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November 30, 2004

Allawi found no WMDs in Ottawa

"Bush Defends Iraq Decisions in Canada"

Associated Press, Nov. 30, 2004

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Sweating the little things

When I was in private practice some years ago, a partner in my firm told me that when I got the transcript of our client's deposition, I should have him correct the big mistakes but not the small ones. The idea is that if you focus on small mistakes, it means you've looked closely enough to make sure to correct the big mistakes. In lawyers' terminology, you can't weasel out of inconsistencies by saying you missed something.

I was reminded of this by the news stories, of which this is the most recent, about a Palestinian boy who allegedly was forced to play his violin at a road block, to his humiliation. We'll leave aside the obvious jokes about Carnegie Hall. If this is what you're complaining about, there really can't be anything important that's wrong.

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Retirees leaving Florida

When the NY Times isn't discussing the frontiers of plastic surgery, it's talking about retirees who are leaving the Sun Belt to be with their northern families.

The typical retiree in this article, judging by the name, is Jewish and from Florida. So my question is (drum roll), how will this affect the Jewish vote?

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Frontiers of plastic surgery

I could tell you it was on the front page of the Sunday NY Times Sunday Styles section, and you'd read it. But that would be wrong.

If you're at all squeamish, DON'T CLICK ON THIS LINK.

And why in the world would this woman pose for a photo, which accompanied the article on the web? Did she imagine that the mirror would not reflect her face?

photo by Cindy Karp, NY Times

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Rhonda Gaynier again

Since a lot of people are reaching my blog by searching for Rhonda Gaynier -- I posted about her experience with an intrusive pat-down search 4 weeks ago and did an update last week -- and since AP had another story about her today, I thought I would address her plight again.

Comments seem to fall into two basic camps. First, this is an outrage because it touches women in places where they should not be touched (namely, the airport). Second, she should live with it because we want to stop terrorists.

My position, as I think is clear from previous posts, is that it's the wrong way to stop terrorists. It inconveniences innocent women to make us feel we're being kept safer. The right way is to be more aggressive in ethnic profiling. I haven't done the research on the legalities of ethnic profiling -- a thoughtful analysis by Roger Clegg may be found here -- but our policy should be to profile to the maximum extent of the law. As I noted in the previous update, it's our government's policy not to engage in profiling. This is a serious mistake.

Meanwhile, the rest of us submit to searches that may be perfectly legal but are also perfectly stupid. The women who apparently smuggled explosives onto Russian airliners weren't elderly black church-going ladies or even Rhonda Gaynier. They were people affiliated with Islamic terrorists. Why waste the time of TSA personnel when they could be focused on actual threats to our safety?

UPDATE (12/1/04): Charlotte Allen of the Independent Women's Forum agrees with me.

There’s a more effective way to do this, of course. It’s called terrorist-profiling. Remember that it was Chechen women--women who hated the Russians and had bought into the Islamo-fanatic ritual of suicide-killing--who seemed to have blown up those Russian planes. Not an American-born woman flying in America on business like Rhonda Gaynier. If we focused our searches on those most likely to bring down airplanes, we could leave the lawyers and the babies and the grannies alone.

But of course we can’t have that--it’s politically incorrect. And while Barry Steinhardt screams about groping to the TSA, his technology and liberty project continues adamantly to oppose terrorist-profiling. So, ladies, just grit your teeth and steel yourself for more indignity at the airport.

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State Department's new visa photo standard

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November 29, 2004

Hanukkah in Santa Monica

I have a lot of respect for Binyamin Jolkovsky, and I've linked to his Jewish World Review site on my sidebar. But what's going on with his opposition to Adam Sandler's song about Hanukkah?

According to the Washington Times, Jolkovsky thinks the song is an "embarrassment." "Hanukkah is about a lot more than menorahs or potato latkes," he says. "It's childish when you take a minority that doesn't take itself seriously and then you see what they're offering."

I'm not sure what that's all about. Hanukkah is not a religious holiday in the mold of Christmas, which it coincides with, but a holiday celebrating political freedom. Of course, there's a strong religious element to it -- the purification of the defiled temple and the miracle of the oil -- but mostly, it's a fun holiday. As the joke goes, They tried to kill us; we won; let's eat. Besides, Sandler's song is amusing.

All of which reminds me of Tom Lehrer's classic Hanukkah song, Hanukkah in Santa Monica. While Lehrer's politics are vershtunk, he's an unusually clever lyricist. Here are the lyrics. I've made minor changes in the Hebrew transliteration.

I'm spending Hanukkah in Santa Monica,
Wearing sandals, lighting candles by the sea.
I spent Shavuos in East Saint Louis,
A charming spot, but clearly not the spot for me.
Those eastern winters, I can't endure 'em,
So every year I pack my gear and come out here til Purim.
Rosh Hashana I spend in Arizona.
And Yom Kippah way down in Mississippah.
But in December there's just one place for me.
Amid the California flora I'll be lighting my menorah.
Like a baby in its cradle I'll be playing with my dreidel,
Here's to Judas Maccabeus, boy if he could only see us,
Spending Hanukkah, in Santa Monica, by the Sea!

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A novel worth reading twice (and more)

Hugh Hewitt asks which modern novels are worth reading twice. I don't read much fiction. So why am I responding at all? Fair question. It's because the obvious answers are sometimes overlooked.

I don't mean to put on airs -- I have previously quoted this novel in the same post in which I quoted Get Smart -- but I strongly recommend making the effort to read and re-read and re-re-read Joyce's Ulysses. I used to try to re-read it each Bloomsday, but now I just randomly pick a section, a few pages even, to read and smile about.

The full text may be found here. My two favorite passages are these: the first, an amusing anecdote told by Lenehan with a sympathetic treatment of Bloom; the second, a hilarious spoof of different styles of writing, including biblical, in a confrontation between Bloom and an Irish patriot.

First, the Lenehan anecdote.

Lenehan linked his arm warmly.

--But wait till I tell you, he said. We had a midnight lunch too after all the jollification and when we sallied forth it was blue o'clock the morning after the night before. Coming home it was a gorgeous winter's night on the Featherbed Mountain. Bloom and Chris Callinan were on one side of the car and I was with the wife on the other. We started singing glees and duets: Lo, the early beam of morning. She was well primed with a good load of Delahunt's port under her bellyband. Every jolt the bloody car gave I had her bumping up against me. Hell's delights! She has a fine pair, God bless her. Like that.

He held his caved hands a cubit from him, frowning:

--I was tucking the rug under her and settling her boa all the time. Know what I mean?

His hands moulded ample curves of air. He shut his eyes tight in delight, his body shrinking, and blew a sweet chirp from his lips.

--The lad stood to attention anyhow, he said with a sigh. She's a gamey mare and no mistake. Bloom was pointing out all the stars and the comets in the heavens to Chris Callinan and the jarvey: the great bear and Hercules and the dragon, and the whole jingbang lot. But, by God, I was lost, so to speak, in the milky way. He knows them all, faith. At last she spotted a weeny weeshy one miles away. And what star is that, Poldy? says she. By God, she had Bloom cornered. That one, is it? says Chris Callinan, sure that's only what you might call a pinprick. By God, he wasn't far wide of the mark.

Lenehan stopped and leaned on the riverwall, panting with soft laughter.

--I'm weak, he gasped.

M'Coy's white face smiled about it at instants and grew grave. Lenehan walked on again. He lifted his yachtingcap and scratched his hindhead rapidly. He glanced sideways in the sunlight at M'Coy.

--He's a cultured allroundman, Bloom is, he said seriously. He's not one of your common or garden ... you know ... There's a touch of the artist about old Bloom.

The second:

And says he:

--Mendelssohn was a jew and Karl Marx and Mercadante and Spinoza. And the Saviour was a jew and his father was a jew. Your God.

--He had no father, says Martin. That'll do now. Drive ahead.

--Whose God? says the citizen.

--Well, his uncle was a jew, says he. Your God was a jew. Christ was a jew like me.

Gob, the citizen made a plunge back into the shop.

--By Jesus, says he, I'll brain that bloody jewman for using the holy name. By Jesus, I'll crucify him so I will. Give us that biscuitbox here.

--Stop! Stop! says Joe.

A large and appreciative gathering of friends and acquaintances from the metropolis and greater Dublin assembled in their thousands to bid farewell to Nagyas gos uram Lip¢ti Virag, late of Messrs Alexander Thom's, printers to His Majesty, on the occasion of his departure for the distant clime of Sz zharminczbroj£guly s-Dugul s (Meadow of Murmuring Waters). The ceremony which went off with great ’clat was characterised by the most affecting cordiality. An illuminated scroll of ancient Irish vellum, the work of Irish artists, was presented to the distinguished phenomenologist on behalf of a large section of the community and was accompanied by the gift of a silver casket, tastefully executed in the style of ancient Celtic ornament, a work which reflects every credit on the makers, Messrs Jacob agus Jacob. The departing guest was the recipient of a hearty ovation, many of those who were present being visibly moved when the select orchestra of Irish pipes struck up the wellknown strains of Come Back to Erin, followed immediately by Rak¢czsy's March. Tarbarrels and bonfires were lighted along the coastline of the four seas on the summits of the Hill of Howth, Three Rock Mountain, Sugarloaf, Bray Head, the mountains of Mourne, the Galtees, the Ox and Donegal and Sperrin peaks, the Nagles and the Bograghs, the Connemara hills, the reeks of M Gillicuddy, Slieve Aughty, Slieve Bernagh and Slieve Bloom. Amid cheers that rent the welkin, responded to by answering cheers from a big muster of henchmen on the distant Cambrian and Caledonian hills, the mastodontic pleasureship slowly moved away saluted by a final floral tribute from the representatives of the fair sex who were present in large numbers while, as it proceeded down the river, escorted by a flotilla of barges, the flags of the Ballast office and Custom House were dipped in salute as were also those of the electrical power station at the Pigeonhouse and the Poolbeg Light. Visszontl t sra, kedv’s bar tom! Visszontl t sra! Gone but not forgotten.

Gob, the devil wouldn't stop him till he got hold of the bloody tin anyhow and out with him and little Alf hanging on to his elbow and he shouting like a stuck pig, as good as any bloody play in the Queen's royal theatre:

--Where is he till I murder him?

And Ned and J. J. paralysed with the laughing.

--Bloody wars, says I, I'll be in for the last gospel.

But as luck would have it the jarvey got the nag's head round the other way and off with him.

--Hold on, citizen, says Joe. Stop!

Begob he drew his hand and made a swipe and let fly. Mercy of God the sun was in his eyes or he'd have left him for dead. Gob, he near sent it into the county Longford. The bloody nag took fright and the old mongrel after the car like bloody hell and all the populace shouting and laughing and the old tinbox clattering along the street.

The catastrophe was terrific and instantaneous in its effect. The observatory of Dunsink registered in all eleven shocks, all of the fifth grade of Mercalli's scale, and there is no record extant of a similar seismic disturbance in our island since the earthquake of 1534, the year of the rebellion of Silken Thomas. The epicentre appears to have been that part of the metropolis which constitutes the Inn's Quay ward and parish of Saint Michan covering a surface of fortyone acres, two roods and one square pole or perch. All the lordly residences in the vicinity of the palace of justice were demolished and that noble edifice itself, in which at the time of the catastrophe important legal debates were in progress, is literally a mass of ruins beneath which it is to be feared all the occupants have been buried alive. From the reports of eyewitnesses it transpires that the seismic waves were accompanied by a violent atmospheric perturbation of cyclonic character. An article of headgear since ascertained to belong to the much respected clerk of the crown and peace Mr George Fottrell and a silk umbrella with gold handle with the engraved initials, crest, coat of arms and house number of the erudite and worshipful chairman of quarter sessions sir Frederick Falkiner, recorder of Dublin, have been discovered by search parties in remote parts of the island respectively, the former on the third basaltic ridge of the giant's causeway, the latter embedded to the extent of one foot three inches in the sandy beach of Holeopen bay near the old head of Kinsale. Other eyewitnesses depose that they observed an incandescent object of enormous proportions hurtling through the atmosphere at a terrifying velocity in a trajectory directed southwest by west. Messages of condolence and sympathy are being hourly received from all parts of the different continents and the sovereign pontiff has been graciously pleased to decree that a special missa pro defunctis shall be celebrated simultaneously by the ordinaries of each and every cathedral church of all the episcopal dioceses subject to the spiritual authority of the Holy See in suffrage of the souls of those faithful departed who have been so unexpectedly called away from our midst. The work of salvage, removal of d’bris, human remains etc has been entrusted to Messrs Michael Meade and Son, 159 Great Brunswick street, and Messrs T. and C. Martin, 77, 78, 79 and 80 North Wall, assisted by the men and officers of the Duke of Cornwall's light infantry under the general supervision of H. R. H., rear admiral, the right honourable sir Hercules Hannibal Habeas Corpus Anderson, K. G., K. P., K. T., P. C., K. C. B., M. P, J. P., M. B., D. S. O., S. O. D., M. F. H., M. R. I. A., B. L., Mus. Doc., P. L. G., F. T. C. D., F. R. U. I., F. R. C. P. I. and F. R. C. S. I.

You never saw the like of it in all your born puff. Gob, if he got that lottery ticket on the side of his poll he'd remember the gold cup, he would so, but begob the citizen would have been lagged for assault and battery and Joe for aiding and abetting. The jarvey saved his life by furious driving as sure as God made Moses. What? O, Jesus, he did. And he let a volley of oaths after him.

--Did I kill him, says he, or what?

And he shouting to the bloody dog:

--After him, Garry! After him, boy!

And the last we saw was the bloody car rounding the corner and old sheepsface on it gesticulating and the bloody mongrel after it with his lugs back for all he was bloody well worth to tear him limb from limb. Hundred to five! Jesus, he took the value of it out of him, I promise you.

When, lo, there came about them all a great brightness and they beheld the chariot wherein He stood ascend to heaven. And they beheld Him in the chariot, clothed upon in the glory of the brightness, having raiment as of the sun, fair as the moon and terrible that for awe they durst not look upon Him. And there came a voice out of heaven, calling: Elijah! Elijah! And He answered with a main cry: Abba! Adonai! And they beheld Him even Him, ben Bloom Elijah, amid clouds of angels ascend to the glory of the brightness at an angle of fortyfive degrees over Donohoe's in Little Green street like a shot off a shovel.

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November 28, 2004

Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

I tried, but I couldn't say it any better than deacon at Powerline, who captioned his post "To Break the Stalemate Kick Some Ass." Deacon was commenting on Norman Ornstein's piffle in today's Washington Post. Ornstein argues that life tenure for the Article III judiciary was meant to insulate judges from politics and that this entire structure is broken. So far, so good. But Ornstein argues further that we should amend the Constitution to provide for a single 15-year term for federal judges, like what we have for the non-Article III judges on the Court of Federal Claims.

Deacon shreds this nonsense in a second: "I can just imagine Senator Leahy explaining to Nan Aron that she will only have to put up with Miguel Estrada for 15 years." But he is even more correct about the practicalities of the situation. With the addition of new Republican senators in the recent election, the potential vulnerability of some red-state Democrats, Bush's strength coming out of his re-election, and (I would add) Arlen Specter's partial neutering, why engage in the Republicans' favorite strategy of pre-emptive surrender?

We've got some big nomination battles coming up. Let's come out fighting.

One more thing: Go, Miguel!

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If Jeff Goldstein designed road signs

Or maybe Al Goldstein, I'm not quite sure.

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More debate over Cheney

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Fred Barnes explains it all (to the Jews)

Why is this so difficult for Jews to understand?

Fred Barnes spoke at the annual meeting of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Rockville, Maryland, about Bush's plans for his second term and his support for Israel. Barnes spoke as well to a primal fear of American Jews -- that evangelical Christians are out to get them.

Barnes also addressed the strong support of evangelical Christians for Israel. Identifying himself as a member of that group, Barnes said he had "never heard a single" evangelical Christian say that his or her support for the Jewish state is based on prophecies of the apocalypse -- as some often claim.

They support Israel because it's a religious country, a democratic country, an outpost of Western civilization and America's greatest ally, he said.

Barnes went on to make a suggestion for Jews who are afraid of these Christians, and he did it far more tactfully than I would have.
He did concede that some evangelicals may want to convert Jews, and that the best response is to "say sorry, not interested." But he said many others understand that attempts at converting Jews are inappropriate, disrespectful and wrong.
See? We can learn from the gentiles. If someone wants us to convert, we say, "No, thank you." And we remain friendly enough to continue our political alliance in support of Israel, which has very few friends these days, especially on the Left, where so many Jews find themselves.

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Gratuitous gender stereotyping

M.E., of Stand in the Trenches, was liveblogging Thanksgiving. The thought had absolutely never occurred to me. So I figured I'd engage in what comes more naturally to me -- blatant gender stereotyping.

M.E. is a lovely woman, and she has given me encouragement in my first couple of months as a blogger, so I hope she won't take offense at this.

A male blogger who liveblogged Thanksgiving would probably focus more on this kind of activity (check the photos). And whatever you do, don't leave that site without clicking on the "download the movie" link at the bottom.

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November 26, 2004

Some profound thoughts on dial-up

Dial-up = teh suck

I'm about twice as old as I should be to say that. See you back in Maryland Sunday morning.

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Drudge imitates Pillage Idiot

This morning, Drudge links to the Fox News article on the diktat of the Maryland schools that students not be taught that the Pilgrims were thanking God at Thanksgiving. I wrote about that three days ago and mentioned it again on Erev Thanksgiving.

This is what happens when you're a path-breaking, red-hot blog: the followers follow you. [Red hot? You're well up in the 8000's in the TTLB rankings. -- Ed. Shut up, he explained.]

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November 24, 2004


When you offer your thanks tomorrow, make sure you don't mention God if you live in Maryland within 1000 feet of a public school. But when you do offer your thanks, don't forget to thank the members of the American armed forces, especially those fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and (I hope) in other unknown regions of the Middle East. I can't begin to offer enough thanks to the people who have acted with almost super-human ability, determination, and honor, at risk of their own lives, to help make us safe here at home.

I made a contribution yesterday to Operation Gratitude, which provides care packages to the troops. On my sidebar are links to USO and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Take a moment to read about their good works and send some money their way. It's the least we can do.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Another estimate of Jewish retiree vote

Via Newmark's Door, Patrick Ruffini, the webmaster of the Bush-Cheney campaign, writes about the Berkeley study of the Florida vote. The single most interesting thing to me is his estimate of the increase in the Bush vote of retired Jewish voters in Palm Beach:

Holding the percentage of precincts constant between the two years, the numbers look much, much better for Bush: the President got a 10.8% swing overall in majority-senior precincts. I also estimate that President Bush received a 14-16% swing among Jewish retirees specifically.
If this is true, if there was this kind of increase among Jewish geezers, how did Frank Luntz come up with a total Jewish vote of 25% in Florida and Ohio? My usual answer.

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Tech guy

We're up here at the Attila family homestead north of New York City, where we return every year for Thanksgiving. And when we return, I immediately turn into the tech guy. Because in my family no one has any clue technologically.

A few months ago, there was an amusing thread in a computer forum I frequent. A forum member was complaining that his father really doesn't know anything about computers but thinks he does. A long fight ensued between father and son, with father (according to son, the forum member) totally "borking" the computer. (As an aside, one of my continuing grievances against Arlen Specter is that he actively participated in creating the term used in the computer field to mean "screwing up.") So the guy was complaining about his father, and others were chiming in. One member then posted what I thought was a very sensible idea -- that he realized his mother wasn't computer-savvy, and he simply made sure that each of the several times a year he visited, he updated and fixed her computer. No complaints. That's just the way it is.

So that's what I do. Several times a year, I update and fix my parents' computer. Today, I installed Windows XP Service Pack 2, updated anti-virus files ("Mom, your anti-virus files are five months old!"), and ran anti-spyware software.

Look, my parents have done a lot for me over the years. This is not a big deal. Happy Thanksgiving.

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You mean, it isn't?

The following unbiased caption accompanied an AFP photo of the U.N. Headquarters:

The United Nations (news - web sites) headquarters in New York. A right-wing Republican group launched a television campaign calling for the UN to be kicked out of the United States, alleging the world body is a 'safe harbor' for terrorism(AFP/File/Don Emmert)
You mean, it isn't?

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November 23, 2004

Whose "Peace in the Middle East"?

A full-page ad ran in the New York Times today, with essentially this text. It was called "Peace in the Middle East: An Open Letter from American Jews to Our Government." I wouldn't have paid any attention to it if it were not for the presumptuous way in which the ad claimed to speak for "American Jews." (Mrs. Attila and I have discussed publishing an open letter from American Jews; there are two of us, after all, and we can use the plural.)

What's added to the text is a preface stating that "three major things" have occurred since the original publication of the ad -- the adoption of the ad's principles in the Geneva Accord; Sharon's "push[ing] forward with misguided and counterproductive policies"; and the American government's undermining "fragile peace prospects" by supporting Sharon.

The ad asks that checks to help publish elsewhere be sent to "Prof. Bruce Robbins, Dept. of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University."

By coincidence, I came across Prof. Robbins's name yesterday in this article in Sunday's New York Daily News entitled "Hate 101." The article is subtitled "Climate of hate rocks Columbia University" and discusses several professors who subject students to "harassment, threats and ridicule merely for defending the right of Israel to survive." One of the "firebrands" is Prof. Robbins. Here is the Daily News's summary:

Bruce Robbins, a professor of English and comparative literature. In a speech backing divestment, he said, "The Israeli government has no right to the sufferings of the Holocaust."

Elaborating, Robbins told The News he believes Israel has a right to exist, but he thinks the country has "betrayed the memory of the Holocaust."

This man wants your check to help with peace in the Middle East.

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It's groping all around

Three weeks ago, I wrote about "lawyer-groping" after an article in the New York Times discussed the experience of a female lawyer with an intrusive pat-down search at airport security. I concluded my post with the following TSA motto: "Better that 100 innocent lawyers be groped than that one suspicious Arab be inconvenienced."

According to the front page of today's New York Times, in an article by Joe Sharkey (who seems to be making a career out of groping women -- not by him, of course, by the TSA), this policy of groping women at airport security is not limited to lawyers.

In dozens of interviews, women across the country say they were humiliated by the searches, often done in view of other passengers, and many said they had sharply reduced their air travel as a result.

The new security policies on body searches were put into practice in mid-September, after a terrorist attack in Russia a few weeks before that destroyed two planes, killing 90 people. Two Chechen women were thought to have carried nonmetallic explosives onto the planes, officials said. It is not known whether the explosives were hidden in the women's clothing, or whether the women merely boarded unimpeded, carrying the explosives.

But the Transportation Security Administration in the United States, already worried that metal detectors could not pick up nonmetallic explosives, issued new regulations requiring airport screeners to conduct more frequent and more intense secondary searches and pat-downs.

Apparently, this groping is pretty widespread.

Jen McSkimming, a manager with a domestic airline, said the numbers were "severely underreporting" the extent of the problem. She said she was recently at an industry meeting attended by a senior representative of the security agency who said, when the issue of pat-downs was raised, "Well, I only get about 15 complaints a week on this."

Ms. McSkimming said about half of the 30 people at the meeting were women and she asked the group how many women had had a bad experience with the new procedures. "Every single woman raised their hand,'' she said. "So I told him, 'Well, you'd better add 15 to this week's total.' "

Most of the women interviewed said they did not make formal complaints, most saying that they assumed it would be futile to do so. Ms. Maurer said she and some other women she had spoken to are wary of complaining in writing, both because of the presumed futility and from fear of being singled out when they travel in the future.

What's even more alarming about this is the reason many women believe the policy singles out women: "a belief that bras are good places to conceal nonmetallic explosives."

The fact that pursuing this concern would require intrusive searches of close to half of all adult air travelers is a great reason that ethnic profiling absolutely must come back. Isn't it about time for Norman Mineta to resign?

UPDATE (11/23/04): After shooting my mouth off, I decided to fact-check myself. TSA is actually a part of the Department of Homeland Security, not the Department of Transportation, of which Mineta is the Secretary. However, I adhere to my view that Mineta should resign for opposing profiling of air travelers. Here's what he said on the subject about 3 years ago:

Mineta's Japanese-American family was interned during World War II. He implies at every opportunity that by standing in the way of ethnic profiling, he is preventing a similar enormity today. "A very basic foundation to all of our work," he says, "is to make sure that racial profiling is not part of it."

Asked on 60 Minutes if a 70-year-old white woman from Vero Beach should receive the same level of scrutiny as a Muslim from Jersey City, Mineta said, "Basically, I would hope so." Asked if he could imagine any set of circumstances that would justify ethnic and racial profiling, Mineta said "absolutely not."

UPDATE (11/30/04): Another post on Rhonda Gaynier.

Click here to read more . . .

No divine thanks on Thanksgiving in Maryland

We've done it again in Maryland. The schools are teaching kids about Thanksgiving, but while they can learn that the Pilgrims thanked the Indians, they can't learn that the Pilgrims thanked God, even though the Pilgrims were freakin' religious Christians for crying out loud. (Hat tip: Just Moi)

No one's asking the schools to proselytize kids in Puritanism. It's just a question of historical accuracy.

A former colleague once asked me, "What does a right-winger like you think about prayer in public schools?" I responded, "I'm against it. I think the public schools should be privatized." And today, I feel I'm being vindicated.

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November 22, 2004

Kerry supporters bemoan election results

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More hidden Jews

Thanks to Kesher Talk, I've been pointed to a comment at Roger L. Simon that I had missed. Like my evidence for the hidden Jewish vote, this is anecdotal but very telling. I will quote the relevant part.

Roger, on another very interesting note concerning the Jewish vote? I just returned from a business/trade gathering and did some homework for you. I talked to 38 fellow Jews, mostly from Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York. (in other words Northeast Establishment Jews) and all were willing to answer my questions about their vote. The following is who they voted for in 2000 and 2004. Amazing, here it is...

Bush 6
Gore 30
Nader 2

Bush 18
Kerry 19
Nader 1


All but 3 were somewhat discreet about it and did not "chest beat" in public about it (2 were more enthusiastic then I). I think your "secret source" is not only right, but from the above I actually believe the shift was even stronger in some of the "I-95 Terror Corridor". Now this group was decidedly male and businessmen, but I think if we ever truly dig to the bottom we will find a very big shift in support of historical proportions. I believe Bush indeed lost much support among fiscal libertarians, paleo conservatives, and others, but he more than made up such losses with "War On Terror Neo-cons" and "Big Government Social Conservatives". Roger I am truly take aback by the numbers, amazing. I take great heart from this.

Here's what I get out of this anecdote: Jewish Bush voters are "discreet." The incident occurred about a week after the election, after the time when my Jewish Bush voters started "coming out" to me. So, as I've said, I can't prove that the exit polls under-counted Jewish Bush supporters, but I think the anecdotal evidence is beginning to pile up.

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I've been taking a beginning yoga class. Actually, this is the third beginning class I've taken; you can't just progress to the next level after one set of classes.

I came home yesterday and mentioned to Mrs. Attila, who's taken quite a bit more yoga than I, that some of the positions and methods are easier for men and some are easier for women. She retorted that yoga positions were invented by men. I said, OK, then why (and I'd like to be delicate about this) do you, if you're a man, have to, uh, rearrange body parts for some yoga activities? My class typically has 5 or 6 students and the teacher, all of whom are women, except me. Yesterday, we had 5 or so extra students, all of whom were women. I just plant myself on the side of the room and hope no one notices.

I realize that there are some yoga activities that require more upper body strength than the average woman has. Being able to do them when the others in my class can't doesn't exactly provide a lot of satisfaction. But at least they don't involve, uh, well, never mind.

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Pillage outage

My apologies to readers who tried to view the blog between noon and 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time today.

I have a day job and make it a practice not to post from work, for obvious reasons. Sometimes, though, I stay at my desk during lunch and tinker with the template. Today, when I saved a minor change, Blogger (motto: "we suck major eggs") saved nothing but, oh, about the first two dozen lines, leaving Pillage Idiot a blank background and little more. This happened to me once at the very beginning of my blogging, when I was able to re-create the blog without much trouble. Since then, I've saved a backup of the template on my computer at home every time I've made changes. Today, Mrs. Attila, despite having undergone nasty dental work this morning, was able to e-mail it to me at the office, and we're back up and running. I hope this is the last time I post from work.

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November 21, 2004

"Gullible," not "naive"

From Martin Kramer we learn about the current president of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), Laurie Brand.

Brand didn't have a reputation as an over-the-top propagandist—until the lead-up to the Iraq war. In the spring of 2003, Brand was in Beirut on sabbatical leave. As Operation Iraqi Freedom got underway, she penned an anti-war letter (scroll to last item) addressed to Secretary of State Colin Powell, on behalf of "Americans living in Lebanon." The letter cited various far-out predictions (e.g., over a million Iraqis might die because of damage to Iraq's water supply), added that "'regime change' imposed from outside is itself completely undemocratic," and ended in these words: "We refuse to stand by watching passively as the US pursues aggressive and racist policies toward the people around us. We reject your claim to be taking these actions on our behalf. Not in our name." Seventy Americans signed it.

Brand and a dozen of her colleagues then scheduled a meeting with Vincent Battle, U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, to deliver their letter. But on the appointed day, the road to the embassy was closed because of raucous anti-American demonstrations by Lebanese students. Brand and five other Americans would not be deterred. "Intent upon doing something, we took to the median strip of the Corniche," Beirut's seaside boulevard. "We stood near Beirut's International College with our protest signs identifying us as Americans and calling for an end to the war." According to Brand, passersby greeted them with thanks and blessings. It must have been quite a spectacle: the president-elect of MESA, literally walking the "Arab street" at the head of a honk-if-you-hate-U.S.-policy protest.
But what's truly funny is this:

To return to Brand's pounding the Beirut pavement in a sandwich board: she admitted she was surprised when an elderly gentleman drove by and told her, in English, "You are so gullible." "I have given this sentence some thought," wrote Brand, "wondering exactly what ideas or beliefs prompted it....Perhaps this gentleman thought our gullibility lay in an expectation that our protests would end the war." Now old gentlemen in Lebanon who speak English are quite likely to use the language with precision (unlike most American professors), and he didn't say naive. He said gullible. Yes, it would have been naive to think that protests would end the war. But to be gullible is to be subject to easy manipulation by others, and I'll bet the old man meant this: you're a dupe, for standing in the median strip of the "Arab street" to demonstrate in defense of the Arab world's most despicable regime.

Just another day in Middle Eastern Studies.

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The Times's draft dodger utopia

The New York Times has a lengthy piece on Nelson, British Columbia, home to many Vietnam-era draft dodgers, or "resisters," as the Times would have it.

(Almost full disclosure: I drew approximately 150 in the second-to-last draft lottery, which meant that there was little chance I would be drafted. I would tell you the actual number if I wanted you to be able to track down my birthday. I still carry my extremely worn draft card in my wallet. Don't ask me why.)

The only amusing part of the story is that the self-absorbed pseudo-moralistic views of these folks came into conflict with reality:

What happened was that a local peace activist proposed a monument to honor the "courageous legacy" of American draft resisters. The idea provoked outrage in the United States, where the presidential election had reopened wounds of the Vietnam era. Then came calls to boycott Nelson.

"The negative reaction was so immediate and so forceful that everyone was stunned," said Don Gayton, a former high school football player from Seattle, who raised five children in Nelson after immigrating to Canada during the Vietnam War. Rumors that the United States might reinstate the draft because of the Iraq war have made the expatriates wonder if they might find a whole new wave of resisters on their doorsteps and whether they will be as welcoming as an earlier generation of Canadians were to them.

Mr. Romano held a news conference to announce his idea for a large bronze monument in the form of a man and a woman greeted by a Canadian with outstretched arms.


He expected to get a small write-up in The Nelson Daily News. But the announcement found its way to American television, and within days Nelson was inundated with hate mail, much of it in the guest book section of the the town's Web site. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, with more than two million members in the United States, demanded that President Bush take up the issue with Prime Minister Paul Martin of Canada.

A radio station in Spokane, Wash., three hours' drive south, called on Americans to boycott Nelson. Some skiers canceled trips to the area, said Roy Hueckendorff, the executive director of the local chamber of commerce.

"I've talked to people who lost fathers, brothers in Vietnam," Mr. Hueckendorff said. "The very idea that you would celebrate this is beyond their comprehension."
I don't know. Maybe this is just a red state thing that hasn't penetrated Nelson or 43rd Street.

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The Jews did it

My bachelor's degree in math was in pure math, so I fled from anything having to do with the real world, like statistics.

That's why I don't really understand the statistical analysis that blogger Craig Newmark develops to show that some portion of the supposedly unusual results in Florida that the folks at Berzerkley have alleged may be attributable to the Jewish voters in three large Democratic counties. But here's what he says:

Do you think at least some Jewish voters who normally voted Democratic might have voted for President Bush? I do. (This story in the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel is mildly supportive.) Do you think that this is a more reasonable (partial) explanation for the excess in these three counties, whereas the twelve other counties that used electronic voting collectively produced no "excess" Bush votes? I do. (I don't think that the number of Jewish voters is high enough to account for the entire 130,733 excess, but it could reasonably account for part of it.)
Could these be some of my hidden Jewish voters?

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The Jewish vote and Puerto Ricans

Jay Nordlinger (11/8/04):

Jewish Americans voted in huge numbers against President Bush, giving him only 24 percent. (This was after it was predicted that Bush would soar among Jews.) I thought, "Well, Milton Himmelfarb's old quip still holds true: that Jews earn like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans." Then I thought, "Hey — is that fair to Puerto Ricans? What percentage of their vote did George W. Bush get?"
Last week's New York Times (11/14/04):

Evangelism is flourishing not just in the red states of the nation's heartland, but in the urban, liberal stronghold of New York City, where thousands of evangelical churches are anchored in working-class neighborhoods. Whether it will evolve into a local political force, as it has nationally, remains an open question. But a range of interviews with pastors, congregants and religious experts suggests that a new debate - and perhaps a political conversion - is taking place in parts of the city's minority neighborhoods, swaths that Democrats have long claimed as their own.

It is a conversion that prompted Jeanmarie Salazar, a Puerto Rican mother of four in the Bronx, to vote for President Bush even though his economic policies troubled her. And a conversion that caused Harold Thompson, an African-American from Flatbush who lived through the civil rights movement, to part with a lifetime of voting Democratic, citing the "immorality that is destroying our country."


"I am a conservative Democrat," [State Senator Rubén] Diaz, 61, said in a telephone interview from Puerto Rico. "When it comes to education, when it comes to health, when it comes to jobs, I'm a Democrat. When it comes to moral issues - marriage, abortion - I'm not a Democrat."
And more:

While Hispanics and African Americans in New York City have traditionally voted Democratic, those who attend evangelical churches may feel a different pull. José Casanova, a professor of sociology who specializes in religion and politics at New School University and has studied evangelicals around the world, said that even if they are poor, they tend to vote for conservative candidates.

"They do not so much identify with their economic position right now, but with the one they ought to have with the help of God," he said. "They are very conservative and pro-market and do not expect the government to help them."

As I said a few days ago, in the Democratic Party, the Jews will sit alone, in the dark.

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November 18, 2004

Advertising the Clinton Library

This is an actual screen capture (reduced in size) of a photo from a New York Times slide show on the opening of the Clinton Library. Note the ad for the Kinsey movie. I caught the first half of it.

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The president, a wiener, a weenie, and wurst

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"Oh! So THAT's how a woman gets Bill in the palm of her hand!"

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November 17, 2004

Wearing hair shirt and sucking lemon, Arlen Specter awaits verdict of Republican caucus

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Dear Miss Blogmanners

Dear Miss Blogmanners:

I use the free version of Blogger for my blog, and I was wondering whether, given my freeloading, it's appropriate for me to mention that Blogger sucks major eggs.

Tonight, I lost a post because the servers crashed, and I had to redo the whole shebang. This was the second time this has happened in the past two weeks. Each time, I had to interrupt myself at several points to "save as draft," just to be safe.

I've always known that you get what you pay for, but does that deprive me of the right to make the aforementioned disparaging remark?


Pillage Idiot

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My long-lost cousin

I received an e-mail from a blogress (James Taranto's term) who blogs under the name "Little Miss Attila." We had both posted at protein wisdom, and she was concerned that there might be some confusion because of our names.

We discussed it and seem to have concluded that:

(1) on our own blogs, there was no likelihood of confusion;

(2) when we post at other blogs, she will post as "Attila Girl" or "Miss Attila," and I will post as "Attila" or possibly "Pillage Idiot";

(3) she would remain on the West Coast and I would remain on the East Coast;

(4) she would be a woman and I would be a man;

(5) she would be a real blogger and I would remain something of a hack;

(6) she would have lots of blogger friends in various alliances and I would be a pathetic lone gunman; and

(7) we both would be ignored by Glenn Reynolds (although I once received a return e-mail from him that read in its entirety, and I swear I'm not making this up, "Heh.").

So thanks, Cuz', for being so easy to get along with, and welcome to my dysfunctional family.

I've added you to my blogroll, without any expectation that you would feel the urge to reciprocate (wink, nudge). I can't promise you any traffic, but you California folks have enough traffic already.

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DC Metro Red Line train derails in the Philippines

Story here.

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November 16, 2004

Virtual windows

These are very cool. I wish I'd had them in my old windowless office.

(Link via Maximum PC Magazine, Dec. 2004)

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The changing black vote

OK, so it's even more premature to find a change in the black vote than it is in the Jewish vote, but Rich Lowry sees room for movement, especially on social issues. Social issues? That'll drive Jews deeper into the Democrats' quagmire than they're already in.

So will the last voting block to leave the Democrats please turn off the lights? The Jews will sit alone. In the dark.

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Today's political quiz

A major political party's presidential campaign is run by a Jew, who then is appointed to head the party's national committee.

Democrat or Republican?

Your call.

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November 15, 2004

The hidden Jewish vote

Five hundred years ago, during the Spanish Inquisition, some Jews pretended to convert and hid their secret practice of Judaism from the authorities. This year, in an ironic twist, some American Jews have felt the need to hide their vote for Bush, even though they were voting for the same presidential candidate favored by a majority of their fellow Americans.

The conventional wisdom now is that President Bush received only about 25% of the Jewish vote in this election. I'm firmly convinced that the conventional wisdom is wrong. The exit polls are doubtful, and anecdotal evidence, both in the blogosphere and from my own personal experience, suggests that the Jewish vote may have been up to 5% higher. Whether Bush received 25 or 30 percent of the Jewish vote may seem like bupkes (nothing), but if I'm right, it's actually a very big deal.

* * * * *

The first thing to understand is that the Jewish vote is historically a liberal, Democratic vote. No Republican presidential candidate has won a majority of the Jewish vote at least as far back as 1916. In the past seven presidential elections, the Jewish vote for the Republican has varied from nearly 40% in 1980 to just 11% in 1992. So dramatic is this propensity to vote for Democrats that it has become a bitter joke for some Jews. Cathy Seipp informs us that her friend, frustrated at the early pro-Kerry vote coming out of Florida on election night, quipped that "Bush could convert to Judaism, then complain about his colonoscopy over diet soda and knishes, and those old Jews still wouldn't vote for him."

There are many explanations for the Jewish vote, but here, the old adage applies: Three Jews and four opinions. Many liberal Jews feel they are engaging in a quest for "social justice." And there is no doubt that redistributionist principles are found in traditional Judaism, but these principles are intended for relatively closed Jewish societies trying to follow God's law. No one has adequately explained why Jews (particularly secular liberal Jews) are justified in using the power of the American government to apply these redistributionist principles to Americans in general -- not just to Jews but also to the other 98% of Americans.

A second explanation, along the same lines, cites the Hebrew prophets as the inspiration for contemporary liberal social policies. I once heard a prominent Reform rabbi on the radio praise his movement's decision to officiate at gay "marriages" by saying that the decision grew out of "prophetic Judaism." The image tickled me: the prophet Elijah at Mount Carmel taunting the prophets of Ba'al . . . because they didn't allow gay marriages.

My own partial explanation of Jewish liberalism is that American Jews still have a shtetl mentality. They fear that, just as on the shtetls of Eastern Europe, they are somehow at risk of being attacked by the local gentiles. Of course, I don't mean physically attacked; the fear is of what one official called "stealth evangelism." Many Jews feel more comfortable with a secular society in which religious beliefs are kept private than with open religiosity. This is not surprising for members of a minority religion, but many Jews have taken it to such an extreme that they rationalize rejecting evangelical support for Israel by denigrating the evangelicals' good faith. They also have expressed fear of the "moral values" of Christian conservatives, even though those values are in large part consistent with the moral values of traditional Judaism. (Liberal Jews who actually respect traditional religious teachings tend to "compartmentalize" them.)

The fear of Christians may have made sense in the "old country," or in Europe, but it verges on the absurd in contemporary America. Give an American Jew the following multiple choice question: A Jew should be afraid of (a) Christians, or (b) Muslims. The answer "(a)" deserves no credit.

* * * * *

Whatever the explanation for Jewish liberalism, the lopsided vote of Jews in favor of Democrats is not much of a surprise when you consider that fully 75% of American Jews live in "blue" states. (Add Ohio and Florida, the two largest almost-"blue" states, and you get seventh-eighths of the Jewish population.) If Jews simply voted the way the majority voted in their states, the vote would be 75% to 25% for Kerry. I've described this 75-25 split as the "equilibrium point" for the Jewish vote. I've hypothesized that we might have to shift our traditional 50-50 benchmark to measure Jewish voting in order to have a realistic basis for comparison.

In fact, this 75-25 split is almost exactly what occurred in the 2004 elections, at least according to the conventional wisdom. Three exit polls (AP, CNN, and Frank Luntz) placed the Jewish vote for Bush at 23%, 24%, and 25%, respectively. As a result, Republicans see an increase in the Jewish vote and are pleased. Democrats see an overwhelming vote for Kerry and are all but spiking the ball in the end zone. But this conventional wisdom is entirely based on exit polls, and I'm convinced those polls don't tell the true story.

To begin with, in an election cycle in which exit polls were so famously off the mark, why would anyone accept exit polling as the gold-standard in determining the Jewish vote? Stanley Greenberg, a pollster for Democrats, claims that the numbers were later adjusted to take turnout into account, but let's face it: You just can't make that pig kosher.

Even the poll taken by Luntz, the most respected among these exit pollsters, doesn't tell us much. Luntz limited his survey to Jews in Ohio and Florida, using a sample of 484 voters. Although that sample size is probably large enough for the vote in those two states, the national Jewish population is eight times larger. A quibble? Maybe. But Luntz also undermined his survey by drawing broad conclusions about subgroups like Orthodox Jews, who could have constituted only a small fraction of those 484 voters. Let's assume 10% to 15% of respondents were Orthodox. How does one draw valid conclusions about Brooklyn based on 48 to 72 responses in Ohio and Florida?

The far more important point, however, is that polls depend on truthful responses and representative sampling. We've always heard stories about how Republicans don't respond to telephone polls, but there's more to it than that. Pollsters have finally begun to admit that there are whole groups of people they may not be able to reach -- for example, people whose only phone is a cell phone. What we haven't yet heard from pollsters is that some people they call are reluctant to tell the truth. These respondents either refuse to respond at all or, if they do respond, give false answers (which the pollsters would be hard-pressed to recognize).

How could anyone lie to a pollster? Isn't that un-American? I don't think so. We all get so caught up in watching the polls that we tend to forget that we have a secret ballot in this country. There's a good reason for it, too.

* * * * *

This was as bitter an election as I can remember, particularly on the Left, a large part of which never accepted the validity of the 2000 election results. The Left did more than just repeat the mantra "Re-Defeat Bush"; it equated Bush with Hitler. Michael Moore's infamous film, which many Democrats endorsed, portrayed Bush not just as stupid but as utterly evil. And numerous Bush-Cheney campaign offices were targets of vandalism and violence, including gunshots in more than one case.

This hostility translated into unfriendly, even uncivil, political discourse, and Jews were hardly immune from it. For example, there were ongoing battles in what Judith Weiss of Kesher Talk (who collected many of the following anecdotes) called the "condo wars." An article in the Jewish Week about two weeks before the election was headlined "Passions Rising in Palm Beach/Jew vs. Jew animosity at record levels in South Florida as GOP seeks inroads." The article quoted the executive director of the local branch of the Republican Jewish Coalition: "There's almost a new anti-Semitism within the Jewish community because of the lack of tolerance [for opposing views]."

My own experience in the Washington, D.C., area was perhaps not so bracing, but it confirmed the general tenor of political discussion. Although quite a few people who know me realized that I was strongly pro-Bush, I avoided political discussions with my fellow Jews, unless I was certain they were at least open-minded on the subject. There was no point in my alienating friends and acquaintances and becoming angry at them at the same time. And I was not alone in keeping quiet. A member of my synagogue sidled up to me at a bat mitzvah a few weeks before the election, looked around, and said confidentially, "I want to tell you something. I'm voting for Bush." After the election, a surprising -- almost alarming -- number of Jewish Bush voters "came out" to me. And, of course, every Jewish Bush voter knows others who were hounded by friends, family, and even distant relatives after mentioning they were planning to vote for Bush. This type of intimidation kept some Jews from disclosing their intentions to anyone else.

This intimidation was particularly a problem for liberal Jews who supported Bush because of his response to terrorism. Apart from Ed Koch, Ron Silver, and a few brave souls in the blogosphere, liberal Jews had every reason to shut up if they were going to vote for Bush. Judith Weiss has a liberal Jewish friend who wrote a widely read anonymous essay explaining why she, the friend, had decided to vote for Bush (with a follow-up here). Because the friend worked in the entertainment industry, however, she refused to reveal her identity.

The same was true among older Jewish voters in Florida, like Rosita Bard, a retired accountant from Lake Worth.

"Everybody I know is for anybody but Bush," she said. "And they are so hostile. … I’m afraid to tell people I’m Republican. When I do, they say they can’t believe I’m Jewish." Bard, 67 and a native of Honduras, said she is "afraid to put anything on my car that says Bush-Cheney because we have friends who had their car scratched and the Bush-Cheney bumper sticker ripped off. And it happened in the parking lot of a synagogue in Delray Beach! I can’t believe this is going on."

In Los Angeles, Jews were quietly talking to a local Jewish Republican:
"When I first supported the president in 2000, I got nothing but jeers and hate calls," said [Dr. Joel] Strom, a Beverly Hills dentist and a professor of ethics at USC Dental School. "Now, I have people coming up to me in synagogue and quietly whispering, 'Hey, I can’t believe I’m going to vote for him.'"
The comments sections of various blogs abounded with personal stories about closeted Jewish Bush voters. In one story I came across recently, the writer was among a group of Jewish women in Los Angeles who were discussing how much they hated Bush. After one woman announced that no sane person could support Bush, the writer horrified everyone by contradicting her. Later, some of the women's husbands quietly told the writer that they planned to vote for Bush because of terrorism and tax cuts but were afraid to tell their wives.

* * * * *

In short, the reason I think that Bush actually did better among Jews than the equilibrium point of 75%-25% is that some Jews were hiding the fact that they voted for him, and their votes and the votes of those like them were not picked up. The only question is how many.

My experience has been that closeted Jews for Bush would generally disclose their plans to vote for him or their actual vote only to people they felt comfortable with. For that reason, I seriously doubt that they would speak openly to a stranger conducting an exit poll. I realize we are no longer in the realm of science (as if polling could be called scientific without eliciting laughter), but anecdotal evidence coupled with reasonable logical inference can legitimately undermine the validity of these surveys.

Faced with a choice between faulty polls and the anecdotal evidence I have described, I have no hesitation in going with the latter. But what of the figure I've given for the secret Jewish vote (up to 5%)? This is my best guess; a hidden vote from one out of 20 Jewish voters doesn't seem terribly unlikely. Nevertheless, I'm the first to admit we'll simply never know the real Jewish vote.

One thing I'm confident of is this: In 2000, with something like 19% of the Jewish vote, Bush was on the wrong side of the "equilibrium point." This year, he has moved to the right side, above the 25% benchmark. By most standards, looking to whether a sitting president can beat 25% lends new meaning to the phrase "soft bigotry of low expectations." In the case of the Jewish vote, it marks significant progress.

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November 14, 2004

Grim-looking Elders of Zion await meeting with Bush

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November 11, 2004

In honor of Arafat's death

In honor of Arafat's death, and especially because we've spent the past week listening to arguments about whether or not he was dead, I'm going to quote all or part of three things it reminded me of. (Scroll down for James Joyce's Ulysses and Get Smart -- when was the last time you saw those mentioned in the same sentence?)

First, and possibly the most obvious, it's time for the dead parrot sketch from Monty Python:

A customer enters a pet shop.

Customer: 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.

(The owner does not respond.)

Customer: 'Ello, Miss?

Owner: What do you mean "miss"?

Customer: I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!

Owner: We're closin' for lunch.

Customer: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this parrot what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.

Owner: Oh yes, the, uh, the Norwegian Blue...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?

Customer: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with it!

Owner: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.

Customer: Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.

Owner: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage!

Customer: The plumage don't enter into it. It's stone dead.

Owner: Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!

Customer: All right then, if he's restin', I'll wake him up! (shouting at the cage) 'Ello, Mister Polly Parrot! I've got a lovely fresh cuttle fish for you if you show...(owner hits the cage)

Owner: There, he moved!

Customer: No, he didn't, that was you hitting the cage!

Owner: I never!!

Customer: Yes, you did!
It goes on from there. One more excerpt:
Customer: look, mate, I've definitely 'ad enough of this. That parrot is definitely deceased, and when I purchased it not 'alf an hour ago, you assured me that its total lack of movement was due to it bein' tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk.

Owner: Well, he's...he's, ah...probably pining for the fjords.

Customer: PININ' for the FJORDS?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that?, look, why did he fall flat on his back the moment I got 'im home?

Owner: The Norwegian Blue prefers kippin' on it's back! Remarkable bird, id'nit, squire? Lovely plumage!

Customer: Look, I took the liberty of examining that parrot when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had been sitting on its perch in the first place was that it had been NAILED there.
Second, for the more literary, here's some James Joyce. In the twelfth chapter of Ulysses, a few hours after Paddy Dignam's funeral, a fellow named Alf walks into the pub and is greeted:
--How's Willy Murray those times, Alf?

--I don't know, says Alf I saw him just now in Capel street with Paddy Dignam. Only I was running after that ....

--You what? says Joe, throwing down the letters. With who?

--With Dignam, says Alf.

--Is it Paddy? says Joe.

--Yes, says Alf. Why?

--Don't you know he's dead? says Joe.

--Paddy Dignam dead! says Alf.

--Ay, says Joe.

--Sure I'm after seeing him not five minutes ago, says Alf, as plain as a pikestaff.

--Who's dead? says Bob Doran.

--You saw his ghost then, says Joe, God between us and harm.

--What? says Alf. Good Christ, only five .... What? ... And Willy Murray with him, the two of them there near whatdoyoucallhim's .... What? Dignam dead?

--What about Dignam? says Bob Doran. Who's talking about ...?

--Dead! says Alf. He's no more dead than you are.

--Maybe so, says Joe. They took the liberty of burying him this morning anyhow.
Third, and last, one of my favorite scenes from Get Smart, a two-part episode called "Ship of Spies." Max and 99 are on a ship investigating the stolen plans for a nuclear amphibian submarine. In one of the cabins, they discover a body on the floor with a knife sticking out of its back.

Max: 99, look!

99: Max, whoever did this hit me and left the cabin just after we arrived. I heard a clip-clop go down the hallway.

Max: Do you think he's dead?

99: Yes. What do you think?

Max: Yes.

Body: No!

Max: Well, that's two for and one against.

99: He's alive!

Max: (turning body) Who are you?

Body: Inspector Sahokian, Armenian Branch, International Control.

Max: Who did this?

Inspector: Cannot give you his . . . how do you say?

Max: Name.

Inspector: Identity.

Max: We better get him a doctor.

Inspector: No time. Must talk before I . . . before I . . . how do you say?

Max: Die.

Inspector: Succumb. The man who did this . . . who . . . how do you say?

Max: Stabbed you.

Inspector: Attacked me. He . . . he . . . knew I had uncovered . . . how do you say?

Max: Information.

Inspector: Evidence.

99: But . . .

Inspector: Please. No buts. The plans, they are not plans. They are . . . (he collapses)

99: Max! He's . . .

Max: Dead.

Inspector: (turns head slightly) Deceased. (collapses again)

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November 10, 2004

Bush picks up (almost) everywhere

Real Clear Politics has a fascinating chart showing that Bush increased his percentage of the vote from 2000 in 48 states (decreasing it slightly in South Dakota and Vermont) and even in the District of Columbia. OK, it's true he went from 8.95% to 9.23% in D.C., but he did increase his percentage there.

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Watching Specter squirm

As far as I'm concerned, the longer Specter twists in the wind and has to justify himself, the better off we are, whatever the ultimate outcome. Loyalty oaths are not always a bad thing.

The Hill suggests I'm wrong (both links via The Corner) -- that the longer this goes on, the better off Specter is. And maybe they're right, but as long as Specter has same the look in his eye as the punk staring down the barrel of Harry Callahan's .44 magnum, I feel as if there's some justice in the world.

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November 09, 2004

"C'mon, Arlen, I'd like you to drop in on those folks down in the ravine there"

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November 08, 2004

Drudge: Bush considering Thomas for Chief Justice

Drudge is reporting that Bush is considering naming Justice Thomas as Chief Justice in the event Rehnquist steps down.

As much as I admire Thomas, this seems like a bad idea. Why have two fights over Supreme Court nominations at the same time, for Chief and for Thomas's replacement? (If an Associate Justice is named Chief, he must be nominated and confirmed again for that post.) A better strategy would be to nominate a Thomas-like judge directly as Chief Justice, limiting the confirmation battles to one.

The only reason to invite two battles is that the nominee for Associate Justice is someone who would not cause a confirmation battle. And I don't want anyone who won't cause a battle.

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A valentine

I don't plan to make a habit of posting jokes, especially ones that friends send out in mass mailings, but this one seems different from traditional Jewish jokes. I think you'll understand what I saw in it:

Little Melissa comes home from first grade and tells her father that they learned about the history of Valentine's Day. "Since Valentine's Day is for a Christian saint and we're Jewish," she asks, "will God get mad at me for giving someone a valentine?"

Melissa's father thinks a bit, then says "No, I don't think God would get mad. Who do you want to give a valentine to?"

"Osama Bin Laden," she says.

"Why Osama Bin Laden?" her father asks in shock.

"Well," she says, "I thought that if a little American Jewish girl could have enough love to give Osama a valentine, he might start to think maybe we're not all bad, and maybe he'd start loving people a little bit. And if other kids saw what I did and sent valentines to Osama, he'd start loving everyone. And then he'd start going all over the place to tell everyone how much he loved them and how he didn't hate anyone anymore."

Her father's heart swells and he looks at his daughter with newfound pride. "Melissa, that's the most wonderful thing I've ever heard."

"I know," Melissa says, "and once that gets him out in the open, the Marines could blow the s--- out of him."

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A new benchmark for the Jewish vote?

I've been working on a piece on the Jewish vote, but I wanted to write now about something I discovered while doing the research, because I've never seen it before, and I think it's a very interesting fact.

We know that Jews on average are more liberal than almost any other ethnic group or subgroup in the United States. The conventional voting benchmarks (percentage for A, percentage for B) that we use for all groups are not very revealing for Jewish voters, because they basically tell us only what we know already. So I think we may need another benchmark to evaluate the Jewish vote. Here's the interesting fact:

If you look at the Jewish population on a state-by-state basis, you'll find that 75% of Jews live in "blue" states. I doubt that this disproportion is true for any other ethnic group as large as the Jews (6,155,000).

Why does that matter? Let's say that Jews across the country always vote with the majority in the states where they live. Then, the vote would be 75% to 25% for Kerry, which is almost exactly what the exit polls show. I'll call this the "equilibrium point."

Here are the seven blue states with the highest Jewish populations:

New York (1,657,000)
California (999,000)
New Jersey (485,000)
Pennsylvania (282,000)
Massachusetts (275,000)
Illinois (270,000)
Maryland (213,000)

These states alone have 4,181,000 Jews, nearly 68% of the Jewish population in the U.S. The total blue state Jewish population is 4,633,800, or 75.3% of 6,155,000. (In fact, adding Florida (620,000) and Ohio (149,000) -- two almost-blue states -- brings it to 5,402,800, or 87.8%, about seven-eighths of the national Jewish population.)

So if the "equilibrium point" for the Jewish vote is 75-25 for the Democrat, what does it all mean? It means that Jews are disproportionately liberal, but less so if we consider their vote in relation to their surroundings. Jews tend to live in areas in which they feel most comfortable politically, socially, and religiously. With such a small ethnic group, living in proximity to others fosters community adhesion. (I'm making up my own sociological jargon as I go along.) So the correspondence between liberalism and state of residence shouldn't be surprising. In fact, if you were to run the numbers on county-by-county voting, instead of state-by-state, I strongly suspect that the percentage of Jews living in "blue" counties would be well above 75 percent, and we might have an even better perspective on the Jewish vote.

So let's take the 75 percent as a benchmark. This election is a "wash" in the sense that Jews, according to exit polls, voted consistently with the benchmark. I haven't run the numbers on the 2000 election, but I would guess the benchmark was quite similar, and the Jewish vote for Gore was about 80 percent. That is, the Jewish vote in 2000 was slightly to the left of the benchmark. If I'm correct to suspect that the exit polls this year under-counted Jewish Bush voters, perhaps the Jewish vote this year was actually to the right of the benchmark, even if it was to the left of almost any other benchmark.

I don't claim that my new benchmark is truly meaningful in any absolute sense. I just think it gives us a way of looking at the vote with a point of comparison that is not miles away.

There are certainly criticisms that can be made of the use of this benchmark. I have a few myself. Suppose, for example, that all American Jews lived in New York. Would that mean the "equilibrium point" was 100%-0%, and if so, wouldn't it be meaningless? My answer is yes, and no. It is meaningless at the extremes, as in that example. It is also meaningless in landslides -- for example, in 1984 -- when no one's vote, let alone the Jewish vote, was proportionate to the population in blue or red states. But in a closely divided electorate, I think it may have some value.

Another objection: Maybe it would be more useful to total the entire vote for the blue states and weight it by multiplying it by .75, then total the entire vote for the red states and weight it by multiplying it by .25. That would provide a pretty accurate benchmark for Jewish liberalism, but we already know how it will work out. Jews will still be well to the left. I'm trying to find a benchmark that more closely explains the Jewish vote numerically.

I'd like to hear readers' thoughts on this. Have I simply latched on to a statistical fluke and blown it out of proportion? Or is this in some way a useful benchmark? And my bonus question: What would Bill James think?

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November 07, 2004

N stands for Nutjob

In the Los Angeles Times today, Jack "God" Miles argues in a piece called "Bad News for Jews" that the recent elections and the imminent death of Yasser Arafat have hurt Israel. Let me spare you the trouble of reading it. Israel now has no partner for peace and no president in the White House who will force it to enter a hopeless agreement with the Palestinians. So Israel, as the de facto ruler of huge numbers of Palestinians, will no longer be a majority Jewish state. Damn shame that Israel no longer has Arafat to deal with and Bill Clinton to encourage it to commit suicide.

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Beat Attila -- Photo caption contest

I've decided to experiment with letting readers caption the photos. My own caption is simply: Ear wax. That should be easy enough to beat, but please, keep it clean!

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November 06, 2004

Jewish Left: "Pass the Kool-Aid!"

(I wrote this post on Friday morning, but Blogger was down, so I had to wait till tonight. No matter; it's not stale yet.)

Gratitude is an important Jewish value, which I try to live. So is visiting the sick, which, as you're about to see, is harder for me.

And now that the election is over, let's visit the sick American Jewish Left, which is in meltdown.

The Jerusalem Post reports (hat tip: Just Moi) that the Jewish left is "in mourning." (OK, a mixed metaphor; maybe we're making a shiva call.) The Post quotes one lovely leftist:

"People are incredibly depressed," said Dara Silverman, director of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, a far-Left Jewish group in New York. "People are saying to me that this is like Germany in 1933 and what we need to be doing is building the opposition."
Snort!! Pardon me while I laugh at her misery. If she thinks the U.S. is an incipient Nazi government, she should hightail it out right away. But where will she go? North Korea?

And then there are those who demand that because their leftist views were soundly rejected in this election, Bush has an obligation to move leftward. Can't you understand that??!!! Marsha Atkind, president of the National Council of Jewish Women, wants Bush to cave on judicial appointments:
"We hope [Bush] will take this opportunity to reach out to all elements in this country and unite this country – and one way he can do that is make his judicial nominees moderate conservatives, not right-wing ideologues."
Yes, "moderate conservatives," like Justice Souter. Snort!! But the award for the weepiest leftist goes to....
Old-time Jewish left-wing activists, however, found little cause for joy. "I'm feeling impossibly dejected about what happened on Tuesday," said Gordon Fellman, a longtime left-wing social activist and professor at Brandeis University. "Everybody I knew was kind of in mourning on Wednesday. A former student of mine cried all day."
"The Democrats," he said, "are in disarray."
Well, I figured that as soon as I finished laughing about the misery of the Left, I would do a round-up on the Jewish vote and Jewish reaction, but fortunately, Judith has already done it. The best line Judith quotes is from Cathy Seipp's friend:

He got annoyed about the results from certain Florida counties, especially before Florida was called for Bush and we started to relax. "Bush could convert to Judaism, then complain about his colonoscopy over diet soda and knishes, and those old Jews still wouldn't vote for him."
Yeah, may onions grow in their navels! (A Yiddish curse.)

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November 04, 2004

"Damned poppyseed bagels!"

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November 03, 2004

Liberal Jews for Bush

As I just noted below, we'll never know what the true Jewish vote for Bush was. But I expect that even the exit polls will show a decent increase from 2000. Given the size of the Bush victory in Ohio and Florida, and the Bush loss in California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland, where the largest populations of Jews are found, I realize that Jews weren't responsible for Bush's victory. To me, it's still an important event.

I have complained many times (and I'm sure I will complain again) about voting patterns of liberal Jews, but I am sure that the increase in the Jewish vote for Bush this year could not have occurred without liberal Jews. Since I'm a Jewish conservative, this is an appropriate time for me to express my personal gratitude and admiration for liberal Jews who made what must have been an extremely difficult decision emotionally. I appreciate how much Ed Koch, for example, did on behalf of Bush's re-election bid, and I admire the strength and courage of the less known liberal Jews (many of whom have been chronicled by Judith Weiss at Kesher Talk) who braved the sneers, anger, and possibly worse, of friends, relatives, and strangers.

Despite our differences on some issues, we have come together as American Jews on the most important issue -- electing the candidate who is best for this country. I hope we will be able to continue voting together in the future.

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Jews for Bush

According to an article in the Jerusalem Post (link via Best of the Web Today, and thanks for your link to my Ohio math), based on a small sample, a significant number of Jewish Gore voters voted for Bush this year.

The American Jewish Committee, in a tiny sampling of roughly 200 Jewish voters in five battleground states, found roughly 12 to 13 percent of Jews who voted for Al Gore in 2000 switched parties and cast their vote for President George W. Bush on Tuesday.

"From our exit sampling, very strong support for Kerry. But strikingly, a fairly significant number of Jews switching from Gore in 2000 to Bush, somewhere in the order of 12-13%," said David Harris, AJC's executive director, who examined data, which he stressed was not scientific.
Keeping all the obvious caveats in consideration, and treating this as just better than anecdotal evidence, this is still a big deal. The 12-13% of Gore voters is about one-eighth. If 80% of Jews voted for Gore in 2000, as the article claims, that means that (making some obvious assumptions) the Jewish vote for Bush rose by about 10% over 2000. A 10% shift reduces the percentage difference between Gore/Kerry and Bush by 20%. (The Republican Jewish Coalition believes that Bush went up from 19% in 2000 to about 25% this year, which is less than the AJC estimates.)

As I've said before, we'll never know the real Jewish vote for Bush. I strongly suspect that a fair percentage of Jewish Bush voters would not admit publicly that they had voted for him, even to exit pollsters or people from the American Jewish Committee. We can only guess and add a few percent to whatever the official estimate is.

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Specter predictions


Arlen Specter, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will step on many toes, all of them Republican.

He will vote against some prominent conservative judicial nominees, perhaps including the first Supreme Court nominee, but he will not cooperate with Democrats to keep the nominations from the floor.

Since the Senate is 55-45, the committee will no longer be divided 10-9, so Specter's negative vote won't kill any nomination.

Bonus: Obama will be given a committee seat and, as the only black Senator, will take the lead in attacking the Bush judicial nominees.

UPDATE (11/5): Conservatives are mobilizing.

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Let's do the math

Bush has won Ohio by about 136,000 votes with 100% of precincts reporting. Kerry wants to wait until the provisional ballots and absentees are counted. Here is what Kerry will have to win out of these remaining ballots to make up the 136,000 vote deficit.

The way to figure it out is:

(A) Take the number of valid provisional ballots (i.e., not the total number but the total number reduced by the number of those determined to be invalid) and add it to the number of valid absentee ballots.

(B) Subtract 136,000 from (A).

(C) Divide (B) by 2.

(D) Subtract (C) from (A). This is the number of votes Kerry needs to win.

(E) Divide (D) by (A) and multiply by 100. This is the percentage of votes Kerry needs to win.

So if these are the numbers of valid provisional and absentee ballots, the numbers in parentheses following them are the percentages of the vote Kerry needs to win Ohio:

150,000 (95.3%)
175,000 (88.9%)
200,000 (83.0%)
225,000 (79.8%)
250,000 (77.2%)

We have a name for a candidate in this position: LOSER!

UPDATE (11/3): According to Jeff Goldstein, the "militants" at Fallujah are talking about this same math.

Overheard in a Fallujah "militant" stronghold, November 3

First Militant: “But what about the provisional vote? Can’t the tall infidel still wrest Ohio from the cowboy monkey?”

Second Militant: “Alas, my brother, I fear the calculus redounds against him. Which reminds me: where did we put those Kevlar head scarves, do you remember...?"*

And Kerry agrees.

Kerry aides originally believed there might be enough provisional ballots in Ohio -- ballots cast by voters not on the official registration rolls -- to win that state. After overnight analysis and a series of early morning meetings, Kerry and his advisers realized that the estimated 150,000 provisional ballots were not enough to overcome Bush's current margin of 136,000 votes in Ohio, even if he were to win the lion's share of them.

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November 02, 2004

In other news

While the rest of you are totally obsessing about Democratic spin on the exit polls (obviously intended to suppress the Republican vote and make it sound like a Kerry win is inevitable so that anything else is theft by Bush), I've been looking at the other big stories.

The New York Times has a piece today on lawyer-groping. That's right, lawyer-groping. I had to say it twice so that people will get to my blog by googling "lawyer groping." Oops, I said "lawyer-groping" a third time. I mean, fourth.

(These google searches are strange. I had a post last month about a survey on people's satisfaction with sex lives, by political affiliation. I called it "Sex lives of Elephants and Donkeys," and now I have perverts coming to this blog by searching "sex with elephants" or "sex with donkeys." And by repeating this, I'll only get more.)

Anyway, back to lawyer-groping (fifth time). The Times's article is called "When a Pat-Down Seems Like Groping" and discusses new screening procedures of the Transportation Security Administration that allow more frequent pat-down searches. The entire article focuses on a lawyer named Rhonda Gaynier, who suffered through one of these searches, and not in silence.

"Listen, I don't particularly like it when my doctor gives me a breast exam, O.K.?" said Ms. Gaynier, who is 46. "And now I'm supposed to accept a breast exam, in public, at the airport? Next time I'll drive rather than flying."
The new policy is this:
The policy states, in part, "Additional screening, including pat-down searches, may be required of passengers based on visual observations by screeners, even if the audible alarm has not gone off." Another provision states, "T.S.A. policy is that screeners are to use the back of the hand when screening sensitive body areas, which include the breasts (females only), genitals and buttocks."
So Ms. Gaynier, a lawyer, complained to a supervisor and started throwing around legal mumbo-jumbo:
As a lawyer, Ms. Gaynier specializes in real estate and landlord-tenant litigation, not criminal law. "But I thought, well, I'll throw these legal terms out and see if I can back him down," she said.

She could not. According to Ms. Gaynier, the supervisor said, "Well, ma'am, since you're some legal eagle, did you know that you consented to this screening procedure when you purchased your ticket? And that if you don't consent to the screening, you don't get on your plane?"
Well, she consented, but it didn't go well even then.
But then, she said, she got the pat-down deluxe. "The agent comes over and starts on my left side. Under my arm, over my shoulder, down the side of my body to my waist, around my waistline, and then she comes up to my bra strap in the back and goes across to my right side, under the armpit, over the shoulders, and then she comes around front and touches me right between my breasts, and then follows the edge of my bra cups around both breasts.

"I was like, 'Whoa! What are you doing?' and I backed up. The supervisor was right there and he says, 'You're not allowing the screening to happen.' And I said, 'You're kidding me. You can't be touching me between my breasts.' "

The supervisor summoned the police. Four officers promptly arrived on the scene. "Real cops - guns, clubs, the whole nine yards, all for me, this big security threat," Ms. Gaynier said.

She does concede, "I pitched quite a fit" at the intervention. To make a long story short, she did not make her flight. The police escorted her from the gate area.
Brought to you by TSA, whose motto is: Better that 100 innocent lawyers be groped than that one suspicious Arab be inconvenienced.

UPDATE (11/23/04): I've posted today about Joe Sharkey's follow-up article on the same subject in the Times.

UPDAT (11/30/04): Another post on Rhonda Gaynier.

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