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August 30, 2005

Cross-cultural celebration

While our own culture may be heading south, I think we can all try to appreciate the good in other cultures as we read about them in the Washington Times. I mean, how can you not continue after reading this opening paragraph:

LUDZIDZINI ROYAL VILLAGE, Swaziland -- Fifty thousand bare-breasted virgins danced for the king of Swaziland yesterday, vying to become his 13th wife.
The second paragraph's pretty interesting, too.
King Mswati III, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa, arrived dressed in a leopard-skin loincloth to watch the ceremony called the Reed Dance, which he has used since 1999 to pluck brides from the ranks of girls dressed in little more than beaded miniskirts.
A leopard-skin loincloth? Cool! All my loincloths come in solid colors in synthetics. So what could have led these girls to desport themselves so? Cherchez le lifestyle.
Wielding machetes and singing tributes to the king and queen mother, called "the Great She-Elephant," the girls danced around the royal stadium in the hope of catching the eye of the 37-year-old monarch. "I want to live a nice life, have money, be rich, have a BMW and cell phone," said one of them, 16-year-old Zodwa Mamba, who wore a traditional brightly colored tasseled scarf and not a lot else.
But it seems there are a few sore sports in Swaziland.
The ceremony yesterday was the culmination of a week of preparations, which included the lifting of a royal ban on sexual relations with virgins, decreed in 2001 to rein in the spread of the HIV virus.

Days after reviving the ancient ban, King Mswati in 2001 married a virgin and fined himself one cow. Last week, he lifted the five-year ban a year early, ordering thousands of maidens to throw off chastity scarves worn to discourage the attention of scamps and libertines.

"The Reed Dance has been abused for one man's personal satisfaction," says Mario Masuku, leader of the banned opposition party. "The king has a passion for young women and opulence."
Poor man. He hasn't come to accept the inherent validity of his own culture.

Click here to read more . . .

August 29, 2005

Hungering for the fake in life

This story in the Style section of the Washington Post is gross, even by my immature standards, so don't read it if you are easily made ill at the corruption of our culture.

In fact, if you are, please scroll to the next post right away, because I have to quote the single most repellent thing in the whole article, which has to do with a contest held by a bar in Ocean City, Maryland, in which the winner receives $5000 for what I will delicately refer to as elective plastic surgery for women.

The article quotes one woman who, in my opinion, sums up what's wrong with our culture. Call me prudish, call me narrow-minded, but that's the way I see it. Turn away now or forever hold your peace.

She got her 34D breasts, tonight squeezed into a low-cut red top, five weeks ago. She loves them.

"It's so empowering," she says. "It just changes your way of thinking in life. . . . It's like you're untouchable. Everybody wants you."

She paid $4,400 for them, and she says the surgery was "the best thing I ever did in my life" -- better than her marriage, her kids, everything, she says. It's part of a larger dream: She wants to be 55, her kids off at college, lying on a beach in Miami and looking fabulous.

But isn't that a little superficial? What if life isn't all about great [breasts]?

"But it is," she says. "It's the one thing that can make you powerful for life. Honestly."
Isn't that great? Fake body parts are better than your marriage and your kids. Well, at least she's powerful for life.

Click here to read more . . .

Put down that sign and no one will get hurt

Lots of folks are getting a bunch of yuks out of the story that British tourists are stealing the town signs in a small Austrian enclave known by the gerund form of the F-verb. The villagers are getting f-ing angry about it, too. Best line is from the local police chief, who allegedly said this:

"Let's just say there are plans in place to deal with this," the Kommandant warned darkly. "What they are, I am not at liberty to disclose, but we will not stand for the F***ing signs being removed. It may be very amusing for you British, but F***ing is simply F***ing to us. What is this big F***ing joke? It is puerile."
Well, I'm glad to see that it's Code Orange there (see Pillage Idiot Advisory System at top of sidebar).

But it turns out the British themselves have a whole bunch of "rude" place names. Trouble is, they don't translate well into German. Which is a -- I won't say it -- shame.

Click here to read more . . .

August 28, 2005

That's why it's called the "R" train

New technology can be a good thing.

A creep exposes himself to a woman riding the R train in New York City, and she takes a photo with her cell phone. Ha, ha, so far, so good. Then she posts it on the internet to try to get an ID of the creep. (Too bad there weren't, to paraphrase Dave Barry, a couple of guys named Vito on the train to have a word with the guy.)

The NY Daily News brings you the story with a tasteful cut of the photo. (Via Drudge.)

Click here to read more . . .

Unusual visitor

Over at Toner Mishap, they occasionally post search terms that lead visitors to their blog. I also get visits from odd searches. One fairly frequent one is "nude swimming" or "naked swimming," based on a post I wrote called "Nekkid," about the vestiges of nude male swimming at clubs in New York City.

But today, one of my visitors seeking enlightenment on the subject came from a surprising source. Check the identity of the IP address below. If you can't read it, click on the image to see a larger version.

Click here to read more . . .

August 27, 2005

Plans for Gaza

The New York Times reports on the "Palestinians' Big Plans for Gaza, With a Bit of Doubt." Apparently, the PA's plans for Gaza in the wake of the Israeli pullout include something like this:

Unfortunately, here's where the "bit of doubt" comes in. First, the PA will have to deal with this:

And as long as this photo is on the wall, it's not likely to happen.

Click here to read more . . .

August 26, 2005

"Plague species"

The relationship between environmentalists and homo sapiens is attenuated, and I'm not making a cheap joke suggesting they're not human. What I mean is that many environmentalists seem to have negative views of the position of man on earth. For example, they often speak of how humans affect the environment, as if we were not ourselves a part of it. A beaver diverts a river with a dam, and that's natural. Humans divert a river with a dam, and that's not natural; it's interfering with the environment. My daughter's high school biology textbook discussed ecosystems under an obvious premise that humans were not a part of them.

This approach to homo sapiens has led the London Zoo to set up a "Human Zoo" and to call humans a "plague species":

London Zoo unveiled a new exhibition -- eight humans prowling around wearing little more than fig leaves to cover their modesty.

The "Human Zoo" is intended to show the basic nature of human beings as they frolick throughout the August bank holiday weekend.

"We have set up this exhibit to highlight the spread of man as a plague species and to communicate the importance of man's place in the planet's ecosystem," London Zoo said.
Apparently, because we are a "plague species," we are not currently part of the ecosystem; we are on the outside trying to destroy it.

On the bright side, the exhibit gives visitors the chance to look at humans frolicking on the rocks in fig-leaf outfits, and one can never have enough people frolicking in fig leaves.

Click here to read more . . .

Messiahs just aren't what they used to be

"Many of [al-Sadr's] followers listen closely to the cleric's revolutionary rhetoric and see him as almost a Messianic figure who will free them from the trash in the streets and the lack of basic services."

Washington Times, Militant cleric gaining support from Iraqi youth, Aug. 26, 2005

Click for original.

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August 24, 2005

Not having cable TV can be fatal

Click here to read more . . .

Why didn't Rupert Murdoch think of this?

According to a Reuters article, a new Dutch television station is planning a competition of reality TV shows, which will include one called "I want your child ... and nothing else!" Here's the plan:

"The plan is that we visit potential donors and -- of course on camera -- decide which man is most suitable," the 30-year old woman who will feature in the program said in an interview with De Telegraaf newspaper.

"Afterwards there will be artificial insemination," said the woman who was identified only as "Yessica" and who has bought a house with a room for a child.
And don't forget, there are other reality shows competing for the opportunity to do a series. One of them "follows five former prostitutes starting a cafe."

(hat tip: fee simple)

Click here to read more . . .

August 23, 2005

European bra fears

You know you just have to keep reading an article with the headline "EU ban sparks bra fears." Here's why:

BRITAIN could be facing a bra shortage after an EU ban blocked £50million of Chinese-made clothing heading for the UK, a trade body warned today.

It means some shops could run out of trousers, pullovers, blouses and other items in the coming months, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said.

And the number of bras on shop floors could also drop, a spokeswoman for the BRC said.
This raises some troubling questions:

First, which appendage of the "trade body" issued the warning?

Second, what are the bras doing on the floor of the shops in the first place?

Third, is it because the bras not only "could" drop but in fact have dropped on the floor?

Fourth, when bras are dropping on the floor, isn't it really important for someone to keep a close eye on them? Apparently so:
A Department of Trade and Industry spokeswoman said: "We are keeping a close eye on the situation. We are talking to retailers and importers and we understand their concerns. The aim is to find an early resolution to the situation."
But maybe the situation isn't so dire. Maybe if Chinese bras become hard to find, Europeans can use Japanese Post-Privatization Total Surprise Bras instead.

(Via Instapundit; see also EU Rota and EU-Serf.)

Click here to read more . . .

August 22, 2005

Condi explains herself

Previous photos here and here. And Cindy Sheehan bombs on Broadway here.

Click here to read more . . .

Baseball math

Yesterday, as we were driving home from New York, we turned on the radio to the Mets game with the Nationals. The announcer said something like this: Esteban Loaiza is pitching in an unusual situation. He's already driven in a run before taking the mound for the first time.

I immediately started trying to figure out the minimum number of runs the Nationals must have scored in the top of the first inning if Loaiza had driven in a run. Before I'd finished, the announcer reported that the score was 6-0. But six isn't the minimum number of runs. I'm pretty sure the answer is 4. I've tried to come up with an unusual way that they could have scored only 3 runs, but I don't think it's possible. Any takers?

Click here to read more . . .

August 19, 2005

Fan club

Earlier this week, I posted some cheap photoshops poking fun at the Cindy Sheehan spectacle. One was picked up by Gerard Van der Leun at American Digest. A lefty blogger saw it and wrote that it was despicable, or some such high-falutin' word. (I don't plan to return there to find out exactly his choice of words.) This sent his minions to GVdL's blog, where they posted hostile comments, mostly about him and somewhat about me. A few added their thoughts at Pillage Idiot.

I do want to say that I absolutely love one of the comments at American Digest. An anonymous poster calling himself "Great Job" wrote simply, "I remember MS Paint." This was a clever putdown, and it amuses me greatly. But in my own defense I have to point out that I have almost no experience whatsoever with Photoshop, so by that standard they weren't so bad.

I also got an email from someone promoting a rally called "The World Can't Wait/Drive Out the bush regime." I'll even give you the website here. Please make sure to read the FAQs (click to enlarge below). We have questions; they have no answers.

Click here to read more . . .

August 16, 2005

Condi steps in

Previous photos here.

UPDATE (8/22): Condi explains herself here.

Click here to read more . . .

August 15, 2005

Lazer is a Jewish name, right?

Solomon at posts excerpts from an interview with the commander of Yasser Arafat's presidential guard, Munir al-Zu'bi, in which al-Zubi says that Arafat was killed by poisoning from a laser beam or a handshake or a kiss. Naturally from the Israelis.

As Solomon says, you just can't make this stuff up.

Click here to read more . . .

August 14, 2005

Spaghetti breakage

Via, we learn that the American Physical Society is going to publish an article explaining why spaghetti won't simply break in two. Just in case you don't subscribe, here's an abstract:

Why Does Spaghetti Break into More than Two Pieces?
B. Audoly and S. Neukirch
Phys. Rev. Lett. (upcoming article)

When dry spaghetti snaps, it usually breaks into several fragments, not just two equal pieces. Pasta-eaters and scientists alike have been puzzled by this, but now researchers at the CNRS/Universite Paris VI in France have explained the phenomenon. They experimented with several different thicknesses of dry spaghetti, which they clamped at one end, then bent and suddenly released, causing the strand to break. According to their analysis, after release, the rod's curvature initially increases near the just-released end. Then a wave travels along the pasta. The first break occurs somewhere along the rod when the curvature exceeds a critical limit. The shock of the initial break then causes more bending waves to travel along the two newly formed pieces of the spaghetti, where they locally increase the curvature further and cause more breaks, leading to a cascade of cracks.
I can't resist pointing out that "Cascade of Cracks" would be an excellent name for a rock band. Or perhaps a political party.

Click here to read more . . .

Cindy Sheehan raises her demands

UPDATE: This is getting out of control.

UPDATE: More on the story here.

Click here to read more . . .

No words

Adolph Smith

Mr. Eccleston: Today is Oct. 12, 2001. The time is 10:31 hours, and this is Christopher Eccleston of the New York City Fire Department. I'm conducting an interview with the following individual. Please state your name and title. [NOTE: article viewable in Internet Explorer.]

E.M.T. Smith: Adolph Smith, E.M.T..

Mr. Eccleston: And your assigned command area?

E.M.T. Smith: I'm assigned to Battalion 8.

Mr. Eccleston: Of the New York City Fire Department?

E.M.T.. Smith: As a de-con specialist.

Mr. Eccleston: Also in the room is -

Ms. Bastedenbeck: Chris Bastedenbeck from the New York City Fire Department.

Q. Mr. Smith, were you working on Sept. 11th, 2001?

A. Yes, I was.

Q. Were you assigned to the World Trade disaster?

A. Yes, I was.

Q. Can you please tell me about the events of that day?


Mr. Eccleston: The time is 10:33, and we are going to be continuing this interview.

Q. Mr. Smith, can you tell me about the events of Sept. 11th?

A. I was assigned to the World Trade Center incident, and we arrived and were directed to go to Vesey and West on the west side of West Street. We arrived in that area, and I don't remember the captain's name. He directed us to park along (inaudible). So we did. So we backed in to park. I just happened to look up, and what I thought was debris coming down from the north tower was people and bodies.


Mr. Eccleston: This interview is being concluded at 10:35 hours. Mr. Smith is unable to continue with this interview.

Click here to read more . . .

Tisha B'Av

Today is the fast of the ninth of Av, Tisha B'Av. Or as Judith at Kesher Talk says, "Tisha B'Av is the 9th day of Av, the 11th month. This is the original 9-11 of the Jewish people."

Judith has hosted a "blogburst" on the destruction by the Muslims of archaelogical evidence of Jewish history at the Temple Mount. The blogburst is actually far broader than that, covering quite a few different topics. Go over there and have a long look.

Judith's reference to Tisha B'Av as the Jewish 9-11 interests me, because I was thinking exactly the same thing, though for less numerological reasons. As Jews, we obsess about our past, and quite a past it is -- a list of horribles more than two and a half millenia long. As Americans, we don't obsess enough. Every September 11, we should watch the video of the World Trade Center towers collapsing. We should see the images of people jumping from the towers. As Jonah Goldberg has written, we have to keep reminding ourselves how we got where we are today.

Yesterday's New York Times had excerpts from oral histories given by people who participated in the rescue efforts at the WTC on September 11. We have to keep reading these so we don't become complacent and forget why we're fighting. I've chosen one to post separately here. It needs absolutely no comment.

Click here to read more . . .

August 12, 2005

Secrets of Rice

When yesterday's Washington Post arrived, I thought this front page article was about a terribly serious breach of security -- that maybe Condi's laptop had fallen into enemy hands.

Boy, was I relieved when I saw they were talking about genetics. (The headline is just a little different at the Post's website.)

Click here to read more . . .

August 11, 2005

Things that interest me

Here are a few things that interest me:

1. Soccer Dad writes about Article 20 of the Palestinian National Charter, which denies any historical ties of Jews to Palestine: "It is necessary for the Palestinians to believe that there's no historical connection between Jews and Israel, and that Jews are Europeans who moved to and conquered their land. These myths give a legitimacy to their cause. It also makes Palestinian nationalism and Zionism mutually exclusive ideologies. One, Zionism, is based on the idea that after 2000 years of exile Jews are returning to their land. The other says that Jews have no ties to the land and therefore the Palestinians can determine what degree of a Jewish presence is legitimate."

2. George Will points out that Jimmy Carter is a liar -- OK, he says "fibber," but that's what you say when you wear bow ties. Carter insists that Will stole the debate briefing book in 1980, as if only that, and not Carter's disastrous presidency, led Reagan to victory. (Via Captain Ed) Carter, it turns out, wrote to Will in 1993, disclosing that, because of his grudge against Will, he (Carter) had refused to read Will's book "Men at Work" until he (Carter) found it in a used bookstore for $1. James Taranto comments: "So Carter (a) nurses this trivial grudge for 13 years (and still is after 25 years), (b) refuses to read Will's book because of it, (c) feels vindicated when he finds it on the remainder table, and (d) writes a letter to Will boasting about (c)! Next to this guy, Bill Clinton is Winston Churchill."

3. Some people blog with their feet (photos to prove it). Let's see . . . hands, feet, am I missing any other body parts that people blog with? (Via Instapundit)

4. Jeff Goldstein discusses how the Democrats in Michigan are actively allied with a radical Trotskyite group to prevent the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative from coming to a vote. It's a very sordid tale.

Click here to read more . . .

August 10, 2005

Pull over!

If you have one of those flashing lights that police stick on their unmarked cars to pull people over or to make their way through traffic, and you think it would be fun to use one to pull someone over on the road, just for laughs, consider this (via

TAMPA - Marvin Williams, designated driver, wanted to play a joke late Sunday night. So he put a flashing red-blue light on the dashboard of his friend's Ford Expedition and pulled behind a car driving south on North 36th Street, police say.

It was one of a series of bad moves, police say.

The first? Choosing a car with two undercover Tampa officers in it.

It didn't help much when he laughed about it as he drove by.

Then, when the police followed him, Williams, 22, ran from the vehicle, officials say. He left behind a drunken friend, a 16-year-old girl in the back seat and 7 grams of cocaine on the center console, police say.
But Williams isn't the only jerk to try that trick. Here's another:
DES MOINES, Iowa -- A man who police say stopped another driver to warn him about his careless driving was arrested for impersonating a police officer -- and driving a stolen pickup truck.

Jessie Joe Hill, 32, of Des Moines, was driving the stolen pickup on Sunday when he turned on a flashing yellow light on the dashboard and pulled another driver over after the driver ran a stop sign, police said.

A police officer pulled up behind Hill and asked him what he was doing. Hill said he had pulled the other driver over to caution him about his driving.

That didn't sit well with the officer, who arrested Hill.

Hill also was arrested for driving with a suspended license and second-degree theft.

The man Hill pulled over said he thought he might be an undercover officer.

"I saw the light flashing ... so I pulled over," said Edin Beganovic. "He said 'Can you slow down?' I said, 'Sure, no problem.'"
Where's Leonardo DiCaprio when we need him?

Click here to read more . . .

Death wish of the New York Times

Sometimes you really have to believe that the New York Times hates good news. For example, this morning's paper makes you wonder whether the Times is really disappointed that the space shuttle didn't crash.

For some reason, the Times's website bears a different headline, although following the link "Print edition" on the homepage shows the headline photographed above.

Click here to read more . . .

On leyning mattot and mas'ei

[Note (7/12/07): Each summer since I wrote this, I've had a bunch of visitors searching for yerach ben yomo or karnei farah or mercha ch'fula. I guess people are trying to learn these rare taamim. If you're reading this, and you want to know how to sing them, email me, and I'll tell you how I do it, for whatever that's worth. I realize there's less than 24 hours until shabbat matot-mas'ei begins, but the offer is open even afterwards.

My original post from July 2005 follows.]

This was the fifth time in the last six years that I leyned mattot and mas'ei, but it's the first year since 1984 that the two parshiot are split. I leyned both weeks.

Mattot-mas'ei was my bar mitzvah parasha, something that very few people can say. First, it always is read during the summer, when few people schedule bar mitzvahs. My parents, on the other hand, were delighted to schedule my bar mitzvah in the summer, because it meant fewer guests. (You'd really have to know them to understand this attitude. It wasn't the cost; it was the idea that they'd have fewer people they'd have to interact with.) Second, mattot-mas'ei typically is read during the Nine Days, when celebrations are not held. I grew up in a Conservative shul where this consideration was not a serious issue.

Like most kids at our shul, I didn't leyn the whole parasha at my bar mitzvah. In fact, I just read the three verses in the maftir. At that time, only the day-school kids leyned the whole thing. Besides, while I was pretty musical, the double parasha is nine columns long, which I think makes it the longest in the entire Torah. That made it really difficult for a kid of 13 to learn. Even shevi'i alone is close to two columns. Still, I decided when I was an adult that I would eventually learn the whole double parasha. In the early 90's, I learned all of mas'ei, and in the late 90's, I learned all of mattot, too.

The shul I attend now is Orthodox, and in allowing me to leyn it's taking a fairly liberal stance. I'm not strictly observant; I'm what I call "moderately observant." At my shul, there's only one criterion of observance for leyning: people are allowed to leyn if they walk to shul, and I meet that qualification. (Sometimes I think I should get extra credit for walking, because I live nearly 2-1/2 miles away.) Beyond the driving issue, the shul doesn't ask questions about observance, which from my perspective is a good thing.

When I leyn, I'm pretty fussy about it. It isn't just a question of reading the words correctly; that's very important, but the gabbaim will correct you if you don't. What I'm particularly fussy about is trying to get all the notes correct, and no one corrects you if you don't, even if you blatantly fake it. Getting all the notes right is a virtually impossible task, especially with a long parasha, but it's my goal anyway. A friend of ours is, without question, the best leyner at our shul. What I admire about him is that he rarely makes a mistake; he pronounces all the words impeccably, including each kametz katan and mappik hei; he gets the notes right, and is able to make some highly technical distinctions; the trop he uses is beautiful; and he has a nice voice. That's what I aspire to.

I find mattot and mas'ei interesting to leyn, because they contain some unusual notes. Mattot has a mercha ch'fula three words from the end. That note occurs only 5 times in the entire Torah, according to my source. Mas'ei is even better. It contains a yerach ben yomo and a karnei farah, both of which occur only that one time in the Torah.

Leyning has great significance to me, because it's the way I try to communicate with God. I find it very hard to be inspired in prayer, and leyning is my way of trying to draw close. Sure, I also like it when members of the shul enjoy my leyning, but that's where self-interest helps toward a higher goal.

UPDATE (7/30/08): Another post on the subject, including a WAV file of how to sing the yerach ben yomo and karnei farah.

Click here to read more . . .

August 08, 2005

Harry Potter lives -- at Guantanamo

The Washington Times reports this morning that Harry Potter is popular among inmates at Guantanamo.

Harry Potter's worldwide popularity is so broad-based that it has become favorite reading for Islamic terror suspects at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Lori, who for two years has overseen the detention center's library, said J.K. Rowling's tales about the boy wizard are on top of the request list for the camp's 520 al Qaeda and Taliban suspects, followed by Agatha Christie whodunits.

"We've got a few who are kind of hooked on it. A couple have asked if they can see the movie," said Lori, a civilian contractor who asked that her last name not be publicized.
Shouldn't really be a surprise. They're in Guantanamo because we think they were fighting for "He Who Must Not Be Named" or someone else by the same name.

Click here to read more . . .

August 07, 2005

Son of scourge of customer service reps

Back in January, I wrote about Gene Weingarten, the Washington Post wiseguy who has a shtick of calling toll-free customer service numbers and asking dumb questions.

From today's column:

The Gillette Co.

Me: I am calling about Gillette Foamy shaving cream with "comfort glide." I am very dissatisfied with this product.

Kelly: Okay.

Me: I am a political activist, and I express my displeasure about corporate greed through concussive acts of civil disobedience for the purpose of strategic humiliation. And I have found your product to be insufficient for the purpose.

Kelly: I'm sorry, you kind of lost me.

Me: I am a pie-face assassin. I hit people in the face with pies. Traditionally, we use graham cracker crusts filled with shaving cream. That is the accepted industry norm. But your shaving cream does not have sufficient adhesion.

Kelly: So, the problem is it doesn't stick to the face?

Me: Right. And I'd like a refund.

Kelly: I don't know that there's a whole lot I can do for you.

Me: But I have 150 cans!
I think what Weingarten fails to mention is that when he calls the customer service line, the caller ID shows "Washington Post."

Click here to read more . . .

A malodorous fog

"A malodorous fog" is the title of a New York Times editorial today on a subject I'm not going to write about, even though it could provide the opportunity to make juvenile jokes about animal emissions.

But the title could be more aptly applied to a letter to the editor from the formerly respected historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. The letter has no blog-safe link, but it's short and deserves quoting in full:

To the Editor:

"Nomination for Supreme Court Stirs Debate on Influence of Federalist Society" (news article, Aug. 1) does not go into the shocking ignorance of American history displayed by the Federalist Society's members.

The Federalist Party, the party of Washington, Adams and Hamilton, stood for a strong central government. The Federalist Society stands for negative government and states' rights. If its members were honest, they would call themselves, in the terms of the 1790's, the Anti-Federalist Society.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
New York, Aug. 1, 2005

Before accusing people of "shocking ignorance" it's usually advisable to leave one's own ignorance at home.

  • First, the Federalist Society is not meant to be a latter-day Federalist Party. Its principal hero is James Madison, who was an opponent of the Federalist Party.
  • Second, the Federalist Party did stand for a strong central government, but you have to understand that in the context of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The Hamiltonian effort to strengthen the national government was made in a time when society was largely agrarian, and the simple concept of a national economy was fairly radical. To suggest that today's overbearing federal government is Hamiltonian is absurd and unbecoming a real historian.
  • Third, most members of the Federalist Society, I think it's fair to say, do not support "negative government," whatever that might be. Most members I've spoken to support smaller government. I don't know how many support "states' rights," which I assume Schlesinger uses as a stand-in for pro-slavery, pro-segregation, and probably generally racist views, but I suspect it's very small. What those I've spoken to support is federalism, the concept, enshrined in the Constitution, that limits the federal government to enumerated powers, leaving the remainder to the state and local governments. That is, they would side with Justice Thomas on the scope of the commerce clause, rather than with Justice Breyer.

A malodorous fog indeed.

Click here to read more . . .

August 06, 2005

WaPo imitates Doug Gansler

A while back, I made fun of Doug Gansler, the Montgomery County State's Attorney for his reaction to two stabbings at a shopping mall by a woman recently released from prison. Rather than addressing security or promising to bring the perp to justice, Gansler talked about how safe the area really was.

The Washington Post did a similar number today. In a front page story about the stabbing of six teenagers at a Target store in a Wheaton shopping mall, apparently gang-related, the Post ended the story with an odd subject of concern:

It was unclear last night what, if any, effect the attack would have on efforts to upgrade the mall and give it a more upscale image.

Marc Sohm, operations manager for Target, said the company was "saddened" by the stabbings. He said the store's prime focus was the safety of shoppers and employees.

Target spokeswoman Lena Michaud said that the store has "sophisticated security programs in place" and that it would "take whatever steps are appropriate."
Six teenagers are stabbed, and we're talking about the shopping mall's image?

Click here to read more . . .

August 04, 2005


If you're on a flight and the woman you're seated next to asks you to switch seats with her husband, who's a few rows away, wouldn't you do it? Of course, you would. I've done it, even when I had to give up an aisle seat for a middle seat on a four-hour trip. And I've offered to switch even before being asked.

But that wouldn't be much of a story. And to write for the New Yorker magazine, you have to have a story. A few days ago, I picked up a two-month old issue of the New Yorker to read at the gym and saw this article called "Turbulence" in it. It's hard to decide who's more repellent -- the obnoxious woman who complains as soon as the author hesitates when asked to switch seats, or the author himself, whose reason for refusing is petty and who spends the flight taking out his anger on the woman as she sleeps. (Bonus question: Why does the author feel the need to let us know he's gay? (A) The private has all become public; (B) We are supposed to form base stereotypes; (C) The author needed someone to use as an analogue to the woman's husband; (D) All of the above.)

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August 03, 2005

Pillage Idiot advisory system

Considering I don't have the faintest idea how to use Photoshop (limited edition), this isn't all that bad:

However, if anyone actually can do a professional- or almost-professional-quality version that would look just like the Homeland Security version . . .

. . . I would be willing to offer a free Pillage Idiot mug, full credit, and a link, assuming the image can fit on my sidebar. Please email me first, because I might want to fool around with the text.

UPDATE (8/6): In light of the overwhelming response I received to my offer, I decided to try it again myself. I figured out the font used in the real chart, and I applied what I learned about Photoshop. This is probably an improvement, but let me know if you prefer the one I did earlier:

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August 02, 2005

Elected officials always get first crack at the drugs

"Palmeiro Suspended For Steroid Violation
Orioles Star Denied Use Before Congress

Headline, Washington Post, Aug. 2, 2005

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Better safe than whoopie

A bus driver finds a package left behind on his bus that emits a strange noise. Caught up in the counter-terrorism campaign, he calls the police. A bomb? No.

"It was an unattended item, emitting a popping sound," a police spokesman said.

"Just as a precautionary measure, police went and investigated. It's a whoopee cushion," he said.
When they ban whoopie cushions, the terrorists will have won. (Also via

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Things you don't want to happen on your flight

You know you're having a bad flight when . . .

. . . the plane plunges 200 meters and the flight attendant begins praying. (Via

The article notes that "Passengers panicked after one flight attendant dropped a tray of drinks and another began praying." One passenger, who had never flown before, has the line of the day:

"When the flight attendant dropped an entire tray of drinks and was crawling on his hands and knees back to his seat and the other flight attendant was praying, that's when most of us began to take it a bit more seriously," he told ABC radio today.
He then says:
"It was my first flight and I actually didn't realise it was that big a deal but when I started looking around at the people who had travelled a bit and they were all clutching their seats ... they were like 'oh my God, this is not right'," Mr Holst said.
Yeah, sudden plunges are commonplace on flights. Reminds me of a story I overheard on a flight I took about ten years ago, in which there was excessive turbulence. A man was describing a flight he took home from China. Over Alaska, the plane suddently dropped like a rock, he said, and they made an unscheduled landing at an air force base. The man he was talking to asked, "Were you scared?" The response: "Let's just say I never wore that underwear again."

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August 01, 2005

Recess appointment

Congratulations to John Bolton, who's now received a recess appointment as ambassador to the United Nations, fulminating Democrats to the contrary notwithstanding.

In his honor, I'm linking to the post I ran when he was nominated in March: The "Bolty" Awards.

And re-running this photo.

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