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October 31, 2004

How I Voted, And Why

I've sent in my absentee ballot. Here's how I voted, in some of the higher-profile contests.

President: Bush. The best defense against terrorism is a good offense. Kerry's worries about what's called "world opinion" are code for a gelded America beset with crippling self-analysis, of the sort that has tortured Kerry his entire adult life. Kerry is the wrong candidate, with the wrong approach, at the wrong time. Bush is a leader; Kerry a skittish follower.

U.S. Senate, WA. Spokane Congressman George Nethercutt, R., who took out House speaker Tom Foley several moons ago, is my pick, not incumbent D Patty Murray. Nethercutt strongly backs President Bush on Iraq, and on aggressively fighting terrorism, while Murray makes excuses for Osama bin Laden's popularity among Islamic terrorist sympathizers. Case closed!

R-55. YES, to keep a new WA state law passed last spring, which allows an exceedingly modest experiment with charter schools. These are PUBLIC charters: the money follows the child. Don't buy the flimsy lie from the teachers union that this measure "takes" money from public schools. It takes money from the teachers union, because charter teachers quite reasonably can't unionize for several years at the outset. The horror!

WA Gov. Republican Dino Rossi, for change. Career politician and bureaucrat Christine Gregoire is a go-along-to-get-along insider, a keening careerist who should be forcibly retired from public life. Realtor and former State Senate Ways and Means Committee chair Dino will breathe some life into Olympia's moribund, union-dominated bureaucracy. Additionally, he supports charter schools; while Gregoire, in thrall to the state teachers union, does not.

WA Supt. of Public Instruction, non-partisan. Re-elect incumbent Terry Bergeson. Not because I was state media coordinator for her campaign when she won office in '96, but because she wants to stay the course on state student assessment tests and ed reform, and supports charter schools. Her opponent, former SPI Judith Billings, is aligned with the state teachers union against charter schools, and also seeks to weaken student assessment tests key to ed reform.

I-884. Raises WA state sales tax to spend more money on public schools. Some goes for colleges and universities, which I have less of a problem with than K-12. In Seattle, K-12 public schools, are on balance, and sadly, a rathole of political correctness, low expectations, and unaccountability. The core plea on I-884 is for higher teacher salaries and smaller class sizes. My plea is for more parental choice in public education, which the teachers union is fighting tooth and nail by urging voters to rescind WA's new charter school law with a "No" on R-55 (see above). NO on I-884.

I-872. YES, vote for the person, not the party. Top two finishers in WA primaries would advance to the general election regardless of party. Addresses the court excission of WA's long-standing "blanket primary," which had allowed voters to pick favorites in various races regardless of party. That was replaced with a new strait-jacket system that debuted this Sept., requiring primary voters to declare a party and vote only for candidates of that party in the primaries. Dumb, de dumb, dumb.

I-892. YES. Why should WA Indian reservations have a legislated monopoly on slot machines? Make it easier for fools and their money to be parted, and cut taxes a bit with the extra loot, as provided for by I-892. The issue is hardly "the spread of gambling facilities," as opponents claim. There are already numerous casinos and other gaming-friendly venues off the reservations, in suburban Seattle. If Indian casinos can have electronic slots, it's ethically suspect to bar them at other facilities.

I-83. NO on recalling the planned 14-mile Seattle monorail Green Line. It has already been approved by voters, and upon completion, will comprise one valuable part of a still-evolving, multi-jurisdictional urban mass transit system. Public policy utopians bridle at that last phrase. Silly - that's just how it goes most places. Moreover, Seattle's buses too often run late, don't show at all, or get stuck in traffic. "Bus rapid transit" is a pipe dream. The Green Line is funded and nearing the beginning of construction. Monorail opponents are sore losers with their heads in the sand, bankrolled by monied downtown property owners with a bad case of NIMBY-itis.

WA State Auditor. Brain Sonntag, Democrat. An outstanding fiscal watchdog who fully deserves re-election.

WA Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, Democrat. Smart, highly capable public servant. A charter member of Democrats for Bush in WA State. Cantankerous independence irritates D party hacks: makes me like him even more.

WA Atty. Gen. Rob McKenna, R. Very bright guy, does his homework as King County Council member. D opponent Deborah Senn missed her true calling as shouting head on cable TV political panel show.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:55 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack


October 30, 2004

The Mainstreaming of Pimps And Whores

Halloween means kids, grown-ups and even dogs dressed up as pimps and whores (aka "hos"). Plus "Pimp and Ho Balls" in cultured U.S. cities. I've blogged here before about our leisure society's appropriation of sexual slavery imagery. Even alerted the teeming masses to the Mack Daddy ponzi scheme.

But in the end, we're celebrating vileness, such as that of the "Pimp Mullahs of Iran." Although their slaves are doubtless less gaudily costumed than little Tiffany and her clueless mom, out and about this weekend in their matching, skanky "Ho" togs.

Some folks aren't terribly amused at pimp 'n ho outfits.

...law-enforcement officials and social workers, particularly those whose job it is to arrest real pimps and in many cases actually rescue women and girls from prostitution, find it appalling.

"I don't think any of this is funny at all," said Lois Lee, president and founder of Children of the Night, a Van Nuys, Calif.-based nonprofit that rescues children from prostitution. "What these guys do is not funny at all. There's nothing hip or funny about torturing children, and that's what they do."

Sgt. Joe Delia of the Maryland Heights, Mo., Police Department said he, too, is irked by playful references to pimps and prostitutes.

"When I hear of these pimps and whores balls," he said, "I think it's just ignorance. They don't understand the issue here. Would people find it offensive if they were having slavery parties? Because it's the same thing."

Yeah, how about it? Master and slave outfits, anybody? Gestapo officer and Buchenwald captive? Scarved jihadist and imminent decapitee? The possibilities are myriad. Who's to say what envelope gets pushed?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


October 29, 2004

Gambling on Bush

Who's betting on W? Let's start with British online "punters," as they're known.

OF COURSE, given the legal wrangling likely if the margin of a Bush victory is anything less than smashing, there's every reason to keep pushing hard, harder, hardest.

So perhaps we should take with a grain of salt the dish from Silicon.com.

George W Bush is heading for a surprise landslide victory in next week's US Presidential elections, if online betting patterns are to be believed. Although US opinion polls are still finding it hard to separate Bush from his Democratic Party challenger John Kerry, punters using online betting exchange Betfair have overwhelmingly backed Dubya. Betfair's latest figures show 2.3m has been wagered on Bush, putting him on 60 per cent, while Kerry has attracted only 680,000 of bets. Bush has been backed down to 1/5 to stay in office while punters can still get odds of 2/1 on Kerry to win.

Betfair claims its betting patterns are a more accurate indication of election results than the opinion polls, having correctly predicted Australia's prime minister John Howard to secure a surprise comfortable victory in last month's general election.

Mark Davies, director of communications at Betfair, said opinion polls only canvas a small percentage of the population who have no real incentive to provide accurate information.

"In contrast, Betfair's prices are based on people who are prepared to put their money where their mouth is," he said in a statement. "Our figures have proved to be an amazingly accurate indicator at both the Australian general election last month and the California Governor's election last year. As a result, we're sure George Bush will be pleased to hear that Betfair's sharp-minded punters are backing him to the hilt."

If that sounds a bit naff, try this. The prominent investment research company, Morningstar, has surveyed European fund management firms, and 69 percent of respondents say they expect Bush to be re-elected, though a majority personally prefer Kerry.

Undecided voters in the U.S. will go with their guts, emphasizing leadership, according to this piece in the Allentown, PA Morning Call. And that could break in Bush's favor.

''Leadership is especially important for weak-leaning voters not attached to a party. It's a critical element of their choice,'' said G. Terry Madonna, professor of public affairs at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster and director of the school's Center for Politics and Political Affairs.

...In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, 56 percent of those who responded said Bush ''acts more like a leader'' and 38 percent said Kerry acts more like a leader.

''I think President Bush is a strong leader, strong and firm,'' said Hilltown Township Republican Jackie Walker, who is undecided. ''But I don't always feel he's made good decisions.''

...The reason Bush is seen as such a strong leader, she said, even among those who don't always agree with his decisions, is simple: He stays on his message and people know what he stands for.

Precisely. Most of all, Bush stands for aggressively pursuing terrorists, and staying the course in Iraq. Whereas Kerry stands for glomming on to every last "gotcha" headline he can in the home stretch; and for kowtowing to "world opinion" while Islamic Jihadists plot deadly attacks on American schools, office buildings, malls, and our transportation infrastructure.

Kerry is a cipher, a man with no moral center. Bush is a man of conviction and courage. The choice is clear.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


October 28, 2004

The Ghost of Lieutenant Son

With our national referendum on the Iraq War and President George W. Bush's leadership only days away, I want to share some 1961 reportage from South Vietnam by the famous CBS-TV newsman, the late Charles Kuralt, that I find deeply moving. It is about South Vietnam, the South Vietnamese, and the moral imperative of freedom. It is from his excellent 1990 book, "A Life On the Road."

First, read this post by a 38-year-old Iraqi architectural engineer, Sarmad Faraj, at his blog Road Of A Nation. Heartfelt stuff, so brace yourself. He is talking to the terrorists battling Iraq's new provisional government and the many Iraqis who support it.

Yes, damn you, you sick pathetic people.....What are you trying to do? Killing and killing and murdering and kidnapping destroys families' lives, killing children, and for what?....What you did for us, for Iraqis, you killed more of us than the war did; and what did you win?....Iraq is mine, I will never leave it, we will never give up, we will stand against you, we will do anything we can, we will build, we will learn, we will live, we will dream........We will be the spotlight on your dark life and darkness....we will be the loud voice of reason and thought, we will win.....I will write and write and work and do, I am a new man, I am no longer a slave, I am a true human. That’s what I learned lately, and I will stay this way, am going nowhere, I am here forever, I am here for my country, for my people, for my children's hope, and their right to live and hope.

I am here: come and get me, I am not afraid of you, if I go there are thousands, millions like me, and more. Every day we do something good, you became weaker and weaker; we will chase you until we will get you, every day a rose or a flower opens you lose more and more, every day we go to our work you lose, every day we learn something new you lose....My people, keep on doing good work, you are, all together, the hope of this new land, the land of freedom and free people and peace. You are the hope of the next generations, you are the future, the future which we never dreamed of...

Whew! Can we get this guy on "60 Minutes" this Sunday? How about it, Danny-Boy?

Sarmad's cry is why we must not retreat in fear from an unstable Iraq, as John Kerry would if he defeats Bush. We already made that mistake once, in Vietnam, a withdrawal that the most famous Vietnam Veteran Against The War, Kerry, energetically supported, while he condemned American soldiers as war criminals and later offered counsel to the North Vietnamese Communists who robbed the South Vietnam of its independence.

And the South Vietnamese, so many of whom fled to America when we abondoned their country - to land in Orange County, New York, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago and Seattle - still yearn for a free homeland, as many Iraqis in volatile post-Saddam Iraq do today. Kuralt captured a lot that's worth our attention right now, in the 7-page chapter titled "Lieutenant Son," from "A Life On The Road" (Putnam, 1990).

Kuralt writes: "I found Saigon the most seductive of cities. The war in the countryside had not yet had any effect on the capital. All the people I met, teachers, newspapermen, waiters and cabdrivers, were friendly and considerate. The women were beautiful, I thought, gliding along in their diaphonous constumes, and the spring weather was lovely, and the sidewalk cafes delightful. I walked along the tree-shaded avenues during the day and, lying in bed under the lazy ceiling fan in my room at the old Majestic Hotel, listened to the sounds of the river traffic at night...This is worth defending, I thought. If this sunny, beguiling city ever falls to the communists and becomes grey and regimented, there just isn't any hope for civilization."

Kuralt soon got his chance to accompany a South Vietnamese unit into battle, one led by "Lieutenant Son, a neatly turned out young Ranger officer...young as he was, Lieutenant Son turned out to be a veteran of warfare....'we want a free country,' he said. 'My family did not fight the French in order to be ruled by Ho Chi Minh. So now we fight on. You will find many like me in the Rangers.'"

The next day, deep in the countryside, Lieutenant Son's Ranger unit was ambushed by the Viet Cong. Kuralt writes, "Lieutenant Son had taken a bullet in the arm, but he was still in action, kneeling on the ground beside his radio operator, cranking the handle of the magneto-operated radio, trying to call battalion headquarters for reinforcements...But it was useless. No answer came. We were out of radio range.

"Then the radio operator, a kid no more than 17 or 18, performed the most astounding act of courage I have ever seen. Without a word, he reached into his pack, found a coil of wire and attached one end of it to the radio antenna. He ran to a tree, uncoiling the wire as he ran. Holding the other end of the wire in his mouth, he climbed the tree with bullets whizzing around him, tied the wire to a high branch, shinnied back down the tree and made it back to his radio unscratched. He cranked the handle furiously. Lieutenant Son, lying beside the radio, spoke into the microphone, reached battalion headquarters and started reading coordinates from a map....'Stay down,' he said...to me. 'It's okay. They send the paratroopers.'"

Several men in Son's unit had been killed, others wounded. Kuralt writes, "Son was up and walking around the clearing now, encouraging his surviving soldiers....a single shot was fired from the woods. It hit Son's helmet in the back center and exited the front. He pitched forward into me and fell to the ground....I was never able to get Son out of my mind. Through all the years of the Vietnam War, I thought of him. I returned to Vietnam several times, went out into the countryside with troops again - they were American troops by then - and was present when other good men were killed in jungle clearings.

"As the war dragged on inconclusively and American casualties mounted, it became the fashion in the United States to say that the American boys were dying for nothing. All my friends agreed it was an immoral war, imperialist America against 'the Vietnamese people.'

"I never thought so. The Vietnamese people I met wanted nothing to do with warfare. They wanted to be left alone to live peacefully. But they weren't being left alone. They were being invaded by an army from the North, sent by a government they hated. I thought of Son, who wanted so much for Vietnam to be free that he was was willing to go on fighting for the idea long after his fighting days should have been over...The (South Vietnamese) who lived through it - not many of the Rangers did - have presumably been 're-educated' now. Lovely, languid Saigon has become Ho Chi Minh City...In America, most people don't remember the war very well or take into account any longer the wishes of the 'Vietnamese people.'"

Would that there had been the Internet then, and blogs by the South Vietnamese. Would that Bush I and Powell had had the nerve to finish off Saddam in Gulf War I, or Clinton the political courage to act on his stated - and ostensibly grave - worries about Saddam.

Thanks, Mr. Kuralt. And God Bless our troops, The Iraqi people, and President Bush.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


October 26, 2004

Tall In The Saddle: Got a Problem With That?

If John Kerry beats George Bush (and it is certainly possible), I don't think it will be because of the Kerry campaign's flailing quest for more and more "gotcha" news revelations, something certain to continue right down to the wire. No, it will be - as somebody somewhere recently wrote - because we have decided to become a more timid and self-doubting nation. And if the electorate so chooses, so be it. What goes around will come around, although at a far greater cost than if we stay the current course in Iraq.

Meanwhile, I get a kick out of George and say, Right On, Sir, to his remarks earlier today in rural Wisconsin. The NYT (free reg. req.). reports, you decide. Here's Bush, pitching Ds:

"The party of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and John Kennedy is rightly remembered for confidence and resolve in times of war and hours of crisis," Mr. Bush said in Onalaska, just outside La Crosse, as he embarked on a day of farm visits and a celebration of small-business owners who have thrived in the last three years. Arguing that Senator John Kerry has "turned his back" on that tradition, he told them that "many Democrats in this country do not recognize their own party."

"Today I want to speak to every one of them," Mr. Bush said in a state known for its populist traditions, and where the votes of independents and conservative Democrats seem likely to determine whether he can win a state that he barely lost four years ago. "If you believe America should lead with strength and purpose and confidence and resolve, I'd be honored to have your support and I'm asking for your vote."

....At each stop, Mr. Bush looked energetic and almost ebullient, playfully joking with crowds that sometimes seemed larger than his margin of defeat - 5,708 - four years ago. He spent 15 minutes at the dairy farm of John and Connie Turgasen in tiny Viola greeting four generations that have worked the same farm - the endangered species he says his tax policies will benefit.

"Another reason to get rid of the death tax," Mr. Bush said, according to the report of a small pool of reporters who had to evade both a cow that was not expecting so many visitors and ice balls thrown by Karl Rove, the president's chief political strategist.

Love that last part. May as well be honest about your feelings, Karl. Can you imagine a Kerry staffer having the nerve? And the pic of George going mano-a-mano with a baby (in the linked-to NYT story above) is priceless. If Bush wins, it'll be in large part because we've decided we're not gonna get all chickens*** about Iraq, AND because he's what my people call a "mensch," despite his upbringing and the favors he's admittedly been cut, over the years.

Kerry's persona, in contrast, is that of a stiff, starched-shirt patrician, ill at ease in his own skin and ever casting about for a borrowed identity.

Nice to know how Democrats really feel. At the organic grocery where I shop in West Seattle, I saw a car recently with a Howard Dean bumper sticker; a Wesley Clark bumper sticker; and then, a Kerry sticker. Sure, why not advertise that he's your third choice?

In front of my neighborhood coffee shop, this, on the back of car: "On Nov. 2, it's time to throw George W. Bush under the bus." Classy bunch, those Kerry-ites. Too bad their bop-bag won't bounce back.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:38 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack



Book: Republicans Killed Wellstone

And here you probably thought that the tragic death of U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) in a 2002 small aircraft crash was, well, an accident.

Nope, two professors explain it all in a new book: "American Assassination: The Strange Death of Senator Paul Wellstone." It actually looks to be a "GOP conspiracy", and Dick Cheney just might be in the in the middle of it all. They want a Senate investigation.

Seems this Lefty Wingnut outburst - of a piece with the vile Bush hatred being peddled by more "mainstream" Dems - is being kept at arms length by the media. Despite the release of the book last week, and a Washington, D.C. presentation yesterday (the second anniversary of Wellstone's death) at the National Press Club by the authors (professors James Fetzer and Don Trent Jacobs, aka "Four Arrows"), media coverage has been scant. As of 10:00 a.m. PST today, a Google News search for "James Fetzer," the lead author, turned up reports only from today's Minneapolis Star-Tribune (free reg. req.), and the illustrious site, onlypunjab.com.

Strange. Or not? If university professors, with a new book detailing their case, held a DC event eight days before the Presidential election, to suggest something equally spurious about, say John Kerry or his party, you can bet the mainstream media debunkers would be all over it. But Nooo, this is just to embarrassing to acknowledge, so it gets ignored. Consider these choice nuggets, via the book's publisher, that onlypunjab.com (link above) just couldn't resist:

Two years ago, all eyes were on the Senate race of Senator Paul Wellstone. In the wake of the defection of Jim Jeffords, the White House hand-picked Norm Coleman to attempt to unseat the populist Wellstone. But Coleman still trailed Wellstone late in the campaign. On October 11th, Wellstone voted against the President’s war on Iraq, despite a dire personal warning of "severe ramifications" from Vice President Cheney.

As the result of his vote, Wellstone’s popularity soared. Then tragedy struck. Just ten days before his probable re-election, Senator Wellstone was killed in the mysterious crash of his small aircraft. On October 25, 2002, the American people suffered the loss of a leader for peace and justice. Some folks harbored suspicions. And some remember how the media blamed the weather.

After two years of research, James Fetzer, Ph.D. and Don "Four Arrows" Jacobs, Ph.D., prove that the weather did not kill Senator Wellstone. Nor were the two pilots incompetent, as the final report of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) claimed. With impeccable logic, these two highly-lauded university professors ask the hard questions: Why the mysterious cessation of communication from the airplane right before the crash? Why did a passer-by experience cell phone interference at the exact time the pilots lost control? How did the FBI arrive at the crash scene, only an hour or so after the first responders, and eight hours before the NTSB?

At the time of Senator Wellstone’s death, 69% of Minnesotans polled said they had a hunch a "GOP Conspiracy" was at play. Now, a new book makes the case that the common people were right all along.

Yep. Michael Moore's got nothing on these guys.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


October 25, 2004

Kerry Getting Bushed?

Bush is Truman, Kerry is Dewey, Harvard professor Wiliam J. Stuntz explains, at Tech Central Station. More to chew on - poll-wise: school kids pick Bush; a CNN/Gallup poll puts Bush ahead nationally, and in Florida, while showing rising unfavorables for the clueless bloviatrix and would-be First Lady THK (keep talkin', T). Zogby/Reuters has Bush ahead, too.

Insurance for Bush: Carter and Clinton, on the stump for Kerry.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack



Christine Gregoire: Enemy of Charter Schools & Excellence

The Democratic candidate for Governor of Washington State opposes charter schools. An exceedingly modest proposal for charters in WA was finally approved by the state legislature last spring. The bill is now threatened with reversal in a Nov. 2 ballot initiative backed by the Washington Education Association (WEA), one local leader of which has likened charter school supporters to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

Christine Gregoire, seeking to hold onto the Guv's mansion in Olympia for WA Ds - as incumbent Gary Locke steps down after two terms - is nowhere near as rash as that on the subject, but does proffer up the usual union-endorsed crud that charters are a threat to public education. This despite Locke's own support of charters.

Just one more reason I'm marking my ballot for her GOP opponent, former State Sen. Dino Rossi, who favors charter schools.

Gregoire had this to say recently on charter schools and the state's key NCLB-tied assessment tests known as the WASL, in a debate with Rossi. (Third item down, in this partial debate transcript).

Question: What are your positions on charter schools and the WASL?

Rossi: "The WASL test, it's controversial, but we mustn't lower our standards. We must make sure our standards are high. Should we periodically review the WASL tests? Absolutely. ...

"When it comes to charter schools, it passed this legislative session.

"We've had our children in public school, we've had our children in Catholic school, we've home-schooled. ... One thing I do know is there isn't just one way to teach a child. So having more options as a parent, I think that's a good thing."

Gregoire: "I think we need to ensure every child has access to a great education. So I think we ought to take our money and creativity and innovation and invest every taxpaying dollar into our public schools. So I'm not going to support charter schools at this time in Washington state.

"With regard to the WASL, we've got to make sure our children are seeing that WASL is meaningful to them. I believe in the three Rs, a rigorous coursework for our children — relevant coursework so they feel that they are connected to what's going on in their future education, and a relationship with their teachers and adults in that school, so that they feel they are a part of their future education."

A career in state bureaucracy and several terms as a popular Democratic elected official (State Attorney General) have left Gregoire in the debt of public employee unions such as the WEA, and generally detached from reality. First, charter schools ARE public schools, under the state legislation passed last spring, and in fact, must be enabled by local school districts. Across the country, charters are (in a great many instances) warmly embraced, and an example of just the "creativity and vision" Gregoire claims she wants to see in public education.

Generally, charters can bring out the worst in Democratic Party advocates of minorities, who somehow believe that struggling Native American, Hispanic and Black students shouldn't have more K-12 schooling choices - like, say, the kids of white Ds who go to pricey private schools while their parents champion (their own blindered concept of ) "public education."

Groups advocating for minority students in Seattle favor charters as a feasible alternative (see my Jan. '04 Seattle Times column on the topic here - free reg. req.). So do other parents (count me as one) who want serious options in the public system for rigorous instruction and firm school discipline untethered to compromising bureaucratic stipulations.

Rossi has it right: charters are one more approach in the toolbox for students. And it is their interests, not that of the cash-hungry, failing public edcuation monopoly in WA, that should come first. The WEA and Gregoire, on the other hand, see public school students as cash cows: if some go to publicly-operated charters, free of union regulations, there will be less money for traditional (and I use the term flinchingly) public schools: and perhaps over time, a greater percentage of non-union-dues-paying teachers.

In Seattle, the school board has been irresponsibly delaying a decision on a closing 11 schools, due to declining enrollment. Such an uncomfortable step is necessary to consolidate facilities and reduce costs. Yet it would shoot to smithereens the arguement of the WEA and Gregoire that charters threaten funding for, and commitment to, public schools. The Seattle system's own inefficiencies in facilities management are presently a much greater threat, as hinted at by the overhead involved in keeping 11 schools open that ought to be closed. Never mind, for now, why enrollment is declining....

As far as Gregoire's comment that kids need to see that the WASL is "meaningful" to them: it's already plenty meaningful whether they and their parents are smart enough to see that, or not. As has been well-noted, starting in 2008, graduating seniors of public high schools here will have to have passed their 10th-grade WASLs (in 2006), in order to graduate. One important additional concern, which neither candidate mentions in the link above, is that there should be a 12th-grade WASL test (not just 4th, 7th and 10th).

Remember, Washington voters, if you support charter schools, vote for Dino Rossi. And vote "Yes" on R-55, to keep the new charter school law in WA from being overturned before it has even had a chance to work.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 05:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


October 13, 2004

Virgin Nails It

A sharp counter-punch to Kerry-ites - and the entire, deluded Seattle newspaper establishment - comes from Seattle Post-Intelligencer business columnist Bill Virgin.

Given the verbiage contained in this daily fish wrap celebrating John Kerry and wailing what a threat to the planet George W. Bush constitutes, I suppose it is time for someone to sluice out the Augean stables of accumulated political nonsense.

....In a more frivolous time -- say, the Clinton administration -- it would be enough to recommend re-election merely by listing the accumulation of generally deplorable people -- Michael Moore, Al Franken, Garry Trudeau, Bill Moyers, Garrison Keillor, et al. -- caterwauling about Bush.

But...serious times mean dealing with serious issues, most of them having to do, in some form, with the economy.

There's been a lot of fatuous talk about presidents creating or losing jobs. Here's a news bulletin: They don't. Bush didn't lose jobs any more than Clinton created them (of course, if the Dems want to take credit for the bubble economy of the '90s, they can also take credit for its collapse, since it was already in full retreat by Inauguration Day 2001).

What presidents can do is tinker at the margins, and to create a climate for businesses to generate jobs (or do the sorts of things that discourage job creation). This Bush has done with not one but two tax cuts (which, despite what you have heard, substantially benefited the middle class) that helped tide the economy over its rough spot and set the stage for a recovery.

On foreign trade, Bush has been (to borrow the old Scoop Jackson comment about liberalism) a free-trader without being a damn fool about it.

Virgin then gets on to terrorism.

But by far the most serious economic issue of our times also happens to be this campaign's big-ticket issue: global security.

On that issue, Bush is clearly the superior choice. He was exactly right to go after the Taliban in Afghanistan, and then to go after Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He correctly saw those two events as part of a continuum on the war on radical Islamofascism.

The Kerryites and others with limited mental dexterity have a hard time distinguishing between the words "safe" and "safer." Did booting the Taliban from Afghanistan, forcing Saddam to live like a dissolute hobbit and putting al-Qaida on the run make the world "safe"? Of course not. The world wasn't "safe" then, isn't "safe" now, never will be "safe."

But did taking those actions make the world safer, and better, not just for Americans but for those nations that aspire to some degree of freedom and tranquility? Absolutely. Deposing Saddam deprived global terrorism of one place in which to set up an operating base and one more sponsor (and yes, Saddam was working on more nasty weapons to supplement those he hid or shipped to Syria, and he was definitely working on being al-Qaida's new best friend).

It also sent to the rest of the world a message of American resoluteness, that it would not cower at home in anticipation of the next attack. Compare that with the Kerry approach, which appears to be a mixture of obsequiousness and forelock tugging before the corrupt and venal United Nations.

Bravo, Mr. Virgin. You should be promoted to editorial page editor.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 02:46 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


October 12, 2004

Kerry The Appeaser

Rosenblog reader Howard Wolf - a retired Seattle school teacher - sends along some thoughts about John Kerry, Vietnam, Iraq, and the "insurgency." Feel free to add your comments, whether you agree or disagree.

By Howard Wolf

I read where someone said recently that "character is destiny." As I don't think that in the case of John Kerry that there was any sort of epiphany over the past thirty odd years, in his case character remains destiny. In 1971, I was as bitterly angry at his testimony before Senator Fulbright's committee as I am today, and as the Swift Boat Vets and POWs are. I believe that his entire present campaign is a tortured attempt to conceal his real ambition in this War on Terror. And the only candid moment was his statement in the primaries to Howard Dean, in which he said, "I am the anti-war candidate." To that extent, Senator Kerry has not altered his world view since 1971.

I don't believe that Howard Dean would stump for him so fervently, if he did not think that was true too. Howard Dean is a dyed in the wool advocate of withdrawal from Iraq. He has no interest whatsoever in pursuing the destruction of the insurgency in Iraq.

How well it may be recalled that during the Vietnam conflict, a common criticism by members of the anti-war movement was that "hawks" were stuck in perceiving the world in the fashion of the World War II era, which was by then dated, or so it was said. No less a criticism can be made of John Kerry's mindset or that of the veterans of the "peace movement" today. They still fancy themselves heroic for having protested that war.

They ignore the statements of General Giap, who attributes his success to them. Indeed, he says that he had lost the Tet Offensive in 1968, and was making ready to instruct his staff to tell the North Vietnamese Paris delegation to conclude negotiations for the withdrawal of his badly mauled forces. It was only when an aide came to him to say that Eric Severeid and Walter Cronkite were telling the American people that it was they who had lost the Tet, that he changed his thinking.

So Kerry's agenda is once again to counsel ignominious withdrawal, but in this case it's in Iraq. That was the purpose behind his Senate testimony in 1971; that and the goal of one day achieving political power for himself. He did this by libeling the vast majority of American combatants in the conflict. That is, thanks to the reminding testimony of Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for Truth, an established fact.

I believe it is an interesting aside to note that no antiwar movement in American History has ever worked to the advantage of the nation state; whether it was General McClellan's candidacy (and Copperhead Riots) against Abraham Lincoln in 1864, or the Vietnam protests. I know that statement would infuriate many a Vietnam era peacenik, but it is the truth. For even in our defeat at the hands of the peace movement, the Vietnam War proved a major factor in eventually bringing about the collapse of the Soviet Union, though admittedly, that would have been hard to see at the time.

The Soviets, with an economy about a fourth that of the United States (the CIA mistakenly said at the time it was half the size) was spending as much money to bring down US aircraft as the USA was spending to put them there. Remember they fired off an average of 200 SAMs and thousands of timed anti-aircraft shells (each one valued at hundreds of dollars) per plane shot down, not to mention the loss of their badly-battered air force. They were starving many areas of Soviet society to accomplish that, and for all their efforts they couldn't even approximate the growth in personal wealth in the west.

But Kerry's point of view is virtually identical to the one he had in 1971. I am convinced that in his heart of hearts, he feels that the best military approach is the least military approach. But he would never honestly say that, as he did in the Vietnam era. He thinks that if we withdrew our forces from Iraq and reduced this war to a sort of international police investigation, we would succeed in reducing the terrorism threat to a "nuisance." Can anyone imagine FDR saying in World War II, we will reduce Fascism to a nuisance level that we can live with?

Again, comments on Howard Wolf's thoughts are welcome, even if you're a DNC troll. Let it fly.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 02:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


October 09, 2004

A Bush Convert Speaks

...aka Martin Krongold.....my long-time friend, super-mensch, father of three, devoted husband, non-profit grassroots consultant, Cleveland boy, and Harvard Kennedy School of Govt. (M.A.) grad.

I never knew him to be remotely "R," and am sure that like me, he would still rather hang out with (for instance) a room full of musicians, journalistas, and community organizers whose politics don't jibe with his own - as opposed to Republicans.

Martin and I met many moons ago, at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL; before we both ended up in Taxachusetts, for a time. Me at Brandeis, learning why 98.6 percent of Karl Marx was B.S., and Martin at Harvard. Many years later, 9/11 hit Martin's now-longtime family home (Staten Island, NY) hard. And since then.....or perhaps even before...his views have been....evolving.

Here's the latest from Martin, originally posted in a comment string at Rosenblog, which I want to highlight here on the main page.

I find JO**hn KE**rry slicker than Slick Willy. He knows what social strata he doesn't want to be a part of and would do anything to reallign himself with the elite of PC establishment. I respect that he's at least remained a thinker, although he doesn't have the wherewithal to keep or defend the thoughts consistently. He's eastern boarding school who knows of his humble Jewish roots, but has been directed by family and into America's elite. With that background of confident elitism, he'll make Slick Willy appear moral. I'm holding my nose and voting for Bush cuz he could of held off on Iraq even though Saddam gone is a good thing. Oh, God, that means Hillary in '08!!! Oh, well.

By the way Bush lost the first debate and it hurt him a little. Cheney just edged out "Boy" Edwards, and it maintained the R advantage. Bush and Kerry tied yesterday's which means the base is stabilized, leaners are going to those they would go to anyway, and increasingly the incumbent will get the few remaining votes barring a horrible debate or national catastrophe. Bush doesn't particularly inspire, so he won't get a landslide of last minute undecideds.

Staten Island is Bush country. NY isn't. I don't know about New Jersey. They have a Democratic Governor who is stepping down for trading political favors for gay sex with a Jewish Mossad agent. No kidding. (The) race was close last week, but the undecideds will tell.

Yes, Matthew, I'm coming out of the closet. The strength of the market place, and the faux easy-fix lure of the governmental handout has turned me into...... a Republican!!!!

So with that, my advice to you and your readers is not to be "Economic Girly Men". Martin

It happens to the best of us, Martin. Say it loud, and proud! And perhaps in the future you can share YOUR snappy replies to the inevitable questions from certain in-laws....i.e. "How DID you get to be so CONSERVATIVE?"

Which is always asked in a manner similar to, "When did you start buggering badgers anyway, and how can we help you with this problem?"

My answer (in debt to N. Podhoretz): "I was mugged by reality." If that makes me a "neo-con," OK. What's in a name?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


October 07, 2004

Damned If You Blog.....Damned If You Don't

Jewish fathers. They're sort of like Jewish mothers. Even if they're bloggers, to boot. Like my own great, intellectually omniverous Dad, who introduced me, then a young sprat from the South Side of Chicago, to the inestimably worldly vibrations of:

St. Louis;

Toronto circa 1970 (I still have the circular black light poster I bought there, taped to the ceiling in the bedroom of my old teen digs in Chicago);

plus Atlanta, South Carolina, and Ernie Kovacs films;

Brooklyn, Manhattan, Banff, Vancouver;

and Seattle circa 1976 (including a concert featuring Portland's marvellous, now-long-gone Latin jazz-rock ensemble Upepo, at Bumbershoot);

not to mention, the case for rejection of moral relativism.

Yet, despite Dad's current entreaties that I BLOG LESS and spend more time on PAID WORK as a freelance journalist (I happen to agree, pretty much) .....guess WHO calls to ask..."Why isn't there anything new on your blog, today?"

Luv ya anyway, Ya Big Galoot. I was wondering what took you so long yesterday.....you're just like clockwork....

Truth be told, I AM devoted to my beguiling, tho sometimes unreciprocal mistress, Rosenblog....

However, other things are swimming along at quite a fast pace right now.......i.e. remunerative endeavors......And so....

Don't hesitate to add comments here, including pointed disagreements. And keep the e-mailed story tips and links coming.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


October 06, 2004

Ramen, Drawers and JFK

Esteemed political analyst Michael Moore says George W. Bush and John F. Kerry "both suck, and that's why I'm voting for John Kerry."

Uh huh.

Beyond that ringing endorsement, Moore's on a "Slacker Uprising Tour," passing out ramen noodles and clean underwear to young uns' to get them to vote against the guy who sucks just a bit more: W.

I say, let Moore work his own brand of magic for the GOP.

But....noooo...the Michigan GOP is bleating about Moore's so-called bribery of would-be voters.

Dudes, you stole your own brains. Let it rest. Puh-leeze.

Meanwhile, W. has been on the offensive, in Wilkes-Barrre, PA.

And he'd better keep it up, especially at the next debate on Friday, says Ruben Navarrette.

Why Bush, not Kerry? Here's Navarrette, who, as you'll see elsewhere in this column, certainly wears no rose-colored glasses when looking at Bush.

I still think Bush makes a better president than John Kerry. Despite the criticism I get from Kerry supporters, this isn't because I live in Texas but because I live in the real world. The incumbent has what the challenger lacks: a consistent message, core principles and the courage to stick to his guns even when it makes people unhappy. That's what leaders do, and it's not clear that Kerry gets that. After all, the whole point of his multiple views on issues is to please as many people as possible.

Mmm hmmm.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:01 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack



Arcata Uber Alles

Representative democracy is alive and well in the painfully progressive north coast California enclave of Arcata. There are ten contenders for three open seats on the city council. A student association at Humboldt State University held an edifying candidate forum Monday night. Starting there, let's get to know some of the job applicants a bit more.

Greg Allen....is attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union and the sponsor of three citizen-led initiatives -- an initiative on medical marijuana, another called the Free Music and Entertainment Act, and another that would establish a police review commission. He holds two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree from Stanford University.

He also wants any council member to be able to give permission for street people and vagrants to camp in city parks (more details below).

Rob Amerman....has worked for both the cities of Arcata and Eureka, and has been a member of the Arcata Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Commission and the Arcata Committee on Democracy and Corporations. He also chaired the Measure F task force, which established the Committee on Democracy and Corporations.

Another candidate is Harmony Groves, who wants city legislation to take guns away from security guards, especially nightclub bouncers. She fears their sidearms will go off accidentally in scuffles with drunk patrons. She's aware of the Second Amendment, and concedes her draft legislation isn't fully "fleshed out."

She works for a solar energy company, lobbies for recycling and bicycling, and says she takes pride in having been "car free" for more than a year.

Here's one guy I'd vote for, in the event that I was abducted by alien beings and transplanted to Arcata.

Incumbent City Councilman Michael Machi will be the most senior member of the council if re-elected. As an incumbent and native of Humboldt County, Machi said he is knowledgeable in how the city is run, and what the City Council can and cannot accomplish.....

I'm less sure about council candidate Fhyre Phoenix, who:

....began his activist career in Humboldt County as a forest defender, and has a background in homeless services.....

Fhyre (no relation to River) has introduced a new "community" currency in Arcata, as part of a plan to raise the minimum wage The bills depict a re-visioned Arcata (third story down, in link):

...distinct differences are apparent in the rendering of the town square. The statue of (former U.S. President William) McKinley is no longer in the center of the plaza. Replacing the monument to the 25th president, which has watched over the town square for close to 100 years, is a gazebo.

"I want to sell McKinley on eBay," Phoenix said. "It's well past time that we take [the statue] down. A colonialist president should not be honored here in the first place; it's a disgrace to Americans."

The proceeds of the sale, Phoenix suggested, could then be used to revamp the plaza, which would be used by bands, like those that play at the farmers' market.

Other out-of-sync elements in the 5-dollar community note is the absence of the Bank of America, which currently stands on the corner of G and Eighth streets. Taking its place is the Northcoast Community Organizing Center -- another project that remains a vision. The center would be a training facility for community activists.

Any revamping of the plaza should also include revamping the city's overly-tolerant policies toward young vagrants, er, "travellers," who for years have flocked to the plaza and the town for handouts.

Council candidate and ACLU lawyer Allen has just the solution:

The Arcata Public Parks and Grounds Liberation Act would allow camping in public parks if a traveler had the permission of a city councilmember.

"It's about humanity," Allen said. "It's time for the city to come together and do something, and what we need is some kind of campground. We can do what we've been doing, or we can do something better."

Like offering them a shave, a haircut and a unicycle on which to ride out of town.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


October 05, 2004

So....What Brings You Here?

A big shout out to all Rosenblog's regular and occasional visitors. Keep coming by, and feel free to add comments, and e-mail interesting links. Folks find a blog that's to their liking in a variety of ways. One path, of course, is through a search engine. Here are a few of the more piquant or peculiar search terms that have brought people to Rosenblog. (Most, but not all of these requests were made through Google).

"Did Charles Manson get good grades growing up"

"Seattle passive aggressive"

"jimmy nuetron's chemical mistakes"

"furry pimp suit"

"vapid remarks"

"chicago white sox south side obsession poster"

"wife start smoking"

"stories about kids killing kids"

"how does jazz help African Americans claim their own narrative space"

"2004 emails of farmers in Saudi Arabia and guest book"

And one for the ages:

"multilateralism cons"

The Number One search term bringing visitors to Rosenblog, by far, is "Cosby NAACP," or some related permutation. In case you were wondering. Other high-traffic search terms have to do with Washington state politics; casualties in Iraq; the situation in Sudan; dead rapper Tupac Shakur; "Dirty Kuffar" (the name of an extremist Muslim music video from the UK, reviling "unbelievers"); and of course, the estimable Morton Brilliant.

I'm sure I'm leaving out a whole bunch of others.

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


October 04, 2004

A Coalition of the Uninitiated and Sometimes-Indifferent

Yes, it's just a national poll, not one of the more valuable state-by-state polls illuminating the electoral college mosaic which ultimately decides the Presidential election. Still, it's interesting to note that in a major WaPo/ABC News post-debate tracking survey released less than an hour ago, George W. Bush still leads John F. Kerry by 5 points among likely voters. Bush's lead among "registered" voters - those who don't always go to the polls, or haven't been able to until now due to their age - is down from seven points before the debate to three now, certainly within the statistical margin of error.

Kerry supporters will continue pushing to get new and occasional voters to the polls, as well they should. Voters who've been at it for a while tend to notice Kerry's foreign policy doesn't pass the ah, smell test.

After viewing last Thursday's presidential debate, Michael Barone of U.S. News and World Report, has this about John Kerry's foreign policy. It's from his latest syndicated column:

Pollster Scott Rasmussen asked....Should we be using more military force in Iraq, about the same amount of military force or less military force? The answers may be surprising. A plurality of 39 percent said more military force, 26 percent said the same amount, and only 22 percent said less military force.

Republicans and Democrats, as you might expect, take very different stands -- which provide a good backdrop for assessing Kerry's and George W. Bush's performance in the first presidential debate. Bush voters are overwhelmingly for more force (51 percent) or the current level (37 percent). In other words, when Bush called for using as much force as it takes to prevail, 88 percent of his voters are with him.

Kerry voters, in contrast, are polarized. Some 40 percent say we should be using less force -- presumably, most of these want us out altogether. But 28 percent say they want more military force, with 15 percent saying the same level. If Kerry wants to rally his supporters, he must appeal to both those who want to win and those who want to get out.

Appealing to people with opposite views is difficult....John Kerry...In the debate.....spoke more pithily than he usually does and in less stilted language. But the result was still ambivalence.

At one point, Kerry said, "The president made a mistake in invading Iraq." Then, asked if the troops in Iraq were dying for a mistake, he said, "No, and they don't have to, provided we have the leadership that ... I'm offering." In his presumably carefully prepared closing statement, he said that "parents of kids in Iraq, you want to know who's the person who could be a commander in chief who could get your kids home and get the job done and win the peace." Then, less than 60 seconds later, he said: "I'm not talking about leaving. I'm talking about winning." Win or get out: take your pick.

Much of what Kerry offers unambivalently is simply not realistic. You might believe that his appointees would train Iraqi forces and rebuild infrastructure more rapidly than Bush's -- though Kerry's managerial experience is limited to a prosecutor's office, his Senate staff and this campaign. But his proposal for a summit to bring in allies is unrealistic. Summits require extensive preparation to succeed. Countries with serious militaries not in Iraq have made it plain they won't change their minds. Nor could they make much difference.

...Kerry's Vietnam-era tendency to consider America the problem and not the solution showed up at several points. The International Criminal Court he favors would subject U.S. troops to French prosecutors and Swedish judges, which is why Bill Clinton never bothered to submit it to the Senate -- it's a non-starter. Kerry opposes development of bunker-blasting nuclear bombs as "nuclear proliferation," though we're not going to give them away and despite their usefulness against possible targets in a nuclear Iran or North Korea. He says the president has the right to make pre-emptive strikes, but "if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test."

Suddenly the ambivalence is gone -- and we have a clue as to whether a President Kerry would win or get out.

See John run.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 02:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack



WSJ on Mary Mapes' Seattle Days

The Wall Street Journal comes to Seattle: writer John Fund has a column today on the Seattle chapter of May Mapes' career. She's the "60 Minutes" producer tied to the embarrassing foul-up in which apparently faked documents were touted on the Dan Rather-hosted segment as proving a young George W. Bush got preferential treatment as a member of the Texas Air National Guard.

Here's Fund:

At a joint appearance over the weekend, the network news anchors began to circle the wagons in defense of the beleaguered Dan Rather. "There's a political jihad against Dan Rather and CBS," complained NBC's Tom Brokaw at a New York Public Library event Saturday. "It's a demagoguery unleashed on the Internet."

ABC's Peter Jennings then weighed in. "I think the attack on CBS is an attack on mainstream media, an attack on the so-called 'liberal media," he told the audience.

...Most viewers don't know that on TV newsmagazines producers like Ms. Mapes do most of the important reporting. The on-air correspondents normally just parachute into the story at the end. The "60 Minutes" National Guard segment was an exception. Mr. Rather has acknowledged that he was deeply invested in the story, and when he learned Ms. Mapes had gotten the documents from Bill Burkett, a controversial former National Guard lieutenant colonel, he asked Mr. Heyward to take charge. In an interview with the New York Times, Mr. Rather quoted himself as telling Mr. Hayward, "I have to ask you to oversee, in a hands-on way, the handling of the story." According to Mr. Rather, "He got it. He immediately agreed."

....Former employees of KIRO, the CBS affiliate in Seattle where Ms. Mapes got her start in the 1980s, agree. Some told me that the seeds of CBS's current troubles may have been planted more than 15 years ago when Ms. Mapes was a hard-charging producer at KIRO. Before she left Seattle to become a producer at Mr. Rather's "CBS Evening News," Ms. Mapes produced a sensational report on a killing of a drug suspect by police that rested on the shoulders of an unreliable source whose story collapsed under cross-examination. Sound familiar?

Fund also writes that:

In the mid- and late 1980s, the Seattle police undertook a series of raids on well-known crack houses. Many dealers were minorities, and there were allegations that the police were being racially selective in the use of force.

In the winter of 1987, officers announced themselves and knocked on the door of a known Seattle drug den. They then heard some noise and forced themselves in when no one answered the door. A low-level drug dealer named Erdman Bascomb stood up with a dark, shiny object in his hand. An officer fired, Bascomb fell, and officers pounced on the "weapon": a black TV remote control. Bascomb died.

The Bascomb shooting angered many people in Seattle, and officials quickly organized an inquest. Then KIRO aired an incendiary story titled "A Shot in the Dark," in which a previously unknown witness named Wardell Fincher accused the cops involved in the raid of lying. He said he saw officers arrive at the house, burst in with no warning and shoot Bascomb, who might not have even known the intruders were cops. The story shifted to possible criminal wrongdoing by the police. Mr. Fincher was summoned to the inquest, and previous witnesses recalled. The reporter for the sensational segment was Mark Wrolstad, now a reporter with the Dallas Morning News. The producer was his wife, Mary Mapes.

Fortunately for the cops, Mr. Fincher wasn't the only one at the scene of the raid that night. A reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Mike Barber, was tagging along with officers. Mr. Barber observed the officers arriving at the house, knocking, announcing themselves and then entering. He was there when the shooting happened and when the ambulances were summoned. At that point, a man "reeking of alcohol" walked out of some nearby bushes and approached him. He wanted to know what had just happened. That was Wardell Fincher. But Mr. Fincher wasn't thoroughly checked out, so all this came out after the story aired. The police were eventually cleared but it took years and an unsuccessful civil-rights lawsuit by the Bascomb family to undo the damage.

By that time, Ms. Mapes had left Seattle, and no one I talked with who worked at KIRO at the time can recall her being disciplined in any way for her mistake. Instead, in 1989 she was fast-tracked to the "CBS Evening News" and later became Mr. Rather's hand-picked producer on "60 Minutes." "Maybe the National Guard mess would never have happened if she had been handled properly back then," says one former KIRO reporter who still admires her work ethic and ability to break stories.

Yes, maybe so.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 02:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


October 02, 2004

The Whole Truth About Head Cheese

You always see head cheese in groceries or delis. But do you ever buy it? Does anyone? Have you ever seen anyone with it in their shopping cart, or at checkout? Yet some folks must be buying it, because it's out there. Year after year, head cheese - despite many compelling factors arguing otherwise - remains part of the fabric of American life.

What gives? And what's in it?

Foodreference.com has an answer for that last one:

Head cheese, also called souse and brawn, is a jellied loaf or sausage. Originally it was made entirely from the meaty parts of the head of a pig or calf, but now can include edible parts of the feet, tongue, and heart. The head is cleaned and simmered until the meat falls from the bones, and the liquid is a concentrated gelatinous broth. Strained, the meat is removed from the head, chopped, seasoned and returned to the broth and the whole placed in a mold and chilled until set, so it can be sliced.

Calf head? Mad cow alert? Not. If there's any "head" in head cheese these days, it's pork head. And many versions go a step further, using pork butt or shoulder in place of the head and other less-appealing parts. One highfalutin' version even works in red bell peppers.

All this ratchets up the palatability. Somewhat. But head cheese still looks like odds and ends of stuff in a jellied loaf, that's been sliced. I mean, really, pass the salami, huh?

For something so queasy and quivering to make it this far down the line, there'd have to be a story. You'll get some of that here, in a fine New Orleans Times-Picayune article about an old guy in Cajun country who makes his own head cheese. (Free reg. req.). The Germans and French brought the recipes with them to the American South. People were just trying to get by. Waste not, want not. All that.

This Texas "historical foods" essayist has more on the Texas-German connection to head cheese; plus the skinny on scrapple, blood sausage, and a stew made of beef organ meats, that cowboys used to love (supposedly).

Still, some disturbing questions persist with regard to head cheese, at least where an actual hog's head is involved. Bloviating Inananities gets down to it, as only a such-named blog could.

Head cheese: ultimately, it's a personal decision.

I must duly note that someone makes "moose head cheese." (As it happens, that recipe comes from a great online collection, the Axe-Woodsman cookbook. It also includes tasty treatments of crow, and starling).

Myself, I make a nice fish stock with fish heads and a bunch of other stuff - which all gets discarded after the stock is strained. And I'll pick around the cheeks of a cooked fish, where there's some tasty meat.

When it comes to utilizing a hog's head, I think Mexican cooks have it all figured out. They put the cooked meat from the head in.....tamales. Mmm hmm.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


October 01, 2004

Pro-Democracy Emigres Raise Their Profile

With the subjects of terrorism and Iraq fresh on everyone's mind after last night's Presidential debate, a coalition of Mid-East, Persian Gulf and African immigrants to the United States is staging a symposium and dinner tonight in Washington, D.C. supporting America's leadership in the war against terrorism; and our intervention in Iraq.

Members of the press are invited (details at bottom). Any takers?

The Middle Eastern American Convention for Freedom and Democracy is a broad-based group of Lebanese-Americans, Chaldo-Assyrians, Egyptian Copts, Kurds, Saudis, Sudanese, Iranians, Libyans, Berbers and many others.

They have in common something many critics of current U.S. foreign policy lack: personal experience with despotism, tyranny, brutality and disenfranchisement. And they insist these are the "root causes" of terrorism.

A leader of the coalition, Walid Phares, a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, has more, in today's Frontpagemag.com.

A gigantic lack of understanding of all that is Middle Eastern has been overshadowing the national debate....Mideast Americans needed to be freed from the chains of mistrust. They needed to be represented by new faces.

....Today in the United States, thousands of Americans of Middle East descent are joining forces to answer the anxious questions of their neighbors: "Yes we are fully Americans and we feel this is our country which we love and want to defend against Terrorists," said the organizers of a historic conference to take place in Washington DC on Friday October 1, 2004. "It is time for our communities to break the silence imposed by the oil backed elite," said Tom Harb, a member of the American Lebanese Alliance, a group that co-sponsored the event. John Michael, a medical doctor from Chicago revealed that, "tens of thousands of Assyrians and Chaldeans have sided since day one with the U.S. when it decided to liberate our mother country – Iraq – from the bloody Saddam."

The forum will include speakers from different affiliations, a mosaic never seen before in Middle Eastern America. “At these dangerous and critical times, we want to provide a forum for all Middle Eastern Americans who support the United States in the war against terror and applaud the fact that the Middle East has one less tyrant after the fall of Saddam,” said Dr. Joseph Gebaily, the Convention’s executive director. “As primary victims of the prevailing intolerance in the Middle East, we strongly support the war on terrorism and efforts to promote democracy in all nations of the Middle East.”

What exactly will happen this evening? Phares:

This convention will allow participants to exchange views and ideas with longtime veterans of the struggle against terrorism and tyranny. Despite their diverse backgrounds, the participants share a historic and deeply motivated allegiance to the United States and aspire to see a free and peaceful Middle East.

...In sum, the alternative voice of Middle Eastern Americans is rising. Americans and others will at last be able to bear witness to a captivating and vital moment of post 9/11 history, where Arabs of all walks of life come together to show their solidarity against terror.

PROGRAM DETAILS, WHEN, WHERE, ETC.

The convention includes a discussion forum from 5 to 6:30 p.m. that will address U.S. foreign policy, Iraq, Afghanistan, al-Qaeda, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Syria’s occupation of Lebanon, the genocide in Darfur, women’s rights, and democracy. From 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., the discussion will continue over dinner. A representative from the Bush administration and Members of Congress have been invited to attend. The Convention is sponsored by American associations from Arab, Kurd, Chaldo-Assyrian, Iranian, Sunni, Shia, Christian, Sudanese, Maronites, Mauritanian, Berber, Aramaic, Jewish, and other backgrounds.

Convention Information
When: Friday, October 1, 2004
Forum, 5-6:30 p.m.
Dinner, 7:30-9:30 p.m.
Where: Wardman Park Marriott Hotel
2660 Woodley Road, NW, Washington, DC
Email at Mideastoctober1@aol.com

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:57 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack