-->

March 31, 2005

"Wrong Embryos" Doc Loses License

The Medical Board of California has decided to revoke for five years the license of a Marin County doctor, for implanting the wrong embryos in a local woman.

Dr. Steven L. Katz...acknowledges he failed to immediately tell Susan Bucheweitz that he'd mistakenly implanted someone else's embryos in her womb in 2000. He waited 18 months to tell her and the other couple - who are now seeking custody of Bucheweitz's son. Bucheweitz was awarded $1 million to settle her malpractice suit against Katz, Imam El-Danasouri, the scientist who incubated the embryos and allegedly provided the wrong ones, and the clinic, Fertility Associates of the Bay Area.

....Katz has until April 27 - the effective date of the revocation - to appeal the decision. He could seek a stay that would allow him to continue operating his clinic until a final court ruling. After three years, he's allowed to apply for reinstatement of his license.

The old version of this story was the "switched at birth" gambit, which of course hardly ever happened at all in real life, but figures into more than a few movie plots. The switched embryos story might warrant a cable TV film treatment, with a twist: the mistake isn't discovered until the child needs a life-saving kidney transplant.

Who can predict the result of the current custody battle? But while the goof is obviously no fault of the birth mother, Bucheweitz, I'd have to say the suppliers of the fertilized in-vitro embryos are entitled to be the parents of the child she carried to term.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack



Of Cannibals And Colons

I've added a post about elected bloggers at my new biz site, Blog Consulting Pro.

Cannibalism is OK in Thailand.

If you speak only in sign language, or know someone who does, there's now available a translation service for sign-to-spoken language phone calls.

Igloo building instructions here. Click thru to the instructive graphic. This will come in handy at higher elevations in Washington state, even now.

The lesser scaup is in some kind of trouble.

Local public radio beg-a-thons make Doug Anderson wanna holler. If only they'd cover the gay crystal meth scene without political bias.

Who says snowboarders need snow? Bring on global warming!

NYC: under attack by recreationists. As opposed to creationists.

Some business proposals are merely doorstops. Marketing Today on how to avoid that.

An 8-foot-tall, 20-foot-long inflatable colon replica is on display in Houston. And there's a reason why. But it's NOT a doorstop.

Meanwhile, a carpentry union has installed a 12-foot inflatable rat at an Indianapolis restaurant construction site in attempt to influence employment and pay policies on the job.

Dunno 'bout chew, but I'm shore glad there's a place for a Petaluma chicken farm to send its 250 tons of chicken manure every week, for re-purposing.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


March 30, 2005

Bay Area Anarchists Celebrate Consumerism, Authority

Fear and Loathing sell, at the 10th Annual Bay Area Anarchists Book Fair. The SF Chron reports:

"A Bush election is very good for anarchist consumerism," said organizer Joey Cain, 50.

Happy customers abounded.

"This is Christmas," said Eileen Rose, 43, hands full of books. "The hardest thing about coming here is that there's so much of what I feel is critical tools to have." She showed a friend her finds, including "Anarchism and Other Essays" by Emma Goldman and a "F -- your fascist beauty standards" patch. Indeed, the F-word was especially popular at the fair: "You don't have to f -- people over to survive" and "F -- all boy bands" were among the slogans on the ubiquitous T-shirts, pins and patches.

In addition to celebrating consumerism, attendees of the anarchists' book fair were talking up authority, too.

Mike Travers...was there with his 5- year-old son, Sam....He sighed: "It's hard being an anarchist parent," he said, "because as a parent, you have to be the authority figure."

Must mention the great celebrity guest.

...the star of the day (was) Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor whose controversial comments about Sept. 11 have recently sparked protests and debate about free speech on college campuses.

Altogther, a classy bunch; and going places, too.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


March 29, 2005

My Advice to Bill Gates: Free Of Charge

The Wall Street Journal gets an exclusive invite to hang with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates during his one of his twice-yearly "Think Week" solo getaways, where he pores over papers on future technology trends, to help guide the company's future initiatives.

The WSJ writer takes pains to note he was not allowed to reveal the location at which he visited Gates, but gives it away, at least to any in-the-know Puget Sounder, by describing a waterfront location, and a view of the Olympic Mountains. It's obviously the Gates family compound near the south bend of the Hood Canal, around the blink-and-miss-it burg of Union. Not far from where his grandfather set up shop, literally, in Bremerton (this profile of Gates' dad, Bill Sr., mentions the Bremerton roots, aways down). Hope you got down to the Hunter Farms produce stand and grocery, Bill III, for some of those great locally-made caramels they stock at the cash register.

During "Think Week," Gates drinks caseloads of Diet Orange Crush, has two meals delivered daily, and reads and reads and reads, making notes and firing off e-mails to lieutenants worldwide.

A few examples follow, with my own "lay consumer" reaction. Though I think Gates is actually a pretty cool guy, I'm going to focus on stuff that rankles me a bit. First, full disclosure: I'm am enthusiastic user of blogging software (Moveable Type, and now also Blogger); I depend on the Internet for research and e-mail; and enjoy it for commerce. I am self-employed so I don't worry too much about computer networks, though - with help - I recently set up a small home/office wireless network. I have come to appreciate private, collaborative online work spaces with live chat capabilities, thanks to a newly-formed business partnership. I have a PC running Windows and, a new purchase, an iMac G5.

I'm not into downloading music off the Internet or video, and will never own an iPod portable music player, my favorite tunes insulating me as I navigate social spaces. But I am burning CD compilations using Apple's iTunes, and look forward to utilizing Apple's "Garage Band" home recording studio software, which was also loaded onto my new iMac. Educational computer games are fine (my kids use them), but online gaming strikes me a mediated experience too far, while many of the video games directed at teens and adults are either trivial or off-putting.

So now that you know my biases, here are my shoot-from-the-hip reactions to some of what Gates was reviewing during his recent "Think Week."

"..future mapping services that deliver travel directions with live images of destinations and details on traffic conditions and other information." Yes, other information, like a Net-enabled cell-phone gauging your location and answering your query for the nearest restaurant serving South Indian Masala Dosa or Brazilian Feijoada. I object. The "gimme data now" mindset, extended from business to leisure settings, has harmful societal implications. Be deliberative and caring enough to carve the time for a little research in advance. Why must everything be "on the fly?" Because we're so busy working overtime, thanks to all the new "time-saving" devices we're using? Because leisure is increasingly just a function of business? Mmm hmm? Pause, breathe deeply. Ponder.

As to Web-enabled or on-board mapping services....Feh. Do you want a print-out from MapQuest for your destination, or an on-board navigational device that may be stuck on Oklahoma, or talk only German? (These things happen oftener than tech press types admit). Are you moving from one pod to another? Or are you travelling through a zone of potential future exploration? In which case the analog option, an actual street map of the city and region, might come in handy.

What about live traffic information via the Internet or your cell-phone? Good Gawd, Yes. Indisputably useful and valid, just like flight arrival and delay information delivered in the same formats. But live pictures of your destination? Oh, c'mon. Get there, see it for real, not on your screen.

Three-quarters of mediated experiences are superfluous.

"Gates soon hit his stride, reading the 80-page 'Education Project Strategy at Microsoft' on how to hone the company's appeal to the education market." Worthwhile from a business standpoint in that educators have been hornswoggled into believing that software is important in K-12 education, so why not sell them more stuff they think they need? Sure it's nice if schools have computers, and it's good for kids to be able to use word-processing software and Internet browsers. But the whole technology in education meme is massively overhyped. Gates himself has stressed how poorly public high schools in the U.S. are preparing students for college, and Gates has sponsored Manhattan Institute research highlighting the problem. Kids who can't write, read or compute well need to focus on basics: reading out loud, developing reading comprehension skills, writing and spelling without artificial aids, calculating without calculators. The "spell-check" function in MS-Word - which of course also corrects poor syntax - is partly responsible for a generation of "educated" young adults who can't write their way out of a paper bag.

Gates reviewed papers outlining "Microsoft's long-term strategy to use video-game consoles, online games, and the PC to expand its consumer business." Consumers: Don't let Microsoft's tail wag your dog. Your time is precious, and your priorities should be your own. Think hard how much discretionary time you really want yourself, your children, your spouse, and yes, even your friends, to spend on video games, online gaming, and connected to other digital devices; versus talking, reading, cooking, walking, hiking, gardening or playing a musical instrument. Such decisions help define you as an individual and shape the society in which we co-habitate.

Gates also read about "the growth of Internet video, hard-drive capacity and the diminishing advances in microprocessor 'clock speed,' historically the driver of PC market growth." And now, Microsoft hopes, the driver of PC market growth will be a nation of bamboozled rubes convinced they can't live without being wired to digital "content" 24-7. Bah! What's next, digital phone downloads on "Slow Food" and "Voluntary Simplicity?"

Silly me. You can probably do that already.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 02:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


March 28, 2005

Independent Legislatures & Judiciaries Vital In Mid-East

Half the Arab world's population is under 20 years old; 100 million jobs must be created in the next 20 years, but economic modernization can't occur without "rule of law, accountability, and transparency...the essential components of a democratic polity." Real democratization in the Middle East requires more than the "incremental liberalization" embodied by "liberal autocratic" regimes; more than self-congratulatory non-governmental organization (NGO) initiatives on human rights, women's rights and democratic processes; and more than for-show-only political opposition.

It requires truly autonomous political parties; independent legislatures and judiciaries; U.S. and European trade sanctions to compel just such reforms; privatization of state industries implemented so as to NOT primarily just enrich cronies of the ruling elite; and a diplomatic shunning by U.S. and European leaders of "liberal autocrat" rulers in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, until they embrace meaningful, paradigm-shifting reform.

These steps will aid inestimably in home-grown efforts to "de-radicalize" Islam, the deadly capabilities and resentments of which are greatly fueled by the stifling of real democracy at home. Oh, and seriously, it's time to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, not because its continuance is a legitimate excuse for the slow pace of Arab reform, but because it has "a corrosive impact on the Arab body politic."

Deep breath. All that's according to Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, in his article, "Close, But No Democracy," in the winter issue of The National Interest. Read the whole thing.

A somewhat more modest, but related wish is stated in the same issue of this fine quarterly, by Robert Conquest, a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Conquest appropriately warns that the word 'democracy" is "high on the list of "blur-begetters." In "Downloading Democracy," Conquest writes that the word and concept, "democracy," carries all sorts of unreasonable baggage, including the expectation of equality. Conquest clarifies that the ideal is rather, liberty; including "...a society that hears, considers and reforms grievances. It is not necessarily democratic, but it contains the possibility of democracy."

In a way, I'd add, that Iraq clearly does, and Lebanon eventually may; while Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Gulf Kingdoms such as Qatar and Bahrain lag behind.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 02:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


March 27, 2005

The Global Hegemony Of Chickens

As you're doubtless aware, epistemology is the study of the nature, origin and limits of knowledge. I had an epistemological moment earlier today, when my five-year-old daughter, apropos of nothing, earnestly enquired of me, "Daddy, are there more chickens or people?" How can one really, really know, I thought. Ah, but of course, there's The Internet.

Chickens are important. Yes, we eat them, but there is still strength in numbers. With advances in science and breeding, chickens could grow larger still, more aggressive, politically aware (despite their pea-sized brains), and (ominous tympani, please) more resource-intensive.

So, I thought hard for about five seconds. Of course, I acknowledged to myself, there's high-volume poultry production in the U.S. and elsewhere, much to PETA's displeasure. Asia's big on chickens, too, I recalled. Africa? Lots and lots of chickens, definitely. And so forth. But - perhaps stupidly - I found it hard to conceive of an earth populated with chickens more numerous than the estimated global human population of 6.1 billion. So, I breezily replied, "Well, there are a lot of chickens for sure, but there've got to be more people."

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Or so at least according to a trivia Web site (fifth item from bottom) which says there are twice as many chickens as people; and a 1997 Los Angeles Times piece, which asserts the ratio is four to one. That's right; 24 billion chickens, and this was eight years ago. Yet I wonder. Has anyone actually counted them all? Could there be more than a peck or two of poultry industry hype at play? Just what exactly is the basis for this astonishing claim?

I will be investigating this matter further. If you have any sources of information for current global chicken population (as of no earlier than 2003 or 2004); and any tips on evaluating the methodologies employed in conducting a global chicken census, please advise.

We must get to the bottom of this.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack



Biz Blogs With Bite

I've got another post up at my new business site, Blog Consulting Pro. This one is titled, "Your Business Blog Can Be Edgy, Funny, Too." The focus is on an excellent and quirky blog from a California real estate entrepreneur, and why it makes sense.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 03:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


March 25, 2005

Bravo For Bravo Company

The decidely liberal, quaint, Northwest college town of Corvallis, Oregon was today expected to heartily welcome home Bravo Company, a locally-based National Guard unit that has finished a year-long tour in Iraq, as part of the U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, out of Fort Lewis, Washington.

Let's hope they got a warm and sizeable reception this afternoon. I'd like to see a similar event within the city limits of Seattle sometime. That'd sure be something, considering some of the recent and despicable outbursts here against the military, such as this, and this. Quite apart from moderates and even Iraq war opponents who still manage a classy demeanor with regard to the military (let's give credit where due, please); there are also a fair number of conservatives here in Blue Seattle. Many obviously support the Iraq effort, some don't.

Seattle's center-right standard bearers have been a bit scared to show their colors in recent years, especially with feelings running so strong. But that's starting to change.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 04:51 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack



I've Launched Blog Consulting Pro

I've launched a new professional site, Blog Consulting Pro. Here's my first post.

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


March 23, 2005

Norway's Prime Minister: Ikea Discriminates Against Women

At first glance, one might ask: is political life in Norway so sleepy, is the public sphere so bereft of grist, is the mighty spell of the fjords so narcotic that the nation's Prime Minister is reduced to bemoaning that the famed international furniture retailer Ikea discriminates against women in its manuals?

Reuters reports.

OSLO - Swedish home furnishings giant IKEA is guilty of sex discrimination by showing only men putting together furniture in its instruction manuals, Norway's prime minister says.

Ah, but if this Reuters report is accurate, there is more to it.

IKEA, which has more than 200 stores in 32 nations, fears it might offend Muslims by depicting women assembling everything from cupboards to beds. Its manuals show only men or cartoon figures whose sex is unclear. "This isn't good enough," Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik was quoted on Thursday as telling the daily Verdens Gang. "It's important to promote attitudes for sexual equality, not least in Muslim nations."

OK, yes. But. The "social justice for Muslim women" meme, one I've advanced at Rosenblog before, for example in the post "Iran's Pimp-Mullahs, doesn't exist in a vacuum. Greater freedoms for Muslim women, plus a growing acceptance of them being able to learn, work, earn, acccomplish - even assemble furniture - and Allah forbid, speak out, will only take hold globally as democracy and free speech advance within Middle Eastern and African nations where Islam is a strong and still-stifling presence.

Effecting such change, of course, is part of the controversial Bush agenda, which even Euro-skeptics are beginning to acknowledge as legit. Perhaps W. will go down in history, among other things, as the U.S. leader who - very indirectly - helped make the world safe for Muslim women to assemble furniture. Sounds a bit off the wall, at first. But perhaps it isn't.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:04 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


March 22, 2005

Easy Parking Is A Social Evil

Today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer proffers a fairly absurd Scripps Howard wire service story that plays to our local electorate's social engineering impulses. It hypes an urban planning professor's claim that easy parking is a social evil.

UCLA urban planner Donald Shoup wants cities to require fewer parking spaces in conjunction with new development, and says it's socially irresponsible to make parking easy for people. And there's entirely too much free parking in the U.S., he asserts.

I'd love for this ivory-tower seer to join me circling this block, and that block, and then this other block here, in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood, the International District, or Leschi. You can barely find paid or metered parking in many parts of Seattle. And free lots are filling up everywhere. In the West Seattle Junction, Bellevue Square, other suburban malls. At House of Hong last Saturday, in Seward Park last summer at a blogger picnic (Lordy, you should've seen the park that day, cars up on curbs all over).

Unless and until mass transit routes offer the convenience, speed and flexibility that cars do for multi-tasking, errand-running, kid-ferrying Americans (even factoring in traffic jams) there will always be a need for more parking in urban areas, and increasingly, in many suburbs.

The problem is not parking that is too easy, but too difficult. Because of limited space, parking will remain a scare resource, priced accordingly. In the future, underground and high-rise mechanized parking facilities may become even more necessary.

Just out of curiousity, I did a Google News search a few minutes ago for "parking problems" OR "parking shortage" OR "parking crunch." About 385 news stories from around the U.S., in the last 30 days, popped up, showing that the story run by the Seattle P-I today is a fantasy. Far from too much free parking, there's not enough free OR paid/metered parking, all across the land.

Some highlights, most of which echo situations in Seattle or elsewhere in Washington:

Merchants bemoan parking shortage downtown Jamaica, Queens, due partly to government vehicles hogging metered spaces;

Faced with a downtown parking shortage, Ocean City, Maryland is looking at raising parking fines and building more parking facilities;

Greenwich, Connecticut officials want to crack down harder on parking violators, going after meter-feeders and hiring collection agencies to make sure violators feel the pain of parking;

In Anchorage, parking is super-tight at a kids athletic complex and steamed parents are missing games they've come to watch;

In Albany, New York, state workers are gobbling up neighborhood parking spaces;

Business-savvy city officials in Minneapolis are having diners' cars towed after 10 p.m. on Saturday nights from metered spaces in the popular Warehouse District, as part of a parking crackdown;

Downtown Lake Worth, Florida is beginning to suffer a parking crunch and it's expected to worsen.

In the fantasy world of Seattle's Euro-centric enviros, for whom the P-I is required reading, less parking is a good thing because it will supposedly motivate people to use transit. No: better transit systems motivate people to use transit, and even then, not always.

Shoup says if all U.S. parking spaces were combined into a surface lot, it would be the size of Connecticut. Yeah, that sounds about right. And it'd be the best and highest use for my state of birth, as well.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 02:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack



Harvard Biased Against Sexy Librarian?

That's what she claims. Assistant Librarian Desiree Goodwin says Harvard is biased against her because she's pretty. She's got 16 years professional experience, and two advanced degrees; one in Library Science, and another in English Lit. While she remains employed at Harvard, she has been turned down for 16 different better positions there since 1999.

She said she was shocked when, in late 2001, her supervisor told her she would never be promoted at Harvard. In court documents, Goodwin said her supervisor told her she was "a joke" at the university's main library, where she "was seen merely as a pretty girl who wore sexy outfits, low cut blouses, and tight pants."

Appropriate workplace attire is certainly a real-life issue, and Goodwin says she's toned it down since then. The article doesn't discuss her work evaluations, although you'd expect if they're good, her lawyers would introduce them as evidence in court.

Generally, I'm very skeptical of bias allegations.

But knowing the whole ethos of Womyn's Studies, Gender Studies, old school feminist claptrap and even the policing of "hetero-normative" speech that infects places like Hah-vahd, I'd bet that a dishy librarian (see picture in story) just might be a severe threat to some colleagues and supervisors in the university's library system.

Very attractive people sometimes have to work harder to be taken seriously in the workplace. Especially women.

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


March 21, 2005

Spike Lee: Pimps N' Hos Gotta Go

Always-outspoken filmmaker Spike Lee has had it with pop culture's promotion of "pimps and hos" (the latter as in "whores"). Bravo. Too few celebrities are willing to say this stuff out loud. Here's a report on a recent talk to students in Toronto.

His main message was about the plight of young African-American students who "fail class on purpose because of peer pressure. Somehow intelligence is being defined with being white and ignorance with being black," he said blaming the imagery and lyrics of hip-hop music. "It's not even gangsta rap, it's about pimp rap. When artists talk about 'Ho this' and 'Bitch this' and 'Skank this,' they're talking about our mothers, our sisters, our daughters."

The man's on point. Essence Magazine, aimed at black women, agrees, and is conducting a year-long "Take Back The Music" campaign. I've written before (here and here) about the marketing of Pimp N' Ho culture.

It doesn't stop, either. Two San Diego men have pled guilty and a third was facing trial earlier this month for running a teenage prostitution ring named "Pimp N' Ho's Daily." Here's more about the so-called "PhD" prostitution ring.

Get 'em young, alright. Now, there's an animated cartoon about pimps, hos and other playas. It's called "Lil Pimp," and features the voicework of David Spade, Rudy Ray Moore and rapper "Lil Kim," who happens to be looking at up to 20 years behind bars for her perjury and conspiracy convictions last week in connection with a 2001 shooting outside a New York radio station.

And the Boston Herald's shopping writer wants to make sure you don't forget about Pimp and Ho hand towels.

Presumably for childless couples.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 05:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


March 20, 2005

I'm Gonna Vent; Please Join Me

Important affairs of city and state can wait. For a while at least. I'm gonna vent.

We've done this once before. Now, it's time for another version of.....THINGS THAT BUG ME.

Kids on leashes. (Send parent to doghouse).

Those ridiculous mini-truck-sized "grocery carts" with a basket in the back, and a big front cab section with two seats, steering wheels and seat belts (!), typically filled by mewling snot-nosed brats who really ought to be able to walk around the store with mom or dad instead of being slowly amused to death. These ditzy devices clog up the aisles something fierce, and do NOT corner well.

Cashiers who rub their noses before and during ringing up sale. And then blithely act as if they hadn't just done that, at all. (Got some TWEEZERS for me to take the change with?).

You're on the bus; it's warm outside (global warming - Bush's fault); the heat is up WAY high; but every third person has a hacking cough or is sneezing explosively. You can almost taste the bacterial microbes invading your nose, ears, and eyes. Oddly enough, you left your hospital mask at home. There's not ONE window that anyone has bothered to open. You get up, open a few to improve the ventilation (socially acceptable because they're way up high above the seats, and narrow and horizontal-shaped, to boot). Then all of a sudden, everyone is looking at you like YOU think THEY have cooties or something. No, see, it's just I have this THING about fresh air.

Seattle-ites who sniff about "Californication."

Californians who've moved to Seattle and tailgate me.

The sea of self-important, insecure, disconnected dweebs traipsing through life with cell-phones jammed to their ears four out of every five minutes they're either not asleep; or not with other people (which is almost always, because actually being with other people - in-person-like - gets in the way of taking cell phone calls). Can you spell L-O-S-E-R?

Similarly, Pod People.

Running out of fresh garlic cloves.

People who vacation in places like Vegas, or Disneyland. (Life's short; live it, first!)

A tee-shirt in the Mens' section at Nordstrom's that says:

Seeing Things Differently - Living Time Otherwise - Another Way For Freedom Lifestyle

Now, a really weird twist.

SOME THINGS I LIKE..........

Call them, "Another Way For Freedom Lifestyle."

A vegetable called Asparation.

The Bogalusa Boogie.

The Natchez Trace Parkway.

The Blue Ridge Parkway.

The meaning, and local seafood of Corpus Christi.

Manny's Deli, in Chicago.

Bright-eyed, observant babies and toddlers.

Moral values.

Bye Kracke Park.

Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez. Fifty-Foot Hose (intro & interview). Lothar and the Hand People. Johnny Jenkins' "Ton Ton Macoute."

Kids who read a lot.

OK, I'm done! Now it's your turn. What really frosts your cookies? And melts your butter? Comment spammers, as usual, will be blacklisted.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:39 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack


March 18, 2005

American Muslims Must Own Up

American Muslims must embrace their American-ness, writes Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballah, at his blog, "God, Faith and A Pen." Hassballah, a pulmonary and critical care physician in the Chicago area, says though he grew up in the U.S., he used to be an Islamic fundamentalist, and identified as an Egyptian, not an American. That all changed on 9/11.

Embracing my American-ness was one of the best things that happened to me, and it is something every American Muslim must do. American Muslims must live and breathe their American-ness and see this country as their country, their home. Frequently, the sons and daughters of immigrants have strong ties to the "mother country." And I don't advocate a total severing of ties to the "mother country." Our ethnic diversity is part of what makes America beautiful. Yet, American Muslims must be just that: American. That way, they can fully engage in their society and fully contribute.

In my view, that would entail a move away from one-dimensional victim status, toward voicing support for domestic anti-terrorism efforts, and expressing more clearly and publicly some appreciation for what America offers. Let other Americans know what has drawn you here; we assume it is something positive, but it is hard to tell, at times. Connect with the larger community, and trust can conceivably grow. Let us hear of some shared values, as well as of what is wrong.

Muqtedar Khan and John L. Esposito of the the Institute For Social Policy And Understanding, write in their paper "Islam In The West: The Threat Of Internal Extremism," that Muslims here must differentiate between legitimate differences with the U.S. on foreign policy; and corrosive, harmful anti-Westernism.

In a a recent column at the UAE-based online journal "Muslim Wake-Up," on Irshad Manji's "The Trouble With Islam," Dr. Hassaballah urges North American Muslims to engage in critical dialogue about their faith and communities, without resorting to censoriousness and outrage when challenged.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 02:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


March 17, 2005

19-Year-Old Runs for Portland School Board

There's a 19-year-old Liberian-born challenger to a train-wreck of an incumbent on Portland's school board. The election is in May. The train wreck is Derry Jackson; the challenger is Charles McGee, a political science major at Portland State University.

In this KOIN-TV story on McGee, he identifies some priorities, and they're at least plausible, within a larger context the candidate still needs to articulate:

McGee says he wants to close the achievement gap between white and minority students, advocate for stable school funding from Salem and help manage the superintendent's big school reorganization.

Stable state funding is certainly desireable but it needs to be coupled with an awareness that school success is not at all just about how much gets spent. And "closing the achievement gap" is easy enough to assign to school officials, but much of the responsibility for that lies with parents of low-achievers. Print media rarely address that component; it should be raised during the campaign.

One problem in Portland stems from the common tendency of parents in urban systems to flee the low achievers, exercising expanded local choice options under NCLB. There are sharply declining school enrollments in parts of North and Northeast Portland.

A candidate's policies are one thing, the candidate's perspective another. In this Willamette Week Q&A McGee makes a plausible case for how his youth and recent experience as a Portland public high school graduate could be an asset.

Every now and again, we need a fairly young person to shake the tree up and say, 'What else can we do to improve a system that obviously is not serving everyone properly?'

...Although there are certain things that you get with age, there are also certain things you don't have with age. I can walk into a high-school classroom and sit down any day and act like a high-school student. I can sit down in a meeting with the teachers union and tell them what didn't work in our class. I can also call up some friends who go to Franklin, and Grant, and say, 'What's happening?' I can do that; these folks can't. When they hear information, they hear it through administrators and teachers.

Yeah. I like that.

A candidate's personna also matters. In the WW interview, McGee shows impressive media savvy, refusing to get baited into saying the board has been ineffective, causing the interviewer to become slightly aggravated. He also refuses to take the standard liberal bait about the presence of racism, pointedly declining to use the word.

If I were a voter in McGee's northeast Portland school board district, I might not be sold on this young man yet, but I'd sure want to hear what else he has to say.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:26 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack



Mystic Casserole

Capitalists and Republicans truly ARE evil. Read the whole yowl by some professor, in the SF Chron.

Cat blogging is so....2002. Worm blogging is very very....now.

Ignorance is no excuse. Not for Bernie Ebbers, nor Ron Sims. Thus spake Iguana, at the fine new blog, Silly Seattle.

There are all kinds of scoops to be had. Skor Grimm scores a biggie: with a penetrating technological analysis of a newspaper photo, revealing an espresso-making contest judge with......a platypus on his head! So help me, Buddah!

Brian Maloney has a few choice words about the lawsuit by the late Palestinian sympathizer Rachel Corrie's parents, against Caterpillar, the manufacturer of the bulldozer Corrie idiotically stood in front of and got killed by.

Nathan Azinger at Pajama Jihad explains, "Why I Voted For Bush." BTW, I have met Nathan, at a blogger bash in Seattle. He is young, has a goatee, and does not wear a white sheet over his head. Hmmmnn.

Geoff Smock blogs at The Young Conservative, and it's a pleasure to find about about this savvy 17-year-old senior from Steilacoom High School in Pierce County, Washington; just a bit southwest of Tacoma. Geoff writes with the confidence of a seasoned observer on national and global affairs. How refreshing to discover a high school blogger choosing issues of real substance over the usual navel-gazing or essentially private-circle posts favored by so many others in that age cohort. Keep at it, Geoff!

There's a time and place for Mystic Casserole. Amanda Witt explains.

Via my Dad the blogger, another invaluable piece on the good news from Iraq, by blogger extraordinaire Arthur Chrenkoff, in Opinion Journal.

At Dead Red Rosenberg, Victor Spooner explains why he hates The Left. More about his site and what the name is about, here.

Canada a "Paradise North" for liberals? Hah!

SpinDaddy at BumperStickerPolitix sees "Three Opportunities" for advancing the conservative political agenda, in the spheres of the judiciary, academia, and energy and environmental policy.

In an entertainment news round-up, hip-hop journalist Jimi Izrael says the late back-up singer for James Brown, Lynn Collins, who just passed away at age 56, never got her proper due, something Izrael says isn't uncommon for those in the Godfather Of Soul's supporting cast. You may or may not remember Collins' classic single "Think," included on the "James Brown's Funky People, Pt. 1" collection. A great break-out moment for Collins, and a little piece of r&b/funk history. As latter-day mixologists discovered.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


March 16, 2005

Canada's Heroin Experiment Commences

Canada's bleeding edge experiment in social engineering has really launched now. Some of the hard-core junkies selected to participate in a government study called the North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI) began injecting their state-supplied heroin this Monday in Vancouver.

It'll be pharma-grade smack three times daily, seven days a week for these lucky blokes, who will be compared to a control group taking methadone in order to see which group has more members who are able kick the world's nastiest habit. About 450 Canadian junkies are expected to get government heroin in the two-year study, which is being conducted in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto.

In a previous post at Rosenblog, I noted that in one of the similar European studies cited by NAOMI backers, in Switzerland, only 10 percent of those provided with free heroin were able to kick.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 04:53 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack



Self-Affirmation In The Forest

OK, these protestors got what they wanted - arrested; and then some - banned from the Siskyou National Forest until July 1 for trying to block timber harvest of trees killed in a sweeping fire, trees which officials say could still serve as kindling again.

The 500,000-acre Biscuit Fire in southwest Oregon in the summer of 2002 was huge, the nation's largest, in fact. But the amount of dead wood being harvested from an old growth reserve that suffered serious damage is actually quite small. However, this was the third time "environmentalists" had tried to stop timber fallers from reaching the area.

The Siskiyou National Forest drew up plans to sell a total of 370 million board feet of timber on about 20,000 acres of the Biscuit Fire, 4 percent of the overall burn area, but is unlikely to come anywhere close to that goal, Forest Service spokesman Tom Lavagnino said. Forest Service officials say logging will speed the restoration of old growth forest by removing dead trees that will fall to the ground and burn in the future, and by generating revenue to pay for planting young trees and controlling brush.

Not even the designated 4 percent of the overall burn area is being harvested? And this is part of an insidious plot to log old-growth forests? C'mon.

Look, I love forests, and hate clearcuts, but selective harvesting within some densely forested areas - whatever their official classification - makes sense. If you believe everything the Bush Administration and Republicans do is part of a zero-sum game to further enrich business interests at the expense of the "common man" and the environment, then, of course, you've got to pull a Rachel Corrie, like these dear ladies did.

About 75 people protesting the logging were at the Green Bridge before dawn, including a group of women who sat in the roadway, witnesses said....By about 12:30 p.m., a network of ropes blocking the bridge and connected to a woman suspended over the water were cleared so loggers could drive by, but they were stopped again up the road by a barricade of rocks and logs and three women locked together in the road....Among those arrested was Joan Norman, 72, of Cave Junction, who was arrested...while blocking the bridge in a metal lawn chair...

Must feel good to genuflect before the altar of the Earth Mother, and so imbue one's life with spirituality and goodness.

But every summer now, the West and Northwest erupt in a series of forest fires. There's too much fuel in a lot of forests, packed together too closely. What's going on in Oregon may yet be halted in court, but the Forest Service is in the right.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


March 14, 2005

Cultural Incompetence

Selome Tewoderos writes in an Oregonian guest op-ed that doctors should have to take foreign language classes in medical school, and receive training in "cultural competency" to qualify for license renewal, because too many non-native English speakers can't work the public health care system in English.

Silly me. Here I thought that maybe "cultural competency" ought to mean competently operating in the culture, and native language, of the country in which you have chosen to reside. I would be tempted to say that the money Tewoderos thinks should be spent for teaching foreign languages to medical students or cultural competency to doctors ought to instead go for more publicly-funded English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. But I'm not going to fall into that trap. Because you know what? You move here, and you don't speak the language; it's YOUR goddamn job to learn it.

Imagine an American in France, or Germany, or China, or (just for fun) Yemen or Djibouti; complaining that teachers, doctors and government officials were not demonstrating enough "cultural competence" toward Yanks. Hah-hoo! The men with the very long-sleeved white jackets would be sent out with great dispatch!

Yet if anyone "of color" is having a problem in America, it's increasingly attributed to teachers, doctors, social workers or businesses that aren't "culturally competent." Though to their credit, many immigrants don't give a rip about victimhood because they're already too busy getting educated, and working their way up the socio-economic ladder.

To Blame America First-ers, tho, "cultural competency" means always having to say you're sorry for being white.

And so we are gifted with a growing cadre of snake oil salespersons masquerading as "cultural competency" consultants. Apparently, it's not enough to be sorry for being a culturally imperialist white American. No; some employer has got to PAY for your being sensitized, to boot.

These are the sorts of issues - along with gay marriage, assisted suicide and pandering to illegal immigrants - that light up the intellects and impassion the hearts of Blue City Liberals. They'd do much better for their party and their country, in the end, by instead finding common ground with moderate suburban conservatives. For example, against corporate tax breaks and government waste; and for school choice; hybrid fuels, and better mass transit.

But, noooo. "Saving" the "oppressed peoples," and rectifying the scourge of cultural bias; mainly to preserve the hegemony of the Clientized State and the public employee unions upon which it stands, always comes first.

I really, really, really wish I was wrong about this - but Way Too Often; liberal=simpleton.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack



Huge Freedom Rally In Lebanon Today

Those starry-eyed Lebanese remain fixed on the idea they should enjoy political self-determination rather than the jackboot of Syria on their spines.

Seems hundreds of thousands - maybe a million of them took to the streets today in Beirut.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators chanted "Freedom, sovereignty, independence," and waved a sea of Lebanese flags in Beirut on Monday, the biggest anti-Syrian protest yet in the opposition's duel of street rallies with supporters of the Damascus-backed government.

Crowds of Druse, Christians and Sunni Muslims flooded Martyrs' Square and spilled over into nearby streets — responding to an opposition call to turn out for the removal of Syrian troops from Lebanon....The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri exactly one month ago sparked the series of protests against Syria, the dominant power in Lebanon.

.....Later, thousands of red and white balloons were released above the teeming crowd, many of whom wore scarves in the same colors that have come to symbolize the country's anti-Syrian movement in what the U.S. State Department has dubbed the "Cedar Revolution." Brass bands playing patriotic and national folk songs and Lebanon's national anthem were regularly drowned out by deafening chants from the crowd.

Foreign editors, please take note:

Monday's protest easily surpassed a pro-government rally of hundreds of thousands of people last week by the Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah. That show of strength forced the opposition to try to regain its momentum. While there were no official estimates of the size of the crowd, Lebanon's leading LBC TV station and some police officers estimated it at about 1 million people. The officers refused to speak publicly because it was an opposition rally. An Associated Press estimate by reporters on the scene put the number at much higher than the approximately 500,000 who attended the March 8 pro-Syrian rally.

Don't they understand? Hezbollah is their destiny. What could be more important than state-sponsored patronage jobs and social service programs, with love and kisses from the U.S.-hating, Israel-loathing puppet masters in Damascus?

I'm waiting for The Church Council of Greater Seattle to announce the formation of Voices United In Concern For A Better Understanding Of The Assad Regime.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:46 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack



San Francisco County Judge Plays To The Locals

Surprise, Surprise. A San Francisco County judge has ruled against a state ban on gay marriage in California. The ruling will be appealed, and possibly overturned. Even before then, momentum may build for a legislative proposal that would allow a public vote later this year on a state constitutional ban against gay marrriage. Via the ballot initiative Proposition 22, California voters in 2000 have already rejected gay marriage, with 61 percent opposed. But specifically lacking a constitutional ban, legal challenges are unlikely to cease. Meanwhile, a law took effect this January allowing broad domestic partner benefits in the state. See the timeline sidebar to the above-linked article.

You'll recall that state constitutional bans on gay marriage passed last fall in two states that went for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry; Michigan and Oregon. It could happen in California, too. Almost certainly would, given the outcome of Prop 22.

Sixteen states have amended their constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriage. It'll be difficult in Washington, because a two-thirds majority of each chamber in the state legislature must first vote to permit a public vote on any constititional amendment. But the current legal challange to our state's Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) may lend impetus to a constititional ban effort here, as well.

Gay activists have not a leg to stand on when they criticize state constitutional bans. They have begged the response in state after state by filing suit against DOMA legislation, enacted by 33 states, according to this report, after the U.S. Congress and then-President Bill Clinton cleared the way in 1996.

As I've said here before, I have no bone to pick with someone simply because they're gay; I have the same standards of decent conduct for straights and gays. And that includes not crying "bigot" in a crowded theater because someone disagrees with you on gay marriage.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


March 11, 2005

Hie Thee To The Ice Hotel

My son Max is enchanted with the idea - and reality - of the Ice Hotel. We hope to go there one day. In season only.

Kidz World sez:

This hotel is built from scratch every year. That means brand new beds, sparkling clean walls and no tacky décor that your grandma would love. It's called the Ice Hotel for a reason - it's made completely out of ice. The Ice Hotel is on the shores of the Torne River in the old village of Jukkasjarvi, Sweden. 10,000 tons of crystal clear ice from the river and 30,000 tons of pure snow are used to build the Ice Hotel every year. There's even an Ice Chapel, an art gallery, a theater and a bar. Each room is unique. You sleep in a cozy warm sleeping bag on top of a bed made from snow and ice, and covered with reindeer skins. In the morning you'll find hot lingonberry juice by your bed. What service.

For more information on other ice hotels, click here.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack



Your Friend and Mine: The ACLU

Community activists and police in crime-plagued New Orleans are pleased that public street surveillance video cameras are helping catch criminals. You always want more cops in big cities, but you don't always get them. If this helps, and it sure seems to, I'm all for it. But beware: the policy blue-noses are already playing the "Big Brother" canard.

The man marched down the street in daylight, armed with a paintball rifle that had been converted to shoot with lethal force. He then blasted a newly installed camera in hopes of freeing the drug-ridden neighborhood from police surveillance. But the shooter's image was saved on the camera's hard drive. "All it did was get him arrested," chuckled New Orleans' chief technology officer, Greg Meffert. "The camera immediately notified the police and tracked him until he was caught." And when they got him, they found he was wanted on a murder warrant.

The arrest was the first success story from a sophisticated new crime-fighting system of cameras that New Orleans is installing citywide. The bulletproof cameras can monitor an eight-block area, communicate with the authorities and provide evidence in court. Police hope the system will catch crooks in the act and serve as a crime deterrent in a city long plagued by drugs and murders.

Civil libertarians are calling it Big Brother in the Big Easy, expressing concern about an invasion of privacy and the potential for misuse by police. City officials insist there are tight controls, and they are encouraged that dozens of community groups have signed up to pay $5,000 apiece to get cameras installed on their street corners.

"Maybe the ACLU doesn't have people dealing drugs in their neighborhoods 24 hours a day," said Lisa Martin, who has a camera in her neighborhood. "We asked for a camera, we wanted it. We don't want to be afraid to go outside."

Street safety pales next to the theoretical abuses of surveillance feared by the ACLU, which sniffs that there should just be more cops on the street. Guys, guys, guys. There can NEVER be enough cops on the street in New Orleans (most especially); or most other U.S. big cities. The cameras aren't THE silver bullet; no one thing is. But they can help. Whose side are on you on? The criminals, or law-abiding residents? Um, wait. I guess we know the answer already.

Funny thing; surveillance camera footage shown on TV recently led a gas station wallet-swiper in suburban Seattle to turn himself in to police.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


March 10, 2005

Anomie In Ashland

One of the most special places in the Pacific Northwest is Ashland, Oregon. Home to a famed annual Shakespeare Festival, the scenic and politically progressive small town has an extensive and charming local business district; plus a huge city park and lithium-enhanced local waters. Nearby mountains and valleys beckon, but you could spend hours simply hanging about the quaint, yet sprawling town center, and the babbling brook that runs through it. Truly an enchanted place.

As many have discovered. Perhaps too many. All is not well in Ashland: homeless bums are worrying local business owners. The Ashland Tidings reports:

Mike doesn't want his name mentioned in any news article right now. At least not yet. But, he's convinced that he, and many others like him, will have to go public soon. He is reticent, he says, because he fears bricks through the window of his store, local customers boycotting his business and other forms of public backlash.

....Mike's concern is that things have just gone way too far in good old liberal Ashland....Panhandlers in front of businesses is a...concern. So-called "musicians" playing loudly - and often badly - directly in front of storefronts is another concern.....Mike thinks the downtown is doing its own impersonation of Mount St. Helens - boiling, brewing, spewing some occasional pressure and most importantly signaling a serious eruption that lies beneath the surface.

He points to the drop in the number of tourist visits to Oregon Shakespeare Festival last year as evidence. He says the city has gotten letters from disgruntled tourists and fretting business owners, as has the festival and the Chamber of Commerce. "I bet you have too," he says. He's right. We have. Not waves mind you, but a trickle of frustrated visitors who are fed up with panhandlers, nudists and transients who make them uncomfortable as they come for a weekend of plays, gourmet meals, wine tasting and drives in the country.

....Mike says that if it isn't obvious now, it will be when talk of a homeless camp heats up again. This...issue is the flash point to Mike. The homeless camp, he says, will do nothing but invite an explosion of all the aforementioned problems, which will in turn ensure a mass exodus of the tourists.

This commentary in The Ashland Tidings makes it clear that the concerned business owner is hardly some reactionary, compassion-less right-wing geek.

Mike's an entertaining guy who regales me with stories of passing out money to homeless people late at night and heading to the forests years ago to protest what he views as excessive logging. He explains how he came to Ashland specifically to be a liberal business owner. He loves the politics, embraces the emphasis on the environment and welcomes intense scrutiny from the public.

"I'm no corporate business type," he says with arms outstretched, inviting my scrutiny. He certainly doesn't look it - clad in jeans, an earring in his ear, tattoo on his arm. His speech is punctuated with less than banker-type words. "But this whole thing could crumble and take us all with it."

Ashland has always lived near the edge of the cliff of reasonableness. The homeless camp is an open invitation for freeloaders from across the country to journey here, Mike says. The camp will hurl the entire local economy off the cliff. Whether Mike speaks for many or an anxious few remains uncertain. What Mike hopes is that very soon people will defend what they have worked for and stop the homeless camp idea.

Helping our local homeless is great, Mike says. Building a Mecca for people to come and live off the government while taxpaying businesses are threatened is an entirely different matter.

Other folks in Santa Cruz and suburban Seattle know what you're talking about, Mike. Arcata, too.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:44 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


March 09, 2005

Making "The Ask" The Right Way

It's a skill you need to have in business. And on the street, sometimes. You should know how to do it. And how not to do it.

Example: I'm waiting at the bus stop in the West Seattle Junction, this early afternoon, for the 55, on my way downtown to do an interview for a story I'm working on. There's this tall, skinny, sorta adenoidal guy at the bus stop, and that's it. Then me. But along comes this woman: mid-40s, big mop of shaggy, but carefully-coiffed red hair (might be dyed); plus poncho; ankle-high red Keds; jeans; some definite make-up. Sorta Monterey Pop, circa '05 - I guess. You get that here.

Anyway, she comes up to us two, looks around in a pseudo-bewildered manner, exhales loudly and proclaims, "I REALLY.....HATE.....to DISTURB you, but do you KNOW what bus I would TAKE to get to Forest Lawn Cemetery?"

Adenoidal Guy and I put our heads together and gave her the right answer, pretty lickety-split. She's quite thankful. End of quest.

He turns to me as our bus arrives, and says, "Heeeeeyyyy....I'm from New York: no PROBLEM asking for directions or whatever...." I agree, replying, "Yeah, ask away. Sheesh."

Now, I hate the phrase "No Problem," when used indiscriminately - it carries its own submerged hostility. But wish I had used it just before - it was actually warranted. To ask your fellow man for directions is not any kind of imposition. In fact, most of us - egotistical, helpful creatures that we are - are MORE than happy to give directions or transit route advice...hell. I'll recommend restaurants, parks and off-the-beaten-track BC Gulf Islands to total strangers if they're remotely interested. And they often are. We all love to be in the know...and share our knowledge with others who might benefit. It's human nature, is it not?

So, via this woman's unfortunate emotional armor, what we have just seen is a classic display of Seattle's anti-social mentality - masked with a thin layer of faked politesse. I can't assure she was a native, or long-time resident of the Seattle area. But I'm pretty sure she was from here, or some other lame Left Coast spot where folks assume that fellow travellers might be put out to provide simple directions.

My"problem?" I'm from a place where folk are just folk - and glad to help: The Midwest. Actually, Chicago, where everyone is from "somewhere else" and nobody, but nobody, has any kind of absurd license plate holder delcaring they're an "Illinois native," or a "U of I Grad;" as you used to see here in Seattle ("UW grad"/"WA Native").

Anyhew, if you ask for directions and get a nut or a crank, you get a nut or a crank. But almost always, you get a fellow human bean. Sooooo......don't be so damned apologetic. It only lumps all mankind into your Lowest-Common-Denominator equation. OK, Red Shoes? I'd like to say that there aren't so many tight-asses here. But Seattle - a place I'm still quite happy to live in - is full of 'em.

In parks, you sit on adjoining bench, talking to your kids, and they get up and leave, pronto. As though they'd just stepped in dog poop, or been subjected to Public Enemy on a boombox. You come up behind them at a pedestrian signal, talking, dear God, to your spouse, in anything less than an abject whisper, and they jump right outta their frickin' skin; and turn around and glare, as though you were reading a porn novel out loud; or blowing a trumpet in their ear. You walk onto the bus with a hair outta place and there's some pale-skinned, queasy 78-year-old Lifelong Resident/Wrinkled Seattle Chick in a 1974 blazer and fake pearls giving you the queer eye.

It's sick, I tell you.

Any theories why this is? Who knows? But I think that in oh-so-modulated, placid, Plain Vanilla Seattle, we need more Jews, Italians, Greeks, Armenians, and other swarthy, garlic-perfumed types from Back East. With hairs out of place, and talkin' loud. Same way back country Utah and Idaho need "cultural diversity," hear me?

I also firmly believe, as someone who moved from Chicago to Seattle in almost-mid-life, that folk who stay in their towns of birth or raising for their whole lives are really missing something. Too many life-long homies here.

Take a chance, eh? Get unfamiliar wid' tings. At the very, very least feel free to tell folks where to.....get a good pastrami-on-rye (in Fremont); or real-deal Dim-Sum (the "International District" in Seattle, if you can't make it up to Richmond, near Vancouver).

There's not much I miss about Chicago, or places like Philadelphia. But.........I DO miss obnoxious, demanding folks who insist on my cooperation. We need a few more such jerks, and a few less apologists, here in Seattle.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:35 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack



"Revenge Of The Neo-Cons"

That's the title of young Cinnamon Stilllwell's latest in the online version of the SF Chron. Great piece. Read the whole thing. And print media folk: please notice that, with all the informative links worked into her piece, this Marin County refugee and 9/11 Republican is essentially a guest op-ed writer AND blogger at the same time.

Mmmm hmmn. Yes. Really. Gulp. Emerging paradigmn shift. Troublesome, or inspiring? The latter, one hopes.

Abundant links in an online, mainstream newspaper op-ed piece. And the Chron is leading the way with this most worthy boundary-blurring.

Taken together, Stillwell's topic matter and methods complement each other most auspiciously. Stillwell's Chron Watch colleague Adam Sparks helped start this online-op-ed/cum de-facto blogging trend at The Chron. And conservative, online, regular Chron guest op-ed columnist Jennifer Nelson exemplifies it, too. More on all that in this earlier Rosenblog post titled, "Intellectual Diversity in San Francisco."

Meanwhile, back in the land of eternal winter sunshine (almost), Seattle blogger and think tank fellow James J. Na writes in today's Seattle Times about a real Iraqi martyr.

Congratulations to James for clarifying the real meaning of the word "martyr."

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


March 08, 2005

Freedom, Baby: Taste It

The march to freedom in Lebanon, following the historic elections in Iraq, is giving pause to many critics of current U.S. policy in the Middle East. The Independent, a high-profile and stridently liberal, relentlessly anti-Iraq War and anti-Bush British paper today wonders, "Was Bush Right After All?"

Trucks carrying Syrian soldiers began to file out of Beirut yesterday.....however circumscribed, the first phase of Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon is another sign of change across the Middle East.....(a) host of other developments....suggest the political straitjacket that has long imprisoned the Arab world is loosening, if not yet coming apart at the seams.

It is barely six weeks since the US President delivered his second inaugural address, a paean to liberty and democracy that espoused the goal of "ending tyranny in our world". Reactions around the world ranged from alarm to amused scorn...No one imagined that events would so soon cause the President's opponents around the world to question whether he had got it right.

That debate is now happening, in America and beyond, as the first waves of reform lap at the Arab world. Post-Saddam Iraq has held its first proper election. In their own elections, Palestinians have overwhelmingly chosen a moderate leader. Hosni Mubarak, who for 24 years has permitted no challenge to his rule in Egypt, has announced a multi-candidate presidential election this year. Even Saudi Arabia is not immune, having just held its first municipal elections. Next time around, Saudi spokesmen promise, women too will be permitted to vote.

Most remarkably of all, perhaps, popular demonstrations in Beirut last week brought the downfall of one pro-Syrian government and - with the help of fierce pressure from Washington and the EU - the agreement by Syria to start withdrawing its troops in Lebanon.

It does get hard these days for nuanced Westerners, doesn't it? Always rooting for tyranny, oppression, educational and economic stagnation to carry the day in the Middle East - even as the times they-are-a-changin.'

Conservatives: the new liberals. On global democracy, at least.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 02:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack



Reggae Singers, Gays Seek Truce

Glen Yearwood, an Afro-Caribbean media strategist from London, has found himself in the middle of an attempted rapprochment between anti-gay reggae singers and British gay rights groups outraged at lyrics they believe could incite anti-gay violence.

Outrage!'s "Stop Murder Music" campaign (jointly run with the Black Gay Men's Advisory Group and Jamaican gay rights organisation J-Flag) had skilfully targeted eight leading Jamaican music performers who were exposed for recording homophobic lyrics. Artists such as the dancehall reggae star Beenie Man whose repertoire includes the song "Batty Man Fi Dead" were banned. But in persuading police, local authorities and former Home Secretary David Blunkett that the presence of Beenie Man and other anti-gay performers represented a threat to public order, the Outrage! campaign had damaged the careers of other artists and promoters with interests in festivals and concerts that were cancelled.

Yearwood, 41, could see the damage being done to one of the leading sources of income within Afro-Caribbean culture. "What was at stake was the equity of the reggae music brand. There was more than 40 years of equity under threat," he says. The marketer, who grew up in Luton, sought to explain to gay rights activists that the homophobic lyrics, reprehensible as they sounded, were the product of a Jamaican culture which still clings to British colonial laws that punish gay sex with 10 years' hard labour.

At the same time, with his clipped English accent and a family background that harks back to the small Caribbean nation of St Vincent and the Grenadines, he had to win over the reggae industry, which still has its roots in Jamaica's poorest urban neighbourhoods. Yearwood says: "What we had to negotiate was what is fair and honest criticism of a lifestyle and what can be perceived as inciting violence."

...Last month an agreement was reached by which the leading reggae labels and promoters agreed not to promote homophobic songs.

I'm glad. You may express opposition to gay marriage; you may withdraw your children from school classes celebrating "sexual diversity" if you would rather teach "tolerance" your own way; and you may even argue that homosexuality is not innate. None of that by itself makes you a bigot or homophobe, and those who claim otherwise by rote are simpletons.

Advocating violence against gays, or using perjorative language, on the other hand, does make you a pariah. It is a sad day when musical performers, youths, or grown men who ought to know better, feel they need to assert their manhood by lashing out at gays.

On the flip side, gays in many urban enclaves such as San Francisco and Seattle could do themselves and their brethren a favor, by dispensing with lewd and lascivious public conduct at annual Gay Pride parades. And I personally see no reason why I should have been subjected to the sight of a man - waiting in line to get into a gay bar on the 2900 block of N. Chicago's Lincoln Avenue in the early 90s - wearing leather pants with a large, strategically cut-out section showcasing his entire posterior. This was steps away from a family diner, BTW. Similarly, I had trouble swallowing the inclusion of "potential public sex environments" in a gay-oriented neighborhood living feature from Seattle's Sandinista weekly, The Stranger.

Respect cuts both ways.

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



Matt's Famous New Mexico Red Chili

OK, OK, I know. When the teeming hundreds turn to Rosenblog, it's for the latest oddball news from Left Coast burgs such as Santa Cruz, Arcata, San Francisco and Vancouver. Or for informed socio-political diatribes about my dear, politically stultified home of Seattle; not to mention my penetrating economic analysis, ruminations on race and politics, recommendations on Latin jazz, plus my Hendrix tribute concert reviews, discourses on cultural errata, and reports of indiscreet biological phenomena.

Although I have written about food a few times at Rosenblog (here and here, for instance) - I'm pretty sure that one thing you're probably NOT coming here for is my recipe for New Mexico Red Chili.

Thing is, I didn't know about this fine brew myself until the other day, when - adhering to some of my tried and true chili-making principles - I whipped up a new version for a chili taste-off and charity fundraiser at my wife's workplace. I am now in receipt of the news that not only did it go over big, but one woman was up all night thinking about it. And wants the recipe. How can I resist such flattery? I can't.

MATT'S NEW MEXICO RED CHILI

Set aside 1 cup New Mexico red chile powder. NO substitutes. Mexican grocery.

In cup, mix 2 t EACH ground cumin, celery seed, and Hungarian sweet paprika; plus 1&1/2 t thyme, 1 t ground annato powder, 1/2 t Chinese five spice powder.

Set aside 2 bay leaves, 1/2 cinnamon stick, and 1/4 t high-quality cocoa powder.

Coarsely chop two medium-large sweet onions, and six cloves of garlic.

Finely chop, and then finely mince 3 lb. lean pork loin

Melt 3 T bacon grease (no substitutes) in large stockpot, saute onions about 10 mins, add garlic and 3 T flour, saute a few more mins. Add meat, chile powder and and all herbs and spices except cocoa powder, bay leaves and cinnamon strick. Stir constantly over med. heat for 2 or 3 mins. The mixture will be dry, but distribute all the spices into meat and onions.

Add a 32-oz carton of Pacific Beef Broth, mix well. Ensure heat returns to mild, bubbling simmer. Add 2C apple juice, mix well, return to simmer. Mix in cocoa powder, cinnamon stick and bay leaves.

Simmer at low bubble, uncovered, about 3 hrs., until meat is tender. Stir periodically.

In last 45 mins, add in 1 29-oz. can well-rinsed white hominy. NOTE: These are whole hominy, not the ground stuff used for grits. They're already cooked, firm and toothsome, looking like white garbanzos. Available in Mexican, Latin and some other grocery stores.

Add up to a cup of water in last 30 mins, if too thick. Consistency should be that of a medium-thick soup. Add salt only at table.

Do not foul with wussy garnishes such as grated cheese or sour cream. This is Las Cruces chili, not Cincinnati-style. Accordingly, no macaroni allowed either. Permitted garnishes: chopped green onions; chunks of fresh avocado; plus cornbread or sopapillas on the side. Spicyness: medium. Serve with cold Mexican beer; Syrah or (real, red) Zinfandel.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:54 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack


March 07, 2005

Subsidizing Incuriousity

Gavin, Gavin, Gavin Newsom. I once had such high hopes for you. A seemingly moderate Democrat, uncowed by the city's homeless lobby, winning election as mayor of San Francisco.

It's bad enough that since then, Newsom has made as his top priority a badly misguided attempt to contravene state law prohibiting gay marriage. Now, he says San Francisco's famed cable car system shouldn't be allowed to raise fares.

It's inconsistent with making San Francisco attractive to visitors. The cable cars are a symbol of San Francisco. They shouldn't be a way for us to make money, but part of the allure and charm of the city.

Wrong-o, Mr. Mayor. The highly non-essential, tourist-oriented cable cars are an entirely logical target for revenues to help close Muni's $57 million budget gap.

I've been taken for a ride on the cable cars. They're so jam-packed, you really get no chance to see the view, anyway. And typically, some zaftig mama from Omaha has her unmentionables in your face the whole time, to boot. Then you arrive in the worst tourist trap of North America (well, almost); Fisherman's Wharf.

It's one of those things you do to say you've done, and then wish you hadn't. Visitors are hoodwinked by a sinister cabal of hotel concierges and silly guidebooks into thinking cable cars are part of the essential SF experience, even tho the city's many less-hyped neighborhoods are the real jewel.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


March 05, 2005

OK Then, Kill Yourself - But For A Fee

Ever straddling the bleeding edge of public policy, the Marin Independent Journal reports on e-mails received about a proposal to install suicide barriers on the Golden Gate Bridge, where about 20 people jump to their deaths each year. A busybody-ish Marin IJ editorial carries the matter further still.

Apparently, it is government's job to help stop people from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

Wrong. It is government's job to recognize a revenue opportunity.

Look, I'm not heartless - not really. But it just seems the long hand of government has a limited effect here. People will still find ways to heave themselves off the great bridge; the pull is just too strong. Always has been, always will.

So why not simply reformulate the paradigm? Heighten preventive barriers, yes; but also sell steeply-priced GGB suicide permits - along with mandatory, signed rescue-and-body-recovery waivers - to boost hurting bridge revenues. That's something we could all live with.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack



A White Man Owns Up

Jada Pinkett-Smith's stunning faux pas at Harvard - sounding distinctly "hetero-normative" in a big speech she gave there - made me take accounts. And sad to say, I'm no better than JPS. Maybe even worse.

This is painful, and difficult for me. But please bear up, dear readers, and help me find closure here. For I've come to realize that I've been unwittingly and deleteriously "Anglo-normative."

It hit me like a ferry boat slamming into dock pilings - when I was perusing my CD collection the other day. There, baldy evident - and assaulting my consciousness and sensitivities in a shocking, humbling, hurtful rush - was damning and despicable evidence of my deep, heinous, Euro-centric Caucasoid Cluelessness.

For I had filed under "Los" - the Spanish equivalent of "the" - CDs by the following groups: Los Mocosos, Los Lobos, Los Amigos Invisible, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, And even, in a true display of white boy lameness, Los Lonely Boys. (I mean talk about a HINT, eh? The last two words are en Anglais.)

D'oh, Matt.

I'm gonna rectify all this.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


March 04, 2005

Superferries Advance In Hawaii

I'd sure ride one of these babies. Assuming environmentalists don't still tie up a private firm's plans for car ferries and passenger ferries connecting the Hawaiian islands.

A state legislative committee held back a bill that would have required a detailed Environmental Impact Statement before Hawaii Superferry Inc. could begin service between Oahu and Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island.

That goes a long way in sending a message that the state really wants this," said John Garibaldi, chief executive of Hawaii Superferry Inc. "They're not going to put up roadblocks."

Hawaii Superferry and some state officials had said requiring an environmental review could have scuttled the first serious attempt in years to set up an interisland ferry system. Garibaldi said the requirement would have jeopardized $200 million in funding.

Environmentalists are worried about traffic, transportation of alien pest species and endangering humpback whales....Garibaldi countered that his vessels are the cleanest, most energy-efficient on the market and that wastewater will not be dumped into the ocean. Hawaii Superferry complies with all state and federal environmental regulations and should "not be singled out to perform studies that existing and new shipping and cruise lines do not need to do," he said.

Hawaii Superferry plans to run two passenger and car ferries between Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. Passengers could travel for about half current air fares. The first ferry, under construction in Alabama, is scheduled to be launched in early 2007.

The four-story vessels, each about the size of a football field, would transport 900 passengers and up to 280 vehicles. They travel about 45 mph, and would be able to make the trips from Honolulu, on Oahu, to Maui or Kauai in about three hours and the trip from Oahu to the Big Island in about four hours.

The state's $5 million ferry terminal near downtown Honolulu opened nearly two years ago in anticipation of the interisland service. Garibaldi has asked the Legislature to approve $40 million to pay for harbor improvements on the other islands.

This is something the state of Hawaii badly needs. Inter-island travel now requires either an airplane flight, or a private vessel. The ferry service deserves continued support, and will be boon to locals and visitors. The passenger ferries will be faster, and an especially great option for visitors.

Once these babies are up and running, I'm going to make a point of going back to Hawaii with my family. Only been once, so far, to Maui. And yeah. It was Wowie.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack



American Ingenuity

The Golden Gate Bridge District has a $131 million deficit looming, over five years. Funny thing about deficits: local, regional and state governments tend to take them fairly seriously. Maybe because voters can actually feel the repercussions in the present.

Anyway, you're gonna love this schematic diagram of how to fix the bridge district's problem.

Trust me.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:42 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack



Arnold's Marketing Genius

In pushing his current reform agenda (detailed in this recent Rosenblog post), California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger again showcases his simultaneous mastery of the serious and the lowbrow. It's a wicked good combo; the guy's a marketing genius, writes the Sac Bee's ace political columnist Daniel Weintraub.

This week, as he kicked off a petition drive that could culminate in a special election this fall, Schwarzenegger demonstrated once again his intention to play in both worlds.

First he held a press conference in his office to announce, in serious tones, that he was chagrined by the lack of progress in the Legislature on his policy proposals. Dressed in a gray suit, white shirt and bright pink tie, Schwarzenegger stood behind a lectern and told reporters that he was prepared to take his case to the voters.

"It's time to put the pressure on our politicians and to have the people send the message that they want true reform," Schwarzenegger said.

After several questions, the governor's aides shut down the press conference and announced that Schwarzenegger would be at the east entrance to the Capitol in five minutes for a photo opportunity. Reporters and camera crews scurried outside to find the governor's olive green, military-style Humvee waiting, adorned with a fake license plate reading "Reform 1." Soon Schwarzenegger appeared. In the interim, he had quickly changed wardrobes, losing the pink tie and jacket in favor of a windbreaker and dark sunglasses.

A crowd of aides from the Governor's Office and Republican legislative staffers lined the path down which Schwarzenegger would walk. Without hesitating, he jumped into the vehicle, fired it up and headed slowly off the Capitol grounds, schoolchildren and aging reporters chasing after him on foot. Escorted by the Highway Patrol and a truck carrying a crew filming a campaign commercial, Schwarzenegger drove five miles to the Sacramento suburbs before pulling into the parking lot of a local Applebee's diner, where he hopped out to begin collecting signatures in front of the cameras.

......You can expect more of the same over the next several weeks. Schwarzenegger has until mid-April to collect the needed signatures on what will probably be four initiatives dealing with public employee pensions, political district lines, education policy and the budget process. He plans to follow up his Sacramento appearance with made-for-television visits around the state.

Meanwhile, he will not foreclose the possibility of more negotiations with legislative leaders over possible compromises.....Legislative leaders, meanwhile, announced that they intend to roll out a series of counterproposals, perhaps as soon as next week.

.....The governor might have entered politics as an amateur, but he is an old pro at marketing. He helped turn the niche sport of body building into a worldwide phenomenon, and he took mediocre acting skills and a thick accent and transformed himself into the planet's most recognizable actor. In both cases, he worked seriously behind the scenes while often appearing cartoonish in public, drawing attention to something, or someone, who would otherwise be left in obscurity.Now he's trying to work the same magic on public policy.

Anyone who misunderestimates Arnold does so at their own risk.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


March 02, 2005

Church Bullies In Ann Arbor

As I reported earlier today at Sound Politics, a Seattle-based church coalition has gone off the deep end, alleging proposed King County ordinances to regulate the establishment of temporary homeless encampments at churches in unincorporated territory would deny religious freedom and violate constitutional rights.

A further sign comes today from another bastion of moderation - Ann Arbor - that such rhetoric is increasingly central to the strategies of churches engaged in land use disputes with residential neighbors.

The New Life Church of Ann Arbor has filed suit in federal court in Detroit alleging its membership is essentially being denied their right to practice their religion because of a local decision against a facility expansion. (Easy, 3-step reg. req. for access to preceding link). Even worse, the church is trying to intimidate concerned citizens with subpeonas in the suit.

In a zoning spat that has turned into a lawsuit, New Life Church of Ann Arbor has subpoenaed personal information from residents who spoke at public meetings against expansion of the church. The church is seeking diaries, planners, resumes, calendars, journals, personal notes and e-mails related to the neighbors' opposition to an auditorium planned for the church on Washtenaw Avenue north of Hill Street. The subpoenas extend to the neighbors' computer hard drives that may still contain deleted e-mails relating to the dispute.

"These subpoenas are hugely invasive; they're overbroad," said Donna Tope, a lawyer who lives in the Oxbridge neighborhood where New Life is located and who received a subpoena.

Tope, who served 12 years on the Planning Commission, said she and the other neighbors were surprised by the legal move. "I've never seen this done," she said. "It's unprecedented that a nonparty to the lawsuit, a private individual, would be asked to fork over private communications."

John Mogk, a professor at Wayne State University Law School, agreed that the move is unusual. "Normally, people who appear at public hearings are not brought into a lawsuit except in extenuating circumstances," he said.

No kidding. The church is giving itself a black eye here, while advancing a highly tenuous claim that its religious freedom is being denied.

A student ministry, New Life wants to add a 550-seat auditorium to the rear of its property. In mid-November, the Planning Commission declined to recommend the project, saying its size and character didn't fit the neighborhood. In late December, New Life filed its lawsuit, saying the denial essentially prevents the church from practicing its religion. New Life says it downsized the project, trying to satisfy neighbors and the commission, but was arbitrarily and capriciously denied approval.

....The lawsuit, filed in the Detroit-based U.S. District Court, is based on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, a 2000 federal law being tested in courts around the country. Last year, Canterbury House, an Episcopal student ministry on East Huron Street, lost its bid to convince the same federal court that failure to get permission for a new building would prevent church members from practicing their faith. Some legal experts expect that the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually hear a case based on the Religious Land Use Act.

The federal Religious Land Use Act states that local governments may not impose a "substantial burden" on churches via land use decisions absent a "compelling governmental interest," and then only if the jursidiction's position is the "least restrictive means" of furthering that interest.

Gee, what is the "least restrictive" way to deny a large new church auditorium in a residential neighborhood? The poorly-crafted federal statute has some churches expecting barely-modified carte blanche for site expansion. Throw in some shrubbery, a drainage pond and private traffic cop on Sundays as neighborhood "mitigation," and we're all set, right? In a "least restrictive" sort of way.

I wonder if - given the all too frequent cries of "wolf" on bogus religious persecution charges in land use disputes - the law should be entirely rescinded. Churches, of all institutions, ought to walk the talk of being good neighbors.

Jesus understood.

Win some, lose some.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 05:11 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack



A Man, A Woman: Not Cool

That Jada Pinkett Smith! Gettin' all "hetero-normative" in a speech at Harvard.

The nerve!

Hat tip: Tongue Tied.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 03:25 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack



Take A Hard Left, Off Cliff

MoveOn.org gets reamed by Rolling Stone.

THAT's an accomplishment.

They signed up 500,000 supporters with an Internet petition -- but Bill Clinton still got impeached. They organized 6,000 candlelight vigils worldwide -- but the U.S. still invaded Iraq. They raised $60 million from 500,000 donors to air countless ads and get out the vote in the battle-ground states -- but George Bush still whupped John Kerry. A gambler with a string of bets this bad might call it a night. But MoveOn.org just keeps doubling down.

....the Internet activist group is...betting that its 3 million grass-roots revolutionaries can...make 2006 a watershed year for liberal Democrats in Congress, in the same way that Newt Gingrich led a Republican revolution in 1994.

...But many party insiders worry that an Internet insurgency working hand in hand with a former Vermont governor will only succeed in pushing the party so far to the left that it can't compete in the red states....As MoveOn becomes a vital part of the Democratic establishment, will its take-no-prisoners attitude marginalize the party and strengthen the Republican stranglehold on power?

Short answer: Yes.

Moveon is guided by a tiny, tightknit group of leaders. There are only ten of them, still deeply committed to the Internet start-up ethos of working out of their homes and apartments in better-dead-than-red bastions such as Berkeley, California, Manhattan and Washington, D.C. For a political organization that likes to rail against "the consulting class of professional election losers," MoveOn seems remarkably unconcerned about its own win-loss record.

....MoveOn is taking the lead in denouncing Bush's agenda. On Social Security, it has already raised $500,000 to air ads in four congressional districts whose representatives are leaning toward privatization. Tom Matzzie, MoveOn's twenty-nine-year-old Washington director, says the ads are aimed at the president, whom he bluntly calls a "son of a bitch."

That's the part that worries moderate Democrats...."We've got to learn how to walk and chew gum at the same time" -- meaning, as one of them explains, "If you're going to be successful, as Bush has proven, you have to energize your base, and you've got to appeal to swing voters."

MoveOn's......

.....closed feedback loop is indicative of a larger problem: the group's almost hermetic left-wing insularity. "We don't get around much," acknowledges (co-founder Wes) Boyd. "We tend to all stay in front of our keyboards and do the work."

For MoveOn, "the work" consists of looking for spikes in e-mail traffic and monitoring online forums to divine the issues that drive its members. Boyd and (co-founder and Boyd's wife Joan) Blades have bitten hard on the "wisdom of crowds" concept. They believe that strategies posted and rated by fellow activists provide the basis for picking campaigns that members will pay to support....speaking to (Boyd) about MoveOn's constituency is like speaking to someone who spends all day in an Internet chat room and assumes the rest of the world is as psyched as he and his online compatriots are about, say, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He seems to conflate MoveOn with the rest of America. "We see ourselves as a broad American public," he says. "We assume that things that resonate with our base resonate with America."

In fact, there appears to be an almost willful ignorance about who actually composes MoveOn. "We're pretty light on the demographics," Boyd says without apology. "It's funny, when we talk to people in Washington, that's the first question we're asked." He adds with note of self-satisfaction: "We've been largely nonresponsive."

In more ways than one, fella.

Hat Tip: Tom Elia, at The New Editor.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:12 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack



Play Your Face, Now!

Have you ever played your face? You should.

I was so reminded yesterday by a remarkable musician named Joe Craven, who performed a music education workshop/concert at the school my chlidren attend. I have since been following Joe's advice. Use two fingers on each hand, alternately hollow up your mouth, then widen it, and observe.

As with a Nigerian talking drum, you can wring actual tonalities from your face. Joe Craven made a room full of kids and a few grown-ups beat their cheeks into music in the course of a marvellous hour-long seminar and demonstration of rhythm, melody, musical tradition and innovation.

Joe is a multi-instrumentalist specializing in percussion, violin, mandolin and a slew of ethnic and homemade stringed instruments. He has played for 17 years with "Dawg Music" folk-jazz mandolin maestro David Grisman, and recorded or performed with artists including Jerry Garcia, The Persuasions, Maria Muldaur, and Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and bluegrass stars Darol Anger and Mike Marshall. Joe is based in Northern California, but came up to Puget Sound for last weekend's Winteregrass Festival in Tacoma.

He's got a major gig at Town Hall in Seattle this Friday (see below), part of a busy touring schedule.. I'm glad to know he'll be de-mystifying music for lots of elementary school students in special workshops along the way.

In the Grisman band, Joe plays a lot of percussion, and fiddle. But I (and a bunch of students, some teachers and a few other parents) got see his mastery of varied percussive, stringed, vocal and electronic instruments and techniques.

He played a "panatar" made from a guitar neck, turkey roasting pan, an exhaust pipe, and wood; plus something with a mandolin neck and strings appended to a hospital bedpan. Joe also plays oud, quatro, saz and balalaika, not to mention wastebaskets, coffee cans, toy telephones, and if you're really lucky, his raincoat.

Joe began the show with an old-fashioned fiddle lament, which worked its way into a frenzied hoedown. His foot-stompin' fiddle got the 1st-3rd graders clapping hard, and spontaneously. He then took the solo acoustic fiddle tune into a rock-blues electric guitar-styled rave-up. A big, if highly informal nod to the Clapton and Hendrix legacies - pretty awesome. Not a lotta fret space on that acoustic fiddle neck, either. But enough. The kids went nuts.

Then he seamlessly segued into some fierce human beat-box/mouth-right-on-the-mike percussion virtuosity, leading back into more acoustic fiddle pryotechnics. The kids were "Yee-Haw"-ing at length.

The seminar continued, with Joe demonstrating the role of rhythm in daily life, and the beginnings of life. Like the sound of a baby's in-utero heartbeat, contrasted against mom's heartbeat; then the popping sounds of birth.

Followed by a person walking and a lawn spinkler hissing. Joe vocalized this into his electronic sampler:

Clomp, clomp, clomp, comp.

Hiss, hiss, hiss, hiss;
Hiss, hiss, hiss, hiss.

In other words:

1 2 3 4.

1234
1234

Then played some very bluesy-jazzy mandolin licks over the lawn-sprinkler beat box rhythms.

Followed by a freshly-created vocal tape loop of some simple spoken words, meant to show the melody of the human voice: "If you loop it, which is what happens in music, you can begin to hear the melody."

As this was repeated over and over and over, the kids: a) cracked up; and b) totally got it, as did I. The rise and fall of the human voice DOES contain inherent melody. Joe used this looped backdrop as base upon which to layer some more piquant stringed melodies.

Seeing, creating, is forgetting the NAME of what you're working with, Joe said. Like Picasso, Joe explained to the kids. One day Pablo looked at an old rusty bicycle, welded the handlebars to the seat and called it a bull's head. And so it became something new, because he was able to forget what it was he'd been seeing before.

Similarly, Joe said: forget about always playing the "right" notes - just feel a rhythm and bang it out. You can work on getting it perfect later on. If that's your aim. Joe sought and found a volunteer who'd never played an instrument before. This 5-year-old girl was up there sawing away at Joe's fiddle, unfretted, first with his help and then on her own, while he played perfectly-in-tune mandolin melodies. It sounded quite nice, altogether.

Kids walk around around wearing "No Fear" skateboard fashions, but too often they're "absolutely terrified" to let go and make music, Joe said. We need to incorporate making music into our daily lives, he emphasized.

Joe reminded us how many folks have instruments gathering dust, and how much inspiration is to be found in waste cans, coffee cans, plus your face, belly, and thighs. He's quite right. At home, I recently noticed that a thick rubber band, stretched from a doorknob to a small lock handle above, produced some beautifully resonant sounds - similar to the Gambian harp called a dusongoni. The tonalities varied according to where I plucked the rubber band. I jammed for a while, then my kids.

There were some other high points of Joe's show.

These included a percussion-laden take of Johhny Cash's "Got Rhythm," a shoeshine boy's song, highlighting Joe's rich, bluesy vocals, with fine brushwork on a very small plastic garbage receptacle.

Plus, a percussion and melodic improv on and around an Indian claypot, or Ghatam, an open-necked, gourd-shaped object used to great advantage by performers in guitarist John McLaughlin's Shakti group, and other traditional Indian music ensembles.

Also, a fine calypso vocal accompanied by snappy rhythms fashioned from a double-sided, donkey's jaw-bone; a "lowdown on the hoedown" rap tribute to the history of American folk music; and the blues tune "Corrina, Corrina" played on a uke-like "commodium" - constructed by Joe from a gleaming silver (and wholly disinfected) hospital bedpan, melded to an (eight-stringed) mandolin neck, pot top, and fork.

Joe Craven's two CDs - "Camptown" and "Django Latino" - earned rave reviews from listeners; he does live gigs; recording sessions, and educational music workshops. This Friday, March 4, he's part of a great concert at Town Hall in Seattle, 8th Ave. and Seneca St., at the eastern edge of downtown.

It's titled "Gypsy Jazz With a Hint Of Bluegrass" and features Pearl Django, Joe Craven, 16-year-old mandolin whiz Jake Jolliff, and the Washington Middle School String Orchestra. Tickets available at the door; also through Ticket Leap (keyword: Washington Middle School); plus at Silver Platters and Sonic Boom stores.

Joe's a hoot - and way funky, to boot.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


March 01, 2005

Jerry Brown Is In The House

Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown's new blog is lean, clean and bluesy. He gets it, totally. What I like: The tone is newsy, blunt and sometimes philosophical. He articulates the importance of blogs vis-a-vis the MSM. There are plenty of links, and an open comment forum, both crucial. He also links to those with views opposing his own. Commendable. I don't know if Brown has a ghost-blogger in the shadows or not. But this sounds very much like his own voice, and it's an impressive debut.

Yes, he's running for something, tho you'd barely know to look at the first few posts. Brown is seeking the 2006 Democratic nomination for CA Attorney General. He's terming out as mayor, and has come a long way from his Governor Moonbeam days. Oakland'll do that.

I'd love to see some Seattle-area or Washington state pols start a real blog, not just the occasional house-organ campaign blogs we get from candidates here.

A likely suspect would be Seattle City Council member Nick Licata, who has for at least seven years been sending out to all interested parties an e-newsletter, also available online, titled "Urban Politics."

Ted Shelton, a tech entrepreneur and local constituent who helped get Jerry Brown into the blogosphere, says more politico blogging will heighten transparency and boost democracy.

Issue advocacy groups also need to better understand the power of blogging. I'm talking about real blogging, with more than canned position statements; repurposed press releases; or copied letters of protest, and rally notices.

Fresh news and commentary links, objective third-party data, reader comments, dissent, dialogue - that's what you want. An advocacy group's blog needs to be a pre-eminent information clearinghouse and discussion forum in the given area of expertise. Few are on the right track yet, but it's early. One promising start is evident at "Evolution News and Views," a blog from the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. They're weaving news and editorial links into their posts, advancing an important agenda: better and more balanced media coverage of the evolution-intelligent design controversy.

Would-be bloggers from the realms of politics, advocacy and business need to remember part of their job is to show the reader something new. The reach of news crawlers and RSS technology put the world at a blogger's fingertips. But it is a "pull" technology, the reader must be drawn to the expedition, and cannot remain mute along the way. Hugh Hewitt has a good phrase for bloggers: "cyber-sherpas."

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack