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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
The Western Word: Dubai Ports World: Will It Lose the Deal Over the Arab Boycott?
Those of us opposed to the UAE port management deal are accused of xenophobia. But it turns out the shoe is on the other foot. Or the tables have turned. Or the pot is calling the kettle black. Or something.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Jason McElwain
Wow. What a great kid.
Friday, February 24, 2006
Here's some interesting trivia: David Letterman and Jay Leno are both credited as writers of the 70s sitcom "Good Times."
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Censorship and the Jewish question
I'm not a huge fan of censorship. I don't think that political parties that are considered racist should be banned in Israel, which happens. And I don't think that Holocaust denial should be against the law. That's why I wasn't thrilled about the conviction of denier David Irving in Austria. Wouldn't you know, Deborah Lipstadt, who successfully fought off a libel case that Irving brought against her in England, feels the same way.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Ladies and Gentlemen...
I present you the Jew Of The Day.
Would the Left be happier if...
Che Guevara were in charge at Gitmo?

The "cold-blooded killing machine" did not show the full extent of his rigor until, immediately after the collapse of the Batista regime, Fidel Castro put him in charge of La Cabaña prison, where he oversaw mass executions. José Vilasuso, a lawyer and a professor at Universidad Interamericana de Bayamón in Puerto Rico, who belonged to the body in charge of the summary judicial process at La Cabaña, said recently that "Che's guidelines to us were that we should act with conviction, meaning that they were all murderers and the revolutionary way to proceed was to be implacable."

Javier Arzuaga, a Basque chaplain who gave comfort to those sentenced to die and witnessed dozens of executions, spoke to me recently. A former Catholic priest, now 75, he recalls that Guevara "never overturned a sentence."

"I pleaded many times with Che on behalf of prisoners," said Arzuaga. "I remember especially the case of Ariel Lima, a young boy. Che did not budge. Nor did Fidel, whom I visited. I became so traumatized that, at the end of May 1959, I was ordered to leave the parish of Casa Blanca, where La Cabaña was located and where I had held Mass for three years. I went to Mexico for treatment."

How many people were killed at La Cabaña? Vilasuso told me that 400 people were executed between January and the end of June in 1959 (at which point Guevara ceased to be in charge). Secret cables sent by the American Embassy in Havana to the State Department in Washington spoke of "over 500."
"Tsunami, Holocaust, Trent Lott"
"Boston Legal" is well-written and well-acted, and having been introduced to it by my mother around Christmas, I added it to my TiVo season pass around the beginning of the year. It's humorous, with interesting characters, and generally less conducive to brain rot than other television.

But, the jabs at conservatives and the Republican party have had me wishy washy on whether or not I want to keep watching it. The most charismatic and eloquent character, played by James Spader, rarely misses a chance to pin the evil brand on the GOP and conservatives in general. Likewise, one of the firm's name partners, played by Candice Bergen.

Maybe it's because I'm new to the show, but the jabs seem to be getting progressively more vindictive and even hateful. I find myself, on any given night of viewing, wanting to appreciate the show for its plot and characters, but inevitably being unable to put the pointless antagonism out of my mind. I want to sympathise with Alan Shore's (Spader) fight of the night, but find myself pissed off with the character for tossing gratuitous grenades at my personal belief system. Shirley Schmidt (Bergen) is charming enough, but the bile she directs at people who differ from her philosophically manages to spew all over the camera lens and makes it hard to appreciate her.

Meanwhile, characters that are identified as conservatives are portrayed as vapid, greedy, petty and often imbecilic.

So, last night, I'm watching, and just when I thought the barbs couldn't get any worse, Bergen's character dashed across the line that separates the obnoxious from the sincerely hateful. A characteristically moronic Republican woman was in her office. This particular idiot had a laughing problem. Once she started to laugh, she often couldn't stop, unless something terribly sad was mentioned. Earlier in the episode, characters had used various thoughts to take her out of her glee, including "Bambi's mother was shot" and "Bill Buckner" (a reference to the Red Sox first baseman whose error cost the Red Sox the World Series championship in 1986).

So, Ms. Schmidt tries her hand with the hapless buffoon. In rapid succession:

TSUNAMI! (still laughing)

HOLOCAUST!! (still laughing)


Well, that did the trick. Great job! Boston Legal has just made the connection that the rest of us simpler folk had yet to catch. An even causing hundreds of thousands of deaths and unspeakable devastation, the most evil act Western civilization has ever witnessed, and Trent Lott - poster boy for the liberal's image of the quintessential Southern Republican. The subtext was, of course, that, by association, all of us black-hating, Jew-baiting Republicans are Trent Lotts by proxy. As such, we join Trent Lott in being not only equal to, but worse than two of the most hideous events of the past century. "Tsunami, Holocaust, Republicans."

I'm thinking that did the trick. As much as I generally appreciate the other aspects of the show, I found myself unable to look at Bergen the rest of the episode without wishing for the opportunity to fart in close quarters with her. Maybe Spike TV or VH1 has something good on Tuesday nights.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
The U.N. gets serious about human rights.
The Muslim Silent Majority
In this week's Los Angeles Jewish Journal (possibly reprinted from elsewhere), Salam Al-Marayati, Executive Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, laments that the world is focusing on the negative aspects of the whole Muslim cartoon riot thing, instead of, well, those who aren't rioting. Fair point, uh, maybe. There's a lot to say about this article, but instead of a full fisking, I'll just focus on my favorite sentence:

"...while there is anti-Jewish and anti-Christian sentiment in the Muslim world, it has never reached the point of defiling the images of Jesus and Moses."

No - it just reaches the point of killing Christians and Jews. If it's all the same to you, Salam, I'd prefer the image defiling.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Al Sadr
Stumbling upon the headline today, Influential Iraqi cleric Sadr rejects constitution, my first thought was, "isn't he a little late?"

Mulling it over a little further, I was a little concerned what, if any, impact this might have on the formation of Iraq's government. My understanding is that al-Jaafari's selection as Prime Minister hinged on a bloc of votes from Sadr supporters. Prior to that, I hadn't heard anything about the guy since Sistani slapped him down almost two years ago, when he was occupying an Islamic holy site. My impression then was that he was a punk thug, who severely overreached his capacities in his attempt to take advantage of the power vaccuum in the wake of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

With his reappearance in the Iraqi political landscape, I thought I'd see if I could find any Iraqi assessments of the man. I settled upon this one:

IraqPundit: Mighty Moktada Al Sadr:

"Unlike most of the American media, Iraqi Shiites know that Sadr never completed his religious education, and that matters to them. He comes off as an idiot on TV, and that matters to them, too. Plus, Sadr's mental history is the subject of some truly lurid gossip well known to many Iraqis, and that matters as well.

The fact is that mainstream Shiites who seek clerical leadership have a group of perfectly respectable clerics to choose from. Furthermore, such Shiites constitute a culture that values age, which they associate with study and wisdom. All that the young, inarticulate, and probably crazy Sadr has going for him is his distinguished family name. Even so, there
are other respectable Shiite names in Iraq. The case of Ahmad Chalabi's failed political efforts should prove that a respected family name takes one only so far."

So, I guess my opinion of Sadr's potential to derail the Iraqi political process hasn't much changed since '04. He's still a punk thug who overestimates his own power and influence. Punk thugs are dangerous, and he may cause some mayhem; but I don't think he'll affect the big picture in a meaningful way.
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Hooray for Denmark
What is it about Denmark that stirs the passions of Coffeehousers? I couldn't tell you for sure.

Perhaps it is the hilarious political satire. We've all heard about the cartoon showing the prophet Mohammed with a bomb on his head. That's a hot one. Not since reading Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels have I laughed so hard.

Perhaps it's something else. Denmark is a land of mystery. It's a kingdom with no king. Queen Margrethe is the current head royal. They say the Danish monarchy is the world's oldest, dating back to Gorm the Old in 899. They also say the Danish flag is the world's oldest national flag.

Denmark is where Vikings, Hans Christian Andersen, and Legos come from.

Greenland belongs to Denmark.

The capital of Denmark was named after a popular chewing tobacco.

Danes are people from Denmark. Great danes are big dogs.

The term Danish (big D) is used to describe stuff from Denmark. The term danish (little d) is used to describe certain sweet rolls.

The krone is Danish currency, but crone (with a c) means withered old woman. Did I mention Queen Margrethe?

Hooray for Denmark - symbol of all things Coffeehousers love!
Friday, February 17, 2006
Hamas developing new charter
"Hamas officials reportedly are working on a new charter that would give the organization a more moderate tone, while still calling for Israel’s destruction. "

Calling for Israel's destruction in a more moderate tone. Hmmm. Does that mean they're going to say please?
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
I (heart) Natalie Portman
Portman does not agree with Munich

Plus, she's purdy.
Regrets, I've Had a Few
Actually, until this week, only one: When I was a freshman at UCLA in the late 80s, I had the opportunity to ask Billy Crystal a question at a ceremony in which he received some sort of comedy award. I asked some lame question about one of his past movies. What I should have done was simply ask, "I hope you don't mind my asking you a personal question, but don't you hate it when..." and just see if he'd run with it. It could have fallen flat or it could have been awesome, but I'll never know.

But now I have a new regret: I regret not becoming a journalist and making my way into the White House press corps. Becasue then I could have been there when reporters were asking the press secretary about Cheney's hunting accident. You've probably heard about the press conference by now. People were asking questions such as, "Would it have been worse if the man had died?" Crackerjack investigative reporting, that.

But I wasn't there. So I couldn't ask questions such as: "Would it have been worse if Vice-President Cheney had strapped explosives to himself, wandered into a high-traffic pedestrian area, and detonated himself?"

Or: "Would it have been worse if, instead of hunting, Vice-President Cheney and his friend were off herding sheep, and a special bond developed between them, which led to the love that dare not speak its name? And then he shot him?"
Monday, February 13, 2006
More Fun at the LA Shooting Range
Robert Avrech takes Cruisin' Mom for some target practice.

Revisit Bean & Wanderer's shooting adventures.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
More Doubts About Hillary
The final paragraph of this "Times" piece puts it perfectly:

The hope in her camp is that people will believe that Mrs Clinton has her husband’s political strengths and none of his weaknesses. The growing fear is that she incites the same level of loathing and suspicion as her husband always did, but has none of the charm and personality to deflect it.

For a long time now, I've continued to doubt Hillary's viability. I've maintained that "some governor" would come along, and become the eventual nominee. I'm starting to think "some governor" is probably Mark Warner. His name just seems to keep popping up.
Friday, February 10, 2006
Israeli became Indian actress, died
Even odder is the author's use of the word "scuppered."

Also, when exactly did Bombay become Mumbai?
Movie Review: The Transporter
Saw The Transporter last night. Totally preposterous, and totally awesome. Just mute the volume when you sense any romance-like or meaning-of-life-like dialogue approaching. It definitely has the best fight scene in an oil-soaked bus garage I've ever seen. In fact, you might just want to skip straight the the "extended fight scenes" in the special features.

Previous reviews
The Pause that Refreshes
I haven’t posted in a week, which is a new low for me. That in itself is weird, but what’s stranger is that my desire to write, to see my thoughts organized and reflected back to me on the monitor, has disappeared.

B&C and her parents and I saw Billy Crystal in 700 Sundays this week. (Short review: It was wonderful. He’s extraordinarily talented. He made three gratuitous anti-Bush jokes, one of which was almost verbatim what this anonymous commenter said in a different thread.) I thought for sure that I would write a detailed review and, of course, analyze the performance from the crazy-right-wing perspective that our readers expect from me. But I didn’t even feel like writing the first sentence.

When we opened the Coffeehouse in October 2004 I was mostly motivated by wanting a safe setting in which to vent conservative opinion, given that we live in a very blue state. To me at least, the act of articulating my opinion and clicking “Publish” was very therapeutic. The rest of the world may have been going to hell, but at least we would document the trip accurately, even if the rest of the media didn’t seem to notice. It felt good, especially when we developed a few loyal commenters (of whom Irina was first!) who let us know that we weren’t entirely alone.

Back then I felt the motivation (really the pressure) to post very acutely. We had multiple posts on most days, and like any good addiction, my anxiety would slowly climb until I posted my next fix.

Along the way, I experienced some wonderful side effects. I developed email friendships with Treppenwitz, Og, Stacey, and Mirty, and actually met Pearl and Psychotoddler. Besides sharing friendly banter (which in itself can be very important) they’ve given me tons of practical advice about an Avogadro’s number of subjects. I’m still amazed that I would have never known them were it not for the web.

But in the last month or so, I haven’t felt the drive to post; I’ve only felt the obligation. I don’t understand what’s changed. I read something that typically would make me immediately sign into Blogger, but now I just can’t be bothered to. Maybe it’s that other diversions are becoming more important; maybe it’s that I think that we’ve created a good blog that has plateaued and won’t get much better; maybe it’s that I understand that there are lots of more articulate conservative voices out there and the world doesn’t depend on mine; maybe I’m just getting over a cold and am tired and irritable.

Anyway, I’m certainly not closing down shop (it’s not my shop) or saying goodbye or anything like that. I think I’ll just step away for a couple of weeks and see if my muse returns. The other Coffeehousers are still here and will keep posting as frequently or infrequently as they’d like. I just thought it was fair to let you know rather than take a leave of absense without warning.

Like Billy Crystal said, I’ll see you when I see you.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Boycott Egypt
An Egyptian blogger called "Sandmonkey" notes that the offensive cartoons about which Muslims all over the world are rioting were actually printed a few years ago - in Egypt. (hat tip: dry bones)

James Taranto points to an article in the New York Times that says that Arab/Muslim leaders incited their people because the leaders saw it as "...an opportunity to undercut the appeal of the West to Arab citizens."
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Representatives of the left - including our old favorite, Carter - use Coretta King's funeral as an opportunity to bash Bush, who's in attendance.

Whatever happened to plain ol' fashioned manners?
I, Robot
I just watched I, Robot. I've heard that the book was better. Anyway, there is good food for thought in the movie. Robots are programmed to obey three laws:

1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Any robot that can understand instructions like that would pass for human, in my book. There may come a time when the defining difference between robots and humans is what they're made of. Or, to be more specific, what the "brain" is made of. Not anytime soon, though.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
Geek time
Something for the geeks:

Icy Ball Is Larger Than Pluto. So, Is It a Planet?

Of course, since this story is in the New York Times, there is the obligatory speculation that the Bush adminstration will cause the ice ball to melt due to global warming.
The Religion of Peace Takes a Joke…
… by kidnapping and making death threats.

When something vaguely anti-Jewish happens in the U.S. Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League leaps into action and wrings his hands in a press conference. We Coffeehousers have let it be known more than once that we think of him as a foolish ninny who simply makes Jews look like hypersensitive crybabies.

But even Abe Foxman is a pillar of restraint and self-denial when compared to the antics of offended Muslims. When the Prophet Muhammad is slighted in the media, well, there's nothin' to do but surround buildings with automatic weapons and start kidnapping people.

Read the article.

The good news is that it sounds like Europe finally may be understanding the enemy in its midst. We'll see if they can do anything about it.
All we are saying...
...is give Hamas a chance.

That's all Jimmy Carter is saying, anyway.

(hat tip: opinion journal)
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Microsoft and Free Speech
Back in December, Microsoft shut down a blog that was critical of the Chinese government. It was run by a Chinese journalist named Zhao Jing. I never read this blog, but I hate the thought of Americans serving the interests of communist foreign governments by repressing free speech. Scum! Well, I guess you can rationalize anything. There's a lot of money to be made in China. You have to do as the government says or you can't get any. It's a business decision. The Chinese people did not have a lot of freedoms to begin with, so nothing has really changed. It's not like software piracy - that's a real crime.

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