July 31, 2003
University of Diversity

The University of Washington is having trouble recruiting a new president, the Seattle Times reports. The University ascribes part of the blame to the state's anti-affirmative action measure I-200, which was approved by 58% of the voters in 1998.

"It's regrettable that the presence of that law would prompt good people to withdraw," said Ernest R. Morris, UW vice president for student affairs. "It is an understandable concern. It's one with which we are grappling."

Morris said the measure has hindered the university's efforts to ensure that the campus is reflective of the community. As of last fall, the number of incoming freshmen who are ethnic minorities remained below levels before 1998, when I-200 was approved by voters

The following table compares the representation of ethnic groups in the UW's 2002 freshman class (domestic admissions), with the representation of each ethnic group among the state's 18-19 year olds:
Group % of UW freshman % of WA 18-19 y.o.
Non-Hispanic White
African American
American Indian / Alaskan Native
Hawaiian /Pacific Islander
Other, Mixed Race, Not reporting
(sources: University of Washington, US Census Bureau) The numbers in the right column do not add to 100% because there is overlap between Hispanic and the non-white groups.

Ernest Morris did not explain how the university is not "reflective of the community", and the Seattle Times reporter did not challenge him for a clarification. But the most glaring discrepancy between the ethnic composition of the university and the State of Washington is that White people are significantly "underrepresented" on campus while Asians are significantly "overrepresented". I don't see this as a problem, but perhaps others do. One can only hope the local press will challenge the university to explain exactly what they want to do to make the university more "reflective of the community". You can't increase the proportion of group X without decreasing the proportion of group Y, and white people are already "underrepresented" relative to the community at large. So if the plan is to dramatically reduce the number of Asians on campus, somebody should explicitly state this. If the university has a different plan for achieving "diversity", the taxpayers who help pay for the university deserve to hear what it is.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:15 PM
It's in the P-I ...

... so it probably doesn't intersect with the real world.

Today's unsigned editorial applauds proposed federal legislation to protect mail-order brides:

Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Rick Larsen have introduced a bill to create common-sense regulations protecting the women. The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act would reduce the chances of other women falling victim to violent, abusive husbands like the men who killed Susana Blackwell and Anastasia Soloveva King.

The Washington Democrats' proposal requires that prospective brides receive information about the men's criminal records, any court protective orders and legal rights in the United States.

Okay, slow down.

First, there are believed to be between 4,000 and 6,000 mail-order brides who come to this country every year. "Believed" is the operative word, because nobody really knows. Furthermore, nobody really knows whether or not mail-order brides are more or less likely to become victims of domestic violence than any other American wives, and nobody really knows what percentage of mail-order brides are satisfied in their marriages, or what percentage feel that their lives are better off than they would have been had they stayed in their home countries. On the other hand, one can find many news stories about the horrible deaths of Susana Blackwell and Anastasia King. But I haven't found any other news reports about any other mail-order brides who were killed by their husbands. So out of, say, 30,000 to 50,000 mail-order brides since 1995 (when Susana Blackwell was murdered) I have found reports of exactly two who were murdered by their husbands. These two cases are terribly sad, but not exactly indications of an epidemic of mail-order uxoricide.

Still, if there is a problem, why not try to prevent it? So does the proposed legislation offer the protections that the P-I claims that it does, e.g. that the law require

prospective brides receive information about the men's criminal records, any court protective orders
No, it does not. It does require that the prospective husband be subject to a criminal background check as part of the prospective bride's visa application process. It also requires the prospective husband to self-report additional information about his background (including prior marriages and any court protective orders). But there is no requirement that either the marriage broker or the government verify that the information reported by the prospective husband is accurate..

Okay, so the law isn't perfect, but at least it requires a criminal background check. And disclosing the prior criminal records of Indle King and Timothy Blackwell to their prospective brides might have saved those women's lives, might it not? No, because as far as I can tell, neither man had a criminal record before he murdered his wife.

So, we have yet another example of what seems to be a typical pattern: A tiny number of tragic cases are fantasized into a widespread problem that demands a legislative solution. Legislators rise to the occasion and propose a feel-good law that creates expense and inconvenience for a few, but doesn't really do anything to fix the bigger problem, assuming a bigger problem even exists. And in any event, the law, had it been in place, wouldn't have even averted the tragedies that it was supposedly designed to prevent. For some reason, politicians, activists and newspaper editors seem to love this sort of thing. God only knows why.

[I have calls into the offices of both Senator Maria Cantwell and Rep. Rick Larsen on this issue. I will give their staffers an opportunity to respond to this posting and I will gladly update or correct any of the above factual assertions per any new information that they can provide].

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:00 PM
The Rampaging Nanny State

Washington state legislator Mary Lou Dickerson wrote an op-ed for yesterday's Seattle Times defending the "Video Violence Law" which she sponsored. The law would impose a civil fine of up to $500 on anyone who sells or rents to minors under 17 any game that "depicts violence against public-safety officers".

While the column gives a few examples of some terribly tasteless games, Dickerson fails to make the case that the state should perform the supervisory role that is properly left to parents. Instead, there is hysteria:

We've already seen too many murders linked to violent video games, including mass school shootings in Kentucky, Arkansas and Colorado. The teenagers who murdered 13 people at Columbine High School trained on the game "Doom," with photographs from the high-school yearbook pasted onto the game's virtual victims.
"Linked"? Please. The Columbine shooting was also "linked" to bowling, Marilyn Manson, black trench coats and video cameras. Unable to find an actual causal relationship between video game violence and actual violence, Dickerson fantasizes one into existence:
How many killings will it take before the video-game industry admits there's a problem?
Should the "Video Violence Law" clear the hurdle of the federal courts, Dickerson will no doubt continue her efforts to stamp out all depictions of make-believe violence against public safety officers. If she gets her way, you can rest assured that:

* It will be illegal for anyone to sell or rent to minors the Jean-Luc Godard movie Breathless (the Belmondo character kills a policeman).

* It will be illegal for anyone to sell or rent to minors the book The Grapes of Wrath (Tom Joad kills a policeman)

* It will be illegal for children to play "Cops and Robbers". You know, in order to prevent any make-believe killings of make-believe cops by make-believe robbers using make-believe guns.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
July 30, 2003

The CaliforniaRepublic.org has added the Shark as a contributor, joining the ranks of several other fine folks (I'm humbled to be included in their league). The CRO will carry some of my pieces related to California, such as commentary on a few of the finer California institutions (e.g. Robert Scheer and Nancy Pelosi).

Be sure to read the CRO for, among other things, their coverage of the California governor recall election.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:15 PM
The history of "Fisking"

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "fisk" is a very old word indeed:

fisk, v. Obs. Also 46 fysk(e, 68 fiske.
[Possibly a frequentative (formed with k suffix as in walk, talk, lurk) of OE. fsan to hurry, or of fsian, fsian feeze v. Cf. the synonymous Sw. fjska, a frequentative of fjsa to bustle, make a fuss.]
intr. To move briskly, scamper about, frisk, whisk; also with about, abroad, in and out, to and fro.
Quot. 1906 is a deliberate archaism.
1340 Gaw. & Gr. Knt. 1704 & he fyskez hem by-fore, ay founden hym sone.
1393 Langl. P. Pl. C. x. 153 What frek of ys folde fiske us a-boute?
1440 Promp. Parv. 162/2 Fiskin a-bowte yn ydilnesse, vagor.
1549 Latimer 4th Serm. bef. Edw. VI (Arb.) 104 Than he is busithen he fyskes a brode.
1575 J. Still Gamm. Gurton i. ii. in Dodsl. O. Pl. II. 10 Tome Tannkard's Cowfysking with her taile.
1620 Z. Boyd Zion's Flowers (1855) 114 Why feare yee so, thus fisking in and out?
1700 B. E. Dict. Cant. Crew, Gadding-Gossips, way-going Women, Fidging and Fisking everywhere.
1906 Kipling Puck of Pook's Hill 120 Take me from Pevensey to fisk and flyte through fern and forest.
1556 J. Heywood Spider & F. lvii. 242 If he scaped this, at all times to be ware, With faint fond flies, to fiske agayne a warfare.
fisking vbl. n. and ppl. a. Also
fisker, one who frisks or scampers about.
1440 Promp. Parv. 162/2 Fyscare a-bowte ydylly, discursor, discursatrix, vagulus vel vagator.
1523 Fitzherb. Husb. 45 If a shepe haue mathes, ye shall perceyue it by her bytynge, or fyskynge.
1592 G. Harvey Pierce's Super. 175 Not such an other muttereror a fisking will.
1601 Deacon & Walker Answ. to Darel 190 Being growne very wearie with your violent fiskings.
1611 Cotgr. s.v. Trotiere, A fisking huswife, a raunging damsell.
1620 Z. Boyd Zion's Flowers (1855) 91 ThoughtsCome buzzing so within mybreast, With fisking traine.
1675Rules of Civility v in Antiquary (1880) II. 58/2 Madam, fisking and pratling are but ill ways to please.

... except in the blogosphere, where a good fisking is a fine way to please!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:01 PM
Another Evergreen "peace" terrorist

Sam Tsohonis, a 26-year-old college student at the Evergreen State Terrorist Training Camp got himself injured this week while trying to prevent the Israeli army from defending its citizens from terrorist attacks.

An Evergreen State College student was injured slightly Monday while demonstrating with Palestinians in the West Bank, according to news reports and his mother. Sam Tsohonis, 26, is two weeks into a two-month stay as an activist, hoping to work with Palestinian artists to create a "peace mural." He and four Palestinian protesters were injured while demonstrating against Israel's construction of a security fence in the West Bank.
[I assume the "peace mural" will look something like this mural -- Ed.]
President Bush has encouraged the Israelis to remove the fence; thus far Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has refused.
[ The nerve of those damn Jews to make their own national security decisions -- Ed.]
Tsohonis' mother, Marci Tsohonis, said Corrie's death motivated her son to go to the contested territories and that he has no plans to come home before his two-month commitment has been met.

"I wish he was home, but he's wanting to be there to do what he can to make it a better world," she said.

To some people, "a better world" is apparently a world where there is a Palestinian terror state but no Jewish state; and a world where Saddam Hussein is still in office...

Sam Tsohonis was arrested in March for pedestrian interference when he stopped his own car in moving traffic and smashed it with a hammer as a protest against the liberation of Iraq:

"By destroying my car, I disarm myself," [one of his fellow protesters] said. "All of us drivers are not so secret supporters of oil executives deciding the fate of millions of innocents in countries they have never visited, taking the lives of people they have never met."
Please feel free to smash your own car and get yourself shot in the leg, Sam. Just do it someplace where you don't interfere with innocent people who prefer to protect themselves from the terrorist regimes you prefer to support.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:28 PM
Governor Santa Claus

King County Executive Ron Sims has announced he will seek the Democratic nomination for next year's Washington State governor's race.

Sims pledged to bring health-care coverage to more Washingtonians and to improve education.
If elected governor, Sims said, he will look for ways to streamline and reduce the cost of state government before considering higher taxes to support initiatives such as smaller class sizes in public schools, higher teacher pay and broader health-care coverage.
No word yet how he plans to reduce the cost of state government while simultaneously increasing expenditures and holding the line on taxes.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:10 AM
The Pelosi Doctrine

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on military intervention in Liberia:

"The special historical relationship between the people of the United States and the people of Liberia compels us to do what we can to end the suffering there. Therefore, I support the deployment of a limited number of American military personnel, as part of an international force that includes the United Nations and West African nations, to help bring peace to Liberia.

"The atrocities of Charles Taylor are well known. I agree with President Bush that Charles Taylor must leave Liberia. The sooner he leaves, the sooner the lives of the Liberian people will start to improve."

I'm still seeking the quote from Pelosi that says
"The atrocities of Saddam Hussein are well known. I agree with President Bush that Saddam Hussein must leave Iraq. The sooner he leaves, the sooner the lives of the Iraqi people will start to improve."
If you can find it, please let me know.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:55 AM
Risk Management

The Seattle Times wasn't impressed with the Pentagon's proposal to establish a futures market as a way to collect decentralized information about potential terror threats

The Pentagon wisely has backed off a plan to set up a futures trading market where traders speculated on disaster as a means of predicting terrorism attacks.

Still, some damage was done with newspapers from Paris to Sydney trotting out the details of the disgusting plan in which traders could profit from betting on such things as military coups and assassinations.

What better way to affirm the most cynical world citizens' view of the United States as arrogant and indifferent to the plight of Middle Eastern people than to consider setting up a gambling ring that profits from their despair.

I wonder if the Times is also opposed to the existence of the entire insurance industry, which is, uh, a legalized form of gambling that profits from betting on cancer, fires, automobile crashes, earthquakes, untimely death, etc.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:40 AM
July 29, 2003
Weekly Canard

This is not an April Fool's joke, but I think this week's Robert Scheer column contains a shred of sense.

In the last week we've moved from the 16 deceitful words in George W. Bush's State of the Union speech to the 28 White House-censored pages in the congressional report that dealt with Saudi Arabia's role in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the United States.
Scheer goes on to criticize the administration's apparent coziness with the House of Saud and its apparent unwillingness to disclose the full extent of the Saudi connection to the 9/11 attacks. But don't look to Scheer to produce more than a single shred of sense. The column is loaded with the usual helpings of illogic and distortions.
Yet even in its sanitized version, the bipartisan report, long delayed by an embarrassed White House, makes clear that the U.S. should have focused on Saudi Arabia, and not Iraq, in the aftermath of Sept. 11.
Why should the choice be between going after Iraq OR Saudi Arabia, but not both? As far as I can tell, Robert Scheer has never advocated that we should impose regime change on Saudi Arabia, as many others have advocated. And if the Bush administration ever did use military force against the Saudi terror kings, you know that Robert Scheer would oppose the war for the same bogus reasons he opposed the liberation of Iraq.
As we know, but our government tends to ignore, 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia; none came from Iraq.
The only reason we know where the hijackers came from is because our government told us where the hijackers came from.
The report finds no such connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda terrorists. It is now quite clear that the president -- unwilling to deal with the ties between Saudi Arabia and Osama bin Laden -- pursued Hussein as a politically convenient scapegoat.
That's just the old "Saddam not so bad" Canard
is it really likely that career-conscious FBI and CIA officers would be willing to criticize possible Al Qaeda-House of Saud links when the president's father is out hustling business ties with the same family?
If career intelligence officers are spiking information about Al Qaeda-House of Saud links for any reason it would be a scandal, let alone for the reason that Scheer mentions. But does he have any ounce of evidence that this is happening, or is it only his own wishful fantasy?
Bush has used Sept. 11 as an excuse to turn this country upside down,
The perception that the world is upside-down is a common side-effect of walking around with one's head up one's fundament
making a hash of civil liberties
Poor Bob, has the CIA been censoring his columns and ripping out his toenails again?
and bankrupting our federal government with unprecedented deficit spending on war and its materiel.
The current estimate of the cost of the war through next year is $100 billion, or about $350 per capita. That is not an "unprecedented" cost, it is a much lower cost than many of the other wars in our history
Before we do any more irrevocable damage in the name of an open-ended "war against evil," we have a right and a responsibility to confront the uncensored truth of what happened that black day — no matter what powerful people are brought to account.
Scheer has a point there. I've always said that the "war against terrorism" should more correctly be named the "war against Arab and Islamic fascism" and that we should work for regime change not only in Iraq, but also in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and elsewhere. But Robert Scheer will always demonize the Republicans and he will always sympathize with our real enemies, no matter who they are or what we call them.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:27 PM
July 28, 2003
Saudi Duty

Solly Ezekiel is having a little fun at Saudi Arabia's expense.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:55 PM
School Daze

In case anybody needs any more reasons to support a dramatic overhaul of the public schools, here is one more reason: Nobody is really in charge.

The elected school board members aren't staying in office long enough to assert public accountability:

A recent survey for the National School Boards Association (NSBA) found that only 43 percent of current school-board members planned to seek another term.

In the world of volunteerism, the school board occupies a niche all its own. The job sends people into the sacred territory of a child's future, then asks them to tinker around while thousands of parents watch. For many, the responsibility weighs too heavily. The time commitment comes as a shock. The pace of change is a frustration.

And the controversy that hits every district, sooner or later, is brutal — particularly these days, as education reform collides with budget constraints.

"I had no idea what I was getting into," said Pamela Werner , a former teacher who plans to leave the Riverview School Board after one year in the post. "It can really wear you down."

And the superintendents aren't really in charge either:
Despite a strong push for K-12 education reform from President Bush and increasing public pressure to improve U.S. schools, the nation's superintendents feel powerless to make the necessary changes, according to a University of Washington study to be released today. ... A survey of the superintendents of the nation's 100 largest districts who collectively oversee 6.5 million students issued a warning. The superintendents said that many of their best efforts at reform are hindered by the way power is divided among what they characterized as micromanaging school boards and teachers unions that aren't flexible.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:02 PM
Administration Cover-up

If there is a cover-up scandal in the Bush administration, it is not about the prudent overcaution in assessing the Iraqi WMD threat, it is about the imprudent undercaution in acknowledging the Saudi terrorism threat.

The Bush administration should make public the facts about Saudi Arabia's complicity with terrorists rather than worry about offending the kingdom, lawmakers said yesterday.
One senator said 95 percent of the classified pages of last week's congressional report on the work of intelligence agencies before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were kept secret only to keep from embarrassing a foreign government.

"I think they're classified for the wrong reason," Sen. Richard Shelby, former vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told NBC's "Meet the Press."

"I went back and read every one of those pages thoroughly. ... My judgment is 95 percent of that information could be declassified, become uncensored so the American people would know."

Asked why the section was blacked out, the Alabama Republican said: "I think it might be embarrassing to international relations."

In unclassified pages of the report, released Thursday, several unidentified government officials complained of a lack of Saudi cooperation. "According to a U.S. government official, it was clear from about 1996 that the Saudi government would not cooperate with the United States on matters related to Osama bin Laden," the report says.

The Saudi issue is one on which this administration and its predecessors have a great deal of explaining to do.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:33 AM
July 26, 2003
Happy Weekend

The Shark will return on Monday

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:30 AM
July 25, 2003

Yesterday morning at the coffee house I heard the guy behind the counter yell out "Bagel for Zapolsky, bagel for Zapolsky". A few minutes later "There's still a bagel at the counter for Zapolsky". I noticed one of my new neighbors sitting outside at a sidewalk table. Her husband, I recalled, had introduced himself as Mr. Zapolsky, so I figured it was her bagel and she couldn't hear the barista from where she was sitting. So I went out and interrupted her business meeting to let her know about her bagel. "I didn't order a bagel" she said, glancing at the great big muffin on the plate in front of her.
"Never mind," I said, "I just heard them announce a bagel for Zapolsky"
"The name is Zaretsky," she said kindly, "but I don't go by that name anyway."

Yesterday evening at the Mariners game I met a guy whose name really was Zapolsky. I told him the story about the bagel. But it wasn't his bagel either.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:57 PM
Take me out to the ballgame

We spent last evening watching the Seattle Mariners play the Oakland A's. Boy, can that Ichiro hit. The high point of the game -- bottom of the 7th with 2 outs, Oakland was ahead 3-0, Mariners had the bases loaded, it was Carlos Guillen's chance to be a hero. Alas, he struck out. The game ended 3-0. Still, we had a fabulous time, enjoying the game from the owner's box. It was a benefit event for Boalt Hall School of Law, my wife's alma mater. Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln is a Boalt alumnus and he hosted us in style. Trust me on this, there is no better way to see a ballgame than from the owner's box. Come to think of it, watching from the dugout might be kind of fun too, but I wouldn't know.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:46 PM
July 24, 2003
The Stranger

These two items from the latest issue of Seattle's The Stranger alternative weekly show why there is still hope for our local media

Dept. of Dopes

Cleveland Congressman Dennis Kucinich brought his lu-lu long-shot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination to Seattle on Saturday, July 19. Kucinich, best known for advocating a Department of Peace, drew a Seattle Weekly crowd of aging hippie peaceniks and baby-boom New Agers to a U-District church. The audience eagerly chanted "The market has failed" at Kucinich's behest. In a terrible setback for Seattle, some 700 people attended. SANDEEP KAUSHIK

Heh. Nice work, Sandeep.

Meanwhile, news editor Josh Feit comments on the latest political scandal to rock Seattle -- a few of the city council members who are up for re-election accepted large campaign contributions from a strip-club owner. Feit makes an interesting observation and offers a refreshing solution you won't hear from the fuddy-duddy dailies

But the accounts have failed to mention why [strip club owner] Colacurcio and his colleagues, in addition to wanting the immediate benefits of expanding his Lake City Way lot, would see fit to send so much money [council member] Nicastro's way. (The contributions represent 13 percent of Nicastro's $144,000 campaign cache.) Here's a theory: Nicastro has repeatedly extended Seattle's vague (and illegal?) ban on new strip clubs. In that time, Colacurcio has donated $5,450 to city hall--one time kicking in his cash just four days prior to the council vote on the ban. Preventing new strip clubs from opening in Seattle is obviously a boon for Colacurcio. (There are currently just four strip clubs in Seattle with only three owners.) Colacurcio wasn't available for a comment.

Neither Nicastro nor the city staffer who oversees the strip club "moratorium"--which is purportedly awaiting the results of a study that hasn't materialized in fifteen years--could explain the ban. In fact, when asked about it, the staffer referred me to Nicastro and Nicastro referred me to the staffer. Nicastro eventually acknowledged that the ban should go, but said she didn't feel compelled to lift it. Huh?

Feit's solution: Build more strip clubs. Yes, sometimes it really is that simple.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:55 PM
A letter from my Alma Mater

Stanford University, where I earned a Master's degree, included this note in its monthly e-mail to alumni:

University pleased with Supreme Court decision in University of Michigan case
Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Robin Mamlet said the recent Supreme Court decision in Grutter v. Bollinger reaffirmed the way Stanford selects its student class because race is one of "a whole host" of factors considered in reviewing applications. The court's decision validated the principle articulated by Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell in the 1978 Bakke case that diversity is a "compelling interest" in the admission process.
In the linked news release, we are reminded that
In her opinion, O'Connor cautioned that affirmative action will outlive its usefulness. "Twenty-five years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary," she wrote.
But those who are addicted to racial preferences disagree

[Stanford law professor Pamela] Karlan and [vice provost for campus relations LaDoris] Cordell are not so sure. "If we go on the way we are with inadequate support for poor people and education, 25 years from now we'll be in a similar situation to today," Karlan said. "Affirmative action doesn't help the poorest of the poor. The people who benefit from affirmative action are the luckiest minorities."
Since it only benefits the most fortunate, we are doing this because???
Cordell said the court's decisions allow her to "breathe a sigh of relief," but she expects people will try to overturn them. "This is a nation obsessed with race," she said. "It's going to take a lot to bring about change. But I have faith in the justice system. The push for diversity will continue. Twenty-five years down the road we will still be fighting the good fight."
The press release also includes this perspective:
Richard Yuen, assistant dean and director of the Asian American Activities Center, said the rulings may have a ripple effect in furthering diversity. "The decisions send the message that we do need changes ... that we still have work to do in diversifying higher education," he said. "Our undergraduate population has reached a significant level of diversity [but], hopefully, these rulings will have a positive impact on diversifying our faculty and graduate students."
The following is the actual ethnic breakdown of Stanford's student body and faculty
Group Undergraduate Graduate Faculty U.S Population
American Indian
< 1%
Asian American / Pacific Islander
White (non-Hispanic)
Other / Not identified
(sources:Stanford University Facts 2003, U.S. Census Bureau)

If you take the position that the goal of "diversity" is to reflect the population at large, we can see that whites are somewhat overrepresented on the faculty but significantly underrepresented in the student body, while Asians are significantly "overrepresented" across the board. Personally, I would hope that Stanford simply admit and hire the very best people it can find, without regard to ethnicity. If that means there will be, say, a few "too many" Asians in the medical school and a few "too many" Hungarians in the math department, that's just the price we pay for having a meritocracy. I wonder if Richard Yuen realizes that the only way the university can improve "diversity" would be to reduce the number of Asians on campus. For some reason, I think that the university will opt to reduce the number of white people, even though that would improve neither the university's quality nor its "diversity".

My own experience with "affirmative action" at Stanford is described here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
July 23, 2003
It's all in the nuance

Today's headlines from the local papers:

Seattle Times:

Saddam’s sons killed in gunfight at hide-out
Reviled brothers’ demise seen as blow to loyalists, boost to U.S. troops
[large PDF]

Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Saddam's sons slain in assault
Acting on a tip, a U.S. force of 200 attacks a house in Mosul
[large PDF]

Can anybody see the difference?

The P-I editors must have been crying in their beer when they wrote the headline.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:50 PM
Marketing 101 for Journalism Professors

The Seattle Times' regular guest columnist and journalism professor Floyd J. McKay laments the existence of marketing.

One of the results of our incessant marketing is that we are willing to be used, ourselves, to market the products of others.
Unfortunately for professor McKay, he is also being used (unwittingly, it seems) to market the products of others. If the Seattle Times is typical of other newspapers, about 16% of its revenue comes from circulation, 82% from advertising.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:27 AM
LGF Radio

Charles Johnson is being interviewed live right now on the Dennis Prager Show!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:15 AM
July 22, 2003
Weekly Canard

Today is Tuesday, so it is once again time to fire up our trusty Canard-o-matic and see what Bob Scheer has to say. Even though Halloween is more than three months away, sit back, grab a bowl of trick-or-treat candy and enjoy the show because this week's column has more fictional elements than any haunted house movie.

The tour of the haunted house begins with the witch in the headline

The Witch Hunt Against the BBC
It then goes on to David Kelly's ghost, who is revealing secrets to Bob Scheer from the other side:
the death of British biological weapons expert David Kelly was a suicide. But if the reserved scientist took his own life, it was in response to the British Ministry of Defense outing and reprimanding him as the alleged whistle-blower behind the BBC's controversial report that the government "sexed up" its intelligence information to make the case for war.
From behind a closet door lunges Scary Blairy, the ghoul who frightens children:
what Tony Blair did was not merely hype the case for preemptively invading Iraq. Rather, he deliberately lied to his public about the certainty of his claims to frighten the people into sending their children off to war.
In the parlor we have a man who can see things that are not there and cannot see things that are there:
Remember, the BBC was not taking the safe route that so many news organizations prefer. Yet, time and again, they have been proved right with each new revelation of half-truths, outright lies and data manipulation on the part of the coalition's leaders-in-chief.
Up in the attic of the haunted house, buried in cobwebs and dust, is a pile of discarded ideas, like the belief in state-funded media that is unaccountable to the public, of the kind they had in the Soviet Union and Saddam's Iraq and still have in Great Britain:
[The BBC] should be a great advertisement for the model of a free society that we claim to be eager to export to, or impose on, the rest of the world. In most countries, publicly subsidized broadcasting is an important source of news, and the BBC serves as the premier example [of a media institution that is accountable to nobody]
In the infirmary, witness the resurrection of a dead and buried myth:
The BBC's reporting on the doctored intelligence concerning weapons of mass destruction followed its notable report debunking the U.S. military propaganda tale of the battle and rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch.
The crazy guy is still hiding in the basement with his butcher knife and Bob Scheer tries to reassure us that he never existed
Clearly the immediacy of the threat from Hussein was a phony claim that Blair and Bush should have known full well was not backed up by any substantial evidence.
Bob Scheer concludes his paranormal excursion by telling us he can see into the future, just like Nostradamus:
Last week in his speech, Blair smugly claimed the favorable judgment of future historians, but it is the BBC that history will celebrate for its pursuit of truth.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:05 PM
The Administration Did Lie

A high-ranking Bush administration official really did "sex-up" a report to Congress in order to build support for the project. The Seattle Times has the incriminating evidence:

In the heat of a national conflict over rail funding, Federal Transit Administration chief Jennifer Dorn recently said light rail in Seattle would take enough cars off the road to fill "seven lanes of traffic during peak travel times."
She made the comparison in a letter July 11, urging Congress to provide a $500 million federal grant for the $2.44 billion Sound Transit line between Westlake Center and Tukwila.
The Times' own Mike Lindblom fisks the bureaucrat:
But Dorn's statement contains a number of flaws:

It compares all-day light-rail use to a single hour of highway traffic.

Dorn refers to "peak travel times" — which implies seven lanes of traffic relief for a prolonged period — instead of mentioning "one hour."

Interstate 5 is filled for seven hours a day, not one. Over the course of an entire weekday, the eight general-use lanes and two high-occupancy-vehicle lanes carry almost a quarter-million vehicles at its pinch point just south of the West Seattle Bridge exit.

There's more to the fisking, and the article lists a number of similarly dishonest quotes from local officials who are trying to get the public to buy into the poorly conceived and wasteful light-rail system.

You just know that politicians and bureaucrats deceive the public with this sort of thing all the time. For some reason it rarely becomes an issue except when, say, people invent charges of deception when they're upset that a brutal dictator has been removed from office.

Kudos to Lindblom and the Timesfor doing exactly what newspapers should be doing more of.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
July 21, 2003
Why Did Bush Go to War?

Krauthammer sums it up pretty nicely:

In fact, Bush's case was simply a more elaborate and formal restatement of Bill Clinton's argument in 1998 that, left unmolested, Hussein would "go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And some day, some way, I guarantee you, he'll use the arsenal."

That was true when Clinton said it. It was true when Bush said it. The difference is that Bush did something about it

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:54 PM
Monday Morning Quarterbacking

Today's Washington Post reports that Pre-war intelligence viewed Saddam attack as unlikely

"Saddam, if sufficiently desperate, might decide that only an organization such as al Qaeda, . . . already engaged in a life-or-death struggle against the United States, could perpetrate the type of terrorist attack that he would hope to conduct," one key judgment of the estimate said.

It went on to say that Hussein might decide to take the "extreme step" of assisting al Qaeda in a terrorist attack against the United States if it "would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him."

You know this is already being used to "prove" that Bush lied to get us into a pointless war -- for example by this guy, who concludes that "White House Knew Saddam More Dangerous if Attacked" [emphasis mine]. The same guy also claims that "Connection Between Iraq and Al Qaeda Still Not There" and that "Experts Were Told Iraq had No WMDs Months Before War"

Let's stop, and review all of this for a minute. Today's report was not about intelligence data, but about a predictive assessment. And it was a wrong assessment, because Saddam Hussein did not fulfill the prediction, in spite of the fact that he has been in a life-and-death struggle. Furthermore, this prediction was inherently based on the intelligence agencies' own assumptions that (1) Saddam had ties with terrorists, and (2) he possessed WMD -- which contradicts all those other accusations that Bush lied.

All this proves is:
(a) Intelligence is a highly imprecise business, especially the part where they tie facts together to predict the future. Our intelligence agencies, after all, did not predict, for example (i) the impending collapse of the Soviet Union, (ii) Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, and (iii) the September 11 attacks
(b) Our intelligence agencies need to do a better job
(c) It's a good thing the ultimate decisions are being made by elected and accountable civilian leaders and not by career bureaucrats in the intelligence agencies
(d) those who are viscerally opposed to George W Bush are so desperate to try to discredit the man that they will throw up any internally inconsistent nonsense and won't even notice that they're contradicting themselves.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:47 PM
It's All in the Numbers

A commenter in the "Guns vs. Vitamins" debate below wrote:

Really, aren't there more accidental deaths due to guns than there are due to vitamins?
In fact, here is what the Centers for Disease Control tells us about fatal and non-fatal injuries for 2000, the latest year for which statistics are available:

Non-fatal accidental injuries from poisoning: 334,652
Non-fatal accidental injuries from firearms: 23,237

Accidental deaths from poisoning: 12,757
Accidental deaths from firearms: 776

In other words, poisoning accidents caused 14 times as many non-fatal injuries and 16 times as many deaths as firearm accidents.

The precise point of the specific bumpersticker was not total deaths, but about "gunowners who accidentally shoot their children". According to the same CDC database, there were 1,838 non-fatal accidental shootings of children 14 and under (86 deaths), vs. 106,945 non-fatal poisoning accidents (91 deaths) -- in other words, 58 times as many accidents and about the same number of deaths. The CDC doesn't break down the numbers by the poisons involved, but the article I linked below cites the NIH's claim that

Accidental overdose of iron is the leading cause of poisoning death in children under the age of six, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since 1986, there have been over 110,000 cases of children ingesting too much iron and over 35 deaths associated with iron overdose.
I think it's fair to conclude that many more children are accidentally poisoned by their parents' vitamin pills than are accidentally shot by their parents.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:46 PM
Blog of the Day, July 21

Today's Blog of the Day is Roger L. Simon

Roger is an accomplished mystery novelist and screen writer. Before he started the blog, I knew his movie The Big Fix, which starred Richard Dreyfuss as '60s radical turned private-eye Moses Wine. He also received an Oscar nomination for the screenplay adaptation of Enemies: A Love Story from the Isaac Bashvis Singer novel. (Having both read the book and seen the movie, I can say it was a terrific screen rendition of a terrific book)

A self-described former radical-liberal who experienced an "emotional dislocation" on September 11 and has since re-evaluated some of his beliefs and alliances, Roger writes a thought-provoking blog that is always full of insights and a pleasure to read.

Roger earns his Blog of the Day Award today of all days, because I just finished reading his latest Moses Wine novel Director's Cut. It is a very clever and funny book, part post-9/11 mystery involving terrorists, and part satire of the independent film business. The take on the independent film world is drawn heavily from his own experience (see this interview and this essay) I won't give a full review as others have (here and here, for example) All I'll say is if you're going to read any mysteries this summer, Director's Cut should be at the top of your list. And when you're done, you're going to feel inspired to go catch up on all of the earlier Moses Wine tales you might have missed.

Keep up the good work, Roger, and if you're ever in Seattle, I'll be honored to buy you a beer or other beverage of you're choice.

[More information on the Shark Blog's Blog of the Day tradition is here]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
July 20, 2003
Bumpersticker Logic

I saw the following bumpersticker on the car in front of me today:

If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will shoot their children accidentally.
That is a true statement, but so is this one:
If vitamin pills are outlawed, only outlaws will poison their children accidentally.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:44 PM
July 19, 2003
Put them all back on the streets

Ha'aretz reports that

A senior United States official said this week, in a closed-door conversation, that Israel has not done enough regarding Palestinian prisoner releases, and must do more on the issue. The official said that Israel must show flexibility on the subject of prisoners "with blood on their hands," indicating those prisoners that Israel holds responsible for Israeli casualties.
And just to demonstrate that only good things can come from letting dangerous criminals out of jail, the Bush admininstration will drop all charges against Paul Shanley and John Allen Muhammad and give another weekend furlough to Willie Horton.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:49 PM
Here and There, July 19

Roadmap Update: It's all but impossible to negotiate, let alone enforce, a peace deal with someone when there is nobody in charge.

Mollie Ingebrand, a 34-year-old puppeteer from Minneapolis, is moving to Vancouver because of her long-standing affinity for Canada, "fueled partly by respect for its health care system"

For me, it's a no-brainer
Well, yes, you would have to be a no-brainer to go to Canada for the healthcare system, without having done enough research to learn that it's not all that it's cracked up to be. Good luck, Mollie.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:12 PM
July 18, 2003
It's in the P-I

From the pages of today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

The front-page headline reads: Allied in Defense of War[pdf] (referring to Tony Blair's visit to Washington). A more accurate reading of Blair's speech to Congress would be: "Allied in Defense of Civilization"

James Huntley writes on the op-ed page that:

Experience says Japan will resist U.S.-imposed democracy

Can the United States impose democracy on an unreceptive people? My experience helping build democracy in postwar Germany from 1952 to 1955 suggests not. We did our job in Germany; we are poised to fail in Japan

oops, my mistake. He actually wrote that "we are poised to fail in Iraq", but all of his reasons why democracy won't work in Iraq would also have applied to Japan in 1945.

An unsigned editorial castigates local Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn for opposing a wasteful boondoggle, arguing that it's her job to support wasteful boondoggles as long as the money is spent in Washington State.

Finally, the P-I leaves unchallenged a conspiracy between University of Washington administrators and Washington State legislators to circumvent the will of the voters and effectively reduce the number of Asian students admitted to the University. The University and the legislators want to reintroduce racial preferences in admissions, overturning the successful 1998 ballot initiative I-200 which explicitly bans such a practice. The University reports that last year's freshman class had the following composition (excluding the 3% of the class from overseas):
White (non-Hispanic): 56.5%
Asian: 27.9%
Hispanic: 3.8%
African American: 2.9%
American Indian: 1.3%
Hawaiin/Pacific Islander: 0.5%
Not reporting: 7.1%

The P-I chose to leave out the important context of the State's actual ethnic composition:
White: 78.9%
Asian: 5.4%
Hispanic (of any race): 7.5%
African American: 3.1%
American Indian: 1.4%
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 0.4%
Not reporting/Other: 3.3%
(source: 2000 US Census)
In other words, all we can say about the University of Washington freshman class is that Whites are the most dramatically underrepresented group on campus, and Asians are the most dramatically overrepresented. The only way to bring "racial balance" to the University is to put a de facto cap on the number of Asians who are allowed in. The University, the legislature and the P-I all seem to think this is a good idea, others may disagree.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:20 PM
The emphasis is on "fascism"

Ralf Goergens emails:

Charles Johnson posted today an article on the opening of the Mosque in Granada, Spain and a conference of European Muslims there. The article contains this passage on a radical German Muslim convert:
Also addressing the conference was German Muslim leader Abu Bakr Rieger. He told participants that as Muslims in Europe they must not bend in their religious practices by adapting them to European values or traditions. In Germany itself, radical Islamists dominate the leadership of the Muslim community".

Googling him I found this interesting article [in German] that describes how radical Islam fits to parts of German society and the anti-globalization movement.

It isn't called Islamofascism for nothing.


Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:37 PM
British-German Relations

Der Spiegel is worried about a perceived rise in anti-German sentiment in Britain. A recent article cites this story in the Independent about some Welsh 13-year-olds who were suspended for giving the full-arm "Hitler salute" to a German teacher at their school. (When I was in middle school, some of the kids occasionally went around giving the old "Heil Hitler", having seen it on Hogan's Heroes and not knowing any better).

Another story in today's Der Spiegel says

Germans are arrogant, overbearing, anxious. At least that's what many in Britain believe. The German Embassy and the Goethe-Institute in London are now trying to spruce up Germany's tattered image with the "Cool Germany" ad campaign.
Der Spiegel spoke with The Times' Berlin correspondent, Roger Boyes, who calls the ad campaign a "hopeless undertaking".
Der Spiegel: Herr Boyes, why can't the English stand the Germans?
Roger Boyes: Is that a serious question? My God, why do the Germans care so much about what other people think of them? You need to cure yourselves of this psychosis. Do you think the English care whether or not we're loved? We couldn't care less if the Dutch like us or not. Nations can't fall in love, all that matters is that people get along with one another.
Meanwhile, Der Spiegel's top story of this hour:
Kelly's Death Poses Difficulties for Blair

He was the man who put Tony Blair on the hotseat: David Kelly, former UN weapons inspector und government advisor, had apparently leaked to the media that the British Prime Minister exaggerated evidence of Iraqi WMD. Now the weapons expert has been found dead. The pressure on Blair is mounting.

The implication is that Kelly had the goods on Blair and that Blair is somehow responsible for Kelly's death, even though there is no evidence for either insinuation. One can only wonder how much this story will aid the cause of British-German relations.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:48 PM
The Alterman Award

In honor of Eric Alterman's suggestion yesterday that Israel withdraw from the West Bank in order to prevent Islamist terrorism outside of Israel, I am inaugurating the Alterman Award for Reflexive Capitulation and Pointless Appeasement. Eric Alterman is himself the first Alterman laureate. Other examples of statements that could win an Alterman Award would be:

1) Asking Japan to stop exporting automobiles to the US, in order to prevent violence against Chinese-Americans.

2) Arguing that sodomy should remain illegal, in order to protect young gay men from being tortured and killed.

3) Appealing to black people to stop exercising their voting rights, in order to prevent future church bombings.

Readers are invited to send in their nominations of real-world Altermanians. Please include a URL.

(my earlier comments on Alterman's remarks, below)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:58 AM
In other news from Israel

Today's Ha'aretz has the story of blind golfer Zohar Sharon. (his caddy stands behind him and points him in the right direction). One obvious question unanswered by the article: What is Zohar's handicap?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:46 AM
Blog of the Day, July 18

Today's Blog of the Day is Damian Penny's Daimnation.

Damian faithfully serves the Zionist cabal from all the way over in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, which is 4 1/2 time zones ahead of me. He writes about the Middle East, pokes fun at wacky conspiracy theories and worships automobiles, and although he loves his native Canada, he does not always have a kind word for the pusillanimity of some Canadian politicians. Damian is now a member of the landed gentry, so welcome to the oppressor class, my friend.

Keep up the good work, Damian, and if you're ever in Seattle, I'd be honored to buy you a beer or other beverage of your choice.

[More information on the Shark Blog's Blog of the Day tradition is here]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
July 17, 2003
Nancy Watch

Here's what House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has been saying recently:

Democrats will keep fighting to transfer wealth from young working people to older, wealthier people.

We won’t give up until we delegate our sovereignty to Mexico.

Decisions on allocating the public's money should be made by unelected government employees who stand to benefit, not by the people's elected representatives.

We must support programs that lower academic standards for favored ethnic groups.

Democrats insist that Congress must not leave for its summer vacation until it gives a "tax credit" to people who don't pay taxes.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:07 PM
Word Association Football

The word of the day is perfidy, which my Oxford English Dictionary defines as

The deceitful violation of faith or promise; base breach of faith or betrayal of the trust reposed in one; treachery; often, the profession of faith or friendship in order to deceive or betray.

Question 1) Which of the following words has the strongest association, in your mind, with the word perfidy?

a) perfect
b) perficient
c) perfoliation
d) France
e) perforated
f) performance
g) perfume

Question 2) Which of the following pairings of a nationality with the word perfidy produces the largest number of hits on Google?

a) "Australian perfidy"
b) "Canadian perfidy"
c) "Dutch perfidy"
d) "French perfidy"
e) "Irish perfidy"
f) "Peruvian perfidy"
g) "Romanian perfidy"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:32 PM
Robbing our children's future

And in case there weren't already enough reasons to devolve power from large public school districts to independently managed schools -- here is one more. Large school districts are a cash pinata for extortionists.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:47 PM
Iceberg, Goldberg

Eric Alterman pooh-poohs the recent spate of anti-Semitic violence in France. His explanation:

This piece points out “Most of the perpetrators are ... young North African Arabs of the banlieues, the distant blue-collar suburbs where Muslims and Jews live and work in close proximity.” And if it’s a really big concern of yours, by the way, the best way to ameliorate it would be for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank. The occupation is obviously its primary source
[emphasis mine]. It is not at all obvious why the events in the disputed territories in the Levant would be a legitimate excuse for anybody from Algeria (1800 miles away from Israel) to inflict violence on French citizens in Paris (2000 miles from Israel)

It's worth noting that many French Jews are of North African origin who were forced to flee their homes years before Israel came into possession of the West Bank.

Alterman makes almost as much sense as the man in the old joke who punches a Jewish guy in revenge for the Titanic: "Iceberg, Goldberg, what's the difference?"

[hat tip: Andrew Sullivan]

UPDATE Alterman elaborates on his earlier comment

Personally, I think the most compelling reason to end the occupation, from a Jewish standpoint, is because of what it does to the Israelis who carry it out. ...
A third reason that speaks to both perspectives would be to save the lives of those outside of the conflict who will suffer or be killed because of it. The French Jews in question fall into the latter category.
I agree that it's legitimate for Israelis to ask themselves whether or not keeping the West Bank (or some portion thereof) is in their best interest. Unlike Alterman, I think that the people who are best equipped to make that decision are the people who actually live in Israel.

Eric Alterman must have been the kid in grade school who, when the bully said "give me a quarter or I'll beat you up" Eric said "I'm sorry for whatever I did wrong, here's two quarters, why don't you beat up my sister".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:31 AM
Misunderstanding of Arabia

Martin Kramer tells the stories [entry of July 17,2003] of T.E. Lawrence, John Abizaid and their academic mentors to help explain why Middle Eastern studies in America is in serious need of reform

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:02 AM
Summer Fun for Palestinian Youth

This Ha'aretz article shows a picture of 14-year-old Palestinian Amgad Zakaria, "who was killed when an explosive device he was playing with exploded Wednesday in Nablus."

Where would a 14-year-old boy learn to play with explosives?

Maybe at one of the summer camps that the PA names after terrorists.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:56 AM
July 16, 2003
Where would we be without the P-I?

Dick Clever writes in this week's Seattle Weekly that Seattle would be a lesser place if the Times/P-I JOA collapses and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer disappears:

Some would argue that there are enough competing voices around to pick up the slack—alternative weeklies, radio, television, bloggers, neighborhood weeklies, telephone poles. But the truth is that metropolitan daily newspapers like the P-I and the Times are the lead agenda-setters for a community. They are the news factories that produce most of the original content the public gets in its daily diet of information from all sources. Yes, more people get their news from television, but TV is more of a processor of material that has already been printed. Take down one of the news factories, and the input to the public information system is diminished.
I agree wholeheartedly with the theory that two newspapers are better than one, provided however, that one of the newspapers is a credible source of news and not a fact-challenged collection of fairy-tales.
It's hard to find anybody who will say that the loss of the P-I would be good riddance.
Clever Dick Clever is not clever enough to look at the Shark Blog, for example, where I get plenty of comments like these. Clever Dick goes on to list a few examples of the P-I's contributions to journalism, most of them dating back to the sixties and seventies.

What would we really lose if today's P-I were to go away? Other than the psychedelic fabrications of Constitutional law and the pro-Jihad editorials, the biggest loss would be that there wouldn't be any more of this.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:46 PM
Smart and Dumb

In today's Seattle Times, the opinion pages say:

1. Tariffs on imported steel are dumb.

2. Seattle's overzealous "wetlands protection" policy is dumb.

3. Laws against the sale of videogames to minors are dumb.

4. Parents who raise their children to be avid readers are smart.

5. Frivolous lawsuits to protect consumers from tasty food are dumb.

Those are five out of five reasons to say the Seattle Times might be smart.

Meanwhile, in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the opinion pages say:

1. Palestinian poll is hope for peace, because a majority of Palestinians say they might waive the "right of return". (The poll taker was physically attacked by rioting Palestinians who say the "right of return" may never be questioned. Another recent survey by the same poll taker reveals that only a thin majority would recognize Israel, and that even after a comprehensive "peace" settlement, 88% of Palestinians would still retain the current school curriculum that teaches school children to demand the return of all Palestine to the Palestinians)

2. Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott is a "hero" and on the right side of history for defending Saddam Hussein and opposing the liberation of Iraq.

"It's pretty clear there was no basis for this war. There was no tie to al-Qaida. No weapons of mass destruction. We haven't found anything. I think it means we've been brought into this war under false pretenses."

Thank you, Congressman Jim McDermott, for having the courage to say it like it is.

Those are two out of two reasons to say the Seattle Post-Intelligencer might be as intelligent as a post.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:00 AM
Here and There, July 16

Hairy palms or not, it also prevents cancer. Now excuse me, I have important, uh, business to tend to.

Washington State has the highest minimum wage of the lower 48 states ($7.01 an hour). In other words, the people of Washington won't let Ed Lang get a job unless he can find someone who's willing to pay him at least $56.08 a day (plus federal payroll taxes and Washington unemployment insurance). That is why Ed Lang has to panhandle at a freeway exit, earning only $12 a day.

Norway, which is home to the Nobel Peace Prize, braces for violent protests ahead of Ariel Sharon's visit.

Sure, give the guy a second chance. Just warn me when he's on the road.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:01 AM
Junky Medical Journalism

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Overweight Elderly at Higher Risk for Alzheimer's

Overweight elderly people are more likely than those who stay trim to be stricken by Alzheimer's disease, researchers reported today...The findings add Alzheimer's to the long list of serious ailments caused by being overweight or obese ... For every 1 percent increase in their body mass index (BMI) at age 70, there was 36 percent increased risk for Alzheimer's
[emphasis mine].

By the time the story made it into print, some of the outrageous claims were toned down or corrected:

Study Links Excess Weight To Likelihood of Alzheimer's
Overweight elderly women are more likely than those who stay trim to be stricken by Alzheimer's disease, researchers reported yesterday... The findings add Alzheimer's to the long list of serious ailments associated with being overweight or obese ... For every one-point increase in their body mass index (BMI) at age 70, there was a 36 percent increased risk for Alzheimer's
See if you can tell what changed. (A formula for the body mass index is here. A "1% increase" in BMI implies a 1% increase in weight. A one-point increase in BMI (for a 5'5" person) implies a 6 lb. increase in weight, which, for most women anyway, is a lot more than 1%).

The article does not answer the most obvious questions, which are: What is the probability that a person will develop Alzheimer's at some point during their life -- e.g. 1%, 10%, 70%? And how is this probability affected by one's weight? (keep reading)

The cited report appears in The Archives of Internal Medicine/Vol. 163, July 14, 2003. For non-subscribers there is a $9 charge to download the article. I repost it here for non-commercial Fair Use.

The report does not demonstrate that excess weight causes Alzheimer's, all it shows is that the women in the study (221 women in Göteborg Sweden who turned 70 in 1971-72) who were diagnosed with Alzheimer's between the ages of 79-88 (all 17 of them) were, on average, heavier during their 70s than the women in the study who did not first develop Alzheimer's between ages 79-88. But in fact there could have been several reasons why a woman was in the latter (lighter) group, and not only because she lived to a spry old age of 88 without having developed Alzheimer's, these include: (a) she died at some point between the ages of 70 - 88 without having developed Alzheimer's; (b) she developed Alzheimer's before age 79; (c) she developed a form of dementia other than Alzheimer's sometime before age 88.

Furthermore, the report stressed the following:
* there was no significant difference in body weight (BMI, to be precise) between the men who developed dementia and those who did not.
* there was no significant difference in body weight (BMI) between the women who developed dementia before age 79 and those who did not.
* there was no significant difference in body weight (BMI) between the women who developed non-Alzheimer's types of dementia and those who did not.
* "A higher mean BMI may be protective against death, especially in women". In other words, the prevalence of Alzheimer's increases markedly with age, and heavier women might succumb to Alzheimer's partly because they live longer. The study did not give any detail on the actual longevity of its subjects.
* "physical activity was not assessed in this study. We therefore cannot comment on its potential influence on BMI and dementia risk". In other words, it is just as possible that instead of excess weight causing dementia, they are both exacerbated by the same underlying cause of inactivity. Indeed, it's even possible that the earliest (undetected) stages of dementia cause a slowdown in physical activity that in turn causes weight gain. But we don't know.

Although the research paper may have made some progress towards establishing a connection between weight and Alzheimer's , it's less than fully convincing. (You'll need more than 17 Swedish women to convince me). It's certainly not what I would consider front page news, as did the editors of the Washington Post and the Seattle Times. One would think that there are already enough reasons to watch one's weight without having to confuse the issue with an unproven connection to Alzheimer's. There are certainly enough other health care issues for newspapers to write about. Doing a half-assed job of communicating an inconclusive research report doesn't seem to be a very good way to inform the public about health issues.

Oh, and to answer the unanswered questions, a different study says that prevalence of Alzheimer's is in the ballpark of 15% for those age 65+, and in the neighborhood of 35% for those over 80 (that figure invokes a whole 'nother can of sticky health policy issues for another time). As for the article's claim of a "36 percent increased risk of Alzheimer's" -- that refers to a statistical measure of "risk", and it does not follow that a woman who is six pounds overweight has a 50% chance of developing Alzheimer's in her 80s, or that a woman who is 25 lbs. overweight will have a greater than 100% of developing Alzheimer's... The truth is, nobody really knows the extent to which being overweight increases your odds of developing Alzheimer's, or if it even does.

Oops, and I see that The Age also gets it wrong: "Obesity may lead to Alzheimer's" and

with every unit increase in body mass index at age 70, each woman's chance of developing Alzheimer's increased by 36 per cent.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
July 15, 2003
Weekly Canard

In this week's column, Canardmeister Robert Scheer claims to have a "firm basis" for impeaching George W. Bush. Bob has made similar claims before, so it is with cautious amusement that we examine his new "firm basis", which turns out to be:

the White House admission that the charge that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger was excised from a Bush speech in October 2002 after the CIA and State Department insisted it was unfounded. Bizarrely, however, three months later -- without any additional evidence emerging -- that outrageous lie was inserted into the State of the Union speech to justify the president's case for bypassing the United Nations Security Council, for chasing U.N. inspectors out of Iraq and for invading and occupying an oil-rich country.
Here is what CIA Director George Tenet actually stated:
In October, the Intelligence Community (IC) produced a classified, 90 page National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq’s WMD programs. There is a lengthy section in which most agencies of the Intelligence Community judged that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Let me emphasize, the NIE’s Key Judgments cited six reasons for this assessment; the African uranium issue was not one of them...An unclassified CIA White Paper in October made no mention of the issue, again because it was not fundamental to the judgment that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, and because we had questions about some of the reporting.
So there was intelligence that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, and the claim of Niger uranium was not "unfounded", as Scheer claims, but merely that there were "questions" about it.

Furthermore, Bush cited the British as the source of his claim that Iraq was seeking uranium in Niger, and the British continue to insist that they were right. Oh, and here is another tantalizing item on this subject:

A four-star general, who was asked to go to Niger last year to inquire about the security of Niger's uranium, told The Washington Post yesterday that he came away convinced the country's stocks were secure. The findings of Marine Gen. Carlton Fulford were passed up to Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — though it was unclear whether they reached officials in the White House.

In an interview, Fulford said he came away "assured" the supply of "yellowcake" was kept secure by a French consortium

[emphasis mine].

Good call, Bob. How much do you want to bet whether the Republican House is going to vote to impeach George W Bush on the basis of French assurances regarding an Iraqi nuclear program.

UPDATE 1 The Telegraph reports that French intelligence gave British intelligence the goods on the Iraq-Niger uranium connection, but forbade the British from sharing the details with the U.S.

UPDATE 2 Jeff of the SoCalLawBlog points out that Scheer wasn't always such a big fan of impeachment.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:34 PM
Israeli Taxi Driver Rescued

An Israeli taxi driver kidnapped by Palestinians and held in the West Bank has been freed unharmed by Israeli special forces.

Israel TV reported that the kidnappers were Palestinian criminals who were trying to win favor with militant groups and the Palestinian Authority
I wonder why they would think that kidnapping an innocent civilian might be a good way to win favor with the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian officials had pledged their help in finding and releasing the driver, as a sign of cooperation with Israel after the cease-fire declaration. Israeli media reported that the two sides were in constant touch, but in the end, the Israelis decided to use their own forces for the rescue.
Go figure.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:47 PM
Apology for Slavery?

Derrick Z. Jackson of the Boston Globe says that George W. Bush's position on slavery is not much different from that of the antebellum slave-owning Presidents. Why? Because Bush has not apologized for slavery.

A century and a half later, presidents are still calling slavery evil, but we endure the legacy partially because presidents do not hold Americans responsible for fully understanding it.

It all starts with understanding. Understanding starts with an apology.

Does it start with the understanding or the apology? The chicken or the egg?
An apology would be the start of a new America. Anyone can acknowledge that evil existed. An apology is personal. If a white president of the United States were to apologize for slavery, it would say that the nation officially recognizes that white wealth before the Civil War came from what this nation did to black people (and Native Americans in the process).

It would officially recognize that European-Americans, whether they come from a long line of American citizens or whether their parents came over dirt poor from Europe in the 20th century, continue to benefit from a white privilege that allowed them to move up the ladder into the suburbs.

It's hard to see how apologizing on behalf of people who are long dead could be seen as "personal". It's also hard to see how "white people" whose families weren't even in this country in the 1860s are any more responsible for slavery than the "non-white" people whose families weren't in the country then either. What does Jackson believe will come from an apology?
An apology would acknowledge that slavery's damage still requires repair. To some people, the repair would be cash reparations to black people. Some call it fully funded public schools. Some call it affirmative action. Some call it serious enforcement of antidiscrimination laws.
He's right that we should improve public education for all students. But for the most part, the column is a bunch of puerile racist nonsense. So naturally, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer put it on today's op-ed page.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:32 PM
The Future of Government-run Health Care

For a glimpse into the future of health care, should the idea of government-run universal care ever take hold, look no further than the health care system that the federal government already runs, the VA health system:

Veterans are waiting up to six months or more for medical care as a severely overburdened Veterans Affairs health system fails to keep pace with growing demand, a report to be presented to Congress today concludes.

An estimated 110,000 veterans are waiting for initial appointments for non-service-related medical problems at hundreds of VA centers around the United States, the VA acknowledges.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:32 AM
The Future of Affirmative Action

For a glimpse into the future of "affirmative action" in this country, take a look at where the concept began -- India

By most accounts, the concept of affirmative action as it is understood in the West began in India, whose founding fathers viewed caste prejudice as a major impediment to their goal of secular democracy. The country's 1950 constitution, written three years after independence from Britain, established quotas for members of indigenous tribes and so-called untouchables, or dalits, because they do not even register in the caste hierarchy and consequently have suffered the greatest discrimination.

The trouble began in 1990, when Parliament passed a law reserving another 27 percent of government jobs for members of 3,743 lower castes, or "Other Backward Classes." The measure infuriated young upper-caste Indians, who saw it as a threat to their prospects.

The Supreme Court's endorsement of the expanded quota system came with the caveat that 50 percent of government jobs should be filled solely on the basis of merit. The court also created a National Commission on Backward Classes, which so far has added 676 "socially and educationally" disadvantaged castes to the original list.

The process can seem arbitrary. India's Muslim minority, for example, is outside the caste system and therefore has been largely left out of quota policies, despite a history of discrimination. Still other groups have been overlooked because "they are so backward they have no knowledge of the system," said Ram Surat Singh, a retired judge who chairs the commission. And some castes are considered backward in some states and forward in others.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:25 AM
July 14, 2003
Burying the Lede

From the Associated Press:

Headline: Palestinians Vow to Help Find Israeli

Lead Paragraph:

Top Palestinian leaders settled a rift late Monday that threatened peace efforts, an official said, and a Palestinian killed one Israeli and injured two others with a knife in Tel Aviv in what police called the first terror attack in an Israeli city since a truce began June 29.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:04 PM
"He may be a bastard, but he's our bastard"

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that Britain would continue to work with Arafat, despite Sharon's contention that the Palestinian leader should be removed from power, a British official said.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:56 PM
A solution to spam?

Of the several dozen offers for Viagra I received today, one referred me to this online pharmacy with the toll free number 1-800-879-6704. I wonder what would happen if 1,000 people all ordered $1,000 worth of Viagra to be shipped to bogus addresses and then disputed the charges. People in the know tell me that American Express almost always sides with customers who dispute their charges. Note that I'm not recommending this, I'm just wondering aloud what might happen.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:47 AM
Blooper Blooper

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Joel Connelly celebrates the late Senator Warren Magnuson's penchant for bloopers with a blooper of his own.

Did Maggie deliberately mangle names in order to deflate egos? We'll never know.

He did, however, refer to top White House aide (and later Cabinet secretary) Joe California as "Cauliflower." President Georges Pompidou of France was called "Poopidoo." At a memorable Senate hearing, Maggie introduced the imperious head of the International Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage, as "Mr. Average Brundy."

Which is all very funny, but I believe that Joe Cauliflower's real name was Califano, not California.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:33 AM
Blame it on "skin color"?

A headline in today's Seattle Times declares Skin color affects Latinos' jobs, report says. In fact, the report, from the Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research at SUNY-Albany, says nothing of the kind. What the report does say is that, on average, Hispanics who identify themselves as "White", "Black" or "Other" have distinct socioeconomic attributes (Hispanics who consider themselves "Black" have lower incomes and higher unemployment rates, on average, than the other groups. They also have, on average, more years of education).

But the report does not conclude that "skin color" causes lower income, as the headline implies. Indeed, the racial grouping is self-reported and it is far from clear how precisely such self-identification describes one's actual skin color. Indeed, the report is careful to point out that racial identification is likely to be heavily influenced by a person's social situation, such as the community in which one lives and whether there is intermarriage in one's own family.

The only things that one can say with any scientific basis that are "affected by skin color" are incidence of melanoma and the ability to activate Vitamin D

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:14 AM
Ruth Rosen, closet Republican

Ruth Rosen opposes the Bush administration's plan to devolve responsibility for Head Start to the states. Rosen believes that the liberal Democrats who rule California can't be trusted to run the program as well as the Republicans in Washington, DC

Shifting funds to California, according to Amy Dominguez-Arms, vice president of Oakland's Children Now, "could undo a comprehensive preschool program with proven positive results for children. What we're worried about is that it would lower quality standards and that the state would use the funds for other purposes."

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:24 AM
Civil Rights Moment

NAACP Executive Director Julian Bond said at his organization's convention yesterday (I paraphrase): "Our members believe that their kids shouldn't have to try as hard in school as everybody else. If anybody challenges us on that, we'll accuse them of being racist".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:17 AM
Where would we be without estimates?

Washington Post July 13, 2003

The cost of the war and occupation of Iraq could reach $100 billion through next year, substantially higher than anticipated at the outset, according to defense and congressional aides.
Washington Post December 1, 2002
Informal estimates [of the cost of a war in Iraq] by congressional staffers and Washington, D.C., analysts have been in the range of $100 billion to $200 billion. If fighting were to be protracted, and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein blows up oilfields, most economists think indirect costs could be much greater, reverberating through the economy for years
the Post added :
The most uncertain cost is the impact on the broader U.S. economy. William Nordhaus, a professor of economics at Yale University, estimates the indirect cost of the 1991 war at about $500 billion.

Depending on what happens, the macroeconomic impact of a new war could be between zero and $1 trillion, according to his estimates.

[emphasis mine]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
July 13, 2003
Road Map Update

Here is today's status update on the Road Map to Peace.

10% of Palestinian "refugees" would want to use "right of return", which means that 10% of Palestinians "refugees" are going to have to be disappointed.

Security forces on Saturday apprehended a suspected "Real IRA" bomb expert who was believed to be in the country in order to train Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad warned Sunday that if the Palestinian Authority attempts to disarm them, they will "end" the current "cease-fire", Israel Radio reported. It's hard enough to "end" something that never really started. But remind me, please, why Hamas needs arms in the first place?

A reader sends this item, from today's Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot

The hudna, so it would seem, is not good for car owners, and especially for luxury car owners: the police advise that since the hudna the car theft industry is once again flourishing.

Mercedes, luxury jeeps, and other cars are being stolen in huge numbers every night in the Hadera and northern Sharon areas. The police believe that organised gangs from the territories are back in operation.

The Hadera police chief, Superintendent Eli Chrisfil said that the country's curse is back in frightening proportions. The hudna brought different easings of restrictions and Israeli work entry permits for Palestinian residents of the territories - and also brought 'double dip' thefts: breaking into houses, and stealing car keys to transport the stolen goods.

The taxi driver who was kidnapped by a Palestinian group is still missing.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:20 PM
He should have waited until after his probation
CICERO, Ill. - A Chicago bus driver's unscheduled stop in suburban Cicero is proving very costly.

The Chicago Transit Authority had to shell out more than $1,200 to get the bus back after the driver pulled over Friday night, allegedly to connect with a woman he thought was a prostitute.

She was actually a Cicero police officer. The driver was arrested and other officers impounded the bus.

Transit officials said the driver was a part-timer, and if the allegations against him are true he will be fired because he was still in his probation period.

In other words, if he were a full-fledged career bus driver, he would get to keep his job no matter what he did with the bus.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:12 AM
Uranium or chickens?

The British government is unhappy that the Bush administration has distanced itself from the State of the Union claim that "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Today's Telegraph reports that the British insist that their original conclusion was correct

The CIA secretly dispatched a US envoy, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger in 2002 to investigate the British claim. He reported to the CIA there was no evidence to support the British intelligence, but Mr Straw said that the report - which had not been shared with London by Washington - in fact had confirmed that a delegation from Iraq did go to Niger in 1999.

One Foreign Office official said: "Niger has two main exports - uranium and chickens. The Iraqi delegation did not go to Niger for chickens."

And I see that Condoleezza Rice put this issue to rest on FoxNews Sunday:

First of all, it is ludicrous to suggest that the president of the United States went to war on the question of whether Saddam Hussein sought uranium from Africa. This was a part of a very broad case that the president laid out in the State of the Union and other places.

But the statement that he made was indeed accurate. The British government did say that. Not only was the statement accurate, there were statements of this kind in the National Intelligence Estimate. And the British themselves stand by that statement to this very day, saying that they had sources other than sources that have now been called into question to back up that claim. We have no reason not to believe them.

What we have said is that we have a higher standard for presidential speeches than just, "Was this accurate?" ... We want it to be based for the president on the firmest possible intelligence, and that's why we go through the clearance process.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:16 AM
July 12, 2003
Who was misled?

The Seatle Post-Intelligencer claims not only that

the president misled the country in the State of the Union speech about the nuclear threat from Iraq
but that
the White House now says, yes, the president misled the American people
First of all, the White House never said the President "misled" anybody, only that
Knowing all that we know now, the reference to Iraq’s attempt to acquire uranium from Africa should not have been included in the State of the Union speech.
My Oxford English Dictionary defines mislead as
To lead astray in action or conduct; to lead into error
In other words, to "mislead" someone is to lead them in a direction whither they would not otherwise go. So to say that the President "misled" someone about the Iraqi nuclear threat, implies that there are people out there who had opposed the liberation of Iraq, but whose minds were changed on the basis of the President's statement about African uranium. Furthermore, those same people would have to believe, in hindsight, that the liberation of Iraq was a mistake that could have been avoided had the President not said anything about African uranium in the State of the Union speech.

I agree that the President should avoid making statements for which it does not have a very solid foundation. But may I see a show of hands, please, from anybody who felt they were wrongly led to support the war on the basis of this statement? Let me inquire further: Do you feel that you were deliberately deceived? If so, why do you suppose the administration didn't do a better job of maintaining this "deception"?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:16 PM

Last night we saw the documentary Spellbound, which follows eight contestants of the 1999 National Spelling Bee. We concur with the many other positive reviews. This film is a joy to watch. It was especially uplifiting for us to see how these kids, most of whom were from immigrant families or modest backgrounds, worked hard for their goals, made their families and communities proud, and won or lost with grace. Spellbound was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary, and regrettably lost to Bowling for Columbine, which is about as much of a documentary as The Wizard of Oz. (Roger Simon also liked Spellbound and has some observations on how it might have lost the Oscar to Bowling for Columbine).

Irene and I could identify with the kids in the film, as we were spelling bee contestants and minor champions in our own right. Irene won her sixth grade bee. I won my school bee in fifth grade and went to on take a whopping 26th place in the Madison, Wisconsin citywide bee in 1973 (I fell out on "arduous"). How could we not admire these kids who competed in the same arena and went so much farther than we had? One gets the feeling that few of the Academy members who voted for Bowling for Columbine over Spellbound ever had much of a clue about spelling or other academic achievements.

The movie's two funniest moments out of many funny moments: "Hooters" and "darjeeling".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:46 PM
Commentary on Iraq

From my father, Hebrew University political scientist Ira Sharkansky:

I agree that Vietnam is not an appropriate model for what is likely to happen in Iraq. Most importantly, there is no equivalent of North Vietnam, China, and the Soviet Union to continue supplying and prodding the Vietcong. Syria and Iran are potential suppliers, but are likely to be wary of the Bush administration.

On the other hand, the intensity of Muslims' antipathy to others governing "their land" is something the United States has not learned to handle. This is one of the great unknowns in what is likely to develop in Iraq. Also, the fundamental ethnic and religious splits in the country, especially involving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis, will get in the way of creating a unified country that can operate in a decent fashion. These splits rule out the model of US success in Germany and Japan, which were coherent national societies capable of accepting changes at the top.

Will the US have the staying power to make Iraq a better place after Saddam than during Saddam? Involved in this is whether the Bush administration will succeed in holding off the domestic complaints about continuing US casualties, the lack of WMDs, and all the other criticisms--mostly concerning domestic issues-- that are and will be directed against it.

I know you can parse pre-war US statements in a way to indicate that WMDs were not the only reason for the war. The problem is that critics are making the case that the administration suckered the American people and institutions into going to war for a reason that was not there.

What the Bush administration seems to have going for it is the multiplicity of Democratic candidates, and the apparent lack of any of them so far be lighting a fire of political enthusiasm.

What I don't want to happen is that an administration like that of Clinton or a Dean will come to power that strips the US of its capacity to contribute to international civilization. Bush's cowboy style might well contribute to his own downfall, and turning the US into a European gelding of a country.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:07 PM
July 11, 2003
Blog of the Day, July 11

Today's Blog of the Day is Bill Quick's Daily Pundit.

Bill used to be my neighbor when I lived in San Francisco. I will always think of him as my virtual neighbor and my Frisco pal. (Now that I don't live there I get to call it Frisco again). A many-times-published science fiction novelist and dyed-in-the-wool libertarian, Bill shows us why the pen is more powerful than the sword and in any event a lot funnier. Watch and giggle as Bill takes on Democratic politicians ("Donks" as he calls them), social conservative scolds, and best of all, the San Francisco Chronicle's Letters to the Editors section. Oh, and Bill coined the word blogosphere.

I had the pleasure of meeting Bill a couple of times back in Frisco. (see photos here and here)

Keep up the good work, Bill and if you're ever in Seattle I'd be honored to buy you a beer or other beverage of your choice.

[More information on the Shark Blog's Blog of the Day tradition is here]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:32 PM
Ruth Rosen, the anti-liberator

Ruth Rosen took to the streets last winter in a bid to help Saddam Hussein stay in office (on human rights grounds). So it is no surprise that she still can't find any good in the liberation of Iraq.

The results are not pretty.

For the Iraqi people, it is a blazingly hot, deeply disillusioning summer.

Blame the weather on Condoleezza Rice and the cabal of oil-drinking neo-conservative chickenhawks.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld deployed just enough troops to secure Baghdad and a quick military victory, but not enough personnel to keep the peace.
I think the sign Ruth Rosen carried at the various pre-war anti-war rallies must have said: "Send a hundred thousand more troops to Iraq".
Why can't the Americans provide electricity and basic services?
Does Ruth Rosen want the Americans to govern Iraq or does she want the Iraqis to govern themselves?
Like ghosts from the past, words and phrases from the Vietnam-era -- quagmire, credibility gap, guerrilla war, winning the hearts and minds of civilians, requests for more troops -- are creeping back into military and public parlance.
Only because Vietnam-era fossils, like Ruth Rosen, are flooding the zone with Vietnam-era words and phrases. And only because they're still stuck in 1969 and have no other framework for viewing the world.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:09 PM
Here and There, July 11

The Rampaging Nanny State: I recently bought an Ace Hardware "Kink Free" Garden Hose, whose package says "Inner core made with medical grade vinyl - Drinking water safe". The back says:

WARNING: This product contains one or more chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. Wash hands after handling.
Who should I believe, Ace Hardware or the State of California?

Sayonara, Loserville: The Shark took part in a trend!

Airport shoe policy: Removing is optional What a relief. Now I can take my shoes off at airports, even when they don't ask me to.

Seattle blogger Jim Miller announces his first blogversary with a list of links to his favorite postings from his first year. Go take a look.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is not very tolerant of citizens who try to defend their interests at the ballot box and who spend money to communicate their message to the public. And no, they didn't "buy signatures", as the editorial states. They only paid people to collect signatures. The difference is enormous.

I discovered Canada's true nature and its true nature is spam. The Canadian Tourism Commission set me this spam yesterday:

Still looking for an affordable summer vacation? Why not visit Canada?
I'll tell you why not. Because I'm fed up with spam! The Mrs. and I were thinking about going up to Victoria this summer, but that can wait.

Stephen Dunphy of the Seattle Times says:

Here's an example of how sophisticated investors think. Caution: This is highly risky and we are not recommending it. Just an example of how things work.

Airborne Freight is now priced at $21.07, unchanged in trading yesterday, which put the stock at less than 1 percent below the current buyout price of $21.25 from Deutsche Post DHL. The aggressive thinkers look at the deal and wonder what would happen if the deal were to be delayed or not happen. The deal is most likely to go through and close in the third quarter. But the aggressive investors sees this: If you short the stock, your "loss" if the deal actually works is very limited, and if it doesn't, you can "gain" much by shorting it here. Shorting a stock is a bet that it will decline.

That's not really investing, it's merely arbitrage. Sophisticated investors don't do that, only professional arbitrageurs, or investors who think they're more sophisticated than they really are. The really sophisticated investors buy index funds or use tax-managed separate accounts.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:00 AM
July 10, 2003
Here and There, July 10

What happened to the Shark? I've been working on an important project for an important client for most of Wednesday and Thursday. Not to worry, some new snarky goodness is just around the corner.

Ruben Navarette says it's time for school choice

basically what you have is a teaching profession dominated by whites standing in the way of a reform movement that provides schooling options to other people's children. The effect is to deny opportunities to African-Americans and Latinos.

Sound familiar? School choice is much more than just another political issue. It is the new civil-rights movement.


Here in Seattle, meanwhile, the School District is enjoying a $35 million budget deficit. Brita Butler-Wall has the solution. She is running for school board on a platform to rid the schools of Coca-Cola and chocolate milk. If we had real school choice, the Brita Butler-Walls of the world could send their kids to schools that served only organic soy milk. The rest of us could send our kids to schools that taught math, reading and history.

What do innovative minds do? Combustible Boy tipped me off to these self-appointed Innovative Minds who boycott Jews, attend rallies to whip up hatred toward Jews and teach their children that killing Jews is fun! I hate to rain on anybody's parade, but none of that is very innovative.

Swiss justice is apparently a lot like Swiss cheese.

When is a ceasefire not a ceasefire? When it is a Hudna [large Powerpoint doc]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:15 PM
Over at the P-I

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer hasn't yet corrected any of the errors I've brought to their attention, but at least someone over there is reading the Shark Blog. In fact, I can see from my traffic log that I get more visits from inside the P-I than from almost any other network, with the possible exceptions of (a) my mother and (b) the United States House of Representatives (seriously).

I have no idea what actually goes on at the P-I, but here is my list of ....
The Top Eleven Things They're Probably Saying About The Shark Blog Over at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

11. "Ewww. Isn't this sort of thing against the law?"
10. "How much do you think we'll have to pay this Sharkansky guy to get him to move to Portland?"
9. "What a load of rubbish. I'll bet he's working for the Seattle Times."
8. "Yes, Sharkansky's an idiot, but at least he doesn't call himself a pundit."
7. "Should we throw him off the Space Needle, or send him a gift box of tainted salmon?"
6a. The reporters: "Thank God somebody is finally taking on those nitwit editors who are driving this paper into the ground".
6b. The editors: "Thank God somebody is finally taking on those nitwit reporters who are driving this paper into the ground".
5. "The website is called the 'Shark Blog' and the guy they have writing it is called 'Shark-ansky'. Get it? What are the odds of that happening?"
4. "Maybe we can all get jobs writing for The Shark Blog after the P-I goes out of business"
3. "That Mark Steyn is a riot. Why aren't we running his column?"
2. "Islam is a Religion of Peace, but they keep blowing shit up. What's the deal with that?"
1. "Oh dear, somebody is actually reading the paper. Now what are we going to do?"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
July 09, 2003
Payoffs to terrorists

Ha'aretz reports that

The U.S. administration, citing "national security needs and special circumstances" to bypass Congressional prohibitions, is sending $20 million in special aid to the Palestinian Authority to help strengthen the government of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.
Along these lines, we might expect the Bush administration, in the name of "national security" to also make the following payments:

$65 million to Al Qaeda, LLC to strengthen their honey impot/export business.

$9 million to Sammy "The Bull" Gravano so he can start a check-cashing store.

$500 thousand to Robert Scheer so he can take a sabbatical from his weekly column.

$160 thousand and a one-way ticket to Patagonia for Ashton Kutcher

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:37 PM
July 08, 2003
Blog of the Day, July 8

Today's Blog of the Day is Joanne Jacobs.

Joanne, a former editorial writer for the San Jose Mercury News, is now a freelance writer focusing on education issues. I think of Joanne's blog as the education nexus of the blogosphere. With her deft economical writing and wry humor, Joanne takes on the politically correct sacred cows of public education -- teacher's unions, racial preferences, bowdlerized textbooks, etc.. She makes the case for charter schools and vouchers as well as anyone, and with a smile!

I had the pleasure of meeting Joanne at a San Francisco blogger bash earlier this year. So I know I'm not putting my life at risk when I say: Keep up the good work Joanne, and if you're ever in Seattle, I'd be honored to buy you a beer or other beverage of your choice.

[More information on the Shark Blog's Blog of the Day tradition is here]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:08 PM
Dueling Headlines

U.S. expresses support for Abbas after he quits Fatah Central Committee

"We stand behind Prime Minister Abbas," said State Department spokesman Philip T. Reeker. He added that Abbas' leadership has produced important changes beneficial to the Palestinians.
Kurtzer: Abbas a 'relatively weak man' who tends to 'run away from problems'
American support of Abbas is secondary to the U.S. desire to remove Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat from power, [U.S. Ambassador to Israel] Kurtzer added. "Our objective was not to empower an individual named Abu Mazen; our objective was to disempower an individual named Arafat."

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:58 PM
Weekly Canard

In this week's column, Robert Scheer claims to have found the "smoking gun" that "proves" the Bush administration lied to justify the liberation of Iraq

They may have finally found the smoking gun that nails the culprit responsible for the Iraq war. Unfortunately, the incriminating evidence wasn't left in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces but rather in Vice President Dick Cheney's office.

Former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson publicly revealed over the weekend that he was the mysterious envoy whom the CIA, under pressure from Cheney, sent to Niger to investigate a document — now known to be a crude forgery — that allegedly showed Iraq was trying to acquire enriched uranium that might be used to build a nuclear bomb. Wilson found no basis for the story, and nobody else has either.

What is startling in Wilson's account, however, is that the CIA, the State Department, the National Security Council and the vice president's office were all informed that the Niger-Iraq connection was phony. No one in the chain of command disputed that this "evidence" of Iraq's revised nuclear weapons program was a hoax

If you examine what Joseph C. Wilson actually wrote in Sunday's New York Times and what he said in his Meet the Press interview , you will see that his "evidence" of an administration cover-up of his report discounting the Iraq-Niger connection is based only on surmise. He never actually observed any report being delivered to where he believes it should have been delivered.
Though I did not file a written report, there should be at least four documents in United States government archives confirming my mission. The documents should include the ambassador's report of my debriefing in Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a C.I.A. report summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know that this is standard operating procedure.
[emphasis mine]. Wilson also acknowledges that he never actually saw the forged letter.

That's not much of a smoking gun, Bob. I think it will be especially hard to find any smoke emanating from the "may have been delivered orally" report that may or may not have been in Dick Cheney's office.

Another thing that Joseph C. Wilson wrote in the New York Times that Robert Scheer doesn't share with us is this:

I was convinced before the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein required a vigorous and sustained international response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite possibly a nuclear research program — all of which were in violation of United Nations resolutions. Having encountered Mr. Hussein and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf war of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.
In other words, Wilson believed that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction existed and were a threat (contradicting Scheer's overall argument that no such weapons existed), but he disagreed with the administration's decision on the best way to disarm Sadddam. Colin Powell, by the way, retracted the forged Niger uranium document back in March shortly after the IAEA dismissed it. (neither Scheer nor Wilson mention this) And if the administration wanted to manufacture evidence, you would think they would have done a much better job of it.

Wilson did make a very good point in his Meet the Press interview when he said:

There is no greater threat that we face as a nation going forward than the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of non-state actors or international terrorists. And if we’ve prosecuted a war for reasons other than that, using weapons of mass destruction as cover for that, then I think we’ve done a grave disservice to the weapons of mass destruction threat. The bar will be set much, much higher internationally, and in Congress, when the next administration, or another administration, has a true WMD problem, and has to go to get that sort of authority.
The administration would have made its case to get rid of Saddam without also bringing up the Niger uranium, which was an insignificant detail in the overall case for regime change in Iraq. The mistake of using some of the softer evidence that the administration used will, as Wilson stated, only raise the bar for dealing with the next dangerous adversary. But that's only an argument for tightening the administration's communications (both internal and external), not for discrediting the liberation of Iraq, as Scheer is obsessed with doing.

And reapplying Wilson's argument: Trivializing the accusations of White House malfeasance, as Scheer does, will only raise the bar and make it harder for legitimate critics to confront the White House the next time an administration really does violate the public trust.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:35 PM
Open Borders

The Seattle Times reports that Bellevue is the fourth city in Washington State to actively reject United States immigration laws.

Mexican citizens in Bellevue can now use an identification card issued by the Mexican government when they deal with city police, apply for city utilities-tax rebates or check out equipment at a community center. The Bellevue City Council voted unanimously last night to endorse accepting the photo identification ... [in]recognition of the growing number of Mexican immigrants calling Bellevue home, some of them illegal immigrants with few official documents. "Mexican citizens are living in our community and this card would help recognize that ... and help them function in our community a little better," said city spokesman Ron Langley.
I like immigrants. I am the great-grandson of immigrants and the son-in-law of immigrants. Perhaps we should change our immigration laws to make it easier for some people to come here legally. In the meantime, I'm not convinced that we should make it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain services to which they are not entitled.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:28 AM

The Associated Press reports that

Militants from the radical Palestinian group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for a bombing in central Israel that killed a 65-year-old Israeli woman, apparently violating last week's cease-fire pledge.
Apparently violating the cease-fire? Bear with us while we check the fine print of the cease-fire terms to see if there is a special exemption that permits blowing up old ladies in their homes.

On a related note, Honest Reporting looks at media coverage of the "road map" and shows how "The media displace the road map's terms with those of the hudna -- an internal Palestinian deal."

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:11 AM
July 07, 2003
Ruth Rosen's Video Hut

Ruth Rosen opens today's column with the proclamation that she doesn't like video stores

WHEN TIMES GET tough, some people go shopping, but film lovers go to the movies. We also go to the video store, rent a few films, and all too often end up paying late fees.
My first reaction is oh dear, Ruth Rosen is calling for a law against video store late fees. Maybe she wants to keep "9 1/2 Weeks" for ten and a half weeks but only have to pay for three days. But no, Ruth Rosen is praising the online DVD store Netflix as a better alternative to video stores.

Last month, Ruth Rosen was campaigning against Wal-Mart, partly because it puts locally owned businesses out of business. Netflix, if it gets bigger, may also cause some locally owned stores to go out of business. In both cases, it's just the destructive creativity of a consumer-driven economy doing its job. Ruth Rosen seems to understand the concept only when it makes her own life a little better. Perhaps there's hope she will one day learn how to generalize.

UPDATE I was cautiously optimistic that Ruth Rosen's embrace of Netflix might be a sign that she is beginning to understand the concept of a free market. But alas, I'm now wondering whether this praise of Netflix might be related to the fact that Wal-Mart recently announced that it was setting up a service to compete against Netflix and Ruth Rosen just wanted to support the evil Wal-Mart's rival? Wouldn't the joke be on Ruth Rosen if she just spent an entire column praising what might turn out to be Wal-Mart's next acquisition?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:58 PM
Where is Mr. Ivins?

Molly Ivins is leading the campaign for mariticide

In saluting highly irregular Americans, we'd like to recognize the service of the Houston woman who ran over her husband (several times) because he was cheating on her. That should cut down on adultery.
Meanwhile, Molly Ivins' own husband has disappeared without a trace.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:59 AM
Yellow Journalism in Support of Terrorists

Last Monday the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published a delirious editorial praising Rachel Corrie. (Corrie was the member of the terrorist-friendly "International Solidarity Movement" who died in the Gaza strip last March when she placed herself in the path of an Israeli military bulldozer that was disabling tunnels used for smuggling weapons). The editorial exalting the American-flag-burning and militantly anti-Israel Corrie as a "peace activist" and a "young woman of uncommon compassion" would have been offensive enough even if it didn't also compare Corrie favorably with PFC Jessica Lynch. (an earlier editorial equated Corrie with the American victims of last year's suicide bombing at Hebrew University)

But the P-I's editors are not content to merely express repugnant opinions. They also invent facts to bolster their sick fairytale that Rachel Corrie "left an impressive legacy" and "put her life on the line for something larger than herself". The occasion for the editorial was to dispute the Israeli military investigation which declared Corrie's death an accident and exonerated the driver of the bulldozer:

But we ought to withhold final judgment. Some statements and photos seem to contradict a military prosecutor's conclusion.
As I pointed out earlier, no such photos have ever been published in the P-I or elsewhere. The only published photos related to the incident were taken well before the fatal accident or after the fact, and do not plausibly contradict the conclusion that it was an accident. I e-mailed the P-I's reader representative, Glenn Drosendahl, to express my doubts on the paper's claim about the photos and asked the P-I either to produce the photos or to issue a prompt retraction. Here is Drosendahl's response, which he sent late on the afternoon of Thursday, July 3:
Stefan: Thanks for your message. Our editorial people say they saw three different photos, including the one that prompted the New York Times correction and the Christian Science Monitor clarification. They are not contending that the photos prove Corrie was intentionally killed. In fact, the editorial starts by saying the prosecutor's conclusion could be right. They do, however, think questions remain which is why the editorial says the final report should be released.

That's our editorial opinion. You may see the same photos and disagree.

Thanks for your interest.

That is a ridiculous answer. They do not tell us (let alone show us) which photos they're talking about and give no factual basis for the claim that these photos inculpate the bulldozer driver. By the same specious reasoning one could point to this photograph of P-I editorial page editor Mark Trahant, who is responsible for the unsigned editorial at issue:

One could say "Mark Trahant might not be a peeping tom, but we have seen photos which seem to suggest otherwise. We welcome a thorough investigation so he can clear his name. That's our editorial opinion. You may see the same photos and disagree."

Yes, that is asinine. But it is no less asinine or insidious for a newspaper editor to fantasize into existence a murder and a cover-up, when the only evidence is of a self-inflicted accident. Of all the causes that Mark Trahant might devote his attention to, let alone damage his newspaper's reputation for, shilling for the sympathizers of Palestinian terrorism is as pitiful of a choice as any.

If you wish to contact the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to ask for a retraction, here is some contact information:

Roger Oglesby, Editor and Publisher, 206-448-8000, rogeroglesby@seattlepi.com
Ken Bunting, Executive Editor, 206-448-8000, kenbunting@seattlepi.com
Glenn Drosendahl, Reader Representative, 206-448-8007, glenndrosendahl@seattlepi.com
Mark Trahant, Editorial Page Editor, 206-448-8387, marktrahant@seattlepi.com

If you choose to contact them, please be courteous. You want to demonstrate to the P-I that its critics have higher standards than the P-I does.

UPDATE: here are just some of the other bloggers who have taken issue with the P-I's editorial: Charles Johnson, Solly Ezekiel, Meryl Yourish, Ted Belman, The Ombudsgod, Solomonia, Horologium, Oliver Kamm and Andrew Sullivan (a link to Oliver Kamm's commentary). Let me know if I've left anybody out.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
July 06, 2003
It's in the P-I

In today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer, editorial page editor Mark Trahant responds to his critics (including the Shark Blog, Xrlq , Jim Miller and James Taranto) who blasted his fabrication last month that

The constitutional standard for warfare is for the United States to face a "clear and present danger."
Trahant acknowledges that
Clear and present danger are not words found in the text of the Constitution
(he earlier claimed that they were) and chides his critics for being too literal
Some see the truth only in literal terms and dismiss any attempt to include what's not literally there.
He points out, after all, that
As a matter of literal interpretation, there's nothing in the Constitution about privacy or sexual liberty. But as a matter of fairness, and principle based on the ideas in the Constitution, the justices found reason enough to justify their conclusion.
Well yes. But "constitutional standards", as that term is normally used, are created by the, Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution, not by editorial writers.

If Mark Trahant wants "clear and present danger" to become a constitutional standard for warfare he can sue the Bush administration in federal court and wait to see how the Supreme Court will rule. In the meantime, "clear and present danger" is not a constitutional standard for warfare, it is merely a catchphrase that Mark Trahant is free to advocate as his proposal for a public policy standard.

The P-I would have an easier time regaining its vanishing credibility if instead of digging in its heels on this issue, it would simply admit: "We made a mistake. 'Clear and present danger' is not a constitutional standard for warfare after all, but we still wish it were."

Tomorrow, more on the P-I's shameful fabrications in the Rachel Corrie affair.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:43 AM
July 05, 2003
Here and There, July 5

The EU says its okay to murder sharks, as long as you eat the whole thing and not just the fin. And remember: Stiff-finned sharks can't ski.

This is a better deal than his victims got:

France's top administrative authority ordered the Finance Ministry to reinstate the pension of Maurice Papon, the highest-ranking French civilian ever to be convicted of Nazi war crimes. Payments to Mr. Papon, 92, were suspended in October 1999. He was belatedly convicted in 1998 for signing deportation orders for more than 1,500 Jews, and served 3 years of a 10-year sentence. He was freed because of poor health and old age
When Papon travels by rail, not only is he allowed to take a return train home, but he's even be eligible for a senior citizen's discount.

We spent part of yesterday in Carkeek Park. It was a beautiful warm day, we had nice views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. David enjoyed walking in the woods. We had no idea at the time that there was a body buried there.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:47 PM

Ariel Sharon will be meeting Abu Mazen in Oslo later this month, apparently to breathe some of the same fairy dust that helped make the first Oslo process such a rousing success. The good news is that Ariel Sharon will not be arrested this time:

The left-wing Red Electoral Alliance party wants Sharon to be arrested upon arrival, saying he has been "terrorist and war criminal" since 1953.
But Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, always a gracious host, reassures us that Sharon will not be arrested
because he has immunity as a national leader
(he forgot to mention the part about Sharon not having committed any crime). In the meantime, there haven't been any calls to arrest Abu Mazen, who is believed to have been the chief financial officer of the Munich Olympics massacre.

I don't know, it's all a blur : Norway, Munich, neutrality, Munich, collaboration, Munich, Oslo, Nobel Peace Prize. Hard to keep them all straight any more.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:27 AM
July 04, 2003
Silly Headline File

Today's Seattle Times: "Advice for black men: Eat more fruits, veggies". And everybody else should eat more Bacon Double Cheeseburger Loaf?

Associated Press: "Minister: Palestinians could vote by Fall". In fact, the Palestinians could have been voting by the Fall of 1948, if they really wanted to.

Where would we be without stock market forecasts?
"Bull Market Is Back, Some Say
Other experts don't agree that Wall Street has turned the corner toward better times.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:14 PM
Today in the EU

The European Union is still reeling over Italian Prime Minister and EU President Silvio Berlusconi's joke comparing a German parliamentarian with a Nazi prison guard. Some are demanding that Berlusconi make a full apology, which he has refused to do.

Meanwhile, the EU Commission has decided to allow Hamas to keep raising money in Europe so they can extirpate the Jews from Israel and finish the job that Hitler only started.

As far as I can tell, Berlusconi's only mistake was that he didn't name enough names.

UPDATE The Seattle Times reports on the Berlusconi flap under the headline Italy's prime minister 'regrets' Nazi remark; latest in series of gaffes. The article lists some examples of Berlusconi's prior "gaffes", including the following:

"We should be conscious of the superiority of our civilization, which consists of a value system that has given people widespread prosperity in those countries that embrace it, and guarantees respect for human rights and religion. This respect certainly does not exist in the Islamic countries."
As Michael Kinsley once said, "A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:29 AM
July 03, 2003
Blog of the Day, July 3

To commemorate Independence Day, the Blog of the Day for today and the rest of the weekend goes to all the Iranian bloggers in Iran and around the world who are blogging for freedom in their homeland.

Hossein Derakhshan is one expat Iranian who blogs in English (and Persian). Here is his list of other Iranians who blog in English.

Another website which is not exactly a blog, but maintains a good collection of news stories about Iran, is the Student Movement Coordinating Committee for Democracy in Iran

[More information on the Shark Blog's Blog of the Day tradition is here]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:53 PM
It's not in the P-I

Earlier this week the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published an editorial that included the blood-libelous fabrication that there exist photographs which "seem to contradict a military prosecutor's conclusion" exonerating the driver of the Israeli army bulldozer involved in Rachel Corrie's fatal accident.

I sent the P-I a query asking them either to produce the photographs (which don't exist) or to issue a retraction. They just sent me a carefully evasive non-defense of their editorial. They refuse to produce the photographs (which don't exist) and they refuse to publish a retraction even though they know the photographs don't exist. I'll post the P-I's email on Monday when more of my readers are back from the long holiday weekend.

In the meantime, who knows, maybe the P-I will tell us they have photographs of a perpetual motion machine, the Abominable Snowman or Elvis Presley on Mars

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:52 PM
A Tale of Two Immigrants

Saul Gallegos, a Chelan County (Washington) sheriff's deputy, was shot and killed last week, after stopping Jose Sanchez-Guillen for suspicion of driving with a suspended license. Sanchez-Guillen fled, and following an extensive manhunt, he is now in custody on suspicion of killing Gallegos.

Gallegos, 35, is survived by his widow Maria and their four young children. A naturalized US citizen born in Mexico, he served in the United States Army Reserves and became a police officer in 1996.

Jose Sanchez-Guillen was also born in Mexico, and is apparently in this country illegally. I am unable to find this last detail in print, but I heard it mentioned on a local radio station. Jim Miller seems to have heard something similar on a different radio program. I called the Chelan County sheriff's office and an official said she "believed" that Sanchez-Guillen was an illegal immigrant, but also said that "we don't have anything about that in writing". Which to me translates into "Yes, he's an illegal immigrant, but we'd rather not discuss that". The strongest indication confirming his immigration status or lack thereof is this story citing court documents that Sanchez-Guillen's mother, who was arrested for harboring her fugitive son, also had "an obviously forged resident alien identification card" in her purse. (Most news stories that mentioned the mother simply said she was arrested for "an unrelated count of forgery", without mentioning what was forged).

This begs the question: Why are some public officials and most of the mainstream press reluctant to mention the Guillens' immigration status? Are illegal aliens supposed to be a protected group? Is there a fear that the general public won't be able to distinguish between illegal immigrants and legal immigrants (like Officer Gallegos) who make positive contributions to this country and are welcomed by the vast majority of us?

It also begs the question: What was an illegal immigrant doing with a suspended driver's license? That is to say, how did he get a driver's license in the first place, and why was he allowed to remain in the country illegally after having been processed through the criminal justice system for having done something that was serious enough to get his license suspended?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:00 PM
Here and There, July 3

Venom-spewing "poet" Amiri Baraka is now the former poet-laureate of New Jersey. The NJ state legislature voted 69-2 to eliminate his post. My only question is: who are the 2? Whoooooooooo? Whooooooooooo?

War is Peace and Ignorance is Strength (to the Associated Press, anyway): "Mideast truce holds despite new violence"

"Tomorrow he'll be yesterday's man": Mark Steyn on the impending train wreck soon to be formerly known as Howard Dean

Ze'ev Schiff, the legendary defense correspondent for Ha'aretz, answers questions from readers.

Bernie Barker is the World's Oldest Male Stripper. I take absolutely no responsibility for the consequences if you should accidentally click on this photograph.

And speaking of exotic entertainers, I took the SelectSmart 2004 AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE SELECTOR to try to figure out who I should vote for. My results were:
1. Libertarian Candidate (100%)
2. Bush, George W. - US President (95%)
3. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat (68%)
4. Gephardt, Cong. Dick, MO - Democrat (66%)
5. Lieberman Senator Joe CT - Democrat (56%)
6. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (56%)
7. Graham, Senator Bob, FL - Democrat (55%)
8. Phillips, Howard - Constitution (51%)
9. Kucinich, Cong. Dennis, OH - Democrat (38%)
10. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT - Democrat (33%)
11. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol IL - Democrat (19%)
12. Sharpton, Reverend Al - Democrat (14%)
13. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. - Democrat (-10%)
Some of the trailing candidates will have to start trying a little harder if they want to earn my endorsement.
UPDATE A commenter remarks that every set of answers seems to give a negative number for LaRouche. That is because the SelectSmart database doesn't have any actual information on LaRouche's positions. As SelectSmart explains

In our attempt to research his positions we found his political agenda is unique, vociferous and convoluted. We welcome any attempts from the candidate, his staff or supporters to clarify them.
LaRouche's own website is here. Having spent a few minutes looking around on his site, I think an affinity score of -10% is a pretty good call.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
July 02, 2003
Fun with logic

The following is an axiom of symbolic logic:

In other words, if F is a true statement, then any statement of the form

is inherently true, whether or not G is a true statement.

For example, 2+2=4 is a true statement, therefore the two sentences

If we let all of the wild animals out of the zoo tomorrow, then 2+2 will equal 4
If we don't let all of the wild animals out of the zoo tomorrow, then 2+2 will equal 4
are both inherently true, because 2+2 will always equal 4, whether or not we let all of the wild animals out of the zoo tomorrow.

Along these lines, the following statement from Abu Mazen is also inherently true:

If we wait for three months without any release of the prisoners, the cease-fire will break down

I leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out why. (Here is a hint).

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:37 PM
Blog of the Day, July 2

Today's Blog of the Day is Tim Blair, written appropriately enough by a man named Tim Blair.

Tim Blair is an actual professional journalist, but in his case that hasn't hurt his writing any. He is one of the most brilliantly funny writers of political commentary in the English language today, right up there with James Lileks, Mark Steyn and David Barry. And I don't throw around such accusations lightly. Tim comes to us from Sydney, Australia, which is in a time zone that is approximately 37.6 hours ahead of US Pacific Time. If you visit his blog on, say, a Wednesday morning, his date stamps already say Saturday afternoon. Then again, Australians are a people who treat every day as if it were Saturday afternoon, if you know what I mean.

Tim Blair covers the war against Islamist terrorism and the terrorists' western toadies as well as anyone. And as a bonus, when you read Tim Blair, you will learn about some spectacular left-wing Australian journalists and politicians -- people such as Natasha Stott-Despoja, Simon Crean, Margo Kingston and Philip Adams. I have no idea who any of these people are, but I enjoy reading about them and I'm glad they're not causing any damage over here in this country. You will also learn to follow the various exotic Antipodean sports, such as "cricket" and "Australian Rules Football" (bounce, kick, throw!) and if you're not careful you may end up in a barfight defending the honor of the Collingwood Magpies.

Keep up the good work, Tim, and if you're ever in Seattle, I'd be honored to buy you a beer or other beverage of your choice.

[More information on the Shark Blog's Blog of the Day tradition is here]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:46 PM
Weekly Canard

Robert "three-home" Scheer (I'll explain later) seems to be taking a summer vacation from demonizing Bush for the liberation of Iraq. In this week's column, Mr. Canard blames George W Bush for Gray Davis' $35 billion surprise budget deficit and the energy crisis that shook the state three years ago

The other day a woman asked me to sign a petition calling for the recall of California Gov. Gray Davis. Why, I asked. Because he bankrupted the state, she said. When I begged to differ that it was the Bush administration and its buddies at companies like Enron that had put the state into an economic tailspin, she said she was being paid according to the number of petitions signed and didn't really care. But voters should care because Davis is being used as a fall guy for problems that are beyond his control.

Remember Enron and those other scandals that cost folks their jobs and their 401(k) savings? They were a result of deregulation, the mantra of the Republicans. Deregulation was most disastrous for California's energy market, in which a crisis cost jobs and threw the world's fifth-largest economy into long-term disruption.

Nice try, Bob, but according to PBS Frontline, the first deregulation legislation went into effect in 1998 (Bill Clinton was President), the California energy crisis started in May 2000 (Bill Clinton was President), the first blackouts occurred in June 2000 (Bill Clinton was President), Federal regulators rejected a wholesale rate cap for California in December 2000 (Bill Clinton was President) and the state's biggest utilities announced they were on the verge of bankrupcy on January 16, 2001 (Bill Clinton was still President).

Next week, Robert Scheer will blame George W Bush for the disappearance of Amelia Earhart (Franklin Roosevelt was President), Jimmy Carter's hemorrhoids (Jimmy Carter was President) and the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown (Mikhail Gorbachev was President).

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
July 01, 2003
It's in the P-I...

... so it's probably wrong.

Monday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer achieved a new low in an editorial praising bulldozer shahida Rachel Corrie as a "peace activist" and a "young woman of uncommon compassion, committed to fairness for Palestinians" who "left an impressive legacy". It's disgraceful enough for the P-I to whitewash Corrie's reprehensible support for a terrorist movement and her tragic but reckless death where she placed herself in the path a moving vehicle.

But the P-I takes the cake by claiming that it has proof disputing the Israeli military inquiry that exonerated the bulldozer driver

But we ought to withhold final judgment. Some statements and photos seem to contradict a military prosecutor's conclusion.
What photos? There are no such photos. If there were such a photo, it would certainly be newsworthy, but why hasn't it been published or even discussed in any news story? The only known photos of the incident are posted on this pro-Palestinian website. Some of these photos were taken well before the accident, others were taken after the accident. One of these photos was (mistakenly) widely published shortly after Corrie's death and subsequently retracted (by the Christian Science Monitor and the New York Times)

Of course it's possible that the P-I has information on photographs that the rest of us haven't seen yet. So I've emailed Glenn Drosendahl, the P-I's reader representative, asking the P-I to either publish the details of these photographs or to issue a retraction. I eagerly await his reply.

UPDATE Oliver Kamm eloquently takes apart the P-I's canonization of Rachel Corrie.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:43 PM
Ruth Rosen, Destroyer of Jobs

On Monday, Ruth Rosen gave us the second installment of her anti-Wal Mart temper fit, inspired partly by a sex discrimination lawsuit filed against the company. The courts have yet to decide the merits of the case, but Ruth Rosen is already convinced that Wal-Mart is evil, because

On average, a "sales associate" earns $6.10 an hour
In keeping with its conservative policies, the health insurance Wal- Mart offers its employees doesn't cover contraception
First of all, $6.10 is higher than the federal minimum wage of $5.15. You'll also notice that Wal-Mart offers its employees health insurance (not to mention many other benefits), which surpasses most other low-wage jobs. And yes, it makes sense for health insurance to cover only catastrophic expenses, but not routine ones like contraception or toothpaste -- just like automobile insurance covers accidents, but not oil changes or gasoline.
Not surprisingly, many Wal- Mart workers live below the poverty level, use county pulic [sic] health services and -- at least half of them -- qualify for the federal food-stamp program. In other words, taxpayers subsidize Wal-Mart's profits by paying for the federal, state and county assistance that Wal Mart's workers require to survive.
The other side of the equation is that without Wal-Mart, many of these low-skill workers would be unemployed altogether and an even more expensive burden on society
Fortunately, the women of Wal-Mart have an ally in their battle. On June 22, the National Organization of Women, which has dubbed Wal-Mart a "merchant of shame," kicked off an "adopt a store" campaign to educate shoppers about Wal- Mart's exploitation of its women employees. Thousands of NOW members are visiting stores, wearing buttons that read "Wal-Mart Always Discriminates"
Oy, some free business advice to Ruth Rosen and the ladies of NOW: I can only think of two pressure groups that might command less public esteem than NOW and that are in a better position to boost Wal-Mart's sales by protesting against Wal-Mart: Al Qaeda, and the North American Man-Boy Love Association. (Oh, I see that NOW has an inkling of this, even if Ruth Rosen doesn't)
Also involved is the United Food and Commercial Workers' Union, whose members work at competing retail stores and earn $2 to $3 an hour more than Wal-Mart workers with equivalent jobs.
Ah, so this is the real agenda. The UFCW wants to convert all of Wal-Mart's one million associates into responsible dues-paying union members. Wal-Mart's inevitable response to unionization would be to cut jobs, which wouldn't bother the union, because the union would still gain members, even at the expense of throwing some other people out of work.

But let's say that the unrelenting pressure from Ruth Rosen and her feminist friends caused Wal-Mart's other employees to capitulate and join a union. What would Ruth Rosen have to say to all those hourly workers who lost the jobs they were once happy with? She might commiserate and complain some more, but the only way she could find them other jobs would be to start a retail chain of her own. I can just see it now: Ruth-Rosen-Mart. Based on what we know about Ruth Rosen's business acumen, Ruth-Rosen-Mart would:
(a) only hire the barely employable, pay them 50% more than anybody else is willing to pay them and also offer unlimited free healthcare and generous pension benefits
(c) refuse to sell any product that could possibly cause any kind of injury
(b) refuse to engage in unethical corporate practices, such as "advertising", "competition" or "making a profit".

I have no doubt that Ruth Rosen would be willing to invest her own life savings in this venture. And in the unlikely event that Ruth-Rosen-Mart goes belly-up, taking Ruth Rosen's retirement security with it? Not to worry, Wal-Mart will still be there and Ruth Rosen would be able to support herself in her golden years by working as a Wal-Mart sales associate. As long as she's willing to learn how to smile at the customers.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:01 PM
Blog of the Day, July 1

Today's Blog of the Day is Erin O'Connor's Critical Mass

Erin is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. Her blog focuses on the world of higher education, with particular attention to the decline of quality scholarship in the humanities, along with the spread of the monoculture of "political correctness", where diversity of color trumps diversity of ideas, sensitivity to emotions is valued over intellectual inquiry, and free speech is suppressed in the name of tolerance. From skewering the University of California's attempt to outlaw romance between faculty and grown-up students to defending students who are harassed by administrators for passing out leaflets for Republican speakers, Erin can always be counted on to deftly and eloquently challenge the academy to a better job of upholding its own stated ideals.

Keep up the good work, Erin, and if you're ever in Seattle, I'd be honored to buy you a beer or other beverage of your choice.

[More information on the Shark Blog's Blog of the Day tradition is here]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:15 AM
Here and There, July 1

Steven Plaut debunks the mythology of the Palestinian refugees and the claim of both a Palestinian state and a Palestinian "right of return" to Israel.

The spirit of Rachel Corrie lives on in a new pro-terrorist organization that carries her name and in a city government agency that subsidizes her fellow terrorism-sympathizers at the International Solidarity Movement.

Fifteen deans from the University of Washington praise the Supreme Court's muddled decision in the Michigan Law School case supporting "diversity" in higher education.

We believe the benefits of diversity, so cogently described by the Supreme Court, must be available to students at the University of Washington
Well yes, exposure to diversity of life experience, talents, ideas and aspirations is invaluable to one's education. But the only form of "diversity" these deans seem to be interested in is diversity of skin color.

Meanwhile, William Raspberry, who calls himself an "affirmative-action advocate" argues that "the fight over undergraduate affirmative action is a diversion". After all, he points out, affirmative action was introduced to counter racial discrimination, but if the university administrators [like the ones at Michigan and Washington] want to bend the rules to admit more minorities, then discrimination against minorities in academia is no longer the problem it used to be. Raspberry mentions the research of Ronald Ferguson

There are serious problems facing black children, and, at the risk of seeming to blame the victims, there are serious things black parents can do about them.

But our toolboxes will have to include more than just the hammer of racial accusation.


Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:47 AM