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Posted at 2:23 PM ET, 10/27/2010

What is wrong with Joe Miller?

Some journalists and bloggers have been stalking the Alaska Republican Senate nominee to see whether he's receiving military disability benefits, and, if so, for what. The court-ordered release of documents from his last workplace, the Fairbanks North Star Borough local government, only deepens the mystery. The judge had medical information redacted, causing the documents -- a series of 2009 e-mails released late Tuesday -- to read like a Mad Libs exercise. (We encourage readers to fill in the blanks in the comments section of this post.)

Writes Miller to a colleague in an e-mail:

I'm scheduled for _______ in Anchorage on Monday, _______ is Thursday in Anchorage. I don't know what the recovery time is and won't know until after my _______ on Thursday. Apparently, the _______________my _______.

Miller also writes:

"Although the ______ is serious, it's my understanding that this type of _____ does not have an extensive recovery period."

And then this:

"Again, although the reason for the leave was for my ______ (completed), ______ (completed), and ______ (canceled but being rescheduled locally), it was submitted as personal leave."

And this:

"I canceled my _____ with VA in Anchorage yesterday and am now trying to reschedule with Wade."

A supervisor writes to Miller:

"You cannot obtain leave on the basis that you need _____ immediately and keep the leave when that circumstance changes significantly."

One colleague writes to another colleague:

"The message Diane got from the doctor sounds like Joe cancelled the ______, not the doctor. It was phrased something like. . . . I just wanted to let you know that Joe Miller cancelled his _____ scheduled for today."

Another e-mail between colleagues says:

"If he cancelled it then I can only conclude that his earlier representation essentially that it was _________ because the problem was ________ is bogus."

Whatever the blank was wrong with Miller, his colleagues seemed to agree that he was under a great deal of pressure and was not to be trusted. In various e-mails and other documents from 2008 and 2009, related to Miller's leave-taking and his use of colleagues' computers for political purposes (which he then covered up), they make the following observations:

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By Dana Milbank  | October 27, 2010; 2:23 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments
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Posted at 11:22 AM ET, 10/27/2010

Rand Paul supporter asks for apology from woman he stomped? An apology guide

Doesn't anyone understand how apologies are supposed to work?

First, Virginia Thomas calls Anita Hill to demand an apology for whatever it was that happened 20 years ago.

Now Tim Profitt, the Rand Paul supporter who subdued a woman by stepping on her is saying she should apologize to him.

I know our culture is full of confusing cues about apologizing. There's that old saying that love means never having to say you're sorry. This led to a lot of confusion in my past relationships. "If I say I love you, then apologize, which one didn't I mean?"

Then there's that Elton John song (this week's theme!) about how sorry seems to be the hardest word.

In fact, apologies are simple. An apology, from the Greek apo + logia, which roughly translates to "I am fairly certain that wasn't my fault, but I want to rehabilitate my public image," is something that Person A says to Person B when Person A has wronged Person B in some way, or Person B has complained about Person A to someone else, for instance, the news media.

The following are a few scenarios in which apologies are called for.

- You inadvertently award the Nobel Peace prize to the wrong political dissident crusader for human rights, because of a Google Translator error.

- While out hunting with a friend, you shoot him with buckshot. You are vice president of the United States.

- You attempt (unsuccessfully) to assassinate someone, then find yourself sitting next to him at a dinner party.

For all other scenarios, I've prepared a handy chart. Next time, consult this before you demand or offer an apology!

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By Alexandra Petri  | October 27, 2010; 11:22 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments
Categories:  Petri  | Tags:  Rand Paul, Virginia Thomas, apologies  
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Posted at 9:35 PM ET, 10/26/2010

DiFi sees doom; Rand Paul supporter votes with his feet; Soros drops $1 million for marijuana

Millions of words have been wasted in the coverage of the midterm elections. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was able to sum up the whole situation with a single word: "bad."


Atlas Shrugged. Rand Paul supporters go a bit further.
Lauren Valle, the young MoveOn activist attacked by Rand Paul supporters at Monday night's Kentucky Senate debate, suffered a concussion and sprained shoulder and arm, according to MoveOn. Video footage shows her being dragged to the ground by Paul supporters, one of whom stomped on her head.

It's but the latest sign that overheating anger is finding its way to places other than the ballot box. NPR reports that it received a bomb threat over its firing of Juan Williams because of the commentator's remarks on Fox News.


Liberal billionaire George Soros has been unusually quiet this election cycle, and now we know why: He's heavily involved in marijuana. He has given $1 million to the ballot effort in California to legalize marijuana. On the street, that sort of contribution could have purchased Soros some 300 kilograms of the good stuff.

By Dana Milbank  | October 26, 2010; 9:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments
Categories:  Missing links  
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Posted at 4:34 PM ET, 10/26/2010

Why the Jon Stewart Rally is my generation's Woodstock

We don't go to rallies.

Drag races? Men in heels.

Once we were in a protest, but only because we had to walk through it to get to a Lady Gaga concert.

Sign petitions? Please. March for a cause? Only if by "march" you mean "walk in a determined fashion" and by "cause" you mean "to buy that new frozen yogurt that is so popular these days."

Call us Generation I. I for irony, iPhones, and the Internet. I for instant gratification. I for idiosyncratic, inventive, impertinent. We're all these things.

Recently, Charles Murray accused us of being a "New Elite." This might be overstating our case a bit. What binds us is not a common experience or similar eugenetic stock, as he claims. It's our mindset -- a staunch and unstinting refusal to take anything seriously.

It's not that we don't believe some things are serious. We'll make It Gets Better videos or perform comedy for jazz relief, or whatever the occasion is. But sum up our lives in a phrase? The Importance Of Never Being Too Earnest.

We know what happens to people who take themselves seriously. They become bent and broken with care and develop arterial plaques. Sometimes they're elected to political office. "In America, any boy may become president," Adlai Stevenson once noted. "And I suppose it's just one of the risks he takes." We don't like the sound of that.

Forget the 1950s, which we picture as an entire era of people in conservative sweater-sets earnestly pushing towards the front of the class. These days, the whole class wants to sit in the back row and lob spitballs. Our icons are the class clowns, not the overachievers in near the blackboard. Raise our hands? Make a statement? Please. What is this, a Norman Rockwell painting?

After someone discovered the mystical secret of doing things ironically, we felt a great weight lift from our shoulders. Now, we dwell in thickets of inverted commas. Commit to fashions, opinions, favorite beverages? Why bother, when you can take someone to prom ironically as a commentary on beauty, or move to Tibet and spend three years living ironically in a monastery?

Want us to come to a rally? Better make it a "rally." Want us to testify before Congress? Can we do it in character?

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By Alexandra Petri  | October 26, 2010; 4:34 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments
Categories:  Petri  | Tags:  Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear, Stewart Rally, woodstock  
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Posted at 10:59 AM ET, 10/26/2010

Goodbye Pulpo Paul: a tribute to our favorite psychic octopus

"How far that little candle throws its beams. So shines a good Octopus in a naughty world."
- The Merchant of Venice, Octopus Edition

Before commenting seriously on the news, I want to take a moment for Paul the Octopus, the psychic cephalopod who correctly predicted the outcome of eight World Cup soccer matches, including the final. It is highly possible that none of us -- not you, not myself, not Christine O'Donnell -- will ever bring so much concentrated joy to people -- or inspire so many angry recipes -- as this octopus did. So as we head into some of the more divisive weeks of the year, let's come together and celebrate someone who touched all of us with his tentacles, but opted not to release a paralyzing toxin into our bloodstream.

Octopus in the Wind*

Goodbye Pulpo Paul
Though I never knew you at all
You had the jets to propel yourself
While those around you crawled

They crawled into the Sea Life Centre
And gave you mussels to choose
They let you pick the winners
And ignore the ones who'd lose

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a cephalopod in the wind
Always knowing which to cling to
'Ere the games'd begin
And I would have liked to have known you
But the lifespan of the common octopus is only 3 years
Your ink cloud disappeared before
Your legend ever did.

Prescience was tough
The toughest role you had to play
Haters with recipes
Could ruin your whole day
And even when you died
Some people mocked your psychic stare
"Guess he didn't see it coming,"
Was all that Twitter had to share.

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a cephalopod in the wind
Always knowing which to cling to
'Ere the games'd begin
And I would have liked to have known you
But the lifespan of the common octopus is only 3 years and tickets to Germany are out of my price range at the present time
Your ink cloud disappeared before
Your legend ever did.

Goodbye Pulpo Paul
Though I never knew you at all
Goodbye Pulpo Paul
More fun to watch than Knocked Up was
You left a legacy far greater
Than the average octopus.
Goodbye Pulpo Paul.

Enjoy the Octopus's Garden in the sky.

I'm going to go cry into my Pulpo a la Gallega now.

*With apologies to Elton John!

By Alexandra Petri  | October 26, 2010; 10:59 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments
Tags:  Pulpo Paul, RIP  
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Posted at 8:19 AM ET, 10/26/2010

Missing Links: Obama shoves it and Barbara Boxer gets ribbed

Maybe Frank Caprio, the Democratic candidate for governor of Rhode Island, meant to say he would "love it" if President Obama would give him an endorsement. But, when push-it came to shove-it, there was no endorsement. Now comes the surely unrelated news that Caprio paid a visit to Republican National Committee headquarters in February and met with Chairman Michael Steele.


Here's more evidence of a world government conspiracy. Dan Maes, the GOP candidate for governor of Colorado and the man who warned that bicycle sharing could lead to a U.N. takeover, is polling so poorly (about 5 percent of the vote) that he risks relegating the Republican Party to "minor party" status in Colorado.


Jerry Brown, leading the gubernatorial race in California, secured an unexpected endorsement: that of his opponent, Meg Whitman. A new Brown ad shows the former eBay executive saying "Thirty years ago, anything was possible in this state." A question then appears in text: "Who was governor 30 years ago? Jerry Brown."


A less kind, but much funnier ad has been produced mocking Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) for her caught-on-camera claim that "I worked so hard to get that title" of senator. In the ad, produced by David Zucker -- the genius behind the film Airplane -- a major general, an eagle scout and a Native American chief talk in a committee room about how hard they worked to get their titles. At least they didn't call her Shirley.

By Marisa Katz  | October 26, 2010; 8:19 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments
Categories:  Missing links  
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Posted at 2:46 PM ET, 10/25/2010

Top 25 topical Halloween costume ideas

So you've run out of costume ideas, but want to impress your friends with your grasp of today's hot issues? Have no fear! That's why I'm here.

The biggest tip I can give you is NOT to dress as a witch and say you're Christine O'Donnell. Everyone's already doing that, even Christine O'Donnell. Trust me, you don't want to be that guy.

Here are some costumes you can try instead.

  1. Before and After Pelicans. This is a fun costume for couples! Draw straws and decide which pelican will be cute and which will be covered in oil and saddened by the loss of its habitat.
  2. The Gulf of Mexico and BP. Wear normal clothes, but give yourself a black eye and make your other half wear a top hat and tails. Explain that you're the Gulf of Mexico and she's BP. For added effect, have a friend dress as oil-eating bacteria and show up later in the evening to insist that he's "taking care of everything."
  3. Waiting for Superman. Dress as Superman, but make a point of not going anywhere near the nation's public schools.
  4. Healthcare Reform. Wear a lot of weird things that don't really seem to cohere. Have someone in a white lab coat follow you around trying to explain you in a way that makes sense.
  5. Rich Iott. Dress as Hitler. Instead of "Trick or Treat," say, "Never Forget."
  6. Aqua Buddha. Cover yourself in blue paint! Later in the evening, try to convince women to worship you! If no one gets it, just say you're an extra from Avatar.
  7. Sarah Palin? So done. Sarah Impalin, a family-values vampire hunter? So not done!
  8. Karen Owen's Sex Powerpoint. Wear a sandwich board describing what hooking up with you would entail. Use graphs. Obscure your eyes so people have difficulty identifying you!
  9. Eliot Spitzer's New CNN Show. Don't go to the party. Just hide someone where no one can see you.
  10. The Constitution, as Christine O'Donnell Imagines It. Just dress as a giant, God-fearing bunny that wants to hug people.
  11. "Ground Zero Mosque." Crash a party! Insist that you have every right to be there. For added accuracy, actually crash a party that's several blocks away, and keep asking strange people to fund you.
  12. That Guy Who Wanted To Burn All Those Korans. Carry a Koran with you and insist that you're going to burn it unless that other guy dressed up as the Ground Zero Mosque leaves the party right now. Don't actually do it, though.
  13. Salmonella Egg.Dress up as a regular egg, but act increasingly weird and paranoid! Shout angrily about how the chicken was always putting itself first. Try to poison everyone at the party.
  14. Brett Favre's Sext Be grainy and slightly shorter than people were expecting. Keep bugging attractive women. Say you're going to quit and leave the party, but then come back a few minutes later. Do this, like, eight times.
  15. Someone Who Would Frighten Juan Williams At The Airport. Figure out what "muslim garb" is. Wear that.
  16. Anita Hill's Telephone. Dress up as a telephone. Keep ringing. Say "It's Ginni Thomas, and I need an apology!" Do this every Halloween for the next twenty years.
  17. Steven Slater. Flight attendant uniform. Check. Attitude. Check. Midway through the party, grab a lot of alcohol and leave. Great if you have multiple destinations.
  18. That Menacing Guy From The Immigration Reform Commercials. Take a lot of handouts, and try to steal everyone's jobs!
  19. Rent Is Too Damn High. Everyone's going as the Rent is Too Damn High guy or Antoine Dodson. If you're in a state where Prop 19 is on the ballot, just go as the rent! (Aqua Buddha is a great companion costume.)

Don't have time for costume making? Try these instead.

  1. Whore. Say you're dressed as "Meg Whitman, seen through the eyes of a Jerry Brown staffer."
  2. The Recession. Wear a regular zombie outfit. Tell everyone: "I died in June 2009, and yet, I'm still here, eating your livelihood!"
  3. Mark Zuckerberg. Don't dress up. Wear a hoodie. Act a little bit more like you have mild Asperger's than you usually do.
  4. It Gets Better video. Walk around telling people how glad you are that you made it through middle school and giving them hope. Unless you're a politician, in which case, walk around telling people that eventually, things might get better, and you urge them to "stay cool."
  5. Phil Davison. Don't wear a costume, just yell a lot.
  6. Carl Paladino at a Gay Pride Parade. Just stand there looking uncomfortable. If anyone asks what you are, shudder, and say, "Stop brainwashing me into thinking this is acceptable."

By Alexandra Petri  | October 25, 2010; 2:46 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments
Categories:  Petri  | Tags:  Halloween  
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Posted at 12:18 PM ET, 10/25/2010

Jennifer Mee -- from hiccups to murder?

"Hiccup girl" Jennifer Mee has been charged with first-degree murder!

It's the classic tragedy. Someone rises to fame and prominence for something innocent and then starts arranging for people to be killed. Like Macbeth! Or Mark Zuckerberg -- at least according to "The Social Network."

Mee reportedly lured Shannon Griffin to a house where he was robbed and shot repeatedly.

Is this a logical step? Does the brief and fleeting notoriety associated with the moniker "hiccup girl" lead naturally to that other kind of peculiar and fleeting notoriety associated with murder charges?

Of course.

People hate hiccupers with the sort of vehemence they usually reserve for, well, murderers. On an unscientific poll I just conducted, asking people whether they would prefer to stand next to a murderer or someone with hiccups on their next subway ride, 66 percent picked the killer! This makes sense. After all, killers have off-days.

And the parallels between the two go deep. Consider the following, replacing "hiccup" with "murder."

Hiccups are very irritating to those around you. And they're usually impossible to cure.

You can try praying for divine assistance, but if you're hiccuping while doing it, it sounds a lot less convincing.

The more hiccuping you do, the more likely it is that you will draw media attention to yourself, or that an episode of Law and Order: SVU will be based on your life

"I can't stop, and I don't know why it happens," is something people say about hiccups.

Some people find hiccups sexy, but most people don't.

"Try thinking about something else, like horses," is advice people give you when you are hiccuping.

You can blame hiccups on your diet or upbringing, but it won't be very convincing.

Hiccups might alienate you from your cellmate.

All I'm saying is, it's a slippery slope. She should plead not guilty by reason of inanity.

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By Alexandra Petri  | October 25, 2010; 12:18 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments
Categories:  Petri  | Tags:  hiccups or murder  
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Posted at 11:17 PM ET, 10/24/2010

Joe Miller hires the "Christian Indiana Jones"; Obama packs bag lunch; Meg Whitman wastes $139 million

Don't mess with Joe Miller.

First, the Republican nominee for the Senate from Alaska caused a stir when the active-duty military bodyguards protecting him handcuffed a reporter who was trying to ask the candidate questions. Now comes word from Mother Jones that Miller has hired a consultant named Terry Moffitt who describes himself as the "Christian Indiana Jones" and claims to have "received death threats from a radial [sic] Islamic groups and been bitten by a very nasty spider in Australia."

"Radial" Muslims, in case you didn't know, are significantly more dangerous than those who use snow tires.


Watch this drive.

President Obama is mere days from an election that will define the rest of his term, and he's clearly on his game. On Sunday, he devoted his precious time to a game of golf at Andrews Air Force Base.

But let it not be said that this president is out of touch with these austere times. According to the White House pool report, Obama "appeared to be carrying his own foil-wrapped sandwich."


One hundred and thirty-nine million dollars later, Republican Meg Whitman's closing pitch in the California gubernatorial race begins with an admission that she's seen as "a billionaire with no government experience."

By Dana Milbank  | October 24, 2010; 11:17 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments
Categories:  Missing links  | Tags:  Missing Links  
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Posted at 2:35 PM ET, 10/22/2010

NASA Hubble spots oldest galaxy yet

That smudge in a photo released by NASA's Hubble telescope earlier this year? According to astronomers, it's a galaxy from 13.1 billion years ago!

This would make it the farthest away and longest ago galaxy ever -- and, consequently, the one with the best chance that Star Wars is happening there right now!

13.1 billion! That's old. What's bizarre is I bet the residents of that galaxy are convinced it's only 6,000 years old. "That's when Dagmar built everything," they tell each other. "With his glort." Still, it's almost three times our age! Earth is only 4.54 billion years old, give or take a few million years.

The other bizarre thing about this is that the only pictures we have of this galaxy are 13.1 billion years old. I assume that it describes these pictures as "recent" on its profile.

Of course, maybe that's not the only picture. Maybe the galaxy has just been untagging all the subsequent pictures because it's gained a lot of mass recently.

This will backfire when we try to set up a coffee date. "The picture showed a fit guy who worked out often," we'll say. "But you look more like a 13.1 billion year-old galaxy!" "Sorry, I keep meaning to work out in the new year," the galaxy will explain. "Is it my fault that one revolution out here is the equivalent of 200 million earth years?"

But maybe the galaxy is better looking now, since graduating from high school, moving to the big city, and figuring out its place in the universe. I can't wait for the Big Bang Reunion -- or, as scientists prefer to call it, the Big Crunch -- when we'll be able to find out!

Still, I hate long-distance relationships. That's the nature of space, but it makes communication so hard. Whenever other galaxies spot us from a million or so lightyears away, they wind up basing all their conversation starters on the assumption that we still have dinosaurs. That's always awkward.

By Alexandra Petri  | October 22, 2010; 2:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments
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