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December 31, 2008

Home furnishings we can believe in

From the ridiculous to the merely tacky.

Today, it's not the plastic surgery industry that's seeking to profit from the Messiah's election; it's the home furnishings industry.

Last night, I was on the Metro platform at Gallery Place and noticed two large banners hanging from the balcony (the mezzanine, in Metro-speak). Two large banners in yellowish-gold reading "Embrace Change." I walked up a little closer to see what the fine print said, and it turned out they were ads for IKEA. Yes, IKEA, the furniture outfit.

In my search this morning, I haven't found anything about this ad campaign, but I wrote down the URL last night, and here's the campaign's website.

"Where do you stand on domestic policy?" it asks. "Speak out and let the president know your suggestions for fiscally responsible home furnishings." Very cute.

Also: "Enter your email to be updated when the Oval Office planner is up and running to make your voice heard!"

OK, I'll make my voice heard now. This is almost as tacky as the Obama camp's solicitation of money in a lottery for tickets to the inauguration. (At least IKEA is a commercial enterprise. I mean, at least IKEA is a self-described commercial enterprise.)

Click here to read more . . .

December 28, 2008

Carnival of Maryland -- 49th edition

The 49th edition of the Carnival of Maryland is now up at Inside Charm City. You can find links there to posts from our Maryland bloggers.

The 50th edition is scheduled for Sunday, January 11, and will be hosted at The Greenbelt.

Send in your submissions by using the Blog Carnival form.

Click here to read more . . .

Plastic surgery we can believe in

This is absolutely the best print ad of the year. Without a doubt, the best!

Assuming, of course, that you define "the best" as "the most shameless and outlandish (and therefore hilarious) effort to cash in on Obama's election."

The ad below appears in the Washington Post Sunday Magazine today. You can click for, uh, a larger image, but I'll quote the relevant text, which the ad places strategically on top of the woman's right breast:

The Ultimate You

With 2008 coming to a close, the main theme of the new year is change. President-Elect Barack Obama ran a successful campaign with the promise of change, and Americans seem ready to embrace it, despite an uncertain economy. With Americans becoming increasingly thriftier, and not spending as much money on themselves, you might think an amazing transformation with the help of plastic surgery is an unattainable luxury. However, watching your finances does not mean that you have to sacrifice your appearance. Many of our featured physicians have tailored some of their services toward affordability, as well as offering financing so that even in these shaky financial times you can still become the "Ultimate You" and feel fantastic about yourself.
The ad copy then discusses the clinic and actually continues on for another page, but this is all you need to see.

I've even created the appropriate poster for it.

Click here to read more . . .

December 26, 2008

Friday linkfest

1. Top ten calamities for which global warming was blamed. (via HotAir)

2. Get your Koran on your cell phone, courtesy of . . . an Israeli company?

3. Yankees offer bleacher seats for 25 cents for exhibition openers. Scalpers begin drooling immediately.

4. The only thing better than a huge foul-smelling flower is its Latin name. (via Ace)

5. Indicted lawyer was "the Houdini of impersonation and false documents." Bonus: I met the guy back in the early 1980s but haven't seen him since then.

Click here to read more . . .

December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to my Christian readers. (Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish readers.)

A few old thoughts of mine about Jews and Christmas. In paragraph 6, I suggest that Jews should volunteer on Christmas to take the place of Christians who want to celebrate the holiday. In this article from the Rockville Gazette, we see that in action. (Bonus: The Muslims are participating, too.)

Click here to read more . . .

December 23, 2008

OPG (other people's garbage)

Rockville has a new trash and recycling program, and my neighborhood is part of the guinea pig program -- I mean, the pilot program. It's actually not so bad. One pickup a week, but they give you massive containers on wheels for garbage and recycling, and much more can be recycled than before.

But last week, after we had brought our containers back in, we noticed that some lovely person, presumably a neighbor, had deposited three bags of lawn clippings next to our driveway, where our garbage and recycling had been. A week later, I'm still pretty annoyed about it. I expect the City will take it away tomorrow, but leaving your junk on someone else's curbside is really low.

It reminded me of a commenter's remark at protein wisdom, which I quoted two years ago, and I'm going to quote again, because it cracks me up.

O, god. Don’t get me started.

When I lived in San Francisco, I was forced to sneak out around at midnight once a week to hide my excess trash in other peoples’ garbage cans. You run through the neighborhood looking here and there for someone with a little spare space in their can.

And people run past you in the dark doing the same thing. Often, I’d come home to find some asshole had abandoned a whole bag of his garbage next to my can, so I’d have to go back out again and find another place for it. You could sit up all night guarding your can. The alternative was to have to haul a can of someone else’s smelly garbage back into your house and keep it for a week.

And try getting rid of an old car. Just try.
So I guess things really could be worse for us. Sitting up all night on guard would be a pretty nasty assignment when the temperature's 15 degrees.

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December 22, 2008

Monday linkfest

What, another linkfest? Yes, another linkfest.

1. Major scoop: Supreme Court justices might be influenced by their clerks.

2. Baltimore efficiency: "Members of Baltimore's Board of Fire Commissioners will receive their final paychecks at the end of this month, after a recent discovery by the city's Finance Department that the members have not been eligible for a city stipend since 1996."

3. New doll: "I made a stinky."

4. Try it with a photo of Wolf Blitzer.

5. Talk about pollination!

6. Rockville in the news: If you get a speed camera ticket, you might be the victim of a prank; "students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that 'mimic' those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later."

(4 and 5 via The Corner, 6 via Ace)

UPDATE: 7. The Weekly Standard's parody imitates Pillage Idiot. ("**** them!")

Click here to read more . . .

December 21, 2008

Sunday linkfest

After a slow week, I figured I'd throw together some links.

1. The media mocked Bush, and an pro-Sadr Iraqi journalist threw shoes at him, but the troops he sent to Iraq gave him a tremendous welcome. It's got to be heard to be believed. (via HotAir)

2. Ronald Radosh on Bush and the Jews.

3. From November, but still timely: Don Feder on the Jewish vote.

4. Almost as old but not quite: Mark Steyn on the murders at Chabad in Mumbai.

5. Coming soon to the Mets' bullpen: J.J. Putz. Next headline: "Some Putz blows the lead." Bonus: New York Times uses the P-word, the clinical term, in its article.

6. Gallows humor.

7. Mocking Time magazine may be easy, but it's still enjoyable.

8. This semi-earnest discussion of the grammar to be used when mixing a certain bad word with Gov. Blagojevich's name is quite amusing.

9. Invest in skateboards?

10. Well, at least Obama will receive excellent advice from his new science advisor. Just tell the Messiah not to invest with him. (via HotAir)

Click here to read more . . .

December 16, 2008

Happy Beethoven's Birthday!

On Beethoven's birthday (he would be 238 years old), I'm going to link a piece I wrote last January called "Starting with nothing," in which I discussed the second movement of the Op. 59, No. 1 string quartet. In that movement, Beethoven used "very basic materials to create an incredibly complex work of genius." This piece gave me the opportunity to tell a couple of stories, including my favorite concert story ever.

Click here to read more . . .

December 14, 2008

Rod Blagojevich and Rahm Emanuel talk business

"Reputed potty mouth Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) has found redemption. Actually, just vindication. The congressman, who curses about as regularly as a clock ticks, is heralding a study out of London claiming that swearing in the workplace boosts team spirit."

-- Washington Post

"Rahm Emanuel, President-elect Barack Obama's pick to be White House chief of staff, had conversations with Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration about who would replace Obama in the U.S. Senate, the Tribune has learned."

-- Chicago Tribune

(Rahm Emanuel walks into Governor Blagojevich's office.)

Rod Blagojevich: Hey, Rahm, get the f*** over here right now.

Rahm Emanuel: F***, Rod, I'm moving my a** as fast as I f***ing can.

Rod Blagojevich: S***, Rahm, tell me the f***ing truth here. You talking to the f***ing feds?

Rahm Emanuel: F***, no, Rod.

Rod Blagojevich: You wearing a f***ing wire?

Rahm Emanuel: F***, no, Rod, can we just stop this s***? I'm telling you the God's honest truth here. No s***. I'm bringing a plan straight from the f***ing Messiah himself.

Rod Blagojevich: The Messiah? Your people f***ing killed the Messiah, Rahm.

Rahm Emanuel: Bulls***, you f***ing anti-semite a**hole. Even the f***ing Pope says we didn't.

Rod Blagojevich: Yeah, s***, Rahm, what's the motherf***er's plan?

Secretary (over intercom): Governor, Dan F***ing Rostenkowski on f***ing line 4.

Rod Bagojevich: S***, b****, will you hold the g**d*** calls for me? I'm in a f***ing meeting. (To Emanuel:) The motherf*****'s plan, Rahm?

Rahm Emanuel: We're totally f***ed, Rod. You're so f***ing hot right now, the Messiah can't touch you with a ten f***ing foot pole.

Rod Blagojevich: What a lame motherf***ing a**hole that b****** is, anyway. Well, what the f*** do we do now? That c*** attorney general of mine is trying to get the f***ing state Supreme Court to push me out of f***ing office. Those guys are such pr***s.

Rahm Emanuel: "Pr***s"? S***, Rod, you gotta shut the f*** up, man. Those f***ers are all that stands between you and your f***ing a** in the f***ing slammer.

Rod Blagojevich: If I go to the f***ing slammer, Rahm, I'm taking a bunch of c*********s with me. We got aldermen up to their f***ing ears in horses***. We got union leaders with horses*** coming out their f***ing nostrils. S***, Rahm, you and that motherf***er you call the Messiah are up to your g**d*** armpits in it.

Rahm Emanuel: Bulls***, Rod, we have no f***ing exposure.

Rod Blagojevich: F*** you, Rahm, you're full of s***.

Rahm Emanuel: No, f*** you, a**hole.

Rod Blagojevich: I mean it, Rahm. F*** you!

Rahm Emanuel: No, f*** you, just f*** you, a**hole!

Rod Blagojevich:

Rahm Emanuel: I love you, Rod.

(They hug.)

UPDATE (12/15): Hot Air says, "Obama internal review: There were no inappropriate contacts with Blago." Ace: "Obama claims that his new statement, 'no inappropriate contacts,' is a reaffirmation of his previous statement, 'no contacts.'" Dang, these guys should have asked me for my transcript.

Click here to read more . . .

Actually, it came from us

When my sister was in high school in the late 60s, they used a history textbook that included something like this: "As Jesus said, 'Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.'" We all had a laugh about that, because hundreds of thousands of people had said the same thing before Jesus. The line is from Deuteronomy 6:4. *

I recalled this after reading Dinesh D'Souza's article in the latest issue of Hillsdale College's Imprimis -- Created Equal: How Christianity Shaped The West. The title adequately describes the thesis, so read it only if you feel like it. D'Souza notes that Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal. He says:

This idea of the preciousness and equal worth of every human being is largely rooted in Christianity. Christians believe that God places infinite value on every human life. Christian salvation does not attach itself to a person’s family or tribe or city. It is an individual matter.
Now, I certainly don't mean to disparage the contributions of Christianity to Western Civilization, which are significant, especially post-Enlightenment Christianity, and at a broad level D'Souza has a pretty good argument. But still, just like the line from Jesus, the equal worth of humans is not exactly a Christian innovation. It comes from Genesis 1:27, which says that God created man in His own image. I think it's fair for the Jews to get some credit for this.

And personal to DD'S: We know what you're implying when you say Christian salvation doesn't attach "to a person's family or tribe or city." You don't have to be cute about it. But if you were going to be fair, you'd have to admit that Jewish tribalism has little to do with the concept of salvation. Salvation just isn't terribly important in Judaism, which rejects original sin -- one of the innovations Christianity can really take credit for.

* Something gnawing at me tells me it was actually, "As Jesus said, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself.'" Which would make more sense but would be equally amusing, because, while Jesus said it, the line comes from Leviticus 19:18.

Click here to read more . . .

Carnival of Maryland -- 48th edition

The 48th edition of the Carnival of Maryland has been posted at The Political Octagon. It features the latest writing from our Maryland bloggers. Go on and check it out.

The 49th edition is scheduled for Sunday, December 28, and will be hosted at Inside Charm City.

Send in your submissions by using the Blog Carnival form.

Click here to read more . . .

December 11, 2008

Report: Harvard seeking federal bailout

With Harvard's endowment having taken an $8.2 billion hit over the past four months, Harvard President Drew Faust has ordered a salary freeze for all faculty and elimination of tenure-track and tenured faculty searches.

Well placed Pillage Idiot sources report that Faust has met privately with Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) to negotiate a federal bailout of Harvard. Our sources indicate that the three were in agreement that Harvard is too self-important to fail. Under the agreed plan, an outline of which was provided to Pillage Idiot, the Treasury would offer Harvard a bridge loan of $7.5 billion, but as part of the deal a federal "Liberal Arts Czar" would be appointed. The Czar would have authority to make decisions on curriculum, prohibit preppy attire, and renegotiate faculty contracts, with a particular focus on the women's and ethnic studies departments, which have been the worst performers over the past year.

Neither Frank nor Kerry would respond to a request for comment. Faust remarked that this was the kind of bargain one sometimes has to make.


UPDATE (12/15): We have learned that Yale wants "in" on the bailout.

It is important to recognize that $17 billion is still a very large endowment. This was where the endowment stood as recently as January 2006. Still, the 25% decline we have experienced has a very significant impact on our operations because income from the endowment supports 44% of the University’s annual expense base of $2.7 billion.
And Yale is asking you alumni for suggestions on what to do: "officers would also welcome any suggestions you would wish to make by e-mailing"

Still developing.....

Click here to read more . . .

December 09, 2008

Blagojevich holds an auction

ABC News story. HotAir: "Obama: I never talked to Blagojevich about the Senate seat; Axelrod: Yes, he did."

Click here to read more . . .

December 08, 2008


Not news: A distinguished scientific institution issues its journal with a Chinese poem on the cover.

News: The institution fails to get a translation of the poem before publication.

Pillage Idiot: The "poem" turns out to be a sexually suggestive annoucement of a burlesque show.

Click here to read more . . .

Economics 101 has lessons for Rockville

I live in Rockville, Maryland, which actually has one of the better managed governments I've seen. But everyone makes mistakes.

Until recently, one of the best-kept secrets had to do with parking at the Twinbrook Metro station. In the station parking lots, run by Metro, you would pay $4.75, assuming you've traveled on the subway. Outside the Metro, on the streets, the parking meters cost 25 cents an hour through 6 p.m. If you arrived at 8 a.m. and returned after 6, it would cost you only $2.50. A lot of people didn't know about this at all, and I told only close friends of mine. (Of course, some people knew about it and nevertheless avoided the meters, because they didn't want to keep rolls of quarters in their car or go to City Hall to pick up the electronic meter card.)

Recently, the City decided it needed more revenue from the meters, and effective last week, the price doubled to 25 cents a half hour (50 cents an hour). A 10-hour parking stint now costs $5.00, which makes the Metro parking lot a better deal by a slight margin.

Since the charge went up last week, almost no one has been parking at the meters near the Metro station. It used to be that at 8:00, there were still spaces available on the next block, but the two sides of the street right across from the lot were almost always full. Now, at 8:00, there are maybe four or five cars across from the lot, instead of roughly 30.

I suspect some people will eventually return, once they get over their annoyance at the price increase. But I wonder whether Rockville city council members realized that the City's revenue was going to drop when they raised the meter rates. Economics 101 suggests that there was an intermediate figure by which they could have maximized revenue. A charge of 25 cents for 45 minutes (33.3 cents an hour) or 25 cents for 40 minutes (37.5 cents an hour) might not have driven off all those parking customers.

So basic economics continues to work in Rockville. Increased fees, just like tax increases, can cause people to alter their behavior and reduce revenue in the process.

Click here to read more . . .

December 04, 2008

Responding to Mumbai?

This video from Aish HaTorah made it into my in box today. It's called "Responding to Mumbai."

I actually find it quite alarming. If you don't feel like viewing it, let me give you the gist: We need to respond to evil by doing good.

"When catastrophe happens," it begins, and after some images, it continues, "the Jewish response to evil is to put good into the world." It cites the Talmud for this proposition and suggests several ways to do good. Later, it says, "If 10 people can perpetrate so much evil, imagine what 100,000 can accomplish for the good." At the end, it lists many ways in which we can do good, and I endorse pretty much every one.

So why am I alarmed? Two reasons. First, the terrorism in Mumbai was evil, not a "catastrophe." A flood is a catastrophe. An earthquake is a catastrophe. A plane crash is a catastrophe. Terrorism is an evil. The video does say evil, but it starts by speaking of catastrophe, which suggests a force beyond our control.

Second, when terrorists commit evil acts as they did in Mumbai, it is actually wrong for us to think that doing good is the antidote. There's a time and place for good, but the first thing we need to do is to take strong action to fight the terrorists and their allies. And as long as we're thinking about Jewish law, perhaps we ought to keep in mind the directive that if someone comes to kill you, you must rise up and kill him first.

I see this video as reflecting a medieval diaspora mentality, in which we lack control over our destiny, flee in the face of cruelty, and survive solely through faith in God. At a minimum, the idea of doing good in response to evil has a religious, even messianic, component. (In America, we would say, "Kumbaya.") But let's be practical first. If Israel had followed this dictum of doing good in response to evil, without also taking steps to protect itself, there would be no Israel any more. Self-protection comes first, before anything else, including acts of kindness.

So let's all support tough measures against the terrorists and their allies. Fight evil today. Tomorrow we can talk about doing good.

UPDATE: The commenter who thinks I'm "a jerk" arrived here through a Google search for the phrase "the Jewish response to evil is to put good into the world." Google apparently doubted that this was the correct search. You can't make this stuff up.

UPDATE (12/7): Included in Haveil Havalim #194 at Shiloh Musings, where there are links to others who have written about Mumbai (and other topics).

Click here to read more . . .


Does the fact that I can't stand the Christmas songs that are pretty nearly ubiquitous these days make me an anti-semite? (I don't vouch for the accuracy of the list, by the way.) How about this issue: Why is it that, on average, the more religious the Christmas song, the better it is as music and the less religious it is, the more annoying it is? Can you say "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer"?

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December 03, 2008

Attila, the movie

Some years back, USA Network showed a movie called Attila, which I'm sorry to say I didn't watch. Possibly because it sounded like a soap opera about my namesake the Hun, who, despite his foul behavior, deserves better than that.

But I recently stumbled upon the free wallpaper I downloaded back then from the movie's site, and I thought I should let you have a look.

Click here to read more . . .

Harry Reid whiffs

"My staff tells me not to say this, but I'm going to say it anyway. In the summer because of the heat and high humidity, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol. It may be descriptive but it's true."

-- Senator Harry Reid

Suppose that, instead of spending $621 million on a Capitol visitors' center, Congress had spent a fraction of that to weed out only the foulest smelling of the visitors....

Senator Harry Reid: When you come into the Capitol building, we will now have you go through not only the usual metal detector but also a new device I call a "smell detector." And I'd like to give you an idea how this works. Because body odors come in four varieties. For men, that is, anyway; women have five.

Our new smell detector focuses on odor from the armpits, which I find is the most pernicious of all the body odors. Have you ever sat on a transatlantic flight next to a guy who hasn't taken a shower in a couple of weeks? Possibly a Frenchman? He smells like your next door neighbor's septic tank after you've sabotaged it. You know what I'm talking about, because you dregs of society are exactly the kind of people who sabotage each other's septic tanks. We cherish cultural diversity around here, but it's possible to abuse the privilege. You can imagine what we feel like when our workplace is invaded by trailer trash like you who probably don't even have running water.

For the second type of body odor we have a breathalyzer that tests for bad breath, instead of alcohol. Because we don't really care whether you've just had a three-martini lunch, or in your case more likely a six-Bud chicken-wing snack that you're still belching your way through as I speak. Just so long as your breath doesn't stink the holy hell out of the Capitol. I mean, some visitors have breath so foul you could light it on fire. You, sir, over there. I can smell yours from up here.

The third type of body odor, of course, is from the feet. Some folks could kill a moose at 50 yards just by taking off their shoes. So we're going to make you take off yours when you go through the smell detector, just the same way you take off your shoes when you go through airport security. Have you ever noticed how bad it stinks at the security line? That's why we've hired TSA veterans to handle our smell security. If they can stand it at the airports, we can rely on them to stand it here.

The fourth type of body odor -- and I'm trying to be delicate about this, but I need to be blunt here -- is flatulence. My staff just took a survey of the half-mile radius of the Capitol, and there are 8 Mexican restaurants in this little neighborhood. You know, it's a little difficult for us to detect potential flatulence among our visitors, but we've figured out a way to profile for it. The profiling data come straight out of the torture rooms at Guantanamo and are highly classified. So for those people we determine are flatu-risks, we have anti-flatulence underwear that we're going to make you wear if you want to come in the Capitol building.

Last, we know that some women have a really nasty smell "down there." You can tell who they are by watching people passing out in their wake. But just to make sure, we have a crew of specially trained labrador retrievers who will poke their snouts between your legs to find the perpetrators. I'm sorry to have to inform you that if you fail this "lab" test, we can't let you in at all, because it'll take hours for our security to separate these animals from you. I'll probably have the feminists at my throat over this policy, but take my word for it. This is a matter of national security.

Click here to read more . . .

December 01, 2008

Linking the Jews with the Indians

The alliance between Jews and Indians has become closer as we've watched the face of evil in Mumbai this past week.

In its modest way, the [Indo-Jewish] coalition attests to the deepening bonds between Jews and Indians, whether in Israel, India or the United States; and this week’s events demonstrate perhaps the most visceral and grisly element of connection, though far from the only one.

“I am seeing that there is some natural affinity being developed between India and Israel and Jewish people,” said Mr. Anighotri, 48, who owns technology and consulting companies. “Because both these countries and people have been affected by this kind of terror — killing of civilians, something despicable that is happening year after year.”

Cedric Suzman, who until recently was co-chairman of the Atlanta group, echoed the sentiment. “In times like this, you suddenly realize that you’ve built bridges,” Mr. Suzman said in a telephone interview. “So instead of recrimination and accusation, you have a huge coming together of sympathy and understanding.”

The affinity of which both men spoke extends well beyond the shared experience of being the target of Islamist terrorism, or the resulting military and security ties between India and Israel. The softer tissue of human experience — culture, religion, values — also binds Indians and Jews.
That link can only be stronger after the news that the terrorists attacked specifically Jewish targets and tortured their Israeli victims before killing them.

It's certainly time to work together for the future. As a friend of mine says, "A billion Indians and Israelis can't be stopped."

But first, we have to lay the responsibility where it belongs, to use appropriate language in speaking of this atrocity, and to reject the pernicious idea that it's our own fault.

Click here to read more . . .