January 31, 2004

What Chinese middle class?

The expanding Chinese middle-class is a myth, according to a study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), cited in China Newsweek and the Straits Times. While 1 in 2 Chinese think they're middle-class, less than one in 20 really are, according to the study.

More here from the group blog, Living in China. The blogger, Richard, also posts comments from others who disagree with his supportive take on the study, at his personal site, Peking Duck.

One factor mentioned in various press acounts of the CASS study I've seen is that foreign investors turn tail too quickly to raise the living standard much higher, for more people, in China.

Wonder about the atmo? Read this "01 Seattle Times guest column of mine (if you haven't already, register free at this link for seattletimes.com archives access).

One thing's for sure. The U.S. and other Western nations walk a tightrope on China. We've got to encourage economic development while we also remain vigilant about democratic reforms. The "progressive" communist regime wants to have it both ways, encouraging some private sector growth, yet sharply delimiting individual rights and free expression in China.

Announced reforms to recognize private property rights in China would mean something, if actually enacted.

Nonetheless, Tibet; Taiwan; Hong Kong; Internet censorship; plus persecution of Chinese Falun Gong adherents remain sore points.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Shopping down terrorists

Baghdadis are shopping, shopping, shopping in the face of terrorism, says Omar at Iraq the Model. Can that be a bad thing?

Omar reports, "Today is the Eid of Adha eve. (also called the BIG EID in Iraq as it lasts for 4 days, while the Eid of Fetr lasts for 3). I went for a drive with Zeyad this afternoon and the streets were incredibly crowded, everyone is out for shopping; clothes, gifts, food and greeting cards are all selling very well these days, as families prepare to welcome their guests who visit them to exchange greetings on the days of the Eid..."

"The hyper activity in Baghdad tells that people want to go on with their lives and celebrate their Eid with no fear of what terrorists might plan to do..."

"When Iraqis keep living their lives the way they want, they're not ignoring the dangers or trying to forget the sad events that happened today or anywhere in the last months, NO, they're fighting to survive and struggling to secure their right to live in peace and freedom. Some of them are fighting with guns, others are fighting with a stronger weapon; LOVE OF LIFE."

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 30, 2004

Bash-Bush Book Bloat

Sheesh. If Howard Dean tanking really means anger is out, no one has told book publishers. I dropped in to Seattle’s top independent bookstore today, the venerable Elliott Bay Book Company. It’s still a wonderful place - where you could easily spend hours browsing and buying.

But the prominent display of new “History” titles was a primal scream against Bush, Republicans and conservatives.

Beyond the latest screeds from Molly Ivins, Al Franken, Michael Moore, Paul Krugman, George Soros and Noam Chomsky, the new “history” books that were featured included:

“The I Hate Republicans Reader (Why The GOP Is Totally Wrong About Everything);”

“The Bush Haters Handbook: A Guide to the Most Appalling President of the Past 100 Years,” by Jack Huberman;

“The Lies of George Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception,” by David Corn;

“Bush Women: Tales of a Cynical Species,” by Laura Flanders;

“Imperial America: The Bush Assault on the World Order,” by John Newhouse.

There were a few conservative titles in the same display: the Frum/Perle book, something by John Stossel, and Democrat Zell Miller’s excellent, “A National Party No More,” which I’ve discussed in an earlier post here, “Required Reading For Kerry.”

I can hear you saying, “so what do you expect in Seattle, anyway?” More important: how Democratic intellectual capital (is there such a thing anymore?) gets deployed. Titles and presentation matter. Applied to political opponents on the covers of books released by mainstream publishers, words like “hate,” “lies,” "totally wrong," “assault,” “appalling,” “cynical” and “imperial” betray the great frustration, and impotence of the liberal intelligentsia.

I’ll add here, too, that I tried to read a Bill O’Reilly book once, and couldn’t get too far - it was pompous, self-aggrandizing crud. Ann Coulter is another author on The Right who’s way over the top. And yes, there were plenty more book-length anti-Clinton polemics not too long ago. Moreover, I remember wearying greatly at the ceaseless conservative feeding frenzies over Clinton bimbo eruptions, the Starr Report, Vince Foster, Whitewater, and so forth.

But while today’s loyal opposition faces a steeper task than Republicans did in 2000, their motto appears to be “we can act even worse.” When does the payback cycle end? And is revenge better than winning? More than a few smart Democrats have observed that though Bush should be challenged on a range of policies, he has shown great personal conviction, and integrity in the face of unimagined adversity. Disagree with the guy, sure. But trashing him is plain stupid.

Maybe I’ll have to pick up the one other Democratic book in the whole gruesome display - besides Miller’s – that actually promised a constructive approach to beating Bush, James Carville’s, “Had Enough? A Handbook for Fighting Back.” I’d probably find a lot to disagree with, but at least Carville is about winning elections.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

High Jump

Talk about accountabilty. The school superintendent, school board members and principals in the Castle Rock, Washington schools have pledged to boost student performance or resign.

The Longview Daily News reports, "The district will meet next month to review the goals, which include increasing the percentage of students who pass the Washington Assessment for Student Learning scores by 2007. Officials also plan to improve graduation rates by 2008.

"The district will release a final copy of the goals at the Feb. 24 School Board meeting. Wilde said they will have a strategy hammered out by June and put the plan in place for the 2004-05 school year.

"School officials also say the plan is attainable, but it will require tenacity.

"'It's a very reasonable goal. .. It's going to take some work,'" said Ron Rodgers, the president of the Castle Rock teachers' union.

"Despite the deadline for improvement, principals say they see the pledge as a surge of support, not a threat.

"Ultimatum is not the word we see. It's a commitment. It's a district-wide commitment," said Faye Ashland, K-8 co-principal. "We don't see it as an impossibility. We're going to give it our best shot."

Here at Rosenblog, we'll be coming back to this story, and other examples of public educators interested in progress, not excuses.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:23 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 29, 2004

Dead Whale Explodes in Taiwan

There's not much to add to this vivid story from Taiwan, courtesy of MSNBC.

Don't miss the awesome pix of whale entrails littering the streets.

Then there's this from the MSNBC item, about the 56-foot long whale corpse which had died in a beaching and was to be studied by scientists before unexpectedly exploding.

"Once moved to a nearby nature preserve, the male specimen -- the largest whale ever recorded in Taiwan -- drew the attention of locals because of its large penis, measured at some five feet, the Taipei Times reported."

"More than 100 Tainan city residents, mostly men, have reportedly gone to see the corpse to 'experience' the size of its penis,' the newspaper reported."

So let's see...56 feet is to 5 feet as 6 feet is to.....

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blogger spotlight: Michael J. Totten, and John Perry Barlow

There are a growing number of high-impact independent bloggers who are liberal Democrats, but eschew hard-core Bush-bashing. Some (such as the first of the two cited in this entry) even support the U.S. effort in Iraq.

Typically, they have a lot to say about the Democratic presidential scrum and other topics, from a reasonable, left-of-center perspective. They manage to provoke everyone, regardless of political stripe, but in a thoughtful manner.

One such blogger is Michael J. Totten, from Portland, Oregon. Check out Totten's site, post haste. Delve into his article links, and the comment sections of his entries.

Another such blogger of note is John Perry Barlow, co-founder of The Electronic Frontier Foundation, fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for The Internet and Society, retired Wyoming cattle rancher, and former Grateful Dead lyricist.

Republicans, Democrats and Independents will all find these two sites worthwhile. There is no "cyber-balkanization."

The civil discourse between political opponents is something to see. In a good comments "string" you'll see how the blogosphere can transcend letters to the editor, hot talk radio, and, of course, shouting heads on TV.

Join in the discussion at these sites, and here as well.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ultimate high-tech mobile music device

You'll plotz. It's actually a $4.99, clip-on portable cassette player I bought last weekend at Target - the Emerson EW71. Don't howl yet. I looked at the various portable, personal CD players, priced from quite low up to $89.99.

This cheap Chinese import won my hard-earned dollars.

The sound quality is OK, not a big problem. I happen to have a lot of cassettes, mostly special mix tapes I've made; everything from New Orleans r&b to Latin jazz, to 60s rock and wailing pedal steel guitar music.

INTERJECTION: You'll be seeing CD reviews and buy-links here in days and weeks to come. Here are a few related, very different (i.e. not "cry in your beer" country music) pedal-steel CD tips. They're from a few years back but likely all available at amazon.com.

Anyhew, the EW71 clips on nicely, and adheres well while I do slanted-board sit-ups (holding a 15-lb. ball, thank you) at my local health club. And it keeps staying put while I torture myself with various other exercise machines.

I can't help but notice other health club patrons who are enjoying somewhat superior sound quality with their personal CD players that...DON'T CLIP ON.

There they are, headphone-clad on the aerobic striders and treadmills, but with their CD players vibrating toward the edge of the little reading platform because they have nowhere else to put them.

And you should see them trying to use the weight machines, while carrying their little devices around like pet rocks.

Probably, there's a portable CD player with a really good belt clip out there. But none of the half-dozen or so models at Target met the bill. I was thankful for the low-cost option, because my lovely BETTER HALF was somewhat exercised about an additional consumer electronics expense, having recently opted - without UN approval, or mine - to buy a new TV.

A belt clip as deal-clincher? Awk. Perhaps you're reminded of American car buyers who decide what to buy, not based on any "Buy American" shtick, but because we do cupholders better than the Japanese.

Myself, I drive a Honda CR-V with very iffy cupholders, and love it anyway. But I want my mobile music device to stay attached to my belt. Low cost is a nice plus, though not crucial. And I want MY music. The Emerson EW71 gives me all that, for $4.99.

Outrageous. If this has something to do with globalization, I, um, vote "Yes."

I'll keep you posted on how well this cheap little gizmo performs over the coming months.

Crunch. Crunch. Abs of Steel, here we come?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Hope in Sudan

A settlement of the 20-year civil war in Sudan may come before long. The benefits could be substantial, over time, as the Christian Science Monitor notes.

The paper reports, "Now the test is whether Sudan can morph from an ethno-religious killing ground into a modern melting pot with robust religious tolerance. The outcome will deeply affect the future of Africa's vastest country. And it could set a tone of religious civility for the nearby Middle East, and for Africa, where Muslim-Christian tensions are rising."

In the United States, you usually hear little about Khartoum's brutal campaign against the Christian and animist peoples of South Sudan, because it is the extremist Muslim regime of General Omar Al-Bashir that bears great responsibility.

However, international pressure for peace and democracy in Sudan has been building.

Here's a bit more on Sudan, from one of my freelance guest columns.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

One Seattle columnist's take on fixing public schools

OK, that columnist is me. Here are some of my regular, freelance guest opinion pieces for The Seattle Times on the challenges our city and state face in improving public education. (And again, The Times' FREE archive registration - which you'll likely see when you click on these links, unless you're already signed up - is no hassle at all. Plus, the archive is a great, cost-free resource).

"Why some walk away from Seattle public schools."

"Seattle Public Schools: An academic crapshoot."

"Stop making excuses: Close the learning gap."

"Charter-school foes are running out of excuses."

"Charting a course toward school flexibility, accountability."

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

School Reform in NYC

Courtesy of Charles Hoff, Vice-President of the Federal Way, Washington school board, comes this New York Times piece on the ambitious mission of NY schools chief Joel Klein.

Klein is urging a great leap forward. In the positive sense of the phrase, not Mao's.

The Times reports that Klein "called yesterday for sweeping changes in the way teachers are paid in New York City, advocating bonuses based on student achievement and higher salaries for teachers who agree to work in troubled schools and for those in fields where there are staff shortages, like math and science."

A few other key excerpts from the article:

"We have to change the culture of our schools," Mr. Klein said. "We don't have a culture of excellence."

".....his criticism of the general state of the school system was relentless. 'We have become not surprisingly an excuse-based culture,' he said. 'I cannot tell you when I walk around how often I hear it's the kids, it's the parents, it's the school system, it's the principal, it's the supervisor, it's anyone but me. Try to produce effective outcomes in that kind of culture.'"

He added: "At the heart of the problem are the three poles of civil service: lockstep pay, seniority and life tenure. Together they act as handcuffs and prevent us from making the changes that will encourage and support excellence."

The teachers union, The United Federation of Teachers, has shown some genuine interest in real change. They've voiced support for speedier discipline and dismissal of incompetent teachers.

School choice, already implemented in New York State in the form of charter schools, is helping NYC's public schools see the light. The intense scrutiny some NY charters are now experiencing, and the success of others, are helping to inspire the "new culture of excellence" that Klein urges.

That culture must become real in all urban public school districts.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 28, 2004

Playin' poker with Saddam

Saddam's scientists did destroy a lot of WMDs, but he kept mum in the interest of "constructive ambiguity."

That's what ex-U.S. inspector David Kay says in this Washington Post story, linked to here via The Seattle Times. (By the way, The Times and other papers I link to here require registration, but go ahead - it's no hassle, free, and well worth it).

The Post story notes, "Kay said the Iraqi scientists didn't have complete records to back up their claims (of disarmament) because the destruction had taken place under pressure to keep it secret from U.N. inspectors."

Pressure from Saddam.

The Post adds, "Kay said he believes Saddam may have been pursuing a course of 'constructive ambiguity' before the war, bluffing about having weapons to provide the illusion of power and serve as a deterrent. 'Saddam wanted to enjoy the benefits of having chemical and biological weapons without having to pay the costs,' Kay said."

No wonder Bush, and many Democrats before him, had to take Saddam's bluff for real. In addition, there were many other reasons, good ones, given for our intervention in Iraq.

And there was that matter of the vote by Congress.

Perhaps it is not surprising then, that a majority of Americans polled by the Pew Research Center for The People and The Press support our intervention in Iraq, despite the hard going.

Anybody wonder why Clark and Dean are fading fast, and Kerry is (yes) doomed?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:35 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

School vouchers mean MORE $ for public schools

How's that again? Don't vouchers (an evil plot advanced by right-wing conservatives) bleed public schools of dollars, helping a privileged few at the expense of the many? No, not quite, writes Hoover Institution senior fellow and Stanford political science professor Terry M. Moe in the New York Times.

Here's Moe: "In fact, the public schools should actually come out ahead. In a typical voucher program, the cost of the voucher (say, $4,500) is far lower than the average amount the public schools spend on each student (say, $8,000). This means that when students go private, only part of the money budgeted for their education goes with them. The remainder stays in the government's pocket. If these savings were put back into the public schools, the schools would actually have more money per child. And the greater the number of students using vouchers, the greater the increase in spending per child could be."

Moe states: "So the bigger picture is essentially this. There are savings when students go to private schools. There are costs that subtract from the savings. And a voucher program can be designed to see that the savings more than cover the costs, with the residual put back into the public schools to increase per-child spending and leave schools financially better off."

He concludes, "The argument that vouchers drain money out of the public schools may sound like a high-minded defense of the public system. But in reality it's simple-minded, it isn't true and it provides no justification at all for denying needy children the educational opportunities that vouchers can offer."

Hat tip to education blogger Joanne Jacobs for the link. From her site, you'll find links to many other useful education blogs. Go! Explore! The tide is actually turning, against mediocrity in K-12 U.S. public education.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:13 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Asylum, Meet Inmates

The word is Howard Dean's New Hampshire primary campaign was run with somewhat more discipline than the disastrous Iowa effort. But, as Seattle blogger Howard Hansen mentioned to me recently, "you get your cues from the people you attract." Hansen, by the way, is an example of the many liberal voters who are turned off by Bush-bashing and anti-Iraq hysteria. See this fine entry on the subject of how the Democrats can win, from his blog "Howard's Musings" here.

A Seattle-based computer consultant - Hansen is a nice, reasonable, and very smart guy who backs Dean. Such people do exist. Hansen just believes Dean has been playing to the wrong constituency.

That was underscored in a hilarious manner by guest columnist Debby Morse recently in the San Francisco Chronicle. You'd think it would take a lot to weird out someone from Marin County, but local Dean-iacs proved more than equal to the task.

This is so good, I must quote at length.

Introductions, at first cheerful and informative ran something like, "Hi, my name is Solstice Rainpetal (not her real name but probably should have been), and I have a small printing business" -- and eventually devolved to "I'm Solstice."

Then the leader decided to officially call the meeting to order. Finally, I would find out what this committee really did. I was ready for action.

She lowered the lights and -- may Gandalf strike me with lightning if I'm lying -- led us through a guided meditation! "Let the tension leave your shoulders," she said. "Feel your body in the chair." Her exact words, I swear. To my left and right, volunteers closed their eyes and, I guess, felt their bodies in their chairs.

"Breathe deep into your abdomen," she gently urged, and I heard obedient inhalations all around me.

There was not a single protest, not even, sad to say, from me. I nervously fiddled with my pen beneath the table until the lights went back up. I needed a plan. The least I could do was stay the course, right? Go Dean! I was there to help get him elected. We all were.

Soon enough, tasks were assigned, lists exchanged, progress reports given. This seemed more like it. Then one volunteer discussed his hopes for getting somebody famous, maybe Peter Coyote, to write an essay for the op-ed page. "He's already endorsed Kucinich, but who's to say he can't endorse Dean, too?"

"Yes," agreed the committee leader, "Kucinich might ideologically be our first choice, but I think Peter Coyote wouldn't mind endorsing Dean."

Had I heard that correctly?

The volunteer responded, "So true. Kucinich would be our dream candidate, although Peter Coyote can probably explain it all in a way that makes sense."

I sat there aghast, too stunned to speak up. These were a bunch of closet Dennis Kucinich supporters. I wondered if Dean organizers higher up the chain of authority had any idea. Is there a chain of authority?

"What would Howard do?" I asked myself.

Well, Howard probably would have done something, uh, persuasive, but I decided to take the pacifist route, and left as soon as I could.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 27, 2004

Required Reading for Kerry

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) has won the New Hampshire primary, but now faces a real test in the South and other states very different from the first two.

This New York Times report notes

Still, Mr. Kerry has only begun to be tested on the national stage. He has yet to compete among black and other minority voters, or in the South and the big swing states that tend to decide general elections. The quirks of personality, pedigree and policy that left him struggling to connect with audiences for much of last year still leave him vulnerable to assaults from Democrats and President Bush.

With that in mind, here are a few thoughts for Kerry's campaign from U.S. Sen. Zell Miller's (D-Georgia) New York Times bestseller, "A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat."

Of the current crop of contenders, he writes: "Just look at them. They are convinced most Americans will like what they see: John Edwards, shooting brightly through the skies like Halley's Comet. Joe Lieberman, steadily and surely plodding along, one labored step at a time, like Aesop's tortise. John Kerry, the New Century's Abraham Lincoln, posing...in an electric blue wet suit with a surfboard tucked up under his arm like a rail just split. It made me wonder, are there more surfboards or shotguns in America?"

Miller dismisses Dean as shallow and angry, and doesn't mention Clark, probably due to Clark's late entry and the print deadline for the book. But if Miller is right, Clark has little hope.

Like many of the sharper observers around, Miller understands Iraq and foreign policy aren't winning issues for Democratic primary presidential candidates or the party's nominee.

Miller states, "The week after the election in November 2004, there's going to be a lot of empty-feeling Democrats in their sackcloth and ashes wishing they had listened to Al From, Bruce Reed, and pollster Mark Penn, who warned in July 2003, 'The Democratic Party is hurt by current perceptions that Democrats stand for big government, want to raise taxes too high, are too liberal, and are beholden to special interest groups. Half a century ago a near majority of voters identified themselves as part of the Democratic Party. Today that number has declined to roughly one-third.'"

"The party tent," Miller says, "has shrunk to the size of a dunce cap." For more on how Dems might get back in the game, pick up Miller's book.

One tip from Miller to national Democrats campaigning in the South: you do PEEL boiled shrimp before eating them.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Blogpunditry #1 (Open pastures, not silos)

Howard Dean's campaign has blogged a lot, and used the Internet to build ranks of volunteers and raise funds. Dean fared poorly in Iowa, therefore the political significance of blogs is vastly overrated. So media skeptics of blogging were saying, up until tonight's New Hampshire primary. And while Dean's second-place finish will be spun at least three ways (dying; alive and well; and still too early to say), overall it won't do much to boost perceptions he's going anywhere but back home.

Nonetheless, Dean's problems don't say much about blogs, or the Internet. His lackluster performance is more about poor self-presentation and and a poorly-honed message than the tools he's been using.

Campaign sites and partisan weblogs are outcome-focused marketing tools. Independent blogs are much more, as Jack Balkin notes in his Jan. 25 blog commentary about a New York Times piece. The NYT item was, essentially, on what some call the "silo effect" of blogs, or "cyber-balkanization."

As the key examples of the trend toward cyberbalkanization on the Internet (I love that word, for obvious reasons) the article points to sites like Wesley Clark's website, Clark04.com, Meetup.com, and MoveOn.org. The problem with these sites, the article suggests is that people only want talk to people who think the way they do, and people who have different views are shunned.

That may well be the case, but these websites are being used for *political organizing* of like minded people, so this is to be expected. It does not prove the claim that online deliberation is rapidly becoming fractured and that "the Internet is in danger of narrowing the spectrum of debate." What it shows is that the Internet can be used for and is quite good at bringing like minded people together. And if you look at the way sites like Meetup.com and MoveOn.org are designed, you can see that they are designed for this purpose.

It certainly does not follow, however, that Internet sites do not promote discussion among people with different views, or that sites can't be designed to facilitate this purpose. I've already spoken about how weblogs facilitate exposure to a variety of sources in my previous posting. The argument the article is making is somewhat like saying that automobiles are bad for families because you can't seat more than two people in them comfortably, and then offering as your key examples sports cars. Sports cars are not designed for families; that's why we have station wagons.

I never really liked two-seater sports cars anyway. They seem too, well, exclusive.

As the seminal Clue Train Manifesto says, "markets are conversations." Ever more so in the marketplace of policy, politics and persuasion.

Now, thanks to tools such as Moveable Type, everyone who wants to be is a news editor, aggregator and commentator. Imagine the possibilities. It's mind-blogging, er, boggling.

Especially if you go outside your comfort zone.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 05:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Back Home to Iraq

Iraqi Khuder Al-Emeri became a marked man after challenging Saddam Hussein's rule, and fled to Seattle. Now he has returned home. Seattle Times reporter Hal Bernton tells his story, and it's a must-read.

Most important of all, for Al-Emeri, his hometown is finally free of Saddam.

For years, the Shiite Muslim community suffered at the hands of Saddam's Sunni government. Many people here now revere President Bush and eagerly seek copies of his picture to hang on their walls. But many Shiites also are frustrated by the lack of jobs and security, and they are impatient with U.S. military control. Within the past week, they have taken to the streets by the thousands in Baghdad and other cities to press for elections this spring to determine a new government.

"Now we are one with the American people and need to maintain that relationship. But once we have a new Iraqi government, the Americans need to go," says Arkan Trad, a City Council member.

This call is echoed forcefully at a nearby mosque. There, an imam on Fridays talks of an Islamic state, free of the United States

Yes, I guess separation of church and state is a GOOD thing. And so is our continuing presence in Iraq.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Police Angst

San Francisco Chronicle "View From The Right" contributor Adam Sparks offers this typically passionate take on one of his pet peeves: the demonizing of police.

Our cops can't pull motorists over; they can't apprehend criminals, except in the most metrosexual kind of way. They can't utter any slurs to rude and violent suspects, can't participate in the war on terror and can't arrest any member of the army of street crazies for their petty crimes, either -- that's harassment. They can't even infiltrate subversive groups. We might as well just pay our cops to sit in Krispy Kreme doughnut shops -- the people couldn't care less, and the criminals would hardly notice.

Repeat after me: "police are our friends."

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 26, 2004

About Me

(UPDATED 6/04) My first foray into journalism came in the summer of 1977, after my freshman year of college. I was an assistant to the chief investigator of The Better Government Association, a Chicago non-profit dedicated to rooting out corruption in local government (yes, somehow, they're still at it).

I still recall fondly public records research. And undercover photography (with a telephoto lens) of a ghost payroller who ran a hot dog stand at Cicero Ave. and Palmer St., when he was supposed to be on the clock working for the City of Chicago.

Later that summer I was part of a special undercover investigation by the BGA and The Chicago Sun-Times, running a bar fittingly named "The Mirage." It was at the corner of Wells and Superior (and is now an Irish tavern).

The purpose was to document long-standing complaints from local businesses of shakedowns by city and state inspectors (i.e. "you give me an envelope filled with twenties, I forget all about that leaky pipe/exposed wire/broken exhaust fan/other violations I could invent at any time").

I was a junior member of the undercover team, helping get the place in shape to open, and helping staff it afterward. (I still remember then-"60 Minutes" producer Barry Lando yelling at me for briefly commandering the bathroom to make a private phone call).

My brush with fame.

The reporters and investigators nailed down first-hand evidence of shakedowns, and accountant-driven sales tax fraud to boot. A very colorful, month-long newspaper series resulted, along with a book, and a "60 Minutes" episode (classic hidden-camera Mike Wallace "gotcha" stuff). I seem to vaguely recall a Pulitzer Prize nomination for the paper's reporters.

In retrospect, I am thankful the drinks I mixed for a U.S. postman who came in every day at 11 a.m. didn't blow our cover. His elixer of choice was a screwdriver, which I mixed as follows: one part orange juice to three parts vodka (look, I didn't know, really, AND he covered his postal route on foot. Alright?)

I went back to Northwestern U. to read Marx, Durkheim and Weber. Later dropped out; drove a limousine (I'm saving the Grateful Dead, Mel Torme, and Ed McMahon stories for later) and then a Yellow Cab in Chicago; went off to Brandeis; actually graduated; and served time on Capitol Hill.

Then, from late-'83 to early-'88, I was a reporter, columnist and editorial writer for Pulitzer-Lerner Newspapers, a major chain of Chicago-area community weeklies. I then spent six years working for suburban governments advocating a new ex-urban airport as an alternative to O'Hare Airport expansion. Similar work brought me to Seattle in 1994, but a year later, I moved on to political and communications consulting.

In 1998, I returned to my first and greatest love (work-wise, that is), journalism. I began doing freelance pieces for The Puget Sound Business Journal, then a variety of pieces on all kinds of topics for Seattle Magazine, Metropolitan Living, Washington CEO, The Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, Washington Law and Politics, and The Seattle Times. I've also placed pieces with The Weekly Standard and National Review Online.

In April of 2001, I began as a Seattle Times opinion section guest columnist with a regular, alternate-Wednesdays slot. As of early June '04, I'm taking a break from the column to focus more on national and regional magazine writing. I have really enjoyed hearing from Times readers via e-mail. It's a kick too, having had my newspaper work cited by various bloggers such as The Wall Street Journal's opinionjournal.com, realclearpolitics.com, Instapundit.com, buzzmachine.com, and many others.

Lately, Rosenblog has also been starting to garner some attention, and traffic has grown. My thanks to Seattle blogger Howard Hansen for helping me get started.

My family and I are lucky to have landed in Seattle. True, the kids had no choice. They were born here, and now can each claim the coveted status of "Washington Native." (They already understand they will be asked to leave the state post-haste, by me, if they ever, ever, get one of those silly license plate holders that says "Washington Native").

As for Seattle's screwy politics: a) what material! and b) there's more here than meets the eye.

I enjoy working out, hiking, walking, listening to music, playing guitar (mostly in alternate tunings), reading, cooking, and exploring the great Northwest.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:16 AM | TrackBack