Different River

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

August 24, 2006

“Home-Based Day Care is Much Better”

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:49 pm

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that one. Better than what, I’m not sure. Some say better than a “day-care center” and some say better than at-home care from a mother who doesn’t have a master’s degree in early childhood education.

Anyway, the AP is reporting this story:

John Mark Karr, the man accused of killing of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, kept children at a home day-care center he operated in northwest Alabama, the state welfare agency said Thursday.

The Marion County Department of Human Resources issued a license for Karr to begin operating a day-care out of his rural home in June 1997, said John Bradford, a spokesman with the Alabama Department of Human Resources.

He said the sheriff’s department conducted a background check before the license was issued and no problems were found.

Well of course no problems were found — he hadn’t confessed yet!

(By the way: I’m still not sure he did it. He’s the fifth person to confess. For some reason, lots of people who had no connection to this girl seem to want to confess to murdering her. I am always skeptical when I hear it said that someone, usually a misbehaving child, did something “just to get attention,” but that might be the case here. This wouldn’t mean he’s suitable to be a day-care worker — someone who confesses to murdering a child is clearly unsuitable even if he didn’t actually commit the murder.)

August 23, 2006

Why Aren’t Jews Rioting?

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:50 pm

Six months ago, Muslims the world over rioted over the publication of some anti-Muslim cartoons in a Danish newspaper.

Now, a reader wrote to me to point out that Iran has set up an entire museum exhibit of anti-Jewish Holocaust cartoons:

Organisers of Iran’s International Holocaust Cartoon’s Contest said the museum exhibit, which has drawn more than 200 entries, aims to challenge Western taboos about the discussing the Holocaust.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has drawn international condemnation for dismissing the Holocaust as a “myth”. Nazi Germany killed six million European Jews in World War Two.

Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction.

Iran’s best-selling newspaper, Hamshahri, launched a competition in February for the best cartoon about the Holocaust in retaliation for the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in Danish and other European newspapers.

Notice that Jews are not rioting about this. We are not even rioting “in retaliation” for the Muslim riots before.

In fact, the most strident reaction has been a strong statement by Abraham Foxman of the ADL, who is basically paid to fight antisemitism wherever he can find it.

The Iranian sponsorship and exhibition of a cartoon contest on the Holocaust is outrageous, hateful and cynical.

One should ask two questions: Why is the outrage in the Muslim world to the cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed directed against Jews, who were not responsible for the Danish cartoons? Why, if, as President Ahmadinejad says, the Holocaust is a myth, call for a cartoon contest to deride it?

The questions are easily answered in the fact of the constant drumbeat of anti-Semitism and demonization of Jews and Israel emanating from the Arab/Muslim world, through their media and through leaders such as Ahmadinejad. Everyday, in much of the Arab/Muslim world anti-Semitic and other hateful material is produced for mass consumption.

Denying the Holocaust and deriding the Holocaust are two sides of the same coin and must be denounced by the international community as classical anti-Semitism.

I’m not holding my breath. But perhaps it’s worth pointing out that not all religions are equally tolerant.

August 21, 2006

The Banality of Evil

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:22 pm

With apologies to Hannah Arendt, here’s this telling quote from a panel discussion on antisemitism:

Ella Ringens-Reiner:“Those who actively approved of the mass murder — were people who conformed to the common picture of the SS men. They were sadists, the brutal criminals, organized, legalized, and dressed in uniform.”

“Worse, because more dangerous, were the people in their everyday life, and frequently, in their dealings with prisoners, were quite kindly, looked normal, and behaved like any other average citizen — and who were pleased with the mass murder, without any deeper emotion, simply because it was an opportunity for getting a pigskin bag or gold watch which they could never have afforded to buy. Among them were people little concerned with National Socialism … and yet belonging to it heart and soul — indeed, with fanaticism — out of their joy at the annihilation of the Jews.

“They were drab little people who would never have been conspicuous if no occasion for extraordinary behavior had not offered to them. … In normal living conditions they would have had their coating of civilization, and their coating would not even have been so very thin. Under the impact of steadily repeated slogans … they shook off their coating as if with a jerk, with a certain violence. And then part of their being was unleashed and began to rage.”

“Months after leaving the concentration camp I talked with a young National Socialist woman who, in the official classification, had not been a ‘bad’ Nazi, had never been in a position of power or personal profit, and in private life was a quiet, modest, friendly person. I hoped to move her by my story of Auschwitz camp, and finished by saying that no people had ever inflicted so much evil on another group as the German nation on the Jews. In reply she asked me blithely, ‘Why? Is gassing such a disagreeable death?’”

As it turns out the Muslims esteem the Europeans for the very accomplishment the Europeans would rather not boast about in broad daylight, that is, the Holocaust. When the Malaysian prime minister spoke to the Muslim heads of state last year he drew a standing ovation when he proclaimed that the Europeans murdered six million Jews and you too can achieve success if you improve your education standards.

This is another nugget of data for my theory: In most situations, most people just “go with the flow.” Some people are independent thinkers, and a few people are leaders — but most people will just go along with the crowd, doing great good, or great evil, or in between, depending on what’s going on around them.

Which is one reason why it’s very important to pick good leaders, and to establish and support a culture that makes good behavior fashionable.

August 18, 2006

Train Bombing Attempted in Germany

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:22 pm

Ray D. reports:

According to reports circulating throughout the German media today, two suitcase bombs placed by two unidentified men very nearly went off on regional trains in Dortmund and Koblenz at the end of July. A deadly simultaneous bombing was only averted because the bombs were technically defective. Had they fully detonated, German authorities believe that a mass casualty event similar to the recent attacks in London could have been the result.

Police believe that a terrorist motive is probable, particularly because the suitcases contained Arabic writing and telephone numbers from Lebanon. The men who placed the bombs also strongly appear to be of Middle Eastern origin. …

Our take: This is yet another wake up call for all Germans who believe that terrorism at home can be averted through a policy of appeasement and pacifism at all costs. One has to wonder how the far left can continue to collaborate with Islamic extremists in their quest of anti-American, anti-Israeli hatred. Hopefully it doesn’t have to come to a horrific attack before the German media and politicians get realistic about the threat Islamic extremism poses to the modern world.

Cue Bob Dylan:


How many bombs must the terrorists place
Before they are called to account?

How many innocent people be killed
Before Europe stops appeasement?

When will they ever learn?
When will they e–ver learn?

August 17, 2006

Airport Security Theater

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:02 pm

Security expert Bruce Schneier points out this very salient fact about airport security — both the “since 9/11″ restrictions and the “since last week” restrictions — and the recent arrests in London: (Boldface emphasis mine.)

Hours-long waits in the security line. Ridiculous prohibitions on what you can carry on board. Last week’s foiling of a major terrorist plot and the subsequent airport security changes graphically illustrates the difference between effective security and security theater.

None of the airplane security measures implemented because of 9/11 — no-fly lists, secondary screening, prohibitions against pocket knives and corkscrews — had anything to do with last week’s arrests. And they wouldn’t have prevented the planned attacks, had the terrorists not been arrested. A national ID card wouldn’t have made a difference, either.

Instead, the arrests are a victory for old-fashioned intelligence and investigation. Details are still secret, but police in at least two countries were watching the terrorists for a long time. They followed leads, figured out who was talking to whom, and slowly pieced together both the network and the plot.

The new airplane security measures focus on that plot, because authorities believe they have not captured everyone involved. It’s reasonable to assume that a few lone plotters, knowing their compatriots are in jail and fearing their own arrest, would try to finish the job on their own. The authorities are not being public with the details — much of the “explosive liquid” story doesn’t hang together — but the excessive security measures seem prudent.

But only temporarily. Banning box cutters since 9/11, or taking off our shoes since Richard Reid, has not made us any safer. And a long-term prohibition against liquid carry-on items won’t make us safer, either. It’s not just that there are ways around the rules, it’s that focusing on tactics is a losing proposition.

It’s easy to defend against what terrorists planned last time, but it’s shortsighted. If we spend billions fielding liquid-analysis machines in airports and the terrorists use solid explosives, we’ve wasted our money. If they target shopping malls, we’ve wasted our money. Focusing on tactics simply forces the terrorists to make a minor modification in their plans. There are too many targets — stadiums, schools, theaters, churches, the long line of densely packed people in front of airport security — and too many ways to kill people.

Security measures that attempt to guess correctly don’t work, because invariably we will guess wrong. It’s not security, it’s security theater: measures designed to make us feel safer but not actually safer.

Airport security is the last line of defense, and not a very good one at that. Sure, it’ll catch the sloppy and the stupid — and that’s a good enough reason not to do away with it entirely — but it won’t catch a well-planned plot. We can’t keep weapons out of prisons; we can’t possibly keep them off airplanes.

Bruce has a summary of the new UK and US security rules here. He points out that this is reasonable in the short run. We’ll see how long these rules stay in effect. The post-9/11 US rules have lasted a lot longer than I initially expected — no doubt, in part, because they involved creating a new federal government agency.

And Sean at Cosmic Variance has this clever take on the whole thing:

[F]or the first time, the Department of Homeland Security has deemed an entire state of matter to be a national security risk.

If you remember from chemistry or physics what a phase diagram here, this will put things in perspective.

This is even worse!

August 14, 2006

MoveOn.Org’s Alternate Universe

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:12 pm

MoveOn.org recently sent this e-mail out to its supporters:

Ever wonder why some campaigns–like Dean in ’04, MoveOn’s “Save PBS”, Net Neutrality, the Downing Street Memo, or Ned Lamont for Senate–go big online, while hundreds of others go nowhere? Our friends at the New Organizing Institute (NOI) have assembled a network of phenomenal online organizers to share the secrets of their success.

I don’t know where these MoveOn guys live, but in the world I inhabit, “Dean in ’04″ flamed out in the Iowa Caucuses, “Save PBS” was based on a urban legend and was really about “saving” a small portion of of the government-provided portion of PBS funding, not about saving PBS as such, the Downing Street Memo just proved that Bush had been planning what his opponents had accused him of failing to plan, and Ned Lamont, while making an impressive primary win, has a long way to go before he actually sits in the Senate, and is currently behind in the polls.

And these guys call themselves the “reality-based community.” It’s more like an “alternate-reality-based community.”

August 10, 2006

Hezbollah Making More Palestinian Refugees

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:54 pm

Apparently, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah is trying to increase the number of Palestinian refugees — using the same technique other Arab leaders used in 1948: encouraging Palestinians to leave. Here’s the story:

Nasrallah Urges Arabs to Leave Haifa

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) – Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday warned all Israeli Arabs to leave the port city of Haifa so the militant group could step up attacks without fear of shedding the blood of fellow Muslims.

Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city, has been the frequent target of Hezbollah’s rocket attacks.

“I have a special message to the Arabs of Haifa, to your martyrs and to your wounded. I call on you to leave this city. I hope you do this. … Please leave so we don’t shed your blood, which is our blood,” Nasrallah said.

This is the same thing that happened in 1948, when the British left, and Israel declared its independence, whereupon it was immediately invaded by five Arab armies. Arab leaders encouraged Arabs living in Israel to leave, so their armies could have free reign to kill anyone they saw, secure in the knowlege that they were killing only Jews. They promised a triumphant return after the Jews were “thrown into the sea.”

But then they lost, so they herded the Arabs into refugee camps, refused to allow them to return to their homes or to resettle in Arab countries, and renamed them “Palestinians” — and have used them and their descendants as political pawns every since.

Nasrallah obviously thinks he needs more pawns.

Note, by the way, that Israel has been dropping leaflets over the towns they are about to bomb — but in their case, it’s not the Jews they are urging to leave, but enemy civilians. Does anyone see the moral difference here?

August 9, 2006

When a Friend has an Illness

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:36 am

Read this for future reference.

Making Vice Out of Virtue

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:34 am

Not a New Yorker has a fascinating post on what’s wrong with the culture in New York. She doesn’t frame it that way, but that’s how I read it, having seen the same sort of thing myself. (She also relates this to Jews helping Jews, but I don’t see anything particularly Jewish about her point, except for all the examples she uses.)

1. I was inconvenienced before Shabbos by someone, who just assumed I could help effortlessly, when in fact, I had to expend great effort, while many other people could have done it, probably with less effort. There was no benefit to me personally for doing the mitzvah, and I didn’t enjoy doing it. In fact, it was awful.

2. Related or unrelated, I was admonished by someone else for going “the extra mile” to do it.

3. I was admonished by the same person for talking to people who, he explained, were West Side Wackos.

And here is why I am NotaNewYorker.

[Long list of selfless, helpful acts -- done spontaneously by people in non-New York places.]

And now I live in New York City. … And people here really think it’s weird if you make an effort for anyone who hasn’t been vetted.

But this is a core belief I have. This is what my parents and my siblings have taught me. You don’t do something for a fellow Jew because it’s easy, you do it because a fellow Jew asked you to. Because it is not in my ability to say no unless it really is impossible, or dangerous.

It is not because I am weak, or stupid, or have trouble saying no. I don’t need therapy (at least not about this!)

I am not judging New Yorkers for being who they are.

But this is simply who I am. And I’m not sorry.

Don’t be sorry. Don’t change — and get out of New York before it changes you.

I am so glad I don’t live there…

Leiberman-Lamont Fallout

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:25 am

The latest results show Ned Lamont beating Senator Joseph Lieberman 51.8% to 48.2% in the Democratic primary in Connecticut. And, Lieberman has conceded. It looks like Lieberman will run for re-election as an independent, and that’s going to be interesting. I can’t remember the last time an incumbent Senator lost a primary in his own party, except when the incumbent, rather than having been elected previously, had been appointed to fill the unexpired term of someone else. Lieberman had been elected not once, but three times, by the people of Connecticut.

Any time a prominent incumbent Senator loses a primary in his own party, it’s going to have consequences. One of these is the some Democrats are going to decide that if the Democratic Party doesn’t have room for Liberman, it doesn’t have room for them, either, Here’s what Brendan Loy has to say:

I’ve been calling myself a Democrat since I was ten years old, when I marched around the schoolyard in fifth grade chanting “Jerry Brown! Jerry Brown!” and, later, played the part of Bill Clinton in a sixth-grade mock debate. At the age of 13, I threw my hands up in dismay when the GOP took over Congress. When I turned 18, I registered without hesitation as a Democrat. I proudly cast my ballot for Al Gore in 2000, and — somewhat less proudly — for John Kerry in 2004. In recent years, I’ve seen the “base” of the Democratic Party drifting away from sense and sanity, and at the same time, I’ve felt my own ideological compass pulled somewhat to the right by world events. Yet I remain profoundly uncomfortable with the Republican Party for a variety of reasons, and I’ve never much liked the idea of being an “independent,” considering it — with all due respect to those who wear the label proudly — something of a cop-out in many cases.

So I’ve continued to cling to the label of Democrat, and to the hope that the party would somehow save itself from the tired orthodoxies of its interest groups and the execrable excesses of its far-left wing. I’ve shaken my head at the irrational policies and irresponsible rhetoric coming from so many corners of the party, comforting myself with the thought that while Dennis Kucinich may be a nutjob and Al Sharpton may be a charlatan and Howard Dean may be an idiot and Dick Durbin may be, well, a dick, at least there’s still Joe Lieberman.

Perhaps, I told myself, despite the ascendancy of Nancy Pelosi, the Deaniacs and the Kos Kidz, perhaps Lieberman’s side could still somehow win the struggle for the party’s soul. As long as that hope remained viable, I could continue to be a Democrat. A “Lieberman Democrat,” I called myself, and I was proud.

But now the voters have spoken. Lieberman may still consider himself a Democrat — he says that, if elected as an independent, he’ll vote to organize with the Dems, and I believe him — but the Democrats don’t consider Lieberman a Democrat anymore. That’s the cold, hard truth of today’s results. He’s been kicked out of the “big tent” because his loyalty wasn’t blind enough, because his conscience wasn’t pliable enough. He’s been replaced by the shiny new millionaire who said all the right things to win over the hearts and minds of the netroots. The war in Iraq is wrong, wrong, wrong; President Bush is bad, bad, bad; and Joe Lieberman is a traitor, a traitor, a traitor. That’s the undeniable message that Democratic voters from my home state have sent out across the land this fateful day.

Well, if there’s no room in the Democratic Party for Joe Lieberman, then there’s no room in it for me.

By the way, as to Lieberman’s statement that “if elected as an independent, he’ll vote to organize with the Dems,” that’s just silly. He’d just be returning for more abuse.

August 7, 2006

“Oil Companies Care Only About Short-Term Profits”

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:29 am

Yet another myth was shattered today — the myth that oil companies don’t care about anything but short-term profits, and will do anything to get them unless government regulators control them. BP Exploration Alaska, Inc., a unit of British Petroleum, annouced they are shutting down the entire Prudhoe Bay oil field — accounting for half the production of Alaska North Slope oil. They are doing this because they found some corrosion in the pipeline that carries the oil out — in other words, there’s a risk of leakage, which would be an environmental disaster.

Major Alaskan Oil Field Shutting Down

Aug 6, 10:40 PM (ET)

By Mary Pemberton

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – In a sudden blow to the nation’s oil supply, half the production on Alaska’s North Slope was being shut down Sunday after BP Exploration Alaska, Inc. discovered severe corrosion in a Prudhoe Bay oil transit line.

BP officials said they didn’t know how long the Prudhoe Bay field would be off line. “I don’t even know how long it’s going to take to shut it down,” said Tom Williams, BP’s senior tax and royalty counsel.

Once the field is shut down, in a process expected to take days, BP said oil production will be reduced by 400,000 barrels a day. That’s close to 8 percent of U.S. oil production as of May 2006 or about 2.6 percent of U.S. supply including imports, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The shutdown comes at an already worrisome time for the oil industry, with supply concerns stemming both from the hurricane season and instability in the Middle East.

“We regret that it is necessary to take this action and we apologize to the nation and the State of Alaska for the adverse impacts it will cause,” BP America Chairman and President Bob Malone said in a statement.

Malone said the field will not resume operating until the company and government regulators are satisfied it can run safely without threatening the environment.

Of course, the “regulators” wouldn’t have even known there was a problem if the company hadn’t said so.

This will, unfortunately, increase oil prices, and thus the price of gasoline and anything else made from oil. Here’s the estimate:

A 400,000-barrel per day reduction in output would have a major impact on oil prices, said Tetsu Emori, chief commodities strategist at Mitsui Bussan Futures in Tokyo.

“Oil prices could increase by as much as $10 per barrel given the current environment,” Emori said. “But we can’t really say for sure how big an effect this is going to have until we have more exact figures about how much production is going to be reduced.”

Some cynics will say that this is a plot by BP to increase oil prices. But that’s wrongheaded — BP can only benefit from high oil prices to the extent that they can sell oil. When they are selling less oil, they make less. The ones who will make money off of this are all the other oil companies — in other words, BP’s competitors. Shutting down the oil fields hurts consumers a little, helps competitor’s a little, and hurts BP a lot. But in the long run, it’s the right thing to do.

August 4, 2006

Shop Talk

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:35 am

The Economist magazine has an article on economists with blogs.

Hat tip to Megan McArdle, who writes for The Economist, blogs at Asymmetrical Information under a pseudonym, and is currently guest-blogging at Instapundit.

August 3, 2006

Ingratitude

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:48 pm

AP Reports:

Double Amputee Marine Mugged Outside Restaurant

POSTED: 1:22 pm EDT August 3, 2006
UPDATED: 1:28 pm EDT August 3, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. — An Iraq war veteran who lost an arm and leg in a roadside bombing was mugged during a night out from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, according to an Associated Press report.

Lance Cpl. Mark Beyers, 27, and his wife were attacked and robbed as they left a restaurant in Bethesda, Md. on July 22.

The Marine from western New York was dining out while finishing up rehabilitation at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

As they left the restaurant, five men approached them and asked for a cigarette.

Denise Beyers told The Buffalo News they gave the men a cigarette — but then the men grabbed her purse, kicked her and knocked the couple to the ground.

The thieves made off with $500 just wired to them by a relative.

Mark Beyers expects to be back home in the Buffalo area this weekend.

His family is planning a fundraiser for him on Aug. 12.

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