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February 28, 2006

"Cleavage Day" at the Supreme Court

Anna Nicole Smith's case was argued today at the U.S. Supreme Court, and who should be there to hear it but ANS herself, accompanied by a lawyer named (and I'm not making this up) Howard Stern?

The title of this post is a post-modern, self-referential inside allusion to a 2-part series I wrote a few months back about Geena Davis, who (in case you didn't know) is the President of the United States, at least on TV. In my posts, which are called President Cleavage and President Cleavage, Part 2, I started with a somewhat revealing photo of Davis that appeared on Drudge, and I wondered whether a president is constitutionally permitted to show cleavage. (Trust me, it's more amusing than it sounds.) Part 2, which was written the day the Supreme Court granted cert in Anna Nicole's case, concluded with a discussion of the supposed relevance of her case to the constitutional issue.

If you want a real discussion of the case argued today, don't read me; read SCOTUSblog and these news stories. But if you want a completely fact-free treatment of the case, President Cleavage, Part 2, is a good place to start.

And if you're wondering whether there's a Technorati tag for "cleavage," I've checked it out, and there is. But I won't stoop so low.

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February 27, 2006

Justice Scalia rates his colleague

Justice Antonin Scalia Samuel Alito Scalito
For more photo comics, check the "Photo Comics" section of the sidebar.

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February 26, 2006

Landing a sucker punch on "peace studies"

UPDATES below (and one of the students involved drops by my comments section).

During the Vietnam War, my older sister, who was in high school, quoted approvingly to my father a friend of hers who had said that if the United States simply disarmed, the Soviet Union would have no reason to be afraid of us and we could have peace. It's one of the few times my father ever got angry over a political remark one of us had made.

That was back in the 60's, but some stupid ideas never die. (Though, at least my sister's views have matured significantly since then.) One of those stupid ideas is that if we just want peace devoutly enough, if we are educated to want peace, all those people who hate us and want to kill us will suddenly stop hating us and hoping to kill us. Kumbaya, my friends, kumbaya.

I guess I didn't realize until today that "peace studies" is a course taught at several Montgomery County high schools. At Bethesda-Chevy Chase HS, the course is taught by former WaPo columnist Colman McCarthy. I think that when he wrote for the Post, no one actually read his column, but with the technology then available, the Post simply didn't realize that. And so, with no readers, and with the Post continuing to pay his salary, McCarthy was happily writing his paeans to whatever ignorant doctrine was currently fashionable on the progressive Left.

But one student at B-CC has now objected to the course. His views aren't going to be taken seriously, because he isn't actually taking the course, but here's what happened.

For months, 17-year-old Andrew Saraf had been troubled by stories he was hearing about a Peace Studies course offered at his Bethesda high school. He wasn't enrolled in the class but had several friends and classmates who were.

Last Saturday, he decided to act. He sat down at his computer and typed out his thoughts on why the course -- offered for almost two decades as an elective to seniors at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School -- should be banned from the school.

"I know I'm not the first to bring this up but why has there been no concerted effort to remove Peace Studies from among the B-CC courses?" he wrote in his post to the school's group e-mail list. "The 'class' is headed by an individual with a political agenda, who wants to teach students the 'right' way of thinking by giving them facts that are skewed in one direction."

He hit send.
This caused a little activity on the listserv.
Within a few hours, the normally staid e-mail list BCCnet -- a site for announcements, job postings and other housekeeping details in the life of a school -- was ablaze with chatter. By the time Principal Sean Bulson checked his BlackBerry on Sunday evening, there were more than 150 postings from parents and students -- some ardently in support, some ardently against the course.
Not to mention which, Colman McCarthy personally punched him out. (Only kidding, I think.) Actually this is what McCarthy's response was:
For his part, McCarthy, 67, finds the students' objections a bit puzzling. He said that although the two sat in on a recent class, they have not talked to him in depth about their concerns.

"I've never said my views are right and theirs are wrong," he said about the students who take his course. "In fact, I cherish conservative dissenters. I wish we could get more of them in."
McCarthy's course is different from those at other high schools, because he is not a school employee. But there seems to be no doubt about his approach in class.
Although a staff teacher takes roll and issues grades, it is McCarthy as a volunteer, unpaid guest lecturer who does the bulk of the teaching. He does not work from lesson plans, although he does use a school system-approved textbook -- a collection of essays on peace that he edited.

For McCarthy, it seems Peace Studies is not just a cause; it is a crusade.

"Unless we teach them peace, someone else will teach them violence," he said.

Students might spend one class period listening to a guest speaker who opposes the death penalty and another, if they choose, standing along East West Highway protesting the war.

But that, students said, is part of the course's appeal.

"We're all mature enough to take it all in with a hint of skepticism," said Megan Andrews, 17. "We respect Mr. McCarthy's views, but we don't absorb them like sponges."
And if you aren't sure yet about the course, consider this:
When they walk through the door of their fourth-floor classroom, students said, they never know what they might find. Once McCarthy brought in a live turkey to illustrate a point about animal rights. Everything went well until the turkey escaped and urinated in the hallway.

And Friday, when students opened the door, they saw Mahatma Gandhi -- or, rather, Bernard Meyer, a peace activist from Olympia, Wash., dressed as Gandhi. Meyer spent most of the class time taking questions from students about "life" as Gandhi. McCarthy, too, jumped in, quizzing Gandhi about his views on arranged marriage. At the end of the period, he jumped from his chair.

"Let's take a photo of us with Gandhi," he said, gathering the students.
So the turkey urinated, and Gandhi was known for drinking his own urine. A little unintentional karma there, right?

Anyway, the school has its story, and it's sticking by it.
For now, however, the administration said it has no plan to do away with Peace Studies.

"Peace Studies is one of the things that makes B-CC unique," Bulson said. "It's been an institution here, and kids from all across the spectrum have taken it. It's not about indoctrination. It's about debate and dialogue."
OK, it's not about indoctrination. It's about stupid ideas that kids will grow out of after high school. Like my sister. Unfortunately, not like Colman McCarthy.

UPDATE (2/27): Michelle Malkin is on the case. She provides us with links to two pieces by Colman McCarthy that add significantly to what I've written above: one about his textbooks, including a riff on why he can't teach the other side ("After a woman’s account of her using a nonviolent defense against a rapist, [should I teach] the thwarted rapist’s side?"); and one, a reprint of a WaPo column, extolling the wisdom of his students opposed to the 1991 Gulf War.

UPDATE (2/28): Avishek Panth, a second B-CC student mentioned in the Post article, has posted a defense of his position in my comments section, responding to another commenter's accusation that doing away with the course is censorship (which I've found is the usual tactic of people who can't bear to hear criticism). I wish I had been able to write so cogently when I was in high school.

UPDATE (2/28): James Taranto adds that McCarthy isn't being candid when he says he'd "cherish conservative dissenters" in his classroom:
Yet McCarthy's record belies his claim to embrace dissent. In May 2002, as we noted, he denounced the school for its choice of commencement speaker: Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser. "Students deserve better than someone who advocates, as Rice does, sending U.S. pilots to kill human beings in Afghanistan," McCarthy told the student newspaper.

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February 25, 2006

Cooking the books on crime in Baltimore?

A year ago, I wrote about how St. Louis reduces its crime rate: it doesn't file crime reports.

Mayor O'Malley of Baltimore, now running for the Democratic nomination for governor of Maryland, has been caught up in a similar effort to cook the books on crime by having police declare crime reports "unfounded." David Wissing at the Hedgehog Report gives us the details. Soccer Dad gives more details. See also this article from the Post a week and a half ago.

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Would you like fries with that?

You may or may not agree, but I think this story actually improved with the correction.

Via Ace, we first learned that a man had come into a convenience store and asked to use the microwave to warm up something wrapped in a paper towel. "Concerned about an unusual odor from the oven, the clerk opened the microwave to check on the item and out tumbled what appeared to be a severed human penis, wrapped up in the paper towel."

It later turned out to be a simple mistake. The body part was not real; it just looked like a "severed human penis."

There’s a new twist in an extremely bizzare story out of McKeesport.

Police had been investigating a report that a customer handed a clerk a severed penis to heat up in the store’s microwave.

Investigators have since learned that it was not a real body part; but instead, it was part of a couple’s alleged plan to pass a drug test.

According to McKeesport’s police chief, a man and a woman had inserted urine into a fake penis that the woman was planning to use to pass a drug test.

One of them then went into the store and asked the clerk to microwave the object, which they had wrapped in a paper towel, so the urine could reach body temperature.

When the clerk noticed an unusual odor, she unwrapped the item to discover what she thought was a severed body part.
The new twist actually makes the story interesting, instead of just another report about a severed body part being heated up at your local 7-11. The woman was going to use a "fake penis" at a drug test? Clever. No one would ever suspect a thing! And she couldn't heat the urine without putting it in something that resembled a "severed human penis"? I don't think these smarties are going to fool anyone.

And, in case you're wondering:
Giant Eagle, the company that owns Get-Go, says the microwave involved in the incident was immediately removed from service and will be discarded.
Couldn't they just kasher it?

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Trying to explain the past

Margarete Barthel, a German woman who was a guard at Ravensbrueck, a Nazi concentration camp for women, tries to explain the past. Tomorrow's Washington Post Magazine has the story, which I urge you to read. I will make no comment on it.

Click here to read more . . .

February 23, 2006

Trouble pinging Technorati

Blogger is supposed to ping Technorati automatically if you set your settings to notify of changes to your blog. Me, I've always found that I needed to ping Technorati manually. No big dealie; I don't post all that often.

But yesterday, things broke down. Manual pinging worked in the morning, but when I posted last night, no dice. Technorati still shows that I haven't updated in a day, despite my frantic multiple manual pings today.

Two questions:

1. For other Blogger bloggers: Do you have to ping Technorati manually, and, if not, what are you doing to make it happen automatically?

2. For anyone: Have you had similar trouble with pinging Technorati?

I've done a little research and there are some theories about this but none I've found helpful.

UPDATE (2/24): Whatever the problem was, it seems to have been resolved last night around midnight, when I was asleep. I do my best work when I'm asleep. If I had taken the advice that a couple of bloggers offered, it would have involved spending a couple of days fixing the code on my blog. Which would have been like those remote Pacific islanders who once were visited by men in airplanes bearing gifts and who later tried unsuccessfully to re-create the conditions that caused that visit.

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Duncan's Suha moment?

Doug Duncan, the Montgomery County Executive (and former Mayor of Rockville), who is now seeking the Democrats' nomination to run for governor against Bob Ehrlich, appeared today at a senior center in Wheaton to announce a lawsuit against the feds for refusing to let the county import drugs from Canada. On the program with him was Bruce Dunton, the president of the Alliance for Retired Americans for Montgomery County and District of Columbia.

Dunton began to distinguish himself by criticizing the Bush administration. No surprise there. But he went on to say this: "We got to get some terrorists removed from the White House, that is what we are going to do, because that is where they are. They are denying us the drugs we are entitled to have so we can live a decent life." And, no, he wasn't suggesting that Bush had invited Al Qaeda to run the White House policy shop.

So what did Duncan do? Did he denounce Dunton's inflammatory rhetoric or tell him to cut it out? Do snakes have elbows?

No, according to the Post:

Duncan didn't immediately respond to Dunton's remarks. A few minutes later, a reporter asked Duncan if he agreed with such statements. Duncan started saying no, but Dunton interrupted him.

"He doesn't have to agree with me but that is what I believe," Dunton said. "We got all this money going to beating terrorists and they are working against us on every program I grew up" with.

Duncan then said, "We are together on prescription drugs and we are apart on this. We are working together with the White House, the Congress and the state to protect our country."
"We are apart on this." A heroic stand, that. OK, so Dunton isn't Suha Arafat and Duncan isn't Hillary. But I find it discouraging, even if not surprising, that so few Democratic office holders will distance themselves from the nutjobs.

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An octogenarian's excellent adventure

My mother, who's in her 70s, understands her limitations as a driver, and this is good for her, good for her family, and good for others who share the road.

But what happens if you're, say, 80 years old, you get on the off-ramp to the interstate, instead of the on-ramp, and you travel the wrong way (against traffic) in the left lane (your right lane) for 14 miles, before you're finally stopped by a patrol car staring you down?

Fortunately for all of us, here's a news story from North Carolina about precisely that scenario, with two video clips that include the final stare-down (but, sadly, not the entire 14-mile adventure).

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February 22, 2006

Larry Summers takes one parting shot

Larry Summers Harvard
For more photo comics, check the "Photo Comics" section on the sidebar.

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Sammy's first day at school

The AP has a rather breathless report on Justice Alito's first day hearing arguments at the Supreme Court. It's short, so you can read it all, but here are a couple of highlights:

  • Justice Alito committed a "few missteps" on "court etiquette," although the article mentions only two: he questioned a lawyer from the "Bush administration" (a/k/a the Solicitor General's office) past his allotted time; and he left the bench at the end in front of Justice Ginsburg, who is his senior. Alito is obviously a man in a hurry.
  • He "helped pick cases that will be reviewed next fall — most notably, a major abortion appeal filed by the Bush administration." Cue scary music: "As the successor to moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Alito could play a key role in the outcome of that case."
  • Alito is not another Scalia, at least in temperament: "Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe had a testy exchange with Scalia in defending the state regulations. Alito also had multiple questions for Rowe and other lawyers in the case, but was polite."

Now, here's my favorite part of the article, the part we label "BAD OMEN" in capital letters: "As the court's newest member, Alito sits in the far-right seat, when facing the court."

UPDATE: I'm chagrined to report that Dana Milbank has more to say on the subject, including a quip that this is "Samuel Alito's first day of school yesterday." Milbank adds a third faux pas to the two mentioned by the AP reporter: Alito "tried to talk at the same time as 85-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens, then quickly backed down." Because, you know, the justices would never try to talk at the same time and then back down. And no snotty Washington Post column on the Supreme Court would be complete without a swipe at Justice Thomas: "The eight questions he asked -- on the finer points of the Clean Water Act and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission -- put him on course to surpass within days the total number of questions Justice Clarence Thomas has asked in 15 years."

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Yet more naked news

In another cheap and pointless effort to increase site traffic, I have to give you the latest naked news. Like the item below, this piece has a British setting.

The so-called "naked rambler" has completed his second trek across the U.K. to "challenge public attitudes to nudity."

Naked rambler Stephen Gough has completed his second trek from Lands End to John O'Groats.

Mr Gough and his partner Melanie Roberts, 34, from Bournemouth, reached the north coast of Caithness on Monday.

The ex-marine, who began his 874-mile trek in June, has been arrested and jailed on several occasions.

Mr Gough, from Eastleigh in Hampshire, said he wanted to challenge public attitudes to nudity. He celebrated his success by putting his clothes on.
If Mr. Gough and Ms. Roberts had tried this in the United States, don't you think they'd attract a crowd and a bunch of video cameras? Well, our British friends are on about the same wavelength.
Speaking from a John O'Groats cafe, he said: "It's nice to get warmed up again.

"It has been pretty cold and the locals have been coming up to us offering us whisky and all sorts.

"They've been very, very friendly. We passed a school and there were even parents coming out with video cameras."
He had to do a couple of stints in jail, though, but I'm sure it was all worth it.

An earlier article notes that Mr. Gough began his trek when he walked "without his clothes from Land's End" to John O'Groats. If it's endorsements he's into, he's certainly got a lot of room on his person for ads.

(Also via Fark)

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Post-modernism arrives in Greater Manchester

Health and safety officers had to be rescued by health and safety officers when part of their office building collapsed. And after the rescue, more health and safety officers arrived to conduct an investigation of the incident.

Twenty-one officers had been discussing evacuation procedures around a large wooden conference table when the floor beneath them gave way.

Workers on the floor below saw the ceiling start to sag and buckle and ran out of the room.

Seconds later the floor gave way completely, plunging the health and safety officers, their table, chairs, flip charts, clipboards and paperwork into the office below.

Thirteen firemen using ladders and ropes pulled the officers out from the debris.
(Hat tip: fee simple)

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Geezer pin-up calendar

There are few things I'd want more, if I were a woman, than a photo calendar featuring middle-aged and older members of the Sheboygan County Home Builders Association wearing less than the usual complement of clothing.

Ivan Nagode posed wearing an apron and a chef's toque.

Mike Mrdjenovich stripped down to his golf shorts, gripped a driver and took aim at a golf ball teed up in his buddy's teeth.

Mike Wiltzius covered up with a snorkel, towel and flippers and cozied up to a fish aquarium.
Oh, and there's this photo, too, of Mr. Nagode.

Why? you ask.
"I'm kind of a fun-loving guy," said Nagode, 69. "I figured this is not gonna hurt any."
Next up, a calendar with members of the Sheboygan County Plumbers Association, showing rear views as they squat or bend over. No cracks about it, please.

(via Fark)

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February 19, 2006

Kaddish bonding

People always tell me that you bond with the guys you say kaddish with every day. I don't know how true that is, but you certainly learn things about them. First thing is, everyone has davening idiosyncracies, or at least noticeable differences in style. You learn who meticulously pronounces every word and who's a speed-davener. You learn who uses modern Sephardi pronunciation of the Hebrew and who uses Ashkenazi pronunciation. And so on.

But you also learn some weird things you really would rather not know. There's one guy in my minyan who has a strange way of sneezing. It's a high-pitched "sssiiissshhh" sound. And, to make it worse, he invariably sneezes at least five times in a row, the same way. So as soon as I hear the first "sssiiissshhh," I have to pause and wait for the rest of them.

Another guy, who's probably in his late 70s, has a condition that can only be described, as tactfully as possible, as incontinence of the third state of matter. (I can add a link or two.) He's a very nice guy, but I've had to move across the aisle and a row back.

Which, to me, is all way too much information.

But I did feel comfortable enough with these guys raising the halachic issue I mentioned earlier in the day and my other pet issue ("Is treyf meat pareve?"). People have started to move across the aisle from me. I wonder if they're trying to tell me something.

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The Toscanini Beethoven symphonies

I've been listening to a reissue on CD of the old Toscanini recordings of the nine Beethoven symphonies, recorded with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. This, by and large, is the set of performances that I listened to when I was young, and it brings back fond memories.

I was listening earlier today to the Eroica symphony. Toscanini's interpretations are somewhat controversial, but I love what he does with the Eroica. (I think this is actually a different recording from the one in the original LP set I listened to.) Toscanini, of course, can't get all the credit. The first movement of the Eroica is a work of absolute genius. No matter how many times I've listened to it, I'm still in total awe.

There's a wonderful line about Richard Feynman, the great 20th century physicist.

"There are two kinds of geniuses: the 'ordinary' and the 'magicians'. An ordinary genius is a fellow whom you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they've done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians. Even after we understand what they have done it is completely dark. Richard Feynman is a magician of the highest calibre." - Mark Kac
The same would apply to Beethoven.

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Indian country

Ever see one of these bumper stickers? I just did.

Note the map of the entire Western Hemisphere. I'm willing to make a down payment on this demand by offering Venezuela. Any takers?

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Members only

I can't believe Ace scooped me on this one.

If you don't know what the Chinese word "bian" means and you don't realize this is a story about a restaurant in Beijing and you don't have a strong stomach, I'm not so sure I would follow those links.

But I do have it on fairly good authority that a similar delicacy is kosher if the animal is slaughtered properly first, and that certain kosher restaurants in Israel serve it. (Thanks to Soccer Dad for the links in this paragraph.)

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Maryland Blogger Alliance

Soccer Dad and I would like to welcome the newest member of the Maryland Bloggers Alliance.

Please visit Maryland Conservatarian to see what he has to offer.

Click here to read more . . .

February 16, 2006

Baby can count

Quick! Give them a problem in spectral theory on infinite-dimensional Banach spaces!

A recent study reports that 7-month-old babies can do some math (or, according to the BBC, can do "maths").

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Even before babies learn to talk they have a bit of a grasp of math, according to new research concluding that infants may have an abstract sense of numerical concepts.

The research, published in this week's edition of "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences," said seven-month-old babies demonstrated an ability to match the number of voices they heard to the number of faces they expected to see.

The study of 20 infants by researchers at Duke University was similar to a previous experiment done to demonstrate that monkeys show numerical perception across senses.

In the new study, babies listened either to two women simultaneously saying the word "look" or three women saying the same word.

At the same time, the infants could choose between video images of two or three women saying the word.

As they had found with the monkeys, the researchers said the babies spent significantly more time looking at the video image that matched the number of women talking.
But the babies can't shovel the B.S. the way the researchers can.
"As a result of our experiments, we conclude that the babies are showing an internal representation of 'two-ness' or three-ness' that is separate from sensory modalities and thus reflects an abstract internal process," researcher Elizabeth Brannon wrote.
As Dianna Abdala might say, blah blah blah. It sounds to me a lot like the famous story of Clever Hans, the counting horse.

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Latest law jerks

I feel old.

Back in my days in the private practice of law, if you wanted to be a jerk to another lawyer, you had to (a) do it in person; (b) do it on the phone; or (c) write a nasty letter. One of my favorite stories from my firm was the lawyer -- call him "J" -- who, at a deposition, was completely fed up with the other lawyer's incessant objections. Finally, J made a statement for the record and finished by saying that he knew that the opposing counsel would want to respond. But J said he had no interest in hearing that response, so he was going to leave the room. Opposing counsel could say whatever he wanted, and J would direct his associate to tell him when the response was finished. J added that when the transcript of the deposition arrived, he was not going to read the section containing opposing counsel's response. And he left the room.

Nowadays, with instant communications, like email, lawyers can be jerks without having to confront each other. I don't think this is a good change, because it encourages boorish behavior. Just think how nasty people are at internet forums or in blog comment sections when they can say what they want without having to confront each other in person and often don't even know the other's true identity.

The illustration of my point comes from the Boston Globe.

Once again, a friendly reminder: The next time you're tempted to send a nasty, exasperated, or snippy e-mail, pause, take a deep breath, and think again. Then consider the tale of local lawyers William A. Korman and Dianna L. Abdala.

Korman was miffed that Abdala notified him by e-mail this month that, after tentatively agreeing to work at his law firm, she changed her mind. Her reason: "The pay you are offering would neither fulfill me nor support the lifestyle I am living."

In his e-mail reply, Korman told Abdala that her decision not to have told him in person "smacks of immaturity and is quite unprofessional," and noted that in anticipation of her arrival, he had ordered stationery and business cards for her, reformatted a computer, and set up an e-mail account. Nevertheless, he wrote, "I sincerely wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors."

Her curt retort: "A real lawyer would have put the contract into writing and not exercised any such reliance until he did so."

His: "Thank you for the refresher course on contracts. This is not a bar exam question. You need to realize that this is a very small legal community, especially the criminal defense bar. Do you really want to start pissing off more experienced lawyers at this early stage of your career?"

Abdala's final three-word response: "bla bla bla."

That's when the exchange, confirmed as authentic yesterday by Korman and Abdala, began whipping through cyberspace, landing in e-mail in-boxes around the city and country, and, eventually, across the Atlantic.
I met altogether too many of these people in private practice, and all I can say is "good riddance" to that.

(hat tip: Chris K.)

UPDATE (2/22): CNN has a short video on the incident, interviewing both Korman and Abdala. Go to and click on "Watch: Lawyers' hostile e-mail exchange hits Internet." It should be up for a few days.

UPDATE (3/2): Someone from Korman's firm visits Pillage Idiot. Very creepy.

Click here to read more . . .

February 15, 2006

Little girl

If you're at a political meeting and a pretty 24-year-old woman walks out of the room, and if you not only watch her walk out but motion for her to come back and tell her to walk out again....

And if you respond, when people complain about your behavior, "I look at one of the girls as she walked out. Big deal. . . . I look at the girls every time they walk out. The day I don't look at pretty girls, I die."....

And if you also say, "A little girl walks out, and I make a joke out of it. The one who is offended is me. . . . I can't believe you are making a deal out of that."....

... then you must be Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer.

UPDATE (2/16): For those of you who can't get enough of this, the Baltimore Sun has more: "Schaefer defended the comment in a profanity-laced rant at reporters after the meeting." Schaefer also went to speak to the woman but says he didn't apologize. And we can be quite sure that's the truth. Apparently, the young woman told Schaefer she was embarrassed by the comments. Meanwhile, her father is mightily ticked off:

Reached at home last night, the assistant, Elizabeth Krum, 24, declined to discuss the matter. But her father said he feels the incident was "sexual harassment on the job."

"We're very, very upset about this," said Allen Krum, a science teacher from Towson. "It seems that just because he's older, he's tolerated by the Democrats and Republicans.

"It's all fun and games until it's your own daughter, and then it's not fun anymore," Krum said.

He said he didn't think the family would pursue legal action but that the decision would be his daughter's to make.
The Sun article also repeats two anecdotes about previous Schaefer encounters with women who were public employees. But this is the definitely the best (where "best" is defined as something worth posting at Pillage Idiot).

Click here to read more . . .

Maryland considers letting felons vote

When Parris Glendening (D) beat Ellen Sauerbrey (R) for governor of Maryland in 1994 by fewer than 7000 votes, there was a strong whiff of voter fraud. Sauerbrey sued and lost, but many were left thinking that she wasn't wrong but simply had failed to prove her case.

In 2002, Bob Ehrlich (R) beat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D) by 66,000 votes, more than what might be called the "margin of fraud." So now, the Democrats are trying to push legislation to re-enfranchise felons, the natural Democratic Party constituency. Gov. Ehrlich has threatened a veto.

Let's start with the politics, spelled out nicely in a Washington Times editorial:

Maryland Democrats these days have a serious political problem called political competition. Four years ago, voters elected a Republican governor for the first time since 1966, and Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele this year has a fighting chance to win the seat held for three decades by Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes. So the Democrats, led by Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, chairman of Baltimore's delegation, and Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman have apparently decided that in order to recapture the governorship and remain the dominant party in Maryland, they may need the votes of murderers, robbers and rapists.

With the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, Mr. Lierman and an criminal-rights advocacy group called Justice Maryland, Mrs. Marriott proposes to give all felons the right to vote immediately upon their release from prison. If the legislation passes, it would grant criminals the right to vote in the Sept. 12 primary and the Nov. 7 general election.

Under current Maryland law, nonviolent first-time felons can vote after a three-year waiting period, among other restrictions. But state law prohibits felons twice convicted of violent crimes, such as rape and murder, from voting. Mrs. Marriott's bill -- House Bill 603, which has 37 cosponsors, all Democrats -- would end these restrictions. (It needs 71 votes to pass the House.) Doing so is worthwhile because it would "restore some amount of dignity" to the newly freed felons, state Democratic Party Executive Director Derek Walker explained to S.A. Miller of The Washington Times.

Skeptics say that the issue has less to do with "dignity" than it does with cynical political calculations. If the Marriott bill succeeds this year -- it died in committee the past three years -- an estimated 150,000 felons would be in position to be added to state voter rolls, according to Justice Maryland. Approximately 85,000 are likely Democratic voters, the group estimates. In 2002, Mr. Ehrlich was elected by just 66,170 votes, and this year's U.S. Senate and gubernatorial elections may be even closer. The effect could prove to be even more pronounced in the most competitive races for the state Senate or House of Delegates, in which candidates are separated by only a few hundred votes.
And you just knew that someone would play the race card. From the Times news article:
The bill's lead sponsor -- Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, Baltimore Democrat -- said yesterday that Mr. Ehrlich's position reinforces the racist underpinnings of the state law that denies the vote to felons, of whom about 85,000 are black.

Mrs. Marriott, who is black, said Mr. Ehrlich's sentiment "reflects the thinking" of Carter Glass, a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1901 who said felon disenfranchisement aims to "eliminate the darkie as a political factor."

"We all were raised in a racist society," said Mrs. Marriott, stressing that she was not calling Mr. Ehrlich a racist. "Let us be clear about what were the intentions of these laws."

Mr. Ehrlich said he would not "indulge her" by responding to her comments.

"There are white felons. Every issue isn't a racial issue around here," said the governor, who is seeking re-election.
The claim that felon disenfranchisement laws intentionally discriminate is nonsense, as I discussed in October 2004.

But what's bizarre about the claim is that it logically depends on the idea that felons are disproportionately black. Why would race hustlers want us to think about that, number one? And number two, why would they think this would help their cause with the general public?

Click here to read more . . .

Milbank and Olbermann discuss the sinking of the Titanic

Dana Milbank
For more photo comics, check the "Photo Comics" section on the sidebar.

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Valentine's Day update

Miss Manners weighs in on the subject of flirting and dating, but nothing beats the question itself (second question):

Dear Miss Manners:

I have been dating my boyfriend for four months and it came up this week that he still does not know my name. I do not know what to do about this because he has heard my name so many times, both my English name and my Italian name. I also write it on everything I have given to him, yet he still calls me by the wrong name.

He will blame it on his disabilities, yet he knows all of his co-workers first and last names, even the most recent workers. He tells me he has all of these feelings for me and really cares about me but I feel, "You can give the world to someone, but if you don't know who you are giving it to, it's just not worth it."
I hope I'm not spoiling your fun by reporting that Miss Manners, in the understatement of the year, tells the writer that "a gentleman's inability to learn the name of a lady he has been courting for four months is not a good sign." What I want to know is what kind of woman would finish a second date with this guy.

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February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day roundup

Over at Jack's Shack, we see an argument, tongue-in-cheek, that Valentine's Day should be banned.

The Australian Broadcasting Company reports on cultural stereotypes in flirting etiquette.

Stop the ACLU notes that Muslims want to Stop Valentine's Day. This amusement at the expense of Muslims makes me uncomfortable, because my guys aren't so fond of the day, either, though for different reasons. (By the way, have you ever heard of Tu B'Av?)

And Jeff Goldstein has his Clash of Civilizations: The Valentine's Day Edition (probably NSFW).

Click here to read more . . .

Cartoon riot map

Sweetness & Light has an excellent handy-dandy world map of where the cartoon riots have occurred.

Click here to read more . . .

February 13, 2006

Don't waste your time

As James Taranto might say, "What would we do without studies?" [see UPDATE below]

Reuters reports: "Penis enlargement surgery a waste of time - study"

LONDON (Reuters) - Thanks to the incessant spam, it's become the most hyped of all operations but researchers said on Tuesday that most men who have had penis enlargement surgery are not satisfied with the results.

"For patients with psychological concern about the size of the penis -- particularly if it is normal size -- there is little point in offering them surgery because it makes no difference," said Nim Christopher, a urologist at St Peter's Andrology Centre in London.

Christopher and his colleagues, who questioned 42 men who had the surgery, found the dissatisfaction rate was very high. Often the men requested another surgical procedure.

"The average increase in length is 1.3 cm which isn't very much and the dissatisfaction rate was in excess of 70 percent," said Christopher.
It turns out that this is not a physical condition at all but only a psychological matter.
Rather than having surgery, he and his colleagues, who reported the findings in the journal of European Urology, said the men should be referred for psychological counselling.
And you just knew I couldn't get all the way through an article like that without finding something very troubling: the name of the hospital where urologist Yoram Vardi works.
We now know that the majority of these patients are dissatisfied after these procedures. Research should be directed towards non-surgical options," said Yoram Vardi, of the Rambam Medical Centre in Haifa, Israel, in an editorial in the journal.
The Rambam was one of the greatest Jewish scholars of all time, and now a urologist at his hospital is discussing penile enhancement surgery? I'm perplexed.

UPDATE: Taranto imitates Pillage Idiot:

What Would We Do Without Studies?

"Penis Enlargement Surgery a Waste of Time--Study"--headline, Reuters, Feb. 13

Perhaps I should say: Taranto imitates Pillage Idiot imitating Taranto.

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February 12, 2006

Brooklyn fortunes

Sometimes you throw a party, and everything's planned nicely, but one little thing gets all f***ed up. I've used that starred word, which I try to avoid, because it's less offensive than some of the messages in the Chinese fortune cookies served at the Brooklyn Borough president's Chinese New Year's party.

The 350 cookies stuffed with "the most graphically lurid" fortunes got mixed up with a batch of 1,750 cookies ordered for the Chinese New Year event, Borough President Marty Markowitz said Friday. Some guests "were stunned, to say the least."
And when you're used to the street language commonly used in Brooklyn, it's hard to be stunned.
The annual event — to raise money to send poor children to summer camp — was attended by some 700 guests Tuesday evening, but only about 80 were still there when the dirty cookies were opened, Markowitz said.

The borough president was on the second floor of the two-level restaurant when a guest "yelled to me from the first floor: 'Marty, did you order these cookies? Did you see what's inside them? I think you better get your butt down here!'" Markowitz said.

Markowitz, who was not wearing his glasses, had the "fortunes" read to him by some of the guests.

"I'm sure they were meant for a raunchy bachelor party," he said. "They were not cutesy. Triple X to say the least."
Markowitz had intended that more mellow slogans be used in the fortune cookies, like "Brooklyn — The 10th Planet," "Brooklyn — it's more than a freak'in tree," and "Brooklyn — it's like an everything bagel."

Not to mention a more appropriate slogan in light of this fiasco: "Oy vey!"

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"That's not a foot!"

So we had about a foot of global warming here last night.

And, yes, the title's a reference to a stupid off-color joke I heard in college, which you've already heard, too. (I can see you were blushing.)

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More death-penalty shenanigans in California

When you're a death-row inmate with an execution date coming up, and this is the best you can get out of the abolitionist crowd, you know you're in trouble:

Michael Morales was sentenced to death for the 1981 rape and murder of 17-year old Terri Winchell. Morales had just turned 21 years-old at the time of the crime. Morales has always accepted full responsibility for causing Winchell’s death and expressed deep remorse. But Morales’ death sentence is based on a mistake: the false testimony of an informant witness who stated that Morales intentionally plotted to kill Winchell, testimony the prosecution knew was not true and testimony that was necessary for Morales to qualify for a death sentence. In addition, Morales’s co-defendant, Ricky Ortega, who is his cousin, orchestrated the murder; yet Ortega received a sentence a life without the possibility of parole. Race and place also appear to be factors that caused Morales to be sentenced to death rather than life without parole. Michael Morales’s execution has been set for Feb. 21, 2006.
No claim of innocence here, just a claim that the murder didn't qualify for death. OK, fine with me. Obviously, a murderer has the right to argue that his crime didn't qualify for capital punishment under the state's death penalty statute, but I'm sure he's made this argument repeatedly in court.

So what's next for his defense? Phony letters from members of the jury supporting clemency, you say? That's pretty imaginative of you, because here's the latest:
SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 11 -- Lawyers for a death row inmate, including former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, sent fake letters from jurors asking California's governor to spare the man's life, prosecutors said Friday.

The jurors denied they thought Michael Morales deserved clemency because some of the testimony at his trial may have been fabricated, said Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

"We showed each person the declaration on their behalf, and they all said they didn't say that," Barankin said.

San Joaquin County prosecutor Charles F. Schultz also said the letters sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last week were "untrue" and "pure fiction."

Starr was not immediately available for comment, said a spokeswoman for the Pepperdine School of Law, where Starr is the dean.
Ken Starr? What's that you say? Clinton lied, no one died? Well, that's a fair point, but maybe you should consider the possibility that Mr. Starr is trying to rehabilitate his reputation with the legal establishment left.

But here's another explanation: the jurors were intimidated by prosecutors. Or so says one of Morales's defense attorneys.
Morales's other clemency attorney, David Senior from Los Angeles, said he stood by the validity of the six sworn statements he and Starr sent to the governor. He suggested that the jurors might have gotten cold feet when they were contacted by prosecutors in the past two days.

"When the D.A. and A.G. show up with badges and guns and say whatever, they can intimidate a lot of people and that's their game," Senior said.
I didn't realize that California prosecutors go around interviewing jurors and threatening them with guns. Anyone? Anyone? Patterico? Nor did I realize that, even in California, prosecutors say, "What-EV-er!" to the jurors. But then, I'm just an East Coast kind of guy.

So what I want to know is, where are all the folks who were supporting Tookie? Maybe Morales should have written a few children's books.

Click here to read more . . .

February 09, 2006


Just as the Brazilians are trying to reach the 25-million mark in handing out condoms, and just as we're resurrecting our own sophomoric remarks about Maryland's Cucumber People, we learn that condoms actually can be used to cause explosions. All I can say is: "Ouch!" And: "Do the Brazilians realize the danger they're unleashing?" And: "What happens when Al Qaeda gets hold of some condoms?"

The Boston Globe reports:

A former waitress at a Brockton strip club who says she was tired of being mistreated by men allegedly mailed explosive packages to Bridgewater State College, strip clubs, a motorcycle gang, Fox 25, and KISS 108 radio station, according to court documents unsealed yesterday.

Kimberly Lynn Dasilva, 40, of Hull, who hosts sex toy parties and sells adult gift baskets from an Internet site, was arrested Friday night after FBI agents and State Police raided her home and found letters hidden in the ceiling tiles of her bedroom that allegedly linked her to the mailings last September.

Dasilva told the agents that she sent the packages, which contained condoms filled with Drano and gasoline, and that she didn't think they would explode, even though she had learned from the Internet that the items could cause an explosion when combined, according to an FBI affidavit filed in US District Court in Boston. None of the packages, which were sent last September, exploded.

The single mother of two teenagers told the agents she was always being hurt by men and she "couldn't take it anymore," the affidavit says.
To cause an explosion, apparently, you have to mix the Drano and gasoline, which she had packaged separately. Dasilva sent packages with filled condoms to Bridgewater State College's admissions office, as well as to "Alex's, a strip club in Stoughton; The Foxy Lady in Brockton; The Outlaws motorcycle club in Taunton; Fox 25 in Dedham; and KISS 108 radio station in Revere, to the attention of the popular disc jockey Matt Siegel." The plot was uncovered when the package sent to Bridgewater State College began to leak.
David Tillinghast, chief of police at Bridgewater State College, said fluid had leaked from the package and the admissions building was evacuated for several hours while the State Police Bomb Squad and Hazardous Material team was called in to investigate.

A note inside the package said, "Boom." State Police later determined that the material wasn't toxic. Still, Tillinghast said, the incident caused "quite a distraction right at the beginning of the school year."
Dasilva's most recent run-in with men was with a boyfriend of seven months, and the relationship apparently didn't work out. You know how that goes, right? Boy meets girl; boy mistreats girl; girl mails exploding condoms to innocent people.

Anyway, while the Globe couldn't reach the ex-boyfriend for comment, the Enterprise (South of Boston) managed to do so. The result is classic journalism:
Her ex-boyfriend described DaSilva as "very expensive" and that she "has a wild imagination and has imagined a variety of things which have never occurred," according to court papers.

The boyfriend, William Gauss who once lived in Hyde Park in Boston, "described DaSilva as paranoid," the affidavit noted.
What I say is: "Get this guy a job as a psychiatrist."

But leave the explosives work to the FBI:
An FBI bomb technician found that if the two substances were to combine and combust, the resulting gases if contained in an air-tight container "could result in a low-level explosion," according to the court papers.
Finally, if you think I'm immature for writing about this story, consider this: I got it via Howard Bashman, who wrote, "Safe-sex can be a blast."

Click here to read more . . .

Blogger lunch

It's a little hard to meet other people when you're anonymous. (Not as hard as when you're totally fictitious, which I'm not, but hard nonetheless.) Meeting other people sort of defeats the purpose of being anonymous.

Unless, of course, the other people are willing to go with the program. I've managed to meet my fellow Maryland blogger Soccer Dad on a couple of occasions, and he even made a shiva call at my house last month. But publicly, for him, I'm still plain old Attila at Pillage Idiot.

Today, I had lunch with the lovely and charming Little Miss Attila, my pretend "long-lost cousin," who's in Washington, blogging at the CPAC conference. (I'm anonymous, and our family relationship is fictitious. How does that work?) She was so delightful that I even agreed to let her take my photograph, which she says she'll pixilate appropriately. I assume that means I'll look like I'm in the witness-protection program. Which is fine with me. But I wonder what I'd look like if the photo were pixilated inappropriately.

And for those of you who were worrying about it, I can report that she has almost completely recovered from her recent encounter with the medical profession.

Click here to read more . . .

February 08, 2006

Hillary speaks at Coretta's funeral

Story here.

More Hillary:

Hillary requests your vote

Hillary responds to Kate Michelman

Hillary begins a conversation

For more photo comics, check out the "Photo Comics" section on the sidebar.

Click here to read more . . .

The whiff of defeat or of hopes dashed

Today's hilarious front-page New York Times headline:

Some Democrats Are Sensing Missed Opportunities

The article begins:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 — Democrats are heading into this year's elections in a position weaker than they had hoped for, party leaders say, stirring concern that they are letting pass an opportunity to exploit what they see as widespread Republican vulnerabilities.
And here is the face of the Democratic Party, the face they chose: Nancy Pelosi.
Ms. Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, did not dispute that argument [that they need a program]. But, pointing to the Democratic strategy in defeating Mr. Bush's Social Security proposal last year, she said there was no rush.

"People said, 'You can't beat something with nothing,'" she said, arguing that the Democrats had in fact accomplished precisely that this year. "I feel very confident about where we are."
Got that? You can beat something with nothing. If I were a Democrat, I'd ask for my money back.

Click here to read more . . .

February 07, 2006

Half-naked news

I've been pretty busy lately, so I haven't had enough time to keep up with the naked news, but I've managed to find just enough time for half-naked news. In Illinois:

GRANITE CITY - A half-naked man who led Granite City Police on a car chase into a mud pit may face a felony charge today.
Now that's an article you have to keep reading! And it involves a police chase, too, ending in something like quicksand.
Police spotted the man lying on the front seek [sic] of his pickup truck without his pants at about 1 p.m. Sunday near the corner of 21st Street and Edwardsville Road.

The chase that ensued ended in Venice with the man's Ford Ranger and two police cars stuck in mud just south of the McKinley Bridge. Tow trucks pulled the truck and two cars from the mud.

The man allegedly rammed one police car with his truck during the chase.

* * * * *
The man ran his truck off the road into a shallow, muddy area that police compared to quick sand. A covering of coal dust from a nearby coal-dumping trucking company makes the area look like solid ground, police said.
Police are asking that a felony charge of fleeing police and a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct be brought against the unnamed man. If he hadn't been wearing a shirt, he might have been charged with two felonies.

(Via Fark)

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Condoms in Brazil

You knew it just had to be a Catholic country in which 25 million condoms are being handed out.

SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - The Brazilian government will distribute 25 million free condoms to promote safe sex during the country's Carnival holidays, the Health Ministry said Monday.

The condoms, provided under the government's acclaimed anti-AIDS program, will be given out at health clinics and in sites like public squares and dances.

"It's that time of year when we boost distribution because of the increase in demand," an official from the Health Ministry's anti-AIDS program said.

Carnival kicks off across the nation on February 25, heralding several days of parades, parties, revelry and, for some people, sexual abandon. The Rio de Janeiro carnival is the best known worldwide but every big city has its own celebrations.
Of course, the Catholic Church is opposed.
The Roman Catholic Church in Brazil -- the world's largest Catholic country -- routinely denounces such programs as encouraging sex and contravening its stand against contraception.
But who listens to clergy these days?

Now, we in Maryland can do our part to help the Brazilians fight AIDS through condom distribution. We can send them our infamous condom-on-the-cucumber video, translated into Portuguese. And then we can send them a few of our Cucumber People. On a one-way ticket.

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Top search terms

It's now been almost six months to the day since I started using eXTReMe Tracking at Pillage Idiot to give me more detail on site visitors than I get with Site Meter.

Here's my favorite part of it: The top search terms leading people here.

The top term, you won't be surprised to hear, is "idiot." I get searches like "idiot bush," "kerry idiot," and "cindy sheehan is an idiot."

That's followed, in order, by:


You know, you might almost think there was something to this.

Number 10 is "fulla," followed by:


as numbers 11 to 15.

This is actually pretty depressing, because it means the only topics of interest here have been Wesley Baker, the now executed Maryland murderer, and Cindy Sheehan, the idiot. On the other hand, there's nude swimming.

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February 06, 2006

Non-lawyer groping

In November 2004, I wrote three times about intrusive pat-downs done on women at the airport, focusing on accusations made by a lawyer named Rhonda Gaynier. You'll notice how often I used the phrase "lawyer groping" in a sick effort to Google bomb that phrase to my site.

So now I've discovered that the groping wasn't limited to lawyers.

A group of 87 women agreed Friday to accept $1.9 million in compensation for what they said were illegal pat-downs and strip searches at O'Hare International Airport.

The women filed a federal lawsuit in 1997. Judson Miner, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said his clients were African-American women whom customs agents pulled out of line without cause and forced to submit to sometimes humiliating searches.
Although this case involves Customs and not TSA, the interesting thing is that the suit accuses customs agents of singling out black women for special intrusive searches. Until now, I assumed that everyone was being singled out except the "Middle Eastern" young men who needed to be subjected to intrusive searches. But if Customs was singling out black women, they're even dumber than I thought. At least random searches have the benefit of political correctness to go with their uselessness. But specific searches of black women don't even have that. And their lawyer assumed the Customs personnel were looking for drugs, not terrorists. Why black women would be particularly inclined to carry drugs I can't say.

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February 05, 2006

Occasionally, offensiveness is the right thing

I suppose that if we had Christian anti-blasphemy laws in this country that punished offenders with death, or worse yet, if we had a huge number of violent Christians taking their cues from modern-day Torquemadas who were threatening and carrying out large scale mayhem if anyone denigrated Jesus, then in that case, I suppose, I would have supported Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ" as a bold and courageous statement of unwillingness to be cowed by religious terrorists. In reality, of course, he was nothing but a dweeb trying to insult people who are too refined to give him the face-slapping he deserved.

On the other hand, we have the situation in Denmark. And elsewhere in Europe. And, for that matter, pretty much everywhere in the free world, where people who have been acculturated to treating domestic minorities respectfully are beginning to do so out of abject fear. In those circumstances, people who offend the minority -- say, by publishing newspaper cartoons -- are not to be blamed for doing so but are to be commended for showing courage in the face of organized terror.

There's a song that's been making the rounds called "It's in the Koran." Again, in ordinary circumstances, I would say that this song was grotesquely offensive. But these are not ordinary circumstances. Click on the link and scroll down to "The author speaks." The author points out that all of the incidents in the song actually happened and are justified by people claiming to speak with religious authority. (Besides which, while it may not be too relevant, the song lyrics are very well written. Having written some humorous songs myself over the years, I can tell you it's not easy, and this song is well done.)

For myself, there's little I can contribute here, other than this:

Click here to read more . . .

I wanna hold your ha-a-and!

My wife found this article in last Tuesday's New York Times interesting, but I found it troubling. Here's the thesis:

Married women under extreme stress who reach out and hold their husbands' hands feel immediate relief, neuroscientists have found in what they say is the first study of how human touch affects the neural response to threatening situations.

The soothing effect of the touch could be seen in scans of areas deep in the brain that are involved in registering emotional and physical alarm.

The women received significantly more relief from their husbands' touch than from a stranger's, and those in particularly close marriages were most deeply comforted by their husbands' hands, the study found.

The findings help explain one of the longest-standing puzzles in social science: why married men and women are healthier on average than their peers. Husbands and wives who are close tend to limit each other's excesses like drinking and smoking but not enough to account for their better health compared with singles, researchers say.
Oh, sure, I found it reassuring that after distinctly more than 20 years of marriage, my wife was willing to say, in the words of this article, that we were a "supercouple." But still, isn't there something troubling about the fact that these tests were conducted by strapping the women inside an MRI machine and administering shocks to their ankles? There's a sort of mad scientist flavor to it.
Lying in the jaws of an M.R.I. scanning machine and knowing that they would periodically receive a mild electric shock to an ankle, the women were noticeably apprehensive. Brain images showed peaks of activation in regions involved in anticipating pain, heightening physical arousal and regulating negative emotions, among other systems.

But the moment that they felt their husbands' hands — the men reached into the imaging machine — each woman's activity level plunged in all the regions gearing up for the threat. A stranger's hand also provided some comfort, though less so.
What I also found troubling about this is not that there's a dangling modifier in the paragraph immediately above but rather that when my wife was in labor, holding my hand didn't do a damn bit of good. For her or for me. And if it doesn't help in labor, what good is it? When's the next time you plan to administer electric shocks to your wife's ankles? Uh, wait a minute; don't tell me about that.

Click here to read more . . .

February 04, 2006

How the PATRIOT Act works

The FBI is watching your every click on the internet.

A demonstration is here.

(hat tip: fee simple)

Click here to read more . . .

February 02, 2006

It is easy for little monkeys to forget

Most of us who grew up with Curious George (and the Man with the Yellow Hat) have fond recollections of the little monkey who tries to be good and understands the man's instructions to behave but simply can't resist temptation. (And it is easy for little monkeys to forget.) But you won't be surprised to learn that these tales have been deconstructed and mythologized, so that, for example, the tale has become a narrative of black slavery. Jeff Goldstein has written amusingly about having presented three alternative narratives of the book to his students.

John Miller, of National Review, now writes in the Wall Street Journal about the new Curious George movie, scheduled for release next week.

The original Curious George offends so many of the 21st century's delicate sensibilities that if it were written today, no major publisher would accept it without demanding big revisions. And so, in crucial respects, the forthcoming movie--if its trailer is any guide--is sure to take liberties with the classic books by the wife-and-husband team of Margret and H.A. Rey.
Now, I don't want you to think that I'm all up in arms about how some baddies in Hollywood are blaspheming the Holy Writ by altering the text of the Book of Monkeys. After all, Hollywood butchers the classics every day. But think for a moment how silly it is to update a book that everyone knows so well in its traditional form.
This year, Curious George turns 65--if he were human, he would qualify for full retirement benefits. But he's also very much a creature of his era. Consider how the first book violates our modern codes of political correctness. Rather than an eco-tourist, the Man in the Yellow Hat is a gun-toting poacher. When he first spots George, he says, "I would like to take him home with me." So he sets down his goofy hat as a lure. As George investigates, the man sneaks up from behind, pops him into a bag, and takes him home. Then George becomes Caliban with a twist: The man doesn't teach his simian sidekick how to curse, but he does show him how to drink booze and smoke a pipe.

There's something to be said for keeping liquor and tobacco products out of movies aimed at children, but the new film's whitewashing will go much further: The trailer makes clear that although the man still wears a yellow hat, he's also an unarmed naturalist. There's no snatch-and-grab, either. Instead, George mistakes the hat for a banana and follows the man across the ocean as a stowaway.
Miller quips that while the British publisher in the 1940s changed the name of the monkey, because "curious" meant "gay" in local slang,
Today's Hollywood probably would be more comfortable making the Man in the Yellow Hat an out-and-proud homosexual than an exploiter of the animal kingdom. Not that there's anything wrong with that, especially if producer Ron Howard and his crew deliver an entertaining movie. When it comes to children's books, however, the film industry's track record does not provide much confidence.
And as Miller points out, who knows whether the Reys wouldn't have gone along with this?
Perhaps these revisions are an acceptable bowdlerization. As dutiful liberals, the Reys might have played along willingly. (The Curious George Foundation, created by their estate's wealth, has given millions of dollars to everything from public television to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Sierra Club.)
So I've decided to drop my plans to announce a boycott of the movie by middle-aged guys without small kids. Besides which, everyone who's read the books knows that the Man with the Yellow Hat is in fact gay.

Click here to read more . . .