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August 31, 2008

Sarah Palin is evil

Now that morons like John Kerry are comparing Sarah Palin to Dick Cheney (via HotAir), someone had to do this, and why not me? (with apologies to Bert is Evil)

UPDATE: Getting quite a few hits for "Sarah Palin is an idiot" and similar searches. To those of you who have arrived here that way, you'll really hate some of my previous political stuff: my Obama posts, my Hillary posts, and my Bill Clinton posts. Here's one post that knocks McCain. Not exactly equal opportunity, but there you go.

UPDATE (9/3): Up to nearly 300 hits. So I'll give you more evidence Sarah Palin is evil.

UPDATE (9/9): Well, we're approaching 1,000 search visitors now, nearly half of whom were searching for "Sarah Palin is evil" or a variant.

UPDATE (9/17): We get comments.

Click here to read more . . .

August 28, 2008

Lightning will come shooting

Sometimes I give you linkfests, but I think this one deserves its own mini-post.

With Obama, the divine one, giving his speech tonight in front of a Greek temple, I thought we could all use a little photoshop from S. Weasel. (Mild content warning.)

And do not -- repeat, do not -- neglect to scroll through the comments, where there are additional photoshops (my personal favorite being the third one, at 5:22 p.m.).

Click here to read more . . .

August 27, 2008

Hillary's PUMAs get their roll-call vote

What follows is a partial transcript of the historic roll-call vote.


VOICE (coming over loudspeaker): . . . and Alabama gives 27 votes to Barack Obama. (Wild cheering.)

PUMA 1 (speaking into microphone): And 25 votes for Hillary Rodham Clinton!

VOICE: And 5 votes for Hillary Clinton. (Some cheering. A few female screams are heard.)

PUMA 1: No, no! It's 25 votes.

VOICE: What?

PUMA 1: 25 votes.

VOICE: I can't hear you.

PUMA 1: 25 votes for Hillary from Alabama.

VOICE: We'll straighten it out later.

DIFFERENT VOICE: The great state of Alaska gives 10 votes to Barack Obama, the next president of the United States. (Loud cheering.)

VOICE: Alaska has 10 votes for Barack Obama.

PUMA 2 (into microphone): And 3 votes for Hillary Clinton.

VOICE: What?

PUMA 3: She said Alaska has 3 votes for Hillary Clinton.

VOICE: I can't hear you.

PUMA 1: The acoustics in here are awful.

PUMA 2: The sound echoes all over.

PUMA 4 (shouting into microphone): Did you hear that? Alaska has 3 votes for Hillary?

VOICE: I still can't hear you.

(The sound of a toilet flushing.)

PUMA 3: Damn it, Brian! It's hard enough for them to hear us in here. Can't you wait?

PUMA 1: And there are women here, too.

BRIAN: Sorry. It was the coffee.

Click here to read more . . .

Teacher of the year

And quotation of the day:

"She's the best," said Chad Meyers, a sophomore at Virginia Tech, who graduated from Wootton in 2007. "Everyone loved her," he said. "She's such a sweetheart."
In my day you needed a parent's note to get aspirin.

Click here to read more . . .

August 26, 2008

If Barack Obama were Jewish, instead of the Second Coming of Jesus, Part 6

Obama (shouting into his cell phone): No . . . no . . . Bill, no . . . Bill . . . I know, Bill . . . listen to me . . . sha shtil . . . listen, Bill, you're . . . you're the last goddam Democratic president . . . and . . . and . . . and people look up to you, so . . . yeah, Bill . . . and it's my damned convention now, Bill . . . yeah . . . and you can't . . . you can't say that s---, you know . . . about . . . about supporting some other candidate who . . . who can deliver . . . no, Bill . . . no . . . no, don't give me that crap . . . I heard . . . I heard what you said . . . Bill . . . Bill, I thought we had a deal . . . and . . . what do I get, huh? . . . I'll tell you . . . bupkes . . . that's what I've got from you . . . and . . . and . . . no, Bill . . . no, don't try to tell me it was . . . it was hypothetical . . . 'cause I wasn't born yesterday, Bill . . . no, Bill, you're trying to . . . to do me in . . . why, Bill? . . . why? . . . Bill? . . . Bill??!! . . . UCCH, mamzer hung up on me again . . .


UPDATE (8/27): And now, HotAir has the video.

Click here to read more . . .

Anagram time once again

The names OBAMA and BIDEN seem to work well with Boggle, but I wanted to try to get some anagrams out of them, too.

BAD NAME, BIO (Obama himself)
BAD BIO, MEAN (Obama and Biden)
I BOMB A DEAN (the semi-official Bill Ayers anagram)
NAB MOB AIDE (the inevitable Chicago anagram)

If you add first names, as in BARACK OBAMA / JOE BIDEN, you can come up with a few doozies.


Well, that's all I had time for this morning. Feel free to add yours in the comments.

Previous: Anagrams. More anagrams here and here. And "Columbia Journalism Review mocks Pillage Idiot."

Click here to read more . . .

August 24, 2008

Joe Biden works with his speechwriter

Through the miracle of electronic eavesdropping, we here at Pillage Idiot were privy to a conversation between Joe Biden and the speechwriter he's using to draft his acceptance speech as the vice presidential nominee at the Democratic convention this week in Denver.

Here is a partial transcript.

SW: I do understand, Senator. I see what you're trying to do. But . . .

Biden: Don't "but" me like that, Butthead. I've served in the Senate since before you were born.

SW: Technically, Senator, I don't think . . .

Biden: You don't think, is right. I'm the one who thinks here. Remember that.

SW: What I was saying was, I see what you're trying to do, but you really can't start your speech with "Four score and seven years ago."

Biden: What's wrong with it? Language a little . . . archaic?

SW: No . . .

Biden: Because it wouldn't work for me to say "87 years ago." I mean, try it. "87 years ago, our fathers and mothers brought forth . . ." No, it just wouldn't work.

SW: I realize . . .

Biden: You don't realize anything. Listen to me. I got simultaneous law degrees at Harvard, Yale, and Oxford. I'm the one who realizes.

SW: I realize that, Senator.

Biden: Don't you understand what an important year 1921 was?

SW: Yes, but . . .

Biden: There you go, "but"-ting me again.

SW: But Senator, there are millions of people who will be watching your speech. If you start it with "Four score and seven years ago," people will . . . they'll think . . .

Biden: People don't think. They're like you.

SW: They'll know where that line . . .

Biden: Get this through your thick skull. My IQ is at least two score and ten points higher than yours.

SW: All right, OK. But can't we at least take out the part about dedicating a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives? Please?

Click here to read more . . .

Dress code

I went to law school some years ago. When I was there, professors typically wore dark suits, or at least a shirt and tie. One prof had made waves a few years earlier by insisting on wearing jeans, because he was cool beyond words.

It seems to be different on law faculties these days. I say this based on this blog post at "The Shark" (apparently a blog at Hastings Law School) about an article that a law professor is publishing in a law review, in which he advocates a dress code among the law faculty:

Prof. Jensen (left) accuses denim-clad professors of "trying—unsuccessfully—to look as young as students" and suggests that academics are the "worst-dressed middle-class occupation group in America." Apparently, if professors send a "signal of seriousness, of civility" by wearing a tie or tweed pants or maybe even a robe of some kind "students will pick it up."

Students are a hopeless group themselves, according to Jensen. He indicates that although he can't turn back the clock to a time when students did a better job of covering themselves up, he wishes he could.
Regarding student attire, The Shark's item quotes a student commenting at another law blog:

Whale-tail is no more distracting than attractive classmates in general, both of which are less distracting than web-surfing. Decorum is one thing, but one might as well take it further and get rid of laptops and attractive classmates.
Like The Shark, I had no idea what whale tail meant, so I looked it up. If you don't know, please don't Google it, and if you do, please don't click on "I'm Feeling Lucky."

Anyway, the last thing I want to think about right now is student attire. What I want to think about is student freebies.

Yes, freebies. According to this article in the Business section of the New York Times, colleges are beginning to give out free iPhones or internet-connected iPods to students. I kid you not.
Taking a step that professors may view as a bit counterproductive, some universities are doling out Apple iPhones and Internet-capable iPods to students.

The always-on Internet devices raise some novel possibilities, like tracking where students congregate. With far less controversy, colleges could send messages about canceled classes, delayed buses, campus crises or just the cafeteria menu.

While schools emphasize its usefulness — online research in class and instant polling of students, for example — a big part of the attraction is, undoubtedly, that the iPhone is cool and a hit with students. Basking in the aura of a cutting-edge product could just help a university foster a cutting-edge reputation.
Let me translate this for you. The money you're sending to your kid's college is being used to give the kid electronic equipment you didn't think was worth buying for him yourself.

If you read the article, you'll see various educational activities that these give-aways supposedly facilitate. But the real reason for giving the equipment away is marketing. You have to compete with other colleges to attract students -- and the tuition money that accompanies them.

I guess I'm pleased, curmudgeon that I am, that there are at least a couple of skeptics on the faculty:
The rush to distribute the devices worries some professors, who say that students are less likely to participate in class if they are multitasking. “I’m not someone who’s anti-technology, but I’m always worried that technology becomes an end in and of itself, and it replaces teaching or it replaces analysis,” said Ellen G. Millender, associate professor of classics at Reed College in Portland, Ore. (She added that she hoped to buy an iPhone for herself once prices fall.)

Robert S. Summers, who has taught at Cornell Law School for about 40 years, announced this week — in a detailed, footnoted memorandum — that he would ban laptop computers from his class on contract law.

“I would ban that too if I knew the students were using it in class,” Professor Summers said of the iPhone, after the device and its capabilities were explained to him. “What we want to encourage in these students is active intellectual experience, in which they develop the wide range of complex reasoning abilities required of the good lawyers.”
So here's my compromise: Ban the electronic equipment but spare the attractive classmates.

Click here to read more . . .

Carnival of Maryland -- 40th edition

The number 40 is a nice, large, round number. In fact it's a number that's literally of biblical proportions. Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai. (He wasn't able to check out earlier, because the computer at the front desk was out.) The Children of Israel spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. (Guys refuse to ask for directions, you know.)

So I figured it was nice for me to be hosting the 40th edition of the Carnival of Maryland.

For those of you who are new to this, the Carnival appears every other week. It's hosted by members of the Maryland Blogger Alliance, but it's open to anyone who's written about something having to do with Maryland. You can submit Maryland-related writings at this Blog Carnival submission form.


I'm going to start this edition with a couple of posts from members of the Alliance who have proven to me that I'm not the only one who laughs at juvenile humor.

At That's What I Think, Jen posts a video of something unusual washing up on the shore.

And mad anthony gives us another conversation with co-workers that made me laugh.


The Ridger, at The Greenbelt, graces the Carnival, as she so often does, with her excellent nature photography, herein Sunrises in August, Contrast and complements, and my personal favorite of the three, Burnished by the Sun (trumpet flowers in sunlight). PLUS: A last-minute addition, A morning moon.

The River Mud Blog has some photos, too, in a post called "Paddling in the Land of Pleasant Living."

Julie, at Pines Above Snow, has photos from a tree house at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, which technically isn't in Maryland, but it's only about 20 miles or so from the state boundary. I liked the photos, so I'm adding her post here on my own. The photos remind me a little of Myst, that old computer game that had me enthralled for hours.

Soccer Dad grows tomatoes in his back yard. (He also asks you to send him a photo if you have a crape myrtle tree.)

And don't miss "The Curiosity of Cows" in photo form, by Donna, at Chestertown, Quaintest Town in America.

Local Events

Julie, at On The Red Line, tells us that Garrison Keillor will be at the National Cathedral on September 29.

Michelle Voorhies, of Young & Married in DC, was unhappy with the Bethesda Art Walk, as you can tell from the title of her post: Bethesda Art Walk = Disaster.


tells us all how to save money on vegetables, which is actually a good thing to know.


Cheryl, at The Spewker, wonders whether the M tattoo on a certain famous Olympic swimmer might stand for Maryland. And see here for an update, or something.

And speaking of that certain famous Olympic swimmer, I laughed at this item in Insane Baltimore.

Oriole Post notes that the Orioles are about to welcome their 50 millionth fan at Camden Yards, who will receive "$50,000, season tickets for five years and a VIP package that includes seat upgrades, a commemorative jersey and participation in an on-field check presentation."

Also, Michael, at monoblogue, names pitcher Brian Parker the "Shorebird of the Week."


Mike Netherland complains about the service on MARC and seeks co-bloggers for a new blog about the rail service. I think Mike would put the word "service" in quotation marks.

Jeff, at Inside Charm City, covers a story about an Amtrak train that struck and killed an Amtrak employee who was on the track.

Meanwhile, I had a post, myself, about a couple who were caught by a speed camera in Silver Spring, allegedly going 100 MPH -- in a Toyota Echo. Spoiler alert: They weren't actually going 100 MPH.


This doesn't have to do specifically with Maryland, but I'm including it, anyway, because I thought it was interesting -- the huge taxes already paid by Exxon, as discussed in The Political Octagon.

Red Maryland analyzes Governor O'Malley's energy plan.


Matt, at Going to the Mat, writes in support of the EACH! charter school in Frederick County.


Bruce Godfrey writes at Fort Totten Weekly (n├ę Maryland Weekly), a part of the Crablaw empire, that two defense attorneys have been accused of attempting to influence witnesses.

Kevin Dayhoff writes about the history and current controversies over policing in Carroll County.

Local politics

At Annapolis Politics, Brian Gill points out a local alderman who failed to file his campaign finance report because of flooding -- at his house. Brian uses this as a jumping off point for a further discussion of local politics.

Joyce Dowling writes about the drug raid on the mayor of Berwyn Heights and advocates ending the drug war.

State politics

On a subject of interest to me personally, Maryland Chesapeake Blog has an item about the Maryland death-penalty commission hearings: "Killing the Death Penalty."

I'm glad someone blogged about this story -- the woman whom the state won't allow to massage horses, at Faster, Better...

P. Kenneth Burns, at Maryland Politics Today, tells us that Comptroller Peter Franchot is going out to Denver and will blog from the Democratic convention.

National politics

Zinzidor, at Leviathan Montgomery, notes that Senator Cardin is up in arms over a proposed reduction in payments to farmers to "to reduce the runoff of phosphorus and nitrogen from agricultural fertilizers into the bay" and asks why, when we don't pay other polluters to clean up, we should have to pay farmers not to pollute.

David Wissing, master of political polling data, gives us the current presidential polling for Maryland at The Hedgehog Report.


Mark Newgent, writing at the Baltimore History Examiner, gives the Historical Context to the Maryland State Police Surveillance Operation. See here and here for parts 2 and 3.

A photo of Ocean City, Maryland, circa 1907, at The Shores of Delmarva.


The 41st edition of the Carnival of Maryland is scheduled for Sunday, September 7, at a blog to be named later ROTUS, a blog run by Clark of Clark's Picks. You can submit your posts for that edition at this link.

Click here to read more . . .

August 20, 2008


Charities have a lot of ways of raising money. Governments have basically three.

First, taxes. Second, lotteries (defined as a tax on those who don't understand math). And third, of course, the inevitable speed cameras.

I read somewhere a few months ago that the District of Columbia had placed speed cameras in all sorts of obscure spots. Naturally, the cameras caught a lot of speeders and brought in some huge bucks as a result. Foolishly, however, the D.C. government budgeted for a similar amount the next year. What happened instead, you will hardly be surprised to learn, is that drivers figured out where the cameras were and slowed down. So the speed cameras brought in a lot less money the following year.

But, you say, they still accomplished their primary mission of getting people to drive within the speed limits.

Are you out of your freakin' mind? No local government cares whether people drive within the speed limits; its concern is with raising money through fines.

All of which makes it particularly amusing that in Silver Spring, a 68-year-old man, driving a Toyota Echo with his 76-year-old wife, was charged with driving 100 MPH (that's miles, not kilometers, per hours) on a hilly, winding, narrow street -- in order words, with doing the impossible.

The photo above is not, by the way, a Toyota Echo, but it's a car that might have done 100 MPH on that road.

This is an Echo.

You really should read the linked article, because the man and woman are apparently your typical good-government Montgomery County liberals:

"While the Brennans strongly endorse the county's photo enforcement efforts, they are baffled as to how Terence Brennan could be accused of driving their Toyota Echo economy car at 100 MPH."
And Mrs. Brennan was saddened, not outraged:
"'We and our neighbors, who know well that even 40 MPH would be dangerous at this stretch, wonder how the camera could come up with such a reading,' Helga Brennan wrote to The Washington Post. 'This speed would be impossible on the Beltway at the best of times, and we have never in our life driven at this speed.'"
If you think it's unfair of me to make fun of their political views without knowing anything about it, you're absolutely right. But I'm going to do it, anyway. Because there's even more evidence of it. According to the Washington Post:
Terence, 68, and Helga, 76, paid the $40 fine promptly after receiving the citation in the mail. Like many people, they felt it wasn't worth the hassle of contesting the ticket in district court. Like very few, they also thought the county needed the money.
But the story did end happily at last. Helga Brennan wrote to the Post; the Post got in touch with the county police; and the county police admitted error, refunded the fine, and apologized for having failed to respond to the Brennans' letter.

And as for the rest of us, so long as there are people who think the government needs more money and are willing to pay fines that are obviously undeserved, I say, "Good for them!" The more people there are like that, the longer we can go between tax increases.

Click here to read more . . .

August 19, 2008

Staggering around

While American college presidents call for a debate on lowering the drinking age back to 18, the Russians have changed their zero-tolerance laws on drunken driving:

According to news sources, as of last month, motorists in Russia will be allowed to have a small drink before taking the wheel. Previously, even one drink was a serious infraction of the law. This alteration is surprising, especially considering that Russia has one of world’s worst driving safety records. According to government figures, more than 33,000 Russians died in traffic accidents in 2007, and drunken driving caused at least 15,000 road accidents.
"One for the road," as the Inventorspot article puts it.

Next up: Russia changes its law to allow it to invade one neighboring country. (At a time.)

Also on the general subject of driving, I really liked this Mets car. A serious fan painted his car blue and orange, with decals and slogans on it. Click here for a larger photo. The only trouble with the car is that it runs out of gas by the seventh inning.

Click here to read more . . .

August 18, 2008

The top ten ways that McCain has cheated

MS. ANDREA MITCHELL: * * * The Obama people must feel that he didn't do quite as well as they might have wanted to in that context, because that -- what they're putting out privately is that McCain may not have been in the cone of silence and may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama. * * * He seemed so well prepared.

When we heard that McCain was well prepared, we knew he must have cheated, so we sent the crack Pillage Idiot research team scurrying (yours truly sitting on the Metro with a note pad) to find out whether McCain had also cheated in the past.

The answer: He had, and we are not surprised at how frequent this behavior has been.

1. McCAIN CHEATED by tricking the North Vietnamese into imprisoning and torturing him for five years by falsely claiming he knew the recipe for egg salad that was so good you could plotz.

2. McCAIN CHEATED by duping his Hanoi Hilton guard into making a cross on the floor by telling the guard he'd play tic-tac-toe with him.

3. McCAIN CHEATED by pretending to cheat on his first wife in order to have a good response when some religious leader asked him to disclose his greatest moral failure.

4. McCAIN CHEATED by posting photos of Dick Cheney's crotch at the online dating site where he met Cindy.

5. McCAIN CHEATED, when calling for a surge in Iraq, by sneaking a glance into the future to see what the result was going to be.

6. McCAIN CHEATED by persuading Hillary to run for President by convincing her that no one could possibly support an inexperienced first-term black senator with a history of radicalism.

7. McCAIN CHEATED by advising Rudy Giuliani to campaign only in Florida, telling him that the election would be decided with a recount in that state.

8. McCAIN CHEATED by suggesting to John Edwards that he really needed to have a documentary made of his campaign.

9. McCAIN CHEATED by bribing Putin to invade Georgia while Obama was body surfing in Hawaii, so that McCain could look like a serious candidate.

10. McCAIN CHEATED by lying about his age, claiming to be 71, when in fact he's 171. His mother is actually 196.

Click here to read more . . .

August 17, 2008


If you've attended a concert of orchestral music, what's the thing you remember most? Let me guess. It was the mistakes in the horn section.

I'm a former hornist, though I was never close to becoming a professional. I was pretty good in high school -- selected for the All-State Band in New York (yes, there is such a thing) -- and played briefly with my college symphony orchestra. So I say this lovingly: Horn splats are a fact of life, even at the professional level.

Now, someone who doesn't say this with any particular love is Allan Kozinn, who's written "The French Horn, That Wild Card of the Orchestra" in the New York Times. This article is essentially a defense of his criticism of horn players, and he's pretty unsympathetic. I don't blame him; I just report.

Now, I know what's going on here. When you attend a professional orchestra concert, you don't want your evening to be marred by some professional hornist who doesn't hit the right notes. Personally, as a hornist, I always loved to hear splattery from the horn section, because it made the musicians seem more human and made me feel somewhat less imperfect than I was. But I'm in the minority.

Consider a comparison to baseball. You go to a game played by your favorite team, which is losing by a run in the bottom of the ninth. The bases are loaded with one out, putting the tying and winning runs in scoring position, and the team's leading hitter comes to bat. He's hitting .333 on the season, which is fantastic, in the top 10 of the league. (Remember, in baseball you're a hero if you make an out only 2 out of every 3 at bats.) The batter hits a hard grounder directly to the shortstop, who turns an easy double play, and the game is over. Naturally, you boo the hitter.

Why should you be upset with the hitter? He's done a great job all season, and you know that he's going to fail two-thirds of the time he comes to bat. But still, you expect more.

The difference between a baseball team a professional orchestra is that with an orchestra you expect perfection. There's a brilliant Peter Schickele spoof in which he announces the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony as if it were a sporting event. It's been described this way:

On Peter Schickele's album P.D.Q. Bach On the Air (Vanguard CD-79268 LP-79268) two broadcasters provide a running commentary on a performance of the first movement, as if it were a sports event. In this recording the commentary is simply dubbed over a recording of the music. When Schickele performs the Beethoven's Fifth Sportscast on tour the music is played by a live orchestra. The act includes a referee as well as commentators and the music stops for instant replays, player substitutions and penalties.
For me, the highlight of the routine is a loud mistake from one of the horn players, which Schickele and his colleague discuss as if it were the shortshop booting a ground ball.

This routine illustrates my point. With an orchestra, you don't tolerate mistakes the way you might on the ball field. As Kozinn says:
Composers write, and have always written, music that pushes the limits of technique. And if you’re onstage in a professional capacity, you’re expected to be able to negotiate it. That’s the least audiences expect, and it’s a precondition for what they buy tickets for: to be moved by an interpretation; to savor its nuances and to hear something revelatory, whether the work is new or familiar.
In other words, that damned hornist splattered the note again and ruined my experience. And it isn't just with "period" instruments -- horns without valves -- which Kozinn spends a good deal of time discussing.

So what's the excuse for this? Kozinn says he's heard from hornists with all sorts of excuses, all the way down to conspiracy theories. But the only technical reason he gives is this: "a bit of condensation from a player's breath adhering to the inside of a coil can lead to cracked notes, or 'clams.'"

Let me offer another perspective -- another excuse, if you will -- and any serious horn players who should happen to stumble on this post can weigh in.

All brass instruments depend on the harmonic series. The technical explanation is here, but as a generalization, all of these notes can be played with the same fingering (or for a trombone, the same position). If you click the link I gave you and look at the notes, you'll notice that the first interval is an octave, followed by a fifth, getting progressively smaller as you get higher in the series. If you play a brass instrument other than a French horn, your normal range is at the lower end of the harmonic series. So when you try to hit a note, you're probably going to hit that note. Different notes with the same fingering are hit by changing your embouchure, your muscle contraction and lip placement. At the low end of the harmonic series, the nearest note with the same fingering is far enough away that you won't miss it through an embouchure that's slightly off.

With the French horn, it's different. The normal range of the horn is at the mid- and upper-ranges of the harmonic series. (A good hornist can reach two full octaves below that normal range.) And when you're higher up in the harmonic series for your usual range, the notes that are played with the same fingerings are quite close together. If your embouchure is only slightly off, you can easily hit the wrong note.

I realize this is only one portion of the explanation. It doesn't explain why a hornist would splat a note toward the bottom of the normal range. But I think it may explain as well as anything why the horn section in a professional orchestra will give you lots of runs and hits but also more than a few errors.

UPDATE (8/24): Hornist Bruce Hembd, who writes at Horndogblog, agrees that the harmonic series is a bigger issue than condensation.

Click here to read more . . .

August 15, 2008

If Barack Obama were Jewish, instead of the Second Coming of Jesus, Part 5

Obama (shouting into his cell phone): No . . . no . . . Ma . . . no . . . first of all . . . first, Ma, it's . . . it's not diving . . . it's . . . it's called "body surfing" . . . yeah . . . yeah, body . . . yeah, no . . . no . . . not "bodice Irving" . . . no . . . body . . . body surfing . . . yeah . . . yeah, Ma . . . I guess . . . I guess you could say it's good when you're . . . when you're shvitzing . . . uh . . . yeah, Ma . . . yeah . . . what? . . . I did . . . yeah, I did . . . Ma . . . you worry too much . . . Ma . . . yeah . . . what? . . . 45, Ma . . . no . . . no . . . c'mon, Ma . . . Ma . . . it was 45, Ma . . . how high do you . . . no . . . what do you mean 120? . . . Ma . . . Ma . . . no, Ma . . . sunscreen doesn't go up to 120 . . . Ma . . .

Photos here. Video here.

Click here to read more . . .

August 14, 2008

Phallacious reasoning

I thought the whole McCain campaign was supposed to be infused with coded racial messages, but it turns out it's infused with coded sexual messages.

This column by Paul Waldman probably takes the stupidity prize in a campaign already buried in stupid writing. Don't read it if you can't bear to see the word "penis" twice in the fourth paragraph. Don't read it if your tolerance for stupidity is low. Otherwise, read it and weep.

(via HotAir)

Click here to read more . . .

Law and humor at Harvard Law School

You may have heard of the Law and Economics school. I gather there's now a Law and Humor school, too.

A lawyer in my office recently sent around this link to a speech given by Harvard Law School professor Daryl Levinson upon being presented with an award for teaching. The speech was given in June, so don't start complaining to me that "it's old" or whatever. I know. It's old.

Professor Levinson, who teaches constitutional law, speaks about the ten ideas that "explain virtually all of law." If you went to law school at a name-brand institution, where it's a sin of the first order to teach anything practical, you may well recognize some or all of these ideas.

When I was in law school, the professors we enjoyed were generally the performers. Levinson has a little of the performer in him, but he actually seems fairly shy. The drawback to that is that while he has a few amusing lines, he sometimes trips over himself in the delivery -- probably what I would do myself if I were trying to give the same speech.

You can click on the link at the bottom of this page to listen or try this direct link (Real Player required). I'd skip the first few minutes, with the student introduction and Levinson's thank yous, which go well beyond gratitude and modesty into full-blown barfitation.

If you don't feel like listening to the whole talk, consider the following highlight, found at about 11:40 in the video:

Idea number 6: legal institutions and what they're good for. We learn over and over again that legislatures are good at democracy; courts are good at impartial application of the rule of law; and agencies are good at technocratic expertise. As the Harvard legal process tradition teaches us, once we know what each institution is good for, our job is simply to match up the right institutional decisionmaker to the relevant decisionmaking task, which we can do using neutral and objective reasoning. In practice, this means: First we figure out which one of the possible decisionmaking institutions is run by the Democrats. [Laughter.] That's the one we want. [Laughter and applause.] Or don't want. I want to keep it as fair and balanced as your classes here no doubt were.
I suppose you could read this as a subtle dig at the political monolith at Harvard, but more likely, it's just an acknowledgment of shared group values. That seems to be the interpretation favored by the audience, in any event, judging from the applause. Either way, it's amusing, and I choose to apply the former interpretation.

Click here to read more . . .

August 13, 2008

The "inside baseball" on the candidates' VP picks

We know almost nothing about the presidential candidates' vice presidential picks, with the possible exception of the fact that Obama says he's going to announce his pick by text messaging.

So I've come up with the top three "inside baseball" choices for each of the candidates.

John McCain:

1. Home Run: Henry Aaron.


* Greatest non-steroidal home run hitter ever

* Tremendous dignity

* Neutralizes race issue


* Alabama already solid for McCain

* Republican affiliation doubtful (but see Lieberman, Joe)

2. Triple: Joe Torre


* Highly popular in large blue states (New York, California)

* Four World Championship titles as manager

* Calm in a storm (see Steinbrenner, George and Hank)


* Almost as old as McCain

* Five-o'clock shadow shames Richard Nixon

3. Texas-League Double: Gary Carter


* Solid throwing arm

* Could be popular with evangelicals

* If asked, he'd be there tomorrow (see Randolph, Willie)


* Too exciteable (see Quayle, Dan)

Barack Obama:

1. Home Run: Steve Carlton


* One of greatest southpaws ever

* Mean slider

* Nickname "Lefty" will wow Kos Kids


* Won't talk to press

2. Triple: Manny Ramirez


* Hits everywhere with power

* Appeals to Hispanics

* Will be available early if Dodgers don't make post-season


* Not natural-born citizen

* Manny is Manny

3. Texas-League Double: Phil Rizzuto


* Decades of experience

* Popular among the "cling to guns and religion" crowd


* Repetitive catch-phrases ("Holy cow!")

* Deceased

Bob Barr:

Foul ball off his foot: Mark "The Bird" Fidrych


* Good mesh with Barr (totally nuts)


* Totally nuts

Click here to read more . . .

August 11, 2008

Al Qaeda imitates Woody Allen's "Bananas"

Remember the scene in Bananas where the successful guerrilla leader addresses the people and announces his new edicts?

From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. Silence! In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now 16 years old.
According to this article, Al Qaeda really ticked off the Iraqis by imposing similar edicts.
Besides the terrible killings inflicted by the fanatics on those who refuse to pledge allegiance to them, Al-Qa'eda has lost credibility for enforcing a series of rules imposing their way of thought on the most mundane aspects of everyday life.

They include a ban on women buying suggestively-shaped vegetables, according to one tribal leader in the western province of Anbar.

Sheikh Hameed al-Hayyes, a Sunni elder, told Reuters: "They even killed female goats because their private parts were not covered and their tails were pointed upward, which they said was haram.

"They regarded the cucumber as male and tomato as female. Women were not allowed to buy cucumbers, only men."
Well, I guess if you had to choose the quintessential male and female vegetable, they chose the right ones. Cucumbers are obviously male; tomatoes are obviously female.

In fact, to quote Woody Allen again, the queen in a sketch in Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex * But Were Afraid To Ask is shocked when the Woody Allen jester character touches her on the breasts. Woody Allen denies it, saying he would never lay his hands on "the royal tomatoes."

(hat tip: Soccer Dad, who writes, "Who knew that Al Qaeda operated in Montgomery County?")

Click here to read more . . .

Gone with the Wind?

If you're as immature as I am, when you heard that Russia had invaded Georgia, which is actually an extremely serious situation, you began to make stupid jokes about Atlanta.

And if you're Sky News, you made those jokes without realizing it. I expect that this link won't continue to work, so I've taken a screen shot for posterity. [UPDATE: The relevant section is already edited out.]

A big thank you to HotAir commenter TheBigOldDog, who pointed this out.

Click here for a screencap of a larger portion of the page.

Click here to read more . . .

August 10, 2008

Up in Canada

I spent Wednesday through Sunday in Toronto hunting grizzly bears in front of Union Station. I bagged two, which is OK in Toronto as long as you put their various parts in the correct recycling bins. And I want to bring you up to date on the happenings occurring in our northern neighbor.

First, this morning, a few miles north of our hotel, there was a major series of explosions at a propane plant, causing quite a spectacle. You can get a few details here. Watch out for those outdoor grills you guys have on your decks. If you'd like to see some photos, check out this post at

Second, you remember the incident on a Greyhound bus in Canada, when one passenger beheaded another? Well, here's an article in the Globe and Mail, in which an intrepid reporter risks life, limb, and neck to ride a similar bus and interview the passengers. Quotation of the day:

Bus etiquette is sorted out nightly on a semi-feudal basis among seatmates. One point of contention, without fail, is a reclined chair that interferes with someone else's legroom. Mr. Lehmann and Ms. Dickey moved up front after another passenger confronted them about their reclining habits. That's where you will find them now, her head resting on his shoulder, both asleep.

“You're not really supposed to change seats,” comments Oli Hall, 20, a British backpacker. “And you're definitely not supposed to stab people, decapitate them, then dance around with it.”
Third, a black bear invaded a basement apartment in a town in British Columbia. Fortunately, Brian Fortune, the resident of the apartment, was not present for the invasion. However, I'm sorry (pronounced "SAWR-ee," as the Canadians do) to report that this story is a metaphor for modern-day Canada. Mr. Fortune is apparently a liberal. How do I know that? Here's how: "Mr. Fortune said he sympathized with the animal. 'It's unfortunate that the bears are resorting to that, coming into our area,' he said. 'Although we did infringe on their area first.'" Also, the RCMP had to step in to resolve the impasse. Consider how that one turned out:
"Because of the aggressive behaviour displayed by the bear by entering a house, a shot was taken from the Coquitlam RCMP," Constable Leung said.

The shot struck the bear in the shoulder but failed to immobilize it. The animal climbed up a nearby tree, where it remained until conservation officer Peter Busink arrived 15 minutes later.

Mr. Busink fired a tranquilizer dart that soon sent the bear tumbling to the ground. But as RCMP officers approached, they realized the animal was not completely subdued. Coquitlam RCMP then used a shotgun to kill the bear.
So let's review the bidding. The RCMP shoots the bear -- and barely stuns it. The bear stays in a tree mocking the RCMP, shouting obscenities at passers-by, and whistling at the women until the animal control officers shoots it -- with a sedative. The RCMP then steps forward to finish the task that the animal control officer started. Sheesh, is that embarrassing, or what?

Oh, and it reminds me of the famous Woody Allen nightclub routine about shooting a moose.

Finally, on a more serious note, I've always found it hard to prepare mentally for Rosh Hashanah. I have some trouble with the theology, and the fact that it was Tisha B'Av today didn't help. But in Toronto, whenever the subway doors close, there's a chime that slowly plays the 5-3-1 of the major scale (out of tune, but never mind). Those notes are the same notes that begin the aleynu prayer in the tune used on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. So at every stop on every trip I took on the subway, I was singing or thinking about the Rosh Hashanah aleynu. Maybe I'll return to Toronto just before the holidays.

Click here to read more . . .

Carnival of Maryland -- 39th edition

The 39th edition of the Carnival of Maryland is up at Inside Charm City.

The 40th edition of the Carnival is scheduled for Sunday, August 24, most likely to be hosted here at Pillage Idiot.

Send in your submissions by using the Blog Carnival form.

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August 08, 2008

More on highway game theory

A couple of years ago, I wrote about what I called "highway game theory." The question I posed was this:

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?
You can read my analysis at the link, along with an economic analysis from Three Sources in the update.

But now, the problem has made an appearance in an article in the New York Times Magazine, in which a native of northern California makes the astonishing discovery that some people try to use their best strategy on the highways. She calls these people "sidezoomers," as distinct from "lineuppers" like her. She despises sidezoomers.

I'm not really sympathetic, and I don't like the term "sidezoomer." I'm a strategizer, and I recognize there are also some total jerks on the roads. But there no moral principle that forces you to get in line way ahead of time.

And even her experts agree with me to an extent:
The experts drew schematics in my notebook for me. They asked me to envision rice pouring smoothly through a kitchen funnel. They pointed out, as a Virginia Tech computer-science professor named Chris Barrett put it, that “if you move over too soon, you have this big empty piece of real estate, which could absorb that many more cars.” And I would say, yes, but they still all have to squish into the same two-lane tunnel, right? And the experts would say yes, but what really botches the flow is the stop-and-go part — which is accentuated both by the guy hanging around up there trying to last-minute jam his way in and by the hostile party in the Subaru who won’t let him, thus prompting him to try again in front of the next car, whose driver brakes while deciding whether to go into high-, medium- or low-level snit, and so on.
I'll leave you with the names that another of her experts uses: cheaters and vigilantes. Cheating may not be desirable, but I'd say it's the vigilantes who create the bigger problem. As the highway cop she interviews puts it:
“It’s not a matter of fairness or unfairness,” Morgan said. “It’s a matter of there’s no violation, no one is being injured. Ergo, chill out. Enjoy life. You’re spending too much energy pounding the dashboard.”
Yes, indeed.

UPDATE (8/17): Here are the letters responding to Gorney's article. Don't miss the second one, making the political link.

Click here to read more . . .

August 07, 2008

When "bullet-resistant" bras are not enough

The Germans think they can protect their female law enforcement officers by buying "bullet-resistant bras," but we know better. (via HotAir) When you buy a watch that says it's "water-resistant," you don't wear it in the water. All that means is that if it gets rained on, you're OK. So even if your bra is "bullet-resistant," it's not "bullet-proof," and I wouldn't advise you to get shot in the chestal area. You'd better still carry that Bible in your pocket.

That being said, we do have anecdotal evidence that some bras can protect you from a bullet. And even if they're not bullet-proof, the bullet-resistant bras do look pretty cool, what with the word "Polizei" written on the underband. I'd definitely like to have that written on my own underwear.

Now, right about now, you're probably wondering whether the police chicks could pack some heat in those bras. I'm glad you asked. Here's an article from the BBC from 2001 that says:

An American inventor has designed the world's first - and so far only - combined brassiere and gun holster.

The underwear is designed to hold a .38 calibre snub-nose revolver, and also has room for a pepper spray.
If that's correct, it's hard to believe the bra has room for the woman herself. So call me a skeptic. But I'm willing to venture a guess what the Germans would call this device:

ein Pfefferspritzpistolentascheb├╝stenhalter

It's almost enough to make me want to invest.

Click here to read more . . .

August 06, 2008

When "CPA" means "Jew"

Timothy Noah covers the Lieberman-Cheney debate in October 2000

. . . and it's really quite obvious that Cheney's reference to CPAs is a not-so-veiled allusion to Lieberman's Jewish background. What Cheney said was, "You have to be a CPA to understand what he just said." A CPA. Get it? He could just as easily have said, "You have to be a Jew to understand what that Jew just said." And then Cheney went on to say, "The fact of the matter is the plan is so complex that the ordinary American is never going to ever figure out what they even qualify for." The "ordinary American," as opposed to the Jew. That's not very subtle, either, painting the Jew as the Other.

I asked a Cheney spokesman why the Vice Presidential nominee had used these stereotypes of Jews, and he insisted that Cheney was not alluding in any way to religion when he criticized Lieberman's answer. "That's just idiocy of the highest order," he told me. But I firmly disagree that a religious reading of Cheney's answer is "idiocy." Cheney's failure to see it is just a wee bit clueless. I mean, when was the last time you met a CPA who wasn't Jewish? You know how good Jews are with money, right? That reminds me of an episode of "I Love Lucy," in which Ricky . . .

Update: Timothy Noah covers the Bush-Ferraro debate in 1984

The subtext of Bush's call for cutting taxes is clearly Ferraro's husband John Zaccaro's financial dealings, which is a backhanded way of saying that women are responsible for whatever mischief their husbands engage in. That is, it's impossible for women to have any independence once they're married. Another implication is that women are essentially innumerate.

Update: Timothy Noah covers the Lincoln-Douglas debates

. . . and Lincoln just can't keep himself from throwing around the word "slave," which is clearly a code word for "black."

Slate: When "Skinny" Means "Black"

Click here to read more . . .

August 05, 2008

One from Column 404 Error

When you're trying to give an English name to your Chinese restaurant, you have to be careful in using online translation tools. (via Fark)

That reminds me of a photo I received from a former colleague who spent time in China.

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August 03, 2008

From the Pillage Idiot "Spam Period"

In Peter Schickele's hilarious biography of P.D.Q. Bach, the author divides the composer's work into three periods -- the "Initial Plunge," the "Soused Period," and "Contrition."

I thought it was the least I could do to create a period for myself called the "Spam Period," the roughly 48-hour period when Pillage Idiot was shut down by Blogger as a potential spam blog. I'm going to post some junk I was unable to post during that period. And I'd like to make it clear that I have not yet reached "contrition," if I ever do.

Kool-Aid party over at Rabbi Jack Moline's place

I'm relieved to see that nothing, nothing can shake the Jews out of their politika mi-sinai (my bastardized Hebrew approximately meaning "politics given at Mount Sinai"). According to the Washington Jewish Week, Northern Virginia Jews are mobilizing to support Obama. Isn't that special?

Rabbi Moline is actually a pretty sensible guy in general (but see), so it's even worse for him to be trying to sell undecided Jews like this:

Moline assured his listeners that Obama's record on Israel is "stellar," and that there is "nothing in the senator's record to indicate that he would make any other concessions than the current president" would make.

Questions about Obama's support for Israel are a cover, Moline said, for underlying prejudice.

"We have to own up to the prejudice in our own community. There are plenty of people who say they're ambivalent about him because he's black, he has a middle name that sounds like the deposed president of Iraq, that he's the son of a single mother," Moline told the gathering. "Those prejudices in our community generally don't get spoken. They get expressed in questions about Israel."
I guess Rabbi Moline thinks Jews can't legitimately be concerned about Obama's associations with folks like Rashid Khalidi or his 20-year association with Jeremiah Wright, whom he disowned for calculating political reasons, or his association with William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, two domestic terrorists, whom he's never disowned, or an ever-emerging cast of characters. No, it's got to be prejudice, because what right-thinking Jewish person could not want to place hope in someone like him? Did the Children of Israel doubt Moses himself? And when the Torah said (Deut. 34:10), v'lo kam navi od b'yisrael k'moshe, could it possibly have meant to exclude Obama?

In all seriousness, I'm sure that when Obama says he supports Israel, he's as sincere as he is about anything. But really, why should Jews who are concerned about Israel not have the right to doubt a guy who wants to scale back American power? Without American power, Israel is doomed, no matter what nice things a political candidate says.

But it sure is easy to dismiss the concerns that some Jews have about him as purely based on prejudice. Thanks a bunch, Rabbi Moline.

Economics 101 -- tax policy

I thought everyone knew that when you cut taxes your revenue dropped and vice versa, so that when you doubled taxes, your revenue would double. It's called "static revenue analysis."

Apparently not.

The Washington Post reports: "Cigarette sales have dropped by nearly 25 percent in Maryland since the state's tobacco tax doubled in January, as sticker shock apparently has curtailed some residents' smoking and sent others across the border for better deals."

And of course, the folks who think government exists to change human behavior often have a totalitarian mentality -- when people react rationally to your policies, you try to squash them:
Maryland law seeks to limit out-of-state cigarette purchases. It is illegal for Maryland residents to be in possession of more than two packs of cigarettes lacking stamps showing that taxes were paid in the state.

We're not crashing into people's homes to see if they've purchased a pack or two more than they should out of the state, but we have a very aggressive effort concentrated on larger smugglers," said Joseph Shapiro, a spokesman for the Maryland Comptroller's Office.
So this is the way it works: Try to increase revenue by raising cigarette taxes. People reduce smoking or shop elsewhere. Tax revenues go down. So you call these smokers smugglers and threaten prosecution. Brilliant.


Pillage Idiot appears 4,000 years ago in Sumer: "Flatulence joke is world's oldest"

Say what you want about the President, but he's a really decent guy: The Party Crasher

Click here to read more . . .

August 02, 2008

You get what you pay for, again

I couldn't tell you about this, for obvious reasons, but on Thursday, I got the dreaded email from Blogger telling me Pillage Idiot was being frozen while they checked to see that it wasn't a spam blog. Pillage Idiot is a lot of things -- most of them variants on "immature" -- but it certainly isn't spam.

It turns out it wasn't just me -- far from it. A large swath of the 'sphere got caught up in it, and not just small blogs like mine. Dr. Helen, the Insta-Wife, was shut down, too.

Fortunately, everything's been cleared up, and I've been unfrozen so I can post again. Blogger has posted a couple of apologetic notes about the situation. From the latter:

We want to offer our sincerest apologies to affected bloggers and their readers. We’ve tracked down the problem to a bug in our data processing code that locked blogs even when our algorithms concluded they were not spam. We are adding additional monitoring and process checks to ensure that bugs of this magnitude are caught before they can affect your data.
Some people were suspicious Blogger (Google) was targeting conservative blogs, but that never made sense. I just chalked it up to error, or perhaps my removal of the navbar. (I checked yesterday, and while it's a little unclear, it's apparently not a violation of the TOS to hide the navbar.)

I've said it several times before, but you get what you pay for. It's really annoying, but it's hard to complain too much about the service when it's totally free.

Click here to read more . . .