Different River

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

September 24, 2008

Biden on the Financial Crisis

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:50 am

The AP Reports on Sept. 23

WASHINGTON – Vice presidential candidate Joe Biden says today’s leaders should take a lesson from the history books and follow fellow Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt’s response to a financial crisis.

“When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, ‘Look, here’s what happened,’” Barack Obama’s running mate recently told the “CBS Evening News.”

Except, Republican Herbert Hoover was in office when the stock market crashed in October 1929.

It’s actually even worse than that.

The first presidential TV appearance wasn’t until 1939, and the first televised presidential “address to the nation” was by President Truman in 1951 — a full 22 years after the stock market crash!

But hey, at least Biden has EXPERIENCE, so he won’t make stupid ignorant mistakes like Palin will!

August 21, 2008

A Secular Israeli Encounters China

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:52 pm

Anyone who is aware of, and interested in, the divide between secular and religious Jews in Israel, should find this worth reading:

Thank God we’re Jewish

Adi Dvir says her time in China changed her perception regarding Israel’s Jewish identity

Adi Dvir

As I have never been religious, and have always supported the separation of religion and state, I always wondered what it would be like to live in a land with no religious tendencies whatsoever. In my mind, such land had all the makings of a utopia: There would be no religious fanatics dressed in 19th century garb, no holy wars, and gender equality would reign supreme.

This utopian dream was shattered, however, after I recently had the opportunity to live in such country: China. I soon found myself thanking God we have religion in Israel.

Click here to read the rest!

May 13, 2008

Clinton Blaming Bush for Clinton

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:44 am

See if you can follow this without a scorecard:

INDIANAPOLIS — Hillary Clinton loves to tell the story about how the Chinese government bought a good American company in Indiana, laid off all its workers and moved its critical defense technology work to China.

It’s a story with a dramatic, political ending. Republican President George W. Bush could have stopped it, but he didn’t.

If she were president, Clinton says, she’d fight to protect those jobs. It’s just the kind of talk that’s helping her win support from working-class Democrats worried about their jobs and paychecks, not to mention their country’s security.

What Clinton never includes in the oft-repeated tale is the role that prominent Democrats played in selling the company and its technology to the Chinese. She never mentions that big-time Democratic contributor George Soros helped put together the deal to sell the company or that the sale was approved by her husband’s administration.

Apparently, blaming George W. Bush for things done before he took office is normal procedure. Bush has also been blamed for the U.S. refusal to ratify the Kyoto accord (1997), the ratification of the NAFTA treaty (1993), and the escape of Osama bin Laden from Sudan (1996).

If George W. Bush is really as lousy a president as they say, couldn’t they come up with some examples of things he actually did?

March 26, 2008

Obama’s Time Machine

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:18 pm

An inspiring passage from Barack Obama’s speech on March 4, commemorating the Selma march and crediting it for his very existence:

What happened in Selma, Alabama and Birmingham also stirred the conscience of the nation. It worried folks in the White House who said, “You know, we’re battling Communism. How are we going to win hearts and minds all across the world? If right here in our own country, John, we’re not observing the ideals set fort in our Constitution, we might be accused of being hypocrites.” So the Kennedys decided we’re going to do an air lift. We’re going to go to Africa and start bringing young Africans over to this country and give them scholarships to study so they can learn what a wonderful country America is.

This young man named Barack Obama got one of those tickets and came over to this country. He met this woman whose great great-great-great-grandfather had owned slaves; but she had a good idea there was some craziness going on because they looked at each other and they decided that we know that the world as it has been it might not be possible for us to get together and have a child. There was something stirring across the country because of what happened in Selma, Alabama, because some folks are willing to march across a bridge. So they got together and Barack Obama Jr. was born. So don’t tell me I don’t have a claim on Selma, Alabama. Don’t tell me I’m not coming home to Selma, Alabama.

Only one problem:

The first Selma march took place on March 7, 1965. Barack Obama Jr. was born on August 4, 1961. Do the math.

Hat tip: Ed Morrissey

In the interest of equal treatment of candidates, note that Hillary Clinton claimed she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, the who climbed Mt. Everest — a few years after she was born and named.

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 15, 2008

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.

December 8, 2006

Another Cold War Hero Passes on

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:08 am

Jeanne Kirkpatrick has passed away.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Former U.N. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, a onetime Democrat who switched to the Republican Party and warmly embraced Reagan era conservatism, has died. She was 80.

Kirkpatrick’s death was announced Friday at the senior staff meeting of the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said spokesman Richard Grenell, who said that Ambassador John Bolton asked for a moment of silence. An announcement of her death also was posted on the Web site of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-oriented think tank here where she was a senior fellow.

Kirkpatrick’s assistant, Andrea Harrington, said that she died in her sleep at home in Bethesda, Md. The cause of death was not immediately known.

(Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.)

The aforementioned notices is on the AEI home page. Her AEI biography page is here.

November 21, 2006

Happy Birthday, Interstate Highway System!

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:53 am

Ralph Bennett writes:

As you prepare to head out to join with family and friends for that Thanksgiving turkey, give thanks right now for one of the most magnificent engineering feats of all time.

The Interstate.

Or, as it is more formally known, The Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways.

It’s 50 years old this year. And it was in this very month, November, 1956, that the first eight-mile stretch of what would eventually be more than 42,000 miles of limited access highway lacing the states together was opened in Topeka, Kansas.

Give thanks because the Interstate is going to make your holiday trip, this week, and at Christmas, immeasurably faster and easier than it used to be. Only those who drove or rode as children in automobiles in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s can fully appreciate how much faster and how much easier.

November 13, 2006

The Web is Old Enough to Drive

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:21 pm

In most (U.S.) states, anyway.

The World Wide Web is 16 years old today.

October 1, 2006

Does the “anti-war” side have a plan for after we pull out of Iraq?

Opponents of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy are fond of accusing Bush of “not having a plan” for dealing with Iraq after the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. This is, of course, just a self-righteous way of saying they didn’t like the plan Bush actually did have, and that the plan has not lead to perfect results immediately.

Nevertheless, it’s worth asking those who call for an immediate pullout from Iraq, or a timetable for a pullout within a specified short time frame, what their plan is for dealing with the situation that will result from a pullout.

Clayton Cramer has posed this question, and given some realistic answers. All of his answers are worse than the worst likely scenarios resulting from staying in Iraq. As he points out:

But if the American people decide that the cost is too high, what is the alternative strategy? Leaving Iraq alone right now will lead to full civil war, and probably the crowd that likes to torture people to death with power tools will be back in power–just like the way things were under Saddam Hussein. As the declassified Key Findings of the National Intelligence Estimate last week pointed out, if we lose in Iraq, it will embolden jihadists throughout the world. The reason isn’t hard to figure out: it will be perceived that like what happened in Somalia, Americans are weak, and lack the willingness to fight.

What are the options? Here’s Clayton’s list (I’m summarizing here, not quoting — for his more complete explanations click here):

  1. “Fortress America”: Lock down the U.S. at the border and within, and curtail civil rights in the pursuit of terrorists who are here. Of course, it only takes one terrorist to get through — either shipping a nuclear weapon with a long-period timer, or getting one single legal U.S. resident to cooperate. So we are probably looking at more 9/11-scale attacks. (Why is this less likely if we are in Iraq? Because so many jihadists are fighting us over there on their home turf. We don’t want them freed up to attack us at home.)
  2. Make the terrorists happy: Don’t just leave Iraq — forget about stopping the Al-Qaeda-backed genocide in Darfur, give them back Afghanistan, cut off aid to Israel and acquiese when Iran uses nuclear weapons to annihilate Israel. And this will only work until they decide it’s time for all of us to convert to Islam also and replace the Constitution with Shari’a law, at which point we will have to either acquiese to that, or go to war with a much stronger enemy.
  3. Here I’ll quote: “Treat Muslim nations the way they have treated every other nation. Invade them; occupy; convert their mosques into churches; send in troops with orders to kill anyone that gives them any lip; assess a special tax on Muslims; pass laws that give Muslims less legal rights than non-Muslims, not just in ways that matter (say, a ban on Muslims possessing anything more deadly than a butter knife), but in ways intended to degrade them, like the laws that Muslims nations had prohibiting non-Muslims from riding horses.” I don’t think we, as a society, are willing to do that. We still believe in religious freedom.
  4. Prove that Islam is not really as superior as it claims, by nuking Mecca. I don’t think we’re willing to do that, either.
  5. Nuke a lot of Muslims. I don’t think we’re willing to do that, either.

So next time someone tells you we should pull out of Iraq, ask them one question: What’s your plan for after that?

September 17, 2006

One Arab’s Apology

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:43 am

Emilio Karim Dabul writes in the New York Post:

September 12, 2006 – WELL, here it is, five years late, but here just the same: an apology from an Arab-American for 9/11. No, I didn’t help organize the killers or contribute in any way to their terrible cause. However, I was one of millions of Arab-Americans who did the unspeakable on 9/11: nothing.

The only time I raised my voice in protest against these men who killed thousands of innocents in the name of Allah was behind closed doors, among the safety of friends and family. I did at one point write a very vitriolic essay condemning their actions, but fear of becoming another Salman Rushdie kept me from ever trying to publish it.

Those of us who wondered why all those “religion of peace” Muslims didn’t speak out — well, here’s our answer: The are afraid of all those non-peaceful Muslims, just as we are. The difference is, they acknowledge that there actually are non-peaceful Muslims.

Well, I’m sick of saying the truth only in private – that Arabs around the world, including Arab-Americans like myself, need to start holding our own culture accountable for the insane,
violent actions that our extremists have perpetrated on the world at large.

Yes, our extremists and our culture.

Every single 9/11 hijacker was Arab and a Muslim. The apologists (including President Bush) tried to reassure us that 9/11 had nothing to do with Islam, but was a twisting of a great and noble religion. With all due respect, read the Koran, Mr. President. There’s enough there for someone of extreme tendencies to find their way to a global jihad.

I’ve always thought there was something quite odd about President Bush’s protestations that Islam was a “relgion of peace” and the the 9/11 hijackers had distorted “a great religion.” Obviously, President Bush meant to say merely that he wasn’t going to war against Muslims as such, just against terrorists and murderers who in this particular case happen to be Muslims. But the way he said it — declaring plainly what Islam is (“a religion of peace”) and which strain of it is legitimate Islam (the peaceful one) — it seems like he is presenting himself as some sort of authority on Islam; perhaps even one who can speak for Islam. Clearly, he is neither. Bush is a Methodist, not a Muslim — and I imagine he wouldn’t appreciate Osama Bin Ladin telling him what true Methodism is any more than Osama appreciated Bush telling him what true Islam is. The question of whether Islam is a “religion of peace” or a religion of constant armed jihad against non-Muslims is a question that has to be resolved by Muslims, not Methodists (or Baptists or Jews or Catholics or secular humanists…). As Dabul puts it,

The men who killed 3,000 of our citizens on 9/11 in all likelihood died saying prayers to Allah, and that by itself is one of the most horrific things to me about that day.

And, while my grandparents never waged a jihad, their attitudes toward Jews weren’t that much different than Mohammed Atta’s. No, they didn’t support the Holocaust, but they did believe that Jews were trouble in many different ways, and those sorts of beliefs were passed on to me before I’d ever actually met a Jew.

I’m sorry for that, for ever believing that anything that my grandparents or other relatives had to say about Jews or Israel, for that matter, had any real resemblance to truth. It took me years to realize that I’d been conned into believing the generalizations and stereotypes that millions around the Arab world buy into: that Jews, America and Israel are our main problem.

One look at the average Arab regime should alert us to the fact that the problem, dear Achmed, lies not overseas or next door in Tel Aviv, but in the brutal, corrupt despots that we have bred from country to country in the Mideast, across the span of history. …

Five years after that awful day, it’s time for all Arab-Americans, and Arabs around the world, to protest against Islamic fascism, to raise our voices – and, where necessary, our arms – against these tyrants until their plague of terror has been driven from the face of the earth forever.

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 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?

July 4, 2006

Independence Day

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:45 am

Happy Independence Day!

I know, it’s actually “July 4th” or the “Fourth of July,” but it’s official name is “Independence Day,” and I think it’s a good idea to call it that every once in a while, so we don’t forget why we have this holiday.

In particular, remember that the Declaration of Independence does not begin by saying:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary to establish a holiday in early summer, late enough that it’s not all that likely to rain, so we can cook outside and enjoy the manifest bounty of various forms of beef on the grill, or chicken for those watching their cholesterol, and to end the day with a colorful display of fireworks whose symbolism has long been forgotten, but which are really beautiful anyway …

Nor does it say:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary to establish a federal government to provide jobs, health care, education, drug approvals, seat-belt and helmet laws, farm subsidies to keep food prices high, food stamps for those who can’t afford the high prices, and to tax the rich to maintain “fairness” and “equality” …

No, the actual Declaration of Independence begins like this:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

That last part is really the part that was “revolutionary.” Prior to that point in time, it was generally agreed that whoever had the most soldiers, knights, weapons, and so on had the right to rule however he (or sometimes, she) wanted, to collect taxes for his own personal benefit, and to have the power of life and death over his subjects and anyone he could bring under his authority by force of arms. In some times and places, this was called the “Divine Right of Kings” — and of course, the king obtained this “divine right” by having the most soldiers, weapons, etc.

The king derived his powers from force of arms, not from principles of justice or the consent of the governed. It was the people’s job to serve the king and his government.

The Declaration of Independence turned this on its head, claiming — ludicrously, it must have seemed to most Europeans at the time — that it was the government’s job to serve the people, and the government’s right to exercise power came not from force of arms, but from “the consent of the governed.”

That was truly Revolutionary — and the only reason it didn’t sound ludicrous in the colonies is that they had been more or less governing themselves in many matters for 150 years. This was of course due more to geographic isolation from the king and slow communications than to any matters of principle, but the funny this about freedom is that once you get it, you get used to it, and you don’t want to give it up. Mikhail Gorbachev discovered this the hard way when he tried to save the collapsing Soviet economy by giving people a small degree of freedom. The taste of it was enough to them to bring on the collapse of the entire Soviet enterprise, from Kamchatka to East Berlin. (Remember when there was an “East” Berlin?)

It’s worth noting the causes of two of the seminal events in the American Revolution — the Boston Tea Party and the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The Boston Tea Party was a protest against high taxes on tea (from which a government-favored company was exempt, the way some localities “grant” tax breaks to companies to “attract jobs”). The Battle of Lexington and Concord occurred when General Thomas Gage ordered British troops in Boston to confiscate guns and ammunition from the people of Concord.

In other words, we declared independence and started a war to get rid of high taxes and gun control. Don’t tell John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, who live where it all started. ;-)

Jim Hoeft at Bearing Drift has some more cynical — but sadly, true — thoughts.

Kat of CatHouseChat is slightly more positive.

And Here’s the Virginia Blog Carnival — Independence Day edition

July 2, 2006

Happy Independence Day, July 2

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:40 pm

No, that’s not a typo — technically, the U.S. declared independence on July 2, 1776, not July 4. As John Adams wrote to his wife the next day, July 3:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.- I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by Solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfire and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

So why do we celebrate on July 4?

Because that’s the day the text of the formal declaration was approved. And when the Declaration of Independence was printed and distributed with the date the text was approved printed at the top, that’s the date that became remembered and celebrated.

The detailed timeline is here. Another thing people often forget is who got the whole thing started:

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee, delegate from Virginia at the Second Continental Congress, moved “certain resolutions respecting independency” which he submitted in accordance with his instructions from the Virginia Convention. John Adams is generally understood to have seconded the motion, precise records of which do not appear in the Journal.

In this sense, Richard Henry Lee ought to be known as the “father of his country.”

July 1, 2006

A Day That Should Live In Infamy

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:00 pm

If anyone were paying attention, that is.

On this date in 1921, West Virginia imposed the first state sales tax.

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

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.

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 6, 2006

The Ice Cream Store in Hell

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:32 pm

The ice cream store in Hell is owned by John Colone, and is hosting a big party today because today’s date, June 6, 2006, can be written as “6-6-6.” The store is selling ice cream cones all day Tuesday for 66 cents, and

[S]ome of his neighbors will offer similar specials. Hell Creek Ranch, 10866 Cedar Lake Road in Putnam Township, for example, will offer $6.66 grounds, kayaking and canoeing rates. Colone’s business neighbor, Hell Country Store & Spirits, will offer $6.66 large pizzas, and the nearby Dam Site Inn will offer meals for $6.66.

I should probably add that this is all taking place in Hell, Michigan, which is a small town about 60 miles west of Detroit. Details are here and here.

Apparently, the origins of the name are shrouded in mystery:

Theory One goes like this: A pair of German travelers slid out of a curtained stagecoach one sunny summer afternoon, and one said to the other, “So schoene hell.” ‘Hell,’ in the German language, means bright and beautiful. Those who overheard the visitors’ comments had a bit of a laugh and shared the story with the other locals.

Sometime later, George Reeves, who, more than anyone else, was responsible for the origin of Hell, was asked just what he thought the town should be named. George reportedly replied, “I don’t care, you can name it Hell if you want to.” As the story goes, the name stuck and stuck fast. After some attempts to soften the effect of the name by suggesting they change it to Reevesville or Reeve’s Mills, he gave up on the whole thing and simply lived with it.

Theory Two [sic -- three, by my count --DR]. The area in which Hell exists is pretty low and swampy. And because it was a part of the Dexter Trail, which traced along the higher ground between Lansing and Dexter, Michigan, a formerly busy farm market and early railhead, traveling through the Hell area would have been wetter, darker, more convoluted, and certainly denser with mosquitoes than other legs of the journey. Further, river traders of old would have had to portage between the Huron and the Grand River systems somewhere around the present location of Hell. You can picture them pulling their canoes, heavy with provisions and beaver pelts, through the underbrush, muttering and swatting bugs as they fought to get to the banks of the next river.

For the record: The name is unofficial. The “town” is unincorporated, and from the point of view of the it’s part of the town of Pickney, MI 48169. (Here’s a Google Map of the ice cream store.) A history of Hell is at the Hell website, hell2u.com. Of course, since they are trying to attract tourists, it would be more appropriately named u2hell.com. Oh, well. (Or should that be, “Oh, Hell”?)

Apparently, tourists go there so they can say they’ve been to Hell and back — and of course, buy T-shirts and similar items attesting to that fact. Personally, I hope that if I ever happen to be there, it’s in the winter — so I can say, given the whether in Michigan, that I’ve experienced a cold day in Hell. ;-)

Seriously, though: In these times of conflict, it is worth noting that despite the role “Hell” plays in Christian theology, Christians seem to be taking this all in good humor. Can you imagine what the reaction would be if there residents of a small, unincorporated town in Saudi Arabia called their town by the name of a similar concept in Islam, and started selling souveniers to tourists mocking the name?

(Hint: Remember the cartoons. And of course, Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses.)

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