May 31, 2004

Old Bolshi Croaks

60s hero and stalwart anti-war protestor David Dellinger recently died at age 88. Here's his mug shot, after refusing to register for WW II. Shoulda picked yer battles better. Dude!

"Conscientous Objector?" More like, "Unconscious."

Some legacy.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blog THIS!

Education blogger and blonde psychometrician Kimberly Swygert takes down an NYT critique of blogs, with some help from Bill Quick. Check out her links.

Bravo. Look at the numbers, indeed.

The revolution is being blogged.

Meanwhile, OJR weighs in.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 04:45 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Saudi Blogger: Al Qaeda Terrorist Rampage Warms (Too Many) Saudi Hearts

Saudi authorities have no authority. As Reuters reports:

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's daring attack at the heart of Saudi Arabia's oil producing region has exposed glaring security gaps and raised fears of a mass exodus of Westerners from the kingdom, analysts said.

Militants went on an unprecedented rampage at the weekend, storming oil offices and compounds in the eastern city of Khobar, killing 22 civilians and taking 50 foreign hostages.

"This is not somebody planting a bomb and running off. This is large numbers of armed men running amok in a very large city, which is unprecedented," said Tom Ripley, Research Associate at British-based Center of Defense and International Strategic Studies.

"That part of Saudi Arabia is the most strategic in terms of oil reserves in the world and the seeming inability of the Saudis to control it will be making lots of people very nervous.

"The credibility of the Saudi statements about having the situation under control are looking very, very weak at the moment. The whole confidence in their security apparatus is getting lower and lower...," he said.

Meanwhile, the stellar Saudi blogger who sardonically calls himself "Religious Policeman" says a near-majority of his countrymen are pleased with recent developments. And he's appalled.

I'd like to be able to say that the overwhelming majority of my fellow Saudis totally condemn this terrorism. Sadly, that is just not true. There is a substantial minority, if not verging on a majority, who applaud any action that discomfits a royal family whom they perceive to be "unreliable" in religious terms, and to be too friendly with the US. So they support any action against them, regardless of who dies. And I see this support for the terrorists all around me, both in furtive conversations and more overt celebrations, the smiling jokes among friends, the victory fist punched in the air.

Religious Policeman had to go on hiatus at the end of April, fearing another Internet crackdown. But he couldn't stay away long, and began posting roughly once a week, first at an Internet cafe. In the last several days, he's been posting more often, for obvious reasons. Hope he keeps at it. RP reminds the rest of the world there are decent, moderate Saudis who reject warped Muslim extremists, a complaisant public, and the corrupt, divisive royal family.

Drive all the foreigners out, and who'll actually do the work? There is no indigenous Saudi working class. Physical labor is beneath them.

Upside: this assault on the Saudi oil industry is good for mass transit projects in the U.S.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Gone Clear

You like obits? You'll LOVE this.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Freedom: You Can Just Taste It

Western values and food are ascendant in Eastern Europe, 15 years after Communist regimes were extirpated.

A good thing, too. Apart from the usual overcooked meat, potatoes and dumplings; delicacies under The Reds included spaghetti made of limp noodles, ketchup and shredded cheese. Pizza was "thick yeast cake topped with vegetables and ketchup." Another favorite: fried cheese with mayonnaise.

Now: grilled salmon with strawberry sauce; herbs and spices; avocados; and exotic items such as asparagus and broccoli.

Before long: piroshky filled with sea urchin; and Slivovitz tastings.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Abu Ghraib Wasn't "Horror"

The media are riding the Abu Ghraib story "like a Triple Crown winner," although as atrocities go, it ranks fairly low. So says military officer K.B. James in a letter to The Tacoma News-Tribune. Here's an excerpt, but read the whole thing.

As a military officer, I can assure you that no one is angrier over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners than members of the U.S. military....However, the media are riding this story like it is a triple crown winner. Every few days we dish out a few more repulsive pictures - the more sensational, the better. And if the pictures aren't sensational enough, the headlines are, such as Friday's News Tribune headline - "New prison horrors." When you utilize phrases like that, where do you go if it gets worse?

Saddam and his family had a flair for cutting out tongues, gouging out eyes, raping and murdering wives in front of husbands. What do you call that? What do you call Nick Berg's murder? The four contractors in Fallujah? If Abu Ghraib is "horror," what do you call Auschwitz?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Toward A Modern Islam in Pakistan

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf wants religious reform in his country: Islam of the 21st Century, not the 16th. There's hope, although it's slow going. More in this excellent SF Chron op-ed.

Progressive forces in Pakistan, a country often derided in the international press as an impoverished backwater overrun with gun-toting wackos, are fighting hard for changes in the education curriculum here that have the potential to bring Pakistan more in line with Western secularized modern education systems and make it a role model for other Islamic countries struggling to progress in the 21st century.

But the battle, which speaks directly to the base identity of Pakistanis, is fierce.

On one side, there are the progressive forces that want a modern Islamic homeland where religion is an individual choice, such as in Malaysia, a developed world player. On the other side, there are conservative forces that seek a narrow interpretation of Islam that determines an individual's life, such as in Saudi Arabia, where thousands of frustrated unemployed youth have few places to turn for relief.

Recent government attempts to reform curricula in religious schools (madrassas) were met with stiff resistance in parliament, the media and mosques.

...pro-modern, tolerant, worldly forces found themselves on the run as the government backed down.....Many of the textbooks used in government schools are based on a syllabus created 10 to 15 years ago -- before the end of the Cold War and the advent of the Internet. All are infused with dictates of former military dictator Gen. Zia ul-Haq, who embarked on an Islamization program that spawned thousands of willing recruits for military campaigns in neighboring Afghanistan and Kashmir and fomented serious divisions inside Pakistan.

....But this is one of those rare cases where what appears to be bad news, is actually pretty good.

For its many -- many, many, many -- problems, Pakistan has a relatively open society when compared to other Muslim countries -- such as Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Dissent is, largely, tolerated. The press is, mostly, free. The national pastime -- arguing, shouting, crying, lamenting - - is alive and well...

"This battle goes right to the heart of what we Pakistanis want Pakistan to be," said (physics professor and critic of extremist Islam, A.H.) Nayyar. "It's not about going against Islam. It is a question of whether we want to be Muslims of the 21st century or the 16th."

Should Musharraf lose this particular battle, the war is not lost, for the debate will surely go on -- and that is a lesson political rulers across the globe would do well to learn.

UPDATE: Turmoil in Pakistan continues, with a suicide bombing at a Shi'ite mosque in Karachi today killing 15 (now 19, and three more in related riots). The blast occured just one kilometer from where a Sunni cleric was assassinated yesterday. Earlier in May, a suicide blast at another Shi'ite mosque in Karachi killed 23 and injured 100.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 29, 2004

We Can Work It Out

Some of my best friends have roots on the sub-continent. Alright, one; my wife's maid of honor Kausar, her high-school best pal. Kausar's family is Pakistani. And boy, was her wedding to a super-cool white guy from Menlo Park, CA (Hi Dougmeister!) something else. They met on a Greek island.

Naturally they live in The Mission, in SF. We've visited them there several times, and hope they'll join us this summer in Mt. Shasta as we stalk the ancient lost tribes of Lemuria.

I greatly respect Indian and Pakistani cultures. (We get to reform of Pakistani madrassas in another post). Indians and Pakistanis stress education, family, food and music. A lot like my people, the Jews, in those respects.

But there are some things about Indian culture that are foreign to me. Such as arranged marriages. Yeah, I saw Fiddler On The Roof. Jews did this too, perhaps still do. Other groups as well.

My late Grandpa Jacob (may his soul rest in peace) almost didn't attend our 1987 wedding because I was marrying a shikse. That's Yiddish for Gentile woman. In the end he came, and enjoyed himself.

I can't imagine choosing your mate based on cultural or religious homegeneity. So old world.

I'm thinking about all this because I stumbled across a site devoted to helping arrange marriages between men and women of Indian descent. Shaadi.com is a "matrimonial services provider."

See this lovely couple, especially the bride. Yet in the first picture here, does not the groom appear to have had a few too many Pimm's Cups? That crown doesn't help, fellah.

And what's up with "Chemicalbrother" and Minaya? He works for Upjohn, or Pfizer? Shouldn't he give his real first name, not a disrespectful alias? Especially given he's a honky? Is the site in the mail-order bride business, too, along with traditional matchmaking?

Hope this one isn't some kinda Green Card for money or sex deal. Must be some other reason the bride's staring at the floor so hard. Right?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

U.S. Deaths in Iraq: A Historical Perspective

I'm very pleased to run this thought-provoking guest essay by James. J. Na. He's the Foreign Policy Fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think-tank. I'd welcome comments here at the blog, and James' e-mail address is at the end, too.

By James J. Na

This April was the deadliest month for the US forces in Iraq. According to a site that tracks American military fatalities there, 140 Americans soldiers died in April. During fourteen months of combat operations between March 2003 to April 2004, the total number of fatalities was 741, making the average 53 deaths per month.

It is often said that these deaths are not simply statistics. They are real faces and lives, each with its own story and family. Yet we do rely on statistics sometimes, because they offer a sense of scale.

For example, according to the National Health Center for Statistics, in the year 2002:

A total of over 2.4 million Americans died.
Almost 700,000 died from heart disease.
Over 100,000 were killed in accidents (over 5,000 in work-related accidents).
Over 30,000 committed suicides.
Over 17,000 were killed in homicides.

Based on the monthly rate of 53 deaths, the annual fatalities rate for American military men and women in the current Iraq War is 636 in comparison.

Of course, there is a clear moral difference between "ordinary" deaths and military deaths in war. So let us draw a comparison to the statistics on American military fatalities in modern wars. According to a site that tracks such information, the fatalities rates, including killed-in-action and non-battle deaths, were:

For World War I, over 6,100 per month.
For World War II, over 9,200 per month.
In Korea, over 900 were killed each month (non-battle death information is not available).
For Vietnam, over 600 per month.
For Gulf War I, almost 300 in one month.

The first Gulf War was noted for its remarkably low casualties. Some even observed that the death rate for the deployed American military personnel was lower then than that during peacetime, making it "safer to be at war than at home" for the soldiers. In comparison, an average of 53 died each month in this war.

Even in the deadliest month of April, the death toll was 140, making it substantially smaller than even the anomalously low Gulf War rate. When overall population growths are factored in -- for example, during World War I, the total US population was only a little over 100 million while today it exceeds over 260 million -- the death rate for the current war shrinks still in comparison to the others.

In fact, during World War II, more American soldiers died in three days on average than in all of fourteen months of operations in Iraq. Despite the tragically higher fatalities rate of World War II, the media of its day kept a respectful distance, and allowed the families of the dead to grieve privately in dignity. There was no complaint that American soldiers were dying "needlessly in a war of aggression" against a Nazi Germany that did not bomb Pearl Harbor.

There was no talk of a "quagmire" as thousands of American died on the beaches of Normandy in one day and as thousands more died in the jungles of the Pacific, facing suicide attacks from a fanatical foe. No one was accused of hyped intelligence when the actual German atomic weapons program turned out to be substantially less advanced than estimated. Instead, the families of the Greatest Generation, already having survived a crippling Depression, quietly endured the deaths and supported the military endeavors to defend American interests and to extend the boundaries of freedom.

Today the news-hungry media reports each death in an agonizing, repetitive fashion. One learns of a death in the morning newspapers, hears about it on radio on the way to work, sees it on CNN during lunch time, and the cycle repeats itself for few more hours in the evening, capped by a special on Nightline. The effect is that the impact of each death is sensationally and numbingly magnified without any reference to the contexts, such as toppling a murderous dictatorship, defeating a sponsor of terrorism and bringing freedom to an oppressed people.

This is not to imply that the American deaths in the current war are less tragic. On the contrary, every one of the sacrifices in Iraq was a noble, meaningful one, suffered by an all-volunteer force that needed no draft, no compulsion to fight for our nation. In the end, what is important to recognize, and what these historical numbers demonstrate, is that it is fully within our historical legacy to carry on the struggle to protect our interests and to extend the boundaries of freedom, all in quiet dignity without losing our faith and determination to be victorious.

James J. Na is the Foreign Policy Fellow at Discovery Institute. His writings have appeared in the Asian Wall Street Journal, Defense News, Naval Institute's Proceedings, the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

ADD YOUR COMMENTS HERE, AND feel free to contact James at jamesjna@discovery.org.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:51 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

May 28, 2004

No Viagra For The Brain, Sorry

Maybe you've heard the popular theory that we only use 10 percent of our brains. Bunk, writes Barry Beyerstein of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C. In this brief explanatory essay from Scientific American, he blames the myth partly on Lowell Thomas' intro to the famous Dale Carnegie book, "How To Win Friends and Influence People."

One unanswered question in this informative piece: just how much of our brains, or brain power DO we actually use - assuming no injury? Any brainiacs out there have an answer?

Hat tip to Lorna.

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The Independent: U.N. Peacekeepers Sexually Exploiting Teen Girls in Congo

Teen-age rape victims who've become mothers and vulnerable refugees in Congo's ongoing fighting are being sexually exploited by U.N. "peacekeepers."

At night girls from the Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camp in Bunia, Congo, slip under a fence to liase with the U.N. soldiers, mostly from developing nations.

In return, they get a banana or piece of cake to feed their infants, The Independent reports.

This despite the U.N.'s "zero tolerance" pledge on peacekeeper abuse of refugees and a U.N. investigation of same, in Congo.

Sounds like the reporter has pinpointed one place where the "investigators" should, um, investigate.

Meanwhile, more U.N. "peacekeepers" have arrived in Congo, from Uruguay, to help the wobbly Congolese army beat back ethnic Hutu hardliners who were expelled from Rwanda for their role in the genocide of 800,000 Tutsis. Got that?

More background on the mess in Congo, and the role of the diamond trade in financing terrorist organizations in this earlier Rosenblog post.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:01 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 27, 2004

A Teacher Speaks

I've been hearing from Howard Wolf for a while, in connection with my guest op-eds that have appeared in The Seattle Times, and my blog, which I started in late January. Howard sent this along today, and with his permission, I'm sharing it here. Seems apropos to a lot, including the Cosby story.

For out-of-towners, Howard's closing reference to John Stanford is about a widely-admired ex-Army General and ex-Fulton County, Georgia Chief Executive who came to Seattle in the mid-90s as our new public schools superintendent. Stanford, an African-American, energized everybody, convincingly stressing a core belief that all children really were capable of high achievement. The buy-in was palpable. He seemed poised to lead a real turnaround of our town's deeply troubled public schools, which have been losing market share for years. But then he tragically died of leukemia. We haven't recovered the momentum since.

(From Howard Wolf, Seattle). I was a teacher for thirty years; seven were in Daly City, California and twenty-three were in Seattle. As far back as the early seventies I encountered children who already realized that the “race card” was more potent than the personal responsibility card. It trumped responsibility by cowing many teachers and administrators with the often trumped-up charge of racism.

When I left my California school district, anxious to settle in the fabulous Northwest, I found Seattle schools (in which I had to substitute teach to prove my mettle for an eventual contract) superior to the district I had left. I was ecstatic and full of hope, but alas the district decided to accede to the busing mandate; its effect was not to share the wealth of the district, but to share the poverty.

Within three years, Seattle schools had sunk beneath the district I had left. And that was similarly sensed by the parents of school age children who voted with their feet and either moved away or opted for private education for their children. The district’s school population was cut nearly by more than a third in but a few years. It became difficult, and in some cases impossible thereafter to insist upon many minority youngsters meeting their personal responsibility to get along with others and to do their best work in a timely manner. It became politically correct to levy the charge of racism on the part of many.

To have openly voiced that observation back in the seventies or eighties would have resulted (in all likelihood) in the teacher being termed a racist. And thence he or she would have been abandoned by the union and the district. Schools must again regard personal responsibility as a far more vital teaching objective than that of disparaging racism, not that the latter should cease, but it must be relegated to a subordinate position.

Interestingly enough, John Stanford’s tenure as superintendent began to improve things; alas, the poor man died before a great deal of his vision could be realized.

Comments on Howard's contribution are welcome.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:33 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Am I Blue?

Netscape (remember them?) still has an online news digest. I'm not sure they should. This summary of a study on the benefits of listening to music shows they need better editors.

First, they say listening to music will do a lot of good things for your mood, including "vanishing" feelings of sadness. Then, right after that, they say listening to music won't erase a number of problematic emotions, including the afore-mentioned "sadness."

Which is it, guys?

I'd hazard that it all depends on the music. Gimme some Latin jazz or Township Jive from South Africa to chase away the blues. But not blues. Unless it's really upbeat, and about drinking. Which of course causes short-term euphoria followed by.....sadness.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:11 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Cosby Coverage Slowly Building on West Coast

(LAST UPDATED 6/7). Slowly (very slowly at first) West Coast newspapers have offered commentary or coverage of Bill Cosby's controversial remarks to the NAACP in mid-May on self-responsibility for lower-income blacks. With two exceptions, noted below, the West Coast daily newspaper coverage of the Cosby controversy cited below has been exceedingly lame.

Here's what I've come across.

San Jose Mercury News columnist Joe Rodriguez proffers this accusatory, would-be takedown of Coz.

And the Seattle Times' Jerry Large has a worthy piece warning against "either-or" thinking (racism vs. black self-improvement).

The Oregonian, Portland's big daily, had this bare-bones transcript of some of Cosby's remarks, via the WaPo.

And 12 days after the event, The Tacoma News-Tribune offers this formulaic, decidely non-local AP reaction story.

Fifteen days afterward, the SF Chron ran this week-old rebuttal of Cosby's remarks from an NAACP official.

In the third week, a few more West Coast dailies chimed in. The Alameda News-Star and the Tacoma News-Tribune ran this same (and strong) syndicated piece on Cosby's message, by black conservative Star Parker.

The beginning of Week Four following Cosby's May 17 speech saw this excellent op-ed in The Seattle Times on the Cosby furor. It's by Oscar Eason, Jr., head of the NAACP State Conference (covering Oregon, Washington and Alaska). Note the link above, to the earlier Jerry Large piece in The SeaTimes.

FYI, Cosby reiterated his views in a speech at Stanford University, and also sat down to talk things over on Tavis Smiley's PBS television show. (Transcript here).

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:51 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thank Goodness for Officials

"Minnesota not a likely terror target, officials say."

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 26, 2004

SF to LA Bullet Train: Yeah, Baby!

Picture this. Bullet trains going 220 mph, from San Francisco to LA. By 2013. And for only $37 billion. Arnold wants to delay a planned '04 bond issue for the first $9 billion-plus 'till '06, given the state's fiscal situation. Sensible. But, as one source points out in this San Jose Mercury News story, highways and airports alone won't be able to meet future inter-city travel demand in the corridor.

Environmentalists are worried - it's their job. Give 'em a few inches, but not a mile. This needs to happen.

And now, I go off the deep end. If the NW has half a brain, we'll muster the collective political will for something similar, from Portland to Seattle, and perhaps one day to Vancouver B.C.. That last part's if, and only if, the Canadians ever get a handle on the terrorists slipping in and out of their country.

Several clear obstacles for a Portland-Seattle bullet train would raise the stakes: grade crossings, crummy track that has to be replaced, and paralyzing NIMBY-itis in each affected en-route locale. But just as for needed highway, bridge and ferry improvements in WA, the longer we wait, the costlier it gets.

My blue sky clouds up worse still: politicans always playing defense against WA tax-cut initiative king Tim Eyman are scared to articulate a vision for anything other than getting elected.

Fact is, for a whole bunch of reasons, we need our own super-charismatic, thoroughly modern, direct appeal go-getter for Guv up here. Sadly, no Arnold in sight. (Maybe Jay Buehner?) Nah, we're too damn bland and timid for anything like that.

At least, could we dare to hope that top '04 WA candidates for Governor -Christine Gregoire and Dino Rossi - might offer some substantive thoughts before Election Day on intra-city high-speed rail in the NW.

(Free registration required at Mercury-News, for story).

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:11 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Fidel: Here's an Idea

See how much play THIS gets in the press.

Hot off the server from the Coalition Provisional Authority.

The Iraq Property Claims Commission (IPCC) office has opened in Basra to help citizens reclaim houses and land seized by the former regime.

The IPCC office is located in Al Ashar beside the former governorate building in Basra. This is the first regional office to open in southern Iraq and will only deal with claims relating to Basrah province. There are 15 staff, including a manager, legal advisers and claim administrators. To make a claim, people must visit the office in person.

The IPCC process provides a legal and organized mechanism for resolving property disputes by people who wish to reclaim their property. It is open to those people, or their heirs, who claim that between 17 July 1968 and 9 April 2003 they had a legal interest in property taken from them because of their religion, sect or ethnic background, or because of their opposition to the Ba’athist government.

People can also make a claim if their property was confiscated for reasons other than land reform, if it was acquired for less than the correct value, or if the price agreed was not paid. In addition, land belonging to the State that was given to people, such as farmers, because of the greater benefits to the economy, can also be claimed back.

The IPCC is not open to people who lost personal property such as vehicles or cash, or to those whose property was damaged or destroyed but not taken from them.

A spokesperson for CPA South said: “Under the former Ba’athist regime many people had land and property taken away. The opening of this office in Basra will provide citizens in the southern provinces with a fair and structured method of reclaiming property that was unfairly taken away.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

It's a Wrap

Do Phish begin to smell after two decades? Trey Anastasio and crew think so. The popular jam-band will call it quits after this summer's tour. They reeled off some tasty licks in their time, but know their shtick is played; no matter how many Deadhead wanna-bes follow them around the country.

I've got one Phish CD. I like it. And it's plenty, thanks.

UPDATE: In the comment string to this post, Naarski reminds that a creepy incident just last August involving Phish bassist Mike Gordon can't have added to the veteran band's mojo very much. Here's what was reported. Backstage at a Jones Beach, New York Grateful Dead concert, long-time film and photo buff Gordon disappeared into a dark, secluded nearby boathouse with the nine-year-old daughter of a Hell's Angel to take what he later termed "art pictures."

The girl's absence from backstage was noticed, she and Gordon were found, and he was beaten up by Hell's Angels. Gordon was charged with endangering the welfare of a minor and trespassing, but the case quietly died. Naarski offers a tongue-in-cheek "conspiracy theory," including this: Hell's Angels controlled the drug concession at Phish concerts, and wanted to keep the peace after administering their own brand of justice to Gordon.

According to a variety of reports I Googled up (including this and this and this) there was no indication of any child molestation. The emphasis was on, ah, moving on.

For more, see this post from Chronic Murmuring, a blog by "a recovering theological prick." Nota bene the comments.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:15 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Now THAT'S Pro-Life

Arkansas mom has her 15th kid; dad's name is Jim Bob. Kids are home-schooled. Mealtimes must be a kick.

THIS family could run a farm at a profit, in a few years. Or start a white gospel choir?

They want to procreate again. A good thing? At this point, I'd have to say, emphatically, YES!

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 25, 2004

"Soul Plane" Off Course

"Who Carries The Racist Torch of Amos n' Andy Now?" So asks Kyle Sing at Chicago Report, an excellent, Chicago-based group blog I found via Dean Esmay's kick-ass blog.

Sing happened to see an extended trailer for a new film called "Soul Plane," and was appalled. So are some other folks, now organizing a campaign against it. Sing writes:

When I see trailers of a film like 'Soul Plane', and I recently had the chance to see an extended trailer, I see individual people who are black, reduced to the exact same racist stereotypes that blacks were subject to fifty years ago with shows like Amos 'n Andy...only with total cooperation of black people! From what I saw of 'Soul Plane', blacks are shown as shallow, rude, and always ready to dance or get laid. Black women are portrayed as either loud or obnoxious or as hos; mere objects for the sexual gratification of men. Black men are portrayed as lazy, unsophisticated, and in some ways cowardly.

As much as I wish such horrid representation stopped there, it doesn't....While it is true that there are great black artists and entrepreneurs of stern principle and character today, their testaments appears to have been drowned out by black self-characitures and destructiveness of the images of the Gangsta and Ho that originated in ghetto culture.

The mainstreaming of ghetto culture hurts black culture's image, Hip-Hop's image, and by worst of all, it portrays blacks in the same negative, racist, individual-denying light that white racism did for so many years. Anyone with half a brain and sense of morality can see that a horrible crime has been perpetrated against black people, and that crime is that too often black people are portrayed in media as self-caricatures and stereotypes that are then celebrated and lionized by of all things....Black Media!

In a recent comment string at Rosenblog on Bill Cosby's controversial and right-on remarks to the NAACP, Larry Evans, an African-American from Seattle, expressed deep concern about clown-ish, disrespectful images of blacks on TV and in movies. But he stressed - rightly, I think - that whites play a big part in producing and consuming this stuff. Evans also posits that whites who like to see a black portrayed as clown, pimp or ho in make-believe, also like to see blacks as victims in real life.

...there are those who want many blacks to have the superficial, materialistic, violent, exploitive, comedic, shallow practices exhibited on white-owned BET (Black Entertainment Television)....As black people, we have a great deal of work to do. But whites need to actually try to do what you are telling us to do - look in the mirror and take responsibility for your own actions, including the kind of images of blacks you reject, and accept. When black men in the media are buffoonish clowns, they are accepted by mainstream America. When they are thoughtful and serious, they make many whites uncomfortable. When Chris Tucker was a weed smoking, bug-eyed, clown in many of his movies, he was always working. Then he went to Africa with Bono and came back with a thoughtful, serious mentality that he spoke about while accepting an award for Rush Hour. The brother hasn't worked since.

Maybe this is something white America needs to look at. A comfort level with black men who are either grinning and clownish, or angry and dangerous to confirm your fears (white kids buy 70% of all rap music). But a subconscious discomfort with serious, focused, psychologically strong black men who won't continually play victim and perpetually give power and responsibility to whites.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 03:08 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Starbucks Isn't Evil, Their Coffee's Just Crummy

Nothing gets my day off to a crappy start like a crappy cuppa Joe. In a moment of weakness at Target not long ago, I bought a bag of Starbucks French Roast. I was out of coffee, it was there, it was easy. Too easy. I noticed an immediate drop in quality compared to the stuff we usually bring home form the local coffeehouse down the street, but decided to tuff it out. I spent the money, I'm Jewish, case closed.

Then vacationing neighbors gifted us with some Nickybeans Kona from Maui Coffee Roasters. Shazzam! Mild yet rich, smooth, succulent, cerebral and scintillating. I'd paste this stuff all over a T-bone steak and grill it, I would!

Perversely reverting to thrift this morning, I decided to make a dent in the rest of the Starbucks. Oy! After getting acclimated to the Nickybeans Kona, the taste wavered between fish entrails and burnt plastic.

And yes, Starbucks PR people, I recently DID have a free sample of your new Hawaiian product, foisted on me by some smarmy manager with a ceaseless spiel. Best I can say: less burnt than your other varieties.

My perspective on coffee is consumer-driven, and fiercely apolitical. Just because Starbucks java is crud; just because their outsourced food leaves me cold; just because they've got incredibly lame signs boasting their food is "oven-warmed" (as opposed to what, microwaved?); NONE OF THAT means for one tiny second that I support the anti-globalization and anti-corporate protests directed against the company. I don't.

It's true that accretion of capital, expansionism, mass production and marketing can vault second-rate products to the top of the heap. But it's we the hornswoggled consumers who make the choices.

Thanks for the reminder, guys.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:38 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 24, 2004

Gregory Clay: Cosby The Code Breaker

One of the stronger opinion pieces I've seen so far on the Cosby-NAACP affair popped up on Google News after my earlier update this morning. It's by Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service editor Gregory Clay. He attended the D.C. Brown vs. Board do, and lauds Cosby as a "code breaker" for his speech there.

Here's a bit of Clay's op-ed, including an interesting aside about similar, earlier comments from ex-NBA star Charles Barkley.

During the reception, the champagne flowed. When the program started, the bright lights glowed. And when the festivities ended, actor-comedian-philanthropist Bill Cosby had provided the spark that shocked us back to reality.

On May 17, during the gala commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision desegregating the nation's public educational system, Cosby scolded a few thousand of us on that star-studded night at Constitution Hall in Washington. A scolding that has been somewhat glossed over by the major media the past week.

...The audience initially sat silently as people ostensibly were genuinely surprised by the direction of Cosby's comments. But as Cosby got deeper into his sermon, he received intermittent amen-like applause. Suffice to say, Cosby woke up some folk.

We needed it. The glitz and glamour were blinding us.

Many black folk probably are surprised because Cosby broke the code; he stepped out of the box. A black person publicly criticizing other blacks, especially those in the lower economic stratum? Come on, no way.

....Another code-breaker is former NBA star turned television commentator Charles Barkley. Last year at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Dallas, the outspoken Barkley said during a panel discussion, "We as black folks have to do a better job. ... Someone working at Wal-Mart with seven kids, you are hurting us. We have to start holding each other to a higher standard. ...''

....The real issue should be why did we have to wait three and a half hours into an extremely informative program to hear about the plight of blacks and education TODAY. Not 50 years ago. TODAY. Cosby didn't finish his speech until close to midnight, this after we saw a parade of luminaries ranging from Julian Bond to Dennis Haysbert to Ossie Davis to Kweisi Mfume to Hank Aaron speak.

Some have said Cosby is pitting lower-income blacks against middle- and upper-class blacks. That's utterly ridiculous.

Cosby's central theme simply was this: Better parenting and educational achievement are in black people's best interest, and some have failed miserably. Don't let the Brown case die on the vine. We have to admit this; it's about survival.

Again, read the whole thing. It'd be beneficial to society if this piece ran in all, or at least many, Knight-Ridder and Tribune Co.-affiliated newspapers. Any particular reason that shouldn't happen?

UPDATE: Add this into the mix, from DeWayne Wickham at USA Today. And this, from Atlanta Journal-Constitution Editorial Page Editor Cynthia Tucker.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 04:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Love Me, Baby

Sounds like gabby, scattered and lonely Bill Clinton really needs a personal coach. (Hat tip to Lorna).

Perhaps the conflicted ex-POTUS should run for President of France. Apparently, he could.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"People of Mass Destruction"

That's what Thomas Friedman calls the suicide bombers in Iraq. And no one should cite their actions as evidence of Iraqi opposition to the U.S. presence.

...reports suggest they are coming from Europe, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Saudi Arabia...

"I don't think the P.M.D.'s are really a product of local Iraqi resentment against us," says Raymond Stock, an expert on Arabic literature and media based in Cairo. "They are mainly imported cookie-cutter killers, created by a combination of Arab mass media, certain extremist elements in Muslim culture, and some very shrewd recruiting by Al Qaeda and its ilk. When young, angry, futureless, sexually repressed people are taught that death is a permanent vacation of guilt-free pleasure, and they see it glorified in countless videos, all you need is a willing truck driver to ferry them over the border from Syria, Jordan, Turkey or Saudi Arabia and presto — a human bomb."

...They just want to ensure that America fails to produce anything decent in Iraq and they are ready to sacrifice all Iraqis for that end. Extremely sophisticated nihilists, able to organize multiple suicide bombings right under our noses — for a year. It's another sign that we never had enough troops in Iraq, and have failed to train and equip a meaningful Iraqi police force to secure Iraq's borders or its interior — which is the necessary foundation for any decent outcome in Iraq.

But it's another reason we need to shift authority and security in Iraq to Iraqis as soon as they can handle it. Only they will have the ears needed to pick up the accents of P.M.D.'s, the eyes needed to know who doesn't belong and the smell for where these rotten apples are being stored to solve this P.M.D. mystery...

Hat tip to Tom Rekdal.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


For at least the third time in recent weeks I've received this e-mail from Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; even though I categorically have NOT e-mailed him.

It reads:

This serves as an immediate means to acknowledge my receipt of your message. I am currently experiencing a large volume of e-mails, and your questions will be answered as soon as possible.

If you are writing about a specific piece of legislation, your comments will be considered before I take action. I appreciate hearing from concerned citizens like you. Please feel free to continue to keep me informed on issues that are important to you. Thank you again for writing.

To subscribe to my weekly news update via e-mail, go to: http://www.myflorida.com/subscribe (Ed. - sorry Guv, you get no hyperlink here).

Jeb Bush

Jeb, dude, my only question is why you keep sending me this whack e-mail.

Actually, I've got a comment, too. If I HAD been seeking an answer from you, by now I'd be fairly pissed that all I get is this same form e-mail telling me you're too busy to reply.

If you'd like a top-to-bottom audit of your gubernatorial communications apparatus - which you seem to need - I will be happy to respond to an RFP. If minority contractor criteria are a concern, I believe I qualify, as a Ukranian-Irish Seattle conservative work-at-home father.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:45 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Coverage of Cosby Controversy: Update #4

As I predicted, Leonard Pitts steps up to the Cosby controversy. Also today, veteran Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg zeroes in on the media's timidity toward the story of Cosby's hard-nosed remarks on black self-responsibility, which he made last week at the NAACP's Brown vs. Board commemoration.

I always thought of Bill Cosby as just an avuncular, low-key comedian in a fancy sweater. But he said some very sharp, very candid remarks last week at a celebration....marking the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education. So sharp that most newspapers and media outlets ignored them. But the Washington Post didn't, and I wanted to pass some of his words along to you, both for the sentiments he conveyed and as a reminder that black leaders do actually say these things. It's we, the media, apparently, who tend to miss them.

As for all of what Cosby actually said, and just who in print media HAS had the nerve to report the news or comment so far, see my previous posts here, here and here.

The last link (from my post yesterday), includes more from the tape-recording of Cosby's speech, as reported by WaPo columnist Richard Leiby. He originally broke the story. In the comment string of the first Rosenblog link above, note the frank and lengthy response to Cosby's message from Larry Evans, a 46-year-old African-American from Seattle.

A week later, STILL no coverage of Cosby's shot across the bow in any West Coast dailies, according to my search on Google News. (Let me know if you discover something).

We really ARE The Left Coast, huh?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:14 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 23, 2004

How Bahrain's Elected Parliament Got Screwed

I've blogged twice in the last few weeks on the pro-reform petitioners who were thrown in jail in Bahrain. As many as 20 faced life in prison on absurdly trumped-up charges. See my posts here and - after Human Rights Watch issued a condemnation - here.

Just two days after HRW sounded the claxon, 14 of the petitioners were supposedly released, according to this otherwise unconfirmed and typically cryptic report on the recent goings-on.

Still, the underlying problem of a disenfranchised Sh'ia majority (sound familiar?) remains. And as an aspiring exemplar of Mid-East democracy, Bahrain needs to do better. Sacking the Interior minister after police routed anti-American protestors the other day is a nice gesture, but hardly enough.

In tommorow's Daily Star (Lebanon), Abdulhadi Khalaf gives the backstory on how the elected Bahraini parliament (which includes Sh'ia office-holders) has been effectively squashed by the King and his own appointed council. As it happens, this is exactly what the petitioners were trying to change. One flaw in Khalaf's informative op-ed is that it fails to even mention the April 30 jailings, although that may be because it had to be submitted beforehand to the Arab Reform Bulletin, where it was first published.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Outtakes From Cosby's Speech to NAACP

12/3/04 UPDATE: After you read this post, click here to read "Cosby For NAACP Head?"

Still not Dribble One in West Coast daily newspapers about Bill Cosby's in-your-face exhortations to black parents who aren't doing their jobs. (UPDATE; 5/27, 5/29 and 6/1: OK, now a few West Coast dailies are acknowledging the story, but not many. Most are just trying to get it off their plates. And it took them long enough).

Coz's remarks came at the NAACP's Brown vs. Board shindig last week in D.C. The story was originally broken by WaPo columnist Richard Leiby. The delayed-reaction, liberally-filtered NY Times article on the ruckus ran yesterday, now making the story safe for general consumption.

Chicago Tribune syndicated columnist Clarence Page wrote about Cosby's remarks today, and the UK Telegraph joined in, with a statement from Cosby that he belives his remarks pertain to urban blacks in England as well. (Free registration required for both pieces).

And in today's Washinton Post, "Reliable Source" columnist Leiby transcribes more of Cosby's taped remarks. Mind you, Coz is a bit worked up. (Free registration required).

In fiery remarks last week in Washington, Bill Cosby took the black community to task for parental failures that he says have led to high dropout rates, crime and other social ills. After we published brief excerpts of his cultural critique -- delivered at a gala marking the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education desegregation ruling -- several readers called for more. Conservative broadcasters seized upon Cosby's remarks, but he was unrepentant in an interview yesterday with The Post's Hamil Harris: "Do I not make a move to speak to the people that I love?" he said.

He plans to continue preaching his tough gospel, which was motivated, he said, by District Police Chief Charles Ramsey, who earlier this year called on the community to do a better job of parenting.

NAACP Executive Director Kweisi Mfume said he agreed with "most of what Cosby said" and hugged him after the speech. "He said what needed to be said," Mfume said.

"I was talking to the movers and shakers," Cosby emphasized yesterday. Here's more Cos, as tape-recorded by Harris Monday night:

"I am talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was 2? Where were you when he was 12? Where were you when he was 18 and how come you didn't know that he had a pistol? And where is the father? . . .

"The church is only open on Sunday and you can't keep asking Jesus to do things for you. You can't keep saying that God will find a way. God is tired of you," Cosby declared to loud applause.

"I wasn't there when God was saying it, I am making this up, but it sounds like what God would say. In all of this work we can not blame white people. White people don't live over there; they close up the shop early. The Korean ones don't know us well enough, so they stay open 24 hours."

On fashion: "People putting their clothes on backwards: Isn't that a sign of something gone wrong? . . . People with their hats on backwards, pants down around the crack, isn't that a sign of something, or are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up? Isn't it a sign of something when she has her dress all the way up to the crack and got all type of needles [piercings] going through her body? What part of Africa did this come from? Those people are not Africans; they don't know a damn thing about Africa.

"With names like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed and all of that crap, and all of them are in jail. Brown versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person's problem. We have got to take the neighborhood back. We have to go in there -- forget about telling your child to go into the Peace Corps -- it is right around the corner. They are standing on the corner and they can't speak English."

On sports heroes: "Basketball players -- multimillionaires -- can't write a paragraph. Football players -- multimillionaires -- can't read. Yes, multimillionaires. Well, Brown versus Board of Education: Where are we today? They paved the way, but what did we do with it? That white man, he's laughing. He's got to be laughing: 50 percent drop out, the rest of them are in prison."

On teenage sex: "Five, six children -- same woman -- eight, 10 different husbands or whatever. Pretty soon you are going to have DNA cards to tell who you are making love to. You don't know who this is. It might be your grandmother. I am telling you, they're young enough! Hey, you have a baby when you are 12; your baby turns 13 and has a baby. How old are you? Huh? Grandmother! By the time you are 12 you can have sex with your grandmother, you keep those numbers coming. I'm just predicting. . . .

"(Why are) young girls getting after a girl who wants to remain a virgin? Who are these sick black people and where do they come from and why haven't they been parented to shut up? This is a sickness, ladies and gentlemen."

Finally, Cosby has issued a press release strongly underscoring his concerns; but also stressing he was speaking out in the context of the high (high-school) drop-out rate among blacks.

UPDATE: 7/2/04. Cosby lays it out again, in Chicago, confusing some headline writers, but drawing strong support from his audience.

And join this string on AIDS and personal responsibility.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:04 AM | Comments (86) | TrackBack

May 22, 2004

A Skittish Print Media (Slowly) Warms to Coverage of Cosby-NAACP Controversy

Still no coverage in West Coast newspapers of Bill Cosby's pointed remarks on black self-responsibility, made at the NAACP's Brown vs. Board gala in D.C. earlier this week. However, several days after Washington Post columnist Richard Leiby broke the story and WorldNetDaily then picked it up, the NY Times has finally deigned to take notice.

There's plenty of editorializing disguised as reporting from writer Felicia R. Lee, such as labelling Cosby's common-sense remarks "inflammatory." And Lee disingenuously attempts to frame the controversy as something that has received wide coverage on not only the Internet and talk radio, but newspapers too. (Wrong, very wrong on the last count; and that's a real problem, Ms. Lee).

But Lee's piece also includes a valuable follow-up interview with Cosby. And the NYT story is getting picked today in other U.S. metro daily papers, tho again, none on the West Coast (based on results from Google News). Let me know if you see the real story - including Cosby's remarks about language, literacy, materialism and incarceration - in a West Coast daily. I'm guessing by tomorrow, a few will dare to run the official, liberally-filtered NYT version. That's just how this stuff goes, right?

Several columnists weigh in today on the Cosby flap, including Colbert I. King in the WaPo, Cary Clack in the San Antonio News-Express, and (lame) Eugene Kane in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. (Free registration required in all cases).

Any day now in his nationally syndicated column, Leonard Pitts will weigh in, and white editorial page editors will breathe a sigh of relief, absolved from addressing Cosby's remarks directly.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:54 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

May 21, 2004

Cosby's Tough Message at NAACP Gala Censored From West Coast Daily Papers?

Probably no big surprise that Bill Cosby's tough message about black self-responsibility, literacy, parenting and crime went over like a lead balloon at the NAACP's Brown vs. Board bash in DC earlier this week, as Richard Leiby reported in his Washington Post column (2nd item). Leiby's blurb far outdid the toned-down AP report, as James Taranto noted in Opinion Journal yesterday (6th item down).

But there's more to it than that. Coz's hard-nosed bootstrap message to fellow blacks (points commonly acknowledged all the time by blacks, though not usually in the presence of whites) can't seem to get any play in West Coast U.S. daily newspapers, or much of anywhere else.

What you DO get, searching for "Bill Cosby" AND "NAACP" at Google News, apart from the few pick-ups (as of today) based on Leiby's column, is a whole lot of pre-event press release-puffy newspaper pieces about Cosby being honored at the shindig for his educational philanthropy.

The real, full-on story has made it to Australia, but not Seattle. (The Post-Intelligencer did run an innocuous AP report; it's hard to tell if the reporter even attended the event, tho).

Leiby's scoop also made papers in Atlanta and New York State, here and here.

Even then, it took WorldNetDaily, a conservative online publication, to highlight Leiby's report. Odd. Or not? Certainly hundreds of newspaper editors and commentators around the country regularly scan Leiby's lively, D.C.-based column.

The problem: Cosby was saying something most editors dare not print: that contrary to what guilty white liberal Nanny-Staters think, blacks, like everyone else in America, are responsible for their own fate.

Here's the entire Cosby segment from Leiby's column (italics mine).

Bill Cosby was anything but politically correct in his remarks Monday night at a Constitution Hall bash commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. To astonishment, laughter and applause, Cosby mocked everything from urban fashion to black spending and speaking habits.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal," he declared. "These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids -- $500 sneakers for what? And won't spend $200 for 'Hooked on Phonics.' . . .

"They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English," he exclaimed. "I can't even talk the way these people talk: 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is' . . . And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk. . . . Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. . . . You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!"

The Post's Hamil Harris reports that Cosby also turned his wrath to "the incarcerated," saying: "These are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake and then we run out and we are outraged, [saying] 'The cops shouldn't have shot him.' What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?"

When Cosby finally concluded, Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume and NAACP legal defense fund head Theodore Shaw came to the podium looking stone-faced. Shaw told the crowd that most people on welfare are not African American, and many of the problems his organization has addressed in the black community were not self-inflicted.

Anyone sees this pop up in a major West Coast daily newspaper, let me know. I'll gladly give credit where it's due.

Original tip on story from Seattle blogger P. Scott Cummins, "The UrbaneR."

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:29 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Blog Management 101

I'm not much of one for posting tech-talk related to my blog; I'm just learning as I go and diggin' it. BUT, I do need to mention two things.

One, apologies if you came to Rosenblog this a.m. and got a very truncated version. I discovered that mysteriously, the entire right-hand column had disappeared. No blogroll, search box, quick links to recent visitor comments, nothing. On top of that, instead of the usual 15 or so visible posts, things were cut off in the middle of about the third one.

Discovering that all my code was still in the main templates box, and all the posts likewise still there at the back end, I did a simple rebuild of main templates, and everything was back to normal. This is probably super-basic site repair, but I guess I'm the tiniest bit proud that I managed to suss it out on my own.

Two, let me register my profound disgust with the porn site blog trollers out there. They dig up an old item from a legitimate blogger's archive and then make some utterly useless comment, only so that they can leave a link to their putrid site.

Because - like many bloggers - I have links to recent visitor comments near the top of my page, the despicable trollers potentially get a minute or two of exposure if someone clicks on their comment and then on their name-to-site link at the end of the comment, if they have a site, that is. Granted, it's unlikely anyone would be curious enough to do that after reading their utterly vapid remarks (i.e. "it is so very nice here, I can't think of a better place to be").

Regardless, their "comments" and site link are excised ASAP, and each new transgressor will be IP banned to hell, at least here.

However, I'm NOT going to remove the comment feature, or the optional posting of commenters' website URLs. Blogging is an organic process. The vast majority of commenters and commenter web site links are on the up-and-up, and add to the ever-thickening and tasty stew that is the blogosphere. The rest will continue to be quickly weeded out, to the best of my ability.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 20, 2004

This is Canada On Drugs

Vancouver has so encouraged the hard-drug and commercial sex trades in the Downtown Eastside neighborhood that law enforcement has no traction there. A "safe-injection" site has been established for junkies, and pending a government study, a new clinic will legally distribute heroin and methadone.

As Vancouver's progressive solons promote drug addiction and prosititution under the guise of compassion, Statist progressives have unfurled their latest plan to help Vancouver's most wretched save themselves.

Local booksellers, a major publisher and Simon Fraser University have joined forces so local prostitutes can get free copies of a book written by an ex-Vancouver hooker about, well, their lives.

The idea seems to be that government-sanctioned needles, drugs and "treatment" for addicts - including sex-trade workers - won't be enough. But if they hear from an ex-peer about the hidden yearnings and brutal treatment of other drug-addicted sex trade workers in Vancouver, THEN they'll pull themselves up out of the muck.

Yet the risks are already clear. In a gruesome case that has been all over Vancouver newspapers, radio and TV, as many as 31 Vancouver prostitutes were abducted, slaughtered and buried on a pig farm east of Vancouver. Charges have been filed in more than 20 cases so far; some 60 women had gone missing.

Perhaps the whole descent into depravity, Vancouver-style, will be replicated in quaint, tourist-bethronged Victoria, just across the water on Vancouver Island. The city's addict population has finally reached the desired critical mass, and a "safe injection site" is now under consideration. Presumably, a bit aways from the ladies in lace going to afternoon tea.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pointing The Finger at AP Hand-Hacking Story

Here's what's unaccountably missing from the AP story on the seven Iraqi men who got new prosthetic hands in Houston the other day, years after Saddam's thugs hacked them off. 1) It happened at Abu Ghraib - gosh, that wouldn't have any relevance to current events now, would it? 2) It was videotaped and used to intimidate other Iraqis - ditto! 3) There were nine men mutilated in that instance, not just seven, (and countless thousands more on other occasions).

Their alleged crime was dealing in foreign currency.

If you missed the tepid - or should I say "amputated" - AP piece; here it is.

Now the real scoop, naturally from a 'tabloid' paper many respectable journalists sneeringly dismiss, and then quietly read anyway to see if they've been skunked. Former journalist, and documentary filmaker Don North, who does rate a passing mention in the AP sketch, lays it out in this NY Post op-ed.

North's pursuit of the story began after seeing a video of the same seven men recently fitted for prosthetic hands in Houston - and two others - each undergoing surgical removal of a hand at Abu Ghraib.

It wasn't hard to track the men shown in the video. The incident was well known in Baghdad and the tape had been widely circulated to terrorize other merchants who might dare to deal in foreign currency...I went looking for the men in the video. Of the nine who lost their hands in 1995, six were still in Baghdad, one had died, one escaped to Germany and one to Holland. I tracked them down and proposed I make a documentary incorporating the brutal amputation scenes, while telling their story to the world. They agreed.

They were not unique in Saddam's Iraq. During his 35-year reign of terror, Saddam and his Baathist cohorts punished citizens by cutting off hands, feet, ears, tongues or simply executing them. Thousands more were mutilated and lost limbs in Saddam's senseless wars with Iran and Kuwait. As many as 3 million Iraqis may have been eliminated during the Saddam years, with many now turning up in mass graves throughout the country.

Saddam and his sons, Uday and Qussay, often documented the punishment of those they accused of not supporting the regime, using videotape. One Iraqi general who fled to Jordan, received a videotape showing the rape and torture of his wife and daughters. Uday is reported to have taped his pet lions killing and eating two young men who he considered his rivals for the affection of a beautiful woman. Such tapes are scarce now and were probably destroyed as Baghdad fell a year ago.

As I began production of the documentary 'Remembering Saddam' I also started a search for doctors, hospitals or anyone willing to help undo Saddam's brutal surgery. Luck struck...

Read the rest of North's remarkable inside story, which has been all but ignored in recent media accounts.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:37 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 19, 2004

Owning Up to Abu Ghraib: The Beginning of a "Lesson in Democracy"

A lesson for the Arab world in accountability and Western justice is just beginning to unfold. With about a dozen Iraqi and other Arab reporters taking notes, Specialist Jeremy C. Sivits pleads guilty to four charges in the first court martial proceeding against American soldiers involved in the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

A telling part of Dexter Filkins' NYT dispatch won't be much appreciated by the Hate-Bush, Hate-America Left, but must be acknowledged by all:

'I think this could have been seen on television,' said Baktiar Amin, the Iraqi Human Rights Minister, after he watched the court-martial.

Mr. Amin, who described the crimes committed by Americans at Abu Ghraib as 'awful, horrible,' recalled that much greater ones had been carried out by Iraqis in the same prison under Saddam Hussein. Mr. Amin mentioned one incident that took place in the 1980's, in which, he said, 281 Iraqi Shiites were shot to death in the camp for complaining about the conditions.

'There are no images of this,' Mr. Amin said, referring to the massacre. 'That there can be a trial for criminals who perpetrate these kinds of things is new in this country. It's a lesson in democracy.'

Sivits was actually a mechanic at Abu Ghraib who escorted a prisoner to a cell, saw abuses and failed to report them. Three other, more central figures were arraigned Wednesday and face court martial proceedings. We're also facing up to chain-of-command failures that allowed early reports from the Red Cross of Abu Ghraib abuses to be ignored.

Can you imagine any of this happening if an Arab nation had made the same mistakes?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Profile In Cowardice

More junk science from the racial profiling police, says Heather McDonald in today's Boston Globe.

She takes on a recent study by researchers at Northeastern University in Boston; it is based on the usual shoddy methodologies.

To the claim that the police stop 'too many' members of any given demographic group, the question must always be: 'too many' compared to what? ....Crime rates differ across racial and ethnic groups; evidence suggests that driving behavior might, too....Different levels of equipment violations, such as broken taillights and missing vehicle registration tags, must be accounted for as well. Poor people have to defer required repairs more often than the affluent, and poverty is concentrated in minority populations. No word from the Massachusetts study on this factor, however.

Next question: Who's on the road when? ...If more police are on patrol when the proportion of minority drivers is highest -- on weekend nights, for example -- stop rates of those drivers will perforce be higher than the average road population would predict.

...Most egregiously, the profiling researchers ignore the relationship between community crime rates and police presence. Calls from crime victims bring officers disproportionately into minority neighborhoods, because that is where violence is highest......A greater police presence in an area usually produces more citations.

....To now order Massachusetts officers to collect racial data, without developing a valid benchmark for that data, is senseless -- even more so given how minute the disparities measured by the recent study are. Cops will waste countless hours filling out forms that no one knows how to analyze, and they may think twice before stopping minority violators, lest they be accused of racism.

As usual, the ultimate victims of this groundless crusade will be law-abiding members of inner-city neighborhoods, who depend on an energized police force to keep them safe.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 03:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Next Year, Loaves and Fishes?

Kind of nice to hear there were some very low-key Christians who infiltrated Berkeley's Pagan Pride festivities. They were passing out free water.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Baroud: Arab World Must Shape Up

In the Daily Star (covering Lebanon, Egypt, Kuwait and the Middle East), pro-Palestinian journalist Ramzy Baroud opines the Arab world must shape up - without using U.S. or Israeli policies as an excuse to forestall reform.

For one, Arab countries are in urgent need of overreaching change, change that fundamentally refurbishes their political, economic and even cultural institutions......the realization among many Arabs that the U.S. government is seeking to further its strategic goal in the region can hardly diminish the quandary.

...the U.N.-sponsored study by Arab scholars: The Arab Human Development Report....espoused no illusions; 'the global wave of democracy has barely reached the Arab states,' it grimly concludes.

In many Arab countries, poverty and illiteracy have reached a staggering level; human rights abuses are widespread; prisons swarm with 'prisoners of conscience'; freedom of expression is confined to press releases and empty promises; even when positive change takes place, it's often slow and insufficient, a behavior that is rationalized by the compelling need for 'gradualism' in reform.

Interestingly, this "gradual" change almost always guarantees the absolute role of the political elite.

...Further, the persistence of some Arab countries on placing the solving of the Arab-Israeli conflict as a prerequisite to democratic reform seems rather self-defeating. Sure, if the idea is to highlight that Washington is only interested in achieving its strategic goals and not remedying the bleeding wound of the region, exemplified by the Middle East conflict, then, point taken.

But how long can Arab governments wave this sword? Do Arab women have to be denied proper education, Arab public political representation and Arab nations an integrated economic system, until Israel's Ariel Sharon decides to end his colonial reign in the West Bank and Gaza?

As cruel and costly as the Arab-Israeli conflict has been, I still fail to see the connection.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:31 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 18, 2004

Drawing The Line in Duluth

I believe we can manage to uphold religious faith on our own, without seeking any stamp of approval from government. So do some folks in Duluth, Minnesota.

According to a recent federal court settlement, a monument of the Ten Commandements will have to leave City Hall grounds in the old home of Bobby Zimmerman (a.ka. Bob Dylan).

Duluth will never be the same. Blame those big-city slickers from the St. Paul ACLU, and hard-headed Duluth atheists.

The real market test comes now: will a private buyer rescue the monument, and move it to a suitable spot? Like, say, on a church's grounds?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Human Rights Watch Protests Treatment of Pro-Democracy Petitioners in Bahrain

Finally, some Western media attention to the appalling persecution of pro-democracy Bahraini petitioners. They're threatened with life in jail after seeking greater authority for the country's elected parliament - a body forced to share power with the King's hand-picked assembly. An estimated 20 petitioners are still imprisoned, and now, Human Rights Watch is sounding the trumpets.

This blatant suppression of freedom of speech and association flies in the face of the government’s proclaimed commitment to democratic change. The right to petition peacefully is fundamental, and this petition addresses an issue that lies at the heart of democratic reforms.

Given the HRW hook, Rueters is getting into the act. Good for them. More big media should follow, especially given the vague, weak reporting on the matter by Bahrain's timid newspapers. (Three blogs to track are to the right on my blogroll, under "Bahrain").

I've said it before (in the lively comment string appended to this post) and I'll say it again: just because the petitoners are Shi'a doesn't mean they're woman-hating monsters - as two other commenters claim, in the string. In fact, I wonder if democratic reforms might not up the ante for treatment of women in Bahrain. Things sound pretty crappy for them at present, as this post from the leading Bahraini blogger Mahmood shows. It's a commentary about a sexual harasser/member of parliament getting off easy at trial because he had "immunity," and Mahmood is rightly surprised the piece slipped in to the normally flaccid Gulf Daily News.

All told, if Bahrain's stated aspirations to modernity and democracy are more than a public relations sheen for foreign investors, they've got to grant social justice to women; let the 20 prisoners out; and begin the reform process in earnest.

Here's Human Rights Watch again, with some background on the jailed petitioners and suggested first steps for political reform (italics mine).

Bahrain does not permit political parties, but the government has tolerated limited political activities by several 'societies.' Four of these, including Al-Wifaq, which has a substantial following among the country’s majority Shi`a population, began the petition effort as part of a campaign to modify the constitution issued by royal decree in February 2002. Under the constitution, limited legislative authority is shared by an elected national assembly and an appointed consultative council of 40 members each.

Political liberalization efforts have not included reform of numerous laws restricting basic political freedoms. The government has threatened 'legal action' against the offending societies—and now the Bahrain Center for Human Rights—on the grounds that they have violated the restrictive 1989 decree governing associations. Those arrested reportedly face charges of instigating hostility to the government, publishing false information and violating the prohibition against gatherings of five or more persons without authorization.

The government’s response to the peaceful efforts of citizens to petition their government highlights the pressing need to reform the old decrees that were issued precisely to suppress any exercise of basic civil and political rights.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Gun-Totin' Gay Texas Conservative With Some Things On His Mind

Blogger Paul, at Right Side of the Rainbow, describes himself as a "right of center, gun-owning gay Texan." And he's not real enthused about protestors in London linking social justice for gays with Palestinian terrorism.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 17, 2004

Pro Forma White Guilt

Enough paint-by-numbers stuff already about Brown vs. the Board of Ed, as discussed in this link. Thanks, Burton Terrace for the heads up about about more shameless pandering by John Kerry - ever seeking symbolic gravitas, and ever the lost, pompous fool.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:50 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

One More Blow to America's Image

Yet another International Debacle. I'm not sure how we'll live this one down.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 04:59 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Clueless On Both Sides?

The Bush administration and its critics come in for a good, informed roasting on Iraq courtesy of novelist and contributing editor Mark Helprin in today's Wall Street Journal. Here's the piece, free of charge, via WSJ's Opinion Journal. I think he's dead on the money, and while I support Bush, knee-jerk loyalty does no one any favors. I'd like to know what you think after you read the whole thing. A few highlights:

When soldiers are killed because they do not have equipment (in the words of a returning officer, "not enough vehicles, not enough munitions, not enough medical supplies, not enough water"), when reservists are retained for years, and rotations canceled, it is the consequence of a fiscal policy that seems more attuned to the electoral landscape of 2004 than to the national security of the United States...Once the Army and Marines were rolling, their supply lines were left deliberately unprotected, and are vulnerable to this day.

From the beginning, the scale of the war was based on the fundamental strategic misconception that the primary objective was Iraq rather than the imagination of the Arab World... But a campaign of bare sufficiency, that had trouble punching through even ragtag irregulars, taught the Arabs that we could be effectively opposed.

...But...if the right has failed in execution, the left's failure, in conception, is deeper...the....ideological keel is a leaden and unthinking pacifism, a pretentious and illogical deference to all things European, and the unhinged belief that America...transforms every aspect of its self-defense into an aggression that justifies the offense against which it is defending itself.

And so? Spend more on homeland security, Helprin says; it's eminently justified. Overall, muster courage to price the whole shebang.

The military must be reconstituted so that it has a surplus of power without having to choose between transformation and tradition, quality and numbers, heavy and light: All are necessary. This is expensive, and would require more plain speaking and less condescending manipulation from those who govern, but would allow for the quick and overwhelming application of force, unambiguous staying power, coverage of multiple contingencies, and, most importantly, deterrence. It is always better to deter an enemy than, by showing weakness, to encourage him to take the field.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 04:30 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 15, 2004

Dinosaur Bob Lumbers Out The Door

"What took NPR so long?" to get rid of old shoe "Morning Edition" host Bob Edwards, asks the operations director of a Washington, D.C. AM news-talk station.

I have to agree with Randall Blomquist's assessment in Opinion Journal. Journalists and fans gnashing their teeth over Edwards' ouster as host are in denial.

Mr. Edwards, for all his virtues and basso profundo voice, was a dinosaur, a majestic radio beast who lumbered mightily through his era and, alas, too far beyond it. ....Information-based morning shows typically succeed on the strength of their personalities, content and pacing. Mr. Edwards had a strong appeal, but he had become an old shoe--familiar, comfy and unlikely to bring in a lot of new customers. Need proof he had plateaued? His signature segment--the thing his fans still rave about--was his weekly visit with sportscaster Red Barber. Barber died in 1992.

Mr. Edwards's laid-back manner and laissez-faire interviewing style were a perfect fit for the stately pace of "Morning Edition." But the NPR suits are no doubt wondering if a leisurely stroll through the morning news garden can continue to appeal to time-starved morning commuters. The most successful news-driven morning shows keep up a brisk pace and focus on "Topic A" subjects, the stories that interest the largest share of the target audience.

They also provide a large amount of local content, something missing from the morning slot on most public radio stations.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tell Us Another One

The secret to W.'s success, says Joshua Wolf Shenk in Mother Jones, is good storytelling - a talent liberals lack.

Our "primitive, reptilian brains" are captivated by the Bush narrative, Shenk writes, and it goes like this:

The right wing has an elemental and appealing narrative--the ideological equivalent of a Jerry Bruckheimer film or a Tom Clancy novel, the sort that’s hard to turn away from, even if you suspect you’re being suckered. Stories operate on our primitive, reptilian brains....

According to Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, & Co., the president of the United States of America is a great gentle warrior, the scion of a noble line: He’s a Texas cowboy descended from George Washington descended from the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. He’s a man of God and family. Truly, the story goes, he’s a simple man--wanting only to care for his own, tend to his plot of land, and go to church on Sunday.

But this man is besieged--on all sides--by the rabid armies of the Godless and the cowardly. By terrorists and evil-doers. By bureaucrats who want to run his life. By liberals who want to tax him. By drug dealers, welfare mothers, and atheists. What is he to do? He would dearly love not to fight. But his enemies are climbing the walls of his castle. The killer has got a knife to his little girl’s throat. Not fight? Fight he must.

Bush as comic-book action hero. Kerry as............?

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

Take It From Her

Canadian nanny Mandy Lam killed a seventh-month-old, after throwing the baby at a chair, in frustration at the behavior of two other children she was also caring for. Lam has been sentenced to two years and community service - teaching new mothers or child care workers how to prevent child abuse.

Lam is fluent in Cantonese, not English. Just as well, perhaps.

'It's like closing the barn door after the horse is gone,' says Louise Otteson, supervisor at the Grant MacEwan Demonstration Child Care Centre, when asked to comment on the community service order. 'I don't understand the motive behind it. Are the child-care workers supposed to talk to her and educate her or is she supposed to be educating us which would be ludicrous. I find it mind-boggling. There must be a better way for her to perform community service.'

Judy Dube, past-president of the Child and Family Resource Association which represents about 27 child-care centres, says there may be a point in putting a human face on child abuse, but she's not sure there is value in having someone who is struggling with English having to tell her story.

'I wish the judge would have sentenced the government to provide training and support for all people who work with children,' she said.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 13, 2004

Jose You Can See

Greg Piper points the way to a great piece in Opinion Journal, by Jose Ramos-Horta, 1996 Nobel Peace Prize winner, and East Timor's senior minister for foreign affairs and cooperation.

I like his title. A bit ambitious, while befitting a Nobel winner. Yet, Ramos-Horta's no starry-eyed idealist. He supports the Iraq war, and has backed a range of other armed interventions in despotic, dictatorial climes.

The consequences of doing nothing in the face of evil were demonstrated when the world did not stop the Rwandan genocide that killed almost a million people in 1994. Where were the peace protesters then? They were just as silent as they are today in the face of the barbaric behavior of religious fanatics.

Some may accuse me of being more of a warmonger than a Nobel laureate, but I stand ready to face my critics. It is always easier to say no to war, even at the price of appeasement. But being politically correct means leaving the innocent to suffer the world over, from Phnom Penh to Baghdad. And that is what those who would cut and run from Iraq risk doing.

Spot on, sir. And kudos to Greg not only for his post about this, but his lively, updated-daily blog, The Smoking Room. Keep at it, Pipesman.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Death by Photoshop

From Abu Ghraib, on flows the latest anti-U.S. feeding frenzy, replete with doctored photos in British and U.S. newspapers.

A British tabloid, The Daily Mirror, gets caught running bogus pics of Iraqi prisoner abuse. The Boston Globe runs a story it never should have, about a local politician and black activist who claimed they had photos showing rape of Iraqi women by U.S. military personnel.

The story itself, by reporter Donovan Slack, was appropriately skeptical about the authenticity of the pictures right from the get-go.

But in early editions of the Globe, there was a picture of City Councilor Chuck Turner and local black activist Sadiki Kambon displaying the photos, which were rendered large enough in the accompanying newspaper picture to clearly see the purported sex acts. In later editions, the picture was less blown up and the acts in the displayed photos much less clear.

Worldnetdaily.com, which claims to have uncovered the same doctored photos online last week, actually interviewed reporter Slack, who questioned whether The Globe should even have run the story (she was assigned to it, and had no choice). Today's WND story also notes:

Kambon, who is director of the Black Community Information Center, said at the news conference he received the photographs by e-mail from Akbar Muhammad, a representative for the Nation of Islam.

...In (a) letter given to The Globe, Muhammad termed reservists, "raving beasts," and added, "I was fortunate enough to make copies of the pictures before they became unavailable on the Internet."

...A source with The Globe said the controversy already had reached the president of the New York Times, who reportedly is furious. The Boston Globe is owned by the New York Times Co.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 05:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 12, 2004

Shame, Challenge For The Arab World

The Arab world really blew it with the decapitating of American civilian Nick Berg in Iraq, says the Daily Star, a major English-language Middle East newspaper.

How quickly events in the Middle East overtake what was yesterday's headlines....the beheading of Berg has eclipsed the shame and failure of the US and its allies over the Abu Ghraib scandal....the region's kings, princes and presidents need to learn a valuable lesson from this abhorrent incident: that fractured societies produce real-life theaters of shame like the Berg murder in a systemic manner, and that similar fractures are infecting their own societies.

If the Berg beheading does not catapult the region's leaders from the world of lethargy to the world of vigorous action to establish law and order in their own societies - and beginning with themselves - then they will be considerably weakened. They need to prove that their vision extends beyond their own vested interests to their people and societies. What more is needed to galvanize Arab leaders into action? Today, a man named Berg was put to the sword; tomorrow, it could be the Arab nation torn asunder by the same savagery. A reassessment of the concept of "leadership" is urgently required, and the Arab summit scheduled for May 22-23 would be an excellent place to begin.

The U.S. faces its own grave challenges: dealing with Abu Ghraib fully; advancing real solutions to the Arab-Palestinian conflict; and developing a winning strategy leading to orderly self-rule in Iraq (a huge task, especially if lacking the political will to win).

But, as the Star editorial stresses (read the whole thing), the Berg execution was not only savage, but a huge tactical and public relations blunder by the other side.

UPDATE: Take a look at these three letters to the editor of the Washington Post.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:01 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 11, 2004

Any Lemon Won't Do

We cannot respect each other if we do not respect our produce. Something happened today which concerned me. I was at a neighborhood produce stand I often frequent. I'll call it Marco's (not the real name).

As I was rounding up my Fuji apples, Yakima asparagus, Romaine lettuce, Vidalia onions, garlic, bananas, peaches, strawberries and mangos, a guy about 65 or so was looking over the lemons. So was I, because Chicken Vesuvio was on the menu (it turned out smashingly, by the way).

I could tell he was looking for some good ones, but didn't know how to tell. Sure enough, he shouted out, "Marco, how do I pick a good lemon, anyway?"

And then Marco said, "Close your eyes and pick one."

I puckered instinctively, having just seen that most there were quite unsuitable.

I'm no lemon nut, but my mother was - still is, actually.

She squeezes about one whole into each of her many cups of tea. Which may explain why, early on, our firstborn used to suck raw lemons until they were completely dry, with great, great relish. Freaky I know, but now at age 7.66 he only eats crackers, juice, yogurt, steak, tuna, baked oysters, shrimp, corn, grapes, apples, bananas and strawberries. (Actually, that's not so bad, is it?).

Well anyway. Every time Mom sent me to Pete's grocery store, on E. 55th Street, between Cornell Blvd. and Hyde Park Blvd. in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, back in 1960-something, there were only a few things on her list.

Too often calf's liver, but that's another story (or perhaps not). If I was lucky, V-8, Triscuits and Fritos might be included (our family's version of decadent snack food). One thing was for sure: lemons, usually about a dozen. IF their condition warranted, and only if.

Mother's lemon specifications were very exacting, and as it turns out, utterly, completely correct. Thin skins, and some real give on the flesh when you squeeze. Thick-skinned, hard lemons were to be avoided at all costs.

SO, I shared this hard-won knowledge with the man at Marco's, who was quite receptive. I tried to be tactful, briefly explaining to Marco, who was listening in, that I had a bit of a history with lemons, although not really by choice.

Marco said nothing, but shortly afterward re-asserted control (he is known to do that). He called me over, and trimmed four ears of sweet white corn, insisting I take them home for just $1. Which I did happily. He's basically a good guy who runs a pretty good produce stand.

And I'm sure he really knows better about lemons.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Of Butchery, Beheading, and Backing Down

Quite a day. A few reminders of who and what we're dealing with.

Palestinians paraded through Gaza with what they claimed were body parts from some of the six Israeli soldiers killed in a bomb blast.

Al-Qaeda claims it's behind a videotaped beheading of an American civilian in Iraq.

Meanwhile, pesky Iraqi Shi'ite fundamentalist flame-thrower Muqtada al-Sadr, holed up in Najaf, begins to wonder if the jig is up. Writing from Chicago, at his blog "Iraqi-American," a plugged-in guy who calls himself "Baghdadi" has more:

It is the beginning of the end for Muqtada: I talked with people in Najef today and I heard that the locals in Najef gave Muqtada till Friday to leave the city or they will kill him themselves. I also heard that the coalitions got a petition from 150 Shia leaders to finish Muqtada before the dead lines. The more Muqtada and his people speak the more it is evident that they are thugs who worked for the old regime and they want their jobs back. Their jobs were terrorizing the people of Iraq, stealing from the local population, and making sure Iraq and the Iraqis do not move forward.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Europe: All Dressed Up For Its Own Funeral

Daniel Pipes wonders:

Europe has simultaneously reached unprecedented heights of prosperity and peacefulness and shown a unique inability to sustain itself...Is it inevitable that the most brilliantly successful society also will be the first in danger of collapse due to a lack of cultural confidence and offspring?

All but inevitable, says Pipes in today's New York Sun.

'Europe becomes more and more a province of Islam, a colony of Islam.' So declares Oriana Fallaci in her new book, La Forza della Ragione, or, "The Force of Reason." And the famed Italian journalist is right: Christianity's ancient stronghold of Europe is rapidly giving way to Islam.

Europe is increasingly a post-Christian society, one with a diminishing connection to its tradition and its historic values....Indigenous Europeans are dying out...Into the void are coming Islam and Muslims. As Christianity falters, Islam is robust, assertive, and ambitious. As Europeans underreproduce at advanced ages, Muslims (reproduce) in large numbers while young.

....grand cathedrals will appear as vestiges of a prior civilization — at least until a Saudi style regime transforms them into mosques or a Taliban-like regime blows them up. The great national cultures — Italian, French, English, and others — will likely wither, replaced by a new transnational Muslim identity that merges North African, Turkish, subcontinental, and other elements.

Unless, says Pipes, there's a "resurgence of Christian faith, an increase in childbearing, or the cultural assimilation of immigrants,...Muslim modernization..(or) immigration from other sources," such as Latin America.

Pipes, of course, always sets the Thought Police howling. He raises uncomfortable yet vital questions most mainstream commentators painstakingly avoid. Nearly every week or two now, extremist Muslims tied to terrorist groups are arrested in Europe, either for blowing something up, or planning to. As the costs of policing against anti-Western hatred escalate, we still rush to ask, "What did we do to upset them?"

Even if most Western Muslims harbor no violent aims, they also do little overall to counter their brethren's contempt for a civilization which offers them the freedom to grow and prosper; or to hate and destroy.

Leftists love to trot out tired comparisons between Islamicists and home-grown European or U.S. terorrists (i.e. McVeigh, or Basque separatists). Absurd. No comparison in scale and implications. And if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were settled tomorrrow, not a thing would change.

Given current circumstances, much tighter immigration screening and a revisiting of quotas is a rational response in Europe, and the U.S. From what nations do the highest percentages of terrorists convicted for crimes against the West come? We know the answers, but political cowardice prevents a strong response.

Hat tip: Tom Rekdal

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

May 10, 2004

WaPo Exposes Another Bush-ite Plot

Citizen groups in Ohio, Arkansas and Oregon are collecting signatures for November voter initiatives on state constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage. In a number of other states, lawmakers are still debating parallel measures, which would also require voter approval. Lucky for us, The Washington Post is here to explain that it might well be a Bush-ite plot.

Critics, incuding some quoted in this WaPo story on the proposed Ohio measure, suspect a nefarious strategy to draw Bushies to the polls, and help swing the results his way. After all, they point out, many of the states already have laws in place against gay marriage. So who needs a constitutional amendment?

Except, as proponents of the amendments note, state laws can be challenged and overturned in court. David Langson, attorney for a Cincinnati group gathering signatures, tells The Post:

The reason we're pushing for a constitutional amendment is so we can take the issue out of the hands of a judiciary that we believe has gone completely haywire. . . . The reason I do what I do is to protect marriage.

At least this is a wedge issue based on solid predictions of the alternative scenario. Kerry's alarmist stuff on abortion rights carries no smack whatever, and more and more women know it.

And like it or not, plenty of Americans who (ATTENTION, GAY ACTIVISTS) are NOT homophobic bigots happen to oppose gay marriage. They have every right to oppose it as best they see fit, just as proponents do to advance it.

However, the balkanized and frankly desperate approach of gay marriage advocates is backfiring. For the most part, all they can find are little pockets of support, because opposition is relatively widespread outside The Soviet of Massachusetts.

I'm neutral on the subject, personally, and have highlighted a pro-gay marriage argument by the incomparable Banji Realness. However, procedurally, I believe that gay marriage should be decided by the states. I've written here before in favor of a vote on a federal constitutional ban, because it would have to meet stringent requirements to pass - approval by two-thirds of U.S. House and Senate members, and then three-quarters of the country's state legislatures.

A federal amendment might meet the second threshhold; the first is tougher. So, it probably won't happen at all. In which case, there should be little surprise, or outrage, that proposed state-by-state constitutional bans are bubbling up. After all, mere legislation isn't worth the paper it's written on anymore.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

MLB Beaned By Wild Pitch

Major League Baseball bought a really hare-brained idea: a special promotion for the movie release "SpiderMan 2," with Spidey's image on the bases, pitcher's rubbers, and on-deck circles of big league stadiums the weekend of June 11-13.

Fans, including Washington Republican Congressman and U.S. Senate Candidate George Nethercutt, cried "Wild Pitch," so MLB backed down.

Wonderful, says Lakeland (FL) Ledger columnist Mike Cobb. But expect more, and worse. Cobb notes:

..sponsorships in sports..will...become more invasive...Teams rely on corporate sponsorships and signs at stadiums to pay the bills. They would go out of business without it....Teams play at Coors Field, Minute Maid Park, Tropicana Field and PETCO Park....Someday soon, we may see ads on chest protectors, helmets and bats. We'll probably see them on the uniforms, too.

Still, this spoof might be a bit far-fetched. At least for now.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

John Kerry: At War With Himself

In case, perchance, you labored under the impression John Kerry wasn't an utterly duplicitous, self-abnegating fraud, Mark Steyn is here to set you straight - with Kerry's own words.

Hat tip to Lorna.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 09, 2004

UN Workers Investigated For Sexual Abuse of Refugees In Congo

Refugee women and children are especially vulnerable to forced exchanges by relief workers of food, goods or money for sex.

The United Nations last week quietly announced its beginning of an official probe into allegations of sexual abuse against refugees (including minors) by UN mission personnel in the un-aptly named Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).

The U.N. has been generally aware of such problems since at least last October, as this report issued by the UN News Centre shows.

"Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guéhenno of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) told the Security Council in an open meeting on women and peace and security...."

Grave allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation of refugees and internally displaced women by some humanitarian and peacekeeping forces strengthened DPKO’s resolve to uphold a “zero-tolerance” stance on the problem, which not only violates human rights but undermines the very core of peacekeeping...

Perhaps you noticed the remarks in this link by an official specifically from the UN mission to Congo, talking about the need for more women in relief worker positions.

And here is the published policy of the UN misssion to Congo warning against sexual exploitation of refugee women and minors.

I'll say it again. Seems pretty damn clear the UN knew they had a problem there no later than last October. So why wait seven months to begin an investigation? And where's the U.S. media on this one? Asleep at the switch.

The investigation of the UN workers is dwarfed and yet magnified by the lay of the land. As Adam Hochschild writes for Amnesty USA, Congo is where you'll find:

...mass rapes by HIV-infected troops, arms hacked off with machetes, schools and hospitals ravaged, killers jubilantly draping themselves in the entrails of their victims, 10-year-old soldiers bearing AK-47s and hand grenades.

The death toll in this bewilderingly complex civil war has reached at least 3.3 million in less than five years, according to the International Rescue Committee. Another 3 million or more people are refugees, inside the country and out. Few of the dead are soldiers. Most are ordinary men, women, and children. They were deliberately targeted, caught in crossfire, or unlucky enough to have stumbled onto land mines.

Many—forced to flee their homes for forests and crowded refugee camps that turn into fields of mud in the rainy season—died of illness and malnutrition. This is the greatest concentration of war-related deaths anywhere on earth since World War II.

Africa is seldom popular with the U.S. media, and the Congo’s civil war has largely dropped out of the news....But the departure of journalists for other stories does not mean that the bloodshed has stopped. Despite a shaky coalition government at the national level, raids by rival warlords and the killing of civilians continue, particularly in the provinces of North and South Kivu, and in the Ituri district, all in the northeastern corner of the country.

The recent, temporary reinforcement of the small United Nations military force in Bunia, capital of Ituri, has not been substantial enough to stop the fighting that has claimed the lives of more than 50,000 people in Ituri alone in the last four years.

Gold, diamonds and timber have drawn in other African nations on both sides of the conflict. In "Breaking the Real Axis of Evil," Freedom House Vice-Chairman Mark Palmer writes, "Some investigative journalism has asserted that there are strong links between Congo's resources and international terrorist organizations, such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda (Douglas Farah, "Digging Up Congo's Dirty Gems," Washington Post, Dec. 30, 2001). The democratic world, including the United States, needs to provide the necessary resources to fill this vacuum with UN forces (an expanded mandate...) to buttress the fragile peace process and to protect mines and forests that have provided plunder to the militias..."

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 02:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

France, UN To The Rescue In Ivory Coast

More than a year-and-a-half after a failed coup attempt led to civil war in the Ivory Coast, a French-brokered coalition government has splintered, and French peace-keeping forces are badly faltering. Their former colony, the world's largest producer of cocoa, is still a bloody mess. Meanwhile the United Nations has fallen far short of providing the promised 6,000 troops to relieve the French. Oh, and the government has killed 120 members of the opposition (representing the Muslim north) for planning a rally.

The UN last week issued a report detailing the execution of the 120 in March , by government security forces and allied militias.

More on the roots and repercussions of the conflict in this BBC backgrounder.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 08, 2004

A Clinton-esque Moment For Bush?

I guess you could call it that. Difference being it wasn't calculated.

Read the story and look at the picture of W. intimately and spontaneously comforting an Ohio teen who lost her mom on 9/11.

Kinda leaves you with the impression that the guy is actually for real. There's none of Pappy's lame "Message, I Care," verbage here.

As editors tell novelists: "Show; don't tell."

George showed what he's about in this moment.

Now if he would just turn loose the horsepower AND strategists to take care of business in Iraq. No, I don't believe it's not winnable.

Hat tip to Gary B.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 05:42 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 07, 2004

Workers of the World Unite!

An "eco-friendly and liberal" Berkeley grocer is charged with unfair labor practices. Wouldn't shock me if it turns out to be true. Let's see how it shakes out.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

UN Report Decries Arab Muslim 'Reign of Terror' Against Sudanese Black Civilians

Better late than never. The United Nations is finally facing up to widespread, ongoing crimes against humanity in Sudan. The U.N. seems to think negotiations, commissions of inquiry and reparations can make things all right. Those steps are necessary, but an, ahem, multilateral armed intervention may well be required first.

A U.N. report issued today details and decries "disturbing patterns of massive human rights violations" against black African civilians in Sudan's Darfur region by the Arab Muslim "Government of Sudan and its proxy militia, many of which may constitute war crimes and/or crimes against humanity. According to information collected, it is clear that there is a reign of terror in Darfur."

An estimated one million Sudanese blacks have been internally displaced; they are referred to as IDPs in the paragraphs that follow. Others have been forced to flee across the border to Chad. The murders, rapes, lootings, and destruction of property have not yet been fully catalogued in this latest, sorry chapter of a 20-year Arab Muslim reign of terror against blacks in Sudan. The proxy militia of Arab mercenaries, or Janjaweed, are in the employ of the Arab Muslim regime, in Khartoum. Doubtless, peace-loving Arabs and Muslims join the growing chorus worldwide sickened by these atrocities.

Here are some key excerpts from the U.N. report.

"Numerous...refugees interviewed in Chad and who came from areas in North Darfur close to the Sudan-Chad border, described a pattern of attacks beginning with air bombardments using an Antonov military plane. They said that bombs were sometimes dropped on crowded areas such as markets or communal wells; homes, shops, and fields were also destroyed. Some refugees alleged that they were the object of such aerial attacks, sometimes by helicopter gunships, even as they were fleeing. These attacks terrorised the population. In every instance recounted to the mission, there was no warning that an attack was coming.

Refugees in Chad reported that invariably bombardments were followed by ground assaults by the military, the Janjaweed, or by combinations of the two. The Janjaweed were uniformed in khaki and those interviewed could not distinguish them from the regular armed forces except by the fact that they often travelled on horses or camels, with the military using mechanised transport. In the eyes of many refugees, there appeared to be little or no difference between the regular army and the Janjaweed.

Refugees said that these forces indiscriminately attacked those who had not fled, such as the elderly and disabled. The testimony also suggests that men and boys were particular targets. Several individuals interviewed reported that their spouses, children and/or members of their extended families were killed by the Janjaweed. In some instances the Janjaweed returned to villages several days later and carried out additional attacks on those remaining.

...While it was difficult for the mission to ascertain whether there were armed rebels in the vicinity of those areas which were attacked, a considerable majority of those who were attacked were civilians: women, children, and the elderly. It is also clear that the armed forces and their proxy militias punished certain populations collectively for belonging to the same ethnic group as the rebels, and inflicted terror amongst them.

Many refugees and IDPs reported that they had fled without being able to bury their dead. It is unclear how many dead there are and how these corpses, in many instances, have been dealt with.

...There are consistent reports among refugee and IDP women from various locations that “men in uniform” raped and abused women and young girls. Most allegations were against the Janjaweed...Rape and other forms of sexual abuse by the Janjaweed was widely alleged to be continuing inside and around IDP sites. Women often reported that they would be kidnapped and raped if they went any further than one and a half kilometres away from their camp to collect wood or to tend their vegetable gardens in their home village. Rape represents a policy that is employed to intimidate and humiliate the IDP population and to prevent them from leaving the vicinity of the IDP sites.

..Destruction of private homes, huts, crops and agricultural areas, wells, shops and entire civilian locations appears to have systematically taken place without military justification. Food stuffs and livestock appear to have been systematically looted or destroyed. Almost every person interviewed by the mission reported the pillage and looting of his or her private property. Many reported that they saw their homes being torched. Many have lost their entire life possessions.

...The mission visited a number of villages in Darfur that had been burned. Those living in these villages had fled. In two locations, however, the mission was able to find a few individuals who had stayed on; they were either too elderly to leave or, in one case, were compelled to return to their village to irrigate those crops which constituted their families’ only means of sustenance. Those interviewed told a consistent story of attacks by a large number of uniformed men on horses or camels, who killed, destroyed, and looted. It will be almost impossible for people to return to these locations until security and protection are fully established and effective programmes of compensation, rehabilitation and reconstruction are put in place.

...The inevitable consequence of the killings, rape, burning and looting of villages has been massive displacement, within Sudan and across the border to Chad. These policies appear to be directly aimed at preventing the villagers from returning to their homes or being in a position to provide any support to the rebels.

...These policies have resulted in a dire human rights and humanitarian crisis. Humanitarian agencies report that there are currently some one million internally displaced persons in Darfur. Humanitarian assistance to these IDPs has been severely restricted.


The Government of Sudan should, at the highest levels, publicly and unequivocally condemn all actions and crimes committed by the Janjaweed and ensure that all militias are immediately disarmed and disbanded. Violations of human rights and international humanitarian law must be thoroughly and swiftly investigated and perpetrators must be brought to justice.

Humanitarian workers must be given full and unimpeded access to Darfur...The Government of Sudan should pursue a policy of national reconciliation for Darfur, end impunity and promote the rule of law based on non-discrimination, the effective protection of minorities and indigenous populations, as well as the participation of all in public life and the active promotion of development programmes for Darfur.

...Refugees and displaced persons should have the possibility of voluntarily returning home without fear for their lives and personal security. They should be able to reacquire their lands. Restitution, or fair compensation and reparations should be extended to all victims of the conflict in Darfur with particular attention paid to the situation of women victims of gender-based violence, to children, the elderly and the disabled. The Government of Sudan should implement an appropriate programme for the reintegration and return of the population to Darfur.

...The Government of Sudan should put in place measures to ensure that such human rights abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity, are not repeated in the future and that the rule of law is restored in Darfur in conformity with internationally agreed standards.

...An international Commission of inquiry is required given the gravity of the allegations of human rights violations in Darfur, and the failure of the national legal system to address the problem. To be credible, such a Commission must be, and must be seen to be, independent. The Government of Sudan should cooperate with this Commission."


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 02:27 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Governor Invited Blackmail

If you had an affair with a 14-year-old girl while mayor of a major city, would you later run for Governor, hoping no one would find out?

For Neil Goldschmidt, former Mayor of Portland, former Governor of Oregon, former U.S. Transportation Secretary under President Jimmy Carter, former Nike exec, and current Oregon power broker, the answer was yes.

Goldschmidt's legacy is badly stained not because anyone is all that shocked by a politician who can't keep it in his pants; but because he compromised his office and constituents by making himself susceptible to blackmail. Whether or not that ever happened (and who really knows) isn't the point.

The Oregonian story linked to immediately below notes, rumors "about the relationship" were floating about when Goldschmidt successfully ran for governor in 1986. It lasted from 1975 to 1976. After he took office in 1986, the woman was speaking about it in public, Goldschmidt says now. So he met with her, and continued to talk to her on the phone, or meet with her when others were present.

No one spilled the beans. There was a quiet legal settlement in 1994; Goldschmidt established a conservatorship for the woman.

I wonder: when he was running for Governor, and after he was elected, what did Goldschmidt's political and media advisors ask? How much did Goldschmidt tell them?

Power is the greatest aphrodisiac, Henry Kissinger said. Goldschmidt's reprehensible violation of public trust was part of a larger pattern of adultery, according to The Oregonian and the man himself.

Throughout his political career, rumors of extramarital affairs circulated around him. Goldschmidt tacitly acknowledged Thursday that the rumors had merit.

"If people work hard enough, I think you'll find indiscretions," he said. "But nothing as ugly as this."

There are repercussions for public policy right now.

His sudden withdrawal from public life, just months after being named president of the state Board of Higher Education, throws a planned overhaul of the state's university system into disarray. He has resigned from the board and taken a leave of absence from his consulting firm, Goldschmidt Imeson Carter.

It also complicates the proposed sale of Portland General Electric to Texas Pacific Group. Goldschmidt, who was in line to be chairman of a newly appointed board of PGE should the deal go through, said he will no longer be involved in the transaction.

Here's his statement on the affair with the underage girl, as published in yesterday's Oregonian, with links to related news stories.

Portland blogger Jack Bogdanski has a post; check out the comments.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:21 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 06, 2004

Stick A Fork Into Cold, Shifty Kerry?

John Kerry is looking more and more like a candidate who's D.O.A., argues Reason magazine's Editor in Chief Nick Gillespie in this piece.

Damn good writing, and link-rich. Read it, link through to all of Gillespie's finds, and lemme know watcha think.

One contrary theory out there: Kerry's "moulting season" has just begun. He's laying low, figuring out how to present himself to voters, and will come on strong, post-convention.

Entirely possible. And Ds had better hope so.

If current news doesn't sink Bush, nothing will.

Courtesy Real Clear Politics.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:13 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Scandal In Bahrain Ignored By World

This is potentially worse than Abu Ghraib, in that life imprisonments on utterly bogus charges may result for more than a dozen people.

But recent developments in Bahrain have received almost zero press, because the U.S. or Israel didn't do it. Fourteen activists petitioning on behalf of so called "election boycotting societies" for democratic reforms in the "constitutional monarchy" of Bahrain face life in prison if convicted on charges of "calling for change to the political system, provoking hatred and trying to destabilize public security." (Scroll down to second item in link).

Their sin: first, they are Shi'ite Muslims, and the ruling family is Sunni. Second, they had the nerve to advocate constitutional amendments putting the parliament's elected assembly on equal footing with one appointed by King Hamad.

Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th fleet, professes alliance with the U.S. in the war on terror, and touts itself as a tourist-friendly exemplar of emerging democracy in the Middle East.

The pro-reform Bahrainis are being held without bail. The BBC now says 19 are in custody; a London-based advocacy group called Voice of Bahrain says the number is actually 26; that excessive force was used; petitions and tents thrown away; and prisoners abused. These reports are not verifiable. (The VOB report has a Manama dateline of May 1, but says the arrests occured Friday May 30; I think they mean Friday April 30).

Reportedly, authorities say the activists should have pressed their case first in the courts. Yet the arrests and charges still seem awfully draconian.

Bahraini blogger Mahmood has more, including these choice words:

The government sees that the actions of the boycotters are challenging their very existence so they do their best (or worst) to head them off and put whatever is in its bag of (legal) tricks to get them to fall.

The parliament continues to look like a bunch of unemployable cretins with no authority other than to discuss marginal issues, the latest of which is the Islamists "furor" on discovering Satan worshipers in Bahrain which is really just a bunch of teenagers in a rock band trying to copy KISS' stage makeup.

Us? When were we important? We'll just continue to see the brain-drain, capital-drain and fear of being thrown in prison!

Mahmood suggests a way out, however. Read his whole post, and the comments beneath it.

UPDATE: If the pro-reform activists are vile anti-fem scum, as one commeter below suggests, this post from another Bahraini blogger, fails to elucidate that contention. However, it IS very much worth a look.

There's something going on here. I, for one, would be grateful if the "establishment" media could see fit to delve deeper into what's already been reported.

We'll keep ya posted, of course.

UPDATE II: Today's Gulf Daily News describes protests on behalf of the pro-reform prisoners. The picture of protestors includes several Islamic women in chadoors. The story also reiterates Mahmood's post that there are four organizations involved in petitioning for democratic reforms. There is no mention they were seeking to rescind voting rights for women, as one of our commenters below asserts. Our second link from the top here says they want the country's elected assembly on more equal footing with the King's.

I would still like to see documentation that their petitions specified stripping women of voting rights. If this is true, why would the authorities not provide such evidence to the lap-dog press, in order to really discredit the petitoners?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:57 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

How About A Rockery?

I always knew it wasn't just the noise that bugged me. Los Angeles wants residents to get rid of gas-powered lawnmowers, which can yield 43 times as much pollution as a new car. Good idea. The NY Times reports:

The South Coast Air Quality Management District, which sets emission rules for the Los Angeles basin, announced a program on Tuesday to take 4,000 soot-belching gasoline mowers off Los Angeles lawns.

Angelenos who turn in their old gasoline mowers will get a $300 credit toward the purchase of a shiny new $400 electric mower.

...One typical gas-powered lawn mower pollutes as much in one year as 43 new cars, each driven more than 12,000 miles annually, according to the air quality agency. It says that retiring 4,000 gas-powered mowers would reduce pollution by nearly 20 tons annually, which is more than is generated by all oil refineries in the Los Angeles area in a two-day period.

...A buyback program that started in the Phoenix area in 1996 was one of the first and has been the most successful, according to its organizers at the Salt River Project, a power and water utility. The program has destroyed 15,504 gas-powered mowers.

In California, the Schwarzenegger administration is working with business groups, legislators and environmentalists to find financing for an existing state program that provides incentives for people to turn in older-model cars, trucks, buses and farm vehicles.

Watch the Arnold guy. He'll get that done, too.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:21 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 05, 2004

Evil and What To Do About It

All's not fair in love and war, even when trying to "break" detainees. Ruben Navarrette offers a good baseline for what must be done about the torture and humiliation of Iraqi war prisoners by U.S. military and security contractors: don't scapegoat underlings in the reserves because high-ranking military intelligence officers may well bear ultimate responsibility.

Some sick sh** went down.

Sgt. Stryker has more . Disbanding the 372d Military Police Company is worth discussing, but destroying the Abu Ghraib facility would send an even stronger message to the Arab world.

That said, it's an infintesimal percentage of U.S. miltary and contractor personnel who've been fingered for the disgusting abuses of Iraqi prisoners that've been reported.

I say - and this is hardly original, but it is heartfelt - Bush's people must not only investigate, and dispense harsh and deserved consequences. They must take steps to ensure this kind of stuff never happens again. And take pains that no other recent or future reports of any remotely similar abuses are surpressed from public purview, even for a few hours.

At the same time, a splash of cold water is necessary for the media and Big "D" Democrats, foaming over Abu Ghraib.

Let's do ALL the math.

How many prisoners have been taken into custody overall in Iraq? And then, how many reportedly abused?

How many U.S. soldiers and contractor personnel have handled prisoners; versus how many have been fingered for even suspected abuse?

Same questions at Gitmo.

Now: how many were tortured and killed by Saddam? By Mao; Stalin; Pol Pot; Idi Amin and Robert Mugabe? Just for starters, that is.

And does anyone want to talk about Sudan?

By all means, let's give all the Abu Ghraib hoodlums their due. But let's look at the big picture while we're at it. Or is this most of all an exercise in vilifying the Bush administration?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 05:03 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 04, 2004

T-Bone Medium Rare and a Maker's Mark, Neat

The Guardian reports on bad vibes at the campus of Maharishi University in Fairfield, Iowa, where followers of the former guru to The Beatles learn "yogic flying" to engender world peace.

At 7pm Shuvender Sem, a 24-year-old from Pennsylvania, sat down in the university dining hall with fellow students to eat his organic vegetarian dinner. Suddenly Sem stood up, took a knife from his pocket and plunged it into the heart of 19-year-old Levi Butler.

In the ensuing melee, Sem stabbed Butler at least three more times before he was restrained. The police were called and Sem, said to be extremely calm, gave himself up. Butler was taken to Jefferson County Hospital, where the first-year student from California was pronounced dead.

The death left many in the college in a state of shock - if yogic flying brings harmony how could one of their own kill in their midst?

Sem is charged with first-degree murder. But it turns out that - using a pen - he'd stabbed another student in the face the same day, in a "Teaching For Enlightenment" class. Seven stiches were required. He was sent to a dean's apartment to chill, where he got the knife he used to kill Butler. The college did not report the first attack, according to The Guardian and school officials. If they had, the killing might have not occured.

Quick to offer a strong defense, The Maharishi pins blame for the murder on "society" and George W. Bush.

The Maharishi himself is reported to have blamed the violence on US foreign policy. Dr. Craig Pearson, executive vice-president of Maharishi University, said: 'Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has made one comment regarding this event. He said that this is an aspect of the violence we see throughout society, including the violence that our country is perpetrating in other countries.'

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 03, 2004

What A Dump

National Forest Service lands near Pecos, New Mexico are being treated disgracefully, reports the Sante Fe New Mexican.

Rotting animal carcasses, hypodermic needles, dirty diapers, used condoms and rusting car skeletons are not things usually associated with nature, but all of these items can be found while taking a walk on National Forest Service land in the Pecos area.

'It is quite a problem,' said Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District ranger Joe Redden. 'We get a lot of trash dumped on us.'

...Redden said the trash takes many forms, from abandoned cars to household trash to car batteries, solvents and appliances.

'I see our country, the United States, getting dirtier and dirtier every year,' Redden said. 'It doesn't matter where you are. In the last place I worked, I saw litter in the backlands, too. It's really disgraceful and I see the same thing here. People aren't taking the care to dispose of their trash.'

...'Education, education education,' said Fritz Rothdach, the owner of Pecos River Cabins, when asked what the thinks is needed to remedy the problem. 'The kids see it from their parents, so why would they do any different? It's like poor man's golf, its like a sport here. They love to hear the sound of glass shattering.'

It's not all bad news. Clean-up efforts in the area are on the rise, along with use of the county transfer station, which requires a small fee. Though readers say it's not just the NFS lands near Pecos getting trashed, but the town, too (see comments after story).

When visiting places such as the Lopez Island or Moclips in Washington State, or the town of Mt. Shasta in California, city slickers like me are reminded that door-to-door trash pick-up doesn't pencil out with lower population densities. People have to haul it themselves.

In the sticks, you pay one way or the other for your garbage: with time, plus either a fee or special tax assessment. Or like some in Pecos and elsewhere (including the "green" Northwest) you can dump on the fly; which costs everybody more in the end.

I give local Greenies a big hat tip for helping spread Clean Community standards in bucolic settings - where it can so easily go the other way, thanks to heedless individualists. Ya gotta love the legendary town dump on Lopez, where cast-off items of all sorts find new owners instead of space in a landfill or meadow.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 05:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Getting Wasted

University of Michigan students are pawns of the consumerist society many of them doubtless protest. The Ann Arbor News reports on the staggering amount of, uh, stuff, they leave behind in their dorm rooms at the end of the school year.

Each year, U-M collects roughly 10,000 pounds of clothing, 2,100 pounds of shoes and 1,700 pounds of bedding and blankets left behind by students moving out of campus residence halls.

Wonder how much of this detritus is made outside the U.S.? And how much ends up in landfills? Would it be so hard for dorm-dwellers to donate their left-behind clothes, shoes, sheets and blankets to charity?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 02, 2004

Fear No Chicken

I'm sorry I suppose, but I still remember chortling inside when a dear friend cooked me a perfectly nice dinner of pasta and red sauce, salad and garlic bread - and consulted a cookbook every step of the way.

Perhaps that's because I began my forced culinary education at the age of 11, in Chicago. It was the same summer I almost died in a poorly-attended oxygen tent while hospitalized with pneumonia - and later in two huge gulps read "Ball Four," Jim Bouton's hysterical baseball-insider tell-all (mostly set in Seattle, by the way).

I learned to cook early because my Dad's repertoire was limited to a few specialties: salmon patties, meatloaf, and some faux-colonial mish-mash called "Colonel Rosenberg's Curry" (green peppers, onions and sliced hot dogs fried in oil with curry powder). It tasted better than it sounds. There was also "salad:" lotsa Iceberg with about a half-jar of Hellman's.

Dad has changed his diet for the better, and eats out all the time now. No wonder there's still a 34-year-old, properly sealed Ball Jar of dill pickles in his kitchen cupboard, that I made in junior-high home economics class. The dill leaves are still green, and never fail to undulate most attractively. The mustard seeds are still that nice pale yellow. I wonder if the pickles, in fact, might yet taste really great, like a finely aged wine. But I don't want to chance it.

Every time I go back to the old homestead, I'm nonetheless drawn to the cupboard to check on the pickle jar, which to me signifies the order of the universe. I think I'll eventually donate it to the Museum of Science and Industry, in Chicago, where I worked as guide-lecturer summers during high-school.

Anyway, I started with Hamburger Helper. Years passed, and I kept cooking. Intuitively, after a while. Occasional failures still, but I've been pretty good for a while now.

Cooking seems to me a fundamental part of life. Here I bow in respect to the French, Italians, Spanish, Mexicans, Brazilians, Cubans, Chinese and Indian peoples - plus many other ethnic groups.

They understand what fewer and fewer Americans do: that the family table is as sacred a place as church, synogogue, or mosque. And that garlic is an essential life force.

So this weekend, reading the delightful, meaty biography of French master chef Jacques Pepin, "The Apprentice," I found myself inspired all over again. As a young chef in training, he worked in a restaurant kitchen with a huge old wood-fired stove. No marked temperature settings, no recipes. All was by touch, feel, and tradition.

I've always said, "feel your meat." As Pepin notes, the thumb method is unsurpassed. Reading his ode to the perfect roasted chicken and sauce, I deployed my Weber grill in a special way, instead of the oven. It turned out nicely.

What follows is not a recipe per say, but try it out sometime.

Get your Weber going. No gas grills allowed, or lighter fluid. Use one of those special metal cylindrical devices with a big handle, and newspaper scrunched into the bottom compartment to light the charcoal briquettes above.

Get a nice free range chicken, rinse, dry, and spinkle generously all over with salt, fine black pepper and Herbes de Provence. Stuff with about six peeled garlic cloves and two sweet onion quarters. Toothpick the cavity closed, tuck the wings under. Place the chicken in a rectangular, disposable heavy-duty foil baking "dish" (two for $1.99 at the grocery store) that's just big enough - wiping the dish first with an olive oil-moistened paper towel.

ROASTING THE BIRD: When the coals are ready, spread them around the perimeter of grill's bottom platform in a circle, and then put the next layer in (the one upon which the meat usually goes). Place a thin, rectangular triple-fold of foil down for a bit of insulation, then the foil baking dish right on top, with the chicken's breast side up. Cover the grill, making sure to rotate that little wheel on the cover so the smoke comes out. This is called the "indirect" method of grilling on the Weber: it simulates an oven, but imparts a subtle, smoky flavor. A very nice way to go.

Cook for an hour-plus, checking occasionally by pressing. The top will be nicely golden even before you're done, so listen to your thumb.

ZE SAUCE: Lay out a small, wire colander. Make a quick and dirty chicken stock: saute the chicken liver and neck that were packed in the chicken's cavity in some olive oil with salt, pepper, onion stems and skins, plus Bay Leaf - in a small saucepan. Add water to cover and simmer about 20 mins. Melt a few T unsalted butter in a pan, turn off. When chicken is fully cooked on Weber remove to 205-degree oven in kitchen, but first strain pan juices into melted butter. Raise to medium simmer, then add 2 T flour, whisk often for several minutes until the roux is light gold in color. Then add strained stock, a few T white wine. Heat to medium-high, then immediately lower to a light simmer and reduce to medium thin consistency. Add more stock if necessary (from your pot, a can or carton). In last 3 mins., add fresh green herb such as lemon thyme, thyme, tarragon.

TO SERVE: Remove chicken. The outer flesh will have a nice, slight pink tinge. That's a sign of smokiness, not undercooking, assuming you've done things right. Cut into quarters or eighths with cleaver. Serve on platter with the roasted onions and garlic; sauce in gravy boat on side. Baguette and Ceasar salad, too.

THIS is living.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:11 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Invasion of the Bobos

Hard times for Santa Cruz surf bums, says author Fred Reiss in his new book, "Surf.com." Clueless, monied newbies lack proper surf etiquette. And, says Reiss, the whole town is being overrun by:

the yoga-and-body-movement-summer-Shakespeare-arts-and-craft-and-wine-festival-jazz-and-blues-concert-art-gallery-author-poetry-book- reading-university-seminar-lecture-series-performance-artist-National-Public-radio listening-candle-vigil-tribal-elder-MSG-free crowd.

Liberals all, these humorless culture vultures.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 03:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

It's All About Public Health

Good to know that in Vancouver's government-sponsored heroin shooting gallery (oops, "safe injection site"), there's no smoking allowed.

(Scroll to 2nd news item).

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 02:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The International Zionist Plot Silences a Saudi Blogger

More militants on the rampage in Saudi Arabia, and what does Prince Crown Prince Abdullah say? Zionism made 'em do it.

The Saudi Press Agency on Sunday quoted Crown Prince Abdullah as telling a gathering of princes in Jidda that 'Zionism is behind terrorist actions in the kingdom.' Zionism had misled 'some of our sons,' he said without elaborating.

Could be he's been reading Egyptian newspapers. Nah, the Saudi royals and sheiks are in charge of the black helicopter squadron, aren't they?

Meanwhile Saudi blogger Religious Policeman says after the latest shoot-em-up, there's a lot of "unusual activity" (i.e. government surveillance) and he's laying low for a while. Let's hope this brave Saudi citizen is blogging again soon. In the meantime, check out some of the 66 comments on his last post; and the other post in our link, on the harsh plight of Saudi women.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:35 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Failing Radio Talk Show Hosts, and the People Who Enable Them

Al Franken is thinking of running for the U.S. Senate, from Minnesota. YOU supply the punchline.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 01, 2004

Thanks to All/Saturday Blog Round-Up

This morning Rosenblog reached a modest milestone, but one I'm proud of, and which could not have occured without you, dear participants. (I use that word intentionally, as opposed to "readers").

We passed 400 comments (at 402 now as I write). Given that I started this blog in late January, it's been operating essentially for three months. So I guess that comes out to about 133 comments per month. Not earth-shaking by any means. Many uber-bloggers and others get that many in a day or two, or a week. Some single posts on certain blogs get more.

But it's a start. As you can tell, comments are part of what keeps me going here, so keep 'em coming, and never fear to disagree.

I'd also like to salute all the Seattle bloggers, and others around the country (and even world) who have linked to, and/or cited Rosenblog items. One of my hopes is to see the Puget Sound, Washington and Northwest blogging communities continue to grow and prosper.


Young Seattle blogger Greg Piper is a thoughtful, interesting writer, and pretty damn funny sometimes, too. Here's a neat item about our cultural obsession with thinness. Cool hed, Greg, even if it took me a minute to get it.

Stefan Sharkansky has an excellent post about the Italian peace march demanded by hostage takers.

Via stellar education blogger Joanne Jacobs comes this great essay from the blog of the U.K.-based Adam Smith Institute. Dr. Madsen Pirie demolishes the argument (also common here in Seattle) that the that parents of bright students should put them in schools with low-performing students, to engineer higher performance by the laggards. (It doesn't work). This type of thinking examplifies what we call "diversity" here in Seattle, but because intellectual diversity is discouraged, it's difficult to discuss.

Dadblogger links to a Foreign Affairs piece on "how terrorists might undertake a nuclear attack." (It's the second item down, see the other links, too).

Check out Slant Point, a blog by a hip NYC conservative named Scott. Lots of interesting posts, and a blogroll well worth exploring. Also, Suburban Blight, a classy, funky blog from Kelley in Atlanta.

Green Girl (at What Kind of Sick Weirdo Are You?) reports on the eventual debunking of a story about women organizing to give U.S. soldiers a real send-off.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack