April 29, 2005
Friday Night Potpourri
At BumperStickerPolitix, Spin Daddy's got some - guess what? - GREAT bumper stickers. Click here, and get some, now! UPDATE: Spin is moving and will be selling his bumper stickers through another venue when he's settled back in.
Demo paternalism: it bites! Tom Elia has more, at The New Editor.
Skor Grimm deconstructs a ickily desperate national Demo fundraising plea to help temporary WA Gov. Christine Gregoire dig out of the deep, deep s***hole in which she and WA state Dems find themselves. Contested election lawsuit-wise.
Expertise is the nom-de-plume of a black conservative who has a kickin' politics and sports blog. Via Booker Rising, a key blogspot for commentary and links to black moderate and conservative bloggers.
Also via Jeff's great blogroll: Shakey Pete on teachin' gun safety ta' yer kid. I like the part about the exploded melon.
Head Heeb has a good Lebanon update.
Everything you wanted to know about Park Slope lesbians. Not sure if they're welcome in Lebanon yet. Maybe after the elections.
Do Tell, Maggie
It's not that actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, who stars in a new movie about the aftermath of 9/11, said too much when she assigned to the United States some responsibility for the deadly terrorist attacks. Au contraire. Actually, she didn't say enough. I mean, what the hell does this mean, anyway? That America is:
..."responsible in some way" for the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Which way responsible, exactly, please?
And about this other thing you said, Maggie:
"Not to have the courage to ask these questions of ourselves is to betray the victims of 9/11. ....I think America has done reprehensible things and is responsible in some way and so I think the delicacy with which it's dealt allows that to sort of creep in."
Yeah, kudos, I'm sure, for your nuanced movie, Mags. But exhortations for "creeping in," Buddhist-style contemplation is not exactly what you want to be peddling in the 24-7 media marketplace, with bloggers ever on the watch for drive-by duncery. Your publicists failed you badly, altho I so respect a celeb or pol who can actually think through things, and articulate cogent arguments on their own. Not that there IS one here, but I'd sure like to hear your best shot. And this SURE wasn't it. Or, God forbid, was it?
Maybe, Maggie, you're reviewing the sacred texts of Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky, and you're gonna get back to us. Somehow I sense not, but if you want to make good on what you started, you'll need to answer this: Exactly HOW and WHY are we responsible for the airplanes piloted by sick-f*** Islamic terrorists which slammed into the Twin Towers, The Pentagon and the PA countryside? Precisely WHAT "reprehensible" things have we done that justified the death of innocents on 9/11? Go on girl. Don't be shy. Speak truth to power.
I never bought that "Shut Up and Sing" shtick of Laura Ingraham's. You know, that celebrities should just perform, and stay out of politics. The tradition of political commentary in stand-up comedy, film, theatre and music goes WAY back. Judge the political speech of celebrities on the actual content, in the marketplace of public discourse and ideas.
That's where Gyllenhaal's limp effort fails, at least for now.
I'm deeply disappointed with you, Maggie. Not mainly because I disagree with your perspective (which I do). But because your approach was so chicken****.
Don't Take Your Daughters And Sons to Work, OK?
This week was the annual "Take Our Daughters And Sons to Work Day," devised by the Ms. Foundation to expose daughters to the world of work and boost their self-esteem. Boys were added to the mix later. But the whole thing is looking increasingly problematic, reports The Wall Street Journal's Jared Sandberg.
When Tony Lombardi worked on a trading floor and people brought their children to work, the kids got quite an education. ...But even though they got to see adults act worse than they did, some kids didn't enjoy their visits. "It's almost like they look behind the curtain at the Wizard of Oz," Mr. Lombardi says.
Of course, instead, you can PAY your children to come to work, something politicians of both parties know about.
April 28, 2005
Can Ants See?
Here's why you should get married and have children. They ask questions like, "Daddy, can ants see?"
My son Max, 8, just wanted to know. I wasn't sure, so naturally, we had to find out. The answer is yes, but not so well. The Straight Dope has more:
In terms of distance, an ant can see the sun, just like you can. That's what, 93 million miles away?
There we have it. So, Max helps educate me. And he makes a mean bean dip.
UPDATE: Mike in Sheboygan, at het2blog, observes that his seven-year-old had a sorta similar question: where do carrot seeds come from? This sorta stuff keeps us parents on our toes, if we're paying attention. And here's the answer, BTW.
I'm Getting Cheesed Off....
...about a whole lotta stuff. Some highlights; followed by, as always, things that warm the cockles of my heart.
WHAT BUGS ME
All the cars in enviro-conscious Seattle toodling around with deteriorating exhaust systems. Don't own a car if you can't replace a corroded muffler or exhaust pipe. You're a no-class act, playing all over town. The city ordinance is weak: the enforceable muffler noise limit is an excruciatingly lax 95 db.
As long as we're on the subject of municipal ordinances, good citizenship and respect for your fellow man, in Seattle: dog owners, obey the law! No off-leash dogs allowed in parks, unless where noted; and no dogs on playgrounds, period. Interesting that they have the sign, with the ordinance number, at some playgrounds (i.e. Alki School's), but not many others. How about one at each playground, Seattle Parks and Rec. Dept.?
And no dogs on beaches, OK, people? That's a city law that's broken daily, many warning signs notwithstanding - because enforcement is absolutely nil. I understand that there are more pressing police priorities. So, City Council and Mayor: how about empowering trained, uniformed volunteer canine enforcement officers - with portable police radios - to issue official citations for dogs illegally on city beaches and at playgrounds, and for unleashed dogs in leash-only city parks? The dogs and their owners are usually easily enough identified by the dog's licensing tags. Owners could appeal fines at the neighborhood city service centers where administrative judges already handle traffic fine appeals. It's counter-productive to have laws that aren't EVER enforced. Breeds disrespect for government. As if we needed any more of that.
On the upside: Big props to the dog owner who today parked their very mellow canine at one of those semi-circular concrete hubs adjoining the steps down to Alki Beach. And kisses to the sweet pooch.
But boos and hisses for the guy with the John Lennon granny glasses and long, pointy goatee, who freqents my neighborhood coffee shop, and sits right outside the front door in one of the chairs provided, smoking a big, fat 'ol cigar. Your fumes are not only a gauntlet my children and I must pass on the way in; but they fill the main room every time someone opens the door. Cigarettes right outside the front door MIGHT be tolerable, but cigars, definitely not. Take a brisk walk along the shoreline when you must indulge, stogie-man. Or do it in the privacy of your own home. And store managers, get a clue! It's such a BIG help that the city bans cigars in pollng places, which are open once or twice a year, at most, but not right outside coffee shops.
Seattle Lib Losers still sporting Kerry-Edwards bumper stickers. Uh, it's over. And you lost. And so sorry, but your "Don't Blame Me, I Voted for The Democrats," shtick seems pretty damned bereft. Got any new ideas? Or any new bumper stickers? (That last query is because, sadly, for y'all, they're usually the same thing).
City businesses with the word "urban " in their name. D'oh: you're IN the city, homes, so you're already frickin' "urban." Capiche? I mean, really - "Urban Nails" (a nail salon), or "Urban Wares," a.k.a. "plus-sizes for women?"
IMHO, WTF? This is "urban?" As opposed to........what? "Rural Nails" and "Suburban Nails"? Or "Rural Plus-Sizes" and "Suburban Plus-Sizes"?
Feh. Highly Judgemental Conclusion, Bound To Damage Somebody's Self-Esteem: use of the word "urban" in a city-based business is actually damningly.......provincial.
TO BE SAVORED, OR APPRECIATED
The Heifer Project. My idea of a great, humanitarian non-profit. God (yeah, um, G-O-D) Bless 'Em. And their extremely generous donors; and all those whom they help.
Great neighborhood specialty shops, such as Seattle Fish Company, 4435 California Ave. SW, in West Seattle. This retail emporium opened about a year ago, at the far north end of the "West Seattle Junction," the main neighborhood business district for this city quadrant that's home to about 90,000 folk, including some of Seattle's saner denizens, frankly.
We're sorta grounded here, at least compared to the fruit-bat habitats elsewhere in Seattle. Maybe that's partly because West Seattle is a place with a small-town feel, and it's separated from the rest of the city by a waterway and bridge. Anyhew, in West Seattle, you bump into friends, neighbors and acquaintances all the time. It's a place where it usually turns out that that little girl at the next table in the bakery, who's looking at your little girl and whispering to her mom, goes to the same school as your kid, and so you meet some more nice folks. That happened just yesterday, again.
But what we'd been missing in West Seattle is stuff like a specialty butcher shop; and a great fish & seafood store. Now at least we've got the latter.
Great help, plus crab, shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters, squid, salmon, halibut, corvina (a sweet, snapper-like fish) and much, much more. West Seattle: keep supporting these guys!
Blueberries. Their health benefits are quite substantial, as you'll see in this Seattle Times guest op-ed (yes, an op-ed about blueberries, and rightly so). Blueberry season comes in summer, but in the meantime, try Trader Joe's dried blueberries, outstanding on cereal, and especially in pancakes.
Ice caves and huckleberries. The latter are a Great Northwest treat. Late August, early September, high elevations. These smallish, wild blueberries are sorta tart, a bit sweet, and just....really, really special. I've picked 'em on hiking trails around Mount Rainier (southeast of Seattle), and on the way to Mount Forgotten Meadows....(pic here) northeast of Seattle, off Mountain Loop Highway.
And....if you're vacationing along the Columbia River Gorge in August or early September, there's a great produce store just a bit west of the town of White Salmon, Washington, and just a minute's drive north of the Gorge; which sells quart bags of fresh-picked huckleberries from Washington state's majestic, and little-known Mount Adams (12K-plus feet high, BTW). Ain't real cheap, but ooh-eee, they're good! Especially on ice cream, or in Brown Cow vanilla or maple yogurt.
Ronzoni Oven Ready Lasagna pasta sheets. No boil; you just lay it in with all the other ingredients, and it turns out perfect. No reason to ever do it the old-fangled way ever again. Pre-grated cheese is also a big help; I really like the Sargento Italian blend. You still want to make your own Bolgonese Sauce, maybe substituting ground veal for beef if you're not a PETA member, and using some canned San Marzano tomatoes. You'll also want to mix some store-bought artichoke-lemon pesto, or chopped chives, or fresh thyme, or finely-grated lemon rind into your Ricotta (maybe a combination of two of those things). The basic recipe (including layering instructions), and the essential, time-saving no-boil Lasagna sheets, is here.
My approach to cooking various cuisines has always been: Learn the blues scales, THEN you can play jazz. IOW, a recipe is a good guide, but once you've mastered the basics, improvise - as the spirit moves you.
April 27, 2005
French Fries Outage Sparks Rampage
It's 45 days in jail for a Pennsylvania man who went somewhat berserk after being told Burger King was out of French Fries. The rampage began......
...when a drive-thru clerk told him the restaurant was out of french fries...authorities said Gregg Luttman made an obscene gesture at the clerk, cursed staffers and nearly hit an employee with his truck. When police tried to arrest him, Luttman allegedly scuffled with an officer and kicked out the back window of a cruiser. Luttman pleaded guilty to assault, resisting arrest, institutional vandalism and other charges stemming from the confrontation on New Year's Day.
I wonder if the best fast-food French Fries really ARE addictive? Or was this really a clever stunt actually funded by the plaintiffs' trial bar, which has already struck fear in the heart of lawmakers?
One thing's clear: lots of french fry afficionados out there. Hydrogenated oil, thin cuts and perhaps a special coating are key. Salt, too. Then you want some seriously unhealthy hydrogenated oils. A load of melted Crisco maybe, or lard. None o' that wimpy Canola. However, McDonald's isn't using beef tallow anymore, not since the $10 million settlement with a deceived Hindu.
April 26, 2005
Behavior. Not Condoms, Key In India AIDS Prevention
India makes a billion condoms annually, to help prevent AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases, and to control population. Both are pressing issues there. But only a quarter of the condoms are actually used for their intended purposes; the rest are utilized in the manufacture of clothing (saris), slippers, toys, road-paving, and construction jobs. This news (minus the road-paving and construction angle) has made the rounds in the last few days, with a brief report, much like this one in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, running in dozens of papers in the U.S. and other countries.
Interesting thing, tho: the story is actually eight months old. From last August:
Only about 25 percent of the condoms are used for sexual activity, despite an aggressive government campaign to combat the spread of AIDS. Most of the condoms produced in India are paid for by the government and meant for free distribution by social service agencies. But, few reach the people who need them.
The report, prepared by Professor Ramakant of King George's Medical University of Lucknow, says that businesses are buying up the condoms in bulk. Contractors use them mixed with concrete and tar to pave roads. The latex apparently helps make the roads smooth and resistant to cracks. Builders are using the condoms on the layer that lies beneath the cement plaster on roofs and as heat penetrates they expand to form a waterproof layer that prevents seepage.
Condoms are also used in large quantities by manufacturers of gold embroidered saris, the 11-yard garments worn by Indian women. Workers use the lubricated condoms to polish the gold embroidery, the report says. India has 5.1 million HIV-positive people, the world's second highest number of infections after South Africa, according to the United Nations.
Condoms are great as a feel-good AIDS prevention strategy for Big Government and NGO social engineers looking to salve their consciences. But in real life, from Bangalore to Seattle, there are a variety of barriers to their use, especially in India and some African nations, where individuals are often hesitant to even acknowledge AIDS risk because of strong social stigma.
The stigma, which also exists in Western nations, is borne of mainstream society's reaction to the behavorial aspects underlying many AIDS cases. The stigma will always be there. And it is the actual risk-inducing behaviors which should be targeted, rather than the reactions of mainstream society to the behaviors.
And instead of focusing public education on messages such as "use a condom, it's really OK," or "be accepting of people with HIV," the spotlight should be on the power of the individual to make smart decisions which minimize risk. Committed, monogamous relationships are key.
I cannot forsee a day - with AIDS on the upswing globally - when anyone should seek to pardon or excuse casual and unprotected homosexual sex, especially casual and unprotected anal sex; or heterosexual sex involving prostitutes; or injecting drug use, because of the risk of needle-sharing involving HIV-positive users. Yet we gravely risk that effect by focusing on condoms, which so often aren't used in such situations, despite all the a priori public exhortations.
That most condoms in India continue to be used for industrial and commercial manufacturing purposes, rather than disease prevention or birth control; and that there is an upsurge in STDs in many large American cities; tells us that the best prevention measures come from within, not without. The only thing resembling a magic bullet for AIDS prevention is the power of the individual.
It all comes back to family, and parents who model stable, caring and monogamous intimate relationships for their children to emulate as they themselves move toward, and into adulthood. Additionally, economic opportunity and education enhance family stability, influencing individual behavior and decisions. More and better jobs and schools, and national, regional and local governments which are committed to those objectives, are also part of the necessary response to AIDS in developing nations. That talk is talked, but is it really walked? Not well enough.
Measuring condom utilization, and encouraging condom use is way, way down the list. At best.
April 25, 2005
The Idiocy Of The "Panty Line Project"
Lawrence, Kansas is home to the University of Kansas, and as far as Kansas goes, it's a pretty liberal place. Which may explain The Panty Line Project.
Wherein self-described victims of sexual abuse have written empowering messages of resistance on red panties displayed in a local bookstore window.
Take a stroll past the Raven Bookstore, 6 E. Seventh St., and you'll find more than reading material in the window display. You'll also find red, lacy lingerie. Look closer, and you'll see a message scrawled on the underwear: "Red Panties are Not Synonymous with Askin' for It."
Certainly not, and most especially if you don't strip down to them, in the company of a horny male.
"The discomfort people feel when they walk by and see underwear gives them a glimpse of maybe the discomfort that someone who's been sexually assaulted may have as well," said Tracy Williams, Sexual Assault Coordinator of Ga Du Gi SafeCenter, formerly known as the Rape Victim-Survivor Service.
Huh? Sorry, but, ah, I walk by some red panties in a window, I'm thinkin' a what my sweetums'd look like in 'em. Or some such thing. Puh-leeze!
The display of lingerie is part of the Panty Line Project, organized by Williams in recognition of April being Sexual Assault Awareness month. The project aims to inform the public about the prevalence of sexual assault in the community.
Great, great, Tracy. And I suppose "Ga Du Gi" is Sioux for "the gauzy pink cloud which temporarily obscures the view." Or something.
But see, here's the rub, Trace. By the time a gal, in the company of a guy, strips down to her panties, whether they be red, white, blue, green, or - god forbid - mauve, there are certain other issues which rise to the fore.
Yes, "No Means No," and that's what I'll make sure my son understands when he gets older. But I'll also make sure - or rather I'll make sure my wife makes sure - that my daughter understands that when a gal gets down to her panties with a guy, she's raising the bar, uh, expectations-wise.
Pre-marital celibacy, and relative chastness (i.e. kissing and not a helluva lot more) is certainly an option for young women and men. That's a personal choice, and one that should never be mocked, or dismissed.
Guys aren't quite the pigs some old-school feministas think. But they ARE guys. Young ladies: you wanna play it safe? Then keep your pants on.
Carnival Of The Capitalists: The Latest
My friend Pieter Dorsman is hosting Carnival of the Capitalists this week at his fine blog, Peak Talk. Read the whole thing (RTWT). It's quite a round-up of recent business and economic bloggage. Pieter was kind enough to link to one of my recent Blog Consulting Pro posts in the current Carnival. I'm humbled to be in such upstanding company.
Gay Rights Activists Too Strident, Self-Righteous
Too many gay rights activists (including straight allies) are strident, self-righteous and emotional. In addition, some gay activists invest too much of their identity in their alternative sexuality. A gay person who can vote for George Bush, like these folks interviewed by the gay paper, the Washington Blade, is my idea of open-minded.
Too many gays involved in the polarizing campaign for "gay rights" (and their allies) confuse disapproval of their sexual orientation with hatred and bigotry. They fail to understand that many Americans remain deeply uncomfortable with government "anti-discrimination" sanctions for gays. This results from legitimate moral and religious beliefs opposing homosexuality; and from concerns such sanctions may pave the road for attempts to legalize gay marriage, or compel questionable standards and conduct in public life.
Given the passions surrounding homosexuality, it is not reasonable to expect that public schools in all states will necessarily, and without question, allow gay-friendly curricula. Should it even be the purpose of schools to sanction alternative sexual identities? If gays, why not also transsexuals? It is perfectly sane to argue that these are, or should be, private matters. Unless we decide as a society it is the business of public schools to promote a range of sexual identities. So, a state legislator in Alabama (cue "Dixie," and b-roll of hooded Klansmen) wants books portraying gays in a positive light removed from public schools, and, natch, is labelled a Nazi by an official of the Southern Poverty Law Center. In Washington, State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle) apologized after last week comparing discrimination against gays to The Holocaust. The ADL wasn't amused.
Last summer, gay activists mounted a vile "outing" campaign against Capitol Hill staffers who worked for Republicans thought to be favoring a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage - the idea being if you are gay and work for such a legislator, you must, de facto, be a self-loathing traitor to "the cause" - there is only one position that is acceptable. Cooler heads prevailed: the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment failed to make it to a vote because it would have deprived same-sex couples in state-approved civil unions of constitutional protections.
But the political battle over gay rights is multi-faceted, and fluid. Gays looking for positive government sanctions may do best in states such as Vermont, Massachusetts, and now, Connecticut. Florida courts earlier this year ruled against allowing gays to be foster parents. Certain court, election and legislative developments have also been disappointing for gay rights advocates in California, Oregon and Washington.
More news here, in an update from AP.
Connecticut, in a historic step last week, became the first state to approve marriage-like civil unions for same-sex couples without the prodding of a court order. The same day, however, the Texas House voted to bar gays from being foster parents; the next day, the Washington Senate defeated a major gay civil-rights bill. In Alabama, meanwhile, lawmakers considered a bill aimed at keeping books tolerant of homosexuality out of public schools. A despondent lesbian activist, Patricia Todd, told a House committee: “I feel you all hate us.”
Silly woman; I hate that word, "hate." Constituents and legislators can't be browbeaten into blessing homosexuality. Parents can teach tolerance of homosexuality, different religions and races at home. Or at least the last two - the first one is more of a judgement call, like it or not. A crucial distinction in anti-discrimination law must be made between biological attributes such as race, age and physical disability, one the one hand; and sexual minority identity, on the other hand, which is by no means proven to be a matter of genetic predisposition.
Still, some gay activists further argue that because anti-discrimination protections extend to religion (a choice), related laws should also include sexual orientation and identity. This seems to admit that non-heterosexual identity IS, like religion, a choice. Certainly this is the case with tranvestitism, transgenderism, and transsexualism, which are all protected "self images" in the recently-defeated Washington state law, HB 1515.
Yet actual discrimination in housing, public accomodations, education and employment against gays and other sexual minorities is now virtually non-existent in the U.S. Where are the headlines about actual reported monetary settlements for allegations of discrimination against sexual minorities? It's not hapenning on any significant scale. Where are the headlines about actual reported findings of guilt, by a judge or jury, for discrimination against sexual minorities, as opposed to lists of "reported hate crimes" from advocacy groups with axes to grind?
What you will find are some reports of claimed workplace discrimination against transvestites and transexuals - who indeed may continue to face legitmate blowback in the workplace, and with regard to public restrooms. Should not an employer be able to decline to hire a transsexual for a receptionist position, or as a restaurant host? And the sexual minority rights movement risks self-parody, with the recent campaign for gender-neutral bathrooms for the transgendered and transsexuals, by an organization with the acronym PISSR. Courts in New York so far are not sympathetic to biological males using the ladies room, as it happens.
I also have a problem, as do many others, with putting an individual's choice to be a transvestite or transexual on the same ground as practicing a religion. Perhaps that equation of sameness, articulated in the comment string to this recent post of mine on HB 1515 at Sound Politics, is part of the problem. Sexuality - wonderful though it is - has become part of the religious cannon of public, political self-expression under the Blue America values scheme. This can occur only in a society obsessed with self-expression and self-validation, with complicity of the media, state legislatures and courts. Resistance should be expected. As for the violent hate crimes that can be perpetrated by pinheaded brutes against gays and transexuals, the best defense is probably a legal firearm.
The MSM continue to get it wrong on anti-discrimination measures for sexual minorities. This New York Times story (via cnet) closes with a quote from an anonymous Microsoft employee who conflates the company's decision last week to not support the Washington state bill protecting sexual minorities from "discrimination," with actually condoning discrimination.
Revealingly however, Christian conservative Microsoft employees and a pastor at a church some of them attend, objected to the company taking a stance on the legislation, which would have extended anti-discrimination protection to anyone who had a sexual self-image which differed from their biological sex. In other words, if I feel like a woman today, or this month or this year, I can use the ladies room in the library even though i'm biologically male, and if you give me flack, that's discrimination.
Gay rights advocates should seek a better understanding of the conservative Christian viewpoint against any government sanctioning of sexual minority rights. Here is a good place for the gay rights "thought police" to start; an op-ed in the Portland (Maine) Press-Herald, by attorney Stephen C. Whiting of the Christian Civic League, stating opposition to a proposed Maine gay rights bill.
Reasonable people can have a civilized discussion over whether those who disapprove of homosexuality SHOULD reconsider their opposition to gay marriage and anti-discrimination laws for sexual minorities. But labelling such opponents as bigots, "homophobes," "Nazis," or practitioners of "hate speech," only increases the polarization.
Personally, I am friendly with a number of gay people, and have never believed it was my place to tell them whether I approved or not of their sexual orientation. But free speech entails that opponents of homosexuality should be free to state their views - so long as they are civil. Earlier this year, I warned conservatives against getting all het up over talk about a possible gay business district in Spokane, something that the free market, not morality-driven politics, will determine.
In addition, I am neutral on gay marriage. I AM for duking it out, state-by-state, in the legislature and courts, with no name-calling. If it comes to the point that the states which have passed constitutional amendments or other measures banning gay marriage (now 16), are STILL being challenged in state courts, I will reserve the right to conclude that a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage but protecting civil unions could deserve a vote in Congress. As last year, when the flawed Federal Marriage Amendment failed to reach a vote, two-thirds supermajority approval would be required in both chambers, and then, three-quarters of state legislatures would have to approve it for national enactment (a very, very tall order).
But as now, when gay marriage or sexual minority rights legislation come before state governments, the electorate, or the courts; no constituent is without a voice, nor should they be. It is instructive to recall that 38 U.S. states adopted their own "Defense Of Marriage Act" bills (marriage=a man, a woman, and that's it), after the U.S. Congress and then-President Bill Clinton paved the way for state decision-making. In Washington state, gay marriage activists are seeking to overturn our state DOMA law, in the State Supreme Court. If that effort is successful, a movement will develop to push for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and because of Washington's stringent requirements (a two-thirds vote of the legislature, followed by a public vote), pressure could mount for a wide Republican majority in both chambers. Suburban districts might well swing the GOP's way far more than in recent years.
States will continue to decide these matters on thier own, which is exactly right.
Let's make sure that in the larger, ongoing debate, attempts to marginalize cultural conservatives cease. Just like gay rights and gay marriage activists, they are not going away any time soon.
April 23, 2005
Sex, Drugs, Sloth and Politics in BC
The Sex Party is just the tip of the iceberg. In British Columbia's May 17 elections, candidates are also running from the Marijuana Party; the Work Less Party (motto, "Alarm Clocks Kill Dreams"); and the Annexation Party, which wants BC to become the 51st U.S. state. There are 45 parties registered with BC Elections in all.
The Creepiest Party award goes to the Western Canada Concept Party. Their objectives include "preservation of our Christian culture and European heritage." The Most Trifling Party: Your Party, which comes off as a high-school civics project. There's also the Millionaires Party, and The Idealists Party. Basically, in BC, if you've got an idea (sort of) and run one candidate two elections in a row, - presto vivace, you've got a political party.
More on some of the BC fringe parties, from the Victoria Times-Colonist.
And The Globe and Mail:
The B.C. Sex Party thinks public schools should teach youths to enjoy sex and masturbate. The Work Less Party says the North American rat race is shortening our lives and wrecking the environment. Then there is the Annexation Party of B.C., which posits that British Columbia would thrive better as the 51st state of the United States.
I've got some bad news for the Annexation Party, much as I like their fairly common-sense, states rights, low-tax, pro-growth platform: we don't want BC as our 51st State. I think it might be feasible for Vancouver to become a sovereign nation, however.
April 22, 2005
"Infomania" Makes Us Stupid
Recently,I was warning Bill Gates about slavish devotion to personal technology. Now academics are catching up with my penetrating insights. Gadget-driven "Infomania" makes us dumb. A study commisioned by Hewlett Packard reveals that text messaging, e-mail and the like can really make you stupid, not just distracted. The Scotsman reports:
Constant text messaging and e-mailing causes a reduction in mental capability equivalent to the loss of ten IQ points, according to research. Tapping away on a mobile phone or computer keypad or checking messages on a handheld gadget temporarily reduces the performance of the brain, according to the study into the effects of "infomania"....the modern culture of information could cause a permanent drop in intelligence.
But, the distraction is almost constant for many lost souls. I see them every day, in their little cocoons. They may eventually cause genetic mutations in the species.
Now, if you'll excuse, I'm going to the park with my son to play ball. You won't be able to reach me because I don't have a cell phone. Never have. But I'll be back online checking my blog and e-mails by sometime tomorrow.
(FYI, comment spammers, this is just a ruse to collect more names, faster, for my growing blacklist!)
Golden Gate Suicide Barrier Must Be Imperfect
Should it be part of government's job to prevent suicide? Not unless it saves government money. It is expensive to coax would-be suicides off the Golden Gate Bridge, and to send bio-hazard-suited Coast Guard personnel to retrieve their mangled bodies from the San Francisco Bay. Altho a study pinpointing estimated average annual costs to date, versus annualized new barrier and suicide clean-up costs, would be most helpful. County auditor?
At any rate, an estimated 1,300 poor souls have leapt to a watery death since the bridge opened in 1937. As the New Yorker reports, that group includes the founder of Victoria's Secret, an Al Gore ally and fundraiser, and a guy protesting the Iraq War.
With suicide prevention in mind, Golden Gate Bridge District supervisors now finally seem ready to lower the bar on suicide barrier performance standards a bit, in order to get the damn thing built.
Earlier language regarding the envisioned barrier had included the daunting requirement that the device be "totally effective." No longer, if today's vote goes as expected.
The full board is expected to ratify new criteria today requiring only that a suicide barrier "impede the ability of an individual to jump."
I think I'd tweak that to, "significantly impede." Of course, if you wanna do it, you're gonna find a way. Maybe just not off the bridge. Although Mark Moran, writing in Psychiatric News, claims otherwise.
Slumming It, In A Beemer
Here's a kid who needs his fancy car replaced with an old, one-speed bicycle. The King County Journal reports:
Bellevue police Tuesday arrested a 17-year-old Sammamish resident they suspect of trying to work an insurance scam aimed at junking his 2002 BMW M3 so he could upgrade to a new Bentley. According to police spokesman Michael Chiu, the teenager reported his BMW stolen..But early Tuesday morning, police in Snoqualmie found the car...and arrested four young men...stripping the car...they implicated the Sammamish resident, who they said wanted his BMW stolen and stripped so he could collect insurance money and buy a Bentley.
A 17-year-old kid ends up with a 2002 BMW because mom and dad have already traded up. Whoa, Ech. Cars, cell phones, same deal. It's all disposable.
April 21, 2005
Are Some Gays Intolerant?
Are some gays intolerant? And could the staff at a San Francisco club catering to gay males in the famous gay Castro district have systematically discriminated against women and minorities? The city is investigating.
In the middle of it is "And Castro For All", a project of San Francisco's LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgendered) Community Center. AC4A, as the group calls itself, initiated the "Is BadlandsBad?" campaign against a gay bar in the Castro named Badlands. AC4A's Web site reports:
IsBadlandsBad? launched in the summer of 2004, when organizers held multiple press conferences to share reports from witnesses, patrons, and former employees alleging 1) that...the owner of SFBadlands and Detour bars, had been encouraging his staff to implement discriminatory and illegal practices in an effort to bar African Americans and others; 2) that, on multiple occasions, African-American patrons, Latinos, women, and other individuals had been subjected to differential, unjust, and illegal treatment, ranging from discrimination at the door to expulsion without cause; and 3) that, given the composition of his 100% male and overwhelmingly White, 40-plus person workforce, it was highly likely (the business) was engaged in discriminatory hiring practices.
This week's San Francisco Bay Guardian has more.
Results of the 10-month investigation will be released sometime in mid-April. If the HRC rules that civil rights abuses have taken place at Natali's bars, it could result in the revocation of their liquor licenses by the (state) Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The findings could also be used as evidence in individual lawsuits.
Self-identity is a tricky thing. If you decide that first and foremost you are (pick one) Republican, "progressive", Gay, Black, Latino, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc., you are always going to be sizing up the "other" instead of just letting life, and human interaction, flow. If you're at risk of attack as an especially "femme"-looking guy, or trannie, then get a concealed weapon permit and learn to shoot: fer crissakes, don't be a victim.
I found myself in the role of outsider recently as a straight, white male. I went briefly into a Denman Street bakery last week in Vancouver after a walk in Stanley Park with my family, to see if the fare and atmosphere looked amenable.
The scones looked great, but when 25 male heads all turned in unison from their various tables to check out the "fresh meat" walking in the door (me), I felt a divide. Were they all really checking to see if a friend was coming in? I don't think so. They were doing what (some) gay men always do, and I found it offensive, and unwelcoming. There was also a clear subtext: this is OUR place, and you'd better be one of us, or you're not welcome. Doubtless, blacks used to get this kind of reception a lot, when walking into bars, restuarants, or public schools.
It is a sign of social progress that gay and lesbian couples are comfortable together in public settings of all sorts in U.S. cities. They are out and together among the straights, and the world is a better place for it. So, now, here is a militant thing to do - to test the limits of tolerance in North American urban gay communities. Heterosexuals, maybe two or three couples at a time, should go into gay bars, and order drinks, laugh and have fun.
See what happens. And if you're in San Francisco, head on over to Badlands.
Campus Lefties: Lighten Up Already!
Campus lefties need to lighten up. As other chapters nationwide did last year, College Republicans at Eastern Washington University in Cheney finally held their own affirmative action bake sale, posting different prices for customers based on ethnicity and gender. The usual sputtering outrage from campus "progressives" ensued, but so did this excellent column in the campus paper from Democrat Brian Baer.
Any test I’ve ever taken has told me I am a Democrat, and anyone who knows me would tell you I am nowhere near conservative. However, I can take a joke, whether or not it is pointed at me....there is nothing I respect more than a creative way to express an idea.
In the spirit of fair play, it must be added that campus conservatives who protested the recent appearance and talk by 9/11 apologist Ward Churchill at EWU, were off-base too. Short of actual exhortations to violence or crime, free speech needs to be defined as broadly as possible.
April 20, 2005
The Value-Driven Soft Sell
Spanking Is A-OK
The Texas House of Representatives says, "Let's be clear: Yes, you can spank your kid." From the Austin American-Statesman (free reg. req.).
A bill approved Monday in the Texas House would clarify the law giving parents or other guardians the right to use corporal punishment to discipline a child. Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, the author of the bill, says parents are confused about whether corporal punishment is legal. Corporal punishment already is addressed in the penal code, but only as a defense to prosecution for child abuse.
Personally, and as a parent, I'm fine with spanking. I haven't had to do it often. In fact not in some time. But there are times when a kid needs a good rump-smacking. I recall getting a few myself. I'd never use anything but my hand, and never anywhere else but on my kid's clothed bottom. I think worrying about this sort of spanking is just plain silly. According to a 2002 ABC News poll, most Americans are OK with spanking.
Russian scientists are claiming spanking is good for some grown-ups, too, and not in a kinky way. However, April 30 is National SpankOut Day in the U.S. We are supposed to consider the reasons for emulating 11 European nations which have outlawed spanking.
THIS should really get Catholics steamed.
Analog Kid is on fire at Random Nuclear Strikes.
I often like to get at the political through the cultural, as readers may have noticed. So I was simply thrilled, thrilled I tell you, to learn about a ripping good blog called "Veiled Conceit." It bills itself as "a glimpse into that haven of superficial, pretentious, pseudo-aristocratic vanity: The NY Times' Wedding & Celebration Announcements." And so it is.
From Brian Anderson, author of the new, excellent book "South Park Conservatives," wrote this L.A. Times op-ed: "Why The Liberals Can't keep Air America From Spiraling In."
My good friend and business partner Jeff Brazill has changed the name of his blog from Au Fait to Ponytailed Conservative. Same address, same great edgy blogging, awesome new design.
April 19, 2005
No Dead White Males: Activism, Social Change At The New College
You've got to read this to believe it. Take a look at what some students are exploring in the Master's Degree program of the Activism and Social Change Program at The New College, an accredited institution in San Francisco.
Bryan Burgess.... Bryan’s thesis is an exploration of theater methods used to challenge gender binaries and gender oppression. Bryan’s goal is to develop a theater model that can be used as an organizing tool for cross-identity alliance building. Bryan is currently working with People in Search of Safe Restrooms (PISSR) and the Transgender Law Center on their campaign for safe bathroom access and is the events coordinator for New College’s Activism & Social Change program.
As you can see, the training and institutionalizing of the "activist class" is becoming more and more problematized. Daunting are the challenges stemming from the classist, corporate, capitalistic constructs of an anesthitized Amerikkka, and its allies in pursuit of global market hegemony. One can only hope that soon, very soon, high school curricula will expand to include instruction in dialectics and transformative activism around social justice issues including gender-nuetral public restrooms for transsexuals; other forms of discrimination against transsexuals; indigenous resistance to imperialism; urban squatting communities; Fair Trade flowers; performance as a means of social change; the stifling nature of sexual orientation binaries; the moralistic nature of non-violent protest and the situational efficacy of violent protest; culture jamming and multi-issue organizing.
I've got my fingers crossed.
April 18, 2005
More Politician Bloggers; From Wisconsin To England
I've got a new post up at my other site, Blog Consulting Pro, titled "More Politician Bloggers; From Wisconsin to England." Take a look, and find out more about the blogs of a Wisconsin State Rep., a Wisconsin candidate for Governor, three British MP candidates, a Green Party chapter in New Zealand, and the online campaign journal of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Fake Cell Phone Calls Are Now Widespread
I've wondered here before if our infatuation with cocooning personal technologies might not presage mental illness. Now, I'm wondering again. Apparently, there are more reasons than I knew for engaging in fake cell phone calls, all of them bewildering.
From the above-linked NYT story:
* Blame-shifting for social gaffes such as holding up a check-out line;
* to "avoid contact, whether with neighbors or panhandlers, co-workers or supervisors, Greenpeace canvassers or Girl Scouts;"
* to avoid looking lonely, or keep up with cell-phone chattering peers;
* (women) to avoid unwanted approaches from men;
* (men) to impress women;
* (for camera cellphone shutterbugs) "to get a good angle without looking suspicious;"
* to cover up being late to work (as in, "I was on an important call").
Myself, I don't have a cell phone. Business gets taken care of just fine. And I prefer to look Greenpeace activists, Girl Scouts and panhandlers in the eye, and say to them whatever needs saying. I don't have a problem with "No."
April 16, 2005
Of Fabulists And Seal Hunts
Barbara Stewart, a Boston Globe freelancer who in a Globe story published last week made up details about a bloody Canadian seal hunt that hadn't happened yet, worked for 10 years as a reporter for the New York Times, whose parent company owns the Globe. The disturbing incident not only reveals lapsed ethics, but profound bias for animal rights activists, and against seal hunters. It also raises questions whether The Times' initial "what, us worry?" response constitutes a circling of the wagons, in light of now-salient concerns that Stewart's decade-long reportage there should be painstakingly authenticated.
Hunters on about 300 boats converged on ice floes, shooting harp seal cubs by the hundreds, as the ice and water turned red. Most of the seals were less than 6 weeks old.
The "balanced" body of the story is respectable enough, but is badly undermined by the phony opening. The Boston Herald notes:
The account...was fabricated. The cull didn't happen that day. It was postponed due to bad weather. Helen Donovan, executive editor of the Globe, said the paper first learned of a possible problem when it was contacted by a Canadian government agency....Donovan said the paper reviewed Stewart's earlier stories for the Globe and "didn't find any errors.''
The CBC reports the hunt actually began Friday April 15, two days after The Globe ran Stewart's story. Too bad Stewart was not there to report on what actually happended, as opposed to just pretending she had been - shades of Jayson Blair. As of Monday morning April 18, hunters were still 95,000 to 100,000 seals under the yearly quota.
The Globe acknowledged Stewart's fabrication in this Editor's Note. But the matter should not be allowed to fade away quickly for several reasons.
The Stewart-Globe episode is about more than another MSM fabulist biting the dust. It is also about the bias underlying the fabulism. And given the initial stiff-arm of the Times to checking on Stewart's 10-year archive there, it as well underscores the ongoing, and keening arrogance of a mainstream media whose credibility has already been badly wounded by a series of scandals involving either fabrication, or sheer sloppiness, as in the CBS-TV/Dan Rather/"60 Minutes" debacle over a faked memo on President George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard.
Stewart was a 10-year veteran of the New York Times, home of fired serial fabulist Jayson Blair and his disgraced mentor Howell Raines. She contributed to the Times' noted series on 9/11 victims, titled "Portraits of Grief," and authored this article about the assignment for the Columbia Journalism Review in 2002.
Again, The Herald:
Barbara Stewart worked as a reporter on the Times' metro desk between October 1994 and May of last year, Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis confirmed last night. Stewart was dropped by the Globe as a freelancer this week after she was caught making up part of a story about seal culling off the coast of Canada. The Times last night would not say whether a probe was under way into Stewart's work there. "Should any questions be raised, we will check them," Mathis said. The Times would not give any reason why Stewart left.
Ms. Mathis: Excuse me, please: but consider questions raised. A 10-year Times veteran who fabricates a sensational lede on a highly controversial topic for a newspaper owned by The Times' parent company should have the entire body of her Times work put under systematic and thorough review. Lacking this review, more-than-reasonable doubts will linger.
An ancillary but also crucial issue now is, under what circumstances did Stewart leave The Times? Was it voluntary, or not? Mathis' stonewall here to The Herald raises more questions than it answers. If The Times - which has suffered serious ethical lapses in recent years - is smart, it will seek to credibly settle all these matters, and soon.
Stewart's latest work surely does not inspire confidence. As these in-depth seal hunt FAQs from the CBC show, Stewart's manufactured lede image of gun-toting seal hunters brutally shooting seals to death does not jibe with a 2002 Canadian Veterinary Journal report which found that 98 percent of the seals taken in the annual Atlantic hunt are killed humanely. Clubbing is one preferred method, and where guns are used, federal regulations stipulate death be quick.
According to the Atlantic Seal Hunt 2003-2005 Management Plan of Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the size, weight, muzzle velocity and guage of guns used to kill seals are regulated to insure quick and humane killings when guns are used, as Stewart's Globe story noted, lower down. Such nuances go a bit beyond Stewart's crude and made-up top-of-story imagery of waters filled with the then non-existent blood of "hundreds" of seal pups.
Further, since 1987, killing of white harp seal pups has been banned, though anti-seal hunt groups still feature their pictures on their Web sites and fundraising materials. Additionally, for some sealers, the hunt is up to one-third their annual income, in a province with a jobless rate of 15 percent, according to the CBC.
To Stewart's partial credit, she notes many of these nuances in her full story (linked above), but the fabricated lede grafs betray deep bias. It is as though the "other side" is just so much pro-forma "blah, blah, blah" down below. The view clearly seems to be that readers will get the real "message" up top, even if it depends on situational ethics and fictional, as opposed to actual, reportage.
Underlying this latest mainstream media transgression of reader trust is the overt currying of favor with animal rights groups. This is unfortunate. Seals may be cute. But they are, after all, merely marine mammals, and have been a source of food, oil and fur for centuries.
Globe Foreign Editor Jim Smith damningly reveals to the WaPo's Howard Kurtz that Stewart told him she wrote the bloody on-scene descriptions of seal cub shootings in advance of the event.
Stewart said she had done much of the reporting about the hunt in advance and "wrote a top assuming it was going to start on Tuesday," Smith recalled. He said she could not remember whether she spoke to a hunter who said the annual event was about to begin on Monday night or Tuesday morning. "Clearly, that doesn't in any way forgive the many errors that took place on her part and our part," Smith said.
Globe foreign editor Smith said to The Herald that since being found out, Stewart had told The Globe:
"I don't know why I did this. I've never done anything like this before.''
It is clear enough why Stewart did what she did, even if she pretends not to know. She thinks seal hunters, and the seal hunt, are vile. What else could account for the fictionalized editorializing masquerading as reportage? Further, that she has "never done anything like this before" cannot actually be known until the New York Times and Boston Globe conduct a full and transparent review of Stewart's work. The Times owes that to its readers after the Blair affair. At least several dozen of Stewart's Times pieces, spread across her 10-year tenure there, should be thoroughly investigated by that paper's internal watchdogs.
Most disingenuous is Stewart's self-defense in a Monday (April 18) Post piece by Kurtz.
Barbara Stewart, the Boston Globe freelancer dropped over her story about a Canadian seal hunt that had not yet taken place, says she never meant to deceive anyone. She just never checked back to learn that the scheduled hunt had been delayed by bad weather. "The whole situation, while resulting from an egregious, massive, stupid [screwup] on my part, unbelievable carelessness, was nevertheless not malicious fabrication as in: pretending I was there and deliberately making up a whole scene and attempting to pass it off," Stewart says by e-mail.
Nonsense. Pretending she was there, deliberately making up a whole scene, and attempting to pass it off was precisely was Stewart did. That Kurtz should weave this insulting denial into a piece on media scandals with no retort shows his own eagerness to minimize the Stewart affair.
Meanwhile, The Globe, which previously discharged writer Patricia Smith for admitted fabrication and columnist Mike Barnicle for suspected fabrication following plagiarism, owes its readers a fully transparent investigation intro the veracity of Stewart's work for them, despite Helen Donovan's glib assurance the paper reviewed Stewart's previous Globe stories and "didn't find any errors."
Here's one of Stewart's recent Globe pieces for starters; and another. Stewart has only done a handful of pieces for The Globe. This emphasizes even more accutely the need for a thorough review of the main body of her work over the last decade, at the Times.
Stewart's fabricated and propagandistic opening also serves as a reminder that the mainstream media must more fairly and ethically report on Canada's controversial annual Atlantic harp seal hunt.
A good place to start is the above-linked DFO Atlantic Seal Hunt 2003-2005 Management Plan. Seal hunting in the area began in the 16th Century. The Canadian Atlantic harp seal population has grown from 2 million in the 1970s to more than 5 million now. With some 300,000 killed per year in three separate hunts (Magdalen Islands, Gulf of St. Lawrence, and Newfoundland) and present birth rates, the population is staying well above the mandated 70 percent of the maximum observed count of 5.5 million. The 70 percent mark would be 3.85 million, the estimated population in 2006 will be 4.7 million, according to DFO.
Rather than urging U.S. residents to boycott Canadian seafood in retaliation, anti-seal hunt activists might want to have a word with Europeans. That's the big market for seal oil and skins. The meat? It goes mainly to Asia, as it's outlawed in the U.S.
April 15, 2005
Happy Birthday, Dad
I can't really improve on my birthday tribute here last year to my father, Milt Rosenberg. Today is his birthday, so here it is again, for anyone who missed it.
Come to think of it, though, I CAN shamelessly hype Milt's online content "suite" (my term, not his). And happily, it's well-worth exploring. Rosenblog readers: tune in to my Dad's blog, and his radio show weeknights at 9:00 PM CST (online audio feed here), RealPlayer or RealPlayer One required.
Milt's more recent audio archives are here; then there's the three-decade archived retrospective. Highlights from the 70s include interviews with Abba Eban, Billy Carter, G. Gordon Liddy, and Ariana Stassionopoulos (now Huffington).
Milt also has a whole lotta music he'd like you to hear. (Good selection Dad, but how about more Latin Jazz, Calypso and African?).
Dad, congratulations on having such a well-exercised mind. It suits you well. Now....please eat your vegetables. And come visit this spring, OK? But remember: in Seattle, we dress C-A-S-U-A-L. No raincoats or umbrellas allowed, either.
Trade That "Rich Cultural Mosaic" For A Melting Pot, Wouldja?
Actually, I'm all for diversity - it's just all the damn TALKING about it that cheeses me off. So....hope you like these little tidbits as much as I do.
Chick: I don't get Spanish guys. They compliment you every time you pass them. They always say things like, "You have beautiful legs, in my country it is an honor for a woman to be told she has beautiful legs". Well, you're in NY now, honey, and I'm a bitch!
Then this, from the Tacoma News Tribune. "Potato Famine Week" was recently observed at Emerald Ridge High School in Puyallup, a southeast suburb of Seattle. Critics were not amused and sounded off in the school newspaper. But the instigator, student government executive board member Brian James House (of Irish descent, FWIW) explained his intentions:
I feel that people are way too caught up in controversy and being politically correct.
Call him a South Park Conservative.
April 14, 2005
France Honors Bruce Willis - Hollywood Republican
It's official. The cheese-eating surrender monkeys running France just love U.S. action-movie hero Bruce Willis, whose support for the Iraq War (3d item from top, here); comments in 2000 about Al Gore; and partnership with President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush to promote adoption haven't made him many friends on The Left. AP reports:
France has honored Bruce Willis, making him an officer in the Order of Arts and Letters, one of the country's top awards for cultural achievement....The award is conferred on those who have particularly distinguished themselves in an artistic or literary field.
Sacre Bleu! The cosmos is in disorder, non?
American Thinker Publisher and Editor Thomas Lifson sorts it all out. First off, he says, the French aren't total dolts: witness their love of art, beauty, nuclear power and high-speed rail. Yet:
...the French have not dealt very well with the nearly 2 full centuries of eclipse...Political instability, military failure, pretentious arrogance, and a willingness to shake hands with devils ranging from Hitler to the Iranian mullahs have marked France’s desperate attempts to maintain the fiction that it is a leading nation of the world...
It all gets me thinking. U.S. Senator Bruce Willis. That has a nice ring to it. I think it'd be just great if he challenged Barbara Boxer.
Oregon Supremes Deal Blow To Gay Marriage
Oregon's Supreme Court today voided the almost 3,000 gay marriage licenses granted last year in Multnomah County, home of Portland. AP reports:
The court noted that last November, Oregonians approved a constitutional amendment that limits marriages to a man and a woman. The court also said state law had already set the same limitation on marriages — a law dating back to the 19th century.
The Washington state Supreme Court last month heard opening arguments in a (consolidated) case to legalize gay marriage. If they grant that, pressure might well build for electing more Republicans to the state legislature, where a two-thirds majority is required to even present to voters a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
A Vancouver Shopkeeper's Death Wish For Bush
So there I am, back yet again in that cool CD shop on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, a regular stop every time we're in town. I'm pretty pleased, because I've just purchased "Desi-Nation: A Collection Of Nu-Bhangra Grooves" (Punjabi breakbeats with soaring vocals, + traditional percussion & stringed instruments); plus "More Adventures Of FunkSoul Brothers" (60s/70s rarities); "Tekitoi" by Rachid Taha (Algerian dance-rock-folk-reggae); and A Fat Possum label sampler, "Not That Same Old Blues Crap 3."
I'm exchanging small talk with the short-haired, bespectacled 40ish lady ringing up my purchase and somehow mention that I'm visiting from my home in Seattle. The following conversation ensues. (I am paraphrasing).
SHE: Ah, The States. Lots of good music festivals down there. I'd love to go to Bumbershoot again in Seattle. But unless Bush is removed from office, I just won't be able.
ME: Hmmn. Well, of course, he was just re-elected in November. I guess then you won't be visiting the U.S. for at least three more years.
SHE: (sly smile). You never know. There could be an "accident" involving Bush.
ME: An accident? What do you mean?
SHE: Maybe arson, or a fatal poisoning.
ME: You'd like that, eh?
ME: What if some other Republican you really loathe is elected President after Bush? Will you boycott The States then, too?
SHE: Quite possibly. It's the only way I can register my disapproval. (Then, as we complete the sale, and I gather my goods to go)....But thank YOU for coming up HERE.
ME: (with a pleasant smile). My pleasure. I'll be back.....Regardless of who your prime minister is.
Best And Worst Of Vancouver, Part Two
Following on my recent, smash, now world-famous post, "The Best and Worst of Vancouver," here's more of the same - now that our family's four-day excursion has drawn to a close and we're back in the land of hacking phleghmy coughs and passive-aggressive politesse, a.k.a. my beloved hometown of Seattle.
MORE "BEST OF VANCOUVER"
The Vancouver Aquarium, especially the white Beluga Whales. They've got an ample playpen, good trainers, and are hard-working showboats. One in particular, a huge 17-year-old male, was practicing head stands, and doing some heavy-duty preening for the humanoids - an hour in advance of the 12:30 p.m. show, the other day. An exhibit on marine life forms in various coastal British Columbia locales was my other fave, including not only tanks full of various specimens, but also great big, beautiful scene-setting photos, plus maps.
Vancouver is a great stepping-off point for exploring British Columbia. If you've not yet glommed on to the great variety of coastal and island locales in B.C., get yourself a good provincial map, and Google up some vacation fun. Start with a primo vacation rental along Chesterman Beach in beautiful Tofino or a trip to Bamfield or Sooke - all on Vancouver Island. On the big island, do yourself a big favour and skip Victoria, unless you're an old bird enchanted with English Tea, and naps. Consider a few of the ferry-accessible Gulf Islands, such as Gabriola or Hornby.
What else do I like about Vancouver? People on the bus. We rode out east toward the multi-culti splendor of Vancouver's Commercial Drive neighborhood, thru the city's grittiest part, the Downtown Eastside on Hastings Street. Home to several raunchy country music dives; a brilliant (not) government-sponsored heroin "safe-injection" site; and now, and a mind-numbingly misguided goverment heroin project for hard-core junkies. A pretty smelly guy got on the bus, and assaulted my nostrils. He turned out to be a mensch. Heard me talking to my wife and kids about wanting to make sure we got off at Commercial (and what arterials preceded it on our map, etc.) and offered to let me know when and where to pull the chain. Well-spoken, kind, and helpful. Just needed a shower. Reminded me of my ongoing quest to practice acts of kindness on a more than random basis.
Marcello Pizzeria and Ristorante, 1404 Commercial Drive. Sleek, spacious decor. Delicious wood-fired pizzas, fried calamari, and antipasto. Go there.
Minerva's Mediterranean Deli, 3207 W. Broadway, in the Kitsilano neighborhood. Had a great family luncheon of pastitsio, souvlaki, gyros, Greek Salad, baklava and Greek coffee. Lots of groceries, including great Greek olive oils, and oregano. For stuffed squid, Turkish Delight and gallon jugs of feta, this is the place.
April 13, 2005
Canadian English Dictionaries Are Vestigial
Canadian English dictionaries? I saw some on display in a Vancouver bookstore the other day and just about burst into laughter. Sure, I'm a swaggering American cultural imperialist, and all that, but really.
Yes, Yes. There are certainly a few distinct terms and abbreviations in Canadian English versus American or British English. But Balkanization of the English language is to be eschewed. If Canadians are really so clueless, there are always online guides to Canadian English, such as this. Now you too can bum some stubbies and hork on cars.
This explanation of Why Canadian Dictionaries, After All.....is so unconvincing.
Canadians need a dictionary that defines the words used by Canadians and also records how Canadians (not the Americans or the British) pronounce and spell words.
Eh what? Canadians want to sound Canadian? I'd advise against that. Yet, Oxford University Press believes Canadian dictionaries are necessary so that Canadians will be able to understand certain phrases their fellow countrymen use, such as:
...Caesar to mean a cocktail (or) book off work....
And excuse me for horking this one back at 'em. In their grand Canadian dictionary:
...the definition for the word scraper....mentions that scrapers are used for removing ice as well as paint or mud!
Slay me. Mysteries of the universe revealed, eh?
What we have here, once again, is an appeal to misplaced Canadian pride, a pride that may be more evident on the part of marketers and the media than actual Canadians. In the same bookstore as the Canadian Dictionary display was a wall featuring a boastful references to all the luminaries Canada has given to the world in arts and letters. You know the drill: Neil Young, Anne Murray, The Cowboy Junkies, Mike Meyers, John Candy (wow, scraping the bottom of the barrel pretty quick there....eh?)
Look. Canada has plenty to be proud about. But face it; a country that celebrates the sport of curling is never going to be known as a cultural Goliath. The best of Canada includes both coasts, Vancouver, Montreal, maybe Toronto, plus the Rocky Mountains, the islands, the wildlife....and all the Canadians who don't hate the U.S. and aren't busy worrying about whether their country...or phraseologies measure up to those of the Yanks.
April 10, 2005
The Best and Worst of Vancouver
Our family is in Vancouver B.C. for a short holiday. We're staying in a small apartment in the West End of downtown. For my wife and I, this is our fourth visit here since moving to Seattle from Chicago 11 years ago. (I was here for a while way back in '76, just before my freshman year of college). In a previous post, I talked about some of my favorite Vancouver neighborhoods outside of downtown. This time we're in the maw of the urban beast. So here's my Best and Worst of Vancouver, at least for this trip....so far.
BEST OF VANCOUVER
Stanley Park, especially the swans in the lagoon, and the playground and purple starfishes at Second Beach.
The mountains, the bays, the sounds.
The fashion victims. The big look right now, perhaps straight out of Japanese anime(?): miniskirts and huge, clunky, fat-soled boots. The mini n' boot thing really only works with stiletto-heel boots or Nancy Sinatra white go-go boots.
An whole-earthy grocery store on Robson called Capers, with a take-out section to die for.
The Aria Convenience Store, at 837 Bidwell St., just off Robson. What a find! At this compact Persian deli, we scored a take-home dinner for The Gods. A few containers of a Gormeh Sabzi - a freshly made stew of beef, kidney beans and fresh green herbs; chunks of a feta-like cheese marinated with lemons, red pepper, dill and olive oil; a rich yogurt-garlic dip; and a long, flat, oval loaf of fresh and chewy sesame seed-studded bread.
The 50ish man stuck in traffic on Denman Street, on a fancy motorcyle with a heavy-duty sound system blaring.....opera!
The cosmopolitan, international feel. Diversity that doesn't need talking up - it just IS.
The proximity of Peak Talk blogger Pieter Dorsman. Our family enjoyed a rocking good time with Pieter and his lovely wife and daughters today, first visiting them at their scenic home in north suburban Vancouver, and then enjoying a great excursion to Shannon Falls and a scrumptious lunch at the Roadhouse Restaurant, right across the road. Originally from Holland, they lived in Hong Kong before settling on the Left Coast. Pieter is a former investment banker now doing financial and business planning for early-stage start-ups in technology and bio-tech. More engaging, friendly folk than Pieter and Irene I cannot recall meeting in quite some time. We look forward to seeing them again, and showing them the real Seattle.
WORST OF VANCOUVER
The fashion victims.
The general hyper-ness of everybody and everything.
Nearly impassable crowds on downtown sidewalks.
Starbucks over-saturation; and I'm NOT a Starbucks basher, or a chain-store basher. But this is ridiculous!
The godawful tunnel logjam just before the Richmond tunnel on the Route 99 approach from the south. Now I know - next time, the Route 91 short-cut.
The magazine section at the big downtown bookstore called Chapters: about seven conservative titles, compared to roughly double the number of "progressive" titles, the 22 (count 'em) gay and lesbian mags, the seven tattoo magazines, and the five cannabis magazines.
Lack of children.
April 08, 2005
Arcata Is Moonbat Central
I know, I know. You're kicking yourself for not having stayed up on news from Arcata, California, Left Coast Moonbat Central. Relax, that's why I'm here.
ARCATA -- The City Council appointed Wednesday new members to the Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Commission and the Committee on Democracy and Corporations. Former City Council candidate Rob Amerman was appointed to the nuclear commission. The other applicant, Humboldt State University student Nicholas Bravo, also a former candidate, did not attend the interview....Sean Armstrong, the only applicant for the single vacancy on the democracy and corporations committee, was also appointed.
Only one applicant for the vacancy, eh? Time to stir the pot. The chair of the city's Committee on Democracy and Corporations will co-host an April 16 workshop on "Dismantling Corporate Rule." It's sponsored by Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County, which is intrigued with the idea of revoking corporate charters for environmental violations.
In other business, the City Council also voted to approve a request from Councilwoman Harmony Groves for the mayor to sign a letter in support of Congressman Mike Thompson's, D-St. Helena, War Funding Accountability Act.
Recycle your bicycle. I like the sound of that; even the idea. But legislation mandating purchase fees to compel recycling bicycles? Ah well, daffy exhortations - whether state or local - is what greases the wheels of Arcata's City Council. In the same meeting:
Councilman Dave Meserve also announced he will be bringing a newly worded resolution regarding the support of troops who refuse to serve in illegal wars back to the council at the next meeting.
Eureka Reporter guest op-ed contributor Valmore Reshenk says the Arcata's City Council's continued attempts to provide legal sanctuary for military deserters is lunacy.
...Whether you like it or not, this war is legal. It was ordered by the president and supported by both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. If you want to take issue with the legality, go hire an attorney....This is an all-volunteer military. All recruits signed a contract when enlisting. Violation of that contract does not make one a conscientious objector or a defector, but, rather, a deserter....(It) is...a serious federal offense in time of war.
It's not all bad, though, Valmore. Accompanied by Arcata's mayor and some city council members, Humboldt State University (HSU) students in Arcata have issued a declaration of energy independence and want to add a $10 per student annual fee so the school can convert to "sustainable" energy sources including solar panels, wind turbines, and "green" buildings. But at least they're proposing 2045 as the target date for full implementation.
I like that pragmatic streak. But the achingly compassionate HSU shapes the politics of Arcata like the University of Washington molds Seattle's retrograde "progressive" agenda. Too many graduates never really leave the womb.
April 07, 2005
Proctor & Gamble's Canadian Diversity Efforts Fall Short
Proctor and Gamble celebrated diversity yesterday. Toronto employees feasted on "jerk pork, samosas, Romanian meatballs -- and, playfully, Fruit To Go from the gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgendered employees booth." This Globe and Mail article trumpets the formation of eight employee "affinity groups" within P&G Canada's workforce.
There are other major benefits, as well, to working in an environment that is open and accepting of differences, said Jeff Straker, a member of the gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgendered employees group -- one of eight official "affinity groups" at P & G Canada. The others are the Asian Professional Network, the Black Professional Network, the Latino Network, the French Canadian Network, the Women's Leadership Council, the Christian Network, the Jewish Network.
Very well, then. I hereby proclaim that P&G Canada's diversity efforts falls short. To embrace diversity more fully, P&G Canada should also create employee affinity groups for Parents; Eastern Europeans; South and Central Americans; Africans; Muslims; Buddhists; Goths; and Geeks.
Anything less would seem to smack of institutional bias.
FBI Investigating Bay Bridge Rehab
After nine months of inquiry, The Oakland Tribune reported yesterday that the multi-billion-dollar seismic upgrade of the Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco and East Bay communities has been badly compromised by faulty welding, and a deliberate pattern of cover-ups. As you'll see in the story linked to above, the contractor and Caltrans pointedly rebut the charges. The FBI is investigating.
At $6.2 billion, this is the largest public works project in California's history. The estimated cost a decade ago was $2 billion, but that has grown, thanks to delays and a huge design controversy. There's a lesson here for Seattle, Puget Sound and Washington state officials pussyfooting around financing replacement of The Evergreen Point Floating Bridge and The Alaskan Way Viaduct.
The Bay Bridge carries 282,000 vehicles daily. With memories of the deadly 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake still fresh, the Bay Bridge must be fortified. The welding controversy stems from work on the $1.5 billion skyway portion, supported by 160 steel legs.
Ex-welders on the project have a story that - if true - would be disturbing. Here are some key parts of the Tribune's story (again, read the whole thing, linked above) to get the other side.
The new Bay Bridge is riddled with defective welds, 15 welders told the Oakland Tribune in a nine-month investigation - allegations that could lead to criminal fraud charges....In the worst case, the federal probe could lead to tearing apart the bridge to see if it is structurally sound or needs to be rebuilt.....Several welders in interviews estimated one-third of the 5,280 welds in these legs, or piles, may be substandard. Almost all are now encased in concrete even as contractor KFM, according to several Capitol sources, is aggressively lobbying Sacramento to finish the bridge — a contract worth $5 billion more.
In an editorial today, The SF Chron sums things up well:
The reason the state is spending billions on the Bay Bridge is to make it seismically safer. Caltrans officials insist that repairs were made on all defective welds found by inspectors, and for once, they had better prove to be right.
Repairs or cover-ups? That's the question.
April 06, 2005
Insensitivity and Intolerance: Scourge Of Humanity
The World. It's a frickin' beast. Rife with insensitivity and intolerance.
But one thing at a time.
First, the Insensitivity News Round-Up.
The National Mock Trial organization is supposedly "insensitive" for refusing a request by the New Jersey State Bar Association on behalf of Torah Academy, of Teaneck, to NOT hold national finals as planned on an early May weekend, which of course includes The Sabbath. Except the weekend is precisely the time for this event, logistically, involving as it does high schools from around the country. There's a time for secular compromise in the national arena. Spare us the "insensitivity" claptrap.
In Hindu Business Line, the aptly-named B.S. Raghavan says:
...the U.S., with its commitment to democracy, bill of rights and due process, and such great achievements to its credit in a variety of fields...also suffer(s) from insensitivity and intolerance, fouling up relations with other countries. Its bad-mouthing of France and Germany and the boycott of French fries and German lager simply because those two countries had expressed themselves against the illegal invasion of Iraq still rankles in the memory of the people of those countries.
In Phuket, the government of Thailand is being called insensitive for including a tsunami wave exhibit in a new museum complex dedicated to the Dec. '04 disaster.
"Democrats lob charges of racial insensitivity in Juneau", reports KTUU-TV.
Rep. Woodie Salmon, D-Beaver, a Gwich'in...was incensed Wednesday when Republicans blocked any mention of his people in a resolution on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. “We used to be the real Alaskans -- the real true Alaskans,” Salmon said. “Now we've been invaded by this -- I don't know, it seems like devil or something, you know. I mean, it's embarrassing.” Salmon suggested that the culture represented by the House majority is a threat to the Gwich’ins. “We’re going to be here 12,000 more years, believe it or not,” he said. “Unless you people kill us.”
Woodie! Back on your meds, now!
An animal rights group, In Defense of Animals, says it's "cruel and insensitive" to control the population of invasive fallow and axis deer around Point Reyes National Seashore north of San Francisco. The deer population has grown from 350 a decade ago to 1100 now, after a cutback in culling the herds. Now the critters dig up vegetables, intimidate livestock, damage fences and devour vegetation. It costs $3K to sterilize one, $300 to shoot one. Guess what's the preferred option? Wouldn't want to be insensitive.
Writing in the Calcutta Telegraph on the recent acquital of two Canadian Sikh fundamentalists in the bomb killings of 329 passengers on a 1985 Montreal-Bombay Air Canada flight, S.L. Rao observes:
The extremely prosperous Sikh community in Vancouver has been settled there for over a century. In parts of the city, street signs are in Gurmukhi but many third-generation Canadians still do not speak English. The community is self-contained. Many members have little interaction with other communities.
Yet Rao, in the next breath perilously asserts:
The RCMP over the 20 years of investigations spent a reported $100 million. But it was culturally insensitive, with no Punjabi speakers among policemen.
Silly me. I fruitlessly imagined that third-generation immigrants might deign to learn the native language; that it might even be a bit, ah, insensitive of them to not do so. I wonder how many languages the police are supposed to learn. Obviously it's time for some cultural competency courses.
U.S. Sen John McCain, a guy I really like, is wringing his hands that the steroids abuse scandal shows about the "absolute insensitivity" of Major League Baseball owners and players. No, Senator, it shows that professional sports is a cold-hearted business which depends on the interest and dollars of people who lack a substantial inner life; something that was already abundantly evident to any sentient observer.
And here are some Intolerance News Highlights.
According to the European Union's racism watchdog, EU countries are "confronted with intolerance and discrimination" toward minorities because a survey found about half the respondents agreed there are "limits to multicultural society," and harbor related misgivings about immigrants. Doubtless such retrograde views have subsided since the murder of Theo Van Gogh by an Islamic extremist, and since the "honor killings" of Muslim women in Europe by thier own family members.
Meanwhile, for-real scum-sucking intolerant hate-mongering racists seem to be proliferating in Oh-So-Progressive Canada; namely London, Ontario. Naturally tho, the presence of these knuckle-draggers gets blamed on the city's declining to have a Gay Pride Day. In the London Free Press article linked to directly above, two anti-hate activists:
....point to former mayor Dianne Haskett's refusal in 1995 to proclaim gay pride day in London as a key moment that made the city open for hate.
Right. Failure to embrace gay pride celebrations - which in many cities include lewd public parades - is the basis for the growth of race-hate groups in London, Ontario. That's just gotta be it.
Finally, let's salute the Chinese government, a true pillar of intolerance.
Nonprofit Group Blogging From Lebanon
I've got two new posts up at my biz site/blog, Blog Consulting Pro. The site aims to look at what's working and what's not in business, non-profit/advocacy, officeholder, candidate and ballot initiative blogs. It's part of a blog consulting practice I have launched. Take a look, and if you find the blog worthwhile, I hope you'll bookmark it.
April 05, 2005
Horn-toad Japanese Gropers Stymied
Horn-toad Japanese "salarymen" fond of groping women on the subway get their come-uppance. Mainichi Daily News reports:
During peak hours Monday to Friday, 35 trains on the East Japan Railway Co.'s Saikyo Line southbound for Shinjuku and Shin-Kiba stations will have a car reserved for women. Previously, the all-female cars were only offered late at night. The JR Saikyo Line, connecting Osaki Station in central Tokyo to Omiya Station in Saitama Prefecture north of the capital, is notorious for salacious male passengers who sidle up to females for a close encounter.
The Japan Times has more.
The move was launched in line with a call from the Land, Infrastructure and Transportation Ministry. The measure started Monday on the Saikyo Line of East Japan Railway Co. and Rinkai Line of the Tokyo Waterfront Area Rapid Transit Inc. Other lines in the area, operated by nine private railways, and the Toei Shinjuku Line plan to introduce female-only cars starting May 9....In February, police said the number of reported groping incidents on Tokyo trains almost tripled to 2,201 in 2004 from 778 cases in 1996.
Naturally, some men accused of train groping hire lawyers, who have argued their clients don't get a fair shake. Oh, I suppose, in a few cases, maybe so. But really, isn't it easy enough to sidestep the whole thing, even on crowded trains? Best practice, Hiro: avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Why does any guy need to rub against women on public transit, or fondle or pinch them, or worse things still? Why exactly is this a pressing (sorry) social problem in urban Japan? The mind boggles.
I dunno for sure. But from an authoritative Web site entry titled, "Rational Japanese," comes additional info on the Japanese social psychology underlying "train-groping" incidents, and quiet acceptance of same, by female victims.
When a person behaves in public, his or her behavior is visible, open to the scrutiny of others, or "the people." Such "others" or "people" are usually referred to as "Seken" in Japanese...Seken often implies reference to the lifestyle of ordinary people as well as moral and behavioral standards that are commonly accepted in society.
Which encourages the pigs, who - most reprehensibly - have formed an official brotherhood of train-gropers, with meetings, and sometimes, whores hired to role-play on trains and at sick confabs.
Lawdy Mama. I'm certainly no knee-jerk feminist, or "Womyn's Studies" acolyte. But the misogyny of American rap music, "Pimp and Ho culture", and Iran's Pimp Mullahs are deeply offensive to me, along with the cultural underpinnings of the repressed, warped Japanese "Chickan" train gropers.
"Chickans": what's goin' on at home, anyway? Huh?
We'll be coming back, here, to the multi-faceted and historically rich background of sexual idiocy among Japanese males.
April 04, 2005
My friend and Sound Politics colleague Ron Hebron has had a personal Web site for a while. But he's started a blog called Economic Freedom And Growth. Ron's an accomplished and interesting guy. Here's his Blogger profile; a recent post at his blog on the book, "Chasing Lewis And Clark Across America"; and a Sound Politics post of his, on drilling the ANWR which drew many, many comments.
Ed Koch for First Jewish Pope. Bill Karl has the exegesis.
My good friend, computer geek, business partner and blogger Jeff Brazill writes about "When Political Stereotypes Fail," at Au Fait, which he says will soon be re-named Ponytailed Conservative. Glad to have had a small part in that dialogue, Jeff.
MY KIND OF CONSERVATIVE. Rudolph Carrera is 34, currently lives in SoCal, and describes himself as a Galego-Prussian, Eastern Orthodox Christian pro-wrestling fan, ESL and music teacher, and music industry honcho, albeit on a modest scale, who has lived in Skopje, Macedonia, and may be headed back overseas again. He says he's going to be starting a non-profit to promote Eastern European music, arts and culture. Bravo, dude, and best of luck. His blog is called Carreterus Linnaeas. He's a big fan of Mark Steyn, as you'll see here and here; and is appalled by some of what's been happening in Timor. Rudolph also believes The Resurrection really did happen. As indicated in his Blogger profile, Rudolph also has decidedly non-conservative taste in music, including art-damaged musicians Harth & Goebells (an old favorite of mine from the early 80s at the Brandeis U. radio station), plus new-wavers Joy Division and naz-tee proto-techno skronkmeisters, Throbbing Gristle. Keep tracka this guy.
April 03, 2005
Why The Media Flog Fear
When satirists write that George W. Bush has cornered the market on fear, they're merely parroting real-life talking points of "progressive" pundits. The media flog fear.
Fear is an especially useful concept for headline writers because the word itself is so compact; and implies controversy. We need not fear fear, especially if we insist on setting the bar higher.
Higher than what? Let's just say that it's time for our first periodic survey of fearfully overwrought usages of "fear" in the news.
Supervisors fear for the mental health of tsunami relief workers. Hah! It's the effects of gallumphing NGOs in disaster zones that they should really fear.
Farmers in New Jersey fear too much rain.
These Scots have "stink fears," but it doesn't have to do with their personal cleanliness.
There's the blog at FearBush.com, but I fear that with only three posts in the last six weeks, it's running out of steam.
Some Texans fear free trade with Central America, but the headline writer who confused Central America with Mexico is scarier.
There's a lot more to fear. So here's the Indexed Phobia List.
In case you're wondering, here's what I really fear: all the writers who use the phrase, "Be Afraid. Very Afraid."
April 01, 2005
Nonprofit and Politico Blogs Burgeoning
I've been steadily adding posts to my new blog, Blog Consulting Pro, which is an arm of my communications and blog consulting business. The latest post there is titled "Nonprofit and Advocacy Blogs Are Multiplying." In "Jerry Brown Raises The Bar for Elected Bloggers," I do a round-up of some recent political officeholder entrants to the blogosphere. It makes sense for elected officials to have blogs. We'll be seeing more and more of that.
At Blog Consulting Pro, I intend to track blogosphere developments specific to business, nonprofits, candidates, officeholders and ballot initiative campaigns.
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