds like a nursery rhyme, doesn’t it?” Skelton said. “At least we have a health-conscious bear on our hands.”

Three officers who went to the home Thursday couldn’t get the bear to budge, so they let it finish its meal.

“The bear didn’t appear to be aggressive and wasn’t destroying the house, so they just let it do what it was doing,” Skelton said. The bear finally left.

Too bad they didn’t report the name of the woman, or any comments she might have. I first heard the story of Goldilocks about 30 years ago, so it’s possible that by now she has grown up and lives in a house in West Vancouver with a sliding glass door. ;-)

(Hat tip: James Taranto.)

Backyard Global Warming

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:49 pm

James Taranto points to this gem from ABC News, which sounds like the sort of thing you’d see in the satirical newspaper, The Onion:

Witnessing the impact of global warming in your life?

ABC News wants to hear from you. We’re currently producing a report on the increasing changes in our physical environment, and are looking for interesting examples of people coping with the differences in their daily lives. Has your life been directly affected by global warming?

We want to hear and see your stories. Have you noticed changes in your own backyard or hometown? The differences can be large or small — altered blooming schedules, unusual animals that have arrived in your community, higher water levels encroaching on your property.

Well, I’ve noticed that in my community, there has been significant warming over the past six months. And yesterday, there was a massive rainstorm which caused a much higher-than normal water level in my backyard.

I guess by ABC’s standards, that’s proof of global warming!

Big Sibling is Watching You

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:26 pm

This is the second article I’ve seen on this in the past couple of weeks:

The future of law enforcement was launched into the smoggy Los Angeles skies at the weekend in the form of a drone aircraft intended to bring spy-in-the-sky technology to urban policing.

The unmanned aerial vehicle, called the SkySeer, looks like a remote-controlled toy and fits into a shoulder bag. In the air, the craft is guided by global positioning system coordinates, and a camera fixed to the underside sends video to a laptop command station.

A prototype is being tested by the LA county sheriff’s department, which says the SkySeer will accomplish tasks too dangerous for officers, and free helicopters for other missions. “This technology could be used to find missing children, search for lost hikers or survey a fire zone,” said Commander Sid Heal, head of the sheriff’s department technology exploration project. “The plane is virtually silent and invisible.”

The SkySeer, which has low-light and infrared capabilities and can fly at speeds of up to 30mph, would also be able to spot burglary suspects.

“A helicopter can be seen and heard and one can make behaviour choices based on that,” said Beth Givens of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. “Do we really want to live in a society where our backyard barbecues will be open to police scrutiny?”

Police say the concerns are unwarranted because everybody is already under surveillance.

“You shouldn’t be worried about being spied on by your government,” said Commander Heal. “These days you can’t go anywhere without a camera watching you, whether you’re in a grocery store or walking down the street.”

That’s supposed to make us feel better?

(By the way: If this won’t intrude our privacy any more than what they’ve got already, why do they need it?)

June 19, 2006

141 Years of Freedom

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:13 am

Happy Juneteenth!

June 19 (say “June 19″ out loud three times fast to see why it’s called “Juneteenth”) is a holiday that, I think, should be more widely known. It commemorates the final end of slavery in the United States. As President George W. Bush stated in his Juneteeth message last year:

Major General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, bringing the news that the Civil War had ended and that the Emancipation Proclamation, signed over 2 years earlier, had declared all slaves to be free persons. This historic day is celebrated to remember the end of slavery. Emancipation demonstrated our country’s belief in liberty and equality for every citizen, and was a profound recognition that each and every American has rights, dignity, and matchless value.

One hundred forty years later, the Juneteenth observance continues to remind us of our country’s founding principles of liberty and justice for all. As we mark the anniversary of the end of servitude, we also recognize the many contributions of African Americans to our culture. African Americans have helped shape our country’s character, enhanced the diversity that makes America strong, and contributed to the vitality, success, and prosperity of our Nation. Juneteenth is a day that stands for the dignity and equality of all citizens, regardless of race, so that all may share the blessings of freedom that America provides.

General Granger’s order — which he personally read before a crowd gathered in the streets of Galveston, states:

The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with the proclamation from the executive of the United States. All slaves are free. This involves absolute personal rights, and rights of property between former masters and slaves; and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.

The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts, and that they will not be supported in idleness either here or elsewhere.

2nd: As a result of said liberation, persons formerly slaves are guaranteed their right to make contracts disposing of their services to their former owners or other parties, but with the distinct understanding that they are employees, and shall be held responsible for the performance of their part of the contract to the same extent that the employer is bound to pay for the consideration for the labor performed.

3rd: Unless other regulations are promulgated by the Freedman’s Bureau, the amount and kind of consideration for labor, shall be a matter of contract between employer and employee.

4th: All colored persons are earnestly enjoined to remain with their former masters until permanent arrangements can be made and thus secure the crop of the present season and at the same time promote the interests of themselves, their employer and the Commonwealth.

by order of Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger
signed F.W. Emery
Major & A.A.G.

Source: Archives of the Dallas Historical Society, Dallas, Texas

(I think “A.A.G.” stands for “Assistant Adjutant General,” which would mean Granger’s administrative officer.)

Juneteenth was widely celebrated — at least by former slaves and their decendents — in the first few decades after emancipation, but it declined after the early 20th century, and has only recently — meaning, the last 20 years or so — began a minor resurgence. It is now a state holiday in Texas, and there is now a website, Juneteenth.com.

June 15, 2006

SHOCK: Bill Gates to Leave Microsoft

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:36 pm

Matt Drudge is headlining this Reuters story:

Microsoft’s Gates says to reduce role

Thu Jun 15, 2006 4:54pm ET

SEATTLE (Reuters) – Microsoft Corp. said on Thursday that chairman Bill Gates will stop taking a day-to-day role in the software giant he founded in order to do more work with his charitable foundation.

Gates said that by July 2008 he will work full-time for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation he started to promote health and education projects around the world.

“Obviously, this decision was a very hard one for me to make,” Gates told a news conference. “The change we’re seeing today is not a retirement, it’s a reordering of my priorities.”

In July 2008, Bill Gates will be 52 years old.

That sounds like a retirement to me. By my definition, retirement doesn’t mean you do nothing, it means you collect the benefits of years of working — and philanthropy counts as that, since he’ll be spending the money he spend the previous 30 years earning.

By the way, I’d like to be a philanthropist, too. So far, I’m still stuck on step 1: “Make a lot of money.” :-(

Before Hitler, There Were…

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:00 pm

The Crusades, and Chmielnicki. Rabbi Yonason Goldson writes in “This Week in Jewish History”:

In 1096, a mere three months into the First Crusade, the ragtag army of Urban II obliterated Jewish communities up and down Germany’s Rhine River, communities guilty of nothing other than lying in the path of Crusaders who sought distraction from the tedium of the road. Two centuries of Crusading, undertaken to free the Holy Land from heretical Moslems, inflicted a steady fallout of collateral damage upon Jews from Paris to Jerusalem.

In the 14th Century, the Black Plague that wiped out over a third of Europe struck Jews less than half as often as gentiles, ostensibly because of Jewish dietary standards and hygiene. Knowing nothing of germ theory, however, superstitious Europeans assumed that the Jews had poisoned or cursed their well water and responded, predictably, with violence. Blood libels, pogroms, and expulsions left tens of thousands of Jews dead, with the survivors emotionally and spiritually traumatized.

In 1648, a leader rose up among the Cossacks in the person of Bogdan Chmielnicki, who unified a band of former serfs, robbers, and escaped criminals into a devastating military force. Assuming the title of Hetman, or Captain, Chmielnicki allied himself with his former adversaries, the Tartars, then launched a revolt against the Polish nobility, routing 8000 soldiers of the Polish army.

A wave of massacres broke across Poland as the Cossacks drove the uprising from town to town and subjected their victims to almost unimaginable brutality. The historian Nathan Nata Hanover in Yeven Metzula records: “Some were skinned alive and their flesh thrown to the dogs. The hands and feet of others were chopped off and their bodies flung into he roadway where wagons ran them over and they were trampled by horses… Children were slaughtered at their mothers’ breasts, and they were sliced open like fish… no form of unnatural death in the world was not inflicted upon them.” And although Jews were the primary target of violence, the rebels ravaged and beheaded Roman Catholic clergy, while churches were pillaged and set aflame.

In what has become known as the Gezeiras Tach V’Tat (the evil decree of the Jewish years 5408 — 5409, but which continued for an additional three years), an estimated hundred thousand Jews lost their lives, and hundreds of communities disappeared. But amidst the long travail of savagery, one day stands outs beyond all the rest.

On the twentieth day of the month of Sivan, 1649, the rebels fell upon the Polish town of Nemirov. In a single day, Chmielnicki’s Cossacks slaughtered 6000 Jews until the Bug River turned red with Jewish blood. The following year, the Council of the Four Lands, an autonomous Jewish governmental body over Eastern Europe, established the date as a day of fasting and lamentation. In some communities, the mournful Selichos prayers are still recited in commemoration of the massacres.

And Chmielnicki is, to this day, considered a national hero of the Ukraine. There is a memorial with a big statute of him in Kiev.

Population and the “Mommy Wars”

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:00 am

I don’t have time to pull out quotes at the moment, but here are several angles on the dual debates of (1) whether we are headed for overpopulation or underpopulation, and (2) whether motherhood is beneficial/good/enlightened or oppressive/evil/neanderthal.

OK, I’ll pull one quote. Emily Yoffe cites the main benefit claimed for the “childfree lifestyle” and why it’s bogus:

As one woman wrote: “My husband and I are childless by choice and I heartily encourage all younger friends to consider it. It is the most wonderful lifestyle, free of whining and sniveling and mini-vans.”

What is going on when there is so much scorn for parenthood—the way a society perpetuates itself? Fertility rates are much in the news these days. The United States is rare among developed nations in that it is still producing children at a replacement rate. But many countries collectively agree with the people who wrote to me—that children are a tantrum wrapped in a diaper and not worth the trouble. So, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain, among others, are going down the demographic tubes, with shrinking pools of young workers to support growing masses of seemingly immortal retirees.

I noticed something else in the letters from nonparents that I had experienced myself: They have an unrealistic sense of the passage of time—or at least the passage of parental time. They seem stuck on the notion that being a parent means forever climbing a Mt. Everest of diapers (and what happens to these punctilious couples if a spouse ends up needing diapers?). Diapers pass in a snap. It all goes so fast. When our daughter turned 6, my husband and I realized with a pang that we were already one-third of the way through the time she would live with us. And I worry that the writers have an unrealistic sense of their own passage through time—believing they’ll forever feel that nothing is more important than building their career or taking that next trip.

I’ll go you one better. Before we had kids, Different Wife was hoping she’d have triplets or quadruplets — an entire family, without having to go through pregnancy more than once! Apparently, she thought pregnancy was the hard part. I tried, based on my “experience” as the oldest of five children, to explain that pregnancy was the least of it both in time and impact, but what did I know, I was male, how should be be so arrogant…. Pregnancy is, mainly, the only part of parenting that doesn’t have many benefits offsetting the costs, but that’s not what she meant…

How Hated Are You?

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:32 am

Clayton Cramer, and one of his readers, together have what makes a fascinating analysis of the FBI Hate Crimes data.

The report says, for example:

Law enforcement agencies reported 4,863 offenses within single-bias incidents that were motivated by the offender’s racial bias. Among those offenses, 67.5 percent resulted from an anti-black bias, and 20.5 percent were due to an anti-white bias.

Clayton analyzes:

At first glance, the high number of crimes that “resulted from an anti-black bias” suggests that racism against blacks is a bigger problem than racism against whites. But spend a little time thinking about these numbers. In 2004, blacks were 12.8% of the population; whites were 80.4% of the population. Unless some of these hate crimes against blacks were being done by blacks (which seems rather unlikely), this means that the hate criminals came from the 87.2% of the population that are non-black, and these hate criminals committed the 67.5% of the racially based bias crimes that were designated as anti-black.

Similarly, the white haters must have come from the 19.6% of the population that are non-white Americans, and these criminals committed the 20.5% of the anti-white racial bias crimes.

Non-whites are thus more likely to commit anti-white crimes than non-blacks are to likely to commit anti-black crimes. This suggests that anti-white hate crimes are disproportionately present. Not quite what you were expecting, is it?

Let’s define a ratio of “potential sources of hate crimes” to “percentages of hate crimes” and you get what I call the “How Hated Are You?” Ratio. Divide 67.5% by 87.2%, and you discover that blacks are the victims of racial bias crimes only 77.4% of the amount that you would expect if racial hate crimes was evenly distributed. On the other hand, 20.5% divided by 19.6% gives 105%–whites are slightly more likely to be victims of a racially based hate crime than you would expect for their numbers.

In short, the HHAY percentage, if it is below 100, indicates that you are victims of a hate crime less than you might expect, relative to the percentage of the population that isn’t a member of your group. If your group’s HHAY percentage is above 100, then your group is receiving more hate crimes than you would expect.

Clayton reports that a(n unnamed) reader looked at the problem from the other direction — the percentage of each group that becomes a victim of hate crime, rather than the percentage that commits a hate crime:

It seems to me your “How hated are you” statistic does a poor job of measuring the actual problems caused by hate crimes for different groups. For example, using the figures you give, 67.5% of 4863, or 2164 crimes were motivated by anti black prejudice and only 20.5%, or 997 were motivated by anti-white prejudice. But 12.8% of the population (let’s call the US population 250 million, though that’s a bit out of date) is black, or 32 million people, while 80.4 %, or 200 million, is white. So a black person has a probability of 2164/32000000=0.000068 of being a hate crime victim in a given year — 17 times the odds of 0.000004 that a white person does. It seems to me reasonable to say that hate crimes are 17 times as significant a problem for black people as for white people.

What your HHAY statistic measures is the probability that a randomly chosen person of a different race will have committed a hate crime against someone of your nationality. It seems to me that, if I were given a chance to choose my race, this would matter much less to me than the odds that I would be a hate crime victim. (Or, for that matter, a crime victim of any sort.)

It is strange that black people are both more likely to commit and to be the victims of hate crimes than white people are, but I guess that’s just a nice example of how statistics don’t always do what you’d expect.

Actually, I’m not sure that we shouldn’t expect precisely that results. Blacks make up about one-eight o the U.S. population, which means there are about 7 non-Blacks for every Black. That means that even if a much lower percentage of non-Blacks commit hate crimes, there can still be a lot of anti-Black hate crimes simply because there is a much larger pool of non-Blacks. In fact, non-Blacks will commit more hate crimes (in absolute numbers, not percentages) as long as their rate is greater than one-seventh of the Black hate crime rate. Furthermore, since there are far fewer Blacks “available” to become targets of each hate crime, then for any given number of hate crimes, the probability of any one individual Black becoming a victim is much higher.

To take an extreme example, imagine for a moment that Blacks and non-Blacks each committed, as a group, precisely the same number (not percentage) of hate crimes. In that case, each Black individual would be both seven time more likely to be victim of hate crime — and seven times more likely to commit one. Even if the rates are closer together, as long as the percentages of non-Blacks commiting hate crimes is lower than that of Blacks, we will see something like this outcome.

So the figures that Clayton and his reader found are in fact precisely how you should expect the statistics to come out.

Reconstructing Maimonides

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:40 am

… As literally as possible. A reader alerts me to this story:

British university to reassemble crumbled works of medieval Jewish scholar

Tue Jun 13, 01:02 PM EST

LONDON (AP) – Scientists at a British university hope to use digital technology in reassembling some 300,000 tiny fragments of an 800-year-old Jewish philosopher’s oeuvre.

The University of Manchester’s Centre for Jewish Studies is reassembling the life works of Moses Maimonides, a scholar and writer whose findings were hugely influential on modern Judaic thought.

Maimonides worked as a physician, lawyer and scientist in the Middle Ages, project leader Philip Alexander said. His writings were obtained from a medieval document storeroom – called a “genizah” – discovered in a Cairo synagogue.

Documents gleaned from the Cairo genizah, both by Maimonides and other Jewish scholars, are in repositories all over the world, said Stella Butler, head of special collections at Manchester’s John Rylands University Library. More than 10,000 pieces from the ancient manuscripts are in the Manchester library.

“Internet technology means we can collaborate with colleagues around the world to solve some of the puzzles contained in the genizah collections,” Butler said.

“We hope to link together fragments from our collections with those held in other libraries, and so achieve greater understanding of the genizah as a whole,” she said.

The grant money will enable the centre to buy a special camera to take digital images of the fragments.

“Until we got image technology, it was very difficult for people across the world, if they’ve got one bit of a document, to know if another fits,” Butler said.

I can’t help but imagine that Maimonides (often known among Jews by the Hebrew acronym for his name, which is pronounced “Rambam”) would have really loved the internet. He corresponded with people all over the world, which took quite a lot of doing 800 years ago. (He would have loved weather satellites even more, since his brother died when his ship went down in a storm — taking the family fortune with it.)

By the way, this story is also a reminder of the bad new for people who shred their confidential documents. If computers can scan the decayed fragments of an 800-year-old handwritten document and reconstruct it, imagine what they can do with a document that’s printed in a stable font and “shredded” into pieces with nice, straight-line edges. Someone who is willing to spend the money can get the document reconstructed.

June 14, 2006

Finding God in the Genome

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:00 am

Lots of people say that religion and science are in conflict. Many say that science proves that religion is wrong, or that God does not exist. Many also say that religious beliefs are an impediment to scientific understanding.

I’ve never understood any of those claims. I found studying chemistry and physics in high school and college to be a window into the profound wisdom that went into creating the universe. And I fail to see how anyone encountering Euler’s formula fails to see something beyond human construction

And now, one of the world’s top biologists — Francis Collins, one of the mappers of the human genome — has put this all together in a new book. The Sunday Times [of London] reports:

The scientist who led the team that cracked the human genome is to publish a book explaining why he now believes in the existence of God and is convinced that miracles are real.

Francis Collins, the director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute, claims there is a rational basis for a creator and that scientific discoveries bring man “closer to God”.

His book, The Language of God, to be published in September, will reopen the age-old debate about the relationship between science and faith. “One of the great tragedies of our time is this impression that has been created that science and religion have to be at war,” said Collins, 56.

“I don’t see that as necessary at all and I think it is deeply disappointing that the shrill voices that occupy the extremes of this spectrum have dominated the stage for the past 20 years.”

For Collins, unravelling the human genome did not create a conflict in his mind. Instead, it allowed him to “glimpse at the workings of God.”

“When you make a breakthrough it is a moment of scientific exhilaration because you have been on this search and seem to have found it,” he said. “But it is also a moment where I at least feel closeness to the creator in the sense of having now perceived something that no human knew before but God knew all along.”

“When you have for the first time in front of you this 3.1 billion-letter instruction book that conveys all kinds of information and all kinds of mystery about humankind, you can’t survey that going through page after page without a sense of awe. I can’t help but look at those pages and have a vague sense that this is giving me a glimpse of God’s mind.”

Collins joins a line of scientists whose research deepened their belief in God. Isaac Newton, whose discovery of the laws of gravity reshaped our understanding of the universe, said: “This most beautiful system could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.”

Although Einstein revolutionised our thinking about time, gravity and the conversion of matter to energy, he believed the universe had a creator. “I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details,” he said. However Galileo was famously questioned by the inquisition and put on trial in 1633 for the “heresy” of claiming that the earth moved around the sun. [Though Galileo didn't actually question the existence of God, nor the fact that he created the universe. --DR]

Collins even takes on evolution, making an argument I’ve been making for over two decades::

“I see God’s hand at work through the mechanism of evolution. If God chose to create human beings in his image and decided that the mechanism of evolution was an elegant way to accomplish that goal, who are we to say that is not the way,” he says.

And it’s not like Collins is trying to justify what he was taught in childhood:

Collins was an atheist until the age of 27, when as a young doctor he was impressed by the strength that faith gave to some of his most critical patients.

“They had terrible diseases from which they were probably not going to escape, and yet instead of railing at God they seemed to lean on their faith as a source of great comfort and reassurance,” he said. “That was interesting, puzzling and unsettling.”

He decided to visit a Methodist minister and was given a copy of C S Lewis’s Mere Christianity, which argues that God is a rational possibility. The book transformed his life. “It was an argument I was not prepared to hear,” he said. “I was very happy with the idea that God didn’t exist, and had no interest in me. And yet at the same time, I could not turn away.”

His epiphany came when he went hiking through the Cascade Mountains in Washington state. He said: “It was a beautiful afternoon and suddenly the remarkable beauty of creation around me was so overwhelming, I felt, ‘I cannot resist this another moment’.”

I’ve been hiking in mountains — and I can totally believe that.

(Hat tip: Clayton Cramer.)

A Real Estate Financing Blog

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:00 am

I don’t know how I made this oversight, I somehow forgot to put this on the blogroll when I started reading it a few months ago, but one blog I’ve been reading a lot lately is Searchlight Crusade, which is about mortgages, real estate financing, and the like. The author is a loan broker and (former?) real estate agent.

If you are thinking of buying a house, this is the blog to read. If you already bought a house, learn what you (probably) can do better next time, or when you refinance. If you want to understand the housing bubble, go there for an in-the-trenches view.

The single most important fact on this blog is the fact that mortgage rate “locks” are not really locks — the mortgage broker/lender/bank may give you a “30-day lock” (or 45- or 60-day lock), but they are not actually legally obligated to loan you the money at the “locked” rate.

[M]any mortgage providers will play a game of wait and hope. They tell you they have a certain loan when they in fact do not, hoping the rates go down to where they do. Or they’ll tell you about a rate they actually have, but wait to lock it hoping the rates will go down so they can make more money because when the rates go down, the rebate for a given rate goes up.

Note, please, that they usually have zero intention of finishing your loan if the market doesn’t move downwards enough. Whether it’s National Megabank with a million offices, or Joe Anonymous working out of their home, their motivation is to do what it takes so they make money, and they will keep sweet talking you as long as they possibly can. They’re certainly not going to work for free, and many of them will not do it at all rather than compromise their usual loan margin. If you allow them to play this game, when you finally give up in disgust, they still have several weeks after you apply with someone else where they’re the only ones that can possibly have the loan done, and if the market moves down during those weeks, they’re covered. If you could have gotten a better loan during that period, you likely would. But because you were quoted a price that didn’t exist and believed it, they’ve got what looks to a consumer to be a competitive advantage. And if they call after you’ve cancelled their loan and say that they can close the loan now when the new provider you just contracted with isn’t ready yet, most people will go ahead and sign the papers because This Loan Is Ready now.

And this is complete legal! They have no obligation to loan you anything at any particular rate or any particular terms until you sign the final papers — and if you back out then, you lose your deposit (sometimes called “earnest money”) on the house. Which is probably thousands of dollars, often 2% of the value. Plus the deposit you might have made with the movers. Plus, you may have already sold your old house, and have no other place to live. In other words, you are over the barrel, and it’s an excellent time for a not-so-honest broker/lender/bank to squeeze another few thousand dollars out of you — or worse, another $300 a month for the next 30 years. (The scary thing is, he says that even though 80-90% of buyers who notice the discrepancy cave, many don’t even notice they are signing up for higher payments than they agreed to.)

And Searchlight has a proposed solution to this — get a backup loan. In other words, apply for two loans — perhaps one from the guy who said the other guy’s deal was too good to be true — and make the final choice at the closing table. Assuming they both actually show up with the money, which they may not.

Let’s just say I discovered this blog about two months too late. :-(

Next time, I’m going to get a backup loan. Maybe two or three backup loans.

June 13, 2006

Another Court Rules the Constitution Unconstitutional

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:14 pm

A couple of weeks ago, I noted that a Georgia court ruled a constitutional amendment unconstitutional, purportedly on the grounds that it failed a requirement that amendments deal with a single subject, even though that amendment dealt with only one subject.

Now, Joshua Sharf reports that the Colorado Supreme Court is doing pretty much the same thing.

Here’s the operative part of the amendment, lifted from its complete text:

Except as mandated by federal law, the provision of non-emergency services by the state of Colorado, or any county, city, or other political subdivision thereof, is restricted to citizens of and aliens lawfully present in the United States of America.

And here is the Court’s reasoning:

The ruling said Defend Colorado Now touts the possibility of reducing taxpayer expenditures by restricting illegal immigrants’ access to services, as well as the goal of restricting access to services.

“Because we determine these purposes are unrelated, we conclude they comprise multiple subjects connected only by a broad and overarching theme,” the ruling said.

Note that the text of the amendment says nothing at all about revenues, it only speaks of spending. In fact, it doesn’t even speak of spending, it speaks of services to be provided or denied. The fact that these services cost money is, while an unfortunate fact of life and governance, completely incidental to the language of the amendment. Were Marx to be proven triumphant, and the State be able to provide services without paying for them, the text of the amendment would still be operative. The idea that arguments used in the advocacy of any amendment actually have any force of law is bizarre to say the least, especially for a Court that has a pronounced distaste for the actual legislative histories of bills.

In fact, it’s hard to conceive of any ballot initiative which would pass this test. Measures directly related to revenue by definition potentially affect the tax burden in a state with a balanced budget law and TABOR spending restrictions. That’s reading the decision narrowly. Reading it broadly, any sentence containing more than one word necessarily encompasses two things.

By the Colorado Supreme Court’s logic, an amendment to make the term of the Colorado Governor six years instead of four years would violate the “single subject rule” because it deals with the “subjects” of elections, officeholders, spending (for the governor’s salary), and taxes (to get the money for the governor’s salary).

If that’s the case, all constitutional amendments are unconstitutional!

Which really means, there is no constitution at all. The judges will block whatever votes they don’t like, mandate whatever they do like, and the people won’t be able to do anything about it.

At what point do we stop calling this democracy?

Oh, Those Sophisticated Europeans

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:01 pm

I would like to see the Europeans who attack the U.S. for being “unilateral,” a “hyperpower,” “cowboy country” and generally uncultured defend this:

As he left the soccer field after a club match in the eastern German city of Halle on March 25, the Nigerian forward Adebowale Ogungbure was spit upon, jeered with racial remarks and mocked with monkey noises. In rebuke, he placed two fingers under his nose to simulate a Hitler mustache and thrust his arm in a Nazi salute.

In April, the [Black] American defender Oguchi Onyewu, playing for his professional club team in Belgium, dismissively gestured toward fans who were making simian chants at him. Then, as he went to throw the ball inbounds, Onyewu said a fan of the opposing team reached over a barrier and punched him in the face….

Players and antiracism experts said they expected offensive behavior during the tournament, including monkey-like chanting; derisive singing; the hanging of banners that reflect neofascist and racist beliefs; and perhaps the tossing of bananas or banana peels, all familiar occurrences during matches in Spain, Italy, eastern Germany and eastern Europe.

Thanks to Coyote Blog for the quote and the title.

June 9, 2006

Stuck on Stupid

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:46 pm

Stealing a cellphone isn’t just illegal and immoral. It’s really, really stupid. Especially if it’s a cellphone that takes pictures and e-mails, and automatically uploads those pictures and e-mails to a server where the rightful owner can see them.

Terrorist Victims for Zarqawi

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:42 pm

You might recall that about two years ago, an American named Nick Berg — who went to Iraq as a civilian volunteer to help rebuild the country — was captured and killed. He was beheaded on videotape, and while the face of the executioner was not visible, the voice and the caption on the tape said it was Zarqawi — the same Zarqawi who was a top al-Qaeda leader until he was killed yesterday by U.S. special forces.

Now Michael Berg, the father of Nick Berg, the American beheaded by Zarqawi, is running for Congress — and he is saying that President Bush, not Zarqawi, is responsible for his son’s death:

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Michael Berg, whose son Nick was beheaded in Iraq in 2004, said on Thursday he felt no sense of relief at the killing of the al Qaeda leader in Iraq and blamed President Bush for his son’s death.

Asked what would give him satisfaction, Berg, an anti-war activist and candidate for U.S. Congress, said, “The end of the war and getting rid of George Bush.”

In a telephone interview with Reuters from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, the father said: “I have no sense of relief, just sadness that another human being had to die.”

Berg, who is running as a Green Party candidate, has repeatedly blamed Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for his 26-year-old son’s death.

Zarqawi picked up the knife, Zarqawi put it on Nick Berg’s neck, Zarqawi cut off Nick Berg’s head, and Zarqawi had it all videotaped for the “glory” of Allah. But Nick Berg’s death isn’t Zarqawi’s fault, it’s Bush and Rumsfeld’s fault.

This is so twisted I can’t even begin to comprehend it. I used to think that liberals had the same goals as conservatives like me, just different ideas for how to achieve those goals. But when I read something like that, it’s hard to imagine that people are on the left are not either morally deranged, or mentally ill.

This is not “being against the war.” It is not even “being for the other side,” as many of the so-called “anti-war” protesters like A.N.S.W.E.R. seem to be.

This is saying that the man who murdered his son is a victim, an OK guy even, and the man who put that murderer out of business is the real evil one.

Don’t believe me? Read on:

Nick Berg’s videotaped beheading by hooded captors was posted on the Internet, and the father said he could understand what Zarqawi’s family was going through.

“I have learned to forgive a long time ago, and I regret mostly that that will bring about another wave of revenge from his cohorts from al Qaeda,” he told Fox.

Zarqawi’s organization took responsibility for the execution of Nick Berg in May 2004. The video was published with a caption saying: “Abu Musab al-Zarqawi slaughtering an American.”

He learned to forgive Zarqawi for killing his son — and no douht for the thousands of Iraqis and other Americans killed by Zarqawi’s organization — but he can’t forgive Bush for killing Zarqawi.

Imagine if the father of a young man murdered in Philadelphia could forgive the murderer — but wanted to get rid of the policeman who arrested the murderer.

How far has this father gone, that he suppresses human nature, simple logic, and the love of his son — to avoid having to give up his political ideology?

And one more thing — he basically told CNN that Bush is pro-al-Qaeda:

BERG: Democracy? Come on. You can’t really believe that that’s a democracy there when the people who are running the elections are holding guns. That’s not democracy.

SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: There is a theory that as they try to form some kind of government that, in fact, it’s going to be brutal, it’s going to be bloody, there’s going to be loss and that’s the history of many countries, that that’s just a lot of people pay for what they believe will be better than what they had under Saddam Hussein.

BERG: Well, you know, I’m not saying Saddam Hussein was a good man, but he’s no worse than George Bush. Saddam Hussein didn’t pull the trigger, didn’t commit the rapes. Neither did George Bush, but both men are responsible for them under their reigns of terror. I don’t buy that.

Iraq did not have al Qaeda in it. Al Qaeda supposedly killed my son. Under Saddam Hussein, no al Qaeda. Under George Bush, al Qaeda. Under Saddam Hussein, relative stability. Under George Bush, instability.

If you want to vote for this guy, he’s running for Congress in Delaware.


Clayton Cramer predicts:

Unfortunately, I expect that in another five years, we are going to be seeing some college students (you know, the really smart ones for whom conventionality is a badge of dishonor) with al-Zarqawi T-shirts and posters, and professors lamenting that the death of al-Zarqawi was the last chance for authentic, indigenous Arab democracy.

I wouldn’t be surprised. When I was in college I saw a lot of Che Guevara shirts. Guevara was one of the leading terrorists of his time — As Paul Berman points out, he organized the first firing squads to murder opponents of Fidel Castro’s regime, and called for “Hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine. This is what our soldiers must become” — but he was an ardent communist, so that made him “OK” to many people. Time magazine listed him as one of the 100 Heroes of the 20th Century, and described him as “the obscure Argentine doctor who abandoned his profession and his native land to pursue the emancipation of the poor of the earth” and a “Christ-like figure.” I’m no expert in Christianity, but is it really considered “Christ-like” to advocate “unbending hatred for the enemy” and becoming “an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine”?

But Time calls him a hero, and you can buy T-shirts, hats, and mugs with his picture. I put the link to the “Che Store” there, and I hope you follow that link so you believe me — but I hope you don’t buy anything there.

Why do people idolize Che and demonize Hitler? Is it just because Hitler was more successful and mass-murder? That’s the only difference I can see.

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