Gen. Clark: I respect Beethoven's music -- he's a hero to me and millions of others -- but being deaf doesn't make you a great composer. It doesn't compensate for old melodic lines, weak harmony, or tortured rhythms. You can't ride your horse to greatness by being deaf.
Gen. Clark: And honestly, the use of a tinkly little triangle in the last movement of the Ninth Symphony . . . well, I'm not questioning his manhood or anything. [ * ]
June 30, 2008
Gen. Clark: I respect Beethoven's music -- he's a hero to me and millions of others -- but being deaf doesn't make you a great composer. It doesn't compensate for old melodic lines, weak harmony, or tortured rhythms. You can't ride your horse to greatness by being deaf.
June 29, 2008
You can do this in one of two ways. One, make it a serious photoshop. Two, if your photoshop skills are as pathetic as mine, do it as an obvious mock-up of the original poster. I couldn't do the brown tone or the shading on his face or match the fonts precisely. So, with appropriate apologies, here's the poster for Nino, First Blood Part II.
UPDATE (7/9): In order to have a Maryland angle for this post, I'm going to link the amicus brief submitted by New York, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico in support of the petitioners.
My old quip: "When I hear the words 'tikkun olam,' I reach for my wallet."
"Tikkun olam" is the Jewish concept of repairing or perfecting the world. It's been misappropriated by the Jewish left as a justification for trying to impose certain left-wing doctrine and policies on the rest of the world. (Hence, the reason for concern about theft of my wallet.)
In the new issue of Commentary magazine, July-August 2008, Hillel Halkin writes an extremely important article about this phenomenon: "How Not to Repair the World." Commentary usually makes its content available while it's current, but the magazine just came out and this is not yet available online. If you've been around Pillage Idiot long enough to read my rare serious posts, you'll realize I tend to understate things. But I don't want to understate this. The Halkin article is important enough for you to go out and buy the dead-tree version of the magazine, or at least, to go read it in the public library. Assuming a link becomes available, I'll update this post with it. [UPDATE: Sorry to report that Commentary is making only an abstract available, a short part of the opening of the article. UPDATE: Soccer Dad points out that many libraries have online access to Commentary if you have a library card.]
Halkin takes off from a collection of essays by Jewish leftists, many of whom invoke tikkun olam in support of their goals. But Halkin explains that there are several concepts of tikkun olam in Jewish thought, none of which supports the leftists' version. First, there's a religious, messianic version in the aleinu prayer, which is recited near the end of the morning, afternoon, and evening prayers. We pray that eventually, all the people of the world will recognize God's will. "We hope for the day when the world will be perfected under the Kingdom of the Almighty."
The second version of tikkun olam is a more pragmatic version found in the Talmud, a version Halkin describes as equivalent to the Jewish public interest. An example of it is the talmudic rule that if you are ransoming a kidnapped hostage, you must not, for reasons of tikkun olam, pay an excessive ransom. If you pay an excessive ransom, you'll "jack up the price" that others must pay to ransom their hostages. The public interest overrides your own.
Yet a third version is a spiritual one that was offered by the kabbalists of the 16th century. The idea was that the world was fractured at creation, and that individuals, through prayer and other spiritual activities, can help to repair it. As Halkin explains, this concept of tikkun olam is appealing to the political left, because it is open to reinterpretation.
Halkin then analyzes the essays I mentioned above, which he says are easy to caricature, because many of them caricature themselves. "They represent the ultimate in that self-indulgent approach, so common in non-Orthodox Jewish circles in the United States today, that treats Jewish tradition not as a body of teachings to be learned from but as one needing to be taught what it is about by those who know better than it does what it should be about."
There is much, much more of interest in this article, but I want to close the way Halkin closes, with a discussion of the prosbul, a subject I've ruminated about often and even written about myself. The prosbul (Halkin spells it "pruzbul") was a pronouncement from the great rabbi Hillel that created a huge loophole in the Torah's law of remission of debts. Halkin quotes a source I'd been unaware of, and he puts the entire issue into perfect clarity for me.
The Torah (Deuteronomy) states that in the sabbatical year, all debts will be cancelled. The sabbatical year is earth-centered, not loan-centered, so this doesn't mean you can always have six-year loans. If you lend in the sixth year of the cycle, the loan is cancelled the following year. The Torah itself recognizes that this is an idealistic law and contrary to rational economics. Deuteronomy 15:9-10 states:
Beware lest you harbor the base thought, "The seventh year, the year of remission, is approaching," so that you are mean to your needy kinsman and give him nothing. He will cry out to the Lord against you, and you will incur guilt. Give to him readily and have no regrets when you do so, for in return the Lord your God will bless you in all your efforts and in all your undertakings.In an attempt to make this law cancelling debts work, God Himself issues a threat (you will incur guilt) and makes a promise (He will bless you) in order to motivate people to overcome their natural and rational economic behavior. But even when God speaks, the law doesn't work. People don't want to lend money in the sixth year.
So the law, which was clearly designed to protect the poor from incurring permanent debt, had the unintended result of hurting the poor by totally drying up credit as the sabbatical year approached. (You don't have to have a vivid imagination to note the parallel with modern social legislation.) Hillel's prosbul allowed the loan to be assigned to the court so that it could be enforced past the end of the sixth year, in spite of the remission of debts in the seventh year.
What I didn't realize until reading Halkin's article was that the Talmud described Hillel's prosbul as having been enacted "for the sake of tikkun olam." Imagine that: The great idealistic legislation of the Torah, which was supposed to benefit the poor, was changed (or, I suppose, more accurately, was "loopholed" out of existence) by a pragmatic rule that seemed to favor the wealthy but actually helped the poor. And the justification for that change was tikkun olam, in the pragmatic sense of the Jewish public interest.
It is critical to keep this in mind whenever we hear the modern Jewish left invoking tikkun olam.
The 36th edition of the Carnival of Maryland is up at Soccer Dad. Soccer Dad has had a lot of experience with carnivals -- he founded Haveil Havalim -- so head on over there and check out the Carnival of Maryland.
The 37th edition of the Carnival is scheduled for Sunday, July 13, to be hosted at monoblogue.
Send in your submissions by using the Blog Carnival form.
June 28, 2008
From Saturday's Washington Post, a pair of stories:
1. A professor at Princeton's Institute of Advanced Studies (or "Advanced Salaries" as a friend of mine used to say) spends her time trying to track down the originator of the "Obama is a Muslim" email.
2. "Air Base Ex-Guard Convicted of Hiding Muslim Name"
June 26, 2008
Taking a page from the old Code Pink wacko book, Amnesty International has beclowned itself by setting up a see-it-for-yourself fake model of a Guantanamo cell. And where did this occur? Why, naturally, on the National Mall in Washington.
From the article in the Washington Post:
Amnesty International USA, the human rights group, set up the cell to dramatize its opposition to the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where since 2002 the United States has kept hundreds of prisoners, many of them terror suspects. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this month that Guantanamo prisoners have the right to go to federal court to challenge their detention.And if you think I'm joking about Code Pink, check this out: "Dressed in orange prison jumpsuits, Amnesty International staff members such as Jason Disterhoft, 32, posed for photographs inside the cell, apparently not minding the temperature, which approached 90 degrees."
Amnesty International has taken the cell on the road, displaying it in Miami, Philadelphia and Portland, Maine, to educate Americans about what it contends are human rights violations that the United States is committing at Guantanamo.
Compare and contrast. Here is Amnesty International:
Here is Code Pink, last month:
And by the way, do you know what else in on Amnesty's plate these days? The answer is: Decrying the execution of a Virginia man for murdering and nearly beheading a convenience store clerk. That's right; they're once again on the side of the murderers.
Key paragraph: "Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, director of Amnesty International USA's campaign to abolish the death penalty, said Yarbrough's execution 'marks a grim milestone for the state of Virginia. As evidence mounts that this country's death penalty system is flawed beyond repair, Virginia has become a virtual racetrack for capital punishment.'"
June 25, 2008
Public service announcement: Unless you're Baryshnikov, leave the ballet dancing to your daughters.
Well, Japanese toilets don't literally cause global warming, but then again, what really does?
In any event, the Japanese are hooked on, er, high-END toilets that consume massive quantities of electricity. (via Volokh)
Japanese toilets can warm and wash one's bottom, whisk away odors with built-in fans and play water noises that drown out potty sounds. They play relaxation music, too. "Ave Maria" is a favorite.They actually don't sound terribly expensive to me. The start-up cost is high, but the electricity cost seems fairly modest, given the luxury: "Luxury models cost up to $4,000 -- plus at least $2.50 a month per toilet in higher electricity bills."
High-end toilets can also sense when someone enters or leaves the bathroom, raising or lowering their lids accordingly. Many models have a "learning mode," which allows them to memorize the lavatory schedules of household members.
These always-on electricity-guzzlers (keeping water warm for bottom-washing devours power) barely existed in Japan before 1980. Now, they are in 68 percent of homes, accounting for about 4 percent of household energy consumption. They use more power than dishwashers or clothes dryers.
You should definitely read the whole article; anything that uses the phrase "toilet-smitten masses" is OK in my book.
But I want to highlight a couple of factoids for you. First: "The final report of the Electric Toilet Seats Evaluation Standard Subcommittee noted last year that 23 to 30 percent of Japanese men now sit while urinating. They do so, the report said, for comfort and for 'prevention of urine splash.'"
Second: "The report also included findings from the Warm-Water-Shower Toilet Seat Council (an industry group) that women urinate eight times a day, with an average on-seat time of 96 seconds."
Third: "For the addicted, Toto and other manufacturers -- with government encouragement -- have invented the intelligent toilet. After a few days on the job in a household, it memorizes when and how family members do their business. Then, with history as its guide, the toilet intermittently heats up its seat and warms its water."
I want one. Now.
Finally, on a related note, every Japanese man should be able to spend quality toilet time with his robot, so take a look at these "Love Seat Toilets" by Amigo Zhou. A potty deux, one could call it.
UPDATE: There's a short video on YouTube that shows how to make the toilet seat rise with a remote. Click on the image to view it.
You've seen the video of the cell phones appearing to make popcorn pop?
There's an amusing video, which you can find at HotAir, in which Obama figures cause the popcorn to pop. But I could swear that the woman in the video says, "Israel? Oh, my God!"
If you follow the link to HotAir, you'll see that I raised that in the comments. Another commenter responded that it was "It's real! Oh, my God!" That would make some sense, but if she were saying that, she would accent it this way: "It's REAL!" She actually says "IT'S real" or "ISrael." Who knows? Maybe she's just irrationally invoking the Israelis.
June 24, 2008
When I was in college, I was always desperate for summer employment. I saw a sign advertising jobs earning over $250 a week, which was a small fortune in those days.
My friend and I went to the meeting where the jobs were discussed. To our chagrin, they turned out to be in sales, which neither of us had the slightest aptitude for, and not just sales but sales of encyclopedias. Door to door.
Yeah, I know, the same nonsense you've read about. Hire a gazillion college students and run 'em through the mill. A few will succeed, and that's all you need for your business. The other ones drop by the wayside.
Unfortunately, my friend and I were pretty naive. We figured we were already there, so why not go through the interviews? Astonishingly, or so I thought, they offered me a position. I spent a couple of hours ruminating about it before I turned them down.
My friend had a better story. When they offered him the job, he asked them how they could possibly have offered it to him before comparing notes with all the other interviewers. The response? "We could tell by your body language."
The two of us, both kind of dorky, later had a bunch of laughs over that answer.
But it turns out that body language is actually a science. And one of the scientists, a former FBI counter-intelligence agent, has written a piece in the Health section of the Post.
I'll give you the short version: Boy meets girl. Boy reads girl's body language. Girl slaps boy's face.
Well, maybe I should phrase it this way: The agent figured out from his friend's wife's body language that things were about to fall apart in his friend's marriage. They did. He (the agent) went on a cruise and watched people in various stages of relationships or attempted relationships show their body language. He wrote about it for the Post.
But there's also a series of drawings to illustrate the common forms of body language. I'll give you an example:
Here's the set, in case you can read it:
What I want to know is what the following body language indicates:
June 23, 2008
1. Isn't this always true about men? "Doubts Raised Over Whether Md. Inmate Will be Committed" (Well, that was the headline when I first linked the story, anyway.)
2. Next time you're lost in the Alps and need to be rescued, try attaching your bra to a logging cable line. Especially if it's a size 36 DD. [UPDATE: Regrettably, the bra size has been debunked. Via Ace.]
3. Remember the Obama campaign office with the Che flag? Turns out that the woman who mans that post has been prohibited from talking about it.
4. And speaking of Che and Obama, I realize this has been around the 'sphere, but here's the office of the Ohio judge who overturned the state's death-penalty procedures.
5. We'll soon see, perhaps as early as Wednesday, whether this prediction is right. SCOTUSblog figures out that the Supreme Court's gun-control decision soon to be released in the Heller case is going to be written by Justice Scalia. The blog has a good track record. In April, it correctly predicted that Justice Kennedy would write the opinion in Boumediene, the Guantanamo case.
High fuel costs may force kids to drive their soapbox derby cars to school. Personally, I can think of worse ways to show up in the morning, like in your mother's blue-green 1994 Dodge Caravan.
(found at the Washington Post's Metro page on June 23, 2008)
June 22, 2008
Police sirens are heard in the background. Shouts of "Freeze! Hands on top of the car! Spread your legs!"
Voiceover: Have your rights be denied to you?
Sounds of Muslim call to prayer at Guantanamo.
Voiceover: Have people tried to tell you that you have no rights at all?
Voiceover: If you think they have, call Justice Anthony Kennedy, the protector of your rights, at 1-800-KEN-NEDY.
Justice Kennedy: Hi, I'm Justice Tony Kennedy. Has something like this ever happened to you?
Father: (in an angry voice) Do you know what time it is? It's 1:30. I told you you had to be home by midnight. This is the third time this month you've missed your curfew, so I'm taking away the car keys for two weeks.
Teenaged girl: (crying) Daddy! That's so totally unfair. I hate you!
Justice Kennedy: This scene could have unfolded in a completely different way.
Teenaged girl: (crying) Daddy! That's so totally unfair. And I have Justice Kennedy on the phone to protect my rights. Here, talk to him.
Father: Justice Kennedy, you have no business interfering in this family matter. Since the time of the Magna Carta, there's never been a single precedent in which the federal courts have intervened to tell a father whether or not he can take the car keys away from his child.
Justice Kennedy: History, shmistory, it doesn't matter. We're the Supreme Court, and it is emphatically our province to say what the law is, whether that law is the Constitution . . . a federal statute . . . the law of supply and demand . . . or the second law of thermodynamics.
The strains of "My country, 'tis of thee" are heard in the background softly, gradually becoming louder as Justice Kennedy continues.
Justice Kennedy: And everywhere you go where someone's rights are being denied, I'll be there to protect them. Because if I didn't protect your daughter's rights, the rights of teenagers everywhere would be at risk. And if I couldn't protect teenagers' rights, the President would probably transfer the detainees from Guantanamo to the homes of ordinary Americans in the hope that I couldn't protect them there. And as long as my name is Justice Anthony Kennedy, THAT . . . WILL . . . NOT . . . STAND.
Voiceover: If you think your rights have been denied, call Justice Kennedy at 1-800-KEN-NEDY. That's 1-800-KEN-NEDY, to get justice. He's waiting for your call to protect your rights.
Teenaged girl: Call Justice Kennedy. He's awe-some!
Not sure how to vote in November? Why don't you just ask Kim Jong-Il, the diminutive dictator in North Korea?
North Korea prefers Democratic candidate Barack Obama over Republican John McCain, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan said. * * * The communist country, which has survived a relatively hawkish Bush administration, considers McCain "a variant of Bush" and "nothing better than a scarecrow of neoconservatives," according to the Choson Sinbo, a newspaper run by ethnic Koreans in Japan.via One Free Korea, via Ace.
The photo at the news site reminds me of my photoshop from a couple of years ago.
June 19, 2008
Let's begin with a couple of mohel jokes.
Here's the oldest one in the book: A man is looking to replace his watch band and walks into a store that has watches in its store window. But the proprietor tells him he doesn't sell watches and accessories. "I'm a mohel; I do circumcisions." The man is indignant. "Then why did you put watches in your store window?" The proprietor shrugs and says, "What did you want me to put in the window?"
The second-oldest one: When the mohel retires, the community gets together to give him a gift for all the years of his service. It's a wallet made up of his clippings. When you rub it, it turns into a suitcase.
And try this real-life mohel joke: A mohel goes into court to challenge a speeding ticket. He tells the judge he was speeding because he had an emergency call from a mother whose son had recently been circumcised and was bleeding. He shows the judge his tool kit. The judge throws out the ticket. (via Fark)
Quebec's Jewish chaplain for prisons got a speeding ticket quashed after convincing a judge he'd been rushing to a medical emergency: a baby boy who was bleeding from a ritual circumcision.I suppose a mohel needs more than just skill to do his job. He needs a certain sangfroid (which is Yiddish for composure under stress).
"It wasn't like I was going 120 kilometres an hour - I was going a reasonable speed," Jacob Lévy told Judge Alain St-Pierre in Outremont municipal court Monday, where he went to contest the ticket.
After listening to the rabbi's story, the judge said Lévy had proven the "necessity" of why he'd been speeding, and threw out the ticket.
Lévy, who used to be grand rabbi of Geneva and also lived in France, leads the Sephardic congregation at Beth Rambam synagogue in Côte St. Luc. Trained in Jerusalem as a mohel, the Hebrew word for circumciser, Lévy has been practising the ritual procedure for 30 years. His first case was his own son, he told St-Pierre at the Van Horne Ave. courtroom, where he'd brought along his surgical kit as proof of his trade.
So it wouldn't surprise me to learn that this mohel had the chutzpah (which is English for chutzpah) to make this plea to the judge. And this was no ordinary mohel, I would add.
Last spring, he was named the province's official Jewish chaplain for prisons, succeeding another rabbi who'd held the job for two decades. As part of his prison duties, Lévy ensures inmates get kosher meals, Jewish prayer books and leather tefillin, which orthodox Jews wear to pray. He also arranges special day passes for Jewish inmates to attend marriages and funerals. Lévy is also qualified as a shochet, a ritual slaughterer of animals.This takes cojones (which is Yiddish for, you should pardon the expression, balls).
In April 2006, he protested the high cost of kosher meat in Montreal by slaughtering lambs himself for the Passover holiday and selling the meat cheaply. The move got him censured by the Grand Rabbinat du Québec, which declared the meat not kosher because it didn't have the stamp of approval of the Va'ad Ha'ir, the organization which supervises kosher labelling in the city.
As our final mohel joke, I'll leave you with this oldie-but-goodie ad from Saturday Night Live, circa 1977: "Royal Deluxe II."
June 18, 2008
How about paper plates?
"Investors Seek Asian Options to Costly China"
Headline, New York Times, June 18, 2008, page A1
Richard Danzig, national security advisor to Barack Obama
. . . and for Danzig's next selection on national security:
June 17, 2008
Is there anyone besides Dennis Kucinich who's still interested in impeachment at this late date in the second Bush term? I doubt it. Besides, prosecution in the courts is the new rage.
Normally, in our country, a prosecution is conducted by the government in a criminal case. I suppose one can say that one "prosecutes" a civil action by pursuing it toward completion. There is, after all, a concept known as "failure to prosecute" as a result of which a civil case that's not being pursued is dismissed.
But somehow, I don't think that's what the criminally insane people at the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover had in mind when they announced they were holding a conference to plan the "prosecution" of the President, Vice President, and other current and former administration officials:
A conference to plan the prosecution of President Bush and other high administration officials for war crimes will be held September 13-14 at the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover.The blog Above the Law wonders: "Hangings? C'mon, Dean Velvel -- shouldn't a liberal like yourself view that as violating the Eighth Amendment?" And Legal Blog Watch says: "Three citizens of Andover -- the town where MSL is situated -- were among those hanged for witchcraft as part of the 17th century Salem witch trials. These days, however, the town is a chichi Boston bedroom community known as home to equally chichi Phillips Academy. No doubt, any proposal to erect a gallows on the MSL campus might not make it past the local planning board."
"This is not intended to be a mere discussion of violations of law that have occurred," said convener Lawrence Velvel, dean and cofounder of the school. "It is, rather, intended to be a planning conference at which plans will be laid and necessary organizational structures set up, to pursue the guilty as long as necessary and, if need be, to the ends of the Earth."
"We must try to hold Bush administration leaders accountable in courts of justice," Velvel said. "And we must insist on appropriate punishments, including, if guilt is found, the hangings visited upon top German and Japanese war-criminals in the 1940s."
But the folks at the MS of L at A are apparently dead serious.
The conference will take up such issues as the nature of domestic and international crimes committed; which high-level Bush officials, including Federal judges and Members of Congress, are chargeable with war crimes; which foreign and domestic tribunals can be used to prosecute them; and the setting up of an umbrella coordinating committee with representatives of legal groups concerned about the war crimes such as the Center for Constitutional Rights, ACLU, among others.No post on such looniness would be complete without some mockery of the institution itself. I'll leave that to Above the Law, which notes:
Since the Massachusetts School of Law isn't even ABA-accredited, one would expect its alums to have an especially tough time finding legal employment. They're immediately eligible to sit for the bar exam in just two jurisdictions. For more details, see here.I don't think so. All you need is a furlough from St. Elizabeth's.
Well, if they can't find employment elsewhere, maybe they can go prosecute President Bush. Do you need to be admitted to the bar for that?
UPDATE: Point of Law has more background on the school and its dean, Larry Velvel, while the ABA Journal has a long quotation from the man:
Velvel tears into President Bush as well, writing: “The man ultimately responsible for the torture had a unique preparation and persona for the presidency: he is a former drunk, was a serial failure in business who had to repeatedly be bailed out by daddy's friends and wanna-be-friends, was unable to speak articulately despite the finest education(s) that money and influence can buy, has a dislike of reading, so that 100-page memos have to be boiled down to one page for him, is heedless of facts and evidence, and appears not even to know the meaning of truth.”And DUmmie FUnnies has a long laugh about it.
June 16, 2008
This time it was the bus that set him up.
Marion Barry, former Mayor for Life of the District, filed a claim with Metro asserting that a Metrobus sideswiped him last summer. There were no witnesses. As the WaPo story explains:
About a month later, Barry filed a claim against Metro. Metro tracked down the bus operator, who denied hitting any vehicle. There was also no damage to the Metrobus. Unable to confirm Barry's account, a mid-level Metro manager advised against paying the claim.So, of course, that was the end of the story, you're thinking.
Are you on crack? Are you? Barry sits on the Metro board. Needless to say, Metro took another look at the claim.
"We couldn't prove it one way or the other," [Metro General Manager John] Catoe said in a recent interview. "The reality is, he's a member of the board of directors.So now, it's the end of the story, you're thinking. Wrong again! Metro paid Barry $3,227.40 and sent him a letter saying that, while it was unable to confirm the truth of his story, "in recognition of your public position and your commitment to the public interest, [Metro] has determined that it is appropriate to accept your demand for full settlement."
"In my judgment, I did not feel that he would have lied about such a small claim," Catoe said. "I believed he was truthful, and I made the decision to pay him.
The $3,227.40 was an estimate of an independent appraiser, but in the meantime, Barry had his car repaired for about $1000 less. The Post raises an interesting question:
So, given Metro's financial difficulties, would Barry consider returning the $1,000 to Metro?All right. Now, it's the end of the story.
Barry said he couldn't remember the actual repair cost. An aide handled it, he said. "The case is closed where I'm concerned."
UPDATE (6/17): A letter writer to the Post notices something I missed in this story. Barry claims that his parked car was sideswiped on the passenger side: "a Metrobus sideswiped his car on the passenger side." Was it parked in the middle of the street? Was it parked on the wrong side facing traffic? The letter writer seems to take the charitable view that Barry was telling the truth but illegally parked, instead of the reverse.
Today is 104 years from the original Bloomsday, the day on which Joyce's Ulysses occurs. In celebration, I've decided to quote the book here. Out of nearly 800 pages, one has many, many choices, but I think I have the one right here.
In the chapter that takes place at the National Library in Dublin, where the characters are discussing or debating Shakespeare, Buck Mulligan offers this spoof of a poem by Yeats:
I hardly hear the purlieu cryIf you think that I suddenly became immature in my middle age, let me assure you it isn't so. When I was in college, I took a couple of years of music theory courses. One year, for our final exam project, I set Buck Mulligan's poem above to music. When the professor invited us to his house the following week, he told us he wanted us to perform our pieces. So I had the pleasure of singing my song with these lyrics for the class. And just to make it more pungent, the song called for a repeat of the last couplet for emphasis.
Or a Tommy talk as I pass one by
Before my thoughts begin to run
On F. M'Curdy Atkinson,
The same that had the wooden leg
And that filibustering filibeg
That never dared to slake his drouth,
Magee that had the chinless mouth.
Being afraid to marry on earth
They masturbated for all they were worth.
June 15, 2008
I'm sorry about the weather you folks are having in other parts of the country, but we had a beautiful day today. Sunny and in the 80s. I took advantage of the weather by going for a long bike ride, almost 32 miles.
I might not be able to keep up with the serious bikers, but I can kick a lot of people's butts. I do pretty well for myself. (Fill in the "for your age group" joke now.) I ride a hybrid, which is heavier and less responsive than a road bike. Friends have been trying to talk me into buying a road bike, but I'm still thinking about it.
For the ride, if you travel east and a little south from my house, you get to an entrance to Rock Creek Park, an absolute beauty of a park that runs from northern Rockville pretty much all the way to the Mall in D.C. There are hiker-biker trails zigging and zagging the length of the park, at least in Maryland. In D.C., there are some trails, but most of the riding is on roads. In the Maryland portion of the park, the trails are about 6 feet wide, bumpy, windy, and sometimes really hilly. They're also not always in great repair. I'd give their condition about a B-. (In D.C., the trail portion of the park gets about a D.)
I entered the park about four miles from the north end and rode to the D.C. border and back. I've done this before, but it was harder today -- I think because the temperature the last two times was about 8 or 10 degrees cooler. So all of the challenges along the way seemed just a little tougher. At mile 26 on my ride, about two-thirds of the way home, there's a really steep, winding hill in the park. It's probably not quite as bad as the hill on the other side at mile 6, but I have less stamina on the way back. More than half of the final five miles are uphill. Where it gets really hairy is at mile 30, going up a steep hill on Wootton Parkway for 0.4 mile until it almost levels off to pass over I-270. This is a killer. It's a good thing I'm offroad at that point.
And now, as always when I write about biking, I have to get something off my chest. In fact, I have to get more than one thing off my chest, so I'm going to number my things.
1. At least half of the bike riders (mostly, but not exclusively, casual riders) that I saw were not wearing helmets. I have some advice for you: You are morons. Contrary to what Obama told us about his use of a helmet, the reason you need one is not that kids will get the wrong impression if you don't wear one. The reason is that you personally risk injury to your head if you're not wearing one. You could do severe damage to your head and then you'd spend the next year randomly throwing around the words "hope" and "change" and "that's not the [fill in name] I knew." Dude, Lance Freakin' Armstrong wears a helmet. You should, too. You might be one of those adults who are basically overgrown teenagers and think that if someone tells you to do something, you'll do just the opposite, but this isn't asserting your freedom; it's just being inconsiderate. If you don't mind risking your life, that's fine, but think of the poor, unfortunate person who accidentally hits you. That person will probably feel guilty for the rest of his life.
2. To the extreme moron who not only didn't wear a helmet but rode the trails while chatting on his cell phone, I'd like to deliver a personal wedgie to you.
3. Sometimes (as you'll see if you click the links above) I have trouble with hikers and walkers, but almost everyone was well behaved today, including dog-walkers. I keep my flashing headlight on to warn folks coming toward me, and I always try to warn people I'm overtaking by ringing a bell. People responded well, and I shouted, "Thank you." However . . . those of you who wear earbuds are risking your lives, because you can't hear anyone coming from behind. If you want to encounter nature while blasting crappy music into your ear, don't do it on the trail.
4. Bikers are generally well behaved on shared trails, but we tend to be blamed for everyone else's idiocy. The county has recently posted 15 MPH speed limits on the Capital Crescent Trail, which is just insane. When I ride the trail -- going toward Georgetown, anyway -- I'm running 16 to 21 MPH, and I'm being passed by the serious bikers. So why do I say a speed limit of 15 MPH is insane? Because the serious bikers (and I) are aware of the rules of the trail and alert people when we're approaching. We're careful. The problem is with walkers who walk two abreast, who are zoned out with their iPods, who have no clue what's happening around them. There's rarely a problem on weekday mornings with commuter bikers, although I stopped riding to work 2 or 3 years ago because I wanted to stay married to my wife. The real problem is on weekends, or at least on Sunday when I've ridden the trail. There's a stretch of the trail from downtown Bethesda south about a mile or a mile and a half that's a little like Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street on Sunday mornings. The walkers, the dads with baby carriages, the philosophers lost in thought, are all clogging the trail, not following the rules about "uptown" and "downtown" traffic, and it's dangerous to me to ride there. I can see an argument for banning bikes after, say, 11 a.m. on weekends, but it's ridiculous to blame things on bikers who are there at 9 a.m., riding safely, and trying to avoid the morons and have a nice ride. Believe me, we don't want to run you over. But we wish you'd PAY ATTENTION TO THE FREAKIN' RULES OF THE TRAIL and let us ride safely. Thank you very much.
For the record, I have the complete DVD set for the Get Smart TV show and have watched all 138 episodes, plus many of the interviews that were included in the set.
And I'm not going to be one of the people attending the new Get Smart movie, even though Mel Brooks apparently likes it. Remakes of movies are questionable enough, but here, Don Adams is way too closely identified with the character of Maxwell Smart (and Barbara Feldon with 99) to redo the show as a movie with new actors. To say nothing of having to modernize the show from the 1960s.
I really don't see the point. There's plenty of room for comedy in spy movies. Why not an original movie with original characters? There's no point in trying to make this something it isn't.
I don't know how many people remember Clyde Crashcup, who, if memory serves, used to appear on Alvin and the Chipmunks in the 1960s, but on a whim, I searched YouTube and came up with my old favorite episode: Clyde Crashcup Invents the Bathtub. (Yes, I know you can embed the video, but I don't like to.)
Sure, it's not quite as funny as it was when I was a little kid, but you should definitely watch a couple of minutes, at least through his invention of soap. (That's "suh" for "suh" and "oap" for "oap," soap.)
It's great to be a father on Fathers' Day when you have kids who are good and decent people. And when your wife, who's in a class by herself, makes a special dinner featuring a recipe for London broil that's so spicy she can't even eat it herself. Now, that's altruism.
But there's really no way around the fact that on this day, I think a lot about how I miss my own father, who died about two and a half years ago. Looking back on what I've written at Pillage Idiot, my one regret is not showing my father a few of my rare notable posts. My father knew a huge amount about the Jewish vote, and I regret that I never showed him what I wrote on that subject. I guess I was convinced that it wouldn't live up to his standards, but I'm sure he would have liked it, anyway.
In 2005, while he was being treated for cancer, I wrote a few things about the situation, and I'll link them here.
I'm back (briefly describing my father's hospitalization)
Driving in Manhattan (talking about driving him to his cancer treatment)
A few jokes (including his favorite joke, which I still think is perfect)
My father died in early January 2006, and I spent the next 11 months saying kaddish for him. I discovered a few things about the daily minyan, because I was going twice or three times every day.
One-minute shacharit (how to shorten the lengthy morning prayers)
Memory (a rumination on saying prayers from memory)
Funeral fun (remembering how things didn't going smoothly at the cemetery)
Kaddish by the numbers (explaining how many times one says the kaddish during the 11 months; hint: it's a large number)
In the past year and a half, I've written less often about my father, but he's still constantly in my mind.
Thinking about my father (Thanksgiving Day thoughts)
Dreaming (seeing my father in a series of dreams)
The 35th edition of the Carnival of Maryland is up at Creating a Jubilee County. Joyce has done a nice job with this Fathers' Day edition, so head on over there now.
The 36th edition of the Carnival is scheduled for Sunday, June 29, to be hosted at Soccer Dad.
Send in your submissions by using the Blog Carnival form.
June 12, 2008
From the "What Media Bias?" files.
Several months ago, Montgomery County passed legislation to protect transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations. Some groups, citing problematic applications of the law to bathrooms and locker rooms, have tried to get the measure on the ballot in a referendum in November. That process is in litigation.
A local judge has now ruled that advocates for the law missed a deadline for challenging signatures. It's kind of a technical matter. But if you want to know what happened, check the Washington Post article.
On the other hand, if you feel like having a laugh at a less than neutral headline, check out page 11 at this PDF link (warning: large download) to the Washington Post Express, the free, junky -- er, even junkier -- version of the Post handed out at Metro stops.
The headline reads: "Judge Sides Against Transgenders," but the subhead is priceless: "Montgomery County judge rules in favor of discrimination backers."
Well, I guess if you oppose an anti-discrimination law, you're a discrimination backer. The same way, if you oppose a law restricting abortion, you're pro-abortion. I know the Post would agree.
June 11, 2008
What happens when you're a Maverick from Arizona and you retire from public life? Well, for one thing, no one remembers anything you've done, because it all depended entirely on you personally and very little of it was memorable.
This is pretty much what happened to Sandra Day O'Connor, who retired from the Supreme Court almost three years ago, in large part to undertake the sad and difficult task of caring for her husband, suffering from Alzheimer's, an act for which I hold her in the highest regard.
It turns out -- and you would never have suspected this, really, if were hiding in a cave somewhere -- that Justice O'Connor's judicial "legacy is fading away." (via How Appealing) But here's the thing: If your legacy is fading away in three years, you probably didn't have much of a legacy to begin with. As the article points out, "O'Connor set standards driven by the facts of particular cases." I've heard people refer to this kind of judge as "a lawyer's lawyer." But the fact is, it's just as likely that this type of judge is deciding cases based on personal whim. Here's why: If you can't articulate a rule that applies to more than one case -- or if you can, but your rule is so vague that you and only you personally can apply it -- you are simply imposing your own will. Undue burden, anyone?
So what is Justice O'Connor's latest, greatest project? According to a New York Times article (via Bench Memos), "Justice O'Connor is helping develop a Web site and interactive civics curriculum for seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade students called Our Courts (http://www.ourcourts.org/)." O'Connor was speaking at a "Games for Change" conference in New York. That's "change" as in "social change," by the way, as you can tell from the organization's site. The site offers you the chance to play a game called "ICED! I Can End Deportation," described as "an online interactive 3D Role Playing Game that teaches the player about the current U.S. policies around immigration that destroy families and fundamental human rights." Even better, you can play "PeaceMaker," a game that "is inspired by real events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." The description adds: "It challenges players to succeed as a leader where others have failed: bringing peace to the Middle-East. Playing both perspectives, players could experience the joy of winning the Nobel Prize or the agony of plunging the region into disaster." Who needs a game for this? The solution is easy: all the Jews should die, right?
Getting back to Justice O'Connor's "Our Courts" civics project, her hope is "to foster a deeper understanding of American government among schoolchildren." Great, but here's the very large chip that she carries on her shoulder:
"In recent years I have become increasingly concerned about vitriolic attacks by some members of Congress and some members of state legislatures and various private interest groups on judges," she said in her speech. "We hear a great deal about judges who are activists, godless secular humanists trying to impose their will on the rest of us. I always thought an activist judge was one who got up in the morning and went to work."Allow me to translate: Judges don't want to be criticized for their decisions, certainly not by some yahoos on the political right. In their view, or in O'Connor's view at any rate, criticism threatens the independence of the judiciary.
Now, right about now, you're probably thinking: "Didn't she and Justices Kennedy and Souter say something a lot like that in their joint opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey back in 1992?" Well, I'm glad you asked.
But when the Court does act in this way, its decision requires an equally rare precedential force to counter the inevitable efforts to overturn it and to thwart its implementation. Some of those efforts may be mere unprincipled emotional reactions; others may proceed from principles worthy of profound respect. But whatever the premises of opposition may be, only the most convincing justification under accepted standards of precedent could suffice to demonstrate that a later decision overruling the first was anything but a surrender to political pressure and an unjustified repudiation of the principle on which the Court staked its authority in the first instance. So to overrule under fire in the absence of the most compelling reason to reexamine a watershed decision would subvert the Court's legitimacy beyond any serious question.It's easy to be a cynic, but Justice O'Connor's purpose for training kids in civics seems to be to prevent the kids from growing up to criticize the judiciary.
"The overwhelming consensus coming out of that conference [in 2006 on the state of the judiciary] was that public education is the only long-term solution to preserving an independent judiciary and, more importantly, to preserving a robust constitutional democracy," she said. "The better educated our citizens are, the better equipped they will be to preserve the system of government we have. And we have to start with the education of our nation's young people. Knowledge about our government is not handed down through the gene pool. Every generation has to learn it, and we have some work to do."I guess it's no wonder Justice O'Connor receives such fawning press. The press, after all, has the same mindset: Criticize us, and you threaten the First Amendment.
I'm struggling a little to decide whether this attitude is the product of elitism or a simple desire for unchecked power. I'm leaning to the former, but I could be wrong.
But whatever the answer, I guess it's well past time for me to stop threatening the independence of the judiciary with this post.
June 10, 2008
Puzzle me this. You're standing trial for a crime, and let's work on the assumption (reasonable or unreasonable depending on who you are) that you're innocent of the charges.
Which of the following would you least object to having on your jury:
(a) Someone who sleeps through most of the trial.
(b) A member of Stormfront.
(c) Someone who's secretly made a deal to sell his story.
(d) Someone who plays Sudoku during the trial.
Call me naive, but I'd go with option (d). The way I see it is that if you're intelligent enough to handle the game, you're at least potentially able to multitask. Sleepers are obviously out of it, and neither of the other two is remotely unbiased.
This is not to say that having Sudoku players on a jury is ideal. But in the case described at the link, the jurors were playing it starting in Week 2 of a three-month trial until they were caught. How could that possibly have happened? It almost makes you wonder whether the judge, the lawyers, the witnesses, the bailiff, and the defendants themselves were all asleep.
(via How Appealing)
June 08, 2008
This is probably the all-time most absurd statistical record I've ever seen, but ya gotta love it.
"Padres Become First Team Ever To Win Four Straight 2-1 Games."
Even if the final three of them were at the expense of the Mets.
The Inquiring Photographer asks:
What do you think the significance is of the nomination of Barack Obama as the Democrats' candidate for President?
"I've never felt proud of my country until now, not even the last time I said I'd never felt proud until then. Why'd he win? Why'd he? Why'd he? Because the peeps know that there'd be rioting in the streets if he didn't.
Michelle Obama, Illinois
"I think it's a truly significant milestone in American history. I was tortured in Viet Nam so African Americans could run for President, even ones who are totally clueless about foreign policy. Not that I'm thinking of anyone in particular."
John McCain, Arizona
"It's really a fairy tale. I'm just concerned that the American people aren't ready to put a fairy in the White House."
Bill Clinton, Arkansas
"It's one of the most significant events in modern American history, and I mean that in all seriousness. Obama is the first man who ever stood in the White House door preventing of the first woman from becoming President."
Hillary Clinton, New York
"I cried all night about it. Why couldn't it have been me and not that skinny little punk with the white mother?"
Jesse Jackson, Illinois
"Don't mean s---, man, 'cause here's the thing: Man's got a Muslim middle name Hussein -- can you hear that? Hussein, Hussein, Hussein -- and no one can talk about it. S---, Obama himself don't wanna talk about his Muslim background. Why? 'Cause we got so many damn Islamophobes here."
Keith Ellison, Minnesota
"Ah say, suh, ah say! Ah nevuh thought ah'd live to see the day when a ni--, ni--, ni--, uh, a mayun who ain't white can run for President. Fortunately for me, ah'm not alive today."
Robert Byrd, West Virginia
"Burn, baby, burn!"
Al Sharpton, New York
The Inquiring Photographer: Where will you invade?
The Inquiring Photographer: How did you propose?
The Inquiring Photographer: What form of torture?
The Inquiring Photographer: Leaving your place of worship?
Drew Carey: Now, Senators, in our final round, each contestant will tell us how much of the government handouts that the voters want he will give them in his four-year term, and then how much it will cost. OK, you understand that?
McCain: Yes, I do.
Drew Carey: All right, then. Senator Obama?
Obama: I'll give the voters EVERY government handout they want, which will cost $4.0 trillion over four years.
Drew Carey: Thank you, Senator Obama. Senator McCain?
McCain: I'll give the voters ALMOST every government handout they want, and it'll be cheaper. It'll cost $3.8 trillion over four years.
Drew Carey: Wow, that's an interesting strategy. I've never seen that one before, at least not from a candidate who wanted to win the election. Heh, well, let's see now. All right. The answer is: Giving the voters every government handout they want, PLUS back massages on demand, at a cost of $4.1 trillion! Senator Obama, you WIN! Would you come up here, please?
June 05, 2008
Every first grader knows we've never had a black president, and every second grader knows that no major political party has fielded a black candidate for president.
So, then, tell me this: Why do the "scholars" interviewed by the Washington Post feel they're telling us anything by saying this nomination is "historic"?
On the other hand, at least one of them can't contain himself:
Older scholars seemed more cautious in their evaluations. Leon Litwack, 78, retired professor of history at the University of California at Berkeley and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for a book on the aftermath of slavery, said he had "strong doubts about whether the American people could really elect Obama. . . . There are still strong feelings about race in this country; it is still a very significant factor in American life. I think it still remains, in many respects, a racist society."So the argument really is that if we don't elect Obama, it proves we're racist.
I have two words for you, buddy. Just take a look at the photo of Obama at the top.
TO: Some guy who shares the men's room with me
I don't really know who you are. Given my location, you almost certainly work in a different office. But I do know one thing about you: You are deeply concerned about the environment.
How do I know this? I know because you're trying to save water by not flushing the urinals.
Now, please come a little closer to me so I can whisper something into your ear:
FLUSH THE FREAKIN' URINAL, ALREADY!
I'm sorry for speaking in capital letters and boldface, but dude . . . .
Let me spell it out for you:
Point 1: Although I'm personally certain that your motivation is pure, everyone else assumes you're just an a**h***. You probably think I'm kidding. But trust me, the rest of them walk in and see what you've left behind and they shake their heads at you for your terrible manners. They think you're an immature little jerk whose mother never taught him to have the slightest regard for others. (Yeah, that's right; I'm talking about your mother.) And they think you probably don't wash your hands, either. I've noticed that people are reluctant to shake hands nearby. I'm sure they're wrong about you. I know you're not a schmuck, just an eco-sensitive kind of guy, like Albert A. Gore, Jr., or Sean Penn, but nobody else does. You're developing a very poor reputation around here.
Point 2: The reality is you're not saving any water. Do you know how I can say this with confidence? Because every single time I walk into the men's room after you, I flush the urinal. Not to get too personal about this, but I flush it whether or not I'm planning to use it. In fact, everyone else but you flushes it. Because no one wants to stand there inhaling your urine. Sure, Gandhi drank his own lemonade, and I'd admire you a little more if you tried to save the environment by drinking yours. But we don't want to partake of yours. It lacks the usual, uh, health benefits for us.
Point 3: Since you probably have never had a relationship with a woman, let me clue you in on something: This will not stand, even if you do. If you've heard that women hate it when men leave the seat up, try leaving her a yellow surprise.
Look, I'm actually trying to help you. Your heart's in the right place. But if you keep refusing to flush, I'm going to rip out that heart of yours and flush it right down with the rest of the stuff.
Thank you for your support.
June 04, 2008
You know, it's always a little traumatic to have a major birthday, and by major, I mean one that makes you suddenly a lot older than you were just a few days earlier.
The first major birthday I had was what we called the "QC" -- or quarter century. I was in law school at the time, and it didn't really bother me, because I had a few other things to worry about.
I've had one or two major birthdays since then, but I want you to know that when I turn 100 and Mrs. Attila is 99, my goal is to drive the wrong way down the highway, with her sitting next to me, because I've never done that before. As I always say, trying new things keeps you young. (Incidentally, the story says that the couple will "probably" be asked to turn in their licenses. Probably?)
And just to clarify my goal for a minute: I want to drive the wrong way down the highway after mooning someone in a restaurant so hard that I broke the glass and injured the part of my anatomy that rhymes with it. (In the story it was a 21-year-old, but anything he can do, I can do better.)
And in case you were wondering: My goal is to drive the wrong way down the highway after mooning someone in a restaurant on my get-away flight after robbing a convenience store while wearing thong underwear. Wearing it not on my "glass," mind you, but on my face. To disguise me.
Why is this my goal?
Because whenever the press talks to a centenarian, they always ask this question: To what do you attribute your long life? And I'm going to borrow a line from Admiral Hargrade, known as "the Admiral" on Get Smart.
When they ask me that question, I'm going to state firmly and without a second's hesitation: "Prunes!"
June 02, 2008
So Hillary seems to be saying she's going to stay in the race (HotAir video) until the convention. Here are 17 things that could happen that support her decision to stay:
1. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June, so who knows?
2. A tape is discovered in which Louis Farrakhan scolds Michelle Obama for being too consumed with hatred.
3. Jeremiah Wright announces he's converting to Judaism.
4. It is revealed that Obama is not actually the Messiah, although he did once find a slice of toast with the image of Jesus on it.
5. The superdelegates are indicted for betting on the primaries.
6. Obama accepts Geraldine Ferraro's challenge to arm wrestle and loses to her.
7. Bill Ayers explodes.
8. MoveOn.org disowns Obama after he meets with Joe Lieberman about the vice presidency.
9. Six Mexicans are found in chains in a dungeon in the Obamas' basement, and Obama rushes to the microphones to say that this should not be imputed to him.
10. The Denver Police announce "shoot to kill" orders for protesters at the convention.
11. To further affirmative action, the DNC approves the addition of 250 new 65-year-old lesbian delegates, who promptly announce their support for Hillary.
12. Democrats strip Obama of delegates in 7 of our 57 states.
13. Obama accepts Ralph Nader's invitation to run as Nader's VP.
14. Obama reveals on national TV that he's had a 10-year infatuation with Tinky Winky.
15. Fr. Michael Pfleger denies that he is not gay.
16. Obama confesses that he's never really understood legal citation form.
17. Obama accidentally gives Howard Dean's YEARGGGHHH! speech.
June 01, 2008
Previous: John McCain reaches out to conservatives.
Senator Barack Obama
Dear Mrs. R---,
I understand from Michelle that you called to report that Sasha refused to clean up the Play-Doh after she used it Friday morning. Michelle says that Sasha gave you some backtalk about "white entitlement" and the "US of KKK A educational system." On behalf of Michelle and myself, we're sorry if you took offense at Sasha's language.
I'm shocked that Sasha could say that, but I stress that it should in no way be imputed to me or my presidential campaign. This is not the girl I've known since she was born seven years ago. As I've traveled this country, I've been impressed not by what divides us, but by all that unites us. That is why I am deeply disappointed in Sasha's divisive, backward-looking rhetoric, and by her failure to respect the environment by allowing the Play-Doh to leech potentially hazardous substances into the table tops where children may also be eating. If we think we can blithely mistreat our environment like this, we will never escape our dependency on foreign oil (and look where that got us in Iraq!). We can't just throw our Play-Doh around and expect other countries to say OK. That's not going to happen.
I think it would be helpful for you to know, as well, that John McCain's daughter absolutely terrorized her second-grade class some years back, although I agree that one man's "terrorism" is another's amusing distraction. In adult life, however, we have to avoid the distractions that prevent us from addressing the real needs of the American people and our children.
Thank you very much.
The 34th edition of the Carnival of Maryland is up at the Baltimore History Examiner. The Examiner has even given us a front page link. It's definitely worth your time to click over there and check out the latest Maryland-related posts.
The 35th edition of the Carnival is scheduled for Sunday, June 15, to be hosted at Creating a Jubilee County.
Send in your submissions by using the Blog Carnival form.