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May 31, 2006

St. Paul, Minnesota: Cultural Mecca

New York's historical retrospective performance art extravaganzas have got nothing on the scene in St. Paul, Minnesota. From today's St. Paul Pioneer Press:

On a mild and clear night in September, their bodies covered only in blankets, Judith Howard and April Sellers climbed out of their upstairs window onto the roof of their home in St. Paul's Merriam Park. About 40 people watched from the backyard lawn, nearly all of them fellow artists — dancers, actors, singers and poets. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of wine, a lot of flirty energy. Many had been here before, for one or both of the women's previous performance parties, and some were still talking about what they did with strawberries.

So nobody flinched on this night, when the women shed their blankets and, to the screechy, plaintive bowings of a violinist perched on the lip of the window, began dancing in the buff. Their springy, synchronized leaps and abstract modernist gestures, made more precarious by the roof's pitch and elevation, came to a close when the women held apples aloft and bit into them. To enthusiastic applause, the roommates re-wrapped themselves in the blankets and climbed back into the house. Some people didn't leave the party until after sunrise.

...Sellers is soon moving out and back to the west side of the river, so the women are staging a retrospective of their entire house performance repertoire, along with a new piece, at what they promise will be their final party June 3.....They're calling the evening "House of Big Love."...in May 2005, Sellers and Howard performed "Rising Sap" in their backyard garden. The women dressed their grassy stage in lilacs and chocolate-covered strawberries and laid rose pedals along the walkway. Nearby, a phallus made of ice melted through the night. To the women, it's all an artistic experiment. "We don't know how to make a labyrinth, we don't know how to mosaic the ceiling, we don't know how to turn a room into a vagina," Sellers said.

...While St. Paul will lose a distinguishing artistic entity after the June 3 performance party, the women are already working on separate pieces that continue to push boundaries. In Howard's case, it's dance work driven by the grief of wartime death. Sellers has a work in progress called "V," a cultural exploration of the female sex organ, into which she plans to incorporate video of her gynecological exam.

This last performance will be the first one at which they charge admission. Their planned future works clearly have transactional potential. Video iPod marketing schemas loom.

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May 28, 2006

Rosenblog Opinion Review, Vol. 21

Simon Jenkins, Times of London: "Global Warming Might Not Be So Bad, If We Keep Our Cool."

Ronald Bailey, Reason's "Hit and Run" blog: "Inconvenient Uncertainties And Moral Ambiguities."

Lawrence Kudlow, Christian Science Monitor: "Why $3 Gas Won't Slow The U.S. Economy."

Tim Holt, San Francisco Chronicle: "Pay To Drive Into The Heart Of SF; Motorists Now Assessed Fee In London."

James Thayer, Weekly Standard: "Fire On The Mountain - Misguided Environmentalists May be The Biggest Threat To America's Forests."

Jeremey Clarkson, Times Of London: "Listen To Me, I'm The Drought-Buster."

William Alexander, New York Times: "It's Not Easy Being Organic."

Jacob Heilbrunn, Los Angeles Times: "Neocons In The Democratic Party."

Chicago Tribune, editorial: "Bono's Blunt Message To Africa."

The Missoulian, editorial: "Employer Amnesty Undermines Border Control."

John Kass, Chicago Tribune: "English Is The Language Of Success In U.S."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, editorial: "Hurricane Ray And Dollar Bill."

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: "Cosby's Quest For Solutions."

Dennis Byrne, Chicago Tribune: "Chicago And Its Corrupt Leanings."

Larry Simoneaux, Everett Herald: "If It Stops Terrorism, Isn't It At Least Worth Considering?"

Kevin Woods, James Lacey, Williamson Murray in Foreign Affairs - "Saddam's Delusions: The View From Inside."

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May 26, 2006

The Moral Poverty Of Victimology

Lower-income older U.S. teens are suffering obesity at higher rates than their counterparts from wealthier households, according to a new study led by a Johns Hopkins University researcher. Causal factors identified in the above-linked Baltimore Sun article include unsafe streets, lack of organized sports and other physical activity, plus few nearby grocery stores selling healthy food. Soft drinks, junk-food snacks and fast-food thus come to dominate the diet for many older low-income teens. In the same study, the household income-teen obesity link was not evident among 12-14 year olds, and a larger issue - as it were - is rising obesity across the U.S. Nonetheless, the news on older, poorer teens and obesity is ready-made for those with a political agenda to highlight disparate social, economic and educational outcomes as an indictment of capitalism and class structure in Western society.

And so....presto vivace: the Associated Press asserts that the research "seems to underscore the unequal burden of obesity on the nation's poor." Except. Whom are we supposed to believe is actually imposing this burden on the poor? Dare one mention the role of parents in setting an example with their own diet, in setting dietary rules for their children and packing healthy lunches for school, in shopping at produce markets, and in making an extra effort to arrange physical activities for their children? And speaking of inconvenient and unmentionable.....what about getting out of poverty to begin with? Whose job is that? Oh, never mind. Really, who wants to go there?

You may have missed the news of Minnesota's first "tobacco disparities" conference. From the press release:

MINNEAPOLIS, May 11 /PRNewswire/ -- More than 100 community advocates from across Minnesota will gather at the Expanding the Movement 2006 Minnesota Tobacco Disparities Conference on Friday, May 12, at the Crowne Plaza Northstar in downtown Minneapolis. This full-day event is the first of its kind to focus exclusively on tobacco-related health disparities in Minnesota. The conference is co- sponsored by the Leadership and Advocacy Institute to Advance Minnesota's Priority Populations (LAAMPP) and the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco (MPAAT). This conference will highlight critical tobacco control issues for the African, African American, American Indian, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Chicano and Latino and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities in Minnesota.

"The tobacco industry has a long and sordid history of targeting diverse communities with their deadly products," said Rod Lew, Project Director for LAAMPP and Executive Director of Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership. "As a result, our communities' health and economic well-being are disproportionately impacted by tobacco and we must take action. This conference will educate community leaders about how to counter the tobacco industry."

Indeed. Poor, helpless, ignorant minorities. The idea that on his or her own, an individual of color or an alternatively-gendered person could summon up the reason and fortitude to say no to emphyzema, lung cancer and heart disease by choosing not to smoke is a heroic concept, but indeed, as the bold and prescient Rod Lew well understands, sadly unattainable due to the crushing dominance of evil, multi-national tobacco-peddling corporations. A social justice intervention is clearly imperative.

The Times of London reports police there are deflecting race-based criticism after a report showed 46 percent of all arrests made with automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) technology were of blacks, who make up 11 percent of the city's population and no more than 25 percent of the population of any given neighborhood in the city. The devices in certain patrol cars scan an image of vehicle license plates and automatically check the number against a database showing vehicles that have been reported stolen, uninsured, are thought to have been used in commission of a crime, or for which license taxes remain unpaid. The ANPR cars are deployed in high-crime neighborhoods with higher concentrations of black residents and, presumably, black passers-through.

I suppose there is no failsafe way to prove some police aren't fishing to bust black drivers, as opposed to standard procedure, which is to check cars that are visibly violating the law. But there is no proof they are targeting blacks, either. The "disproportionality" theory merely gives launch to suppositions which immediately define the entire discussion, deflecting attention away from crime and its underlying causes.

It is a dubious game of racial "gotcha." Shouldn't the real focus in any at-risk community be the education and moral instruction of youth? The channeling of their energies toward responsible adulthood, career and family, and away from a life of crime? Apparently not.

Obliterating notions of personal and familial responsibility, the musty victimhood construct accretes social mass because politicians and media have - reprehensibly - allowed it to become institutionalized.

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May 25, 2006

The Bridge Killed Him

Being a statist means never taking - or assigning - responsibility. When people commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, it was not a choice they made. No...the bridge's lack of a suicide barrier was the real cause. From today's SF Chron:

Church tower bells tolled a dozen times across San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon, commemorating the 1,200 people who have committed suicide from the Golden Gate Bridge over the past 69 years. At the base of Old St. Mary's Cathedral near Chinatown, the bells also drew a chorus of weeping from relatives who gathered to mourn their loved ones and urge that a suicide barrier be added to the Bay Area icon. "When the bells are tolling for your son, it's hard not to cry," said Mary Zablotny, 61, whose son, Jonathan, was "18 years, 4 months, 1 week and 2 days" when he died on Feb. 1, 2005.

The attendees at St. Mary's, related to at least four of those who killed themselves by jumping from the span, said their children were undergoing periods of depression that would have faded if the barrier-free bridge had not facilitated their suicides. The relatives said they felt awkward publicizing grief, but they wanted to increase awareness of their position. "If the barrier were there, my daughter would still be alive," said Peter Alexander, 54, an executive at a telecom startup, whose daughter, Alisha, died at age 19 last May.

Wednesday's bell-ringing and a talk in the evening were organized by the Psychiatric Foundation of Northern California to promote building a barrier...The Golden Gate Bridge district is about to embark on a two-year, $2 million study of the impact of building a barrier. The general options they'll test include replacing or altering the existing railing or adding a net under the bridge.

The Chron has previously reported that the barrier would cost $15 to $25 million, but that the Golden Gate Bridge District already faces a projected $70 million deficit over the next five years.

I sympathize greatly with the grief of the parents, but externalizing responsibility to an inert phyiscal structure ill-serves prevention of future suicides. The issue is to identify the risk and ensure appropriate treatment. There will always be other ways to commit suicide, after all.

Some context is helpful. Golden Gate Bridge jumpers represent an infintesimal fraction of annual California suicides. An average of 17 people per year have committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, over 69 years, according to the Chron's stats. But over a three-year period from 1999 through 2001, an average of 2,959 Californians per year committed suicide, according to the California Suicide Prevention Fact Sheet of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. Which tells us that jumpers off the Golden Gate Bridge account for less than six-tenths of one percent of annual California suicides. The fact sheet also notes that firearms, suffocation and poisoning are the leading causes of suicide in California. More recent national data from the U.S. Centers For Disease Control also show that nationally firearms, suffocation and poisoning are the first, second and third leading causes, respectively, of suicide.

Additionally, California's suicide rate is one of the nation's lowest. The American Association of Suicidology in Washington D.C. has crunched the most recent statewide data from the CDC on suicides; this table shows California ranks 42nd out of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia in annual suicide rates. This indicates that suicide prevention efforts plus familial and societal strictures against suicide are generally working in California and should receive continued emphasis; rather than encouraging $15 million to $25 million of new spending by a government entity facing a debt in the neighborhood of $70 million.

We should also note that even if the proposed suicide barriers were installed on the Golden Gate Bridge at a cost of millions to taxpayers, the romantic pull of the cliffs along the California coast would present the same sort of risk to those who prefer to leap to their deaths.

The utopian world view assumes there is a mechanistic solution to every problem and failing arising from the human condition. But there is not.

However, since I am interested in neither suicide nor accidental death, I would greatly appreciate some cliffside safety railings on the outer edge of the coastal highway at Big Sur, and further north, between Jenner and Gualala. There are some real white-knuckle spots with which to contend.

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May 24, 2006

ACLU Mulls Gag Order For Own Board Members

Free speech has many glorious manifestations: the right of a prominent California Democrat to sanction public art on state property showing the United States going down a toilet; the right of U.S. art museums to host an exhibit featuring unclaimed and unidentified Chinese corpses; and the right of an ex-Boston Globe political correspondent to make a fool of himself. But apparently, free speech may no longer fully obtain for.....the American Civil Liberties Union. Those erstwhile free-speech advocates are seriously considering a rule barring board members from publicly criticizing organizational policies or staff decisions. The New York Times reports:

The American Civil Liberties Union is weighing new standards that would discourage its board members from publicly criticizing the organization's policies and internal administration. "Where an individual director disagrees with a board position on matters of civil liberties policy, the director should refrain from publicly highlighting the fact of such disagreement," the committee that compiled the standards wrote in its proposals. "Directors should remember that there is always a material prospect that public airing of the disagreement will affect the A.C.L.U. adversely in terms of public support and fund-raising," the proposals state. Given the organization's longtime commitment to defending free speech, some former board members were shocked by the proposals.

Generally speaking, I am sympathetic to the need for organizational discipline, and the problems caused by telling tales out of school. But if any entity needs to lead by example on free speech, it is the ACLU. Moreover, individuals who exercise free speech indiscriminately suffer repercussions. Which is to say the marketplace regulates itself. If the good of the republic depends in part on upholding the free speech rights embodied in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, how can it make sense for the leading U.S. advocate of those rights to abrogate same with respect to its own proceedings? Now that's Orwellian.

The ACLU will debate the matter further at its June board meeting. I think one of the dissident board members should live-blog it.

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May 23, 2006

Fatwa Overload In Egypt

BBC reports the top Egyptian Islamic scholar, named Mufti, has issued a decree against statues. That's a bit problematic in Egypt. There's a larger concern, however.

The fatwa raised an outcry, with many critics saying they are surprised the issue has been raised at all. But these days Egyptians are increasingly seeking religious rulings on all aspects of life. Fatwas are proliferating in the newspapers, on the internet and on satellite channels...Egyptian society is witnessing a huge explosion in demand for fatwas. It was a member of the public who asked the Mufti about Islam's position on statues. "This reflects the rising religiosity in Egyptian society," said Mohamed al-Sayed Said of the al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. He says the European models of progress which guided Egyptian society in the 19th and 20th Centuries have now been eclipsed by the rise of religion. "There's been really a big retreat to the distant past," he said. "What we are having at this point is an increasing gulf between secular and religious cultures."

The issue is not the growing religiosity itself, but the micro-management of daily affairs issued by authorities to fatwa-seeking believers. With respect to the earthly, religion ought to impart bedrock values for living one's life, not a series of niggling and censorious prohibitions. The proliferation of fatwas in Egypt - not to mention the far more worrisome developments in Iran - reveal a face of Islam increasingly untethered from reality, and common sense.

As for Egypt's way forward, it may be that the increasing faith placed in backward-looking clerics is a reflection of eroded trust in the nation's government and the economy. More from BBC.

Analysts argue that many factors, other than religiosity, have contributed to the rise of the Brotherhood. These include political repression, the dismal economic performance of successive governments and general unease about the alliance with the United States. They say that the severe restrictions on political activity in the last 50 years have left the mosques and religiously inspired charity work as the only areas where grassroots opposition to the regime could develop. "Egypt's future will not be determined by religious or cultural factors. But if the country continues to fail economically and politically, political Islam will become the prevalent ideology," said Mr Said. "But I'm inclined to think that we still have a chance to evade the prospects of an Islamist takeover if we achieve better in the economy and certainly in relation to political and civic liberties."

An independent judiciary and promised local elections would be a good start in the governmental sphere.

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May 21, 2006

Foreign-Born Need Not Apply

Imagine a country where non-natives - even if they are legal citizens - cannot hold office in federal or state legislatures, and cannot serve as federal judges or as governors of states. Imagine as well that they cannot hold federal jobs, or serve in the military or merchant marine. Imagine the federal government has also recommended to cities that these foreigners, even if legal citizens, should be banned from holding local government jobs as policemen, firemen and judges.

Actually, you do not need to imagine this place.

It is called Mexico.

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NYT: All The Conjecture That's Fit To Print

The new Iraqi government has selected a cabinet (minus a few ministers whose appointments must still be worked out in coming days). Amidst ongoing sectarian violence and a great deal of underreported progress in Iraq, it is another landmark, along with the adoption of a constitution and the election of a new, post-Saddam parliament. Read in full each of the four reports I link to below, to see how different papers cover the same story differently. The New York Times stands out. The Grey Lady has a lot invested in the failure of Iraq. The first few grafs of each version follow.

First, the L.A. Times, via the SF Chron:

Iraq's battling communities came together Saturday to approve their first full-term government since the fall of Saddam Hussein, placing a nation fractured from three years of war into the hands of a diverse but potentially weak Cabinet. In a stuffy chamber tucked deep inside rings of blast walls, barbed wire and bomb-sniffing dogs, parliament voted in favor of a 37-member Cabinet cobbled together by new Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In the heart of the Green Zone, far from the reach of ordinary Iraqis, lawmakers raised their hands to vet each member. Although it was marked by a walkout by a handful of angry Sunni lawmakers, the inauguration shattered the deadlock that had paralyzed Iraqi governance since December.

Now, The Guardian (UK):

Iraq's first democratic postwar government was finally sworn in yesterday, a critical step raising the prospect of British troop withdrawals. Tony Blair, who hailed what he said was a 'huge step forward' for the fledgling democracy, insisted the soldiers would stay until their job was done rather than setting a fixed timetable for departure. He promised to support the new Iraqi cabinet in securing the country so it could 'get to the point where Iraq can take control of its own destiny'. That would mean assuming command of its own security, allowing Britain and the US to start bringing their soldiers home. However, two crucial posts in the defence and interior ministries - central to ending the insurgency - remain unfilled because the parliament was unable to agree on candidates. Both London and Washington are hoping that the appointment of a government with greater credibility and determination than its predecessor will help calm the insurgency, which has flourished unabated during months of effective political vacuum.

The Australian:

Prime Minister John Howard has urged the West not to be so cynical about Iraq following the first meeting of new Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's cabinet. The ratification of the new government is a true milestone on Iraq's hard march towards a more hopeful future, Mr Howard said, noting that the Iraqi people have voted in democratic elections three times despite violent intimidation. He wrote to Mr al-Maliki today promising continued Australian support for the nation as it attempts to rebuild. "We tend to forget how long it has taken other societies to fully embrace democracy," Mr Howard told reporters in Dublin. "We're too hard on the Iraqis. The cynics in the West are unreasonable, they're over demanding, their expectations are far too high. "They forget history and they forget how long it has taken countries that are now accepted entrenched democracies to fully embrace it, and I think this is an occasion where the world should applaud the courage of the Iraqis."

Finally, the NYT:

Iraqi leaders on Saturday approved a full-term government here for the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein more than three years ago, but one that appeared to lack the cohesion needed to quell the sectarian and guerrilla violence engulfing the country. Members of Iraq's Parliament voted on Saturday to approve cabinet members for the new government led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. The Iraqi Parliament approved 36 ministers who will form a cabinet led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a member of the dominant Shiite coalition that captured a majority of the votes cast in nationwide elections on Dec. 15. But three of the most important posts in the government — the Ministries of Defense, Interior and National Security — were left vacant because Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders could not agree on who should fill them. Those three ministries are especially sensitive because each controls some part of Iraq's new security forces. That gives them a central role in fighting the guerrilla insurgency, but they have been accused of carrying out sectarian vendettas as well.

When those posts are filled, we can rest assured The Times will continue to provide all the news that's fit to print about what's gone wrong in Iraq, and what The Times thinks will probably go wrong in Iraq. Once again, thank goodness for Google News, and the blogosphere.

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May 18, 2006

Let's Appease The Anarchists, Please

A revealing question is posed in an interview of Oregon's U.S. Attorney Karin Immergut by Angeela Valdez in the Portland-based Willamette Week.

(Q:) Say you're talking to an anarchist at the Red and Black Cafe who reads Indymedia. What would you say to make them not hate your guts?

(A:) I grew up in a modest family and just chose to go to law school. Y'know, I went to Berkeley. I raise my family in this community. I teach them about respect for the other person, about protecting civil rights, about our freedoms in this country. I don't know if that's helpful....I became a career prosecutor because I thought that was the way that I could help society the most, that I could try to protect people from crimes, but also do the right thing.

We prosecute civil-rights violations, too, so I think the us-vs.-them mentality is a troubling one and a dangerous one. Fighting crime and terrorism is not just my job. It's the community's job. And when I go to groups and it's clear that they would never report a suspicious incident to anyone, we have a breakdown in our society. Obviously, we need to build some better bridges. I need to understand the people who are frustrated—where they're getting that frustration from—just like they need to understand what our jobs are. But I don't think there's a lot of effort to understand what our jobs are.

Ms. Immergut - that anarchist doesn't deserve persuading, and your soft soap wouldn't do the trick anyway. Here's the right answer to the question: "An anarchist who hates federal prosecutors is at the far fringes of our society today. Our government's job is not to worry about domestic anarchists hating us, but to prevent them, and terrorists, from destroying property and taking innocent lives. I would like to think that all reasonable people could support that goal."

This one's for free, Karin.

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"Racial Disparities" Hype From Portland Police, & Oregonian

Portland's police department and leading daily newspaper have embarrassed themselves with a crude obfuscation of a simple fact - a "WHY" factor plainly stated in the very police report on traffic stops and race that's highlighted in the paper today. First, the spin: police and The Oregonian play up findings that blacks in Portland accounted for 13 percent of drivers stopped in 2004 and 2005, but make up only six percent of the population. Hispanics also suffered a similar "disparity," accounting for eight percent of stops in '04 and nine percent in '05, but just six percent of the city's populace. Whites account for the vast majority of Portland's population and traffic stops in both years, but - knit your brows again please - because mysteriously, vexingly, the numbers don't match perfectly. Whites are 79 percent of Portland's population, but account for only 71 percent of traffic stops in '04, and 68 percent in '05.

What could possibly explain this? The Oregonian and the chief of police certainly suspect institutional racism. From the paper's story today:

Acting Chief Rosie Sizer, who briefed community leaders on the latest data Wednesday, said the overrepresentation of both blacks and Latinos in Portland police traffic stops are of concern and should raise questions among officers as to what's causing the racial disparity.

But there is little mystery about why people are stopped by police while driving, even if The Oregonian reprehensibly fails to include the information, straight from the police department's report. As the report's summary states, on page two:

Vehicle code violations were the reason for almost all stops for all groups. This includes speeding, failure to obey a traffic control device, etc.

D'oh! Actual behavior - driving in apparent violation of the law - is why people get stopped. And yes, as even the chief acknowledges, police tend to patrol higher-crime neighborhoods more often. As well they should. Of course, many if not most of these neighborhoods tend to have higher concentrations of blacks and Hispanics. After a traffic stop for a vehicle code violation, it is then the officer's call as to whether the driver should be searched. Frankly, if you've been speeding, or blow through a stop sign, you're fair game for a search of your body and vehicle for alcohol or drugs. I see no problem with that, and if the racial bean counters want to micro-analyze who gets searched and what's found or not, what are the implications? That there should be pre-set racial quotas for the number of searches officers conduct during traffic stops?

The predominant theme that there is a quota for traffic stops of different racial groups, correlate to their share of a city's population, is absurd on its face. Q: Who, praytell, comes up with this stuff? A: Guilty white liberals who have learned their "social justice" theory at the hands of Stealth Marxist college professors. Basically.

Portland Police should take all the time and money they spend on tracking traffic stops by racial category, and then analyzing and discussing the data; and instead spend the resources on a few more cops to keep the city's neighborhoods safer.

Related Rosenblog posts:

"Liberal Compassion Disorder In Northeast Portland."

"Blowback Mounts For Portland Mayor Tom Potter."

"Mayor Buys Bogus Claim Of Portland Police Racial Profiling."

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10:40 AM | Comments (2)


May 17, 2006

Bill Cosby "Call Out" Tour Challenges Black Parents

I received an e-mail from a reader named Jim McCaffrey today, who via a link at Townhall.com came across my June, 2004 National Review Online article about Bill Cosby's bracing speech to the NAACP, and the contrasting immediate reactions of the mainstream media and blogosphere to that speech.

Jim's e-mail is rather bracing itself, and puts a fine point on the cancerous aspects of the "hip-hop culture" that is too often uncritically hyped by the MSM; witlessly integrated into school curricula with approval of teachers, principals and school boards; and blandly accepted by skittish white liberals. Jim wrote:

Hi Matt, came across your...piece...on Bill Cosby. It's still quite relevant. As you've no doubt noted, Bill's made the headlines again for speaking the often uncomfortable truth about the shortcomings of black parenting, and "the community", which spends too much time on blaming others, and much too little, in dealing with the realities of their plight.

It occurred to me that we are experiencing what amounts to a new kind of Mau Mau movement. The "hip hop" industrial complex, including the "music" purveyors, MTV, BET, clothing manufacturers, and marketers of personal care [?] products, which cater to this "gangsta" element of the African-American community, all benefit handsomely from the surly, undisciplined, and isolated nature of these young people. The broadening antagonism towards things like education, traditional morality, and the prevailing popular culture keep them firmly in the clutches of both these "rap-trepreneurs", and the other racial hustlers who decline to examine just why too many blacks are regressing, and why their neighborhoods are becoming less inhabitable.

Of course the heart of this problem can really be found among white elitists who irresponsibly lionize the symbols of this dangerous decadence, and with politicians of every persuasion, who lack the courage required to first publicly expose the nature of this cancer, and then seek to do something about it. Wouldn't it be great to see a, "Cosby Congressional Caucus" formed with the goals of doing what the "Black Congressional Caucus", has expressly refused to even discuss?

There are only so many "gansta" jobs in the NBA, and the so-called music industry. Perhaps in the future young adults who cannot read and have no discernible talents or skills can contact their fellow "hip hop" enthusiasts, among Hollywood's and NY's illuminati for career advice. That is those of them, who have not already found their way to prison, to join the real "gangstas".

USA Today on Cosby's talk last night in D.C.:

WASHINGTON — Bill Cosby had just listened as five mothers who lost their teenage sons to gun violence told their tragic stories. He looked out over the audience. "I hope none of you ever has to get that call," he said. "Those of you with children that age need to look at the walls in their rooms, see what they're writing, see what they're listening to. If you don't want to know that your child has a gun or knows how to get a gun, and if you don't want to believe that this could happen to your child, look up here."

It's stories like these that prompted actor/comedian Cosby two years ago to begin a crusade to spur action toward solving the problems that plague inner-city communities — crime, illiteracy, teen pregnancy. He has held "A Call Out with Bill Cosby" events in about 20 cities so far. They are locally sponsored gatherings aimed at finding solutions for what Cosby sees as self-destructive behavior, and at offering inner-city kids encouragement and better options. Tuesday night the venue was the University of the District of Columbia. In the audience: the mayor, the chief of police, government officials, parents, children and caregivers. The response of the crowd was enthusiastic, not just to Cosby but also to the panel that joined him on the program, including educators, legal experts and the mother of adopted and foster children.

....Cosby says he has been encouraged by the response he has received on his tour. He has found, he says, that "people have been waiting to hear the truth, they don't want to be coddled. ... They want these issues talked about." He is especially interested in reaching black males and convincing them of the importance of embracing their roles as fathers. At the same time, he says that women have to take control.

The Washington Post reported on Cosby's D.C. outreach, as well:

During a second session last night, the panel included D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, who warned of rising juvenile crime, and the District's chief coroner, who said that from 1982 to 2005, nearly 1,000 homicide victims were ages 16 to 19. The coroner, Marie-Lydie Y. Pierre-Louis, issued a warning to teenagers who don't get their diploma: "There's one waiting for you at the office of the medical examiner. It's a death certificate." Taking the microphone, Cosby told audience members that he encouraged Pierre-Louis to deliver the grim numbers so they "would understand that it has to be stopped." To those who ignore their children, Cosby said: "I'm calling you out, and I'm holding you accountable. If you're having a problem, visit the Jesus in your heart."

Related Rosenblog posts:

"The Disparities Scam, Vol. 7."

"It's Hard Out Here for The Pimped...."

"The Cost Of Absent Fathers To Young Black Men."

"Guns Don't Kill People, Hoodlums Do."

"Reparations Conferences And Black Ski Trips At UC Berkeley."

"Get'Cho Gold Teeth Grillz, From Behind Bars."

"Don Diva: The Lifestyle Quarterly For The Discerning Gangster."

"Word Cop Sez: There Are No 'Articulate' Black People."

"The Emergency Management Task For Black New Orleans: Escape Poverty."

"Community Responsibility Theme At Grand Rapids Black Summit."

"Pimp Culture, Ghetto Branding: Fa' Shizzle."

"'Heralds Of A Brighter Black Future' Could Get NAACP A Clue."

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05:22 PM | Comments (4)


May 14, 2006

Rosenblog Opinion Review, Vol. 20

Sunday Times (London), editorial: "Testing Times - The Pressure Must Be Kept Up On Animal Rights Extremists."

The American Thinker: "The Good Ship Fitzgerald Is Listing."

Lutfullo Shamsuddinov, International Herald Tribune: "Let's Have The Truth About Andijon's Massacre."

Los Angeles Times, editorial: "The Price Of Tolerance - The Dutch Grapple With Assimilating Immigrants With Radically Different Mores."

David Reinhard, The Oregonian: "On The Ground In Baghdad - How Goes The Battle?"

Trudy Rubin, Buffalo News: "Splitting Iraq In Thirds A Bad Idea."

Andrew Klavan, Los Angeles Times: "Draft Hollywood."

Mike Rosen, Rocky Mountain News: "'United 93' Is A Must-See."

Cinnamon Stillwell, San Francisco Chronicle: "The 'Day Without Immigrants' Backfires."

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, Charlotte Observer, "How to Reform Immigration."

U.S. Sens. Chuck Hagel & Mel Martinez, San Jose Mercury News: "This Time, Let's Deal With All The Tough Immigration Decisions."

Andrew's Dad: "Seattle Public Schools Define Racism."

Bryan Burwell, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Bonds Plays The Race Card, But The Truth Will Trump It."

Ruben Navarrette, Jr., Salem Stateman-Journal: "Setting High Standards For Our Kids."

Tim King, Chicago Tribune: "Learning Curve For Black Men And Black Boys."

San Francisco Chronicle, editorial: "Stop The Cycle Of Violence."

John Kass, Chicago Tribune: "Boss' Son Rebuilt Machine In Own Image."

Ian Robinson, Calgary Sun: "Time to Stop Enabling Drunks and Junkies."

Los Angeles Times, editorial: "The Chronics - Santa Monica Has An Innovative Program For Treating The Chronically Homeless."

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09:47 PM | Comments (1)


May 12, 2006

Egypt Needs Local Elections And Independent Judiciary

Liberals and The Left in the U.S. and Europe cherish liberty and political self-expression, but ignore the absence of same elsewhere. In Cuba and North Korea, and countries somewhat less oppressive, but still censorious and corrupt - such as Syria and Egypt. Egypt has been roiling. More from AP.

Cairo, Egypt - Thousands of Egyptian riot police beat pro-democracy activists Thursday, chasing and dragging them through the streets to break up a demonstration in support of judges who blew the whistle on election fraud. The Bush administration expressed deep concern and said it would continue to press for political reforms and freedom of speech and the media in Egypt, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. The violence appeared to signal a tough new zero-tolerance stance by the government toward protests demanding reform and expressing discontent that President Hosni Mubarak has backed off promises of democratic change.

Some pretty basic changes are needed, and expected.

The Egyptian government has postponed for two years local elections that were to be held in April. It has renewed its controversial emergency law, which allows for arbitrary arrest and detention without charge. The lifting of the emergency law was a key promise in Mubarak's election campaign.

In this press briefing transcript from yesterday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack notes that some of the protestors belong to The Muslim Brotherhood, and that it is a religiously-based political party which is thus outlawed under the country's constitution. However, he also emphasizes, rightly, that freedom to protest, and an independent judiciary - the need for which which was the root of the these demonstrations - are essential rights in any country aspiring to democratic principles.

Tom Henry of Jurist Legal News And Research, at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, has more on the judges and their earlier findings regarding the parliamentary runoff elections.

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Blogosphere Buffet, Vol. 27

Max Rosenberg, Max Planet: "Seattle School Board Rethinks Fuzzy Math Concepts." (New post on my son's blog. He's nine. Check it out!)

K. Caldwell, Port McClellan: "Loser Or Genius?" (The story of an eternal college student).

Impudent Domain: "More Than 50 Million Americans Report Some Level Of Disability."

Doug Anderson Sunbreak City: "When The Moon Was Hollow - A Serial Novel Of The First Terrorist War," Vol. One, Vol. Two, Vol. Three, & Vol. Four.

The Only Republican In San Francisco: "San Francisco Municipal Wi-Not."

Hanan Levin, Grow-a-Brain: "La Kato Estas En La Sako" (amazing language links from a real-life real estate dude who is also one of the blogosphere's premier hunter-gatherers, and who has a really beautiful site, to boot).

James J. Na, Guns And Butter: "Democratic Hypocrisy On Surveillance." (My favorite well-armed South Korean emigre, even if he is soft in the head about pit bulls).

Okie On The Lam: "NSA - Phone Records - Why So Paranoid?"

Scheiss Weekly: "Better Living Through Chemistry." Hat tip - Dustbury.

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01:50 PM | Comments (0)


May 11, 2006

A Tipping Point In Berkeley

The free-range chickens are coming home to roost on Berkeley's famed commercial artery Telegraph Avenue, but they don't have a lot of company. With the closing of Cody's, a venerable independent bookstore there, shop owners are taking stock, and finding that homeless youth, the Internet and local red tape are all taking their toll. More in this morning's SF Chron.

Business owners, city leaders and UC Berkeley officials say things have hit a disturbing low on "The Ave,'' where the commercial vacancy rate is approaching 15 percent and last year's sales tax receipts were 30 percent below what they were in 1990 when adjusted for inflation - the sharpest decline of any business district in the city. "Sales are horrible right now," said Al Geyer, founder of Annapurna, an eclectic store that's been on Telegraph since 1968 and offers an array of goods ranging from pipes to spiritual music to sex toys. "I don't think anybody is making any money."

Just a thought here, Al....but do you suppose that your product mix might need some updating?

....some believe that an increasing number of people are avoiding the neighborhood because of the homeless who frequent the area -- especially the youth. And one city official said the merchants of Telegraph Avenue simply have not kept up with the times....Mayor Tom Bates...said he expects to present a package of initiatives soon aimed at increasing law enforcement, deploying a mental health worker to help the homeless, marketing the area as a worthwhile destination for more than just youth, and easing the requirements for businesses trying to locate in the area.

The last item has long been a goal of the business community, which argues that city limits on the number and nature of businesses in each district and the red tape involved in opening a business have long been a large, and often expensive, hurdle.

...Telegraph's image problem -- the street between Parker Street and campus is often littered and dirty, and homeless youth often loiter outside businesses -- is hardly new, and the city has over the years made various efforts to clean things up. "Now more than ever we need new political leadership that will stop defending the 'rights' of people to sleep, camp, sell drugs and sit on the sidewalks," said Greg Murphy, who lives in Berkeley's Willard neighborhood. "We need to push back at criminal and anti-social behavior to make Telegraph a safer and more viable place to work and shop."

The troubles on Telegraph foreshadow alterations to the dominant paradigm. The good people of Berkeley have a musty social and political agenda, every bit as coherent and compelling as the sundry notions peddled at Annapurna. A citizen advisory commission voted against a canine unit. The rent board is straight out of a bad dream about a Marxist-run city. Volunteers have washed the feet of homeless youth. Who in turn have protested lack of places to sleep, and worried about "barriers" to "snuggling up" in "nooks and corners" around the campus and city.

Anyone want to connect the dots here? Change is slow on the revolutionary Left Coast. but what I'm seeing in hard-core Lefty burgs like Ashland, Oregon, Arcata, California, and Berkeley is that the ethic of forced compassion to those who don't deserve it, contains the seeds of its own destruction.

Berkeley has reached a tipping point.

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07:05 AM | Comments (2)


May 09, 2006

Sebastopol Meadowfoam Versus Laguna Vista

Life in the rarified climes north of the Golden Gate Bridge should demand a certain code of honorable conduct, although history is less instructive than one might wish. Misdirection wins you no friends and adds to your legal bills in the end. If you're opposed to a new subdivision, fight it like a man, I say. Be upfront about what you feel: the heck with newcomers - their cars will clog the roads; their new homes will spoil the view; and worse, they'll buy up all the organic artichokes, kohlrabi, edamame and tempeh at the local market before you get yours. Finally, their children (ahem) will add to your tax burden.

Just lay it out honestly.

But don't - please, please, please don't - hide behind a cruddy little weedy flower dubiously proclaimed an "endangered species." And certainly, don't plant the cruddy little weedy flower yourself on the land in question, so as to bogusly declare it a legal obstacle to the subdivision which you oppose. It's just not very......manly. More from the SF Chron:

The tiny white flowers are blooming again in the field behind the plastic surgeon's office on Highway 116, and Sebastopol is trying to figure out what it all means. It could mean a death knell for a controversial $70 million housing development. Or it could mean that a very nice, gray-haired retired grammar school principal and his pals are pulling a fast one. The white flowers are Sebastopol meadowfoams, or Limnanthes vinculans, a name that is a lot larger than the quarter-inch-wide blossom that could pass for a garden-variety garden weed if botanists had not declared it to be endangered.

Last year, the retired school principal, Bob Evans, was walking his dog, Sophie, through the field when he spotted the flower poking through the tall grass. The field on the south end of town happens to be the proposed site of the 125-unit Laguna Vista housing development, and Evans happens to be a leader of the local opposition to the project. The discovery spurred the would-be developer of the site to call in a team of biologists, who declared that the rare flower had been planted on the site. The developer's suspicion was that the planter hoped to stop the project. Gene Cooley and other botanists for the California Department of Fish and Game took a look and agreed that the meadowfoam hadn't come to be at the site by itself, and ordered the flower dug up and destroyed. The whole affair came to be known in this quiet town as Foamgate. Now the flowers are back, and Friday, so was Cooley. His opinion hadn't changed.

...Evans and the botanists on his side say the flower has appeared in a lot of other spots in the field, and that its roots are intertwined with existing plants, proving that it must be native. He denies he had anything to do with the plant's appearance. Cooley and the botanists on the developer's side say the new flowers merely sprouted from seeds left over from the surreptitiously placed plants of last year, and mean nothing.

The Alternative Field Crops Manual of the University of Wisconsin-Extension tells us a few more things about meadowfoam in all its splendid varieties. Seems meadowfoam faces far greater and more basic obstacles to survival than the odd residential development here or there.

Cool, wet, or windy weather during flowering limits the activity of pollinators and therefore reduces the number of fertilized flowers. Meadowfoam is not self pollinating because the male reproductive organs mature before the female organs are mature (pollen is released from the anthers before the stigma of the flower is receptive). This plant adaptation is common for enhancing cross pollination. Two or three colonies of bees per acre of meadowfoam are needed for adequate pollination (note: other flowering plants in the vicinity may be preferred by pollinators).

If Evans really cared about preserving meadowfoam, he'd plant some on his own land, and bring in the bees. I think we're going to end up seeing how effective is his "No Way, Too San Jose" plaint against Laguna Vista. My guess: not very. Which, actually, it seems he already understands, too.

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04:30 PM | Comments (1)



Chronicles Of Higher Duncery, Vol. 2

.....Researchers at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinios have conducted an experiment said to demonstrate that saliva testosterone and a proclivity to add more hot sauce to a beverage are both elevated in men who choose to disassemble a handgun in an empty room, versus a board game. Perhaps subsequent research will determine whether handling guns is also associated with a higher likelihood of men driving recklessly and eating take-out double-bacon cheeseburgers with supersized fries.

....Four hundred "educators" and students showed up at a special conference last weekend in South L.A. to hear why rap music should be used more in the classroom to teach kids basic language skills.

Teachers ran workshops in classrooms at John Muir Middle School. Michael Cirelli, who heads Urban Word NYC, an after-school and youth poetry program in New York, outlined lesson plans that had students write their own hip-hop songs, helping them become more comfortable with writing. Workshops covered a variety of topics, including showing how hip-hop lyrics can be analyzed to identify metaphors, puns, assonance, similes and personification. The event was sponsored by UCLA graduate students as well as local youth, hip-hop and community groups.

A better idea: give the kids a sheet with definitions of words such as "assonance," "dissimilar," "symmetry," "fortitude," "challenge," "cheapen," "condescend," "reprehensible," "enhance," and "diametrically." Discuss. Then require them to write a grammatical sentence using each. Repeat often, measuring progress.

....Healing, Eastern-bloc style: "Stalin's World" theme park in Grutas, Lithuania has celebrated its fifth anniversary. Pogroms, forced starvation, class war, millions killed...hey, what's not to revel in?

....Disability is a many-splendored thing, legally speaking. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports today:

A nuclear-reactor operator, who once admitted drinking 11 beers five hours before reporting for duty at the Perry power plant, says he was unjustly fired because he has a disability - alcoholism. The 11th Ohio District Court of Appeals agreed in part, ordering a trial judge to determine whether FirstEnergy discriminated against Gary Minshall by failing to accommodate his disability.

....Disturbing news from Florida. Thanks to animal rights activists, it's gettin' so ya cain't even rassle a gator no more. Sheesh.

.......Ohio taxpayers - your dollars at work:

Columbus -- A group of Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles employees uses an Internet search engine, two slang dictionaries and advice from drug and gang experts in the State Highway Patrol as they screen motorists' requests for personalized license plates. The group meets each weekday morning to look for references to drugs, sex and gangs that must be censored among the proposed plates. For example, Ohioans can make references to beer and other alcoholic drinks, but not to drunkenness....Columbus resident Charles Van Fossan says the bureau didn't catch two plates he thinks refer to drugs: GOTDUBZ and UZADIME. "You see these guys driving these cars, and it's obvious what they're referring to," he said. But after checking with the panel, BMV spokesman Fred Stratmann said GOTDUBZ refers to the tires on an automobile and UZADIME to a good-looking woman.

DISBDUM.

.....Two Boston College theologians are circulating for signatures a letter to other faculty there expressing concern about the scheduled commencement speech by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on May 22, and the awarding of an honorary law degree to her at that time. They and the 200 of 1,000 faculty who've signed the letter so far, fear the appearance could be construed as support for the Bush administration's actions in Iraq. At a rally yesterday, opposition to Rice's appearance was registered by a retired feminist theologian who had barred men from her classes at BC.

.....An Alameda County Superior Court judge issued a preliminary ruling yesterday in favor of tossing out the current California high school exit exam because it discriminates against students from low-income families and those with limited English proficiency. Indeed. Why should they be held to the same standard as others? Lower the bar!

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10:51 AM | Comments (0)


May 07, 2006

The Social Libertarian Moralist On Pornography, Technology And Intimacy

I've discovered, in part by blogging here and at a few other sites for more than two years, that with respect to so-called "moral" issues such as abortion and pornography, I'm essentially Libertarian. I have real concerns about both (here's an example, regarding abortion); but I don't think that sweeping bans would serve any constructive purpose. I mention all this because a story in today's news got me thinking. It's about neighbors in an Encino, California subdivision upset over the frequent use of a private home there for making pornographic films. Not that anyone can see anything from the street or through any windows. And it's all legal, even if the shooting of a porno fiilm on Easter Sunday, and the steady pace of productions in the home seem a bit much. For better or worse, it's not only within the law, but a matter of individual property rights, in this case exercised by the couple who rent the home. Writing about it all at lavoice.org, one neighbor observed the lessor would probably have been within rights to evict the lessee. But cashflow is paramount, apparently.

Which takes us right back to the growth of the pornography industry in the U.S. The right to private adult use of adult pornography is indisputable even if the product itself can have a harmful effect. The demand is huge and growing. The problem is not sex itself of course - that's a blessing from God, and a double-mitzvah if you share it with your beloved on the Sabbath. Rather, what's greatly troubling is the saturation of American popular culture with vastly more explicit sexual imagery, and the resulting perversion of what can and should be a wonderful, special thing. This occurs due to personal fears of real intimacy; plus hyper-commerce, addiction, and the corrosive combination of technology with human weakness, greed, and ignorance.

Parents are buying their children and teens video-capable iPods, sometimes unaware of the growing prevalence of what is called iPorn, or video pornography made and marketed to iPod users. "Mobile porn" content is increasingly being marketed to users of cell phones, many of which now have small built-in video screens and Internet connectivity. One "alt-porn" producer freely admits targeting young people as film paticipants via MySpace.com. He says he's only looking for 18-year-olds and up, but the site draws huge numbers of younger teens, many of them fairly unschooled, judging by what they reveal on their own pages there.

Adult porn addiction is a real psychological disorder which destroys the bond between partners and shatters relationships. At the same time that pay-porn sites are proliferating on the Internet, reports accrue weekly - if not daily - of school teachers charged or convicted of inappropriate sexual activity with students. That such cases are becoming noticeable as a trend even in socially conservative states like Utah speaks volumes - and as elsewhere, images of pornography are often found on the computer hard drives of the teachers involved. Allegations of hidden camera voyeurism are also increasingly in the news. Those nailed recently for using cell-phone cameras or video cameras for voyeurism include a former three-term Vermont state legislator and lawyer, who was also a delegate to the 2000 Democratic National Convention; the principal of a Chimacum, Washington high school; a former Brigham Young University instructor; and a repeat sexual offender from Port Clinton, Ohio who after this latest arrest, revealingly got his computer out of his home faster than police could get there for an inspection. Of those four cases, the victims were minors in the last three.

Who could not favor prosecution of such vermin to the fullest extent of the law? But when there is an underlying addiction to pornography - which is to say, usually - that really betrays a fear of intimacy. Not just, or even primarily sexual intimacy; but emotional and personal intimacy.

Lessons on intimacy begin very early, in family life and friendships. Intimacy can't be nurtured by legislative fiat, any better than laughably ineffective Internet filters can really block pornography from computers.

A good place for parents to begin is by paying attention to what sort of entertainment is preferred by the kids with which your kids play. If my son sees that a play date at the house of a budding pal involves hours of computer games and staring at videos, the entertainment program is either going to be very different next time around, or there won't be a next time. That's one of my values, but it's also one of his.

As a pro-choice-but-not-pro-abortion, hands-off-the-cancer-that-is-legal-adult-pornography social libertarian, I believe personal values and choices are what really matters when it comes to morality. There's one choice made by the porn-film-studio-in-our-Encino-house-parents that sickens me. The SF Chron article (second link from top, above) notes:

Regulations require certification of ownership to rent out a home as a film location. According to property records, the house -- a 15-year-old, four-bedroom, five-bath, 5,000-square-foot, stone-and-brick traditional -- sold last year for $1.65 million to Hamid Banafsheha. When reached by phone, Banafsheha -- a 40-year-old electric supply warehouse owner -- said he had just found out about the filming from neighbors. Banafsheha said he had rented the home to a couple with two infant daughters. "I'm sorry for all the neighbors," he said, adding that he had told his tenants to cease and desist. A woman who answered the phone at the film site last week and identified herself as tenant Odelia Bustenay did offer a response to the neighbors' concerns before hanging up. "Everything we do here is legal," she said. "We got permits for everything. If they are upset then they are nosy."

Legal isn't necessarily moral, decent, or community-minded. Odelia Bustenay: you are one sorry excuse for a human being.

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06:26 PM | Comments (0)


May 05, 2006

Backlash Against Illegal Immigrants Grows

Ballot Measure Would Ban Day Labor Centers, Impose Other Penalties

Echoes of Herndon, Virginia, where voter opposition to a numbskull proposal for a publicly-funded day labor center was a decisive factor in elections earlier this week for mayor and city council. It appears that legal citizens in San Bernardino, California are going to force a public vote quite soon on a ballot initiative that if approved would outlaw local day labor centers (which cater to illegal immigrants); and fine landlords for renting apartments to illegal immigrants. The measure includes other punishments for facilitating illegal immigration, in the spirit of the bill approved by the U.S. House. While the legality of all the provisions is unclear, the message is not. The Los Angeles Times has more.

(Save Our State Executive Director Joseph) Turner gathered 2,216 signatures to invoke a rarely used provision of San Bernardino's city charter that would force council members to vote on the proposal in 10 days, without any amendments. If the council rejects the ordinance, the measure automatically goes before voters on a citywide ballot. (In addition to banning day labor centers) the proposal would prohibit illegal immigrants from renting or leasing property, holding landlords liable and subject to a minimum $1,000 fine; allow police to impound vehicles used to transport undocumented workers; require the city to deny permits, contracts and grants to employers that hire illegal immigrants; and require city business to be conducted in English.

....Crackdowns on illegal immigrants have won some political support in the region. The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors last year unanimously approved screening jail inmates for their immigration status, and Riverside County followed suit last month. Both boards of supervisors faced little of the discord that marked Los Angeles County's plan to do the same.

The growing backlash is against the "rights" demanded in nationwide protests this week and in the last month by illegal immigrants and their supporters, and the insulting manner in which those demands have been made. Democratic gubernatorial candidates in California distanced themselves from the May 1 protests, although there's nothing "strange" about it, as the SF Chron editorialized in a hed on this "objective" news article. These guys know how to count votes, after all. So does Santa Ana, California Mayor Miguel Pulido, a Mexican native and naturalized U.S. citizen.

The protestors have erred badly in several ways. First, by refusing to distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants. Second, by alleging "racism" from supporters of the tough immigration reform bill approved by the U.S. House. Third, they have erred by organizing voter registration drives directed at illegal immigrants, the mere suggestion of which makes a mockery of our elections process and the meaning of citizenship.

What the illegals and their sanctimonious, race-baiting supporters need to understand is that in politics, especially politics surrounding the problem of continued illegal immigration into the United States from Mexico, every action has an opposite and quite likely more-than-equal reaction. Further, unwarranted moral outrage directed at supporters of tough and enforced barriers to illegal immigration will only energize their efforts. Drop the hectoring and posturing, and make your arguments for broad amnesty and legalization based on the merits. If there are any. Oh, yes, in case anyone's wondering: I DO have a plan.

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04:22 PM | Comments (4)


May 04, 2006

The Downside Of Personal Technology

On the downside of the personal technology revolution, wired devices are stoking another sort of attention deficit disorder, in graduate schools across the land. The Christian Science Monitor reports.

Wireless Internet access at universities was once thought to be a clear-cut asset to education. But now a growing number of graduate schools - after investing a fortune in the technology - are blocking Web access to students in class because of complaints from professors. (University of Michigan law professor Don) Herzog first went on the offensive in his own law classes, banning laptops for a day as an experiment. The result, he says, was a "dream" discussion with students that led him to advocate more sweeping changes.

This school year, the University of Michigan Law School became the latest graduate school to block wireless Internet access to students in class, joining law schools at UCLA and the University of Virginia. The problem professors face is "continuous partial attention," an expression coined by Linda Stone, a former Microsoft executive, to describe how people check e-mail and try to listen to someone at the same time. "As a teacher, you can tell when someone is there, but it's just their body that is there," says Douglas Haneline, a professor of English literature at Ferris State University in Grand Rapids, Mich. "Their face is on 'screensaver,' so to speak, because what they are really doing is checking their e-mail."

Others quoted in the story defend maintaining access for wireless devices in grad school classrooms, arguing the issue is behavorial - that there have always been ways for students to tune out, long before computers became prevalent; and besides, students will have to control their own usage of personal technology outside the classroom, and in adulthood, so why not give them that responsibility in the classroom, too?

I'm with the traditionalists on this one. The undergraduate and graduate school classroom is a special place, and full attention should be required. Otherwise, you're there for the wrong reasons, taking up space that would be better utilized by someone more interested in learning. Further, in the old days, it was clear students reading newspapers were tuning out. Now, they use laptops to look as if they're engaged when often they're not.

Abuse of easy-to-use personal publishing technology such as MySpace.com pages continues to affect high school students, and even public officials who should, like, know sooo much better. I wrote previously here about some high-schoolers near Detroit who produced a worthy educational video highlighting careless revelations of classmates on MySpace, and related online precautions.

More recently, the Los Angeles Times reports, tensions stemming from a fight between a black and Middle Eastern student at Hart High School in Newhall, California last week reached such a point that someone Monday posted a very alarming incitement to gun violence against a Los Angeles County Sherriff's Deputy who worked at Hart, and also white female blondes at the district's five high schools. News of the posting spread quickly by cell phone, instant messaging devices and e-mail (a good thing), and many students opted out of school Tuesday. Understandably so, considering that nowadays Internet postings or e-mails are commonly used by high-schoolers to deliver threats of planned gun massacres, some of which then occur and some of which don't. And, like, what did blondes have to do with it, anyway, like?

Finally, for today, at least, we have the sad saga of Waldwick, New Jersey Board of Education Trustee Richard Peluso, 36. He was compelled to resign after his MySpace.com page was discovered. The contents included personal topics that were not quite the sort of stuff you would want a public official to reveal to all comers on the Internet, including:

.....past drug use, alcohol habits and sexual relationships. It also said that he is a member of the Waldwick Fire Department, that his mother died on Feb. 13 and that he is 36 years old, all of which is true of Peluso. In an April 5 interview with The Record, Peluso denied any knowledge of MySpace and said that he may have been targeted by someone upset with the Board of Education. The day after The Record's article, Peluso filed a police report alleging that someone manipulated his MySpace account without his consent. He has since withdrawn that complaint and recanted his story, police said. Waldwick police do not plan to press charges against Peluso for filing a false report.

What a hoser. Remember, this guy is (rather, was) a school board member. First, he misunderestimates the reach of MySpace and posts intimate personal data, a mistake more common to naive high-schoolers. Then, he fails to take responsibility, by falsely claiming someone else manipulated his account.

Right-o. On the Internet, no one knows someone isn't a dog. Or an anonymous wingnut. Or so Peluso supposed for a hot day or two. Until, I'm sure, detectives checked with MySpace back-end administrators on his claim of outside tampering with his account, and found that wasn't true. Leading to his recantation, and resignation.

Truly, just as personal technology facilitates productivity, data analysis, artistic and creative expression and valuable social networking; it is also a platform for distraction, isolation, aggression, stupidity, addiction and danger.

Use it intelligently, and know when to unplug entirely.

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05:22 PM | Comments (0)



Gay And Lesbian Textbook Mandate Advances In CA Senate

SB 1437 moved through the California State Senate Education Committee yesterday, and now advances to the Senate floor. The bill would require that the contributions of gays and lesbians be described and acknowledged in school textbooks in order to validate the sexual minority status of some students. California is the nation's largest school textbook market, and if the bill becomes law, the effects would likely be felt in other states, too.

The bill would bar textbooks from discriminating against gays. It also orders school boards to use instructional material that reflects the "sexual diversity" of society and include the contributions of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Opponents say the bill will turn schools into "sexual indoctrination centers" and complain it takes away the discretion of local school boards in deciding what's best in the classroom....Karen England, executive director of the Capital Resource Institute, said discussion about sexual orientation belongs "in the bedroom, not in the classroom" and that sexual orientation is not germane to a person's historical significance. "I care about their accomplishments. I don't care who they slept with," England told the committee.

Before someone calls me homophobic, I'll say what I've said before: Tolerance - a word I pretty much loathe - is not only appropriate toward gays and lesbians, it is essential. You may or may not approve of their sexual orientation, but so long as any individual abides by a common code of decency in public, what they do in private is their own business.

But that does not mean using taxpayer resources and school facilities to promote the acceptability of gay sex, or any sexual practices, actually, makes one whit of sense. It doesn't. Simply put, the mandate is a pander too far. It should not be the role of public schools, and textbooks especially, to promote homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderism OR heterosexual sex among teens. It is the responsibility of parents, not schools, to impart to their children whatever understanding they wish them to have about alternative sexual identities, and more generally, about sex.

Family values are not the same in every family, but their primacy must be upheld on what are essentially non-state matters such as the values and attitudes of individuals toward different sexual orientations and toward teen sexual activity in general. The premise that schools should be providing "safe sex" instruction, or validation and acceptance to students who may classify themselves as bisexual, gay, lesbian or transgendered, reflects a broader and corrosive societal preoccupation with pre-teen and teen sexuality.

Kids are suppposed to be in school to learn reading, writing, math, science and to begin developing higher-order analytical skills. This is the path to validation in school. Long before alternative sexual identities became a matter for schools, students have had to negotiate social minefields in the hallways and lunchroom. Nothing can ever change that. It is part of the job of parents to give their kids the tools to cope with the social pressures of school, especially high school. If we are to mandate positive acknowledgement in public school textbooks of sometimes maligned minorities such as bisexuals, gays, lesbians and the transgendered, then we'd better also mandate explicit glorification of geeks, stoners and jocks.

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02:30 PM | Comments (2)


May 03, 2006

Sinister Conservatives Seek Portland School Transformation

Whoooo-oooo-wheeeee. Willamette Week is SO all over it; blowing the whistle on the creepy right-wing fascists who want measured accountability, competition and teacher merit pay in Portland's hurting public schools.

While Portland Public Schools loudly debates closing some schools and reconfiguring others, teachers and parents are worried about a much quieter but significant long-term development for local education. They're troubled by how entrenched billionaire Eli Broad's Los Angeles foundation, which is devoted to making schools more businesslike, has become in Portland schools. They're raising red flags about the private Broad Foundation's payment for all seven Portland School Board members to take weeklong training sessions in Utah and its help with funding two key district positions. Jeff Miller, incoming president of the Portland Association of Teachers, calls the foundation "a basically conservative organization whose goals are what you'd expect from most business-oriented groups."

Broad, founder of two Fortune 500 companies, was the 39th richest person in America last year, according to Forbes magazine. And he is very interested in putting a good chunk of his billions into K-12 public education. He says urban public schools are failing and must adopt methods from business to succeed, such as competition, accountability based on "measurables," and unhampered management authority—all focusing on the bottom line of student achievement, as measured by standardized tests. Broad wants to create competition by starting publicly funded, privately run charter schools, to enforce accountability by linking teacher pay to student test scores, and to limit teachers' say in curriculum and transfer decisions.

.....With help from the Broad Foundation, Denver and Minneapolis are implementing systems of teacher performance pay tied to student test scores, a proposal that the Portland Association of Teachers would fight hard against.

Omigod! Portland should run like hell from all of that nasty stuff. Why, did you know.......

....it's not just the teachers union that's alarmed by the foundation's influence. Parents like Anne Trudeau of the Neighborhood Schools Alliance, a grassroots parents group, see a right-wing tilt to Broad's ideas that she considers a poor fit for progressive Portland. "I don't think our school board are puppets of Broad," Trudeau says, "but I think the influence is insidious."

Absolutely. Portland has a robust tradition of "progressive" sensibilities that are quite obviously in the best interests of city residents. Trudeau is right: accountability and merit are "insidious" to progressive ideals, which cannot survive on their own.

But let's give WW a bit of credit. At the very end of the piece, they deign to briefly tell the other side of the story. BTW, according to his foundation's spokesperson, Big Rich Guy Eli Broad is a......Democrat.

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11:59 AM | Comments (0)



A Democrat's Rejection Of The Anti-War Left, On Iraq

John Bunzel is a Democrat, a former president of San Jose State University, a former member of the U.S. Human Rights Commission, and currently a Stanford political scientist. In a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed, he delivers a powerful justification of why he still supports our nation's course in Iraq, why this is NOT another Vietnam, and what is wrong with the morally-superior tone of today's outraged, hyperbolic anti-war Left.

Americans have struggled hard with the issue of Iraq, whether they are Democrats (I include myself) or Republicans, liberals or conservatives....a dilemma that helps to explain why Bush's war policies have been met more often with muted and passive alienation than large-scale activism. Another reason is that Iraq is not Vietnam. "The Vietnamese did not carry out suicide attacks on their own people," the New York Times columnist David Brooks has pointed out, "or go around the world rioting over cartoons or fly planes into skyscrapers." The war in Iraq has an element of "existential menace" that Vietnam did not have.

...over Iraq (though not always comfortable with my position), I thought the war, on balance, was a risk worth taking....I never believed that overthrowing Saddam Hussein by force was morally unjustified. I also disagreed with the anti-war activists who claimed that being firmly opposed to war against Hussein was some sort of litmus test of one's moral identity, as if one's stand on the war revealed one's personal character....I feel ill-disposed to those who would limit the bounds of serious thought and discussion by presuming a self-confirming moral superiority.

....Americans now want out of this war. They also know there is no cost-free way to leave -- that the decisions to be made involve tough choices about what risks are worth taking and what consequences may follow. As events unfold, it may turn out that Iraqis will tell us whether to stay or go, and when. But we should not forget that a majority of Americans were sympathetic to the goal, and always understood the value, of helping Iraqis fight for a democratizing outcome. This is perhaps one of the strongest reasons why a big, angry anti-war movement has not taken to the streets by the hundreds of thousands. At least not yet.

In the meantime, amidst the ongoing violence, the new speaker of the Iraqi parliament, a Sunni, is calling for political negotiation and compromise as the only way forward to a peaceful Iraq. In the U.S., fellow Congressional Democrats are cool to the NYT op-ed proposal from U.S. Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware) and Leslie H. Gelb that Iraq be carved into three nations. They say if that happens, it's something the Iraqis have to decide, not us.

Despite the screaming daily headlines of the misfortune hunters, the world is safer with Saddam's deposal, Iraq's fortunes are advancing, significantly, as the infrastructure of liberty is painstakingly constructed. Saddam's desperate grandstanding at his trial for multiple instances for genocide fails to diminish the political importance of this quest for real healing, and real social justice - terms which are usually thrown around all too carelessly.

Some wish the good old days for Iraq. I'm not one of them.

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11:15 AM | Comments (1)


May 02, 2006

A Warm Welcome, Please, For......Max Planet

There's this kid from Seattle, see. He's fairly bright. He has lots of opinions, and interests, and knows how to link. He's nine, and he's mine. Give it up, everybody, for Max, and his new blog, Max Planet. Here's his first post, all about.....stuff; and his latest, on the murky evils of fast food.

Key an eye on this guy, OK?

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10:48 PM | Comments (0)



Howell Raines On Reagan, Bush, And Katrina

A lengthy New York Magazine profile of ex-New York Times managing editor Howell Raines is well worth reading. It's titled "Fishing With Howell," by Philip Weiss. Raines, who was forced to resign in disgrace after his diversity-mentee-gone-bad Jayson Blair was nailed for serial fabulism and plagiarism, is much more than a footnote to the scandal for which he is best known. The lively piece - based in part on interviews in Louisiana, where Raines' son, Galactic guitarist Jeff, lives - brings to life the father's Southern bona fides, his career path at The Times, and notes that Raines has written a number of well-received books, fiction and non-fiction.

Raines comes off as not quite the monotonal Republican-hostile ideologue you might expect of an ex-NYT writer, bureau chief and managing editor, even if his newspaper life did tragically incinerate in an egregiously misguided careerist quest to put newsroom diversity ahead of integrity.

The article helps someone who has only a passing familiarity with Raines understand that his diversity-hued downfall is not unrelated to his coming of age in The South as a feisty crusader for civil rights and against racism when it was real in the U.S., not largely imagined, as today.

Another thing that jumps out is that Raines gets the power of the personal, as evidenced by his takes on both Reagan, and Bush The Younger. Here's Raines:

"Ronald Reagan is the most mysterious politician in our experience. You know, Clark Clifford called him an amiable dunce. And Clark Clifford winds up being indicted for bank fraud, and Ronald Reagan ends the Cold War. But at the deepest level—family or political level—Reagan was unknowable. “I wonder, was Reagan’s decision to up the ante in the arms race intuitive or reasoned?"

"You know, one of Reagan’s secrets, the rubber-chicken dinners people go to because of civic obligation, and we [reporters] go to of necessity—well, Reagan loved them. He was having a great time. And I’m told he liked bawdy jokes. There was a press reception when he was running for president, in a social setting, and he was asked what his physical regime was, and he said, with a wink, ‘I do everything a younger man does.’ It was a guy joke, delivered very cleverly and disarmingly.

I'm not so sure Reagan was that mysterious. He had a pretty firm grip of good what good and evil meant, and who embodied which. Maybe such moral clarity is sadly baffling to Raines, but I at least give him some credit for being able to acknowledge the importance of Reagan's great and positive role in foreign policy. That's something on which a lot of lib lions still choke, unfortunately.

A few more interesting excerpts, one not so flattering.

Raines talks about the poor federal response to Hurricane Katrina, but when confronted with a real-life Katrina victim, at first seems impatient to get away.

Driving around the Lower Ninth Ward, viewing the devastation and the fact that only college kids in white hazmat suits were doing anything, Raines got worked up....You have to entertain the possibility that Bush can’t think his way through problems like this. Here’s a family that has had every benefit that American society can offer for four generations—wealth, education, social position—and they have no impulse toward repaying anything back to this society that has been so generous to them. Faulkner talks about the human heart in conflict. Well, I see no evidence of conflict in their hearts. Just meanness.”

At Jeff’s house, a little thing happened. A guy who had been displaced by the hurricane had moved in across the street, and he was outside, sorting through stuff in his pickup. He wanted to talk, tell us his sad story. I lingered in the street to talk to him for a minute, but Raines was impatient to get inside, and I felt rude either way. Here was a real-life victim, he didn’t care. Then Raines saw I was interested in the guy and he came back into the street. “Well, you know what they say. We say we want justice when all we really need is mercy,” he said. Then everyone smiled politely and we went inside.

Finally, a telling anecdote about W, from Raines.

During Bush’s campaign for his first term, I invited him to come meet with the editorial board and the senior news-department editors and the publisher in the Times boardroom. And we kept getting put off, kept getting put off. I have a friend named Stuart Stevens who was working in the Bush campaign, mid-high-level. I said, ‘Stuart, this needs to happen, not just because we want it to, but because it’s part of the festival of democracy, that the presidential candidate comes to the Times, and even though he is not supported by the paper editorially, he is treated with the respect that a nominee of the party is entitled to.’

“So Stuart—I don’t know what he did, but weeks go by, then the word comes down that Bush is coming, and he does, and he comes and he goes around the table, there are probably 25 people, and he says something personal to each person in the room. ‘Oh, you’re the one . . . ’ or ‘I’ve heard you have a daughter at University of Texas.’ Almost every person, there was something, or he had read something. He gets to me, and he shakes my hand, and he leans in confidentially, and he said, ‘Thank you for putting this meeting together.’ As if I had done him a great service, when in fact they had been resisting it with every means possible for months.

“What I subsequently found out is that despite this characterization of him as the laid-back guy who gives everybody nicknames, he had spent a long time on the telephone the previous night with his friend who runs Chelsea Piers [Roland Betts], who was with him at Yale and who was his most important backer in New York. They had asked us for a list of people who would be there. For security and other reasons, and he had gone over this list with this guy. That tells you several things. One, I was impressed by his memory. It told me that there was an element of calculation there that was completely different from the casual-Texan persona we were asked to believe in."

What'd ya expect? A guy doesn't actually get to the White House if he's merely not a dunce, despite what the, ah, MSM, like to think.

I can see you're working through a lot of issues, Howell. Best of luck. And do keep writing.

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07:43 PM | Comments (0)


May 01, 2006

The University Of Oregon's New Racism

It's early yet, but this week's Fatuous Diversity Scam award has to go to........the main campus of the University of Oregon, located in that friendly breeding ground of tree-sitting, window-smashing, black clad, anti-corporate "activists," Eugene. The Oregonian has published a monstrous thumbsucker, headlined, "UO Weighs New Diversity Plan Amid Simmering Racial Tensions." Consider the stated evidence.

First, after the school attempted to foist a heinous diversity plan on faculty, they rebelled at a requirement that their promotion and tenure would be tied to "cultural competency." Good for them: their promotion and tenure should be based on achievement and proficiency in research and instruction. The vice-provost in charge of the stinker diversity proposal slunk away to another job elsewhere. But recriminations ensued. The school's botching of a plan that was all about politically correct window dressing to begin with, has caused dark mutterings about the school's lack of commitment to politically correct window dressing - oops, I mean "diversity initiatives."

Second, the third-ranked of three candidates for UO law school dean was not offered the job immediately after the first two choices declined to accept the offer. However, he was asked back for more interviews, and might well have ultimately won the position. Instead, he sulked, and dropped out of consideration. Oh, he was Mexican-American, and his feelings had apparently been bruised by the effrontery of UO in deigning to request further talks before his hiring. So two law professors took leaves from UO because they felt racial bias was involved in the school's failure to immediately offer this third-ranked finalist the post. Their feelings become another unsupported indictment of "bias" and "insensitivity."

Then, get this: according to The Oregonian, a year ago, students and instructors in OU's school of education protested over "perceptions of cultural bias and insensitivity." No discussion in The Oregonian's article of who had these perceptions; or why; or whether the perceptions were actually warranted. But then that sort of information isn't supposed to really matter anymore, is it? Unspecified, politically damning "perceptions" are the thing.

Finally, here are the two other incidents which help comprise the "string of racially-charged incidents that have made students of color feel isolated and, is some cases, unsafe," as The Oregonian teases in the story's lede.

The parents of a freshman from Hawaii who withdrew after a scant week at OU later claimed he left because he'd received untoward racial comments and been physically threatened. Who knows? Not The Oregonian, that's for sure. Or anyone at OU, either, it appears. Maybe he realized he couldn't hack the work (amazing as that may sound), and made up the story to cover to his parents for the obvious and deserved shame of bugging out so quickly.

If his parents' charges of racism are true, the student himself should have at the time reported the culprits, who certainly would have faced very serious consequences. You don't combat actual racism at The University of Oregon, or anywhere else these days, by turning tail and scampering away like a frightened bunny rabbit, now do you?

Or does combatting racism at OU actually rank far below fostering perceptions of racial bias there, in order to advance an academic, political and social agenda which could not possibly pass muster under objective standards?

The answer is really quite clear, isn't it?

Finally, according to The Oregonian's report today, there was a student of color who took a pie in the face when a prankster burst into a classroom. More mutterings about a hostile climate ensued. Sure. Let's start by trying to disprove a negative. After all: How do we know it WASN'T racially motivated?

Pandora's Box is opening wider in Eugene as the ginned-up diversity conflagration grows. Scuza me, but: all sizzle, no steak. A real leader would stop the feel-good race-based pandering at OU, and instead prioritize a renewed emphasis by instructors and students on: the appropriation of knowledge; and the development of higher-order thinking and analysis.

These objectives are supposed to be at the heart of why universities exist, and why many students mortgage the first decade of their adult lives to pay back student loans.

Minority students in the liberal arts at the University of Oregon are getting shortchanged - and ultimately ripped off - thanks to the institutionalized mission creep of academic diversity evangelists who in truth pre-suppose that minorities can't hack tough work, but would instead rather obsess over dimestore notions of racial and "social justice."

Now, THAT'S racism - and opportunity denied.

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07:25 PM | Comments (4)