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February 28, 2005

Mad cows (and happy cows)

Leaving aside the creeping PETA-ism, this article on cow moods is profoundly amooooosing.

(Thanks to B2 at Toner Mishap for the link. B2, by the way, posted a very polite comment on my "Boiling the frog" post, even though it sounds as if he thinks my politics are fershtunkene.)

The article comes from the Sunday Times (of London) and was written by the "science editor," so I guess we should all take it very seriously. Because no one is more serious than a science grad with a license to practice journalism. The gist of the article is that cows have emotions and moods.

ONCE they were a byword for mindless docility. But cows have a secret mental life in which they bear grudges, nurture friendships and become excited over intellectual challenges, scientists have found. Cows are also capable of feeling strong emotions such as pain, fear and even anxiety — they worry about the future. But if farmers provide the right conditions, they can also feel great happiness.

Cows are also capable of feeling strong emotions such as pain, fear and even anxiety — they worry about the future. But if farmers provide the right conditions, they can also feel great happiness.

Doesn't it worry you that cows will bear grudges? You'd better be careful what you say to them, or you will be worrying about the future.

Next, of course, comes the PETA-ism.
The findings have emerged from studies of farm animals that have found similar traits in pigs, goats, chickens and other livestock. They suggest that such animals may be so emotionally similar to humans that welfare laws need to be rethought.

Christine Nicol, professor of animal welfare at Bristol University, said even chickens may have to be treated as individuals with needs and problems.
OK, now, back to the humor.
[Prof. John] Webster and his colleagues have documented how cows within a herd form smaller friendship groups of between two and four animals with whom they spend most of their time, often grooming and licking each other. They will also dislike other cows and can bear grudges for months or years.
The good news is that you can ask your cows for help with those difficult crossword puzzles that you've been struggling with.
Donald Broom, professor of animal welfare at Cambridge University, who is presenting other research at the conference, will describe how cows can also become excited by solving intellectual challenges.
And if you think cows are amazing, just consider what sheep can do. Why, they're almost as smart as dogs!
Keith Kendrick, professor of neurobiology at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, has found that even sheep are far more complex than realised and can remember 50 ovine faces — even in profile. They can recognise another sheep after a year apart.

Kendrick has also described how sheep can form strong affections for particular humans, becoming depressed by long separations and greeting them enthusiastically even after three years.
But no article urging PETA-ism can be complete without (WARNING) TOO MUCH INFORMATION.
Dairy cow herds can also be intensely sexual. Webster describes how the cows become excited when one of the herd comes into heat and start trying to mount her. "Cows look calm, but really they are gay nymphomaniacs," he said.
Got milk?

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February 27, 2005

Vanity of vanities

Vanity of vanities, a roundup of blog posts on Jewish topics is up at Kesher Talk. My post on "Boiling the frog" is the lead item. (Only because I submitted it first.)

Please go and take a look at all the posts.

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February 25, 2005

Revenge of the DemocRATS?

Remember the fuss the Dems made in the 2000 campaign about a TV ad by the RNC about the Gore prescription drug plan that had words moving in and out in the background, including "Bureaucrats Decide," and at one point the end of the word "bureaucrats" was visible -- RATS? Here's a CNN story about it from the time.

Could this AFP photo be their revenge?

The caption at the Yahoo news site reads: "US President George W. Bush speaks in Bratislava 24 February 2005. Europe is realizing Bush's 'vision' might work and should stop demanding from the US 'a high price for its political favors'(AFP/Joe Klamar)."

Click here to read more . . .

Pillage challenge -- last call

I want to thank the people who have participated in the Pillage Challenge by contributing $25 to one of the seven worthy charities and who have received from me a free Pillage Idiot mug. I especially want to thank M.E. over at Stand in the Trenches both for having participated and for having given the Pillage Challenge a plug on her blog a couple of weeks ago.

The response overall has been a little disappointing to me, but maybe that's because my readership has its annual meeting in the back seat of a VW beetle. That said, let me say this: I will keep the Pillage Challenge open until Thursday, March 3. I still have some mugs left, so please follow the instructions at the Pillage Challenge link above.

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Cold reception

Sure there's snow and ice here in Maryland, but apparently it's really cold in Howard County, where the Baltimore Sun reports there will be an "alternative sex" convention this weekend. The residents are, shall we say, not enthusiastic.

"Would you want to put your baby on the bedspread? This hotel is a residential community. Is it appropriate for our community?" said Ingrid Holzman, 42, who lives with her husband and two children in a home on the 800-acre golf course property. "I moved here eight months ago from Massachusetts. I'm not a prude."

But the idea that her family might have gone to dinner at the hotel restaurant without knowing about the "Dark Odyssey -Winter Fire" participants walking the same hallways upset her, she said. The two-day event is so popular that the hotel's 220 rooms are full, and some participants are renting rooms in other hotels, according to the event's Web site.
The Sun describes the convention:
On its Web site, Dark Odyssey is billed as "a vacation where you can explore the many facets of sexuality in a private, intimate community of like-minded people," featuring "a multitude of partnering possibilities, from swinging and open relationships to threesomes."

Howard County police Chief Wayne Livesay talked to hotel management at Turf Valley yesterday and is "comfortable that all public safety issues are being taken care of appropriately," at the Dark Odyssey convention, said police spokesman Dave Proulx.
Well, according the Dark Odyssey web site -- only the bare-bones (yuk!) home page seems to be accessible, not that I'd really like to explore it too far, anyway -- the event is indeed sold out.

All I can say is: Eeeeewwwwww! Spring Break for the middle-aged crowd.

UPDATE (2/25): Just remembered that Dave Barry had a column a couple of years ago about attending a swingers' convention -- "for journalism purposes." An excerpt:
The thong appears to be a major weapon in the swinger's fashion arsenal. This is not necessarily a good thing. Your taut-bodied individual may be able to pull it off (har!), but when you see a portly middle-aged man who has more body hair than a musk ox and (I swear) a tattoo of Elvis on his right butt cheek stroll past wearing essentially a No. 8 rubber band, you begin to think that maybe it's time Congress enacted strict Federal Thong Control.

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February 24, 2005

The unasked question

Everyone probably has seen this already, but I think it's interesting as a starting point for thought. David Ignatius, in his Washington Post column, talks with Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon's Druze Muslims:

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."
Consider this in conjunction with the discussion on Nightline with Malcolm Gladwell, author of a book about the notion of a tipping point, and Tom Friedman of the New York Times. FrontPage magazine provides a transcript of the program. The discussion with Ted Koppel shows two observers cautiously optimistic that the Iraqi elections may have been a "tipping point" toward changing the way people view the situation in Iraq and maybe more than that. Friedman says:
I would simply add, also, we've seen two nearby tipping points, as well, which are both triggered by Iraq and will reinforce Iraq. In Lebanon, we've seen Lebanese stand off and say for the first time ever, "Syria did this." Referring to the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister. Lebanese, as Malcolm said, privately they may have spoken that way. But now, we see them step out of what was a private dialogue and make it a public dialogue. And in Palestine and Israel, we see an Israeli government agree to uproot Jewish settlements and evacuate the Gaza Strip and turn it over to a Palestinian authority and what will be a Palestinian state. Again, a whole new tipping point there. And each one of these three are now reinforcing each other in a virtuous cycle. And I think in some ways, even strengthening each other. So, you could get more tipping points as this goes along.
Gladwell then responds:
It's a wonderful illustration of how powerful fully contagious these kinds of changes are. You know, I can't help thinking in all of this back to the example of what was going on in Eastern Europe, particularly East Germany, in the month leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall. 'Cause you had a similar kind of -- many different aspects of society, this kind of contagious element. And the notion, the idea that there could be a different future for people in that region spread so quickly from one area of society to another, that you had change happen far more quicker than you would ever have imagined. And, you know, I wonder when I see all of the things that Tom just described, there does seem to be a kind of contagious phenomenon at work here. That this notion that people of this region can powerfully reshape their futures seems to be spreading. You know, it resembles a spread of a virus. A kind of uncontrolled -- in this case a positive spread, though. An uncontrollable phenomenon whereby an idea spreads from one person to another.
The unasked question here is how much credit they think Bush deserves for these developments. Bush isn't mentioned at all, except briefly regarding his statement that major military operations were over. I'm happy to see some optimism among liberals, and I'm just curious about how far they are willing to go in admitting what seems to me to be obvious.

Final thought on this point: Tom Maguire quotes Lefty Gomez. "I'd rather be lucky than good."

Click here to read more . . .

February 23, 2005

A question for my new friends across the pond

This morning saw a first for me -- being tracked back by a blogger from London. The blogger was interested in my post about "Red Ken" Livingstone, the Mayor of London. I'm not too good tracing IP addresses, but either the blogger or someone coming here from his blog left me little smartalecky comments in that post and the later post about the Iraqi soldiers, using as pseudonyms the names of British politicians. (Another commenter simply called himself "John.")

The gist of the comments, stripping away the smartaleckiness, and the gist of the trackback, was that "Red Ken" was basically right not to apologize for calling a Jewish reporter a concentration camp guard. Now, I've always hated the spectacle of trying to force a politician to apologize. Even if it happens under the duress of public scorn, it's never sincere, and for that reason, I think it's counterproductive even to ask for an apology. If the politician sincerely regrets his statement (which is rarely the case), he will apologize of his own volition.

What bothers me more about "Red Ken" is his dogged defense of his celebration of a Muslim cleric known for preaching in favor of the murder of Jews. [UPDATE 2/24: LGF has more on this.] I have a pretty good idea why American Leftists who generally despise religion and profess a concern for women and gays nevertheless make alliances with religious reactionaries who oppress women and debate the proper way to execute gays. For American Leftists, it's basically that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. I don't even have to read David Horowitz's book.

So here's my question for my new British Leftist friends. I'd be the first to admit I don't know much about British politics, and I'd like to know, in your own words, why the British Left is so tight with the folks who are planning to impose shari'a law in England at their earliest opportunity. Please feel free to respond in the comments.

And, just to show you that I'm a nice guy, I won't mock you for working to destroy the lofty principles that Britain has stood for since 1215 and the viability of Britain as a force for good in the world. Instead, I'll tell you a Jewish joke, apropos of all this.

A Jew leaves Eastern Europe after the War and relocates in England. He sheds his Jewish clothing, his Jewish accent, and generally makes himself over into an English gentleman. He speaks right, adopts the right politics, wears the right ties, and becomes indistinguishable from his business partners. He does well in business, buys a country house, and moves about in high class society.

The Jew then brings his father to England, but he tells his father he's got to become high class English, too. So he replaces his father's coat with a Harris Tweed jacket and his cabbage soup with roast beef rare and says "Dad, I'm sorry but my barber is going to cut off your payot (side locks) -- English gentlemen don't wear them."

The old man has been silent through all of this, but after his side locks have been cut off, he bursts into tears. His son asks him why he's crying, and the old man sobs, "We lost India."

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February 22, 2005

Good news from Iraq

Will wonders never cease? There's good news from Iraq in the Washington Post. On the front page, yet.

Iraqi soldiers arrived at the scene where American forces were trying to recover the bodies of Americans servicemen from the water of a canal under frigid conditions. When the tanks of the Navy SEAL divers ran out of oxygen, the Iraqis fabricated a dredging tool and spent hours dredging the canal until the bodies were recovered.

During the harrowing day-long mission to recover the bodies of the Humvee's three occupants on Feb. 13, an Air Force firefighter also drowned. Five U.S. soldiers were treated for hypothermia. For five hours, three Navy SEAL divers searched the canal before their tanks ran out of oxygen.

What happened then, however, has transformed the relationship between the Iraqi soldiers and the skeptical Americans who train them. Using a tool they welded themselves that day at a cost of about $40, the Iraqis dredged the canal through the cold afternoon until the tan boot of Spec. Dakotah Gooding, 21, of Des Moines, appeared at the surface. The Iraqis then jumped into the water to pull him out, and went back again and again until they had recovered the last American. Then they stood atop the canal, shivering in the dark.

"When I saw those Iraqis in the water, fighting to save their American brothers, I saw a glimpse of the future of this country," said Col. Mark McKnight, commander of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, which had overall responsibility for the unit in the accident, his eyes tearing.
The story is long but worth reading. One of the most touching parts is this:
Asked why he now felt so strongly about helping the Americans, Abdul Mutalib said through an interpreter: "These people come 10,000 miles to help my country. They've left their families, their children. When we get hurt, they help treat us and take us to hospitals. If we can give them something back, just a little, we can show our thanks."
Read it through to the end.

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Happy 273rd birthday, George Washington

While I have the highest regard for The Big Trunk over at Power Line, I think he may have inadvertently understated the importance of George Washington's letter to the Jewish congregation in Rhode Island in 1790.

The Trunk speaks of the letter as being "one of the classic statements of religious toleration in America," but "toleration" is really the wrong word, as GW himself explained. As I pointed out my first-ever post at this blog, Jew in America, Washington's letter rejected the notion of "toleration" in favor of full citizenship:

All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
For Jews, who, during the best of historical times, were tolerated by the local rulers, one simply cannot emphasize too greatly how important this concept of citizenship really is.

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"Red" Ken Livingstone and the Jews

When "Red Ken" Livingstone, Mayor of London, isn't entertaining and defending extremist Muslim clerics who preach in support of killing Jews, he's accusing Jewish reporters of being like a Nazi concentration camp guard. Melanie Phillips has the dirt -- and it really is dirty.

London's a wonderful place. We visited last summer. But it does make you wonder about it.

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February 21, 2005

The Washington Nationals, a baseball team that understands the big picture

"No Offense, but Nationals See Need for More Runs"

Headline, Wash. Post, Feb. 21, 2005

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February 20, 2005

Boiling the frog

I've always thought the idea of boiling a frog displayed gratuitous cruelty, but in this case, I think it's an apt analogy. What I mean by boiling the frog is this: It's said that if you stuck a frog in boiling water, it would instantly jump out. If, on the other hand, you stuck a frog in cool water and very gradually raised the heat, the frog would adjust and not notice how hot it was until it was too late for the sorry critter.

I thought of this when I was examining the reactions to the Howard Dean ad run by the Republican Jewish Coalition. I've cited this briefly before, but let's review the bidding.

Howard Dean is elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The RJC runs a print ad featuring a photo of Hamas members wearing hooded outfits and what appear to be mock suicide bomb belts. A young boy is also wearing such a belt. The ad quotes Dean as saying, "It's not our place to take sides." The ad also quotes Joe Lieberman, Nancy Pelosi, and a Kerry operative who are critical of Dean's remarks.

Here is a reduced version of the ad:

Image Hosted by

Needless to say, Jewish Democrats are unhappy. Needless to say, they are unhappy not with Howard Dean (at least, not publicly) but with the RJC for quoting Dean. Needless to say, they are even unhappier with the RJC for using a photo of Hamasniks.

An article in the Forward parrots the Democrats' argument that the ad "seek[s] to depict [Dean] as a supporter of terrorism." That's obviously not the case. The ad actually seeks to depict Dean as someone who thinks the United States should be neutral between Israel and the people who use terror to try to destroy Israel. That's a major difference, but I suspect very few Jewish Democrats will be able to see it.

To me, the question whether the ad is unfair can be answered by looking at what Dean actually said. Here's the AP article, as published in the Burlington Free Press:

In Santa Fe, N.M., for an evening rally before last week's debate, Dean was asked by a Democratic activist about the Middle East.

"I don't believe stopping the terror has to be a prerequisite for talking, you always talk," Dean replied. "I don't find it convenient to blame people. Nobody should have violence, ever. But they do, and it's not our place to take sides."
As provocative as the image may be, I think the context of Dean's remark justifies the photo. Dean says you talk before the terror is stopped. (That's wrongheaded, in my view, but not outrageous.) Dean says you don't "blame people." (Which people? The terrorists. Hamas. OK, now it's getting worse.) Then Dean says they shouldn't ever "have violence." (Even before you read to the end, you can sense the "but" coming.) "But they do, and it's not our place to take sides." (Not our place to take sides between those engaging in terror and the Israelis.)

In fact, I think the ad is brilliant, and I have to admit that the evil side of me thinks it's fun to watch people blabber in indignation. But, at the same time, I worry very much about the political future of American Jews.

For all of my lifetime and beyond, Jews have had their home in the Democratic Party. This can't be a surprise. Jews are more liberal on average than other Americans. I've noted before that Jews may even have chosen where to live based on political considerations. On nearly all the domestic political issues, Jews predominantly support the liberal position. And as we saw in the recent presidential election, these domestic issues kept the clear majority of the Jewish vote in the Democratic camp. (This is true, even if my theory that there was a hidden Jewish vote for Bush is correct.)

Last November, Jews as a group were not budged by Bush's strong pro-Israel position. Nor have they been budged by the troubling history of anti-semitism on the Left, starting (in my memory) with the 1968 teachers' strike in New York City and continuing on in nearly a straight line to the embrace of Al Sharpton by virtually everyone of consequence in the Democratic Party, despite his involvement in anti-semitic violence.

This history also leads to the virulent hostility to Israel (and not infrequently to Jews) on college campuses today and in left-wing anti-war groups.

The water is steadily getting warmer.

Howard Dean's election to the DNC heats things up even more. And what's troubling to me is the denial now taking place. Abe Foxman is an example of the phenomenon: "'To make it accurate, it should say 'said,' because [Dean] doesn't say it now,' Foxman told the Forward." In other words, it's OK, because after Dean was harshly criticized during the primaries, he backed away from the statement. So there's no need for concern with Dean as the chairman of the DNC.

Look, I'm not saying Dean's an anti-semite or even that he's unremittingly hostile to Israel. But I am saying that he brings along a mindset -- and a heck of a lot of baggage (remember In fact, if you deny he brings along a mindset, you're treating him as just another empty suit. Howard Dean is not an empty suit.

And what do we get from Jewish Democrats? Denial. Anger at their opponents for pointing out the predicament. What does it take -- what will it take -- for them to protest?

It's time to get out of the water. Now.

Because the water continues to get hotter.

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Piss Christo II

An even more effective evisceration of Christo's gates than Podhoretz's is done through humor.

The New York Times reports that a Somerville, Massachusetts, man has installed "The Somerville Gates," which "is a 3.5-inch-high structure made of wooden dowels, cut-up roof shingles and clear corrugated plastic, all painted with orange tempera." The man is named Geoff Hargadon and, for these purposes, calls himself "Hargo."

Most important, he has his own website showing photographs of the installation and giving a comparison of his installations with Christo's in Central Park.

So, is this really "Piss Christo II"? No, says Hargo. "'The Somerville Gates' has now become, Mr. Hargadon said, 'the anti-Christo.'"

The Times article ends:

"There are no invitations," Hargo says at the Web site. "There are no tickets."

"If anyone tries to sell you a ticket, do not buy it," he continues. "The Gates are not for sale. Neither is the cat."

"Signed photos, however," he writes, "are available directly from the artist in limited editions."

There is no wind blowing these gates, no matter what the weather. So you don't have to pick your viewing date. And the Web site will stay up for a long time. The Somerville installation itself, though, is ephemeral. It goes down when "the cleaning lady comes."
Hat tip: Mrs. Attila

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February 17, 2005

Jewish Republicans stop taking prisoners

The Republican Jewish Coalition has launched an ad attack on Howard Dean and the Democrats. Very tough. Here it is.

And here's a story on some of the Democratic response and RJC counter-response.

This is today's statement from the RJC.

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Libs continue to take a hit

"Records Show Liberal Use Of Riggs Jet"

Headline, Wash. Post, Feb. 17, 2005

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February 16, 2005

More on the Baltimore Sun and Governor Ehrlich

When we last looked at the rift between the Sun and Gov. Ehrlich, we had a few chuckles over it.

Now, via Instapundit, linking Sneaking Suspicions, I see that the Sun's lawsuit against the governor challenging his order that state employees not talk to a Sun reporter and a Sun columnist has been dismissed by the district court.

Sneaking Suspicions has a lovely name for this: a "First Amendment wedgie." That name is worth its weight in gold.

I can only add that this wedgie was administered where the Baltimore Sun don't shine.

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Piss Christo

That's Christo, the artiste, I'm referring to.

John Podhoretz, in the NY Post, absolutely eviscerates the fellow over the "endless rows of saffron shmattas" Christo has erected in Central Park for a cool $20 mil.

I seem to recall that when I was living in the City 20 years ago, Christo was unsuccessfully trying to pull a stunt like that.

Don't miss the Yahoo slideshow, linked on this article. (via Power Line)

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More spit, please! More!

Why do I enjoy this cartoon so much, when I know Toles and I don't share a political outlook?

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Bear with me on this one.

Yesterday, I noticed this announcement from the State Department: Rice names Reiss

Press Statement
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 14, 2005

Reappointment of Mitchell B. Reiss as Special Envoy for Northern Ireland

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced today that Mitchell B. Reiss will continue in his role as the Special Envoy of the President and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland after his departure from his position as the Secretary’s Director of Policy Planning.

Continuing as Special Envoy, Ambassador Reiss will be able to build on his distinguished record of service supporting the peace process in Northern Ireland. The United States will continue to support actively the efforts of the people of Northern Ireland to secure a better future.
Released on February 14, 2005
Don't write to tell me that Reiss is pronounced "Reese" instead of "Rice" (if it is), because I don't want to know.

And while they're not exactly "separated at birth," we'll still go with the photos.

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"Reuters" finally gets it

"Reuters," "the" "news" "service" "known" "for" "scare" "quotes," "finally" "gets" "it."

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic Sen. John Kerry, whose baffling explanation of votes on Iraq war funding hurt his 2004 White House bid, said on Tuesday he would back President Bush's new $81.9 billion request for Iraq and Afghanistan.
The article does give Kerry another chance to try to justify his positions. He sounds like the quarterback still trying to explain why he couldn't connect with his receivers.

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NY Times readers are smarter than you are

Responding to an article in the Times about whether psychiatrists should consider that some people are just "evil," a reader writes the following (third letter):

To the Editor:

If psychiatrists are going to create a useful hierarchy of evil, they will have to include acts beyond the obvious savage crimes of serial killers ("For the Worst of Us").

Think about politicians who kill thousands while waging unnecessary wars, or corporate leaders whose pursuit of profit pollutes the environment and sickens people and whose acts of fraud destroy the economic security of their employees and investors.

These are evil souls whose crimes have longer-lasting and more wide-ranging consequences than the depredations of any mass murderer.

Toledo, Ohio
Just think about this. If John Kerry had had a few more Michael Carrs in Ohio, he would be President today.

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February 14, 2005

Go jump

Via LGF (with photos):

Some neo-Nazis held a commemoration (in German, Gedenken) on the 60th anniversary of the allied bombing of Dresden in 1945. (From my perspective, it's a shame the Germans surrendered before the A-Bomb was ready.)

Some more decent Germans held a counter-protest and held a sign that said "Geh, denken" (Go, think). The caption to the photo points out the wordplay on Gedenken vs. Geh, denken.

That's High German, of course. There's also Low German. And let's not forget Yiddish. Had the counter-protesters' sign been in Yiddish, I would have suggested "Gey kocken offen yam" -- a totally vulgar phrase that means (politely translated) "Go, poop in the ocean." It would have been much more appropriate, if you ask me.

UPDATE (2/16): Pronunciation note: "yam" is not pronounced like the sweet potato; it's more like "yahm." And "gey" is pronounced like "homosexual."

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February 13, 2005

Haloscan comments -- beta testing

Haloscan is beta-testing an upgrade in its comments code. Please e-mail me at pillageidiot -at- hotmail -dot- com if you have any problems with the way the comments work.

Best thing: There's now a "preview" option, which I've been waiting for for a while. I've tested it and it seems to work.

Click here to read more . . .

Fakir but accurate

The New York Times Book Review has a review of "The Rise of the Indian Rope Trick: How a Spectacular Hoax Became History," which traces the legend of the Indian rope trick to a hoax article in the Chicago Tribune in 1890. The hoax was written by John Elbert Wilkie, later the head of the U.S. Secret Service.

Here's the gist of the story:

An anonymous, illustrated article told of two Yale graduates, an artist and a photographer, on a visit to India. They saw a street fakir, who took out a ball of gray twine, held the loose end in his teeth and tossed the ball upwards where it unrolled until the other end was out of sight. A small boy, ''about 6 years old,'' then climbed the twine and, when he was 30 or 40 feet in the air, vanished. The artist made a sketch of the event. The photographer took snapshots. When the photos were developed, they showed no twine, no boy, just the fakir sitting on the ground. ''Mr. Fakir had simply hypnotized the entire crowd, but he couldn't hypnotize the camera,'' the writer concluded.
The story was picked up by numerous papers and translated into many European languages.

"So what?" you ask.

Nothing, just this:
Four months later, a letter to the editor forced The Tribune to come clean. The tale, the newspaper confessed, had not been reporting at all, but "written for the purpose of presenting a theory in an entertaining form." In other words, it was phony. But where the original story had caused an international stir, the retraction attracted little notice.
To use modern terminology: It was fakir but accurate.

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February 12, 2005

"Stories Too Good to Check"

In his weekly column, which should be called Sorry I'm Not Dave Barry, Gene Weingarten writes about "Stories Too Good to Check" -- STGTC, for short -- namely stories that sound fantastic but, in layman's lingo, are too good to be true.

I know what you're thinking: "That's the entire Washington Post, minus the classifieds."

Or: "That's the entire New York Times, including the classifieds."

As Weingarten explains:

An STGTC is invariably a crushing disappointment to the poor reporter who gets it. He winds up with raised hopes, a lot of work and, ultimately, no story. When I surveyed my colleagues at The Washington Post, many solemnly responded that they'd had plenty of STGTCs in their careers but that they'd managed to erase them from their memories, like the pain of childbirth. For others, the wounds are still raw.
And, of course, there's also Dan Rather and Mary Mapes.

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February 11, 2005

Another lawyer joke

I once saw a wonderful cartoon in a collection many years ago. A lawyer is standing next to his client and is pointing a gun at the judge and bailiff, who have their hands raised. The client is saying to someone, "God knows you couldn't ask for more in a court-appointed lawyer."

I thought about this after reading that terrorist lawyer Lynne Stewart has now been convicted of "representing the destitute and the despised" (AP) and being a "a feisty defender of the poor and unpopular" (Reuters).

Here's an account of what she did. Please note that Ramsey Clark -- Ramsey Clark -- refused to do what Stewart later did.

Abdel-Rahman was sentenced to life in prison after his 1995 conviction for plotting to blow up New York City bridges and tunnels and conspiring to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The sheik was considered so dangerous that he was held in solitary confinement in Rochester, Minn.

Still, he continued inciting violence against Americans from his jail cell.

In a fatwa, or religious edict, smuggled from prison, he said: "Destroy their embassies, attack their interests, sink their ships and shoot down their airplanes. Kill them in land, at sea and in the air."

Despite the hate-filled message, Abdel-Rahman and the Islamic Group — the Egyptian terrorist band of which he was the spiritual leader — agreed to support a cessation of terrorist activities in Egypt.

This did not sit well with bin Laden and Rifai Taha, an Egyptian militant tied to Abdel-Rahman. They had issued a fatwa calling for killing of Americans "wherever they could be found."

Taha subsequently was captured on phone taps talking to Ahmed Abdel Sattar, a paralegal for the sheik, and Mohamed Yousry, an interpreter. (Both were convicted at Stewart's trial and face lengthy prison terms.)

On the taps, Taha and Sattar discussed persuading Abdel-Rahman to end his support for the cease-fire.

During a September 1999 prison visit, Yousry urged the sheik to rescind his support and Abdel-Rahman dictated a statement to that effect.

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsay Clark, who was also on the sheik's legal team, was present. But he refused to issue the statement, saying it violated prison restrictions.

Things changed when Stewart — who hadn't seen Abdel-Rahman in over a year — visited the sheik from May 16-17, 2000.

She carried into the prison a letter from Sattar, and in a conference room, she pulled it from the back of her legal pad and handed to Yousry.

That action was caught on videotape.

Stewart and Yousry talked about the guard outside the window of the interview room.

"If he finds out what this is . . ." Stewart said.

"We're in trouble," Yousry replied.

Yousry read the Sattar letter to Abdel-Rahman in Arabic. In it, Sattar urged the sheik to have Stewart release a statement opposing the cease-fire.

Stewart made noises to distract the guard. She also blurted out words to disguise the true intent of the conversation.

"I could win an Academy Award," she boasted.

The next day, Abdel-Rahman dictated a response to the Sattar letter.

"What is the use of the initiative?" he said. "The [Egyptian] government did not do anything other than increasing its own violence."

Four days before the visit, Stewart signed a statement agreeing that discussions would be limited to legal matters. But she barely spoke to Abdel-Rahman about legal issues — and she agreed to issue his statement.

The sheik's words sent shock waves through the Middle East and evoked displeasure from U.S. officials.
A tribute to the profession she is.

Click here to read more . . .

February 09, 2005

Maryland's next governor?

Last time we heard from Mayor Martin O'Malley of Baltimore, and by "we" I mean "I" or at least "this blog," it was in October. The mayor was announcing that "as the stubborn homicide rate spits back at us, we are undeterred," thus apparently winning a bet with his wife that he could use the words "stubborn," "homicide," and "spits" in the same sentence. And he was at the same time bowing out of the mayoral debate on the ground that he had to attend a meeting with the Jewish National Fund, thereby provoking me to accuse him, mostly in jest, of blaming it on the Jews.

After so much coverage in October and none since then, maybe you believed you would be able to avoid reading about him again. But you were wrong. Since he may well be the next governor of Maryland, let's see what he's up to these days.

1. He's rhetorically comparing the Bush budget to the September 11 attacks. Now, normally, I would pause here to say, a la Dave Barry, that I'm not making this up. But O'Malley is a Democrat, so that isn't necessary.

At the National Press Club yesterday, he said this:

"These cuts, ladies and gentlemen, are sad. Irresponsible. They are also dishonest," O'Malley (D) told a packed news conference at the National Press Club, where mayors and area officials had gathered to decry Bush's plan to slash spending on community development programs by $2 billion.

"Back on September 11, terrorists attacked our metropolitan cores, two of America's great cities. They did that because they knew that was where they could do the most damage and weaken us the most," O'Malley said. "Years later, we are given a budget proposal by our commander in chief, the president of the United States. And with a budget ax, he is attacking America's cities. He is attacking our metropolitan core."
I should be quick to point out that O'Malley did not contend that Bush has deliberately targeted journalists, so he is not likely to be hired by CNN.

Also, the WaPo account of the speech says that those who heard the speech appeared to be "a bit stunned" by the comparison. (Perhaps, however, they were really "mildly shocked" or "slightly astonished" or even "moderately blown away" by the comparison.) One reporter questioned O'Malley's use of "inflammatory rhetoric" (which I suppose is a pretty apt term here).

Michelle Malkin has more on this.

2. The New York Times has a front page article on Baltimore's violent crime, which now seems not just to be spitting at the mayor but actually to be hawking major loogies at him. The mayor wanted to prove his bona fides by reducing the city's crime rate, but the murder rate remains high. (According to the 2002 Uniform Crime Reports by the FBI, Baltimore had 253 murders out of a total of 513 for all of Maryland.) So the current spin on this from the mayor and his staff is that it's just a bunch of drug dealers and junkies killing each other, and the rest of the city is totally safe. Phew! I feel better already.

"Baltimore is actually a very safe city if you are not involved in the drug trade," Health Commissioner Peter Beilenson said.

To make their case, city officials have compiled studies that show a fine line between killers and their prey. Of the 38 homicide victims this year, 90 percent had criminal records and 68 percent had been arrested for violent crimes. The victims had been arrested an average of eight times each, typically for drug-related crimes.

"Our victims have identical records as our suspects," Marcus Brown, acting deputy police commissioner, said.
But the true test of the mayor and his staff is this: If they are correct in their spin, and it's only a few bad areas of town with high violent crime rates, that makes it far easier to focus their police and prosecutorial resources on those areas. Will they crack down (bad choice of terms, I guess) on crime in those neighborhoods, or will they simply try to cover the mayor's behind? (Now that's a difficult question to answer.)

3. The mayor's opponents have given him best gift imaginable -- a long-time staffer to Governor Ehrlich has been forced to resign for spreading rumors about O'Malley's alleged extra-marital affairs. The mayor and his wife appeared publicly to deny and denounce those rumors. Of course, assuming there's really no truth to the rumors, this gift allows O'Malley to blame any real political attacks on him as more dirty tricks. Like his failure to respond adequately to the murders in East Baltimore.

Click here to read more . . .

Pillage challenge update

I still have a few Pillage Idiot mugs left, which are free if you make a $25 contribution to one of these charities:

Spirit of America
Special Operations Warrior Foundation
Operation Gratitude
Fisher House
American Friends of Magen David Adom
Friends of the Israel Defense Forces

Complete rules for the Pillage Challenge may be found here.

I received a very nice email message from Spirit of America thanking me for including SOA among these charities. It's a good cause, and so are all the others.

Click here to read more . . .

February 08, 2005

Are men stupider than women?

The answer is an unequivocal YES. (WARNING: Link describes male self-mutilation.)

The silver lining is that you can see that they at least believe strongly in fulfilling their vows. Not necessarily marital vows, mind you, just vows -- the stupider, the better.

Via The Corner.

Click here to read more . . .

More TSA madness

When the Transportation Security Administration is not busy groping lawyers, it is busy not plugging security loopholes. If some chump editor of Slate is able to figure out how a terrorist could slip through security using the "internet check-in" process, if his insight is confirmed by an air security expert, and if a TSA official basically acknowledges this loophole and insists that the usual screening would pick up terrorists despite the loophole, you know we have a problem.

And before anyone complains that I'm being unfair in referring to the editor as a "chump," let me say this: I don't mean it in a bad way. As he himself wrote, "It's a loophole so obvious, it occurred to me the first time I held it in my hand. And believe me, if I can figure it out, any terrorist worth his AK-47 realized it a long time ago."

Click here to read more . . .

PC Police

No, I'm not talking about the folks who enforce political correctness. What I'm referring to is the sad tendency of law enforcement to avoid naming the true reasons for crime when those reasons are not PC.

Daniel Pipes gives the details, starting with the murder of the Armanious family, the Egyptian Coptic immigrants, in Jersey City.

The authorities, however, have blinded themselves to the extensive circumstantial evidence, insisting that “no facts at this point” substantiate a religious motive for the murders.

Somehow, the prosecutor missed that all four members of this quiet family were savagely executed in the ritualistic Islamist way (multiple knife attacks and near-beheading); that Jersey City has a record of Islamist activism and jihadi violence; and that an Islamist website,, carried multiple threats against Hossam Armanious (“we are going to track you down like a chicken and kill you”).

Law enforcement seems more concerned to avoid an anti-Muslim backlash than to find the culprits.
The trouble is that this is not an isolated instance. And Pipes's article produces the goods. It's a chilling read.

Click here to read more . . .

February 07, 2005

Semper ubi, sub ubi

That phrase is pidgin Latin for "always wear underwear." (Another ancient joke.)

With slight modification, this could become the state motto of Virginia. The Virginia legislature is considering a bill that would impose a $50 fine for displaying one's underwear in a "lewd or indecent manner."

The bill was prompted by, you guessed it, the style popular among young men of wearing their pants well below the waistbands of their underwear. When my brother was in college, it was hip to wear boxers that showed below the bottoms of your shorts. Now what shows is the top of the underwear. When this happens in my household, I start yanking on the pants to pull them down. The offenders get the message pretty quickly. No $50 fines are involved.

What annoys me about this style is that it's nothing more than "big house chic." But I don't think the display of underwear tops can qualify as lewd or indecent, and the law is likely to be ineffective. Anyway, if you're really concerned about lewd or indecent displays of underwear, check out some Calvin Klein ads.

Click here to read more . . .

Professional courtesy

Professional courtesy.
A good start.
99% of lawyers give the rest of us a bad name.

Ha, ha! Ho, ho! Wheeeeee! Aren't lawyer jokes fun?

Just don't try to tell lawyer jokes while you're standing outside a courthouse waiting to get in for a hearing on your drunken-driving charge:

Mr. Kash and Mr. Lanzisera, who both live in Huntington, have pestered Long Island's lawyers and judges for years as members of Americans for Legal Reform, a group that advocates for cameras in courtrooms and for public handling of grievances against lawyers. They publicize stories of crooked lawyers and urge 10-year minimum prison terms for lawyers convicted of stealing from their clients.

But on Jan. 10, the day they were arrested, Mr. Kash was headed to Nassau County District Court in Hempstead to answer a drunken-driving charge, and Mr. Lanzisera went along to keep him company.

It was a cold day, the men said, and they grew frustrated standing outside in the line of people waiting to enter the court while lawyers flashed their identification and hurried into the building. "There go the kings," the men said they muttered, and then launched into a barrage of lawyer jokes.

Like weathered vaudeville players, the men said, they asked each other old standards, like: How do you know when a lawyer is lying? His lips are moving.

As they chortled, a man standing five spots ahead turned around and said, "I'm a lawyer; shut up," and complained to the court security officers, Mr. Kash and Mr. Lanzisera said. The men walked past the metal detectors and into the building, where they were approached by a court officer, handcuffed and arrested.

The men said they were searched and made to sit in a holding area for four hours before being released with a desk appearance ticket for disorderly conduct. The charge carries a penalty of 15 days in jail.
And why were they arrested?
A Nassau court official, speaking on the condition that he not be named because a grand jury will hear the case, said the lawyer jokes had nothing to do with the arrest. The official said Mr. Kash and Mr. Lanzisera were being vulgar, verbally abusive and insulting.
And then (cue the scary music) the case "took an odd twist":
But the case took an odd twist during the last week of January, when prosecutors dropped the charge against Mr. Lanzisera, but not the one against Mr. Kash. Mr. Kash said he had been called to testify before the grand jury this morning.

"I called up Harvey's daughter and said for $5,000, I'd keep him out of jail," Mr. Lanzisera said. "She said, 'For $10,000, put him in jail!'"

The men say they did nothing wrong. They say they made all their comments on the street and that other people in line responded with laughter. Both concede that they were loud, but argue that their volume was no crime.
Kash got the last word.
"I've got a big mouth, and I talk," Mr. Kash said. "They don't like that."
Well, almost the last word. Here it is: A big mouth and he talks? Sounds like a lawyer to me. (Via How Appealing)

Click here to read more . . .

February 06, 2005

The return of Richard Clarke

UPDATE (2/8): On rereading my post, I realize I may have been unfair to Clarke in one sense: I made fun of him for the wrong thing. Contrary to what I said below, he doesn't appear to be saying that "Zarqawi is perfectly happy with democracy, so long as the United States is not involved." What he does appear to be saying is that Zarqawi would be opposed to democracy regardless of U.S. involvement, and if that is true, Clarke is being ridiculous in blaming Bush for Zarqawi's attacks on democracy, which (on Clarke's theory) would be occurring even if the Iraqis had established democratic institutions on their own.

* * * * *

Always something new in the New York Times.

Starting today, the Sunday magazine has a weekly column by Discredited Former Counter-Terrorism Adviser™ Richard A. Clarke called "The Security Adviser." Today's maiden column is entitled "No Returns." In the print edition, there's a helpful subhead "Why more democracy won't mean less terrorism." The point of the column, you will be surprised to learn, is that Bush Is Wrong.

Here is Clarke's thesis:
Zarqawi and his followers do oppose democracy in Iraq, but they do so partly because they believe that the continuing electoral process (a constitutional referendum is planned for October of this year and a national election for December) is an American imposition.
If I understand Clarke, the idea is that Zarqawi is perfectly happy with democracy, so long as the United States is not involved. (I sure hope the Times isn't paying Clarke for this column.)

We also learn from Clarke that terrorism can exist within democratic nations. He points out:
The Irish Republican Army, the Baader-Meinhof gang of Germany and the Red Brigades of Italy all developed in democracies. Indeed, in the United States, the largest terrorist attack before Sept. 11 was conducted in Oklahoma by fully enfranchised American citizens.
What analysis! What insight! Call me naive, but I thought the point was that the democratic nations themselves do not engage in warlike or terrorist acts against us, not that we will be 100% free from terrorism whenever nations are democratic.

But the kicker for Clarke is that democracy is actually counter-productive:
To the extent that President Bush's new policy is turned into action, the jihadists may well take it as further provocative American meddling, similar to the reaction to the president's earlier attempt at reform in the region, the Greater Middle East Initiative, which was dead on arrival.
Perhaps Clarke has not seen photos like this one. So what's the answer for Clarke? Rely on others to make the case that terrorism is a perversion of Islam. I'm not making that up. Here's the conclusion of the column:
The 9/11 Commission had a proposal similar to the president's, but more on point: a battle of ideas to persuade more Muslims that jihadist terrorism is a perversion of Islam. Most Middle East experts agree, however, that any American hand in the battle of ideas will, for now, be counterproductive. For many in the Islamic world, the United States is still associated with such acts as having made the 250,000 person city of Falluja uninhabitable. Because of the enormous resentment of the United States government in the Islamic world, documented in numerous opinion polls, we will have to look to nongovernmental organizations and other nations to lead the battle of ideas.
Three steps, then: First, no war; just a "war of ideas." Second, follow the advice of Middle East experts (and we know who they are) and have the U.S. stay out of the war of ideas, because the U.S. is blamed for having made "Falluja uninhabitable" (a condition Clarke does not appear to dispute). Third, turn the war of ideas over to NGOs and "other nations," the same crowd that blames every ill in the world on the U.S.

So here's my question: When Clarke speaks of a war of ideas, just which ideas is he referring to?

Click here to read more . . .

NY Times advice on avoiding "ruin" in Washington

On Sunday, the first section I check out after looking at the front page is the Sunday Styles section, because it's the Times's latest effort to be hip. In it, we learn about the frontiers of plastic surgery (about which I posted some time ago), about the latest in the partying scene, and, today, about the 10 rules you should follow to "avoid ruin" in Washington. Not those 10 rules; they're for wusses and troglodytes and the "poor, uneducated, and easily led."

Here is #1:

"1. Don't get up in the middle of dinner and announce that you have to run off to do 'Larry King Live.'"

Yes, thank you, that will definitely save my life, or at least help me avoid ruin. Or maybe not. The people at my dinner table tend to be my wife and children, who are not so easily impressed. And there's something about the phrase "doing Larry King Live" that sounds like when someone "runs off" to do it, it's probably to a small room elsewhere in the house. Ah, ruin!

Here are numbers 4 and 6:

"4. Don't change your hairstyle too often."

"6. Don't wear a beaded Armani to a Friday night dinner in Cleveland Park."

You get the idea. Anyone wearing a beaded Armani in Cleveland Park on Friday night is headed toward ruin, unless she happens to be married to the head the of the Federal Reserve. Not much help for me. Most of my Armanis are not beaded, anyway.

Finally, this is my personal favorite rule:

"2. Don't use the expression 'Do you know who I am?'"

Why do I like this? Here's why.

Click here to read more . . .

February 05, 2005

Another French surrender

Reader "Bob H." alerts me to this article headlined "Americans Hold 3 French Fighters in Iraq."

He suggests that the correct headline would be "French Surrender to Americans in Iraq." Hard to argue with him.

Click here to read more . . .

February 04, 2005

Gas man

This can't be true, even if it's posted at Drudge.

A MAN has been banned from garages - for sneaking on to forecourts to drink petrol.

Brian Taylor, 36, has been branded a four-star pest for slashing hoses to get at the fuel and terrorising staff and shoppers.

He was pictured on security cameras pouring a drink of unleaded before doing a maniacal dance while high on fumes.

Taylor, who doesn't drive, has been issued with an anti-social behaviour order banning him from all garages in Teesside.
Talk about having gas! Now, here's the best:
He usually went for unleaded but was happy with four star and diesel, police said.
A man of discerning taste.

Click here to read more . . .

Illegitimi non carborundum

Congrats, A.G. Alberto! Illegitimi non carborundum!

Click here to read more . . .

Is Arafat really dead?

"Israel Agrees to Release 900 Prisoners; Palestinians Want More"

Headline, New York Times, Feb. 4, 2005

"Israel Asks for End to Suicide Bombings; Palestinians Want More"


Click here to read more . . .

February 03, 2005

McCain in action

John McCain was the driving force behind one of the most blatantly unconstitutional laws passed by Congress since it segregated the D.C. public schools. (The Supreme Court upheld the law. -- Ed. And your point is?) He's drawn to the establishment media as a moth is drawn to light. (Moths are usually killed by getting too close to the light; McCain thrives on it. -- Ed. Will you stop interrupting me, please?) While McCain deserves credit for generally supporting the War, he is a showboater. Also, not to be unduly petty, he has a very annoying voice, and I shut off the radio whenever I hear him on Imus in the Morning.

Well, read what Jay Nordlinger reports from Davos. It's very discouraging, even if it's in keeping with my complaints.

Speaking before a huge room of journalists at a final-night dinner is John McCain, and I've really looked forward to hearing from him. As I've said — this year and in the past — Sander Levin, Ed Markey, and Barney Frank can look like George Patton, Douglas MacArthur, and Curtis LeMay at Davos. How about John McCain?

What a letdown. I'll provide a few excerpts from McCain's performance, starting with the issue of Iran's nuclear facilities.

One barrier to going after them, McCain says, is that we said there were WMD in Iraq, and there were not. Therefore, the administration would have to make extra sure that people were convinced of Iran's capabilities.

This is a fair point, but I wish McCain hadn't given up so easily on the Iraq/WMD issue. There is more to the story than that. And he has unfortunately buttressed a general Davos line. (The invasion was proven unnecessary and wrong.)

And how about the Guantanamo Bay prisoners? They are, of course, a hot topic at the Annual Meeting (have been from the beginning — you never hear about innocent, democratic prisoners in Cuba, chained by Fidel Castro). McCain is a "try 'em or release 'em" man. How you try terrorists nabbed on the Afghan battlefield, he does not venture to say. He does say, "Even Eichmann got a trial," which is one of the cheapest things I have ever heard out of a politician's mouth.

(For one thing, no one proposes to execute the Guantanamo Bay prisoners — so far as I know.)

But it gets worse. The word "neocon," as you know, is a great bogey, in Davos and elsewhere, and an Arab journalist gives McCain a golden opportunity: She says, "Are the neocons still controlling policy in Washington?" I repeat: What an opportunity! McCain has a chance to dispel a pervasive, somewhat sinister myth, before an important audience. He can do some real good. As respected as he is, he can administer some sanity.

But instead of dispelling the myth — that Bush is a puppet of wily neocons — he more like reinforces it. He says, There are always power struggles in Washington; sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down; if you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog. What's more, Bush is feeling "more secure" in this second term — which implies that an insecure Bush could have been manipulated by others in the first.

McCain concludes, "Have I done a good enough job ducking that question?"

The questioner has a look that says, "I am vindicated in my suspicions." It's plain.

The senator then goes on to talk about himself. Without prompting, he brings up his loss to Bush in the 2000 primaries ("not that I'm not over it or anything"). He uses the old politician's line about sleeping like a baby the night of his ultimate defeat: "I woke up every few hours, crying." No one asks whether he'll run for president in '08, so he poses the question himself. And his answer: "Anyone who's a U.S. senator or governor, and not under indictment or in detox, thinks about running for president." Then he does his riff on how Arizonans can't grow up to be president (given Goldwater, Udall, etc.).

I will say this for McCain, however: A journalist stands up and discusses what he considers atrocities committed by Americans in Iraq. McCain responds that we regret every loss of life — but that perhaps our journalist should think about those tortured, raped, and killed under Saddam. This is pretty elementary stuff, but, at Davos, it can seem Churchillian.

There is much to admire in McCain, and I don't scoff at his supporters — far from it. But, as I leave this dinner, I think of Bush's critics in general: Sure, the president has made mistakes, as anyone would in a job so big (and as we all do, in jobs much smaller). But I believe that history will remember him as a man who did miraculous things for liberty — and hence for the well-being of the world — in the first decade of the 21st century. And his critics will seem like so many gnats around the ankles of a great, beneficent beast.
I, for one, do not regret my vote for Bush and against McCain in 2000.

Click here to read more . . .

February 02, 2005

Talking on the cell phone with your hands

I was wondering whether Jews and Italians (Italian-Americans, I mean) could be banned from talking on a cell phone while driving. Would it be constitutional?

Here's why. I was driving on an interstate near where I live, and I noticed a guy passing me while talking on his cell phone. So far, normal enough. But this guy would take his other hand off the wheel to "talk" with it, to gesticulate. This is the situation for which the acronym WTF (with a question mark and exclamation point) was invented.

So I'm just thinking that maybe those of us who are genetically predisposed to talk with our hands should not be allowed to talk on a cell phone in the car. Unless we can steer with our chins. Or our elbows.

Click here to read more . . .

Rescue of toy soldier hostage

It's really hard to keep up with this toy story, which started when a jihadi organization posted a photo of what was supposed to be an American soldier who had been captured. Not long afterwards, someone discovered that the photo looked an awful lot like "Special Ops Cody," a toy action figure.

Updates were quickly filed, among which were:

Power Line

Instapundit (with more links)

Scrappleface (and again)

An amusing "top ten" list by a commenter at Tim Blair's blog.

And surely this man had something to do with the rescue:

Click here to read more . . .

Pillage challenge

A while back, I mentioned that I was planning to make Pillage Idiot mugs. They're done (photos below).

I now have a case of 36 eleven-ounce mugs, some of which will be for me and for my family. Most of the rest can be yours. (Full disclosure and apology: The mugs were made in China, but the graphics work was done in Missouri.)

As I said, I'm not in this to make money. So rather than offer them for sale, I've come up with what I think is a better idea: I will give a bunch of them away free of charge. I ask for only one thing in return. In order to justify to myself the money I spent on them, I'm asking people who want one to contribute $25 to one of the charities listed below.

Here are the rules:

1. E-mail me at pillageidiot -at- hotmail -dot- com with the subject line "Pillage challenge" to let me know that you're interested. First come, first served. I will respond to you to say whether there are any left. Please do not post your request in the comments. I need to receive an e-mail from you.

2. After you hear back from me, go ahead and make a $25 donation to one of the charities I'm listing below. You are not required to tell me which one. You are not required to document your contribution. I will take your word for it. One important request: Please make it a new contribution. Don't say to yourself, "Well, I already gave $25 in December." That doesn't count. Make a new contribution. But I'll still take your word for it.

3. E-mail me again to tell me you've made the contribution, and give me your name and the address where I can ship the mug. (Important note: I haven't yet bought the packing materials, so it might be a week or more before I send them out. Please bear with me.)

UPDATE (2/5): I now have packing materials, so I'm ready to go!

Here are the charities:

Spirit of America
Special Operations Warrior Foundation
Operation Gratitude
Fisher House
American Friends of Magen David Adom
Friends of the Israel Defense Forces

Directly below is a photo of the front and back of the mugs. On the back of the mug is the text from the beginning of my post "I, Attila" up through "You're welcome."

Click here to read more . . .

February 01, 2005

Soros: Kerry sucked major eggs

George Soros, who put up big bucks in support of failed presidential candidate and would-be failed repeat presidential candidate John F. Kerry, now says that, as a candidate, Kerry "sucked major eggs."

Well, duh!

OK, Soros didn't exactly use my terminology, but it was close:

Billionaire investor George Soros, the biggest financial contributor to the failed effort to defeat President George W. Bush in November's election, said Democratic challenger John Kerry was a flawed candidate.

Soros, chairman of Soros Fund Management LLC, spent $26 million in last year's campaign that he said was undermined by the candidate he supported.

"Kerry did not, actually, offer a credible and coherent alternative," Soros, 74, said yesterday in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "That had a lot to do with Bush being re-elected."
Well, Soros may be an extremely rich man, but he is a very poor political consultant:
The Kerry campaign "tried to emphasize his role as a Vietnam War hero and downplay his role as an anti-Vietnam War hero, which he was," said Soros. "Had he admitted, owned up to it, I think actually the outcome could have been different."
Oh, yeah, I can just see it -- the American people who voted for Bush because they trusted his leadership in wartime would have chosen instead a candidate who met with the enemy and supported the enemy's positions during a previous war. And who was proud of it. Sure.

(Hat tip:

Click here to read more . . .

Dead people against the War

I don't want to cross these guys. Ever. Even after I'm dead.

The "crack young staff of 'The Hatemonger's Quarterly'" is fed up with pretentious sap Simon Schama, who, in The New Republic, enlists the deceased (Isaiah Berlin) as an antiwar-nik:

In the midst of his disquisition on Isaiah Berlin, Mr. Schama offers the following curious digression:

The naïve fancy that one-size-fits-all democracy could be transported from the Potomac to the Tigris, or that any sort of system of ideas could be held to be objectively “timeless” and thus deliverable independently of specific cultural circumstances, or that a major war might be fought on such deeply mistaken premises, would have filled him [Isaiah Berlin] with foreboding and grim disbelief.

To which we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” respond: For crying out loud! Has the Left grown so obsessed with the liberation of Iraq that it absolutely can’t stop nattering on about it, regardless of its appropriateness?

And how can Mr. Schama—whose discussion of the benefits of bringing democracy to Iraq leaves much to be desired—magically intuit the thoughts of a dead man? Has Mr. Schama conducted a séance?

If Mr. Schama is truly psychic, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” eagerly desire to know what Isaiah Berlin’s thoughts are on the upcoming Superbowl. We have a hunch that Isaiah Berlin favors the Patriots; is that correct, Mr. Schama?
And they come up with "'The Hatemonger’s Quarterly' Official List of Dead People Who Would Not Support the Iraq War." (I find it troubling, incidentally, that "Attila the Hun" is listed first --"He wasn’t much for democracy." Shall I admit that I take this personally? )

Nevertheless, I urge you to read the rest, including the letter to The New Republic from "Isaiah Berlin."

Click here to read more . . .