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June 28, 2007

Compare and contrast

"In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race." Justice Harry Blackmun, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) (separate opinion).

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." Chief Justice John Roberts, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1 (2007).

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World's most trivial con man

I was about to walk into the Metro this morning, when a 20-ish man standing near the pay phones approached me and asked, "Do you have four quarters for a dollar?" Sometimes in these situations, I just ignore the request and keep walking, but I had a lot of change in my pocket, and I figured I could help the guy out.

I pulled out my change and found four quarters. The man seemed happy and showed me a coin. Without waiting for my surprise to register, he said, "It's a dollar coin." My first thought was, "Oh, great! I hate dollar coins. It never pays to be nice." But then, I looked at the coin, which he was still holding, and it looked suspiciously like one of those quarters with states on the back.

The man pointed to the word "DOLLAR" on the back. Now, you probably won't be surprised to learn that just to the left of the word "DOLLAR" was the word "QUARTER." I said, "That's a quarter." He insisted, "It's a dollar." I walked off.

The amazing thing is that for about five seconds after that, I thought to myself, "This man is not very bright." And then, it dawned on me that he was trying to con me out of 75 cents. Which made him still not very bright -- and the author of one of the most trivial cons around. Thirty years ago, a guy would at least have tried to con you out of five bucks. This twerp couldn't even keep up with inflation.

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Harry Reid handles a question

Original video here (courtesy of HotAir)

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June 27, 2007

Romulus and Remus redux?

They're upset about it in Germany. They think it's utterly tasteless. Even the Poles think it overstepped the limits of good taste.

Well, if it's lacking in good taste, you've come to just the right place to read about it.

BBC headline: "Anger over Polish breast montage"

German politicians have condemned a computer generated photo of Poland's leaders sucking the German Chancellor Angela Merkel's bare breasts.

The image appears on the cover of the Polish weekly Wprost, and is titled "Stepmother of Europe".

A Polish council overseeing ethics in the media said the montage overstepped "the limits of good taste".

Tension between the neighbouring countries has been building following last week's European Union summit.

The mocked up image shows Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, nuzzling at Ms Merkel's chest.
And, yes, you can see the image if you click the BBC link. (Just in case it goes offline at the Beeb, here's a somewhat better image.)

I'm not totally sure I understand the politics involved in this dustup, but Germany and Poland obviously have a history relating to World War II. Germany invaded Poland, and after the War, Poland expelled German nationals. In fact, one of the politicians quoted in the article "represents the interests of Germans forced to flee from present-day Poland during World War II."

Just about the only thing German and Poland agreed on during the War was the extermination of the Jews.

So the bottom line is that I don't have a dog in this race. But the whole affair brings to mind the founding myth of Rome. Doesn't the magazine cover remind you of this?

What's way more frightening is to compare the photo of Merkel with this one of Hillary and to note the resemblance.

And still more frightening yet is to contemplate what the American press will do if she's elected next year.

Who are the two guys on this cover I've photoshopped going to be?

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June 26, 2007

Hillary gets lost in translation

June 26, 2007


TO: Harold Ickes


RE: HRC's name on Chinese-language ballots

As we discussed this a.m. at the staff mtg, DOJ is requiring ballots in certain areas of Boston to be printed in Mandarin (Chinese) for Chinese speakers,
including the candidates' names. This will create big problems for the candidates, because there are many different Chinese characters for each sound. The article we were discussing said that "Romney" could be "translated" as "sticky rice."

I spoke to Sally Cheung of Asian-Americans for Hillary to see if we could get some positive meaning from the Chinese characters used in HRC's name. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Sally reported that, depending on which characters are used, HRC's name in Mandarin will mean one of the following:

  • chubby ankles
  • tormented pants suit
  • dung of woolen civet
  • hurl infected lamp
Since Romney means "sticky rice," I asked Sally about food names. She said it was funny I asked, because BC's name is very similar to "moo shu pork."

I told her, and I think you'll agree, that we don't ever want to see BC and "pork" mentioned in the same sentence.

To avoid this looming disaster, I also inquired about possible name changes for HRC. I asked Sally how to say "inevitable victor." But the answer was "hsiu li wa ni." (Say it fast.) I asked her how to say "natural talent." The answer was "how bah mah."

Harold, we are totally hosed!

[hat tip: fee simple]

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June 24, 2007

The Inquiring Photographer: Where will you invade?

The Inquiring Photographer asks:

If you're elected president in 2008, where's the first place you'll invade?

"Iran. (Pssst, guys . . . Iran, right?) Yeah, Iran."

Mitt Romney, R-Massachusetts

"I figure President Bush will invade Iran before he leaves office, so what does that leave me with? Syria? Fuggedaboudit. I'll go for Saudi Arabia. That'll teach that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal guy a thing or two."

Rudy Giuliani, R-New York

"Iraq, and I'm going to do it right this time. And then, I'll invade the EIB Building in midtown Manhattan. Frickin' Republican noise machine."

John McCain, R-Arizona

"Papa always said you don't let a guy know you're gonna hit 'im before they're moppin' up his blood from the floor with what's lefta his shirt."

Fred Thompson, R-Tennessee

"California. There aren't any Mexicans left in Mexico any more. You know that, right? They're all in California."

Tom Tancredo, R-Colorado

"Not many people realize it, but the Air Force is unconstitutional. The Constitution gives Congress the power to raise and support an Army and to provide and maintain a Navy, but it says nothing about an Air Force. But we've gotten ourselves into a situation in Washington, in which [18-1/2 minute gap] and also the Federal Reserve."

Ron Paul, R-"CTA 102"

"I'd start with some of those smaller red states, but I eventually intend to retake Texas."

Hillary Clinton, D-New York

"It's nice of you to think I'm running for president. Since I'm only going to end up as Hillary's running mate, maybe you should ask her."

Barack Obama, D-Illinois

"I guess I'd probably invade that rabid Republican gun-toting white trash who lives near my estate. Elizabeth is terrified of him."

John Edwards, D-North Carolina

"Do you understand the symbolism?"

Mike Gravel, D-Alaska

"You tawkin' 'a me? Huh? Well, $*(&$& off and mind your own business. I told you I'm not running for president, but you don't listen to me. But listen to this, we invaded Burger King and McDonald's last week. Next week, it's Le Bernadin. By January 2009, we're gonna be way across the Mississippi already."

Mike Bloomberg, D R I-New York

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June 21, 2007

Newsik you can oosik

I have good news tonight: All of us can sleep better knowing that a horrible criminal has copped a plea with the feds.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - An Alaska man has pleaded guilty to selling more than 100 fur seal "oosiks" -- or penises -- to a local gift shop that intended to sell the items as an aphrodisiac.

Michael Richard Zacharof, an Aleut and former tribal president from the Bering Sea village of St. Paul, pleaded guilty this week to one count of violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Federal law forbids the sale of any raw marine mammal parts unless they have been crafted into pieces of Alaska Native artwork.
Sometime when I have nothing else to do, I'll look up the statute, but for now, let me quote that fastidious news source, The Register:
The first person to make a quip about how Zacharof could have circumvented the Marine Mammal Protection Act by simply carving the oosiks into novelty Aleut candlestick holders will be banned from reading El Reg for a year and fined $20,000.
Now, I know what you're thinking right about now. "What kind of moron tries to sell a seal penis?" Also this: "What exactly does a seal penis look like?"

I can't answer the first question, but I'm glad you asked the second one. Because here's a picture I snagged with a Google Image search:

"Aha," you say, "but I have one further question: What does a walrus oosik look like, assuming they have one?" Ask and you shall receive. Here it is:

Remarkably, this is not all there is to this story. The Boston Globe reports:
A prosecutor said the investigation started in Massachusetts in 2004 and 2005 when bear gall bladders and seal oosiks were discovered in a Boston suburb and traced to a shop in Anchorage.
I didn't even realize that bears had gall bladders, but I have heard of bear ballings, which have some industrial uses.

Now, here's what I'm thinking: Are bear gall bladders aphrodisiacs, also? I think the answer is yes. In any event, this hideous thing is thought to be:

An AP article says about the thing:
It slimes its enemies, has rows of teeth on its tongue, and feeds on the innards of rotting fish by penetrating any orifice. But cooked and served on a plate, it is considered an aphrodisiac in South Korea.
Hmmm . . . slimes its enemies . . . has rows of teeth on its tongue . . . penetrating any orifice . . . it's Chuck Schumer! Sorry, my mistake. It's actually a hagfish, and you'd hate to meet one of these in a dark alley.

I'm going to leave you with this thought: Mr. Zacharof lives on a remote island in Alaska and had to participate in the court proceeding by telephone. Did you realize they had telephones on remote islands in Alaska? Well, the AP tried to find out whether there were telephones there, and the Globe's article says this: "A call by The Associated Press to his home on St. Paul Island was not immediately returned."

It turns out that the bear that delivers messages to the residents of the island was incapacitated with gall bladder pains.

Click here to read more . . .

June 19, 2007

A new form of hasbarah?

And speaking of immaturity featuring women...

When I first heard that there was a ruckus over an invitation issued by the Israeli consulate in New York with a photo of a scantily clad Miss Israel 2004, Gal Gadot, I assumed that the ruckus involved the ultra-orthodox.

Wrong. It was the feminists: "'It's unfortunate that the Israeli consulate chose to emphasize Israel's relevance with a portrait of a half-naked woman, instead of with one of women of substance and accomplishments,' [a female Knesset member] told Yediot Achronoth."

OK, I know you came here looking for the photo, so let's get that out of the way. [UPDATE: In case that one's down, try this.]

The consulate's invitation, by the way, is to an event with the men's magazine Maxim, which will feature in its July 2007 issue "The Women of the Israel Defense Forces." I'm sure it will be very tasteful.

Now, if you can believe this, and I have absolutely no reason to doubt it, then maybe the feminists have a little bit of a grievance here:

"Maxim was approached by the Israeli consulate to be a part of reshaping Israel's public image, specifically because of our unmatched mainstream reach to men aged 18 to 35," the magazine said in a statement. "We are pleased with the result of our work together."
I don't know. I suspect men aged 18 to 35 would go more for this.

Why go to Maxim, though, if you can have a serious photographer take photos of the women of the IDF? This photo shoot, by Rachel Papo, is completely tasteful. (via Kesher Talk)

I guess working with Maxim is a new form of hasbarah.

UPDATE: A commenter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs links to the official (or so it says) blog of the State of Israel.

Click here to read more . . .

Perennial question

While I'm busy working on a couple of longer term things, I thought I'd present you with something high up on the Pillage Idiot Advisory System. In other words, very immature, with the twist that this features women.

This video is embedded at Jack's Shack, who is solely responsible for its content. Nah, I'm just kidding. Anyone who actually watches it is solely responsible for its content. Take that as a content warning: NSFW.

If you're not at work, click on the image.

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June 18, 2007

Stacking the deck against Justice Thomas

A book-review editor can elicit a positive or negative review of a book (and the subject of the book) simply by choosing a reviewer with known views.

You know all you need to know about the New York Times's feelings toward Justice Clarence Thomas (as if you didn't know it already) when you see that the Times Book Review assigned the review of "Supreme Discomfort, The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas" to Orlando Patterson. Patterson, a respected black intellectual, is a sociologist, not a lawyer. If the Times had had any interest in examining Justice Thomas's legal views, it would not have offered the review to a non-lawyer.

Why is that relevant? Justice Thomas has been a member of the Supreme Court for 15 years and, contrary to the ever-present sneers about his taking orders from Justice Scalia, he has developed a strong and individual jurisprudence over that time. You'd barely know this from reading Patterson's review.

First, Patterson assumes, without bothering to argue for his position, that affirmative action is good. Thus, he suggests that Justice Thomas is, if not a hypocrite, at least a very bad man for not recognizing that he himself was a beneficiary of affirmative action. As part of a longer bill of particulars,* Patterson writes:

It is incontestable that he has benefited from affirmative action at critical moments in his life, yet he denounces the policy and has persuaded himself that it played little part in his success.
But has Patterson even read Justice Thomas's separate opinion in the Grutter case regarding the University of Michigan Law School's admissions program? For Patterson, the legal arguments seem to be irrelevant; he cannot contemplate the possibility that Justice Thomas might be correct. Had a lawyer reviewed the book, the lawyer would have had to give those arguments the respect they deserve, even if he disagreed with Justice Thomas. Patterson does admit that "recent evaluations of his opinions by scholars like Henry Mark Holzer and Scott Douglas Gerber indicate that [the arguments] should be taken seriously," but even this is a cop out, as Patterson himself recognizes when he adds, "Well, by lawyers anyway." Patterson, as I've suggested, cannot be swayed and does not even try to make a pretense of open-mindedness.

Second, when Patterson does try to weigh in on Justice Thomas's opinions, he gets it wrong. Patterson says, about Justice Thomas's 1992 dissent in Hudson v. McMillian, that "notoriously, he has held that beating a prisoner is not unconstitutional punishment because it would not have appeared cruel and unusual to the framers," but that's demonstrably wrong. What Justice Thomas actually wrote is that cruel and unusual punishment was traditionally understood as limited to sentences and that it was not concerned with prison conditions: "For generations, judges and commentators regarded the Eighth Amendment as applying only to torturous punishments meted out by statutes or sentencing judges, and not generally to any hardship that might befall a prisoner during incarceration." The same applied, he explained, to early commentators on the Constitution. This is quite different from saying that prison beatings wouldn't have appeared cruel and unusual to the framers, as Patterson claims he said. Justice Thomas also wrote that in his view, "a use of force that causes only insignificant harm to a prisoner may be immoral, it may be tortious, it may be criminal, and it may even be remediable under other provisions of the Federal Constitution, but it is not 'cruel and unusual punishment.'" That is, the fact that it wasn't cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment didn't make it lawful.

In short, instead of giving Justice Thomas the respectful treatment that any other justice would get, with an analysis of his jurisprudence, the Times stacks the deck against him. Patterson doesn't bother with Justice Thomas's opinions at all, and barely considers his views, except in caricature.

Mission accomplished.

* You really have to read Patterson's entire bill of particulars to believe it:
Thus, although he seriously believes that his extremely conservative legal opinions are in the best interests of African-Americans, and yearns to be respected by them, he is arguably one of the most viscerally despised people in black America. It is incontestable that he has benefited from affirmative action at critical moments in his life, yet he denounces the policy and has persuaded himself that it played little part in his success. He berates disadvantaged people who view themselves as victims of racism and preaches an austere individualism, yet harbors self-pitying feelings of resentment and anger at his own experiences of racism. His ardent defense of states’ rights would have required him to uphold Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law, not to mention segregated education, yet he lives with a white wife in Virginia. He is said to dislike light-skinned blacks, yet he is the legal guardian of a biracial child, the son of one of his numerous poor relatives. He frequently preaches the virtues of honesty and truthfulness, yet there is now little doubt that he lied repeatedly during his confirmation hearings — not only about his pornophilia and bawdy humor but, more important, about his legal views and familiarity with cases like Roe v. Wade.
Most of this is grotesquery. For example, Justice Thomas's respect for state power does not mean he would ignore the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and allow an anti-miscegenation law to stand. And there may be "little doubt" at Harvard that he lied at his conformation hearings, but those outside the academic Left have great doubt indeed.

Click here to read more . . .

June 17, 2007

De minimis non curat lex?

(Note: Thanks, Allah, for the link at HotAir. Ace, too.)

The New York tabloids are having a field day with a settlement between an East Village artist and the City over her arrest for going out topless on the street.

The artist, Jill Coccaro, "who now goes by the name Phoenix Feeley" (no immature jokes, please), relied on a 1992 decision of the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, which held that prohibiting women, but not men, from going topless violated equal protection.

In case you think I'm making that decision up, it really exists. I found a copy of the decision at a nudist "naturist" website, and it's totally for real.

The majority per curiam opinion tries to avoid the constitutional issue by making an analogy to a different statute that was intended to address the problem of topless waitresses (and I know many of you don't think that's a "problem" at all). So it holds that ordinary toplessness by ordinary women is not covered by the statute. Did I just say "not covered"?

The concurring opinion proceeds to get all funky.
Appellants and the five other women who were arrested with them were prosecuted for doing something that would have been permissible, or at least not punishable under the penal laws, if they had been men--they removed their tops in a public park, exposing their breasts in a manner that all agree was neither lewd nor intended to annoy or harass. As a result of this conduct, which was apparently part of an effort to dramatize their opposition to the law, appellants were prosecuted under Penal Law § 245.01, which provides that a person is guilty of the petty offense of "exposure" when he or she "appears in a public place in such a manner that the private or intimate parts of his [or her] body are unclothed or exposed." The statute goes on to state that, for purposes of this prohibition, "the private or intimate parts of a female person shall include that portion of the breast which is below the top of the areola."1 The statute thus creates a clear gender-based classification, triggering scrutiny under equal protection principles (see, Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190, 97 S.Ct. 451, 50 L.Ed.2d 397).
OK, now comes the fun part. The concurrence says that "the State has the burden of showing that the classification is substantially related to the achievement of an important governmental objective," which probably isn't too hard to meet if you accept the idea that women and men have different "intimate parts," but if you're a lawyer, that's way too simple. And it didn't help that the State failed to mount any defense of the statute.

So here's the concurrence:
Although protecting public sensibilities is a generally legitimate goal for legislation (see, e.g., People v. Hollman, supra), it is a tenuous basis for justifying a legislative classification that is based on gender, race or any other grouping that is associated with a history of social prejudice (see, Mississippi Univ. for Women v. Hogan, 458 U.S. 718, 725 102 S.Ct. 3331, 3336, 73 L.Ed.2d 1090 ["(c)are must be taken in ascertaining whether the statutory objective itself reflects archaic and stereotypic notions"]). Indeed, the concept of "public sensibility" itself, when used in these contexts, may be nothing more than a reflection of commonly-held preconceptions and biases.
This is totally hilarious. Treating biological differences between men and women differently is a reflection of bias? I have a friend who took an employment discrimination class with the famous Catherine MacKinnon, who was insisting that all distinctions between men and women were socially constructed. At the break, he asked her whether this applied to male voice changes after puberty. Her response was that we are acculturated (I can't remember the exact word she used) to believe that post-pubescent males have lower voices.

So according to the concurrence in the New York Court of Appeals, the fact that female breasts are significantly different from male breasts (vive la difference!) bears no relationship to whether it's permissible to require them to be covered.

Next question for the Court of Appeals: Does a law requiring that male and female genitalia be covered violate equal protection because women aren't required to cover their penises and men their pudenda?

And as long as we're raising questions, why did the New York Post, which obviously thought it was just great for Phoenix Feeley to go out topless on the streets of Manhattan, show a photo of her with her hair covering her breasts? Paging Daniel Henninger.

Click here to read more . . .

The photo that made Kos's head explode

This photo appears in the RJC Bulletin, dated May - June 2007, which just arrived in the mail. Lieberman was speaking about the need to win in Iraq.

That explosion you hear . . .

UPDATE (6/18): In response to Bruce's comment about Lieberman, I'm offering a link to my photo comic of Ned Lamont.

Click here to read more . . .

Carnival of Maryland -- 9th edition

The Carnival of Maryland, ninth edition, is now up at Technosailor, courtesy of Aaron Brazell, who's the honorary tech guru of the Maryland Blogger Alliance. Go take a read.

Click here to read more . . .

June 14, 2007

Dream on

According to the latest asinine study, women dream about sex just as often as men do, about 8 percent. (via HotAir) The big difference, the study reports, is that:

Men's sex dreams were twice as likely to involve trysts with multiple partners, and were more likely to take place in public.

Women were twice as likely to dream about sex with public figures, according to the researchers.
I say this is asinine, because the frequency is obviously wrong. Men dream about sex roughly 100 percent of the time, not 8 percent. Women can't possibly dream about it that often. We already know that men think about sex every 52 seconds while they're awake, and women think about it once a day.

And if you're still in doubt about the study's validity, listen to the author: "'Observed gender differences may be indicative of different waking needs, experiences, desires and attitudes with respect to sexuality,' said Antonio Zadra, the study's author, in a press release." I could tell you what that is, but it would be more than a fleeting expletive.

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Good question

When the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the FCC's fining of broadcasters for "fleeting expletives" was arbitrary and capricious, the newspapers hailing the decision were oddly coy about quoting the expletives in question. As Daniel Henninger notes:

After the decision, editorialists and columnists in newspapers everywhere mocked the FCC's "moralists" and "language police" for its provably quixotic effort to suppress the most commonly used words--today--in our language. Nevertheless, virtually none of these newspapers could bring themselves to rearrange the famous four letters--k, f, c, u and h, t, s, i--into either word, instead publishing them as f*** and s*** or resorting to euphemisms: "highly pungent," "oft-heard vulgar words" and "celebrity cursing at awards shows."
For example, Henninger refers to "the New York Times' dainty account of the case, wherein Mr. 'Cheney was widely reported to have muttered an angry, profane version of "get lost" to Senator Patrick Leahy.'"

He then poses this question: "So what explanation remains for not printing the words in full? Good taste?" That's the Wall Street Journal's reason, he says. But what about other newspapers' reasons? Can it be that "perhaps deep in the primeval corner of the editorial soul sits the sense that somehow there really is something not quite right with promoting verbal f'ng and s'ng in public?"

Henninger doesn't succumb to the temptation to mock this as hypocritcal. Which actually could be appropriate, because, as Oscar Wilde did not say (but La Rochefoucauld did), hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.

Click here to read more . . .

June 13, 2007

Maureen Dowd, pwn3d

As a dead-tree subscriber to the New York Times (I blame my wife, who succumbs to just that one vice), I have free access to Times Select, but I almost never read Maureen Dowd. If I have to explain why, maybe you should just scroll down to the next post. I also almost never read letters to the editor of the Times, because they're totally insufferable, like the editorial pages themselves.

But I did both of these things today, and I'm glad I did.

Steven Berkowitz, a letter writer in today's Times, gets 100% of the credit for puncturing Dowd's balloon, for totally pwning her. Dowd began her most recent column (behind the Times Select firewall) this way:

Be honest. Who would you rather share a foxhole with: a gay soldier or Mitt Romney?

A gay soldier, of course. In a dicey situation like that, you need someone steadfast who knows who he is and what he believes, even if he’s not allowed to say it out loud.

Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue, as the gloriously gay Oscar Wilde said. And gays are the sacrifice that hypocritical Republican candidates offer to placate “values” voters — even though some candidates are not so finicky about morals regarding their own affairs and divorces.
As Berkowitz notes, however, that wasn't Oscar Wilde's line at all. "Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue" (which, by the way, is a brilliant observation) belongs to La Rochefoucauld, as even an elementary Google search would have disclosed, to say nothing of actually cracking open a dictionary of quotations.

But that would have distracted from Dowd's narrative, which is that a line from a gay author showed that Romney is a hypocrite on gays in the military, as are all the other Republican presidential candidates. (She, on the other hand, thinks the war in Iraq is a crime, but it's a scandal that gays aren't allowed to die in it.)

Berkowitz doesn't make the point I've just made, but he does cite an excellent anecdote about Wilde that makes Dowd look even more foolish. I cited the same anecdote in a post of mine back in January. From Berkowitz's letter:
Wilde was known to take credit for the wit of others. There is the perhaps apocryphal story of Wilde’s saying, upon hearing a comment made by the American artist James McNeill Whistler, “I wish I had said that,” to which Whistler replied, “You will, Oscar, you will.”
So if you're Maureen Dowd, just ask yourself: Was today a good or a bad day?

Click here to read more . . .

A toast for the "cucumber people"

I've been mining the fracas over the sex-ed curriculum in Montgomery County for humor for about two years (see this, this and links collected here), and, frankly, I'm sick of the whole thing.

It was amusing for a while to refer to the proponents as the "cucumber people" for their insistence on showing an MTV-style instructional video in which a condom was placed on a cucumber. (It's now placed on a wooden phallus, by the way, following extended negotiations. "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.")

But yesterday, the county Board approved the curriculum, with a last-minute change on teaching homosexuality that unsurprisingly ticked off the curriculum opponents. And, sadly for me, the whole matter is all just totally boring now.

Except for this amazing news for the "cucumber people": Pepsi is offering cucumber-flavored soda in Japan, and it's called "Pepsi Ice Cucumber."

So to all the proponents of the new sex-ed curriculum, I say: Drink a toast with "Pepsi Ice Cucumber." And when you're finished, you can slip a condom over that bottle.

Click here to read more . . .

Those pills

How does the stuff of spam end up in a full-page ad in a respected magazine?

My look at this will be a little rambling, unlike my usual clear and logical prose. But I think I'm going to end up in the place I want to be, so please bear with me. I'm putting this in the extended post, so feel free to scroll down without reading it.

In my family -- in fact, in my extended family -- I'm the tech guy, for better or worse. I was always told that kids know how to deal with technology far better than adults, but while my kids enjoy using technology, they don't really care much about how it works. And to add insult to injury, I do tech support for them.

It's not just computers, mind you. Last week, our freezer's automatic ice maker, which had been turning out only a few anemic "cubes" each day, passed over the line from "not working very well" to "hardly working at all." So my wife persuaded me to take a look at it. Now, when it comes to refrigerators and freezers, my usual practice is, as Dave Barry might say, to look at it and frown in a thoughtful manner, as if I have a clue what I'm looking at. This time, however, I figured maybe I'd tinker with the thing. I went downstairs and shut off the valve to the small copper pipe that brings water up to the freezer. I pulled the refrigerator away from the wall and examined the place where the pipe connects and the place where the plastic tube goes into the freezer. My theory was that there was an ice blockage in the larger plastic tube inside the freezer, but it seemed totally inaccessible to me. After about 15 minutes of frowning, I told my wife we should call the repairman -- an experienced, nice, helpful, and relatively inexpensive fellow I'd recommend to anyone in this area.

After making this sage pronouncement, I pushed the refrigerator back to the wall and went downstairs to turn the valve back on. As I was turning it, I remembered that the last time I opened it, there was a slight leak, so I turned it carefully and got ready to adjust it to stop the leak. For some reason, there was no leak, and I kept turning and turning until it was all the way to the end.

Surprisingly, this story has a happy ending. The next morning, we found a large quantity of full-sized ice in the freezer's ice bucket. I told my wife it looked as if, in a reversal of Pharoah's dream, the seven healthy ice had eaten the seven sickly ice. And amazingly enough, we've had a full bucket of ice ever since. "The accidental repairman," I call myself.

Now, getting back to computers, I've been reading computer magazines for more than a decade, even though a lot of what's in there is way above my head. Right now, I subscribe to three. I don't know what their readership demographics are, but I would describe PC Magazine as a publication catering to earnest and somewhat boring people who treat their computer as an appliance -- the magazine has an emphasis on the practical. The second, CPU (which is short for Computer Power User), is targeted to serious hardware fiends who have a good technical background. This magazine is way above my abilities, but I still find one or two useful tidbits every month. Besides, I started subscribing because I know one of the columnists, who is the brother of someone I went to school with. I mean, I knew him when he was a teenager.

The third magazine, Maximum PC, is probably the most interesting of the three to me. I used to subscribe to the late, unlamented Home PC, which, as I recall, my son sold me when he was a Cub Scout. When Home PC went out of business nearly 10 years ago, its subscription list was purchased by the company that published Maximum PC (which was previously known as boot). Maximum PC seemed like a bad fit for mild-mannered Home PC subscribers, or so it seemed at first. I was a little startled by the magazine's attitude. It boasted, "Maximum PC, Minimum BS," and it offered "Kick Ass" awards to some of the hardware it reviewed. In general, it seemed to appeal to the younger crowd, rather than to the geezer crowd that Home PC was marketed to.

Fortunately, I let it ride for a couple of months, and I actually began to enjoy the magazine. While some of the attitude was juvenile, even by my standards, it was coupled with an irreverent approach to an industry that evoked too much "gee whiz" already. To give you an example from the current issue (July 2007), Maximum PC invited three of its editors to try to hack several different parental control programs, and it reported on their strategies and successes.

Now, I've told you that to tell you this: Maximum PC's July issue also has a remarkable ad near the back. I'm going to give you a content warning about it: Subject matter arguably NSFW, photo borderline NSFW. If you want to read it, click here for a scanned copy.

I fully understand that magazines rely on advertising to bring in revenue; subscription revenue doesn't pay the bills. Still.

This ad says a lot about what the advertiser thinks of the reader demographics -- young, insecure, and gullible. But I wonder whether the magazine's decision to run it might indicate that the magazine has the same view of its demographic. Or else, the lure of the advertising dollar is too great.

For what it's worth, I checked over at the magazine's forums, and there's a thread about this ad, and the editor of the magazine asked that anyone who objected to the ad send him an email. Most of the participants in the thread were joking about the ad, but one participant wondered whether a magazine that has a feature warning readers about web scams should be advertising with people who promote web scams. Another participant pointed out that the editors and the advertising people don't have a direct relationship.

So I'm left to ponder whether magazines should place limits on what they're willing to do to sell their advertising space. Somehow, I think the answer is yes, at least as it applies to "enhancement" ads.

Click here to read more . . .

June 12, 2007

Happy Fathers' Day

I can't possibly do justice to this idiotically cute article in the Science section of the New York Times about sperm. Yes, sperm: "Sleek, Fast and Focused: The Cells That Make Dad Dad."

I don't even want to try.

Certainly not with an article that starts this way:

We are fast approaching Father’s Day, the festive occasion on which we plague Dad with yet another necktie or collect phone call and just generally strive to remind the big guy of the central verity of paternity — that it’s a lot more fun to become a father than to be one.
And ends this way, after discussing the mechanics of fertilization:
The wheels are in motion. How do you like your new tie?
It's not even worth doing the Beavis and Butthead review of the article. ("Heh, heh, heh, she said 'strokes.'") Finally, it's not worth groaning over lines like these: "Sperm do not really hit their stride until they are deposited in the female reproductive tract * * *." "The ovum eggs them on * * *."

And there's not even a single mention of the female orgasm. What a total waste of ink!

Click here to read more . . .

Another geezer pin-up calendar

I had to emit a loud yawn when I read this headline: "Elderly Pa. Women Pose For Risque Photos." (via a commenter at Ace's)

Giving sultry looks and sexy smiles to the camera, 12 Pittsburgh-area women recently posed at Monongahela historical sites, baring it all -- or almost all -- to create a charity-driven calendar. The catch?

The nearly nude ladies are all in their 70s and 80s, driven to adventure by a desire to raise money for a historical society in Monongahela, a small community 17 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
Well, I really did emit a yawn, which was followed by a vague sense of unease about the imagery. But I had to be very careful about it. Knowing women, if my wife had noticed my sense of unease, she would have assumed I was criticizing her appearance several decades in advance.

But surely, if geezer men can do pin-up calendars, so can geezer women. And besides, it seems that everyone is doing calendars these days.

And consider this:
"One of the advantages of being old is that you can do anything you want and get away with it," said 80-year-old Lois Phillips, who as Miss September was photographed in the back seat of a 1968 Mercury convertible.
Hey, that sounds just about right: Get away!

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June 11, 2007

And loving it

Tomorrow being the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Loving v. Virginia, which struck down a state ban on interracial marriage, Jeff Goldstein decided to have a conversation with Senator Robert Byrd’s (D-WV) Grand Kleagle hood.

I highly recommend it. And stay with it to the very end.

Click here to read more . . .

Death and deterrence

It's a little bit of an oversimplification, but most proponents and opponents of capital punishment fall into one of two categories: the moralists or the practicalists. In fact, I'd venture that the people who care most about the issue -- on both sides -- fall predominantly within the moralist category.

For death-penalty opponents, this means they are opposed because it's always wrong to kill (which is a moralist argument whether offered by the religious or the non-religious); or because the power to kill should not be given to the government (this is a libertarian view that I used to hold); or because there is a risk of error, and any risk of error is too much in capital punishment; or because the system might be racially biased. All of these are moralist arguments, including the risk of error argument, which sounds like a practical argument but necessarily makes the moral judgment that, whatever the justification for death may be in the run of cases, we cannot risk the possibility that an innocent person will be executed.

For death-penalty proponents, the moralist arguments focus on the penological goal of retribution. They include arguments that murder is evil and must be eradicated; and that society has an obligation to affirm the value of innocent life by imposing a unique punishment, depriving those who deny the value of innocent life of their own lives. There are others, though they tend to sound like the two I've mentioned.

The practicalists on both sides, in contrast, wonder about general and specific deterrence. They wonder whether an alternative of life without parole is an adequate substitute for death. They wonder what happens if a murderer is confined to prison and murders again, either in prison or after early release.

So the practicalists may be very interested to learn that "a series of academic studies over the last half-dozen years that claim to settle a once hotly debated argument -- whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. The analyses say yes."

More specifically:

Among the conclusions:

-- Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University. (Other studies have estimated the deterred murders per execution at three, five and 14).
Among the conclusions:

-- The Illinois moratorium on executions in 2000 led to 150 additional homicides over four years following, according to a 2006 study by professors at the University of Houston.

-- Speeding up executions would strengthen the deterrent effect. For every 2.75 years cut from time spent on death row, one murder would be prevented, according to a 2004 study by an Emory University professor.
The article I've quoted notes that the studies are not without their critics, but I suspect that this is always true, regardless whether the studies support the pro or the con.

The question is what effect these conclusions, assuming they are shown to be correct, have on the moralists. I suspect that opponents would see little to change their views. If it's always wrong to kill, the utilitarian argument that killing a murderer prevents other deaths doesn't persuade. On the other hand, if the argument is that there is too much risk of error, one might end up conceding the possibility that these studies could be relevant.
The studies' conclusions drew a philosophical response from a well-known liberal law professor, University of Chicago's Cass Sunstein. A critic of the death penalty, in 2005 he co-authored a paper titled "Is capital punishment morally required?"

"If it's the case that executing murderers prevents the execution of innocents by murderers, then the moral evaluation is not simple," he told The Associated Press. "Abolitionists or others, like me, who are skeptical about the death penalty haven't given adequate consideration to the possibility that innocent life is saved by the death penalty."
And what of the moralist proponents of capital punishment (of whom I'm an example)? The answer is that we would welcome the refutation of practical arguments against the death penalty, but we would still think deterrence (at least general deterrence, which is, after all, the focus of these studies) is largely irrelevant. I've never really thought of the general deterrence argument as much a justification for capital punishement, so proof of a deterrent effect wouldn't bolster my views, just as the proof of no deterrent effect wouldn't make me doubt the benefit of capital punishment.

So let a thousand academic studies bloom. Proving a deterrent effect may help the politics from my perspective by undermining the opponents withthe general public, and I don't want to minimize that, but otherwise it doesn't really mean a lot to me, and I suspect (Cass Sunstein notwithstanding) that it doesn't mean a lot to the moralists among the opponents, either.

Click here to read more . . .

June 10, 2007

Don't ask, don't bomb

Although -- or perhaps because -- I'm a big fan of "Get Smart," I never saw the film "The Nude Bomb" when it came out to horrible reviews in 1980. No Barbara Feldon (too old), no Edward Platt (too deceased), so what was the point? And the premise was that someone had developed a "nude bomb" that destroyed clothing. How ridiculous was that idea?

Perhaps not so ridiculous, after all. It turns out that our military was at one point doing R&D on a "Gay Bomb," a "hormone bomb that could purportedly turn enemy soldiers into homosexuals and make them more interested in sex than fighting." (via HotAir)

The Pentagon told CBS 5 that the proposal was made by the Air Force in 1994.

"The Department of Defense is committed to identifying, researching and developing non-lethal weapons that will support our men and women in uniform," said a DOD spokesperson, who indicated that the "gay bomb" idea was quickly dismissed.

It's too bad this idea was dismissed, because it has such a high humor quotient. Though out of deference to my gay readers, let me just say that the humor wouldn't have been funny.

Click here to read more . . .

June 08, 2007

Never mind!

Here's the checklist for the Annapolis Police's raid, conducted on an apartment by 12 to 15 masked and armed officers:

  • Break down door? CHECK!

  • Set off percussion grenade? CHECK!

  • Kick occupant in the groin? CHECK!

  • Make sure you have the right apartment? Hmmmm, wait a minute...
I wish I could report that this didn't really happen, but it did.

In a classic understatement, the Baltimore Sun described the Salvadoran couple in the apartment as "startled" when police broke in. Rivaling the Sun's understatement is this one from the mayor of Annapolis:
"I do know there was a mistake. That is not good," said Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer.
Unfortunately, these botched raids really do happen, and often it's through innocent mistakes. But it certainly wasn't a good day to be the spokesman for the Annapolis Police.
"We don't know how the mistake was made," said Officer Hal Dalton, city police spokesman.

"Something went wrong in the briefing before the operation.

Regrettably it happens, not very often to us, but it happens."
Dalton said that the warrant "was factually correct," but since the address where the raid took place was wrong, I have to assume this means that either the police misread the correct address on the warrant, or they simply went into the wrong building.

I'm not quite sure which is stranger: the fact that the Sun article is accompanied by a photo of the broken-down door or the fact that it's graced by an ad for Ryan Homes.

UPDATE (6/10): For some reason, this made an impression on me when I read about it 20 years ago in an article by Lyle Denniston.

The Supreme Court decided a case called Maryland v. Garrison, in 1987, in which Baltimore police had obtained a warrant to search the third floor apartment at a particular address for marijuana. When they arrived, they found out that there were two apartments on the third floor, and realized they were searching the wrong one. But while they were there, they had discovered marijuana in the apartment. The Maryland Court of Appeals reversed the conviction of the resident of the wrong apartment on the ground that the search was illegal.

At oral argument in the Supreme Court, defense counsel was answering a series of questions about why it was necessary to throw out the conviction in a case like this. The justice asking the questions is not identified in the transcript, but my recollection, having read about the argument way back when, is that it was Justice Scalia, and the context supports that.

Defense counsel, a rather brash sort, did something I wouldn't recommend to appellate advocates. Read this excerpt from the transcript:
MR. KROOP: That is true. I am not arguing the facts. I am not saying that the police didn't act reasonably. I think they did, as far as what was in front of them.

QUESTION: Mr. Kroop, it is no big deal in this case. I mean, we are just talking about a little bit of marijuana, right, but --

MR. KROOP: Well, no.

QUESTION: -- your argument would be the same had they found -- had they found in walking into the wrong apartment, which they thought was the right one, they are behaving properly, and they find a murderer there, the same thing would be the case. You have to let the fellow go.

MR. KROOP: Absolutely.

QUESTION: You don't want to reward them for their mistake.

MR. KROOP: That's correct.

QUESTION: And therefore you have to turn the murderer loose.

MR. KROOP: That's correct. The Court of Appeals --

QUESTION: Because otherwise you would be rewarding them for their mistake.

MR. KROOP: No, because we want to look out to the future to protect the other people. Sure, one murderer may go free.

QUESTION: You are not protecting anybody. These people are doing all that they possibly could. What are you protecting them from?

MR. KROOP: I don't agree with that. I don't think the police did all they could in this case.

QUESTION: Well, now you are arguing whether it was reasonable or not, but we are assuming it was reasonable.

MR. KROOP: I am saying assuming arguendo it was, I still believe without any equivocation --

QUESTION: Who are you protecting then? They are going to make the same mistake in the future.

MR. KROOP: I am protecting you when you go into your chambers so when the police walk in for a warrant for Chief Justice Rehnquist they don't bungle into yours by mistake.
I'm sure he thought he was being funny with that last quip, but I'm also sure it fell completely flat.

Click here to read more . . .

June 07, 2007

Help wanted?

"Have Sex While You Sleep"

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June 05, 2007

London Olympics logo

This is the official logo for the London Olympics, 2012, about which Bryan Preston at Hot Air reasonably opined: "It might be the ugliest Olympic logo ever." I think it's supposed to represent "2012."

It's so bad that the Beeb has links to alternatives supplied by readers. More here.

It's so bad that one Hot Air commenter wrote, "Is it supposed to look like 2 dudes having sex?"

So, despite my lack of imagination and my even greater lack of time, I've decided to add my two cents, which is approximately equal to one British pence. Here is my work in progress. I think Abu Hamza should be carrying a sign of some sort in his craw, or possibly be holding the Olympic rings there. This'll have to do for now.

A couple of Hot Air commenters used "Londonistan," which is not bad, but I'm going to stick with London.

Click here to read more . . .


It's been a little while, but now it's time for a linkfest.

1. This one's been lazing around in my in-box for a few days, kind of like your dog, who sleeps about 23/7. Cafe Press has removed G-strings and tee shirts for dogs that had pictures of Buddha on them out of possible offense to the Thais, who are acting more and more like Muslims every day. The article notes that "items depicting Jesus and Shiva remained." What a surprise! (hat tip: fee simple) Image and video at this link.

And in case you were wondering, another article on the subject says that "Top underwear designer Victoria's Secret withdraw [sic] bikinis emblazoned with Buddha images after similar protests in 2004." First they came for Muhammed thongs, and I said nothing. Then they came for Buddha thongs. Well, you get the idea.

2. I've been wondering why I've been getting lots of hits lately based on searches for Hillary and plastic surgery. Now I know. (via Hot Air)

3. In case that link isn't stupid enough for you, try this: Another column by Margery Eagan, this time about the wives of Republican candidates for president, with an emphasis on their "ample - and aging - display of decolletage." (also via Hot Air)

4. Speaking of aging, if you think getting older means you can't be a badass dude any more, think again. A guy on a plane starts acting all weird, and a 65-year-old former police commander takes charge, accompanied by a retired U.S. Marine captain of unspecified age. (We can surmise he was not young; the two were referred to as "grandfathers" and he had been married for 42 years, about which more in a second.)

The former police commander:

"I had looked around the plane for help, and all the younger guys had averted their eyes. When I asked the guy next to me if he was up to it, all he said was, 'Retired captain. USMC.' I said, 'You'll do,' " Hayden recalled. "So, basically, a couple of grandfathers took care of the situation."
And this is classic. The retired Marine captain's wife of 42 years:

Hayden's wife of 42 years, Katie, who was also on the flight, was less impressed. Even as her husband struggled with the agitated passenger, she barely looked up from "The Richest Man in Babylon," the book she was reading.

"The woman sitting in front of us was very upset and asked me how I could just sit there reading," Katie Hayden said. "Bob's been shot at. He's been stabbed. He's taken knives away. He knows how to handle those situations. I figured he would go up there and step on somebody's neck, and that would be the end of it. I knew how that situation would end. I didn't know how the book would end."
Guys, that's how you know your marriage is a good one. (via Fark)

Click here to read more . . .

June 04, 2007

Dog smarts

There's the old Gary Larson Far Side cartoon....

What we say to dogs: Okay, Ginger! I've had it! You stay out of the garbage! Understand, Ginger? Stay out of the garbage, or else!

What they hear: blah blah GINGER blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah GINGER blah blah blah blah blah...
But it turns out that dogs are highly sophisticated thinkers, about on a level of a 14-month human, if you can believe this article from the Washington Post ("What Were They Thinking? More Than We Knew.") Many dogs in an experiment used their paws to do tasks instead of their mouths, but only when the dog they were imitating had its mouth free. If the dog had its mouth occupied, the other dogs assumed it was using its paws because it had to. If its mouth was unoccupied, they realized there must be a reason it was using its paws instead of its mouth.

So here's the update of the Larson cartoon:
What they say: Woof woof woof woof woof.

What they mean: One can even set up quite ridiculous cases. A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): in a Geiger counter there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small, that perhaps in the course of the hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges and through a relay releases a hammer which shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid. If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The psi-function of the entire system would express this by having in it the living and dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts.
But just try getting your dog to explain quantum mechanics.

Click here to read more . . .

Headline of the day

"Teens spared in impotent ostrich case"

Associated Press, June 4, 2007

(Friday's winner from Reuters: "Man falls off balcony in spitting contest")

Click here to read more . . .

Carnival of Maryland -- 8th edition

The eighth edition of the Carnival of Maryland is up at Talk Lab. Go check it out.

By the way, this logo was provided courtesy of Charlie Dowd, of Charles Dowd Designs (and C. Dowd's Blog). If you like it, you should check his site to see what else he was to offer.

Click here to read more . . .

June 03, 2007

Playground taunt

Sometimes when you read what passes for thought at a major newspaper, you kind of wish that things could be resolved the way they were on the playground, with two guys wrestling each other to the ground and punching away. Because, let's face it, sometimes what you see on the editorial pages of the New York Times is so totally inane, so full of knee-jerk verbiage not even beginning to resemble argumentation, that any response in words would merely dignify it.

Case in point: Today's editorial by Adam Cohen about why Justice Thomas is a very bad man, because he isn't using his position on the court to enshrine liberal policies in the Constitution or federal statutes: "The Next Big Thing in Law? The Harsh Jurisprudence of Justice Thomas."

If you don't feel like reading it, read Matthew J. Franck's synopsis at Bench Memos instead.

And if you'd prefer the really short version, try the really short version by David Bernstein at The Volokh Conspiracy:

Liberals are good people. Conservatives are bad people. Clarence Thomas, who is black and grew up under modest circumstances, and once was liberal himself, should be the first one to realize this. Instead, not only is he conservative, but he hangs around with bad people like Rush Limbaugh. This is an enigma, and an especially troubling one now that the Court is moving in Thomas's direction.
Now, go and consider whether a careful, intellectual response is better than an old-fashioned response to a playground taunt.

Click here to read more . . .

Scwewy wabbit

This fella was posing for me, sitting patiently in the drizzle, in front of my house.

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"Poop!" "Doesn't count!"

How immature do you have to be to find this Bud Light commercial (embedded here) funny? I don't know, but however immature it is, I'm at least at that level.

Listen to it at least twice. It actually grows on you. (Turn down the sound if you're at work.)

Of course, Allah is correct that "it won't change the fact that Bud Light tastes like godda%&ed p#$s."

Click here to read more . . .