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January 31, 2006

A doctor like me

Some women insist on female gynocologists. Some men wouldn't be caught dead going to anyone but a male internist. There are just some things we feel more comfortable discussing with one of our own (leaving aside the physical examination angle).

So it doesn't surprise me that there would be web sites that place people with doctors who look -- or think -- like them. According to the Washington Post's health section:

Several Web sites can help consumers find doctors and other health care providers with specified characteristics, including race, religion and sensitivity to sexual orientation.

The sites -- which list physicians who are African American, Christian or "gay- or lesbian-friendly" -- are putting a new spin on affinity-group marketing, a tactic usually associated with insurance or real estate sales.

"We feel that, with so many pressing medical issues for blacks, that we need to make sure that our medical issues are attended to," said Salli Purnell, marketing director for, a Web site based in Norfolk.
There may really be something to this. A doctor who shares cultural background with the patient might give the patient a comfort factor that would otherwise be missing.

But, of course, your mileage may vary. Don't forget to consider other factors -- like whether the doctor is competent.
It's not hard to see the sites' appeal, said Arthur Levin, director of the Center for Medical Consumers, a consumer advocacy group based in New York. "I think it's understandable given concerns about cultural sensitivity [that] people may feel more comfortable with a doctor if they look like them or think like them."

But there should be more to a patient's decision, Levin said. "If you're just searching one characteristic, which only has to do with what they believe or who they are, I think that's not a very good way to choose a physician."
Even one of the web sites where you can find a black doctor has an advisory:, for instance, carries this disclaimer: "Users are warned to check and verify the credentials of any alleged health care provider before consenting to any and all courses of treatment. Materials found on the site are for reference purposes only and are not recommended or endorsed by the owners of"
And I can't help thinking about the episode of "All in the Family," in which Archie Bunker doesn't try to find a lawyer from his own background but absolutely insists on finding a Jewish lawyer. I guess there's a different angle to everything.

Click here to read more . . .

A few links about Hamas

I've always hated the State of the Union address, which is why I'm not watching it. The last one I watched was circa 1988, when Reagan tossed a huge continuing resolution on the table and said, Don't send me another one of these. It was theater; everyone knew he didn't mean it.

In fact, the last presidential speech I've watched was Bush's post-9/11 speech to Congress, of which I saw about half.

So since I'm not watching the SOTU (which is waaaaaay too close for comfort to STFU), I have a little time. One reader asked for photoshops of Hamas, which I don't plan to do, but I do have some links about Hamas, which I highly recommend.

Power Line explains why we should beware of a hudna from Hamas, a hudna being a temporary, strategy truce on the way to further battle.

Soccer Dad provides us with links to a great deal of commentary on Hamas, and even more on the Palestinian election.

Captain Ed notes his disgust with the Washington Post for giving prime op-ed space to an indicted terrorist offering a brief for Hamas.

Click here to read more . . .

January 30, 2006

New video translated

"All of that is part of the march for progress. And my friends, the one organization, the one institution that protects it is THE SUPREME COUNCIL FOR ISLAMIC REVOLUTION IN IRAQ."

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January 29, 2006

Cindy and Hugo: The kiss

For more photo comics, check out the "Photo Comics" section of the sidebar.

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January 28, 2006

Bush presses on

If you're suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome and you're convinced beyond all get-out that the NSA eavesdropping program is illegal, that Bush is cynically defending the program despite its obvious illegality, and that, in fact, Bush (to use John Dean's formulation) has conceded he has committed an impeachable offense, then if you were writing a newspaper article about Bush's defense of the program, you might write the headline like this:

Bush Presses On in Legal Defense for Wiretapping

You certainly might if you were the New York Times, which put that headline on the front page this morning.

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Google's pact with the devil

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the pictures of Tiananmen Square at these two links from LGF are worth even more. You can see the difference between the Google we use in the U.S. and the totalitarian version of Google that the Chinese people are now forced to use, thanks to the company that's far more willing to cooperate with totalitarians in China than with the American government.

More: Michelle Malkin collects photoshops of the Google logo.

UPDATE: Paul Boutin discovered that even Google China shows the Tiananmen Square tanks if you misspell Tiananmen. (Via Instapundit)

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January 26, 2006

The "amen tic"

Recently, I was placed on a list of "frum 'n cool blogs," which I must say I found amusing, because:

1. I may be moderately observant, but only totally secular Jews would think I'm frum.

2. Pillage Idiot is far from "cool." I would say that "puerile" is a more apt description.

Anyway, I haven't davened regularly in my lifetime, so saying kaddish for my father over the past few weeks has been an interesting experience for me. As a newcomer, I can offer obnoxious recommendations. You've already read my suggestion for streamlining the shacharit service ("one-minute shacharit").

What's eating me now isn't a recommendation but a puzzling question.

At two different minyanim at which I've davened mincha, I've come across people who say "amen" during the kaddish in what is (to me, anyway) a totally bizarre manner. Instead of just saying "amen," they shout it -- bark it, really -- in a fast staccato so that the word "amen" sounds almost as if it had one syllable. (Perhaps I should have said "marcato," so that you musicians would understand better what I mean.) It's such a strange sound that after one minyan, I asked a friend who was there who that guy in the corner was with Tourette's Syndrome. It's like a tic.

So my question is this: Where does this barking practice, this amen tic, come from? Surely, these people all went to the same orthodox summer camp, right? It can't be a coincidence.

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January 25, 2006

Help for public speakers

I always thought it helped to have your speech well prepared. Apparently, there's more to it.

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The Senate Judiciary Committee votes on Alito

John from Wuzzadem has, with this single post, spared me from having to do another stupid photo comic for, well, until I do the next one. Read it and enjoy.

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Another U.N. triumph

Last month, I tried to distinguish situations in which humanitarian needs could justify American military intervention from those in which it could not. I focused on humanitarian needs coupled with American self-interest and noted that in global situations in which there was no American self-interest, we should let the U.N. and other countries do the job:

When we have a national interest as well as a humanitarian interest, we must be ready to fight. When we have a purely humanitarian interest, we should not intervene ourselves. We should ask the U.N. and countries like Belgium, France, Germany, and Canada to do the job. These are countries that generally are not going to be of much use to us in a military intervention but are fully capable of intervening under U.N. auspices in out-of-the-way parts of the world where people are suffering. If the U.N. can't supply forces to do purely humanitarian work, it really has no legitimate purpose at all.
Well, it turns out (not that I didn't know this) that the U.N. really can't do anything useful in these situations. As Captain Ed points out:
The United Nations adopted the Jack Murtha method of peacekeeping deployment in Congo today, evacuating its troops after having several of them killed in a gunbattle with Ugandan rebels. The reason the UN gave for withdrawing the peacekeepers? They couldn't find the rebels, even though the rebels had found them easily enough.
The conclusion from the U.N.'s failure is not that the United States should act in place of the U.N.; it can't and shouldn't be everywhere. The conclusion is that "peacekeeping" is probably not a valid use of military personnel. Unless peacekeeping includes searching out and killing the bad guys.

Click here to read more . . .

The usual tradeoff for guys

You've heard the quip that God gave men two wonderful organs, a brain and genitalia, but not enough blood to operate both of them at the same time?

Nature imitiates humor. (Hat tip: Soccer Dad)

Best line from the article, which is linked by Secular Blasphemy, is this: "'Bats invest an enormous amount in testis, and the investment has to come from somewhere. There are no free lunches,' said Hoskens, who did not participate in the study."

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Classy ad

B2 at Toner Mishap gives us a view of an ad for "Bling H2O," and a very classy ad at that. (Sort of borderline SFW, with annoying music.) Kind of makes you happy to pay $38 a bottle. For water.

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Museum of Menstruation

You just can't make things like this up.

I would have missed this short article in yesterday's Washington Post, had my wife not brought it to my attention. A man named Harry Finley has a web site called the Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health. As the Post puts it, "The What?"

The What? Yes. It's actually a virtual museum ( since founder Harry Finley closed the bricks-and-mortar version he established in the basement of his New Carrollton house in 1994. He says he's hoping to find a permanent public location for the artifacts, "hopefully in Washington." But not a medical school. "Medicine studies the disorders of the body," Finley writes on the site. "Menstruation is not a disorder."
And since all biological functions that are not "disorders of the body" deserve a brick-and-mortar museum, I don't see why Finley shouldn't get his wish. In fact, he's thinking small. He should be demanding a "memorial" on the Mall. Look, we men have the Washington Monument; why shouldn't women have the Museum of Menstruation?

The article poses several questions other than "The What?" -- including the next best one: "Why?"
Why? The subject "doesn't have a sexual appeal for me," says Finley, 63, a retired Department of Defense employee and lifelong bachelor. "For most people it's a turnoff, and most people are taken aback, men and women. I knew when I started people were going to think I was completely weird and I would be criticized. But I wanted to do something I thought was totally worthwhile."
From my perspective, writing Pillage Idiot is completely weird, but I would never try to make the case that it was "totally worthwhile." But a Museum of Menstruation? I mean, even the humor at Pillage Idiot isn't as dumb as what you find on the humor page at the MoM site. Try this one on for size: "The girls were having their sex education class. One girl piped up will if we get periods and PMS, what do boys get? Without missing a beat the teacher replied they get UMS. Ugly mood swings or urgently missing sex."

Doesn't that make you want to start calling your congressman to support funding for a building for the museum?

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January 24, 2006

End of the "booth babes"?

I've never gone to trade shows, let alone to computer gaming shows, but apparently it's really common to attract customers to your booth with "booth babes" -- women dressed (or not dressed) in a very alluring way. You don't have to be a pimply teenager to understand the marketing attraction.

But now, the Entertainment Software Association is threatening to fine exhibitors who use "booth babes" at this year's show. You mean they are demeaning to women? They're more demeaning than the latest fashions for teenagers?

Well, who knows? Maybe they'll have to sneak in to the show in the middle of the night.

Click here to read more . . .


Haven't you ever had the urge to forego those uncomfortable pants you have to wear in the winter? Haven't you ever dreamed of going pantsless on the New York City subway? Aren't you glad it was only a dream?

Well, not so for a bunch of brave souls who took part in the fifth annual "No Pants Subway Ride" before eight of them were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

From the waist up, they looked like perfectly normal commuters. But that wasn't good enough for New York police officers.

Eight pranksters who dropped their pants and showed their underwear on the subway were arrested, charged with disorderly conduct and then released.

Improv Everywhere, the group that organised the stunt, said more than 160 riders participated in the fifth annual No Pants Subway Ride before police stepped in.
The founder of Improv Everywhere said that his goal was "to create scenes of chaos and joy in public places around New York." "It was our intent to make people laugh," he said. "We try to give people a great story to tell."

At least eight of them now have a great story.

(via Ace of Spades HQ)

Click here to read more . . .

What's that smell?

Friends of ours once had a horrible experience on a trans-atlantic flight -- or almost had a horrible experience. They were seated next to a woman who, by their description, hadn't bathed since she was in grade school. As they were contemplating their fate, and looking for the exit doors, a flight attendant came by and, without saying why, invited them into First Class. When they got there, she told them she was sorry and the airline was offering this to them as compensation.

Some people aren't so fortunate. Say, about 120 million Chinese peasants. According to Reuters, train travel before the Chinese new year leaves something to be desired:

BEIJING (Reuters) - Migrant workers in south China are wearing adult diapers on packed trains heading home for the Lunar New Year holiday because they have no access to a toilet, state media said Tuesday.

About 120 million peasants from China's vast rural areas swarm the cities for work and all try to make it home for the holiday, filling all standing room on trains and making access to the toilet impossible during trips often lasting 24 hours or more.

"During the peak travel period last year, some passengers even became deranged on their journeys because of the conditions and jumped out of the carriages," the China Daily said.
Adult diapers? Well, that's one solution, I guess. The article notes:
Many supermarkets in southern Foshan had reported a 50 percent increase in sales of adult diapers for the train trips, the China Daily said in what some local commentators called the "shame of the nation." It did not mention other cities.
"The shame of the nation"? I'll say. Isn't that the name of one of the Amtrak routes?

(via Fark)

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January 23, 2006

In search of statistics on Kris Benson

I haven't written about the Mets' trade of starter Kris Benson to the Orioles. In fact, I think the only time I've ever written about him was in a post about his wife, Anna, and Mike Piazza's wife, a Playboy model.

Nevertheless, a visitor arrived today at Pillage Idiot seeking intensely personal information about Benson, the sort of information that, oddly enough, is not available at classic baseball statistical sites. You can see my screen capture of the visit here.

Why they don't include this information at sites like Baseball Reference is beyond me.

Click here to read more . . .

January 22, 2006

Al Gore takes command

For more photo comics, check out the "Photo Comics" section on the sidebar.

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January 21, 2006

More scourge of customer service reps

I written twice about Washington Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten's prank calls to customer service 800 numbers. This Sunday's Post magazine has another installment.

FOR MY NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION this year, I promised to stop making crank calls to customer service reps. Fortunately, I made these calls in December.
Here's the best one:
Loctite Power Grab adhesive

Me: I have a complaint. Your product says it creates a permanent bond with plastic, metal, etc. But it doesn't mention ears.

Duane: Say that again . . . ?

Me: Ears. Like when someone uses it to glue together the earpiece of his phone, and then makes a call too soon, if you see what I am saying.

Duane: Right.

Me: I didn't know who else to call, but I had to call someone, because I can't do anything else.

Duane: I'm almost scarily getting an idea of what you are talking about.

Me: I've been making phone calls for the last six hours. Making phone calls is basically my whole life, now. I have made my mother happy, though.

Duane: This is one of the most interesting calls I've gotten all year. The best way to dissolve it is to submerge yourself in hot water. It'll break up at 140 degrees, and humans can take 150 degrees before their skin burns.

Me: Whoa. You know, it really doesn't look that bad. It kind of makes me look important, like I've always got business to transact. Can I just keep it?

Duane: Sure you can! Or you can saturate your head in canola oil, which will free it up, too.

Me: Duane, you are laughing at me.

Duane: No, I'm not.

Me: I can hear you.

Duane: Okay, I am.
The rest of the column is here.

Click here to read more . . .

Search engines

If you want to see a graphic illustration of why Microsoft is way behind Google, consider this:

I got a visitor yesterday through an MSN search for john kerry is an idiot. Nothing unusual about that; I get visitors through searches for "[someone] is an idiot" all the time. It's what happens when your blog is called Pillage Idiot.

I decided to click on the link to the referring search on MSN (john kerry is an idiot) -- and look at what's at the top of the search list: John Kerry's bio page on his Senate web site. Now, we can all make a bunch of cheap jokes at Kerry's expense, and far be it from me to stop you from joining the merriment, but what this says to me is that MSN sucks major eggs as a search engine. Take a look at the contrast with Google, on which I've run the same search: Frontpage Magazine is the top result.

Now, maybe Google could have done a better job, but it certainly put MSN to shame. Can you imagine what should be at the top if you were searching on MSN for "Bill Gates is an idiot"?

UPDATE: I know what the answer to my question is; I've tried it. The point was rhetorical.

Click here to read more . . .

January 19, 2006

Michael Brown takes responsibility

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Harry Reid exiting on Alito

James Taranto notes:

Reid hasn't announced how he'll vote on Alito's confirmation (our tally of those who have is, as usual, here), but he's certainly dropping strong hints, as Reuters reports:

"This is a very poor choice," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said after he and fellow Democrats privately discussed Bush's nomination of Alito.

"He (Bush) should have gone with Harriet Miers," Reid said.
But what happened with Reid back in the days when Miers was the nominee? A blast from the past in this photo comic.

Click here to read more . . .

More naked news

Latest sighting of naked news: Naked woman on a muscle car.

Detroit officials are looking into how a woman sneaked into the North American International Auto Show after closing hours early on Tuesday to pose naked on Chrysler's Dodge Challenger muscle car.

Security guards at the Cobo Center where the show is being held this week found the woman standing on the new Challenger, with some people -- mostly men -- taking pictures at about 2 a.m. (0700 GMT) on Tuesday.
Mostly men? I'm shocked. But the biggest thing is that the stunt undercut the official sleaze.
Chrysler had brought in "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria on Sunday to pose with Chrysler Chief Executive Tom LaSorda next to the new Imperial luxury concept car. Longoria was fully-clothed.
Can't have that kind of competition, huh?

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One-minute shacharit

Having spent the past two weeks saying kaddish for my father, I've noticed a lot of repetition, and I've been thinking of ways to streamline the davening. With no disrespect intended and with appropriate humility, let me propose a six-word shacharit service:

God, You're great! We're scum! Kaddish!

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January 18, 2006

Spam prosecution

Most of us have reactions to spammers that range all the way from revulsion to sheer, unadulterated hatred. In the formulation of my sister's friend, you hate someone if, upon seeing that person lying dead in the street, you decide to step on the body. Perhaps a few of the big spammers qualify for that treatment.

Federal prosecutors in Detroit have announced that, rather than stepping on a spammer's body, they've obtained a guilty plea from him on charges under the new federal anti-spam statute.

JAN. 17 10:14 P.M. ET The main defendant in the nation's first prosecution under a 2004 federal anti-spam law pleaded guilty Tuesday to three felony charges, federal prosecutors said.

Daniel J. Lin, 30, of West Bloomfield Township faces nearly five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit said.

Two of the counts are fraud charges involving millions of unsolicited spam e-mails sent to computer users. The other is possession of a firearm by a felon, for guns discovered when authorities raided Lin's suburban Detroit home.

He is scheduled to be sentenced May 16 in U.S. District Court in Ann Arbor.
But aspects of the article are somewhat troubling.

Court papers described a complex web of corporate identities, bank accounts and electronic storefronts used to send hundreds of thousands of e-mail sales pitches for fraudulent weight-loss and erectile dysfunction products.
They're fraudulent?

The Federal Trade Commission said angry consumers forwarded to authorities more than 490,000 e-mails from the operation from January 2004 to April 2004 -- more than from any other spam outfit worldwide during the same period.
The FTC got almost half a million spam e-mails from consumers? Doesn't the agency have filtering software?

Court records show that charges against the other defendants, James J. Lin, Chris Chung and Mark M. Sadek, have been dismissed.
Three out of four got away? Well, maybe the theory behind spam will apply. You just need to hook one out of a million.

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January 17, 2006

This doesn't pass the smell test

If dogs can sniff out cocaine, then surely they can sniff out lung cancer, right? They can, according to researchers quoted in a New York Times article today ("Dogs Excel on Smell Test to Find Cancer").

In the small world of people who train dogs to sniff cancer, a little-known Northern California clinic has made a big claim: that it has trained five dogs - three Labradors and two Portuguese water dogs - to detect lung cancer in the breath of cancer sufferers with 99 percent accuracy.

The study was based on well-established concepts. It has been known since the 80's that tumors exude tiny amounts of alkanes and benzene derivatives not found in healthy tissue.
Needless to say, there are skeptics.
Experts who read the study raised various objections: The smells of chemotherapy or smoking would be clues, they said. Or the healthy breath samples could have been collected in a different room on different days. Or the dogs could pick up subtle cues - like the tiny, unintentional movements of observers picked up by Clever Hans, the 19th-century "counting horse," as he neared a correct answer. But Mr. McCulloch said cancer patients who had begun chemotherapy were excluded, smokers were included in both groups and the breath samples were collected in the same rooms on the same days. The tubes were numbered elsewhere, he said, and the only assistant who knew which samples were cancerous was out of the room while the dogs were working.
But the point I want to raise isn't raised until the last paragraph of the article. (Apparently, the Times, like the Washington Post, uses the "double-inverted pyramid" style of newspaper writing.) That point is this: So what?
Even if the dogs are accurate in repeat experiments, Dr. Gansler of the American Cancer Society said, it will be useful only as a preliminary scan. "It's not like someone would start chemotherapy based on a dog test," he said. "They'd still get a biopsy."
So this whole thing is basically a party game. Tell me why I'm wrong.

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"Allah" sort of returns

I wrote a few weeks ago that "Allah" was thinking of starting a "linkblog," and I've now found out that he's been at it for about a week. The blog is called Link Mecca and is definitely worth your time. It's already on my blogroll.

Click here to read more . . .

January 16, 2006

Monty Python goes to Croatia

Stjepan Lizacic, a Croatian lumberjack, has sued his local health authority. Why? Because he was given a kidney transplant from a woman instead of a man. And? According to Lizacic, he "started 'enjoying housework and knitting' after he was given a female kidney."

I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay.
I sleep all night and I work all day.
Lizacic says: "I have developed a strange passion for female jobs like ironing, sewing, washing dishes, sorting clothes in wardrobes and even knitting."
I cut down trees. I skip and jump.
I like to press wild flowers.
I put on women's clothing
And hang around in bars.
Lizacic pointed out that "before the kidney transplant he would not have been seen dead doing the housework, and expected his wife to do it all, but now found it both relaxing and fulfilling."
I cut down trees. I wear high heels,
Suspendies, and a bra.
I wish I'd been a girlie,
Just like my dear Papa.
"He said: 'My wife is the only one that is pleased. I do most of the housework now, and I blame the hospital that transplanted me the kidney of a 50-year-old woman instead of a man's kidney.'"
What's this? Wants to be a girlie?! Oh, My!
And I thought you were so rugged! Poofter!...
"His wife Radmila added: 'If the new femine side to him is confined to housework I am very happy, I only hope he doesn't start looking at other men.'" Which makes it absolutely imperative that he stay away from the gay rodeos.
He's a lumberjack, and he's okay.
He sleeps all night and he works all day.
Mega hat tip to Soccer Dad.

Click here to read more . . .

January 14, 2006

The Dems are stunned about Alito

The New York Times paints a marvelous picture of the Democrats' bewilderment and frustration at their utter inability to stop the Alito nomination -- and, more ominously for the fevered swamps of the Left, their inability to derail the rightward trend in the federal courts.

You have to read the article. As Bugs Bunny might say, "It is to laugh."

Here's the beginning of the article:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 - Disheartened by the administration's success with the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., Democratic leaders say that President Bush is putting an enduring conservative ideological imprint on the nation's judiciary, and that they see little hope of holding off the tide without winning back control of the Senate or the White House.

In interviews, Democrats said that the lesson of the Alito hearings was that this White House could put on the bench almost any qualified candidate, even one whom Democrats consider to be ideologically out of step with the country.
What a shock! A qualified candidate can get on the court!

And slowly, it's dawning on the Dems that they have to get elected! They have to win the presidency and Senate seats. Well, excuse me for this profound remark, but DUH!
"They have made a lot of progress," said Ronald A. Klain, a former Democratic chief counsel for the Judiciary Committee and the White House counsel in charge of judicial nominations for President Bill Clinton. "I hate to say they're done because Lord only knows what's next. They have achieved a large part of their objective."

Asked if he had any hope that Democrats could slow President Bush's effort to push the court to the right, Mr. Klain responded: "No. The only thing that will fix this is a Democratic president and more vacancies. It takes a long time to make these kinds of changes and it's going to take a long time to undo them."

Senator Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said it was now hard to imagine a legislative strategy that could slow Mr. Bush's judicial campaign, assuming vacancies continue to emerge, at least through the end of this year.

"To stop a president on judicial nominations, you either need a Democratic president, a Democratic Senate or moderate Republicans who will break ranks when it's a conservative nominee," Mr. Schumer said. "We don't have any of those three. The only tool we have is the filibuster, which is a very difficult tool to use, and with only 45 Democrats, it's harder than it was last term."
It's dawning even on Chuckie Schumer. And more evidence that the Dems have no idea what they're doing -- they listen to any idiots who have a law degree:
The Democratic push began in earnest on the last weekend of April 2001, when 42 of the 50 Democratic senators attended a retreat in Farmington, Pa., to hear from experts and discuss ways they could fight a Bush effort to remake the judiciary.

"There were very few principles on which we could all agree," said Mr. Daschle, who was Senate minority leader at the time of the meeting. "But one was that we anticipated that the administration would test the envelope. They were going to go as far as the envelope would allow in appointing conservative judges."

At the 2001 retreat, Democrats listened to a panel composed of Laurence H. Tribe of Harvard Law School, Cass R. Sunstein of the University of Chicago Law School and Marcia D. Greenberger, the co-president of the National Women's Law Center. The panelists told them that the court was at a historic juncture and that the Bush White House was prepared to fill the courts with conservatives who deserved particularly strong scrutiny, participants said.

The panel also advised them, participants said, that Democratic senators could oppose even nominees with strong credentials on the grounds that the White House was trying to push the courts in a conservative direction, a strategy that now seems to have failed the party.

Mr. Tribe said Friday that Democrats were increasingly discouraged in their efforts to mount opposition campaigns. "When it comes down to it, the numbers of Democrats means that it begins to feel to some like tilting at windmills," he said.
And then here's Teddy Kennedy:
"These issues are so sophisticated - half the Senate didn't know what the unitary presidency was, let alone the people of Boston," he said, referring to one of the legal theories that was a focus of the hearings. "I'm sure we could have done better."
Are we serious here? Half the Senate didn't know what the "unitary executive" doctrine is? Well, I guess if Dana Milbank of the Post thinks it's an "obscure philosophy," that shouldn't be a surprise.

Click here to read more . . .

Another deserved execution

The classic definition of "chutzpah" is murdering your parents and asking the court for mercy because you're an orphan.

In California, Clarence Ray Allen, who was denied clemency by Gov. Schwarzenegger, is asking the courts to block his execution because he's old and infirm -- even though he paid for contract murders of three people 25 years ago, when he was 50.

Schwarzenegger said Allen's age and health do not matter, noting that he committed his crimes at the age of 50. "His conduct did not result from youth or inexperience, but instead resulted from the hardened and calculating decisions of a mature man," the governor said.
It really warms my heart that the AP/Washington Post article I've quoted doesn't bother to describe the grotesque nature of the crimes. You have to search and find the story in the S.F. Chronicle.
While Schletewitz, Rocha and White began their routine of closing up the market for the night, Clarence Ray Allen, then 50, waited in his Folsom Prison cell to see if his plan of vengeance had been carried out.

He didn't know Rocha or White, but he wanted Bryon Schletewitz, Raymond Schletewitz and six others dead for testifying against him during his 1977 trial for the murder of Mary Sue Kitts, his son's 17-year-old girlfriend, authorities said.

Allen believed Kitts had gone to the Schletewitzes three years earlier and told them that he and a group of accomplices were responsible for a burglary at Fran's Market that year. Allen owned a security outfit, but he also plotted robberies and couldn't abide "rats," prosecutors said.

He ordered a hit on Kitts. The teen was strangled and thrown into the Friant-Kern Canal. Her body was never found.

Allen, who was sentenced to life in prison, planned to eliminate the prosecution witnesses so they wouldn't be around for his appeal. He contracted with inmate Billy Ray Hamilton, who worked with him in the prison's cafeteria and was soon to be paroled, to kill the eight people on his list.

So that September night, Hamilton and his girlfriend, Connie Barbo, lingered in Fran's Market until they were the last customers. Joe Rios, a teenager also working at the store that day, became suspicious of the two as he cleaned up the aisles. But it was too late.

Hamilton pulled out a sawed-off shotgun, and Barbo drew a .32-caliber revolver. They herded all the employees toward the stockroom and ordered them to lie on the floor.

Schletewitz volunteered to give the couple all the money they wanted, according to court records. He then led Hamilton into the stockroom. Once inside, Hamilton pointed the shotgun at Schletewitz's forehead and shot him from less than a foot away.

Hamilton came out of the room and turned to White, the records say. "OK, big boy, where's the safe?" Hamilton demanded. White responded, "Honest, there's no safe." Hamilton shot him in the neck and chest at point-blank range, according to court documents.

Rocha began crying. Hamilton shot her two or three times from about five feet away. The shots pierced her heart, lung and stomach.

Rios had managed to escape to the bathroom. Hamilton pushed his way in, stood three feet away and fired, according to the documents. Rios raised his arm just in time, and the shot entered his elbow, saving his life.

Jack Abbott, who lived next to the market, grabbed his gun and came outside when he heard the shots. He and Hamilton exchanged fire, and Hamilton fled after being shot in the foot. Police arrived and found Barbo hiding in the market.

Hamilton was arrested a week later after trying to rob a Modesto liquor store and now is on Death Row with Allen. A hit list containing names and addresses of the eight trial witnesses was found on him when he was arrested. It's what linked him to Allen, who has always denied ordering the killings.
It's finally time for justice to be done.

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January 12, 2006

The Rabbinical Assembly weighs in

The Conservative movement's rabbinical arm is urging Senate Judiciary Committee chair Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) not to confirm judges "on the basis of their opposition to reproductive freedom of conscience for women."

In a letter to Specter, the Rabbinical Assembly said it sees Roe v. Wade "as settled constitutional law and any future Supreme Court nominees may reasonable [sic] be expected to apply the fundamental constitutional guarantees of Roe v. Wade fairly and objectively," states the letter.

It also notes that "our religious beliefs teach us that issues such as termination of pregnancy are best made between individuals and their clergy."

Washington Jewish Week, second item

Dear Senator Specter,

We apologize for writing again, but we feel it's important to express once again our profound concern that judges not be confirmed who might alter settled law.

For example, in our view, the Supreme Court's 20-year-old decision in Goldman v. Weinberger (1986), which rejected a Jewish Air Force officer's free-exercise claim to wear a yarmulke, is settled law and should not be changed by radicals appointed to the court by this President.

As you know, the Conservative Movement, of which this Rabbinical Assembly is a part, cannot tolerate, and is adamantly opposed to, overturning settled law. That is why, as you are undoubtedly aware, we do not allow mixed seating in our Conservative synagogues; we do not allow women to be counted toward a minyan; and we accept nothing but Orthodox conversions.

We believe there is nothing as important to Conservative Judaism as preventing the American people from considering whether any limits on unrestricted abortion are desirable. Judaism espouses an absolute right to abort a fetus until it graduates from medical school in its 79th trimester. Treating a fetus as deserving of any legal protection whatsoever represents an establishment of religion, just as surely as the laws prohibiting murder and kidnaping breach the wall between church and state. Issues such as whether one person has the absolute right to kill another are best decided by individuals in consultation with their clergy.

We are gravely concerned that allowing fanatics to attain positions in which they can affirm such fatwas is detrimental to everything we hold important.

Sincerely yours,
The Rabbinical Assembly

Click here to read more . . .

Scene at the supermarket express lane

Cashier: "I'm sorry, sir, but this lane is for 10 items maximum, and you're buying a 12-pack of Coke." *

Click here to read more . . .

A great story

I think stories like this are wonderful.

A frum high school kid enlists in the Army out of high school, because he loves this country. He finds that in the Army, "there's no Jews, there's no blacks, race doesn't matter, where you came from doesn't matter; we all come from the same country." He struggles to maintain religious observance as much as he can and finds that "Army life has had a positive effect on his Judaism." ("I find religion, in general, a lot more comforting now.")

Read it all here.

Click here to read more . . .

January 11, 2006

The REAL naked news

When I wrote about naked news, I was informing you about news stories in which the subject of the story was naked. Obviously, I'm behind the times. Turns out that a real naked news show is headed for Japan.

TOKYO (Hollywood Reporter) - Naked News, which features anchors and reporters who disrobe during newscasts, launched its risque take on current affairs in Japan Tuesday.

Beneath a banner proclaiming Naked News as "The program with nothing to hide," Sunrise Corp. CEO Takuya Uchikawa described the service as "a unique concept for the Japanese market."
How unique is this concept? When you consider that no one is going to listen to the news when the newscaster is doing something rather distracting, you won't have much of a news show. You will have a show on which people disrobe. Big freakin' deal.

The PR people are completely full of crap. Listen to this:
We believe there is a huge untapped market for the right kind of information if it was properly packaged," Warga said. "So we created a news-entertainment program in which women, and later men, informed while removing their clothing."
Packaging the news with no packaging on the newscasters. Brilliant idea.

Along these same lines, I'm going to propose a really new concept: Naked appellate litigation. Lawyers will appear in court and, as they're presenting their oral argument to the judges, will disrobe. Considering how old some of the judges are, this will cause enough heart attacks to open numerous vacancies on the bench. But one thing I can guarantee: No one will be paying a lick of attention to the lawyers' arguments. Which is probably a good thing.

Click here to read more . . .

Still fulla it

In September, I wrote about Fulla, the doll for Muslim girls to replace Barbie.

Today, I noticed I was getting a lot of hits from Yahoo searches for "Fulla" and I checked the news, only to find a new article on the doll at Middle East Online.

Some background:

Fulla is not the first Islamic doll but none of her predecessors have taken the regional market by storm like she has, selling some two million since its creation two years ago by the Emirates-based NewBoy Design Studio.

Saudi Arabia's religious police had then just banned "Barbie the Jewish doll", whose "revealing clothes and shameful postures, accessories and tools are a symbol of decadence to the perverted West."
I love the idea that Barbie is Jewish. You can just imagine every pubescent Jewish boy fantasizing about her. But, of course, Barbie is Jewish in the same way Donald Rumsfeld is Jewish: her enemies are a bunch of anti-semites.

The article notes that while Fulla is marketed with a hijab, Egyptian girls can get a wardrobe for her that is likely to get her head lopped off:
"Her wardrobe had to be widened to adapt to the Egyptian market. In other words, she became more modern," said Ahmed, a sales clerk at City Stars, Cairo's largest shopping mall.

Fulla can now dress her perfect albeit slightly less busty figure with tight t-shirts and jeans and wear the same colourful head scarves donned by most young Egyptian women today.
No chance for a Muslim Ken doll, however.
But she is still single as no plans appear to be afoot for marketing an Islamic equivalent of Ken, as giving her a boyfriend would be seen inappropriate in conservative Muslim cultures.
Nonsense. Everyone knows that Ken is gay.

Click here to read more . . .


I've just finished sitting shiva for my father, who died last Wednesday, January 4. I spoke about him at the funeral, and I've spoken about him almost non-stop for the past seven days, so I don't mean any disrespect to him by being brief here. He would probably be appalled to hear his kids bragging about him, anyway.

You may have noticed my occasional notes about his condition this past year. He was suffering from an unusual form of squamous cell carcinoma, a condition that normally is not difficult to treat. The cancer itself couldn't do him in; rather, the side effects of the treatment and his pre-existing conditions were the direct cause. My father loved reading, and fortunately, he was mentally sharp and able to read till the very end. He was courageous and stubborn throughout the year. He was in his 80s, and not as strong as he used to be, but when offered treatment, he always agreed to undergo it. "It's better to be alive," he said, "than not to be alive." He insisted on maintaining his dignity despite a disease that tried to rob him of it. I learned a lot from him (and from my mother, who devoted the entire year to his care, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

I spoke to my rabbi this morning, and he explained the limitations on mourners during the shloshim, the 30 days following burial. He didn't actually volunteer that blogging is not permitted; apparently, the Talmud is silent on the issue. So I will be back, though it may depend a little on my emotional temperature.

Click here to read more . . .

January 03, 2006

The bitch set him up?

(Updated below.)

You never want to make fun of a crime victim, but here's the ultimate test: Marion Barry, former mayor of Washington, D.C., and current council member, was robbed by "youths" at his southeast D.C. apartment.

D.C. Council member Marion Barry told reporters he was robbed at his Southeast apartment last night and he's grateful he wasn't hurt.

Barry told WRC-TV he gave a few individuals some money after they helped carry his groceries last night. After they left, they came back and robbed him at gunpoint. The youths took his wallet, which contained cash and credit cards, according to Barry.

Barry said the ordeal was traumatic.
As they say, DEVELOPING . . .

UPDATE: The Post now has its own article at the link above, and we learn this:
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department confirmed that Barry reported the robbery and said they were investigating it.

After helping him with groceries, Barry told Channel 4, "They left, then eight to 10 minutes they came back. . . . They had a pistol and pushed me in the kitchen and took my money," Barry said.

"Obviously, I'm traumatized," said Barry, 69. "To have a pistol cocked in your face is not something you cannot feel emotional about," said Barry.

"I hope that people out here will just hunt them down and let the police know who they are," Barry said.
I was actually wondering, based on the original AP article, whether Barry reported the crime to police or just to reporters.

And because when you're Marion Barry you just can get (and don't deserve) any respect, the article closes by reminding us of Barry's past and present transgressions:
Barry was videotaped by the FBI smoking crack cocaine in a downtown hotel room in 1990. He served a six-month prison sentence the following year, then was elected to a fourth term as mayor in 1994.

On Jan. 18, Barry is scheduled to face sentencing misdemeanor charges stemming from a guilty plea to charges that he failed to file his federal taxes in 2000.
The bitch is still setting him up.

UPDATE: The current version of the Post article, found at the same link, is dated 4:52 p.m. and now has a different byline: Del Quentin Wilber instead of I forget who.

The new lead is:
D.C. Council member Marion Barry today urged the two young men who he said robbed him at gunpoint in his own kitchen Monday night to turn themselves in, but pledged he would ask authorities not to prosecute them.
"I could see my life flash before me at that moment," Barry told a handful of reporters at the John A. Wilson Building. The robbers, described as teenagers, fled Barry's apartment with his wallet, which he said contained more than $200 in cash, two credit cards and his driver's license.

"To this young man who did this to me, I have no animosity," Barry said. "I don't even want you prosecuted. I love you. Give yourself up. Call the police. Let them know that you engage in these activities. I will do all to advocate non-prosecution."
The wallet has been found, minus cash, and turned in to police, reducing the likelihood, but not totally eliminating the possibility, that the more skeptical observers are right -- that somehow the bitch is setting us up.

According to Barry, the youths' extortion, which turned into robbery, is not uncommon in his neck of the woods:
The incident began about 9 p.m. Monday when Barry returned from shopping for groceries at a Safeway store in Southwest Washington. He parked outside his apartment building in the 2600 block of Douglas Place SE and popped his trunk.

Two young men, whom Barry said he did not recognize, then asked the former mayor if they could help him carry his groceries upstairs. "Mr. B, can we help you with your groceries," one of the young men asked.

Barry said such requests were common.

"When I go home, in the evening or come out in the morning or weekend, the young people are all over me, asking for money, begging for money," Barry said. " 'Give me a dollar, give me five dollars.'
So I try to make a practice of making them work for what they get . . . whenever I have groceries, laundry or boxes or other things to take up to my apartment, I do that as a matter or course. Last evening was no exception."
So Barry gave the teenagers several bags of groceries to carry and chatted with them in his apartment, before they left. Barry then describes what happened next:
The youths left. About 15 minutes later, they returned to Barry's apartment.

"I just let them in. That's how we do it over there. At least that's how I do it," Barry said. "They had a gun and pointed it at my face and pushed me into the kitchen."

The youths then fled with Barry's wallet.
So, if we review the bidding, here's what we see: In Marion Barry's neighborhood, teenagers hang out on the street and demand money from him. He gives it to them if they do small jobs for him. He sees nothing wrong with letting them into his apartment. When these teenaged extortionists pull a gun on him in his own apartment and rob him, he asks them to turn themselves in to police to "[l]et them know that you engage in these activities," and declares that he will ask that they not be prosecuted.

If you want to know what was wrong with Washington, D.C., during Marion Barry's four terms (aside from corruption), consider his policy on crime: 1. Let threatening teenagers hang around on the streets and try to extort money from elderly residents. 2. Treat these teenagers as if they are non-threatening. 3. When they commit actual violent crimes, ask them simply to identify themselves to the police but announce you will not prosecute them.

Too bad for Mr. Barry that he's no longer Mayor, or he could extend his crime policy to point 4. Give them jobs with the city government.

Click here to read more . . .

January 02, 2006

Write your own driver's license in Maryland

Whatever your views on immigration policy, and mine are moderately pro-immigration, this is so outrageous it is to laugh:

A Maryland state delegate issued a report indicating that, in the words of a WaPo article today, "[t]he number of people driving in Maryland without a license has spiked dramatically in recent years, with many of the offenders cited in Prince George's and Montgomery counties." The delegate, Luiz Simmons, announced these findings as he called for legislation to incarcerate people who drive without a valid license, as Virginia and D.C. law apparently provide already.

Obviously, driving without a license is correlated with higher accident rates, and those drivers certainly lack insurance. But the penalties are fairly modest:

In Maryland, driving without a license carries a $315 fine but no threat of jail time, even for multiple offenses.

"You never even have to show up in court," Simmons said in an interview. "All you have to do is keep paying" the fine.

So what's the absolutely worst argument you can make against this proposal? Hint: It's already been made.
But Gustavo Torres, executive director of Casa of Maryland, a Silver Spring-based immigrants' rights organization, said: "Even though Delegate Simmons says he is not targeting any group, it is very clear this is going to impact the immigrant community, Latinos and other immigrants."

Torres said he thinks illegal immigrants account for a significant part of the increase in unlicensed drivers in the state. "Regardless of whether they have driver's licenses, it is how people take their kids to school or go to work. That is the reality," Torres said.
And this reality is made worse by the fact that Maryland, unlike Virginia and D.C., allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. No matter, according to Torres.
However, Torres said, the state Motor Vehicle Administration often takes four to six months to grant driver's licenses to immigrants, even if they are in the country legally. Immigrant applicants must rely on foreign documents, such as passports, to obtain driver's licenses.

"The solution is not to penalize people who are driving without driver's licenses," Torres said. "The solution is to speed up the process at MVA to assure that legal and undocumented workers have access to driver's licenses faster."
Failing that, of course, we can abolish the whole bigoted concept of a driver's license.

Click here to read more . . .


The New Year on January 1 is really nothing like the Jewish New Year, which invites a rather brutal introspection, but it still makes one introspective. For example, some people think about how they will improve their lives by dieting and exercising. Others come up with other New Year's resolutions. But there's nothing that will make a blogger introspective like staring at his blog and realizing that the only post of the year has to do with vaginas.

And the question I'm asking myself this morning is: Huh?

The answer to that question has several parts. I don't write about my life, because it's not interesting. I don't write (much) about politics, because my opinions aren't interesting. I don't engage in repartee with other bloggers, because what I would say isn't interesting. To be fair to myself, there are other reasons for that, like the fact that when you lack social skills, it makes interacting with other bloggers somewhat difficult. So, by process of elimination (fill in scatalogical joke here), I find myself writing about things that are way up the immaturity scale on the Pillage Idiot Advisory System (see top of sidebar).

So I think that's why I have the urge right about now to write about this medical product: Flents first aid cots.

A package of them is sitting on the side of our bathroom sink at this moment. When people cut or burn their fingers and don't want to expose the injury to water or other elements, they can roll on one of these "cots" as protection. Now, even my wife, who has a clean mind, has pointed out these things look like a small version of, uh, party balloons. The box comes with assorted sizes, but even the large ones, presumably for your thumb, aren't very large. So you -- you personally -- would need a "super humongous" size. Makes you feel good, huh?

Now, I had a vague sense of foreboding while I was writing this that the story would lead where it has inevitably led. Here: I moved here to take a job in Washington in 1987, which is when I heard someone repeat a joke he had heard from a friend, who absolutely swore he was present when President Reagan told it to Vice President Bush. I can't verify all of that, but I do know that the friend actually worked for Reagan. The story goes that Reagan asked Bush whether he had seen the new warning they had put on condoms. When Bush said no, Reagan said, "Well, I guess I have to unroll mine farther than you do."

Click here to read more . . .

January 01, 2006

Daphne Merkin and "genital cartography"

I don't usually read the New York Times Magazine on Sunday, so I would have missed a beauty of a column if I hadn't stumbled across it at the Ace of Spades HQ.

Daphne Merkin's column, which is called "Our Vaginas, Ourselves," and I'm absolutely not making that title up, is a pathetic effort to entertain us with her obsession about her private parts, or is it her obsession about a lack of obsession? The distinction is lost in the complex architecture of . . . oh, shut up.

These are cruel times for vaginas. Lately, as if I don't have enough to worry about, with the deadline on various unkept 2005 resolutions fast upon me, I have begun obsessing about various aspects of my genital appearance. Take my labia minora, for instance. Tucked away as those intimate folds of flesh are - hidden in the underbrush, you might say - I have never given them much thought, except as they relate to experiences of sensual pleasure. Ditto my labia majora, which dutifully served their purpose in guarding the entryway to what the Victorians would have quaintly referred to as my maidenhead. As for the much vaunted hymen (named for the Greek god of marriage), mine remained intact longer than most thanks to my slow-blooming erotic life, until such time as a boyfriend's patient late-night exertions finally parted me from it at the age of 25. Needless to say, its absence - much less the idea that I might be harboring a deep sense of nostalgia for this tiny piece of overinvested membrane, might indeed be secretly yearning to reclaim it - hasn't so much as crossed my mind in the intervening years.
But Merkin is way late, out of date, and behind the cutting edge. I wrote in December about hymenoplasties, and I wrote more than a year ago about "vaginal rejuvenation" surgery, which the Times itself described as "surgical techniques to enhance sexual satisfaction and improve the looks of the genitals."

So Merkin continues in a lame effort to find deep meaning in the female genitalia:

Indeed, it has always seemed to me that one of the singular advantages of being a woman lies precisely in the "dark continent" quality of our genital cartography. If we women don't get to stalk around flaunting our virile equipment the way men do, we also don't have to deal with locker-room slights or bedroom disparagements. We carry our signs of arousal - our receptivity - on the inside, as opposed to the straightforward jack-in-the-box readability of men. And although it's true that the very structural inaccessibility of the vagina may lead to difficulties with body image (how do you go about envisioning something you can't see?), it also serves as a kind of protection against the relentless judgment - the fierce critique - of every pixel of our appearance that women, far more than men, are inclined to. Men may have begun to worry a bit more about their drooping jowls than they used to and may be the target of those abject penile-enhancement ads that pop up all over the Internet, but 90 percent of all cosmetic procedures are performed on women. So having one less visual surface to commodify - to narrow our eyes at accusingly, checking out for acceptability or desirability in terms of size, shape and firmness - leads me to offer up silent thanks for small favors of chromosomal destiny.
And this belongs in the New York Times why? One of Ace's readers suggests declining readership. One could equally say that the Times's only remaining readership is a bunch of aging Upper West Side baby boomer women who want to read this stuff.

As for me, I read it because, well, because it's my job. It's my job to bring you the latest musings of the neurotic twits who write for the New York Times. Especially if they're writing about genitalia. It's a lousy job, but someone's got to do it.

Click here to read more . . .

Maryland meshugas Jan. to March 2006

Write your own driver's license in Maryland

Condoms in Brazil

Maryland considers letting felons vote

Little girl

Duncan's Suha moment?

Cooking the books on crime in Baltimore?

Landing a sucker punch on "peace studies"

More on "peace studies"

Still dating a transsexual?

Sniper to represent himself in Maryland

Click here to read more . . .