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March 31, 2005

"Now I have one for you. A priest, an Armenian patriarch, and a rabbi . . ."

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Expletives not deleted

These days, I've been listening to a CD version of Michael Lewis's book Moneyball with my 13-year-old son when I drive him to school. It's a wonderful book, which I read avidly in hardcover a year ago. But it also contains a lot of salty language; its "nutrition facts" state that it provides 70% of your daily requirement of the F-word and 45% of your daily requirement of the S-word. I suspect my son finds those words exciting, because we have a firm rule at home that no one may use bad language. (I don't even want the kids to say "That sucks!" so I'm really swimming against the current. I urge them to say instead that it "sucks eggs" -- which leads to some serious eye-rolling by my teenaged daughter.) I'm pretty careful not to use that language myself, at least when I'm not alone, and you'll notice I don't use it on this blog, another example of swimming against the current. Why is it that everyone today is so meretricious in using these words? Are our kids going to be so numbed to this language that they won't even realize that there are places where you should hold your tongue?

I was just thinking these thoughts this morning, as a matter of fact, so it was an interesting coincidence that Cathy Seipp has a piece at National Review Online today called "Cuss and Effect: Can people speak any more without the f-word?" The anecdote she uses to begin the piece illustrates my concerns perfectly:

One night at the opera with my father, I noticed that the respectable-looking, rather dowdy middle-aged couple sitting next to me began to almost vibrate with excitement when the curtain rose. Evidently the set struck them as rather spectacular.

"Oh, this is gonna be so f***ing great!" exclaimed the wife to her husband, who nodded benignly in agreement. While I was happy for them and their enthusiasm, I couldn't help but wonder: Since when did the f-word become so acceptable in what used to be called polite society that we now can even hear it at the opera?
Or consider some of her other anecdotes:
Then there was the afternoon in the local dog park, when I happened to witness a woman politely suggest to another woman — whose large and aggressive male German shepherd was bothering all the other dogs — that she might consider either neutering the animal or keeping it on a leash. She got called the b-word for her trouble, making me regret, as I often do these days, the disappearance of the useful old expression "Well, I never!"

And again I wondered why almost every public altercation with strangers (at least if you're female) now regularly includes the b-word, which I suppose is at least better than the c-word, recently flung my way by a couple of old ladies in the venerable Los Angeles Farmers Market. (They were angry that I wouldn't let them appropriate a chair, which I needed, from my table.) And so it goes, which is why I can't get too worked up about the supposedly terrifying FCC "clampdown," as it's always called. If one side effect is that public discourse fades to a slightly paler shade of blue — although so far I don't see any sign of this — that would be fine by me, and I don't think I'm generally considered a prude.
I agree that this public cussing has gone much too far. It's not that I want to punish people for vulgarity; after all, a choice epithet can be very satisfying if used in appropriate company (or, better yet, in one's own company). In some situations, it can even be funny. Here, for example, is a post-Schiavo living will written by Kevin McGehee at his blog Yippee-Ki-Yay, which makes extensive use of these words and is very funny at the same time.

Some years ago, when my oldest son was in kindergarten, he informed my wife that a girl in his class had told him that kids on the bus use really bad words. My wife said, "Oh, really?" He told her, "Yes, they use the S-word and the D-word." My wife said, "I see . . ." He said, "Stupid and Dumb. And they also use the S-H-word." Now my wife was getting nervous. She said, "Really, what word was that?" He answered, "Shut up!"

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March 29, 2005

Bible-reading juries

Yesterday, I posted a smart-alecky comment about the decision of the Supreme Court of Colorado overturning a death sentence because the jury discussed Bible verses during deliberations.

Today, I read the actual opinion in People v. Harlan, which is here. The majority opinion is rather ignorant on the subject of the Bible (at least the Hebrew Bible, which is what I'm familiar with), but I have to say that I don't think the court's goal was to disparage the Bible or Bible believers. Its goal, I would say, is to use any pretext to overturn a capital sentence.

I will not waste too much time explaining the ignorance. Two of the verses discussed by the jurors were Leviticus 24:20-21, which in Robert Alter's new translation read as follows:

A fracture for a fracture, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth -- as he has maimed a human being, so shall he be maimed. And he who strikes down a beast shall pay for it, but he who strikes down a human being shall be put to death.
The court's majority thinks this is law for some in the jury pool.
The Bible and other religious documents are considered codes of law by many in the contemporary communities from which Colorado jurors are drawn. The book of Leviticus is one of the first five books of the Old Testament, which are considered the books of law, and it contains "ritual laws prescribed for the priests" and is "almost entirely legislative in character." Holy Bible (Papal Edition), "Introduction to the Books of the Old Testament" at xiii.
And further: "The Leviticus text is written in the first person voice of God and commands death as the punishment for murder." So, of course, jurors might follow the personal command of God.

This is ignorant. The fact that the laws were legislative in biblical days does not mean they're treated as law today. For Jews, an eye for an eye was understood to require monetary compensation. The Talmud imposed so many restrictions and qualifications on capital punishment that it was effectively abolished. And Christian readers can correct me, but I've always understood the Hebrew Bible to have no continuing legal effect on Christians. So what's this bizarre idea of the court that these biblical verses are prejudicial to the defendant because some jurors would treat them as legally binding?

But getting back to my original point about the goal of the decision. Justice Scalia has referred to the "ad hoc nullification machine" used by the Supreme Court in abortion cases to dispense with legal rules that apply in all other cases. There is an analogous principle in death penalty cases. In an effort to stop executions from going forward, no matter how horrible the crime, some judges will use any pretext to invalidate the sentence. I think that is what is going on with the Colorado Supreme Court. It could have been anything. Here it just happened to be the Bible.

One final note: Cases out of the state courts cannot be taken to the U.S. Supreme Court absent a substantial federal question. Here, there is no federal question. The decision is based entirely on state law. This is the end of the road for this case.

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David Brooks thinks that baseball loyalties are changeable, like bad marriages, ill-fitting religious beliefs, or soiled diapers. Calling himself a Mets fan, he announces that he is "contemplating the uncontemplatable: that I will switch my allegiance from the beloved Mets to the new team of my adopted town. I will become a fan of the Washington Nationals."

This is treason.

Oh, sure, I can understand it. I've been a Mets fan from the very beginning. My first major league baseball games were 1962 at the old Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan. I've suffered through many indignities -- the rustication of Tom Seaver, the trade of Nolan Ryan, the dispersion of the dominant World Champion 1986 team, and many, many lean years. Recently, I've even tuned them out, leaving them nothing but background noise in my life. And I've cheered as Washington has acquired its own team (especially because, as I posted often last fall, the stadium deal is a boondoggle for fans like me living outside the District).

But I won't switch teams any more than I would switch countries. David Brooks is contemplating committing treason.

UPDATE (3/30): After doing a Technorati search on the Brooks article, I found that Wonkette had posted a short item about it. I've never really paid much attention to Wonkette, and we can debate whose loss that is. Her item notes that another blogger is congratulating Brooks for coming out of the closet. See, the column is titled "Whose Team Am I On?" and it contains language that might have a double meaning (some obviously deliberate). Wow! That's too juvenile even for me, and that's saying something.

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A judge fights Yale Law School

One federal district judge, William M. Acker, Jr., has announced that he will not accept as law clerks any students from Yale Law School in protest against the law school's policy of limiting military recruiters' access to students. He is a World War II veteran offended by the school's high-profile policy, recently litigated successfully in the U.S. court of appeals.

As satisfying as this is, I suspect there won't be many other judges going along with this protest. Not because Yale graduates are irreplaceable but because, as long as the litigation over the Solomon Amendment continues, there is a potential conflict if a judge takes a public position like Acker's.

(Via How Appealing)

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Black churches may explore the GOP

The Baltimore Sun has an interesting article on some political ferment in the black churches, with some clergy exploring support for Republicans. The article reports on a clergyman who works closely with white Christian conservatives.

NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, representing the reactionary wing of black America, accuses these clergy of being bought off by faith-based grants from the Bush administration. The article cites critics like Bond as making the ludicrous charge that "the black church risks losing its independence and abandoning its history of advocating for social justice." Losing its independence? The black vote is almost monolithically Democratic, so what independence is being lost by exploring support for the other party? (Believe me, as a Jew I am very sensitive to the one-party mentality.)

The article closes with this:

Harry Jackson, the Lanham reverend and a Democrat who voted for Bush, talks about bridging the gap between left and right, arguing that African-Americans have been "duped" by liberal black leadership.

"The Congressional Black Caucus hasn't made any changes, all they do is give a bunch of excuses," he says. "We need a little tough love instead of all this crying racism and saying 'the man is against you.' It's too simplistic."

The answer is within the black church, he says.

"There is a new black church with the Bible as a clear guide," Jackson told his congregation recently. "It is that group of people who is going to lead the nation morally."
We need people who will lead morally, and when I say "we" I don't mean Republicans; I mean all Americans.

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"Junior" fights his bill

You know how sometimes you end up in a hotel that gives you a really unsatisfying experience, like the plumbing doesn't work or the Swiss National Yodeling Team is practicing in the hallway at 2:30 a.m.? And you complain to the people at the desk and get a credit?

Mob boss Raymond "Junior" Patriarca, who served time for racketeering, is trying the same strategy, only his hotel was the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Former New England Mafia boss Raymond "Junior" Patriarca is challenging the government's effort to force him to pay $118,000 for the costs of his incarceration, arguing that his medical care was "horrific" in federal prison and that he suffered a stroke that went undiagnosed.
The food was pretty awful, too. Not to mention the plumbing.

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Geezers in Washington

Only the Washington Post could run a front-page article worrying about how leaders in Washington stick around until they are quite old without mentioning that Ronald Reagan was quite successful by almost every standard despite winning election to his first term at the age of 69. Reagan's name appears nowhere in the article.

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Another electoral reform shot down

Bitter lefties who want to re-jigger the Electoral College to prevent people like Bush from winning should read this article on the decreasing split between congressional and presidential voting.

The key paragraph is the final one:

How would Bush and Kerry have fared if the electoral college determined its allocation of electoral votes on the basis of who won each congressional district, as some advocate, rather than on who wins the popular vote in each state? Bensen crunched those numbers and concluded that Bush would have won by an even larger margin, with 317 electoral votes rather than the 286 he actually captured.
Scratch that reform!

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Creeping Rather-ism

Fake but accurate at the Oscars.

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March 28, 2005

They forgot to consult the Talmud

The Colorado Supreme Court has overturned a death sentence because the jury had looked up Bible verses, written some down, and discussed them during deliberations. You know, like "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."

During oral arguments before the Supreme Court last month, defense attorney Kathleen Lord said the jurors had gone outside the law. "They went to the Bible to find out God's position on capital punishment," she said.
If the jurors had also consulted the Talmud, which makes capital punishment almost impossible to impose, this never would have happened.

On the subject of Jews (other than me) and capital punishment, see this.

UPDATE (3/29): Apparently, Colorado law requires jurors to consult a moral compass.
Legal experts said that Colorado was unusual in its language requiring jurors in capital felony cases to explicitly consult a moral compass. Most states that have restored the death penalty weave in a discussion of moral factors, lawyers said, along with the burden that jurors must decide whether aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors in voting on execution.
I guess the court wanted a moral compass without NORTH on it.

UPDATE (3/29): Some more thoughts after reading the actual opinion.

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Pillow talk

An article in the Sunday Times of London with the headline "Women agents sue CIA for 'pillow talk' sackings" has a wonderful opening:

WHEN top officials in the CIA accused one of their most senior women agents of being a "sexual provocateur" who harassed subordinates and wore "no perceptible underwear", they had no idea how much grief she would cause them.
But it does raise a question or four: No perceptible underwear? Isn't underwear by definition supposed to be worn underneath? Are you supposed to see it? At the CIA, are women supposed to wear it (as in Woody Allen's film Bananas) on the outside so we can check?

Sadly, however, the rest of the article fails to answer these questions. For reasons I can't quite fathom, the Times focuses instead on the lawsuit this former agent, now a lawyer, is bringing on behalf of seven female agents.
More than 20 years after she sued the CIA for ruining her career — winning a $400,000 payoff in the process — Janine Brookner is still hounding her former employers. A former CIA station chief in Jamaica, she has become one of Washington’s most intrepid lawyers, representing spies who have fallen out with the government.

Last week she launched what may be her most ambitious attempt to penetrate the secrecy surrounding the CIA’s inner workings. She is trying to establish a class action on behalf of women agents alleging sexual discrimination by the agency.
The CIA prohibits agents from entering "close and continuing" relationships with foreign nationals. Agents must report any sexual contact with foreigners and are then subjected to lie-detector tests.

The lawsuit essentially claims differential treatment of female agents.
Brookner, 63, represents seven women who have allegedly been fired or reprimanded for becoming involved in illicit affairs. "What they are looking for is people having sexual relations with foreigners and becoming vulnerable to blackmail," she said last week.

"But we know a lot of men who have done this and not been punished. The women are getting fired, the men are not. The fact is, they just don’t trust women and pillow talk."
One plaintiff is a former agent who supposedly was "one of only two Arab-speaking female operatives in the CIA’s clandestine directorate of operations." She was fired.
"I read her record. It was fantastic," said Brookner. "And they fired her because she had sexual relations with a foreign national. So stupid."
So stupid? The CIA for firing her, or the agent for having sexual relations with the foreign national? Maybe we'll have to watch Bananas to find out.

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March 27, 2005

The problem with judges

I've already done my juvenile version of this topic with my post about Men in Lime Green, but I thought I would try to say a few serious things here.

Jeff Rosen is a legal commentator with whom I often disagree, but generally I have to give him a few points for being rational. In the Washington Post today, Rosen argues that judges "are being catapulted into public view as personalities who seem fair game for attack rather than as anonymous oracles of the law" for two basic reasons. One is what he calls the "legalization of politics" -- people taking political matters to the courts. Two is the willingness of judges to enter the spotlight, to personalize themselves. He cites, among other things, the memoirs and autobiographies of Supreme Court justices. (He doesn't mention that the trend toward personalizing judges dates from the Bork nomination, when it became apparent that merit was not enough and the nomination process had to become a full-court political press.)

I certainly don't agree with all of his analysis, but I think a fair amount of it is valid. Still, I think he neglects two very important factors -- the desire of judges for fame and the desire of judges to use the law for political ends.

When I speak of the judicial desire for fame, I mean something very simple. Judges, by virtue of their position, are necessarily private people. They speak primarily through their opinions. But like most people who are highly successful in their fields, many judges crave adulation. Let's say you are a judge on a state supreme court. Let's say your name is Roger Traynor. You have a case before you in which an injured person cannot recover damages against the manufacturer of a product because the common-law rule, while no longer requiring privity of contract, requires an implied warranty of safety or negligence by the manufacturer. You are faced with a choice. You can apply the existing law and deny recovery. If you do that, you will be following the law but no one will ever notice you. Or you can create a new theory of liability -- strict products liability -- that requires no privity of contract, no implied warranty, not even negligence. Not only does the latter course permit an injured person to obtain what you see as "justice," but it catapults you into fame and the adulation of law professors everywhere. It's a hard choice, isn't it?

This brings me to the more obvious point -- that many judges consider themselves to the broad authority to "do justice" regardless of the positive law. Doing justice, naturally, is easily confused with pursuing one's own policy preferences; most of us think our policy preferences represent justice, or we would not favor them. But judges are permitted to do justice only by applying the law fairly. On the Supreme Court building is an inscription that reads "Equal Justice Under Law." Not equal justice but equal justice under law. Or, as FDR put it, "We want a Supreme Court which will do justice under the Constitution — not over it. In our courts we want a government of laws and not of men." The institution of judicial review didn't arise because judges were smarter than anyone else or more just. It arose because judges, just like officials in the other branches, had to apply the law in matters that came before them. Judicial review was based on the assumption that judges were going to apply the law, and it therefore carried with it a profound responsibility to follow the law. Felix Frankfurter said that "the highest exercise of judicial duty is to subordinate one's personal pulls and one's private views to the law of which we are all guaradians -- those impersonal convictions that made a society a civilized community, and not the victims of personal rule."

So I would say that Rosen doesn't offer the whole story when he says that judges have become "personalities who seem fair game for attack rather than as anonymous oracles of the law" because political cases have been taken to court. To a large degree, political cases have been taken to court because there are judges who are happy to render political decisions that are not based on a fair reading of the positive law. People wouldn't take political cases to court if the courts adhered to the law and refused to grant the litigants political justice.

There is a lot more to say on this subject, but fortunately I am too tired now to say it.

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Weekly TMI alert

If you are the mother of four and are madly in love with your husband, that is wonderful. It is what we wish for with all married couples who have children.

And, if you are all of the above and feel the need to disclose WAY TOO MUCH INFORMATION, then, naturally, you write a column about it for the New York Times Sunday Styles section, forcing the rest of us to become voyeurs. (Forcing? You read it voluntarily. -- Ed. I had to. It was for my readers.)

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A massage usually works better

"Martinez scratched because of stiff back"

Associated Press, March 25, 2005

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Meanwhile, in Fayetteville, Arkansas

Speaking of math errors, how about this? Is 10 equal to, less than, or greater than 19? In Fayetteville, Arkansas, the answer is that 10 is greater than or equal to 19.

Here's the story (via

Among the violations recorded during the checks March 16 and Wednesday was one to Elenita’s Mexican Café, 701 S. School Ave., for allegedly having a 10-year old child taking orders for adult beverages. "That was the youngest hostess or waitress I’ve ever seen," ABC agent Mike Jones said Friday. "They had a 10-year-old taking orders for the alcohol, but she didn’t serve it. She placed the order with another employee, who later delivered it to the underage (patron)."

With parental consent, a 19-year-old may serve alcohol, he said.
The inspector was there because of a previous visit at which a sale of alcohol to a minor was caught. Maybe this was just an unusually mature 10-year-old. (The owner seems to have been unusually immature.)

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March 26, 2005

More fun in the NYC public schools

What could be better than a report of math preparation materials released by New York City education officials with numerous obvious mistakes? We'll see in a moment.

The New York Times explains:

City education officials were forced to recall test preparation materials for math exams late Wednesday after discovering that they were rife with errors, including basic arithmetic mistakes.

The materials were intended for math students in grades 3 through 7, but the faulty information - at least 18 errors - was found before it reached classrooms. The testing guides were e-mailed late Wednesday to regional instructional specialists, math coaches and local instructional superintendents and recalled a few hours later.
A piece in the New York Post adds:
A flabbergasted Mayor Bloomberg yesterday said he could hardly believe it when he learned that city educrats produced math test-prep manuals that were rife with errors.

"Every day you wake up in my job and you say, 'They did what?' " Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show on WABC-AM, which he conducted by phone from his Bermuda vacation home.
What kind of errors? According to the NY Post:
Perhaps the most embarrassing error is on the cover of the booklet for the fourth grade — it says "forth grade."

An algebraic equation in the booklet for seventh-grade teachers also uses variables to ask, in essence, what 15+10 equals — but gives the correct answer as 24. In fact, 25 is not even among the four multiple-choice answers.
And, of course, the excuses were rolling out fast and furious:
School officials blamed the mistakes on an ineffective fact-checker.

"We have a clear protocol for review of all materials," Carmen Farina, deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, said in a statement. "In this case, a member of my staff inexcusably failed to follow our protocol, and I have written a letter of reprimand to the person’s file. We recalled the materials within hours, corrections to the guide will be made, and it again will be distributed digitally."
So, now, let's return to my opening question: What could be better than math preparation materials released by New York City education officials with numerous mistakes?

The answer is a City teacher who, having flunked the state certification exam, hired a former homeless man to take the test for him. (Via Best of the Web Today.) The New York Daily News has a good summary:
A Bronx teacher who repeatedly flunked his state certification exam paid a formerly homeless man with a developmental disorder $2 to take the test for him, authorities said yesterday.

The illegal stand-in - who looks nothing like teacher Wayne Brightly - not only passed the high-stakes test, he scored so much better than the teacher had previously that the state knew something was wrong, officials said.
In fact, the Daily News article has photos of the two men, which have to be seen to appreciate the humor in this situation.

The New York Times adds a few salient details:
Investigators said the two men met in 1989 through Brooklyn College, when Mr. Brightly, a student, enlisted tutoring help from Mr. Leitner, an alumnus. In 2001, Mr. Leitner started tutoring Mr. Brightly for his certification exam, which he failed at least twice, officials said.

Last summer, Mr. Brightly gave up, the authorities said, and paid Mr. Leitner to get a fake state identification card. Flashing that and Mr. Brightly's Social Security card, Mr. Leitner took the test.

But Mr. Leitner, who has degrees in American and Asian history, did so well on the test that state education officials took note. They also noticed that Mr. Brightly's handwriting had changed.

After the state started looking into the matter, Mr. Brightly ordered Mr. Leitner to get a City Department of Education identification card, the report said. Using the fake state ID and a school letter, Mr. Leitner got the card "within minutes."
Joel Klein, the "chancellor" of the City's schools, says he's "outraged," but he has announced that he will not require changes in the way ID cards are issued.

Footnote: If the name Joel Klein sounds familiar to you, it's because he was Deputy White House Counsel and Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department during the Clinton presidency.

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March 24, 2005

Rape Prevention Idea #1 - Keep the UN out of your country.

A Fox story titled "U.N. Report Offers Rape Prevention Ideas" describes a new United Nations report on sex abuse by peacekeepers:

"You cannot understate the value of peacekeeping and what it can bring to a society, so for that reason I think we must restore it," Prince Zeid al Hussein, Jordan's U.N. ambassador and the report's author, told The Associated Press.

Comment: If the AP accurately transcribed this quote, then I believe the Prince meant say, "You cannot overstate the value of peacekeeping..." but perhaps this was a Freudian slip on his part.
* * *

The task is especially troublesome because the United Nations does not want to risk offending nations that provide badly needed peacekeepers.

Comment: Let's see here. Troubled nations need peacekeepers in the first place because of a breakdown local law and order. So the UN is going to reduce these nations' troubles by importing more lawbreakers and rapists, whom the UN doesn't want to offend.
* * *

In the last several months, Zeid has discussed his proposals with nations that contribute the most troops - such as Pakistan, Morocco, Brazil and Bangladesh....

Comment: Did anyone at the UN bother to check the records of these countries on such matters a "rule of law", "human rights", and "women's rights" before sending their troops on peacekeeping missions?
* * *

Zeid set 2007 as a target date to complete many of his proposals.

Comment: Well, THAT news should certainly comfort all those women raped by UN peacekeepers between now and then.

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Men in Lime Green

Ann Coulter's recent column attacks the judiciary for indulging in "greater and greater flights of arrogance," and she argues that people respect judicial opinions even when they don't deserve respect.

Her most trenchant observation is this:

[P]eople seem a little intimidated by the black robes. From now on we should make all judges wear lime-green leisure suits.
Well, I have to disagree with her strongly about the leisure suits, but she's dead on about the lime green. So in an effort to help people visualize the Men in Lime Green, I make this offering:

Justice Kennedy can rely on the fact that foreign courts approve of bright colors.

P.S. Yes, indeed, it's Purim tonight.

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Dad blogging

I would like to thank fee simple for guest blogging for me while I was away. My father is approaching the end of the third of seven weeks of his radiation treatment for squamous cell carcenoma, and my siblings and I, along with two brothers-in-law, are taking turns driving my parents to the hospital, about 25 miles away. My father seems to be handling the treatment with complete equanimity, though it is obviously a physical strain. It was truly a blessing for me to be able to be there with him. And I want to thank those of you who have put him in your prayers. (Again, for the mi-shebayrach for holim, his matronymic is Menachem Mendel ben Hinda Bluma.) I'm going back in about a week and a half.

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March 23, 2005

The Decline of the Liberal Faith

The American Spectator has an excellent article on the decline of the liberal faith.

Liberalism, American-style, is dying on the vine. I refer to the faith of liberalism -- the belief in "the redemptive transformation of human society through political means...." [A]s a faith, liberalism is set to decline in the years ahead. It is already doing so, perhaps more swiftly than we know. What is left of it is filled with darkness and pessimism: sex, abortion, euthanasia, and death.
* * *
Although its adherents don't like to discuss the point, the liberal faith has much in common with Communism, including shared roots in the Enlightenment. Human nature, philosophers once believed, could be remade in the classroom. People could be improved by "legislation alone...."

Liberalism and Communism both regarded egalitarianism as an ideal and both were godless; Communism openly so, liberalism more obscurely. Democracy admittedly distinguished between them, but the liberal admiration for an ideological judiciary shows that they, too, would like nothing more than a government that is free to impose its will by fiat (provided it is run by the right people).

The article closes with the author speculating on whether Islam will embrace Enlightenment values, but he is unsure of the outcome.

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March 22, 2005

Carriers Coming to Call

Regime Change Iran reports that:

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is on the move in Atlantic Ocean and is possibly headed towards the Mediterranean Sea.
* * *
There are indications that soon US is moving two more aircraft carrier battle groups to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf.
* * *
Outbound from Singapore, the USS Carl Vinson is currently crossing the Indian Ocean headed towards Middle-East. This will be the first time since February 2004 that US will have three major carrier groups stationed on and around Middle East.
* * *
It seems American are preparing to deal with Syria and Iran in the next several months. The first priority right now is diplomacy in association with the Europeans and the rest of the world. But the leadership in Teheran and Damascus are taking notice of the power build up in the region.

Perhaps to help the leadership of Teheran and Damascus better take notice of the power build up, Ophthalmologist Assad could provide them with some spectacles.

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Nose Smells, Stem Cells

The Australian reports that a research team (partially funded by the Catholic Church) succeeded in growing adult stem cells harvested from the nose. These cells appear to be able to deliver everything that embryonic stem cell research promises, but without the medical and ethical side-effects.

Notwithstanding the good news, apparently, having the Catholic Church on the side of science, health, and morality all at the same time was too much for a Federal Health bureaucrat who delivered a much-needed slap of agnosticism:

Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott, who officially launched the publication of the team's paper in the peer-reviewed journal Developmental Dynamics, steered away from describing the apparent breakthrough as a godsend.

"It's a science-send not a godsend," he said. "But if adult stem cell research is a prospect, as this particular project seems to suggest, well then, all those moral dilemmas we were wrestling with a few years ago...we may be delivered from."

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March 20, 2005

Bush smiles as Mom calls him safe at first on pickoff attempt

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Red meat comes to blue Takoma Park

In Takoma Park, Maryland, a nuclear-free zone, where the motto is "bathing is for the bourgeois," something quite astonishing is afoot. Sadly, what is afoot is not Roscoe the Rooster, who used to roam the town until he was killed by . . . an SUV. (There is now a statue to Roscoe there. I kid you not.)

What is afoot in Takoma Park is a reactionary trend toward meat consumption. This trend has even caught the local food co-op between the eyes. (Last summer, someone came up with a slogan "No drumsticks, no peace.")

And it's also caught some of the more fruity members of the populace.

Jennifer Gillispie, 60, said she never imagined that meat consumption would become so conspicuous -- and that she would be one of the guilty ones.

The Takoma Park yoga teacher once told her most devoted students to become vegetarians. Now, she suggests meat eating as a path to karma.

Of her salad days, Gillispie said, "I was forcing my own being to do something that, clearly, that being was saying wasn't working."

Gillispie, who had been a vegetarian for more than 10 years, said she was feeling weak and unmotivated a couple of years ago and didn't know why. When two formerly vegetarian friends suggested a new diet, she figured she had nothing to lose. She went to Whole Foods, ordered half a roasted chicken and found a table.

"I said a blessing, and I asked forgiveness for the chicken. I took one bite -- and it was like all my cells exploded, 'Yes!'" Gillispie recalled. "I ate the whole thing, bones and all. I couldn't get it into my mouth fast enough. People were staring."
I can appreciate the blessing, but asking for forgiveness from the chicken is a little much. And this aptly named woman is even better.
Certainly, Takoma Park massage therapist Leslie Sapp isn't preparing meat in a way that someone in Middle America might recognize.

Before she starts cooking dinner, the wispy 46-year-old, who turned to goat bone broth and fish to help her chronic fatigue, says a prayer and humbles herself before the animal, "who has given its life so we may live."

She does, however, have a confession: "It's delicious."
One resident worries about what this all portends.
"There could be a chipping away at the liberal, alternative soul of Takoma Park," said Mike Tidwell, 43, an environmental activist. "I would not be surprised if we started seeing a bunch of hybrid SUVs and organic barbecue parties."
I merely laugh. As a former semi-vegetarian myself (I was the founder of Reactionary Vegetarians of America, and my motto was "Slaughter cows; don't eat them"), I see that even the principled vegetarians are ultimately unable to resist.

And can you see what's next? Takoma Park lifting its nuclear-free status?

Click here to read more . . .

Knocked up

Suppose you were pregnant and your boyfriend had agreed to marry you, but you lived at opposite ends of the country, and suddenly a really cute single guy came into your life. What would you do? You would see where it led and then write a memoir called "Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip-Mother-to-Be." And, of course, you would write about it in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times (section motto: "where all the latest decadent societal trends that originate in New York and the rest of blue America are heralded").

If you don't have the flavor of this piece yet, try this:

When we went to the movies, people gazed at us with the warm approval generally bestowed upon pregnant couples. I suppose we looked wholesome and happy. And I couldn't help but think that he and I would have a very good-looking baby.

At first, I thought C.S.M. [Cute Single Man] pitied me. Actually, I thought he was attracted to my big pregnant breasts. I was right in both instances.

After all, there I was, two cups larger than my pre-pregnant self and not yet with a belly, alone in a big city, pregnant, while the father was a four-hour plane ride away. But C.S.M. shouldn't have pitied me. It was my choice.
Or this:
To the extent that we could, we kept "us" a secret. C.S.M. did not tell his friends about me, and I told mine - those who knew - simply that I liked him and that he made me laugh.

But I knew we were crossing some line. If my fiancé were hanging out in his city with a cute single woman, I would have killed him. C.S.M. never spoke of the fiancé, and I never spoke of C.S.M. to the fiancé. If the fiancé suspected, he turned a blind eye. The denial! We were all swept up in it.

When I was very pregnant and it was time to leave C.S.M. to be with the fiancé, my heart cracked. I cried on the plane. I no longer had any idea what I wanted. But I was having a baby in a few weeks. My life was about to change completely, and I was mostly wrapped up with the facts: I had gained 47 pounds, I could barely walk, and I was going to have an actual human thing to look after.
Got that? An "actual human thing"? But that's not really her point, of course; her point is me, me, me.

Now, the surprise ending is not that she moved west and had trouble with her fiancé, and didn't actually marry him. That's not a surprise at all. What is a surprise is a surprise only on the internet version, where the author description is at the very end. It turns out that the author is not from "blue" America at all. She is Canadian. Ah, yes, Canadian, which brings her mistake into greater focus. If only she had become engaged to marry another woman, none of this would have happened.

Click here to read more . . .

March 18, 2005

First Victoria Cross in 20 Years

Attila is quite correct to have the Union Jack next to the American flag at the top of his blog page.

The Telegraph (UK) reports another example of the bravery of British forces fighting in Iraq.

Private Johnson Beharry, 25, born on the island of Grenada, was given the Victoria Cross for leading his team to safety after it was ambushed by insurgents in southern Iraq.

Private Beharry becomes the first living recipient of a Victoria Cross - the highest award bestowed on British and Commonwealth soldiers for gallantry in the face of the enemy - since 1965.

It is the first Victoria Cross awarded since Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Jones and Sergeant Ian John McKay received posthumous awards after the Falklands War.

Click here to read more . . .

Something Napoleonic about Bush

Jaithirth Rao, a columnist writing in the Indian Express (Bombay), says there is "Something Napoleonic about Bush."

Reading that headline, one might expect it to be followed -- especially if the source were an American or European newspaper -- by alleged comparisons to unending wars, the retreat from Russia, and possibly even megalomania.

Instead, Mr. Rao discusses the interventions by Napoleon and Bush in the Middle East:

While the biographer of Napoleon may make the Egyptian campaign a footnote, the historian of the Middle East will not. Every one of them will tell you that Napoleon's brief interlude in Egypt marked a major inflexion point in the history of that entire region. It was a military, political and cultural watershed with incalculable consequences to the collective psyche of all inhabitants.
* * *
I would make the argument simply as a matter of historical prophecy that Bush will go down in the same category as Napoleon in terms of his impact not only on the history of the Middle East but also in terms of the analogy that Bush's intervention will be seen by future historians as having similar consequences - creating a discontinuity, establishing an inflexion point.
* * *
The physical presence of the Anglo-American coalition, the worldwide disgust with the horror of totalitarian regimes (the Baathist tyranny being merely the most egregiously sickening one), the exemplary impact of elections where actually the results turned out quite different from what the conquerors might have wanted, the ability and the willingness of the winning armies to punish the sadists among them after open trials while the regimes of the Middle East treat the existence of their own torture-chambers as matters of casual routine, the simple fact that there are a hundred newspapers and a hundred cable channels in the previously monochromatic Iraq — all of these are impacting the psyche of the much-maligned Arab street in ways that we may not be able to discern for a long time. After all, we are too close to the events and do not have the benefit of the telescope of history.

Hat tip:

Click here to read more . . .

Paging Mr. Driftwood!

Question: What is this statement referring to?

The crisis has gripped Italy the way steroids in baseball have the United States and stunned many with its speedy onset....
Answer: An Italian opera crisis. Not the usual on-stage dramatic tension between the tenor and the soprano. No. It's the real thing.
The venerable La Scala opera house in Milan has been paralyzed by a dispute pitting its eminent music director, Riccardo Muti, against its workers.
So forget Riccardo Muti. It's time to sack Gottlieb, Rodolfo Lassparri, and even Mrs. Claypool. It's time to bring back Otis B. Driftwood, Fiorello, Tomasso, and Riccardo Baroni. And if you don't have a clue what I'm talking about, check this out.

Click here to read more . . .

March 17, 2005

Lab fireball 'may be black hole'

The BBC reports that:

A fireball created in a US particle accelerator has the characteristics of a black hole, a physicist has said.

It was generated at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) in New York, US, which smashes beams of gold nuclei together at near light speeds.

Horatiu Nastase says his calculations show that the core of the fireball has a striking similarity to a black hole.

His work has been published on the pre-print website and is reported in New Scientist magazine.

In the Star Trek universe, artificial quantum singularities serve as the primary power source for large Romulan spacecraft.

The accelerator where the fireball was created is located in New York -- the very same state where "neocon" Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Cornell University.

The obvious conclusion is that the neocons are planning to build a Romulan "warbird-class" starship, the better to advance the American imperium throughout the galaxy.

Click here to read more . . .

March 15, 2005

A lexicographical wedgie

What do the following words have in common: blog, Botox, digital camera, chad, e-commerce, identity theft, irritable bowel syndrome, Megan's Law, paintball, sheesh, street cred, touch screen, webcast, Wi-Fi, WMD, and wedgie? The answer: Webster's dictionary now includes them. (Hat tip: Just Moi)

The word that got the most attention in the press is "wedgie." Wedgie has been a word for a long time, and it's been in Merriam-Webster's dictionary, but now it's got the endorsement of Webster's New World College Dictionary.

Wedgie, a teenager's locker-room nightmare, has made it into the dictionary. Webster's New World College Dictionary based in Cleveland said wedgie was among its new additions to its latest edition.

The new edition will carry this listing: wedgie: noun. a prank in which the victim's undershorts are jerked upward so as to become wedged between the buttocks.

The dictionary also carries the tradition wedgie definition of a type of shoe.

"'Wedgie' was always a part of the high school terminology that you sort of never thought about later," said Editor in Chief Michael Agnes.

"It never really entered the mainstream until the '90s. It broke out of high school and, boy -- if you don't know what it is, you're absolutely at a loss."
The Cleveland Plain Dealer's article, which is even more puerile than Pillage Idiot, if that's possible, notes that Agnes supports a slower approach to including new words.
Agnes admitted, "We are not the first people to rush to enter new language." This conservative approach, he added, "has the advantage of giving us the confidence that we won't have to yank a word out two years later."

Plus, until the big 10-year review, adding a word or definition means squeezing in or "patching" a line or two on each page as needed.

Thus, some promising contenders were yanked from the cracks of inclusion this year.
I would be remiss, however, if I didn't try to out-puerile the Plain Dealer. So I've tracked down an account of an actual wedgie incident in Chicago last month. The actual newspaper accounts are now inaccessible, but I've found a posting at a blog called "Three Sheets to the Wind," which quotes the account of the incident:
An ordinarily harmless prank resulted in the arrests of two Chicago teenagers this week after they apparently got carried away and injured a 12-year-old by giving him repeated wedgies, CLTV reported.

The incident happened Wednesday at a Department of Children and Family Services center for wards of the state on the 800 block of West Montrose Avenue, in the Uptown neighborhood on the city's North Side, police said.

Two males, 16 and 17 years old, got into a quarrel with the younger boy and then took turns pulling up his underpants, WGN-AM 720 reported. The 12-year-old boy sustained bruises that required medical attention.

Police were called, and they arrested the two older youths.

The 17-year-old was charged with misdemeanor battery, police said. His name was not immediately available. The 16-year-old was referred to DCFS for delinquency proceedings in Cook County Juvenile Court.
Now, the folks at Three Sheets think this is unfair, because the victim was expected to recover quickly. Maybe so, but it's also rather funny.

I'll leave now by quoting a Dilbert cartoon from about 6 or 7 years ago. Here is a description of the cartoon, which is not online:

(A man is seen in a cubicle)

Man: It's time to use my speakerphone to do voice mail. I can't remember if I use the speakerphone because I'm inconsiderate or because I'm too stupid to know how annoying it is. I'll leave that question to the philosophers.

(The man switches on the speakerphone)


(In the next cubicle....)

Dilbert (typing): Dogbert, send Bob the Dinosaur quickly! **E-MAIL SENT**

(In the lobby....)

Bob the Dinosaur: I'm here to deliver a wedgie.

Security guard: Use the service elevator.

(Above the wall of the next cubicle, you see Bob yanking the man's underwear. The man screams, "AEEEE.")

(Then, at the elevator....)

Dilbert: What's the best part? The look on their faces, or the way they yell?

Bob the Dinosaur: I'll leave that question to the philosophers.

UPDATE (8/29): I've been getting a bunch of hits on this post this past month, and in all cases, the referrer is unknown. If anyone reading this feels so inclined, I'd appreciate finding out the referrer, just for my amusement. You can leave the information in the comments or email me.

Click here to read more . . .

Save cars. Junk people.

I'd like to thank Attila for the warm welcome as his guest blogger.

I'll try to continue his wry, insightful commentary.

Let me begin my blogging career with this item from the Associated Press which reports:

"Baywatch" actress Alexandra Paul and another woman were arrested Monday after blocking the path of trucks hauling General Motors Corp.'s pioneering EV1 electric cars to Arizona to be destroyed, police said.
* * *
The two were among dozens of electric car supporters holding an around-the-clock vigil outside a GM training center in Burbank, where more than 70 EV1s had been stored en route to a recycling plant near Mesa, Ariz.
* * *
The group, which includes environmentalists, technology enthusiasts and entertainment industry workers, said the monthlong vigil would continue despite the arrests.

It's too bad that Terri Schiavo wasn't manufactured by GM.

If so, then perhaps various Hollywood celebrities and environmentalists would be taking part in a month-long, around-the-clock vigil to save her from being "junked."

"Paging Dr. Goodwrench. Paging Dr. Goodwrench."

Click here to read more . . .

Guest blogging

In case you're wondering why there's now a second "contributor" listed to the right, let me explain. I have asked my friend, my faithful blog reader, and my former colleague (all three the same person) to guest blog for me for a few days over the next several weeks. He has chosen the blog name "fee simple," which seems rather odd to me, but who am I to talk about odd?

I expect that FS will be a perfect fit. He has similar political views to mine; he has a strange sense of humor; and he is good at finding the amusing and absurd in things. Although he is not a blogger himself, he has the necessary qualifications.

I am going to be away on business for about a day and a half on Wednesday and Thursday this week. Ordinarily, that would not be long enough to justify guest-blogging, but I have invited FS to get his start then. Next week and a couple of weeks later, I will be away for two or three days each time for family reasons. My father is receiving treatment for squamous cell carcinoma, and my siblings and I (plus my brothers-in-law) are taking turns driving him to the hospital. If any of my Jewish readers have an opportunity to say a mi she-bayrach for the holim, I would be very grateful. Here is his matronymic: Menachem Mendel ben Hinda Bluma. If my non-Jewish readers would like to say a prayer for the sick, too, I would be grateful for that as well.

Whether or not FS chooses to start guest-blogging this week, I am confident he will do me proud. Please welcome him.

Click here to read more . . .

March 14, 2005

How about buying a consonant?

If Robert Iger is going to be in charge of Disney, will we be treated to Innie the Ooh, Iglet, Anga, Oo, and Igger?

UPDATE (3/15): And how could I have forgotten? Ickey!

Click here to read more . . .

Italian prisoner rehabilitation

Generally speaking, rehabilitation of prisoners is not for government; it's for religion. The exception to my rule is rehabilitation through work. In the federal prison system, the work programs have had some success in reducing recidivism -- especially Federal Prison Industries, which is a program allowing inmates to work in what are essentially factories to produce furniture and other goods.

The Washington Post now tells us what the Italians are up to. Some prisoners are working in the vineyards making wine. As skeptical as I am of rehabilitative programs in prison, this actually sounds like it might be a good idea. But if you read down to the end of the article, the rehabilitative programs take an odd turn -- into a poetry society for the inmates.

At San Vittore prison in Milan, for instance, some inmates are organized into a poetry society. They publish their works on their own Web site as well as in a magazine called Two, after the prison's address, 2 Piazza Filangeli. Getting "sent to No. 2" is slang for ending up in San Vittore, one of the old-style Italian prisons with closet-size cells designed for two inmates but often holding three. "Getting out of the cells is one reason to write poetry," said Francesco Ghelardini, a convicted bank robber. "It would be crazy to think that everyone is going to take us seriously. This is a way for us to pass the time."

Ghelardini, in a poem he titled "Mezzobusto," which means a head-and-shoulders portrait, expresses the frustration of seeing his girlfriend on visiting days only from the bust up, across a table and separated by a window:

Patrizia, my lady,
for years became a body
from the bust on up

And every time our visits ended
I'd imagine her
In my mind, whole

You just can't make this stuff up. Well, on second thoughts, maybe you can. Saturday Night Live did it back in the 80s, when Norman Mailer was championing ol' Jack Henry Abbott. SNL ran a short movie featuring prisoners who were becoming writers. Eddie Murphy did a fantastic bit as Tyrone Green, a prisoner who declaimed the following poem:
Dark and lonely on a summer's night
Kill my landlord
Kill my landlord
Watchdog barking
Do he bite?
Kill my landlord
Kill my landlord
Slip in his window
Break his neck
Then his house
I start to wreck
Got no reason
What the heck
Kill my landlord
Kill my landlord
my land-lord
Sometimes life actually does imitate comedy.

Click here to read more . . .

Thank a teecher

I love looking at referral logs, especially the Google and Yahoo searches.

Lots of referrals from searches for "Dark Odyssey," because of my post on the alternative sex convention. (Hi, guys!) But I recently got a referral from a Google search for "How to right a bibliography." That's write! How to right a bibliography. It won't be long before I see a referral from "How to reed an index."

Click here to read more . . .

March 13, 2005

New e-mail address

I haven't been very happy with hotmail, and I'm going to experiment with my new Gmail account. The new e-mail address is:

pillageidiot -at- gmail -dot- com

The old hotmail address will still be active, so any mail to that address will still reach me.

Finally, if anyone wants an invitation to Gmail, please send me a message. I have a gazillion invitations left.

Click here to read more . . .

Fame is ephemeral

Number of site visits:

Tuesday, March 8, after 12 noon -- 825

Saturday, March 12, all day -- 13

Click here to read more . . .

The British Left's "war on terror"

Melanie Phillips posts an e-mail from a reader who identifies himself as of mixed Hindu/Sikh birth. The reader notes that, because of his skin color, British Muslims feel free to express their inner feelings to him. And it is not a pretty sight.

Because I am Asian, have brown skin, they sometimes assume I am Muslim, and even if they don't, they are freer to tell me their inner thoughts than they would to a white person. It is a level of hatred that is Nazi like in its extremity and virtually universal. I have met some brave Muslims who are sickened by it, but they are a minority and would never challenge the status-quo hatred that persists amongst them, for fear of ridicule, contempt, and perhaps even violence.
The reader cites an article in the Guardian by Timothy Garton Ash, which really has to be read to be believed, at least by those of us who are not regularly exposed to the European perspective. (An American who made the same arguments would be ridiculed all the way back to Hollywood.) Ash writes from Madrid at the anniversary of the railway bombings. Melanie Phillips's reader highlights this comment in Ash's article from a local Muslim 16-year-old:
I ask another Muhammad ("just call me Muhammad"), a voluble 16-year-old, about last year's bombings just down the road, at the Atocha station. Well, he says, he doesn't like to see people dying "even if they are Christians and Jews". But in this case, because of what Aznar did in the Iraq war.
The reader notes this line about "even if they are Christians and Jews" and continues:
"Even if they are Christians and Jews" tells you all you need to know about the mindset of many Muslims in Europe, as though Christians and Jews are lesser people, scum, like dogs or animals. The left in this country is unable and unwilling to face up to the fact that there is a deep poison in the ideology of many of its idealised and romanticised "oppressed" lumpen masses. It is unable to accept that no matter what they do, there will still be people utterly deranged by an ideology of hatred that no amount of wretched and pathetic self flaggelation will defuse.
Equally interesting to me is the bland, matter-of-fact way in which Ash paints his dream, in which Muslims attack and European people offer no response:
But this war to avoid a larger war will only be won if ordinary citizens across Europe are consciously engaged in it, through millions of commonplace interactions with people of different colour and faith. These are the experiences that determine whether the Muslim immigrants who already live among us in such large numbers will turn towards or away from Islamist extremism, and eventually terrorism. This is not the "war on terror", in which the mighty armies and security apparatuses of powerful states are repeatedly outmanoeuvred by a few technically ingenious people who are prepared to sacrifice their own lives. It's a war to prevent such people wanting to become terrorists in the first place.
The war, in other words, is a war of pre-emptive surrender.

Click here to read more . . .

March 12, 2005

Hire her at Harvard

If women who are professors at Harvard and other top schools have lately seemed unusually prone to become emotional, I have a candidate for a professorship: Jeanne Marie Laskas, a Washington Post magazine columnist. To her credit, she tells the story about herself with a sense of embarrassment. But, after all, it's that kind of column. In which we talk about our feelings.

JM, playing the role of MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins, is stopped for speeding by a Maryland state trooper, playing the role of Harvard President Lawrence Summers, who proceeds to write her up. JM is crying, not about the ticket, she says, having just had a "woman-power" day, and not because it's hormonal, but because "every once in a while a woman needs a good weep, and apparently this is my time."

The trooper (call him Larry) comes to her window and acts the ogre that all men, especially those named Larry, can be:

"Ma'am?" the cop says. He's standing out there now, just outside my window, with his little clipboard thing. "Ma'am?"

"What?" I mutter into my coat.

"Are you okay?"
She quickly says she is. And then "Larry" continues:
"Look, it's just a speeding ticket," he says, handing me the clipboard and pointing to where I sign. "It doesn't mean you're a bad person."

I let that thought hang in the air a moment. Then I burst into sobs.

"Aw, man," he says to his shoes. "I'm sure you're a very good person."

I'm sure he's just saying that. Should I say that? Sniff, sniff, sob.

"Aw, man," he says.
And then this exchange follows:
"Look, I'm just tired," I say to him, through hiccups.

"You need to go home, put your feet up," he says. "Get yourself a cup of tea."

"I have to go to gymnastics," I say. "I have to do a seat drop."

He has no immediate response. "Well, go on then. And be careful as you reenter the highway."
Thank you, "Larry," for being a credit to the Maryland State Police, and thank you, JM, for being a credit to your sex. A chair at Harvard awaits you.

Click here to read more . . .

Sarbanes retirement

I have many qualifications to opine on the announcement of Senator Sarbanes that he will not run for re-election in 2006, to wit:

  1. I live in Maryland.
  2. I have a blog.
And here is my opinion: Rah.

Given Maryland's history of corruption (remember Spiro Agnew and Marvin Mandel?), this statement from a "longtime Maryland Democratic operative" should be reserved for Sarbanes's tombstone: "He never embarrassed us."

Click here to read more . . .

March 10, 2005

One more "Bolty" award

Best imitation of a 60s-era children's television host:

Previous "Bolty" awards are here.

Click here to read more . . .

March 09, 2005

Vegetable attraction

"Then a sentimental passion of a vegetable fashion
must excite your languid spleen,
An attachment a la Plato for a bashful young potato,
or a not-too-French French bean!"
Gilbert & Sullivan, Patience

My kids are not going to be guinea pigs in the new sex-ed curriculum in Montgomery County, Maryland, so I have the luxury of taking an objective look at it. Of course, my long-time readers will know that, for me, an objective look actually means a juvenile look.

The two most controversial parts of the new curriculum concern homosexuality and condoms.

Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School in Bethesda, Seneca Valley High School in Germantown and Springbrook High School in Silver Spring will take part in the high school course in which 10th-graders will be shown how to put condoms on cucumbers.

Martin Luther King Middle School in Germantown, Tilden Middle School in Rockville and White Oak Middle School in Silver Spring will participate in the middle school curriculum in which eighth-graders will learn that homosexual couples are the newest American family.

What have these two things got in common, other than being controversial? Teaching kids the proper use of condoms by showing them how to put one on a cucumber perhaps invites reference to a couple of mildly off-color jokes but seemingly has nothing to do with homosexuality. Or so I thought until I read an article in a month-old issue of the New Yorker magazine (typically lousy reading materials in the gym) that discussed the British press's opposition to joining the EU. The article, titled "Pigs Must Play," has this to say about the EU:

Much speculation surrounds the future of the E.U.—how many extra members it can support, and whether its goal is, as opponents claim, the forging of a European superstate. Yet these are trifles compared with the ambitions that are made manifest on its Web site. On bananas: "The diameter of the fruit is a way of measuring its maturity/development." On cucumbers: "Cucumbers do not have to be straight."

So, you see, condom instruction and homosexuality turn out to be related, after all, and the Montgomery County school system seems to be importing the radical ideas of the EU. Maybe I should actually be concerned.

Click here to read more . . .

Bush was right -- the bibliography

Thanks to Lorie Byrd at Polipundit, here's a list of "Bush was right" articles from somewhat surprising sources at By Dawn's Early Light. (Perhaps it's more accurate to call them "Could Bush be right?" articles, as Bill Rice at BDEL does, but let's not quibble.)

I sure hope he keeps this list up. It's invaluable.

Click here to read more . . .

March 07, 2005

The butt-kicking continues

Bush is nominating John Bolton to serve as ambassador to the United Nations. Meanwhile, here are my nominations. Let's call them The Bolty Awards.

Best quip: Joe Biden, 2001

"My problem with you over the years is that you've been too competent," Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) told Bolton four years ago. "I would rather you be stupid and not very effective."
Best backhanded compliment: New York Times
The United Nations is at a delicate point, under fire over abuses of the Iraq oil-for-food program and allegations of sexual abuse by United Nations peacekeepers in Congo. This has added to harsh criticism of the organization by some American conservatives.
Best endorsement: Kim Jung Il
[Bolton] labeled Kim a "tyrannical dictator" who had made North Korea "a hellish nightmare" -- which prompted the North Korean government to call him "human scum and bloodsucker."
Best anecdote about Bolton:

In a 2002 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Bolton was asked about what seemed to be mixed signals from the Bush administration on North Korea. He grabbed a book from a shelf and laid it on the table. Its title: "The End of North Korea."

"That," he told the interviewer, "is our policy."

Best effort to be diplomatic: Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya
Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya, who will sit with Mr. Bolton as a permanent Security Council member, described the choice as "interesting". "It's an interesting appointment, yes. Certainly we will respect the choice the government has made, and certainly myself I think I can work together with a character like Mr. Bolton. This is the choice the president had made, and for myself and I have several contacts with him, I know we can work together," he said.
Best clueless response: Argentine U.N. Ambassador Cesar Mayoral
"I think any nomination, any designation, is to send a message. I don't know what is the message."
Best suggestion for U.N. reform: Bolton
Bolton's past comments on the UN often seemed dismissive. He has been widely quoted as saying at a 1994 conference that "if the UN secretariat building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference."
Best effort to become somehow relevant: John Kerry
"I recognize John Bolton's long service to our country, but this is just about the most inexplicable appointment the President could make to represent the United States to the world community," Sen. Kerry will assert.
UPDATE (3/8): A more serious discussion is going on over at Q&O.

UPDATE (3/8): Welcome, Polipundit readers, and thanks, Lorie, for the nice blurb.

UPDATE (3/8): Welcome, also, to Jeff Goldstein's friends from protein wisdom.

UPDATE (3/10): One more "Bolty" award: Best imitation of a 60s-era children's television host.

Click here to read more . . .

March 06, 2005

Experts are baffled, but not surprised

"Ferocity of chimpanzee attack stuns medics, leaves questions"

Headline, Boston Globe, March 6, 2005

"Attacks by chimps are highly unusual / What triggered the four animals baffles the experts"

Headline, Kansas City Star, March 6, 2005

"Gruesome chimp attack doesn't surprise experts"

Headline, Associated Press, March 5, 2005

"Violence natural, chimp expert says"

Headline, Columbia Daily Tribune, March 6, 2005

Click here to read more . . .

The Sharansky moment?

Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post wonders about the Sharansky moment.

Today it is beyond debate that Sharansky has deeply influenced US President George W. Bush's thinking on international affairs. After reading Sharansky's book, The Case for Democracy, Bush told The New York Times that Sharansky's worldview "is part of my presidential DNA." This Sharansky-inspired "presidential DNA" posits that the Arab world's conflict with Israel, like its support for global jihad, will end when the Arab world democratizes. In Sharansky's view, once Arabs are governed democratically, they will not wish to sustain the conflict.

* * * * *

What is happening in our neighboring lands is nothing short of a revolution. There has never before been a situation in the Arab world where so many people have been willing to stand up to their regimes and demand their freedom. Although the Arab revolution is only in its earliest phases – and it is impossible to foresee what will transpire in the coming days, months and years – the very fact that the Arab world has responded so dramatically to the Iraqi elections at the end of January and to Bush's call for democracy seems to be a full vindication of both Sharansky's political theory and of Bush's decision to graft it onto his genetic code.
But she worries a lot about the Israeli government.
Ironically, it is Israel's democratically elected leadership that has been most opposed to the notion of Arab democracy. Sharon and Vice Premier Shimon Peres have passively and actively colluded with those who reject the Bush-Sharansky Doctrine in the US State Department to ensure it remains unapplied among the Palestinians.

Sharansky wrote in his book that when he presented his ideas to Sharon, the prime minister told him that they "have no place in the Middle East." One of Sharon's advisers reportedly said that Sharon "views Sharansky's ideas with scorn." Peres, the father of the idea of replacing Israel's Civil Administration in the territories with a PLO dictatorship imported from Tunis, has spoken vacuously of the need to build an "economic democracy" – rather than a political democracy – among the Palestinians.
According to Glick, this has serious consequences.
Israel's decision to prefer the rule of Arafat's deputy to genuine democratic transformation in the PA has paved the way for the international community's embrace of Abbas. Rather than demand an accounting for the billions of dollars in international aid that were stolen by Arafat (and by Abbas and PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and their associates), in London this week the international community pledged to transfer more than a billion additional dollars to the PA.

Buoyed by this unqualified support, Abbas is now demanding that the international community drop the demand that he fight terrorists and enable the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state immediately. The EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, has already accepted this position.
She concludes that there is a question which road will be taken.
So in the space of one week, we see the consequences of both the Bush-Sharansky Doctrine and the appeasement-based status quo in action. While the region's war-torn, radical and terror-engendering history tells us what the ultimate consequences of the status quo will be, we have yet to harvest the fruits of the Bush-Sharansky-inspired revolution.

The main question we should be concerning ourselves with now is whether the revolution will be extended to the Palestinians or whether – once Sharon-Peres-style appeasement is grafted onto its genetic code – the revolution will fade away and be forgotten.
So far, things are continuing to break in favor of Bush and Sharansky. There is plenty of reason to speak out at this point, but so far, there is surprisingly little reason to fear.

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Divorce, American style

What would we do without the New York Times? And by "New York Times," of course, I mean the "Sunday Styles" section, where all the latest decadent societal trends that originate in New York and the rest of blue America are heralded.

Yesterday, while getting rid of old newspapers, Mrs. A discovered a classic in the Feb. 13 edition. The article is called "O.K., It's Over. So Now Let's Party." Just in time for Valentine's Day, which of course is not about love but about sex . . . and divorce.

Here's the setup:

WHEN Rachel Bendtsen walked through the doors of the Mulberry Street Bar in Little Italy on a recent Thursday night, she was greeted with a cake and a standing ovation. Cameras flashed as she said hello to friends she hadn't seen in three years, since she got engaged and stopped traveling frequently from Minneapolis to New York to visit. Leaning over the cake, decorated with a bird flying out of a cage, she closed her eyes and blew out the candles.

"I am so happy to be a free agent," Ms. Bendtsen, 27, said as more cameras flashed. "And I am accepting applications to make out." Several single men were on hand, eager to apply.

As divorce parties go, this one was pretty tame - no caterer and no band, and the cake was homemade. It was certainly nothing compared to the $20,000 wedding she and her parents had paid for just two years earlier, the one at which 200 guests watched as she pledged to love and cherish her husband forever.

"Once you say you are going to get married, it is hard to get out of it," Ms. Bendtsen said. "So the divorce puts us both back on course. In my case it is definitely cause for celebration."
The great thing about this is that you don't even have to be a "het" and you don't technically have to be married.
Philip Tabor, a 30-year-old actor, gave himself a breakup party in September. "My godmother said, 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,' " he said. "I added tequila." Mr. Tabor, who broke up with his male partner of eight years last summer, sent out invitations with a script-written header, "El Divorcio," for his margarita-drenched party at the Mexican restaurant Café Juanita on the Lower East Side.

"Without sounding too Lifetime television, it was very therapeutic," he said. His friends gave him plenty of liquor, erotic videos and a self-help book entitled "Finding the Boyfriend Within."
And there's always a profit angle.
Businesses, too, are hopping on the breakup party circuit, advertising their services as the perfect pick-me-up for the newly single. At, the recently broken-up can sign up at the gift registry for anything from a new toaster to a flat panel television. Nearly 4,000 copies of the spiral-bound guide "How to Throw a Divorce or Breakup Party," by Christine Gallagher, a Los Angeles writer, have been sold since she began offering it on her Web site,, in mid-2003.

Plum Party, a New York-based party supply company (, sells items like a Getting Over Him Kit and an Ex-Husband Voodoo Doll to give as gifts or party favors. At, people can submit their sordid tales of woe and have them written up in the style of wedding announcements.
Speaking of money, when you both have a lot of it, and can split it amicably, you can even have your divorce party together.
Dominic Barbara, a Long Island celebrity divorce lawyer whose clients include Lindsay Lohan's father, Michael, and Victoria Gotti, said one of his clients is giving a Valentine's Day party this year with her former husband to celebrate their divorce at a four-star New York restaurant. Mr. Barbara, who wouldn't reveal the name of his client, said that the client and her former husband are investment bankers who decided to split $20 million between them instead of enduring a drawn-out legal battle. "They threw the prenup in the garbage," Mr. Barbara said.
That's right, Scott, the rich are really different from us.

The current version of Emily Post's magnum opus advises against being mean when celebrating divorce, but that advice is too much for Dan Savage, the "syndicated sex columnist and editor of The Stranger, an alternative newspaper in Seattle."
Mr. Savage might be considered a trailblazer on the angry breakup party frontier: For the past eight years, he has held a Valentine's Day bash on the evening of Feb. 14, at which single people can destroy artifacts from their previous relationships.

"You are in a room full of people who are single and bitter and looking for rebound sex," said Mr. Savage, who will hold the party this year at Chop Suey in Seattle. "It's great."
After having attempted to digest all of this, I think we will have our own celebration here at the Attila marital abode by burning the Sunday Styles in the fireplace.

Click here to read more . . .

March 05, 2005

Democratic genie is out of the bottle

So says Reuel Marc Gerecht in the Weekly Standard with a rundown of where things stand in the Arab and Muslim countries in the middle east: "What Hath Ju-Ju Wrought!" ("Ju-Ju" is "an affectionate Arabic take on 'George.'")

Click here to read more . . .

Would you believe MOST of the rules?

"Suspect in 10 Murders Seemed a Stickler for Living by the Rules"

Headline, N.Y. Times, March 6, 2005

UPDATE (3/6): N.Y. Times weasels out with a changed headline.

Click here to read more . . .

March 03, 2005

Add Pillage Idiot to your Yahoo home page

This is actually pretty cool. I thought it was available for only the big boys.

If you have a Yahoo home page (My Yahoo), click on "Add Content." The page will look like this:

In the blank next to "Find Content," write "Pillage Idiot" (quotation marks optional). Click on "Find," and you'll see my blog listed under "Results."

Click on "Add" and make sure you move me way up high on your home page.

Click here to read more . . .

March 02, 2005

Deathgrip, winner take all

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March 01, 2005

Overheard in New York

Via KaufmaNet, which linked to my "Boiling the frog" post, I've come across this site, which posts funny conversations overheard in New York. A sister site posts conversations overheard in the office, not necessarily in New York.

WARNING: Some profanity and immature conversation about mature topics.

The best conversation I overheard wasn't in New York, but it's a true story:

Mrs. Attila and I were sitting in Starbucks, and there were three 20-something women seated nearby. While Mrs. A and I were talking, I heard one of the women say to the others, "My cousin is 19, and she's dating a transsexual." Naturally, my ears perked up and I tried to hear the rest of the conversation. My wife seemed to be listening, too. But after a minute, we had to leave.

On the way out, I said to my wife, "That seemed like it could have been an interesting conversation." My wife asked, "Which conversation?" I said, "The one with the 19-year-old cousin who was dating a transsexual."

My wife stopped and looked at me and said, "What??? She didn't say 'transsexual.' She said her cousin was dating a twenty-six-year-old." She then launched into an imitation of the woman's speech pattern -- what used to be limited to Valley Girls but now is the way everyone that age speaks -- and slurred "26-year-old." Sounded just like "transsexual."

Click here to read more . . .

Who said that?

Who said this in October:

"Bush's keen insight was that to reform the Arab world, where terrorism originates, you have to go into the shuk and knock over the carts. This process has only begun; there are carts yet upright."

The guy who actually knows what he's talking about? Good guess, but no.

It was a totally clueless guy who can't believe the speed at which things are happening.

Click here to read more . . .