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February 28, 2005

Arcata Tiptoes Toward Sanity

"Time To Get Serious" is the title of an excellent article in North Coast Journal about the City Council of Arcata, California, a town long-given to symbolic posturing on affairs of state, and the coddling of anti-social vagrants. I've highlighted news reports of Arcata's dysfunction frequently; here's one post with links to several others.

Now, some Arcatans, including candidates for an open council seat, are saying, "enough already." The Journal reports:

...there is...something of a backlash brewing in the town -- something candidate Mark Wheetley calls "compassion fatigue." Business owners and residents concerned about crime and inhospitablily on the Plaza were once too cowed to voice their concerns at council meetings. Many are still shy, but others are no longer afraid of being booed down by the crowd.

Other local residents are fed up with the many "symbolic resolutions" the city finds time to pass -- most of them aimed at the policies of the Bush administration. Some decry them as ineffective and time-wasting, as Mayor Michael Machi suggested at the last council meeting, while others say that they are downright harmful to the community's image.

The size of the backlash is impossible to measure, but judging by the current crop of council candidates, one thing is clear: Would-be council members are taking it seriously in a way that they haven't before. With the exception of candidate Greg Allen -- a dyed-in-the-wool civil libertarian -- all of the current candidates advocate some form of what candidate Michael Winkler calls "tough love" with the city's indigent population. And most of them think that there needs to be some reform in the way the city goes about taking a stand on international issues.

.....On the symbolic resolutions, there is widespread agreement that the city has to slow down and consider more carefully what it is doing. Wheetley argues that the power to call out the national government should be used more judiciously, and that council members should take into account whether their action is likely to have any effect. Winkler says that he would want to be sure that a "wide majority" of the town supports a resolution before he votes for it. He says he would specifically reach out to the town's conservatives to solicit their views.

Scoggin says that although the council has a long, admirable tradition of voicing the concerns of its residents to those in higher office, the process can be a distraction from the city's other business.

Over the next decade, I predict a growing weariness among residents of liberal bastions small and large with the identity politics and symbolic politics held dear by so many local, state and federal elected officials in Blue America. Isolationism on foreign policy; racial preferences; "institutional racism;" the salving embrace of the "diversity" mantra; gay marriage; the continued flogging of abortion rights; dissing NCLB; and fighting foie gras - these are the issues of a bankrupt political minority destined for the far margins of political discourse.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 05:52 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack



The Foie Gras Chronicles, Part One

The foie gras wars continue. Animal rights activists alleging cruel force-feeding of ducks and geese to make the traditional liver pate served in high-end restaurants have taken their campaign to San Francisco, plus Napa County, Portland, and now Pittsburgh. During one of the regular "Wordsworth" poetry readings of the Seattle City Council's Culture, Arts and Parks Committee, Judith Roche excoriated foie gras (second item down, here).

The San Francisco effort has been particularly over-the-top, most notably when activists in 2003 attacked the home and car of chef and foie gras booster Laurent Manrique. The SF Chron (1st link, above) reported:

A top San Francisco chef has become the target of radical animal-rights activists in a series of attacks that police are calling domestic terrorism. Aqua chef Laurent Manrique has been the victim of vandals who spray-painted his home and splashed his car with acid, and he has received threatening letters and videotapes. It's part of what police say may be a national campaign aimed at those who produce a signature ingredient of French haute cuisine -- foie gras -- and the chefs who use it.

Foie gras -- fattened goose or duck liver -- has become controversial because of the way it is produced, which involves force-feeding fowl. How much the animals suffer -- or whether they suffer at all -- has been the subject of much debate.

The worst damage came last week when vandals broke into the new foie gras specialty store and restaurant that Manrique and his partners had planned to open next month in a historic adobe building on the Sonoma Plaza. Called Sonoma Saveurs, it will offer various foie gras preparations plus wine, cheese and other local products. Vandals plugged new plumbing with chunks of cement, spray-painted the walls and appliances, and turned on the water, according to police. The resulting flood forced two neighboring stores to shut down...

....The attacks began last month when vandals sprayed red paint on Manrique's Mill Valley home and on the Santa Rosa home of Didier Jaubert, a partner in the foie gras venture. Attackers also put acid-based etching foam on their cars and windows, and glued shut locks and garage doors. The Bite Back Web magazine says that etched on Manrique's car windows was "foie gras is animal torture" and "murderer."

.....The perpetrators left a videotape, which Manrique said was shot from his garden and showed his family relaxing inside their home. It was accompanied by a letter warning that they were being watched....Then came threatening letters that warned the men to "stop or be stopped," said Jaubert.

L.A. Times food writer David Shaw isn't terribly sympathetic to the protestors. Writing last week, he remarked:

The anti-foie gras terrorists argue that force-feeding ducks to make their livers grow to eight or 10 times normal size amounts to torture. With the help of such renowned scholars of veterinary science as Kim Basinger, Martin Sheen and Paul McCartney, these broccoli-crazed activists persuaded the California State Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenducker to enact a law last year outlawing the production of foie gras, beginning in 2012.

As a longtime supporter of such causes as the civil rights and women's rights movements, I fully support the right of peaceful protest...But there's a way to protest any or all of this....Present your case forcefully — but peacefully and responsibly.

....I side with those who say that when properly done — as it is at Sonoma Foie Gras, for example — ducks do not appear to suffer pain in the two to four seconds that it takes to feed them the fresh corn or cornmeal required to enlarge their livers. But I have to be honest. I love foie gras and I would continue to eat it even if the ducks did suffer.

Bad-boy chef and author Anthony Bourdain says the duck and goose advocates are chickens. Here's some Q&A from a wide-ranging interview with the Miami New Times:

Q:You've made fun of anti-foie gras activists who object to force-feeding.

A: I don't think it's funny what they've done to terrorize chefs and their families, nor the fact that they've been winning the day. I'm quite certain that in our lifetime we'll see the last of it [foie gras] in this country. I mean, who's going to step up and defend it?

Q: How would you defend it?

A: It's good. It's a tradition stretching back to Roman times. I know how I'd like to defend those who are videotaping the wives and children of chefs, from their back yards, and using the videotapes and threatening phone calls to coerce these chefs into taking foie gras off their menus: I'd like to beat them upside the head with a f****** board. You'll notice these chickens**** don't go and try to break up organized dog-fighting rings in Oakland and East LA. Why? You know, they might get hurt.

Love your passion, Tony, but ixnay on the board-beatings. And I think you're being a bit pessimistic. I don't see many or perhaps even any other states following California's lead and banning the manufacture and sale of foie gras. Production in the U.S. is limited to two farms, anyway. It mostly comes from elsewhere. And there's always mail order.

Some restaurants will knuckle under, some won't. The foie gras battle hasn't really come to Seattle yet, but it's only a matter of time. I welcome such protests: they do about as much for the American Left as cavils against "gay-friendly" Sponge Bob and Tinky-Winky cartoon characters do for conservatives.

I know where I'm headed on my next date night with my wife: a new restaurant in Seattle named Crush. And for the opening course: pear-endive stuffing and huckleberries with Hudson Valley foie gras.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:09 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack


February 27, 2005

SF Chron, Rolling Stone Editors: Thompson No Hero

The huzzahs for gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson on the occasion of his suicide last week are greatly misguided, writes the San Francisco Chronicle's executive foreign and national editor A.S. Ross in today's Chron opinion section.

Not since the death of Princess Diana has so much worshipful ink been spilled on the occasion of a mere mortal's passing. He was a giant among men. Who cared that for years he had been a largely burned-out case, more of a circus act than a serious writer, reveling in adolescent stunts with firearms, alcohol, narcotics -- the predictable paraphernalia of the self-styled outlaw who wowed the chattering classes and other assorted rubes and poseurs long after his appeal had worn off for almost everybody else?

Indeed, by coming not to bury Hunter S. Thompson, but to praise him -- unreservedly, remorselessly, endlessly -- his adoring acolytes, who shared the same trade, may be saying more about themselves than about the journalistic practitioner who ended up fantasizing about shotgun golf for ESPN. com.

.....The overwrought, indiscriminate nature of the various Thompson obituaries and appreciations are mirror images of his own work. In a Feb. 2001 ESPN.com column typical of his later oeuvre, he compared the shock of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt's accidental death with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Thompson writes of Earnhardt's fatal road accident: "It seemed to send a message, an urgent warning signal that something with a meaning beyond the sum of its parts had gone Wrong & would go Wrong again if something big wasn't cured -- not just in racing, but in the machinery of the American nation."

Thompson's acuity, on brilliant display in earlier political coverage, had long since left him. Not only did he predict a runaway victory ("I guarantee it") in November for John Kerry, who at one point he refers to as "JFK," but also that the Democrats would win both houses of Congress.

Like his intelligentsia-laden fan club, Thompson doubtless was indulging in abhorrence-fueled wishful thinking, rather than engaging in journalistic fact-gathering when he wrote of George Bush on election day: "His eyes are wild and his voice is shrill and he is acting more and more like a doomed animal on its way to the meat-grinder."

A former managing editor of Rolling Stone, who worked closely with Thompson, John Burks, reminisces about Thompson in this SF Weekly round-up:

Everybody else is partying. There sits Hunter in an easy chair, alternately gazing at the floor and into the middle distance, muttering to himself, loaded. Chuck Alverson, a buddy of mine from S.F. State and a buddy of Hunter's from their Wall Street Journal days, throws endless parties, and Hunter is a fixture. Rarely changing position or making eye contact, he tosses back drink after drink, sucks cigarette after cigarette down to the filter. Hunter is all alone.

His Hell's Angels story for the Journal -- later a book -- is regarded by us second-generation New Journalists as an instant classic of sardonic, coldblooded, fearless reporting and prose. I'm managing editor at Rolling Stone, and I'm thinking that Hunter's skew is right in step with "All the News That Fits." I ask Hunter to send me some clips; I'll connect him with RS founder Jann Wenner. He does, and I do, a move I regret to this day.

After three years, I can't stand the idea of working another day with Wenner and quit. This leaves nobody at RS to question Hunter's escalating bullshit. (Fed up with my back talk, Wenner has decided to proceed sans managing editor.) Wenner himself is often absent, literally and/or figuratively, and Hunter exploits this opening. He files his stories at the last possible moment to circumvent anything like editing and takes sweeping liberties with -- often liberating himself from -- reality.

The result: gonzo, a mix of self-loathing fury, ripped political "insights," and pryotechnique, a sort of let's-pretend journalism. Sad stuff. Sadder yet that anybody takes this plainly damaged '60s bad boy seriously.

Consider poor Ed Muskie, blindsided to oblivion by Hunter. The Maine senator has a pretty good shot at the 1972 Democratic presidential candidacy ... until Hunter zeroes in on him, writing that Muskie is addicted to ibogaine, a slow-fuse narcotic that heightens sexual drive and desire to fevered levels.

The boys on the bus fall for Hunter's fantasia, pick it up, share it with a gullible public, and Muskie, a pro-environment, widely respected good guy who might just have whipped Nixon in '72, is dead in the water.

At a '70s writers' conference, Hunter and I are on a panel, and I ask him if he's proud of helping Nixon win. Deeply loaded, Hunter explains that he wasn't really writing about, ahhh, Muskie, but, ahhh, about America's pathological detestation of sex. This bit of gonzo showmanship generates whoops of applause.

Who gives a shit if Nixon gets another four years?, Hunter goes on. These assholes are all the same, and, ahhh, Nixon's better copy than Mr. Clean.

Hunter played his readers for suckers, chumped and misled them, and I apologize for playing any role, however fleeting, in his career.

Seattle Weekly's Editor Knute Berger has a thoughtful piece on Thompson, as well. His work for Rolling Stone, writes Berger:

....was like Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey doing nonfiction, wading into the dark heart of America—Las Vegas, the Super Bowl—and bringing back truths channeled through drug-and-alcohol-induced trances. Thompson was a poser for stoners. He became an icon for his bad habits, even as they warped and eroded his talents. In recent years, his lingering journalistic presence—a Web sports column for ESPN—had descended into self-parody. But in his prime, he was an archetype that infused many of my contemporaries.

....One of the things that Thompson inspired—as did Tom Wolfe—was the idea that the journey to get the story was the story........Suddenly, getting the news and finding the facts weren't enough; the truth could only be told through the self-revelatory experiences of the journalist in a hostile world. This might be tolerable when reading the outlaw writings of Hunter S. Thompson in his prime, but for the industry as a whole, it spawned a kind of self-infatuation that has helped turn much of the media's work into an ego trip.

Ever a class act, Thompson killed himself while on the phone with his wife, and with his son, daughter-in-law and six-year-old grandson in the house.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 02:01 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


February 25, 2005

The Oregon Panty Bandit's Darker Side

At first, this seemingly rates a titter and cluck, and that's it. But this sad story serves as a reminder that garden-variety creepiness often belies deeper creepiness.

Sung Koo Kim has been a busy guy. The 2001 Washington State University grad is alleged to have stolen some 3,400 pieces of women's underwear from six Oregon colleges.

According to the above-linked report in the University of Miami Hurricane Online:

(U-WIRE) PULLMAN, Wash.-Sung Koo Kim, the alleged Oregon underwear thief, is a Washington State University graduate. Kim graduated from WSU with a degree in Genetics and Cellular Biology in 2001, according to the Oregonian. The 30-year old Kim has been accused of stealing more than 3,400 pairs of women's underwear at Oregon colleges since 2001.

Police caught Kim in his Tigard, Ore., home with the stash of underwear in May 2004. He was charged with theft in Benton, Multnomah, Yamhill and Washington counties in Oregon. The underwear thefts were reported in at least six Oregon colleges, including Oregon State University, Linfield College, George Fox University, Concordia University and the University of Portland. The thefts were from laundry rooms in dormitories and apartment complexes.

Here's the kicker:

Kim is also faced with child pornography charges in Washington County. Officers inspecting his home computer found child pornography, in addition to over 40,000 pornographic images of women being tortured and mutilated, according to court documents.

Ugh. Retch.

The report concludes:

There were several reported cases of underwear theft during the time that Kim attended WSU, said Steve Hansen, chief of WSU Police Department. But those cases may not be significant to the Kim case. Kim is in custody in Oregon. The first trials will take place in Yamhill county, Sassaman said.

Let's hope justice is dispensed wisely (what exactly would that constitute, I wonder?) and that Mr. Kim is able to heal himself. You've got to wonder if there aren't some pretty strong elements of repressed sexuality at play here.

Like it or not, Kim may go down in history along with another bizarre interloper targeting college co-eds: the Illinois Enema Bandit.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack



Friday Blogburst

Cinnamon Stillwell, as I've mentioned before, is a promising young conservative guest columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Here's her latest for The Chron, "The Making of A 9/11 Republican."

Canada has decided it will not defend its own airspace from incoming missiles, thus relinquishing "sovereignty" of its skies to...guess who? At least we'll defend North America better than those Canuck putzes. P. Scott Cummins has more.

Speaking of Canada, don't miss Trudeaupia, a richly-observed and subversively conservative Canadian blog. For a few more sane, funny, and right-on Canadian bloggers, check out the "Canada" section of my blogroll.

Mike is an ex-marine with an MBA, who says he works as a "six sigma black belt" (does that mean martial arts instructor, or undercover operative, or what?) AND as a part-time university instructor. He also operates het2blog, an informed, well-written local political blog. He happens to live in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. You might not realize it, but blogging about Sheboygan is the future.

Always good to check in with my favorite gun-toting gay conservative from Texas. At "Right Side Of The Rainbow," Paul ruminates on the Times of London publishing its first-ever gay marriage engagement notice, and observes some telling details in the "happy couple's" story. He concludes, with a link to Donald Sensing, that gay marriage in itself won't erode the institution, but rather, demonstrates its already-greatly-weakened state.

The blog "Free Frank Warner" is written by "A Liberal For Liberation" and his motto is "Dreams Can't Come True If You Never Wake Up." I exchanged e-mails with Frank, over a year ago, when I first began Rosenblog, and last I heard he was working days as a copy editor at a daily paper in Pennsylvania. He's focused on foreign policy and global democracy; and while there are way too many folks blogging about the same big global and national stories these days, Frank's approach is fresh, and his writing really good. Here's a recent post on a German columnist wondering if Bush is right about pushing democracy in The Middle East. Warner concludes: "Only a fool bets against freedom. If you're wrong, you're exposed as a cynical bigot. If you're right, often enough you're either a slave or a rotting cadaver. On which side does Europe want to place its bets?"

Always on the case, Spartacus tracks down this notice at careerbuilder.com for.....an English-to-Monkey translator. Interested applicants should first review the employer's Web site.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:08 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


February 24, 2005

Arnold's Endless Campaign For A Better California

At his blog California Insider, Sac Bee political columnist Daniel Weintraub highlights early polls showing support for The Governator's latest round of Direct Democracy ballot initiatives to outflank a typically recalcitrant legislature. A recent poll shows majority support, tho not overwhelming, for all four measures Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's allies will push to place on the fall ballot if the state House and Senate don't enact closely-similar legislation beforehand.

The initiatives would:

institute merit pay for public school teachers;

let judges, not legislators, handle legislative redistricting;

replace state pensions for new state workers with 401(k) accounts;

and, help balance the state's budget.

The poll also shows some hesitation about approving the special election that would be required, due to the price tag. In another post today, Weintraub says that won't be a stumbling block; Californians love to vote:

Aside from the specifics on the issues in the Field Poll, much is being made (mainly by Democrats) of the public's distaste for a special election once they hear how much it will cost....Voters tend to forgive the cost of a special election as the voting draws near and they lick their chops at getting another chance at direct democracy.

Arnold's approval rating has dropped from a high of 65 percent to 55 percent. I hope his approval rating drops even further. He's taking charge, continuing to get the state in order, and cheesing some people off in the process.

That's leadership. And I really don't care that he's a preening populist politician. While I hope that the modulated, smooth Republican deal-maker Dino Rossi ascends to Washington's governorship after the current legal challenge to Democrat Christine Gregoire's razor-thin win in an error-plagued election, our state really needs its own Arnold in Olympia to shake things up. Someone like shaven-headed ex-Seattle Mariners slugger Jay Buhner, who supported Rossi for Governor, BTW. Someone with the persona to get right in the face of a Democratic legislature, using the initiative process and frequent, direct public appeals like Arnold has.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 05:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack



The Death of Neighborhood Schools

Worried public school parents in Seattle, Portland and Eugene are clinging to "school choice" in their districts.

Meaning they'll be damned if their kids will go to the schools closest to their homes, because everyone knows "neighborhood" schools is too often code for low-achieving "minority" schools.

Bucking this tendency, Eugene's Superintendent George Russell has bravely put forth a plan to repurpose the city's alternative schools, making them less an escape hatch for white parents, while increasing racial diversity by inducing white students to attend the neighborhood schools so many parents have fled in Eugene.

The Eugene Register-Guard (prior link, above) reports:

..Russell's recommendation earlier this month (was) to consider merging, relocating or closing some of the district's nine alternative elementary schools.....Russell's suggestions were included in a 38-page report that also suggested providing extra money to struggling neighborhood schools; favoring low-income students in alternative-school admission lotteries; boosting the enrollment of special education students in alternative schools...

Russell said he has become convinced that the district's 30-year-old system of alternative schools and open choice had weakened some neighborhood schools, leaving them "browner and poorer" than they otherwise would be as many of the most involved and affluent parents opt to leave.

As you'll see in the article, he has drawn a sharp response from alternative school parents in Eugene, who aren't willing to commit to neighborhood schools with too many minority students.

Writing in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer last weekend about a host of problems facing the Seattle Public Schools, commentator Ted Van Dyk made a few passing points that bear special emphasis here:

There are fewer school-age kids in Seattle than in any major city but San Francisco. Many are enrolled in private schools. Newcomers with kids bypass Seattle automatically in favor of nearby communities with better schools. .....neighborhood schools are where effective school systems begin....If the system is to make a comeback, neighborhood schools must be there for Seattle kids to attend.

And they must be prioritized in the school assignment scheme. Our city's "99 flavors" approach (99 schools, of ALL bizarre varieties, heavy emphasis on "choice") undermines good neighborhood schools. In Washington, we are deprived of real school choice such as charter schools (which were enacted by the legislature last spring and then rescinded last fall in a ballot initiative); and vouchers (difficult or impossible under current state law).

While there are charter schools in Oregon, the "choice" plans offered in Portland and Eugene, as in Seattle, are largely a way of dodging the need for cohesive neighborhood public schools, where involvement of middle- and upper-income parents and students could be part of the rising tide that lifts all boats.

A "no choice" policy should be instituted in places like Seattle, Portland and Eugene, with a few possible exceptions allowed for students at the extreme upper and lower ends of the capabilities spectrum, and for neighborhood-based charter schools, where legal. This approach would cause more flight to private schools in the near term, no doubt. But things probably have to get worse before they get better.

If I knew that all the public school students in my Seattle neighborhood were going to the same neighborhood schools (K-5, junior high and high school; or better yet, K-8 and high school); I'd certainly be more willing to take the plunge with my own kids.

Liberals love to score brownie points for sending their kids to public schools, sanctimoniously talking up "diversity," but then game the system to isolate their kids from minority students as much as they can.

When on any given city block, kids from 20 different homes go to 15 or 18 different schools, you don't have a community anymore; nor do you have desirable neighborhood schools.

There's no way back without dramatic change. Less choice, and more consistent, academically rigorous curricula, that's what we need. As opposed to the rootless crosstown "choice" scam, and shoddy gimmicks like Seattle's "Mall Academy," or the schools for clientized troublemakers; navel-gazing Native Americans; and teens seeking parity with whole-grain teachers.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


February 23, 2005

The Western Washington Premium

National City Corporation, a large Midwest banking, mortgage, consumer finance and asset management concern, has relased a study on where homes are most overvalued and most undervalued.

A study of the top 99 U.S. real estate markets announced...by the economics department of National City Corp. finds housing "bubblettes" in one-fifth of the U.S. housing stock, labeled as areas with home premiums in excess of 20 percent, a metric that may indicate future price corrections.

....chief economist of National City Corp. and author of the study...Richard DeKaser....examines what home prices should be, controlling for differences in population density, relative income levels, interest rates, and historically observed market premiums or discounts.

"While overvaluation in home prices presents a risk of future declines," DeKaser notes, "these risks may well go unfulfilled. The true test of today's premiums in these markets will be the economic environment, especially incomes and interest rates, in the years ahead."

Which I take to mean that even if you pay an arm and a leg for a home in a hot market, you may well recoup your investment and a tidy profit years down the line when you sell, if buyers' incomes stay healthy and interest rates remain fairly low.

The study's results pose a fairly stark dichotomy between Western Washington cities such as Bellingham (21% premium) and Seattle (14% premium) and Eastern Washington cities such as Spokane (2% discount) and Richland, one of "Tri-Cities" near the Hanford nuclear facility (3% discount).

I suppose it's a total coincidence that the results (listed at the bottom of the second link, above) show housing in many towns in the Midwest is undervalued, and the study's sponsor markets mortgages in that region. But a housing market is often legitimately "undervalued" or "overvalued" due to local economic factors and lifestyle amenities. We could get a heckuva bargain in Idaho, I know, but I'd come screaming back to overbearingly-liberal Seattle because they don't burn crosses on Jews' lawns here, the hiking trails aren't overrun with All Terrain Vehicles, the grocery store vegetables aren't withered and black, and the chicken breasts aren't turning green under the shrink wrap. Plus there are other people with dark features. Too many natural blondes make me real, real nervous. Oh yeah, that jobs thing, too.

My wife and I found a great place for a good price, in Seattle in 1996. And it has probably doubled in value, or more. The luck part was motivated sellers who needed to move back to the East Coast, and close around Christmas. The deserving part was being extremely finicky until a real deal materialized.

Even back then, most of what was on the market in West Seattle (our preferred part of the city, and where we ended up) was overpriced and crummy. For instance, pinched little boxy-roomed places in West Seattle's highly "desirable" North Admiral neighborhood, where the slightly less screwed up K-5 public schools are mericilessly and misleadingly flogged by realtors. Overall, there's a lot of extremely mediocre housing stock in West Seattle, and the city as a whole. Seattle, in fact, is a largely architecture-impaired town, and this is especially evident with respect to the housing stock, and most sadly, the crummy, cheaply built churches (there are a few notable exceptions, of course).

Still, this cantankerous Chicago boy couldn't be happier about having put down roots here in Seattle. And for a conservative writer, what material!

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


February 22, 2005

Salem? Fuggedaboudit!

With a new conference center opening, it's time locals began to talk up Salem, Oregon, the state's capital, and the town's many arresting attractions, says the Statesman-Journal.

Sorry, I've been through Salem a few times too many. My impressions: bad traffic, franchises, a crappy-looking downtown mall, generic America, Nowheresville.

I'm sure I missed a historic district and some art galleries and a few good restaurants, maybe even a few nice residential neighborhoods and city parks. But you know what? Oregon's a vast wonderland, and face it: Where you really want to be is the coast, the rural wine valley regions, the Umpqua (River) Scenic Byway's winding 60-plus miles from Roseburg east up to Crater Lake, plus the wild Rogue River running out to the coast, the Columbia River Gorge, the Shakespeare festival and enchanting village center in Ashland, not to mention a 'lil ol' mountain range called The Cascades.

Salem's just never gonna rate. Great place for a conference on land use planning, tho.

My very favorite part of greater Salem is Route 22, west, out of town, to Route 99W south. That leads right into the heart of the rustic and romantic South Willamette Valley wine region. Give yourself a good-half day, and leave empty space in your trunk for a mixed case of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Past Eugene, stop at the one winery in a tiny hamlet named Lorane for a picnic lunch, then when 99W finally rejoins I-5 near Curtin and Anlauf, bear west on 38, through Drain, and out to the coast at Reedsport. Keep going through Coos Bay (by no means spend the night in this hopeless hellhole as I once did some years back, my flagging spirits supported only by take-out pizza, beer and the Urban Dance Squad on MTV) and keep driving to Bandon-By-The-Sea.

Kick back for four days, or a week in Bandon, making sure you rent a place on the water side of Beach Loop Drive, then resume your wanderings.

That's Bandon on my new masthead, BTW.

Salem.

As if.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:10 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


February 21, 2005

Why I Don't Tip Baristas

Not-so-subtle hints from two baristas at my neighborhood coffeeshop lately. See, I don't tip for counter-service coffee, a counter-service tea bag in hot water, counter-service chai, or counter-service espresso with steamed milk. Yes, I use that phrase "counter-service" a bit pointedly. Since when do you tip the guy who gives you that sub, or Philly Cheese Steak, or Vienna Dog over a counter? "Hey Pal, great job with the mustard and pickles, here's a buck." Right.

Yet many coffeehouse patrons shovel the change into the obnoxious tip jar on the counter. It's a way for guilty white liberals to express solidarity with the "working class," I guess. Now, because I don't, I notice one barista left out a credit card receipt plain as day for me to see. Someone had filled in $1.00 in the tip section. She'd never done that before, but I guess months of my not tipping pushed her over the edge. Another barista, after I paid for my tea, and cookies for my kids, noisily rattled around the contents of the tip jar and emptied it.

I tip 15 to 20 percent at restaurants, if the service warrants, less if not. I tip livery and cab drivers quite well, as I rather happen to value my life, and want to encourage safe driving. I've tipped movers, and even contractors. These people are all giving me a special service. Dripping some bean water with steamed milk into a cup and passing it to me over a counter doesn't rate. Sorry.

Other bloggers and blog readers have been debating this burning issue as well.

At the blog, Starbucks Gossip, there are several interesting comments appended to this post.

From a barista:

Tipping makes us love you, and when we love you we make better drinks for you, give them to you faster, etc.

OK, so it IS a racket, then. I don't need your love. Just the bean water.

From a few more commenters in the same string:

Tip for a cup of coffee? You guys are already outrageously over priced, and you want more? It's coffee for gosh sakes. I even have to wait in line to receive it. Does this mean I should tip the counter help at McDonalds? Maybe you can tell me the difference.

Then this:

Seriously, Starbucks is one of the best places to work for (from what I read). They get PAID WELL OVER MINIMUM WAGE and plus BENEFITS!!! Now, do I need to start tipping the supermarket checkers for checking out my groceries??? Apparently, they're usually MORE busier than Starbucks peeps (EVERYONE goes to the grocery store) and they get paid less....)

And this:

It's not rocket science, you are just pouring a cup of coffee or frothing some milk. Give me a break.

Roj, at Milog, has this:

Heck, I feel strongly that jugglers performing on the street deserve your sympathy. But does this apply to the person working the register at a coffee shop? Is this person underpaid and if so is it reasonable to expect me and not the store to compensate them for that? What about the person who swept the store and the person who ground the beans? Don't they deserve a tip? What about someone working at a supermarket cash register? Why shouldn't they have a tip jar?

Or is the story really that coffee shop workers are exploiting people's fear of looking cheap in front of friends, coworkers, and dates, their dislike of coins in their wallets, and (perhaps most significantly) their suceptibility to eyelash batting?

Bingo, Roj, on all but the last point cited here. In the end, it's less about what other strangers may or may not think, and more about self-image. "I am not the kind of person who stiffs a barista," the victimized say to themselves.

Yet discrimination is a concept that should not be bled of its positive meaning. I am a discriminating tipper. And if I am walking up to a counter to get a food or beverage from you, you are almost certainly NOT going to get a tip from me.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 05:42 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack



Washed-Up Lefty Loser Offs Self

He'd become well-nigh unreadable by the mid-80s and yesterday, "gonzo journalist," celebrity drunkard and famous psychoactive drug-guzzler Hunter S. Thompson killed himself. Here are some heart-warming reminiscences from today's SF Chron story about the man whose last published book was titled "Hey Rube: Blood Sport, The Bush Doctrine, and The Downward Spiral of Dumbness."

Jeanette Etheredge, another close friend of Thompson and owner of the North Beach fixture, Tosca, said he knew where every ice machine was at every motel in San Francisco.

One night when they were out driving around, he stopped abruptly in front of the Seal Rock Inn and jumped out. "When he came back, he had a bucket of ice for his bottle," she said.

Wow. Gonzo!

Chronicle Executive News Editor Jay Johnson, who also edited Thompson's columns when he wrote for the Examiner, said Thompson could not dictate over the phone, so he filed his stories page by page over the fax, sending multiple revisions as the two spent many hours throughout the night and into the morning "wrestling the column to the ground."

....When he was in San Francisco, Thompson was a regular at Tosca, even running the bar once when owner Etheredge was out getting a root canal. He broke his ankle once doing a pirouette off the bar, she said, and then refused medical help, instead taping his broken ankle with electrical tape.

A good binge was a sacred thing to Hunter, see.

She said he was always a gentleman. One time after hanging out at his hotel all night and into the morning, she told him that she had to go home. It was about 5 a.m. and he insisted on escorting her in a taxi. But when they were walking through the hotel lobby to get into a cab, she noticed he was wearing just underwear. And when they reached her house, she had to give him money to get back to the hotel. Sunday night, she was shocked by the death of someone who was so vibrant.

Shocked? I only wonder what took him so long. Thompson was clearly in his own "downward spiral of dumbness" and self-loathing. That this washed-up icon of incoherence should remain a folk hero to the American Left only underscores the growing marginality of liberaldom here.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:26 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack



A Good Hebe Ain't Hard To Find

Apparently, a museum exhibit on the goddess of youth, Hebe, will not, after all, encourage Pagan worship among the youth of Roseburg, Oregon. So reports the Eugene Register Guard this morning.

Civic boosters have been raising money to replace a long-ago statue of the goddess, ironically erected by prohibitionists to discourage drinking at nearby taverns (the original in Roseburg had Hebe proferring a goblet of water). But opponents to the modern-day replacement (the old statue was wrecked when a horse ran into it) feared that Hebe, who's often pictured offering up a goblet of nectar, would somehow inspire Pagan proclivities among Roseburg's impressionable and vulnerable youth.

The Douglas County Museum decided to host an educational exhibit on the goddess (GOOD idea); but under pressure froom local far-right twits, the county board put the kibosh on the exhibit. Now, apparently realizing they're quickly headed for the top of Jay Leno's monologue, they've reversed field, and announced they'll leave the decision on the exhibit up to the museum.

I hope Roseburg gets the statue, as well as the museum show on Hebe. The City Council, to its partial credit, last November voted 4-3 in support of the new statue of Hebe. 4-3? Sheesh. What's WITH these people? Are book bans next?

Hebe herself would have calmly countenanced the fools. For while she was indeed known as the Goddess of Youth, she also was also "worshipped as a goddess of pardons or forgiveness," according to the Perseus Project at Tufts University.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


February 18, 2005

A Bird In Hand.....

Sigh. Just goes with the territory, I guess. Living in Blue America inevitably means certain very labored, fairly awful things that you could really, really, really do without, are nonetheless woven into the tawdry fabric of your community.

Like the stagecraft of genitalia.

Coming (as it were) to Seattle's Moore Theatre is that inspiring exhibition from Down Under, "Puppetry Of The Penis." Also known as "the ancient Australian art of genital origami."

Just wait 'till you see "The Hamburger." Or "The Windsurfer."

If you can't make it, there's always the DVD.

I should be used to this by now, I know. Last October, Seattle was treated to a work of live theatre entitled, "Laura's Bush." Here's the Seattle Post-Intelligencer review.

"Laura's Bush" takes on serious social issues all right -- but in the style of a lewd cartoon. It seems that the first lady is the prisoner of neo-conservatives. Dody, a small town librarian, notes that Laura blinks "help" in Morse code during her TV appearances. When Laura visits Dody's library, Dody and a prostitute spirit her away to an underground hideout. Together, Laura and Dody explore the "216 positions for lesbian sex." A commando raid ends erotic ecstasy and provides a setup for a White House coup.

"Laura's Bush" was NOT some Seattle alternative theatre mish-mash. No, it was a nationally-staged embarrassment. Here's The New York Times review.

That is not George W. Bush in the White House. It is a former shepherd who worked as a Saddam Hussein double until he had extensive cosmetic surgery to make him look like President Bush. The real Bush (a genius and Kierkegaard scholar who was forced to have a lobotomy because the Republicans didn't want an intellectual president) is imprisoned in a bunker under a Wal-Mart. Laura Bush, trapped into living with the shepherd, has been blinking, "Help me," in Morse code during public appearances, and finally someone - a repressed librarian from Kansas with lesbian tendencies - has noticed and come to her aid.

In the run-up to the '08 presidential contest, theater-goers in Blue America can expect more genitalia-oriented productions without reference to specific politicians.

As the election nears, tho, I'll be expecting something new on stages from Burlington, Vermont to Santa Monica, CA, tying together genitalia and politics.

Maybe a political thriller in which the out-liberal-and-lesbian daughters of Dick Cheney and Alan Keyes engineer a violent overthrow of the state, funded by their wildly successful, multi-level marketing dildo empire which targets repressed, suburban Republican women. George Soros and Alec Baldwin will finance the production.

Also expect to see more real-life politicians in gentalia-themed plays. The precedent is already established. Eugene, Oregon Mayor Kitty Piercy was recently in "The Vagina Monologues."

Luckily, I don't think we have to worry about Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels doing a cameo at The Moore next week for "Puppetry Of The Penis." And that's a great relief.

I like Nickels. He's a pretty nuts and bolts kinda guy.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack



Live By The Sword.....

Today is the three-year anniversary of the fatal shooting by Seattle Police of a homeless black man in The University District named Shawn Maxwell. Here is what happened, according to a Seattle Times article (free reg. req.) on an inquest jury's decision that the officers acted reasonably.

Two Seattle police officers were in fear for their lives when they fatally shot a sword-carrying man in the University District on Feb. 18, a six-person jury decided yesterday after a weeklong inquest. Brett Rogers and Stanley Streubel shot 31-year-old Shawn Maxwell after a chase through residents' back yards that was preceded by a routine traffic stop. Witnesses had testified that Maxwell was carrying a martial-arts sword and had raised it over his head.

....After the shooting, officials of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle demanded a "fair and impartial" federal investigation into the shooting, stopping short of saying that race was a factor in the case. Both officers are white; Maxwell was black.

Witnesses had said Maxwell was pulled over on Northeast 50th Street for failing to signal. When an officer approached his car, he sped off, hitting another car on the way. He then got out of the car and ran, at which point a series of confrontations began between Maxwell and up to a half-dozen officers.

Officer Jeff Johnson testified that Maxwell turned toward him and pulled out the sword. "I said, 'Drop the sword. Drop the knife.' " Johnson testified. "I said that over and over again. He was yelling back, 'Just shoot me.' "

Maxwell took off running again and was later shot by a stun gun but to no effect, the jurors found. After the stun gun failed, Maxwell raised the sword over his head and was felled by two bullets. He struggled to rise and was shot by a second officer, who also believed lives were at risk, the jury found.

The findings, said the officers' attorney, Ted Buck, were "fairly predictable given the testimony of witnesses. Certainly it is a tragic situation ... but Mr. Maxwell didn't leave these officers much of a choice."

Here are a few lessons we may draw from the Maxwell case. If police stop your vehicle, do not flee in your car, or on foot. Do not turn toward a policeman in pursuit of you, pull out a sword and say, "Just shoot me." If police fire a stun gun at you, you should really stop whatever it is you are doing that is irritating them. If you have caused police to fire at you with a stun gun and twice with a handgun, it is really, really time to stop whatever it is you are doing that is irritating them. After being shot at with a stun gun, and fired upon twice with a handgun, you should not raise a sword to police. If you do, you may be killed.

A question also arises. Why does someone run from police after a routine traffic stop?

Today's Seattle Times obituary section carries a notice paid for by Maxwell's family. It says, in part, "WE WILL NOT REST UNTIL JUSTICE PREVAILS."

It already has.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


February 17, 2005

Camper Van Makes A Hard Left

I wanted to have something nice to say about Santa Cruz, really I did. Especially after all the OTHER things I've said about the home of the fighting Banana Slugs. (For example here, here, and here).

So when I saw this accolade to the re-formed 80s band from Santa Cruz named Camper Van Beethoven, the pump was primed.

After all, I've got about a half-dozen of their albums. Even after the debut album, with "Take The Skinheads Bowling," it was one smart-alecky, highly musical morsel after another. Oodles of stringed instruments played really well, intriguing arrangements, and attitude.

Well, it may all still be there. Sounds like it is, actually. Especially the attitude. Only some of MY attitides have changed. I'm not sure I'm about to rush out and get their latest CD.

"New Roman Times," the first album of new material from Camper since the group re-united in 2002, is a wild ride of musical styles — Clash-like ska, prog-rock, sleepy country rock, even a swing-your-partner fiddle tune — all in the service of a darkly cynical story of militarism, paranoia and political extremism leavened with CVB’s anarchistic sense of humor.

"A lot of the songs had sort of gathered themselves around the idea of warfare," said David Lowery, the group’s singer and frontman. "It really wasn’t supposed to be about the war in Iraq or the election. It was really more about the blue state/red state divide than anything else."

Cool so far, right? Now this:

"New Roman Times" follows a young unnamed idealist as he enlists in an elite military unit, engages in combat, returns home broken and resentful, falls in with drug dealers and arms traffickers, joins a resistance group and becomes a rebel suicide bomber, all played against a backdrop of a torn nation dominated by the religious-led breakaway republic of Texas "occupying" the independent republic of California.

Michael Moore with a dobro, bouzouki and Stratocaster. Wunnerful, wunnerful. Then again who knows? Sounds from the review like the hefty musical chops are still there. Strange for a writer to say, but I never cared that much about lyrics; more the music. Probably because so much music with lyrics is really lyrics with wallpaper music. Anyhoo, I've got a number of albums or CDs where the political content of the lyrics doesn't jibe with my politics: Palestinian hip-hop; trippy 60s peace songs, etc. Maybe I'll just check this one out of the library.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 03:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack



Thursday Blogburst II

GeoPolitical Review collars an AP story about Islamic extremists from Chechnya who French authorities say were planning a strike on the Eiffel Tower. At least this is what some of the more than two dozen detainees say, and AP reports the French believe plans were actually in the works.

Alan Keyes is a terrifically smart, very conservative conservative, who can't get elected, most recently when he moved to Illinois to challenge (if that is the word) now-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama. Hola! Keyes' 19-year-old daughter, has come out: she says she a "liberal queer." Take a look at the pic accompanying the linked article. Cute. Hope she doesn't cut her hair any shorter, tho. Hat tip: Binary Circumstance.

The Ward Churchill affair is another reminder of why we should privatize univerisities. So says a fella from the Ayn Rand Institute, anyway. Libertarian Outlook points the way, and adds some perspective. Hmm....if they put the savings into per-child vouchers equal to current avergae state university tuition, I might be positively disposed.

Gotta love this pro-W, post-election billboard, courtesy of Desert Cat.

OK, every now and then, it's hard to resist one of these Gestapo Educator stories. A six-year-old gets busted for possession of a baggie full of......dirt. Hat tip to Jake at Smack My Booty.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


February 16, 2005

Arcata Council Mulls Backing Military Refuseniks, Deserters

The coastal northern California town of Arcata, as we have previously detailed (here and here, for instance) is a real piece of work. Tonight, the City Council's "mission creep" - or should that be "mission gallop," or "creepy mission?" - will be evident once again.

To be introduced and debated is a city resolution expressing support for U.S. military refuseniks, and military deserters.

The proposed resolution says, in part: "The City Council of the city of Arcata supports all troops, and demands that they be brought home now, as previously resolved by this Council (Resolution 045-10) on July 21, 2004."

"Be it further resolved that the City Council of the city of Arcata also supports those military personnel who refuse to participate in the Iraq war, or any other illegal war."

The resolution states that the City Council would demand "that those who refuse to participate in illegal wars not be prosecuted for desertion or related crimes."

It adds that the City Council "will consider what further actions it should take in order to protect from prosecution residents of Arcata who are military personnel, if they choose to disobey orders to participate in any illegal war."

Just let 'em camp out in the middle of downtown. There's a place where even military police would fear to tread.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


February 15, 2005

Hiding Out In Public

Just a few blocks east of the University of Washington campus in Seattle is a sleek, upscale shopping mall named University Village. It's a comfortable shrine to consumerism, in a largely well-educated and upper-middle class quadrant (NE) of Seattle. As it's not terribly far at all from the Laurelhurst neighborhood where Bill Gates III grew up, I'm tickled to see an Apple Store there. I was even more tickled to throw off the mighty yoke of Redmond the other day, and buy an Apple iMac G5, the sexiest computer alive. Aeroport Express wireless network gizmo, too.

So I'm not entirely a Luddite, even if I waited years too long to get a cable modem Net connection. But walking around U Village, I couldn't help but be struck by the modern affliction of distributed connectivity in public space.

Everyone, everywhere, was yammering into a cell phone. Or toting tiny iPods, the latest, greatest portable digital music devices, which you program with songs downloaded from your home computer, friends or Internet sites. And the coffeehouses in places like U Village? Why they're filled with people equally cut off from the social mileu.

Here, in the Seattle Times' Pacific Northwest magazine last Sunday, writer Julia Sommerfeld nails what it is that bothers me so much about all the Pod People.

"It looks like a library in here," (Seattle U. Sociology Dept. Chair Jodi) O'Brien says, scanning her neighborhood coffee shop, where at least half the customers stare into laptop screens. Others read newspapers or shuffle through paperwork. The only people talking seem to be in some sort of business meeting.

Cozy chairs are arranged for conversation, but people sit turned away from each other, likely chatting with other strangers online.

Even if that one lady who's looking around tried to strike up a conversation with the guy next to her, she'd have a hard time getting his attention. He's corked off the rest of the world with his iPod. Those telltale white earbuds announce: I've got 10,000 songs to render you mute.

"A lot of what people call socializing is really just public isolation," O'Brien says.

Here in Seattle we do a lot of things alone. We live alone: Two out of five households have a single occupant — one of the highest rates in the nation.

The article also contains this telling caption of several wired young students in a coffeehouse.

Huh? What did you say? At University Zoka coffee shop near the U. Village, socializing means sharing a table with friends but drowning them out with your own personal soundtrack. From left, University of Washington student Nick Hara plugs into his iPod, Perla Josué downloads music on her PowerBook and Fahm Saechao plays "R&B slow jams" on a portable CD player.

Device-driven isolation in public space began in earnest more than 20 years ago with broad adoption of the Sony Walkman portable cassette player/headphone unit. I still remember walking around Manhattan at the time, wondering if some decree had come from above that two out of every three people on the street should be plugged into these things. Now, with personal mobile technology light years ahead, the effect is felt more broadly.

I've got more than 1,500 actual record albums, and scads of CDs, not to mention several guitars. (Unlike most married guys, I haven't allowed my music to be banished to the basement. Our living room is where the music library stays; the TV/VCR/DVD agglomeration is in the basement family room). So it's safe to say I love music. I love food too, and am the cook in our family's household. I love to share food and music with friends and family.

But I personally would never disrespect food or music by ingesting them while walking down the street. As for cell phone conversations - other than, "I'm lost;" "I'm running late;" or "Hello AAA, I need roadside assistance" - they're an almost totally obnoxious, socially irredeemable phenomenon.

Be open to the world around you. The trilling of a bird, the rumble of a ferry's foghorn, the clatter of a freight train in the distance, the snatch of overheard conversation, the glance from a stranger, the casual remark of a passer-by or fellow pedestrian, with whom you might actually strike up a conversation and - even in socially chilly Seattle, against all odds - a friendship.

Public cocooning is a menace to society. We are becoming a nation of emotionally distant, socially inept twits, as we noisily celebrate the technological "advancements" which hasten our spiritual decline.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:05 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack


February 14, 2005

Life's Ups And Downs

As you well know by now, at Rosenblog, we strive to bring you bleeding-edge news of the Pacific Northwest, and occasionally the Inland Empire (i.e. points somewhat east of Seattle and Portland); plus seemingly - but not actually - random global hot spots such as Scotland; Burlington, Vermont; Sudan; and Wales. Certainly, there's some impeccable (or would that perhaps be peccable?) logic at play here.

And logic is what this piece of uplifting news from Hermiston, Oregon, via the Tri-Cities Herald, is all about. It's titled "A Helping Hand In The Loo;" clever enuf, tho actually we're talking about a helping FOOT.

Forget marriage counseling, Ken Capper has come up with a whole new bowl game. It's the answer to that age-old argument between men and women: Toilet seat up, or down? His invention comes in a box that says, "If you truly love your sweetie, then put down the seatie." The Hermiston man, a former barber, real estate salesman and cribbage board maker, calls it the "Toilet Seat Putter-Down-Er." It retails for $29.95. A small price to maintain love in the loo. The TSPDE (our acronym, not Capper's) is a hinged plastic arm attached to the toilet seat that's linked to a foot peddle on the floor. Push down on the peddle, the lid goes up. Release peddle, lid goes back down.

....Capper said he got the idea for the TSPDE about 10 years ago after finding out first-hand what happens when you sit on a toilet with the seat up. But his lavatory vision languished until April 2004, when he, Blackman and some friends were driving to a cribbage tournament in Nevada. Someone said anyone who could find a way to make money off all the sagebrush they were passing by would be a millionaire. Capper said he had an idea that he thought could make him just as wealthy. When he described his invention, everyone in the van went quiet, Capper said. Finally, someone said it was a good idea.

Prove him right. It's early. But such ideas exemplify the spark of American entrepreneurship. What captures your imagination? Something like this, bubbling up from the underground, or another Internet firewall product? C'mon. Order up.

Your marriage, or - er - relationship (we DO use that word still, don't we?) will benefit inestimably. Or at least estimably.

The lid lifter is available at Ace Hardware stores in Hermiston, Richland, Pasco and Milton-Freewater, or by calling 1-800-510-7328 to order. Meanwhile, the promoters of a kinder, gentler john are trying to get on a TV shopping channel and maybe interest some larger retail stores so they can market nationwide. Capper's convinced they've got a hit. At a recent cribbage tournament, he told 40 women about his gadget. Result: Six units sold.

I speak from experience, as someone long bacteria-conscious. (How can anyone afford not to be these days?). And I've always lifted toilet seat lids, most skillfully, with my feet. Haven't enjoyed it a lot, tho - have to say.

So, yeh, there's got to be a better way.

And now there is.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack



Touring Like A Local

I hate it, just hate it, when folks come to a new city, and waste their time schlepping around to all the predictable tourist traps. You see well-heeled yokels doing this all the time in Seattle. At Pike Place Market (gawking at the fish flingers, having dumb conversations with fish merchants about shipping one crab and a piece of salmon 2,500 miles in a chilled box, and generally getting in my way as I try to shop); at the Space Needle; and finally, falling for the downtown hotel concierge's ultimate and utterly predictable "local flavor" gambit - riding the ferry to quaint little downtown Winslow on Bainbridge Island. Paint-by-the-numbers, all the way.

And so a whole class of visitors manage to have "been" to Seattle without having actually BEEN here. No explorations of Lincoln, Seward or Carkeek parks, no jaunts to Seattle neighborhoods such as Madrona, Leschi or Mount Baker to enjoy the Lake Washington waterfront and sylvan residential streets.

No grokking of what most makes our region unique and provides its NAME, for goodness sakes: Puget Sound (D'oh!). You can do this without a boat, and if that's not clear, prospective visitor, we need to talk about the odd, hidden-away nooks and crannies and fingers of land that jut out everywhere in west and south Puget Sound, and which entirely justify renting a car and clearing a day for getting gloriously lost.

Feeling as I do about stuff like this, it was with high hopes I dove into this WaPo piece on finding the real San Francisco, a place I first visited at age 9 in 1967 (a little young for the serious Summer Of Love festivities, I know); and which I've been back to many times since, especially after moving to Seattle from Chicago in 1994.

Well, the Post's piece has a cute gimmick, citing places that are tourist traps ("Tourist Zone") versus off-the-beaten-path ("Locals' Own"). It's a good start, but still just sort of skims the surface. What the writer seems to forget (except for a nod to the real Chinatown in The Richmond district) is that in San Francisco, the key is neighborhoods.

Like Portero Hill, Bernal Heights, The Mission, Inner Sunset, Outer Sunset, The Richmond, Sea Cliff's China Beach, Pacific Heights, and Japan Town. Just for starters.

Then you gotta ride outta town, either up to Point Reyes National Seashore (you'll have to hike in to the beach); or south to the San Mateo County Coast. Same deal down there: the tourist books will tell you to go to Half-Moon Bay. Uh-uh. Too cute by three-quarters. You want to go a bit further, and hit the windy, empty beaches on the way to the little old Portugese hamlet of Pescadero, where you have the cream of artichoke soup, and Fresh Local Cracked Dungeness Crab at Duarte's Tavern. Or peruse the menu further, and perhaps choose Hog Island Oysters, Crab Cioppino, Seabass Saute, or a Portugese Linguica sausage sandwich. Here's a Duarte's tip: get what some folks call the "half and half" soup: part cream of artichoke, part cream of green chile. And if you're driving in the mountain roads up from the coast, have fun, but you should know that Neil Young doesn't take kindly to visitors, and will escort you off his property with a gun. Or so I've been told.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:29 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack


February 12, 2005

The Political Death Wish Of Pro-Gay-Marriage Zealots

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, is marking the anniversary of his illegal, landmark push for gay marriage in SF with more of the same stupid pandering on that very issue, one which U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) says helped President Bush get re-elected.

She's right, while Newsom is ever more a political has-been; a once-promising moderate Democrat whose misguided play-acting on gay marriage will continue to haunt his party, as state after state moves toward a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, like the 13 which adopted such measures this past year.

Here in Washington, the State Supreme Court is scheduled on March 8 to hear an appeal involving two lower court cases supporting gay marriage as a state constitutional right. Our liberal Supremes will likely rule in favor of gay marriage, despite polls showing the public is opposed in Washington. Such judicial overreach might well then fuel a voter backlash in WA, quite possibly putting Rs back in charge of the State House and Senate in '06.

Which would make plausible the required two-thirds vote in both chambers of the WA legislature for a public referendum on a state constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage. Recall that prior to the '04 lower court rulings, our state legislature had passed its own Defense Of Marriage Act, defining the institution as between a man and a woman only. As did some 37 other states.

Even worse for same-sex marriage supporters across the nation, they inevitably and pitifully vilify legitimate opponents as homophobic bigots. In so doing, they expose themselves as ideological extremists; burn bridges with moderates; and sew the seeds of their own demise, politically.

All coming soon to Washington state. Thanks, in no small part to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, liberal loser supreme.

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



Tasty Cakes, Fried In A Pan

Government has its good days. City officials in Edinburgh, Scotland stopped two artists from an exhibition that was to proffer to the audience cooked blood sausage made from the artists' own blood. The Scotsman reports:

Scottish artists John Beagles and Graham Ramsay were planning to slice and fry black pudding made from their own blood in a show of "live art" this afternoon. But they were forced to abandon the project after Edinburgh City Council dispatched its environmental health officers to the Royal Scottish Academy building on the Mound, the show’s organisers said. The National Galleries of Scotland, which runs the building, also read the riot act against any such creative cookery.

John Beagles, from Glasgow, insisted yesterday that the pre-cooked puddings made from two pints of the two artists’ blood will still be part of the exhibition.

"They are cooked, we will be taking them through to Edinburgh, and they may be in the fridge or sitting on the table," he said. "We will be standing over them, guarding them."

The pair will also show a film detailing how they prepared them. "There’s a film that documents the whole process, the blood extraction, the cooking and preparation."

Of course. Self-referential art always requires a film detailing the fascinating creative process of the artiste, n'est ce pas?

Kate Downie, the president of the Society of Scottish Artists (SSA), stressed it was part of the society’s annual exhibition, which also includes watercolours, paintings, contemporary film and sculpture.

"....Originally they were going to be slicing it up and frying it and offering it around to the audience, not with the intention that anybody would actually eat it." Ms Downie added that the gallery’s director, Michael Clarke, also rejected any frying. She dismissed speculation that a pavement protest was planned today.

A spokesperson for the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) said: "Following a risk assessment being carried out it was felt that, in the interests of hygiene and public safety, the live performance should not go ahead. However, the NGS have no objections to the cooked product being displayed within the Body Parts exhibition and, if the cooking and preparation can be filmed elsewhere, to the showing of a short film of the artists at work."

.....The blood for the black pudding was stored after daily home visits from a nurse. Ramsay has said the show represents a mix of self-portraiture, meat products, and cannibalism.

Ah, the animal rights agenda rears its head. Meat products and human blood pudding are morally equivalent. NOW I get it.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:39 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


February 11, 2005

"Cheeseburger Bills" Proliferate

Cheezborger; Cheezborger. As John Belushi woulda said (his grave here, 3rd pic, right, top row). Did say, actuall-A.

The Wyoming House has passed a "Cheesburger Bill." Love ya, dear departed John, and when I was a Chicago limo driver, I once transported your business manager, to, I forget where, exactly. But still.....good for the Wyoming House.

Like deciding to smoke, or drink lots of milk, or eat whole wheelbarrows full of Dulce de Leche ice cream; becoming a cheesburger addict is a personal choice.

And so, to the addicted cheeseburger snarfer, I say, YOU bear responsibility - and no one else - for your cost to society, and yourself. No lawsuits, please.

Last week, the Wyoming House passed a bill that would shield restaurants, advertisers, ranchers and others from lawsuits by obese people claiming their weight and health problems were caused by the long-term consumption of food or drink. The Senate may hear the bill this week. Fourteen states have enacted so-called "common sense consumption" acts, dubbed by some as "cheeseburger bills," that bar people from seeking damages in court from food companies for weight gain and associated medical problems. Wyoming is one of 18 additional states considering such legislation.

The U.S. House approved the idea last year, but the Senate did not act on the legislation. "They can't come back and say, 'What you served me is what made me fat,' because every single day each of us has the opportunity to push back from the table and say, 'I've had enough.' And we also have the opportunity to get up and exercise," said Rep. Debbie Hammons, D-Worland, the chief sponsor of the legislation.....A federal appeals court last month revived part of a New York class-action lawsuit blaming McDonald's for making people fat through its advertising.

Thanks, Lil' Debbie. Love your cakes. And I'm widcha. But I must confess, I have my own problem. I blame Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore for making me a TV addict.

Yes, yes. It was a long time ago. But now that the problem has careened out of control, I may sue them.

So everyone please, call your legislators, now.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:11 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack



Go, Maroons!

At Rosenblog, we listen. Sometimes. As often as possible, actually. Especially when it's not too painful. And even when it is, which wasn't really recently, no, not really, after I laid my heart and soul on the line with a site redesign.

Devoted readers had comments (via this post) AND via e-mail, about our new look. Mostly positive, as - thanks to my associate and Web Designer Supreme Phil Wright - was warranted. However, certain issues surfaced. Including, the distracting colored vertical borders; the font size of the blog posts; AND the color scheme, which involved a healthy, or some would say, unhealthy, dose of purple. ALL my choices. And...upon further review, I agree, these things were hard upon the eyes.

Hence, a few important changes. Including Rosenblog's new color scheme: Maroon. I like it, and I hope you do, too. But don't worry about MY feelings. D'oh, really! Lemme know whatcha think. To me, it's much easier on the eyes, w/out purple, especially the links in my posts. That purple was just too fluttery.

BTW, my high school soccer and baseball teams at the University of Chicago Laboratory School high school (a.ka. "U-High") were named The Maroons. As were the fairly pitiful University of Chicago football and basketball teams with which I do not whatsoever associate.

However, in my Maroon high school's defense, I should note that our soccer AND B-ball teams kicked butt. And -- FWIW -- I was a starting fullback on the undefeated (12-0-01) frosh-soph Jr.-High Maroons soccer team (which had ZERO goals scored upon it ALL season, ahem); and was the starting outfielder on the varsity Maroons baseball team who was nicknamed (by one highly observant teammate) "Mr. Clutch."

Naturally, you are wondering about that, as well you should. I can only surmise it had to do with my key RBI hits; great knowledge of the strike zone; and my devastating, throw-em-out-at-home-plate, killer, arm-from-the-deep capabilities.

I know. That's a lotta hyphens. And commas. But there you have it. A lotta periods. Now. Too.

Anyway nowadays, on weekends at the neighborhood ballfield, I get to waggle my bat like The Yaz; knock a few pitches outward when junior gets it over the plate; and then pitch - with a super-duper high kick just like the unforgettable 60s SF Giants pitching ace Juan Marichal - to my eight-year-old-son.

Who typically smacks the ball right upside my face.

Gotta love it....So, Go Maroons. And...Go ....Maroon.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:13 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


February 10, 2005

SF Bored Of Stupes? Hardly!

One of my favorite Left Coast Conservatives is Cinnamon Stillwell, who has another guest op-ed in The San Francisco Chronicle's online edition. It's titled "San Francisco: Nanny State U.S.A." The SF Board of Supervisors is considering a smoking ban that extends to OUTDOOR city-owned public spaces. (Hey, indoor bans are fine with me - I know, I'm a heretic. But outside? C'mon!).

As Stillwell details, The Supes (or is that The Stupes?) are also looking at policing cyber-arcades; mandating certain types of water bowls and amounts of food for backyard dogs; and may eventually adopt a law mandating that grocery stores charge customers 17 cents per bag, paper or plastic. Then there's the citywide vote on a handgun ban, planned for November. Mayor Gavin Newsom, who came into office looking like a moderate D who was committed to re-shaping failed homeless programs, of course then made his huge pander leftward on gay marriage.

Now, writes Stillwell, he seems to have "faded into the woodwork," while The Stupes move ever leftward. Which is saying a lot, because the board's now-former President, as a grand parting gesture, turned loose in his office a graffiti artist who tagged the walls with the words, "Smash The State."

One other thing, Stillwell notes - with a population of under 800,000, 11 supes are too many for SF. I agree: there should be no more than 7 or 8. At $110,000 each per year, the extra money could be put into, oh, I dunno, something really esoteric like a few more cops.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack



Thursday Blogburst Deluxe

Jeff Brazill at Au Fait has a fine and informed rant about the losers in the Virginia State Legislature, whose priorities are sagging.

At BumperStickerPolitix, Spin Daddy has a great George & Laura & Bill & Hillary joke.

The blog Damn Hippies is actually written by soma kinda tech-geek person, and it's good reading. Here's a post on the none-too-soon exit of CEO Carly Fiorina from Hewlett Packard.

"Che - Still Dead," via Random Nuclear Strikes, and a buncha other bloggers.

No driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. That's the gist of legislation the U.S. House may soon pass. More here from Diderot's Lounge.

Dustbury.com has a great reminiscence about early 60s pop-rock, and Del Shannon, on the 15th anniversary of his suicide, earlier this week.

Wal-Mart has shut down its first unionized store in North America. An economic decision and a victory for free markets, says Pieter Dorsman, at his excellent blog PeakTalk (which you must bookmark if you have not yet). BTW, Pieter has QUITE an interesting and impressive background, and now runs a finance and business consulting firm for early-stage high-tech companies. He lives in Vancouver.

And speaking of the glorious Pacific Northwest, my Washington state blogging comrades have been busy lately.

Iguana at Silly Seattle is doggedly pursuing the crucial "who" and "why" in the story of a de-penised statue north of the border.

Shawna is a mom with a six-month old baby, and she's blogging from the heart about a lot of family-related stuff, and social security reform. She's for it.

David Keenan has a typically thoughtful, discursive essay on diversity: It comes from a life richly lived. Not PBS, or public schools.

If you're looking for Unity, it's between Duvall and Carnation. Skor Grimm explicates this latest utopian community. Don't start packing quite yet, tho.......

P. Scott Cummins proffers a profile of the up-and-coming Seattle-based new media design firm, Asterik Studio. Scott - who always has an eye out for inspiring, and oft-overlooked volunteers, performers, and entrepreneurs, writes: "Asterik melds art with whimsy - and deep spiritual meaning with joy and humor. Amassing an enviable client list: hundreds of recording artists (including some of the biggest names in pop, hip-hop and rock), over forty record labels, as well as a broad list of accounts ranging from shoe companies to magazines, state agencies to furniture makers – they are clearly an emerging player from a business standpoint. (Partner) Demetre Arges indicated that for Asterik, music has been a catalyst. “We never would have met if we had not been in bands..."

You must read Amanda Witt, on "My Experience With Planned Parenthood."

And Seattle blogger Ambra Nykol, whose first guest column for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer excoriates celebrity malefactors and our culture's eagerness to give them a pass. Keep your eye on Ambra; this young woman has a prodigious writing talent and a keen eye for telling travesties. I'm proud to call her a friend and associate. She's also one of the writers at the group blog Sound Politics, to which I also contribute. Here's one of Ambra's Sound Politics posts, "Parents And Their Right To Snoop."

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


February 09, 2005

NAOMI Is Coming to Town

I've been writing for some time here at Rosenblog about Vancouver's state-supported hard drug culture; the government-sponsored safe injection site for heroin addicts in the city's bedraggled Downtown Eastside district, the Mayor's push for a "safe inhalation site" for Vancouver crack addicts, and - in a seemingly counter-intuitive approach - plans for government-sponsored heroin distribution to selected hard-core addicts to supposedly wean them from their deadly habit.

The latter effort is finally ramping up, as The Canadian Institutes of Health (CIHR) reports here.

The Canadian government's health research agency, CIHR, is providing $8.1 million for a two-year experiment called the North American Opiate Medication Initiative, or NAOMI. Recruitment of 157 hard-core addicts - who have failed to kick the habit after past methadone treatment - will begin tomorrow in Vancouver. An equal number will be recruited in both Toronto and Montreal. Each group will be subdivided: half will get pharma-grade smack for 12 months, then transition to methadone or another treatment program; half will start with methadone, and like the first group, try to transition to clean.

The effort is based in part on what Left Coast public health sources in Vancouver like to call harm reduction, but it is far from clear that addiction support is not a more accurate description of what has already been occuring in Vancouver, where the safe injection site has done little to ease the violent, intimidating, and drug-centered culture of the notorious Downtown Eastside District (scroll to second half of this Rosenblog post).

Even Canadian health experts are sharply divided on NAOMI, and The White House thinks it's a horrible idea to have government supply illegal narcotics to addicts.

The outcomes of the NAOMI experiment deserve close, and long-lasting scrutiny, as do the European studies cited by NAOMI backers in the initiative's favor. Only 10 percent of heroin addicts quit after a similar Swiss experiment.

If you want to put a face on why more heroin isn't a good idea for junkies, consider the story of Canada's "Dean of Drug Addicts," Dean Wilson.

The Vancouver Courier (preceding link) profiles the star of the documentary, "Fix: An Addicted City." Wilson was head of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug users (VANDU) until the board asked him to resign for stealing $60 he was given to courier a VANDU report to Ottowa, according VANDU official Ann Livingston, who is also the (single) mother of his two-year-old son.

Said Livingston in The Courier last month, "I wish him well, and hope he stops using dope."

Wilson claims he has his addiction "under control," and that he has been on methadone for a year. He lives off welfare, gets $6 a day for food, and has Hepatitis C.

He says Vancouver's safe injection site is a success because 600 addicts a day shoot up there. He works for no wages as a community liaison for a non-profit that finds jobs for addicts at......"facilities such as the injection site."

As Wilson's sad story and his viewpoints illustrate, the Nanny State is interested in managing addiction, not ending it. What is sadly lacking, to date, in all the controversy over government-enabled heroin usage in Canada, is serious discussion, based on comprehensive social health research, of just what ARE the best ways to get heroin addicts off heroin and keep them off. Similarly, there is too little discussion of methadone treatment. How many patients are able to get off methadone and stay off it, and off heroin, for good? This is one large part of where future coverage of the Canadian debacle needs to go, as the NAOMI experiment unfolds.

It is hard to fathom that the selected NAOMI subjects, who could not kick the heroin habit after successive tries at methadone treatment, will somehow do better with guaranteed heroin for a year, and then methadone. There is an entirely plausible case to be made that the government of Canada has lost its mind.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:24 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


February 08, 2005

Condi's New, Challenging Human Rights Domain

Eritrea Daily says new Sec. of State Condi Rice must closely consider religious freedom issues in Eritrea, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia. Yes, they've got an agenda, but they're not quite whistling Dixie, either. Here's thier update, and more importantly, perhaps, a link (next graf) to the latest from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. (Religious freedom.....Gee, that's something that we here in The West kinda take for granted, huh?).

The report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom bears a closer look. Some key excerpts:

U.S COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. RECS. FOR U.S. GOVERNMENT ACTIONS IN RESPONSE TO THE DESIGNATION OF SAUDI ARABIA, VIETNAM, AND ERITREA AS COUNTRIES OF PARTICULAR CONCERN (CPCs) FEBRUARY 3, 2005.

.....The President should issue a proclamation, under his authority pursuant to section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 USC 1182(f)), to bar those Saudi government officials from entering the United States who have been responsible for propagating globally an ideology that explicitly promotes hate and intolerance.

....The U.S. government should issue a demarche urging the government of Saudi Arabia to cease funding or other support for written materials or other activities that explicitly promote hate, intolerance, and human rights violations, including the distribution of such materials in the United States and elsewhere outside of Saudi Arabia.

...Some private groups in the United States have found materials, funded by the government of Saudi Arabia, in U.S. mosques and private schools that contain inflammatory and inciteful content, including material that promotes hatred and intolerance of certain religious groups. The U.S. government has stated publicly that, since the May and November 2003 terrorist bombings in Riyadh, the Saudi government has been increasingly cooperative in the war on terror, particularly on terrorist financing issues. The U.S. should demand a similar kind of cooperation in the arena of Saudi funding for the propagation of this kind of ideology, which goes beyond the direct financing of terrorism.

Therefore, the U.S. government must send an unequivocal message to the government of Saudi Arabia regarding the danger of these kinds of activities and request that the Saudis cease any direct or indirect support for written materials or other activities that explicitly promote hate, intolerance, and human rights violations.

....VIETNAM

....The U.S. government should determine those Vietnamese agencies, instrumentalities, and, in particular, specific officials thereof who are responsible for particularly severe violations of religious freedom.....The Commission recommends that the Secretary of State pay particularly close attention to officials in those localities where most of the recent abuses of freedom of religion or belief, including arrests, detentions, harassment, and forced denunciations of faith, have occurred. These include the Party Chairman and other relevant officials from the provinces of Dak Lak, Gai Lai, Bien Phuoc, Dak Nong, Thua Thien, Binh Dinh, Lau Chau, Lao Cai, Ha Giang, and the cities of Hue and Ho Chi Minh City.

...ERITREA...The United States should engage in vigorous advocacy of religious freedom and other universal human rights at all levels of involvement with the government of Eritrea and should draw international attention to religious freedom abuses in Eritrea, including in multilateral fora such as the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The Commission notes its disappointment that the government of Eritrea has not yet registered any of the religious groups whose places of worship were closed and public religious activities prohibited in 2002 pending compliance with registration requirements.

The Commission has also continued to receive reports of the arrest and detention without charge of clergy and others engaged in the practice of their faith. The U.S. government must therefore intensify its diplomatic efforts to persuade the government of Eritrea to improve conditions for religious freedom in that country, including by conducting the registration process in a timely, nondiscriminatory, and transparent manner, permitting public worship pending registration, releasing all persons detained for their religious activities, and ending interference with private worship.

Greater U.S. efforts are needed to focus international attention on the religious freedom situation in Eritrea. International awareness has been hampered by the lack of foreign media coverage of Eritrea and by the absence, due to government repression, of indigenous human rights organizations, a free press, or an open political opposition.

Accordingly, the United States should thus make every effort to promote consideration of freedom of religion conditions in Eritrea at the international level, including in public fora such as the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Similarly, the United States should strongly urge the government of Eritrea to invite a visit to Eritrea by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. In addition, the United States should coordinate its efforts with those of like-minded countries. For example, the European Union has already included freedom of religion in its political dialogue with Eritrea.

A lot to chew on here. Including whether the U.N's efforts on any of this stuff are worth doodly-squat. But, at least give the U.S. Commisssion On International Religious Freedom high marks for bringing this into public view.

Will these worthy objectives gain any traction whatsoever? I wonder. Considerable "extra-U.N." measures may be necessary.

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



A New Look

As you can see, we've done a site remodel here at Rosenblog, thanks to the very talented Philip Wright of Portland. You'll see a logo/link to his web design and graphics firm, Mystic Sludge, near the top of my right-hand column.

We're still ironing out out a few minor glitches. What I've noticed so far is all archive-related. First, a very small handful of the links in my stories don't work, but only ones that link back to one of my own earlier blog posts. Most of the links in my posts DO work, as they are nearly all to outside sources, such as online newspaper aticles, etc. (At least they do for me when I'm viewing the site. If not for you, please let me know). Second, if you click on one of the titled blog posts in either the "recent comments" or recent entries" section, you won't get exactly where you want to be either. And the monthly archives at the bottom and permalinks aren't working exactly right either.

I just spoke to Phil, who'll be working some of his coding magic later this afternoon and hopefully resolving these issues.

So.....please provide any additional feedback in the comments section of this post. I'm eager to hear what you think; what you like, or don't; and and if there any other problems you are encountering.

While there's clearly some fine-tuning to which we'll be attending shortly, I have to say, I'm very pleased with the overall look; it's a lot sleeker than the clunky old off-the-self Moveable Type style template I'd had from the get-go.

UPDATE 9:32 PM, PST. Alright. Phil took care of the above items earlier this afternoon, and we just have a few remaining design and user issues, none of which should get in your way of enjoying and utilizing the site for the time being. If you want to leave comments, do please access the comments capabilities, on current items, from the main page, not the archives. Archived items still have a few issues to be resolved, including comments and masthead, but we're well on our way to insuring impeccable interfacing and common graphics, across the board, in the new format. By Weds. a.m., hopefully, every last thing should be in place. A few design tweaks may still follow. Anyway, can we hear it for Phil? OK!

UPDATE 2: Weds., Feb. 9, 10:00 A.M. - Looks like we're ALL set on the remaining graphics commonality, and blog functionality issues. The last part meaning you can again leave comments at archived items, just as in the past. Only it all looks so much nicer!

The picture on the masthead, by the way, is one I took myself, on the beach in Bandon, Oregon.

One other note: the links to my published and online freelance writing samples (which used to clutter up the right-hand column) have been moved to a page accessed by one of the links right under the masthead, titled "Consulting/Triad Project." I'll be adding some explanatory text there about the services I'm offering (writing projects, counsel on editorial strategy & issues advocacy, organizational blog consulting) and what my strategic partners Philip Wright and Jeff Brazill bring to the table (web and graphic design, and database expertise, respectively).

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:41 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack


February 07, 2005

Uncle Sam Made Me Kill Myself

Kim Peterson channels the Iraqi "resistance" to write on "The Rationale of Suicide Bombing" in Dissident Voice.

...imagine yourself as a jobless Iraqi surrounded by two M-16 assault rifle-toting US troops and their soulless Iraqi collaborators....the few jobs that are available involve selling one’s soul to the occupying enemies, the ones who bombed your house to smithereens with your wife and three children in it. The same ones that imprisoned and raped your innocent mother and sister in Abu Ghraib -- this after your father died with the jackboot of an American soldier on his face and a rifle wedged excruciatingly deep into his groin. It wasn’t enough that they had looted your parents’ house of any savings and the few valuables; they had also bulldozed the house to the ground.

You wandered around in a daze for days afterward. One scorching day, you sat in the shade of a dilapidated falafel shop on a filthy street corner and gazed at the smoldering devastation. Some women were drawing pungent water from a crater filled by a burst pipe across the street. An expressionless man walked by with his infant child, ugly with the glow of depleted uranium. You hack and spit spasmodically while longing for a cigarette.

Normally you were an honest man, but hunger drove you to steal a handful of falafels. You sought solace in the mosque, but while praying a posse of US troops stormed through the gate and into the holy sanctuary. They upended everything, roughly frisked you and the other worshippers, and then kicked you out on your ass, spraying a few shoots into the air for frightening effect. But you weren’t afraid.

You had considered yourself the cowardly type, but that was when there was something to live for. But then you realized that there was something to live for -- or rather die for. It was then that you decided to cautiously put out the word of your intention to serve the resistance. You let it be known that you were willing to do anything to rid your country of what you considered occupying vermin.

Now you find yourself harangued for a piece of occupier-imposed ID by Iraqi police. You plead for understanding but you are shoved back ungraciously. Two US troops chuckle at your dilemma. The police collaborators, spurred on by their cackling colleagues, kick your legs out from under you to further whoops of merriment. You stagger slowly back onto your feet and totter disdainfully towards the suddenly leery Americans who quickly raise their weapons. It is at that moment, as you trigger the explosive cache strapped around your waist, that you feel filled with purpose again in your life. It is an irrevocable sense of purpose, in a life that had been stripped of purpose.

....the suicide bomber’s actions have greater significance. The suicide bomber, who targets military enemies, can be considered as a courageous fighter, a throwback to warriors of old.

A throwback, indeed.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:47 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack



Jew-Baiting Official In Hot Water Again

In 2001, Portland, Oregon school board member Derry Jackson distinguished himself with these remarks, as reported in the city's primary daily newspaper, The Oregonian, and noted in the Portland Mercury at the time (scroll down a bit):

"This is a group [the Jews] that came into this country equal to, if not less than, African-Americans. And today they run the country." He also allegedly noted, "I do not see Jews struggling to get over the achievement gap. I do not see Jews struggling to feed their families. In fact, I see the Jews running everything."

Last week, Jackson was charged with one count of intimidation and four counts of breaking a restraining order initiated against him by his wife, whom began divorce proceedings against him in August of last year. (Link here, courtesy of The Oregonian, quick, three-step free reg. req.). Hey, these things happen, I guess. But consider what prompted the restraining order in the first place, according to his wife. That mouth again:

Bernel Jackson (ed.-his wife).......sought a restraining order in September, writing in her court petition that her husband entered her home in late August while she was out of town. She said he left "bad messages" on her home and cell phones and letters on her car.

"He told me that if my behavior does not improve, they'll find my body in the Willamette," Bernel Jackson wrote in her September petition. "I've seen him sitting outside my house, watching. He told my best friend that . . . her and I will wind up dead in a ditch."

...If Derry Jackson is convicted of violating the restraining order, he would be considered in contempt of a court order. He could face six months in jail and a fine of at least $500 for each count, or a maximum of 30 months in jail and fines totaling at least $2,500 if convicted on all counts. He also could be sentenced to probation, community service or both.....

According to Oregon law, citizens serving a prison sentence for a felony can be deprived of the right to hold office, said Kevin Neely, a spokesman for the Oregon attorney general's office. Derry Jackson is not accused of committing a felony.

If convicted, Derry Jackson would not face school board censure, said David Wynde, school board co-chairman. The board does not have a policy allowing the censure or removal of a school board member. Derry Jackson's term expires in June. He has not indicated whether he will seek re-election. Wynde issued a statement calling the arrest "a really personal issue for Derry Jackson and his family."

"Having said that," Wynde's statement continued, "physically harming, or threatening to harm, another person is unacceptable behavior. Clearly there is an expectation that any of us would abide by the laws of the state and any court-imposed mandates."

In an editorial this weekend, The Oregonian called for Jackson's resignation. Innocent until proven guilty I know. But his life has become a sideshow. He ought to step aside and pull himself together, for his own the good and that of the Portland public school students, parents and teachers he's supposed to be serving. There IS a place in public life for shame, contrition, and other-directedness.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


February 05, 2005

No Good Deed.........

Be very, very careful about leaving a plate of home-baked cookies on a neighbor's doorstep. That's what two good-hearted teens learned, when their Durango, Colorado neighbor got scared and nervous by the mysterious nighttime delivery, and went to the hospital the next day for minor pains. She sued the two girls for compensatory and punitive damages, and they ended up owing her more than $900 in medical bills. (There's a judge who needs to be replaced, BTW).

Now, A Denver radio station has raised more than $1,900 on the girls' behalf. The excess will go to charity.

Sheesh. Here are a couple of teens actually doing something nice for their neighbors, and this is what they get. The neighbor says she's getting so much flack she'll have to leave town. Good. And wherever she lands, she should make sure to put a nice big sign on the landing that says: "Deliver Cookies At Your Own Risk." Or maybe, "Beware Of Human."

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:39 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack



Misconduct, Neglect, Grounds For Voiding Election

....That's what jumped out at ME in this morning's Seattle Times story on the contested Washington gubernatorial election. As you know, Republican Dino Rossi is trying to overturn Democrat Chrisitine Gregoire's 129-vote "victory," citing widespread irregularities (some examples below). Yesterday was a busy day in Chelan Superior Court, Judge John Bridges presiding. One ruling in particular seems highly favorable to Rossi. Chew on this:

Bridges...denied a Democratic motion to limit any challenge to issues of fraud and illegal votes, saying misconduct or neglect by election officials would also be sufficient grounds for setting aside the election.

Pretty significant, I'd say. Is not the stuffing into the King County tally of 400-plus unverified provisional ballots an example of neglect? Or the discovery of thousands more votes than voters in King County?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:13 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack


February 04, 2005

Welcome, Nazi Volunteers!

You probably already know that Nazis can exercise their free speech rights by marching in public, among other things. But if the Oregon-based American Nazi Party volunteers - like other organizations - to pick up roadside trash in Marion County, Oregon; is the county government required to accept their offer and post the customary roadside signs credting the organization responsible for trash pick-up on the designated stretch of pavement?

The county thought so, and did so. But outraged local residents took down the signs. The Oregonian weighs in here (quick, free, 3-step reg. req.) with an editorial correctly observing that the county blew it: volunteering is an honor, not a right.

How hard should it be to decide the honor won't be bestowed on Nazis?

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 05:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack



A Mixed Bag Of Apples From Wenatchee Today

UPDATED...........7:56 P.M. PST

The news from Wenatchee today is not bad, but not wildy encouraging either, for Dino Rossi. On the plus side, Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges rejected state Democrats' motion to dismiss the Republican lawsuit contesting November's gubernatorial election due to myriad irregularities.

As you'll recall, after a final, hand, recount, Democrat Christine Gregoire slipped past Republican Rossi, who had held a narrow victory after the initial tally and a machine recount.

Later reports today indicate Bridges has made clear HIS court is very unlikely to order a revote (rossi's stated sole acceptable remedy, by the way). But it appears if he finds in Rossi's favor on the error-plagued election, the result could be either to validate the second tally which left Rossi ahead, or to remove Gregoire from office, and replace her under the state constitution with Lieutenant Gov. (Dem. Brad Owen), holding a new gubernatorial election in the next even-numbered year, 2006. Of course, whatever Bridges decides, the loser will appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Bridges also offered up a tricky challenge for Rossi's side, something Democrats here have been saying would hold true: that Republicans must prove that enough fraudulent votes specifically - ID'd ballot by ID'd ballot - went Gregoire's way to have swung the final count her way. A tall order, no?

The GOP is saying they'll make a "proportional" arguement in response; meaning if they can show enough votes were in doubt, and according to the share each candidate got in the jurisdictions in question, THAT would have swung the 129 vote margin of Gregoire back in Rossi's favor.

I dunno about that - very "woulda, coulda, shoulda." Guess we'll see. In addition, the Superior Court rejection today of a new election in the relatively near term - which Rossi said was his only acceptable remedy - means that if Dino sticks to his guns on this issue, the only way he'll get in is if the state Supreme Court orders a new election. Which, conceivably, it could. Though I wouldn't bet the ranch on it.

More from today's Seattle Times (very first link, above):

Judge John Bridges today refused several Democratic attempts to dismiss the governor's election lawsuit, saying allegations made in the case, if proven at trial, would be sufficient to overturn the election of Gov. Christine Gregoire.

Bridges also rejected Democratic arguments that any challenge of illegal votes by felons and others should have been made by Republicans before the election because they amount to problems with voter registration.

"This case should go forward, at least at this point," the Chelan County Superior Court judge said.

But he ruled that Republicans must show any illegal votes were cast in favor of Gregoire, and not Republican candidate Dino Rossi. There would have to be enough illegal Gregoire votes to erase her 129-vote victory margin.

Bridges said that if Republicans did prove their case, he would not order a new election for governor as they want him to do. Rossi has said that was the only remedy he would accept.

Democrats had argued the judge didn't have that power, and Bridges agreed. He said state law and the state constitution do not give him the power to order a new vote, which he called "special relief."

Some of the rulings were interpreted by both sides as victories. A transcript won't be available until next week, leaving some issues unclear. Both sides predicted the other would appeal some of the rulings.

Bridges' ruling on illegal votes raises the question of whether Republicans will have to prove their case vote by vote. The two sides see that differently. Republicans said they may only need to show enough illegal votes were cast that if they were broken down in the same proportion as all the other votes in the race, Gregoire's victory margin would be erased.

After Bridges' ruling that he wouldn't order a new election, Democrats cheered but Republicans said the judge still could nullify the November election, creating a vacancy in the office and allowing the Legislature to call for a special election.

Early reports today had this looking like a win for Rs. Now, I'm not so sure. Two things about Bridges: he does his homework - as Seattle conservative talk jock John Carlson said repeatedly today on KVI-AM - and he's not dilly-dallying.

On the upside, whatever Bridges decides, it's likely to get before the state Supremes sooner rather than later.

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


February 03, 2005

Old Hippie Still Rocks

David Lindley was out on the Olympic Peninsula tonight in Port Townsend, a charming town full of Victorian achitecture, teens who can't spell, anarchist publishers, and retrograde symbolic politix.

Lindley is a stringed instrument ace who accompanied the famous 70s rock singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, but that notation alone hardly does him justice.

Lindley plays acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, steel and slide guitars, Turkish saz, bouzouki, Middle Eastern oud and a number of other stringed devices, all quite tunefully.

And he's been at it for more than 40 years. Most folks aren't aware of the great 60s L.A. rock group Kaleidescope, in which Lindley played a key part. While everyone back then and there was buzzing about the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield (both of whom I still love), Kaleidescope was also tearing up Sunset Strip. I was lucky enough to discover Kaleidescope in the early 80s in Waltham, Massachusetts, at Brandeis University's radio station, WBRS-FM, where I was a DJ and Music Director.

At the time, all the 60s albums there were labelled "Electric Blues." Made it easy to find the choice, quirky, old stuff. Like Kaleidescope. This amazon.com reviewer has more, on the group:

Psychedelic music at its most potent, and enjoyable! Extremely talented multi-instrumentalists who preceded the World Music movement by many years....Thoroughly recommended.

Lindley also recorded a fine CD with indigenous musicians of Madagascar. He joined with avant-rock-folk guitarist Henry Kaiser on that project in the early 90s; they went native.

David: come to Seattle soon! Maybe to the Tractor Tavern? Why, we'd even get a babysitter if you did.

There aren't a lot of 60-something guys with hair down to their shoulders that I'm ready to take seriously. But David Lindley is one of them. Long may you rock, sir.

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


February 01, 2005

ABOUT MATT

(Last updated Nov. 19, 2010)

Matt Rosenberg is the founder and Executive Director of a now-forming non-profit, Public Eye Northwest (PEN). Matt spent 2010 as director of Countywide Community Forums in King County, a privately funded public engagement program which works with citizens and directly with county government to gather and promote collective intelligence on key policy issues. CCF reached its highest level of citizen engagement under his leadership.

At CCF he founded the government transparency project Public Data Ferret, to enrich the news stream and build digital civic literacy. Ferret was featured weekly on the “Nine To Noon” show on KOMO-AM 1000 Seattle. The Ferret project and a companion blog, Social Capital Review, are now under PEN's umbrella.

Before taking this latest job, Matt served on staff as a senior fellow for the Seattle-based transportation think tank Cascadia Center from February, 2007 through December, 2009. (More below). Matt has 27 years combined experience in leadership, coalition-building, teaching and mentoring, public speaking, strategic communications, public policy, and journalism. Contact Matt: mattrosenberg (at) publiceyenorthwest (dot) org.

MATT'S BACKGROUND

Matt cut his teeth in Chicago politics and journalism. While attending Northwestern University, he spent the summer of 1977 working for a prominent civic organization battling political corruption in Chicago: The Better Government Association. As an Assistant to the Chief Investigator, Matt did public records research, investigative photography, and joined the undercover team of the Mirage Tavern, a joint investigative project of the BGA and The Chicago Sun-Times. Undertaken to document long-standing complaints from small businesses of shakedowns by city, county and state building inspectors, and in response to concerns about accountant-driven tax fraud that was shortchanging government coffers, The Mirage resulted in a month-long, Pulitzer-finalist Sun-Times series, a book, and an episode of "60 Minutes."

Less than a year later, while still attending Northwestern, Matt headed up a Get Out The Vote effort in seven precincts of Chicago's 48th Ward for an independent aldermanic candidate, Marion Kennedy Volini, who was elected to The Chicago City Council.

After an interlude involving time away from college, Matt resumed his undergraduate education at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and graduated with Dean's List and Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1982. He worked as a paid intern for an Illinois congressman in the nation's capital, and then returned home to Chicago.

Matt began his journalism career in 1983, covering Chicago, suburban and state politics for Lerner (later Pulitzer-Lerner) Newspapers, and writing opinion columns and editorials.

In 1988, he became Director of The O'Hare Citizens Coalition; developing his writing, research, community organizing and advocacy skills during a six-year stint working for 12 municipal governments pushing an ex-urban new airport south of Chicago as an alternative to O'Hare expansion.

Matt worked closely with suburban mayors, city department and legislative staff, citizens, and the media.

In the position, he wrote newsletters, legislative bulletins, many daily and community newspaper op-eds in his own name, ghost op-eds, and several commentaries for trade journals. He also helped engineered positive press coverage for his organization on radio, television, newspapers - locally and nationally. Among the national media outlets he helped shape placements with were The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, National Public Radio, and CNN. Matt liaised frequently with major-market TV and radio reporters and producers in Chicago, as well as major Chicago daily newspaper beat reporters and opinion columnists, developing strong working relationships and helping his employer's side of a contentious, complicated issue get told in a fair and balanced manner.

He also emerged as a leader of an alliance of airport noise groups around the United States, providing consulting services and helping coordinate grassroots lobbying of the U.S. House and Senate, leading to passage of legislation to phase-out of the older, "Stage Two" jets. Airport environmental and planning issues brought Matt to Seattle in 1994 as the Executive Director of a government-funded organization advocating positive alternatives to Sea-Tac Airport expansion.

In 1995, Matt began working as an independent communications and political consultant, and a year later, with his wife, began raising the first of their two children. Matt worked on a candidate's King County Council campaign, helping a challenger come within several percentage points of unseating a long-standing incumbent. Matt served as an assistant media coordinator for Schools First in the successful March, 1996 campaign for voter approval of a Seattle Public Schools maintenance and operations levy.

Throughout the summer and fall of 1996, Matt served as State Media Coordinator for the winning candidate in the wide-open race for Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Terry Bergeson. He handled writing projects and press relations; played a prominent role in shaping the campaign's media strategy; and generated substantial positive coverage for the campaign and candidate statewide; in major newspapers, and on radio and TV.

In 1997, Matt began volunteering for Seattle-based Friends of The Library, writing for the organization's newsletter; advocating for increased library funding to reverse cutbacks in neighborhood library hours; and coordinating a library issues survey of Seattle City Council candidates, for the organization.

In 1998, Matt took on a contract position for Friends of The Library. He helped organize Seattle library supporters and build neighborhood chapters of Friends of The Library in the months prior to voter approval of the landmark $198 million "Libraries For All" capital infrastructure plan (and related bond issue).

In 1998, Matt resumed his work in professional journalism. Matt has written about regional economic development, commercial real estate, personal finance, venture capital, high-technology, e-commerce, personal technology, banking, an array of other business topics; plus parenting, religion, restaurants, travel, and music. Additionally, Matt has written extensively about politics, public policy and political culture, most notably as a regular bi-weekly guest op-ed columnist for The Seattle Times from April of 2001 until May of 2004. Topics there included civic engagement, open government, transportation, public safety and criminal justice, race relations; education; gun control; foreign policy; consumer culture; technology; the economy; and national, state and local politics.

Matt has written for the Puget Sound Business Journal, Washington CEO, Washington Law and Politics, Seattle Magazine, The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, Crosscut, Metropolitan Living, Parent Map, Journey (Washington State AAA's magazine), the Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, Weekly Standard, National Review Online, and Jewish World Review.

In January of 2004, Matt began his own blog, Rosenblog, providing news and commentary on state, national and international politics and policy; culture; plus consumer, business, economic and leisure topics. After publishing 1,557 blog posts at Rosenblog since January 2004, Matt took a hiatus from the site starting in July, 2007. He resumed periodic posts there in April, 2008.

In the summer of 2004, while continuing to ramp up at Rosenblog, Matt also joined a high-traffic national political blog as a Contributing Editor, Red State, where he posted through 2006. In summer 2004 he also joined, and played an especially prominent role until year's end of 2006 at a nationally-recognized regional political blog based in Puget Sound, named Sound Politics. He wrote frequent commentaries for the main site, and with founder Stefan Sharkansky and co-editor Andy MacDonald helped develop the site's self-publishing tool, or Public Blog. Matt was named Senior Editor of Sound Politics, and helped recruit new talent to the main site, as he moved on to other, more trans-partisan pursuits.

In February, 2007 Matt took a senior fellow staff position with the Seattle transportation think tank Cascadia Center, where he developed and implemented a legacy media and new media advocacy journalism strategy through his own writing, research and publishing - as well as via blogging, social media, and other forms of relationship-building. His work at Cascadia was published widely, and recognized regionally and nationally.

In January, 2010, Matt became Director of Public Affairs for Dick's Drive-In Restaurants, founded by Dick Spady in 1954. In this position, Matt was charged with guiding non-partisan citizen engagement programs in the public sphere, including Countywide Community Forums. This led to his current work, founding Public Data Ferret and forming Public Eye Northwest.

MORE INFORMATION:

Matt's Journalism Portfolio - 1998-2010.

Matt In The News (coverage by others of his writing and work).

Matt's speciality blogging and writing on transportation.

Earned media resulting from Matt's behind-the-scenes work for his employers and clients.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:54 AM | TrackBack



Consulting Services

(Updated March 15, 2010)

Matt Rosenberg is a Seattle-based strategic communications consultant with 26 years experience.
Matt's latest position, assumed in January, 2010, is overseeing citizen engagement projects as Director of Public Affairs for an iconic and public-spirited Seattle company, Dick's Drive-In Restaurants, founded by Dick Spady in 1954. A major component is a joint project with King County government called Countywide Community Forums, involving gathering and quantifying for county officials feedback on specified public policy issues, from arrays of small focus groups of citizens. Matt is directing strategic planning for expanding participation and communications. Other responsibilities are fundraising and exploring other possibilities for citizen engagement and related Government 2.0 projects in the Seattle region.

Matt's previously served as a senior fellow at a Northwest think tank specializing in transportation policy. He did writing, editing, research, blogging, Web content and editing, media relations, and provided strategic communications counsel. Matt's journalism background is extensive. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and opinion columnist in suburban Chicago; as a media relations and community organizing specialist for intergovernmental associations in the Chicago and Seattle areas; and in Seattle as a think tank senior fellow, political and strategic communications consultant, and freelance journalist. Matt wrote a regular bi-weekly guest op-ed column for The Seattle Times from April, 2001 to May, 2004. His Times work was linked to by leading News and Opinion sites such as the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal, Real Clear Politics, Instapundit, Buzz Machine and others. He has been a guest on Seattle talk radio and Fox News.

He has written for the Puget Sound Business Journal, Washington CEO, Washington Law and Politics, Seattle Magazine, The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, Crosscut, Metropolitan Living, Parent Map, Journey (Washington State AAA's magazine), the Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, Weekly Standard, National Review Online, City Journal, and Jewish World Review.

Matt is also experienced with blogs. In addition to launching, serving as primary writer for and editing a transportation think tank blog for three years, Matt founded and operates Social Capital Review. Rosenblog. In his more red-meat partisan days, Matt was also Senior Editor at Sound Politics and Contributing Editor at Red State. He is pleased to have discovered a post-partisan approach to public discourse, reflected in his last two jobs and related blogs.

Matt provides these services:

  • Strategic communications audit and needs assessment
  • Strategic communications plan development
  • Training for users of blogs, Facebook, Twitter
  • Blog development manager - communicating your vision to skilled, trusted vendors, and providing oversight and troubleshooting to ensure your project is delivered on time and as envisioned. End-user troubleshooting to ensure blog functions properly and is Web-ready
  • Writing - Web site and blog content, ghost op-eds, collateral material, magazine articles, white papers, backgrounders
  • Community stakeholder process planning and execution, external relations, issues advocacy
  • Internet and public records research
  • Reach Matt at oudist (at) comcast.net.

    A more in-depth bio is here.

    And here's Matt's online journalism portfolio.

    Here are some samples of news coverage of Matt; plus Matt's behind-the-scenes earned media work; and speciality writing on transportation.

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



    Business Blogs On The Rise

    Mar-com and PR guru Steve Rubel on why business blogs matter.

    Rubel notes that when the Dept. of Justice and Microsoft reached a 2001 settlement in the high-profile anti-trust case brought by the department, the company's image was "beaten and battered."

    Three years after the case was settled, however, Microsoft has completed a sweeping organizational and image overhaul. It now is perceived as friendlier, more open and trustworthy. What’s also notable is that this transformation - led by CEO Steve Ballmer – took place while the company continued to face an increasing barrage of daily attacks from hackers, spyware, and viruses.

    Look beneath the surface, however, and you will find that Microsoft’s softening image was actually molded from the bottom up, by ordinary employees like Joshua Allen. In 2001 Allen, a program manager, signed on as the company’s first unofficial corporate employee weblogger. His personal site, called “Better Living Through Software,” chronicles life inside the Redmond, Washington software giant – warts and all.

    Today, Microsoft has more than 1200 corporate bloggers – more than 10 times the number it had just last year. They have the company’s blessing to write about whatever they want, provided they adhere to some basic guidelines. As a result, virtually overnight the bloggers have become one of the company’s greatest marketing assets, generating incredible online and offline word of mouth. In fact, Microsoft has even began to embrace them as a company. The software giant now links to all its bloggers right on its corporate web site...and even launched a special sanctioned blog-like community for developers and partners called Channel 9....

    Most Microsoft bloggers write passionately and candidly about the company’s technology, hiring practices, marketing, culture, and more. They even discuss company and product strengths and weaknesses in vivid detail.

    ...Microsoft’s corporate blogging army has in a short time opened a transparent window onto the most financially successful company that ever existed. They have accomplished the impossible by putting a human face on a gigantic monolithic company – a giant with a bad rap. At the same time, they strengthened the company’s position as a thought leader and generated incalculable online word-of-mouth. Blogging can do the same for you – no matter your target audience or your goal. The key is to listen, learn, and then get started.

    If you're considering a company blog, begin your research by going to Google and look up "corporate blogs;" then do a search for "(your industry)" AND "blogs."

    When you launch, you want to be able to demonstrate comfort with, and understanding of the open-source, collaborative nature of the blogosphere. It's not just for the sake of appearances. The benefits flow back to your company, that way.

    Perhaps in response to some advice from a friendly critic, Boeing Commercial Aircraft's marketing VP Randy Baseler has changed the name of Randy's Blog to Randy's Journal. More accurate for the time being, tho he's promising more blog-like interactivity. Good. I'll be watching, Randy!

    A final thought, for now. Boeing ought to take a page from Microsoft's book and create a public portal to Boeing bloggers. There are doubtless some in the ranks, and more would emerge with clear encouragement. Maybe Randy can discuss the company's policy (or lack thereof) on employee blogs in an upcoming post. There'd have to apprehension at Boeing about letting that genie out of the bottle. Probably Airbus'll beat 'em to it.

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