October 31, 2003
Sally Soriano

Sally Soriano is challenging incumbent Barbara Schlag-Peterson for Position 1 on the Seattle School Board. Her statement in her candidate profile claims that one of her proudest achievements was

Educating the Community about U.S. Trade Policy - Through educating the public about how both NAFTA and WTO have the authority to overturn our democratically enacted laws, I used the skills of communication in various media and educated my fellow citizens on the importance of community-wide deliberation on these institutions of immense importance to us all.
Conclusions: (1) she doesn't understand economics and (2) she doesn't know how to write a coherent sentence.

Soriano opposes high stakes testing and accountability:

Soriano is critical of the WASL. During her run for a School Board seat in 2001 and again this year, she said the high-stakes test warps classroom instruction and demoralizes students and teachers.

"I want to get away from that labeling," Soriano said at an election forum. She would lobby state lawmakers to place less emphasis on the WASL and challenge the sanctions imposed by the federal government for schools whose test scores aren't improving fast enough

Soriano is right to be concerned about the disparity in achievement between different ethnic groups, but I am unpersuaded by her understanding of the problem or its solutions:
"I think we need to focus on the issues of achievement gap (between white and nonwhite students) and disproportionality right away," she said.
The gap is not between whites and non-whites, it is between blacks and non-blacks
The district can tackle this problem by reducing class sizes, giving teachers more time to collaborate with each other and embedding the curriculum with awareness of racism, sexism and classism, Soriano said.
I have no idea what "embedding the curriculum with awareness of sexism" actually means, or what it has to do with the achievement of black students. Furthermore, under the Soriano regime, we would never know whether or not we were making progress on the achievement gap, because:
Sally Soriano said the use of WASL scores to label racial blocs of students as failures also constituted institutional racism.
Naturally, Soriano is endorsed by all the elements of the clueless, lunatic left, including: Green Party of Seattle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer and both weekly newspapers. As hard as it is to believe, her campaign seems to be stronger than that of the moderate, reasonable incumbent, Barbara Schlag-Peterson. Soriano has raised substantially more money than Peterson, and she has many more yard signs all over the city.

This is an important election. The good people of Seattle need your help to save our public schools from Sally Soriano. If you live in Seattle, vote for incumbent Barbara Schlag-Peterson. If you don't live in Seattle, but know someone who does, please e-mail them a link to this webpage.

For information on the candidates in the other Seattle School Board races, go here.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:21 PM
Seattle School Board

When Seattle goes to the polls on Tuesday, four of the seven seats on the Seattle School Board will be decided. The current school board has made its share of mistakes. The last superintendent overspent the budget by $35 million before the board discovered the problem and fired the superintendent (the deficit has since been corrected). The search for a new superintendent was poorly handled (I blogged about it extensively, go here and look at my entries during October 2003). I wish the board had done some things differently, but I'm going to vote to keep the incumbents.

The board members that are elected on Tuesday will still be in office in the Fall of 2007 when David starts kindergarten. I have a stake in good schools and in a responsible school board. The incumbents are hard-working, conscientious public servants who I believe will learn from their mistakes and improve the schools. Most of the challengers are, frankly, nutty. They are extreme left-wing ideologues who are pushing a bizarre agenda and can be expected to cause a great deal of damage to the school system. Unfortunately, they are running stronger campaigns than the incumbents.

This table summarizes the various endorsements:

  #1 #2 #3 #6
Alki Foundation Peterson Flynn Waldman Stewart
Hoagland
Seattle Times Peterson Flynn Waldman Stewart
Seattle P-I Soriano Flynn Butler-Wall Stewart
Seattle Weekly Soriano Flynn Butler-Wall Stewart
The Stranger Soriano Flynn Butler-Wall Stewart
Seattle Education Ass.
-
Flynn Butler-Wall Stewart
Hoagland
Shark Blog Peterson Brown Waldman
Hoagland

I'll discuss the individual races in separate posts above. If you live in Seattle please be sure to vote for the responsible candidates. If you don't live in Seattle, but know somebody who does, please forward this link to them.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:16 PM
Joanne Jacobs is a hot item

Joanne writes:

I've been trying to sell more freelance commentaries and articles, partly to make money and partly to help persuade book publishers that I'm a hot item and therefore my book is marketable. Fortune and fame. I want it all. I'm hearing from a lot of editors who claim they have no freelance budget till January or till the economy revives or till hell freezes over. Or they have no space. Or they'll get back to me in four weeks.

If any of you who work for publications can help with contacts or freelance information, I'd appreciate it.

If any of my readers happen to be editors: Joanne Jacobs writes good stuff. Not only is she a damn good blogger, she's also one of the sharpest and most readable education writers you'll find.

A special hint to my readers from the Seattle Times and the P-I: Joanne Jacobs is more interesting and makes far more sense than those superannuated national columnists you give space to, e.g. Molly Ivins, Ellen Goodman, Alexander Cockburn, Helen Thomas, etc.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:55 PM
Seattle District Elections

Both the Seattle Times and the Post-Intelligencer continue their campaigns against district elections for Seattle City Council. The P-I says that the district proposal is

not a plan that promises overall improvements
and that
Congress and the Legislature, elected by districts, are hardly immune from missteps
Yes, but any form of government, including elected government, will inevitably be flawed. Those of us who support district voting are not looking for perfection, only for a sense that we have a representative who is more accountable to our concerns. The best thing the P-I can say about the current system is
Filling all nine positions at-large makes it in every council member's interest to keep the whole city's needs in mind. That may well be why the city has relatively generous social-service programs.
Hint: being "generous" with the taxpayer's money is a good way to motivate businesses to leave the city.

The P-I concludes that there may be a better system for electing the council, but they have no idea what it is, so let's not do anything until we know what's going to "ensure" [their word] improvements. Another hint: in politics, it is nearly impossible to "ensure" that any action will produce any particular result. But the most important aspect of a system of representation is for the voters to feel that they are being represented, and district representation seems to do a better job of this than an at-large system in a city as large as Seattle.

The Seattle Times ran a pair of side-by-side pro/con op-eds on the subject. A married couple writing in favor of districts described a specific example of why they believe a district representative would help improve quality of life in their neighborhood. The anti-districts op-ed regurgitated most of the same abstract and unfounded assertions that have been appearing in the Times, such as in Joni Balter's editorial that I comprehensively fisked the other day. The writer said that she

decided to oppose district elections after five months of learning, as a member of the citizen advisory panel on council elections. We were a panel of 15 diverse people with varied backgrounds and viewpoints on many things, including district elections... In the end, it was a strong statement that no one voted to recommend district elections for Seattle.
The list of the advisory panel is here. The group of 16 included 4 attorneys, 3 academics, 6 employees of local government or non-profits, a former city council member, the leader of a fringe group that calls for proportional representation and a Green party activist. That doesn't sound all that representative of this city's diversity to me. It was hand-picked by the sitting council, which has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, so it's no surprise they voted to maintain the current system.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:35 PM
October 30, 2003
German Anti-Semitism File

From Germany, Scott Hanson reports on the story of Martin Hohmann, a CDU backbencher, who went off an a bit of an anti-Jewish tirade the other day. At a local party event, Hohmann gave a speech where, among other things, he downplays the Holocaust by blaming the early crimes of the Soviet Union on Jewish Bolshevists. He argues that "by same logic that is used to label the Germans as a Criminal Nation [Tätervolk]", the Jews are also a Criminal Nation. As supporting evidence, he cites Henry Ford's The International Jew, which also inspired Hitler. To be as fair to Hohmann as possible, he wrapped up his catalog of the crimes of Bolshevists who happened to be Jewish by stating that

Neither 'the Germans' nor 'the Jews' are a Tätervolk. But one is fully justified to say that the godless with their godless ideologies were the real Tätervolk of the last, bloody century.
But that's still a dirty and inappropriate game of moral equivalence.

"Go with God for a good future for Europe," Hohmann concluded. "Go with God for a good future especially for our German Vaterland!"

Fortunately, other leading members of the CDU have condemned Hohmann's remarks.

UPDATE: The BBC has the story as does German blogger Cum Grano Salis

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:30 PM
Bubbies of San Francisco

Here at the Shark Blog, our favorite Kosher dill pickle comes from Bubbies of San Francisco . Well okay, the pickles aren't made by a real Bubbie, the company is based in Stockton, not San Francisco, and the jar's label confesses that the pickles are manufactured in Canada.

So why should that be a problem? These are still good pickles. Mahlzeit!.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:54 PM
It's the Economy, Stupid

The economy is now growing faster than at any time since Ronald Reagan was President:

Economy grows at fastest pace since 1984
By JEANNINE AVERSA
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The economy grew at a blistering 7.2 percent annual rate in the third quarter in the strongest pace in nearly two decades. Consumers spent with abandon and businesses ramped up investment, compelling new evidence of an economic resurgence.


Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:28 AM
Muslim Anti-Semitism

Retiring Malaysian dictator Mahathir Mohamad continues his ahistorical anti-semitic rant:

"We [Muslims] sympathize with [the Jews]. We were very sad to see how the Jews were so ill-treated by the Europeans."

He reiterated Thursday that the root problem between Jews and Muslims was the occupation of Arab land to form the state of Israel.

"It is not religion at all. It is territorial," he said. "You take somebody's land and they will fight for it."

Mahathir Mohamad's Malaysia, which is 4,800 miles from Israel, has never had a significant Jewish community. So that might help explain Mahathir's ignorance of Muslim ill-treatment of Jews.

In fact, Jewish communities throughout the Middle East had been expelled by the local Muslims (and Jewish land and property confiscated) before there was a State of Israel.

For example, the Jewish community of Hebron (now in the disputed part of the West Bank), which had existed almost continuously for centuries, was nearly exterminated in Muslim pogroms in the 1920s and 1930s, and finally extinguished in 1948 when the city was illegally captured by the Jordanians.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:18 AM
October 29, 2003
Another Triumph for French Diplomacy

David Frankfurter writes from Jerusalem

On Sunday night, October 26, approximately 170 European parliamentarians arrived from Jordan to spend 36 hours in the Holy Land. They were invited to a dinner, which was peppered with a series of leading Israeli speakers. Perhaps the least well known of the panel was Mr. Arnold Roth, a former Australian, whose teenage daughter Malki had been tragically blown away two years ago as she was innocently eating a pizza.

Mr. Roth is a very engaging speaker, with a compelling personal story to tell. The cutlery stopped its action. The audience was riveted. He quickly gained the undivided attention of his audience. However, one notable exception was the newly arrived French ambassador to Israel. The honorable gentleman continued to munch on his food
...
After Mr. Roth left the podium, a French journalist, who had been sitting in close proximity to the ambassador, was overheard describing the actions of this senior member of the diplomatic corps - which had clearly embarrassed him. He expressed amazement that a suggestion to the ambassador to put down his cutlery, if only for a few minutes, was met with curt refusal. The journalist commented how all around were stunned, but the social pressure had no effect. The man carried on. He obviously did not realize how others may interpret this vis-á-vis France's true policy on terrorism, let alone Israel - or just basic human compassion.

I am fully confident that others will correctly interpret the ambassador's behavior vis-á-vis France's true policy on terrorism and Israel.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:19 PM
UN-dermining democracy

The UN's Kofi Annan, whose main job is to placate the various tyrannical member states that belong to his organization, is only too happy to meddle in Israeli internal affairs and to undermine the will of the voters in the only democracy in the Middle East:

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday gave a boost to Middle East peace activists, who warned him that "time was running out" on an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution.
...
Annan applauded their efforts and courage, saying that grass-roots initiatives "helped to create a vision of a common future," according to a UN read-out of the meeting.
The Israeli public and its government will readily embrace a legitimate peace proposal as they have in the past. But these particular "grass-roots initiatives" do not have the support of the elected Israeli government, nor of a decisive number of Israeli voters.

But what would the UN know of such concepts as elections and democracy?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:58 PM
The P-I hits the big time

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is enjoying its 15 minutes of fame today, with mentions from Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds and Roger L. Simon, and Honest Reporting's designation as "Media Blunder of the Week".

The momentum grows for my campaign to name the P-I the next Idiotarian of the Year.

UPDATE Pejman Yousefzadeh and Best of the Web also took part in today's pile-on!

As did Jim Miller, Robert Crawford, the Leather Penguin and Northwest View

If I missed anybody, please let me know.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:30 PM
Tyrant Suck-up Watch

Tom Plate, syndicated columnist and head of UCLA's Asia Pacific Media Network (motto: Toward a keener sense of community in the Pacific region), on the differences between China and the United States:

Hu -- a cool, Machiavellian bureaucrat who has masterminded his way to the top -- represents an ancient culture of millennial maturity. Bush ­ a former Texas governor who hop-scotched into the White House on his father’s hard-earned name (and a quirk in U.S. elections law) -- represents a brilliant nation that is, in China’s eyes, a relatively unproven teen.
Plate also has a high regard for China's foreign policy, civil liberties and its attitude toward the people of Taiwan:
China generally takes the long view of history. Its diplomacy is driven not by adventurism or romanticism or benevolence but by logical self-interest. Its control over domestic opinion, though far from absolute, permits patience in dealing with important issues, such as reunification with Taiwan, which can come in the course of time (i.e., not necessarily tomorrow).

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:43 AM
It's in the P-I

The Seattle-Post Intelligencer admits today that it distorted the words of Rep. George Nethercutt. (see yesterday's entry for context)

Let's concede that Nethercutt believes the death of U.S. soldiers is, heaven forbid, awful.

...

Consider, again, the quote in question -- fleshed out a bit more.

"The story of what we have done in the postwar period ... is remarkable," Nethercutt said, because the coalition has been rebuilding power plants, police stations, schools and other infrastructure, as well as taking early steps toward self-governance. "So the story is better than we might be led to believe in the news. I'm indicting the news people. It's a bigger and better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day, which, which, heaven forbid, is awful."

A bigger and better story? Thank you, George, for clarifying your callow, shallow position.

Yes, the progress we're making in rebuilding Iraq -- saving Iraqi lives, giving Iraqis a more decent life, ridding Iraq of the horrendous Baathist regime, ultimately making the region and our country more secure -- is a bigger story than the tragic losses we suffer along the way.

The P-I, forced to admit that they misreported and distorted Nethercutt's remarks, are reduced to playground-style name-calling. "callow, shallow position"? What is callow and shallow about Nethercutt's position? I have no idea and the P-I doesn't begin to explain.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:50 AM
October 28, 2003
It's not in the P-I

George Nethercutt, the Republican Congressman who is challenging Patty Murray in the 2004 US Senate race, is alleging that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer deliberately distorted his recent remarks about Iraq.

The P-I reported Oct. 14 that Nethercutt said Iraq's reconstruction was going better than news media portrayed it and that he added, "The story of what we've done in the postwar period is remarkable. ... It is a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day."

The story, paraphrasing Nethercutt's next words, said the congressman "added that he did not want any more soldiers to be killed."

Nethercutt criticized the P-I for not quoting his remarks fully. He said his full remarks that the paper partly quoted and partly paraphrased were these: "So the story is better than we might be led to believe in the news. I'm just indicting the news people, but it's, it's a bigger and better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day which, which heaven forbid is awful."

The body of the Oct. 14 story did, in fact, state that "He added that he did not want any more soldiers to be killed." But its headline read
Nethercutt hails Iraq's recovery
'It is a better ... story than losing a couple of soldiers every day'
An even more egregious distortion appeared in the P-I's editorial of Oct. 16:
Then there was U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt's ham-handed attempt to redirect news coverage and public attention to the war's positive side. "It's a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day," the would-be senator gaffed at a gathering Monday.

The family of Pfc. Kerry Scott of Concrete, who buried their young hero Tuesday, likely would not share Nethercutt's news judgment.

Not only does the editorial contradict Nethercutt's reporting of his own speech, it even contradicts the P-I's initial (understated) reporting of Nethercutt's speech. Is this deliberate distortion or ordinary incompetence? We report, you decide.

UPDATE Yes, as reader "Insufficiently Sensitive" points out in the comments, it probably is deliberate distortion. See today's editorial cartoon

UPDATE 10/29: The P-I concedes in today's editorial that they did distort Nethercutt's remarks. They insist they were right to attack Nethercutt anyway, and call him names "callow" and "shallow", without explaining why. Pathetic.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:07 AM
October 27, 2003
Religion of Peace

Hezbollah guerrillas shelled Israeli positions for the first time in two months, wounding an Israeli soldier

Hezbollah said in a statement that its guerrillas attacked the Israeli positions with rockets, scoring "direct hits" on the "first day of blessed Ramadan," the Muslim holy month of fasting.
Happy Ramadan and As-salaam Aleikum to you too.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:01 PM
Happy Birthday!

David Sharkansky turned 2 on Sunday

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:48 PM
Molly Ivins was right...

... about at least one thing:

On Oct. 21, the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany persuaded Iran to accept stricter international inspections of its nuclear sites and to stop production of enriched uranium. This might seem, to the simple-minded, to be good news indeed.
As a matter of fact, the simple-minded did take it to be good news.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:47 PM
New web sites

Here are some new websites that are likely to be of interest to Shark Blog readers:

EUFunding.org, a project of The Funding for Peace Coalition, which describes itself as:

an ad hoc group of concerned citizens interested in peace and alarmed at the absence of adequate controls and of fundamental responsibility in the management of European aid money to the Palestinian Arabs.

Medved Fans, an unofficial site by fans of talk show host and movie critic Michael Medved.

Media Backspin, Honest Reporting's newly launched weblog.

Check them out!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:20 PM
Lying liars and their unfair and imbalanced lies

Lying liar Molly Ivins tells a doozy of a lie in her latest column

... there was something so sad about the episode last week in which it was discovered that 500 letters had been sent to American newspapers in the names of serving soldiers without their knowledge or permission. That's not so much horrific as it is low.

The faked letters said in identical language that everything was hunky-dory over there in Iraq – we are doing much good and are greatly appreciated ... If administration officials want to lie, they should at least lie under their own names.

Reports about these letters may be found here and here. The letters were not "faked", they were written by a single army officer and signed by soldiers who insist that they agree with the content of the letters. Gannett, which broke the story writes:
At least one soldier contacted by Gannett News Service said he never signed the letter that appeared in his hometown newspaper in Charleston, W.Va.
This soldier is not named, so we can assume that "at least one solider", in this case, is equivalent to "at most one soldier".

Most importantly, the letter was circulated by a single battalion commander acting on his own and since rebuked by his superiors. This was not organized by the "administration" as Molly Ivins alleges.

This column appeared in today's Seattle Times print edition. One would think that their op-ed page would be subject to rudimentary fact-checking. But sadly, that is not the case.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:56 PM
Crayon Diversity Award
Today's Crayon Diversity Award goes to the University of Washington Board of Regents and to Robert L. Jamieson, Jr. of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Earlier this month, the UW College Republicans organized an "affirmative-action bake sale" (Caucasians and males were charged higher prices than were women and minorities). In response, the UW Board of Regents agreed to write a letter condemning the bake sale. Individual regents also spoke out against the bake sale:
“The views expressed by (UWCR), which look like they were intentionally divisive — I think are repugnant,” said Regent Craig Cole.

...

“We are dealing with certain realities and the reality is racism is alive and well; it lies just below the surface,” said [Regent Ark] Chin.

...

Regent Dan Evans, former Republican governor of Washington, expressed disappointment that those sharing his political affiliation would sponsor such an event. However, he defended the group’s right to hold the event.

“Free speech includes stupid free speech and this was certainly pretty dumb,” said Evans.

Evans concluded by applauding the outrage that followed the event, saying it was the proper response.

...

“It hurt me,” said Student Regent Darlene “Daya” Mortel. “I’m all for free speech … but there is a very thin line when free speech becomes hateful speech, becomes violent speech.”

The only violence related to the bake sale was the "outrage that followed the event", as applauded by Dan Evans -- i.e some of the pro-racism activists vandalized the bake sale.

In an astonishing display of Orwellian vocabulary! McCarthyite suppression of unpopular views! crayon diversity! anti-democratic disregard for the voters of Washington state! The Regents circle the wagons against the anti-racist College Republicans:

Regent Cole went on to talk about the importance of diversity and said the event had strengthened his resolve that the UW should promote a more diverse campus. Regent Ark Chin said such advocacy was a must in light of the atmosphere on campus.
The Board of Regents wins today's Crayon Diversity Award for advocating the principle that diversity is a good thing as long as people don't express diverse opinions.

As I've pointed out previously, the college-age population of the State of Washington is 72.5% white, 6.5% Asian and 3.7% black, while the University of Washington freshman class is 56.5% white, 27.9% Asian and 2.9% black. The only way the university could accurately reflect the diversity of the state's population would be to send 3/4 of the Asian students home and admit a lot more white kids and a handful of new blacks. I hope that's not what the Regents have in mind.

The P-I's Robert L. Jamieson joins the UW Regents as Crayon Diversity Award co-recipient for his last Friday's editorial discussing the bake sale. Jamieson wrote

Never mind that voters approved Initiative 200, which virtually wiped out affirmative action in our state
implying that the College Republicans were simply picking a fight over a settled issue. But the issue is not really settled. Although 58% of the voters approved I-200 in 1998, it remains under attack by various elites, such as the Washington Supreme Court and the leadership of the University of Washington.

In his attempt to defend(?) the College Republicans, Jamieson damns them with the faintest of praise

Was the bake sale illegal? Nope. Was it as incendiary as students walking through campus wearing white sheets? Not close.
By comparing the College Republicans with the Ku Klux Klan, he is implying that they are expressing a milder form of the same underlying sentiments. But that misses the entire point by 180°. The KKK, like the promoters of racial preferences, say that people should be classified and judged by the color of their skin. The College Republicans reject that concept and attacked it with the bake sale parody. Based on the backlash, they seem to have struck a nerve. Good for them.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:49 AM
October 26, 2003
Religion of Peace

Jordan's Islamists call for abolition of peace treaty with Israel :

The influential Islamic Action Front party urged Jordanians Sunday to close ranks and put pressure on the government to cancel its 9-year-old peace treaty with Israel.

"We hereby call on all Jordanians - particularly deputies, scientists, intellectuals and writers - to step up efforts with a view of forcing the government to abolish the unjust peace pact with the Zionist entity," the IAF said in a statement marking the ninth anniversary of the signing of the treaty on October 26, 1994.
The Religion of Peace, always true to its name.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:36 PM
October 25, 2003
Seattle District Elections

Mark Steyn on the over-centralized political culture in Britain

A centralised political culture necessitates a centralised media culture: the minute you start having little elections hither and yon for this and that, the ability of the Indy and the BBC to define the parameters of acceptable opinion will be weakened.
He could just as easily been writing about the Seattle Times and its supercilious opposition to district elections in Seattle.
Electing Seattle City Council members by geographical district would not improve the overall quality of council. That misconception has been peddled by promoters of a plan to switch from at-large elections to election in nine districts.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:19 PM
Google IPO?

The Financial Times reports that Internet search engine Google is considering an initial public offering next year that is expected to value the company at a minimum of $15 billion. The FT also says that

Though the company does not disclose financial information, its profits are growing rapidly and are reckoned to be running at an annual rate of about $150m on revenues of $500m.
Anybody who is contemplating an investment in Google should consider the following:

As a point of comparison, here are some other companies that are currently worth about $15 billion dollars:

CompanyRevenues (Mil.)Profits (Mil.)
AT&T $35,886 $904
Union Pacific Corp $11,167 $1,066
Waste Management, Inc. $11,152 $738
Southwest Airlines $5,607 $401
Tribune Company $5,111 $679
So the claim is that Google is worth as much as any of these other companies that have many times the revenues and profits that Google has. Some would argue that Google's price includes a premium for its anticipated future growth. But where will that growth come from and how much confidence does one have that projections of future growth will be fulfilled?

Google's primary business, I believe, is licensing its search engine technology to "portals" such as Yahoo! AOL and MSN. But how many such portals are there? How much money are they making? How many new portals are likely to be launched in the future? How much of the portal revenues are Google's customers inclined to share with their search engine vendor and how many other search technology companies are out there? Although the word Google has turned into a generic verb for performing an Internet search, and although some of us may make dozens of Google searches a day, how much revenue does each search produce for Google, Inc? Okay, there's a little bit of ad revenue from the "Sponsored Links" in the right-hand margin. But how much money does the average Google user spend at the various merchants who advertise, and how much is that advertising ultimately worth?

Google has great technology and offers a great service, and I wish its founders and employees well. At the same time, there is a sensible price to pay for a share of stock in Google, Inc. But a market cap of $15billion appears to be founded less on reality than on hope and dreams. Hope and dreams that financial history tells us are so often disappointed.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:14 PM
October 24, 2003
Canada says Jews are expendable

In response to yesterday's terror threat against an El Al plane destined for Toronto, Canada's Transport Minister announced today that he would consider surrendering to terrorists instead of protecting Canadians who happen to travel between Canada and Israel:

Canada said on Friday it was assessing the future of El Al flights to Toronto after one of the Israeli airline's planes was diverted twice because of an unspecified security threat.

"As for subsequent El Al flights, that is something we will have to deliberate [on], considering the various intelligence we receive... I can't answer what is going to happen with other El Al flights," [Transport Minister David Collenette] told a news conference.

"This was a specific threat against El Al at Pearson Airport. I want to assure travelers that there is not a problem with traveling to Pearson, to Toronto."

Jewish Canadians don't automatically qualify for the full protection of the Canadian government, apparently.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:59 PM
It's in the P-I

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports on a peace proposal presented here yesterday by Israeli Ami Ayalon and Palestinian Sari Nusseibeh

Their six-point "statement of principles" calls for Israel to pull back to its 1967 borders and establishes "two states for two peoples." Unlike other peace plans, in which the thorny issues of Jerusalem, Jewish settlers and Palestinian refugees were left to deal with at the end, it tackles them head on.

The roughly 4 million Palestinian refugees -- some of the 700,000 who fled or were evicted from their homes in 1948, and their descendants -- could settle in the new Palestinian state, not in Israel. And many of the more than 200,000 Jewish settlers living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would have to move to Israel. Both states would call Jerusalem their capital.

The new Palestinian state would be without a military, its security guaranteed by the "international community."

While this idea might make sense on a certain level, it is unlikely to attract much support among Palestinians, the majority of whom still insist on a "right of return" of "refugees" to Israel, and also want to continue the armed struggle until Israel is destroyed. Unfortunately, Sari Nusseibeh, the President of Al Quds University, may be a genuinely moderate Palestinian, but he has almost no popular support. It's telling that Ayalon and Nusseibeh are spending their time promoting their plan in, say, Seattle instead of in, say, Ramallah.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:44 AM
Weasel Watching

The Council of the Watcher of Weasels has awarded my posting "A Brief History of the Imminent Threat Canard" the designation "Non-Council Link of the Week".

I thank the Council for the honor.

Be sure to read "A Brief History of the Imminent Threat Canard", if you haven't already done so. And then go check out the many other fine weasel-watching links that were also considered by the Council this week.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:07 AM
Seattle District Elections

The owners/editorial board of the Seattle Times, most of whom live outside of Seattle, continue to campaign against district elections for the Seattle city council:

Seattleites who believe in one city working together, one city tackling problems with partners throughout the region, should vote down Charter Amendment 5.

Representation by districts would, by definition, compel council members to focus on the traffic circle down the street rather than a broader, regional transportation fix that could substantially improve the commute.

Imagine that, a group of suburbanites arguing that Seattle's city council should focus on regional issues instead of city issues.

The editorial also recycles the bogus claims from Joni Balter's recent anti-district editorial which I dismantled here. Example:

After citywide elections were abandoned in San Francisco, seats held by minorities and women decreased.
As I documented in my earlier fisking, that is not a factually correct statement. This statement is also unsupported by the facts:
The message from San Francisco, which recently adopted district elections, is don't do it.
In fact, the only serious attempt to repeal San Francisco's district elections since they were adopted was dropped before it got off the ground, because it had little popular support.

Although the Seattle Times as an institution and its suburban owner/executives have their own agenda to oppose district elections, there are many good reasons why actual Seattleites should welcome district elections. I discussed them here.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:57 AM
October 23, 2003
Senate Approves Bogus Spam Bill

The Senate last night approved the nation's first federal anti-spam legislation "after reaching a compromise". The latter phrase should tell you that it isn't going to accomplish very much.

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and approved 97-0, would target the most unsavory spammers by prohibiting e-mail that sells financial scams, fraudulent body-enhancement products and pornography.
Fine, but we're also inundated with a lot of other trashy unsolicited e-mail for which this bill would only create a safe harbor.

Anybody who expects the federal government to protect them from spam deserves a mailbox full of ads for penis enlargers and brain supplements.

The only person who can protect you from spam is you, possibly with the help of some filtering technology, but even that is not necessary. Here is what you need to do, it worked for me.

1) For your normal email correspondence, use a personal email address that you never, ever give out to people you don't really trust. Do not post it in plain text on any website, including in any blog comments.

2) Keep a separate email address for dealing with online merchants and websites that require registration, etc. Free services such as Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. are perfect for this. You expect this mailbox to fill with spam. On the other hand, you won't check it very often, and you can do a mass clean-up every once in a while. Just don't save any important data in the inbox.

3) If your current personal email address is clogged with spam, change it. Notify frequent correspondents that your email has changed, and have the old email reply with an automatic response that gives people directions to obtain your new email address. Just make the directions obscure enough that a spammer script won't be able to extract the email address -- e.g. give a URL for a webpage that contains your new address, where the email address is in a graphic file, not in plain text.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:30 AM
Human Rights in Palestine

Masked Palestinian gunmen killed two men suspected of being informers for Israel, then displayed their bodies Thursday in the central square of a West Bank refugee camp

The two men were abducted two weeks ago, along with six other men, on suspicion of giving away the hideout of a wanted member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a militant group loosely linked to Arafat's Fatah faction.

A member of Al Aqsa said the men were kidnapped and interrogated by Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-funded group that often cooperates with Al Aqsa in the northern West Bank. The Al Aqsa member said the two groups carried out the killings together "to share the honor."

No due process, just kidnapping, torture and execution. I expect the international human rights community and the Free Mumia crowd to be all over this.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:03 AM
It's in the P-I

Today's editorial from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has the headline Iran's promise is worth a try

On Tuesday, Iran promised foreign ministers from Britain, France and Germany that it would open its nuclear-related facilities to broader international inspections. Iran also suspended uranium enrichment, although it didn't say how long the restraint would last.
The credulous dupes over at the P-I conclude:
Iran's decision to clearly distance itself from any nuclear weapons development aims ought to ease tensions for much of the world. That is good news, not a sign of evil doing.
Meanwhile, it turns out, the Iranians are withholding information from international inspectors
Iran handed the U.N. nuclear agency documents on its past atomic energy activities on Thursday, but the dossier apparently did not include the origin of traces of weapons-grade uranium found in the country.
Relax, we are told. Iran insists
it would continue enriching uranium to non-weapons levels as part of a program it says is aimed only at producing electricity
The fundamental question that remains unanswered by Iran and unasked by the P-I and like-minded fools: Why would a country with enough oil and natural gas reserves to meet its electricity requirements for centuries into the future bother to build a nuclear-powered electrical plant?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:50 AM
Religion of Weapons and Misogyny

FBI agents with the Joint Terrorism Task Force made a chilling discovery in a South King County storage locker last week:

a small arsenal of weapons including the same model rifle used last year in random killings around the nation's capital.

The cache of weapons belongs to James Wilburn of Seattle, who according to court records, has a long history of federal firearms convictions. Agents and the U.S. Probation Office have uncovered some alarming parallels between Wilburn -- who is behind bars after being arrested last month on a probation violation -- and alleged D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad.

Like Muhammad, Wilburn, 51, is a convert to Islam. In addition to having the same model rifle allegedly used in the Washington, D.C.-area shootings, Wilburn, like Muhammad, has had a long-documented fascination with firearms. And Wilburn recently traveled to Virginia Beach, Va., where Muhammad is on trial, federal criminal justice sources said.

Wilburn, who was on supervised released after serving time for a federal firearms felony, was arrested for violating terms of his release. He was accused of beating up his girlfriend.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:11 AM
October 22, 2003
High Cost of Healthcare

The Seattle Times mentions in today's editorial that

Among the million-dollar sums in the proposed King County budget is one number that stands out: $951, the monthly cost of health insurance for the average county employee.
This is an obscene and unsustainable level of coverage, and as the editorial points out
costs rise, because no matter who pays the premium, to the patient, medicine is cheap. Even with co-pays ($20 at King County, zero at Everett), for many, "a visit to the doctor is cheaper than a visit to the barber," ...

Americans are seeing the doctor more often and paying a smaller percentage of the costs.

I can see from my own experience that this is the kernel of the "high cost of healthcare crisis". When my wife was working at a large law firm, we had wonderful coverage from Kaiser. Monthly out-of-pocket premium for a family of four was a few hundred a month. The firm paid the rest, I have no idea what it cost. The co-payments for services were negligible. When I developed a problem with acid reflux, the doctor prescribed a wonderfully effective medicine and it only cost me $10 for a bottle of 100 pills.

Now that my wife is taking time off work and we rely on the income from my business, the only cost-effective health insurance for our needs is high-deductible catastrophic coverage. Now we have to watch our health care expenses, just as we watch our automobile or home repair expenses. I recently discovered that the wonderfully effective acid reflux medication actually costs well over $300 for a bottle of 100. I also discovered that there are other wonderfully effective medications that cost a lot less. Those are the ones I buy now. They work. Now that I have an incentive to control my own health care costs, I am spending less money on health care.

Multiply this anecdote by the tens of millions of people who have no incentive to control their medical expenditures and the root causes of the "high cost of healthcare" should come into focus.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:54 AM
October 21, 2003
It's in the P-I

Last week, I mentioned a Seattle Times report about an after-school Arabic language program in Seattle high schools. Today, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer picks up on the story under the heading

Students look into the Arab world
They hope to understand the culture by speaking the language
The article closes with a quote from instructor Saadia Al-Tahir
Al-Tahir said she thought that learning Arabic would help her students see through blanket generalizations tying Arabs to terrorism, and counter the fear that comes from misunderstanding. They'll be able to separate an individual from the millions of people that make up the Arab world.

"I think that when you say 'Arabs' or 'Islam,' people think of buildings being bombed," she said. "People associate Arabs with terrorists. Maybe some people have a fear in their heart.

"By getting to know the language, they get to know the people and the culture. And that fear will disappear."

As I wrote the other day, I think its vitally important that more Americans study Arabic and this program could be a good step in that direction. But let's not kid ourselves, we are at war with certain elements of the Arab world. This program was launched, the Times reported, "after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, with the goal of increasing youths' understanding of global issues and to improve the image of Americans abroad."

But to assume that getting to know Arab culture is a path to shedding one's healthy fear and caution about the Arab world is as foolhardy as not trying to understand it in the first place. To assume that understanding is a step towards peaceful co-existence would be as dumb as assuming that America could have avoided all that messy fighting in World War II by giving Japanese and German lessons to American high school students in 1942. Yes, it is important that we learn more about Arab language and culture and civilization. But truly understanding the Arab world entails understanding the difference between our friends and our enemies in the Arab world. It entails not only understanding how to build bridges to our Arab friends. It also entails understanding why our enemies hate us, why they cannot be accommodated, why we must prevail and what we must do to defeat them.

I do hope more Americans learn Arabic. In the meantime, we can all gain understanding by reading the Arab media in translation. MEMRI is a good place to start.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:33 PM
A Brief History of The Imminent Threat Canard

Al Gore September 23, 2002

President Bush now asserts that we will take preemptive action even if the threat we perceive is not imminent.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi October 3, 2002

"As the ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, I have seen no evidence or intelligence that suggests that Iraq indeed poses an imminent threat to our nation. If the Administration has that information, they have not shared it with the Congress.
(It's fair to assume that if the administration did not share such information with the House Intelligence Committee, it is because the administration was not trying to tell Congress that Iraq posed an imminent threat)

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz December 6, 2002

Some people said [during the Cuban Missile Crisis] that Kennedy should have waited until the threat was imminent. We hear that again today. But we cannot wait to act until the threat is imminent. The notion that we can do so assumes that we will know when the threat is imminent. That wasn't true even when the United States was presented with the very obvious threat of Soviet missiles in Cuba. As President Kennedy said 40 years ago, "We no longer live in a world where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation's security to constitute maximum peril." If that was true in 1962, facing a threat that was comparatively easy to see, how much more true is it today against threats developed by terrorists who use the freedom of democratic societies to plot and plan in our midst in secret.

Stop and think for a moment. Just when did the attacks of September 11 become imminent? Certainly they were imminent on September 10, although we didn't know it. In fact, the September 11 terrorists established themselves in the United States long before that date - many months or even a couple of years earlier. Anyone who believes that we can wait until we have certain knowledge that attacks are imminent has failed to connect the dots that took us to September 11.

President George W Bush, State of the Union speech January 28, 2003
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.
Senator Edward Kennedy January 28, 2003 [in reaction to the State of the Union speech]
[The President] did not make a persuasive case that the threat is imminent and that war is the only alternative

New York Times on the State of the Union, January 29, 2003 [archive only]

The heart of Mr. Bush's argument, however, is that America and the world cannot afford to wait until it is clear that Iraq will attack America, or its allies.

''Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent,'' he said, a clear reference to European nations that argue that Mr. Hussein is contained.

Los Angeles Times January 29, 2003
THE STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS; Bush Calls Iraq Imminent Threat
The above front-page headline in the L.A. Times is the earliest media report that I can find which claims that the administration called Iraq an imminent threat.

San Francisco Chronicle February 6, 2003

For all the damning evidence of Hussein's tyranny and evil ambitions -- neither of which has been in doubt since the Persian Gulf War -- Powell did not show that Iraq amounted to an imminent threat to the United States.
Robert Scheer in the Los Angeles Times March 4, 2003
The second lie was that Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction represent an imminent threat to U.S. security.

Paul Krugman in the New York Times June 3, 2003
The public was told that Saddam posed an imminent threat. If that claim was fraudulent, the selling of the war is arguably the worst scandal in American political history - worse than Watergate, worse than the Iran-contra affair. Indeed, the idea that Americans were deceived into war makes many commentators so uncomfortable that they refuse to admit the possibility.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer June 5, 2003
The justification for going to war against Iraq was the imminent threat its weapons of mass destruction posed to the safety and security of Americans.
San Francisco Chronicle July 15, 2003
THE WHITE HOUSE has told us "to move on" and forget that the president used questionable evidence to persuade Congress that Iraq's nuclear weapons program represented an imminent threat to our national security.
Washington Post August 10, 2003
The new information indicates a pattern in which President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their subordinates -- in public and behind the scenes -- made allegations depicting Iraq's nuclear weapons program as more active, more certain and more imminent in its threat than the data they had would support.
Senator Edward Kennedy September 18, 2003
"There was no imminent threat. This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud,"
Washington Post October 3, 2003
...when it comes to Iraq and the aim of transforming the Middle East, this administration will say and do just about anything to get its way.

One day it's the imminent threat from Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction...

So there you have it a nutshell. The administration was criticized before the war for not making a case that Iraq was an imminent threat, denied at that time that war was based on the supposition of an imminent threat, and was criticized after the war for having lied that Iraq was an imminent threat.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
October 20, 2003
Asinine News File

The lead paragraph in today's Ass. Press article says:

Israeli warplanes and helicopters pounded Palestinian targets Monday in its heaviest airstrikes in months, killing 11 people, including eight in a refugee camp where a car was destroyed. One missile exploded on a street crowded with schoolchildren, wounding four of them.
The Ass. Press article omits some fundamental information, e.g. which Palestinians were killed and why:
Earlier Monday, IAF helicopters fired at least two missiles at a car near the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, killing seven Palestinians, including top Hamas militant Imad Akel and three others who were in the vehicle with him, according to Palestinian sources.
No word yet from the human rights organizations who should be concerned about all those Palestinian militants operating from civilian areas and endangering innocent Palestinian lives in violation of the Geneva conventions.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:00 PM
PETA file

If the PETA people believe that human beings aren't uniquely superior to other animals, maybe it's because they spend too much time with other PETA people:

Lisa Franzetta, campaign coordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), wears the Tiger Lady costume to protest the wearing of furs. PETA photo by Gerry Broome
Source: San Francisco Chronicle

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:24 PM
Intifada, Jew-hatred and Censorship

For reasons too obvious to go into here, the three seem to attract the same fan base. Don't miss Evan Coyne Maloney's video of the anti-Israel hate fest at Rutgers. Evan's description:

This video is the follow-up to last week's posting about the pro-Palestinian conference and rally at Rutgers University. In it, you can see the left once again demonstrate its well-known tolerance, compassion, and regard for those with differing points of view.
My only quibble with Evan is a minor one -- calling the rally "pro-Palestinian" is too charitable. Watch for yourself and you will see. These people are not pro-anything. They are filled only with a desire to destroy something and today's object of hatred happens to be Israel.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:55 PM
My boy can read!

For those of you looking for commentary on world events or a take down of liberal media bias, I'll get back to you shortly. This entry is from the department of proud daddy shamelessly bragging about his son.

David, who will be two years old on Sunday, is already beginning to read. It all started earlier in the summer when big sister Olivia started teaching David the ABCs. She didn't necessarily expect to teach him anything, she was just playing school and made her baby brother play the role of a student along with some of her dolls. Much to everyone's surprise, David really did learn a few letters. One day, his mom was reading a picture book with him and he pointed to the letter B and said "buh". I tried teaching him a few more letters and was amazed to see that he could consistently recognize A, D and F.

Over the next few weeks he learned the rest of the letters. No, I didn't push it on him, or make a big deal about it. This was just a game that he loved to play. Whenever he saw letters, whether in a story book, on a food package, or outdoor sign he would call out the names of the letters. He still can't pronounce them all correctly. C and K, for example are both "kuh", W is "wuh" and Y is "yuh". The last letter he learned was Q, which he kept confusing with O. Once I started calling it "koo" instead of "kyoo", he too was able to call it "koo".

A few weeks ago I wondered whether he could recognize entire words. I happened to be wearing a Gap t-shirt, so I asked David to call out the letters. "Guh" "A" "Puh" he yells out. "Good," I tell him. "That spells Gap. Can you say Gap?" "Gap!" he shouts. Then I brought out David's Gap hat. "What does that say?" "Guh" "A" Puh", he calls out, "Gap!".

The next day I showed him the Gap hat again. He remembered! "Guh" "A" Puh". "Gap!". So I wrote down the letters D-A-D-A. He called them all out. "That spells dada," I explain, "D-A-D-A. dada". David takes his turn: "D" "A" "D" "A" he declares, "Gap!"

I've kept up the word lessons, very gradually, no more than a few minutes a day and using only the simplest words. Mostly it's been the same story: "D" "A" "D" "A" "Mama!" or "M" "A" "M" "A". "Gap!" But yesterday I showed him the words "Foo Foo" (his favorite story book) and "EGG", his favorite breakfast food, which he pronounces "Ahguh". This morning he performed brilliantly: "F" "O" "O" "Foo Foo!"and "E" "Guh" "Guh" "Ahguh!".

A good egg, my boy.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:49 AM
October 19, 2003
It's in the P-I

Mark Trahant of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes that the situation in Iraq is more complicated than either the White House or its critics seem willing to admit. In what way is the situation more complicated? Trahant gives this example:

There's no question that Iraqi people suffered because of Saddam. But, all too often, ordinary people also suffered because of the U.S. and international sanctions against Saddam.
Well yes, but if I may one-up Trahant's complexity with some complexity of my own, I might point out there was a good reason for those "U.S. and international" sanctions. I would also boldly add that now that the U.S. has removed Saddam from power, there is no new suffering on account of either Saddam or the sanctions.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:14 PM
Seattle District Elections (II)

Friday I explained why I'm supporting the ballot initiative for district elections for Seattle city council. The Seattle Times, on the other hand, is campaigning against district elections. Few of its arguments seem genuine or compelling, so I surmise that the Times has a selfish interest in maintaining the status quo. This comes across in Joni Balter's editorial arguing against district elections. This is a long fisking and the issues would be of most interest to Seattle readers. On the other hand, Balter's editorial is a masterpiece of arrogance, ignorance, ineptitude, sloppy fact-checking and should be held up as an example of how brazenly a newspaper's editorial page can serve its own agenda at the expense of informing its readers.

The editorial even starts with a supercilious headline, where Balter tells her readers she can predict their feelings.

Election by city district won't quell your anger
Subtext: Only we, the wise rational journalists at the Times know what's best for you ignorant, emotional lumpenreaders.
Many original goals for district elections have been rendered moot. When district election folks first started, they ranted about how difficult it was for challengers, especially in certain areas of the city, to raise money to run citywide and beat incumbents.

That's yesterday's argument. This year especially, incumbents are vulnerable.

Although there is broad dissatisfaction with the current council, only one of the five incumbents running for re-election is considered seriously vulnerable. But that's beside the point. There are many sensible arguments for district elections that are unrelated to dissatisfaction with the current council.
The district elections proposal is led by Jay Sauceda, former aide to City Councilman Charlie Chong, who often lamented West Seattle's lack of power. There was a time when West Seattle needed a louder voice in politics. Not now. Mayor Greg Nickels, Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis, City Attorney Tom Carr and Parks Director Ken Bounds all live in that neighborhood — almost a complete takeover.
Support for the measure comes from all parts of the city, not just from West Seattle. (I, for one, don't live in West Seattle).
The whole point of district elections now is there is no point.
One could also say that the whole point of Joni Balter is that there is no point, but that would be just as silly as her flippant dismissal of all the arguments that have been forth in favor of district elections, including these and the ones that I gave.
Voters who long have had a role in electing all nine City Council members suddenly would find their choice — their voting connection — reduced to one. If the measure passes, voters will be locked out of eight other races. Elect a dud in your neighborhood and you are stuck. Other council members will be tending to residents of their own area of the city.
Let's come back to the statement about those "who long have had a role in electing all nine City Council members" when we summarize the Seattle Times vested interest in the status quo. It is silly to suggest that a council member will only be interested in their own district or that residents of one district will have no influence or access to other council members. Certainly the whole point of districts is to make each council member directly accountable to their district. However, it is obvious that council members will also develop city-wide constituencies, will attract campaign contributions and volunteers from other parts of the city, will form alliances with their fellow council members on relevant issues, and many will have their eyes on higher office and therefore be far more attentive to voters outside their district than Balter wants us to believe.
Local business interests and members of the state Green Party (strange bedfellows right there) and former mayors and council members have teamed together to oppose this lame idea.
Local business interests and members of the state Green Party and current and former council members and state legislators (nearly all Democrats) along with Congressman Jim McDermott and The Shark Blog (strange bedfellows right there) and the Republican county prosecutor have all endorsed the idea.
Some people say district elections would assure more racial and ethnic diversity — a great argument, except it's not true.
It's not a great argument, it's an irrelevant argument. Observe that Seattle, which is only 8% black, recently had a black mayor. King County, which is only 5% black, currently has a black executive and Washington, which is only 6% Asian, has an Asian governor. That suggests that voters here don't make an issue about voting for someone of a different race.
Seattle often has had the nation's highest percentage of female City Council members.
What's the point? Women are not going to be disenfranchised in a district system. The ratio of men to women on the council at any point in time should not be relevant, but I'll observe that the Seattle city council currently has four of nine of the seats held by women (44%). On the other hand, the King County Council, which is elected by districts, has five of the thirteen seats held by women (38%). This is not a significant difference.
We also have had one of the most diverse councils, especially compared with our population.

Several years ago, four of nine council members were minorities — 44 percent — in a city that at the time was roughly 75 percent white.

Again, what's the point? District elections are not going to disenfranchise anybody. Never mind that there a lot more to diversity than the skin-deep diversity that Balter is fixated on. But even here Balter distorts the very notion of diversity on the council as a reflection of the diversity of the community. To have a perfectly diverse sample of a population is to have every group from the population represented in the sample in the same proportion that the group is represented in the whole. In this sense, it is impossible for a sample to be more diverse than the population, only less diverse. And while it shouldn't be seen as a problem that, say, white people might be significantly "underrepresented" on the council from time to time, I hardly think that it is, by itself, a particularly useful goal either.
In San Francisco, racial and ethnic diversity declined after district elections were adopted in 2000.
This is simply not the case. I've followed San Francisco politics since the mid-1980s when I moved to the Bay Area, and especially from 1990 to earlier this year when I lived in San Francisco itself. This page documents the history of the S.F. Board of Supervisors from 1980 to the present. The ethnic composition of the Board fluctuated from term to term. Most of the turnover was due to term limits and promotions to higher elected or appointed office. The first district election in this period took place in 2000. Immediately before the 2000 election, the Board had a single (appointed) black member, three Asians and a single (appointed) Latina. Following the 2000 election, the Board had a new elected black member, two elected Latinos and one Asian. Under the at-large system there were no Asians on the Board from 1980-1988 and only one Asian from 1988-1994. The first Latino in recent times was elected to the board only in 1994. In other words, the switch from at-large to district elections made no real difference in the board's ethnic composition (not that ethnic composition alone is the yardstick by which a city council should be measured).
Seattle Mayor Norm Rice recalls his run for City Council in the late 1970s. He and Councilman Sam Smith, both African Americans, were from Southeast Seattle. Rice believes he never would have been elected if he could run only against the wildly popular Smith. Rice's considerable talents would have been lost.
This is an extremely silly argument. No matter which way you organize an election, somebody will get elected that might not get elected under a different system. Of course, we'll never know whose mayoral talents we've been deprived of all these years because we were denied district elections.
Already in San Francisco, there are calls to switch back to at-large elections.
Yes, and in Mississippi there are "calls to switch back to the Confederacy", but so what?
"... District elections have helped balkanize the city into tiny fiefdoms where, in a town of nearly 800,000 people, a political neophyte can sneak into office with just over 5,000 votes," wrote the San Francisco Chronicle editorial page Sept. 28, urging a return to citywide elections. "Critical citywide issues ... have been sidestepped while individual supervisors make backroom deals to subvert the voters' will, knowing they can get elected in their gerrymandered districts."

We need to emulate this ... why?

This is nonsense. The cited editorial references Chris Daly (admittedly a terrible supervisor), but neither Daly nor anybody else was ever elected with 5,000 votes. (In Seattle, with 360,000 registered voters and nine council positions, each district would have about 40,000 registered voters) In fact, most San Franciscans are happy with district elections. There is no serious movement to go back to the previous at-large system, which in any event was a proportional representation system and very different from Seattle's current at-large system. This particular editorial (10 WAYS TO IMPROVE SAN FRANCISCO) is not related to any popular initiative to repeal district elections. It is merely a wishlist of pie-in-the-sky ideas, including "Create an ethical climate" and "Pay more attention to detail"
Some key support for the "yes" campaign comes from outside Seattle, from ACORN, part of a national group that promotes economic and political justice and election change, and a Bellevue attorney, Randolph Gordon, who has donated money and legal services.
Here is an official chart showing the origin of contributions to the campaign. About half of the campaign funds come from outside Seattle, and it does raise eyebrows that Randolph Gordon has kicked in as much money as he has. On the other hand, people from all over the city have funded and endorsed and volunteered for the districts campaign. What Joni Balter doesn't tell us is that the only organized opposition to districts is mostly funded from outside Seattle. Indeed, the Seattle Times is not exactly a Seattle institution either, as it is owned by Knight-Ridder (of San Jose, CA) and the Blethen family, whose members live in the suburbs of Mercer Island and Bellevue.
The last time district elections appeared on the ballot, a West Seattle businessman secretly funneled money to the campaign during a fight with the city over a helipad he wanted.
So what? That was last time and is unrelated to the merits of the issue.
District elections are all about special favors, special interests.
Ah, special interests. If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, then tirading against special interests is the last refuge of the polemicist who has run out of real arguments. All citizens have interests, and to demonize "special interests" is to imply that there are "common interests" that can be sorted out objectively and without the messy political process (called democracy) whereby individuals get together with like-minded folks and promote their interests in competition with other folks who are promoting different interests. All interests are special and therefore none are special. Yes, some people (a large variety, apparently) believe that their interests will be more effectively articulated through district elections. Boeing, Safeco, Delta Dental and the Seattle Times apparently feel that their interests will be better defended through the current system. Neither interest is any more "special" (i.e. less worthy of consideration) than the other, but let's not pretend that my interests are any more or less "special" than Boeings'
Our community clamors for leaders more skilled in ways of solving regional problems, such as transportation. District elections would create a council more narrowly focused — government by micro unit.
Our community has leaders who are designated to solve regional problems, they are the Metropolitan King County Council and the Washington State Legislature. I can understand why a newspaper whose owners/editors live in the suburbs would prefer that Seattle's government focus on regional issues. Those of us who actually live in Seattle would prefer that our council focus on making our city work a little better.
Mayor Greg Nickels backs district elections for obvious reasons. Council members elected by one-ninth of the population do not typically become daunting mayoral challengers.
Greg Nickels, recall, won his current office by defeating the incumbent mayor in the primary. At the time, Nickels wasn't a citywide figure either, he was merely one of the thirteen members of the King County Council.

So why would the Times be so desperate to defeat the district elections that it is reduced to making such hollow and in some cases dishonest arguments?

I found only two legitimate arguments buriend in the entire piece. I don't go along with them, but I can see why someone might make them:
1) "Voters who long have had a role in electing all nine City Council members suddenly would find their choice — their voting connection — reduced to one."
and
2) "Our community clamors for leaders more skilled in ways of solving regional problems"

Those issues encapsulate the Times' interest in the election system. As a paper with suburban owners, executives, advertisers and readers, the Times has a vested interest in keeping the city council focused on a regional agenda. This wouldn't have to be a calculated conspiracy, but it is reflective of a mindset that is more concerned with regional highways than the streets in my neighborhood. A council that spends more of its energies on Seattle neighborhoods doesn't do very much for the Times suburban constituents.

I also think that there's a basic issue of business economics at work. Now, it's relatively easy for the Times to cover local politics and remain influential when all the candidates are focusing on the same set of issues. With four or five different council races occuring simultaneously, the Times would have to spend more time covering each race, each district and address the neighborhood issues. That's a more expensive proposition, requiring more reporters and more pages. It also means more competition from the free neighborhood papers which have more expertise in the districts and whose importance is raised by district elections. Yes, it sucks to have more work dumped in one's lap. But most big city newspapers can handle it, I'm sure the Times will be able to handle it too.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:00 AM
October 18, 2003
Nobel Freedom Prize

Pejman Yousefzadeh has a similar reaction as I do to the Nobel Peace Prize, and a proposal that is similar to the Sharkansky Peace Prize. But he writes more eloquently than I do when he suggests that the Nobel committee should offer a Nobel Freedom Prize.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:10 AM
"There's nothing you can do about the Middle East"

A 1971 conversation between President Richard Nixon and a young White House aide named Donald Rumsfeld, where the President offers the ambitious Rumsfeld some career advice:

"The only things that matter in the world are Japan and China, Russia and Europe," Nixon explained. "Latin America doesn't matter. Long as we've been in it, people don't give one damn about Latin America, Don." Stay away from Africa, too, Nixon warned. As for the Middle East, getting involved there carried too many political hazards for a politician. "People think it's for the purpose of catering to the Jewish vote." Nixon told Rumsfeld. "And anyway, there's nothing you can do about the Middle East."
From the article "Close-Up: Young Rumsfeld" [not online] in the November 2003 issue of The Atlantic Monthly

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:54 AM
October 17, 2003
Blog of the Day, Oct. 17

Today's Blog of the Day is Christopher "Spoons" Kanis' The Spoons Experience. I could say that Spoons is more Catholic than the Pope, more pro-Israel than Ariel Sharon or that he feels worse about the Cubs defeat than Steve Bartman does. But that would be silly. And in each case an understatement.

I have no idea why he calls himself Spoons, and the Spoons Facts page doesn't solve the mystery either. He used to post a picture of himself smoking a cigar, but that seems to have disappeared.

If you're ever in Seattle, Spoons, I'd be honored to take you out for a cigar and a glass of Scotch.

P.S. Thanks to Spoons' request, the Shark Blog now pings weblogs.com whenever I post an update.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:00 PM
Malaysia, France and Singapore

French President Jacques Chirac blocked the European Union from issuing a statement condemning Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's remarks that "Jews rule the world by proxy". In fact, I think that Chirac was correct to block the statement. The proposed text read:

"[Mahathir's] unacceptable comments hinder all our efforts to further interethnic and religious harmony, and have no place in a decent world. Such false and anti-Semitic remarks are as offensive to Muslims as they are to others."
Indeed, I have not seen any evidence that such false and anti-Semitic remarks are as offensive to Muslims as they are to others.

Meanwhile, however, the Straits Times from Malaysia's neighboring city-state of Singapore, transmitted the identical AP story under the following creative headline: Chirac leads Europe in condemning Mahathir's Jew remarks.

In the Singapore dialect of English, apparently, the verb "to lead" means "to walk backwards on one's hands and knees".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:29 PM
Arabic Language in Seattle High Schools

The Seattle Times reports on a non-profit group that is organizing after-school Arabic language classes in Seattle high schools. I think it's important that more Americans study Arabic. We're engaged in that part of the world and it's essential for our long term interests that more Americans understand those societies and can use the language. But I am unsure about the philosophy of the people who are organizing this particular program.

Hayden said she started OneWorld after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, with the goal of increasing youths' understanding of global issues and to improve the image of Americans abroad.
I'm mostly on board with this. On the other hand, although the 9-11 terrorist attacks had everything to do with the "image of Americans abroad", it is a correct image of Americans that is so offensive to the terrorists. Teaching more Americans Arabic is a good idea, but it's not likely to change the "root causes" of terrorism, which have more to do with fanatical hatred of American values of freedom and gender equality than anything else. That hatred is a problem that is endogenous to the terrorists, it is not a problem that exists within ourselves. The only way we might change to become more popular among Muslim fanatics is to adopt more anti-modern Islamic values, which is probably not what many Americans are inclined to do.

And who is taking the Arabic classes? The Times article gives us only this example

Student Nabila Aliyee, a Muslim whose parents speak Arabic at home, said she already reads and writes Arabic but joined the class because she doesn't speak it well

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:59 PM
Seattle District Elections (I)

Seattle goes to the polls on Nov. 4. One of the most interesting ballot measures is a proposal to change the way that Seattle city council members are elected -- from at-large representation to district representation. In the current system, there are nine numbered seats, each of which is elected at-large for a four year term. This year, five of the seats are contested, in 2005 the other four will be contested, etc. Unlike, say, San Francisco's more representative at-large system of the 80s and 90s, where all the candidates in the field run together and the top 5 or 6 vote getters win office, there is little rhyme or reason to the system of fixed seats. Challengers have to declare to contest a particular seat, and as we saw in the recent primaries, this leads the strongest new entrants to challenge only the weakest incumbents, eliminating several of the best challengers before the run-off.

The proposal for district elections would replace the at-large positions with nine geographic districts, with each district electing one council member. This seems like the purest common sense, for the following reasons:

1) Seattle has 563,000 residents and 359,000 registered voters. It is larger than some federal congressional districts. In order to get elected, each candidate has to reach that many voters. This requires a great deal of funding, organization and/or prior name recognition and offers an enormous advantage to incumbents.

2) With four or five races each cycle, the informed voter would have to be familiar with 8 or 10 candidates. In last month's primary there were over a dozen credible candidates for the four contested seats. It stretches credulity to believe that many voters will make the effort to educate themselves on this large a number of candidates. Again, this tips the scale to those who have name recognition, especially incumbents.

3) With nine people all elected by a simple city-wide majority, it is natural that most of the winners will appeal to the same winning coalition and offer little ideological diversity.

4) With nine councilmembers all claiming to represent the entire city, who does the citizen call when she has an issue with city government? As a member of the intersection of various minority groups (Republican, business owner, homeowner) I don't expect any of the incumbent council members to look out for my interests or to be particularly sympathetic to me. With district representation, I would at least be more likely to know my own representative and know who to call in case I had an issue.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right?

For some reason the Seattle Times is passionately crusading against district elections. I didn't quite understand their interest in maintaining the at-large system until I read Joni Balter's silly and fact-challenged attempt to defend the status quo. I fisk Balter's editorial in a separate post, here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:51 AM
October 16, 2003
Reports From the Islamic Conference

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed declared that Jews Rule the World by outsmarting everybody else (unfortunately we're not quite smart enough to have concealed our conspiracy from the omniscient Dr. Mahathir).

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warned of rising hostility between Islam and the West, describing it as "ugly, dangerous and wrong".

In a statement to the opening of a summit of the 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Annan said Western governments must address the grievances of Muslims, while Islamic states needed to make greater efforts to overcome their problems
Unfortunately, the Islamic world's fundamental grievance against the West is the existence of infidels.

The news story goes on to report that the leaders of the 57 states in attendence "represent 1.3 billion people". Here is an interesting quiz question: How many of the 57 states in the OIC actually have legitimately representative governments, as opposed to, say, absolute monarchies, one-party dictatorships or strongman kleptocracies?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:16 PM
Qeystone Qops

Palestinian "Authority" "Prime Minister" Ahmed Qureia and his Qeystone Qops claim to have arrested suspected militants for the roadside bombing that killed three Americans in the Gaza Strip yesterday. More likely than not, this was just a publicity stunt to placate the Americans. If it wasn't, then it proves that the PA has both the will and might to confront armed factions when it chooses to do so. We also learn something else interesting:

It was established Wednesday that American personnel who coordinate the movements of U.S. officials in the territories communicate travel plans in advance to PA security officials, sending the detailed information by fax or telephone. Such reports spell out the names of persons who are taking part in work trips in the territories, the times when U.S. vehicles are to be moving through various areas, and the routes to be taken by the cars.

In view of this practice of relaying advance information, some analysts speculated Wednesday that the terrorists who perpetrated the attack had advance knowledge of the U.S. convoy's intention to cross into the village of Beit Hanun.

At least a portion of the information attained by the terrorists, the analysts hypothesized, came from official PA sources.

Ah those Palestinians, who never miss an opportunity to blow up an opportunity.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:14 AM
October 15, 2003
Our Friends in Egypt

From Pharaohs-in-Waiting: Who will succeed Egypt's Hosni Mubarak as the ruler of the world's most populous and important Arab country? by Mary Anne Weaver, The Atlantic, October 2003:

It was the eve of the Eid al-Adha, the feast of the sacrifice, Islam's most important holiday. To mark the occasion, 861 Islamists—many of whom had never been charged or tried—were released from prison that night. Some 15,000 others remained inside.

I couldn't help wondering if the releases were connected with a message ... a month or so before from Ayman al-Zawahiri—the Egyptian leader of al-Jihad and Osama bin Laden's chief aide—in which he had called for continuing attacks against Americans but had told his followers that those attacks should not be carried out in Egypt.

And not long after that, on the day of the Eid itself, bin Laden, in a sixteen-minute audiotape broadcast by the Arab satellite television station al-Jazeera, called on Muslims around the world to repel the U.S. invasion of Iraq. As he had sometimes done before, he cited a number of countries whose regimes should be overthrown. Egypt had usually been on his list. This time it was not.

An intriguing conclusion to an interesting article. Read the whole thing.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:06 PM
Printing Oppresses

A reader from Olympia e-mails:

Makes you proud to be a Washingtonian, doesn't it? Nothing like selling printing presses to censors. Our governor is proud today to announce that he's made a deal to supply Washington-made printing presses to the People's Daily, so we'll all have a hand in the daily suppression of the liberties of the Chinese people:
Gov. Gary Locke's trip to China bore its first fruit Monday with news that a Kent-based printing-press maker signed a contract worth $11 million a year with the People's Daily newspaper, the Communist Party organ.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:19 PM
Palestine's Friends in America

As American diplomats are being blown up in the Gaza Strip, some Americans are choosing sides in the conflict and standing in solidarity with their brethren in Gaza:

A quiet protest formed along the Olympia waterfront Tuesday over Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip that have killed eight Palestinians and destroyed an estimated 120 of their homes since Friday.
That's funny, I never heard of a single protest in Olympia following any of the dozens of suicide bombings that have killed hundreds in Israel. And why were these eight Palestinians killed? It appears some were being used as human shields by Palestinian gunmen who were firing at the Israelis. The terrorism lobby in Olympia only blames Israel for defending itself.
"I'm hoping to not sit by doing nothing while people are dying and hundreds and hundreds of homes are being demolished," said Emma Pearlman, a student at The Evergreen State College who spent two months recently in Israel, including time in Rafah, greater Israel and the West Bank.
Nor does Emma Pearlman "sit by doing nothing" while hundreds of people are dying and Israeli restaurants and buses are being demolished. She rallies for the killers.

UPDATE: jimg in the comments section writes: "Too bad one of your pull quotes didn't include what Ward and June, I mean Rachel Corrie's parents had to say at the rally.". Fair enough:

"I think we have to empower people" to help stop the Israeli actions, said Craig Corrie, who at one point held the end of a long banner that declared: "1,500 people left homeless" and "Our tax $ at work."
I agree. The best way to stop Israeli actions of self-defense is to render them unnecessary. Our taxes pay for $120 million a year to UNRWA, which sustains the perverse notion of "refugee camp" and the psychotic death cult that festers in the camps. One of the best things we could do would be to end our donations to UNRWA that subsidizes the terrorism.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:53 AM
America's Friends in Palestine

Although nobody has yet claimed credit for today's bombing of the U.S. diplomatic convoy in Gaza, and officials of the Palestinian Authority are engaged in the familiar post-bombing ritual of fist-shaking, the operation appears to have popular support:

Later in the day, American security officials investigating the bomb attack left the scene abruptly after Palestinian youths threw stones and rocks at them. The investigators were taking pictures of the bloodied, twisted remains of the van when half a dozen kids threw stones and rocks at them as about 200 Palestinians looked on.
What were these U.S. diplomats doing in Gaza in the first place?
The American officials, including a cultural envoy from the U.S. embassy, were headed Wednesday to interview Palestinian candidates for Fulbright scholarships in the U.S.
See, we had this coming. How dare we go around colonizing the Muslim world by sending their people to our universities. And don't forget about Bush's withdrawal from the Kyoto Treaty.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:22 AM
Nullify the Border

Tacoma has become the fifth Washington city to unilaterally declare that the U.S. border with Mexico is null and void.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:58 AM
October 14, 2003
All That Meat and No Potatoes

Another study says that low-carb diets might work after all

In a study that confounds experts, low-carb dieters who ate more calories than low-fat dieters lost the same amount of weight.
I'm no expert, except when it comes to my own body. In almost a month of a low-carb diet I've lost 13 pounds. My typical daily menu consists of: eggs, meat and some tomato for breakfast; salad and fish for lunch; meat and vegetables for dinner. Tonight I had a nice ribeye steak. If I want a snack during the day I'll have some olives or cheese. I've gone cold turkey on flour and sugar since September 18 and I barely miss them. When I want something sweet I'll have a piece or two of Russell Stover's sugar-free candy per day. (I used to think -- sugar free candy? yechh. What's the point? But believe it or not, these are really very good!) I have more physical and mental energy now. It also helps that I take a brisk 3 mile walk every afternoon. This is the easiest and most successful diet I've tried so far. Will it last? I don't know yet, but so far so good.

Here's something to think about. Atkins points out that the alarming increase in obesity and diabetes in the last two decades coincides with a significant shift in the American diet from fat to carbohydrates. You know, all the doctors and scolds telling you to eat less fat. Maybe that wasn't such a good idea after all. I don't know, I'm not a medical doctor. Then again, only a few decades before doctors started to recommend low-fat diets, they also recommended Camel cigarettes.

All together now, "All That Meat and No Potatoes"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:14 PM
Asinine News File

Today's asinine news report from the Ass. Press:

Israeli troops searched a Gaza refugee camp for the second time this week on Tuesday, increasing tensions even as Israeli and Palestinian peace activists said they had reached agreement on an unofficial peace plan
Who are these Palestinian "peace activists"? Ha'aretz gives a clue:
Key members of the Tanzim organization who participated in drafting the Geneva Accord began a public relations campaign about the document in Palestinian refugee camps Tuesday in an effort to muster support for the initiative
And remind me, who are the Tanzim?
The Tanzim ("organization" in Arabic) is Fatah's field activity wing. It is a kind of quasi-military militia, whose members see themselves as being in the vanguard, mainly in initiating and organizing demonstrations and confrontations against Israel...The Tanzim has tens of thousands of weapons of all kinds - from pistols to machine guns...During summer holidays, the organization operates summer camps, which include weaponry instruction and military training.
I'm curious to get my hands on a copy of the Ass. Press Style Book so I can see for myself how they define "peace activist".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:00 PM
October 13, 2003
Homeless in a Refugee Camp

The Ass. Press reports that

Dozens of Israeli tanks entered the Rafah refugee camp before dawn Tuesday, just days after another incursion into the Gaza site left eight dead and hundreds homeless.
That begs the question: If it's a refugee camp, aren't they already homeless? So if these people are newly homeless, then maybe it's not really a refugee camp after all. Rafah Camp was established in 1949. Perhaps if these people had been given proper homes 54 years ago they would be less inclined to dig tunnels under their houses for smuggling weapons.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:28 PM
It's in the P-I

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer asks two related questions

[1] If Israel is to live up to its idealistic roots, how can it rely so much on force, repression and degradation? [2] Why, a half-century after Gandhi's triumph, does the Palestinian cause rely on violence to undo what it considers colonialism?
The answer to [1] is: Because Israel has no choice (see the answer to [2]). The answer to [2] is: Palestinian tactics are different from Gandhi's tactics because Palestinian goals are different from Gandhi's goals. Unlike Gandhi and the Indians who were trying to end the British Raj and create an independent state, the Palestinians do not simply want their own country in the West Bank and Gaza and to co-exist with Israel. Their goal is to eradicate Israel. Go read the Palestinian National Charter, the Draft Palestinian Constitution and the Hamas Charter and you'll see what I mean.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:07 PM
Ruth Rosen: Alterman Award Winner

Today's Alterman Award for Reflexive Capitulation and Pointless Appeasement goes to our old friend Ruth Rosen, womyn's hystery professor turned San Francisco Chronicle columnist. In today's column, Rosen writes:

HANADI JARADAT, a 27-year-old Palestinian apprentice lawyer, once dreamed of having a career and children. Instead, she joined the Islamic Jihad, secretly crossed into Israel, charged into a Haifa restaurant, shot a security guard, blew herself up and murdered 19 innocent civilians... Such criminal acts and grotesque attitudes are the result of a society that has lost all hope and is driven by despair.
No Ruthie, there is no connection between suicide bombings and despair. Oppressed Tibetans don't below themselves up in Beijing restaurants, and the highly educated and upper class young men who flew themselves into the World Trade Center were not suffering from despair. In this case, the Islamic Jihad is not motivated by hopelessness and despair. It is an organization funded by Iran and Syria in order to oppose any peace process, to destroy Israel and to create an Islamic state.
We should never forget that this intifada, which has killed hundreds of people and maimed thousands more, began in September 2000 when Ariel Sharon entered the holy Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif area with armed soldiers. Before that provocative act, the Israeli people had enjoyed years of relative security.
The intifada had nothing to do with then opposition figure Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount except as a timely coincidence, and the Islamic Jihad was launching suicide bombings even while Yitzhak Rabin was Prime Minister during the height of the peace process.

Ruth Rosen hauls out her Jewish credentials to claim that she knows more about ensuring Israel's security than the people who actually live in Israel. Her solution -- U.S. pressure to force Israel to surrender to terrorism

The best way we can ensure the survival of Israel is to condemn Sharon's failure to freeze settlements and be prepared to withdraw U.S. political and financial support until Israel complies with Bush's road map to peace.
Sadly, Ruth Rosen is living proof that a history professor can be ignorant of history; and that there can be Jews who advocate sacrificing other Jews to die as victims before advocating their right to defend themselves.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:02 PM
Palestinian Authority

Yassir Arafat showed who's boss by appointing his own man as acting security chief, in a "new blow to Palestinian Prime minister Ahmed Qureia", who is on the verge of quitting. Arafat forced out his last prime minister, Abu Mazen, after only four months in the post.

In an interview last month, Peanut Laureate Jimmy Carter answered the question "Is Yasser Arafat the main obstacle to peace as the US and Israeli governments describe him?" by saying

I think it's just kind of an excuse to blame everything on Arafat who has practically no authority even among his own people.
Good call, Jimmy.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:43 AM
October 12, 2003
Sontag Award

The German Bookseller's Association has awarded its annual "peace prize" to Susan Sontag. Der Spiegel reports:

She fulminates against "imperialistic tendencies" in the US, describes election winner Schwarzenegger as a "comical figure", praises German pacifism...The US ambassador declined to take part in the award ceremony.
I still like The Sharkansky Peace Prize better.

(Hat tip: Erik of the Wax Tadpole fame)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:28 PM
Israeli Nukes / Iranian Nukes

Two articles about Israeli nuclear capabilities appeared in the world press this weekend. The L.A. Times reported that

Israel has modified American-supplied cruise missiles to carry nuclear warheads on submarines, giving the Middle East's only nuclear power the ability to launch atomic weapons from land, air and beneath the sea, according to senior Bush administration and Israeli officials.
Der Spiegel adds under the self-negating tagline of "Geheimoperation" (secret operation) that
Israel is planning an attack on Iranian nuclear installations
The L.A. Times cites American and Israeli officials for its claims, but simultaneously opines that this disclosure
complicates efforts by the United States and the United Nations to persuade Iran to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program.
These stories smell like deliberate leaks, and Ha'aretz' Aluf Benn writes that the Mossad regularly shares information about Iran's nuclear program with the media. So why would the Bush administration make a point of "complicating" its own efforts to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program?

The motivation behind the Der Spiegel story seems clear to me. The UN and the US are pressuring Iran to open up its nuclear program to thorough inspections. Iran claims that its nuclear program is only for "generating electricity". But not only is Iran balking on the inspections, it is also far from obvious why a country whose proven oil reserves are good for another 200 years of electricity generation would need to invest in nuclear power. The public threat of attack must be designed to force Iran's hand and make it either open up to inspections and prove that the program is peaceful, or not. I bet on the not, but we'll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, both Israeli and non-Israeli weapons experts have dismissed the L.A. Times report about the submarine-based nuclear weapons as "technically impossible". So who knows why American and Israeli officials chose to give this information to the L.A. Times. To send the message to Iran that offensive nuclear weapons don't make any sense because Israel can deter any such attack? To focus the discussion on the fact that Israeli's strategic weapons are of a defensive nature while Iran's are offsensive? I don't know. But it's interesting to wonder about.

UPDATE Ralf Goergens e-mails that Der Spiegel also carried a version of the L.A. Times article with the spin that the subs had been supplied by Germany in the early '90s, raising the question whether the Kohl government had been aware of Israel's nuclear plans (probably was).

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:17 PM
October 11, 2003
I'm in the P-I

Seattle Post-Intelligencer Editorial Page Editor Mark Trahant (known to Shark Blog readers for inventing the "Clear and Present Danger" Constitutional standard for warfare and for discovering the secret photographic evidence that Rachel Corrie was killed on purpose ) turns out to be a bit of Shark Blog fan himself. Trahant writes

The great thing about newspapering is the wonderful relationship we have with readers. Our phones, e-mails and a few Web logs are full of praise. Consider this tidbit posted on Seattle's "Sharkblog," an electronic opinion journal, full of often biting criticism: "But at least the Seattle Post-Intelligencer deserves praise for absorbing more than its fair share of the functionally illiterate and giving them jobs as reporters and editors." We're happy for the job. Thank you.
Not to be pedantic or anything, but "weblogs" is a single word, while "Shark Blog" is written with two words. Thanks for reading, Mark, and if there's anything else I can do to help raise the bar over at the P-I, just let me know.

The Shark Blog entry quoted above is here. My many other comments on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer may be found here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:23 AM
October 10, 2003
Sharkansky Peace Prize 2003

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded today to Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi, "for her efforts for democracy and human rights. She has focused especially on the struggle for the rights of women and children."

I hadn't heard of Shirin Ebadi until today. I commend the Nobel committee for calling attention to the struggle of the Iranian people to free themselves from the tyranny of the Mullahs.

I devised the Sharkansky Peace Prize last year in reaction to the Nobel's regrettable award to Jimmy Carter. Although I would not have come up with the name of Shirin Ebadi on my own, I can't object to her award. Those who fight for freedom in Iran in particular, and in the Muslim world more generally, deserve to be supported. I am not sufficiently familiar with the Iranian dissident movement to name any other individual who would be more worthy of recognition than Shirin Ebadi.

In that spirit, I name the recipients of the 2003 Sharkansky Peace Prize. Not in contrast to the Nobel Peace Prize this time, but following my own path to recognize those who have accomplished the most in the last year to achieve peace, human rights and security for free people.

The winners are: Paul Wolfowitz, Tommy Franks and Paul Bremer, for their respective roles in the liberation of Iraq.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was one of the founders of the Project of the New American Century and has long advocated the liberation of Iraq from Saddam's tyranny. As Deputy Secretary of Defense he has been a leading architect of Saddam's removal.

General Tommy Franks was the head of U.S. Central Command and in charge of conducting Operation Iraqi Freedom, which toppled the Baathist regime swiftly with relatively low loss of life and damage to Iraqi infrastructure.

Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III is Presidential Envoy to Iraq and Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, responsible for reconstructing Iraq and setting it on a path towards freedom and prosperity. (Even the New York Times acknowledges today that progress is being made, even though it will take time)

Many other people played an important role in the liberation of Iraq, not least the President, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice; and the hundreds of thousands of the men and women in uniform who risked and sometimes gave their lives to do the heavy lifting that got the job done. The President and some of the senior administration officials were already recognized with the Sharkansky Peace Prize in recent years. Wolfowitz, Franks and Bremer are the three individuals who stand out at the head of the very large teams that liberated Iraq and have started it on the road to renewal.

Thank you to the many readers for their nominations. Other notable suggestions included: Daniel Pipes, Vaclav Havel, Natan Sharansky, Polish Premier Leszek Miller, various Israelis in their fight against terrorism, and Yassir Arafat's stomach cancer.

A complete list of Sharkansky Peace Prize Winners (most awarded retroactively) is here

UPDATE: My enthusiasm for this year's Nobel Prize is probably more muted than it deserves to be. I first learned of Shirin Ebadi from the Nobel announcement and today's news stories. But the Nobel Committee has such a mixed track record that their endorsement alone raises more questions than it answers. As Andrew Sullivan writes: "A GREAT NOBEL: I can hardly believe I'm writing this (and maybe there's a catch)". The fact that Amnesty International and other "human rights" organizations praise Ebadi leave me similarly unmoved. I wish there were more human rights organizations whose opinions were more convincing than Amnesty's are. In the meantime, this year's Nobel makes blogger Iranian Girl happy and proud and that's good enough for me.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:28 AM
October 09, 2003
Blog of the Day, Oct. 9

Today's Blog of the Day is Justene Adamec's Calblog, in recognition of her fine work on the California recall and as the mother hen of the Bear Flag League [see my blog roll for the full list of members].

Justene is some sort of lawyer from somewhere in the Southland. She was ahead of the curve in covering the recall movement. Now she is on top of the secession movement.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:02 PM
Programming for Dummies

I just signed up my phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry. It's so easy to use, even your average Dennis Kucinich voter will probably be able to figure it out.

Amazingly, the website gives the following instruction for entering your phone number:

Enter phone numbers with or without a dash. Do not use spaces or periods.
Now I know that the U.S. government can't always compete with, say, Microsoft, to attract the best and brightest software developers on the planet. But programmers who can't filter out spaces or periods?

Why not try this one line of perl code that will solve the entire problem:

$phone_number =~ s/[\.\s]//g;
Yes, sometimes it really is that simple.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:55 PM
Latinos for Bustamante

It turns out that "Hispanic voters divided on recall vote, demonstrate political diversity".

About 46 percent of Hispanic voters supported Gov. Gray Davis' recall, while 54 percent opposed it, according to an exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and other news organizations. Overall, about 55.4 percent of voters called for his ouster, according to the secretary of state.
Only much further down in the article do we learn that
while 52 percent of Hispanic voters chose the grandson of Mexican immigrants [Bustamante], that was far from monolithic.
Far from monolithic? Understatement of the year. That was barely half. More Latinos voted to keep Davis in office than to replace him with their own "favorite son". And this in a campaign where Schwarzenegger was accused of immigrant bashing and where legitimate questions about MEChA were illegitimately portrayed as anti-Latino racism.

A sad omen for the Democratic Party and especially for its ethnic pimp operatives.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:44 PM
A positive Iraq story from NPR

Deborah Amos reports today from Mosul. The anchor's introduction:

The violence in Baghdad contrasts sharply with the situation in the northern province of Nineveh. There, it's a different picture. Many Iraqis who live in the provincial capital of Mosul say life has improved over the last six months. They're working alongside the American military in charge of rebuilding their region.
Amos interviews an Iraqi who says that Mosul is relatively quiet because of the 101st Airborne Division in charge of the city's security and reconstruction.
The 101st are doing a good job, they're doing a lot of reconstruction, developments, also. People don't want any more troubles or problems for their life. All they want is to live peacefully and to support their families and to have an income.
The 101st Airborne has done more to help more Iraqi families live peacefully than have all of the world's self-described "peace" activists put together. Go figure.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:30 PM
Suppression of Dissent in Ashcroft's America

The University of Washington College Republicans held an affirmative action bake sale yesterday, modeled after similar events at other campuses -- Caucasians and males have to pay higher prices for their cookies than do women and minorities. It is a good-natured, non-violent way to point out the absurdity inherent in group-based preference systems. Unfortunately, some students were offended by the bake sale's anti-racist message and trashed the cookie stand.

The student newspaper UW Daily took the side of the racist vandals

The bake sale was stopped short when passers-by started shouting, tearing down posters and eventually dumping the cookies on the ground.

While it appears that the UWCR is the victim, it knew what it was getting into. Similar bake sales, with similar results, have occurred on college campuses around the country.

Yes, and by similar reasoning one would argue that Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner should have known what they were getting into, so it was their own fault for getting killed while fighting for racial equality.

But it isn't just the lefty student newspaper that encourages dissenters to stifle themselves. The university police helped the racist agitators shut down the peaceful, lawful protest. The Seattle Times reports:

At 12:45 p.m., an angry student tore down the list of prices and tossed cookies onto the ground, causing a minor melee. Campus police officers were called to control the confrontation, and then told the bake-sale group to close up shop.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:04 AM
Political Realignment

A reader who served as a poll worker in Tuesday's California recall election e-mailed some of her observations:

... the startling thing for me was to see all the young people who turned out. Many had never voted before. I’m talking cool attractive people, some single some with kids, but modern types, good dressers, some with tattoos and piercings. Anyway… guess what? Almost to a one they were registered as Republicans or NA (not affiliated). No democrats.

That part about people who’re starting out wanting change, a chance, and opportunities was so evident to me yesterday. It was clear that many had not voted before. They were polite and seemed to take the whole thing quite seriously -- far more seriously, it seemed, than the regular voters. Anyway, I mention this because I thought it was cool. As an aging baby boomer it gave me hope.

In this precinct of West Petaluma, the majority of voters are Democrats and I think they’re starting to represent the status quo. Young people, I would guess, are starting to see the Democratic Party “Ideals” as a lot of extra protections for old people (prop 13) and labor unions (first hired, last fired.)

One can only hope it's representative of a larger trend.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:33 AM
October 08, 2003
Shark wins Steyn Contest!

Many thanks to Mark Steyn, who awarded me one of the prizes in his California Countdown Competition!. In question #2, Guess The Graypoint!, I was the first to send in the closest guess that Davis would get 45% of the vote. This earned me a "Gray Davis Political Death (Defying?) Pack", which consists of:

one copy of The Face Of The Tiger, one copy of Broadway Babies Say Goodnight , plus a SteynOnline stainless steel travel mug that will fit perfectly in anyone of the 74 cupholders in your environmentally-unfriendly SUV as you drive past Arianna’s place in Brentwood gloating.
Now all I have to do is get an SUV.

In the meantime, I have some good reading to look forward to.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:06 PM
Greek Artist Glorifies Suicide Bombing

From "Ta Nea" the largest daily newspaper in Greece, comes an article about an art exhibition that glorifies the female suicide bomber who blew herself up in a Jerusalem supermarket last year.



"KAMIKAZES IN SUPERMARKETS." (Ta Nea, 6.10.03)

(Photo caption in original shows the artist Alexandros Psychoulis stating that "I am trying to get into the psychology of a person who is preparing the vests which women wear in suicide attacks.")

by Mary Adamopoulou

Embroidery in the dimensions of a pink room. "Body Milk," which is the name of the new exhibition of Alexandros Psychoulis, harbors unexpected and not so pink surprises.

First scene. A pregnant woman is pushing a cart in the supermarket. Next to her, knitted women's vests with a lot of outside pockets like the ones worn by Palestinian women in suicide attacks are spread out. The apparent image of tranquility and peace stops when one glances further down. In the second scene:a blown up supermarket - shelves, products, human parts have become one. It is the new artistic exhibition of Alexandros Psychoulis, the distinguished Greek artistic creator and assistant Professor at the Department of Architecture at the University of Thessaly, which bears the name "Body Milk" and will be hosted in the "a.antonopoulou.art" Gallery.

The issue may seem political. But its creator has a different point of view. " I personally feel that the experiment of Israel has failed and I understand the desperation of a girl who carries out a suicide bombing having nothing to lose. But politics does not essentially concern me in the specific work," he explains to "Ta Nea." What interests me is the relation between the woman and the supermarket either during a turbulent time or good times. What is it that ultimately makes her feel pleasure in the specific place."

Kilometers of pink thread, patience and humor were the materials for creation, since the work was made with a knitting needle. "It is a piece of lace that required great patience and a year's work by six people to be completed," explains the artist. But why did he put his digital work aside and take up embroidery. "The lace is related to the issue which is purely female and the fact that I gathered all my information from the internet. Because the internet user has great similarities with lace-makers. Just as they were alone and trapped their dreams and desires in lace, in the same way the internet user is seeking what he desires (information, products, etc, through a click of the mouse. If every click was a dot on the wall we would have a lace work of art.

In reality, I am carrying out an unusual transfer. I am transferring the digital experience to my personal experience. And at the same time I am presenting the issue of utilizing time on the borderline between the proportional and digital era. Because when knitting, the lace-makers had unlimited time. I am stealing time and trying to stop the speed of information, trying to simultaneously capture its importance.

A real story was the motivation for "Body Milk" a title that brings to mind both female cosmetics and human milk, according to Alexandros Psychoulis: that of an 18 year old Palestinian girl, Ayat Al Akra, who carried out a suicide bomb attack last March in a supermarket in Israel. "When I heard the news on television, I didn't pay much attention. By coincidence I came across her portrait on the internet. She was a very beautiful girl, educated, in love, that one could meet anywhere. Continuing the research on the net relating to suicide attacks I discovered a detail. An army of women who in the past had carried out similar actions had chosen the supermarket as their place of action, whereas men primarily preferred cafes and buses. Why were women therefore choosing the market to express their greatest protest?

I observed my female friends. They feel at home and complete in the supermarket. They move like they know its code of operation, like those women who placed the products on the shelves, while I search for hours for what I want and leave with broken nerves. I came to the conclusion that the supermarket is a woman's space. Perhaps because by her nature woman is a provider and the supermarket operates like a super female provider, magnifying woman's nature. If she therefore blows herself up there, perhaps she will feel like she is magnifying her existence and her act.

THE TRAGIC LEVITY OF PINK

And why is all of this in pink? "Unbeknownst to her my wife helped me in choosing the color. Even though I initially bought black string, I saw her glance captured on the pink," he answers. "And I decided to finally use it, because black would be tragic. With pink one can say the most tragic thing with the most light way."



By way of Arnold Roth and his friend in Athens who did the translation. A scanned image of the original article is here (881kb)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:31 PM
Here and There, Oct. 8

I am officially done talking about the Seattle school superintendent.

Some guy with a long funny name was just elected governor of California. But I don't live there anymore, so that's all I know.

A recent poll shows that three quarters of the people of Switzerland want to ban the importation of Kosher meat.

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

This evening, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Deborah Bach reported on the School Board meeting I attended and wrote about below. But if she was even in the room, she wasn't paying attention:

the Seattle School Board bowed to the inevitable Tuesday night and shelved its search for a new superintendent.

That leaves interim superintendent Raj Manhas in command of the state's largest school district on a one-year contract extension

No, he is not interim superintendent on a one-year contract extension. He is (non-interim) superintendent on a new one-year contract. That might be a subtle distinction, but that is a distinction that the board discussed and very clearly expressed its choice.

UPDATE The P-I corrected the above mischaracterization in a later article in which it introduced different mischaracterizatons!:

Mary Bass, the board's lone dissenter, urged her colleagues to delay the decision until after the election. "As much as I appreciate Mr. Manhas ... I think we might be rushing it a bit," she said, to cheers and applause from the standing-room-only crowd. "If he was named interim, you'd have my undying support. I'd like a new board in place first."
The crowd wasn't "standing-room-only". Although a number of people in the audience chose to stand in the back of the room, there were also plenty of open chairs. Only a few of the crowd members cheered and applauded Mary Bass. And the article fails to mention that most of the people in the audience gave Raj Manhas a standing ovation after the board voted to name him superintendent.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:21 PM
Seattle has a new superintendent

The Seattle superintendent selection saga ended tonight, at least for now. The school board voted 6-1 to name interim superintendent Raj Manhas as superintendent on a one-year contract with an option to extend for a second year. I attending this evening's school board meeting. It was less a business meeting for a public authority than a group therapy session. It reminded me of the house meetings at the co-op where I lived my sophomore year of college.

Each of the board members, who politely address each other as Director Somebody or Director Somebodyelse, each had their turn to say how effective the whole search process was, how well it worked and how much they appreciated the input from the mayor, and the city council president and the newspaper editorial boards, etc.; how much they all learned from the experience, and how at the end of the whole thing odyssey they discovered that the best candidate for the job was not any of the 40 people they interviewed, but their very own acting superintendent! In fact, this was all a lot of face-saving nonsense, the process was a disaster, the mayor, city council president and newspapers were not, in fact, helpful, but irresponsible in undermining the school district's search process and damaging the district's reputation.

Although the superintendent seems to be a reasonble guy and I wish him all the best, if he was really the guy the school board wanted, they would have included him as a candidate from the beginning, or dispensed with the whole elaborate search process altogether. Instead, four serious professionals had to waste a great deal of their time and have their reputations trashed in the local media for a week. The public vetting process is a new and uniquely Seattle innovation that the public will surely insist on the next time we have to hire a superintendent, but who in their right mind would agree to such a circus of an interview process? Unfortunately, it will be that much harder to find a qualified superintendent the next time around.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:10 PM
Adamowski bows out of superintendent search

This is too bad. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that

It looks increasingly likely that the Seattle School Board will not name a new superintendent tonight, following today's withdrawal of the third of four finalists.

School Board President Nancy Waldman said she called finalist Steven Adamowski to "check in" with him this morning, and he informed her that he'd decided to bow out of the process. "It sounded like there just was not the support that he would hope to have, going into a city," she said.


At least the signal from the board is that they won't be hiring Evelyn Castro. But it is a shameful day indeed when the anti-merit, anti-competition worries of the teachers' union are considered more important than the need to improve the schools.

Unfortunately, the failure to hire a superintendent will probably weigh heavily against the incumbent board members who are running for re-election next month, all of whom are better qualified than their challengers.

UPDATE KING-5 TV reports that the last of the four finalists, Evelyn Castro, has also dropped out.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:48 PM
Performance Pay for Teachers

The Seattle Times reported last week that when Seattle superintendent candidate Steven Adamowski led the Cincinnati schools:

Under his direction, the district became the first in the state to run charter schools, and one of the first in the country to push a pay-for-performance system. The district was taken off the state's academic watch list when test scores and graduation rates jumped, turning critical business leaders into fans.
Silly me, I concluded from the above (and blogged) that Adamowski actually implemented a pay-for-performance system. He did not. He merely pushed it. The P-I reports today that
Adamowski clashed with unions during his tenure as superintendent in Cincinnati, where his proposal to link teacher pay to performance was trounced by 96 percent of teachers in a vote two years ago.
I happen to think that teachers should be treated more like other educated professionals, such as doctors, lawyers and engineers, and likewise held accountable and compensated for performance. It's something of a sad reflection on the teaching profession that so many would opt for enforced mediocrity. But performance pay should at least be voluntary. Those who choose to do a better job than their colleagues deserve to be rewarded.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:34 AM
It's in the Times

The Seattle Times Sanjay Bhatt, who normally does a pretty decent job of reporting, stumbles into ... advocacy journalism? fabricating a civic disagreement? irresponsible conclusion mongering? ... in today's article about the superintendent selection

Interviews with more than a dozen leaders of community groups yesterday indicated that some teachers, principals and parents prefer Evelyn Castro, superintendent at the Leadership Academy for the New York City Department of Education. A number of people outside the Seattle public-school system — business leaders, community-college representatives and civil-rights activists — said they favor Steven Adamowski, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri in St. Louis.
Right. So "teachers, principals and parents" side with Castro, while those who are "outside" the schools are meddling and supporting Adamowski. Those so-called "outsiders" are not exactly outsiders as they include taxpayers, parents and future employers of school graduates. And who are all these parents lining up behind Castro?
Leaders of the Seattle Education Association, the Principals Association of Seattle Schools (PASS) and the Parent-Teacher-Student Association say they were impressed with Castro's warmth and understanding of kids' needs, although she lacks experience in collective bargaining and managing budgets.
No, the leaders of the Parent-Teacher-Student Association do not speak for parents. And funny that all these school employee associations are promoting a candidate who "lacks experience in collective bargaining".

I plan to send my kid to Seattle public school when he starts kindergarten in a few years, so I have as much of a stake in the new superintendent as any other parent. I happen to think that Adamowski is highly qualified and Castro is not qualified. But reading the Times, you'd think I was the only one who held this opinion.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:36 AM
It's in the P-I

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer deserves a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records in the category "Single Most Idiotic Line Ever Penned by a Newspaper Reporter". See today's article by Deborah Bach on the search for a superintendent of Seattle public schools:

Castro, 56, a former superintendent in Brooklyn, N.Y., is the most favored candidate among stakeholder groups, including the two unions representing local teachers and non-instructional school employees.
Yes, that's right. The schools' most important "stakeholders" are teachers and bus drivers. Nobody else has a stake, not even the schoolchildren or their parents. Not to mention the taxpayers. Or the businesses that end up having to hire the hundreds of youngsters who finish high school every year unable to read, think critically, or do arithmetic.

But at least the Seattle Post-Intelligencer deserves praise for absorbing more than its fair share of the functionally illiterate and giving them jobs as reporters and editors.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:01 AM
Here and There, Oct. 7

Defense attorney Alan Dershowitz goes on the offensive: The case against Jordan.

While the New York Times is careful to describe the Syrian terrorist training camp that Israel bombed on Sunday as "what [Israel] says was a Palestinian terrorist training camp" (giving the Syrians the benefit of the doubt, no doubt), Ha'aretz fills in a few more of the details on the role of the camp and Syria's role in sponsoring terrorism.

Meanwhile, Palestinian "Prime Minister" Ahmed Qureia has unilaterally withdrawn from the "road map", which states:

A two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only be achieved through an end to violence and terrorism, when the Palestinian people have a leadership acting decisively against terror
Qureia offers his agenda:
A quick push to reach a truce with Israel, but no crackdown on militants despite U.S. pressure - that's how Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia summed up his agenda in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday, a day after taking office.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
October 06, 2003
Seattle Superintendent Saga

The attempt to recruit a superintendent for Seattle public schools continues to spiral out of control, as the hysterically self-interested teacher unions have trashed the only qualified candidates with the active assistance of the local newspapers. The second of the four finalists withdrew her name from consideration today, writing that

increasing polarization of this process makes it difficult to accomplish a common vision for educational leadership.
the school district's search consultant added that
all the candidates have been publicly humiliated and harassed. They felt the media coverage was very unprofessional.
Indeed.

Now, the only candidates left standing are the very impressive former Cincinnati superintendent Dr. Steven Adamowski and the less capable (but union favorite) Dr. Evelyn Williams Castro.

While the only real opposition to the more qualified candidates has come from the unions, both the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the usually more responsible Seattle Times keep broadcasting the unions' objections without questioning whether it's even a good idea to give unions a de facto veto over the school board's executive hiring decisions. The Times has not published a single letter in support of any of the candidates, even though I sent them one myself the other day. I can only wonder how many others they're sitting on.

Three of the school board incumbents are up for re-election next month and are considered vulnerable. Two of them even trailed their challengers in the primary. Although the board has been searching for a superintendent for months, they are being urged to reject the finalists and wait for the new board to resume the search. This is a bad idea for any number of reasons, not least being that (a) the board has one very good candidate on the table, it is unlikely a new process will produce a better candidate. (b) a new search process will take months of time, leaving the troubled school system without executive leadership.

The board meets Tuesday evening to vote whether to hire one of the two remaining finalists or to try again. Even though there is political pressure on the board to postpone this decision for the new board, selecting one of the finalists is not only the right thing to do, but also the smarter political move for the vulnerable incumbents. Why?
a) If they fail to hire a superintendent, they not only will have failed, but it will look like they failed. That would easily hand the election to the challengers.
b) The only real opposition to the best candidate comes from the unions and the lunatic left, and they don't support the incumbents anyway.
c) If the board picks a superintendent and justifies the decision, then the responsible people in the community (e.g. the mayor, the Times) will have no choice but to rally behind the new superintendent, as they're not going to want to be the ones who are seen to be undermining the new school chief before he even starts. The board will look good only by making a good decision and giving a good explanation for it, even if it doesn't make everybody happy.
d) If the incumbent board members are vulnerable anyway, then they can at the very least ensure their legacy by making a difficult but necessary decision that will benefit the schools.

I wish the board well.

[My earlier postings on the superintendent search are here and here]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:43 PM
Asinine News File

The Ass. Press' initial report on today's gunfire incident at the Israel-Lebanon border where Hizbollah gunmen killed an Israeli soldier, read:

Israelis Fire Across Lebanon Border

KFAR KILA, Lebanon - Israeli soldiers fired automatic rifles across the Lebanese-Israeli border Monday, hitting two Israeli cars but causing no injuries, Lebanese security officials said.

It apparently didn't occur to the Ass. Press editor to ask his reporter to explain whether it was Israeli soldiers in Israel firing on Israeli cars in Lebanon, or whether there were Israeli soldiers in Lebanon firing on Israeli cars in Israel.

(See the cached web page if you don't believe me).

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:55 PM
October 05, 2003
Yom Kippur

The Shark Blog is taking a break for Yom Kippur, returing Monday evening.

Gmar Hatima Tova and Tzom Kal to all of my readers who observe Yom Kippur.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:47 PM
Seattle Superintendent Search

A week ago the Seattle school board announced four finalists for the superintendent post. The public reaction to the candidates is not very enthusiastic, or is it?

An ad hoc advisory committee appointed by the school board voted not to recommend any of the four candidates. The Seattle Times describes the advisory committee as "A diverse committee of community leaders", but it's not very diverse. The committee's membership is overwhelmingly drawn from city and school district employees, unions and minority activists. (The only member with a business background is Ken Alhadeff, who also advocates the extremely silly not to mention unconstitutional proposal that "The collective voice of America must rise as one and demand a completely publicly funded election system"). So the advisory committee has no serious business representative and nobody representing ordinary taxpayers and parents, except for the minority of the community who happen to be minorities.

The best superintendent candidate is Dr. Steven Adamowski, who was superintendent in Cincinnati for several years. The only serious objections to Adamowski are being raised by the teachers' union. Adamowski raised academic achievement in the mostly black Cincinnati schools, partly by introducing charter schools and performance pay for teachers. Naturally, unions hate any form of competition or meritocracy, especially if it works. The mayor has climbed aboard the pro-union/anti-child bandwagon and called on the school board to reject all the candidates. The reliably predictable Seattle Post-Intelligencer also sides with the union both in its reporting and on its editorial page. The P-I even goes so far as to lavish extra praise on the puerile Evelyn Castro.

One expects better from the Seattle Times. Today's paper has profiles of the three surviving candidates (one withdrew her name). Of the three, only Adamowski appears to have solid community backing:

Several Seattle community leaders say Adamowski would be a good fit for Seattle.

Phyllis Beaumonte, a retired teacher who represents the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on the committee, also said Adamowski was the best of the four finalists.

She said it's because of his range of experience with collective bargaining, working with business leaders and building strong rapport with Cincinnati's African-American community.

Unfortunately, the editorial page calls on the board to reject all of the candidates:
Steven Adamowski, former superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools, is an experienced educator committed to improving achievement through innovative education reform. But his matter-of-fact demeanor, top-down style and impatience with process would be a mismatch for Seattle. His clashes with the teachers' union were public and bitter.
Above the editorial is a cartoon from Eric Devericks:

Devericks is right. There are so many interest groups, that not all of them will be happy. But what is more important, kowtowing to the union bosses and helping them maintain their monopoly and job security for underperforming employees? Or giving more kids a shot at a decent education? If Adamowski has "impatience with process", good for him. The current process is responsible for leaving 93% of the black tenth graders incapable of meeting state math standards and 80% unable to read at grade level. It's time for the existing process to change.

On Friday I e-mailed a letter to the Times in support of Adamowski, where I said:

Let’s keep [the union's] objection in perspective. The union exists to protect economic interests and job security for all teachers. Those goals are not always consistent with the school district’s mission to best educate our children – which requires the superintendent to demand top performance from all employees. Adamowski’s introduction of performance pay and charter schools enabled Cincinnati to serve its children better. Seattle could benefit from similar results. Dramatic improvements in academic achievement will require some changes to the schools’ current practices. If the cost of academic success is that some union members fret about competition and being held accountable for improving their performance – who can seriously say that is not an acceptable price to pay for giving our children a better education?
I e-mailed the letter to all seven members of the school board. Four of the board members wrote back to thank me for my support. The Times hasn't published the letter yet, nor have they published any other letters about the superintendent candidates. One wonders how many other pro-Adamowski letters they're sitting on.

The school board says that they will vote on a superintendent on Tuesday evening, though they won't necessarily hire any of the existing candidates. If they don't, one wonders who else they can find -- the Times also tells us that "several national education experts said Seattle brought in some of the best prospects the profession has to offer" -- and how long the Seattle schools would remain without a superintendent.

If you live in Seattle and care about our schools, please drop a line to the school board and encourage them to hire Dr. Adamowski.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:26 PM
Blog of the Day, Oct. 5

Today's Blog of the Day is Kimberly Swygert's Number 2 Pencil -- so named because Kimberly is a psychometrician at one of those places that make the standardized tests for which you need a No. 2 pencil. Kimberly's focus is "testing and education reform". She knows what she's talking about and is a pleasure to read.

And be sure to wish Kimberly a Happy Birthday while you're over there.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:56 PM
Recall Update

The L.A. Times continues its last-minute partisan attack on the Arnold Schwarzenegger. Meanwhile, Gray Davis continues his rampage to drive businesses out of California.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:37 PM
October 04, 2003
Moment of Truth

Israel drew a line in the sand a few weeks ago when it announced its decision to remove Arafat at a time and in a manner of its choosing. The unstated implication was that Arafat and his team had to act decisively to end the terrorism and disarm the terrorists. Until today's bombing, there has not been a large-scale terror attack in the three weeks since the removal decision was announced. As I wrote earlier, Israel has a very short window of time after a terror event to act forcefully against Arafat. If the move on the Muqata doesn't happen tonight, it probably never will happen. And if Arafat survives the night, both he and the rest of the Palestinians will have to conclude that Israel lacks the will and/or international support to adequately defend itself. This would reinforce the Palestinian assumption that terrorism succeeds at weakening Israel and will ultimately force major concessions. If Arafat survives the night, expect an escalation in terror attacks.

Israel has indicated that it would not act against Arafat without consulting Washington. Tellingly, in Bush's statement today condemning the bombing

The president said nothing about how Israel should retaliate. In the past, Bush has often urged Israel to consider the implications its actions will have on peace efforts.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:26 AM
Blog of the Day, Oct. 4

Today's Blog of the Day is Jim Miller on Politics written by fellow Seattle-area resident Jim Miller. Jim brings us sage media commentary and fascinating tidbits -- like the sport of extreme ironing. Go take a look.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:11 AM
Lost in Translation

.. is an awesome movie. Brilliantly written and acted. Go see it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:47 AM
October 03, 2003
Armchair Punditry

Lutz Kleveman, whose new blog I mentioned the other day, gives a mixed review to my mixed review of his blog:

Stefan writes:

“Lutz's blog tends to favor the side of the media over the U.S. administration in the "how bad are things in Iraq" debate. But that's to be expected, he's from the media and writes mainly for a European audience.”

What kind of crap is this?

What kind of crap? Factual crap! Lutz writes:
First of all, I am not “from THE MEDIA” (whatever that means).
From his own biography: "Kleveman has worked for the news channel CNN and German Television ZDF in Washington, USA, and has written for the Daily Telegraph, Newsweek, DIE ZEIT und Der Spiegel Online."
I am A writer. Free-lance, i.e. independent (-minded), with no corporate affiliations and with my own eyes and ears. Yes, I do need to pay my bills but that does not make me part of the “old media establishment” some bloggers are so desperate to rail against.
I didn't say anything about "old media establishment", but someone who works as a media professional can be expected to share sensibilities and be sympathetic to other media professionals
As for my writing for “a European audience”, explain to me how that would impair my judgment?
I didn't say anything about impairing judgment, but it's reasonable to assume that a person who writes for a particular audience will, more often than not, share that audience's worldview. In this case, it was a reasonable assumption, as Lutz's opposition to the war seems to be consistent with European public opinion.
What is this silly and spurious debate where one has to side either with “the media” or the Bush administration? How much more black and white does it get?
My mention of said debate was a simplification, but it was a direct reference to Lutz's earlier posting:
May this anecdote serve as an (entirely circumstantial) reflection on just who is doing a bad job in Iraq: the occupiers or the media?

The debate on whether the media’s reporting from Iraq is too negative is getting interesting, with people on the ground raising their voice, too.

Back to the current post:
So, by that logic instapundit and rantingprofs are government mouthpieces?
To the best of my knowledge, instapundit is not a government mouthpiece, but I think it's fair to argue that he believes that the administration is doing a better job fighting the war than the media is reporting it.
In his email (fair game, I suppose?) Stefan writes:

I don't quite buy the perspective that the Iraq war is an imperialist enterprise and a quagmire. Reconstructing Iraq and building a civil society there is an important undertaking for international security, just as was rebuilding the defeated fascist states after WWII and rebuilding the former Soviet Union after the Cold War. And just because we are motivated by oil interests, doesn't mean that it's not also both in our long-term security as well as consistent with our national values to help develop a saner society in Iraq.

It is fair game to quote my email, but it would have been even more fair to quote the rest of it, which among other things, would show that my perspective is even less, uh, black and white than it is being portrayed to be. The rest of my email read:
Obviously there are better and worse ways of doing this and the US administration is going to make its share of mistakes that deserve to be pointed out by the media so that they can be corrected.

Along these lines and regarding your comments on media coverage -- I think what frustrates many of the bloggers about the mainstream media's coverage of Iraq is not the criticism of the administration - constructive criticism is a good thing - but the sense that many in the media were against the war in the first place and would rather see the occupation fail than succeed. The tone of much of the reporting that I read seems more designed to undermine popular support for the occupation than to provide an appropriately balanced view on the progress. On the other hand, I have to respect that it's you and your friends who are over there doing the primary reporting, not me...

Back to Lutz:
Just two questions:

- how does turning a country that posed no credible immediate threat (where are the WMDs?) neither to the region nor to “the West” into a chaotic mess and a cause célèbre for Islamic terrorists improve “international security”? (remember this Bin Laden chap? he is still out there)

The issue is not one of "immediate" (or the other strawman "imminent") threat. The President dismissed that yardstick in his State of the Union last January. The issue is not whether WMD are found or not, because the assessment of every authority on the planet, including France and the Clinton administration was that Saddam had weapons. The more pressing issue was the near certainty that Saddam would have fully reconstituted his strategic threat once the inspections were relaxed -- which would have been inevitable. As far as being a cause célèbre for Islamic terrorists- why, yes! that's the flypaper strategy. Better to have the terrorists jump in front of soldiers who can shoot back than to blow up civilian targets. It seems to be working.

The other point being that the root causes of Islamist terrorism lie in the political, social and economic failures in the Arab world itself. Only by fundamental reform in these societies will terrorism burn itself out. Iraq under Saddam has been both a model basket case and an exporter of repression that has destabilized the region. Take away the Saddamist threat and develop a civil democracy in Iraq (not unlike what the Allies did in Germany and Japan after WWII) and there can be a model for prosperity and political reform in the rest of the region.

- if “we” (who is we? Americans? the Bush administration?) are motivated by oil interests, as you concede, how do you think that goes over with the people in the region? (try answering that one without using the “i-word”..)

We (being Americans) are motivated by oil interests, yes we are. But (a) we are motivated by a lot more than that, and (b) everybody else on the planet is also motivated by oil interests. Not least the French, the Russians, the Saudis, the Iraqis, the UN, etc. As far as imperialism goes, it is a strange empire indeed that liberates a country from tyranny, offers it $87 billion for reconstruction and develops a local governing authority so it can get out of the way within a small number of years.

Lutz then finishes with me and turns to Glenn Reynolds:

At least, Stefan does acknowledge that it is reporters who do the primary reporting in Iraq. So what?, Glenn would probably retort. In yet another pamphlet against biased, lazy, butt-covering, Baghdad media types, he writes "Imagine what we might hear if more reporters were willing to venture out [of Baghdad] in search of a story."

With all due respect, Glenn, that is what most of us reporters out there do, unlike some Starbucks-catered armchair pundits who confuse their wishful thinking with the reality in Iraq!

I drink Peet's, not Starbucks and nobody caters to me, I make my own coffee, thank you very much. And I actually write my blog from a deskchair that has wheels. But it also has arms, so I suppose that makes me an armchair pundit too!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
October 02, 2003
Blog of the Day, Oct. 2

Today's Blog of the Day is damnum absque injuria, written by a guy named Xrlq (which is actually pronounced "Jeff").

Xrlq is a lawyer from Southern California who writes about politics, the law, the recall, the L.A. Times, the L.A. Times on the recall, and lots of other things, including media bias, Gray Davis and the recall. His blog is very smart and very funny. Check it out.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:33 PM
Slow News Day

There hasn't been that much to comment on today because it has been a slow news day.

Mainly, though, I've been busy with work.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:12 PM
October 01, 2003
Blog of the Day, Oct. 1

Today's Blog of the Day is Solly Ezekiel's Gedänkenpundit. Solly is back from his summer hiatus and he's blogging up a storm. Check it out!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:14 PM
Labor Economics

The State of Washington has made it illegal for certain low-wage workers to keep their jobs:

Washington's minimum wage will rise by 15 cents an hour in January, becoming the highest in the nation.
Meanwhile, Washington officials tacitly acknowledge how silly the minimum wage law is: by encouraging illegal immigration, which exists mainly because the minimum wage law prevents law-abiding citizens and legal immigrants from working at a market-clearing wage!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:52 PM
Seattle School Superintendent

The Seattle public school district is in the process of selecting a new superintendent, as the old one was thrown out on his ear after running up a $35 million deficit. Four finalist candidates were announced on Sunday, and came to town for a road show this week. The School Board has pledged to announce its decision next Tuesday, Oct. 7. On Monday and Tuesday of this week there were public forums, where two candidates each evening gave presentations and took questions from the audience. The Seattle Times gave comprehensive coverage to the Monday night candidates, with extended quotes from both individuals. Former Cincinnati superintendent Steven Adamowski sounded the most impressive.

I attended last night's forum. The first candidate was Dr. Evelyn Williams Castro, a district superintendent from Brooklyn, NY. Castro is a natural politician. The audience applauded often during her talk and many gave her a standing ovation at the end. Unfortunately, many of her answers revealed a disappointingly backward and counter-productive mindset. For example [ I don't have her exact words, but I summarize her answers as faithfully as I can]

On the question of performance pay for teachers: "I'd have to ask teachers how they feel about that. I think most teachers are simply motivated by teaching children". [well yes, but as with all other professionals, calibrating compensation with performance will only help ensure that we retain the best teachers and encourage the underperforming teachers to either improve or make a career change].

On the question of increasing minority participation in gifted and talented programs: "In an earlier position I redefined the standards to qualify as gifted, and the number of minority participants increased by 42%" [I liked the other candidate's answer better, which was to inspire more minority students to value academic achievement and strive to get into the gifted and talented program, and also to do a better job of preparing the minority students to meet its high standards]

On the question of charter schools, : "I'm worried about private companies like Edison coming in and trying to run schools for a profit. Nobody should be making a profit from our children". Although this last comment won peals of applause from the audience, it also revealed Castro to be either fabulously ignorant or fabulously afraid of anybody who might compete with the public school bureaucrats and teacher unions, because A. very few charter schools have anything to do with Edison. B. lots of people and companies profit from their involvement in public schools, e.g. union officials, textbook publishers, construction companies, investment houses that sell school bonds; C. why should anybody care if somebody makes a profit anyway, as long as they do a good job?

As one might expect from the above answers, the teachers' union thinks that Evelyn Williams Castro is the greatest thing since sliced cheese and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports this news as if its a good thing for the schools to have a union-endorsed superintendent.

The Seattle Times, in spite of its thorough coverage of the Monday candidates, barely mentioned Castro in today's coverage, focusing instead on the troubled history of the other candidate who presented on Tuesday.

Based on her audience reception, teacher union endorsement and the desire of minority activists to have a minority superintendent, I'd guess that Castro is the front-runner. On the other hand, Adamowski comes across as a more forward-thinking and vastly superior superintendent:

Under his direction, the [Cincinnati] district became the first in the state to run charter schools, and one of the first in the country to push a pay-for-performance system. The district was taken off the state's academic watch list when test scores and graduation rates jumped, turning critical business leaders into fans.

But his aggressive, no-nonsense style also generated anger from the teachers union and several board members, who found his CEO-style management too heavy-handed for the public sector.

Sounds good to me.

If you live in Seattle and care about our schools, please contact the school board members and offer your feedback on the superintendent candidates.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:09 PM