Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Saturday, December 31, 2005
Some Couples Are Great; Others, Not So Much
Today we had lunch with a weird couple. It all started a few weeks ago when The Diva (our 7 year-old daughter) befriended a new girl at our synagogue. In true Diva fashion, she instantly became "best-friends." So her parents invited us for Shabbat lunch. We trudged to their house in an uncharacteristic downpour and began pleasantries with our hosts. We then adjourned to the dining room to begin the meal. First, we had Kiddush (the blessing over the wine at Shabbat meals), no problem. Next, hand-washing. (Before formals meals there is a ceremonial hand-washing strictly for religious reasons, not for hygiene. It is assumed that if one's hands are actually dirty one will wash them before coming to the table.) So the hostess announces that we should wash with soap and water first, and then do the ritual washing. At first, I think she is addressing her 7 year-old daughter. I soon realize that she is addressing us all. Oddly enough, both Bean and I comply and wash our hands thoroughly with soap. She doesn't seem like the kind of woman you want to cross. After hand-washing, I glance around the kitchen. The walls are papered with lists, apparently for the housekeeper. Many of my friends have short list on the fridge to remind the housekeeper when to give the baby a bottle, or emergency phone numbers. Our hostess had the entire kitchen cabinet covered with multiple lists that were so intricate they may have required the Dewey decimal system. The list entitled "setting the table for Shabbat" may have its own entry in the Library of Congress. An entire page in length, the list was not only bulleted but contained sub-sub-divisions like:
1(b)iii The small fork is to the left of the large fork.
There was also a large diagram of a table setting.
Much of the rest of the meal was spent with the wife nitpicking her husband's behavior. She yelled at him not to talk with his mouth full. She finished the stories he was trying to tell us and generally micromanaged the rest of the afternoon.
On the way home, Bean and I discussed what odd ducks this couple is and how you can't predict merely from someone's level of religiosity or the synagogue they attend whether you will feel comfortable with them. It just underscored how much we and Psychotoddler and Mrs. Balabusta have in common that we did not have any of this discomfort around them. Or, perhaps, they thought we were freaks, but knowing that we read his blog, he had the decency not to mention it.
Friday, December 30, 2005
Best Trailer of all time
Recently I annoyed people by listing my favorite movies and asking commenters to do the same.
It occurred to me, however, that there is an unassailable choice for the best trailer of all time: Naked Gun 2 1/2.
Unfortunately, I can't find it online. To jog your memory, it begins with the announcer solemnly intoning: "From the brother of the director of Ghost..." and goes on to show the parody of the pottery-making scene from Ghost. The trailer proved so popular that it was inserted into the movie before its release.
We're 60% Jewish, 0% Israeli, 100% Blog
A regular reader, friend, and blogger (who can out himself in the comments or not) nominated our humble Coffeehouse for the second annual Jewish & Israeli Blog (JIB) Awards under the "Best Politics and Current Affairs Blog" category. The rest of the nominees in that category can be browsed on the Jerusalem Post JIB site by clicking the icon.
We're flattered, and we certainly welcome the new readers that this nomination will bring, but we can't in good conscience ask for your vote, at least not until we explain who and what we are.
First of all, we're a team blog. There are five of us. Three are Jewish, Modern Orthodox if you want the flavor. One is a religious Christian. One is not particularly religious. None of us is Israeli; we all live in California. We've never considered this a Jewish or Israeli blog.
We're a conservative blog. We started over a year ago before the presidential elections with the intention to vent right-wing political thought from the depths of a very blue state. We strongly support the war on Islamofascim. We have posted often on the war, its slanted coverage in the media, and the benefits that America and the world have already reaped from it. We are strongly pro-Israel and see the Israeli-Arab conflict as another front on the war on Islamofascism. We wrote frequently and with much apprehension about the Gaza withdrawal, but always with the respect that we are not Israeli voters and that the decision was ultimately (or should have been) in their hands. We were pessimistic about withdrawal but did not fly orange ribbons. We think Israel should do whatever is best for Israelis, whatever that means for the "disputed territories". We think the world would be better off if Israel kept the "disputed territories" and started disputes over Damascus and Tehran. Obviously, Arabs are human beings too, and their rights can not be ignored, for example their right to burn France to the ground.
We've posted about Jewish topics frequently but also about Christian or just generically religious issues. And some of our most interesting threads have involved discussions between members of different religions.
The Jerusalem Post's JIB site explains that nominees for the "Best Politics and Current Affairs Blog"
… should deal predominantly with currents affairs central to the Israeli or Jewish world or should offer an interpretation of world events with an eye towards Israeli or Jewish interests.And that's the problem. We don't deal predominantly with anything. We've posted about our family life and our work. We've reviewed books and movies. And even our political posts haven't been "predominantly" about Israel or Jewish life. They've been about Terry Schiavo and handguns and the Supreme Court and Ronald Reagan and myriad other topics.
We would enthusiastically and with great pride run for "Best Conservative Blog" or "Blog Most Likely to Support U.S. Invasion of Any Given Country" or "Blog Most Supportive of Tax Cuts and ANWR Drilling", but whether we fit the bill for our current nomination… we'll let you judge.
In the 1960s against very long odds Bill Buckley Jr. ran for mayor of New York City. When asked by a reporter what he would do first if elected, he replied "demand a recount". If we win, we'll do the same.
Meanwhile, we're glad you're here and hope you return. The food is terrible, but the opinions are fresh.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
What do J. Edgar Hoover, John Wilkes Booth, Benedict Arnold, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Stephen Douglas, Richard Nixon, Joe McCarthy, Aaron Burr, John Walker Jr., and Jimmy Carter have in common?
They made the Captain Ed's list of the 10 Worst Americans (3 parts: 1-4, 5-7, 8-10).
I found Carter's inclusion a little surprising at first, but Ed makes a compelling case. Carter's impotence, indecision and general incompetence while in office wouldn't be enough to include him on my list, but his willful undermining of U.S. interests throughout the past decade legitimize his inclusion.
Read the complete list and comments, and you'll know more about American history than you do now. :)
Edited to include Ed's explanation of the criteria:
In response to Alexandra's challenge at All Things Beautiful to name the Ten Worst Americans of All Time, I asked CQ readers to make their own suggestions as I considered the choices. Speaking from a historical perspective, it really is quite difficult to come up with a list of "worst Americans". Most of our history is spent pursuing what we did well, and our failures tend to get shoved under the carpet. Some people simply rise to the occasion, however, and our history has its fair share of the scandalous and the downright evil.
For my consideration, I decided that the status of American had to be part of their "crimes". In other words, simply picking someone like Ted Bundy or Charles Manson would be too easy. Their evil, though real and in most cases worse than what you'll read on this list, doesn't have to do with their innate American heritage. I went looking for the people who sinned against America itself, or the ideal of America. Otherwise, we'd just be looking at body counts.
I also tried to avoid picking contemporary political figures, as we do not have sufficient historical perspective to make that kind of determination. (I do have one exception to this.) Don't expect to see Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi on this list, nor Teddy Kennedy or Bill Clinton.
A couple of people barely missed the list. Earl Warren came under strong consideration for his efforts to set up the Japanese internment camps, as did Chief Justice Taney for his concurrence in the cowardly and cruel Dred Scott decision. Someone suggested William Randolph Hearst, a yellow journalist of the first order, and that was very tempting.
In the end, I came up with ten that I think will be intriguing and provocative, and I wrote explanations for each. Below you will find posts in groups of three, except for #1 which will have its own spot. The essays make it too long to put into a single post. I'm going to really enjoy the commentary for each of these, and I think we will have a great debate over this -- and I may just surprise a few people.
People keep asking, "what's Kwanzaa?" I knew part of the answer: that it's a holiday created by some professor in the '60s that purports to celebrate African culture. After reading this article by Mary Katharine Ham, I now know more about "some professor".
My Rocky Relationship With Kwanzaa
Later, I found out why. Revealing that Kwanzaa was created by Ron Karenga leads to revealing Ron Karenga, and that subject is hardly one that's fit for a second-grade classroom.
Why? Because at various times during his life, Karenga was head of a black nationalist group not known for its non-violent tactics; he was convicted and served time for torturing two women-- members of his own group-- by whipping them with electrical cords and burning their mouths and faces with a hot iron; he invented Kwanzaa as a way to "de-whitize" Christmas, as Al Sharpton once put it, expressly as a way to separate the races.
Worth reading the whole thing.
Kosher dining in LA
The Kosher Blog reviews kosher cuisine in our humble town.
Previous dispatches from their LA trip:
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Manassas Changes Definition Of Family
A new town law limits households to immediate relatives. Your nephew cannot live with you.
Seems to be an anti-immigrant (let's say even anti-illegal-immigrant) measure. I will go on record as being against this law. You don't want illegal immigrants living on your block? Arrest them for being in the country illegally. Having trouble finding a parking space because 13 people live across the street from you, each with his own car? Arrange for permit parking and limit the number of permits a house can have. Don't want excessive renters in the neighborhood? Pass a zoning law and enforce it.
I haven't reviewed the good ol' constitution, but I don't see how the government can limit who lives in your house, 'slong as they're all law-abiding.
Right between the eyes
Posting looks like it will be slow this week, so I dug through our archives from a year ago and found a very nice submission by Oven that you may have missed. There's a lot of good old stuff on ice in our archives, and now that we actually have 3 or 4 readers, we may rerun them for your amusement.
This holiday season, treat your honey (or yourself) to an ounce of caviar. It's the most expensive snack you'll ever have. Real caviar is the roe of sturgeon, although other fish eggs can be sold as caviar in the U.S. so long as the name of the fish comes first (e.g. salmon caviar).
Caviar is delicate stuff, and it does not keep well, so it must be processed carefully but quickly. You start with a pregnant sturgeon. Then you bash it on the head to stun it (killing the sturgeon would speed the deterioration of the roe). Then you remove the roe sac, strain out the individual eggs, clean the eggs with very cold water and then dry them. Then a caviar expert steps in to judge the size, smell, taste, and texture of the eggs. Most importantly, he (find me a woman that does this) determines how much salt to be added. The finest caviar is malossol, a Russian word that means "low salt."
Caviar must be kept refrigerated and it will only last a few weeks. You don't want to freeze caviar because the eggs might burst. Once the container is opened, you better finish it.
At the Bristol Farms near my home, you can get an ounce of Beluga for $105. Beluga is the largest kind of sturgeon and it produces the largest eggs - dark gray eggs with a mild buttery taste. This is considered the best caviar and it is increasingly more difficult to come by as the beluga sturgeon population (located mostly in the Caspian Sea) has been decimated over the last 20 years. My first experience with caviar was beluga served at the reception following my wife's boss' wedding.
You can get an ounce of Sevruga for $70. Sevruga is the smallest sturgeon with the smallest eggs. It has a strong taste (less subtle = less expensive) and it was served atop hors d'oeuvres at my company's Christmas party this past Friday.
The in-between caviar is Ossetra and you can get an ounce for $80. It comes from a medium-sized sturgeon and it has a stronger taste than Beluga, but less strong than Sevruga. I bought an ounce of this for my wife two Christmases ago because they were out of Beluga, and she didn't like it. This is one of my top three "Great Gift Ideas that Totally Backfired." Moral of the story: try it before you buy it, because caviar is not for everyone.
For those of you that care, a quick search of the Internet reveals that - yes - there is kosher caviar. I was initially unsure of this, given the unusual method by which caviar is processed.
- served up by Oven
Sunday, December 25, 2005
First, I’d like to wish all of our Christian readers a very merry Christmas!
For those of us enjoying a quiet Sunday before the start of Chanukah tonight, I offer a bit of mathematical diversion. Please simplify the following infinite fraction. Explain your work.
Friday, December 23, 2005
Oh Happy Day!
There seem to be a lot of tributes out there from bloggers to their wives. If I knew how to use html, I could even link to them. These tributes are touching and sweet and generally involve the male half of the sketch becoming instantly besotted with the love of his life and his final triumph in marrying the perfect object of his desire.
I want to write the tribute from the other perspective. You see, yesterday marked the 14 year anniversary of me turning in my Miss Chain identity card and plighting my troth to (then medical student) Bean, thereby becoming Mrs. Bean.
The story starts approximately 16 years ago when I was required to take a course in Developmental Biology. I took this class with many other students from the microbiology department,including George. George introduced me to his roommate and our fellow classmate Bean. Bean was majoring in engineering, but since he was planning on medical school, he also had to take a bunch of pre-med requirements. Bean looked every bit the engineering student; scrawny, ill-fitting and outdated clothes, bad haircut, everything but the actual pocket-protector. Since George and I studied together, it looked like I would be seeing a lot of Bean.
I roller skated over to George’s place one evening to study. I brought with me a tuna sandwich from Subway. Bean asked me (these were probably his first words to me), “why the tuna sandwich?” I said that since I kept kosher (yes, I know that Subway isn’t really kosher, but I was raised a Conservative Jew), it was the only choice. Bean told me “Oh, when I find out something is kosher I intentionally don’t eat it.” Not an auspicious first impression.
Being a science major, I was also required to take physics. Not the physics that the engineers took, thank G-d, but not the “physics for poets” either. I suspect it wouldn’t have matter which level physics I took. I would have failed them all. As it was, I was failing a required course. Suddenly, Bean took on key importance in my life. I had access to one of those nerds who are so good at tutoring. He was (and still is) one of those guys who don’t even need to read the textbook, once they know the main concepts, they understand it all. He agreed to tutor me. In retrospect, I don’t think he asked me to pay him, which should have been my first clue.
To be continued…
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Mrs. Ralphie is pregnant. I tell you this not to get your well wishes but to present an odd phenomenon: when it comes to pregnant women, people seem to forget, well, common decency.
We've all heard stories of people placing their hands on pregnant strangers' bellies. But my concern deals with the verbal.
Tonight we visited some friends. When we told them the news, the wife half of the couple said, "I thought so! I didn't want to say anything... but I thought, wow! You are really showing! When I hugged you I thought, Hey, what's that?"
Now let me tell you that my wife, just entering month 4, is not showing. But now of course she is convinced that she is, and I cannot seem to convince her otherwise. What was that woman thinking?
Hey, you say, pregnant women tend to grow larger than their normal sizes. That shouldn't be offensive to mention. Fine. But what about this:
"Was this a surprise?"
What makes someone, anyone, think it's okay to ask this question? Is it not the same question as, "Is your unborn child an accident?" "Did your preferred method of birth control fail you?" "Were you aware that sexual intercourse can lead to insemination?"
And, frankly, it ain't too far from:
"Aren't you a little old to be having more children?" and "Isn't it slightly uncouth to have more than two children?"
I know this blog doesn't have the largest readership in the 'sphere, but can somebody please spread the word that this kind of this is not OK? Much obliged.
Farrakhan delivered Tookie eulogy
This fact is buried at the end of the LA Times' write-up. Kind of tells you all you need to know.
To be fair, the second paragraph mentions that "dozens of Crips gang members" tried to attend. No word on how many former gang members converted by Tookie to the path of light showed up. Fine, that's a little unfair.
In any case, my own sources told me that the head of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, who was actively involved in the Save Tookie campaign, cancelled his appearance on the funeral dais when he learned of Farrakhan's involvement. Good for him, I say!
When I first heard about it, I thought for sure I'd be in line to see Spielberg's rendition of the aftermath of the Munich Olympics massacres. Then as the publicity machine cranked up, I grew skeptical. And then, well, sad.
After reviews like this (free reg req'd) and this, I think it's safe to say I won't be seeing it. Why does this make me sad? Well, after Schindler's List and the Shoah Foundation, Spielberg became sometihng of a hero in the Jewish world. Well, at least to me. I stopped by his mother's restaurant and asked her to thank him for me (I'm sure he was elated to hear of my approval.)
But here he had a chance to use his extraordinary influence to hit one out of the park for the good guys, and expose the baddies for what they are. And from all accounts (from critics and supporters alike), it seems he went the moral equivalence route. So terribly, terribly, disappointing.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, "In today’s political climate, Spielberg knew he couldn’t get away with making the terrorists one-dimensional heavies. The nasty Nazis of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' wouldn’t cut it."
This is speculation, of course. But I wonder - if Raiders were made today, would "today's political climate" incline Spielberg to "humanize" the Nazis in that film? Is our society demanding that, as well?
Add to this the notion that the book on which the movie is based has largely been labeled a fraud. Apparently there is a new book that tells the real story. (Although, to be fair, who knows about the accuracy of this one? How could it have been reseached, written, and released within a single year?)
One last point: Is it fair of me to criticize the movie without even seeing it? Absolutely. Plenty of people whose opinions I trust have seen it (as have those I don't and who have come to opposite conclusions - Roger Ebert praised it for its equivalence on his show, for example). I reject the notion that one can't comment on art or ideas if one hasn't seen the piece in question. I can say that I believe that hard-core pornography is bad even if I haven't seen all the latest releases. (The fact that I have seen all the latest releases does not negate my point.)
In the end, I think I'll just rent One Day in September.
In Admiration of Iraqi Voters
(Yes. I did it myself in PC Paint. If someone wants to make a nice version with Photoshop, be my guest.)
Heinz to Bush: Ketchup to the rest of the world and condemn Iran
Remember Teresa Heinz Kerry? She was the outspoken wife of a failed presidential candidate. You might recall that she speaks her mind.
Well, now her mind is saying that Bush is silent on Iran's President's Holocaust denial and call for Israel's destruction. She states that no one in the administration has mentioned. No one except, well, John Bolton, Scott McClellan, Sean McCormack (state dept. spokesman) and Condoleeza Rice. But Bush himself didn't say anything! He must agree!!!!
As for Condi, Heinz says that the Secretary of State "noted widespread condemnation of the remarks, but did not offer condemnation of her own..." Here's the quote (ellipses in Heinz's original citation):
"When the president of one country says that another country should be wiped off the face of the map in violation of all of the norms of the United Nations... it has to be taken seriously.... There has been widespread condemnation of this statement and it only demonstrates why we're working so hard to keep Iran from getting technologies that would lead to a nuclear weapon."
Um, yeah, she didn't literally say the words "Saying that another country should be wiped of the face of the earth is bad." But if you don't know what Condi meant, then stick to your condiment. Know what I mean?
(And in case you were wondering if Bush said anything, of course he did.)
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Top 10 Favorite Movies
This can be a little annoying, actually, but Jonathan Last at Galley Slaves has posted his Top 10 Movies and asked for comments. Here's what I posted over there:
The Sound of Music
History of the World, Part I
They Live (best sci-fi ever)
The Sixth Sense
Boyz in da Hood
Back to the Future
Okay, that's 15. So sue me.
Power Line: It's Legal
Associate Attorney General John Schmidt:
"President Bush's post- Sept. 11, 2001, authorization to the National Security Agency to carry out electronic surveillance into private phone calls and e-mails is consistent with court decisions and with the positions of the Justice Department under prior presidents.
In the Supreme Court's 1972 Keith decision holding that the president does not have inherent authority to order wiretapping without warrants to combat domestic threats, the court said explicitly that it was not questioning the president's authority to take such action in response to threats from abroad.
Four federal courts of appeal subsequently faced the issue squarely and held that the president has inherent authority to authorize wiretapping for foreign intelligence purposes without judicial warrant."
At the absolute worst, the area is grey. Democrats hanging their hats on trying to neuter the President's efforts to perform his duty to protect the United States from foreign and domestic threats is a boomarang waiting to smack them right in their collective noses.
And, hey! Can we get an indictment on the a-hole who compromised our national security by leaking this information?
Science? What Science?
There are many news items in the popular media that drive me crazy. One type however, stands out because it offends both my sensibilities as a crazy-right-winger and as an erstwhile scientist. I call it “backwards science” but there is probably a technical name for it. You know what I’m talking about. A story comes over the wire such as; children who have pets when they are young are less likely to develop allergies when they get older. If you’re me you immediately slap your forehead and throw something at the radio. You see, to me it is obvious that children of parents with no pet allergies also don’t have pet allergies. The reason that this family has a dog or cat when the child is young is because the parents aren’t allergic! All the articles’ authors have proven (if anything) is that pet allergies are probably genetic. Not very surprising.
Frequently, these news items have more sinister implications. For example, the latest power-grab by the state, “universal pre-school” uses these same tactics in an attempt to separate children from their parents at younger ages to begin their indoctrination. Mandatory pre-school would also be a boon for the teachers union and everyone else who believes that bigger government is better government. I would like to analyze the claims made by the backers of the universal pre-school proposal. The radio ads state that children who attend preschool are less likely to need special ed. Of course, children who need special help are simply less likely to find a preschool to accommodate their needs, hence they don’t attend. The ads further state that children who attend pre-school are less likely to drop out of school. I would contend that the kind of parent who values early education (like pre-school), is less likely to raise a child who will drop out of school. Their claim that children who attend pre-school are less likely to become criminals probably follows the same logic. The bottom line is that you can never extrapolate from a self-selected group to the population at large. Always notice when this tactic is used. It is usually an attempt to regulate your behavior leaving you with fewer choices and less freedom.
I haven't called your attention to Cox & Forkum's cartoons recently. This one perfectly captures the mainstream media's disinterest in the dramatic transformation of fifty million lives in Iraq.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Fun on Hold
I'm sure you'll be happy to hear that Mr. Sam Goodstein (not his real name) who first came to your attention because of the great efforts of two physicians to find him on a recent Sunday morning, has improved and was transferred today to The Fancy-Shmancy Rehab Center.
This evening ball-and-chain and I ware sitting at our adjacent desks getting some work done in the hectic post-dinner hours. I realized that I needed to adjust the dose of one of Mr. Goodstein medications. I picked up the phone and dialed. She could only hear my side of the conversation.
Nurse: The Fancy-Shmancy Rehab Center. How can I help you?
Doctor Bean: Hi! This is Doctor Bean. I have an order for Mr. Sam Goodstein.
Nurse: Doctor Bean! How are you?
DB: Great! How are you?
Nurse: Good, thanks. Hold just a minute while I get Mr. Goodstein's chart.
[Hold music plays in the background and keeps playing while I start talking. ball-and-chain doesn't know I'm on hold.]
DB: Thanks. I'd like you to ice his scrotum every four hours. Especially at night.
ball-and-chain bursts into laughter and nearly swallows her gum.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Bush Fights Back
Today in a press conference Bush explained to the American people why NSA monitoring of some phone calls that originate inside the US and are calling abroad has been necessary in the war on terror. His language was simple and persuasive. I only read the transcript and didn't see the video but it struck me like a speech that should resonate with the political center. His points: We're at war. There was repeated Congressional notification. The President was doing what the Constitution allows him to do to accomplish a duty that the Constitution demands of him. He's going to keep doing it. Whoever leaked this is helping the enemy.
The Coffeehousers have been telling you for months that we're winning the war in Iraq. Despite the constant negative mainstream media drumbeat, Americans are realizing the truth. Bush's poll numbers are on the rise, though admittedly not stellar. The economy is humming. Rather than lead on issues, the Democrats have pinned their hopes on the scandal of the month: no WMD, FEMA's response to Katrina, and the outing of Plame. None have had any traction, because no rational American believes that they are the fault of the President, no matter how much screaming the anti-war left does.
Regular readers also know that we don't rubber-stamp all the President's policies with glee. I for one am very disappointed by the President's immigration policy, the Medicare drug program, and the runaway domestic spending (including his faith-based pork). All of these when added up, however, aren't as important to me as the war on Islamofascism. For that alone he has earned my support.
President Bush will be remembered as having liberated 50 million people, and if his vision of the democratic domino effect comes to pass, hundreds of millions more. (I believe that Prime Minister Blair and Australia's John Howard deserve credit too.) This ensures that he will never win the Nobel Peace Prize or become Times Man of the Year, but in terms of sheer quantity of human benefit, no one has done better than him since Ronald Reagan.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
And That’s The Way It Was
The much-heralded visit of Psychotoddler and Mrs. Balabusta to the Bean estate has generated 15 posts on six different blogs. In the interests of hobbling together a chronicle of their trip and of bringing to your attention some of the accounts you may have missed, I’ve assembled the list of posts and sorted them in order of the events they record.
California Here I Come
Board the Windows and Change the Locks
Los Angeles, Friday
Psychotoddler and Bean, PT 1
Shabbat in California
Dinner for eight at seven on the tenth
We Meet Bloggers When We Go Out
The Truth About Olive Garden
Looking for Mr. Goodstein
Universal City on Sunday
Actually a Mentally Healthy Grown-Up
“There may be 50 ways to leave your lover…
Psychotoddler and Bean part 15: The Pictures
Friday, December 16, 2005
VDH - Lancing the Boil
If I were smarter, better informed, more eloquent and less bald, I would be Victor Davis Hanson
Lancing the Boil
But in the real adult world, the economy is red-hot, not mired in joblessness or relegating millions to poverty. Unemployment is low, so are interest rates. Growth is high, as is consumer spending and confidence. Our Katrina was hardly as lethal as the Tsunami or Pakistani earthquake. Thousands of Arabs are not rioting in Dearborn. American elderly don’t roast and die in the thousands in their apartments as was true in France. Nor do American cities, like some in China, lose their entire water supply to a toxic spill. Americans did not just vote to reject their own Constitution as in some European countries.
The military isn’t broken. Unlike after Vietnam when the Russians, Iranians, Cambodians, and Nicaraguans all soon tried to press their luck at our expense, most of our adversaries don’t believe the U.S. military is losing in Iraq, much less that it is wise now to take it on. Instead, the general impression is that our veteran and battle-hardened forces are even more lethal than was true of the 1990s — and engaging successfully in an almost impossible war.
Nor are we creating new hordes of terrorists in Iraq — as if a young male Middle Eastern fundamentalist first hates the United States only on news that it is in Iraq crafting a new Marshall Plan of $87 billion and offering a long-oppressed people democracy after taking out Saddam Hussein. Even al Jazeera cannot turn truth into untruth forever.
Instead, the apprentice jihadist is trying to win his certification as master terrorist by trying his luck against the U.S. Marines abroad rather than on another World Trade Center at home — and failing quite unlike September 11.
Detached Headline of the Day
A day after the terrifically successful Iraqi elections, Molly Ivins brings us this gem of a headline.
Despite Bush's claims, situation grows steadily worse in Iraq
She then procedes to give a virtuoso rendition of the ramblingly incoherent "Bush Lied" mantra. BRAVO!!
Thursday, December 15, 2005
I Love Christmas
There. I said it. I'm an Orthodox Jew and I love Christmas!
Lots of nice songs. Pretty decorations. People acting nicely towards one another. What's not to like? (I mean, I'm not putting up a tree or anything, I just don't have a visceral anti-Christmas reaction every December.)
I'm not sure why many of my co-religionists like the Jewcy Chanukah party attendees (free reg req'd) are so riled up. You feel like a minority at Christmas? News flash: you ARE a minority. Is it because they are avowedly cultural Jews? Am I secure at this season because I know how much else I have to celebrate? For me, that might be it. I don't know how other observant Jews feel, necessarily.
The best part of the above article, by the way, is Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's telling these pishers to stop trying to be so cool and go learn some Torah already!
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
The Religion of Consent
Stacey, Psychotoddler, and I had an interesting email conversation today that touched on the topic of societal sexual behavior standards – how different groups set standards of what sexual behavior is acceptable and what is not.
In the first half of the twentieth century this answer would have been simple. Society first of all taught young children next to nothing about sex, believing that to expose them prematurely to this topic would erode their innocence. It taught young adults a behavior code largely based on religious precepts, that the ideal for sexual behavior is confined to monogamous heterosexual marriage. All other sexual expression – premarital sex, adultery, homosexual behavior, even masturbation – fell short of this ideal and was met with some level of social stigma. This social compact certainly had serious flaws. Some felt terribly repressed or terribly guilty. Others, such as gays, felt that society had written them out entirely.
These flaws were examined, aired and protested with great enthusiasm in the second half of the twentieth century. The sexual revolution that began in literature in the late 1800s spread through general society in the 1960s. The ideal of monogamous heterosexual marriage, in fact the very idea that there should be any ideal of sexual behavior, was considered entirely repressive and hopelessly anachronistic and discarded.
What has replaced it? The ideal of consent. There is nothing that consenting adults can do that may be judged in any way. The crassest promiscuity, the most predatory sexual pursuits, the most careless disregard for the consequences to one's children or their other parent, these are simply various acceptable choices in life's smorgasbord. The only thing that can not be tolerated is intolerance. To rank some behaviors as better and some as worse – that is the only sin in the religion of consent, and this religion is taught to children at an increasingly young age. The degradation of families, of children's innocence, of our sense of privacy should have been predictable. But even the most jaded should be surprised by how far we've fallen.
I mentioned in a previous thread that I've been reading Theodore Dalrymple's Our Culture, What's Left of It. It turns out that many of the essays in his book were first published in a terrific conservative publication City Journal, a link to which I've just added to our sidebar. An author search for Dalrymple will provide you with great conservative reading for many lunch hours to come.
The specific article I'd like to draw to your attention is All Sex, All the Time. In it Dalrymple details the loss of sexual standards in Britain. He does not provide a solution. The clock can not be turned back. But while some celebrate the nearly limitless freedom that has been gained, Dalrymple reminds us that we must also make an accounting of what has been lost.
Seems Barbara Walters has been reading our blog. She's picked up on the "how do you get to heaven" theme of this post and is set to air a special on Dec. 20.
I'm glad to see this issue raised. I wonder if there is a middle ground where DDT use could be kept at lower levels in order to safeguard vulnerable bird species, but levels which are high enough to be useful in preventing widespread death from diseases like malaria.
"Save the World" Enviros Are Killing Millions of African Kids"
Monday, December 12, 2005
Schwarzenegger denies clemency for Tookie
Stanley "Tookie" Williams claimed he was innocent of murder and that in any case he had reformed his gang ways. This report rejects his claims of innocence and questions the sincerity of his reformation.
I don't doubt his guilt, but maybe he really had reformed. Should that be a reason to grant clemency? In any case, is there any point in remaining in the realm of the theoretical, when the actual will occur in about nine hours?
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Actually a Mentally Healthy Grown-Up
Psychotoddler and Mrs. B end their whirlwind stay with us tomorrow morning. It's been an event-packed trip for them. I'm sure he'll post the specific play-by-play, so I wanted to record some more general impressions. (He already has a post about last nights' blogger Chinese food round table. Inland Empress wrote about it too.)
It's not every day that you meet someone for the first time who you've known for months. I suppose before the internet, people had pen pals who they would eventually meet, but I imagine the blogosphere makes it so much easier to find a pal with whom one shares any number of interests, just not geographic proximity. Still, the HTML interface can hide a lot of things, and it's easy to imagine how friends by blog or email could be bored or awkward or even unpleasant in person.
But not in this case. Psychotoddler and Mrs. B are about the nicest folks you could hope to meet. They're totally unassuming. They have senses of humor honed by two decades of watching the same movies together; they have the wisdom that comes from more life experience than you would expect from a couple so young; they have the quiet calm that comes from surviving the chaos that only six children can create.
It was a treat spending time with them, and ball-and-chain and I will be sorry to see them off. Besides sharing a really fun weekend with us, they reminded us how blessed our lives are and how enriched we are by our friends.
Friday, December 09, 2005
Special Guest Post By Psychotoddler
Hi Coffeehouse members and frequent readers! This is Psychotoddler here, doing a special guest post from Dr. Bean's super-secret lair. Mrs. Balabusta and I arrived right on time after a fantabulous 4 hour airplane ride in which we didn't have to take care of any kids. Scratch that. We actually picked up a baby on the way. But that's a tale for another time. I will eventually post some juicy details...somewhere, with pictures, but that will have to wait for my return to civili--the Midwest.
So, ah, anyway, since I'm here with the Beans, uh, doing this, er, 'guerilla blogging' as it were, I should maybe try to keep up with the spirit of the Coffeehouse and Dr. Bean in particular.
So here goes:
Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush are at the corner of North Lake Drive and East Capitol Drive in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They board busses going in opposite directions on Capitol Drive. Mr. Reagan's bus is going east. Mr. Bush's bus is going west. Each bus also contains members of the NRA. At each stop, one member of the NRA gets off, but one member of the ACLU gets on. Every third block, the bus driver on Mr. Reagan's bus, who is a poorly controlled diabetic, needs to get off and empty his bladder. On every fourth block, the driver of Mr. Bush's bus needs to get up and stretch because of sciatica. Every 11 blocks, a drug rep gets on and hands everyone free pens and Viagra.
Whose bus journey will end first?
PS special wishes for a happy birthday to Dr. Bean. May you spend your next birthday with more interesting people!
Happy Birthday, Doctor Bean
I moved to California in 1982, in my freshman year of high school. Doctor Bean was in my Honors English class and we got stuck on a project together, memorizing lines from Julius Caesar. He and I became friends at that time and stayed friends throughout high school. We went to UCLA together and, even though we did not share a single class, kept in touch. I was in his wedding and he was in mine. In fact, we've observed each other's major life milestones the whole time. And some minor ones as well: Happy birthday, Doctor Bean.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Why You Treat Me Like A Dog?
Wanderer is a pal, a great doctor, and a new blogger. The name of his blog is the title of this post. For a while I've offered him a link on our sidebar to share his writing with our readers, but he has deferred, worrying that his blog is "not ready for prime time". Today he has relented, and accepted a place in our list of personal blogs. He's a nice guy, and a thoughtful writer, so I commend his blog to you, with a very important caveat.
Every single political opinion he has is false.
Gettin' nothin' but static
I'm in Utah. Temperatures during my stay have ranged from 18 to -8. My question for you science-types: why is it so staticky around here? It's terrible. I turned on the sink, got a shock from the metallic handle, and then another shock from the water flow.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
The Whims of Memory
Wanderer, my friend and colleague, has a thoughtful post on memory and meaning.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Board the Windows and Change the Locks
You better smell goodYou no doubt have read by now that Psychotoddler and his lovely wife Mrs. Balabusta will be visiting us soon. Well, preparations have been frantic at chez Bean. The cooking has been nonstop. The grounds have been meticulously re-landscaped. The old furniture has been chopped for firewood and new furniture has been commissioned from the local artisans. Finally, the moat has been dragged for bodies. I think the house is ready.
You better not cry
You better wear pants
I'm tellin' you why
Psychotoddler's comin' to towwwwwwwwwn!
We've unchained the kids and bathed them, all gotten haircuts, done the laundry, and put on our spiffiest threads.
Friday, December 02, 2005
I might be a sentimental fool for saying this but I've always loved John Denver's Country Roads. It's really a beautiful song. The only problem I have with it is that the part of the country and the culture it describes are totally foreign to me. So with apologies to Mr. Denver's memory, I've penned a song to the same music that's a little closer to my life, and dedicated it to b&c. I'm sure it could become a huge hit. Maybe Psychotoddler could record it.
Almost lunchtime, West Los Angeles(For you non-Californians, the 405 is a highly congested North-South Freeway that runs along the coast from Orange County to north of LA County.)
Pat's Restaurant or Pico Kosher Deli?
Portions huge there, service is so slow
Decision is gut wrenching. Oh where will I go?
405, take me home
To the place I belong
West Los Angeles, Jewish momma
Take me home, 405
All my children gather 'round her
Doctor's lady, stranger to tap water
"Ph.D., Housewife" her card verifies
Tangy taste of pesto, contacts in her eyes
405, take me home
To the place I belong
West Los Angeles, Jewish momma
Take me home, 405
My cell phone rings, at all hours it calls me
The radio is playing right-wing hosts all day
And my accountant has a feelin'
I should have bought Pfizer yesterday, yesterday
405, take me home
To the place I belong
West Los Angeles, Jewish momma
Take me home, 405