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August 31, 2007

Yet another nude geezer calendar

I was beginning to wonder about it, when I got a bunch of visitors today looking for something about naked geezer calendars, if you can imagine such a thing.

I can, actually. I wrote about semi-naked geezer calendars twice (here and here), which is why Pillage Idiot showed up in the search results.

Today's installment in the continuing saga of "Old Folks Coyly Displaying Everything You Don't Want To See Except For The Things You Really Don't Want To See" takes place in Madrid. That's Madrid, New Mexico, not Madrid, Spain, which actually might be more interesting. I understand there are a lot of bulls there.

A group of 60-something men who live in Madrid are peddling something that may sound like it would not have much of a market.

The group, which calls itself the Geezers, is publishing the Nude Geezers calendar featuring nude pictures of themselves.

"There are some people who are offended at naked old men," said Doug Wesley, one of the participants.

"All clothes does is cover up the beauty," chimed in Len Self.

"Well, that's what our theory is, actually," said Wesley.
Just in case you thought this was some kind of way to raise money for charity, the article makes sure to disabuse you of that notion: "Unlike other beefcake calendars of firemen or police officers, the money raised by selling the Naked Geezers is not going to charity. It's going to the Geezers."

Now, in any project of this sort, one of the most important things you can do is to issue a press release: "Nude Geezers Weenie Roast Launches Funny Calendar." A weenie roast for a semi-naked men's calendar. That's funny, now!

I'm happy to report, however, that the press release is false in a very important respect. It opens by stating:
Santa Fe, NM, August 17, 2007 --( A veteran fighter pilot, a cowboy, a doctor, a retired stock exchange floor trader, a lawyer, a miner, a biological consultant, an impresario, an engineer, and other men over sixty have bared all for a Nude Geezers Calendar in this former old west ghost town, turned hippie haven.
That's a -- well, it's a fib, which the press release doesn't correct until near the end. If you mosey on over to the geezers' own website, what they bare is all the photos on the calendar. I promise you I haven't looked at all of them, but the two or three I've checked out aren't really baring all. There are some delicate props covering the naughty bits -- a book, a cat, and, if the press release is correct, in one case an attractive, fully clothed young woman.

That's really not so bad, though. We don't really need any more of a weenie roast than they give us.

Click here to read more . . .

But can you beat me?

No, I don't read Esquire, but there was a link to an article there called "The New Laws of Fashion." And that's fashion for men, obviously.

Me, I try not to look awful. That's my strategy in a nutshell. And when I wear a suit, I want it to fit well, but that's about it. No metrosexual, I.

But I did read this article through to the end, just wondering where I was going wrong. And then I found it here:

Well, excuuuuuuuse me! I have a cell phone for the rare calls I need to make, and there's no better place for a man to put a phone than on his belt. It's easy to get at it when you need it. Pockets don't work for me; there's enough stuff there already.

When I was in sixth grade, a friend used this line when another kid told him how much better he was at everything than my friend: "But can you beat me?" Which I always found amusing.

And that's what I have to say to the fops at Esquire.

UPDATE: I should have clarified two things about my phone: 1. It's humorously out of date, vintage 2002. 2. I've turned off the ringer and set it to vibrate only. And if I'm still a jackass, the fops at Esquire and I will have to take this outside.

Click here to read more . . .

August 30, 2007

Not dead yet

Suppose you're speaking on the phone to someone who insists you're dead. Suppose that person is a federal government official.

Any advice on how to handle it?

No, it didn't happen to me. But here's a tidbit:

MADISON COUNTY, Ga. -- Twenty-two-year-old Lisa Kohlhagen of Colbert, Ga. in Madison County went through Army basic training but was discharged after a knee injury.

She said when her disability checks stopped coming, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs told her it was because she was dead.
And here's the best part:
“And I called them because it wasn’t there and they said, ‘You’re dead,’ and I said, ‘No, I’m not dead.’ And they kept trying to tell me I was dead but I’m not,” said Kohlhagen.
I keep thinking the conversation was going to be more like this: "I'm not dead." "Yes, you are." "I want a second opinion." "OK, you're ugly, too."

Or at least, "If I'm dead, that means I don't have to pay income tax any more, right?"

How would you have handled it?

(via Fark)

Click here to read more . . .

That sickening feeling

After having gently mocked the Orioles for losing 30-3 last week, I have only one word about my own team, the Mets:


They just finished a four-game series in Philadelphia against the second-place Phillies and ended up with a grand total of NO wins. And boy, was it a painful series.

I've been a Mets fan all my life, and I enjoy following them, but in some sense, I've emotionally distanced myself from them. Sure, if they make the playoffs, I get really into it, but for ordinary games, I tend to adopt an attitude of "que sera sera." But this awful series has caused me a great deal of psychic and gastroenterological pain.

Last night, down 3-2 in the top of the ninth, the Mets had the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on first with one out. The runner on first was Marlon Anderson, a recent pickup for the Mets who's been outstanding as a pinch-hitter and occasional sub. Shawn Green at the plate -- a guy my sons call "The Jew" -- hit a slow roller to short, and he probably would have beat the relay throw from second on an attempted double play. That would have tied the game. But Anderson indulged in a little irrational exuberance and took out the second-baseman. The umpire called interference, meaning Green was out at first. Game over. (Video here.)

Today, the Mets were down 5-0 but rallied to tie it at 5-5. Immediately, the Phils got three runs to take an 8-5 lead. In the eighth, the Mets scored 5 runs to go ahead, 10-8. Then, in a move for which Willie Randolph is getting some grief, Billy Wagner was brought in with the intention of keeping him in for two innings. He's almost strictly a ninth-inning closer. Wagner allowed one run in the eighth, and it was 10-9. In the bottom of the ninth, Wagner fell apart and allowed two runs to lose, 11-10. Did I mention that Wagner used to pitch for the Phillies and left on less than amicable terms?

Boy, that was painful! And I haven't even mentioned Tuesday's 10th inning loss.

Click here to read more . . .

August 29, 2007

"A serious and secret bias"

When is a secret not a secret?

In a speech, Judge Dennis Jacobs, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, disclosed that judges have "a serious and secret bias" in favor of lawyers. Shhhhh! Don't tell anyone!

Adam Liptak wrote about this a couple of days ago in the Times (link goes to Times Select):

Once you start thinking about it, the examples are everywhere. The lawyer-client privilege is more closely guarded than any other. It is easier to sue for medical malpractice than for legal malpractice. People who try to make a living helping people fill out straightforward forms are punished for the unauthorized practice of law.

But Judge Jacobs’s main point is a deeper one. Judges favor complexity and legalism over efficient solutions, and they have no appreciation for what economists call transaction costs. They are aided in this by lawyers who bill by the hour and like nothing more than tasks that take a lot of time and cost their clients a lot of money.
Then, there's that matter of high-profile public-policy cases:
“Judges love these kinds of cases,” said Judge Jacobs, whose speech was published in The Fordham Law Review in May. “Public interest cases afford a judge more sway over public policy, enhance the judicial role, make judges more conspicuous and keep the law clerks happy.”

There are costs here, too, he said, including “the displacement of legislative and executive power” and “the subordination of other disciplines and professions.”
This is a very candid man, Judge Jacobs.

He is also a very blunt man at times. As Liptak noted, Judge Jacobs struck a nerve not long ago with a dissent in a case Liptak described as a "tangled lawsuit about something a college newspaper published in 1997," in which the majority felt "important First Amendment principles were at stake, though they acknowledged that the case involved, at most, trivial sums of money."

I remember when this decision came down, because some law professor bloggers were, absurdly, alarmed at what Judge Jacobs wrote at the beginning of his dissent (page 45 of this PDF):
I concede that this short opinion of mine does not consider or take into account the majority opinion. So I should disclose at the outset that I have not read it.
Eugene Volokh, at The Volokh Conspiracy, wrote in response:
It's too bad that the dissenting judge didn't take the case more seriously: I think the majority opinion may well be wrong, and certainly sets an important precedent that would benefit from serious, skeptical scrutiny. Even if the dissenter thinks the case should be unimportant ("this silly thing," he calls it), and that the plaintiffs are suffering from a "fantasy of oppression" and engaging in a "slow-motion tantrum," the case now is indeed important. It seems to me that the matter deserved his time and attention.
The writer at Appellate Law and Practice quoted various "tidbits" of the dissent (worth reading) and asked: "So, is this the kind of opinion that constitutes good legal writing? Is this what law schools teach people to write?"

On the other hand, Professor Bainbridge and Beldar both thought it was pretty cool. Michael Dorf thought Judge Jacobs had a point but complained that "the dissent contains some gratuitous red-baiting of the plaintiffs."

Well, whatever.

Justice O'Connor, both before and after she left the Supreme Court, seemed to be of the view that criticism of the judiciary was a threat to judicial independence. I rather think that a little more candor of the sort offered by Judge Jacobs, both in his speech and in his dissent -- a little self-criticism can only be a good thing.

Click here to read more . . .

August 28, 2007

Beethoven's doctor

I wonder what the statute of limitations is on med-mal actions in Austria.

Because the latest theory is that Beethoven's death from lead poisoning was the result of actions taken by his doctor.

The article in the Beethoven Journal, published by San Jose State University's Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies, lays the composer's crash at the feet of Dr. Andreas Wawruch and his bedside remedies. His demise at 56 put an end to years of depression and mysterious physical ailments, but, according to the article, it didn't have to happen when it did.
Here is a little elaboration of the findings:
Charting the composer's final four months through the hairs, Reiter established day-by-day correlations between Beethoven's bedside medical treatments at the hands of Wawruch and lead concentrations in the composer's body: A dramatic spike in the concentrations follows each of the doctor's five treatments between Dec. 5, 1826 and Feb. 27, 1827, according to Reiter.

He theorizes that Wawruch, treating Beethoven for pneumonia that December, administered a medicine containing lead, as many medicines did at the time. Within days, Beethoven's stomach became terribly bloated, leading Wawruch to puncture his patient's abdomen four times in the next two months. Gallons of fluid drained out, some of it spilling into the bedding; Beethoven complained about the bugs and the odor.

Reiter's suspicion is that the sticky poultices applied to the puncture wounds contained soapy lead salts, as they often did early in the 19th century; the salts would have been absorbed into the bloodstream, spiking lead levels.
I have to say I was amused by the responses to this research, though I guess it's not too surprising:
For musicologists, the very idea that Beethoven's death was an accident, and that his life might possibly have been extended, is shocking: "What else could he have composed?" asked William Meredith, director of San Jose State's Beethoven center, the only research center in North America devoted to Beethoven. "Because if you can extend Beethoven's life by a year, you could have had two more string quartets. He was working on a string quintet when he got sick. And then there are the famous sketches for his Tenth Symphony."
It's a little like saying, "You know, if Lou Gehrig hadn't suffered from, uh, Lou Gehrig's disease, can you imagine what the Yankees would have been like?"

I mean, medical science was a little like witchcraft in those days. (I'm speaking of Beethoven again.) The life expectancy was short. All things considered, I'd say that the man had a pretty good run.

(via BOTWT)

Click here to read more . . .

Tex. Gov. to EU: Drop Dead

Gotta love this response from the Governor of Texas to a demand by the EU that Texas place a moratorium on capital punishment:

230 years ago, our forefathers fought a war to throw off the yoke of a European monarch and gain the freedom of self-determination. Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens. While we respect our friends in Europe, welcome their investment in our state and appreciate their interest in our laws, Texans are doing just fine governing Texas.
(via Patterico)

Click here to read more . . .

August 26, 2007

Another feed problem

For reasons I'm not sure you're interested in, I've created a "pipe" at Yahoo for my site feed. I don't know whether you noticed today, but if you'd looked at my "Newest Posts at Pillage Idiot" below any permalinked post, you'd have seen that all ten newest posts were Thursday's "Tending the Lawn."

I did some testing, and something is messed up with the pipe. It looks fine to me on the surface, but it's not showing any newer posts. Until I figure out the problem, I'm reverting to my RSS feed.

For most of you, those who visit the site directly, this won't matter at all, and you'll notice nothing.

For those of you who subscribe to the feed, it might appear odd at first.

And for those of you who receive my Daily Pillagemail, I wouldn't be surprised if tomorrow's email isn't what you expect. It may be a whole bunch of posts you've already seen. In any case, I'm working on it.

My personal guess is that nothing I do will make any difference, and that it will be fixed by Yahoo without my intervention, leaving me puzzled but relieved. Stay tuned.

Click here to read more . . .

Sunday linkfest

1. "[F]or 40 days and 40 nights, there has been no showering, no hair washing, no teeth cleaning and no deodorant."

Noah's Ark? No, just some moronic British chick who's decided to ditch all her toiletries, lotions, etc., to do "the first scientific experiment of its kind, designed to find out how she will look and feel without the aid of the avalanche of expensive modern beauty products."

Sure, people can overdo the make-up and "beauty products," but whatever happened to Aristotelian moderation? Is it always all or nothing? Extremism in the defense of poor hygiene is a vice in my book.

And from the "Way Too Much Information" Department: "Before starting her experiment, Nicky called in scientists from the Skin Research Centre at the University of Leeds. They took swabs from her armpits, mouth and groin to test levels of bacteria and yeasts, the results of which would be compared with identical swabs taken at the end of the six weeks." (via HotAir)

2. Normally, given my compulsion to write about the death penalty, this would have received its own post: "Private eye gets five years for fake documents in death row cases." But I'm afraid I'll have to leave the analysis to you. It's pretty self-evident, anyway. Oh, by the way, the fake documents were in aid of the murderer, just in case that wasn't clear. I wonder how many "innocent death-row defendants" are not so innocent, after all.

Bonus: Ken Starr makes an appearance.

(via Patterico, and check out some of the comments there)

3. A few weeks ago, my wife and I, who rarely watch TV, decided to watch a couple of cooking shows, including one with the famous Emeril character. We missed this one, which was mentioned in the N.Y. Times:

Ingrid Hoffmann, the latest arrival on the Food Network — her show "Simply Delicioso" is shown on Saturday mornings — seems to be quickly staking her claim as the country's pre-eminent cleavage cook.
I'm struggling to avoid asking how you cook cleavage -- bake it, roast it, or simply warm it gently.

Anyway, I still haven't seen the show, but I did check the Food Network page about it. If you're really interested, go here and check out some of the short videos.

This is how I knew the Times article was written by a woman, without even checking the byline:
Ms. Hoffmann cooks with her whole body, as if every occasion to chop some cilantro were also an opportunity to show how well she might fare as a backup dancer for Rod Stewart. She appears less covered up to marinate a chicken than Ms. De Laurentiis does to go jet-skiing.
And if you think I'm being mean, consider this and tell me I couldn't tell:
It is a hallmark of the contemporary cooking show, of course, that no failures are acknowledged. "Wow, I must have overdone this pork loin because it tastes like an old Volkswagen": that is the sort of comment we never hear emanating from TV kitchens. But even in this context, Ms. Hoffmann's self-regard is annoyingly hardy. It isn't simply that she finds fault with nothing. She finds everything she makes uniquely amazing, "yummy" and "delicioso." And yet it appears to the viewer as mediocre takeout.
No man would ever write that about a woman. Am I right?

4. I thought this N.Y. Post headline about the Lisa Nowak case would be the best: "Space Gals in a Close Encouter," but Court TV's headline definitely had it beat: "Astronaut's lawyers want diapers, weapons in her car kept from jury."

Here's a description of the action in court. More: The detective who searched Nowak's car came under attack by her lawyer:
Detective Becton stood by his methods and said he had fully informed Captain Nowak of her rights. He called his hours with her the hardest interview of his career.

“I realized I was dealing with someone who was more intelligent than I was, and more educated,” he said, and added, “I felt like I was playing a game of chess” with an opponent who answered his questions with questions and tried just as hard to extract information from him.
Answering questions with questions, eh? Now I know why I've had visitors based on searches for "Lisa Nowak Jewish."

Click here to read more . . .

Carnival of Maryland -- 14th edition

The 14th edition of the Carnival of Maryland is up at Tinkerty Tonk. Go take a look. Lots of good stuff there.

The 13th edition, on August 12, was hosted at Red Maryland. I was away and couldn't post an announcement at the time. It's still up, and I recommend that you go read it, even now.

The 15th edition, on September 9, will be at a host to be named later, unless the Orioles call him (or her) up to pitch in September. It might even be at Pillage Idiot. I'll let you know.

Meanwhile, send your submissions in for Carnival 15 by using the Blog Carnival form.

Click here to read more . . .

August 23, 2007

Tending the lawn

It's a business you probably would want a part of.

It doesn't call for women in bikinis to serve you your morning coffee, but it does offer bikini-clad women to mow your lawn. (There's even a video to accompany the story, though you have to endure a 30-second commercial first.)

The story's a bit old, but the business, Tiger Time Lawn Care, located in Tennessee, is back in the news again: "Backlash against owner of bikini lawn care company." At least one resident is upset with the bikini-clad women tending the lawns, and he's pulling his kids out of the sports league that Lee Cathey, the owner of Tiger Time, is involved in. "'It's an act of perversion,' said Dewayne Lufcy. 'It's degrading to women.'" Cathey responds: "It's no different than going to the beach. It's no different than seeing models on the runway." (There's a video there, too, if you're willing to endure another commercial.)

On a vaguely related topic, we hear what a female attorney has to say about inappropriate attire of women at the office: "What cleavage tells the world about a woman's brain." The point, with which I generally agree, is that women should dress conservatively at the office. But she goes on to make some broader points, and you should take a look at the comments section, where readers are going absolutely nuts, being personally insulted, calling her a racist, and so on.

I don't know about cleavage, but what you write in a comments section definitely says something about your brain.

(both stories via Fark)

Click here to read more . . .

August 22, 2007

The burning question

Understanding the differences between men and women is a continuing process.

You might think it's a stereotype that women talk and men act, but it really isn't. For one thing, science says that "women talk roughly three times as much as men -- about 20,000 words a day to about 7,000 for men." (I'm quoting myself, but that's still science, because I was citing a study.)

For another thing, I'm sure all of you guys can come up with an experience in which you talked on the phone for a half hour to an old friend, and when you were finished, your wife or girlfriend asked, "What did you talk about?" Of course, you immediately replied, "I don't know" or "Nothing." And you really meant it.

If you can't come up with such an experience, try this article in yesterday's Washington Post:

[William] Doherty [a professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota] recalls being at a conference with another therapist he knew and the therapist's wife. He knew they were having marital problems and wasn't surprised one evening when he got a call from his friend, who said the wife had thrown him out of the room. Could he spend the night in Doherty's room?

"He came over and we watched TV, talked a bit about sports and went to bed," Doherty recalls. "He didn't owe me any personal revelations about his marriage. Months later, after the couple got back together, his wife told me how pleased he was that I didn't ask him to open up."
It actually may be a good thing in some sense that men are like this. The article says that it's not always a good idea for women to talk incessantly about their problems:

According to Louann Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of California at San Francisco, the female brain picks up emotional cues, both verbal and nonverbal, more quickly than the male brain. Starting at about age 12, girls put feelings into words more efficiently than boys. The key thing, though, according to Brizendine, author of the controversial book "The Female Brain," is this: Brains learn by repetition. Repeating negative thoughts can make not only the injured party but those around her more, rather than less, distressed and angry.
I cited this Brizendine character in the link to myself above, where I quoted her as saying this:

"Women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing emotion, while men have a small country road," said Dr Brizendine, who runs a female "mood and hormone" clinic in San Francisco.
Or in the words of Prof. Doherty:

Sharing personal information is the coin of the realm for women's friendships. "Men bond around common interests and occasionally turn to a buddy for help," says Doherty. "Women bond through confidences. A girlfriend will feel hurt if she finds out you had a problem and didn't share it. A guy will say, 'Good, you took care of it.'"
This may all seem pretty obvious to you, so why am I reporting it?

The reason is that men and women need to understand each other better. Men have to take the time to listen to their wives or their girlfriends (preferably having no more than one of these at any time), and women need to understand that men are scientifically retarded when it comes to expressing their feelings.

Because if they don't understand each other, it's far more likely that this will happen (via HotAir):

A woman set fire to her ex-husband's penis as he sat naked watching television and drinking vodka, Moscow police said on Wednesday.
This story raises troubling questions, which the regrettably short article fortunately takes the time to answer. For example:

  • What was the ex-husband doing in such close proximity to his ex-wife? Well, it turns out that in Russia, housing's at a premium, and sometimes divorced couple must continue to live together. "The attack climaxed three years of acrimonious enforced co-habitation."

  • Did it hurt? What do you mean, "Did it hurt?" You idiot, of course it did! "'It was monstrously painful,' the wounded ex-husband told Tvoi Den newspaper."

  • How did this come about? I'll have to leave that one to the baffled ex-husband. "'I was burning like a torch. I don't know what I did to deserve this.'"
The article, sadly, does not answer another troubling question: Why was this man sitting naked in front of a woman he'd divorced and obviously didn't exactly get along with?

I don't know the answer to that question, just as the man in the story doesn't know what he did to deserve to be the recipient of genitalia flambé, but perhaps you should ask the woman in your life what she thinks about it.

And be sure to listen carefully to what she says.

Extra: In case the link to the story about the Russian couple should go dead, I want you to have the list of related links given in the article, which alone is worth the price of admission:
Today's top weird headlines
Cambodians warned over DIY penis enlargement
Man in unfortunate saw-mill penis incident
Row over angry, penis-removing doctor
Wife rejects penis transplant
Naked wife attacks husband

Click here to read more . . .


So if you're the Baltimore Orioles, who by the way are by far the best major league baseball team located in Maryland, and you blow a 3-0 lead after 3 innings, that's not so bad, I guess.

But if you then allow the second-worst team in the American League to score 30 runs -- yes, 30 runs, a modern major-league first -- to beat you 30-3, that really stinks. (More here.)

And to make it worse, you have to play a second game the same night.

(The pregame preview said: "The Rangers hope their struggling offense can get back on track Wednesday when they face the Baltimore Orioles in a doubleheader at Camden Yards.")

On a happy note, the Orioles are owned by Peter Angelos, and no one deserves this debacle more than he.

Click here to read more . . .

The end of democracy in Montgomery County?

"King picked for District 39’s Senate seat"

Headline, Rockville Gazette, Aug. 22, 2007

Click here to read more . . .

August 21, 2007

Reciprocal blogrolling

It's been a long time since I last offered reciprocal blogrolling. It's always a little strange for a minor blogger like me to make this offer, but I've noticed a few blogs that have me on their blogrolls and aren't on mine.

As usual, the deal is: If (a) your blog is generally safe for work, and (b) you have me on your blogroll, then email me with the subject line "reciprocal blogrolling request" or something similar to that, and I'll add you.

Click here to read more . . .

Why Norway is melting

Now that the EU is up in arms about cow flatulence as a cause of global warming, I'm afraid there's a grave risk that people will simply ignore the newest threat to climate stability -- namely, moose flatulence.

I tell you this based on a story in the Norwegian news source Aftenposten (hat tip: fee simple), which reports:

The country's so-called "King of the Forest" hasn't been widely viewed as having any really nasty personal habits, surely none that could be considered an environmental threat.

But now some researchers linked to Norway's technical university (NTNU) in Trondheim contend that moose are responsible for tons of gas emissions a year through their frequent burping and, well, farting.
This is potentially a severe threat to our national security, as this TOP SECRET transcript that arrived over the transom indicates:
Natasha: Look, Dahlink, it's moose and squirrel.

(She and Boris watch Rocky and Bullwinkle through a spyglass.)

Rocky: Hokey Smoke, Bullwinkle! We're in real trouble now!

Bullwinkle: Pffffffft!!

Boris (to Natasha): Hoo boy, I can feel it getting hotter already.
To give you an idea of how serious a problem this is, Aftenposten writes:
The research web site has calculated that the annual gas emissions from a moose are equal to those from an individual's 36 flights between Oslo and Trondheim.

A grown moose will burp and pass so much methane gas in the course of a year that it amounts to 2,100 kilos of carbon dioxide emissions.

Newspaper VG reported that a motorist would have to drive 13,000 kilometers in a car to emit the same.

The good news is that this article suggests that moose flatulence is a problem only in countries that use the metric system. My personal car drives in miles, not kilometers.

The bad news is that even though it's therefore the Europeans' metric moose that will create a dangerous number of kilometers of global warming, the Euro-trash will simply blame it on the United States, when actually they should blame it on the dog.

It really worries me that the only obvious solutions appear to be genocide of the moose population or massive "moose offsets." Me, I'm going to cancel my 36 flights from Oslo to Trondheim, wherever that may be.

And when I'm awarded my Nobel, I'll just have to do it by teleconference.

Click here to read more . . .

August 19, 2007

When colleges game the system

A high-school senior we know was wait-listed at his top choice for college. He called them up, told them he was very interested in them, and asked if they'd interview him. They agreed, and after the interview, he received a letter from the school that said, roughly, "If we were to make you an offer, would you accept it?" He said, Sure. They did, and he did.

Happy ending, right?

Now, you probably asked yourself, "Why didn't the college just make the kid a real offer instead of using the subjunctive and playing with his mind?" But that's because you're a normal human being, who's sadly unaware of the shenanigans colleges engage in to boost their rankings in the annual U.S. News and World Report survey. Colleges want to have low acceptance rates for applicants, but high acceptance rates from accepted students. If the school had made this student an offer, he might have turned it down. By making it hypothetical and getting him to agree to accept before the offer was actually made, the college made sure it wasn't risking a hit to its acceptance rate for offers made.

You follow that, right?

On Friday, the New York Times had an interesting article explaining these and other tricks colleges play to boost their rankings. Let's start with acceptance rates of students:

A college’s acceptance rate, or the proportion of applicants it admits, counts towards its rank, and the more selective the college is, the better.

So some colleges try to increase the number of applicants they receive — and turn down — by waiving fees and dropping requirements. Some send out applications by e-mail, with most of the student’s personal information already filled in. Others send out persistent e-mail appeals to high school sophomores, with breathless subject lines like “Time is running out.”

“It’s pumping up the numbers, it’s making colleges look more selective, and it’s contributing to the frenzy,” said Robert J. Massa, vice president for enrollment at Dickinson College. “What if we become ridiculous and just go out to a shopping mall and hand out applications?”
Or try average SAT scores:
Some colleges used to drop athletes’ SAT scores from their computation of incoming students’ scores in order to increase their averages and make their institutions look more selective, Mr. Kelly said.

In response, U.S. News helped to create common definitions with organizations like the College Board so that data reporting would be standardized and harder to fudge.

Still, critics say that the magazine, which does not verify information submitted by the colleges, bears some responsibility for the litany of tactics that colleges employ.

James M. Sumner, dean of admission and financial aid at Grinnell College, said a counterpart from a well-regarded institution told him that when computing average SAT scores he excluded the SAT’s of students accepted as “development cases,” whose grades and test scores are often below average but whose families are likely to make major donations. Mr. Sumner declined to identify the university.
Or alumni donations:
U.S. News reports the proportion of a university’s alumni who contribute money each year, as a way of measuring consumer satisfaction. Michael Beseda, vice president for enrollment at St. Mary’s College of California, said he knew someone whose college sent him a $5 bill, asking him simply to send it back so it would count as a donation. Several colleges have admitted taking a single donation and spreading it over two, three or five years, to raise their annual numbers.
The article notes that many of the tricks involve admissions, because that's the easiest for colleges to control.

To their credit, about 60 colleges have signed a letter agreeing not to participate in one aspect of the survey that asks colleges to rate other schools. (What could possibly go wrong there?) But, according to the Times, "virtually none of the most select and highly ranked colleges signed on."

The only redeeming thing about this funny business is that college is way less important than most people think. If it were more important, we'd have a real problem.

The way I think of it, if colleges were corporations that issued stock, the vast majority of them would be up on charges of securities fraud.

Click here to read more . . .

August 17, 2007

Friday linkfest

I don't really know what to do with these stories, given my August doldrums, so I'm putting them in a linkfest.

1. Public service announcement: If you're a police officer having a tryst at the office on work time, make sure to keep your radio earpiece in. In England, an officer who claimed he was "always poised and ready to respond to an emergency because he had his earpiece in" was acquitted of misconduct in a public office. (hat tip: fee simple)

2. You've heard of gay cars. Well, none of those make this list of cars and what they supposedly say about their owners' love style. (This actually has to be one of the stupidest things I've read in a long time.)

3. Paging Harvey Mansfield: The return of manliness, now known as "retrosexuality." But since it seems to involve hair implants for one's chest, count me out. That sounds painful. On the other hand, this sounds good for me and some other MOTs: "some surgeons say that men are also asserting their manliness through rhinoplasty, or nose jobs, asking for a more pronounced proboscis."

4. The latest in technology: Kosher vending machines. More precisely, a "glatt kosher vending machine that can shoot out a hot knish," as if this were some kind of useful Jewish contribution to American culture. Cuteness component: "The vending machines are called Hot Nosh 24/6." Get it? 24/6? Although the machine is not actually shut off on Shabbat, which is more grist for Noah Feldman's next article. And from the "who cares?" department: This is being financed by "Ruby Azrak, a street clothing magnate who launched Russell Simmons's Phat Farm line," who also "runs the House of Dereon, the clothing line of the singer Beyoncé." (UPDATE: I forgot to include the link to the company's website. You can see some of their press coverage there, too.)

Click here to read more . . .

August 15, 2007

Beating the scalper?

This weekend, through yesterday, I was visiting the old homestead in the New York area. I took my mother and my kids to see the Mets on Sunday. My sister and two of her kids joined us. Even though my nephew has been going to see the Mets since the 1980s, he had never seen them win a game in person. I didn't discover this fact until too late, or else I would have told him not to come. Fortunately, we ended his losing streak at approximately 18, when the Mets beat the Marlins, 10-4.

On Monday night, I was going to take my own kids to Yankee Stadium for the game against the Orioles. I'd bought some $17 upper-level seats at, but at almost the last minute, two of my kids couldn't come. I decided I'd just go with my younger son and see if I could unload the two extra tickets with a scalper for whatever I could get.

We drove down the Major Deegan, but a rush-hour accident caused us bumper-to-bumper traffic for miles. We didn't worry about getting to the game on time, but I realized that once the game started, my plan for selling my extra tickets would go up in smoke. Not a really big deal, but I still hoped I could manage it.

I didn't exactly know where I was going, and I ended up parking in a lot nearly a half mile east of the stadium on 161st Street. It was about 5 minutes after the game had begun, and my son and I walked quickly toward the stadium. About a block before we got there, someone called out, "You need any tickets?" I ignored him. He was persistent. "I said, 'You need any tickets?'" I turned and told the man, "I have a couple of extras. You want them?" "What ya got?" I showed him. "How much will you give me for 'em?" I asked. He replied, "Ten each" and handed me a $20 bill.

At this point, after the game had begun, I figured it was free money and didn't try to haggle. I pocketed the bill, and we went into the stadium.

But now, my competitive side kicked in. I started paying attention not to the game but to whether anyone was coming in to sit in our extra seats. Because I really wanted to beat that scalper.

No one ever did.

I figured out early on, of course, that he might have sold the tickets to someone who used them to get in the stadium but sat in better seats elsewhere. But I still enjoyed the thought that I'd gotten the better of the scalper.

What happened in the game? You really care? I told my son it was a lot like a Harlem Globetrotters game, in which the opposition Generals play tough, make a good showing, and always lose in the end to the Globetrotters. Same with the Orioles, who at least made it exciting in the 9th inning, when they tied it at 6-6, with first one runner thrown out at the plate and then the second runner scoring by a hair on the next play. (Poor Chad Bradford, a former Met, gave up the game-winning run in the bottom of the 9th on a pathetic but perfectly placed infield hit by Derek Jeter.)

Bonus: Since I've mentioned the Globetrotters, you'll be interested to know that you can hear their theme song, the Brother Bones whistled version of Sweet Georgia Brown, at this link (in mp3 format) hosted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Click here to read more . . .

Tech support

I feel your pain, buddy.

These days, it isn't enough to get your kid his own system to keep from screwing up yours. You have to do the maintenance too. For me, this means monthly sessions at each PC in the house, removing unused applications, updating virus definitions, purging spyware, and maybe defragging the drive for good measure. It is a pain, but in return I get a solemn promise that no one installs anything on the family's primary (read "my") system.
Last week, I had to get a Trojan off the kids' computer. (For you Luddites, a Trojan is a variety of computer virus, not a . . . not a . . . well, it's not what you think.) This meant researching the solution online, downloading some mysterious program, and doing the usual rub-my-head-pat-my-tummy stuff in safe mode that the solution called for.

I love my kids, but why can't they do my tech support instead of the other way around?

Click here to read more . . .

Address unknown

"Homeless group close to getting post office"

Headline, Rockville Gazette, Aug. 15, 2007

Click here to read more . . .

Stealing jokes

It's always nice when you discover that your blog is being read by departed Jewish comedians.

A couple of years ago, writing about classical music's decline, I reported a joke my wife and I make about our concert series: "the average age of people at the concerts is deceased."

I discovered this week that Henny Youngman, who died in 1998, has stolen our joke: Mimi Sheraton "recounted schmoozing with Henny Youngman at the Carnegie Deli, where he quipped that the 'average age of the customer here is deceased.'"

Or maybe he stole it from Milton Berle, who stole it from us, after he died in 2002.

Click here to read more . . .

August 14, 2007

Here's one attorney you might like to see

"Bikini Attorney Responds to Dismissal of Lawsuit"

Headline, Yokwe Online, Aug. 10, 2007

Click here to read more . . .

Picking the right ethicist

To quote Dilbert, "90% of happiness is picking the right ethicist." So let's be happy by picking the right ethicist to roll our collective eyes over.

Why do people actually write to Randy Cohen, author of the "The Ethicist" column in the New York Times Sunday Magazine? Do they actually think he provides useful ethical advice? What about asking him questions that involve politics, or etiquette, or social advice, but not so much ethics?

And more important, why does he answer these letters as if they involved ethics?

As I've said before, when you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

This Sunday's column answers two questions. The first is written by a man whose wife's sister is recently separated after 15 years of marriage and is now living with a boyfriend. The sister invites the man and his wife to visit and stay overnight. The man doesn't like the idea of seeming to bless the relationship between the sister and this fellow, whom he derides as the sister's "cohabiter du jour." The wife, whose sister it is, says is it not for them to judge.

Before I discuss Cohen's response, I'd like someone to explain why this an ethics question. It's more an "Ann Landers" kind of social advice question. One may take a moral stand here, too, but it's hard to see the decision either way as one involving ethics.

If you've ever read Cohen's column, you'll know what the response is. Whenever anyone is troubled by what we old-fashioned folks think of as an illicit sexual relationship, Cohen shows off his superior, open-minded moral code: anything goes, except perhaps sex with a Republican. (For a wonderful TV anecdote on this subject, see the beginning of this article in the Weekly Standard.)

And he can't possibly miss an opportunity, in obiter dicta, to invoke the horrors of the Bush administration: "A principled refusal can be estimable in the public arena. For example, as a protest against the war in Iraq, the poet Sharon Olds declined an invitation from Laura Bush to attend the fifth National Book Festival and eat breakfast at the White House." In contrast, he says, a protest is typically not appropriate in private life, where understanding and tolerance are required.

The second letter to "The Ethicist" begins: "Two years ago, I lived in Singapore, and my apartment was robbed." OK, technically, his apartment was burglarized, not robbed, but let that pass. The writer discovers, upon returning to Singapore two years later that the robber/burglar was punished with 10 years in the clink and 10 strokes of the cane. "The sentence seems excessive and the caning barbaric." Mind you, this is the letter writer, not Randy Cohen saying this. I guess that's why he'd write to Cohen. "I want to appeal for mercy on his behalf, but must I accept Singaporean justice? When in Asia, do I do as the Asians do?"

Probably the correct answer is "Rob him again!" But that isn't Cohen's answer. The victim should speak up, he says, with proper sensitivity to local values.

That really would not be such a terrible answer, I suppose, if it were concluded there. But that is not the job of "The Ethicist." His job is to reaffirm continually that ethics and liberal pieties are one and the same.

So Cohen concludes thus: "Such appeals cut both ways. One hundred and fifty years ago, Europeans criticized America's slave-owning and, more recently, our treatment of prisoners. It can be instructive to have one's conduct examined from another perspective." Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, anyone?

Of course, this totally undercuts his advice of showing sensitivity to local values. The victim could validly make an appeal in his specific case based on his own sense of appropriate punishment. But Cohen, having advised him thus, now seems to call for the victim to make a global attack on Singaporean justice.

Never mind this. The point of Cohen's column is not so much to guide behavior as to validate how rich, self-satisfied liberals think.

Click here to read more . . .

August 09, 2007

Oy, another linkfest

I'm between two short vacation and things aren't allowing me to work on one longish post, so here's another linkfest. No, no, no. Don't thank me.

1. A man uses an internet florist to send his mistress some flowers and asks that the florist not to send him a receipt, which they do, and his wife sees it. (hat tip: fee simple) As they say over at Fark, hilarity ensues.

2. A followup on the story mentioned in yesterday's linkfest about an alliance between jihadis and Mexican drug gangs. (via HotAir)

3. Does the camera at the dressing room make my butt look fat? (via Mary Katharine Ham) Bonus: A video. Super-bonus: The key shot is here:

4. Tip to women from the NY Times: Eat red meat on your first date to make a good impression on your MAN. (via Alarming News) And fetch him a beer while you're at it. A commenter at Alarming News points out that Sloane Crosley, interviewed in the Times article, wrote a piece for the Village Voice that began, "White girls with big asses, man." Just sayin'.

5. Apparently, NASA has revised downward its temperature data, at least for the United States, because of a Y2K bug. Ace discusses. Also read the post at HotAir and the long post at Coyote Blog. What people naturally are puzzled about is why some of the scientists in this area won't release their data. From Ace: "The bug was discovered by someone who took the time to reverse-engineer Hansen's flawed algorithm...."

6. "Hashem saved me," says a former Yeshiva student in Minnesota who survived the bridge collapse. Dude, if I were you, I'd be asking myself why Hashem hurled me off the bridge in the first place.

Originally, I was sure this item was a hoax. The name of the young man is Roman Koyrakh. That's one external and one internal enemy of the Jews. Korach, who led the rebellion against Moses in the wilderness, died when God opened up the earth, which swallowed him up along with his followers. Hmmmm.

But I was wrong, I think. There is a guy named Roman Koyrakh in the Minneapolis area. (Check the middle photo on page 12 of this pdf.) Sure, he doesn't look like a yeshiva bachur there, but that's a 3-year-old photo, and maybe he's become frum.

Click here to read more . . .

August 08, 2007

Your Wednesday linkest

1. An amazing column about anti-American propaganda, written by Ion Mihai Pacepa, "the highest-ranking intelligence official ever to have defected from the Soviet bloc," in yesterday's Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt:

During the Vietnam War we spread vitriolic stories around the world, pretending that America's presidents sent Genghis Khan-style barbarian soldiers to Vietnam who raped at random, taped electrical wires to human genitals, cut off limbs, blew up bodies and razed entire villages. Those weren't facts. They were our tales, but some seven million Americans ended up being convinced their own president, not communism, was the enemy. As Yuri Andropov, who conceived this dezinformatsiya war against the U.S., used to tell me, people are more willing to believe smut than holiness.
Of local interest, another excerpt:
Unfortunately, partisans today have taken a page from the old Soviet playbook. At the 2004 Democratic National Convention, for example, Bush critics continued our mud-slinging at America's commander in chief. One speaker, Martin O'Malley, now governor of Maryland, had earlier in the summer stated he was more worried about the actions of the Bush administration than about al Qaeda.
2. Huge story at HotAir about jihadis linking up with Mexican drug gangs to finance terror. For those of us who are moderately pro-immigration, national security is the big elephant sitting in the corner. Unless you close down the borders to stop these people first, you can't be generous about immigration for the law-abiding.

3. Out: Don't Ask, Don't Tell. In: Make 'Em All Gay. The best comment there is "Armed and fabulous?"

Click here to read more . . .

August 07, 2007

Competition and marriageability

When I was in college, my black roommate once complained about a black classmate who had announced to her black friends that she would never marry a white guy. My roommate thought this was extremely intolerant of her.

I defended her. More precisely, I said I could understand her position. I told my roommate that I planned to marry within the faith and that while there were many perfectly wonderful women in the world who were not Jewish, I didn't plan to marry any of them.

In today's Best of the Web Today, James Taranto notes a news story about black women who are beginning to shake off the rules imposed by their mothers against dating and marrying white men. He argues that the story would not have been told in as sympathetic a light if the races had been reversed.

That's true, certainly, but it isn't his main point. He argues that anti-white prejudice is more harmful to blacks than anti-black prejudice is to whites. Blacks who refuse to marry whites rule out 87% of the population (actually, it's quite a bit less, because there are other races), while whites who refuse to marry blacks rule out only 13% of the population. Of course, it's harmful only if there's something wrong with the men who are black. The news story suggests there is, at least in the minds of black women: "She reflects many black women frustrated as the field of marriageable black men narrows: They're nearly seven times more likely to be incarcerated than white men and more than twice as likely to be unemployed."

So it may well be true that refusing to consider marrying white men hurts black women, but Taranto goes on to make a more debatable argument: that the attitudes of black women actually cause (in part?) the unmarriageability of black men.

What the AP misses is that the unmarriageability of black men is an effect as well as a cause of black women's attitudes. Competition for mates is an important incentive for young men to succeed in the economic marketplace, to be willing to make romantic commitments, and otherwise to behave responsibly. If a large number of black women are unwilling to consider dating or marrying nonblack men, this competitive pressure on black men is vastly reduced, and with it the incentive to succeed.
This is interesting economics but dubious sociology. Although I know nearly nothing about the sociology of American blacks, I do know a small amount about the sociology of Jews over history.

Through most of the two-millennium history of the Jewish diaspora, Jews did not intermarry with non-Jews. Given that Jews were always a minority in the societies in which they lived (modern Israel, of course, excepted), Taranto's theory should have applied to them. If Jewish women were unwilling to consider marrying non-Jewish men, and limited themselves to their own small minority group, why didn't this reduce the pressure on Jewish men to succeed? (Yeah, I know; they all had Jewish mothers. Very funny.)

Not only didn't it reduce the pressure on Jewish men to succeed but it may in fact have increased the pressure to succeed in a culture that valued marriage highly. If there were limited marriage choices among the Jewish women in the community, and only Jewish women were marriage candidates, surely the more successful Jewish men would get the more highly prized women. (In some communities, the best young scholar would be matched up with the daughter of the leading rabbi. In others, presumably, the most successful young man would get the woman from the wealthiest family.)

Which leads me to believe that Taranto's economic theory leaves out a critical factor: the importance of marriage in the subculture. In the Jewish subculture through the ages, marriage was valued above almost all else. In modern America, regardless of religion or race, marriage is valued somewhat less, and it appears that among contemporary black men, marriage may be valued even less. If marriage were a focal point of American black culture, it wouldn't matter if blacks insisted upon marrying only within their race. There still would be pressure for men to succeed and to become marriageable, despite the smaller group of potential wives. But since marriage is not terribly important to black men, why should anyone think there would be any competitive pressure on them to succeed in order to marry?

Click here to read more . . .

Another reason not to use ads

I've mentioned a couple of times that I don't have Google Ads -- or any ads at all -- on this site, because I treat Pillage Idiot entirely as a hobby. I'm very fortunate to make enough money in my day job that a few bucks from ads on this low-traffic blog wouldn't be such a big deal. I don't mean to imply any criticism of bloggers who advertise, especially people who really need extra income, but for me, being ad-free keeps the site clean, my mind pure, and -- uh, wait a minute!

Anyway, here's another reason not to have Google Ads. Earlier today, someone visited Pillage Idiot by doing a search for "penal law 245.01 penis." To explain: In June, I wrote one post about the seal oosik, or penis, and another post called "De minimis non curat lex?" about a woman who'd settled a lawsuit against the City of New York that arose out of her arrest for walking topless in Manhattan in the wee hours of the morning. (That latter post alone, by the way, got me about 9,000 or 10,000 site visits, including 6,000 hits from search engines.)

I clicked on the link to the visitor's search and discovered this page. Click to enlarge it (oops, careful what I say!).

I realize that's a sponsored link at Google, not a Google ad, but considering the stuff I write about here, a context-based ad like that could have been on my front page. Yikes!

Click here to read more . . .

August 06, 2007

Walt Whitman goes to Gitmo

So it turns out that the terrorists we're detaining at Guantanamo are not terrorists at all but merely poets:

I dream to be home, to be free from this cage.
But do you hear me, oh Judge, do you hear me at all?
We are innocent, here, we've committed no crime.
Set me free, set us free, if anywhere still
Justice and compassion remain in this world!
Excuse me while I throw up.

If this reminds you of the Eddie Murphy shtick as Tyrone Green reciting "Kill My Landlord" on Saturday Night Live, you're not alone.

Click here to read more . . .

Naked before God (and naked without Him)

Why is this called "Cover Story," anyway, is what I want to know? The Christian Nudist Convocation: Naked before God.

He has joined more than 20 others for the Christian Nudist Convocation, a semi-annual gathering of salt-of-the-earth folks whose dedication to being nude whenever possible is rivaled only by their love for Christ. “May the Lord protect our nudity from the sight of those who will not benefit, and may He allow us to be seen by those who will.... Amen,” goes the prayer from one of the nudist’s websites.
If that's your taste in religion and clothing, I guess.

Then, of course, there's Naked without God, which is perhaps more common, at least in Massachusetts:
"Your underwear are probably soaking wet," said Hall, 61, to a visitor.

Wet underwear is just one of many reasons why Hall prefers the nudist lifestyle of Sandy Terraces, the Marstons Mills campground where skin is in.
On the other hand, as far as I know, having done no research, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has not yet ruled that a woman has an equal-protection right to go topless in Boston, as the New York Court of Appeals has ruled with respect to New York.

Bonus: My wife occasionally clips advice columns to discuss with her Russian students, and she'd left this on the table. She was interested in the first letter, but I was more curious about the third one:
Dear Amy:

You answered a letter from a "naturist" in your column and made some disparaging comments about gardening in the buff.

Actually, Amy, nude gardening is an extremely enjoyable exercise, something my wife and I have been doing for more than 50 years.

There is a formal "World Naked Gardening Day" each year in the first part of May.

Our garden is beautiful.

A Happy Gardener, Richmond, Calif.

Responding to this letter, I made a comment about nude gardening and hedge trimmers. Based on the responses to this letter, however, many people enjoy nude gardening, despite what I perceive as its obvious risks.
Not to mention the risks that your neighbors have to face -- of being mooned without their consent.

(first item via Drudge, second via BOTWT)

UPDATE: And more "Dear Amy" via Fark:
Dear Amy: I am a 40-year-old divorced father of 14-year-old twin sons.

Recently, a new neighbor moved in next door. She is a very nice, charming and easy to get along with 30-year-old single woman whom I'll call "Martha." A problem has arisen, and I need some advice. On weekend afternoons when my sons play baseball in our back yard, Martha sunbathes topless in her back yard (always while lying on her stomach, as far as I know).

The tall wooden fence between our yards provides her some privacy. However, when the boys hit a foul ball into her yard, she allows one of them to come over to retrieve it.

Even though the fence is tall enough to prevent the boys from peering in at her, and even though she stays lying on her stomach whenever she is topless, the boys seem to hit more than their fair share of foul balls over the fence. This past weekend while they were retrieving a ball from her yard, Martha allowed one of the boys to apply sunscreen lotion on her back.

I found her behavior inappropriate, because my boys are at the age when they notice girls, and because she doesn't always keep her arms tightly at her side when sunbathing.

When I spoke to her about this, Martha said that it isn't a big deal and that the boys are perfect gentlemen.

Now what do I do? Am I making a big deal out of nothing? Should I prohibit my sons from backyard baseball and make them go to the playground field a few blocks away?

- Concerned Dad in Pa.

Dear Concerned: The lotion spreading is not good at all.

If your sons were daughters, and if your neighbor was a 30-year-old man, you would see this behavior as worse than inappropriate. You might see it as predatory. Of course "Martha" doesn't think this is a big deal. But she is in no position to judge.

Your sons should not have any physical contact with your neighbor.

As their dad, you should make this extremely clear to all parties, and then you should be vigilant to make sure that their contact remains nothing more than a neighborly "howdy" over the back fence.
Really. If you have to ask....

Click here to read more . . .

August 05, 2007

Headline of the day

"China tells living Buddhas to obtain permission before they reincarnate"

Times of London (via HotAir)

Click here to read more . . .

Like father, like son

In a perverse way, this is impressive, sort of like Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. playing in the outfield together in Cincinnati Seattle:

Joshua W. Andrews, following in his father's footsteps, was sentenced to death yesterday.
But in all seriousness, one can only say that "Junior" here is getting what he deserves.

He and an accomplice went to an apartment in Virginia to rob the occupants, whom he forced to strip naked and climb into the bathtub, where he shot them in the head. Two victims were killed and one survived. He and the accomplice then went to another Virginia location, where they shot and wounded a store clerk. Later, they headed to New York, where they shot and wounded two men. They were convicted in New York on two counts of attempted murder.

Considering that "Senior" was a convicted murderer, it will not surprise you to learn that Junior's upbringing was dubious, not to say totally demented. According to defense counsel:
When Andrews was a baby, his father was sentenced to death for his part in killing two people during a jewelry store robbery in Texas. Andrews grew up with a drug-addicted mother, who often left her three sons to fend for themselves, and an abusive stepfather. Andrews spent time in psychiatric facilities.

When he was 8, a neighborhood boy pushed him into a shed and set it on fire. Andrews was burned on his face and hands. Children teased him, calling him "crispy critter." Later, he was called "scarface."

When Andrews was 13, his father was stabbed to death by a fellow inmate in a Texas prison. The teenager ignored the urgings of his mother and brother to scatter his father's ashes, according to testimony. Instead, Andrews kept the box of ashes in his bedroom or carried them around in his black-and-maroon backpack, which was shown to the jury.
But who really can feel sorry for this man, whom prosecutors referred to as a "killing machine"? Who, that is, besides the anti-death penalty ideologues?

One such ideologue blames society. I know that's a tired joke, so don't take my word for it; read this instead:
[H]ow did Mr. Andrews become a hardened criminal with his father as the textbook example of deterrence?

The answer lies that if you have an at-risk child from a poor, abusive family with little by way of social services, once they reach adulthood, the mean streets will take their toll.

Like weeds in unattended lots, too many children are left to fend for themselves; and as adults, we then incarcerate or execute them because they grew wild as blazes.

Until we learn to protect our offspring from the scourge of poverty, illiteracy, missing fathers and broken families, the cycle of violence continues -- unabated.
There's no doubt that Andrews had a miserable childhood, but here's what bothers me:

1. Many people grow up with miserable childhoods and yet do not commit murder. If this writer's determinism is correct, how do we explain that?

2. The issue here is capital sentencing, but why wouldn't the criminal's miserable childhood justify acquittal? That seems to be the implication of the argument that "the scourge of poverty, illiteracy, missing fathers and broken families" leads to a "cycle of violence." If we as a society have no right to punish a murderer with death simply because he had a miserable childhood, why are we allowed to punish him at all?

3. Drawing from 1 and 2, doesn't the argument that society is responsible for the murders, rather than Andrews, treat him as sub-human? Death-penalty opponents speak as if we must treat murderers humanely, but all too often they themselves treat them as less than human.

Click here to read more . . .

August 03, 2007

"Frozen cash" congressman has some success in court

With the D.C. Circuit holding that the search of the office of Congressman William "Frozen Cash" Jefferson (D-Louisiana) violated the Speech Or Debate Clause, and that some materials had to be returned to him, it's time to recycle my photo comic from last year, "Bush consults the Chief of Control."

Click here to read more . . .

August 01, 2007

On vacation mini-linkfest

You're probably pretty bored with re-reading the Bill Clinton photo comic by now, but I'm on vacation, so I'll just give you a little to read for now.

1. If you tell a joke to your grandfather or your father and he doesn't get it, it might be because of cognitive decline resulting from age. On the other hand, it might just be that the joke you told was idiotic.

2. Two can play at that game. Or changing the allocation of electoral votes in large blue states can help Republicans, just as doing so in red states can help Democrats.

3. 237 reasons for having sex? Well, they are college students, after all.

(first two via HotAir)

Click here to read more . . .