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June 30, 2004

Tupac's Smack

You don't want to miss "2 Lazy 2 Teach," a much-deserved fisking of the "poetry" of slain gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur, as regrettably deployed in multi-culti classrooms with the glowing approval of lame-brained community stakeholders and school administrators.

By the stellar nationally-syndicated columnist and author Michelle Malkin. Here in the most excellent Jewish World Review. Malkin posts the piece on her blog as well, with many viewer comments.

It happens Tupac's "poetry" was also the subject of a University of Washington course. Catch the breathless hype in the article.

Coming soon, I'd wager: a Brown University symposium on crack-pipe imagery - as a manifestation of institutional white racism - in the early 80s ouvre of Philly rapper Schooly D.

Yo, homes, my head hurts. Time for some twitchin' late-60s jazz guitar from Pat Martino. Speaking of Philly.

Hat tip to Lorna.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:12 PM | Comments (24) | TrackBack



Market Realities Confront Declining Public Schools

A citizens budget advisory panel is telling Minneapolis educrats to close 11 public schools pronto. Enrollment has dropped by 4,600 students.

Seattle is facing the same pressures. In coming years, closure of as many as 11 schools will be considered, because current capacity exceeds demand by some 6,000 seats.

Parents continue to vote with their feet. An ebbing tide swamps all boats.

Interestingly, ex-Seattle superintendent Joseph Olchefske, who presided over the district's continued decline, recently applied for the supe's post in Minneapolis. He wasn't selected.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:23 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack



Powdered Milk for All

Baltimore Sun columnist Gregory Kane doesn't think much of local school officials giving prompt re-tests to high-school seniors who fail exit exams because they haven't mastered the material.

The masterminds down at the Kremlin -- school headquarters on North Avenue -- in their zeal to "help" 12th-graders, allowed some seniors to retake final exams and gave them a chance to graduate. Purely altruistic motives, you understand. No attempt to pad graduation numbers and push kids out the door to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. No hanky-panky of any sort. Just plain, old, down-home lovin' and a-carin' and a-hankerin' to help the po' chilluns.

More such nonsense abounds. In suburban Clover Park, Washington - outside Tacoma - ace Advanced Placement calculus teacher Jay Paulson of Lakes High School resigned after the district's superintendent ultimately erased failing grades he'd given to two students. Parents of the two had complained.

Lakes Associated Student Body President Albert Hwang criticized the Lakes leadership, and said students and parents fear what will happen to the calculus program next year. "Mr. Paulson is highly regarded," Hwang said. "There are tons of kids who are ticked off."

...Meanwhile, Paulson will teach math at one of Sumner's junior high schools next fall, then move to the new Bonney Lake High School when it opens the following year, Sumner spokeswoman Ann Cook said.

"We hear we're getting someone who's gotten proven results and a lot of kids passing the AP calculus test," Cook said.

"That's very exciting for us."

I wonder: how about a reality TV show on the grueling world of high school AP courses, and top-performing charter schools? Maybe we need to glamorize the "nerds."

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack



Tin Foil Hat Brigade

Someone called Rocky sent in a comment yesterday, on a mildly disparaging item I did about the break-up of Phish, the trippy-dippy "jam band" from Burlington, Vermont. Here is Rocky in full throat.

Well Rosenberg, it's sad to see yet another journalist turned off by the fact a band has been enormously important to so many, while sailing right over your shallow head. Perhaps you should stick to topics you do know about. For instance financial matters, stealing land from Palestinians, or absolute control of the media.

Rocky, you left out the part about the Mossad, The Trilateral Commission, and the Queen of England. For shame.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:46 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


June 29, 2004

Boring: Not For Long

It's hard being named Brilliant, but even tougher to be Boring, the moniker for this little community just east of Portland, Oregon.

Yesterday, on the last leg of a nine-day vacation in Mount Shasta, California, our family was driving back home to Seattle, headed northwest on Oregon Route 26 out of Madras, past the southwest side of glorious Mount Hood. Approaching the Columbia River Gorge and Washington State, we came upon a big green sign for Route 212 to "Boring Oregon City."

Two different places, but you gotta dock the Oregon State Department of Transportation a few points for tone-deaf public relations. Or perhaps salute their sly growth-management propaganda.

Anyhew, trash talk won't work. Boring isn't a city quite yet, but is poised for major growth in coming decades, as we'll see momentarily.

Because it's unincorporated, a search for Boring, Oregon turns up a few too many prefab Internet directories with howler links leading nowhere such as, "Boring Discount Travel," or "Boring Apartments/Boring People/Books About Boring." Not to mention Churches Boring Oregon. Hopefully there aren't too many of those.

Boring has some character, tho. If you're looking for a paint horse stud, give the Flying W Ranch in Boring a call. And RoadsideAmerica.com talks to Boring librarian Evelyn Hopp, pictured here (down the page a bit) weeding a ditch. She claims Boring is anything but.

Then there's the Boring Amateur Radio Club. They say once you join you're in for life, and suicide is the only way out. I suppose I'd give that some thought if I was a ham radio enthusiast.

Or better yet, begin agitating for Wi-Fi in Boring. With the expansion of metro Portland's urban growth boundary now including 12,000 acres in the Damascus/Boring area, new development there looms. Expect some 25,000 new residences, a town center and 1,600 acres of "employment land," according to the Damascus/Boring Concept Plan.

An incorporation vote this fall could result in Boring becoming part of the new city of Damascus. That would be a shame. It oughtta be the other way around.

Just imagine. Boring Jobs Center. Boring Town Square. Boring Ridge. Boring Estates. Boring Heights. Boring Starbucks. Boring Unitarian Universalist Church. The Democratic Party of Boring. The Boring Green Party. The Boring City Commission on Race and Gender Equity. The Boring Book Club. The Boring Men's Drum Circle. The Boring Nose Flute Chorus. Boring Tavern. Boring Landscaping. Boring Pressure Wash. Boring Insurance. Boring Bowl.

And, of course: Boring Little League.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:05 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack


June 24, 2004

The Evolution of a Conservative

"How'd you get so conservative?" Friends and some in-laws ask that sometimes, as they might inquire of another, "How long've you been clinically depressed?"

An in-law asked me to explain my politics once, quickly noting that Republicans weren't much use, because what programs had they initiated, anyway?

I usually begin my answer not by wondering why conservatives should have to justify their mindset as opposed to liberals, but by noting such terms are crude, though necessary signposts. I am conservative (i.e. strong) on national defense, human rights and global democracy (meaning "liberal" in the old sense); also conservative on race-baiting and excuse-making, Nanny State programs, and self-responsibility. I am liberal on abortion, urban transit and urban density. And clean air and water.

Several things turned me away from standard liberal sensibilities besides listening to NPR and living in Seattle's political monoculture.

In 1977 I went to work for a summer with the Better Government Association in Chicago, helping to root out corruption in the Democratic Machine. I saw that plunder and power were the priorities. People were only an instrument to those objectives.

Helping Marion Kennedy Volini, an independent, get elected alderman in Chicago's 48th Ward in a 1978 special election allowed me to see The Democratic Machine up close. Chicago's fine public servants, Streets and Sanitation workers, all received a special assignment on election day; getting out the vote for City Hall's candidate. One grubby guy even followed me around all day, as I rounded up Volini backers in my seven precincts. The old school tactics failed; the independent won.

Another seminal experience was dinner one night with a friend in Chicago who was waxing enthusiastic about the city's first black mayor, Harold Washington. A new era had dawned, he said. Nonsense, I replied: Washington was as corrupt as King Richard Daley I before him; all you had to do was read the newspapers to know. Sputtering outrage and character assassination followed. I'd said something unspeakable

Beyond my experiences in Chicago, it slowly dawned on me that "social safety net" priorities of government hurt the intended beneficiaries more than they help, fostering dependence over initiative and self-responsibility. Washington State politicians moan and groan about tax-cut initiative king Tim Eyman, but won't even pass a comprehensive performance audits bill in the state legislature. Must be afraid what they'd find out.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:04 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack


June 23, 2004

Shasta Notebook, Take Three

Hiked from Mt. Shasta's Bunny Flats to Horse Camp and the 1922 stone Alpine lodge, with Ava, four, her big bro and mom yesterday. Some snow on the way up to 8K feet, fresh mountain spring water the payoff. Tuned the old guitar to Open D. Out to McCloud River Lower Falls today, then back to base where bosom buds from SF had arrived, with their three beautiful, bright Pakistani-American daughters, and lemon liqueur, prosciutto, fontina, focaccia and olives from Lucca's in The Mission.

Much hubub over dinner, now a tuturial in blogging and the blogosphere for my pal Doug. He heads an SF-based non-profit and, like many, freely admits that e-mails from listserv orgs go unopened due to workload. All the more reason for smart advocates to develop blogs. Ten-times daily blast e-mails makes less and less sense. Pull, not push..

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


June 22, 2004

The Sporting Life

I still admit to puzzlement, returning from a power walk - or out and about for some other reason - when I pass someone's home, and on a nice sunny day they're parked inside with the ballgame on the tube. I want to shout thru the window, "THIS is your idea of living?"

Especially in Seattle these days, where our poor excuse for a major league baseball team has been stinking up the joint (and no I haven't checked the sports pages recently, but if the bums have won a few, it'll make no difference in the end). Spare me the Pistons Cinderella story, while we're at it. When the NBA season doesn't wind down until a few weeks before SUMMER, I'm beyond caring.

Joe Queenan wonders about sports fans too, in his book, "True Believers: The Tragic Inner Life of Sports Fans."

For Yankees or Lakers fans the pay-off is historically clear, says Queenan, and...

"can at least partially compensate for a rotten job, a horrible marriage, a receding hairline, a tiny brain."

"But," Queenan continues, "what about the pitiful souls who root passionately for accursed poltroons like the Red Sox, the Cubs, the White Sox, and Phillies? Why would anyone organize his emotional life around mountebanks like the Cleveland Cavaliers, the San Diego Padres and the Phoenix Suns...?...Does it signify a need to believe in fairy tales...Or is it simply proof that men would rather watch ANY sporting event than interact with their wives and children?"

Joe, you sexist cad! You left out the contemporaneous psychoanalysis of female sports addicts!

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:30 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack



The Myth of Liberal Media, Not

"Media Bias? What Media Bias?" asks Adam Sparks in the SF Chron. Pay close attention to answer, based in part on a recent Pew Center poll of journalists. And give the Chron's op-ed honchos major props, BTW, for running regular columns by conservatives Sparks and Jennifer Nelson. Not to mention Deborah Saunders.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack



Shasta Notebook

Blogging from Mt. Shasta, CA

WARPED

Overheard at Lake Siskiyou yesterday. Parent to kids in water: "Oswald, Ruby, come here." OK, Ruby is a nice name, if retro. Oswald even stands alone, tho stuffily. Together, ya gotta wonder. One kid named after President Kennedy's killer, the other after the killer's killer. What's up with that?

WONDER

Ava, four, this a.m.: "Mommy, the crayons got longer on vacation." (Well, we did buy a new set).

WOW

More clear blue skies and bright sun, with one little round cloud, perched exactly atop Mt. Shasta. Cosmic.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:08 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


June 21, 2004

You Read It Here First

On vacation, I like to catch up on top-notch news sources I usually overlook. Such as Weekly World News, "America's Extreme Newspaper."

YOU might call it, oh, say, a pathetic supermarket tabloid for America's sub-literate trailer trash.

But that would be reductionist, and classist.

WWN goes where Big Media fears to tread, revealing hard truths intimidating to entrenched elites. I've read top stories from the June 21 edition, and they're obviously true. My only question: why aren't more people talking about all this?

Some highlights:

Dick Cheney is a robot (revealing pix of the sweater-vested VP included);

Florida will sink like Atlantis unless four million super-sized residents leave now;

NYSE to relocate to New Delhi; U.S. capital to Las Vegas;

Baghdad - new honeymoon hotspot;

Corruption-weary voters in small Mexican town elect mule as mayor;

Satan to re-shape image with help of L.A. PR firms;

New mechanical device invented - Gaydar.

Next week:

Bush-Cheney '04 meet-up in Seattle's Fremont district, at Taco del Mar next to Lenin statue;

In shrewd gambit, John Kerry names Halle Berry running mate.

Morton Brilliant changes name - victim of high expectations, tragically unmet.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack



In the Shadow of Shasta

Blogging from beeyooteeful Mt. Shasta, CA - the town at the foot of the namesake, 14,000-some-foot mass of rock and snow. Managed to get all the way down here Saturday, with a four-hour rest stop in the sweet burg of Ashland, Oregon. Where there's lithium in the water and The Bard all about.

Overheard this conversation:

Local Teen 1: I Hate the Oregon Coast.
Local Teen 2: The Oregon Coast Sucks.
Local Teen 3: Oregon Sucks.

Dudes, If you only knew what you had. But then, this is de riguer. I may be a naive, cockeyed optimist. I think there's a fairly good likelihood that our son, now almost eight, and daughter, four, will still be in love with Seattle - or whatever other great place we may choose to live - when they're teens. I also think the odds are very good they won't be sullen and alienated, either.

Tell me I'm not dreaming. Or that in fact, I am deluded.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:16 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack


June 18, 2004

Nice View: You Can Have It

Workers in Seattle's tallest office building must be kinda nervous these days. It was just revealed - via a top al-Qaeda operative - that the structure was initially a target on Sept. 11; then considered again for a post-Sept. 11 wave of jet-crash terror.

Worse, al-Qaeda has made clear they still want to fly commercial airplanes into big buildings.

The Seattle-jet crash angle is surprising to our Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, who told the Seattle Times:

"Tall buildings have been on our list as potential targets since 9-11," Kerlikowske said. "But we've never had anything this specific before. We've never heard we were on a list."

....Up until yesterday, it was assumed by law enforcement that Seattle kept popping up in terrorist reports because the city was associated with the arrest and prosecution of Ahmed Ressam. Ressam, an al-Qaida-trained Algerian, was arrested in December 1999 coming across the border from Canada with explosives he intended to set off at Los Angeles International Airport.
Now, officials say, it's clear that the association runs deeper.

Kerlikowske said he was surprised by the newest revelation. And Charles Mandigo, the former special agent in charge of the Seattle FBI office, said he knew nothing of (ed.-al-Qaeda detainee Khalid Sheik) Mohammed's statements (ed.-about Seattle and L.A.'s tallest office buildings being targeted) before he left the bureau last July.

"...I was not aware that Seattle was part of a bigger plot."

Tele-commute, anyone? You might save more than a few bucks on dry cleaning, parking and lunch.

If that sounds alarmist and weird, let me share this with you: last summer, hiking at Mt. Shasta, I ran into a former Silicon Valley coder who'd moved to the lovely, and fast-growing town that bears the mountain's name. He said he'd been working as an electrician on new homes in the area, and the work never stopped. A lot of clients said they were leaving the Bay Area for the boonies due to terrorism concerns.

Nice strategy if you can find good work.

At any rate, most people actually do put self-preservation - and a far-reaching U.S. attack on terrorist networks - ahead of procedural niceties for terrorism suspects. A lesson Seattle will learn only after some horrid disaster, I fear.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


June 17, 2004

Back Bench Bumpkins

And these guys are winning the hearts and minds of exactly who? Swing voters? Um, yeahsure.

More like ex-Deanies and ABB/ADD lemmings. But they'll win a Webbie for the site. And that's the point, methinks. Some consolation for these celebrators of actors-out, I serpose.

Given the all-but-inevitable four more years of W. (Thank goodness).

Hat tip: Scott.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack



WMD Shell Game?

For some strange reason, this hasn't gotten much coverage. The UN's monitoring commission discloses new findings which might well indicate a WMD cover-up by Iraq.

Highlights from the report by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) include discovery in a Rotterdam scrapyard of a radioactive, UN-tagged Iraqi surface-to-air missile engine; more Iraqi surface-to-air missile engines in a Netherlands scrapyard; and satellite photo evidence showing major alterations to known Iraqi weapons sites.

You'd think the high commissars of brand-name journalistic inquiry would be all over the mysterious off-loading of WMD components as the noose tightened on Saddam's regime. Nope, mostly just a few wire services, foreign papers and oddball news sources. And of course bloggers, such as Little Green Footballs and Peeve Farm.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:18 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack



Nature's Effluvia

"If Mt. Rainier was a factory, would it be legal?" Jim Miller wonders (2nd post down, in link).

It dumps rocks, sand, and silt directly into rivers and streams, which is forbidden almost everywhere. Later in the summer, the streams coming from the glaciers will often turn white from all the silt they carry. As the summer gets warmer, the emissions of volatile organic hydrocarbons, such as terpenes, from the evergreen forests on the mountain's lower slopes will be higher than permitted from factories.

And the mountain creates dangerous piles of rubble and mud that might go downstream and destroy homes in its path. In most areas, factories and mines are not allowed to create such hazards.

...if Rainier were a factory, it would be completely illegal. Environmental organizations would condemn it as an ecological disaster.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:34 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack



Prince, Again

The artist formerly known as "the artist formerly known as Prince" is now known as Prince, again. Bet you're relieved to hear that. And he rocked the house in his hometown of Minneapolis last night, which surely takes some doing in the Xcel Energy Center. It was a "roaring, superfunky, career-defining and -refining musiclicious success," according to the Star-Tribune.

Prince proffered "superbad funk workouts" (always gets me goin'), some "Carlos Santana-like guitar," acoustic versions of his 80s hits, a cover of LedZep's "Whole Lotta Love," and "an untitled blues number about telemarketers." Even did some Ray Charles.

Sounds good. But for my money, Prince's scarcely-known Black Album is his penultimate statement - a funk-drenched, smart-mouthed, macho guitar masterpiece recorded in '87, but bottled up for several years afterward.

As Giacomo Holdini of Portland, Oregon, notes at amazon.com:

(the) Black Album is Prince's ode to funk...Here, the Purple One conjures an unrelenting world of joyously insane, black-strap, butt-bumping, booty-grinding funk... On every track..Prince keeps up the pace, refusing to let listeners catch their breath...he is much too hardcore here for casual fans, which could explain why this disc still gets mixed reviews.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


June 16, 2004

Lament of a Cafeteria Democrat

At dinner with friends recently, SF Chron op-ed contributor M.M. Acosta made the mistake of saying she thought Michael Jackson actually had done snarky things with kids, as alleged. Hoo boy! She got quite a reaction. And it made her think.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:57 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack



The Neo-Cons Are Right, Dammit!

Gutsy, dead-on piece by Michael Brandon McClellan today at Tech Central Station. It's titled, "Why Neo-Conservatism Best Defends America."

The neo-conservative strategic paradigm has become the rhetorical punching bag of pundits across the political spectrum...With each setback in Iraq, they have professed their alleged vindication. With each mounting casualty toll, they have demanded an expedited withdrawal from the Bush administration. They are wrong.

Criticism without advocacy of a sufficient alternative contributes nothing to US national security. Wars are not won through deconstructionist paradigms, and in the context of the War on Terror, the United States cannot afford a meandering foreign policy. Catch phrases like "multilateralism" and "soft-power" are sound-bites intended to poll well.

...The Middle Eastern problem is quite simply that, as it currently exists, the region exports radical Islamic terrorism that directly threatens the safety of the United States....Jihadist terrorism must be engaged and vanquished. Successfully engaging and ultimately defeating such terrorists is a multi-faceted long-term endeavor, necessitating far more than augmenting homeland security and pursuing al Qaeda fugitives. Winning the War on Terror mandates an offensive thrust into the wellspring of Islamic terrorism, the Middle East itself.

...what Charles Krauthammer has more aptly titled "democratic realism" -- prescribes a two part strategy for addressing the Middle Eastern problem. First, selective regime change... (Second:).....building democracy means building constitutional liberal democracy, a free economy, and the rule of law.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack



Yo, It's Not About 'Stupid White Men'

Molotov, at Booker Rising, has a few choice words for organizers of the National Hip-Hop Political Convention.

...workshops include "Our Schools, Our Kids and the Money Issue: Revisiting Brown vs. The Board of Education," "Sexual Freedom, Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights," and "How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office."

When will black moderates and conservatives organize to put out diverse messages? We've got work to do, or we'll lose the battle. Some workshops we'd like to see: "Encouraging Black Youth to Turn Off the TV and Study More," "Promoting Responsible Sexuality," "Increasing Black-Owned Businesses," and "How to Get Stupid Liberals Out of Office."

Molotov also points the way to today's provocative - and I believe, insightful - Juan Williams NYT op-ed. Williams asserts Bush could clinch it by reaching out, and winning just a slice of the black vote.

With the presidential election only a few months away, it is time for President Bush to unleash his secret weapon — his relationship with black and Hispanic voters...he has the chance to make tremendous gains — if only because he now has practically no support among black voters. But the president has the opportunity to flip the script. With a direct appeal, President Bush could win at least 20 percent of the black vote — and the White House.

...it's increasingly clear that blacks are no longer willing to vote as a bloc, automatically lining up with the Democrats. ....Young black Americans seem ready for a forthright conversation about race and politics. While many older blacks responded with anger to Bill Cosby's recent call for poor black people to take more responsibility for their problems, the young people I encountered were uniformly supportive of Mr. Cosby's words.

It's worth noting that for this group, the president has an issue with considerable appeal: school vouchers. Despite strong opposition from civil rights leaders (and Democrats), 66 percent of blacks and 67 percent of Hispanics favor vouchers, according to a recent Newsweek poll. That is higher than the 54 percent of whites who say they want to see vouchers used to give students access to better schools.

Third, Mr. Bush has a network to make a pitch to black voters — the black church....If President Bush wants to return to the White House, he needs black Americans to vote for him; in swing states in the South and Midwest, they could make all the difference. To do that, though, the president needs to begin reaching out to black Americans. Fortunately, he has a lot to say.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 05:31 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack



With Friends Like These.....

For lawyers, these guys are logically impaired. A Seattle law firm has taken out a half-page newspaper ad in the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to protest the Times' coverage of a controversy involving the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, (Washington State) Attorney General Christine Gregoire.

Gregoire's campaign claims no knowledge of the stunt, but it makes them and their supporters look childish and thin-skinned. One can only imagine how she'd handle the pressure and responsibilities of being governor. The P-I reports:

The ad lauds successful litigation under Gregoire, including the national tobacco lawsuit, and criticizes the Times' coverage of the lawsuit by (Janet) Capps, who was forced to resign after the AG's office failed to meet a deadline to appeal a jury verdict against the state of nearly $18 million.

In April, the Times published a front-page article based on its review of internal documents. The Times found that a 2000 report into the botched appeal "was rewritten to downplay broad management problems at the urging of Gregoire's top deputies."

The $4,444 spent on the ad buys will be reported to the state Public Disclosure Commission as an independent campaign expenditure on Gregoire's behalf. But the belligerent barristers might just as well have handed the dough to Gregoire's opponent, Republican Dino Rossi.

In case you missed the original story, here it is. Doubtless, many folks will now be going back to take another look at it, and this recent Times editorial.

Hat tip: Magnolia's very own P. Scott Cummins.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 04:36 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


June 15, 2004

Yer Outta Here

Some politicians, lawyers, journalists and cops are inveterate scammers. So it goes. But baseball umpires? Read it and weep. Caveat emptor in the "memorabilia" market.

Never play cards with a man named "Doc;" never eat at a place called "Mom's;" and never buy anything the value of which depends on a signed certificate of "authenticity."

As Nelson Algren might have put it, but didn't.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack



The Importance of Acting Out

Here's a great snapshot of what motivates the "progressive" Left. A Santa Cruz City Council member says symbolic resolutions having nothing whatsoever to do with city government are nonetheless important, as a means of affirming personal values and beliefs.

The Santa Cruz council last week passed a resolution urging the removal of U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. They've also voted on a number of other wildly off-topic measures.

In the last two years the City Council has opposed the war in Iraq and asked Congress to consider the impeachment of President Bush. In September 1997 the council opposed the launching of a NASA probe because its instruments were powered with plutonium, a situation that council members feared could lead to environmental disaster. Earlier the same year, the panel restricted city business with Burma, where a military dictatorship rules.

At other times the City Council has weighed in on medical marijuana, genetically modified foods and Medfly eradication programs.

But it's all good, brotha-man. Says council member Tim Fitzmaurice:

"There's an old saying in progressive politics: 'I don't know if I am going to change the world, but I don't want the rest of the world to change me.'"

Nice sentiment Tim. Save it for your next Unitarian potluck.

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



Get A Load of Those Shoulders

Ambra Nykol has some advice for cross-dressers:

If you are going to dress like a woman, please do us justice. Do not presume to just throw on a dress and call it a day. If your goal was to look like a football player in drag, then you've successfully achieved your goal. The least you could do is pick a dress that looks half-way decent and not that frock from the bargain bin. Whether it's red, purple or fushia, no matter what color you paint your toes, they are still gross and hairy, and they still look like man feet.....Please stop this foolishness lest you be "ruffed up" by some gun-toting woman on estrogen.

Amen. There's a 60-something guy in our 'hood who's always in drag. Lousy cheap wig; kerchief; same denim skirt every time; hose; a truly clock-stopping face that God would have never, never, ever given a woman, even an ugly one; and huge manly hands. Great legs, tho. Always riding a bike.

I heard after his wife died, he went around the bend.

So he's probably somewhat atypical. Most cross-dressers aren't too different from young folk who opt for a freakish appearance; uncomfortable in their own skin. The real work needs to be done on the inside, not the outside.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:29 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack



Mack Daddy Ponzi

Pimp 'N Ho culture must be here to stay: now there's an online Pimp N' Ho Ponzi scheme. At least so it appears. Warning: Do NOT, under any circumstances, get involved with this scam.

Takes me back. Mid-late 80s, Chicago. Good friends telling me, over Thai food, about this great new set-up they'd discovered. A game called "Airplane." It's so good, see, you have to pay $1,000 to join the club. But then.....you get to recruit other "passengers" on the airplane, and get a cut of their initiation fee. Before long, you're a pilot, making money off what your recruits bring in. Etc. Etc.

I blurted out, "Oh No, you've fallen for a classic Ponzi scheme." And my whole-earth, tree-lovin' vegetarian friends (OK, the wife actually) became very offended, and replied, "If you were a friend, you wouldn't say that."

Uh. Quite the opposite, actually. 'Course, these were the same folks who put down a few K for a piece of property right on the San Andreas fault line in one of those "48-hour deadline" pitches. Ah well, they've grown older and somewhat wiser. And our friendship has survived.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack



Next Time, Computer Dating

Cell phone to the rescue. But women: lousy idea to date a convicted felon, OK?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


June 14, 2004

Another Cynical Bush Re-Election Stunt

It would make perfect sense for al-Qaeda to blow up a shopping mall in Columbus, Ohio, if you think about it. Nobody, anywhere, is safe if that happens. And a Somali man from Ohio has just been indicted for plotting to do that.

Talk to local, regional and state law-enforcement professionals across the country and they'll tell you: there is no doubt whatsoever that many al Qaeda sleeper operatives are here, and planning to strike.

Catch the bastards first, before they do harm. This is a WAR, remember?

Some people are worried about the rights of the accused. Sheesh. I'm worried about bleeding-heart juries. An Idaho-based Saudi student webmaster for Islamic hate sites is acquitted. He posted jihad messages and other content on jihad sites seeking money and recruits, but you see, he was just a conduit, a technical aide with no real connection to the groups or their message. Or so jurors decided.

In fact, the acquittal was a victory for "freedom of speech." Mmm-hmm.....

Soon it will be time to try enemy combatant Jose Padilla. Critics say the dirty bomb plot was hype because the device supposedly wouldn't have done much damage. The plot is the point, however, including Padilla's plan to blow up apartment buildings using natural gas.

Go, Ashcroft. Already.

UPDATE: Tom Rekdal comments, "Before adding a second cheer for Ashcroft, I would like to know just what in the h--- is the Justice Department's strategy for dealing with domestically planted terrorists?"

"First we get Zacharias Moussaoui--remember him?--shunted off to a federal civil court, where he still sits thumbing his nose at everyone. Then we get an announced policy of military tribunals for the trial of non-citizen terrorists, but to which none are ever consigned. Off next to Ex parte Quirin (1942) and the indefinite detention, without anticipated trials by any tribunal, of persons designated as "enemy combatants." Now, apparently, we are back to the civil courts route, and losing them all. This is a strategy?"

"Why on earth does the Bush administration subject itself to daily media whippings for its "assault" on civil liberties, if it is unprepared to use the legal instruments it professes to support? It had the right strategy to start with: those known to be supporting Islamic terror should be identified as "unlawful enemy combatants," with or without habeas corpus. If they are non-citizens, it's off to a military tribunal, and if they are citizens, they should stay in the clink until the executive department determines they are no longer a danger."

"Will this be 1984? Hardly. Few of these detentions are likely to go unexamined in the media, and Congress is fully empowered to establish any supervision of the conditions, length, and circumstances of detention it finds expedient."

"This is a war, after all. Will somebody in the DOJ please start fighting it?"

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:17 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


June 13, 2004

Middle Fork on My Mind

The best tributes aren't always planned, or obvious. Sometimes they just happen. Like today's impromptu moment on a backwoods road outside Seattle, honoring the recently-deceased r&b great - Ray Charles.

Late in the afternoon, after a great train ride plus burgers and shakes (see below), we were en route to to the Middle Fork Trailhead along the Snoqualmie River.

Playing as we travelled: a fave compilation tape, "Twangin." Weaving through the forest, a tune came on by a real hard-road guy named Sandy Bull, titled, "Ray's Dream." Based on Ray's classic rocker, "What'd I Say," but all instrumental. Plangent, syncopated layers of guitars, bass, pedal steel, and one of my very favorite instruments - a round-backed, eight-stringed Mid-East lute called the oud.

The tune was from Bull's otherwise-middling '91 CD, "Vehicles."

(For non-pareil Sandy Bull, try his now-rare '63 Vanguard debut, "Fantasias," wherein he channels the blues of Roebuck "Pops" Staples, plus classical and desert sounds, or "Re-inventions," which combines choice cuts from the '63 release, and '65's "Inventions").

Hearing "Ray's Dream" in the deep woods brought back the Ray Charles songbook, especially the driving, upbeat stuff he did - which I always liked best -"Greenbacks," "Hit The Road, Jack," "Hallelujah, I Love Her So," and others.

I once transported the famously blind Mr. Charles, when working as a limo driver in Chicago during a time-out from college. I picked him up at O'Hare, and drove him a short distance to a fancy hotel. When we arrived, he said, with impeccable timing and brevity: "I take it we're there?"

So much smoother than other celebrity passengers. Such as Calvin Klein, whose big question (fashion-related, only, I suppose) was, "So, where's the gay action in Chicago?" I didn't know, but called a dispatcher who had all the tips, including the inside dope on the leather scene. Which I dutifully passed on, of course.

Or Mel Torme, who Jonesed all the way to the airport, worried about missing his flight.

And Michael Jackson's cheap, classist wardrobe manager who made me take him to the South Side to see "the poor N******." He was very taken aback when a black man in a pork pie hat - whom I instantly recognized - waved to me from an old grubby Dodge Dart at 63rd and Stony Island Ave.

Mr. Manager asked who that was. And I reported, "he was sitting where you were a week ago," in the backseat of the same limo, going to a family celebration at a nearby seafood buffet.

Long, long, long silence. We went crosstown for some barbeque at Jo-Tees, 87th and S. Ashland (my suggestion).

Hinckty-man loved the rib-tips and Wonder Bread. Yet no tip for me after a 12-hour drive-about, including - and I remember this quite distinctly - a stop at a sporting goods store to pick up jock straps for the brothers Jackson, who were at the Mill Run Theatre in north suburban Niles that night.

Mr. Ray Charles was also scads classier than Ed McMahon, with his rented blonde en route to Chez Paul, or the venal Cloris Leachman (more on which sometime later).

Not to mention Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead. Yes, I Drove The Dead. I pulled up to the curb at O'Hare, and a woman with long dark hair in bowling shoes, pleated skirt and Hawaiian shirt ambled up, ready to enter the limo. I looked askance. Seemed a drugged groupie, at best, and I must have conveyed that. She responded haughtily, "Grateful Dead?"

D'Oh! It hit me, skanky wardrobe aside. Donna Godchaux! Singer on the then-recent Terrapin Station LP. Band member. Husband Keith keyboardist, even. Yes M'am.

They all moseyed aboard, minus Jerry and drummer Bill Kreutzman, who were in another vehicle. Bob Weir (vocals, guitar, charisma) climbed in front, asked me for a "filter cigarette" (no go) and wondered if this whole thing wasn't a big, big thrill for me. Too cool for me to figure out.

Band members in back talked loudly about Bill's heavy cocaine Jones, and how they felt, quite, quite firmly, that he'd been allotted his fair share on the plane. It was all kinda boozjwah.

Today - before the Ray Charles Moment and associated limo-driving reminiscences - our family rode the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad, from North Bend to Snoqualmie Falls and back. It's a nice jaunt.

This five mile common carrier railroad allows museum visitors to experience a train excursion aboard antique railroad coaches through the Upper Snoqualmie Valley.

Schedule, etc. here. When the train stops right after passing Snoqualmie Falls, position yourself in one of the middle cars, to look WAY down upon the river kayakers. Quite a sight, if you can stand the vertigo.

In North Bend afterward, walk a short block from the train depot over to Scotty's Dairy Freeze, established, 1951. Get a burger, shake and fries (skip the ho-hum onion rings): and take it all out back onto one of the aqua-green picnic tables, with drop-dead views of 4,000-foot Mt. Si.

Then drive to the Middle Fork Trailhead, via 468th Ave. off 1-90, East. Left off exit ramp, then loop back west a very short distance, and right onto Middle Fork Rd. (Don't bear right onto Lake Dorothy Rd. at Y). It's a good 12-15 miles in, rd. turns to gravel, plenty of chuckholes. You'll see the sign for "Middle Fork Trailhead" on the right. Enter lot, path to lovely arched wooden bridge, across and then left onto the fairly flat, riverside trail. Outstanding scenery.

Here's what you do: listen to the river.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:04 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


June 12, 2004

Blog Round-Up: From Zimbabwe to Key West

Bill Quick at Daily Pundit has the latest on Zimbabwe's Dictator-Till-Death, Robert Mugabe. His country's totally in the crapper, and what does Mugabe do? Buy fighter jets from the Chinese.

Bill Hobbs digs up a weird one: John Kerry's campaign is blogging about Reagan, and has posted a photo of the Gipper with Ray Charles, who also passed away recently. Desperate to regain relevance, I guess.

Education writer and edublogger Joanne Jacobs reports on a study that found high school exit exams are actually measuring 9th and 10th grade competencies. Another nugget: in some other countries, the math skills on our graduation tests are actually taught in middle school.

Why did the chicken cross the road? Ask that question in Iraq, and you get a whole lotta different answers. From Strategy Page, via Dean Esmay.

Jake, at his very cool blog, Smack My Booty, has this indispensable link to Bible Sex Stories (Director's Cut).

Jeff Norris has started GeoPoliticalReview, a data-rich site well worth your time. Here's one of his recent, link-filled "Must Read" posts.

Harvard alum Spartacus attended the commencement speech Thursday by Kofi Annan and in this excellent report, talks about what he liked and what he didn't. One high point was Annan's strong condemnation of ethnic cleansing against Sudanese black Muslims by the murderous and incorrigible Arab Muslim regime that's been running the country into the ground (literally) for 20 years. Altho, as Spart notes, Annan's call for the "international community" to take action is worthless. In the same post, Spart also reports on Harvard President Larry Summers' moving and sincere tribute to recent Harvard alums serving or wounded in Iraq, and to the importance of ROTC on the Harvard campus (!)

You come across some real characters in the ongoing hunt for sympatico blogsouls. One is Rob, at Gut Rumbles, which he describes as "Humorous Observations, Vitriolic Rants and a Ceaseless Quest for Adoration From People Who Don't Know Me." He's a Randian Libertarian pigmenteer from Rincon, Georgia who plays guitar, mandolin and autoharp, and really likes the music of John Prine. He's also remarkably forthcoming about his foot fetish, AND a costly fake critter called Preble's Mouse. Fresh from a trip to Folly Beach, SC, he's headed for Key West, and soon Costa Rica. Look out, world! And have a mojito for me, bro.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


June 11, 2004

What Bugs Me! What Bugs You?

Here are a few things that really bug me. I'm just getting started, mind you. And I'd like to know what really bugs you. Maybe it's something I wrote here. Or something else. Lemme know. OK?

My list, just for tonight.

You come to the grocery store checkout, and unload your stuff. The checker starts tallying it all up, but feels compelled to ask: "Did you find everything OK?" What???? They're gonna stop in the middle of the ring-up, call someone over, and take you down the aisle for that marshmellow fluff, saffron and cornstarch you couldn't find???? Suuuure. Help me Rhonda. Managers tell them to ask this: it's an empty gesture of caring, written in the handbook, right alongside, "inquire after the families of customers." I hate that, too! Get me through the line ASAP, and get me outta there. If I've gotta depend on a grocery checker for warmth, validation, and a community vibe, then damn, I really am a loser! And if I can't find something, you really think I'll wait 'till checkout to ask?

Here's another one, if I haven't scared you away yet. There's someone with three, insane, out-of-their-mind, straining-at-the-leash dogs, tied to a bench next to the playground sandbox. A city ordinance bars dogs from playgrounds altogether, but Earth Mother hasn't heard about it. Your kid is about to pick up an errant ball that's next to the dogs, but they're snarling, drooling, pawing and about to enter orbit. SpaceGal humanoid says, "OH, DON'T WORRY. THEY LOVE KIDS." Yeah.....to eat.

More peeves:

Tofu without peanut sauce.

Commercial radio.

Professional sports, especially hockey teams in Florida.

Inside-the-Beltway media.

Surimi.

Unitarians.

Jet-skis and ATVs.

Motorized scooters on urban bike and rollerblade paths.

Dimwit greasers with custom-loud cars and motorcyles. Try Cialis, instead!

Kids with toy guns, or handheld video games.

Parents on cell phones at playgrounds.

Absentee parents.

Sanctimonious kowtowing to racial and sexual "diversity," absent any serious commitment to intellectual and political diversity.

OK......That'll do for now.

Coming soon: more of WHAT BUGS ME.

Sooner or later: what I like.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:32 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack



Iran's Pimp-Mullahs

Iran's ruling Islamic fundamentalist mullahs aid and abet an extensive sex trade in girls and youg women: repression of women at every level of society goes hand in hand with exploitation, says Donna M. Hughes, Professor & Carlson Endowed Chair in the University of Rhode Island's Women's Studies Program.

Her essay, linked to above from Persian Journal, is titled, "Islamic Fundamentalism and the Sex Slave Trade in Iran." Some excerpts:

In Iran for 25 years, the ruling mullahs have enforced humiliating and sadistic rules and punishments on women and girls, enslaving them in a gender apartheid system of segregation, forced veiling, second-class status, lashing, and stoning to death.

Joining a global trend, the fundamentalists have added another way to dehumanize women and girls: buying and selling them for prostitution....In Tehran, there are an estimated 84,000 women and girls in prostitution, many of them are on the streets, others are in the 250 brothels that reportedly operate in the city. The trade is also international: thousands of Iranian women and girls have been sold into sexual slavery abroad.

The head of Iran's Interpol bureau believes that the sex slave trade is one of the most profitable activities in Iran today...Government officials themselves are involved in buying, selling, and sexually abusing women and girls....The exposure of sex slave networks in Iran has shown that many mullahs and officials are involved in the sexual exploitation and trade of women and girls.

Some may think a thriving sex trade in a theocracy with clerics acting as pimps is a contradiction in a country founded and ruled by Islamic fundamentalists. In fact, this is not a contradiction. First, exploitation and repression of women are closely associated. Both exist where women, individually or collectively, are denied freedom and rights. Second, the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran are not simply conservative Muslims. Islamic fundamentalism is a political movement with a political ideology that considers women inherently inferior in intellectual and moral capacity. Fundamentalists hate women's minds and bodies.

...Only the end of the Iranian regime will free women and girls from all the forms of slavery they suffer.

I will look forward to further, and comprehensive reportage by the NYT, WaPo and LA Times, on Iran's pimp-mullahs and the sexual exploitation of young Iranian women. Seems to me, esteemed "Foreign Editors," that Professor Hughes might be a good source for your "reporters." Here's her homepage, with contact information and links to her many published works on global sexual exploitation of women and children.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:36 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack



Eminem Eclipsed

The flashing and groping of his studded codpiece stays, the bare buttocks go. That was reportedly the editing decision of the taste gurus at MTV, when during earlier filming of an awards show broadcast last night, famed white-boy Detriot rapper Eminem got all hinkty with himself.

Apparently, they were just going to blur his nekkid rear, but then in a burst of principled righteousness, decided to edit out the buns altogether.

Looks like the Janet Jackson fiasco sure taught them.

I watched Eminem's autobiographical film "Eight Mile" not long ago. Pretty good story, if you can overlook the insidious rags-to-maybe-rap-riches hype. But the closing scene said an awful lot about hip-hop culture and the clowns who buy in.

There's a face-off between Eminem's character and his biggest rival, who's black. In tough rap verse, Eminem delivers the crowning blow: the other fellah's got zero street cred because his parents are - get this, delivered with a huge sneer - "happy married." And, the poor loser actually goes to Cranbrook, an exclusive prep school.

The vanquished opponent is too upper-middle class to be "authentically black" -i.e. cool, legit - while the "street" white rapper, played by Eminem, is portrayed as blacker, prouder, and the winner. Uh-huh.

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


June 10, 2004

JFKohn in '04

You probably already know that John Kerry's paternal grandfather was ashamed of his Jewish ancestry. As the Boston Globe reported:

....Kerry's grandfather, Fritz Kohn, was born to a Jewish family here (Horni Benesov, Czech Republic), changed his name to Fredrick Kerry, and converted to Roman Catholicism before he immigrated to the United States in 1905. Kerry committed suicide in a Boston hotel washroom in 1921.

However, you may not have heard about John Kerry's bold decision to reclaim his heritage.

And there's a reason for that.

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



Brilliant Is As Brilliant Does

One of the old reliables in any political spokesman's toolkit is this: "Well, you wouldn't really expect them to admit that straight out, now, would you?" It's quite handy when your candidate makes an unsupportable claim that's denied by her opponent.

Morton Brilliant (nomen non esta omen), is the spokesman for likely Washington Democratic gubernatorial nominee Christine Gregoire. And he had a chance to use this old chestnut in today's Seattle Times, after assumed Republican nominee Dino Rossi scoffed at Gregoire's charges he'd be getting an astronomical $9 million infusion from national Republicans.

"They're going to come at us with $9 million," (Gregoire) said, urging more than 1,500 delegates to "show them Washington state will not be bought."

...Morton Brilliant, Gregoire's campaign spokesman, said it's no surprise the Republicans are denying the $9 million rumor.

"I would have been stunned if they had said, 'Yep, you found us out; we're going to buy this election,' " Brilliant said.

This handy retort can be used in all kinds of ways. For example:

"I would have been stunned if they had said, 'Yep, you found us out - we're woman-hating pro-lifers;'"

"I would have been stunned if they had said, 'Yep, you found us out - our regulatory reform shtik actually masks our intent to rape the environment;'"

"I would have been stunned if they had said, 'Yep, you found us out - performance audits are just a venal plot to rip asunder the social safety net.'"

The possibilities are almost infinite. We look forward to more such cagey strategems from Mr. Brilliant.

Who, it should be noted, must know a bit about trying to buy elections. That's because Brilliant is the former spokesman for former South Carolina (Democratic) Gov. Jim Hodges. Incumbent Hodges outspent opponents 3-to-1 in 2002, and still managed to lose.

As the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper observed:

Even incumbents who spent money hand over fist weren't assured a victory. In South Carolina, for example, incumbent Gov. Jim Hodges lost, even though he spent 75.8 percent of the total for the race.....Just goes to show you that money might buy happiness, but it won't buy the governor's mansion - even if you already live there.

Republican challenger Mark Sanford's defeat of Hodges was historical. Two months after the election, the University of South Carolina's student newspaper, The Gamecock, noted:

Sanford will be sworn into office on Wednesday, marking the first time since Reconstruction that Republicans control the House, Senate and governor's office.

Washington has been a long time without a Republican governor. Perhaps the time has come. I think that would be be just Brilliant.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack



Another Reason Gay Marriage Can't Get Traction

Elena Shore writes that ethnic communities in the U.S. are strongly opposed to gay marriage. Even - make that especially - in San Francisco!

I don't at all buy into the condemnatory rhetoric against gays that's expressed by several sources in this piece. But ethnic opposition is a significant part of the political landscape. It is not just black and white conservatives who are fighting gay marriage.

My own view: let voters decide. A vote on a proposed federal constitutional ban is hardly the evil plot progressives claim - the bar for passage would be remarkably high. So high that it will probably never even come to a vote in Congress, much less state legislatures.

With Massachusetts now permitting gay marriage, and various local jursidictions nationwide attempting to follow suit, it should shock or dismay nobody that opponents in a number of states are mounting drives for state constitutional amendments to ban the practice. Existing state "defense of marriage laws" obviously don't mean much to activist judges and politicians.

Defenders of gay marriage should spend less time crying "foul," and more time on the ground dealing with the real politics of the issue. Did they really believe that once they opened this can of worms, opponents would sit on the sidelines?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:31 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


June 09, 2004

A Different Kind of Reagan Legacy

Here's how to really honor Ronald Reagan, says Dick Meyer at CBS.com: expand the federal role in funding stem-cell research, which could lead to medical advances against several diseases. Including Alzheimer's, with which Reagan was afflicted in his later years.

First Meyer, then a rebuttal.

Even before Reagan’s death, there was new pressure on President Bush to reverse his 2001 decision that federal funds could only be used on already existing stem cell lines....Last month, 206 House members wrote Bush urging him to change course. And now 58 Senators, including 14 Republicans, have done the same.

From any wider view, it’s folly to think the genetic genie can be put back into the bottle. The science will come from other countries and from American scientists using private funds. But results will come more slowly. And suffering that may be preventable will not be prevented.

The morality that worships that sanctity of life in the form of blastocysts, freshly fertilized eggs composed of a few cells, is willing to condemn other life...to suffering, preventable death....I don't think it's moral to ignore potential cures for great suffering.

UPDATE: Parkinson's and diabetes patients would likely benefit much more from advances in stem-cell treatments than would Alzheimer's patients, according to scientists quoted in this WaPo piece. Via K-Lo, at The Corner.

UPDATE 2: A number of comments from readers, as you'll see below. But for some weird reason, Rob Ross' comment on this item isn't getting accepted by my blog. So I'll post it here.

From Rob Ross: "Matt, my stance on stem cell research comes from my opinion on cloning. I have to say, that I don't want people cloned, and sooner or later it's going to happen as science advances. Will a "cloned" human being have a soul?

I don't think we are meant to be disease-free. The flip side is, how many cures are we missing because of not being allowed to experiment on humans? I'd hate to get in the way of a cancer cure, because I can't think through this one.

Philosophy and theology aside, at least the PETA people could quit griping if we weren't testing new cures on animals."

Keep the comments coming Rob, and everyone else.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 02:27 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack



Fighting Filth

It's a dirty, dirty, world. And it's my duty to let you know about it. I've diligently rounded up stories about germs and filth, for your prophylactic edification. No links on public toilets, old folks living in squalor, SARS, flesh-eating bacteria or public beach closures. Not yet.

Your doctor may wash his hands for each new patient, but he can't wash his germy necktie, which may carry all kinds of icky stuff on it from previous patients seen that same day. Makes ya wonder about doc's white coat too, huh?

If you read this next piece carefully, you'll never look at a hotel room TV remote the same way. Or touch one.

Shopping carts are another minefield, as reported here, and here.

From Utah comes this recent report that jetted tubs are truly disgusting.

And some school cafeterias? Pheee-eeew! Pack your kid a sack lunch.

Truckee, Nevada celebrates the historical role of filth, and cleans it up.

This guy asserts illegal border-crossers are leaving piles of trash and human waste behind. Not such good citizens, huh?

But Kenya's got real problems.

Today's handy tip:

If you're worried about food poisoning, eat a bunch or two of cilantro.

And Mom was right. Wash your hands!

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:55 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack


June 08, 2004

Anti-Slavery Group to Confront Annan at Harvard - Over Sudan Horrors

iAbolish will confront U.N. head Kofi Annan over inaction on slavery, massive forced dislocations, and genocide by Sudan's Arab Muslim regime. A protest rally is planned for tomorrow, a day in advance of Annan's commencement speech at Harvard University. And there will be leafleting before his speech Thursday. If you are anywhere near Boston, attend the Wednesday rally at 6 p.m., Cambridge Common outside Harvard Yard.

If not, at least tune in to iAbolish and their crucial fight against worldwide modern-day slavery (links above and below).

iAbolish has the full Rosenblog stamp of approval. They must, because I rarely print a press release here.

From iAbolish.

June 8, 2004

Kofi Annan Protested At Harvard Commencement for Inaction on Sudan Genocide

Anti-Slavery Activists, African Survivors, Join Black Clergy --Demand End to Racist Attacks on Africans, and “Free the Slaves!”

BOSTON – Kofi Annan is coming to Harvard on Thursday to receive an honorary degree, but will be met with a human rights protest over his inaction on genocide in Sudan. (Ed. note: iAbolish activists will be distributing leaflets then, but due to permitting issues, the actual rally is Wednesday June 9, as noted above and below).

“Mr. Annan's inaction is anything but honorable,” said Rev. Dr. Gloria White Hammond, co-founder of relief organization My Sister’s Keeper, and a director of the American Anti-Slavery Group. “The Secretary-General has failed to stand up to the Arab-dominated Government of Sudan in its murderous campaign of ethnic cleansing.”

The rally, which will begin at 6 p.m. on Wednesday (June 9) at the Cambridge Common outside Harvard Yard, will feature an array of activists, including Rev. Walter Fauntroy, founder of the Congressional Black Caucus and a former aide to Martin Luther King, Jr.; escaped slave Francis Bok; Suliman Giddo of the Darfur Peace and Development Organization; and Kwathi Ajawin of the North America Fashoda Association.

The Sudanese government has for years been leading a campaign of genocide against Sudan’s minority African population. Despite participating in a peace process to end Sudan’s civil/religious war, the Khartoum regime is currently destroying the Shilluk Kingdom in Southern Sudan, holding thousands of South Sudanese Christians and animists in slavery, and launching devastating raids against African Muslims in the Western Sudanese region of Darfur.

30,000 have been murdered in Darfur in the past few months alone, and over one million made refugees. As many as 1 million people may die by the end of 2004 as a result of Khartoum’s policy of forced starvation.

Annan stood by in Rwanda in 1994, he stood by in Sebrenica in 1995, but we will not let him stand by today in Sudan,” noted Dr. Charles Jacobs, President of the Anti-Slavery Group. “It’s ‘Kofi’s choice’ – be a bystander to genocide or take action to save lives.”

“This pattern of ineptitude and practice of inaction is a disgrace for the UN,” Hammond stated. “The UN is an organization born from the ashes of the Holocaust to ensure that ‘never again’ would the international community tolerate genocide.”

For more info: Jeffrey Hipp, jh@iabolish.com, 617-426-8161.

ADDITIONAL LINKS, provided by Rosenblog:

iAbolish.com's Darfur page, with news links.

An outstanding, in-depth Knight-Ridder piece on the latest in Sudan. It exposes the human dimension and socio-political backstory to today's scorched-earth campaign of genocide, displacement and sexual slavery.

My first and second Seattle Times guest op-eds on Sudan. (Free registration may be required).

An April Rosenblog post on a skittish U.N. sidestepping the current atrocities in western Sudan.

An early May Rosenblog post highlighting the U.N.'s damning report on atrocities in Darfur, western Sudan. But documentation must lead to action.

The U.N.'s feeble actions on behalf of Africa's oppressed are also covered in this Rosenblog post: "UN Fiddles, America Yawns as Congo Smolders."

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


June 07, 2004

Cosby Whacks Time Magazine Writer

Christopher Farley of Time Magazine has a really, really stale, old-school reaction to Bill Cosby's controversial speech to the NAACP.

Farley the Ostrich writes:

There are still certain things some black people won’t talk about in front of some white people....in private, African Americans are often more critical of themselves than outsiders would ever dare to be.

Last month, Bill Cosby broke the unwritten rule of keeping black dirty laundry in black washing machines...at a multiracial gala dinner in Washington, D.C. commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision....

After Cosby’s speech, a number of my friends and relatives, some of whom were in attendance, some of whom heard about the furor afterwards, expressed dismay at the statements — but several were more horrified that he had gone public, not at the opinions themselves.

What’s really needed isn’t a black civil war or more uncivil speech. The real problem may not be that blacks and whites are having separate conversations — that’s been true for 400 years — it’s that comments such as the ones Cosby made could be used as bricks for different groups of blacks to wall themselves off from each other.

No Brother, class-segregated dialogue is as played as race-segregated dialogue. And you're living in (pardon the phrase) the Dark Ages. If you are worried about breaking down walls, don't decide who can talk about what, based on their class or race.

Cosby gives it back to Farley (not for the first time either) in this recent press release.

Mr. Farley made it sound as if I had divulged some secret about which no one knew. But where is the secret? The secret walks and it talks. From the hallways of the school to the street to the corner store and onto to public transportation, the dirty laundry is out there."

"Walk with the dirty laundry one day. Walk through high school hallways and listen to the dirty laundry talk. MF! F! N! And, of course, that famous university, FU! All these words are spoken with the same ease as 'pass the salt.'"

"Walk with the dirty laundry outside the high school and onto the sidewalk. Don't walk fast. In fact, just stand across the street and listen to the language. Get your pad and pencil and jot down what you hear. Count the number of times various expressions of profanity are used. When you get tired of keeping track, just stop and make up a number. Oh, yes. And notice the attitude, the violence, the grabbing of young ladies. Can you hear them calling each other names or does the Boom Box drown out their voices? If you can't hear them, use your eyes. What is the relationship between male and female, male and male, female and female? Is there anger there? Do you see it?"

"Walk with the dirty laundry to the corner store where it picks up a soft drink and a bag of chips. What is the dirty laundry saying in the store? Is it cursing? Is it pushing people?"

"Ride with the dirty laundry on public transportation. Pay no attention to the people sharing a bus or subway with the dirty laundry. Obviously these people haven't heard a thing. Nor have they seen anything. Nor have they wondered why. These frightened people don't exist. The secret is safe with them."

UPDATE: Excellent op-ed in today's Seattle Times on the Cosby furor, by Oscar Eason, Jr., head of the NAACP State Conference (covering Oregon, Washington and Alaska).

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack



The Wrong Medicine

Some bed-and-breakfasts offer a snifter of sherry in early evening, or port in front of the fireplace before bed. Nice touch. Seaton House hostel in downtown Toronto goes them one better: one glass of wine per hour from 8:30 a.m. to 11:45 p.m.

One catch, though. You've got to be a chronic street drunk to qualify.

Some say it's better than the alternative for these poor guys, namely Listerine, cleaners, rubbing alcohol, solvents or Chinese cooking wine. There's a little pub in the hostel called The Annex and the Fiddle, plus living quarters, and an infirmary funded by the Rotary Club. Staff from a Toronto hospital help out, too.

The hostel's proud to offer the equivalent of a "safe injection site" for clinical inebriates, and residents can stay for years.

Not much to crow about, absent a systemic effort to get these guys get back on their own two feet.

Eh?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 04:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


June 06, 2004

Soul Plane Celebrates Black Identity?

"...we should embrace who we are as a black people," says one defender of the new, and controversial black comedy, "Soul Plane."

Here's some of what he's talking about, according to Greg Braxton's article for the Chicago Tribune.

"Soul Plane's" dominant image in the trailer and advertising is a purple-colored plane equipped with hydraulics that allow it to bounce like a lowrider. NWA Airlines is headquartered at Malcolm X Terminal, which is also home to a "99 cent" store and a basketball court.

Passengers in "low class" snack on fried chicken and sip malt liquor out of 40-ounce bottles. There's a dance club and a craps table on board. Several of the boarders are sex-crazed, including one excited couple who take the "mile-high" club to new heights inside -- and outside -- the plane.

The "pilot" (rapper Snoop Dogg) hired at the last minute has no idea how to fly a plane but has no trouble getting "high" in the cockpit. The "N-word" is sprinkled liberally throughout the film.

.....Tom Arnold plays one of the few white characters -- a bumbling vacationer named Elvis Hunkee whose young girlfriend, Barbara (Missi Pyle), becomes attracted to a black male passenger who brags about his anatomical gifts.

OK, black identity checklist. Cruisin'? Check. Hoops? Check. Poverty? Check. Fried chicken? Check. Swillin' 40s? Check. Dancin'? Check. Gamblin'? Check. Schtuppin'? (A Yiddish word, you'll have to excuse me). Check.

Yeah, that about covers it.

Despite the obvious, over-the-top nature of the parody, many folks aren't amused. Here's one.

Actress Anne-Marie Johnson, the national chairwoman of the equal employment opportunity branch of the Screen Actors Guild, said the filmmakers and cast have no respect for the "scars `Soul Plane' leaves on the culture. It's all about the `right now.'"

Johnson, who starred in the 1987 comedy "Hollywood Shuffle," which makes fun of black stereotypes in Hollywood, added: "Nothing has changed since `Hollywood Shuffle.' In fact, it's gotten worse."

Read this earlier Rosenblog post on "Soul Plane." Especially the comments from Larry Evans in the body of the piece.

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Amish Summer Camp For These Young "Ladies"

Dead-on ruminations from Seattle Times NEXTopia blogger Sharon Altaras, about the sleazy T-shirts all too many tween and teen girls are wearing these days.

I can’t believe what I’ve been seeing lately. A girl who couldn't have been any older than 12 was shopping near me, with her mom, wearing a T-shirt that read: “My boyfriend thinks he’s the first.” (Isn’t he?)

Then down the aisle I went in the “juniors” section, pulling apart racks and racks of mostly pink tees that read: “Boyfriends make good pets,” “Hurry up and kiss me before my boyfriend comes back,” “I’m in love with my boyfriend’s best friend,” and so on.

Personally, I can’t wait for a shirt to come out that says: “I’m in love with my boyfriend’s dad.” Then we’ll really be pushing buttons.

Kudos to Altaras for questioning something that begs closer scrutiny. WHAT are these parents thinking? (Answer: they're NOT thinking).

My own daughter is only 4 right now. But I gah-ron-tee, she'll never be wearing any such stuff while she lives in my house. After that, it's judgement time (her judgement).

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June 05, 2004

World Peace in One Year, Or Less

Do let's hear it for the bubble lady of Berkeley, and Gary Golightly, the bubble man of Seattle.

Our family met Gary a few years ago at Seattle's Greenlake park. His customized purple van was blaring oldies in the parking lot. His goatee was tinged purple. He had his photo album handy, including shots of his 60-foot bubbles (blown through a toilet seat) amidst the minarets of Moscow.

I daresay I grokked his aura.

Gary Golightly mentioned he had recently worked a divorce party, north of Seattle in Marysville, where the ex-spouses split eveything down the middle, including the silverware.

Literally down the middle.

What exactly you would do with half a spoon, I'm not quite sure. But apparently it was the symbolism that mattered, not the functionality.

It was not immediately clear whether United Nations negotiators had been involved in the settlement.

At any rate, Gary Golightly told me that the key to world peace, in his view, had much to do with bubbles. They make everyone stop and smile.

Perhaps he was right, and we are all missing something here. Could Raytheon, Rockwell and Boeing possibly be awarded contracts for the manufacture and global deployment of mammoth bubble-ators? Could the work be directed to a Haliburton spin-off, instead? Wouldn't faze me.

What position would Kerry and Bush take on such a bold initiative? Or is the proposed plank in the Washington State Democratic Party's platform, calling for a federal Department of Peace, preferable?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


June 04, 2004

Recall Bernie Sanders

Give it up, people, for Bernie Sanders. He's the former socialist mayor of beautiful and painfully progressive Burlington, Vermont, who got elected U.S. Rep. Only in the land of Howard Dean. But now, Sanders is speaking in tongues - and playing footsie with.....Wal-Mart.

Yep, the old Lefty icon is aiding and abetting the insidious, anti-labor, anti-American, anti-Main Street, anti-preservationist, pro-rape-and-pillage corporate hegemon in their efforts to get a store built and running smoothly in St. Albans, Vermont. He's aided efforts to appropriate $1.2 million in federal funds for a Wal-Mart-related road improvement there.

And the Burlington Free Press is good and pissed.

Or would that be, pissy?

Here's what to do, guys. No more Ben and Jerry's Karma Sutra, or Chunky Monkey, for Bad Red Bernie.

Um, wait a minute. Vermont icon B&Js is now owned by a multi-national conglomerate.

So never mind - feed Bernie's face. But would everybody please go buy some lavender soap and boutique honey at the Bennington Farmers Market, soon?

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All The News That's Not Fit to Print

Resolving Palestine-Israel and Iraq should be no barrier to progress on already-pressing human rights and democratic abuses in the Middle East. And the travesty in Bahrain - not to mention that at the hands of extremist Muslims in North Africa (Sudan) - are grievously ignored by Arab leaders and most global observers when taking accounts.

Sharing his expertise on this and more in "The Dismal Prospects for Indigenous Arab Reform" is Cairo-based freelance commentator Kamel Labidi. His op-ed appears in tommorow's Daily Star (Lebanon).

The Daily Star, BTW, is the most independent and credible Mid-East daily newspaper around. This is evident mainly in their opinion section, which is linked in the Rosenblogroll for your daily edification, and mine.

Here's a big chunk of Labidi's essential and damning screed. It's important reading. Start here (if you wish), but read the whole thing.

.....the most scathing reactions to the Tunis Declaration and to two other summit documents (on reform and on solidarity and cooperation between Arab states) came from Arab human rights groups....(which) accused Arab rulers of preparing the ground for more outside pressure for reform by turning their backs on domestic Arab reform and by continuing to tighten the screws on civil society in the region.
And.
Other groups accused the Arab leaders of delaying the pace of reform by linking it to the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and to the situation in Iraq. "It is as if the (ed: difficulties with) liberation of Palestine and Iraq necessitated the continuation of corruption, torture and despotism, undermining democracy, the rule of law and human rights in the Arab world," said a group of NGOs from different Arab countries, including Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Tunisia.

More, from Labidi's Daily Star op-ed. Because it matters.

They added that the Arab summit issued statements aimed at "deluding Arab public opinion and the international community" and that it had become clear that reform should be undertaken by Arab civil society, "particularly political parties, syndicates and human rights groups, regardless of the rhetorical promises of Arab governments."

....The most tragic abuse of human rights is still continuing in Darfur, in western Sudan, where thousands of people have been killed or turned into refugees by armed nomadic groups, the so-called Janjaweed, backed by the Sudanese military government. The Arab states did condemn the abuses, but they offered no real means to put an end to the violence.

Hello, Mother Jones, and The Nation.

In other Arab countries, independent journalists have also been harassed and jailed in recent weeks and attempts by Arab governments to pass restrictive legislation in different fields, including the media, have continued unabated. ....the Bahraini government, which loosened its grip over civil society more than three years ago, has during the past weeks introduced a campaign aimed at silencing pro-democracy activists and those denouncing the use of torture by the kingdom's authorities. The Syrian government has also recently cracked down on human rights defenders, including Aktham Naissa, the head of the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria.

What's up with that?

The arbitrary arrest of Naissa and other jailed human rights defenders are believed to have been prompted by their participation in a campaign to end the state of emergency which has been in force for more than four decades, and by their reporting on human rights violations against Syrian Kurds in March and April.

Hi, ZNet.

All over the Middle East, attacks have increased against freedom of expression and association and the independence of the judiciary. So too has torture perpetrated by Arab governments, a development that has not gotten much attention, even as Arab eyes were focused on the abuse committed by US soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The scandal there, unfortunately, made Arab rulers appear "normal." But that will not be enough to convince the Arab publics that things are going well in their societies. And the expectations are that the G8 summit (in Sea Island, Georgia) next week will merely reaffirm this evident proposition.

ROSENBLOG SEZ: Where is the U.S. print media on all this (Arab human rights, recent news in Bahrain, Sudan)? The odd squib here and there. The token, heart-warming local feature on the brave and truly heroic Lost Boys of Sudan. The very occasional page A13 update on ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Sudan, or Sudan civil war peace negotiations.

But overall, basically heedless. Why? Because when brown- or black-skinned people are being oppressed by other brown- or black-skinned people, that's not news. Whites have to be the heavies for the story to get traction. We badly need people who are less schooled in "isms" - and more schooled in fair play - running our nation's newsrooms.

I don't see it happening soon. Or ever. Viva la blogosphere.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack



The Gore Idea Factory

I know Al Gore's glad that - as he told told Wolf Blitzer on CNN - he "took the initiative in creating the Internet." Here's one of Al's favorite sites.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack



Maybe THIS is Racism

Lorna, with a report from the trenches.

For the last coupla years I've been volunteering in a class where the Ks go on to lst grade but with the same teacher. The African-American boy in this class has been a huge problem. He knows he can get away with a lot and deliberately causes disruptions. Yesteday he kept standing at his desk when the teacher was giving instructions. Next to him, a girl also decided to stand, seeing he was getting away with it. Right away, the teacher pounced on her and said how rude it was and to sit down. So she did. But this kid still stood there without being reprimanded and I thought it was very unfair.

Later on, after the class left for recess, she told me that if she comes down hard on him she loses what little rapport they have and he's even more obnoxious the rest of the day. He's about to go into 2nd grade (lucky 2nd grade teacher!) but is at an academic level of maybe mid-kindergarten. So look what he's getting away with, and this will only escalate as he gets older.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:50 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack



Your Brain is Here, Al Gore

Early yesterday morning a meteor hurtled from the heavens, down into Greater Seattle. It lit the skies bright as day, shook walls and windows, and smashed into small pieces.

I've got three theories:

1) The Almighty is displeased with the achingly liberal politics of Western Washington, which if perpetrated on a more systemic basis would lead to the downfall of mankind.

2) Al Qaeda did it: Bush and Ridge need to spend more on Homeland security.

3) It was Al Gore's brain, arriving just in time for his big speech in Tacoma tonight.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:25 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


June 03, 2004

Spelling: A Social Menace

Life's just too damn hard. Birth, school, work, taxes, death. And spelling. "Spelling reformers" belonging to the American Literacy Society protested yesterday outside the 77th annual national spelling bee. They argue that convoluted spellings contribute to dyslexia, illiteracy, unemployment and incarceration. They carried signs reading "Spelling shuud be lojical," and "Spell different difren."

Thay hv uh guh poyn. Aftral, solongzwe kenunstan chutha, s'probm?


We are more than just Social Studies. You can find
English Lesson Plans and Phonics Lesson Plans here.
You'll also be able to find Reading Curriculum and
Writing Curriculum for home schooling needs
at SocialStudiesHelp.com

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:22 AM | Comments (29) | TrackBack



UFO Sighted Today in West Seattle

After dropping off Number One Offspring at school today, I saw a glorious sight, considering I live in the belly of the liberal beast - Seattle.

A snazzy Honda two-seater sports car with two forty-ish women AND a small, circular "W 04" sign dangling inside the rear window. At a stoplight I gave a thumbs up, and asked the driver if her Bush sign had prompted any unusual reactions. She replied yes, her car had been intentionally scratched.

I've heard of some other, far worse local reactions to Bush signs in front of people's homes, or Bush lapel buttons. Which is of a piece with the obsesssive, deeply personalized anti-Bush rantings of some critics.

The unhinged Left may be W's secret weapon. Along with the flailing, irrelevant John Kerry, of course.

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"Bill Cosby and the Blogosphere"

I've got a piece in today's National Review Online, titled, "Bill Cosby and the Blogosphere." While you're at it, check out the rest of NRO, one of the leading conservative e-zines.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:26 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack


June 02, 2004

UN Fiddles, America Yawns as Congo Smolders

More cracks in the Congo peace agreement, as U.N. "peacekeepers" idly stand by. This BBC report reminds why the U.N. probably can't be trusted to do a damn thing on the ground in Iraq.

Dissident soldiers have taken control of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo town of Bukavu after a week of fighting with regular army troops...the army has withdrawn from Bukavu, which is now calm except for looting...1,000 United Nations troops around Bukavu have not intervened to prevent the rebel advance.

...In the capital, Kinshasa, hundreds of people rioted in protest at the UN's failure to defend Bukavu from the rebels. Demonstrators gathered outside the UN's headquarters and threw stones at UN vehicles, setting one on fire....The fighting came just hours after UN peacekeepers said a rebel ceasefire declared on Monday appeared to be holding in the area.

In another BBC piece on eastern Congo, correspondent Fergal Keane observes:

This was Bunia - our destination, its streets busy in the sunlight.

Coming in to land we could see the tents of the UN troops, their white armoured vehicles, the barbed wire encircling the airport perimeter. Blue helmets, white vehicles, the green hills of Central Africa. For one jolting moment I was carried back to another place, a central African nation where I had watched the UN fail to halt genocide.

Rwanda. Over the next few days the echoes of that other tragedy would follow wherever we went.

The UN compound in Bunia is encircled by razor wire and guarded by Uruguayan troops. They looked tired, dusty and uncomfortable. There were Bangladeshis too, and Pakistanis and there are Nepalese on the way. The armies of the world's poorest countries, just as was the case in Rwanda.

..let us be clear...Congo is a tragedy the developed world has done its best to ignore. Four million people have died from massacre, famine, disease. Four million in just five years. In that period the armies of no fewer than seven African countries have fought here. They did not fight for the good of the Congolese but as part of a latter day scramble for Africa, a war for the country's rich resources of diamonds, gold and minerals.

Meanwhile America obsesses over reality TV, sports, celebrity romance and - for a dash of social conscience - Abu Ghraib, and "racial profiling."

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It's The Culture, Stupid

When black teens shoot each other dead or wounded in the inner city over some perceived slight or rivalry, it might easily get just an inch or two on page B5. Likewise, if a few guns are confiscated from a student at a ghetto school, life goes on without a hiccup.

But if a kid brings a gun to predominantly white suburban high school, it's big news. Perhaps all incidents should be taken so seriously. The latest such furor in Puget Sound is over the confiscation of a .38 from a student's backpack at Islander Middle School in the upscale Seattle suburb of Mercer Island.

There were reports of other students with guns, too. The school was closed for a week, as the community tried to sort things out. The King County Journal reports that last night, at a public meeting, a local police detective who interveiwed two dozen students from the school said extreme hazing hasn't been a factor.

Small, accumulated slights were the cause in almost every instance where a student was reported to have brought a gun to school, he told parents.

Which would raise a couple of questions.

One, why would any parents or guardian anywhere make it easy for kids to appropriate their guns? There's nothing wrong with responsible, legal firearms ownership. Sounds like some Mercer Island adults need a basic gun safety class. And gun locks, available from local police.

Two, it's far easier to throw our hands up in the air, but do we really want to sidestep why kids brandish - and perhaps use - guns after tiffs with other kids? Popular entertainment and culture play a huge role in trivializing violence: movies, rap music, videos, video games, and especially computer games. (Yes, insert the word "some" in front of each of those, fine).

I still cringe whenever I see a kid with a toy gun. I'd much rather see a kid at the firing range with his mom or dad, learning respect for firearms. Or in an NRA-sponsored "Eddie Eagle" gun safety class.

Mercer Island news tip via Charlie Hoff.

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June 01, 2004

Lose Big Tobacco Sponsors, Black Groups Urged

It's your choice - and mine - whether or not to smoke cigarettes. But that doesn't mean advocacy groups and other non-profits shouldn't urge smokers to quit, and kids to never start.

The San Francisco African American Tobacco Free Project wants to get local and national black organizations to stop taking charitable donations from tobacco companies because their

....products are the No. 1 killer of African Americans. Smoking-related diseases kill an estimated 45,000 African Americans a year. But since the 1960s, cigarette manufacturers have worked to endear themselves to the black community by underwriting groups like the United Negro College Fund and the National Urban League.

....the effort to wean these groups from tobacco money has proven difficult because funds from the companies support a wide array of programs, ranging from children's education to job training.

Cigarette-makers have focused on inner city populations, sponsoring community groups and their activities in a cynical attempt to legitimize their products and as a defense against anti-tobacco forces, said project spokeswoman Carol McGruder.

....a number of local groups chose not to join the effort because of concern they could lose funding or upset their parent organizations.

Tobacco companies defend their practices.

'Whatever donations we make or contributions we do is in light of the fact that we have consumers in those communities,' said Brown & Williamson spokesman Mark Smith.

That they do.

...McGruder said Brown & Williamson is guilty of marketing flavored cigarettes sporting names such as Mocha Taboo and Caribbean Chill, directly at young blacks.

She and other critics say the company promotes its product using rappers, dancers, DJs and MCs associated with hip-hop culture.

The Urban League and The United Negro College Fund are hardly the only groups facing dilemmas posed by coporate underwriting, but ought to show some backbone here. We all need a push sometimes, to exercise our free will intelligently. The intense marketing of cigarettes to blacks will continue, and the silence of leading black organizations about the ills of smoking should not be negotiable.

Via Americans Against Discrimination and Preferences.

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Padilla and Al Qaeda in High-Rise Explosion Plot

The Smoking Gun has the de-classified federal report on enemy combatant Jose Padilla, based on interrogations of what SG calls the "American Terrorist" and other Al Qaeda operatives.

Seems Padilla was plotting with Al Qaeda to blow up NYC apartment buildings by renting two adjacent apartments, sealing all the cracks, and filling them with piped-in natural gas. He was also, as previously reported, seeking to deploy uranium-coated explosives, or a "dirty bomb."

Padilla downplays the connection with al Qaeda, as noted in a footnote to the report.

Yeah, all those trips, meetings, training. Afghanistan, Pakistan. It was probably all about how to brew a good pot of mint tea.

The time has come to press charges, while keeping Padilla in custody.

Meanwhile, Padilla's legal challenge to the U.S.'s "enemy combatant" detention-without-charges policy is to be decided by the Supreme Court as soon as the end of June.

Nice for a dirtbag like him he can challenge the President's powers in our land's highest court; and then have thousands of journalists and the ACLU rooting for his acquital if he does face trial.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack