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September 29, 2006

Liberal thought

I mean this seriously when I say that some of my best friends are liberals. If you have Jewish friends, you just can't avoid the odds. With my friends, unlike so many liberals I've encountered, we can tactfully avoid contentious political issues to maintain our friendship, and with my friends, you simply couldn't hope to find nicer, more decent people.

As I've said, though, you often find when encountering liberals in the human zoo that their political anger dominates their life. If you were to mention, for example, that you had a business trip planned to Texas, you would not be surprised to hear an explosion of rage against Texans, George Bush, oil companies, people who go to church, and so on. All of which is relevant only because you happened to mention that you're traveling on business to Texas.

Alcibiades, one of the writers at Kesher Talk and the proprietor of her own blog Abracadabrah, has a delightfully amusing example of this phenomenon today. She was looking at earrings at Amazon and checked the reviews of one pair to see whether there were any comments about quality. The commenter had an excellent liberal reason not to buy them. Guess first and then click here.

I especially enjoyed the "conscious" blooper. And they say we're dumb.

UPDATE (9/30): Edited, removed long quotation, substituted another link.

Click here to read more . . .

September 28, 2006


When your referrer logs show Google searches for "Jeanine Pirro naked" and "Jeanine Pirro bathing suit," you just know something is up.

Before I had a chance to check my news sources, Soccer Dad had emailed me with a tip: a New York Times article headlined "Pirro Under Investigation Over Plan to Tape Husband." He commented: "It doesn't really bother me what two adults do in the privacy of their own home. Tape, rope, electric cords, handcuffs, whatever floats their boats."

And boats it seems to be.

Jeanine Pirro, the Republican Westchester (NY) District Attorney, formerly a candidate for Hillary's senate seat and now a candidate for state Attorney General, is a moron of the highest order. I wrote about her once before ("Italian husbands") and I won't repeat myself here.

Pirro is now under federal investigation for a plot to conduct illegal wiretapping of her husband. A key player: The famous Bernard Kerik, who withdrew his nomination for Secretary of Homeland Security in light of alleged financial improprieties. According to the article Soccer Dad sent me, Pirro allegedly "asked an old friend, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik, to bug her family boat to determine if her husband was having an affair at a time when she was preparing to run for top political office." Today, the Times reported that Pirro played the sex card:

At her news conference on Wednesday, Ms. Pirro acknowledged that she was angry with Mr. Pirro, who fathered a child in an extramarital affair in the 1980’s, and with whom Ms. Pirro has two children. But she said she was guilty only of the anger of a woman scorned. And she also said her political fate should be a matter of concern to women.
Pirro added: "I'm standing up for myself and I'm standing up for women." That sounds about right, wouldn't you say?

Here are some excerpts from a conversation between Pirro and Kerik that was caught on law enforcement wiretaps of Kerik, who later pleaded guilty to accepting illegal gifts:
Mrs. Pirro (on placing a bug on a boat): "We can just simply say if there is an issue that I am redecorating it for our anniversary."

Kerik: "But, Jeanine, I'm having the same ----- problem with everybody. Everybody is panic-stricken because it's you. I've gone out on a limb. I had two other people looking at this. It's a problem."

Pirro: "What am I supposed to do, Bernie? . . . I can go on the boat. I'll put the ---- thing on myself."
I'm pretty sure those dashes stand for the adjectival "-ing" form of the F-word.

As I mentioned in my post "Italian husbands," Pirro withdrew from the Lt. Governor's race 20 years ago to avoid messing with her Italian husband. Now, she won't withdraw from the Attorney General's race . . . despite messing with her Italian husband. What a mess!

UPDATE: Rudy cancels a fundraiser for her, but Pataki is a substitute -- if you count beaming himself in by satellite.

Click here to read more . . .

September 27, 2006

Do-it-yourself anti-motivational posters

There are quite a few folks out there on the "internets" who have too much time on their hands. And I'm glad they do.

Thanks to the folks at The Jawa Report, I've discovered this do-it-yourself poster-creater. You've all seen the motivational posters that business used to give out to employees before they were mercilessly mocked by Dilbert? (I don't even know that this is true about Dilbert, and I think the posters are still given out, but my point is surely fake but accurate.) Well, there are also anti-motivational posters, and now there's a site that lets you create your own.

Here are two of mine.

To see some other folks' posters, click the Jawa Report link above. If you have one you want to display here, send it to me by email. Must be SFW.

Click here to read more . . .

Two plaudits for me?

On the sidebar, under "Plaudits for Pillage Idiot," I've quoted some of my detractors. But I've recently had two real plaudits, and, as plauditee, I want to thank the plauditors.

First, Stephanie Dray, a liberal Maryland blogger, has included Pillage Idiot on her list of "top ten Maryland blogs about politics." I think the other members of the Maryland Blogger Alliance deserve this honor more than I do,* but I still appreciate the thought. Especially since I'm on the list above Oliver Willis, who must be really steamed right about now. And I feel just a little bit sheepish, because not long before I discovered this list, I (gently) poked fun at a comment by Stephanie at Crablaw.

Second, AbbaGav, an Israeli blogger whose humor I admire, has nominated my post about Jeffrey Rosen for the weekly vote at Watcher of Weasels. Thanks for that honor.


* Stephanie did include MBA members monoblogue and Crablaw.

Click here to read more . . .

September 26, 2006

Nothing much

Apropos of nothing in particular . . . I took a work-related class recently that was taught by Mr. Bob. If you're a Get Smart fan, you'll know what I mean.

UPDATE: Get Smart alert! You can now pre-order from Time-Life the complete DVD set for Get Smart, due out later this year. (via

Click here to read more . . .

Maryland Blogger Alliance member makes it big

Congratulations to Maryland Conservatarian, a member of the Maryland Blogger Alliance (motto: "a bunch of blogs with a logo"), who has an excellent column in yesterday's Washington Examiner: "A conservatarian view of Maryland politics." He hits Montgomery County pretty hard, and all I can say is "Hit us again!"

On a side note, the column discloses his real name, but perhaps even more significant is the notation at the bottom of the column that he "is a member of the Maryland Blogger Alliance and blogs at"


Click here to read more . . .

September 25, 2006

An appeal to "good" conservatives

I don't like to write about law, and I rarely do. It seems a lot like a busman's holiday to me.

What interests me about a short piece by Jeffrey Rosen in yesterday's New York Times magazine, however, is the structure of the argument. You've read the usual crap by the usual dumb liberals. Jeffrey Rosen is a smart liberal. He's writing not for the benefit of the usual morons who read the NYT magazine; he's writing for those jurisprudential conservatives who consider themselves principled. And by principled, I mean conservatives who believe that when the law requires it, courts should reach "liberal" results or results that the conservatives would not themselves choose as a matter of policy. (As an aside, I'm fairly confident that there are more conservatives who consider themselves principled than there are liberals. Why that should be true is the subject of another busman's holiday.)

Rosen's piece begins with a wildly counter-factual proposition that is central to his thesis, which we must indulge him for present purposes: that affirmative action is not as divisive as it once was. He cites the political ad of a self-described "black Jesse Helms," focusing on preferences for illegal aliens, as if this somehow supported his proposition. He then states that this lessened divisiveness is the result of the Supreme Court's decisions in the University of Michigan case three years ago, which is itself a dubious proposition.

Rosen argues that this "cease-fire" may be short-lived, because the Court will soon have to deal with two new cases involving racial preferences in public schools as a means of achieving racial balance. He describes the government's brief in these cases as "urg[ing] the justices to draw an inflexible line: 'race-conscious measures' designed to address 'racial imbalance in communities or student bodies' are just as unconstitutional as the segregation struck down in Brown v. Board of Education."

Here's where the argument starts to get interesting. A dumb liberal would begin attacking the government's position, flailing away in anger and disbelief. A smart liberal uses another strategy. Rosen cites two "Republican" judges who have ruled in favor of school districts that have used racially based student assignments to balance the racial composition of public schools. According to Rosen, both judges thought that racial balancing did not favor one group over another. And one, Alex Kozinski, suggested (in Rosen's words) that "there's something unseemly (and not very conservative) about unelected judges second-guessing locally elected officials on matters of educational policy." A very "Republican" idea, right? Hard to complain, right? That's precisely Rosen's point -- to appeal to principled conservatives. Sure, it may be that both judges felt constrained by the Supreme Court's Michigan decision, but let that pass.

Now Rosen gets to the real action. He says that Chief Justice Roberts, while on record against racial preferences, has also spoken of the need to decide cases narrowly to promote consensus on the Court. Rosen writes: "If Roberts is serious about avoiding sweeping holdings, he might persuade his colleagues to converge around Kozinski's narrow position, which leaves open the possibility that racial balancing might be inappropriate in other contexts." That is, if Roberts is a "good" conservative, he'll leave in place precedent that he doesn't like. After all, writes Rosen, "the most politically effective Supreme Court decisions aim to calm partisan disagreements rather than inflame them." (Does that sound to you like the joint opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey?)

The only alternative, according to Rosen, is to inflame them. "If Roberts succeeds in preventing the court from fracturing this term into antagonistic blocs, he will have achieved something truly impressive. And if he fails, the country as a whole may become even more polarized." Rosen thus appeals to principled conservatives in his own way: Decide cases narrowly, accept liberal results, avoid partisan rancor.

But let me rewrite his argument: The liberals have won, and therefore everything is calm. If the conservative wing of the Court reverses that victory, because it sees the offending precedent as contrary to the Constitution, partisan rancor will be the result. Then, it will be the liberals, instead of the conservatives, who will be yelling about it. And we can't have that.

Click here to read more . . .

September 21, 2006

Shanah tovah

A shanah tovah umetukah -- a happy and sweet new year -- to you. May it be better than this year.

To my non-Jewish philo-semitic friends, I want to tell you how much I appreciate your support.

See you on Monday.

Click here to read more . . .

Hugo Chavez visits the U.N.

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

Click here to read more . . .

September 20, 2006

Why should we be surprised?

Why should we be surprised at what comes out of Arizona these days? Flopping Aces describes a 9/11 memorial that includes references to a mistaken U.S. bombing of Afghanistan, Congress's questioning why the CIA and FBI didn't prevent the 9/11 attacks, etc. (via HotAir)

I don't remember a lot of names. I don't remember a lot about what happened 15 years ago. But I remember Janet Napolitano, now the Governor of Arizona.

Fifteen years ago, Janet Napolitano was an "adviser" to Anita Hill, who came forward to accuse Clarence Thomas, then a nominee for the Supreme Court, of sexual harassment. One of Hill's main corroborating witnesses -- the only one supposedly with contemporaneous evidence -- was Susan Hoerchner. Trouble was that in a deposition by senate committee staff, Hoerchner had at first stated that her phone conversations with Hill about the harassment had taken place while Hoerchner was still in Washington -- i.e., before September 1981. But Hill didn't work for Thomas until after that time. Once Hoerchner understood the problem, Napolitano suddenly called for a recess of the deposition. Though she was an adviser to Hill, she talked to Hoerchner during the break. When the deposition resumed, Hoerchner suddenly wasn't so sure when these conversations took place. How convenient!

Before David Brock self-immolated, he wrote a book called The Real Anita Hill. Parts of the book were pretty creepy, to be sure, but a lot of it was based on clear record evidence and thus was unassailable. For instance, the section describing the deposition I've mentioned. Here's a quotation that I got from someone's site out there:

In her testimony to the Judiciary Committee, Anita Hill stated: "I began working with Clarence Thomas in the early fall of 1981. . . . Early on, our working relationship was positive. . . . After approximately three months of working together, he asked me to go out with him socially." She told him no, and the first alleged incident of harassment occurred in "the following few weeks" -- i.e., in late December 1981 or January 1982.

Now, consider Hoerchner's deposition:

Q. And, in an attempt to try to pin down the date a little bit more specifically as to your first phone conversation about the sexual harassment issue in 1981, the year you mentioned, you said the first time you moved out of Washington was September of 1981; is that correct?

A. Right.

Q. Okay. Were you living in Washington at the time you two had this phone conversation?

A. Yes.

Q. When she told you?

A. Yes.

Q. So it was prior to September of 1981?

A. Oh, I see what you're saying.

Moments later, Hoerchner's attorney Janet Napolitano, a feminist activist who was also advising Anita Hill, asked for a recess. Remember, Hoerchner had told interviewers several times that the call occurred before September 1981. After conferring with Napolitano, Hoerchner, back on the record again, was asked by a Democratic staff counsel:

Q. When you had the initial phone conversation with Anita Hill and she spoke for the first time about sexual harassment, do you recall where you were living -- what city?
A. I don't know for sure.
So the Hill adviser, who then became the U.S. Attorney in Arizona, and later became the Governor, now thinks this nutjob 9/11 memorial is "unique, bold, educational and unforgettable." It probably contains about as much accuracy as . . . I don't know . . . Hoerchner's deposition?

Click here to read more . . .

Driving while Bostonian

Some people use the acronym "DWB" to refer to "driving while black." The argument is that police often stop black drivers for no good reason, just because they're black and the officer is suspicious.

But I think DWB could equally refer to "driving while Bostonian," and in that case, there's a damned good reason to be suspicious of Bostonian drivers. I spent some time living in the Boston area when I was younger and didn't need a car. But I observed just how horrible Boston drivers could be. I saw at least one driving the wrong way down a one-way street. I saw another making an illegal U-turn . . . around a police car. And not long afterwards, I read an article in the New York Times about New Yorkers living in Boston. One would assume that New Yorkers would already have encountered basically everything that's even remotely possible on the roads. But the people interviewed for the article admitted their utter fear of driving in Boston. I recall that one woman said that she'd never before seen five-way intersections that had no traffic light. She said her strategy at those intersections was to put her foot on the accelerator and close her eyes.

And now, here's an interesting story (via Fark) about a Boston-area driver from Attleboro, about 40 miles south, who was driving in the Boston suburb of Newton. The teenaged driver was at a stop light in Newton in the early hours of the morning, with his foot on the brake, and didn't move when the light turned green. A police officer got out of his car, shouted at him, and then banged his flashlight on the car until the driver woke up. At this point, the story gets better:

The report states Bordne [the teenager] looked at the officer after several minutes, but drove away through the red light.

The officer followed Bordne's car, and watched as it crashed into the same telephone pole on Glenmore Terrace three times, according to the report.

"(I) observed the vehicle drive into the telephone pole located at the end of the street. I then observed the vehicle reverse approximately 3 to 4 feet and then again drive straight into the telephone pole. The vehicle then reversed a second time and then a third time drove into the pole," the officer wrote.
The teenager tried to elude police but was trapped on someone's yard. The police got him out of the car and -- get ready for a surprise -- he failed sobriety tests.

If the guy weren't so young, I'd swear I saw him drive when I was living up there.

Click here to read more . . .

Good news on the emissions front

Good news on the emissions front. Or should I say on the front emissions?

A couple of years ago, a study conducted in India found that increased consumption of fizzy drinks was associated with an increase in "gullet" cancer -- which I assume is Brit-speak for the esophagus. Why? A British researcher remarked: "Carbonated drinks cause burping and some reflux. These drinks are also acidic and will bathe the lining of the oesophagus as they are swallowed."

Yesterday, however, the Washington Post, which I want you to know is absolutely the highest medical authority in the world, noted (second item) that Dutch researchers had made the following finding: "Burping does not raise your risk of cancer." (That sentence, by the way, is possibly the most wonderful sentence I've ever read in the Post.)

What I don't understand about the Dutch study is the researchers' methods. The Post says: "To provoke belching, Dutch researchers infused air into the stomachs of 12 healthy individuals and 12 who had GERD [gastroesaphogeal reflux disease]." What a wasted effort! They could have done the study with much greater ease had they simply used teenaged boys, who don't need any artificial infusion of air.

Click here to read more . . .

September 19, 2006

Top ten signs that Sen. Allen's mother is Jewish

Top Ten Signs That Senator George Allen's Mother Is Jewish * *

10. Still calls him "My Georgie."

9. "Senator, shmenator, why couldn't he be a doctor?"

8. Serves ham and cheese on separate plates.

7. Used to make her husband's Redskins team wear sweaters so they shouldn't be cold.

6. Objects to her son's use of "retail politics." Tells him he should buy wholesale.

5. Continues to pack him a lunch "so he won't be hungry."

4. Serves Chinese food on Christmas.

3. Serves Chinese food on Christmas at her winter place in Boca.

2. Picked his campaign slogan: "It would hurt you to vote for him?"

1. Macaca offen yam.

Click here to read more . . .

September 18, 2006

Dates from Hell

I didn't really get into the dating scene much when I was younger. In one of those strange miracles, I went from being socially retarded to meeting the woman of my dreams virtually overnight. (I remain socially retarded in the larger sense, although that's another story.) But I do have enough empathy to appreciate the difficulties of dating, especially when the other person is not just a pathetic loser but an aggressively obnoxious pathetic loser.

The Washington Post solicited stories from readers about particularly bad dates and discovered that these stories were submitted, overwhelmingly, by women. The article speculates that when men have bad dates, they don't remember them or don't want to tell about them. This is elementary. Men don't remember anything -- except, maybe, football scores and who won the American League home run title in 1982. Women remember everything. If your marriage is going to work, you've got to deal with this.

Anyway, the reports from the distaff side were pretty alarming. Can there really be so much male dreck out there? Don't answer that!

My favorite story is this:

Slap Happy

His name was David, a nominal detail for some, but an appropriate omen for me -- he was the 13th David I've dated. The first few minutes of our dinner date were fine -- good conversation, which he started to punctuate with pinky slaps, the sad little stepchild of the full-on high five. The first time he pulled the pinky slap, I thought, well, this is kind of cute. The third? Quirky. But by the seventh, it was reaching the realm of a tick, maybe Tourettes?

We pinky-slapped our way through dinner (what a great sauce on those beans -- pinky-slap; I totally see what you mean -- pinky-slap). When he finished with his meal, he was still hungry, and he noticed that the table next to us had just been vacated. Rather than order something else from the menu, he chose to finish the remnants on their plates -- chips, dip and all.

Horrified, and pinky-slapped out, I made for the door, to which he asked "Can you give me a ride home?" Needless to say, that would be a no (lack of pinky-slap noted).
-- Catherine B., Washington
You should definitely check them out and vote for your favorite in the comments. Or -- if you dare -- tell your own story.

Click here to read more . . .

Quality of life

There are many things you don't want to hear a doctor saying. This is one of them: "His quality of life was affected severely."

According to an article in the Guardian (via Drudge), Chinese surgeons claim to have completed the first "penis transplant" on a man who had met with an unfortunate incident.

Chinese surgeons have performed the world's first penis transplant on a man whose organ was damaged beyond repair in an accident this year. The incident left the man with a 1cm-long stump [less than half an inch] with which he was unable to urinate or have sexual intercourse. "His quality of life was affected severely," said Dr Weilie Hu, a surgeon at Guangzhou General Hospital.
The surgeons claimed the operation was a success and that within 10 days "the organ had a rich blood supply and the man was able to urinate normally."

But just as they were starting to high-five each other, reality sank in. Of course, it wasn't their reality; it was their patient's. So it wasn't their fault.
"Because of a severe psychological problem of the recipient and his wife, the transplanted penis regretfully had to be cut off," Dr Hu said. An examination of the organ showed no signs of it being rejected by the body.
I certainly can understand this statement. If you were a penis, wouldn't you regret having to be cut off? [Ouch! Stop kicking me!] Well, maybe it was just a bad translation from the Chinese. I guess they meant "regrettably."

But you know what's really troubling about the article? It's that this guy is a guy and still says this:
Andrew George, a transplant expert at Imperial College, London, said: "Doing a penis transplant should be no more complex than anything else. But it takes time for nerve sensations to kick in and it's not clear whether the patient would ever be able to have sex with it. The question is whether it's right to be doing a transplant for what may be seen as cosmetic reasons."
Let's do a pre-operative checklist. Half-inch stump? CHECK! Can't urinate? CHECK! Can't have sex? CHECK! Reluctant to go into the locker room? CHECK!

Post-operatively: Four inches or so. Can urinate. No sex. Willing to go into locker room.

I would say this is about three out of four. And if the man can urinate after the transplant, that's hardly "cosmetic." Perhaps Dr. George has forgotten why they say one is "relieving" oneself.

Click here to read more . . .

September 17, 2006

Are we all goners?

What exactly are we to make of rumors of a nuke plot by Al Qaeda during Ramadan, which coincides this year with the Jewish month of Tishri, starting this Friday evening?

Supposedly there's word on the street that Muslims should leave the U.S., especially Washington and New York, and, no, that's not from Pat Buchanan.

Allah, at HotAir, keeps the "worry meter" at "midlevel," but I just want to say that if you should try to read Pillage Idiot one day in the next five weeks or so and you get some cranky error message from Blogger about the site not being available because of nuclear fallout, it was fun while it lasted.

Click here to read more . . .

This art really sucks (eggs)!

Today's question is: Do different forms of art have different approaches toward criticism?

If you've been around here regularly, you'll know that I occasionally write about classical music. I'm not even close to my wife's standards -- she's an excellent amateur pianist -- but I have some modest training in that field. I was pretty good on a musical instrument in high school and was chosen for some selective orchestras and bands. I took some music theory courses in college. (You will not be shocked to hear that for one of my final projects I set to music an off-color poem from Joyce's Ulysses.) Nowadays, I don't play my instrument much, but I still listen to classical CDs in the car.

Recently, after writing about excellent 20th-century music, I bought a few CDs, including a recording of Mahler's Ninth Symphony, which was on my list. The Ninth was coupled with Mahler's First Symphony, a piece I once listened to fairly often, when I was younger, but haven't heard in about 20 years.

I've described my modest background in order to show I'm not totally a boor (which is the word a friend of mine from college, an English and art history major, used to call people who didn't appreciate great art). But when I listened to Mahler's First Symphony, my reaction was this: This piece really sucks eggs!

I could give you a couple of technical reasons for my judgment -- a few things I think Mahler tried that simply don't work musically (e.g., interminable harmonics on A out of proportion to the length of the first movement, hokey bird calls also in the first movement, and heavy use of the theme from Frère Jacques in minor mode -- seriously -- in the slow movement) and one that I think is totally tacky (having the horn section stand up near the end of the last movement) -- but I doubt you'd be interested in reading about them. And then, if I'm lucky, I'd be trashed by a bunch of snoots who think I really am a boor.

But this got me thinking about whether it's ever appropriate to say, about the work of a great master, that it sucks eggs.

Take literature. Is it fair to look at the work of a great writer -- for example, Poe or Melville or Fitzgerald -- and say that one of his novels or short stories sucks? Let's assume you have thoughtful, if contestable, literary reasons for your judgment. Suppose you make your argument this way: It sucks, because he tries to accomplish X and it simply doesn't work for these reasons....

I don't see why there's any problem with treating the greats of literature this way, and it seems as if it's done all the time. Assignment 1: Start a review of Philip Roth's latest novel this way: "Philip Roth's novels continue to suck eggs for the following reasons..."

Now, here's where I show off that I'm a boor. Let's consider the great French painters.

Here's Assignment 2: Walk around any major museum and eavesdrop on the conversations of people looking at the paintings. Tell me whether you ever hear anyone say, "This painting sucks!" And I don't mean that pimply 14-year-old wearing his cap on backwards and being led around by the scruff of his neck by his angry schoolteacher. I mean, instead, someone saying, "This Degas sucks, because the lighting he uses . . . blah blah blah."

I don't think so.

Now, I imagine if you went back to when Degas was painting, you would find well educated and erudite art critics saying that his paintings sucked eggs, or, in French, "Les peintures de Degas, ils suckent des oeufs." If my French is a little rusty, pardonnez-moi.

My point, and I think I do have one, is this: Is the art world afraid to admit that the greats of history made have painted some clunkers, because, if it did, it might have to admit that currently it's chock full of cretins who smear feces on the Virgin Mary in order to win an NEA grant? (We exclude the New Criterion, of course.)

Or am I just a total boor?

"Both of the above" is a permissible answer.

Note: The expression "suck eggs" was one that my high school friends and I used to use, for reasons I can't even imagine. It turns out, however, that it has a Shakespearean pedigree. ("I can suck melancholy out of a song, as a weasel sucks eggs." As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 5) In my house, we have pretty strict rules about the use of foul language. My kids know I don't want them to use the word sucks, but I told them it's OK to says "sucks eggs." A losing cause, but it keeps the suck-word to a minimum.

UPDATE (10/26): A visitor arriving here through a search for "'philip roth' sucks" has completed Assignment 1 in the comments. This impressive response certainly doesn't suck eggs itself, and one might even call it a masterpiece.

Click here to read more . . .

September 15, 2006

Guest-blogging at protein wisdom???

Jeff Goldstein at protein wisdom has signed a contract on a house and is busy arranging house-related matters. He's invited readers to guest-blog, and, in an effort to make a complete fool of myself, I volunteered, along with several others.

You know, if Warren Buffett said to me, "Come on, why don't you do a little investing for me with my money," don't you think I'd do it in a heartbeat (if I actually had one)?

I'm telling you this just in case you're foolish enough not to read Jeff on a regular basis and don't already know.

UPDATE: An occasionally updated list of my guest posts.

Allow me to introduce myself

Cease fire in the sex-ed wars

Senator McCain goes to the public library

Senator McCain goes to the public library -- ALTERNATE VERSION

The sinestrosphere discovers guest-blogging at pw

Top ten signs that Sen. Allen's mother is Jewish (also posted at Pillage Idiot)

Click here to read more . . .

September 13, 2006

Yale under scrutiny

"Yale under scrutiny" is not just my title; it's the title of an article in the Yale Alumni Magazine, and if you want to find out what the American universities are trying to cover up these days, you just have to read their magazines online.

I'll get to that article in a minute, but I'd first like to address the article that appears immediately above it: "Ex-Taliban spokesman rejected for degree program." I have one word upon reading this article: "Mwahahahaha!!"

A former spokesman for the Taliban will likely continue taking courses in Yale College this year -- but not toward a Yale degree. Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, whose presence on campus set off a heated controversy earlier this year, was rejected this summer by the university's Eli Whitney Program, which admits a small number of older students every year to pursue bachelor's degrees. "I was saddened by Yale's decision, but I am not disappointed," Hashemi told the Yale Alumni Magazine in an e-mail from Pakistan.
The university's explanation of its decision to reject him? Not that critics were right in objecting to its having offered the Taliban spokesman a place at Yale. No, it was that this year the university used a tougher standard to determine which students in this program would be admitted into the bachelor's degree program.
The admissions office applied a tougher standard to this year's Eli Whitney applicants than it has in the past. In previous years, up to 30 percent had been invited to attend. This year only 2 of 29 made the cut. "The program had come under scrutiny this past spring," university officials said in a prepared statement, "and Yale president Richard C. Levin had directed that, pending a full review, the standard for admission to this program should be as rigorous and demanding as that used in the admission of full-time regular Yale College students."
In other words, Yale didn't single out Hashemi; it just didn't have room under the new, tougher standard. Mwahahahaha!!

The final word will be given to Bob Schuster, identified as a Wyoming lawyer and "one of Hashemi's financial supporters," who said, "He is a young man who is moderate, articulate, and bright, and he can be a bridge between our cultures and countries." Mwahahahaha!!

But this level of arrogance is not limited to Yale; it's widespread among universities. Back in my former life, when I was a paid trouble-maker in a policy office, I proposed a bill that would be called the "Colleges Are Not Above the Law Act." One title of the bill was called the "College President's Floral Display Act," based on charges that Stanford University had improperly charged floral displays for its president's house to the overhead on government research grants (not to mention cedar closets, maintenance of a yacht, and country club dues). Here's a link for people with Times Select.

Apparently, there's still a need for my proposal. The "Yale under scrutiny" article tells of a government investigation into "Yale's management of [certain] grants and its related bookkeeping."
In June, the university learned that it was being investigated by three federal entities -- the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, and the National Science Foundation. Yale has been served subpoenas for documents on 47 grants awarded over 10 years and worth $45 million (about 2 percent of the $2 billion in federal grants that Yale received in that time).
When it comes to an explanation of the subpoenas, Yale pleads ignorance: "Yale says it doesn't know what prompted the current subpoenas." It speculates that there could be a whistleblower or that the subpoenas could be the outgrowth of an earlier audit, at which "the university didn't acquit itself well."
DHHS accused Yale of slipshod accounting on a $1.7 million grant for research on gene expression in stem cells. The report charged Yale with claiming $193,779 in costs that didn't comply with the rules of the grant by, for example, charging for supplies originally purchased for other research, without justifying the transfers. It also faulted the principal scientist for spending less than the required amount of his time on the research.
Yale bonus: The same issue of the magazine has an interview with Yale's president. This is way too much for me to handle at one time. I can't even think of Yale for more than a few minutes at a time, if I think of it at all. But I commend to you the following exchange, which I'm slightly editing. Read the whole thing if you're worried I'm removing any context:
[YAM]: * * * I was struck by DHHS's statement that Yale "does not have procedures for monitoring" how much time key people spend on their grants. Usually the audits say procedures are "inadequate" or the like. The current subpoenas include faculty time records -- even personal calendars. Do you think this finding that Yale "does not have procedures" might be a factor in the subpoenas?

[Yale president]: I don't know. We do have procedures, but there is substantial room for improvement in our reporting of effort devoted to federal grants. * * *
One last word: Mwahahahaha!!

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September 12, 2006

Public service announcement

If you're drunk and driving your car, and the police try to stop you, and you refuse to stop, don't compound your legal problems by running red lights.[1] If you stop at every red light, they may catch you, but you'll avoid unnecessary points on your license.[2] And don't launch into anti-semitic tirades when apprehended.[3]

[1] "Police said that although Grant was speeding, driving drunk and refusing to pull over, he did stop for three red lights."

[2] "In addition to the DWI, Grant was charged with disobeying a police officer, speeding and yellow line violations."

[3] Eh, you know.

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Harry Reid makes another call to Robert Iger of Disney

[Ed. note: I'm changing the date on this post to 9/12. It seemed even dumber than it actually is when it was sitting right underneath my 9/11 post.]

Sen. Reid: . . . so, ya know, in Cinderella, when the prince shows up with the glass slipper, right? And Cinderella tries it on, and it fits, and she leaves with the prince, and they live happily ever after?

Robert Iger: Yeah. Great story, huh?

Sen. Reid: Like hell it is. You Disney guys are just lyin' about the poor and siding with the rich. You have the evil stepmother and stepsister, they're poor, and the hero, well, he's rich. Where ya gettin' that wingnut Republican fascistic Laffer-Curve kinda s--- from?

Robert Iger: But . . .

Sen. Reid: Don't "but" me. Here's what ya gonna do: Cinderella tells the prince if he wants her, first he'll raise the minimum wage in the kingdom, then he'll raise taxes on the rich and super-rich. If you value your broadcast license, you will, if ya know what I mean.

Robert Iger:

Sen. Reid: Yeah, and don't even get me started on Winnie the Pooh.

Robert Iger:

Sen. Reid: F---in' Straussian allegories. * *

UPDATE: This was in the hopper for a couple of days, for reasons I don't want to talk about, and I feel a little funny with the Sept. 11 date up above. But if you can't be despondent about the five-year anniversary, and at the same time be crude and immature, the terrorists will have won.

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September 11, 2006

Five years, and time is running out

Yesterday, I looked back at what I wrote on September 11, 2005, and I feel despondent. There have been many positive events in fighting Islamic terrorism over the past year, but ideologically we seem to be worse off than a year ago. So many people seem more interested in Bush's failure than in fighting Islamic terrorism. I don't know how much more time we have left. It can't be very much.

Rather than collecting scores of interesting September 11 links for you to check out, or connecting you with folks who have good roundups, I'll just mention one blog post and two articles that I think are worth reading.

1. From Friday, Allah notes at HotAir that one of the grievances of the 9/11 hijackers was the suffering of the Muslims in Bosnia. Yes, that Bosnia, the one where we bombed Serbia to stop ethnic cleansing of the Muslims. Allah says, "If your moral ledger extends back to the Crusades, the scales can't ever really be balanced - which of course is precisely the point. But even I never thought they'd start moving items from the credit column into the debit one. If we abandoned Israel tomorrow, how long would it be before Islamist savages were flying airplanes into the White House because we abandoned Israel?"

2. Also from Friday, Peggy Noonan writes movingly about the sounds of 9/11, including the phone calls. The phone calls of people who knew they were doomed and wanted their families to know they loved them. "Something terrible had happened. Life was reduced to its essentials. Time was short. People said what counted, what mattered. It has been noted that there is no record of anyone calling to say, 'I never liked you,' or, 'You hurt my feelings.' No one negotiated past grievances or said, 'Vote for Smith.' Amazingly -- or not-- there is no record of anyone damning the terrorists or saying 'I hate them.' No one said anything unneeded, extraneous or small. Crisis is a great editor. When you read the transcripts that have been released over the years it's all so clear."

3. The Jerusalem Post magazine examines airport security in Israel and the U.S. and discusses how Israeli consultants are helping the Americans with security. (Hat tip: Just Moi) But there are certain limitations on what will "fly" in the U.S., like profiling. Also, the sheer volume of passengers here dwarfs the more manageable load in Israel. ("The cost of all this security, exorbitant but imperative for Israel, is prohibitive for the United States, which services many times the number of air travelers as Israel does. 'Ben-Gurion Airport accommodates about 8.5 million passengers a year,' Ron says. 'By contrast, traffic in the average large airport in the US is in the neighborhood of 30 million a year. Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta accommodate some 70-80 million a year.'")

UPDATE: Via Ace, here are photos of the WTC site two days after the attack.

UPDATE: Via The Corner, more -- many more -- photos.

UPDATE: Ralph Peters is amazingly optimistic, listing our achievements since 9/11. I wish I were as upbeat.

UPDATE: Now, I'm even more downbeat than when I started. Confederate Yankee has a roundup of the left-wing bloggers' postings on 9/11. His post is swamped with angry comments from the bloggers and their sympathizers. I don't know how much of the American population these folks represent, but I think we're in big trouble.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention this earlier. My shul had a table set up this morning with a photo taken of lower Manhattan on the afternoon of September 10, 2001, with the WTC in its full glory. And on the table there was a yahrzeit candle burning. It's like having a photo of the deceased, I guess.

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September 07, 2006

Soccer Dad plus one

I was waiting for him to post more details, but I don't want to wait too long. Congratulations to Soccer Dad on the new member of the family.

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Below the belt

Great moments in judicial history. A North Carolina appellate court has held as follows, and I quote: "We conclude that a reasonable person in defendant's circumstances would not have understood that he would be subjected to an inspection of his genitals."

Say what?

According to the news account, an officer, having received a tip that Stone, the defendant, was a drug dealer, pulled up next to a car, in which Stone was the passenger. Stone, wearing a jacket and "drawstring pants," got out of the car, and told the officer he had no drugs or weapons. The officer asked Stone if he could search him, and Stone agreed. The officer found a bunch of cash in Stone's pants pocket and asked if he had any drugs. Stone said no but allowed the search to continue.

Now, the beauty part: "With another officer now at the scene, Correa pulled the pants away from Stone's body and aimed his flashlight at his groin area. Stone objected, but the two officers already had viewed the white cap of what appeared to be a pill bottle along his groin, the opinion said. The officers handcuffed Stone before Correa retrieved the bottle, which contained 26 grams of crack."

And speaking of crack, four gang members in an El Salvador jail "hid cellphones, a phone charger and spare chips in their bowels so they could coordinate crimes from their cells, prison officials said on Wednesday." They "wrapped their phones and accessories in plastic and inserted them into their rectums 'far enough to reach their intestines,' Ramon Arevalo, director of the maximum security Zacatecoluca prison, said."

One can only imagine what their ring tone was.

(both stories via Fark)

UPDATE (9/8): Jack M. posting at Ace's blog captions the cellphone story "Can You Hear Me Now?" and shows the x-ray.

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September 06, 2006

Delayed Onset Missilosis?

This video is a total hoot. Five stars. (Via HotAir.)

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The cucumber people get a new name

This post discusses sex-ed in a juvenile way. If that bothers you, please click here to go to the next post.

OK, don't say I didn't warn you.

One of last year's big news stories in Montgomery County, Maryland, was a legal fight over the sex-ed curriculum. The curriculum had two features that were challenged:

(1) A section on homosexuality, for which the teachers' guide made religious arguments in favor of homosexuality -- or, more accurately, made religious arguments against religious arguments raised by opponents. The guide also designated which religions were good and which were bad based on their views of homosexuality. This is only slightly an exaggeration. In any event, the county's defense of this guide was laughed out of court by a liberal Clinton judge, who was blistering in his criticism of the guide.

(2) A video instructing students how to put a condom on a cucumber. The idea apparently was that high-school kids, when their sexual urges grew strong . . . would quickly pull out a cucumber out of a shopping bag and put a condom on it. I had a great deal of fun with this notion, referring to the proponents of the video as the "cucumber people." (My posts on the subject are collected here.)

As I've pointed out before, the idea that kids need instruction in how to put a condom on is ludicrous. There's only one way to do it. You don't need an AP class. You don't even need a manual. You certainly don't need an MTV-style video, which is what the sex-ed curriculum was offering. (Unless, perhaps, you're a highly educated parent of a graduate of the Montgomery County Public Schools.)

Just to make this point utterly clear, I just spent three minutes using one of the most rudimentary imaging tools around (MS-Paint) to create a single instructional image, which is all any kid could possibly need. In fact, if you even need my instructional image, you're probably dumber than a post and shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a member of the opposite sex, ever. Please note: My crude drawing should be considered NSFW, although it's so idiotic-looking that the feminist in the next cubicle over from you will have no idea what it is. Nevertheless, better safe than sorry. Label it NSFW. And, please, don't click on the link if you're easily offended. (Not that my readers could possibly be easily offended if they're back here at Pillage Idiot.) OK, here's my instruction sheet.

Phew, that was three minutes of my life I'll never have back!

Now, why am I telling you this? It's old news, isn't it? Well, not entirely.

Today's Rockville Gazette, which I'm sure all of you read faithfully, reports that the warring factions have agreed on a new video instructing kids how to put on a condom.

The old video featured what some called an "MTV style," with slick graphics, quick edits and up-tempo music. It featured a young woman discussing how to buy condoms, as well as how condoms can reduce the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases or becoming pregnant. She also used a cucumber to demonstrate the proper way of putting on a condom. Critics said the video did not emphasize abstinence enough and seemed to condone sexual activity among teens.

The new video features white text on a blue, swirling computer-generated background. A male narrator, who is never seen, describes how to examine, put on and remove and discard a condom. The person performing the demonstration is not seen other than his hands.

The video stresses abstinence.

"Abstinence from sex is the only way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections," is one of the first and last messages that students see and hear.
The entire idea behind the new video is that it's boring, as everyone involved has agreed. But perhaps not too boring....
"It’s almost like it's intentionally boring," [Jim] Kennedy said in an interview Friday. But that does not mean it will put students to sleep. "They're putting a condom over a fake penis," he said. "They're going to watch that."
So, you see, we now have a new name for the "cucumber people." We'll simply call them the "fake-penis people." Or, perhaps, the "people who think your kids are dumber than a post."

UPDATE (9/12): Even the Washington Post has to get in on this story. Post angle: Groups of the stupid and unwashed have "unexpected[ly]" endorsed a condom instructional video.

Click here to read more . . .

Prissy little miss

If you confide to a reporter that you think your female primary opponent is a "prissy little miss" who wears "long dresses, looks like Mother Hubbard -- it's sort of like she was a man" . . .

If you say in a news interview that the opponent has "got these long clothes on and an old-fashioned hairdo," and that "it sort of makes you real mad" . . .

If you say all of this while running a radio ad admitting that "I've also said some things I shouldn't" . . .

. . . then you must be Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer. (Or else you're some nut who's randomly paraphrasing Beatles lyrics.)

But if you respond by insisting "I'm not a man" several times "with obvious indignation," as the Post article puts it, you must be Janet S. Owens.

Baltimore Sun political columnist Laura Vozzella notes the oddity of Schaefer's remarks (second item):

No one expected to Schaefer to hold his tongue, but this is news for one of two reasons:

A) Maryland's most practiced political insulter seems to be losing his touch, calling his Democratic rival both "prissy" and "a man."

Or B) Mother Hubbard has been outed as a cross-dresser.

Schaefer's campaign declined to elaborate.
And Elizabeth Krum declined to comment.

UPDATE (9/7): "Apologies, they're nice. They're good for the press," Mr. Schaefer said at the tail end of a 45-minute public appearance. "I say what I want to say. I mean most of what I say. And if people don't like it, okay. I'm me. I'm not gonna change."


"She started it off by calling me . . . like him as a grandfather. I like her as a great, great grandmother," Schaefer said.


Schaefer insisted yesterday that Owens is the one who started what he called "dirty politics" when she likened him to a grandfather during a May radio interview. He took that as a swipe at his age. "She doesn't like older people," he said. "Look at her. She's not so young herself."

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September 05, 2006

Modest hospital gowns

Have you ever worn a hospital gown? You know what I'm talking about, right? They cover very little of your essentials, and you have to tie them in the back, so that the worst that happens is that you flash a little hairy butt. If you tied them in the front, you'd be flashing your other stuff all the time.

Not very modest, right?

Turns out that in England, Muslim women have demanded a different kind of hospital gown, and at Royal Preston Hospital, they've been given this new "inter-faith gown," which you can see right here at (via Hot Air) Apparently, this is true.

Seems very unfair to me. Muslims aren't the only modest people around. Why don't they have hospital robes for Jews, too? I emailed a demand to provide modest hospital robes for Jews, and England being what it's becoming, I got this fast response.


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September 04, 2006

Highway game theory

UPDATE in the extended post...

Yesterday, I drove my Number One Son back to school in the New York area. We met my older sister and her family and my mother in Manhattan for dinner. My sister found a shul where we were able to say kaddish, and then I drove my mother home. I stayed overnight at my mother's house, and drove back home today. Surprisingly, Labor Day traffic was not bad at all, but there was one segment in Delaware where there was road work, and I was backed up for about 20 minutes.

So I'm going to pose a driving-related question here, and I'll place my analysis in the extended post. Feel free to read it before or after you've thought about the problem and to agree or disagree with my solution.

My question is: Assume you have to comply with all traffic laws. You're on a highway with four lanes in each direction, and traffic is fairly heavy. You see a sign telling you that the two left lanes will be closed in 2000 feet. What's your best strategy to minimize the time you will be delayed? (Using the shoulder isn't a legal answer, because the traffic laws don't permit it.)

Let's call the four lanes 1, 2, 3, and 4, from left to right, where 1 and 2 are the left lanes that are going to be closed, and 3 and 4 are the two right lanes. Which lane or lanes do you drive in?

My answer is: Stay in Lane 1, the far-left lane, the first of the two to be shut down, as long as you possibly can. Then move into Lane 2 from the left and stay there as long as you possibly can. Don't move into Lane 3 or 4 until you absolutely have to.

This is my thinking (and I've road-tested it): Lanes 3 ane 4 already have fairly heavy traffic. Lane 2 has fairly heavy traffic, PLUS cars moving in from Lane 1 on the left. So Lane 2 has very heavy traffic. But if you stay in Lane 1, most people in front of you will pull into Lane 2 before they have to, and you will move quickly to the end of Lane 1, at which point you can move to Lane 2. Once you're in Lane 2, the same principles will apply. People in front of you in Lane 2 will pull into Lane 3 ahead of time, leaving traffic ahead relatively light. When you finally reach the end of Lane 2, you can pull into Lane 3, and you'll have moved well ahead of the people who pulled into it earlier. Those people have to contend with the traffic that was already in Lane 3, PLUS the cars continuing to move in from Lane 2.

There's a lot of jerk-y behavior on the highways, but this is totally legal. Unless you cut someone off when switching lanes, you're not being a jerk. On the other hand, I've confessed to being a jerk here (scroll to bottom). And I'll also confess that when I was a lot younger, I did some jerk-y stuff when I drove my brother to Shea Stadium to see the Mets. The exit ramp from the parkway was always backed up onto the parkway itself because of the crowds. In fact, the backup clogged the two right lanes. So I would drive up on the clear third lane until, maybe, 50 yards from the exit. My brother would roll down the passenger window and politely ask the people in the backed-up lane if we might please move into the lane. That, I confess, was jerk-itude. What saved us from being major league jerks was my brother's polite request to the other drivers.

UPDATE (9/6): jk does an economic analysis at Three Sources: "The lane is a scarce resource, by merging early, you are increasing the scarcity -- why not use all 2000 feet? More significant still, all that early merging creates 2000 feet of stoppage. At the end of the lane, there is a natural merge point where everyone can choose the same spot." All true, and it gives a high-sounding excuse for my behavior: "scarcity." In a comment there, I mentioned that a driver really should move into a lane that will end in 2000 feet. It will help the driver for the reasons outlined above, and it will reduce the "scarcity" of space in the other lanes.

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September 01, 2006

Maryland meshugas Oct. to Dec. 2006

Only in America II

Doug Gansler at the bar

Doug Gansler at the bar -- Part 2

Maryland, the Florida of the mid-Atlantic?

Election Day weather forecast

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