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November 30, 2006

Go to School, Win A Vehicle

Stop Smoking, Get Paid

Social engineers sometimes refer to it as "contingency management." Public health agency case managers in San Francisco offer vouchers for goods and services to formerly meth-abusing HIV patients if tests show they continue not to use drugs for 12 weeks. Their behavior is modified for a time. Then? Back to unincented struggle. Likewise, Reuters reported yesterday: university researchers find that offering prizes valued at up to $100 helps former meth addicts and other drug users stay clean during a 12-week clinical test. A public school in San Francisco gives prizes such as bicycles and toys to students for good school attendance. The idea being people wouldn't necessarily do what's right if left to their own devices, so why not bribe them with prizes? Today, we learn that more and more school districts are getting into the act, even giving away shiny new vehicles for showing up regularly, though there's no strong evidence it makes much difference.

(AP) Casper, Wyoming -- Sixteen-year-old Kaytie Christopherson was getting ready to do her homework on a Friday when she got a call that made a big improvement in her life: She had won a brand-new pickup truck for near-perfect school attendance. And not just any truck, but a $28,000 Chevrolet Colorado crew cab, in red, with an MP3 player....Public schools commonly reward excellent attendance with movie tickets, gas vouchers and iPods. But some diligent students like Kaytie are now hitting the ultimate teenage jackpot for going to school: They have won cars or trucks. School districts in Hartford, Conn.; Pueblo, Colo.; South Lake Tahoe, Calif.; and Wickenburg and Yuma, Ariz., are also giving away vehicles this school year.

..does bribing students with the possibility of winning a car or truck actually get them to think twice about staying home from school? Some educators think so, and say their giveaways have boosted attendance. But the evidence is not clear-cut. Jack Stafford, associate principal at South Tahoe High School, said attendance increased slightly last year, the first year the school system gave away a car, and is up slightly so far this year. He said changing times call for such incentives. "My mom had the three-B rule: There'd better be blood, bone or barf, or I was going to school," Stafford said. But "that's not the case now."

And there's the road not taken by AP in this report. Exactly why is it parents are lax about school truancy? They certainly get notification of unexcused absences. It must be that many don't care. Given that cars for kids makes just a small dent in attendance at best, maybe the schools sucked into moral arbitration this way ought to package it as a "two-fer" deal; a pickup truck for the kid, and a sporty red coupe for the parents.

In fact, the possibilities for fully-developed case management are rather arresting. Consider. Certainly some kids get away with truancy due to drug-abusing parents. Combination "contingency management" therapy might then be indicated. Cars for the kid and parent if junior's school attendance warrants; plus additional prizes for meth-head mom or dad if they test clean for, say, 12 weeks.

Wait. There's more.

Brown University is paying students not to smoke.

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12:42 PM | Comments (1)


November 22, 2006

Al-Sadr Needs To Be Dispatched

According to the WaPo, the Pentagon may be warming to increasing U.S. troops in Iraq and then boosting training and guidance of Iraqi forces during a U.S. drawdown. But citing first-hand meetings with President Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War, former Washington Governor Dan Evans in a Seattle Times op-ed yesterday asserts increasing U.S. troops makes little sense. The more hawkish conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer agrees, but in Monday's Times goes further than Evans. Krauthammer argues the great need is for a reformulated coalition government that can win the allegiance now granted by Iraqi troops only to "mosque or clan or militia," following 30 years of political rape by Saddam.

The Economist's blog Free Exchange argues that a liberal economy and a liberal democratic political system in Iraq or anywhere are "superior to the alternatives;" and the "role of culture in impeding political and economic development" must be acknowledged. As must, Free Exchange fails to specify, cancerous theocratic tendencies. Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite Muslim militia leader allied with the vehemently anti-U.S. Iranian Islamist regime, would seem to rank high among current cultural impediments to political progress in Iraq. Mark Steyn notes:

When I had the honor of discussing the war with the president recently, he was at pains to emphasize that Iraq was "sovereign." That may be. But, at a time when a gazillion free-lance militias are running around the joint ignoring the sovereign government, it seems a mite pedantic to insist that the sole militia in the country that has to obey every last memo from Prime Minister Maliki is the U.S. armed forces. Muqtada al-Sadr is an emblem not of democracy's flowering but of the arid soil in which it's expected to grow. America would have been better off capturing and executing him two years ago.

...Someone in the GOP needs to do what Ronald Reagan did so brilliantly a quarter-century ago: reconcile the big challenges abroad with a small-government philosophy at home. The House and the Senate will not return to Republican hands until they do.

A good place to start on the current Iraqi challenge is not only with increased U.S. troops to Baghdad, but also the taking out of al-Sadr. As John McCain recently urged. al-Sadr's two million or so Baghdad-based adherents are called The Mahdi Army. This particular protector-in-chief of the Mahdi - the envisioned apocalyptic redeemer of Islam - needs to be put on an express bus to the hereafter.

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10:47 AM | Comments (3)


November 21, 2006

The Fatuous Grandeur Of Kiki Smith

There is nothing quite like an effete New York art critic writing for effete New Yorkers about an artist whose pose transcends his or her substance. Holding forth in The New Yorker, the rather trickily-named Peter Schjeldahl rather deftly illuminates the rather precipitous advantages of a life lived rather very very deeply in Flyover Country. Where a travelling exhibition of say, Carravagio, Monet or Degas would almost certainly take, but a retrospective of Kiki Smith's works such as that now at the Whitney Museum in New York would likely be desecrated with mustard-laden corn dogs and cow manure.

As we will unfortunately see; from the standpoint of the artiste and critics such as Schjeldahl, that might be understood as an entirely sympathetic, value-added response. He writes of Smith:

She is a major figure—long the leading light of communally-minded downtown avant-gardes—who makes minor art. Her sculpture, drawings, and prints betoken general concepts and generic sentiments; however striking, their form is arbitrary. Take, for example, a wall-hung iron rendition of the digestive system (1988); a floor piece of swarming crystal sperm (1989-90)... The best known illustrate carnal fact and poetic associations of the human body...She is a New York School aristocrat. Her father was the sculptor Tony Smith...rather like herself, an artist whose significance exceeds the sum of his material achievements....Kiki and her sisters served their father as studio assistants and grew up on easy terms with art-world celebrities. Kiki’s knockabout biography—as a college dropout and, before her art-world success, a baker, electrician’s assistant, surveyor, garment worker, census taker, short-order cook, and bartender—recalls bohemian eras when artists lived as lumpen proletarians, at home with the working class. The last such era involved Smith’s own generation, albeit as something of a conceit: principled downward social mobility.

Spot on, Mr. Schjeldahl. What better than "principled downward mobility" as preparation for arty installations of the human digestive system and sperm? One must consider. Is not the alternately drab and problematic plight of the "lumpenproletariat," in fact, fairly ruled by the demands of the digestive system and the phallus? Surely, Smith has penetrated the bestial subconscious of commoners blithely assuming the existence of self-determination.

Smith's career, Schjeldahl explains, is itself an expression of an historical epoch.

Smith cannot be understood except as an exemplar—and survivor—of a scene that boomed in New York in the early nineteen-eighties. That epoch of punk music, performance art, political anarchism, polymorphous sexuality, gallery graffiti, funky feminism...and prevalent bad habits was done in by factors including gentrification and, above all, AIDS....The catastrophe...fostered a movement, in the nineties, of art that marshalled political grievance....Choleric installational art was just the thing for a burgeoning circuit of biennial exhibitions. Smith’s maturation as an artist accorded with the moment....she became a bard of a suddenly sinister organic existence, with such conversation pieces as a row of huge, handsome clear glass bottles etched with names, in Gothic lettering, of our now possibly lethal secretions: semen, mucus, vomit, oil, tears, blood, milk, saliva, diarrhea, urine, sweat, and pus...

It is not at all difficult to picture a bunch of New Yorkers in an art gallery, intently gazing at bottles labelled "vomit," "urine," "sweat," "mucus," "pus," and so forth.

It is redolent with meaning, true.

Here is what it means.

Cosmpolitanism in extremis is the last refuge of the achingly lonely.

Transgression equals fatigue.

And Kiki Smith is the modern-day David Hannum.

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10:17 AM | Comments (0)



Are You Paying Attention?

Are you paying attention? I mean, really paying attention? Find out here.

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November 16, 2006

The Vanishing Notion Of Responsibility

The de-coupling of actions and consequences permeates society's sensibilities; especially in the mainstream media and the courts. Associated Press writes off the Sept. 11 toppling of the Twin Towers as a "plane crash," without once mentioning in the account that Islamic jihadists were responsible. Then, the Seattle Times cleanses two recent reports (here and here) on the 2005 West Seattle murder of Newport High tennis coach Mike Robb of any mention of a newsworthy racial angle. That being...? See earlier Times reports (here and here) that the black killer Samson Berhe had said he aimed to slay a white man before he did precisely that.

Now that a judge has ruled Berhe competent to stand trial, his lawyer will still probably press an insanity defense. That's bad enough. But who even knows if the trial will really come off? As in the the case of excused quadruple murderer Leemah Carneh, the shrinks at Western State Hospital in Steilacoom, WA may here again reverse their findings and pronounce the defendant "incompetent" to face the music. The Tacoma News Tribune reports today how "mental competence" gamesmanship delayed for five years the trial of alleged child molestor Dean Erik Bagley. He had, incidentally, earlier been released after serving eight years on a 40-year murder conviction for killing a close friend of his then-teenage wife; whom he had also intended to kill. Now, even his defense attorney admits he is faking symptoms of mental illness, but this is claimed to be further evidence of real mental illness. Capiche?

The courts, politicians and state-funded mollycoddlers in white coats have created an alternate reality, where even the parents of an attempted murder victim of the Jew-hating Muslim-American killer Naveed Haq in Seattle believe the real problem was a lack funding for the mentally-ill.

Reviewing a book on the dangers of therapism - and putting things quite well - is scholar Theodore Dalrymple. He's a retired British doctor who worked in an inner-city hospital and a prison.

...."therapism," the idea that man is psychologically fragile and can achieve mental stability only by means of professional assistance, is comparatively new, and is in antithesis not only to the traditional American virtues of self-reliance and sturdiness in the face of adversity, but also to a couple of millennia of moral reflection....At stake is our whole conception of what it is to be human. The common-law tradition is that everyone is responsible for his actions unless the contrary can be proved. Therapism, which has already subverted law to a considerable extent, believes that wrongdoing is itself a symptom. Man is a feather, blown on the wind of circumstance. There, but for the grace of my environment, go I.

Perpetrators: the new victims. With apologies to The Kinks ("Lola"): it's a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world.

But we get the government, and the local courts, we deserve. We need more prisons; state psychiatrists less often meddling in criminal proceedings; and more online government databases, extending down to the county level, on judicial decisions and important procedural rulings. People cannot make informed decisions in local judicial elections without proper data. There are clear rogues in the local judiciary, but they are generally hiding in obscurity. And quality candidates for county courts cannot be drawn when being a lawyer pays so much more.

Community leaders who claim to be concerned about violent crime must come to realize that such reforms are required if real justice is to be meted out to killers, and other violent criminals.

Or, we can sit back and watch more and more killers get off easy because of "insanity" claims, or escape punishment altogether because they're found "incompetent" to stand trial.

In which case, perhaps we're the ones who are really incompetent.

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04:06 PM | Comments (0)


November 14, 2006

Language Does Matter: Sept. 11 Wasn't A "Plane Crash"

I used to always listen to liberal-leaning National Public Radio in the car, even as I was morphing from a Democratic-leaning independent to a libertarian-leaning Republican in the 90s. NPR was at least intelligent, in-depth, and thoughtful. I might not be especially warmed by reports of an art gallery in New York showcasing a crucifix in a jar of urine, but I knew I could always count on NPR to explain why this was an important socio-cultural statement. I guess it was around the time I heard a long interview on NPR with a person who was introduced with great fanfare as a lesbian Marxist poet from Grenada, that I began to reach the end of my rope with the network. I have nothing against lesbians - though to all advocates of same-sex marriage, I say, you have no special moral claim to redefine this institution to your liking; voters should decide state by state, and please bag the stale "homphobia" cant directed to opponents.

No, it was more the confluence of identifiers; the "can you top this"-ness of it all. I realized before long I would be subjected to an NPR interview with a handicapped transsexual Chilean socialist playright; but I would likely not be hearing much about a really great white Christian male writer from Louisiana. Unless of course he'd written something damning about racial oppression.

So, long before NPR shamed itself with the sneering, jeering piped-in BBC commentary in 2003 on the early phases of U.S. and British engagement in Iraq, I tuned out. But on a whim I tuned in to the Seattle NPR affiliate a few years ago, after the September 11 terrorist attacks on America, and heard some Noam Chomsky wannabe discoursing on what it all means that the media and U.S. populace now so often refer to Sept. 11 in a kind of shorthand. We call it "9/11," or "Sept. 11," and that is suppposed to be enough of a signifier for what actually happened on that day.

Cripes, what a lot of worthless navel-gazing, I thought at the time.

I was wrong.

Language does matter: especially in regard to Sept. 11.

I was reminded of that by an Associated Press story authored yesterday by Devlin Barrett and e-mailed to me by Rosenblog reader Erik Deutsch. It is about the nascent 2008 presidential bid of Republican Rudy Giuliani, a great favorite of mine, who was of course Mayor of New York when suicidal Islamic terrorists who hated the United States attacked on the same day NYC and the Pentagon, and were aiming for the White House as well. Here is the paragraph that caught Erik's attention.

Giuliani, who was in his final months as New York City mayor when a pair of planes crashed into the World Trade Center's towers, became a national hero. Within hours of the attack, the mayor was visiting the site, caked in dust and walking through the chaos — a moment replayed repeatedly on television.

As Erik wrote to me:

'A pair of planes crashed'....that's how you (Barrett) want people to remember and associate 9/11??? Are you kidding me???

I'll go a step further. Here is how the sentence in question should have read.

Giuliani, who was in his final months as New York City mayor when a pair of planes commandered by Muslim jihadists crashed into the World Trade Center's towers and killed nearly 3,000 innocents, became a national hero.

Or, substitute for "Muslim jihadists" the phrase "Muslim terrorists" or "Islamic terrorists" or "U.S.-loathing Muslim (or Islamic) extremists."

There are two previous references to Sept. 11 in the story, which are not as scandalously casual as Barrett's "plane crash" reference, but these are standard shorthand ("Sept. 11 terrorist attacks" and "the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001") lacking any reference to the who and why.

The word Muslim is not used once. Yet their religion, Islam, as they interpreted it, was an essential component of the attacks.

The ethnic, political and moral cleansing of Sept. 11 - so casually executed - exemplifies why the mainstream media is no longer trusted. Associated Press has a history of liberal bias. I have documented examples of that here, here, here, here, and here. Because so many newspapers rely heavily on AP (or equally biased Reuters) wire copy for national and international news, their slant significantly informs that of print and broadcast media in scores of U.S. markets.

To really face the enemy, we must not hide the truth of who and what he is, and what he has done. I hereby propose a Gold Standard for all editors, commentators and reporters referring to Sept. 11. Never detach the phrase Sept. 11 from "Muslim extremists" or "suicidal Muslim jihadists." And never detach the phrase Sept. 11 from "killing almost 3,000 innocents."

Unless, like Ward Churchill, we really mean to say the WTC victims were "Little Eichmans."

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11:06 AM | Comments (2)


November 10, 2006

Gates May Push For More Troops In Iraq

UPDATED: "Body count journalism" reached critical mass during the Vietnam War, and has strongly shaped U.S. public opinion in the current Iraq conflict. In the typical "Iraq War Deaths Round-Up" piece about U.S. soldiers, the text often includes quotes from relatives that the fallen one died doing what he or she thought was right. Let me be very clear: it is basic and crucial to remember and honor our war dead. Yet "body count journalism" carries another message, eagerly swallowed by Left Coast readers in places like Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. It is, "soldiers dead; war bad; U.S. evil." Somehow, other body counts don't get as much attention, i.e. Iran, Sudan, Darfur, Oakland. Palestine, of course, is an exception, though the causes of the Israeli "attacks" often get no more than a paragraph at the end. In the U.S., body count journalism has lately focused not only on American military casualties in Iraq, at 2,842 as of this posting; but also on Iraqi civilians killed since the U.S. toppling of Saddam Hussein in April 2003. Estimates of the latter have ranged wildly, from under 50,000, to a widely-criticized report of more than 600,000 in a medical journal article. Today comes news of a completely seat-of-the-pants Iraqi estimate that the number is 150,000. Apparently this must be regarded as news, even if it comes out of thin air. What cannot be estimated is how many more Iraqis could have ended up in mass graves beyond the 300,000 during Saddam's 23-year reign, if Saddam - now facing a death sentence from an Iraqi court - had not been removed from power.

All the same, the daily reports of Sunni dead-ender and freelance jihadist suicide bombers killing dozens of innocent Iraqis have rightly been hard to ignore. The news has understandably convinced the American electorate something is very wrong in Iraq, resulting in a Democratic re-taking of the U.S. House and Senate Tuesday, and the resignation of U.S. Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld the next morning. Much is getting toward right elsewhere in Iraq, but something is indeed very wrong around Baghdad. Surveying the conservative zeitgeist in this August post at Sound Politics, I wondered out loud, "more troops needed to secure Baghdad?" Well, President Bush's nominee to replace Rumsfeld appears to be thinking about that himself. The New York Times reports today (here via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer):

(Nominee Robert) Gates....(is)....a member of the Iraq Study Group, the commission that is preparing to make recommendations next month about overhauling Iraq strategy. Associates said that Gates had questioned military leaders there about whether more U.S. troops in the capital could stem the violence, and whether the training of Iraqi troops could be overhauled....Senior administration officials have said that pouring more troops into the most violent of the Baghdad neighborhoods is among the possibilities that Bush may now consider. During the campaign leading up to Tuesday's elections, Bush declared unambiguously on several occasions that "we're winning" and vowed not to leave Iraq until victory had been achieved. Over the past two days, however, several officials said that Gates will likely be given some latitude to redefine what constitutes victory.

Permanently stabilizing Baghdad has to be at the top of the list. The new Democratic majority in the U.S. House and Senate may well find that in order to get out of Iraq, we will have to get in a little deeper, in and around Baghdad. This is not what many die-hard Democratic partisans want or expect. They are likely to learn a few difficult but important lessons now that their legislators have a key role in U.S. policy on Iraq. Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein of California in today's SF Chron says part of Rumsfeld's legacy was insufficient troop levels in Iraq, and that will have to be corrected. In a piece on expected investigations and oversight from the new Democrat-led Congress, today's L.A. Times observes that one area of inquiry will be the Bush Administration's decision to ignore recommendations for higher post-invasion troop levels in Iraq. But merely highlighting strategic failures on troop strength, via showy hearings, will not be enough; Democrats will have to join in providing a fix, as Feinstein notes.

The hypothesis that makes the most sense to me regarding the Hell that is Baghdad now is that Iraqi citizens in everyday ways large and small (think, for instance, "human intelligence") can tip the balance toward the new government and its security forces. However, that happens only if the Iraqi government and its soldiers and police first earn their trust by protecting them from the terrorists (known to our morally-neutered mainstream media, of course, as "insurgents"). More U.S. troops to Baghdad, and soon, make sense if Iraqi security forces can truly come to control Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle. But by when? That is the question. From a U.S. political perspective, it can't be more than two or three years, tops, before Iraqis are responsible for the vast majority of the security apparatus in the own country, most particularly including Baghdad, other Saddam-ite strongholds, and porous border regions through which jihadists now pass with ease.

But the simple-minded "just get out now" cries from places like Seattle, San Francisco and Portland have no connection with what will be unfolding in months to come.

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03:17 PM | Comments (1)


November 06, 2006

The Sphinxes See All, From Chicago's Willoughby Tower

More building entrances should look like this (below). It's Willoughby Tower, at 8. South Michigan Avenue in Chicago, a neo-gothic, 38-story office building finished in the inauspicious year of 1929. My kids and I happened by, on a recent visit to my old hometown. Naturally I had my digicam in hand.

Willoughby Tower has six ornamental heads and two sphinxes affixed to the stone facade right above the main entrance. Let's take a closer look at three of the ornamental heads (they're not gargoyles because they're neither monstrous in form nor carved into spouts). To me, that guy on the left looks vaguely Germanic or Prussian; the one in the center Egyptian. On the right, an English court jester, doncha think?

And how about these sphinxes? They're not going to take much guff, I think. Notice the rich ornamentation above, including the bunches of grapes.

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05:38 PM | Comments (1)



Armenians Chafed Over Glendale Grilling Ban

The smell of carefully-charred animal flesh has for millenia defined cultures merely viable, and great. Where outdoor grilling is frowned upon, the Gods are displeased. And so I stand solidly with the Armenians of Glendale, California, against a city ordinance which bans all outdoor commerce, including grilling, unless a special use permit is obtained. The ban rightly rankles the city's substantial Armenian population; which hankers for the old-country tastes of the more than one dozen Armenian banquet halls in town offering chicken, beef and pork grilled outdoors at high heat over mesquite-flavored charcoal.

Some banquet hall operators in Glendale have been defying the ban, which - wonder of wonders - is not well-enforced. But a three-member Armenian majority on the city council of five tried to clear the decks with a repeal of the onerous law. No surrepititious grilling for them, and their constituents. However, they needed four votes to amend it, and fell short in a recent vote. The words are still flying like sparks, though. The Los Angeles Times reports:

"This is the epicenter for fine Armenian cuisine," said a frustrated Councilman Ara Najarian, who believes that the grilling rules are stymieing the development of Glendale's dining scene. "Most Armenians are highly sophisticated, and they demand the best. A second-rate restaurant would not make it in Glendale," he said.....While the city has struggled to strictly enforce the ban on outdoor grilling, Najarian and other backers of the rule change say it would bring outdoor kebab grilling out of the shadows and send a message that the city supports the pursuit of Armenian cuisine.

Mayor Dave Weaver, who opposes lifting the ban, believes that the debate has gotten too bitter and denounced his Armenian American colleagues on the council for "using the race card." "We're portrayed as anti-Armenian, and that's so far off the mark," he said. "We got a lot of complaints saying, 'Why are you allowing them to grill outdoors?' I'm philosophically opposed to commercial grilling outside. If we open the door, then anybody from Bob's Big Boy to a barbecue place can do it."
...The city has received complaints from residents about the smoke from food being grilled outside banquet halls."Would you like to smell other peoples' food all day long?" asked longtime resident Nancy Campbell. "We were all OK stopping smoking in a lot of public places."

And the problem here is....what? Eau de Barbeque seeping through the streets of Glendale? That's a GREAT smell. Beats the heck out of what you usually smell in cities these days. As for Nancy Campbell: "smelling other people's food all day long" is no problem unless you're a vegan revolted by meat (in which case, please get a life), or you must negotiate a hallway in a stuffy apartment building full of fish- and cabbage-cookers (in which case, deal with it or move!) And Nancy: To compare the smell of succulent kabobs to that of cigarettes is just plain absurd.

The Armenian bloc on the council had proposed a reasonable compromise, as the L.A. Daily News reported last month.

The proposed ordinance would require grill operators to register with the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Businesses with grills larger than 10 square feet and used within 200 feet of homes need to apply for a conditional-use permit. There also were specific guidelines for grill construction and fire safety regulations. In a last-minute attempt to sway the dissenters, Councilman Ara Najarian proposed the ordinance expire in December 2007 so the council can remove or adjust it if needed.

Ultimately, the best argument for the Armenian grill halls of Glendale is economic. There's a sizeable market because they purvey an authentic culinary experience of high quality. Some complaints from local pollyannas don't constitute a public burden anywhere near negating the substantial consumer and economic benefits - including, ahem, sales tax revenues. Local and regional economies need to go with their strengths. This is part of the cultural and economic fabric of Glendale. Why not capitalize on it?

One commerical grillmeister quoted in The Times story says if he must, he'll attempt to reproduce the outdoor grill set-up indoors, at an estimated cost of $80,000. That'd be a shame. But if it happened, I'd bet you dollars to souvlaki someone would still complain about the exhaust.

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12:28 PM | Comments (0)


November 05, 2006

Saddam Sentenced To Hang

An Iraqi court has sentenced U.S.-toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to hang for war crimes committed against 148 adults and children whose deaths he ordered after a failed 1982 assassination attempt against him in the Iraqi Shi'ite town of Dujail. The story here from Associated Press. If upheld after appeals are exhausted in the next month, the sentence would foreclose Saddam answering charges on his involvement in many other mass killings that he and his Sunni Muslim Baath Party thugs ordered for insufficiently cowed Iraqis during his tenure as Iraq's Maximum Malefactor. Such as Kurds in the north, more Shi'ites in the south, and, oh, yes; the roughly 300,000 Iraqis believed to have been buried in mass graves during Saddam's 23-year reign, as noted by not only Fox News, but also those Bush-ite dupes at BBC.

We are now supposed to be worried about Sunni and jihadist reactions to the sentence Saddam has received. The top-linked AP story notes one Iraqi Sunni politico declaring there will be anywhere from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of killings in response to the outrage of Saddam finally facing justice. A "respected" Thai Muslim cleric is quoted as well, saying the punishment meted to Saddam will "turn to hell for the Americans."

I'm sure that's the hope, for some. I rather doubt it , though. Buried within the AP story are a few telling details. During his trial, Saddam dug his own grave with the admission that:

.....he had ordered the trial of (the) 148 Shiites who were eventually executed, insisting that doing so was legal because they were suspected in the assassination attempt against him....About 50 of those sentenced by the "Revolutionary Court" died during interrogation before they could go to the gallows. Some of those hanged were children.

So let's see: killings based on suspicions rather than convictions in an impartial court; deaths during interrogation; and the hanging of children - under Saddam's rule. Hmmmmn. I'm not sure where the valorous and principled defenders of jihadists now in U.S, custody were, back then.

Yes, I'd say justice has been rendered.

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12:48 PM | Comments (1)


November 01, 2006

A Recipe: That Mediterranean Chicken Improv Thing

This is for my dear friend Ellen, at whose Evanston, Illinois home our family stayed two nights last weekend, at the end of a visit to Chicago. A typically riotous small dinner party ensued, involving many of the same suspects as last March; Ellen's husband Mark, a true mensch and one of the funniest guys I know, and our dear old Evanston friends Randy and Lucy. Once again, I did what I do in these situations. Arrive with a bag full of groceries and a plan, of sorts. The chicken entree went over big and Ellen has insisted on the recipe. I was going to e-mail it, but hey. I have a special relationship with chicken. (To see what I mean by that, scroll down to the "Poultry Blogging" section, here).

So instead, by posting the recipe at Rosenblog, I thought I'd create a space of peace, integrity and affirmation, where we - that larger, more interconnected "we" - can come together around the best and highest use of chickens.

Sheesh. Sorry about that last sentence. Living in Seattle for twelve years has obviously taken a toll on my phraseologies.

ROSENBLOG'S MEDITERRANEAN CHICKEN RECIPE

This involves general guidelines, methods, and ingredients, rather than precise measurements. Also, it'll help if there's an organic, whole-earthy, upscale supermarket around. This fed six hungry adults and two teens with hearty appetites. Ingredients are in bold.

In shifts, and using one or two thick, large skillets over high heat, brown on both sides about four pounds worth of boneless, skinless, naturally-raised chicken thigh pieces. Before placing the pieces in the heated olive oil, assauage them liberally on both sides with a mix of dried parsley, thyme, finely ground pepper and a smidge of cinnamon. Use NO salt in this spice blend, as other ingredients are quite salty enough on their own.

As the thigh pieces are quickly browned in shifts, place them in a large baking dish. The bottom of a broiler pan works well. Then, use remaining olive oil and chicken juices in one of the skillets (adding a bit more oil if necessary) to begin a saute with a whole package of finely sliced fresh sage (an ounce, in the produce section with all the other fresh herbs packed in clear plastic packages). After just a minute or so, add: a hefty dose (say, three large cloves) of freshly chopped garlic; then the juice of a whole lemon; a good coupla splashes of dry white wine; (about a half-cup); about two dozen halved and pitted high-quality green olive bar olives, preferably stuffed with sun dried tomatoes; very coarsely cut six-inch long red and greeen oil-marinated peppers from the olive bar (these are tangy, definitely not spicy hot).

Mix well several times as you saute all of this a few minutes more. Then, spread the whole glorious mess over all the chicken in the baking dish. Stick that into a preheated 375-degree oven and cook uncovered for about 20-30 minutes. Occasionally do the old reliable thumb test on the cooking chicken, pressing a piece to test for doneness.

We served this with heated, sliced focaccia; a risotto I whipped up, with crumbled goat cheese, roasted asparagus tips and chopped fresh chives added at the end; and a salad of romaine lettuce, cooked and chilled green beans, dressed with a Dijon mustard vinaigrette. Alsatian Pinot Blanc or Oregon Pinot Noir makes a nice accompaniment.

Make it up as you go along, depending on what's fresh in the market. That's how you want to cook.

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10:03 AM | Comments (0)