December 31, 2006
Happy New Year, From Seattle
OK, not quite yet. I took this shot from Luna Park at Duwamish Head in West Seattle this afternoon around 4:30 p.m. PST, somewhat before the new year rings in. It's the site of the former "Coney Island Of The West," now home to "a small seawalled square" perfectly situated for views west of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound, views east toward downtown, and views north toward Mount Baker and the Cascade range. Today was not one of those glorious Mount Baker Days when that 10K-foot peak 75 miles to the northeast is clearly visible from West Seattle. But as you can see, the moon was already high and bright in the sky by late afternoon.
Our family is safely parked at home and the neighbors, just back from Oregon, are visting. We're enjoying a scrumptious spread of olives, cheeses including Cirrus Northwest Camembert from Mt. Townsend Creamery, assorted savory crackers, Salumi salami, Nova Lox, roasted asparagus, and a dry Brut from Albequerque.
Max is playing Christmas and Klezmer music on his clarinet. Life is good. Blessings be unto you and yours.
Oregon's Gay Sheep Experiments: Economics Or Eugenics?
Farmers have a problem with gay rams: they're economically inefficient because their attempts to mount other rams rather than ewes means less growth in the flock and thus lower revenues. So, as the Sunday Times of London reports today, researchers at Oregon State University in Corvallis and the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland are injecting hormones in the brains of the gay sheep and have found many afterward mount females rather than males. Biology professor and project leader Charles Roselli of OHSU concedes human parents could one day have medical experts employ the same treatment to ensure their own babies are straight, not gay, and that while he is "uncomfortable" with the idea, legislators would have to define ethical-legal boundaries. Out lesbian and retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova is appalled, saying the sheep have a right to be gay. I have no inherent bias against either gay sheep or people, but sheep ranchers have every right to maximize their return on investment. Others augment Martina's concerns, however.
Udo Schuklenk, Professor of Bioethics at Glasgow Caledonian University, who has written to the researchers pressing them to stop, said: “I don’t believe the motives of the study are homophobic, but their work brings the terrible possibility of exploitation by homophobic societies. Imagine this technology in the hands of Iran, for example.
The idea of the hormone treatment being forced on unwilling adult subjects or even minors, provokes a legitimate debate; the sort of debate that a sane and just society should be able to resolve using existing institutions such as its legislature or courts, and public debate. That Iran or other Islamicist regimes might one day conceivably use such technology in a heavy-handed way says more about such regimes than the technology itself.
None of the worries raised about the experiments should mandate that sheep ranchers be saddled with rams temporarily unable to impart the gift of life. Give the wayward rams whatever they need: videos of Clint Eastwood movies; a subscription to Maxim; gangsta rap and VSOP cognac; or if it's what really works........hormone injections to the brain. Look: when it comes to sheep, I think I can safely say without fear of some numbskull calling me homophobic, that there's really one main thing RAMS are supposed to do, and that one main thing has unquestionably to do with ewes. Plus, they've already got a pick-up truck named after 'em; how macho is that?
From 30K feet above: If we ran away from every scientific advancement or experiment that posed social, ethical and moral challenges, we'd still be living in the Dark Ages. Cripes, look at the downsides of technology.
Meanwhile, it is unclear whether the Oregon State University football player who absconded with one of the gay sheep is a candidate for the hormone treatment himself.
December 24, 2006
Leaving Baby To The Dogs, In Dallas
The Dallas Morning News reports today on the heart-rending death of a two-year-old black girl in Dallas named Damya Johnson, whose 17-year-old unwed working mother Tiara Jefferson left her with an acquaintance who was in fact a heinously and notoriously absentee Welfare Mom of 13 named Detress Richmond. While Welfare Mom Detress was away (reportedly playing bingo) 12 kids plus the young visitor were left in the care of a neglectful 15-year-old babysitter, and a nine-year-old son of Welfare Mom stabbed poor young Damya to death.
Dallas police Senior Cpl. Janice Crowther said the children had been left in the care of a 15-year-old baby sitter, who was downstairs while all of the other children were upstairs unsupervised. The head of the household, Detress Richmond, a mother of at least 13 children, was not home at the time of the child's death, Cpl. Crowther said. Ms. Jefferson is a friend of one of Ms. Richmond's daughters. Ms. Jefferson said that when she agreed to leave Damya and her 2-month-old sister at the home, Ms. Richmond had assured her that she would watch them until Ms. Jefferson returned. She said she now thinks Ms. Richmond left and went to play bingo Friday night.
It would be easy to scapegoat Detress Richmond for the toddler's death, but it is Damya Johnson's 17-year-old mother Tiara Jefferson who is the real killer here. There is no way any remotely responsible parent could have failed to know about the chaos that was Detress Johnson's home, and have left her child there, even in Johnson's care - never mind the worthless babysitter. Totally undiscussed in the Dallas Morning News report is the decision the unmarried victim's mother made to bear a child at 15 and then again two months ago, while being totally incapable of providing for her eldest's safety and well-being.
Babies having babies beget tragedy or neglect and dysfunction, all too often. The real story here, which the Dallas Morning News will most assuredly fail to pursue, is what was Tiara Jefferson's upbringing? How does a young woman come to make a series of such flawed decisions, and was someone like modern day Welfare Queen Detress Richmond in fact not somewhat of a role model to her?
UPDATE, 12/25/06: A follow-up story from today's Dallas Morning News has more regarding ongoing state concerns about Richmond's children and her home; and some thoughts from Dallas Police on Johnson's judgement in leaving her two-year-old in the home. The nine-year-old alleged knife killer is described as a known bully.
December 22, 2006
James Kim, And The Low Spark Of High Tech Boys
In this Sunday SF Chron op-ed, Cheryll Barron natters around the edges of the spectacularly hare-brained decision of the now late James Kim, an online technology editor who died after he sought in snowy weather to traverse by vehicle rough and isloated mountain backroads between I-5 and a destination near the coastal town of Gold Beach, Oregon. In the post-Thanksgiving tragedy, Bay Area resident Kim perished and his snow-stranded wife and two children were saved in the end not mainly by any of the formidable high-tech gadgets unleashed on their behalf, but by a local who knew the territory.
Baron notes that even analog maps are limited and can be badly misread, and that's true. But to any cognizant navigator the thinner lines are clear to see and carry risks, especially in winter and at elevations. One need not be a Southwest Oregon afficionado to look at a basic road map of the state and see there are precious few "major" two lane state routes bridging the partially mountainous gap of some 60 wild miles or so between the major north-south Interstate (I-5) and the coast. Those that do exist are safe through routes in winter weather, and clear to see on an old-fashioned map - their lines are thicker and go all the way from Point A to Point B with little fuss; whereas the curlique dotted-line mountain roads through the Coast Range are tricky and circuitous enough to warrant avoidance by all but the most hard-core adventurers, even in the summer. In winter? Forget about it. Unless, say, you've got tire chains on your mini-truck, a propane stove, a snowmobile in tow, cases of water and moose jerky, firewood, a rifle and a real hankerin' for chilly solitude. Amidst a lot of poofy theorizing, Barron manages to cut close to the heart of the matter, noting:
Just as a map is not the territory, a computer only deals with the physical world symbolically. We are dimly aware that our disconnection from physical facts is widening as our heads get progressively fuller of e-mail and texting rather than face-to-face encounters, shopping decisions made not by touching things but by staring at clumps of pixels, and scrappy blog posts instead of embodied debate. More and more, we are distracted from our actual environment in driving or crossing a street on foot by the murmurings of earbuds or by chattering into bits of plastic linked by computerized networks.
That's not like most of us. Kim's last civilized meal was at a Denny's in Roseburg. From where most of us, if heading to Gold Beach, would have consulted the trusty glove-box map and taken good old reliable Oregon State Route 42 west into 42S to Bandon, and then proceeded south on Route 101 to Gold Beach. This SF Chron article states Kim didn't see the I-5 exit to 42, proceeded further south on I-5 to Grants Pass and then made the fatal decision to try a "shortcut" west from there.
Whether he was relying on flawed online mapping advice or blithely disregarding a written map's indications of a perilous winter route, Kim - an otherwise impressive and much-loved man - very sadly proved to be an educated fool, who nearly caused his wife and two young children to also perish due to his feckless disregard for common sense, geography and the Northwest winter.
December 13, 2006
Unlike PETA's Lettuce Ladies, I'm Pro-Choice On Meat
And That Includes Horse Meat
UPDATED: The International Herald Tribune reports today that - inspired by movie sensation Borat, that daffy fake Kazakh documentarian with a crush on silicon implant-shedding actress and PETA Lettuce Lady Pamela Anderson - two lettuce bikini clad protestors took to anti-meat advocacy in the main square yesterday of Kazakhstan's capital, Almaty.
'Lettuce ladies' wear lettuce leaves and encourage people around the world to eat a vegetarian diet....Regarding the two activists in Kazakhstan Tuesday, PETA said in a statement that "The scantily clad beauties are asking the people of Almaty to mark the New Year by switching from dishes like beshbarmak (horse meat and noodles) and zhambas (baked sheep's head) to healthy and humane meatless alternatives."
Yet despite the engaging novelty of simultaneously invoking "Borat's" Kazakhstan and lissome Lettuce Ladies, quandries arise around exortations toward full-on meatlessness. The protest reminds us that the message of animal rights protestors on diet, no matter how cleverly packaged, rarely heeds more adult and negotiable concerns such as the quantity of meat eaten, or the varying caloric loads of different meats and manners of preparation. Instead, the message is preachy and extremist. Meat is murder. Don't eat meat. Ever. Meat bad. Vegetables good. Human rights for chickens. Now. Fish are people too. Beware venal "speciesism." And so forth.
PETA's splashy and strident message aims for impressionable teens looking to make a statement with their "lifestyle choices," and the approach will continue to win a certain number of adherents to strict vegetarianism. However, there's a far more sensible public information campaign already underway, backed by numerous health organizations and designed to actually gain traction with moderately-inclined members of the public - ones open to persusasion but not moralistic hectoring. We know the themes quite well already, and they're important ones. Eat less meat, more vegetables and whole grains; carbs have their place; sweets and fats should be enjoyed sparingly. Exercise is essential.
Sadly, government has chosen to get involved in dietary advice far beyond legitimate and very basic public education on the food pyramid and medical research; extending so far as to ban transfats or (on purported moral grounds) foie gras in restaurants. All of which is sheer Nanny State overreach. People are grown-ups, and can decide for themselves.
However, for non-profits and far more importantly, for "significant others," it's wise to encourage eaters who typically have meat as part of lunch and dinner to enjoy a meatless entree for either meal at least five times a week, or preferably seven. And to substitute fish or seafood for meat on some of those other occasions. Celebrate vegetarian entrees, without demonizing either meat, or the good people of Kazakhstan or Mobile.
A new group could deliver this message with perhaps some of PETA's flash but none of its extremism. Let's call this entity..........People Unbound by Dietary Dogma. Or PUDD, to you and I.
The second issue raised by PETA's chilly nearly-nudes in Almaty is ethical. People are - and God willing, shall remain - free to eat horse meat. As they have done for many years in France and other European countries. Myself, I'm in no hurry to sample either beshbarmak, kazi, zhal, or any other variations of Trigger On A Plate. But for Euro-activists to parachute into Kazakhstan to lecture the locals on their backward, immoral dietary choices, fairly smacks of cultural imperialism.
Which apparently is A-OK if the intent is to restrict rather than enhance freedoms.
December 12, 2006
Rosenblog Opinion Review, Vol. 29
The Oregonian, editorial, "So A Rabbi Walks Into An Airport....."
M. Zuhdi Jasser, Arizona Republic, "From A Muslim Viewpoint, Imams Have Missed The Point On Flight Behavior"
Doug Anderson, Sunbreak City, "Minority Blues" (re the "funny vibe" aimed at white stepdad of black child)
AskMom, "Playgroup" (on caring for own's own children vs. outsourcing the job)
Chris Farrell, Business Week, "In Praise Of Vouchers"
Dan Walters, San Jose Mercury Tribune, "Health Care Matters, But Not To Voters"
John Kass, Chicago Tribune, "Money: Daley Has It, Mayor Vince Is It" (why actor Vince Vaughn should run for Mayor of Chicago)
Peter Callaghan, Tacoma News Tribune, "Don't Like This Column? Blame It On The System"
B. Jefferson LeBlanc, Santa Cruz Sentinel, "Has The Progressive Tide Turned In Santa Cruz?"
Yakima Herald Republic, editorial, "Car Theft Penalties Must be Changed"
Vicki Haddock, San Francisco Chronicle, "Tempting Fate On The Road"
Marc Cooper, L.A. Times, "Sic Semper Tyrannis" (re Pinochet, Chile)
Jackson Diehl, Washington Post, "How Quickly Bush Forgot" (re Azerbaijan)
John Arquilla, San Francisco Chronicle, "Two Crucial Iraq Proposals"
Jim Hoagland, Washington Post, "Meanwhile, Reality In Iraq"
Mike Murphy, L.A. Times, "Draft Democrats To Help Run Iraq"
Michael McClellan, Port McClellan, "Pearl Harbor, Al Gore, And The Wise Men Who Produced Little Wisdom"
Chicago Tribune, editorial, "Annan's 'Culture Of Inaction'"
TECHNORATI TAGS: SEATTLE, CHRISTMAS, IMAMS, MINNEAPOLIS, M. ZUHDI JASSER, SCHOOL VOUCHERS, HEALTH CARE, CALIFORNIA, SANTA CRUZ, GROWTH, AZERBAIJAN, BUSH, IRAQ, PEARL HARBOR, KOFI ANNAN, PINOCHET, CHILE, CHICAGO, MAYOR DALEY, VINCE VAUGHN>
December 09, 2006
Getting Mugged By Reality, In Berkeley
UPDATED: Give Christopher Cherney credit for keepin' it real, almost to the point of his own family's endangerment. His upfront compendium of Living-In-Berkeley realities is a warning for idealistic parents contemplating the pros and ex-cons of enlightened urbanity.
For the past nine years, my wife and I have lived in Berkeley, on the border of Oakland. ...Too frequently, we hear...gunshots...I have learned to distinguish whether a shooter is on foot, and running toward or away from our house...About four years ago, a stabbing occurred only a block away. The stabber, we heard, was taken away to a local psychiatric hospital, never to return. Last year a close neighbor had her car tires slashed 11 times, always late at night. The slashing ended after the presumed slasher—a near neighbor—died of a drug overdose. This year on July 4, a brick was thrown through the passenger-side window of our non-descript, 16-year-old car.
Here's a curveball of sorts for anti-authoritarian urban "progressives." Notes Cherney:
"....We have come to respect the police. They are uniformly polite, and, when visible, comforting. I just wish they could do something to stop the blaring, thumping car stereos that incessantly ply neighborhood streets. There’s more. People smoke pot openly on the sidewalks. Every day we hear profane street language that often includes demeaning putdowns. I feel deeply sad when I hear those hurtful words. Our former roommate’s car was stolen three years ago. Four years ago our house was broken into while we slept. The intruder squeezed through a window that we have since replaced with half-inch-thick plexiglas. Miraculously we were not robbed or harmed. Here on the edge of Berkeley, people litter. It is common to hear a fast-food bag hit the street as it is flung out the window of a passing car. About once a month I find condoms on the sidewalk. We’re mere blocks from where prostitutes cruise San Pablo Avenue, within sight of the scores of new condos selling for $600,000 and up.
Broken Windows, Chris, Broken Windows. If police and residents address the "small" stuff, it helps forestall some of the rest. Only some - as more deeply pathological human behavior remains a large issue. But it's a good start to deal assertively with open air drug markets and public inebriation as opposed to, say, going after jaywalkers. We see the results of this failure in Seattle on a regular basis, especially near Pike Place Market, and in Pioneer Square and Belltown. It matters. In Berkeley, landmark People's Park is sporting bad wrinkles and so, not coincidentally, is the town itself.
Berserkely denizen Cherney writes:
I resonate with Berkeley’s history and complexity, and I do not shy away from the sometimes sad human parade that passes by our home. My wife and I have been here nine years, and plan to stay in our still-affordable home, raising our children, connecting to our neighbors and to our adopted city. Of course we’d like some things to be better. Absolutely we’d like the bullets to stop flying. And certainly we are trying to better understand the roots of the violence, crime, and human suffering that narrates much of the life of our urban Berkeley neighborhood.
He'd like to "better understand the roots of violence, crime and human suffering." That's quite precious. News flash: "roots of violence, crime and human suffering" = crappy parents.
Cherney needs to get just a bit more judgemental. The creeps making his neighborhood Hell need Bossy Daddies they don't have.
Question: Who makes it OK for those Daddies to not be there, and why?
December 07, 2006
Arcata's Municipal Mission: Managing The Misfits
O what compassion hath wrought! In NoCal's homeless hippie haven of Arcata, city government and other "stakeholders" have been wrestling for two years to develop a "Homeless Services Plan" with which to better succor the publicly-defecating itinerant entitlees who've turned the small city's downtown square into a Third World bazaar of despair. In an update, the Arcata Eye reports that "public and staff safety issues" at the local homeless center known as the Arcata Endeavor have been "somewhat addressed" through additional training provided by the local police chief. How nice that volunteers, staff and members of the public can be educated to accomodate surly homeless living off the charity of others. Arcata will soon be spending more public monies to mitigate what are euphemistically termed in the above-linked Eye piece, "traveler-related public behavior problems." The Eye notes the city manager says Arcata will be contracting with a violence prevention consulting firm, The Baron Center, to perform a 20-hour assessment of local trouble spots and then propose remedies. Baron Center has a long list of blue chip clients; a few cities but mostly large companies or government agencies, for whom typically the main issue is employee (a.k.a. "workplace") violence.
Then again, I suppose the central square of town is the workplace - in a manner of speaking - for the handout-hungry anti-socials decamped in Arcata. The clients of The Endeavor homeless center have badly worn out their welcome downtown; and a new more remote location is being sought. The Eye reports an anonymous donor (possibly a downtown merchant?) has offered to buy land west of downtown for the center. It's on a parcel where an earlier proposal to relocate the Endeavor, and another to establish a "cannabis clinic" both met with stiff resistance from merchants there.
Through it all, the important thing to remember, notes Arcata Council member Dave Meserve in The Eye, is that homelessness is not likely to eliminated within 10 years as many local and regional governments hope; because of "the present form of capitalism." Shockingly, a former employee of The Endeavor says that the clients themselves all too often shirk any responsibility for improving their own lot.
In "What Makes The Homeless Homeless? I wrote at Rosenblog:
We hear that alcohol and drug abuse are closely associated with homelessness, and so they are. But substance abuse often occurs after an individual has already made bad choices. Why are those choices made? Are there common threads among the homeless, in terms of their family histories? How do variables such as socio-economic status, edcuational attainment, two parents versus one, and receiving public assistance figure into the equation? The media need to dig deeper than the latest pile of crap left by a creekside, and the latest plaint for more "treatment." They must explain how the homeless become homeless; and who is really responsible for making the homeless not-homeless. Could it be the homeless themselves, and their families?But to vainglorious "progressives" like Dave Meserve, compassion for Arcata's "homeless" victims of capitalism is sported as a shiny badge of personal virtue. In truth, the moral authority of Meserve and his ilk rests on a platform made of balsa wood.
December 04, 2006
Rosenblog Opinion Review, Vol. 28
Matt Rosenberg, Tacoma News Tribune, "State GOP Needs A Centrist Plan To Make A Comeback"
Kathleen Parker, San Francisco Chronicle, "Americans Are Rich In Embarrassments"
Jessica Clark, San Francisco Chronicle, "A Singular Sensation - YouTube, MySpace Leading The 'Look At Me' Movement"
Bruce Ramsey, Seattle Times, "There's No Compelling Reason to Manage Race In Schools"
George Will, "Seattle Schools Play The Race Card"
Michael McGough, Los Angeles Times, "There's Little to Like About Hate Crime Laws"
Richard Vedder & Bryan O'Keefe,San Diego Union Tribune, "Saying 'No' To Wal-Mart And Hurting Shoppers"
Henry G. Manne, Opinion Journal, "Milton Friedman Was Right - 'Corporate Social Responsibility' Is Bunk"
Philip Terzian, Weekly Standard, "Another Newsroom Martyr - Don't Cry For The Los Angeles Times"
Ben Stein, New York Times, "In Class Warfare, Guess Which Class Is Winning?"
Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune, "Washington, It's Time to Pay As You Go"
Christian Science Monitor, editorial, "U.S. Citizenship - Not A Trivial Question"
Debra Saunders, San Francisco Chronicle, "The Dagger At Their Throats"
Neil G. Dobro, Rocky Mountain News, "Palestinian Terror In Beggars' Clothing"
Seattle Times, editorial, "The Other Mideast Peace"
T.X. Hammes, Washington Post, "The Way To Win A Guerilla War"
Chicago Tribune, editorial, "Ideas On Iraq's Future"
David Ignatius, Washington Post, "The Politics Of Murder"
Frederick W. Kagan, Weekly Standard, "We Can Put More Forces In Iraq...And They Would Make A Difference"
John Morlino, San Francisco Chronicle, "What's A Little Genocide Among Friends? Try Western Sudan"
Elizabeth Economy, Washington Post, "A Blame Game China Needs to Stop"
December 02, 2006
Salient Insights, Vol. 1
1) If there are four or more plastic-wrapped newspapers lying on your house's walkway, you are either:
a) away, and on the outs with your neighbors;
b) away, and a very poor planner;
c) or dead inside your house, and no one has bothered yet to check. Perhaps because you were on the outs with your neighbors.
2) Dogs which bark at intruders but not passers-by are much more impressive to me than those which bark at both.
3) Scientific research shows that no less than eight of ten "book discussion groups" are either a forum for women to complain about men or for liberals to complain about conservatives.
4) Cupcakes are overrated. Likewise giant muffins.
5) It's only fair that pitchers get steriods, too.
6) It's impossible to make fun of men wearing socks with sandals anymore after you see a tough guy with a military haircut sporting same.
7) If you have children, let them make your Christmas or Hanukkah cards this year.
8) There was quite a bit more to FCC Chairman Newton Minnow's' 1961 cautionary "vast wasteland" speech about television than that celebrated catch phrase.
December 01, 2006
Observations Ripe With Import, Vol. 1
Take these pearls one at a time.
When two of three clerks in the herbal apothecary are sniffling and coughing, something's off. Perhaps they're not getting enough vitamins.
Seattle coffeehouse denizens cocoon themselves with iPods, cell phones and laptops; speaking only to the barista, with whom they exchange banal intimacies and then reward with a tip for adding steamed milk to espresso. They are fully evolved moderns.
"Excuse me," loudly called the peeved and haggard, booze-reeking, sixty-something woman at 12:30 p.m. on the Number 22 bus today, to the driver. "Where's the movie theater?" He did not answer. Helpful Seattle-ites clarified there were a number of theaters, all back the other way. One man began to elaborate on the charms of a particular multiplex. My question - unasked - was, "Is there a particular movie you want to see? And if not, how have you arrived at needing to sleep in a movie theater in the middle of the day (apart from just getting snockered, that is)?" Her plans changed suddenly, as she got off to take another bus up First Hill. There are no movie theaters there, but plenty of hospital emergency rooms. Downtown is the "free ride zone" in more ways than one.
If you are going to smoke crack cocaine and get naked near the water, it is imperative that there be no alligators in said water.
"Rights" now extend to the creation of an outside commission to pick who makes the girls basketball team, at least for one bunch of insufferable San Francisco parents including - surprise, surprise - the wife of a judge. Oh, and none of the kids of the complainants made the team anyway. Surely, an appeal to higher authorities is imminent.
Always breathe deeply and slowly, through your nose, and remember that often, the less said, the better. (That last part only counts sometimes, if you blog).
Any lemon you flatter with purchase should have a thin skin, and be somewhat malleable to the touch.
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