Different River

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

February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley Jr. (1925-2008)

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:55 am

Kathryn Jean Lopez writes:

I’m devastated to report that our dear friend, mentor, leader, and founder William F. Buckley Jr., died this morning in his study in Stamford, Connecticut.

He died while at work; if he had been given a choice on how to depart this world, I suspect that would have been exactly it. At home, still devoted to the war of ideas.

As you might expect, we’ll have much more to say here and in NR in the coming days and weeks and months. For now: Thank you, Bill. God bless you, now with your dear Pat. Our deepest condolences to Christopher and the rest of the Buckley family. And our fervent prayer that we continue to do WFB’s life’s work justice.

Buckley was one of the intellecutal giants of 20th-century America. He once said is proudest achievement was to run everything that was “antisemitic or kooky” out of the conservative movement.

As he always closed the obituaries he wrote: RIP.

Of course, the New York Times, which has no doubt been awaiting this moment for forty years or more, had its obituary online within moments of Mr. Buckley’s death.

Seems like they jumped the gun a bit — as of this writing, their obituary refers to two of Buckley’s books “scheduled to be published in 2007.”

February 20, 2008

New from Cuba

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:36 am

Less than 24 hours after Fidel Castro’s resignation was announced, Hillary Clinton won the Havana primary with 98.65% of the vote.

February 15, 2008

How could that shooting possibly have happened?

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:13 pm

You’ve probably heard the news of the shooting at Northern Illinois University, in which a former student got up on the stage of a lecture hall with a shotgun and two or three handguns, and shot 22 people, five fatally, then killed himself.

The question is, how could that possibly have happened? In Illinois, it’s illegal to carry a gun on campus — or pretty much anywhere for that matter. Didn’t that guy know he could have gotten into a lot of trouble if he’d been caught carrying those guns?

Normally in these situations people call for stricter gun laws. But in Illinois, the gun laws are already pretty much as strict as they can be. Obviously, the message is not getting through to the right people. Clearly, they need a large-scale ad campaign informing the public that’s illegal to carry guns. Better education would have prevented this tragedy … right?

Before Hitler, There Were…

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:00 am

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

n 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.

February 13, 2008

Another Good Reason…

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:00 pm

… Not to live in New York City. Especially — and I really mean this — if you have a child who is over the age of 5, likes to read everything, and is inquisitive. At least, if you intend to ride the subway or drive or walk on the streets with said child.

New Yorkers Encouraged to Get Busy with Free Condoms
Health Department Unveils Ad Campaign, New Condom Design

Your tax dollars at work!

Was there a housing bubble?

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:28 am

Alex Tabarrok argues that if you look at long-term data, there was not. As one who correctly predicted the timing of the current downturn (but made no prediction about the magnitude), I find this quite interesting, and quite likely correct.

Full story here.

Only 40% of doctors and nurses wash their hands?

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:50 am

From the AP, via David Williams’ Health Business Blog:

Turns out installing alcohol-based handwashing gel dispensers in hospitals and encouraging staff to use them isn’t enough to prevent infections. … The issue was studied at a hospital in Nebraska, where gel use doubled but infection rates didn’t budge. It’s not surprising to learn that one tactic isn’t sufficient to control infections. Still, whenever I read about the poor record of hospital safety and quality it makes me mad. From the Associated Press:

More gel dispensers were put in the units, and usage rose from 37 percent to 68 percent in one unit and from 38 percent to 69 percent in the other. Compliance for hand washing of any kind in most hospitals is estimated to be about 40 percent, according to experts, although some hospitals do better.

Can you imagine a 40 percent compliance rate in any other business besides health care?

  • Pilots going through their pre-flight checklists completely 40 percent of the time?
  • Accountants calculating profit and loss correctly 40 percent of the time?
  • Hamburger flippers putting all the ingredients on a Whopper 40 percent of the time?

No way. We shouldn’t tolerate it in health care either.

(Boldface added.)

“Don’t treat the old and unhealthy”

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:43 am

News from the (British) National Health Service (NHS), which is the UK’s universal health care system:

Don’t treat the old and unhealthy, say doctors

By Laura Donnelly, Health Correspondent
Last Updated: 2:09am GMT 28/01/2008

Doctors are calling for NHS treatment to be withheld from patients who are too old or who lead unhealthy lives.

Smokers, heavy drinkers, the obese and the elderly should be barred from receiving some operations, according to doctors, with most saying the health service cannot afford to provide free care to everyone.

Fertility treatment and “social” abortions are also on the list of procedures that many doctors say should not be funded by the state.

The findings of a survey conducted by Doctor magazine sparked a fierce row last night, with the British Medical Association and campaign groups describing the recommendations from family and hospital doctors as “out­rageous” and “disgraceful”.

About one in 10 hospitals already deny some surgery to obese patients and smokers, with restrictions most common in hospitals battling debt.

Managers defend the policies because of the higher risk of complications on the operating table for unfit patients. But critics believe that patients are being denied care simply to save money.

Nice to see that in a universal health care system, everyone has equal access to care, and no one is denied care just so the insurance companies can save money.

I’d like to see the presidential candidates comment on this!

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