December 31, 2005

Satantic Bluejeans In Sweden

Okay, then. There IS a war on Christianity in the developed world, too. It's bad enough that SF enviros sowed doubt and fear about Christmas trees. The latest outrage is satantic bluejeans in Sweden. All this - plus the Holy Crimes Of Target - clearly put First World Christians abreast those of Sudan and Indonesia, persecution-wise. I shudder at what's next.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:14 PM | Comments (0)

Florida Fouls Up Post-Katrina Sex Offender Search: AP Whiffs

By now, you may have heard that after Hurricane Katrina, an estimated 2,000 registered sex offenders relocated to new states; and that many of them are not re-registered, as required by law. This is important because anonymity makes it easier for them to re-offend. This post-Katrina sex offender ID story from Associated Press is circulating at online news sites today, and includes a tidbit in the last graf that's seemingly damning of FEMA and the Bush administration:

Florida officials wrote to FEMA in mid-December requesting information on evacuated sexual offenders who may have relocated in Florida during the past year's hurricanes. The state has yet to get a response on its request.

They're fingering the wrong Bush, or at least skating past some shared responsibilities. Here's more from the Bradenton Herald:

"I am greatly concerned that known sex offenders who may have relocated to your state may take advantage of their anonymity and harm children once again," Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the Department of Health and Human Services, wrote in a Nov. 28 letter to (Florida Gov. Jeb) Bush.

The letter included an attachment that outlined how state law-enforcement agencies could request the FEMA records. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (ed. - a.k.a. "FDLE") made such a request in mid-December, but has yet to get a reply, a spokesman said Friday. "We can't do anything until we get those names," spokesman Tom Berlinger said. "We're on standby waiting for further action."

That might be because FDLE sought information that it was supposed to supply. The Nov. 28 attachment said that law-enforcement agencies, in their requests, must provide a list of people that they are interested in. But FDLE asked FEMA for ". . . a listing of those persons who have registered as sex offenders in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and any other affected state who have relocated to a Florida residence as a result of hurricane evacuation."

So Florida waited at least two weeks after receiving notification to make the information request to the feds, and then failed to follow the stated guidelines. With the feds expecting to be reviewing requests from dozens of states seeking information about potential relocated sex offenders in the wake of Katrina, it seems pretty reasonable for the feds to ask the states themselves to provide the sub-databases of potential suspects. How hard is it for Florida to get the list of registered sex offenders from a few other southeastern states, and then provide those names to the feds for cross-checking against FEMA data on Katrina relocatees to Florida? Granted that won't produce the name of each registered sex offender relocatee sought, but it's a good start.

The Bradenton Herald smokes AP by getting closer to the bottom of the Florida foul-up, rather than settling for a cheap intimation of FEMA negligence. Granted there's been a fair amount of that to go around in other instances. But still. If you're going to pile on, do your homework.

That's the thing about being able to quickly review multiple versions of the same news story via services such as Google News. You can see who's half-stepping it, and how errors of omission - among various sorts of errors newspapers regularly make - reflect bias.

AP: there's a copy editor somewhere who settled for lazy reporting on the Florida piece of the story, most likely because he or she thought the George W. Bush administration just must be to blame, as usual.

Get me re-write!


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

December 30, 2005

Rosenblog Blogstorm, Vol. 14

Amy Ridenour's National Center Blog: "The Advantages Of Nuclear Power - A Debate."

Impudent Domain: "The Bad Rapp Of The South" (hat tip to Tongue Tied).

Ponytailed Conservative: "Blog Top 40 Analysis."

Elemenohpee: "Conservatives Hate iPods? Huh."

Sound Politics: "Strident Buskers At Pike Place Market Hit Wrong Note."

Doug Anderson: "Leaving The Darkness."

American Thinker: "Top 5 Stories The MSM Hated."

Moonbattery: "Democrats Stampeding Off Cliff?"

American Digest: "The Year In Bushlines."

Dinocrat: "NSA Wiretaps: The Numbers Tell A Story Of Effectiveness, Contrary To MSM Spin."

Ron Hebron: "The Future Of America - In Iraq!"

Mahmood's Den: "How Arabs Deal With Cows."

Russia Blog: "Racist Christmas In St. Petersburg."

Angry Chinese Blogger, "Omisoka: Japan."


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:59 PM | Comments (2)

Bribery Par For Course In Indian Parliament

"Splog" Sting Shows Slipping Standards

Reporters in India donned outrageous costumes and in return for paying bribes, easily succeeded in getting 11 members of parliament in India to pose stupendously dumb queries during the official "question time." That's a portion of official proceedings also familiar to observers of the British parliament. The International Herald Tribune has more.

Footage from hidden cameras shows the members of Parliament willingly accepting, grabbing the money or instructing the reporter to stuff it under a cushion on a sofa. The lawmakers then duly went ahead and submitted most of the requested questions - apparently oblivious to the nonsensical content. "Is the government planning to make automatic the long procedure of permission for SSIs to import new technologies such as Trackbacks, Pingbacks, Blogrolls, Splogs and Hitcounters automatic?" "Has the ministry lifted the 1975 ban on 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' and 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?"'

...Sting operations are becoming routine on Indian television, as rival channels struggle to boost their ratings. No sooner had the dust settled on this episode than a second station began screening footage of another set of six members of Parliament (including one unfortunate man targeted by both stings) apparently caught on camera demanding kickbacks in exchange for granting lucrative development projects to a different, fictitious organization. Once again the lawmakers were filmed negotiating fees with unabashed determination.

.....Most interesting was the jaded response these dramas elicited from viewers. If people were shocked, it was less at the politicians' readiness to sell themselves than at the low prices they were demanding for their services - as little as $200 a question....Corruption is so routine in India that eyes glaze over when the subject is raised....A...study showed that almost a quarter of India's 545 members of Parliament face criminal charges - including allegations of rape, murder and extortion....The governing Congress Party has recently come under fire for its alleged role in the UN oil for food scandal. And Foreign Secretary Natwar Singh resigned amid allegations that he benefited illegally from the scam.

I like how the reporters in the first case used somewhat obscure blog-related terminology.

A "splog," BTW, is a spambot blog that automatically gathers and publishes links to Web content with certain key words, like say, "Miami Beach," or "weight loss," or "mortgage." While some descriptions of splogs insist that all content is fake advertorial, I've seen firsthand that legitimate blog posts such as my own - on certain specific topics - are sometimes linked to by splogs and blended in with lower-grade advertorial links to create a patina of legitimacy. Anyway, splogs are multiplying at a fast pace and are one reason you should never take seriously the clueless newspaper citations that Technorati is now tracking XX million blogs. Up to 22 percent of new blogs are splogs, according to a Technorati source in the above-linked article.

Those deep thinkers in the Indian parliament were oh so ready to accelerate government permissions for splogs in return for baksheesh. This despite new splogs already sprouting by the minute, globally. LOL. At the very least, Indian MPs must hold to a higher standard of plausibility in bribery.

Maybe someone should start an actual human-operated blog, which intelligently filters and posts links to all news reports including the words "corruption" and "India." Might be useful to have all the latest in one place, huh? If you know of, or find such a site, let me know.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2005

"Charbucks" No Threat To Starbucks, Judge Rules

I've always said the Starbucks isn't evil; their coffee is just over-roasted, and not at all to my taste. Almost charred, you might say. A Center Tuftonboro, New Hampshire coffee roaster, in marketing coffees called "Charbucks Blend" and "Mister Charbucks" did intenionally mimick their brand name, but with no intent to mislead consumers and with no ill effects on the coporate giant, a U.S. District Court judge in New York has ruled. More from the Manchester Union Leader.

U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain wrote that in adopting the name, Black Bear intended to take advantage of the similarity to the Starbucks name and the perception the West Coast-based company sells a dark roast of Joe. But the evidence did not support an inference it was done to mislead consumers about a connection between the two, Swain ruled. Starbucks also failed to demonstrate that a Charbucks brand is likely to hurt the perception of Starbucks’ goods in the eyes of the public, she said.

That's for sure. The key perception of Starbucks is not that their coffee is any good, but that their stores are conveniently located, a factor which greatly outweighs quality, as Tim Harford notes in his new book "The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich are Rich, the Poor are Poor — and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car." Smartmoney.com has the scoop.

Harford, a Financial Times magazine columnist and a former World Bank official, tackles big macroeconomic concepts like competition, scarcity, free trade and taxes. He uses commonplace examples like traffic congestion and expensive lattes to makes the big ideas more palatable to lay readers. For instance, Harford shows how Starbucks uses its leases on convenient, high-traffic storefronts to charge tasty premiums on its lattes. It's not, of course, because their java is especially good. Nineteenth-century economist David Ricardo could tell you that it's not about the coffee. Rush-hour commuters are so desperate for caffeine, they're practically price-blind. And when every precious minute of the commute is at a premium, why waste any worrying about paying $4.50 for a grande cinnamon spice latte?

Exactly. Judge Taylor clearly understood that without comparable real estate holdings, the small New Hampshire coffee roastery owner's intentional tweaking of Starbucks would have little effect on the company's fortunes. You would think that perhaps Starbucks might have realized that too, but then, they don't really have to worry about public relations. It's all about real estate.

Support your cramped and vibey neighborhood coffeehouse.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 02:20 PM | Comments (0)

Women Must Liberate Themselves From Victimology

Guest op-ed contributor Carol Sarler in The Times of London today says she's had quite enough victimology from British women.

Scarcely a week passes without some female high-flyer running to a tribunal with tales of men being beastly; in one memorable case this year a woman used in evidence the fact that her male colleagues often went to the pub without her. You might think that equality involves an equal chance of being disliked — she called it sex discrimination. (And prevailed.)

Being excessively liked, mind, causes as much grief: vast sums are paid to those propositioned by a sexually uppity colleague, as compensation for the gal being so traumatised that she is forced to retire and spend more time with her stress counsellor. Women in the Armed Forces seem especially attracted to this milch cow, with 2,400 of them last year complaining of harassment — in other words, the very women expected to produce superhuman effort under enemy fire cannot, apparently, be expected to produce a robust rebuttal of a smutty overture.

So here we are: victims all. Can’t help ourselves. And proud of it....This season’s heated debate, for example, has concerned whether a woman’s consent to sexual intercourse is valid if she is drunk. Feministas are adamant that it is not, arguing that a man who “takes advantage” of a woman rendered compliant by a few pints of snakebite is a fully-fledged rapist; again, their argument weakens us.

Allowing for the tautological assumption that “date rape” takes place on a date, and allowing therefore that both parties probably enjoyed several sherries before engaging in sex, what this means is that a man may be held responsible for his inebriated actions — but a woman need not be. A curious equality, is it not, that disallows an equal right to make our own mistakes?....The evolution of the “can’t cope, won’t cope” philosophy has done most of us no favours at all — and it was not to make helpless wusses of ourselves that, 30 years ago, we grouped and moved, and marched and sang.

Oomph! Long live the sisterhood of strong women.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)

The Living Is Deadly In Russia

Russsia needs less vodka, more vegetables, and more procreation. Things are looking bleak. The Guardian, today:

Circulatory diseases, exacerbated by stress, are a major killer. Life expectancy for a man has sunk to 58 years (72 for women), the lowest bar two of the 52 countries in the WHO European region. Russia's population has plummeted by almost 7% to 143 million in the last 15 years, and is predicted to drop by another 20 million by 2025. And as Moscow gears up to take over the presidency of the G8 on January 1, the Kremlin is being urged to meet the crisis head on.

In a report published last week, Delovaya Rossiya, a business lobby group, predicted that the country would lose an astonishing $400bn (£232bn) in the next two decades if it failed to tackle the population dive. Inadequate government efforts to encourage immigration, support young families and promote healthy eating are having a disastrous effect on President Vladimir Putin's oft-repeated desire to double GDP, it said. In another study published earlier this month, the World Bank concluded that Russia would never compete with the other G8 countries if it did not address its health deficit and demographic decline.

The study, titled Dying Too Young, warned that Russia's demographic "devastation" was unprecedented among industrialised nations and threatened to shave billions off its GDP. The World Bank put much of the blame on high rates of heart disease and other non-communicable diseases that could be mitigated by improved healthcare.

Economic reforms seem essential too. Russians are flocking to the big cities, but as noted by a top presidential advisor who just resigned, state control of the economy has become a real obstacle to economic growth. Russian president Vladimir Putin is looking more and more like real hoser, daily.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

Germans Get Serious About Laughing

Germans are paying the equivalent of $300 for two-day laughing classes from a fellow named Heinrich Uber. The health benefits of laughing are a big selling point.

Uber wants to help Germans grapple with 12 percent unemployment, dreary weather and a difficult history by teaching them how to have a good guffaw....Germans are not alone in their desire to learn how to laugh, which researchers say relieves stress, increases disease-fighting hormones and emboldens the immunity system. Interest in laughing as a technique has become such a global phenomenon that settlers in the West Bank are using laughter to relieve stress, while the Pentagon has a laughing club for the families of soldiers sent to Iraq.

...At Uber's laughing class in Munich, the session began with participants sitting in a circle and stretching, before moving on to the laughs. Uber instructed the students to clap their hands and breathe deeply to get the blood circulating. Then he told them to march in circles around the room chanting "ho-ho-ha-ha-ha-ha" while staring into each other's eyes, because eye contact tends to accentuate the hysteria....The students were presented with 300 laughs, including the lion laugh, tongue stuck out, hands posed like lion claws and a roaring laugh; and the mobile phone laugh, a hand held to the ear as if holding a phone and then a ringing laugh.

Uber emphasized that wannabe gigglers could train their bodies to laugh long and hard without having to resort to telling jokes. To prove his point, he instructed the group to lie down on mats, close their eyes, and imagine a funny scene from their childhoods. Suddenly, the silence was interrupted by an uproarious "Ho, Ho, Ho" laugh from a portly student with a walrus moustache. This gave several other students a case of the giggles. Within seconds, the entire group was laughing in a rising and ebbing crescendo of cackles, gurgles and roars that lasted for an hour and 15 minutes.

At the risk of sounding humorless, I think the key is to integrate humor and laughter into the everyday routines of your life. I know whenever my wife works at home, and is talking to colleagues on the phone, she's ususally laughing uproriously before long. Must be something to do with the absurdities of various assignments and personalities with which she must contend. Myself, I find that the God-awful crap on television and in lifestyle magazines is enough to crack me up. Then there are my kids, and of course, the Washington state legislature.

I'll admit Germans DO need some help in the humor department: I see them here in Washington state on vacation and they are so grim and sober you almost want to mash a pie in their faces. Which would not be good for international relations. So if it takes lying in a large circle and manufacturing laughs which then become contagious, to get them into the practice of laughing, OK, I guess.

Careful about compartmentalizing humor, though, among other emotions. I suspect folks too uptight to laugh are rigid and closed off to much else besides laughter. The "taught" approach to laughter is rather inorganic. You might want to follow a recipe for spaghetti with meat sauce the first time around, but if you must use it again and again - face it; you're a stiff.

The latest thing that made me laugh? The news about German laughing classes.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

December 26, 2005

Rosenblog Recipes: Classic Potato Latkes For Chanukah

Drawing on his Brooklyn boyhood, my dear dad always said that no batch of potato latke batter was complete without blood from your knuckles. Mebbe in olden days.

But after several experiments in recent years, I learned tonight that a proper proportion of binders are what's really crucial. Supposedly classic cookbook recipes I'd used before- for reference only, mind you - were too light on flour and egg. I found I had to cook the lil' critters too much to get the desired solidity.

I inevitably ended up yearning for impeccable deli-style latkes, with just enough cakey texture to really hold together, while still yielding the proper potato-ey toothfulness and rich flavor.

Well, tonight I hit the latke jackpot. I used a good bit more binder than before - two eggs instead of one; more flour than previously, plus cornmeal, garlic and fresh green herbs. Shazzam! Turned out best ever - restaurant quality.

So here's my hard-won recipe for choice latkes, cooked up to smash reviews tonight, on the second night of Chanukah. I also discovered the cast-iron skillet was much less effective than the large Calphalon skillet, in which the latkes cooked more quickly and evenly, by far.

And you'd better have a food processor handy, not just an old-timey hand grater.


--Three large brown russet potatoes, skin cleansed, and soaked 30 mins. in a large bowl of cold water
--1/2 white onion, cut into eighths
--three cloves garlic
--half cup fresh tarragon, stems included
--half cup rinsed fresh parsley leaves, already chopped
--two beaten eggs
--6 T flour
--6 T corn meal
--1.5 T seasoned sea salt
--1/2 t finely ground black pepper
--olive oil
--canola oil

After soaking whole potatoes with skins on left on, cut each in vertical quarters, then cross-cut into four or five slices per quarter. Fill to two-thirds full with potato pieces the food processor bowl; then add some of the cut-up onion chunks, plus part of the tarragon and parsely, and a clove of garlic per batch. Process till chunks of potato are well-grated. Using rubber spatula, scrape out into bowl; then repeat till all potatoes, garlic, parsley and tarragon are grated. Add beaten eggs, salt, pepper, flour and cornmeal, mix well.

Heat a mixture of 2 T each olive oil and canola oil in a large Calphalon skillet till sizzling, then add three pancakes at a time, using a very large, long-handled serving spoon. Each spoonful should contain 1/4 C of batter, spread out into circle or oval, in pan. Sizzle at medium high, watching carefully and flipping when necessary with metal spatula, to brown well on each side. Drain each latke immediately on paper towels, then put onto paper-towel lined cookie sheet which has been placed in oven warming drawer, or 200-degree oven. After one layer is full (about six latkes), add another double-layer of paper towels, and add more cooked latkes, as they come out of the skillet, and are drained. Replenish oil as necessary with each new batch, or with every other batch.

When done cooking, and just prior to serving, give thanks, in your own way.

Then serve latkes with sour cream, apple sauce; and roasted meat or poultry of choice.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:29 PM | Comments (3)

50 Cent: The Book Vs. Whitney Otto: The Film

The new branding strategy for non-film celebrities suggests that a movie role is key. But not in any old film. Film is more important than ever for brand equity because the currency of celebrity books is getting, well, de-valued. Author Whitney Otto in The L.A. Times today lays it all out.

RAPPER 50 Cent has just signed a publishing deal with MTV in which he will head his own imprint, G-Unit Books. The books will be a series of novellas with the action and pace of "a fast video game or movie," all depicting "the truth about The Life: the sex, guns and cash." (Someone should tell him to stop being coy and just say My Life. Not a secret, 50.) He won't actually write anything but will "have creative control.".....With this recent spate of celebrity authors, the question asked in a recent New York Times article was: Does writing a book "legitimize" stardom? Jon Liebman, chief executive of the outrageously successful management and production company Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, said, "I don't think people will take you more seriously if you put your name on top of a book." He suggested that, if being taken more seriously is your goal, you should get a role in an independent film.

With that piece of excellent advice, I've decided to forget this literature racket, head off to Sundance and angle for an independent film role. I even have a few ideas of my own about the movie — I mean, film — that I'm looking for. I'm thinking gritty, unsparing, very street; something with Hong Kong wire work; something ironic, with sex (but never in the bedroom, preferably in a public restroom). Something with puking, and someone sitting on the throne, or someone sitting on the throne engaged in casual conversation. Something that lets me smoke, and I don't say a lot because I'm older, so I have to stare into space, endlessly ruing the day. Then I have an encounter with a younger man, get high with the younger man, or my daughter (whichever), and have some kind of liberating life lesson that allows me to see menopause as "a good thing." You know, like a choice. And, if at all possible, I'd like the whole story to be told in reverse.

You could take a screenwriting course, but really, there you go.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 02:33 PM | Comments (1)

Defending Our American Way Of Life

Boston Globe syndicated columnist Derrick Z. Jackson is worried about America: the Chicago Tribune puts this headline on his coulmn today: "Is Our American Way Of Life Worth Saving?"

Here's what's eating at Jackson. Over the course of the war in Iraq and our war against terrorists, President George W. Bush has often referred to the importance of preserving the American way of life. But Jackson wonders how good that way really is. For instance, he complains Bush hasn't asked us to give up our plasma TV screens, to show sacrifice while servicemen and women are dying in Iraq. He also has some issues with high-income households spending more per year on entertainment than education and reading. Well I guess they could fix that by sending their kids to private schools more often, and ripping up their library cards.

The nub of Jackson's plaint is warmed-over socialism, and a flailing "gotcha" on domestic surveillance:

With all this talk about soldiers dying for our way of life, you would think the "way of life" being protected here is quite serious. It cannot be about protecting our freedoms, since Bush proudly admits--after it was exposed--that he secretly ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on those he suspects of terrorism without obtaining warrants. The truth, magnified by the materialistic marketing of the holiday season, is embarrassing for a nation that loves to talk about military sacrifice. While the sons and daughters of the middle and lower classes die in Iraq, the wealthy count their toys, literally.

Derrick: wealth is not evil, and military enlistees choose to serve, they are not drafted. If you feel they lack other options, and if in fact some do, it is a result of choices they and their parents have made. Your Vietnam era rhetoric is flaccid. Of course, a mandatory draft might help even things out.

Spying-wise, Derrick, the real issue is terrorism, not the approval procedures for surveillance of domestic suspects working with overseas collaborators to plot destruction of our transit facilities, high-rises and malls with explosives, and our cities and metropolitan regions with enriched uranium and plutonium. Al-Qaeda declared war long before 9/11, and you'd be among the first to point fingers, Derrick, if another deadly terrorist attack occured here after the horror of 9/11. Bush followed a legal path to authorize the surveillances in question, which - as you have doubtless noted - will continue. You've lost the point already, and I wonder at the indiscriminate alarmism of many Bush critics. It's slippery en route to that slippery slope.

If anything, we are still too lax about freedoms granted to foreign visitors and immigrants. We're at war; and our President - a real leader who cares little for ankle-biting pundits - is doing his best to protect our nation from serious and credible terrorist threats. I'm happy some Republicans are upset with the president about the recent surveillance news, because it shows one of the reasons our way of life is so valuable. Dissent is tolerated and expected, even within political parties. Democrats will have every opportunity to elect a President who would promise not to do what Bush has done on domestic surveillance, but of course, in the end, no such promises will be made by a winning candidate.

Here are a few more great things about the American way of life:

fast cars, SUVs, oil exploration, biodiesel, and research into algae-based fuels;

ports, commerce and international trade;

conceal-carry permits and the right to armed self-defense;

curvy women in tight clothes;

jazz, rock 'n' roll, r&b, blues, and rare groove;

economic growth and opportunity;

veal chops, and the olive bar at the fancypants grocery;


public libraries;

freedom of religion, association, and political expression;

the freedom to be smart, or stupid, and choose one's own way of life in America.

I think that about covers it, Derrick Z. Jackson.......

And you're entirely welcome.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:08 PM | Comments (2)

December 24, 2005

George W. Bush Is Spying On Me

Here I imagined W and crew - who of course read Rosenblog daily - thought I was down with the cause. After all, I've been such a strong supporter (see here, here, here, here, here, and here for just a taste).

Even hung my hide out on the line over this domestic surveillance stuff.

But NOW, they're tracking ME, and Podnah, lemme tell ya: it's S-P-O-O-K-Y.

Today I had to return a basically useless, overpriced leak sealant product to my local hardware store, and there I am, waiting in line, while this very odd conversation takes place right behind me. A 50-something woman in an elaborate brocaded suit coat and fancy long skirt is greeted like a long lost sibling by a typical Seattle guy, another 50-something, but of the faded hippe, scraggly-haired, tightly capped, way-too-effusive, searching-for-meaning-everywhere variety.

Much enthusiastic babble ensues, he complements her on her jacket, and then as I'm closing the deal on my worthless product return, and resultant credit, I hear her tell him where to see a really cool house with special X-mas lights. She describes it all to a T, and adds that the intersection is just a block away from where it really is, which is right next to my house. (I saw hubby put it all up, and yes, it's awesome). Anyway, Mr. FadedHippieDude is so jazzed about all this, that I'm wondering if he's done a line or two of Evo Morales marching powder in his VW microbus minutes earlier.

So he takes a pen and starts writing the supposed location of the great X-Mas lights on his frickin' HAND. I mean, sorry, but how lame is that? I saw a pad right at the cash register, steps away, but no, he's caught up in the moment. I haven't written anything on my hand since college, but this guy doesn't miss a beat. Clousseau takes note, raises eyebrows.

Now remember, thanks to faulty intelligence from brocaded jacket gal, he's writing the wrong location on his hand.

As a community-minded individual interested in helping my fellow Seattle-ites optimize their X-Mas decoration viewing in residential areas, and as someone who wholly believes that idiots writing on their hands should AT LEAST be given the right information, I'm feeling really, really compelled to jump in, and correct her by saying, "OH, what a coinky-dink, I live RIGHT across the street from there, I know those folks, and actually, it's not at the corner of X and Y, but actually, at the corner of X and Z."

BUT, NO, I don't do that.....because THESE days, you don't just volunteer your address in public to strangers. Especially not when Bush's spooks could be monitoring your visits to Asian grocery stores to buy fermented soybean paste that might be from NORTH Korea. No no no no no.

And so it hits me like stormwater gushing through a downspout: this woman - who suspsiciously lingers outside afterward behind my car (taking my license plate number??????) is a gub'mint operative. D'oh! They've wiretapped my phone conversation with my wife just before I left the house. They knew I was headed back to the hardware store. This was all a ruse to get ME, MR. PERSONALITY/MR. NEIGHBORLY DUDE, to verify my residential location, so THEY can further and more confidently surveil ALL my activities, even root through my plentiful recyclables - for signs of nefarious activities which contravene the GOP orthodoxy, further placing W's hegemony and the nation at risk.

After all, I've not exactly been a Team W. player every step of the way. And that can get irritating.

Here I am openly speaking to the administration's laxity on availability of nuclear fuels to terrorists.

Here I am telling George what to do about illegal immigration.

Here I am warning against pandering to the hard-right base.

Here I am suggesting that despite great gains in Iraq, W's administration really, really needs to ensure Iraqi authorities get a grip on Saddam's circus trial.

Here I am suggesting that George's 10th Circuit was off-base on a trippy tea ruling, and that his Supremes had best not follow suit.

The Bush-Rove Machine brooks no dissent and knows no mercy. As the recent domestic spying revelations indicate, they'll stop at nothing. Now, sadly, it is clear - they can't even tell their free-thinking friends from their enemies. George: I'm deeply dispapointed. Call off the dogs, wouldja!


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

Bin Laden Niece In Steamy GQ Pictures

Let's give a BIG hello to Osama bin Laden's American
niece. She's Wafah Dufour, and she wants to be embraced
by America. The SF Chron has the AP report. And some pix
from her January GQ spread. Turns out this New Yorker is a
California native, a law graduate, and musician.

She says: "Everyone relates me to that man, and I have
nothing to do with him," Wafah Dufour, the daughter of
bin Laden's half brother, Yeslam Binladin, says in the
January edition of the magazine, referring to the al-Qaida
leader. "I want to be accepted here, but I feel that everybody's
judging me and rejecting me," said the California-born
Dufour, a law graduate who lives in New York. "Come on,
where's the American spirit? Accept me. I want to be embraced,
because my values are like yours. And I'm here. I'm not hiding."

Apparently not.

One more:

Wafah's got this assimilation thing well pegged, I'd say.

Are those Manolo Blahnik stilettos, BTW?

VERY Happy Holidays to you, Wafah!


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:17 AM | Comments (3)

December 23, 2005

Rosenblog Opinion Review, Vol. 7

Stephen Van Eck, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin: "Turning Christmas Into A Political Weapon."

Randye Hoder, Los Angeles Times: "If It's A War, Christmas Won."

Thomas J. Raleigh, San Francisco Chronicle: "'War' On Christmas An Excess Of Rhetoric In Time Of Real War."

Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker: "Bah Humbug."

Marcello Balve, Berkeley Daily Planet: "Can Evo Morales Foster A World Coca Market?"

Arab News, editorial: "Circus Of A Trial."

Joseph C. Phillips, BlackAmericaWeb.com: "Why Don't Americans Want Democrats In Charge? 'Cause We Like Winning."

Norman Podhoretz, Commentary: "The Panic Over Iraq."

Bill Roggio, Weekly Standard: "Election Day On The Euphrates."

Jeff Taylor, Corvallis Gazette-Times: "To My Nephew, Who Has Joined The Marines."

Stephen Schwartz, Tech Central Station: "Why American Muslims Stay Silent."

Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune: "In 2005, Democracy Made Steady Trudge Forward."

Tom Roeser, Chicago Tribune: "Unlikely Rebel Takes On Daley."

The New Criterion: "FIRE To The Rescue."

Burt Helm, Business Week Online: "A Vote Of Confidence For Wikipedia."

Kerry Howley, Reason Online: "Tech Delusions And The Trouble With Christmas."

Dick Meister, Los Angeles Daily News: "Make It An iPod-Free Christmas."


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 02:55 PM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2005

Got 'Dem 'Ol Self-Loathing Baby Boomer Blues

January 1 is the day the first Baby Boomers - U.S. citizens born between 1946 and 1964 - turn 60. Which means the days and weeks leading up to this momentous, ah, news peg, are filled with befuddling bloviations.

Such as those from boomer Alex Beam, who protests "No! No! I'm Not A Baby Boomer" in the International Herald Tribune.

Their parents fought the big wars, their parents created the most prosperous nation on earth, now here come the graying spongers, bent on retiring early, living forever and enjoying the "good life." That means bleeding entitlement payments out of their own children, consequences be damned. Never forget the boomers' mantra: I've got mine, and the devil take the hindmost.

Alex, Alex: Remember what Felix Unger said about the word A-S-S-U-M-E. Myself (and yes I'm a boomer too, born in '58), I don't plan on retiring early. It'd bore the living hell out of me. And despite what I've paid into Social Security, I'm not too keen on pretending we can prop up our nation's collapsing Ponzi Scheme of government entitlements for the aging. Something's gonna have to give - and that better include Medicare and Medicaid benefits. I'd like to get back what I've pitched in, but we're rather beyond that, now. Maybe they could just give me a National Parks admission pass, or something. I think there'll be room in my wallet, where an AARP membership card will never be taking up space.

The first baby boomers start turning 60 next month, and of course there is a rush to analyze What It All Means. Newsweek arrived early to the prattle-fest, blathering in a cover story about the boomers' "existential journey" and how they have "leveled the decades-old walls between the races... and the genders." Will someone please inform women and black people?

Yes Alex, exactly right. Poor oppressed blacks are still writhing under the jackboot of white boomer-controlled institutions, and one cruel manifestation of this is "disproportionality," the brilliant social justice theory which holds that a racial group's percentage of the population must be closely correlated with that same racial group's share of, well, everything else, from college graduates, to high-earners, to teachers to diabetes patients, and so forth. A close cousin of "disproportionality" is "racial disparities," which holds that all outcomes should be (wouldn't ya just know it?) racially proportional. If the numbers are misaligned, why, there you go: institutional racism, ipso facto! Nothing to do with choices people, especially parents, make. Nah.

Seriously tho, Alex: I guess it kinda depends which black person you ask, as indicated by some of the more than 200 comments on this Bill Cosby-related post of mine.

Maybe, Alex, you've got black people confused with the NAACP.

And actually Alex, with respect to your remark about women, maybe you just don't know any of the right couples, because in quite a few boomer marriages, the dads actually are pulling a lot of weight at home. Myself, I just got done reading a story aloud, putting the kids to bed, changing a light fixture, and scrubbing mold. This after fixing dinner and loading the dishwasher. Some of my heartless neo-con buddies here in Seattle pitch in the same way. From what you write, I'm guessing maybe your wife isn't so fortunate.

Alex continues, and finally hits the mark. Almost.

Here's what it all means to me: The continuing cultural hegemony of the boomers means that for the rest of my life, every time I turn on a radio, I run the risk of hearing the song "A Horse With No Name." Now there's a reason to move to Canada.

Awful song, you're right, Alex. Right down there with "In The Year 2525," by Zager and Evans. But, about moving to Canada: easy goin' there, Hoss. You don't even want to joke about that. First off, in Canada there's actually a family restaurant chain called The White Spot. Second, read what this gal has to say about Canada. Then, to avoid crappy boomer anthems, ante up for satellite radio. I hear there are some 70s stations playing really great tunes.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:57 PM | Comments (1)

December 21, 2005

Chi Trib: "White House Was Correct": Iraqis Embrace Democracy

In an ongoing series of editorials on Iraq, the Chicago Tribune today examines the Bush administration's claims deposing Saddam would lay the groundwork for liberty and democracy. There's ample documentation of Bush's pre-war emphasis on ending human rights violations and persecution of Iraqis by Saddam's regime, and this conclusion from the Tribune's editorial board:

Three national elections, including last week's choice of a parliament, suggest the White House was correct in predicting that Iraqis long pinned beneath the heel of a boot would embrace democracy. And while Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites have major differences to reconcile, a year's worth of predictions from doubters that Sunni disaffection would doom self-rule have, so far, proven wrong.

Three numbers are especially instructive: An electorate of 8.5 million in January's selection of a National Assembly grew to 9.8 million in October's constitutional referendum, and to some 11 million in December's parliamentary election. That's a remarkable show of civic courage, given that each of those citizens knew his or her decision to vote could prove suicidal. As Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) wrote in The Wall Street Journal of Nov. 29: "Every time the 27 million Iraqis have been given the chance since Saddam was overthrown, they have voted for self-government and hope over the violence and hatred the 10,000 terrorists offer them."

Since the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, the journey to full-fledged democracy has taken Iraq from a U.S.-named Governing Council to an interim constitution, to Iraqi sovereignty, to the election of a National Assembly, to the drafting of a constitution, to voter approval of that national charter, to Thursday's election of a parliament known as the Council of Representatives.

For the better part of three years, though, critics ridiculed the Bush administration's insistence on this "deadline democracy" as a triumph of fantasy over the Arab world's autocratic experience. The factionalized Iraqis would need more time, the thinking went. Self-rule would have little appeal in the former dictatorship. The reality, though, has been a simpler triumph of human aspiration over justifiable fear. This serial optimism among Iraqis has contrasted, intriguingly, with the far more pessimistic views of many people in this country and others.

Intriguing pessimism, or predictably spiteful and ill-willed pessimism, for purely political reasons? Bad news on Iraq is good news for The Left, and good news, well, it has to be spun backwards, as L.A. Times op-ed columnist Niall Ferguson does here, predicting that in Iraq:

...all the ingredients are now in place for the biggest conflagration in Middle Eastern history. The only good news is that the first thing to go up in smoke will be the theory of a democratic peace.

Very good then Niall, old chap; keep rooting for more death and despotism and Iraq. But what's your deadline for eating crow, publicly, as progress continues? Or is this one of those convenient "it's only a matter of time" arguments? I rather suspect so.

The Washington Post's op-ed columnist Jackson Diehl actually gets it:

That's one of the perverse effects of the war: Amid all the noise of suicide bombings, talk of a quagmire for U.S. troops and a sectarian conflict that could lead to Iraq's disintegration, most people haven't noticed that in the rest of the Arab Middle East, the political momentum of the past year has been . . . distinctly democratic.

The New York Times reports this afternoon that turnout in the Iraqi parliamentary elections last week was a robust 70 percent, up from 58 percent in the nation's January vote on the draft constitution. Here's one immediate test in Iraq: the court hearing Saddam's trial must get its house in order, and move the proceedings along to the obvious and justifiable conclusion. The execution of Saddam's death sentence will be another powerful symbol for a new Iraq.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:36 AM | Comments (2)

More Jobs And Growth Said To Aid L.A. Crime Drop

Los Angeles is headed to close out the year with a 10 percent drop in crime, the L.A. Times reports today. It's the third year straight that crime has declined there. L.A. Police Chief Police Chief Richard Bratton, who in New York pioneered the use of computerized analysis to shift resources, boost accountability and reduce crime, believes that his his use of similar tools, and goal-setting, is behind L.A.'s drop. I think Bratton is a great police leader who has helped re-write the book on modern-day urban policing. But there may be other factors at play, too.

Other experts point to a variety of reasons, from Los Angeles' relatively strong economy to the dramatic gentrification of many once-tough neighborhoods. Los Angeles' crime drop this year is slightly better than those recorded by other big cities. In New York, crime is down roughly 5% this year. Chicago has seen a 7% drop as of the end of November. "A lot of cities are continuing to see a decline in crime. That doesn't mean it's because of the police. There are other factors," said James Alan Fox, professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston. "Demographics, for instance. We have a growing population over the age of 50. And every day as they grow older, the crime rate benefits."

Assistant Chief George Gascon, who oversees the LAPD's daily operations, disagrees with those assessments. He said that Los Angeles is not benefiting from an aging population and that while some areas are gentrifying, other areas that have seen crime declines are not, such as the San Fernando Valley and South Los Angeles. Malcolm Klein, criminologist and professor emeritus of sociology at USC, said, "Crime is a function of so many different things. And in making such goals, Bratton is assuming his department is a major factor. Unemployment, population shifts, racial tensions all are important."

Take the Hollywood area: It recorded 25 homicides in 2004. So far this year, there have been 11. The turnaround coincided with a major revitalization effort that has brought new businesses and vigor to the once-struggling neighborhood. But it also came as the LAPD focused considerable resources there, including installing surveillance cameras along Hollywood Boulevard that officials said have resulted in dozens of arrests.

Leron Gubler, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, said he believes the influx of residents and businesses began Hollywood's crime turnaround but that increased police efforts clearly helped. "It's definitely not the same Hollywood," Gubler said. "People who haven't been here for years tell me they can't believe the change. It's dramatic. Thirteen years ago, a lot of people wouldn't admit they lived in Hollywood."

The northeast San Fernando Valley has also seen a sizable decrease in crime, with homicides down 17%, burglaries down 19% and robberies down 30%. Longtime Sylmar resident and community activist Bart Reed said he has noticed a change in just the last few years — and gives the most credit to the improving economy in the working-class neighborhood and rising property values. Homes that a few years ago sold for $150,000 now go for $450,000.

"There seems to be less gang activity, less graffiti, less people just hanging around on the street," Reed said. "I think it's because the economy is finding these people jobs." But Reed also said he has noticed far more of a police presence, especially since the LAPD opened a station on San Fernando Road.

Growth, gentrification, and cops on the beat are all a force for social good. And surveillance cameras, too. Imagine that.


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

December 20, 2005

Nothing To Fear But Flying Itself

THIS "off-shoring" I could really do without.

U.S. airlines assign critical repair work to outside maintenance centers, including overseas facilities, that haven't been inspected by federal regulators and make safety errors....Transportation Department Inspector General Kenneth Mead said in a report released Monday. The FAA hadn't inspected six of 10 centers Mead's office visited, and errors were found, including improper maintenance on a switch that might have resulted in an engine failing to restart during flight, Mead said. "Neither FAA nor the air carriers were providing adequate oversight of the work," Mead said in the report.

U.S. airlines spend about $4.9 billion a year on maintenance, and a growing percentage of work, now about half, is done by outside companies. With three of the four largest carriers operating in bankruptcy, airlines are looking for ways to cut costs and stem $40 billion of losses recorded since 2000. Mead focused his review on outside vendors that aren't certified by the FAA. The agency told Mead the centers do only minor work for U.S. airlines, such as checking oil for contaminants.

"This is not true," Mead said. Six centers his staff visited did regular maintenance, such as inspecting wings and replacing hydraulic valves, he said. Twenty other facilities were performing critical work, including engine replacements, he said. Centers in St. Thomas, Bermuda and El Salvador had never been visited by the FAA and were doing "critical repairs," such as replacing an engine electronic control unit, he said.

Drive from Seattle to Chicago and back? Hey, NO problem.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 03:48 PM | Comments (0)

Oral Hygiene Overkill?

Certainly halitosis is no less a social menace than......performance art. But can oral hygiene be taken too far? In the Times of London today, Conservative MP for Surrey Heath Michael Gove wonders: has it really come to tongue-scrapers, then?

Not to mention floss and various other persnickety little oral contraptions.

Dentists are merciless these days.

We're urgently chided to deploy all manner of gizmos and gadgets, lest our mouths be reclassified as haz-mat hot spots.

Gove, for one, has had quite enough.

However, he regrettably fails to mention the thinking man's mouthwash: peppermint schnapps.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 03:24 PM | Comments (1)

December 19, 2005

The Perils Of Engrish

Engrish.com gets a nice write-up in Japan Today.

And what cultural artifacts at the site! Dave Barry wrote about stuff like this in "Dave Barry Does Japan." It's almost enough to make you cringe at the global popularity of the English language.


Whew. Try walking down the street anywhere in the U.S. wearing that. On the other hand, this (below) would make a great Christmas gift. Looks pretty much like a Camembert, to me. But what is it exactly about a Camembert that says "financier"? A "financier" cheese would be more along the lines of a triple-creme St. Andre, dont'cha think?


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

Animal Rights, and Wrongs

In New Zealand, porcine protectors chained themselves to the back of a bacon delivery truck to protest factory farming. They're accusing a bacon company of being responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of pigs yearly. Kind of goes with the territory, no?

Pigs, chickens, calves raised for veal....they're just so many economic units. If I want free-range chicken, I can buy it, and I often do. Because I like the taste better. But some people want to pay four dollars for a fryer, not nine. So-called "factory farms" aren't pretty, but it's a slippery slope when we begin to talk about the feelings of things we eat; for plants have feelings, too.

Nonetheless, youths seeking to gain political maturity often turn to animal rights activism. Now, the battered and deep-fried chickens of Carrboro, North Carolina; soon again, jihadists in U.S. military prisons. The moral authority of the meat-eating imperialists shall ever be at issue! Forward, comrades!

Animal rights protests hardly stop at supermarket fare, though. In L.A., the big dust-up lately has been over euthanasia of unclaimed strays held by the city. The controversy sparked some detestable behavior by animal rights protestors, and led to the new mayor's weak-kneed dismissal of his animal services chief. From an editorial in today's L.A. Times, titled, "Animal House:"

With the messy firing of Los Angeles Animal Services general manager Guerdon H. Stuckey, the extremist protesters who mounted a demoralizing battle against him got their way, and more. They got an Animal Services Department that will be further weakened and divided by revolving-door leadership. They also stained Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. No matter what the reasons for his dismissal of Stuckey, he will be seen as capitulating to people who express their disapproval with smoke grenades, bomb threats, midnight telephone "pranks" and vandalism at the homes of Animal Services employees and public officials. Villaraigosa's appointee to replace Stuckey, former New York animal services chief Ed Boks, comes to the job knowing that if he does something to which the radical Animal Defense League and an even more radical underground group, the Animal Liberation Front, object, his home too may be targeted. Welcome to the neighborhood.

As if to somehow show they won't be pushed around TOO much, the city has filed 14 misdemeanor conspiracy charges against the animal rights activists for various alleged threats and mischief against city employees. They should have done it much sooner, and made clear that if people can't care for stray pets, and not enough people will adopt strays kept at city expense, then the city is entirely right to euthanize them. Animal rights have a lot to do with the responsibilities of private individuals. Government cannot, and should not, serve in loco parentis for stray dogs, cats, and ferrets.

Nor should wolves be given a pass, especially if state biologists say they need to be culled, and no matter what howls of protest ensue. As it turns out, Friends of Animals has stopped its "howl-ins" to protest Alaska's predator management program targeting a small percentage of the state's wolf population. There are an estimated 7,000 to 11,000 wolves in Alaska, and the state has been culling about 400 a year to protect moose and caribou populations.

...said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, based in Darien, Conn..."If the boycott was designed to get (Alaska Gov. Frank) Murkowski to sacrifice an attitude, it didn't happen."

I'm so glad that Ms. Feral - of a group based in Darien, Conn. - is able to speak to the plight of Alaskan wolves.

I like wolves, too. They make great coats.

Coming soon at Rosenblog.....Veal bacon: where do YOU stand?


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:46 PM | Comments (0)

Socialist Coca Farmer To Run Bolivia; IHT Queasy About "S" Word

Evo Morales, the socialist coca farmer, indigenous Aymara Indian, and ideological near-soulmate of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, is the new president of Bolivia. Morales, a leader of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), wants to further nationalize the resource-rich natural gas industry, and beat back a U.S.-led initiative to eradicate coca farming. He says the coca leaf has legitimate traditional uses in native culture. True: it keeps chewers lightly buzzed and energized while they do manual labor, or locomote; and as Wikipedia reminds us, is a powerful symbol of indigeneous (Bolivian) Aymara Indian cultural and religious identity. But Morales insists he will ensure Bolivian coca leaf is not refined into cocaine. I guess that'll take care of that.

Anyway, while some 480 articles accessed today via Google News include the words "Evo Morales" and "socialist," the International Herald Tribune's fairly sizeable piece on Morales' victory online this morning - which has now been entirely "disappeared" from the Internet - did not. Nor did the early post-election story even mention MAS. The IHT, owned by the the same parent company as The New York Times, instead parsed its phraseology very carefully, referring to Morales instead as "anti-imperialist" (his term); and "leftist" (theirs). (NOTE: THEY'VE SINCE CORRECTED THEIR GAFFE, SEE MY UPDATE BELOW).

I must be an old capitalist fuddy-duddy: I have a real hang-up about nationalization of industries; and about "anti-imperialist" rhetoric, which serves to innoculate a "victim" nation from their responsibility to improve living conditions, foster a private sector and wealth creation. As well, Morales' coca identity politics will ensure the international cocaine trade always has plenty of Bolivian leaf to refine into street cocaine in the U.S. Why doesn't he just come clean, and talk about nationalizing the Bolivian coca leaf export trade, too? Please: let's call a Red a Red.

Coming soon: an IHT feature on Cuba's marvellous health care system.

UPDATE: The International Herald Tribune has re-posted the story, updated and edited so as to prominently include the word "socialist" in describing Morales. As you will see when clicking on the IHT story link above. They even mention MAS, and quote Morales saying he will not confiscate private land unless it is "vacant" or "unproductive." That's some commitment to private property rights, Commandante. We'll have to explore that last troublesome caveat another time. For now, we can rejoice that once again, Rosenblog reverberates in the highest reaches of global media.


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

December 18, 2005

Christmas In Seattle

Today, our family went downtown, to experience the Christmas season. Top to bottom, a few shots.

(1) Britt, of Starbucks, with a strapped-on vat of Starbucks Christmas Blend coffee, just outside the ground-floor entrance to Barnes & Noble at Pacific Place. Nice gal, nice promotion, over-roasted coffee, as usual.

(2) One of several elaborate gingerbread-and-candy structures at City Centre, where there is a Starbucks every twelve feet, or so. Note the moving drawbridge - very cool.

(3) A great public space at City Centre, just up the escalator from the SE corner of Fifth and Pike. There was not a Starbucks in immediate view, here. Famed Puget Sound glass artist Dale Chihuly's Persian Installation is at end, on right. It's quite a sight.

(4) My better three-quarters, taking a shopping break, at Westlake Plaza.

(5) Them again, Christmas shopping, at home.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:24 PM | Comments (0)

Rosenblog Opinion Review, Vol. 6

David Reinhard, The Oregonian: "Battlefield Reports."

Rick Martinez, Raleigh News & Observer: "Victory From The Ballot Box."

Star Parker, Scripps Howard News Service: "The Legacy Of Tookie Williams."

Walter E. Williams, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "Betraying Rosa Parks."

Helen Waller, Billings Gazette: "Look To Renewable Energy For Montana's Future."

Cincinnati Enquirer, editorial: "'Speak English' Opinion Isn't A Crime, Yet."

Paul Theroux, New York Times: "The Rock Star's Burden."

Skor Grimm: "Needs vs. Wants."

Lennard J. Davis, Chicago Tribune: "Half-Jew, Half-Christmas."

Tim Cavanaugh, San Francisco Chronicle: "Clueless Mayor In Toothless Scandal - Videogate A Yawn."

Oakland Tribune, editorial: "Union Leaders Need To Learn How To Behave."

Ted Conover, New York Times: "Get Lost."


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:53 PM | Comments (0)

"The Fabricated War On Christmas"

I find the term "Christian nation" very offensive, and I'm not offended by much. It has the same sort of ring as "Islamic Nation," implying that those who practice other, or no faiths, are living in the wrong country, and don't really belong. Yet in the last few weeks, "America is a Christian nation" has been the rallying cry of the ill-focused hard-right conservatives bellyaching about the "War On Christmas" or altenatively the "War On Christianity." You'll see that viewpoint and - thankfully - many others as well in the long comments string to this recent post of mine over at the group blog Sound Politics. Myself, I wish the pro-Christmas warriors would just shut up and enjoy the season in their own way, as they are already perfectly free to do, without worrying about whether Target, or Wal-Mart, or the local city hall, has a "Christmas" tree or banner, or is wishing us "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays," instead.

This SF Chron editorial, "The Fabricated War on Christmas" today, gets it right.

The idea that there is a "war on Christmas" is just absurd. To the Christians who are howling the loudest for a public showdown, we remind you that the religious significance of the holiday is not defined by mass-produced Hallmark sentiments or by store displays in a shopping mall, but by what individuals do in their homes and churches. It's up to each of us to decide whether we want this to be a holiday season of religious reverence, material indulgence, festive occasions -- or nothing special at all. Celebrate your right to embrace, or reject, others' customs -- and respect their right to embrace or reject yours.

You want a war on Christianity to worry about, take a look at Indonesia. Political capital isn't infinite, especially these days for conservatives. Let's spend it wisely, gang.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:07 AM | Comments (2)

December 16, 2005

No Space For Salamanders

Developers in Sonoma County are feeling so skittish these days, they're bending over backwards to make nicey-nice with the tiger salamander. But it's still not good enough for some friends of these slimy little critters.

How often do you see a tiger salamander? Tell me you really care about tiger salamanders. Go on.

What exactly do tiger salamanders add to anyone's life? Is it the way their moist skin glistens in the moonlight, or what? Maybe....it's the imputed personal virtue one is able to roughly appropriate from non-specific others......in return for having articulated one's concern for tiger salamanders?

Don't laugh now, this blindingly veritable insight is - in actuality - a direct and obviously beneficial externality of my college sociology course of studies, and embodies an unintended nod to my dad, the social psychologist.

At any rate - and continuing my rant - how, precisely, would the ecosystem, and society as a whole, really, have been worse off without some indeterminate number of tiger salamanders from Sonoma County? Would the denizens of Santa Rosa have discovered that their nature walks were lacking, for want of visible tiger salamanders? Would property owners along the Russian River, periodically, upon arising, and on their cedar decks ingesting their morning Free Trade Shade Grown coffee and apricot-ginger scones, have paused between chews and sips, to voice worries that they had not lately seen enough tiger salamanders - and that their lives were therefore somehow inestimably diminished?

I should most certainly think not.

Can we possibly care too much about beings such as the tiger salamander? I would submit that we can, and, tragically, do.

Sorry, folks. But I just have to draw the line at these oleaginous amphibians.

My closet of compassion is overflowing already, thanks mostly to Iraqis these days.

There's no space there for salamanders - and no space for them in my heart.

I am a bad man.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 03:01 PM | Comments (3)

Suspended "Prank Video" Cops Back On Duty In SF

Looks like San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and his police chief Heather Fong realized they'd made idiots of themselves. The city cops who'd been suspended in connection with some prank videos they made are now back on duty, although some have regrettably been re-assigned to pushing paper, instead of actually policing.

The blowback came fast and strong against Newsom and Fong, who claimed to be outraged at the supposedly non-PC insensitivity of the Bayview station cop videos. Orginally made to liven up a planned officers Christmas party, they ended up on one cop's personal Web site, and then became public. As SF Chron columnist Debra Saunders noted early on in the flap, last week, the real targets in the satirical footage - if anybody - were the cops themselves. Each day this week, Newsom and Fong walked their overheated response back a bit farther. They can lay entirely to rest this sad story of pandering to identity-politics lobbies just one way; put all the officers back in their previous posts.

Now, about all those unsolved murders........


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 02:00 PM | Comments (1)

U.S. Hispanics Slipping In Adult Literacy

While other racial groups are making progress in English-language adult literacy in the U.S., Hispanics are falling behind. The story is getting national play today. While the AP proffers this santized PC-version, the Houston Chronicle gets to the point straight away. More here:

An estimated 11 million U.S. adults lack the literacy skills to perform everyday tasks, while an increasing number of Hispanics struggle to do more than sign a form in English, a federal survey shows. The U.S. Education Department reported Thursday virtually no progress over the past decade in the ability of the country's adults to read newspapers, bus schedules and prescription labels.

But every racial and ethnic group except for Hispanics improved in tasks ranging from reading materials arranged in sentences and paragraphs, computing numbers and comprehending documents such as bills. Forty-four percent of Hispanics, ages 16 and older, do not have basic English skills, meaning they might be unable to use a television guide to find out what programs are on at a specific time or to compare ticket prices for two events. That is a substantial increase from 36 percent a decade ago, the last time the federal government released such a comprehensive literacy study.

...Economics seems to play a role in the increasing percentage of Hispanics deemed illiterate in English, said David Dahnke, who leads the English as a Second Language program at North Harris College. "Many people come to the United States to get better jobs, and they don't have a lot of time to learn English because they're trying to get food on the table," he said. "In many ways, learning English is a luxury."

"All of this research indicates a need for a strong push in adult literacy and family literacy," said Dominique Chlup, director of the Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning at Texas A&M University. "These programs need federal money."

Previous waves of immigrants from Europe also had economic exigencies but learned enough English to get by, and made sure their children mastered the language. There were no calls for more federal spending to teach adult Lithuanians, Italians or Finns how to read English-language newspapers, bus schedules, or drug prescription labels. There were no academics opining to the media that learning the lingua franca was a "luxury," either. The word "programs," coupled with calls for more "federal money" sets me on scam alert, at least with regard to adult literacy. Part of it is the phrasing. Adult literacy classes are a great idea, and are already widely available. People have to take the initiative.

Hispanic slippage in adult English-language literacy in the U.S. may result largely from immigrants who don't care, but we're not doing their children any favors either, by coddling them with public school bilingual programs, as opposed to English immersion. Even when school districts finally get it, and want to ramp up the pace, there's the state, telling them to slow down. As this earlier post of mine shows, Hispanic community leaders in one school district near San Diego want to address poor math and English performance by Hispanic students with more Hispanic teachers, Spanish-language instruction, and Spanish-language tests. And The University of Arizona is developing a "Hispanic math" curriculum, with a $10 million federal grant.

Do our nation a favor: next time you hear some smugly sanctimonious local school board official pronounce with great pride, "there are 73 languages spoken in our schools," reply, "one is a better number."


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:21 PM | Comments (1)

December 15, 2005

E-Mail Service Allows Anonymous STD Risk Alert, From Gay Males

Public health professionals remain quite concerned about rising rates of HIV infection among gay and bi-sexual men, in and around big cities in the U.S. Part of the problem: Internet sites allow MSM (men who have sex with men) to hook up with total strangers at the drop of a jimmy-hat. ONE problem here, though, is that jimmy-hats (condoms) often don't get used, especially if drugs like methamphetamine are part of the mix. HIV or other sexually-transmitted diseases can be passed from one MSM to another during these fly-by-night encounters, but the disease transmision potential may not be understood until later on, when symptoms appear and a diagnosis is made. How is the possible infectee to be notified? Most often he is not, at all.

That's supposed to change now, with an anonymous e-mail service sponsored by your local or county public health department. Today's L.A. Times:

In an age when many search for sex on the Internet, Los Angeles County health officials on Wednesday unveiled a controversial tool to fight the spread of HIV and other diseases: a website that helps send anonymous e-mail warning people that they might be infected. Through the website, inSPOTLA.org, users can send a free, unsigned electronic postcard with a standard message or a personal note, thus avoiding an awkward conversation that many people would rather not have. The idea is to help people be more forthcoming with sexual partners so those at risk of sexually transmitted diseases get tested and practice safer sex.

The website, which anyone can use but is primarily aimed at people who seek casual sex online, is part of a broader national campaign. San Francisco launched a website in October 2004 that covered other infections, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, which has generated about 20,000 e-mails. Only this month did it include HIV. Seattle, Philadelphia and Indiana are planning to launch inSPOT sites next year.

"It will help more people get tested early," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, public health director for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, which has invested more than $14,000 in the effort so far and plans to spend $8,000 annually on its operation. "We can get people into treatment and get them to modify their behavior."...The site, which went online in Los Angeles County on Wednesday, comes as AIDS-prevention efforts appear to have lost effectiveness, especially among gay and bisexual men.....The rising number of sexually transmitted disease infections has been linked, in part, to increasing use of the Internet in the pursuit of casual sex. At websites such as Manhunt.net and in the "casual encounters" section of Craigslist.org, a free listings site, users find dates by describing themselves and posting photos.

I think if anything, the anonymous notification service will allow potential disease-spreaders to cop a little bit of false righteousness, thinking they've done their duty. They'll then go on doing the same old stuff to new willing victims, some of whom they may bother to notify, and some from whom they'll forget or decline to even get e-mail addresses. The e-mail recipients may or may not be scared into safe sex, but the real issue here is the gay male culture of cheap thrills via serial sex, all too often combined with judgement-impairing party drugs. All the CDC data show the greatest proportion of HIV infection and AIDS are among MSMs and IDUs (injecting drug users).

Gay adults still playing the scorecard conquest game of the 1960s and 1970s, making no effort to find a lasting relationship and settle down, are at greater risk than their sybaritic heterosexual counterparts. For gay males with many casual sex partners, the certainty of emotional emptiness is compunded by the heightened risk of STDs.

Public health officers are grasping for ways to appear as if they are doing something, anything, to help save self-destructive gay males from themselves. Web sites like inSPOTLA.org not only show public health agencies are failing badly in that effort, but also hint at the limited influence of government on legal sexual behavior.

Related Rosenblog posts:

"AIDS And The Self;"

"Behavior, Not Condoms, Key In India AIDS Prevention;"

"Crystal Meth, The Internet And AIDS."


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:38 PM | Comments (0)

The Environmental Quagmire Of Christmas Trees

Where HAS my brain been? All this time, I've been merrily skating along, completely, stupendously and unfathomably ignorant of what a dire ethical and environmental quagmire - yes, quagmire - is posed by having a Christmas tree in one's home.

Still confused?

Here's today's SF Chron to unconfuse you. Uh, maybe.

The cultural minefield of December has another politically loaded question to tiptoe around: Will you purchase a real tree or an artificial one?...The choice between real and not real is especially painful for some environmentalists. Either they desecrate the Earth and chop down a tree or buy a fake one that's full of landfill-clogging polyvinyl chloride, which is kryptonite to greenies.

Salting a tree with pesticides, then chopping it down for a mere two weeks of display time isn't a great option. Ask San Francisco forest activist Kristi Chester Vance. When she invited friends to a party at her place this month, she warned her environmentalist pals on the guest list: There will be a tree here. "I'm a forest activist, and there's a dead tree in the middle of my house," she said. "Geez, if I have a tree, why not nail the last snow leopard to the wall, too?" She acknowledges, though, that most Christmas trees are farmed like an agricultural product. "It's kind of like corn," she said. "It would be best to get an organic one, of course."

As an alternative, Sierra Magazine, a Sierra Club publication, suggests: "For a natural look, try making your own tree of trimmed evergreen boughs, a storm-felled branch, or a piece of driftwood." San Francisco's Department of the Environment began a program this year for those averse to stringing lights on driftwood. For $90, the city will bring a live, 7- to 9-foot potted tree to your home for you to decorate. After Christmas, the city will retrieve it and plant it in one of San Francisco's tree-starved neighborhoods, like Bayview-Hunters Point.

.....San Francisco curbside recyclers collect about 775 tons of Christmas trees each year and chip them into mulch, make them into compost or use them for biomass fuel to generate electricity....

Sounds green enough for me. Our Christmas tree, which we'll be getting this weekend, will probably be a noble fir, draped with ornaments made from painted pork rinds, and mini-Menorahs.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:20 PM | Comments (3)

Rio Suburb Ponders Mandatory Public Bathrooms For Transvestites

Hetero-sexist constructs are such a drag, especially those old-school gender binaries. What if you're neither fish nor fowl, but you ARE out in public, say at a nightclub? Which bathroom to use? For transsexuals, the issue has been gaining traction. What about transvestites? Same concern: An eye-catching six-foot-four sorta-gal with wide shoulders, huge hands, a short skirt and fishnet stockings isn't exactly going to be welcome in either of the usual public pissoirs is s/he? Luckily, the town of Nova Iguacu, a working class suburb of 800,000 near Rio de Janerio, may have a solution for its own, fairly sizeable transvestite population. Michael Astor of AP has more from Rio:

A bill passed by the Nova Iguacu city council on Tuesday would require night clubs, shopping malls, movie theaters and large restaurants to provide a third type of bathroom for transvestites. Mayor Lindberg Farias will decide whether to make it a law. "A lot of lawmakers didn't want to deal with this issue, but it's a serious problem in society," said city Councilman Carlos Eduardo Moreira. "It's a way to put an end to prejudice." Moreira, a 32-year-old policeman on leave from the force, said he got the idea when dozens of transvestites showed up for a local samba show.

"It was a real problem. The women didn't feel comfortable having them in the ladies' room, and the men didn't want them in their bathroom either," said Moreira, who is married and the father of two children. "I'm not doing this for my own benefit."

...Moreira said many transvestites are reluctant to go out because there's no bathroom for them. And he denied that the cost of building a third bathroom would be a big problem for restaurant or club owners. "It requires an initial investment, but after that, the establishment will end up making more money because it will have a larger public. And transvestites like to spend," he said.

..."At first we were against the law, but after some discussion we decided we had to support it because it addresses a real problem for a segment of the gay community," said Eugenio Ibiapino dos Santos, a founder of the Pink Triangle Association, a gay group in Nova Iguacu. "We see it as a way to open a discussion about civil rights."

A discussion at the expense of business owners who would be forced to cater to the personal pecadillios of cross-dressers. I have a better idea. An enterprising gay or transvestite entrepreneur should start a transvestite friendly nightclub in Nova Iguaca with bathrooms open to all comers.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:19 AM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2005

New Wisconsin Conceal-Carry Bill Headed For Veto Showdown

Wisconsin is just one of four states in the U.S. where it is not legal to carry a concealed weapon. Criminals will always manage to get guns into Wisconsin, or anyplace else, but in Wisconsin you can't legally own a handgun for self-defense. A pretty backward state of affairs, huh? Well, that could change in the next month OR TWO. Following state senate approval of similar legislation recently, the Wisconsin State Assembly early this morning passed a bill allowing state residents to carry concealed weapons - if they take a firearms refresher training course every five years and don't carry in taverns, schools or police stations. Those restrictions helped bring Democrats over to the "yes" side. Once the house version goes back for, and receives final approval in the Senate, the manuevering really starts. That's because the state's Democratic governor Jim Doyle has pledged to veto the bill. However, veto-proof majorities in both may be able to uphold the bill. It's going to close. The Capital Times has more.

The state needs the law, said Rep. Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford, the bill's main sponsor in the Assembly. Wisconsin residents should be able to strike back if criminals attack them, he said. Democrats countered the bill will lead to more killing and arming people won't solve crime. "What a sad, sad commentary on civilization in the United States of America," said Rep. Frank Boyle, D-Superior.

Rep. Boyle: "civilization in the United States of America" has already pretty much settled the matter. In all but four states, including Wisconsin, it is already legal to carry a concealed weapon. The current state of affairs is more accurately a "sad, sad commentary' on the skittishness of Wisconsin Democrats, who are afraid that law-abiding adult citizens are not capable of owning and using handguns responsibily, to protect themselves from criminals who will always be able to get guns, no matter what legislative prohibitions exist. I cast my vote for the right to armed self-defense; and you clearly cast yours for some crackpot utopian dream that banning concealed weapons by legislative fiat is even possible, when in fact it is not.

Related Rosenblog posts:

"A Woman And Her Gun" (Version I);

"A Jewelry Shop Owner's Best Friend;"

"New Minnesota Gun Permit Law Celebrated, Jeered One Year Later;"

"Burglars! Hie Thee To Britain!"

"San Francisco Gun Ban Would Further Isolate National Dems;"

"Gun Sales Ban Nixed In Brazil;"

"A Woman And Her Gun" (Version II).


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:28 PM | Comments (0)

Stormy Future For San Diego

Perpetual sunshine gets you tourism, conventions and new businesses. But San Diego is in dire straits nonetheless. Struggling to recover from government ethics scandals, and with municipal finances under severe strain, the municipal corporation of San Diego is either going down a rathole fast, or will very slowly edge back to viability. A new mayor, moderate Republican and former police chief Jerry Sanders, is in charge. I wonder if he and those that voted for him will come to regret his "No New Taxes" pledge. I'm not very big on new taxes either, but some of the service cuts don't sound too sexy. Today's Christian Science Monitor has more.

In a hoopla-free inaugural address, perhaps the grimmest in the city's 155-year history, San Diego's fourth mayor since July declared that the city "is mired in a financial and ethical crisis of historic proportions," and warned residents of the need for "sacrifice." Yet he did not mention the city's most pressing threat: bankruptcy. As Sanders takes office, San Diego is on the edge of a financial black hole. Years of mismanagement left it with an employee pension-fund deficit estimated at $1.4 billion. The bills are coming due, and the city can barely borrow money to stay afloat. Government malfeasance has also led to a rash of indictments, a humiliating mayoral resignation, and corruption trials.

On his first day on the job, Sanders alerted city workers to possible layoffs. The city has already cut library hours and reduced park maintenance. Residents have complained about overgrown trees and unfilled potholes, and there's talk that the city might unload valuable property. Sanders, who comes into office as new mayoral powers take effect, could slash the budget and demand concessions from municipal unions whose employees are slated for gold-plated pensions....Despite Sanders's efforts, the city's problems may last for decades. It is postponing preventive maintenance on roads and water and sewer systems because it can't borrow money to pay for it, meaning that the systems will eventually fail more dramatically than they would have otherwise, says Glen Sparrow, a professor emeritus of public administration at San Diego State and adviser to the new mayor.

There's your Red Badge of Courage, Mr. Mayor: "slash the budget" fat, not the bone; and by all means, "demand concessions from municipal unions whose employees are slated for gold-plated pensions." THEN, you can credibly push for a tax hike of some sort, which will almost certainly still be needed to keep infrastructure up to date. I'll lay even odds this is already the undisclosed plan.

Related Rosenblog post: "Convicted San Diego Politician Gets Labor Council Job."


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:49 AM

December 13, 2005

Police Staffing and Unsolved Murders In San Francisco

Reporters should really be required to read their own paper's clips file before filing a story like this. SF Chronicle writer Charlie Goodyear leaves out the crucial police short-staffing piece of the puzzle that his own paper reported on here Nov. 17, in his account today of the 80 percent of murders this year in San Francisco which remain unsolved. Here's what Goodyear should have woven in to the unsolved-murders story, from his own paper's article (first link above):

The San Francisco Police Department is running far short of its mandated force strength, and Chief Heather Fong said...she wants the city to hire 250 recruits a year for the next three years to shore up the dwindling ranks. Police officials say the department has a total of 2,190 sworn officers but only 1,707 are available for field duty -- 264 short of the 1,971 that city voters set as a minimum in 1994.....One area where the police force has been hit hard is the inspectors bureau. The department has a budget for 302 inspectors, but 36 inspectors are now doing other work -- including 14 who are performing patrol functions -- and there are 59 vacancies. No one has been promoted to inspector since August 2003. An additional 40 inspectors are expected to retire by July of next year. That would leave the number of investigators at fewer than 170.

In addition to the city's elected supervisors re-adjusting city budget priorities to fund the additional manpower police say is needed, there must be more emphasis on the community's responsibility for raising young men to NOT be killers or criminals. Grand Rapids had an interesting conversation about that last summer. It goes back to parenting, neighborhoods, even literacy, and public education. What's not needed in San Francisco is the political posturing by city supervisors yesterday about police department audits and a dopey homicide-prevention commission. It's also time to 86 the scapegoating of police by the mayor and chief over a recent spoof video scandal, in order to score points with minority constituencies. The hounding out of a reform-minded black education superintendent (Arlene Ackerman) by a bunch of idiot white SF Green Party members (see last half of this post) is a lamentable footnote to the city's growing murder problem. Without drastically improved public schools, more murderers will be in the pipeline.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:46 PM | Comments (0)

Immigrants Vote With Their Feet, For U.S.

Seattle blogger David Keenan last year dug up some partial, but quite interesting immigration data showing how popular the U.S. has remained with newcomers in the Age of Bush. A fuller picture emerges today. Immigration into the hated, despotic, imperialistic, war-mongering United States of America - plagued by ever-sharper divisions between the haves and the have-nots, institutional racism, white privilege, and xenophobia - has been growing at a record pace since 2000. USA Today has more.

Despite tougher border scrutiny after 9/11, a total of 7.9 million immigrants have come to the USA since 2000, more than in any other five-year period in the nation's history, figures released Monday show. Almost half, or 3.7 million, entered illegally, according to an analysis of Census data by the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C., group that advocates controlling the flow of legal and illegal immigrants. The report comes as a heated immigration debate looms this week in Congress. The House is expected to tackle a Republican bill that aims to strengthen border security and increase penalties for illegal immigration. An estimated 11 million immigrants live illegally in the USA.

....The report also confirms that immigrants are headed to more states, including Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington and Pennsylvania. Immigration is "starting to have a bigger impact on more states while it continues to have a very big impact on traditional immigrant magnets such as California," says William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.

Despite the constant drumbeat of anti-U.S. invective in the national and international press, despite the loud-mouthed rantings of Bush-haters at home and abroad, despite public universities lovingly archiving graffitio stemming from Bush Derangement Disorder (BDD), people are voting with their feet. As much or more than ever before, the U.S.A. is seen around the world as a land of opportunity and freedom, a place where immigrants come to make a new and better life for themselves and their families. For some, who immigrate illegally, that new and better life includes generous government benefits to which they are not legally entitled. We need an immigration policy that welcomes legal immigrants, rounds up and sorts out the illegal immigrants now here illegally, and seals the borders to prevent any further influx of illegal immigrants.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:55 AM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2005

Get'Cho Gold Teeth Grillz, From Behind Bars

A skanky clientele is a skanky clientele, no matter how much bling they bring. A Florida vendor of gold teeth grills is worried about robbery by his hoodlum customers, and makes them line up behind bars for service, like the prisoners some of them doubtless have been, or will become. Capiche. Gold teeth grills are for dumb-ass hoods with money to burn, and other dog-stupid, straight knucklehead losers grasping for outward signs of a real cool that only comes from within.

Grillz-meister Paul Faucette of Tampa, profiled today in the St. Petersburg Times, makes his customers stand on the other side of jail bars, worried he'll be robbed of the gold he custom-fits to make hood ornaments for their teeth. In the picture here from the newspaper's article today, you'll see a classy bunch of guys, including that white T-shirted youngblood waiting for his grillz, making a call on his cell, and grabbing his crotch, 'jes like a real playa.

Good work, St. Petersburg Times - Yassuh.....way to advance that multicultural agenda. Obviously your black readers have been clamoring to see a shot of a young black man in a fake jail cell, looking hard and grabbing his crotch, while waiting to get ornamental gold grill work applied to his teeth. Yes, truly: Anything is possible in America, for people of color.

You'll soon be up for an Editor and Publisher diversity award, I'm sure.

About Faucette's jail bars for grillz customers: I suppose it's a total coincidence, homes, but I've been in ever so many CD emporiums where only the rap CDs were pre-emptively removed from their cases by store personnel, and had to be claimed from behind the counter, after payment....all due to frequent, past shoplifting episodes.

Myself, I'd be goin' for one a them killer Cuban sandwiches if I were in town - but here's more on Faucette's Tampa operation.

Gleaming from the mouths of rappers, circa mid 1990s, gold grills meant money and success. Now they're worn by high-schoolers, self-described rednecks, 60-year-old grandmothers. To Faucette, it seems everyone wants them. Customers seek him out from as far away as Port Richey and Sarasota. He might make as many as 15 pairs in a week....Customers walking into Paul's Gold Grills on Causeway Boulevard find themselves in a cage. Floor-to-ceiling bars divide the shop. Faucette and the merchandise are on one side; customers stay on the other. Faucette does business through the bars. He's nervous about being robbed; he keeps a lot of gold in the store.

...You can get a grill with your name spelled in diamonds. You can get grills with fangs, with rubies or emeralds. Depending on how fancy it is, a grill could cost a few hundred dollars - or a few thousand. Sometimes, Faucette's customers don't have good teeth of their own. Behind the grills, some have chipped teeth, crooked teeth, no teeth. Gold can cover a multitude of flaws. Faucette has his limits. A guy called him once, asked him to make a gold grill for his pit bull. Sorry, Faucette said. No pets.

...By the mid '90s...caps evolved into grills. A grill typically covers a whole row of teeth, and it's custom-made to fit a specific person's mouth, like a retainer. Rappers and professional athletes started to wear them: another symbol of wealth and success, like the tricked-out car, the gold watch, the beautiful woman. But others say grills carry another meaning - that they are a defiant reminder of a time when people who couldn't afford dental care had their cavities capped in gold....Besides getting robbed, Faucette has one other worry. "Is it a fad?" he wonders. "Is it going to die? How long is this going to last?"

Smart guy, to ask that question. Here's my bet: a little bit longer than Tookie Williams. But not much.

Related Rosenblog posts:

"Grills Not 'Ghetto' Anymore;"

"Nelly's Grillz Are Foolz Gold."


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:04 PM | Comments (0)

Tookie Will Die

Arnold had little to lose by denying Tookie's plea for clemency, as the SJ Merc-News notes today in a news analysis piece. Brickbats to NAACP honcho Bruce Gordon, though, for his lame claim that Tookie has earned redemption.

Bruce S. Gordon, NAACP president and CEO....said Schwarzenegger's decision not to spare Williams, who is black, sent a terrible message to the African-American community. "It sends a message that the criminal justice system in California and across this country will continue to look at African-Americans differently,'' he said. "There is absolutely no recognition given to redemption.''

Arnold's decision sends a GREAT message to "the African-American community" and the community as a whole, of which African-Americans are a significant part, especially in L.A. Consequences matter , especially for convicted quadruple murderers whose appeals have entirely failed.

The SF Chron's Debra Saunders has more on the "Tookie's innocent" line of bull - and Earl Ofari Hutchinson has some very pointed observations on blacks and the death penalty.

LOS ANGELES--The small crowd of clergy, community activists and death penalty opponents that gathered in front of the Los Angeles courthouse recently was no different than other groups that for weeks have kept up the drum beat for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to grant Stanley "Tookie" Williams clemency. There was one very loud exception. A young African-American man shouted that Williams was a thug and a murderer and should die. He was not an agitator or a crank. He represented a body of pro-death penalty sentiment among blacks that has seldom been publicly heard during the great Tookie debate. I was not surprised when I heard this young man's words, for there are many blacks like him who want Williams dead.

The instant I went to bat in my columns for clemency for Williams and against the death penalty in general, the e-mails and comments I got flew hot and heavy. Black critics bitterly reviled me for advocating clemency. They were adamant that Williams must pay for his crimes, and for the murder and mayhem the Crips gang, which he helped found, has unleashed on impoverished black communities. Their hardened attitude toward Williams flew in the face of conventional wisdom that says that blacks are passionate opponents of the death penalty. They aren't.

During the past decade, even as more whites have said they are deeply ambivalent about the death penalty or oppose it, many blacks continue to say that murderers, even black ones, must pay with their lives....Blacks are scared stiff and fed up with that continuing surge in murder violence that tears at black communities.

Interestingly enough, another convicted killer - Wesley Eugene Baker - was quite deservedly put to death this month in Baltimore. While there were protests and appeals, national media made barely a peep. Guess he didn't have the right celebrities in his corner.

UPDATE: The deed is done.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:46 PM

Outrage Greets Baltimore's Dumbed-Down Reading Curriculum

Meanwhile, City Seeks New Slogan

Baltimore public schools' CEO has ordered an evaluation of a controversial, dumbed-down reading curriculum in use there, called Studio Course, As I noted in this recent post, writing samples are drawn from teen magazine with articles on kissing and flirting, one lesson defines verbs as "stuff," and the curriculum failed to boost scores in Denver.

Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden says his office has been flooded with calls from angry parents since an article in The Sun on Sunday outlined the program, which uses teen magazines and places grammar on the back burner. One of the magazines used is CosmoGIRL!, whose current issue includes tips on making out. "It's an insult, and it must be discontinued immediately," said McFadden, the Senate majority leader. "As a member of the Budget and Tax Committee, I have to go down there and fight in Annapolis to bring back resources to the [city school] system. There is no logical way this can be defended."

...Sally Mentor Hay, director of Studio Learning Inc., said in a statement that the review team is "a great idea." "It's a strong curriculum," said Mentor Hay, who is working as a consultant to the city school system. "I'm confident they're going to be pleased and will recognize it's what they want the students in Baltimore to learn."....In Baltimore, one of the most controversial elements of the curriculum has been a worksheet, distributed at a school board meeting last month, that defines a noun as "stuff" and a verb as "what stuff does." "We don't need 'stuff' for our children," McFadden said this week. "We need a rigorous educational curriculum based on sound educational principles. Anything less is unacceptable." Marvin "Doc" Cheatham, president of the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the curriculum "is dumbing down our children. You can't put it any other way."

Studio was implemented this fall in all 21 of Baltimore's traditional middle schools, plus two alternative schools and one K-8 school. School system officials said they were making a drastic change in instruction because of dismal middle school test scores. The school board approved the use of the curriculum in July for the school year beginning in August. The curriculum has a track record in only one other city, Denver, where Mentor Hay was chief academic officer until this year and reading and writing test scores have been flat in the four years since Studio was adopted. A new superintendent and chief academic officer there are also contemplating changes.

Seems like self-improvement is in the air in Baltimore. On another front, Baltimore still hasn't caught the drug addicts stealing lightpoles for scrap metal; but the city HAS has contracted with a San Francisco firm to develop a new city slogan (via Boston Globe, free reg. req.).

To search for just the right words, the city has formed a Repositioning Task Force and hired a San Francisco agency that specializes in ''branding" products. No doubt there's plenty to work with, including national-caliber museums, an immensely popular waterfront, and charming, old neighborhoods. The challenge is to tout the city's assets without ignoring its gritty, self-deprecating character. If it's too hyped up, officials worry, the promotion may become a punch line. Years ago, for example, residents disposed of one motto, ''The City That Reads," by making it ''The City That Bleeds." Even before the new catchphrase is unveiled, locals are forming ideas of their own:

''Baltimore: Duck!" a shopkeeper said.

''Baltimore: We're Not Gary, [Ind.]," an executive security consultant offered.

"Baltimore: Coming Right Along," a man atop a Fells Point barstool said.

Those three authors were quick to say they liked living in Baltimore.

The reading curriculum snafu suggests another possibility: "We Don't Put On Airs In Baltimore." If they ditch Studio Course, maybe, "The City That Learns From Its Mistakes." Then there's, "We Finally Caught Our Lightpole Thieves." Be nice if that last one would actually come true. Another option: "Baltimore: People Takin' Care Of Business."


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 04:10 PM | Comments (1)

Going To Hell With A Handbag

If you can't BE rich, you can always LOOK rich. That's the premise behind a whole range of Internet based luxury-item rental firms, attracting venture capital and earning breathless encomiums from the morally-neutered flackmeisters of conusmer media. Take Bag Borrow Steal, please: this Seattle-based Internet firm rents out super-pricey handbags to a growing cadre of designer-brand dupes. Time explains all:

Now that the middle class is scrambling for brand-name luxuries, borrowing has become the next-best way to look rich. A cadre of Internet-based vendors have started lending high-status gear. Five other handbag-loan entrepreneurs ventured out this past year, and jewelry will soon be added to the mix. If that's not prestigious enough, some new clubs offer a rotating selection of vintage cars or the latest extravagant ones. "I believe this is a game-changing business model," says Adam Dell, brother of computer magnate Michael and a venture capitalist who in June invested an undisclosed amount in Bag Borrow or Steal. "Ownership is something that consumers are beginning to recognize as a fleeting thing."

Mylackey.com and Homegrocer.com were fleeting things, too. I give this trend about 16 months tops, after which all these firms will be so much roadkill. True: life is uncertain. So take a walk on the beach, breathe deeply, and quietly watch the heron spread its wings. Leasing luxury handbags or jewelery comes in neck and neck with renting a stretch Hummer in the class(less) sweepstakes.

BUY a nice versatile handbag for about $150, forget about the fashionistas, and make a donation to the Heifer Project.

When the Dirty Bomb drops, you'll feel better, believe me.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2005

San Francisco Police Video Flap Is A Travesty

As I noted in this recent post, San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong last month acknowledged the department is short some 264 sworn officers; and the SF Chron noted in the same article that SF police are also 95 short of the budgeted 302 inspectors, or detectives. With crime exceeding national averages in all but one category, in most cases by quite large margins, San Francisco's police need all the help they can get. But instead, they're now getting political abuse from the highest levels of city government, over an admittedly dumb bunch of private videos some officers made.

Twenty-four San Francisco cops, most of whom worked at the Bayview station, have been suspended in connection with the videos, which were intended to be shown at a Christmas party, but rather curiously ended up on an officer's personal Web site instead. Some of the spoof images included police making G-rated gay verbal banter, an officer running over a homeless person, officers ogling female motorists, and officers doing tai chi.

Sophomoric, somewhat insensitive? Yes. But given the city's insufferably self-righteous identity politics and jackbooted enforcement of multiculturalism and all forms of diversity except the political, it should come as no surprise that regular working stiffs in the police and probably fire department too, will every now and then indulge in humorous - to them - emotional steam release.

Not too smart to record it on video, though, as the San Francisco 49ers learned earlier this year. Some letters of reprimand might have been in order for the police involved. Instead we get the city's top officials posturing in extremis.

Chief Heather Fong said Wednesday that the videos were "egregious, shameful and despicable." Mayor Gavin Newsom declared that they were insensitive to women and minority groups. He also said the Police Department's culture needed to be changed, and he ordered the formation of a blue-ribbon commission to try to do that.

Today, the Chron's latest article on the cop video affair breathlessly analyzes Newsom's supposedly savvy political instincts in getting ahead of the perceived public relations crisis by hanging the cops out to dry. However, in a seperate piece, the Chron's political columnists Matier and Ross actually get it right:

Newsom's very vocal call for radical change in the San Francisco Police Department in the wake of the video scandal is a classic example of a politician trying to get out from under a steamroller headed his direction. Only in this case, Newsom jumped into the steamroller's cab and put the pedal to the metal -- bruising more than a few feelings along the way, and maybe even hurting himself in the process. "I know he has to deal with a lot of constituencies in this city," police union president Gary Delagnes said. "But just because of some videos, you don't throw the whole department under the bus for the sake of political expediency."

For all the crap thrown at cops by the media and liberal interest groups, they're vital to our cities and we need to treat them with more respect, including when they screw up. I'm still waiting for some news on easing the police manpower shortage in San Francisco. Maybe they'll get around to that after the blue-ribbon commission on police department culture completes its work.

Myself, I think the culture that needs to be investigated in San Francisco is that of the city's elected officials and voters. Here is a place, after all, where the departing president of the (city-county) Board of Supervisors hires a "graffiti artist" to spray paint the words "Smash The State" on his office walls as he moves out.

Related Rosenblog posts:

"Intolerance, Zealotry Reign At San Francisco State;"

"The Foie Gras Chronicles, Part One;"

"No Dead White Males - Activism and Social Change At The New College;"

"Oozing Corpses On Display In San Francisco;"

"San Francisco Going to Pot - Seattle Not?"

"San Francisco Anti-Recruiting Initiative As Kabuki;"

"Carole Migden Perpetrates Legislative Vote Fraud;"

"SF Chronicle Calls For Sanctions On Migden Ghost Vote;"

"It's Tough to Be A San Franciscan These Days;"

"Folsom Street Fair Hypes SF's Leather And Fetish Glory Days;"

"San Francisco's Medical Marijuana Obsession."


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 04:28 PM | Comments (2)

December 10, 2005

The High Cost Of Alternative Energy In China

AP reports today that as many as 20 villagers have been killed by police in an eminent domain compensation dispute in Dongzhou, Guangdong Province. Across the vast nation, Chinese central and local authorities have increasingly come under fire from poor villagers for land takings without just compensation, and for political corruption. Increasingly, this has led to mass protests which too often meet with an utterly ham-handed and brutal response from the Communist regime in Beijing and its local government supplicants.

China has unleashed free enterprise, but the government seems to be in cahoots with certain favored robber-barons and those left behind are getting squashed (literally to death, sometimes) if they speak out. This Reuters story of several days ago noted the first few killings related to the Dongzhou protests, and clearly linked the turmoil to land takings for - get this - wind farms. So, China IS trying to do something about ramping up alternative energy, they're just trampling civil rights and killing inconvenient land owners in the process. Phew.

American Leftists: here's a whole set of REAL "social justice" issues for you. But then, communists always get sprung from your moral jail post haste, don't they?

Related Rosenblog posts:

"Thugs Aplenty For Hire In China;"

"Chinese Democracy Activist Savagely Beaten...;"

"China Still Forces Abortions;"

"Dangerous Thoughts;"

"What Chinese Middle Class?"


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:30 AM

December 09, 2005

Joe Lieberman; Profile In Chutzpah

The entire Democratic Party establishment is hosed off at U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) because he's standing firm with the Bush Administration on the Iraq War. In Saturday's edition, Lieberman tells the tut-tutting New York Times:

"We undermine the president's credibility at our nation's peril"......(he) noted that his positions on Iraq had not changed over the years, dating from 1991, when he supported the first Persian Gulf war. In 1998, he and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, proposed the Iraq Liberation Act, which made the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein official American policy. "The positive and negative reactions may have less to do with the substance of what I said than with the fact that a Democrat is saying it," Mr. Lieberman said. "It reflects the terribly divisive state of our politics."

But here's the real come-uppance for Plain Old Joe: Howard Dean's brother lives in CT too, and is ready to go to the mat against Lieberman with....AN INTERNET PETITION! Hooo boy! And, just to underscore the drama, MoveOn. org is grumbling about Lieberman, too. We all know how effective is MoveOn.org. Lieberman must really be chomping the Maalox, now.

There's no mention in this very same Times piece - as there most certainly should be - that U.S. House Democrats who've been so stridently criticizing Bush on Iraq and calling for U.S. withdrawal spectacularly failed to muster votes for that objective when the question was called several weeks ago. Now, ah........let's see....why was that, anyway? I can conclude only one thing: they really don't believe themselves, or, lack the courage of their so-called convictions. Unlike, say, Bush; or Lieberman.

The ferment and desperate violence grow as next week's historic parliamentary elections approach, underscoring the revolutionary nature of change in Iraq, and undergirding the position of Bush, Lieberman and countless Americans and world citizens who understand the real stakes. Must the U.S. eventually scale back and leave Iraq to sort out its own affairs? Yes, of course. But not quite yet.


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

After Midway Mishap, Peotone Looks Even Better

O'Hare Airport's grandiose expansion plans are likely to suffer from huge cost overruns, negligible improvements in flights delays, and worsened ground safety due to poorly-conceived design.

The Chicago region - where I reported and worked on aviation issues for 10 years before moving to Seattle in 1994 - will need additional commercial airfield capacity sooner rather than later. And yesterday's tragic runway overrun by a Southwest Airlines 737 which which horrified neighbors of postage-stamp sized Midway Airport, showed once more that it's certainly not the O'Hare-alternative piece of metro Chicago's aviation future.

No, that would be the long-envisioned but still-not-built Peotone airport well south of the city, designed to have ample buffers, but within good drive-time for a substantial user base in the city's southern and southwest suburbs, and Northwest Indiana. The project is a remarkable testament to politics and persistence. First envisioned 20 years ago, subject to innumerable studies, it has long threatened the Chicago Democratic Machine's notion it should control all commercial airports and airport-related contracts in the metropolitan region. Yet, it has made incremental progress, and has stronger support from suburban Democrats than ever before, who have joined with the usual suburban Republican supects to keep the project alive.

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has taken on the scandal-plagued Daley II machine to push for Peotone. The facility would be called Abraham Lincoln National Airport, which has a nice ring. The state has purchased more than 1,800 acres; that's more than twice the size of Midway, and the initial site would have just one runway. Planners should secure even more land for future expansion after the planned O'Hare expansion begins to unravel, as it surely will.

Now, more than ever: Peotone.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 06:55 PM | Comments (0)

The View From West Seattle

After about four weeks of mostly fog, the weather has finally broken for a few clear Seattle days. I always look forward to seeing the Olympic Mountains covered with snow, about 80 miles west, across Puget Sound, and a few peninsulas. Here's the view yesterday morning in West Seattle, from Lowman Beach Park.

On a nice day, you can walk northwest from here, on Beach Drive S.W., past a lot of really fancy waterfront homes, and the house where Elvis slept, to Alki Beach - where stretch Hummer sightings are still thankfully rare.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:29 PM | Comments (3)

A New Era for Rosenblog

Yesterday - thanks to my friend, colleague in nefarious subterranean political activities, fellow Sound Politics blogger and internet magnate Andy MacDonald - Rosenblog completed it's migration to a new host server and an updated software platform. (Bloggers and others who link here, no worries: the URL is the same for the blog and all my archived posts). Thanks Andy, you're the greatest! All I can say is, if any of you have to do something like this and aren't a certified geek, or lucky enough to know someone like Andy with whom you can informally barter professional services, DON'T try to do it yourself. We migrated a 1,200 blog-entry database from my old server to a new one, including all the templates and custom design my guy Phil in Portland did such a great job on earlier this year.

At one point it looked like we were going to have to cut and paste in each of the several hundred files that comprise the blogging software program because they couldn't be batched and dropped onto the new server, but Andy tracked down a utility program off the Internet that did the job. There were a number of other challenges that would have fazed mere mortals, and Andy dealt with it all, in his usual expedient yet non-caffienated manner.

We've parked the blog on Moveable Type 3.2, an upgrade from 2.661 version I was using. As you may have noticed, comments are back on. While commercial comment spammers will die a cruel death, the rest of you are highly encouraged to participate. Civil dissent is always welcome. I would appreciate it if ALL the fans of gold teeth grills and Tupac would watch the language they use.

I want to also give a very big thank you to my friend and blogfather Howard Hansen, who so graciously offered me free hosting way back in January of 2004, and who selflessly dealt with the occasional server outages, making sure Rosenblog stayed accessible to its teeming readership. (We've passed 400,000 page views or "hits," and are approaching our 250,000th visitor - both figures derived only since installing Site Meter 18 months ago - that was actually five months after Rosenblog went live). You're a mensch, Howard, and the world will continue to hold you responsible for whatever I do in the blogosphere. Don't say you weren't warned!


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2005

Continued License To Pollute For China and India?

(Comments Are Back On)

You may or may not agree that global warming is real and needs to be addressed. I've lately begun to believe so, although I'm still very interested in hearing the best arguments of the skeptics. But even while acknowledging something needs to be done, I've felt that the Kyoto Protocols were massively overhyped, and that the whole "blame the U.S." for global warming meme has been a cynical farce. With the big "what next" talks on in Montreal, the U.S.-bashing has started anew. And so I think this editorial in today's Newsday is especially on point.

The UN summit on climate change going on in Montreal was billed as the next step in advancing the controversial Kyoto Protocol to limit production of greenhouse gases. But it could be the beginning of the end for Kyoto. For good reasons.

The flaws in the climate treaty, cited by both the Clinton and Bush administrations for the U.S. refusal to participate, are becoming starkly evident. But even if the Kyoto protocol dies, the crisis it was meant to address won't go away. And the United States has an obligation, as the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases today, to pitch in to come up with better solutions, instead of simply rejecting bad remedies.

Global warming leading to destructive climate change is a reality. On that, there is widespread agreement. But how to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases - such as carbon dioxide - the prime cause of global warming, has become a conundrum with few apparent long-term solutions.

The biggest Kyoto flaw now is clear: China and India and other developing nations going through rapid industrialization are exempt from any limits under the protocol- and they are consuming far more energy, and producing far more greenhouse gases than anticipated when the protocol was drawn up. In a short time, they are expected to equal and even surpass the United States in greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet they reject limits with a simple argument: Developed nations have no right to tell developing nations not to duplicate the environmental damage they themselves caused in the process of becoming rich. The burning of fossil fuels that produce CO2 and the deforestation of vast tracts of land that act as sponges to absorb it are seen as keys to their development.

India and China can't be let off the hook. Their huge and rapidly-expanding populations and industrial sectors make their full participation crucial. To make excuses for them while holding the U.S. to a higher standard is to wield global warming as a political hammer, with no real regard for the environment itself. Alternative fuels - from algae derivatives and biodiesel to nuclear - need to be profitably developed, and become part of the global warming control strategy. So does carbon sequestration. Ending the rape of the Brazilian rainforest by Brazilians would also be nice. And don't forget bovine methane control.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 05:23 PM | Comments (2)

December 06, 2005

Of Drowning Rats And Frenchmen

A tourist walks into a curio shop in San Francisco.

Looking around at everything, he notices a very lifelike life-sized bronze statue of a rat. It has no price tag, but is so striking he decides he must have it. He takes it to the owner and asks, "How much for the bronze rat?"

The owner replies, "$12 for the rat and $100 for the story". The tourist gives the man $12 and says, "I'll just take the rat, you can keep the story."

As he walks down the street carrying his bronze rat, he notices that a few real rats have crawled out of the alleys and sewers and have begun following him down the street.

This is disconcerting, and he begins walking faster.

But within a couple of blocks, the herd of rats behind him has grown to hundreds, and they begin squealing. He begins to trot toward the Bay, looking around to see that the rats now number in the MILLIONS, and are squealing and coming toward him faster and faster.

Concerned, even scared, he runs to the edge of the Bay, and throws the bronze rat as far out into the water as he can. Amazingly, the millions of rats all jump into the Bay after it, and are all drowned.

The man walks back to the curio shop. "Ah ha," says the owner, "you have come back for the story?"

"No," says the man, "I came back to see if you have a bronze Democrat and anything French."

Hat tip: Jon Gilbert


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 08:19 PM | Comments (1)

Writing Off Low Achievers In Baltimore

OR, The "Cosmo Girl" Writing Curriculum.

The city that can't catch lightpole thieves is also having a real hard time teaching its public school students how to read and write. Time to lower the bar in Baltimore - with a whack-a-nut writing curriculum that includes a lesson defining nouns as "stuff," and teen magazine writing samples about making out and flirting. The Baltimore Sun has more:

After a dismal performance on state standardized tests this spring, the Baltimore school system decided to overhaul the way it teaches reading and writing in middle schools. Putting convention aside, officials spent at least $2 million on Studio Course, a curriculum that uses teen magazines, places grammar on the back burner and lets kids write about whatever they want.

But if better test results are what they're after, they have no evidence that Studio will deliver. The program has a track record in only one other city, Denver, where middle schools have seen reading and writing scores stagnate.

"I can't imagine Baltimore would be so ignorant to think it's research-based," said Kay Landon, a sixth-grade teacher in Denver. "They can look at our test scores. Our test scores have not gone up. The kids are getting shortchanged."

The implementation of the curriculum in Baltimore has been marked by some teachers starting the school year with no training, schools struggling to buy the necessary materials, and lesson plans being scrapped and rewritten, a review by The Sun has found....Studio is being used in all 21 of Baltimore's traditional middle schools, where more than 60 percent of pupils last school year failed the state reading test, plus two alternative schools and one kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school.

Among the magazines the schools are using to engage children: CosmoGIRL!, which has a feature this month called "Five Hot New Kisses," with explicit tips on making out, and Teen People, whose November issue includes the articles "Hot Boy Next Door" and "Flirt Better!" One lesson defines a noun as "stuff" and a verb as "what stuff does."

Maryland state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick is calling for an audit of the Studio curriculum in Baltimore to see if it is teaching children what they need to know for the state's standardized tests. She said Maryland's other 23 school systems are all teaching the requisite skills. Until an audit proves Studio is teaching the state standards, she said, "I don't feel any level of comfort that [the city school system] is going to accelerate the performance of students."

Phew. Hey, kids: a pop quiz! What's LCD stand for?

Related Rosenblog posts:

"The Write Stuff Elusive;"

"Spelling: A Social Menace;"

"Our Youth, Our Future."


Read articles on public schools and private schools here.
You will also find information on home school curriculum
and summer school at Ericae.net.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 04:40 PM | Comments (0)

Christmas And The Individual

I'm tired of caterwauling about liberal grinches who supposedly want to steal Christmas by limiting references to it in the public square. Talk about picking the low-hanging tree ornament. Substituting for "Merry Christmas" the phrases "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" hardly constitutes a "war on religion." If companies or governments wish to observe Christmas, that is their choice. If they don't, that is also their choice. The latter option merely puts religious observance back into the province of the individual, the family, the private gathering, the religious school, and the religious service. I must ask: IS THIS REALLY A PROBLEM?

Lately though, the anti-"holiday" mania has reached a fever pitch.

Joining the hubub, certain conservative groups are now airing ads supporting President Bush's U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, asserting he will uphold the constitutional right to free religious expression, including fealty to public acknowledgement of Christmas and Chanukah.

Individuals are free to stand on the corner offering a "Merry Christmas" to one and all. Homeowners, private businesses, and yes, government entities, are also free to acknowledge Christmas, even go so far as to use the "C" word. However, they are also free to not do that, as well. Freedom of religion can also encompass freedom from> religion, or its cultural vestiges.

In the manner of a broken clock that is correct at least twice a day, it so happens the New York Times, in the person of commentator Adam Cohen, manages to put all this silliness in the proper perspective.

The American Family Association is leading a boycott of Target for not using the words "Merry Christmas" in its advertising. (Target denies it has an anti-Merry-Christmas policy.) The Catholic League boycotted Wal-Mart in part over the way its Web site treated searches for "Christmas." Bill O'Reilly, the Fox anchor who last year started a "Christmas Under Siege" campaign, has a chart on his Web site of stores that use the phrase "Happy Holidays," along with a poll that asks, "Will you shop at stores that do not say 'Merry Christmas'?"

This campaign - which is being hyped on Fox and conservative talk radio - is an odd one. Christmas remains ubiquitous....There is also something perverse, when Christians are being jailed for discussing the Bible in Saudi Arabia and slaughtered in Sudan, about spending so much energy on stores that sell "holiday trees."

....it's not even clear the campaign's leaders really believe in it. Just a few days ago, Fox News's online store was promoting its "Holiday Collection" for shoppers. Among the items offered to put under a "holiday tree" was "The O'Reilly Factor Holiday Ornament." After bloggers pointed this out, Fox changed the "holidays" to "Christmases."

Columnist Peter Callaghan has more in today's Tacoma News Tribune (scroll down a bit, here):

Q: You have probably noticed that Christmas is under attack in America. According to the Rev. Jerry Falwell, if the politically correct elements have their way, Christmas will soon disappear completely. Do you agree?

A: If the Rev. Falwell says it is true, it must be true. After all, he was correct when he blamed 9/11 on abortionists, feminists and gays, wasn�t he? In fact, I was thinking just this morning about how Christmas is in danger. It came to me as I was standing in line at Starbucks, waiting to order from the red-clad barista and listening to Barbra Streisand sing "Ave Maria." It is getting so bad that they didn�t even decorate the mall this year until Columbus Day. The terrorists have already won.

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, anyway. But I'd still like to send out wishes for a Happy Chanukah to all my good friends at the Air Force Academy.

Tom Rekdal: I share your disapproval of the current effort to coerce retailers into injecting more Christianity into their holiday sales pitches.

On the other hand, your comments remind me a little of the bad joke about the Irishman who asked, after coming upon a brawl at his local pub, whether this was a private fight or anyone could get into it.

There are also various "civil rights" organizations who regularly extort payments from corporations by threatening to blacken their reputations if they don't get something they want. This also gets my goat, but I am not sure it is my fight if corporations are too craven to resist.

Maybe third party attempts to enter such brawls only prolong them. They are tempting though.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 11:59 AM | Comments (2)

December 05, 2005

Rosenblog Opinion Review, Vol. 5

Toronto Sun, editorial: "City's Drug Strategy Is Dopey."

Shikha Delmia, Lisa Snell, San Francisco Chronicle: "Universal Preschool Is Inviting Universal Disaster."

Leonard Pitts, San Jose Mercury-News: "Another Classic Case Of Dumbing Down."

Michael Bernick, San Francisco Chronicle: "Giving Kids A Hand Up: ROTC, Recruiting And Employment Success."

David Gelertner, L.A. Times: "Conservative U. - In Cyberspace."

Charles Cooper, Silicon.com: "The Weak Point Of Wikis."

Tom Ruprecht, New York Times: "Field Of Hallucinations."

Douglas J. Besharov, Seattle P-I: "Head Start Has 'Modest' Impact ."

Bjorn Lomborg, Korea Herald: "The Relative Unimportance Of Global Warming."

Christian Science Monitor, editorial: "Kyoto Out Of Kilter."

Marlo Lewis, Tech Central Station, "A Windfall Of Bad Ideas."

Mortimer B. Zuckerman, U.S. News, "Seeing The Job Through."


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:08 PM | Comments (0)

A Woman And Her Gun

There's at least one San Franciscan not looking forward to implementation of the city's voter-approved gun ban on Jan. 1.

For a long time, Margaret Hurst lived in fear. Gangs control turf just a few blocks from her Mission District apartment in San Francisco, and she's sure a neighbor across the street deals drugs. Her building was broken into four times in one year. She saw teenagers on her street display a gun. And while she was stopped at a red light one day, a man tried to punch in her car window in a case of road rage. So she bought a handgun. Now Hurst is no longer scared.

"I'll tell you one thing. If I'm going down, I'm taking them with me," said 49-year-old Hurst, who is about as un-Charlton Heston as any woman with a British accent, braided bun and long flowing skirt could be.

...Backers of the law known as Proposition H include San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, who placed the measure on the ballot with three other supervisors.
At a time when San Francisco is experiencing a wave of homicides, backers concede that the ban will not solve the problem of violence, but say the law will at least help curb violence.

"There are other ways that people can defend themselves in their homes," said Bill Barnes, a spokesman for the Prop. H campaign. "Let's say someone breaks into this woman's house and steals her gun and gets in a gunfight. The proliferation of handguns has made the city less safe."

Um, let's say someone breaks into this woman's home while she's there and is trying to steal from her, injure or kill her? She should submit, pray they don;t kill or maim her anyway, and then dial 911?

If the NRA's suit to block the ban fails, I guess more San Franciscans for self-defense will just have to buy pit bulls.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 07:13 PM | Comments (0)

Visualize The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

For today's "profoundly deep" ecologist, it is not enough to merely be proudly child-free, and show concern for animals and the planet. And your "DinkLink" membership? Sorry, online dating sites - even those which advertise your laudable commitment to population control - don't rank terribly high on the scale of political virtue. The SF Chron reports that The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement wants you to do more, by spreading their gospel: that the humanoids now overpopulating the earth by a factor of about six should simply "Live Long And Die Out."

"We can't be breeding right now," says (founder) Les Knight. "It's obvious that the intentional creation of another [human being] by anyone anywhere can't be justified today."

The organization is realistic, however. From the VHEMT Web site:

It's possible that VHEMT will not succeed in staving off ecological collapse. So, couples contemplating procreation may want to consider the possibility that they will be sentencing their off-spring to a rapidly-deteriorating quality of life and unimaginably horrible death.

I think if they're serious, they've got a big campaign ahead of them just about everywhere except the United States and Europe. Morever, the new breeder's hotbed of Manhattan needs to get its act together.


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

December 04, 2005

Oakland Black Muslim Group Descends Into Disrepute

The San Francisco Chronicle today reports today that neighbors of Oakland's longest-standing, most prominent Black Muslim organization, Your Black Muslim Bakery, are dismayed at the group's apparent descent into crime and vigilante-ism. The spotlight has tuned on the group after the arrest of two members for allegedly trashing a liquor store on Nov. 23, which they reportedly believed was one of many in Oakland responsible for the poor fortunes of underclass blacks. The unfocused "blame the merchant" mindset is an indicator of the group's disarray.

The group's troubles began after the founder Yusuf Bey I was charged with 27 counts of rape of girls under 14. From the first-linked Chron story of today:

.....since Bey's death in 2003, neighbors say the group is changing in frightening ways. Two heirs to Bey's leadership have been killed, and a third successor -- Bey's 19-year-old son -- was accused of vandalizing one of two Oakland liquor stores that police say were trashed on Nov. (23) by a group of men wearing suits and bow ties. Yusuf Bey IV and bakery associate Donald Cunningham, 73, turned themselves in to police and were charged last week with hate crimes and false imprisonment in connection with the vandalism. Police are investigating whether Bey operatives kidnapped a merchant and torched his liquor store.

...."They're good neighbors, they work hard, and they really care about the African American community," said hairstylist Donna Word, who has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, as she cut a woman's hair Thursday. "Yet I totally disapprove of their violence.

Those negative things pretty much outweigh all the positive things they do." Once, Word recalled, she looked outside her beauty shop and saw a group of young black men in bow ties attacking a prostitute on San Pablo Avenue. "They hit her with this stick -- it was, like, 2 feet long -- and they yelled at her to get off San Pablo Avenue and never come back," Word said. "They were chasing her down the street."

The bakery and its affiliated businesses take up several storefronts on either side of the 5900 block of San Pablo Avenue near the Emeryville and Berkeley borders. The block also includes a Chinese restaurant, an Indian video store and two Arab-owned clothing stores. Nearby are a black church and yoga ashram. Gwenn McIntyre, a customer of Word's who works nearby, said she sees much good in the Muslim group but fears that positive aspects of Bey's legacy will be outweighed by crime and violence.

....She said the elder Bey's rape case was the start of the group's downfall. A year before his death, Bey was charged with 27 counts in the alleged rapes of four girls under the age of 14. Bey was awaiting trial on one rape charge when he died.

The story ends with this "blame the merchants" riff from one supporter:

Longtime resident James Oliver, 42, is one of the few neighbors who supported the violence against liquor stores. "They have guts and they're right -- liquor stores are killing us," Oliver said. "You don't see all these liquor stores in Piedmont or Montclair. You think they could have one on every corner in Alamo or San Ramon? "I'm not going to join them and do this, but I will not condemn them," Oliver said. "They're taking a stand because nothing else works."

Ridiculous. The poor brothers of Oakland, like any other people in a free society, cannot blame alcohol merchants, or drug dealers, for their failures. This is only somewhat less absurd than the urban legend that the U.S. government covertly arranged for inner cities to be flooded with crack, in order to keep blacks down.

What is the "correct" concentration of liquor stores in Oakland? Is not the current proliferation of such establishments market-driven? Should there be an official "African Town" in Oakland, as was proposed in Detroit, where social engineers keep out ethnic merchants? The Arab (mostly Yemeni) booze peddlers of Oakland can't be blamed for making a buck, legally. The choice is the consumer's. This sort of scapegoating ignores the self-help message of Elijah Muhammed, which once inspired Bey.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:22 PM | Comments (1)

Cow Farts: A Global Menace

They really are. The Times of London has more.

British scientists are fighting climate change by reducing the harmful greenhouse gases produced by flatulent cows. Researchers claim that by altering the diet of cows they can cut the animals� emissions of methane -� a contributor to global warming -� by up to 70%....a study by French scientists published this year warned that flatulent farm animals must shoulder some of the blame. There are 1.4 billion cows worldwide, each producing 500 litres of methane a day and accounting for 14% of all emissions of the gas....methane has 23 times the warming potential of CO2 so reducing its emission is also considered important.

...scientists at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen say they have developed a diet that has done the most to reduce the amount of methane produced by cows. They introduced a food additive, a mixture of organic sugars and a bacterium developed at the institute, into the cows� diet. It is based on fumaric acid, a naturally occurring chemical essential to respiration of animal and vegetable tissues.

�In some experiments we got a 70% decrease in methane emissions, which is quite staggering,� said John Wallace, a biochemist at the institute who is leading the research team. In total about 14% of global methane comes from the guts of farm animals. It is worth doing something about.�

Now, about fossil fuels and climate change. A word here from Times of London Camilla Cavendish (don't you just love British names like that?). She recently took aim at doomsaying enviros whose tactics she says obscure a societal fossil-fuel addiction adding to global warming risks.

When people are trying to navigate a torrent of complicated and contradictory information, it is of little help to hear stuck records chanting �the end is nigh�. The average person says things still look OK to him, 20 years on, and turns away. But it is still easier to preach apocalpyse than to explain a slow, chronic deterioration.

...We live in a society that regards the (cheap) return flight to Ma�laga as one of the most potent symbols of our freedom, even though prices are kept artificially low by airlines� indefensible exemption from fuel duty, and even though flights have a colossal impact on global warming. Polls suggest that seven out of eight people make no connection between flying and climate change. Even those who can no longer insure their homes against flooding still drive around in 4x4s, refusing to contemplate any contribution that they themselves may be making to extreme weather.

We don�t need activists lambasting government and business; we need marketers, advertisers, advocates who focus on educating consumers about the planet. We need sophisticated honest brokers to counter the cornucopians who believe in the limitless bounty of the Earth and worry about keeping up with the Joneses.

More here, from two fairly recent posts of mine at Sound Politics: one on global warming; another on biodiesel.

James Druse: Mr. Rosenberg - Regarding cheap holiday flights from Britain, Ms. Cavendish says, " prices are kept artificially low by airlines� indefensible exemption from fuel duty".

I find it amazing that she apparently believes that high taxes on goods or services are "normal", and that a lack of tax on anything is "artificial".

Keep up the good blogging.


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

December 02, 2005

Why Local Platforms Matter

I've got a new post up at my business site, Blog Consulting Pro; it's titled, "Why Local Platforms Matter." It was prompted, in part, by a MoveOn.org hissy fit over big media staff cuts. Click on over and take a gander.


Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 09:24 PM | Comments (0)

Daley's Words Of Wisdom On Iraq

His own administration may be mired in scandal, but Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley - a staunch Democrat - at least had some impromptu common sense to dispense yesterday regarding the war in Iraq. His comments came at a news conference on a community land trust program to boost availability of affordable housing in Chicago.

As the war in Iraq heats up debate in Washington and produces growing division across the nation, Mayor Richard Daley said Thursday he has staked a middle position on the issue--but it sounded very much like President Bush's. Daley asked whether some people today would have opposed the Civil War, questioning whether it was worth the bloodshed to fight to end slavery. "Were people wrong when they fought Hitler?" he asked. "He didn't do anything against us. He didn't invade the United States."

So Daley, whose son, Patrick, is in the U.S. Army, supports the war in Iraq?
"I didn't say that," the mayor responded. "I support the men and women in the military." But then he added, "We can't just leave the Middle East. If we leave the Middle East, just let's just forget about the Middle East and just walk away from the Middle East. I don't think anybody wants that."

The mayor's comments came in the wake of a call for an American troop withdrawal by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) and Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and followed by one day a speech by Bush defending his Iraq strategy. "What I think we are trying to do, some way, is trying to slowly allow Iraq to take full control of their country," the mayor said. And like the Civil War and World War II, Daley said of Iraq, "I don't think it's a quick fix."

Additional, and sensible perspective comes from this Knight-Ridder editorial:

President Bush on Wednesday provided an encouraging forecast for Iraqi democracy and a good summary of the dangers of artificial exit deadlines for American forces. Those dangers are significant: Confusing the Iraqi people, telegraphing weakness to our adversaries, demoralizing U.S. troops and encouraging even more attacks on them.

But Americans have become increasingly skeptical of Bush's self-congratulatory optimism. In addition, his speech Wednesday at the U.S. Naval Academy suffered from a fundamental contradiction about our goals in Iraq. The president spent much of his time discussing how the training of additional Iraqi security forces would enable American troops to start withdrawing in the not-too-distant future. As Iraqi forces stand up, he said, U.S. forces will be able to stand down. That has a reassuring ring for war-weary Americans.

Yet toward the end of the speech, Bush spoke as if he intended to keep U.S. forces in Iraq until the last enemy had been killed or captured. "I will settle for nothing less than complete victory," Bush declared, and even went on to draw parallels to World War II. At this point, he seemed to have returned to Texas bravado as military strategy. Let's be realistic. Iraq is not World War II. The American public certainly does not have -- and will never have -- the commitment that it had to total victory over Nazi Germany and expansionist Japan.

As Bush works to win greater public support for his policies in Iraq, he would do well to emphasize the first goal: Protecting and nourishing Iraqi democracy until it can defend itself from internal and external enemies. That job is tough enough....

Here's the National Security Council's Strategy For Victory In Iraq.

Tom Rekdal: Those who have called for an immediate and full withdrawal of our forces from Iraq, though wrong in my judgment, have at least staked out a position that I can understand.

I have no idea what the president is talking about any more. He is not so much wrong as confused and confusing.

What does "victory in Iraq" now mean? Reducing the terrorist threat to a minor nuisance? How do we do that if they are supported (or at least tolerated) by a very large number of Sunni Arabs? Do we kill all of them, too? And just how would we do that? Sunni Arab nationalism has apparently merged with our worst terrorist enemies, and we have no clue as to how to separate them.

What does supporting democracy in Iraq mean, if the Sunni Arab population rejects the entire project? Do we take sides in an increasingly sectarian conflict over control of the country and its resources? How do we know that the side collecting the most votes is the side that will stabilize the country and promote its democratic evolution, rather than seek revenge and promote the interests of our enemies? And how do we know that our own presence is not inflaming the conflict we seek to quell?

Finally, if Iraq is truly the "central battleground" in the war on terror, why would we "stand down as the Iraqis stand up"? Does this make any sense? We will withdraw from the most important front in the war--if that is what it is--and allow its outcome to be determined by an army whose competence is tenuous at best? This is our strategy?


TO COMMENT: The regular "comment" feature is not in operation. E-mail comments to address under "Contact" on main page masthead, and I'll add them, here.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 12:47 PM | Comments (0)

December 01, 2005

Tookie Must Die: Court Upholds Death Penalty For Williams

The California Supreme Court has wisely refused to re-open the case of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, the famed co-founder of the brutal "Crips" street gang and convicted murderer of four human beings.

In today's San Francisco Chronicle, columnist Debra Saunders explains why supporters of clemency for Williams are mistaken about his protested innocence, and why he should pay the ultimate price for the ultimate crime(s).

In the MSNBC transcript of the (Rita) Cosby interview, Williams, a co-founder of the Crips gang in South Central Los Angeles when a teenager, said, "I never ordered, nor have I initiated, any killings on my part, period." The not-guilty-of-murder quote flies in the face of the clemency petition's "atonement" claim. To wit: Williams "has accepted responsibility, repented and done whatever he could, from where he is, to atone."

No: Williams has done whatever he could to seem to apologize while dodging any consequences of admitting his crimes. Let me add a few things you may not know: The not all-white jury convicted Williams after his alibi defense crumbled. Also, jurors had learned of Williams' plans for an armed escape from jail. The jury foreman testified that when the guilty verdict was announced, Williams mouthed this threat to the panel: "I'm going to get each and every one of you mother -- ."

Over the years as he appealed his conviction, his appellate lawyers claimed that Williams did not receive adequate counsel because his trial lawyer did not use a diminished capacity defense, as Williams was brain-damaged -- due to drug abuse, mental illness and head injuries. An appellate judge weighed in, "A mental-state defense would have contradicted (the alibi) defense by conceding petitioner's presence at the scenes of the murders." Despite numerous appeals, various courts -- including the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals -- continued to uphold his conviction.

Williams is scheduled to die by lethal injection Dec. 13, unless Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger grants clemency. In the 24 years since he was condemned, every procedural dodge attempted by Williams' attorneys has failed, and deservedly. Schwarzenegger yesterday said, "What I want to do is make sure we make the right decisions, because we're dealing here with a person's life." I hope you make the right decision, Governor, because we're also dealing with the four lives taken by this convicted murderer.


TO COMMENT: The regular "comment" feature is not in operation. E-mail comments to address under "Contact" on main page masthead, and I'll add them, here.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 01:12 PM | Comments (0)

Koko's Need For Nipples Proves Troublesome

After filing suit in February, two former Gorilla Foundation workers who refused to bare their breasts to Koko The Gorilla have reached a settlement related to their subsequent firing.

Woodside, Calif. (AP) -- Two former caretakers who refused to bare their breasts to the 300-pound, sign-language-speaking gorilla named Koko have settled a lawsuit against the Gorilla Foundation. Nancy Alperin and Kendra Keller claimed they were fired after they refused to expose their bosoms to the primate, and after reporting sanitary problems at Koko's home in Woodside, an upscale town south of San Francisco.

The pair claimed they were threatened that if they "did not indulge Koko's nipple fetish, their employment with the Gorilla Foundation would suffer," the lawsuit alleged. Alperin and Keller claimed that Francine "Penny" Patterson, the gorilla's longtime caretaker and president of the Gorilla Foundation, pressured them to expose their breasts as a way to bond with the 33-year-old female simian.

"On one such occasion," the lawsuit said, "Patterson said, 'Koko, you see my nipples all the time. You are probably bored with my nipples. You need to see new nipples." The plaintiffs, both in their mid-40s, never undressed, said their attorney, Stephen Sommers. The foundation has denied the allegations. Lawyers for both sides refused to disclose terms of the settlement. A second similar lawsuit filed by another employee is pending. The Gorilla Foundation was founded in 1976 to promote the preservation and study of gorillas. It's best known for Koko, who has mastered a vocabulary of more than 1,000 signs.

Just thought you'd want to know.


TO COMMENT: The regular "comment" feature is not in operation. E-mail comments to address under "Contact" on main page masthead, and I'll add them, here.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at 10:58 AM | Comments (0)