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December 31, 2005

Justice Scalia orders breakfast at the IHOP

(With apologies to Jeff Goldstein....)

WAITRESS: 'Mornin', sir. Ready to order?



WAITRESS: What'll ya have?

JUSTICE SCALIA: I'll have the blueberry pancakes, with the butter and confectioner's sugar on the side.


WAITRESS: Do ya want sausage with that?

JUSTICE SCALIA: Yes, please.

[Laughter.] *

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December 30, 2005

Two permanent absences

I've decided not to do a year-end 2005 wrapup for Pillage Idiot, because, basically, who cares?

But I do want to note two similar year-end 2005 developments outside of PI. Dave Barry, the best humor columnist around, and "Allah," the best blogger around, have both decided after year-long absences that they will not resume their previous endeavors (see comments). Technically, Allah has been insisting all along that he won't return, so we never had our hopes up, but Allah is now, at least, dangling the possibility of a "linkblog." One commenter asked him to put his photoshop work on a CD and sell it. I know I'd buy it. If you want to see the "Allah is in the House" archives (sans photoshops), you can look here and here. [UPDATE: Here's a link to Allah's linkblog, called Link Mecca.]

It's all very sad, but as my friend's father said, when the richest man in the world dies, we all move up a notch.

(Dave Barry link via Baseball Crank)

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December 29, 2005

Animal husbandry

First they gave us gay adoptions.

Then gay marriage.

It wasn't long before polygamy, a practice dating back millenia, though invariably a negative institution even in -- especially in -- the Bible, came to the forefront again.

But that isn't enough. Now we have inter-species adoption. (Hat tip: Soccer Dad, who now has his own post up about it)

And, for now, the last taboo to fall is inter-species marriage. (Via K-Lo at the Corner) Although my working assumption is that this story is nothing but a weird joke, it still bears (har!) discussion.

Here's the gist of the story from the English-language site (Yediot Ahronot):

Brit Jew marries dolphin

Unusual wedding: British woman marries her beloved dolphin in Eilat ceremony

Joe Kot

Till death do us part? An unusual wedding ceremony was held in the southern resort town of Eilat on Wednesday, as Sharon Tendler, a 41-years-old Jewish millionaire from London married her beloved Cindy, a 35-years-old dolphin, Israel's leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported Thursday.

The groom, a resident of the Eilat dolphin reef, met Tendler 15 years ago, when she first visited the resort. The British rock concert producer took a liking to the dolphin and has made a habit of traveling to Eilat two or three times a year and spending time with her underwater sweetheart.

Here's the key quotation from the "bride":
After the ceremony was sealed with some mackerels, Tendler was tossed into the water by her friends so that she could swim with her new husband.

"I'm the happiest girl on earth," the bride said as she chocked back tears of emotion. "I made a dream come true, and I am not a pervert," she stressed.
And here are my favorite comments about the article at the YNet site. One says, "A wife like Sharon is just what I seek. Wealthy and not interested in sex with me." Another: "If I remember my marine biology class a dolphins 'member' is more than a meter long (and prehencile). If the dolphin were to thrust even once, not only her uterus would be in danger, but so would her lungs. She would be litterally impaled. Think shipoudim." Shipoudim (usually transliterated without the "o") are skewers -- the Israeli version of kebabs. Yikes! And one commenter leaves it at this: "Tuna Safe!"

Click here to read more . . .

A few jokes

This is a rather slow week. In fact, you are one of two people who will visit Pillage Idiot today. You and that pervert who's searching for something about women and horses.

So I'll dispense with my usual profound analysis of important world events and will instead tell a few jokes. You may have heard some of them. I hope you haven't heard all of them. Feel free to add your own in the comments. (Please keep the language clean even if the jokes aren't clean.)

1. One of my all-time favorites is dedicated to my father's recovery, because he told it to me first.

Two old Jewish men are talking about their doctors. OJM1 says to OJM2: I found a great doctor to help me with my memory problems. He really worked wonders with me.

OJM2: What's his name?

OJM1: Uh . . . uh . . . well, do you know that flower?

OJM2: Yeah?

OJM1: The one that's red?

OJM2: Yeah?

OJM1: That has a long stem?

OJM2: Yeah?

OJM1: And has thorns?

OJM2: A rose?

OJM1: That's it!! (He turns and yells.) Rose, what's that doctor's name?

2. Speaking of my father, I've mentioned several times my father's struggle with cancer. Last month, my father didn't feel up to going to an appointment with his internist, and my mother, who has spent the year caring for my father, went to the appointment to ask some questions. At one point, the internist, who really hasn't been on the ball, responded to my mother: "Mrs. [Last Name], your husband is very sick. He's going to die." My mother said: "But Dr. L-----. . ." At which point, the internist interrupted: "Please. Call me Steven." We all laughed about this incident, even my mother, because it was so bizarre, with the doctor first being rather insensitive and then, out of nowhere, insisting that my mother call him by his first name. My sister said it reminded her of an episode of Get Smart. (Bonus points to anyone who can identify the episode.)

My brother's response to the incident was to tell the following joke:

A man goes to his doctor and gets the bad news. The doctor tells him, "You have a terminal illness." The man is horrified. "How long do I have to live?" The doctor says, "Ten." The man asks, "Ten? What do you mean? Ten weeks? Ten months?" And the doctor says: "Ten. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 . . . ."

3. An orthodox rabbi, a conservative rabbi, and a reform rabbi are discussing how they dealt with squirrel infestations at their synagogues. The orthodox rabbi says: "We told the squirrels it's absolutely forbidden to be here and we sent them away, but they came right back." The conservative rabbi says: "We held a dialogue with them and released them humanely in the woods, but they came right back." The reform rabbi says: "We gave them all bar mitzvahs, and they never came back."

4. In case I haven't offended anyone yet, here goes. What's the difference between a reform Jew and a Unitarian? The Unitarian doesn't have a Christmas tree.

5. Three men die and go to heaven. St. Peter (this is not a Jewish joke, by the way) asks them each how they died. The first man says: "I was washing windows at an apartment building and I slipped and fell. Fortunately, I was able to grab onto the ledge of the sixth floor. But then, some idiot in the apartment started hitting me and suddenly a refrigerator came out of the window. I fell six floors and the refrigerator landed on top of me."

The second man says: "I was going on a business trip, but I suspected my wife of cheating on me. I finally couldn't bear it any longer, and I went back home to my apartment. When I entered the apartment, my wife was naked in bed. I demanded to know where her lover was, but she denied everything. I searched and searched the apartment and found no one. I was starting to apologize to my wife, when I noticed him outside the window holding onto the ledge. I tried to pry his fingers loose, but it didn't work. I hit him on his fingers, but it didn't work. Finally, I was so angry I threw the refrigerator out the window at him, but my belt caught on the door handle, and I went down with the refrigerator."

The third man says: "I have no idea how I died. I was hiding inside a refrigerator . . . "

Click here to read more . . .

December 28, 2005

Things that interest me (12/28)

1. Ace mocks the London Times for saying that Joseph and Mary, today, would face many Israeli checkpoints.

Gee, I used to be a supporter of the Israeli security fence, but now that you've told me that Mary and Joseph would have had to show ID along their route, I've completely changed my position!

Related Times UK headline: Israeli Gunships Kill Hamas Leader, The Same As They Killed Jesus (Except With Hellfire Missiles)
2. Soccer Dad, who has limitless energy and intellectual curiosity, muses on "blog envy." I'm not even in the ballpark where I can be envious.

3. Power Line has a series on the reviews of the Spielberg film "Munich" here, here, here, and here.

4. Baseball Crank notes that Jeff Reardon has morphed from a great (former) closer into an armed robber. "Sad" is exactly the right word.

5. David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy returns from Israel with news that the Israeli lefties he spoke to think that Israel is going to attack Iran in the next few months. And they're OK with that. A few days ago, fee simple sent me a link to an article suggesting that for Sunni Iraqis, Iran is becoming more of the enemy than Israel. I suppose that's progress.

6. Perhaps the thing that interests me most, given my father's struggle with cancer, is an article from yesterday's NY Times discussing progress in treating cancer by stopping the genetic mutations that result in cancerous cells.

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December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas

Some newspapers carry the same editorial or greeting to readers each Christmas, and in that great tradition, I give you a link to my post a year ago called, strangely enough, "Merry Christmas."

To my Christian readers, Merry Christmas.

(Happy Hanukkah to the Jews.)

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Weird computer case mods

If you want to see some strange computer case mods, check this out (via Fark). I saw the toilet mod a couple of years ago, and I just wonder why they list it at "number 2."

Click here to read more . . .

December 22, 2005

The sun rises in the East

The American Jewish Committee's annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion shows, according to the headline in the Washington Jewish Week, that "Jews oppose Iraq war, annual poll finds." Well, excuse me if I'm not bowled over by that news. Or by this news:

Indeed, 78 percent of American Jews believe Arabs aim not to secure the return of territories lost in war, but rather to destroy Israel. Yet 56 percent of respondents said they favor the establishment of a Palestinian state, while 38 percent oppose it.

"American Jews are schizophrenic," Harris said. "Our polls year after year after year show the very same thing: On the one hand, on the peace process options, a majority of American Jews support -- let's call it the liberal option. At the very same time, a clear majority of American Jews in the next breath say the real goal of the Arabs is to destroy Israel."

In other words, most American Jews believe Israel should try for peace with the Palestinians, but don't necessarily believe the Palestinians are serious.
American Jews aren't "schizophrenic"; they're nuts.

The most interesting aspect of the survey is discussed in the very last paragraph -- a style known in journalism circles as "double-inverted pyramid" form -- namely, that Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews viewed issues very differently:
[David] Harris [of the AJC] said the "single greatest indicator" of how a person will come down on issues of policy such as the Iraq war and abortion is whether he or she identifies as Orthodox or non-Orthodox. That split, he said, is "extremely telling and affects the Jew[ish] community profoundly."
Harris doesn't elaborate on that last statement -- at least, not in the article -- but let me try here. The obvious way it affects the Jewish community is by making it more complicated to bridge the divide between Orthodox and non-Orthodox. If that divide is not only religious but also political (which is far more important to most non-Orthodox Jews), that makes it even harder to come together. To oversimplify a bit, the Orthodox are basically anti-abortion, against radical separation of church and state, and unapologetically pro-Israel. To say that this makes the metaphorical family dinner difficult is to understate things tremendously.

The second way the split affects the Jewish community is outlined in a fascinating post last March by David Boxenhorn at Rishon Rishon. David argues that the difference in fertility rates (also known as child-bearing) between Orthodox and non-Orthodox will change the complexion of world Jewry over the next several generations, by dramatically increasing the percentage of Jews who are Orthodox.

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December 21, 2005

Bush meets the press

For other photo comics, check the "Photo Comics" section of the sidebar.

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December 20, 2005

A Reform Jewish dissenter on Iraq

Last week, the Republican Jewish Coalition ran an ad criticizing the Union for Reform Judaism for acting as if it spoke for all Jews, even all Reform Jews, in attacking the war in Iraq.

Yesterday, the RJC circulated this column in Newsweek by Rabbi Marc Gellman, a reform rabbi, entitled "Historical Blindness." He observes that, while the war is being fought for American reasons, there are some important Jewish reasons to support it as well.

This war was and is being fought for American reasons, not Jewish reasons. However, to see this war that toppled one of Israel's fiercest enemies—an anti-Semitic dictator who sent $25,000 to the families of every jihadist who had been able to kill and maim Israeli children and other innocents—opposed by Jews is more than an act of ingratitude to this country and this president. This vote was an act of stunning and incomprehensible historical blindness.
For Rabbi Gellman, the most important Jewish reason to support the war is that we must never allow to happen to others what happened to us in the Holocaust.

The Jews of Europe are now the Kurds of Iraq, and the Shiites, and the Marsh Arabs. The point of war is not only to defend one's own country from attack but also to free from the jaws of death millions of innocent human beings who lack the military means to secure their own freedom. This may not be a universally supported political or military view of war, but it is a religious view of war, and it is my view of this and other wars. I do not know a single Kurd or a single Marsh Arab or a single Iraqi Shiite, but I do know that they have been slaughtered by the thousands, and because of this war they are now free. The Iraqi killing machine has been destroyed. I also know, and every person of even moderate intelligence also knows, that if our troops withdraw now, before victory has been fully achieved they will be slaughtered again. When I say never again in memory of the Holocaust, I don't mean "never again Jews," I mean "never again anyone."
He goes on to say that this is, for him, a "war of shelter":

Isaiah (25:4), speaking for God, commands us, "You are a refuge to the poor, to the needy in distress, a shelter from the storm." This war, and the larger war of which it is a part, is not a war against terror for me. It is a war of refuge, a war of shelter. A religious movement should feel that, and I am disconsolate that they do not. The Reform moment in Judaism has no official hierarchy and does not speak for all Reform Jews. Their resolutions bind no one and compel no one to do anything. Sometime anarchy is a good thing. That we embarrassed ourselves before America means little to me. That we may have embarrassed ourselves before the survivors of the kingdom of night and before the commandment to freedom from our God is a matter of much more gravity.
Although I support the Iraq war, I can't say I'm comfortable with Rabbi Gellman's theory. He undoubtedly makes an important moral point that is easily lost in the moral preening of the Left, and it's urgent that his point be heard by the Reform rabbinate.

But his religious position is not enough. We can help end the suffering of others when it's possible. We are not able as a country to end suffering everywhere it's found, and we surely cannot use our military to rid the world of tyrants wherever they are found.

What's needed to distinguish those cases in which we intervene from those in which we do not is some concept of American self-interest. We have to distinguish between Iraq (and Iran, Syria, etc.) on the one hand and, say, Somalia or Rwanda or Darfur, on the other. In Iraq, we have a clear national interest; Iraq is one stop in our fight against Islamic terrorism. In contrast, our intervention in Somalia was purely altruistic, which is why, I might add, the Left was willing to support it, at least for a time. When we have a national interest as well as a humanitarian interest, we must be ready to fight. When we have a purely humanitarian interest, we should not intervene ourselves. We should ask the U.N. and countries like Belgium, France, Germany, and Canada to do the job. These are countries that generally are not going to be of much use to us in a military intervention but are fully capable of intervening under U.N. auspices in out-of-the-way parts of the world where people are suffering. If the U.N. can't supply forces to do purely humanitarian work, it really has no legitimate purpose at all.

This distinction between self-interested interventions and altruistic interventions explains much of the Reform movement's position on Iraq. Think of it this way: If you took this same group of left-wing Reform rabbis and asked them whether the United States should send its military to Darfur to stop the genocide there, you'd get a totally different resolution from the one on Iraq. The reason, again, is simple: We have no national interest in Darfur (other than our humanity).

We may have freed millions of Iraqis from tyranny in the course of overthrowing Saddam, but we had a national interest there, and the Left will never be satisfied. Rabbi Gellman's statement is useful, but it has serious limitations.

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December 18, 2005

Cindy Sheehan is hit where it hurts

For previous Cindy comics and others, check "Photo Comics" on the sidebar.

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Glendening becomes a race hustler

I really, really didn't want to write any more about Wesley Baker (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), but when our former governor, Parris Glendening, writes a race-baiting op-ed for the Washington Post, with the inflammatory title "The Value of Black Life in Maryland," someone's got to respond.

Our ex-gov's op-ed today is fundamentally dishonest. I repeat, fundamentally dishonest. How can I say that? Because it argues that there is good reason to believe that Maryland's capital sentencing system is racially biased while slipping in a concession that he really doesn't believe that it is. In other words, Glendening, knowing that there is no race bias, throws gasoline on the racial fire.

Here's the nub of his argument:

I believed in the death penalty when I became governor and took seriously my constitutional responsibility to uphold Maryland law. I presided over two executions, those of Flint Gregory Hunt and Tyrone Gilliam. Both were black men whose victims were white. I heard from many civil rights leaders who rightly pointed out that this racial combination dominated cases on our state's death row, even though African Americans were and continue to be the victims in nearly 80 percent of homicides.

So in 1999 I commissioned a study of race and death sentencing from the University of Maryland, believing it my responsibility to ensure that justice was truly blind when applying this ultimate punishment.

* * * * *

The significant racial disparities are troubling. Cases in which the victim was white were almost twice as likely to result in the death penalty as cases in which the victim was black, and blacks who killed whites were 2 1/2 times more likely to be sentenced to death than whites who killed whites.
Glendening relies on the University of Maryland report, although the author himself said there was no intentional discrimination in capital punishment.

Paternoster, in announcing his findings, said the explanation for the disparities rested with state's attorneys, not juries, although he was careful not to impugn the prosecutors' motives. He said that his analysis "doesn't mean there is racial animus" by prosecutors but rather that "the product of their action does result in racial disparity."
We've been through this whole jurisdictional disparity nonsense over and over again. The vast majority of the disparity comes from the fact that the (white) state's attorney in Baltimore County brings death cases, while the (black) state's attorney in majority-black Baltimore City doesn't bring death cases.* Where's the racism?

There isn't any, at least not that one can divine from the information we have before us. And then Glendening himself concedes as much:
These results lead to the unfortunate conclusion that we value white life more than black life. Intentional or not -- and I believe it is not -- this is an indefensible and untenable position for the state.
But he goes on to say that we must act as if there were intentional discrimination.
Whether one supports or opposes the death penalty in principle, all reasonable people understand that before we exercise the ultimate sanction, we must be confident that the system is, at a minimum, fair and accurate.
Which is utter nonsense. Geographic discrimination isn't discrimination at all.

There's an obvious reason for Glendening's dishonest op-ed. There's an election next year for governor, and his successor Bob Ehrlich, is running for re-election. What's more, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele will be running for U.S. Senate. Steele, who is nationally one of the most prominent black elected Republicans, might be able to draw some black voters away from the Democrats, especially if they run a white candidate, as seems quite likely. So when Democrats fear a desertion, even a small desertion, by their most loyal voters, you can count on them to roil the racial waters.

Thank you, ex-governor Glendening.

* I should offer Soccer Dad's limited defense of the Baltimore City state's attorney: she couldn't possibly get Baltimore juries to convict in death cases. That may be true, but she has publicly stated that she doesn't generally believe in the death penalty.

[CLARIFICATION: Jessamy's statement was that she thinks capital punishment should be reserved for the most heinous crimes. During her nearly eleven years in office, there have been roughly 3,000 murders in Baltimore, yet as far as I can tell, only two of them were heinous enough for her to seek the death penalty. I think I have fairly interpreted her statement. And then there's this from about a year ago in the Baltimore Sun:
Two Mexican immigrants accused of killing three children in Northwest Baltimore in May will not face the death penalty, according to defense lawyers who said they were told that by prosecutors. Instead, the city state's attorney's office will seek life without parole, said James Rhodes, the lawyer for one of those accused, Adan Espinoza Canela.
If you look at the map accompanying the article, you'll see a graphic illustration of my point about geography. The location of the murders was just on the city side of the border along Park Heights Avenue. A block or two farther out would have been in Baltimore County, where capital punishment might well have been sought.]

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December 17, 2005

Naked news

I told you a couple of months ago that in England I'm a resource on naked swimming. A lot of good it does me. I get a bunch of morons coming to Pillage Idiot through Google searches. I don't get any repeat readers, and all they get is disappointment. But they will get some advice from me: Guys, don't search for "naked swimming" on your computers at work.

So I've decided to encourage more useless hits by giving you the update on naked news. Via Fark, which is a true resource, I have three items:

First, we learn of a Spokane woman who thought she had a problem with her pipes in the basement, but it turned out it was a naked man in her basement who had a problem with his pipes.

The Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - A plumbing problem at a Spokane home turned out to be a naked man. Police say a woman who thought she was having a problem with water pipes beneath the floor called the Water Department. Employees found the basement barricaded, and when they determined there was someone behind the door, they called police.

Police broke through the door, found the naked man and took him into custody. They searched the basement but found no clothing for the man. They also found that a pipe had been broken and repaired.

The 36-year-old was booked into jail for investigation of burglary.
I've heard this problem of strange naked men in basements causing problems with pipes is rampant in Washington State, whereas in Washington, D.C., we're still having problems with plumbers.

Our second story is somewhat different. First, it happened two years ago, but it's so good that the students at Cornell felt the need to tell it again, and second, in this case, the naked man was a hero.

On December 2, 2003, The Sun reported that a Cornell football player stopped a robbery in progress...while naked.

According to the article, written by Anne Ceccarini ’05, “At 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 6, Mike Stone ‘04 stepped out of the shower in his residence at 413 Dryden Rd. to find two men who had allegedly broken into his apartment. Stone, a six foot four inch 287 pound defensive lineman for the Cornell football team, dropped his towel and, naked, tackled one of the perpetrators on his front porch and held him until the police arrived.”

“There have been such a rash of crimes going around Collegetown,” Stone said. “Robberies happening constantly, and the fact that things have gotten to the point where people can just go into other people’s houses and start picking stuff out of the room without even thinking about it is scary, and something needs to be done about it.”

* * * * *

“Upon exiting his bathroom, Stone saw the suspects slinking out of the room of his roommate Tom Calahan ‘04. In their possession were Calahan’s laptop and 10 of Stone’s compact discs.”

“What the [bad word] are you doing?” Stone demanded. The perpetrators reluctantly replied, first in Spanish and then in English, “We are looking for Cindy.” When Stone responded, “Who the [same bad word] is Cindy?” the men ran for the door.

“Stone chased after them, dropping his towel in the process, and tackled one of the intruders in the door frame of the apartment. The two scuffled onto the outside porch. Stone shouted for assistance, and his neighbors called the police. Ithaca police arrested the two suspects and took them into custody. Both the computer and the compact discs were recovered.“

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to go chasing after every burglar because you never know if they’re armed or anything,” Stone said. “But I didn’t have a chance to think in that position because it is in my nature to be aggressive.”
Which is great. I want this guy to have my back.

The third and, for now, final installment is just a little, well, weird. But then, it's from Norway, and a Finn was involved.
A troublesome Finn who was arrested causing a disturbance on a Bergen bus on Wednesday turned out to be one of Norway's most annoying characters.

The man, who was arrested drunk and naked on a bus on Wednesday has apparently been fined 99 times and has yet to pay one.

If police are correct, the unruly Finn is known under five different identities, all of which have lengthy records of public disturbance, newspaper Bergens Tidende reports.

"He has received up to 99 fines. Just in Hordaland County police district he has been fined for a total of NOK 95,000 (USD 14,350). This is most likely a Norwegian record," police lawyer Rudolf Christophersen told the newspaper.
We learn more details about this Finn.
Police were called to the scene on Wednesday after receiving a panicky call from a bus driver reporting a naked, drunk and difficult Finn causing trouble on board. When the arrived on the scene the man was visibly drunk and wearing underpants.

According to police the Finn has a noticeable tendency to remove more and more clothing the higher his blood alcohol level gets.

The offender is a Finnish citizen and has previously been expelled and barred from Norway, but has always managed to return.
I have two important observations about this. One is that if he takes off his clothes at higher blood alcohol levels, he really should use a designated bus rider. Two is that "The Troublesome Finns" would be a good name for a rock band.

Click here to read more . . .

December 16, 2005

Frontiers of plastic surgery

I thought last year's frontiers of plastic surgery took the cake, but this really puts the cherry on top.

U.S. women seek a second first time with hymen surgery
Thursday, December 15, 2005

By Amy Chozick, The Wall Street Journal

For her 17th wedding anniversary, Jeanette Yarborough wanted to do something special for her husband. In addition to planning a hotel getaway for the weekend, Ms. Yarborough paid a surgeon $5,000 to reattach her hymen, making her appear to be a virgin again.

"It's the ultimate gift for the man who has everything," says Ms. Yarborough, 40 years old, a medical assistant from San Antonio.
You won't be surprised to learn that religious groups, feminists, and some doctors are troubled by this procedure, which is called "hymenoplasty."
Restoring innocence this way has sparked criticism. Religious groups that value abstinence until marriage say hymen repair is a deception. Some feminists liken hymenoplasty to female genital mutilation. In addition, hymen repair, unlike other types of reconstructive surgery, isn't taught in medical residencies. Some medical associations worry that surgeons might be improperly trained.
And then there's the whole "WTF?" issue. Would you build a ship inside a bottle for the purpose of throwing it off the roof onto the pavement below? As one doctor says, "it's a pretty expensive thing to do for one night."

(hat tip: fee simple)

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Celebrating Beethoven's birthday

Beethoven's had a pretty good year this year, considering he's been dead for 178 years.

To wit: Someone discovered a manuscript of his transcription of the Grosse Fuge for piano four hands, which sold at auction for $1.72 million, of which Beethoven, as a posthumous member of the RIAA, is entitled to, uh, well, something. And then, a researcher conducted tests on his skull (by which I mean Beethoven's skull, not the researcher's) and demonstrated that Beethoven suffered from lead poisoning.

So in honor of Beethoven's birthday today, don't forget to send your spouse or friend (whichever is larger) a Beethoven's birthday e-card. Three of the four e-cards come with musical accompaniment, and, strange as it may sound, one of them actually uses Beethoven's music.

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December 15, 2005

Bike trip of a lifetime

All I know is that if I live to be 84 years old, this is what I want to happen to me. I want to take my bike out for a ride one morning and end up in London, as a Polish geezer did.

WARSAW (Reuters) - An 84-year-old man, missing since he left home to ride his bike in the small central Polish town of Znin last week, has been found in good health wandering around London's Heathrow airport, Polish police said Wednesday.

"According to the family, he just took his bike and left," a police spokesman said.

He said police had been searching for the man, identified as Ludwik Z, when they got a telegram from the Polish consulate in London informing them he was safe and sound in London.
The interesting question, to me, is how he crossed the English Channel. Because maybe I can use that same strategy to cross the Pond.

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Overweight penguins

When I was a little kid, I had a stuffed penguin named Falvorite. Looks like "favorite" but there's an "L" in it. I don't remember that Falvorite was particularly overweight.

But it turns out that in the real world overweight penguins are widespread. (Ha!) At least in Japan.

TOKYO - It's wintertime and the king penguins at a zoo in northern Japan are putting on weight. But the keepers there have a solution: exercise.

Authorities at Asahiyama Zoo are taking the penguins on 500-yard walks on the snowy grounds twice a day, said zoo spokesman Tetsuo Yamazaki.

"Just like in humans ... the fat accumulates during the winter months, and the blood-sugar level rises," Yamazaki explained from the zoo, 570 miles northwest of Tokyo.

The zoo's 15 king penguins aren't exactly obese. Penguin winter weight varies from 33 pounds to 40 pounds, said zoo official Kazunobu Maru. So far, only one of the flock is 40 pounds, he said.

The reason for weight gain is natural, zoo officials say.

"In order to withstand the cold, the penguins have a habit of standing very still during winter months," Yamazaki said, while in the summer they can walk around and swim as much as they want.
But the "eccentric" president of Turkmenistan has a better solution than exercise: Send the penguins to the desert.
President Saparmurat Niyazov has issued decrees in the past banning recorded music and men with long hair.

Now, he is spending £10 million on the construction of the zoo in the Karakorum desert - where temperatures reach up to 40 degrees Celsius.

But Niyazov has decreed the zoo must have penguins because he believes the birds need to be saved from starvation caused by global warming.
Starving caused by global warming? Couldn't be any hotter in Antarctica than in the Karakorum desert.

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December 14, 2005

Condi speaks to the cabal

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December 13, 2005

Jewish pushback on Iraq

The Republican Jewish Coalition is miffed at the stupidity and mendacity of the Reform Jewish leadership, which claims to speak for American Jews when it opposes the war in Iraq. Today, the RJC put an ad in the New York Times stating that "The Union for Reform Judaism Does Not Speak for Us."

In its press release, the RJC noted that the URJ has taken an anti-war position.

The URJ recently passed a resolution in opposition to the Iraq war, and their president Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie charged, "The sentiment was clear and overwhelming, American Jews, and all Americans, are profoundly critical of this war and they want this Administration to tell us how and when it will bring our troops home." Dr. Michael Rankin, URJ Board of Trustee, added, "This is not a just war."
As usual, leftwingers (and especially Jewish leftwingers) think that they speak for everyone. The RJC responds:
"It is essential that we show the country that the Reform movement does not speak for the American Jewish community," said Brooks. "Many American Jews support this President and recognize that Iraq is the central battle in the War on Terror. We will win in Iraq because the future security of the United States and our friends around the world depends on our victory.

"A wide-range of political opinions exists within the American Jewish community," Brooks stressed, "and the RJC’s ad campaign emphasizes that the URJ is wrong to assume that all Jews share their anti-war views."
I'd say this is a pretty good start. It wouldn't be a bad followup to take the RJC's advice and e-mail Rabbi Yoffie at PresURJ@URJ.ORG to disagree with him. Please be polite.

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December 12, 2005

Our first president

Someone arrived at Pillage Idiot today through a Yahoo search for "george washington, jew?" -- question mark and all.

And since this visitor has asked an excellent question, I will provide an excellent answer: Yes. George Washington was Jewish. He was our first Jewish president. Abraham Lincoln was also Jewish, as were Teddy and F.D. Roosevelt. Thomas Jefferson was not, but we let him on Mount Rushmore, anyway.

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The Dems appeal to children

At the Corner, Jonah's dog Cosmo pointed out this hilarious children's book called "Why Mommy is a Democrat," by Jeremy Zilber. As they say, you just can't make this stuff up. Check the sample pages, and also pay close attention to the About the Author page of the website.

I had thought about doing a spoof of this book until I discovered that most people found out about the book last week and made plenty of fun of it then. In fact Sean Gleeson did a spoof that's so right that I don't even have to try. It's called "Why Mommy is a Moonbat."

On a somewhat unrelated note, you need to check out the latest game show by John from WuzzaDem, which starts: "I'm Bob Winkle, welcome to You Bet Someone Else's Life, where contestants can say whatever they want about the war in Iraq without worrying about the consequences." Big name Democrats are the contestants.

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Photo comics

Over the past few months, I've been doing photo comics occasionally. Those are the things you see here sometimes that have voice- or thought-bubbles on photos, putting culpable words into innocent people's mouths or heads.

I've decided to collect links to all of them in a segment of the sidebar called (strangely enough) "Photo Comics."

Sometimes, as with the first Condi Rice photo comic, in which Cindy Sheehan won't speak to her outside the Bush ranch in Crawford and Condi reports to Bush and Rumsfeld that she popped her one, I catch a lot of grief over the comic. Other times, no one remarks on the comic at all. I suspect people think to themselves, "This is really stupid [or infantile or poorly executed or in bad taste]," and they're too polite to say so. I plead guilty to stupid, infantile, poorly executed, and in bad taste, and I'm not too polite to admit it. But, in all modesty, I do think "Anatomy of a nomination," about the Roberts nomination, was pretty amusing.

I think I'll probably continue the series occasionally -- as Scott Adams says about the Dilbert Newsletter, "approximately 'whenever I feel like it.'" If there's a groundswell of opposition to any more photo comics, I'll laugh in my maniacal way. And ignore the sentiment. Blogging's for self-entertainment, anyway, isn't it?

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December 11, 2005

The dissonant quartet

When a string quartet plays with exquisite balance, there is nothing finer one can listen to. When the quartet members can't even get along, and a member is unceremoniously dismissed, litigation happens, followed by bankruptcy. It is as ugly as ugly can be.

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Quibbling about price

You know the old joke with the punchline "Now we're just quibbling about price," right? If not look here and scroll to the bottom for one version.

I've just had to take my mandatory government ethics training at work, which, fortunately, can be done on one's own without having to attend some horrendously boring class. The people who run the ethics program are perfectly good-humored about the subject; it's the rules that are ridiculous.

Question 1:

You are engaged in heated negotiations with opposing counsel. He says, "Look, we've been at this for a while, tempers are getting short. Let's continue this over a beer. I'm buying." Can you allow him to buy you a beer?
Let's take the answer piece by piece:
The ethics rule on gifts from prohibited sources permits you to accept unsolicited gifts worth $20 or less, as long as you do not accept more than $50 in gifts from the same source in the same year.
In other words, I can be bought for $20 and change, if offered to me in a conventional social situation. Good. We've settled that. Let's continue with the answer.
However, in order to avoid an appearance of impropriety in this particular situation, you should probably pay for your own beer.
Which is to say: I can be bought for $20 and change, but some people might think I can be bought for $5. Now, we're quibbling over price. (The ethics people try to dampen the insult by suggesting that "[i]n the spirit of conciliation, you should try to avoid the whole Tastes Great vs. Less Filling debate.")

Back about 15 years ago, during the "Keating Five" scandal, Senator John Glenn was indignant when he was accused of having acted improperly after receiving a $200,000-plus contribution from Charles Keating. He insisted he couldn't be bought for $200,000.

But I can be bought for a $20 and change. And we're just quibbling about price, anyway.

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December 09, 2005

Be vewy, vewy quiet!

Headline and opening of the lead article in today's Washington Post:

Metro Board Discussing Ouster of Top Official
Majority Agrees White Should Go, Sources Say

By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 9, 2005; Page A01

A majority of Metro board members have become disillusioned with the performance of the agency's top executive, Richard A. White, and have begun closed-door discussions about how to remove him from the job, according to several sources familiar with the talks.
I'll bet he'll neeeeeever find out!

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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

We recently received a fundraising e-mail message that was very professional-looking -- except for the fact that this paragraph appeared in the middle of it:

Message 2 Headline
By breaking up the body of the letter into logical topics, your readers can focus in on the topic that they deem most relevant.

Select your wording carefully. Most people scan their emails very quickly. Keep your paragraphs to seven lines or less.
I suppose the same is true of blog posts, so I'll keep my paragraphs short here.

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December 08, 2005

Beethoven's skull

Only 8 shopping days until Beethoven's birthday, but here's a gift right now: A team of scientists has tested fragments of Beethoven's skull and confirmed that the composer suffered from lead poisoning.

Several years ago, tests that were conducted on Beethoven's hair also found lead poisoning, but some didn't trust the results.

In 2000, tests of Beethoven's hair at southwest suburban Argonne National Laboratory showed he had lead concentrations roughly 100 times higher than levels found in healthy adults today.

But hair analysis is not scientifically conclusive. Moreover, skeptics said, hair samples used in the test could have been contaminated by, for example, hair powder, dirt or grease.
So the tests were conducted on fragments of his skull. No one yet has a firm grasp of how Beethoven was poisoned.
But what caused the lead poisoning remains a mystery. Among the theories, all unproven: Beethoven drank wine or ate fish contaminated with lead. There was lead in his favorite pewter cup. He was poisoned by drinking and bathing in mineral water at a spa. Or perhaps Beethoven had a defect that made his body unable to remove lead.
There's an interesting interview of the lead scientist (ha!) on PBS, which can be found here.

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Cindy Sheehan goes to Scotland

Cindy Sheehan is in Scotland (paging Arlen Specter!) to try to persuade the Scottish Parliament to "speak out" against the war.

Notice the placard in this photo of her?

"Freedom for Palestine" has got a lot to do with Iraq. To paraphrase the song, I'll take the high road, and she's taking the low road. Will I lose the high road if I mention that she's thrown her lot in with the anti-semitic socialist left? And that when she makes the face she's making in the photo, she looks like Jiminy Cricket?

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Mourning Mr. Lennon

I guess we're supposed to get all teary-eyed in memory of John Lennon. But somehow I'm not finding the mist in my eyes. I enjoy Beatles music as much as the next guy, but, call me callous, I just don't think he's the Messiah.

I was in law school when he was murdered, and the librarian set up a day-glo orange poster of John and Yoko in the reading room. The poster remained there into January, and at one point, someone wrote in library's suggestion book, "Haven't we mourned Mr. Lennon long enough?" The writer had a very distinctive handwriting, and based on it, the librarian snippily replied, "Aren't you the same person who requested that we subscribe to Soldier of Fortune magazine?"

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December 07, 2005

Tookie's new friend

I really don't mean to turn this into all capital punishment, all the time. Wesley Baker was a local here in Maryland. Hence the coverage of his case.

But I just want to say that if I were a guy trying to avoid imminent execution, I don't think I'd want Winnie Mandela speaking out for me.

UPDATE (12/8): Maybe Tookie would be better off if a different Winnie spoke out for him. But not Eeyore.

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December 06, 2005

Wesley Baker's execution brings out the groupies

Soccer Dad told me that now that Wesley Baker has been executed, we won't have to write about it any more. Maybe, but I think I need one more post.

The execution brought out people who seem to have been transformed from mere opponents of capital punishment into murderer groupies. Here's an account from the AP:

"Wesley is my friend," said Bonnita Spikes of Beltsville, who held a poster with Baker's picture on it. "I've seen him every day for the past couple of months. I got to know him."

She said she last saw him about 5 p.m. Monday.

"He was upbeat, calm, his spirit is good," she said. Baker also told her that recent visits from Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore and state Delegate Salima Marriott, D-Baltimore, were "monumental moments" for him.

"It's hard knowing one of my friends is going to die tonight," said Spikes. "He was a victim of the system. Killing him is not the answer. This vicious cycle of killing will never end."
I really shouldn't take this person seriously, but just for laughs, what "vicious cycle" is she talking about? Baker murdered a woman in front of her grandchildren. The state gave him abundant due process and executed him. Is someone going to murder now to avenge his death? Yeah, I'm sure there are people who will explain that someone will, that the execution has provoked rage, blah, blah, blah. But really, all we had here was a simple case of crime and punishment. The State of Maryland has reaffirmed the value of life by holding Baker accountable for his life. Justice has been done. Let's not glory in it, but at the same time, let's not let moral equivalence reign.

Previous Wesley Baker posts collected here.

UPDATE: Response to ex-governor Glendening here.

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Men cause global warming?

According to CNS News:

The spokesman for a feminist-based environmental group accused men of being the biggest contributors to human-caused "global warming" and lamented that women are bearing the brunt of the negative climate consequences created by men.
These feminists obviously haven't been keeping up with science. See my post on that subject.

Story via BOTWT.

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Murtha madness, Part 2

Here's the second post that's the only one you need to read about Congressman Murtha.

Mickey Kaus shows Murtha's contradictions and notes that "this man seems confused. In his current state I wouldn't follow him either into battle or out of it."

Click here to read more . . .

Pillage outage

Blogger was down for almost 5 hours last night. I've said before that it probably isn't fair to complain that a free service like Blogger sucks major eggs, and to be fair, Blogger has dramatically improved over the past 6 months to a year. I guess it's just one of those things, and it certainly didn't just affect me.

Anyway, I apologize to the millions of people who were unable to read Pillage Idiot last night. I especially apologize to the 4 or 5 people who actually tried.

UPDATE (12/7): And a WTF? moment in the comments.

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December 05, 2005

Italian husbands

This has to be one of the funniest political stories ever.

Jeanine Pirro, Westchester County DA, who's the Republican senatorial candidate in New York challenging Hillary, has recently been the target of a Republican campaign to withdraw and run for Attorney General instead. The New York Post has discovered who's secretly behind this campaign to get her to withdraw . . . .

Pirro's husband Al.

December 5, 2005 -- Jeanine Pirro's own husband is working against her in her bid for the U.S. Senate, sneaking around behind her back to lobby a state Republican leader to get her to drop out of the race, sources told The Post.

Gov. Pataki also was part of the extraordinary plot to get the Westchester County DA — whom he endorsed for the race before becoming convinced she wasn't up to the effort — to throw in the towel and run for attorney general, not for Senate against Hillary Rodham Clinton, The Post has learned.

The stunning effort to convince Jeanine Pirro to drop out began after "Albert Pirro asked [state Senate Majority Leader Joseph] Bruno to do it," a Pataki aide said.

A source close to Bruno said Albert Pirro had actually relayed his views to Steve Boggess, secretary of the Senate and a key Bruno political aide.

Either way, Al Pirro's move was without his wife's knowledge, amazed sources said.

Pirro has long been a joke in my mind, because 20 years ago, when I was living in New York State, and she was an assistant D.A., she had a short-lived candidacy for lieutenant governor.

In 1986, Mario Cuomo was running for a second term, and the Republican nominee was Andrew O'Rourke, the totally undistinguished Westchester County Executive, who ran a pathetic campaign for governor and, if memory serves, won less than 40% of the vote in what was not yet a Democratic stronghold. To give you an idea of just how laughable his campaign was, the day after he announced his candidacy, he issued his first public-policy pronouncement: clemency for Jean Harris (who murdered her boyfriend, Herman Tarnower, the Scarsdale Diet doctor). Apparently, Cuomo later granted her clemency, but at least it wasn't the first thing he did as governor.

Another of O'Rourke's boneheaded moves was picking Jeanine Pirro to run with him. It was, as I recall, about a week after the announcement that a major public flap erupted about whether her husband would divulge his financial information. He wouldn't, and Jeanine Pirro withdrew from the race.

At the press conference at which she announced her withdrawal, someone asked her whether she saw any parallel with the situation of Geraldine Ferraro. For those of you who are too young to remember, Ferraro, a congresswoman from Queens and Walter Mondale's VP candidate in 1984, toughed out an inquiry about disclosure of her husband's finances shortly after Mondale picked her.

For a Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, even one who was dropping out of the race, the question about Ferraro was like a hanging curve ball, just waiting to get this kind of answer: There's a superficial similarity, but at least when my husband wouldn't release his records, I did the ethical thing and withdrew.

So what did Jeanine Pirro actually say in response to the Ferraro question? I'm quoting from memory, but it went much like this: "Yes, there's a similarity. We both have Italian husbands."

Click here to read more . . .

A modest question

This is a real shande, an embarrassment, a scandal. Why won't these fools go away, or at least shut up?

The so-called Christian right they are attacking has been extremely supportive of Israel, while Rabbi Waskow's friends on the Left blame Israel first (at best) and want to destroy it (at worst). Liberal Jews and conservative Christians aren't going to see eye to eye on some public-policy issues, but I don't see why liberal Jews like Rabbi Yoffie think they have the right to play the Hitler card simply because conservative Christians don't agree on gay marriage. To me, that's way beyond the bounds of civil discourse, and Yoffie should be ashamed of himself.

Sad thing, of course, is that conservative Christians are far more pro-Israel than many liberal Jews. So my criticism will undoubtedly be met with a shrug.

Last, a word on Abe Foxman. Foxman is less offensive than Waskow and Yoffie, but that might be called the soft bigotry of low expectations. The man needs an operation to remove an impacted microphone, kind of like the operation that Chuck Schumer ought to have.

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December 04, 2005

John Kerry goes to the White House

Previous strips:

The Alito files

Alito talks about Roe

John Roberts (update)

Harriet Miers

Harriet Miers and the Dems

Condi Rice

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