December 31, 2003
Dismantling the L.A. Times

Patterico has an exhaustive review of the worst of the year at the L.A. Times . Long but worthwhile. My first reaction after I finished reading it was, "What? Seven pages and nothing about Robert Scheer? That's inexcusable!". My more considered reaction was "Oh my God, seven pages full of examples of outrageous bias, sloppy reporting and unprofessionalism, and he ran out of time before he could even start on Robert Scheer!"

Cataloging the failures of the L.A. Times is a monumental undertaking.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:29 PM
Christians and Palestine

Joseph Farah, an Arab-American Christian, tells of Christians in the Palestinian areas:

In 1948, Bethlehem was 80 percent Christian. Today it is 80 percent Muslim.

Where do they go?

Are you ready for a shock?

Many of them prefer life in Israel to life under the rule of Yasser Arafat and his friends in Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In fact, life would be better just about anywhere else, and those who have the ability to leave have left.

This massive display of ethnic cleansing and population movement has been totally obscured by the Palestinian Authority and covered up by the international media. Worse yet, it has even been blamed on Israel.

But Christians fleeing the Holy Land know why they are leaving. All one needs to do is ask them. It began a long time ago. I know, because my grandparents fled for the safety, security and freedom of America. Christians in the Middle East know very well who their enemy is. They know why are they are oppressed. They know who is attacking them. They know who is occupying them.

And it's not Israel.

Farah's column is an effective antidote to the venomous droolings of Floyd McKay.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:15 AM
It's in the P-I

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer last Friday published a list of memorial tributes to noted people from the Northwest who died during 2003:

They changed the way we worked, played, lived. They made us see the world in different ways. They made us smile. Sometimes, they made us cry. Whether their lives were long and full, or tragically shortened, they became a part of the fabric of who we all are in the Northwest. Here are just some of those who died this year, leaving our lives a little richer for having known them.
Among the people on the list was
Rachel Corrie, 23, an activist from Olympia who was crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer while protesting the destruction of Palestinian homes in the Rafah refugee camp. After its internal investigation, the Israeli military said the driver of the bulldozer could not see Corrie. Corrie's parents were not satisfied with the Israeli explanations, and in September they called for an independent U.S. investigation of her death. Corrie died March 16.
How pathetic and reprehensible must be the lives of the people at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, if a cheerleader for terrorism can make their lives richer.

hat tip: Best of the Web

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:09 AM
Editorial Page Corrections, ctd.

Continuing Monday's topic of editorial page corrections, Linda Seebach posted a query on a listserv for editorial writers asking whether their newspapers publish corrections for factual errors on the editorial page. She forwarded me a selection of responses from columnists around the country asserting "Yes! our paper's policy is to publish corrections on the editorial page and we have done so numerous times".

Okay, I'll allow then that this practice might be more widespread than my own experience has indicated. But if I can ask some of the pro-correction editorialists to consider the following episodes that I blogged about earlier this year:

(a) Robert Scheer in his column of Mar. 18 that also appeared in the L.A. Times and was syndicated to other newspapers around the country:

The United States lied to the world when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he had "bulletproof evidence" that Iraq was behind the Sept. 11 attacks
The source for this was presumably a New York Times article of Sept. 27, 2002 (reposted here) which actually said:
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today that American intelligence had "bulletproof" evidence of links between Al Qaeda and the government of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.
the article also said:
Administration officials say there is still no evidence to link Mr. Hussein directly to the attacks on Sept. 11 in the United States.
(b) Molly Ivins in her column of Oct. 28:
Not to wish ill on Wolfowitz, but he is the one who promised us this war would be "a cakewalk"
I find no evidence that Wolfowitz ever made such a promise, indeed the only original source that I have found tying Wolfowitz to a "cakewalk" prediction is this op-ed by Kenneth Adelman, where Adelman laments the fact that Wolfowitz denounced Adelman's own prediction of a "cakewalk" in Iraq.

I debunked the Scheer claim back in May, and although I didn't contact the L.A. Times directly, my traffic log shows that the blog page had a number of visits from the L.A. Times.. I debunked the Ivins' claim and sent an email to the top editors of the Seattle Times on the day they printed the column, Nov. 3, challenging them to either document Ivins' claim or to issue a retraction. They did neither, but did publish my letter three weeks later.

It's possible that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz really did say what Scheer and Ivins attributed to them. Any documentation to that effect would be welcome and would moot the following. But assuming that both Scheer and Ivins got the above citations wrong, I ask the conscientious editorial writers to answer the following --

1) Did your paper publish either the Scheer or the Ivins column mentioned above?
2) Is it your paper's practice to check the facts of syndicated columns, specifically Scheer and Ivins?
3) If not, is it your expectation that somebody else is checking their facts? Whose responsibility is it?
4) Did your paper ever learn of any factual errors in these columns?
5) If yes to (4), did your paper publish a correction?
6) Comment on the Seattle Times' response to a credible report of an error in Ivins column. Should the Times have issued a correction in its own name?
7) Should Scheer and Ivins personally retract the above statements? In general, should syndicated columnists take responsibility to promptly retract errors that are discovered in their work?
8) Should newspapers continue to publish the unchecked work of syndicated columnists who are habitually sloppy with their facts?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:44 AM
December 30, 2003
The Religion of Recycling

Here in Seattle, the City Commissars are such firm believers in the Religion of Recycling, that they want to force the people to recycle for the hell of it, even when recycling is economically foolish:

Seattle needs to move to this new frontier to achieve its recycling goals, says Mayor Greg Nickels, who has proposed that the city launch a food-waste-recycling program by 2005.
Recycling food waste, "strictly speaking, is not cost-effective," said Tim Croll, community-services director for Seattle Public Utilities. The bottom line is that recycling food waste may cost more than putting it in landfills — as much as $2.8 million a year, according to city estimates.
and preserving landfill space shouldn't be anybody's highest priority either, because:
Seattle officials admit the city is at no risk of exhausting its landfill space for decades.
Sacrificing food waste and money to the God of Recycling is Seattle's version of the hecatomb.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:03 PM
December 29, 2003
Success of KIPP Charter Schools

Today's San Francisco Chronicle reports on the success of a KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) charter school in Oakland:

On state tests, KIPP students are outscoring most of their public school peers in the Bronx, Houston, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. In Oakland and elsewhere, students who never improved are finally seeing their reading scores advance. On an internal test, Oakland students improved their reading one grade level in the 2002-2003 school year.

While most KIPP middle-school students enroll at a third-grade reading level, studies show they reach their correct grade level in a year, and read above their grade level after two years. By the time they are ready for high school, 99 percent of KIPP students enter prestigious high schools on scholarship.

The statistics are so unheard of in urban education that Levin hosts about 750 visitors a year from all over the world, mainly teachers, principals and superintendents looking for the golden secret.

The article quotes one KIPP mother
Tony is flourishing, said his mother, Nakia Shavers. He brings home B's for the first time.

"I think he likes the studiousness of it," she said. "It's cool to be smart at KIPP."

The KIPP people would like to bring their successful program to Washington state, but they can't, because the state teachers' union and its Democratic allies in the state legislature have for years blocked the law that would permit charter schools in this state.

If you live in Washington and care about educational opportunities for our state's children, contact your legislators and encourage them to support charter schools in the January session.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:14 PM
Editorial Page Corrections

Linda Seebach, a fine editorial writer for the Rocky Mountain News, e-mailed in response to my remarks to Instapundit , where I wrote:

Can you recall the last time any newspaper issued a correction for factual errors on the editorial page? I can't.
That's a pretty sweeping statement for him to make, isn't it? How would he check?

The policy at the Rocky Mountain News is to correct factual errors wherever they appear, including editorials, and according to our archives we have published five corrections to editorials in 2003. We'd prefer that none be necessary, but if they are necessary, they run. The last one was Sept. 1.

I can't give you numbers for our competitor, the Denver Post, but it certainly does publish corrections to editorials, although its stated policy is to correct "all errors occurring in its news columns." E.g., Oct. 30,

"Because of an editorial writer's error, the amount of money offered by Arapahoe County to buy out County Clerk and Recorder Tracy Baker was cited incorrectly in a Wednesday editorial on Page 6B. The county offered Baker $325,000."
The two papers I worked for before I came to the Rocky did the same. What's Sharkansky's sample?
My comment was only that I can't recall any such editorial correction, and I'm certainly pleased that they do occur.

My own sample consists of the daily newspapers from my recent hometowns: The San Francisco Chronicle, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Seattle Times. I have brought numerous editorial page errors to their attention and not one of these errors were ever corrected, although The Seattle Times published one of my letters once (edited and four weeks late). I have also never seen the New York Times correct Maureen Dowd or Paul Krugman and I have never seen the L.A. Times correct Robert Scheer. Again, it's possible that all of these newspapers do issue editorial page corrections, I just don't recall seeing any. If anybody can send me a counter-example, I will post it in this space.

UPDATE: Seebach sent in this correction from the San Francisco Chronicle and adds:

Papers do differ on how much oversight their columnists work under, and it also matters whether the columnists are on staff, or syndicated, or part of a wire service.
Fair enough, the Chronicle apparently does issue editorial page corrections on occasion, but not as often as it should. And Seebach's other comment would confirm my main point that columnists are not always held accountable for getting their facts straight.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:53 PM
Mischaracterizing the Achievement Gap

The Seattle Times yesterday was correct to call for serious efforts to improve Seattle's schools:

IT'S time for those who care about Seattle's future to get past the bitterness and finger-pointing of the last year and look ahead to a time when all of the city's children — regardless of race or zip code — have access to a top-notch public education.
But the Times repeats the same mischaracterization that it has made many times in the past:
The wide gap between the city's white and minority students is unacceptable.
That there is an achievement gap across ethnic lines is undeniable, but it is not as simple as "white" vs. "minority". As I've mentioned before, certain Asian groups consistently outperform whites.

Accordingly to the Seattle School District's own data [large PDF], students of Chinese, Japanese and Korean origin outperform white students, on average, on most standardized tests, and on high school GPA and graduation rates. They also participate in gifted and talented programs at higher rates than do whites. Vietnamese students also have higher high school grades and graduation rates than white students.

Unfortunately, spinning the achievement gap as a difference between "white" and "minorities" is not only inaccurate, but the "white vs. minority" dichotomy implies that racism is at work, and distracts attention from the real problem and its solutions. Perhaps if we focus, for example, on understanding the home environment of the kids (of all backgrounds) who are doing well in school -- high parental expectations? high value on education in the home? -- we might work on promoting the same attitudes and habits in the families of the kids who haven't caught up yet.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:30 AM
December 28, 2003
No Jewish Need Apply

Europeaser Union external affairs commissioner Chris Patten said that Israel is not welcome in the EU:

"What we are trying to do is find ways in which they [Israelis] can share our policies and our markets without sharing our institutions," he said.
As one of our Israeli correspondents points out:
Patten's European ancestors callled this a "ghetto"
UPDATE: A different Israeli correspondent e-mails:
Patten's remark suits Israelis' desire to share European markets without opening the borders to the free immigration of Europeans. A ghetto works both ways.
Such are the feelings of a people with historical experience living under the auspices of Patten-style Europeans. Of course, the decision whether to actually apply to join the EU should be left up to the Israelis to debate amongst themselves. That the Europeasers don't even want them to apply speaks for itself.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:17 PM
Dave Barry's Year in Review

Today's Seattle Times editorial page made up for many of its recent shortcomings by publishing Dave Barry's hilarious Year in Review [only in the Times' print edition, but also online here]. Example:


... U.S. coalition-building efforts are dealt a severe blow when France announces it will not participate in the impending Iraq invasion, a decision that, in the words of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, "could seriously impair our ability to surrender."

Read the whole thing.

Evey Monday the Times publishes Dave Barry's column in the "Northwest Life" section along with Dear Abby and the comics. Meanwhile, the Times Monday editorial page publishes Molly Ivins. The Times would do well to promote Dave Barry to the editorial page and bury Molly Ivins in the funny pages, since Dave Barry has several positive qualities that Molly Ivins doesn't share:
a) Dave Barry is actually funny.
b) Dave Barry only makes stuff up for humorous effect, not to deceive his readers.
c) Dave Barry doesn't plagiarize other people's material.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:02 PM

Glenn Reynolds wrote:

BLOGGERS DON'T NEED EDITORS OR PUBLISHERS: Strangely, this leads Editor and Publisher to dub bloggers "self-important."

Self-important, self-sufficient. Whatever.

I'd add "self-correcting", with the emphasis on the correcting.

Newspapers generally print corrections for factual errors in news articles, but almost never retract errors on the editorial page. Bloggers, who are more like op-ed writers than news reporters, strive for factual accuracy. You couldn't make the same claim with a straight face about, say, the Seattle Times editorial page, for example. Or for the folks who publish Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, Molly Ivins and Robert Scheer, etc., etc..

UPDATE: I respond above to an editorial writer who challenges my assertion that newspapers seldom issue corrections for factual errors on the editorial page.

UPDATE 2 I should highlight the comment posted below by Newsday's Phineas Fiske, that

"Self-correcting" seems inappropriate, since I don't see a self-correction of Glenn's assertion that editorial pages don't run corrections.
Glenn Reynolds never asserted that "editorial pages don't run corrections", he merely quoted (without answering) my question: "Can you recall the last time any newspaper issued a correction for factual errors on the editorial page? I can't." An inability to remember an occurrence of a thing (with the implication that said thing is uncommon) is not the same as an assertion that said thing does not exist. Fiske's distortion is precisely the sort of bogus reporting that leads many of us to raise questions about some journalists' competence and motives.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
Religion of Misogyny

A Washington state man has been charged with trying to kidnap his sister in what police believe was an attempt to punish her for marrying outside her Muslim faith.

Khalil Nassar, 21, and a 24-year-old acquaintance, Antonio Cortez, were charged Wednesday with attempted kidnapping, said Robin Webb-Lakey, a Skagit County senior deputy prosecutor. Nassar also was charged with felony harassment.
Khalil Nassar's 18-year-old sister had married a Christian
The young couple relocated to Sedro-Woolley, but the woman's family continued to call her cellular phone and ask for her to return, according to Tucker's statement.

During one of these conversations, the woman taped her brother saying he would return her to her family "dead or alive," Tucker said in his affidavit.

But kidnapping is the way Muslim men express their love for the women in their family, experts tell us:
Farhat J. Ziadeh, a University of Washington professor emeritus who specializes in Islamic law, said from the Muslim perspective that Islamic law exists to ensure a continuation of the faith.

"The man is the head of the family and the children follow the man's religion and they don't want anyone to be cut off from Islam," Ziadeh said.

I guess this is what they mean by "Building a Loving Muslim Family"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:59 AM
December 27, 2003
Seattle Achievement Gap

Today's Seattle Times reports on the Seattle School District's evolving plan for narrowing the achievement gap between different groups of students. The proposals include:

efforts to assure that all students are proficient in reading by third grade; a process for assigning the best teachers to the students with the greatest needs; systemwide tests of students in reading, writing and math at the beginning, middle and end of each grade; mandating extra time and instruction for students not making adequate academic progress; and early-childhood education for 4-year-olds in selected areas, with funding from the city and state.
School Board member Darlene Flynn's reported response is a bit of a non-sequitur:
Flynn said that rather than take a punitive approach to low-performing students, the district should look at research that supports year-round schools.
It's not clear which of the above proposals is punitive -- except for the last one, i.e. to extend the failure of government-monopoly schools to 4-year-olds.

The most obvious way to help raise academic achievement for the kids who have been poorly served by the government-monopoly schools is to offer their parents the choice of independently operated charter schools, such as KIPP schools. If the Washington legislature cares about our state's academically disadvantaged children, it will get its act together in the coming session and finally pass a bill to permit charter schools in this state.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:22 PM
Opponents of Charter Schools

Charter schools are often among the most successful schools in their respective communities, as was just reported in Colorado, for example. At the very least, charter schools offer parents more choices than do the failing government-monopoly public schools. So who could possibly object to charter schools? The keys to the success of charter schools are: (a) independence from the government monopoly school administrators and the teacher unions, along with (b) parental choice and competition. Therefore exactly three groups of people object to charter schools:

[1] Incompetent and/or power-hungry public school teachers and bureaucrats, who feel threatened and/or offended by the thought of independent schools succeeding where government-monopoly schools have failed.

[2] Teacher union officials and their lackey politicians who see the unions' revenues and political power declining as the best teachers opt out of the stultifying govenment-monopoly / teacher union schools for more satisfying careers in independently-run schools.

[3] Lunatic-fringe ideologues who cling to the Stalinist fantasy that government monopolies can deliver services more successfully than can independent organizations that are accountable to consumers.

Today's Seattle Times published 3 letters to the editor from people who are opposed to charter schools. The three letter writers personified categories [2] and [3] above: Deanna Chew-Freidenberg, who believes that privatization and consumer choice are morally wrong. Trevor Griffey, erstwhile campaign manager of Green Party congressional candidate Joe Szwaja ( ran against Jim McDermott from the left). And Catherine Ahl, a teacher union lackey school board member from Kitsap County.

These people are all entitled to their opinions, of course. It just strikes me as creepy that they would spend their free time writing letters to newspapers in order to prevent other people from winning the freedom to make important choices for their children.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:22 PM
Humanitarian Assistance to the Iranian People

Israel offered huminatarian assistance to the victims of the Iranian earthquake, who need all the help they can get:

"We need help, otherwise we will be pulling corpses, not the injured, out of the rubble," Brigadier Mohammadi, commander of the army in southeast Iran, told state television.
but the Mad Mullahs also said that
"The Islamic Republic of Iran accepts all kinds of humanitarian aid from all countries and international organizations with the exception of the Zionist regime [Israel],"
It's a shame that the Mad Mullahs have so much contempt for their own people that they would let more of them die before they would accept help from Israel.

Now that the Mullahs are preoccupied with the earthquake, this would be a good time for Israel to perform a different kind of humanitarian service for the Iranian people and obliterate the Mullahs' nuclear program, which only helps the Mullahs stay in power and abuse their people longer.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:15 AM
December 26, 2003
It's in the P-I

Today in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is another hilarious serving of anti-Bush drivel from the delirious Hubert Locke, "retired professor and former dean of the Daniel J. Evans Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington".

... the Democratic Party, which faces the opportunity to defeat the most unpopular president since John Tyler...
Meanwhile, back in the real world, USA Today today looks at some actual public opinion polls:
President Bush is ending his third year in office with 63% job approval, the highest rating of any president since Lyndon Johnson, who finished 1963 with a 74% rating a month after John F. Kennedy's assassination.
It's a good thing at least that Hubert Locke is retired and won't be damaging the brains of any more of our aspiring public policy experts.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:17 PM
Moral Equivalence

Today's headline from the Seattle Times

with the sub-head that Islamic Jihad official assassinated.

Would the Seattle Times likewise refer to an American pre-emptive strike on a terrorist as, say, "Al Qaeda official assassinated?" Of course not.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:01 PM
December 24, 2003
Education Quagmire

Even after yesterday's very good editorial about the value of educational testing, the Seattle Times today has a particularly dumb article about Washington's standardized WASL test, with an even dumber headline: Limited English dooms kids on WASL:

For months some state educators have complained that the federal No Child Left Behind Act sets unreasonable standards for immigrants who are just learning English. Now, state officials think they have the data to back up their concerns...Those results, OSPI officials said, underscore their concern that it's unrealistic to think new immigrants can pass the high-stakes test
According to the Washington State Board of Education the WASL tests
were not designed to be a grading tool. They are intended to measure where students are learning and to help teachers improve instruction about where their students may need to help.
So of course immigrants should take the WASL, even if it is understood that some will not score very highly during their first years in the US. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The goal is for all immigrant children to perform at near-native proficiency in English as quickly as possible. If we don't measure their performance, how else will we know how well the schools are doing at achieving that goal?

As I read the article, it sounds like the educrats' concerns are primarily about avoiding accountability for delivering actual results. They conflate "new immigrants" with "limited English speakers", many of whom have presumably languished in public schools for years without adequate expectations or instruction to learn English.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:37 PM
Floyd McKay

There are many working journalists who are knowledgeable about the Middle East, but for some reason the Seattle Times has selected Floyd McKay to be its featured writer of op-eds about the Middle East. Floyd McKay is a professor of "journalism" at Western Washington University whose only qualifications appear to be his unerring ability to get his facts wrong and his morbid disdain for Israel.

Floyd McKay celebrates Christmas today with a column, Christianity in the Holy Land, where he blames the decline of the Palestinian Christian community on Israel:

The occupation is strangling Christianity in the Holy Land.
As an example, he gives these statistics:
Palestinian Christians were historically concentrated in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. But the 1947 creation of Israel forced some 50,000 Christians from West Jerusalem and into exile or the West Bank, where they made up 20 percent of the Palestinian population. By 1966, that percentage was down to 13 percent, and it is now only 2.9 percent in the occupied territories. Muslims have a higher birth rate, but the major factor is emigration to America and elsewhere.
As you can see, the demographic trend favoring Muslims over Christians was well underway prior to 1967, when the West Bank was occupied by Jordan.
Although there are Christian-Muslim tensions in the occupied lands, particularly since the increase in suicide bombings and militant Islamic organizations, Palestinian Christian leaders identify the problem as the Israeli occupation, now in its 46th year.
46th year??? If he's referring to the 1967 war that Israel didn't want and didn't start as the beginning of the "occupation", then it is not in the 46th year, but in the 37th year. But who's counting?

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the officially Muslim Palestinian Authority, which has been in control of Bethlehem since 1995, has conducted a deliberate campaign of Islamicization to obliterate the city's Christian character. This is consistent with the behavior of the Muslim majorities toward Christians throughout the Middle East, such as in Egypt. Meanwhile, also in the real world that Floyd McKay refuses to visit, there are the Israeli Arab Christians in mixed cities like Haifa and predominately Arab cities like Nazareth, who are faring far better than Christians in Muslim countries. Indeed, the main complaints that Arab Christians seem to have about Israel are that it does not do enough to protect the Christians from Islamic militants.

McKay concludes:

There may be a ray of hope in the recently unveiled Geneva Accords, an ad hoc attempt by moderate Israelis and Palestinians to provide an alternative peace plan.
Floyd McKay would probably prefer not to read the results of the latest Palestinian public opinion poll that show his "ray of hope" actively rejected by the Palestinian public 58% to 28%.

If anybody can explain why the Seattle Times continues to publish Floyd McKay, or why Western Washington University continues to pay him to damage the brains of aspiring journalists, please share it with the rest of us.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:00 PM

Democrats Court Vote of Disgruntled U.S. Muslims:

"I want to earn the support of Muslims and Muslim leaders across the United States," Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts, told a major Muslim conference outside Los Angeles last weekend.

"I very much hope for your support," Democratic front-runner and former Vermont governor, Howard Dean, told the same meeting, the Muslim Public Affairs Council annual convention.
Angered by post-Sept. 11 legislation like the USA Patriot Act which Muslims feel discriminates against them, upset about wars against two Muslim countries, and frustrated by a perceived pro-Israeli bias in Middle East peacemaking, many U.S. Muslims are shifting their political allegiance.

Muslim Americans would do well to follow the example of, say, the German-Americans, Japanese-Americans and Italian-Americans during World War II and support our country in the war against this generation's crop of fascists and barbarians. The Democrats would do well not to pander to those Muslims who are fifth columnists for terrorism and tyranny.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:39 AM
December 23, 2003
Arab Failure on Display

The Seattle Times today brought us an op-ed by a self-described "American-Arab journalist" (= pro-terrorism propagandist) who unwittingly displays most of the Arab world's most crippling political psychopathologies all in a single column! -- Seeing a picture of Saddam Hussein in captivity sent Ramzy Baroud into a paroxysm of despair. So now he shares his Conflicted feelings about the capture of Saddam:

"Are We Winning Now?" a headline arrogantly inquired, condescendingly proclaiming the capture of the former Iraqi president.

Something inside me was crushed.

I am certainly not a fan of tyranny... BUT seeing Saddam in that cluttered state, willingly opening his mouth to an American military doctor, being treated "like a cow," as the Vatican claimed, provoked an array of emotions that I could hardly contain. Even then, I had no illusions: It was not the "capture" of Saddam that engulfed me with these emotions; it was what Saddam represented or, perhaps, failed to represent. It was the fear of a future undoubtedly bleak, unforgiving.

[why are there scare quotes around "capture"??? -Ed.] Baroud, who claims that he grew up in a Gaza "refugee camp", goes on to reveal symptoms of the following maladaptive thought processes.

1) Failure to acknowledge that the Israeli military presence in Gaza, indeed the concept of a "refugee camp" five decades after the birth of Israel, is solely the result of Arab unwillingness to accept Israel's existence.

2) Failure to recognize that many times as many Arabs have been slaughtered by Arab governments than have died under the "brutal Israeli occupation", as he calls it:

In Gaza, my sorrow of losing countless friends and family members to the Israeli occupation forces was the shared destiny of the nearly 1 million refugees in Gaza's camps. With each new innocent casualty, the desire for a collective Arab will became stronger. But time has passed, and the dream of a collective Arab will has yielded to collective Arab chaos.
3) Blaming the dysfunctions in the Arab world on American "imperialism":
Maybe this explains the reason behind the love-hate relationship many Arabs had toward Saddam: He was a brutal dictator, yet he defied the United States and its imperialist design in the Arab world. It was not hard for me to fathom why many Iraqis celebrated when Saddam was captured, while at the same time, they vowed to carry on with their attacks against U.S.-led occupation forces. That same paradox struck me watching Saddam's glum photo on America Online.
4) Believing that the natural Arab response to the arrest of a mass murderer is more terrorism ... :
I paused to gaze at a 9-11 memorial poster hanging on my wall, anxiously considering the devastating repercussions that could stem from collectively disgracing hundreds of millions of people. It seems that fear and uncertainty are, sadly, among the people of the U.S. and the Middle East, a common sorrow.
5) ... while also expressing surprise that Americans associate Arabs with terrorism:
I also learned that in the West, we were all grouped together, in a camp of "hostile Arabs" who must be "contained,"
6) Voting with his feet and moving to the evil America, where, unlike in the Arab world, he has the freedom to write editorials and speak out to his heart's content, and where he uses his right to complain first and foremost to blame America for the failures of the Arab world!

UPDATE: Jim Miller wasn't favorably impressed with Baroud's op-ed either.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:31 PM
Mad Cow Disease

The first case of Mad Cow Disease in the United States has been discovered in the state of Washington. No, really, and this time I'm not talking about the deranged ladies on the Seattle School Board:

The United States' first probable case of mad cow disease was detected in a cow from a farm in Mabton, near Yakima, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said today.
This is a little worrisome for someone like myself on the Atkins Diet who eats beef a dozen times a week. Nevertheless, Veneman reassures us that:
U.S. beef remains "absolutely safe to eat," adding that she plans to serve it at her Christmas dinner Thursday.
I can only hope she's right.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:00 PM
Lifting up students by raising the bar

The Seattle Times' Susan Byrnes has an uplifting column today about Bemiss Elementary School in Spokane, Washington that has dramatically improved the standardized test (WASL) scores of its student body, many of whom are poor and immigrants. How did Bemiss do it? By insisting on high standards and hard work and frequent testing:

At the core of the Bemiss transformation is a fundamental shift in the way adults perceive disadvantaged students. Like the majority of teachers who work with low-income children, Bemiss teachers want the best for their students. But at Bemiss, teachers and administrators believe the way to help struggling students is to raise the bar, not lower it.
There's an after-school study center and summer school for 100 kids in July and August. There's a reading nook in the entry hall. There are math contests and reading contests with T-shirts for the winners.

At Bemiss, it's cool to be smart.

Indeed. Byrnes contrasts the success at Bemiss with a swipe at Seattle's loony toons "education leaders", who seem to believe that it's cool to be clueless:
In too many other places, it's cool to bash the WASL. Brita Butler-Wall, a new member of the Seattle School Board, has said the test does more harm than good. Board member Sally Soriano said labeling groups of students as failures constitutes institutional racism. The Seattle teachers' union opposes the WASL.
The only people who could possibly oppose the WASL are those who fear that reporting achievement outcomes will bring pressure on the public school system to actually deliver results.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:15 PM
It's in the P-I

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer today praises Libya for declaring its intention to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction

It's good news, in itself, that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has promised to abandon efforts to develop nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The world is safer.
The P-I still speculates about what led to Gadhafi's decision to abandon WMD:
It's unclear whether the invasion of Iraq played a role with Libya. Diplomacy may have been the key.
Silly P-I, falsely modest as always. Of course the invasion of Iraq and the arrest of Saddam Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with Gadhafi's decision to change his behavior. Even more than diplomacy, the key that turned Gadhafi around was the hope that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer would one day write a nice editorial about him.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:06 AM
December 22, 2003
Education Quagmire

Two fourth-grade teachers in Spokane, Washington were caught cheating on the state's WASL standardized test. One of the teachers was "reprimanded" (she is still teaching), the other resigned -- to enhance her career as an educator by going back to school for a master's degree. Both of the teachers and their union blame the government and its enforcement of standards for causing the teachers to cheat:

The Spokane Education Association "never condones cheating -- by students, or teachers -- it's wrong," said Spokane Education Association president Maureen Ramos. "BUT when the state and now the federal government decide to use only one test to measure student progress and publish the school and class results, there is an incredible amount of pressure on teachers and students to perform well on that single measure."
This is yet another example why I support charter schools for Washington. Charter schools are not a panacea, but among other things, they liberate a portion of the schools from the teacher union extortion mafia and make it easier to rid the schools of teachers who set poor examples for our children, or worse.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:39 PM
Palestinian Public Opinion

From the latest public opinion poll from the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion:

In a survey of 1072 Palestinian adults in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem --

27.5% support the Geneva Initiative
57.9% oppose the Geneva Initiative

[The editorial writers over at the Seattle Times might want to take note of this]

"Which period do you expect for the rule of Mr. Qrei's government ?"
Only 17.2% answered: "6 months and more"

"In case the Palestinians would abide by the truce concluded, which measures do you expect from the Palestinians to carry out in order to accomplish success ?"
Only 33.8% answered: "The Palestinian militants should abide by the cessation of the suiciders' bombings"

"Some people in the west bank and gaza strip support suicidal attacks in Israel , while others support a halt to such attacks now . which is closer to your opinion":
1.Such attacks must halt 35.6%
2.Such attacks must continue 49.5%

If I were a betting man, I would bet on Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:59 AM
Letters from My Hometown

Most of today's Letters to the Editor of the Seattle Times were in response to Bruce Ramsey's column last week that argued against a state income tax. Two letters agreed with Ramsey, three disagreed. My favorite was this one:

I take exception to Times editorial writer Bruce Ramsey's "The joys of not having a state income tax" (column, Dec. 17). I am particularly disturbed by the notion that there should be a double standard of taxation in Washington state.

Ramsey argues that what he calls the "ability to pay" principle should "hold" at what he calls "the low end," while successful people should not be taxed according to their ability to pay since "a tax on success" is "neither fair nor smart."

So, is it fair to tax failure, relatively speaking, but not success? Or is it just "smart" to exploit the poor so that the rich get to keep more of their money?

But the real problem with Ramsey's thinking is that it is based on an atomistic social theory (i.e., having no intrinsic obligations among classes), according to which individual success is credited solely to the "successful" person without regard for the contributions of those who make up that person's social and economic environment.

True fairness dictates that those among us who do well economically shoulder a proportionally greater share of the cost of maintaining an organized society.

Jan Sjåvik, Carnation

Jan Sjåvik is an immigrant from Norway, a country which, in the spirit of true fairness, has blessed its citizens with one of the highest tax burdens on the planet. And that helps explain why thousands of Norway's best and brightest, like Jan Sjåvik, continue to flock to the relatively low taxation and high prosperity of the United States, and not the other way around.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:03 AM
Seattle Monorail Fraud

The fraudulent Seattle Monorail Project discovered months ago that it was falling far short of its inflated revenue targets, but fortunately the problem has been solved. How? By revising the projections of future revenues -- based on assumptions that are even more wildly optimistic than the wildly optimistic assumptions that failed to predict the current shortfall:

Yesterday's report, by consulting firm ECONorthwest, said car-tax income should grow an average 6.1 percent per year in Seattle. Currently the car-tab taxes are coming in one-third less than monorail backers had planned. But a 6.1 percent growth rate would eventually plug most of the hole in monorail revenues.

The figure is higher than what Sound Transit forecasts to help fund its light-rail project. And it's also more optimistic than the monorail's own prognostications last year. The new report assumes car values will rise faster than inflation and, as the population grows, more people will own cars.

The report was reviewed by four of the state's best-known economists, who suggested a more cautious figure of 4.8 percent. However, the panel said ECONorthwest's findings were reasonable.

6.1%, 4.8% who cares, it's only 1.3% off, right? Yes, but:
Another question is how many years residents must pay the tax of $140 per $10,000 of car value. If the latest predictions turn out wrong, the tax would go on longer than the roughly 25 years mentioned in last year's pro-monorail campaign
Starting with current revenues of $26 million a year, a difference between 4.8% vs. 6.1% annual growth compounded over 25 years amounts to a cumulative difference of $243 million. Sooner or later, we'll be talking real money!

Can the monorail be built even in the face of such a large potential deficit? Nobody really knows, because

The true costs won't be known until next year, when two teams place bids to construct and operate a monorail system connecting downtown to Ballard and West Seattle. The monorail agency has already proposed reducing four miles of the 14-mile line to a single track shared by northbound and southbound trains.
The Seattle Monorail Project is a vast moneypit of unbounded depth. It needs to be shut down as quickly as possible and some of the folks who have been deceiving the public probably deserve to be in jail.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
December 21, 2003
Seattle's Loony Toons School Board

The Seattle Times issued a deservedly harsh rebuke today to our loony toons School Board:

The Seattle School Board is making a serious, rookie mistake by pursuing a resolution against charter schools.

It is not only distracting and time-consuming for board members to take an official stance on a matter outside their jurisdiction. The knee-jerk position is an affront to legislators and educators who have studied the issue for years and are crafting bipartisan legislation that aims to benefit some of the state's most disadvantaged students.

I would only add that the most egregious affront is not to legislators and educators, but to the children who are trapped in failing public schools.

I would also add that the problem is not merely a "rookie mistake" of the four newly elected board members. It's just one symptom of the board's pervasive lunacy. Indeed, two of the three veteran board members also oppose charter schools. (Kudos to Dick Lilly, the Board's sole remaining moderate, who declined to join his colleagues in opposition to charter schools). Furthermore, the new members' opposition to charter schools shouldn't be a surprise to anybody who follows them. Three of the new board members (Stewart, Butler-Wall and Flynn) went on the record opposing charter schools during their campaigns. (See statements here, here and here). The Times didn't report this during the campaign, nor did it report on many of the new boardmembers' other nutty positions. The Times even endorsed both Stewart and Flynn.

I'm pleased that the Times is taking the right stand today. Hopefully in the future it will do a better job vetting the next batch of loony school board candidates so they can't sneak into office without adequate scrutiny.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:41 AM
December 19, 2003
Peter Steinbrueck

Now that Seattle's entrenched political class (including the suburban owner/editors of the Seattle Times) managed to kill district elections for city council once more, I remain represented by a collection of nine equally (un)responsive at-large councilmembers. So whom do I contact when I have a problem, question, complaint, or (dare I hope ) compliment for the city council? I contact Peter Steinbrueck.

Why do I contact Peter Steinbrueck? There are four reasons.
a) As a tax-paying homeowner and businessman, I'm at the bottom of the list of every at-large councilmember's dream-team electoral coalition. (Seattle's government exists (a) to serve senior citizens, the disabled, renters, the homeless, non-profit agencies and (b) for the delight and convenience of city employees and their unions. Taxpayers are permitted to live here only so we can pay our fair share). So I don't expect any of the other councilmembers to be any less unenthusiastic about getting my phone calls than Peter Steinbrueck would be.

b) Peter Steinbrueck was one of the councilmembers who were most adamantly opposed to district elections, presumably because as an at-large councilmember he thinks it is easier to ignore people who disagree with him. Peter Steinbrueck can ignore me if he wants to, but I won't ignore Peter Steinbrueck and Google won't ignore me.

c) As Council President, Peter Steinbrueck is an obvious poster-child for the city council's latte-brained Soviet-style anti-economic policies and its equally Soviet-like "consensus" system. For example, although Steinbrueck said he opposed mandatory recycling during the recent campaign, he joined this week's unanimous Politburo vote to impose mandatory recycling -- A victory for mindless over-regulation AND mindless consensus, with bonus points for duplicity!

d) Peter Steinbrueck appears to be the councilmember most likely to go on to higher office. If my attention and feedback can either (a) help Peter Steinbrueck improve the quality of his work product, or failing that (b) help drive Peter Steinbrueck out of public office, I will have performed a valuable service for the People of Seattle.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:02 PM
Public School Accountability

The loony-toons Seattle School Board justifies its opposition to charter schools with the claim that charter schools "lack accountability". As I pointed out earlier, while most people would define accountability as the understanding that "one must do a good job or face certain consequences", the Seattle School Board members (like most people in the world of public education) seem to define accountability for school employees as "permission to fail without consequences"

Here's yet another example of public school "accountability" at work. As we learned a couple of weeks ago, the drinking water at Seattle's Wedgwood Elementary School has been believed for years to be contaminated . Nevertheless, the School District's director of facilities, John Vacchiery, declared that:

While "there's no question" Wedgwood's water isn't aesthetically pleasing, it's perfectly safe to drink
Some Wedgwood parents paid to have the school's water independently tested and discovered:
lead levels exceeding EPA limits of 20 parts per billion (ppb), and one of the four [drinking fountains] had cadmium levels higher than the 5 ppb EPA limit. One drinking fountain, located in a classroom, had lead levels 10 times over the limit.
Vacchiery now says that
there have been numerous facilities directors at the district since the early 1990s, he said, and he's trying to determine at which schools repairs were done.
After 1993, there was a plan in place to flush water fountains on a regular basis to reduce lead levels, but Vacchiery said he didn't know whether that plan was followed rigorously. Drinking fountains were replaced in many buildings, he said, but repairs "weren't systematic."
Of course the repairs weren't systematic, because nobody in the public school system is ever really accountable (in the normal sense of the word) for doing their jobs properly. I think it's reasonable to predict that not a single school employee will face any sort of real-world consequences for having allowed poisonous water in the schools for a decade or longer.

At least the new School Board has taken emergency action to correct the water problem. The Seattle Times' Sanjay Bhatt inappropriately editorializes in today's news report that:

The emergency action is the first concrete example that newly elected board members are delivering on campaign promises to be responsive to community concerns.
Fine, but the fact remains that it took years of complaints about the school's water and newspaper articles to elevate the problem to School Board's attention before the problem could fixed. This sort of issue shouldn't require the School Board's intervention in the first place.

Of course, if a charter school had similar problems, parents could pressure the school administrators and expect prompt action on the threat that the parents would take their kids and their funding elsewhere. The Stalinist monopoly school system that the Seattle School Board wants to protect offers no such recourse.

[I should point out that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Deborah Bach reported on the School Board's opposition to charter schools, while the Times did not. Bach's report on the water problem did not have any of Bhatt's needless editorializing. Advantage: Bach and the P-I!].

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:10 PM
Sharon's Unilateral Disengagement Plan

Commentary from Hebrew University political science professor Ira Sharkansky

Last night was the big speech. For a week we had little more than preliminary commentary, and now we're into the post-speech discussion. The pre- and post- are the same. There was enough in the speech to reward or provoke all perspectives. It was not necessary to know all the words in order to say what you think about it.

The speech was Ariel Sharon's long awaited policy statement. He put the Palestinians on notice that if they did not negotiate in a reasonable fashion they would lose. He talked about dismantling some Jewish settlements that Israel could not keep in any conception of the future, and taking unilateral steps to redefine Israel's lines of defense. He promised not to do anything without taking account of the posture of Israel's great friend, the US government.

The settlers and their supporters are nearly up in arms at the thought of dismantling settlements. Those obsessed with finding a formula that will entice the Palestinians to be reasonable are shreaking that Sharon is flubbing yet another opportunity. The US government adheres to its priorities, and has come out against unilateral actions.

In my modest view, the speech portends very little that is new. Israel is already redrawing the lines of its defense. The security fence/wall/barriers reaches into Palestinian areas in order to protect major Jewish settlements, and for practical purposes will be Israel's new border. It won't be recognized internationally, but Israel has learned to live without internationally recognized borders. I doubt that Sharon will remove settlements really occupied by numerous families. The unoccupied trailer, the lone watch tower, or the tiny and isolated religious hippie group may be something else. What this is really all about is the line of the fence abuilding.

It reminds me of the story of the goat. A sizable family suffering from life in a tiny dwelling asks the rabbi what to do. The rabbi says that they must bring the animals into the house. The family suffers even more, and goes back to the rabbi. He tells them to remove the animals from the house. They do this, and find that the rabbi is a blessed genius. Without the animals the house is better than tolerable.

The goat in this instance is the threat of new unilateral action or the withdrawal of settlements. The status quo ante is the construction of the fence. Once the threat of new actions is seen to be meaningless, the status
quo ante looks pretty good.


Please don't take Swift seriously, and I am not proposing that Palestinians survive by selling their children. But stewing in their own juice is more apt. Just yesterday the BBC broadcast a plaintive demand of a Palestinian from Gaza insisting on his right to return to a home in Jaffa that his family left two generations ago in 1948. Where this is a crucial national demand reinforced by respected international media there is little hope for serious responses. We don't know the details of the near future, but from all the signs the Palestinians will be worse off as a result of their intifada.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:28 AM
December 18, 2003
Republican Meetup Reminder

Reminder: Today is National Republican Meetup day. I'll be attending tonight's Seattle Republican Meetup at Piecora's Pizza, 1401 E. Madison at 7pm. Come and join us, won't you?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:42 PM
Charter Schools for Washington

It's well documented that charter schools often succeed where ordinary public schools have failed. See for example, last week's article in the Rocky Mountain News, which reports that many of the top performing schools in Colorado are charter schools that set high standards. (hat tip: Joanne Jacobs).

All across the country, public school bureaucrats and teacher union treasurers are soiling their underpants when they read such news, as they contemplate a mass exodus of students, teachers and dollars from the failing public school monopolies to independently run, higher functioning and largely non-union charter schools.

Forty of the fifty states permit charter schools. Teacher union pressure has so far prevented Washington students from having access to charter schools. This may soon change, as the state legislature will consider a bill in January to permit charter schools. After several years of trying, it looks like the bill will pass this session, but it will be close.

Unfortunately, the newly inaugurated loony-toons members of the Seattle School Board are digging in their heels and taking a formal position against charter schools. This is not only a stupid position to take but also a waste of the School Board's time, as charter schools are an issue for the state legislature to resolve, not for local school boards.

No surprise that the board members are justifying their irresponsible behavior by citing a teachers' union "research study" that discredits charter schools. It's a shame that the Seattle School Board is more interested in protecting the teachers' union than they are in offering promising alternatives to badly-served students.

For more information on the Washington charter school legislation, visit the Educational Excellence Coalition. If you live in Washington be sure to contact your legislators and encourage them to support charter schools. If you also live in Seattle, contact the school board members and encourage them to get back to work for our public school kids.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:36 AM
December 17, 2003
Blogs of Freedom

Matt Rosenberg, one of the Seattle Times consistently interesting and worthwhile guest columnists, writes about the capture of Saddam Hussein and gives a nod to the blogosphere:

Something more powerful than terrorist attacks and resistance was under way there even before Saddam's dramatic capture. It is reflected partly by a growing cadre of passionate, pro-democracy Iraqis providing firsthand reporting, commentary and pointed media criticism on their own Internet "Web log" sites, or "blogs."
Rosenberg goes on to mention Iraqi bloggers Zeyad and Alaa, along with the American bloggers who did the most to help publicize them: Jeff Jarvis and Glenn Reynolds.
Now more than ever, the fresh voices of Iraqi bloggers will be an invaluable counterweight to traditional media coverage. In the weeks and months to come, turn to them for crucial, first-person insights on this unfolding, and uplifting, birth of a democracy.
I'm not too modest to add that the fresh voices of American bloggers can also be an invaluable counterweight to tradtional American media coverage of American politics.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:26 PM
Just Say No to Income Tax

The Seattle Times' Bruce Ramsey, our favorite local editorial writer, explains why Washington does not, should not and will not have a state income tax.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:19 PM
December 16, 2003
Affordable Housing Crisis

The Seattle City Council has imposed mandatory waste recycling.

The new rules require Seattle residents to recycle paper, cardboard, glass and plastic bottles, and aluminum and tin cans, starting Jan. 1, 2005. If these recyclable materials are found in garbage cans and trash bins, the containers will be tagged as part of a yearlong education campaign
Residential customers who put recyclable materials in the ordinary trash containers will not be fined, but commercial customers, including multi-family housing complexes will be fined.

Landlords can't realistically police their tenants' trash habits, so they will have to deal with added costs of compliance and/or fines which they will eventually pass on to their tenants, who, either way, will have no incentive to recycle.

I am not a landlord, but I have earmarked some of my savings to purchase rental properties in the coming year. It is precisely because of the Seattle City Council's self-destructive anti-housing policies such as this that I expect to make all of my real estate investments in the neighboring cities outside of Seattle. Presumably, many of the potential developers of new housing units have reached the same conclusion. Meanwhile, the Councilmembers will only scratch their heads and wonder why Seattle suffers from a shortage of affordable housing.

The City Council's imbecility would be merely a source of amusement if it weren't also wreaking so much economic damage on Seattle and its residents.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:54 PM
Shin Bet Chief Speaks Out

The Seattle Times last month published a delirious editorial that both misreported and misinterpreted an unprecedented interview in the Israeli press by four retired Shin Bet chiefs. Among other things, the Times was wet with excitement that the retired security chiefs called for dealing with Arafat, opposed the security fence and called for an end to the assassination of terrorists. (That the retired officials didn't exactly say what the Times reported, and that the interview was greeted in Israel by a collective shrug of disinterest are besides the point).

In today's Ha'aretz is a report on an equally rare speech by a current Shin Bet chief, Avi Dichter. Dichter praises the separation fence as "critical" to Israel's security, condemns Arafat as having:

betrayed the trust placed in him by Israel and other nations, both during the years of the Oslo process and the last three years of conflict.
and calls Iran the "No. 1 terror state in the world".

I wouldn't bet on the Seattle Times to report on Avi Dichter's remarks with the same enthusiasm that it devoted to the misreported words of Dichter's predecessors.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:06 PM
"Baghdad Jim" might not be so crazy after all

Seattle Congressman "Baghdad Jim" McDermott has been taking heat for the delusional claims he made yesterday about the timing of the Saddam capture. As Jim Miller, master of the gentlemanly put-down, put it:

What can one say to someone who makes an argument like that? That they need to see a psychiatrist? But McDermott is a psychiatrist.
McDermott is an easy target, but I'm not convinced he's as insane as he sounds. As a psychiatrist, he's probably pretty good at reading his constituents. He's been elected to Congress eight times. I imagine he says and does things he knows to be crazy because he believes it will help him get re-elected. And he's probably right, judging by reactions to his comments on Seattle call-in radio shows, and letters to the editors of Seattle newspapers about the capture of Saddam.

UPDATE: Andy MacDonald writes that Baghdad Jim is an "embarrassment to the city" and calls on local Democrats to replace him. Andy is even touting ousted City Councilwoman Heidi "Circus Elephant" Wills and Stan "Hypersonic" Lippmann, who earlier ran for Congress on behalf of the Natural Medicine Party. Yes, the local talent pool really is that pitiful.

UPDATE 2 Andy MacDonald stresses that he was jokingabout Stan Lippmann, which of course I knew. But the local talent pool still really is that pitiful.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:33 PM
The people of Seattle whine, moan

In today's Letters to the Editor page of the Seattle Times, there are 8 letters, all about the capture of Saddam:
2 applaud the capture and praise the President and/or criticize the anti-war left
3 applaud the capture, but claim that the US is just as bad or worse than Saddam.
1 applauds the capture, but says that Saddam was never a threat to the US and expresses outrage that Osama hasn't been caught yet
1 applauds the capture, but launches into an incoherent ad hominem attack on the Bush family.
1 says the capture will only make things worse for US troops in Iraq

Meanwhile, over at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, there are 9 letters today, all about the capture of Saddam:
1 says the capture will only make things worse for US troops in Iraq
3 characterize the capture of Saddam as irrelevant because Osama has not been found
1 says that "The capture of Saddam was not in itself worth the death of one U.S. soldier"
1 blames George H.W. Bush for giving Saddam "millions" and lots of help

1 writes:

Now Bush will go after clean air and senior citizens Hooray! George W. Bush killed thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of Americans to capture the wrong guy. Oh, how we'll sing his praises when he defeats clean air, clean water and senior citizens. Onward Christian soldiers.
1 writes:
Dub-Ya has captured his Poppy's old ally, Saddam! Hip, hip, hooray...I can practically hear the celebratory rifle shots in the air around the National Republican Party headquarters...In their version of the neocon "Mein Kampf" titled "The End of Evil" and published this month, Richard Perle and David Frum want the United States to "win it all" in order to implement a grand vision of how things ought to be.
Only 1 of the 9 applauds the capture: "Everyone's happy, except for Howard Dean"

Yes, out of 17 letters in today's Seattle dailies, 14 found an excuse to whine and moan about the capture of Saddam Hussein and only 3 did not.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:11 PM
Weasels for Clark

As Drudge reported yesterday, General Wesley Clark is raising money from non-Americans. The Clark campaign's official website lists the following on its "Grassroots Support" page: Canada for Clark and Germans for Clark.

Now I imagine that these websites from the Axis-of-Weasels are independent initiatives that created a Clarky website and some low-level webmaster at the Clark campaign thought that it would be cool to link to them. Still, you've got to wonder what that webmaster was thinking and who was supervising him.

In the meantime, wouldn't it be fun to create some more Weaselly pro-Clark websites, such as France for Clark or Belgium for Clark? Or for that matter, how about Hamas for Clark or North Korea for Clark? I wonder which of these would get links from the Clark campaign. In the meantime, in case the good general changes his website before you have a chance to see it, a jpg of the page in question is here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
December 15, 2003
Why do they hate us and love Saddam?

Today's Knight Ridder "news analysis" piece attempts to explain why Saddam Hussein is "an important symbol in the Arab world"

Arab and Muslim anger is rooted in a long history of humiliation, by British colonial rule, by the creation of Israel, by poverty, by the failure of U.S.-backed governments to allow open democratic government and more broadly by the perceived inability of some Arab and Muslim countries to succeed in the modern world.
Let's look at these one at a time to see how well they really explain "Arab and Muslim anger":

1. a long history of humiliation: Yes, in the sense that Osama bin-Laden is chiefly concerned with the "tragedy of Andalucia" that occurred in 1492.

2. British colonial rule: Of course, many countries that have enjoyed British colonial rule (e.g. the United State, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, India) don't worship genocidal maniacs. It's also interesting that only the British are mentioned but not the less enlightened colonial powers such as the French, Italians and Turkish.

3. the creation of Israel: Yes, the violent refusal of the Muslims to tolerate the political autonomy of non-Muslims is well-established.

4. poverty: nonsense

5. the failure of U.S.-backed governments to allow open democratic government: As opposed to all those open democratic governments in the Arab world that are not backed by the U.S.?

6. the perceived inability of some Arab and Muslim countries to succeed in the modern world: As opposed to the fabulous success of the vast majority of Arab and Muslim countries that is somehow underappreciated due to incorrect perceptions?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:15 PM
Baghdad Jim whines, moans

Seattle Congressman "Baghdad Jim" McDermott is whining and moaning about the capture of his erstwhile host and mentor Saddam Hussein. Listen to this clip from this morning's Dave Ross Show as the crazy psychiatrist and Congressman for Life tells his constituents that "we could have arrested Saddam a long time ago", but that the arrest was timed so that Bush could exploit it when he was most in trouble.

UPDATE: The Washington Post has the story.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:01 PM
Der Spiegel whines, moans

Der Spiegel is whining and moaning about the capture of Saddam Hussein:

The Resistance is Tougher Than Saddam

Following the arrest of Saddam Hussein, US agents have arrested other key figures of the Iraqi resistance. Despite this, terrorism experts fear that the resistance against the occupation troops will only grow stronger.

The word they use for "resistance" is Widerstand, the same word commonly used in German to describe, for example, Charles de Gaulle and the French Resistance against the Nazis.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:50 PM
The Truth Uncovered

I am falling out of my chair with anticipation, as my copy of "UNCOVERED: the whole truth about the Iraq war" just arrived in the mail.

Naturally, I'm quite curious to learn the whole truth about the Iraq war. And that's why I paid good money for this video. Naturally, I expect this video to contain the whole truth, otherwise that would be a deceptive business practice known as false labeling with intent to defraud. And I can't imagine that the people who are behind the movie would ever do anything like that.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:49 AM
Slower, but also faster

John Kerry, during the debate over the pending liberation of Iraq, January 23, 2003

I say to the President, show respect for the process of international diplomacy because it is not only right, it can make America stronger - and show the world some appropriate patience in building a genuine coalition. Mr. President, do not rush to war.
John Kerry, on the capture of Saddam Hussein, Dec. 14, 2003
If we had done this with a sufficient number of troops, if we had done this in a globalized way, if we had brought more people to the table, we might have caught Saddam Hussein sooner.
In other words, not only would a "genuine globalized coalition" have enabled Saddam Hussein to stay in power longer, but it also would have enabled us to capture him sooner!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:32 AM
Education Quagmire

The Seattle Times this week has an investigative series on Washington public school coaches who molest students -- and quietly transfer to new school districts, where they continue to teach, coach and molest. The Washington public schools are competing with the Catholic church for the honor of being the nation's largest tax-exempt paedophilia club:

The Times' investigation found that school administrators often conduct cursory inquiries of sexual-misconduct complaints against coaches, and rarely alert police to complaints of sexual abuse — despite a Washington law that says they must do so within 48 hours.

Even when school officials find wrongdoing, they often bow to pressure from the teachers union, handing out mild punishments or none at all.

Yet another reason why the teachers unions should be treated as criminal organizations and prosecuted under the RICO act.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:50 AM
The Palestinian Disappearing Money Act

Representatives from Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Ireland and the European Union are set to file a criminal complaint against Attorney Khader Shkirat, the lawyer for jailed Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti and the former head of LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, which received a hefty amount of funding from these states.

The complaint hints at a host of improprieties and suspicions of criminal wrongdoing and alleges that huge amounts of money were stolen from the organization.
There's nothing newsworthy, you might say to yourself, that a Palestinian "human rights" organization would turn out to be little more than a collection of gun-toting thieves.

The comic relief here is that the criminal complaint was filed with the Palestinian Authority:

One of the delegates told Haaretz, "this is a test for the Palestinian legal system and the representatives of its civil society..."
"the Palestinian legal system"? Please, no wagering.

Meanwhile, the Europeasers are all set to hand over hundreds of millions more dollars to the Peculastinian Authority. It's tempting to say "no questions asked". But that's not the case. Questions were asked. The Europeasers just don't seem to care about the answers.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
December 14, 2003
Separated at Birth
Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:59 PM
Christians in the Holyland

Here's an interesting article about Christian communities in Israel and the disputed territories. While the Christian minority in Israel has enjoyed more freedom and prosperity than other Christian communities in the Middle East, the fate of Christians who would live in a predominately Muslim future Palestinian state is not one that I would envy.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:26 PM
Forensic Dentistry
The image of Saddam Hussein being examined like a homeless drunk arrested for public urination should have a devastating effect throughout the Arab region. Al-Jazeera is showing the photographs. And this article's headline describes Iraqis "dancing in the streets" and the caption of the top photograph says that Iraqis in Nassariya are "celebrating Saddam's arrest".
Such a public humiliation of Saddam should sear into the regional consciousness the failure of Saddamite-style militant Arab nationalism. There are several other Arab tyrants who deserve a similar dental checkup. "Baby Doc" Assad and the entire Saudi royal family come to mind. The Palestinians in particular are in need of some shock therapy:
Disbelief and gloom seized many Palestinians on Sunday at news of Saddam Hussein's capture while Israel, which came under Iraqi Scud missile attack in the 1991 Gulf War, hailed the United States for capturing Saddam.
We must never forget that Palestinian terrorism is not fueled by "despair", but out of a sense of hope that terrorism will destroy Israel. Some more disbelief and gloom are needed to convince the Palestinians that terrorism will only make their own conditions worse. It's a criminal shame that the United States and the "world community" continue to protect Yassir Arafat and Ahmed Yassin from enjoying Saddam's fate which they also deserve.
Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:51 PM
December 12, 2003
Dog Bites Man

Hamas slams Mideast peace moves, vows more attacks

The Islamic militant group Hamas vowed on Friday to resume suicide bombings against Israel as tens of thousands of Palestinians demonstrated against diplomatic efforts to achieve Middle East peace.
Imagine that.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:48 PM
Blame Canada

Canadian native Jennifer Meeks explains why she fled her homeland for the relative freedom, prosperity and superior healthcare of the United States:

Living in Canada made me feel like a barn animal in George Orwell's "Animal Farm." My only worry is that someday the United States will resemble Canada. Sort of like one giant Seattle. That would be my nightmare.
Welcome aboard, Jennifer. You're among friends.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:43 AM
December 11, 2003
All That Meat and No Potatoes

Less than three months ago I weighed 190lbs. Today, thanks to the Atkins Diet, I reached my goal weight of 165. I celebrated by treating myself to a Krispy Kreme Donut. Tomorrow, back to the rigorous maintenance regime of butter, eggs and cheese.

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

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:56 PM
Tupac 101

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports on a University of Washington class dedicated to slain gangster-rapper Tupac Shakur. It reads like a self-parody, but it's actually for real:

Georgia Roberts holds two of the texts that will play a part in a course she’s teaching this fall on the late hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur.


uses Shakespeare's "Hamlet" and Mumia Abu Jamal's "Live From Death Row" to teach her class about revolutionary figures within a stabilized society, something Shakur was considered to be by many before and after his death.
Currently, the course is examining Shakur as a black Jesus figure, a theory popularized by Michael Eric Dyson, a professor of religious studies at DePaul University in Chicago and author of the book "Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur," which Roberts uses in the class.
As a nice Jewish boy, I'm no expert on Jesus, but to the best of my knowledge he was never convicted of sexual assault as was Tupac Shakur.

Hat tip: a friend of the university in Olympia, who observes that "adventures in higher learning like this" do little to help the university's request for more money from the state legislature.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:11 PM
It's not in the P-I

As far as I can tell, today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer does not report on Iraq's massive anti-terrorism protest yesterday. Presumably the P-I doesn't want to interrupt the fairytale that the terrorists who have been slaughtering more Iraqis than foreigners are some sort of a popular anti-colonial resistance movement.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:18 AM
Anti-terrorism Protests in Iraq

Today's Seattle Times carries this report from Knight-Ridder:

Thousands of Iraqis call for end to violence

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Five thousand to 10,000 Iraqis tried to send terrorists a cease-and-desist message yesterday from downtown Baghdad in the biggest demonstration against violence to date.

Chanting "No, no terrorism" and "Yes, yes Islam," they carried photographs of religious leaders and unfurled banners that read "The Iraqis Should Not Forget Palestine."
The Iraqis are doing well to remember the main lesson of Palestine, which is that a society which glorifies terrorism will only remain mired in poverty, corruption and despair.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:39 AM
Pretty Woman

Richard Gere is in Israel, making peace moves with Hanan Ashrawi. But will Gere make an honest woman out of the aging terrorism concubine?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:52 AM
Social Responsibility

Regarding the desire of the dictators of certain "developing" countries to have the UN control the Internet

Hans Klein, chairman of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, said governments are legitimately worried that the U.S. government can suddenly impose policies contrary to their interests. For instance, Klein said, the United States might remove from central databases the domain names for countries deemed sponsors of terrorism, essentially kicking them offline.
That's a pretty funny application of "Social Responsibility".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:45 AM
Palestinian Philately

Another item from this year's fall line of Jew-exterminating Palestinian schoolbooks. The cover of the 2nd grade "National Education" reader includes this picture of a postage stamp from the British Mandate period:

The circled word in the lower right says "Palestine" in Arabic. Fair enough. What is most interesting is what doesn't appear in the lower left.

Here is an actual photo of another stamp from the same series.

This enlargement shows what is missing from the lower left corner of the stamp on the textbook cover

Those are the Hebrew words for "Palestine (Land of Israel)".

Raise your hand if you believe that these Palestinian efforts to obliterate the Jews from history are not meant as a precursor to obliterating the Jews from the present.

More information on the Palestinian schoolbooks may be found at

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
More Disinformation from the Seattle Times

On Tuesday, the Seattle Times editorial page fantasized into existence an entire Middle East peace process. On Wednesday, the Times editorial page fantasized out of existence one of the city's largest ethnic groups. In an editorial about high-school dropout rates ironically headlined The dropout crisis: bring on the clarity, the Times favors obfuscation over clarity:

Native Americans, African Americans and Hispanics drop out at much higher rates than whites.

The first step in addressing the troubling dropout problem is quantifying it with clear, understandable numbers.

I agree that the first step should be to quantify the problem properly. The Times, on the other hand, leaves out the Asians, who comprise 23.1% of the School District's enrollment, making them a larger ethnic group in the schools than African Americans (22.5%), Latinos (11.1%) and Native Americans (2.4%). Asians as a group also have a lower dropout rate than whites as a group (8.7% vs. 9.9% in the most recent year for which I've found data), and the identifiable sub-groups that have the lowest dropout rates of all are the Japanese (2.5%) and Chinese (4.1%).

The Seattle Times consistently maintains the line that there is "a nagging achievement gap between white and minority students", which carries a subtext that institutional racism must somehow be involved . At the same time, the Times consistently ignores the academic success of certain Asian minorities, which on most measures exceeds that of whites. This misplaced emphasis on the artificial story of "whites vs. minorities" diverts attention from addressing the deeper differences between academically successful vs. unsuccessful students that exist across ethnic lines.

(Source: Seattle School District Student Information Services Office)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
December 10, 2003
Experience Time Travel

Have you wanted to take a trip back in time to, say, the year 630 A.D. to see how people lived and to learn what their views and attitudes were? Well, now it's possible! No, there is still no such thing as a time machine, but we have the next closest thing.

Just go to this page and click on the link where it says Start Saudi TV.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:44 PM
Speedy Recovery

Xrlq took a spill off his motorcycle yesterday. He seems to have escaped serious injury, but is still out of commission. Wish him a speedy recovery.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:39 PM
Seattle J.O.A.

The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer are settling their dispute over the Joint Operating Agreement, at least for now. The P-I should stay in business until at least 2007. Certainly, it's better to be a two-newspaper town than to be a one-newspaper town. Competition usually raises the bar for everybody. Unfortunately, the Times and the P-I seem to be competing to see who can put out the silliest editorial page.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:28 PM
Palestinian Authority

From a public opinion survey of Palestinian adults in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, October 26, 2003

Q: In case the Palestinian emergency government and the Palestinian National Security Council issue an order to Fatah organization and to other organizations not directly belonging to the security organs of the Palestinian Authority to hand over their arms for confiscation or destruction purposes. How do you think how Fatah and the other organizations should react?

1.Should they hand –over their arms to be confiscated and destroyed 11.6%
2.Hide their arms 56.2%
3.Not to do anything 32.2%

What's the point of trying to discuss peace with a Palestinian "Authority" that doesn't have any authority to enforce its commitments?

Source: Palestine Center for Public Opinion poll #115, by Dr. Nabil Kukali. Posted on "Your Key to Palestine"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:04 PM
Seattle Times Hallucination Page

I can't imagine how to explain Tuesday's hallucinatory editorial from the Seattle Times. Did someone spike the office coffee pot with LSD? Are their writers sequestered in a sensory deprivation chamber and forbidden to read the news? Are they bored with their jobs and just make this stuff up for the hell of it? Or do they misinform their readers on purpose?

An alternative peace plan making the rounds of the Middle East is opposed by most everyone with the notable exception of the Israeli and Palestinian people.
They are talking about the Geneva "Agreement", which was promoted by the losers of the last Israeli election and which has been soundly rejected by the Israeli people.
Palestinians would concede the right of return for four million refugees.
Such a concession exists only in the Seattle Times hallucinations about the "Agreement". The Palestinians are split on the question of what the "Agreement" actually says. Those who fear that the "Agreement" renounces the "right of return" are shooting at the Palestinians who supported the "Agreement". On the other hand, some of the Palestinians who smiled at the "Agreement" deny that the "Agreement" relinquishes the "right of return".

The most effective remedy after reading such a reality-bending editorial is twofold: (1) Go read what the Israeli people really are saying about the Geneva "Agreement" (start with Tal, Shai and Allison) (2) Send an email to Seattle Times owner/publisher Frank Blethen ( and let him know that printing such nonsense on the editorial page diminishes his newspaper's otherwise fine reputation.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
Education Quagmire

The Seattle teachers' union posed the following question in a survey to candidates in the recent school board election. The answers of the winning candidates (recently inaugurated to the board) follow.

What does accountability mean for teachers? For superintendents? For school board members?
Irene Stewart:
For all three, accountability means saying what you’re going to do, doing it, and then reporting the results of what you did and what you’re going to do in the future. All of the information must be accurate, and if any step is missing then accountability is lacking.
Brita Butler-Wall:
For anyone, accountability means walking the talk--ensuring that your actions are in alignment with your words. Within the district, it means having mechanisms so that those we interface with can help us in this effort. Our 'critical friends' are very valuable to us but are not always perceived this way by the current Board.
Darlene Flynn:
· Agreement with stakeholders about goals and outcomes to be measured
· Development of a strategic plan to get there
· Alignment of resources and implementation of plan
· Collection of feedback on the effectiveness of the plan implementation
· Adjustments to the plan as needed to improve outcomes
Public education is the only sector of the American economy where "accountability" is defined as "permission to fail without consequences".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
December 09, 2003
Here and There, Dec. 9

With fava beans and a nice Chianti: Even the libertarians here at the Shark Blog agree that there are limits to what should be permitted to "consenting adults".

Here is a peek into the rapidly decomposing brain of Noam Chomsky.

No Jewish Need Apply. The United Nations continues to shrug off the problem of rising anti-Semitism, this time with the active complicity of Ireland.

A lesson in life: The best looking babes always go for the best looking guys, even if they still live with their parents. If your looks are merely average, it doesn't matter how charming or successful you are, don't bother to dream about the cheerleader, you can't have her and you'll only get hurt.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:44 PM
Senseless in Seattle

The Seattle City Council voted yesterday to revise the city's taxicab regulations to permit cabbies to drive their taxis wearing costumes.

Some will ridicule this. But it doesn't bother me that the City Council devotes its time to so trivial a matter. Better this than, say, spending large amounts of the taxpayers' money on worthless nonsense, or offering safe harbor to criminal aliens. Besides, anytime a legislature unshackles the people from pointless infringements on their liberties, it can only be a good thing.

On the other end of the spectrum, the newly inaugurated loony-toons members of the Seattle School Board want to tighten the shackles of bondage on the city's children who are trapped in failing schools: They are considering taking a formal position against charter schools.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:30 PM
Bleeding for Dean

Molly Ivins is bleeding with excitement for Howard Dean

No one has been waiting with bated breath for me to make up my mind about the Democratic presidential candidates, but I have, and you might be interested in how I got there. [not really -- Ed.] I'm for Howard Dean -- because he's going to win.
Now there are many valid reasons to support Howard Dean -- if you wanted to leave Saddam Hussein in power, for example; if you believe in executive branch secrecy; or if you want Ted Rall and David Duke to join your team; But supporting Howard Dean because you think he is the Democrat with the best chance of beating George W Bush doesn't make much sense.
The concept of actually winning a political race does not, traditionally, influence the bleeding heart liberal one iota -- certainly not in the primaries.
It's not only Molly's heart that is bleeding on behalf of Dean, but also her brain. She should probably have her head examined. Which is also what psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer says about Dean himself.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:18 AM
Awesome dinner party

Solly Ezekiel attended a dinner party where the guest of honor was Daniel Pipes. Solly gives us a complete debriefing with Pipes' remarks on the War on "Terrorism", the failure of Oslo, modern-day Islamic anti-Semitism and prospects for peace in the Middle East.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
December 08, 2003
Cities in Palestine

This is a page from a 2nd grade Palestinian textbook that is currently in use
The text at top:

There are many cities in Palestine and among them is this city: Al-Quds [Jerusalem] and it is the capital of Palestine
The picture below the text is of the Old City of Jerusalem as viewed from the east, with the skyline of Jewish West Jerusalem in the background. The text continues:
There are other cities in Palestine, for example, Gaza, Khan Younis, Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus, Tulkarm, Jenin, Jaffa, Haifa and many others.
The map below is from the same 2nd grade reader. The title reads "The Palestinian people is part of the Arab Islamic nation".

The yellow patch where Israel is supposed to be is labelled "Palestine" (The word Israel does not appear).
The map at left is from a 7th grade Palestinian textbook called "The Geography of Palestine". The map shows that Palestine includes the Galilean Hills, Haifa, Jerusalem, Beersheba and Ashkelon, as well as well known Arab towns. Tel Aviv is omitted totally.
These maps show that the Palestinians are teaching their children to deny the very existence of Israel. Just one more bit of proof that when the Palestinians talk about "ending the occupation", they are not only talking about Gaza, they are talking about ending the Jewish occupation of every part of Israel.

The textbooks in which these lessons appear carry the legend

“The (Palestinian) Ministry of Education welcomes the support, which it has received from institutions and organizations all over the world. In particular, it would like to thank UNESCO, Arab countries, and other friends, including the governments of Belgium and Italy, for the professional and financial assistance given to further this project.”
Source: EU, which has more examples of textbooks and larger image files from which the above graphics were taken. (The full page images for the above, all very large, are here, here and here).

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:49 PM
Unilateral Peace

The Terrorstinians aren't even capable of cooperating with each other long enough to draft a bogus dog-and-pony-show agreement calling for a temporary recess from Jew-killing, so how could any sane person expect that any "peace agreement" entered into by a Palestinian "government" would ever be enforced? Clearly, no sane person could.

But a couple of recent trial balloons suggest that sane Israelis are contemplating a calculated unilateral withdrawal from portions of the disputed territories. Will enough of the Israeli public get behind such a move? Details have to be worked out, and there will be opponents on both the right and the left, but my sense is that a lot of Israelis would only be too happy to shed themselves of the burden of occupation as long as it's done in such a way that they don't compromise their security in the process.

The Palestinians would wind up with a state by default, (that's their goal, is it not?), but will only find reasons to whine and mewl about it. Since the Palestinians have already done everything within their power to persuade the Israeli middle that the only "peace" they will accept is Israeli national suicide, they might as well just sit in the desert and pound sand.

UPDATE: Tal G. in Jerusalem says he is "still not sure what to make of" the unilateral withdrawal proposal, but is less than enthusiastic :

Obviously, withdrawing without a peace agreement is a form of surrender - noone should pretend otherwise. And it would increase the PA's determination to fight for everything else that they are demanding (ie. Jerusalem, settling millions of Palestinians into pre-1967 Israel, whatever's after that), while in no way reducing international pressure.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:01 AM
The Seattle Times Says Yes! to Corporate Welfare

The Seattle Times is pulling out all the stops to pull in some corporate welfare.

Sunday's unsigned editorial promoting the $500 million dollar Biotech Boondoggle displays the patronizing dishonesty that suggests the hand of Joni Balter:

Stop grumbling, move ahead on S. Lake Union

The populist grumbles about the city of Seattle's support of Paul Allen are unwarranted.

Now I have nothing against Paul Allen, or his plans for a biotech center in the S. Lake Union neighborhood. In fact, I'm delighted that the city council is moving to lift certain zoning restrictions so that Paul Allen can move forward and develop the neighborhood. But I am troubled about spending hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds to subsidize the project. A Times article last week raised some serious questions about an "economic study" commissioned by the mayor in support of the boondoggle. Nevertheless, the editorial page propagates the rosiest scenarios:
South Lake Union would attract some 20,000 jobs over the next two decades, many for Ph.D.s. Retailers, service companies and other providers will benefit, as will landowners (including The Seattle Times Company) and taxing authorities. But the beneficiaries will far exceed the boundaries of the lake.

The infrastructure cost has been pegged at $421 million over 20 years. But that includes $181 million to provide electric service — an amount the new users will pay for through their City Light rates. It is not a subsidy.

Here's the dishonesty: The infrastructure expenses are to be paid no matter what. But nobody knows (a) whether or when there will be enough "new users" of the planned electrical substation to pay off the costs of the investment, and (b) whether or when the "20,000 jobs" will materialize, or more precisely, if the total number of new jobs (as opposed to jobs relocated from elsewhere in the city) attributable to the subsidy will exceed the opportunity cost of jobs lost or not created due to the transfer of wealth from businesses that are productive today.

The Times print edition included a pie chart that showed that only 8% of the funding comes from private sources with the other 92% from a combination of public sources. This clearly suggests that the project is an economic loser that will enrich a lucky few and offer make-work jobs to a few others at the expense of the majority of taxpayers.

The South Lake Union project is the most promising thing going, and the city would be foolish not to pursue it.
Any city official who pursues this "promising thing" is either a tool or a fool, but at least the Seattle Times has just enough honesty to admit its own selfish interest.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
December 07, 2003

David Sharkansky has discovered blueberries.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:39 PM
December 06, 2003
Miserable Failure

Today I saw a news report about "Google bombing":

A search for the phrase "miserable failure" on the search engine Google brings up the biography of President Bush on the official White House Web site, in one of the more prominent search-engine manipulations with political overtones.
Laugh all you want, Dick Gephardt, but I'll bet you a lifetime supply of eyebrow dye that the inhabitant of the White House on January 1, 2009 will be named "Bush" and not "Gephardt".

In any event, anybody care to join me in "Google bombing" the phrase "Lying Liars"?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:52 PM
Inkorporate This

When I was in the sixth grade, I belonged to a municipal baseball league where the teams were known by the names of the sponsoring businesses. One of my classmates, believed to be the dumbest kid in the entire sixth grade, once told me he was on the team sponsored by "Wiedenbeck Ink". He explained that the Wiedenbeck company "makes ink". In fact, Wiedenbeck Inc. has nothing to do with ink.

I recently established a Washington corporation, called "Useful Work, Inc. of Washington". One of the first steps after starting a new corporation is to obtain a tax ID number from the IRS. The confirmation letter I received yesterday from the IRS was addressed to "Useful Work Ink of Washington". Now I'm not saying that everybody who works at the IRS is as dumb as the dumbest guy in sixth grade, but at least one of them is.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:44 PM
Asinine News File

In today's asinine news story from the Ass. Press:

In an interview published Saturday in the German news magazine Der Spiegel, Hamas founder and spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin gave conflicting messages.

"Every day houses are destroyed. Violence does not come just from us. Before this resistance ends, the occupation must be ended," said Yassin.

But when asked if he supported a new cease-fire, Yassin responded more moderately. "The last cease-fire was not respected by the enemy. We will see whether the Israelis now pull out and pay what they owe us," he said

The message is that Yassin is responding "moderately" and reacting only to Israeli unfairness. But the Ass. Press fails to mention other parts of the interview:
"[The Geneva] plan is worse than the Oslo one, because it abandons the right of return for the refugees," [Yassin] said.

The objective of Hamas was to ensure "all Palestinians can live in their homeland, with all religions together: Moslems, Christians and Jews. We are against a Jewish apartheid state on Palestinian soil."

Asked if there was no place at all for a Jewish state, he said, "They could set up a state in Europe."

Yassin's non-negotiable goal is to establish an Islamic theocracy in Tel Aviv and this is what the Ass. Press calls "moderate".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:15 PM
December 05, 2003
Education Quagmire

A sixth-grader in Sammamish, Washington was expelled from school for giving her teacher a poisoned cookie.

The pupil, from Elizabeth Blackwell Elementary School in Sammamish, sprayed the store-bought cookie with dog repellent at home before school, and then replaced it in the box before giving it to the teacher yesterday afternoon
An eight-year-old boy in Mount Clemens, Michigan has been ordered into a sex-offender program:
Authorities said the boy fondled a 7-year-old girl and touched three other 7-year-old girls inappropriately outside their clothing while the children watched "Mary Poppins" at a Mount Clemens school in May.
If the 8-year-old is properly treated, he can escape the fate of the Seattle high-school principal who was "reassigned" after harassing an assistant principal
In the sexual harassment allegations against Odoemene, Williams claimed he repeatedly declared his love for her despite her rebuffs, called her at home and suggested they go to Hawaii together.
Three counselors at a different Seattle high-school were disciplined for making improper changes to student grades, permitting failing students to graduate:
Strict application of the district's 2.0 GPA requirement for graduation could have meant that more than one-fourth of Franklin's students would not graduate, Raymond said.
Which is par for the course, as the number of Washington state high school students who graduate in four years is shrinking
A state report says about 66 percent of Washington students in the class of 2002 graduated four years after starting high school -- a much lower rate than had been reported earlier.
The Washington teachers' union is suing to prevent a pay increase (?!) -- but only because they want a bigger pay increase

But the education quagmire will only get worse, because a state judge declared Colorado's new school voucher law unconstitutional

Opponents of the voucher plan, which budget officials estimated would ultimately take $90 million a year out of the participating districts, argue that the loss of that money and the departure of so many students would undermine the public schools.
When such a large number of clients are expected to opt out of any institution, it's a clue that the institution deserves to be undermined.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
December 04, 2003
It's in the P-I

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is clinging to its own silly delusions in today's editorial, "Clinging to peace and its prospects"

What will it take to bring peace to the Middle East? There's no easy answer, but it requires a global commitment to try, try again.
Actually, the answer is a fairly simple one -- that enough Palestinians choose the path of co-existence with Israel and muster the strength to put down those in their midst who choose the path of genocide. And it doesn't require a "global commitment" to do anything other than to stop supporting the terrorists and their sympathizers.
This week hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians joined Nobel Peace Prize winners in Geneva to promote yet another try, this time an "unofficial peace accord."

This new plan -- a repudiation of Israel's hard-line approach -- says the goal is a two-state solution but asks for global support in negotiating the details.

Funny how the P-I implies that the conflict is caused by "Israel's hard-line approach" when in fact Sharon himself has called for a two-state solution and when the Geneva offer is quite similar to Barak's Camp David offer that was so unassailably fair that the Palestinians who couldn't live with an Israel destroyed the peace process with a barrage of terrorism.
And here in the United States, Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders said they would mobilize 100 million from their congregations for an interfaith Walk the Road to Peace campaign. The group seeks a full Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire agreement as well as the appointment of a highly visible presidential envoy for the region.
The P-I inexcusably fails to mention the role of the indispensable Yoga Community in supporting "Walk the Road to Peace".

It's nice to dream about peace. But as long as the Palestinian community supports a large, determined and unchallenged faction that demands the unconditional destruction of Israel, those who yoga, prance and write foolish editorials for "peace" can only be described as the witting or unwitting promoters of genocide.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is my candidate for the 2003 Robert Fisk Award for Idiotarian of the Year

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:16 AM
Poison Water in Seattle Schools

The drinking water at Seattle's Wedgwood Elementary School is probably poisonous:

Since Wedgwood Elementary parents presented a bottle of sediment-laden, orange water to Superintendent Raj Manhas at a Seattle School Board meeting last month, rumors have swirled about polluted water flowing from the school's drinking fountains
The school's principal says that "no adult at Wedgwood drinks the water" and that
Teachers have refused to drink the water at the school for more than five years.
Nevertheless, the funding to upgrade Wedgwood's water system is not included in the school district's pending capital levy ballot proposal. Not to worry, the district's director of facilities and planning reassures us that
While "there's no question" Wedgwood's water isn't aesthetically pleasing, it's perfectly safe to drink
I will venture two predictions:
1) Seattle School District officials will not be drinking very much of that orange-colored sediment-laden Wedgwood water, no matter how "perfectly safe" it is.
2) Large numbers of Wedgwood parents will vote like good sheeple to approve the capital levy, no matter how badly they're being taken for granted.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
December 03, 2003
Top 10 Signs It's Time to Takeover Your Local Schools

From NPR's Tavis Smiley Show, The Top Ten Signs It's Time to Mount a Hostile Takeover of Your Local School District.

According to civil rights lawyer Connie Rice, all of these incidents really happened:

10. they stop counting college-track kids because the low numbers create bad press.

9. the superintendent orders all school bulletins rewritten in 9th grade English because too many teachers can't understand 12th grade English.

8. the school announces an academic improvement celebration because the reading scores jumped from the 11th to the 14th percentile.

7. the school board, when facing a deficit of $3 million, refuses a grant of $4 million because they don't like the name of the funding statute.

6. the dropout rate is 65% and the district can't tell you where the kids went.

5. two-thirds of black male students are labelled "mentally retarded" and other learning disabled tags.

4. the teachers' union testifies against building new schools because the schedule for over-crowded schools cuts 17 days of classes for which teachers get paid anyway.

3. the school board lays off math and history teachers but fully funds the football team. (this was the same district with the $3 million hole in the budget, see #7)

2. the school district puts the football coach in charge of building a new $200 million high school that turns out to be sited on a toxic waste dump.

1. the teachers' union files a grievance against the Teacher of the Year because he stays at school after hours to tutor struggling kids

Laugh, cry and listen to the whole thing.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:46 PM
Special, as in "special education"

A President John Kerry would appoint a "special ambassador" to the Mideast "peace process". His choices: Jimmy "Final Solution" Carter, Bill "Oslo" Clinton and James "Keep Saddam in Office" Baker

Kerry said American can't neglect its role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Mideast, a breeding ground for terrorist activity. He pledged to appoint a presidential ambassador to the peace process, who would report directly to him and to the secretary of state.

"There are a handful of uniquely qualified Americans I would consider appointing -- President Carter, President Clinton or, in the interests of bipartisanship, James Baker," he said.

If he sends President Clinton to the Mideast it would be a breeding ground for sure.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:39 PM
A Second Marxist Indoctrination

Several years ago in San Francisco I met Tatiana Menaker, a refugee from the former Soviet Union. She recently went back to school, enrolling in San Francisco State University. She recounts her experiences in Front Page Magazine: My Second Marxist Indoctrination

Imagine the astonishment of a person who, after fighting the KGB and being a refusenik, finally comes so close to her dream of receiving a real education instead of indoctrination, only to find herself, once again, in the middle of a socialist brainwashing machine -- but this time in San Francisco.

Unfortunately, at San Francisco State University, meeting with members of the monolithic left-wing faculty, who are still soaked in the delirium of the Marxist-Socialist utopia, is an everyday necessity for the average student.

What follows is both terribly funny and terribly sad. Read the whole thing.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:59 AM
Affordable Housing

While the Seattle Times editorial page deserves all the criticism I heap on it (scroll down or search my archives), it is also home to the best local editorial writer, Bruce Ramsey.

In today's column, Ramsey explains the causal link between Seattle's lack of affordable housing and the city's burdensome regulations on the construction of new housing

That's the Seattle way. We put a regulatory blanket over all construction, then permit exceptions. Our policy indicates that we want housing to be expensive. When people are shocked by the effect on the poor, they raise the flag of compassion, tax property owners and build housing with public subsidy. But new housing is costly, and our subsidy creates only a little of it.
Imagine that!

(The print edition includes a nice graphic that illustrates the fall-off in new construction).

Ramsey concludes:

renters will not be better off until Seattle "progressives" recognize that the interests of renters and builders are roughly the same, and that the best way to make housing more affordable is to let profit-directed people create more of it.
The Times should publish Ramsey more often.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:51 AM
Rules 3 and 6

The Seattle Times editorial page demonstrates at least two of Lozowick's Eight Rules by Which the Media Operates: Rule #3 (don't bother to learn the local language) and Rule #6 (foreign journalists believe they know more than the locals).

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the Times' ecstatic editorial praising the four retired Shin Bet chiefs who gave an interview in the Israeli criticizing Sharon's policies toward the Palestinians. I got a copy of the original Hebrew article, courtesy of Gil Shterzer.

As I suspected, the Times not only missed the mark with their analysis, but they also misreported a number of important details of the interview. For example, the Times indicated that the retired Shin Bet chiefs were calling for an end to assassination of leading militants. In fact, the only discussion of assassinations was the call to carry out the assassinations more discreetly. Similarly, not all the retired chiefs were in favor of dealing with Arafat, and the criticism of the fence had more to do with the specific details of the fence and not of the fence as such. But most importantly, the Times overstimated the significance of the Shin Bet chief's' interview, which seems to have had little traction with the Israeli public -- in spite of the Times prediction that

Predictably, the loudest opponents will be those farthest from the conflict, the most adamant for the fight to continue, and the least tolerant of fresh views.
You'd think that if the Seattle Times really wanted to inform its readers about the meaning of the Shin Bet chiefs interview within the larger context of Israel's internal debate over its security policy, it would welcome contributions from, say, Israeli commentators, such a Hebrew University political science professor? You'd think that, but you'd be wrong! My father e-mailed the Times his comments about their editorial and received no response. Perhaps they thought he was "too close to the conflict" to know what he was talking about, or something like that.

My father's submission follows

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:15 AM
Tough Guys Talk Peace

The following response to a recent editorial was submitted to the Seattle Times by Ira Sharkansky, professor of political science at Hebrew University and author of Coping with Terror: An Israeli Perspective (Lexington Books, 2003).

The Times declined to publish or even acknowledge the submission.

It's a long way from Jerusalem to London, Boston, New York, and Seattle. The internet provides us with daily opportunities to view what leading newspapers say about us. At times I wish for the old days of less convenient communication. What I see from sources I expect to be balanced and intelligent often disheartens and worries me.

My latest disappointment comes from your editorial, “Tough Guys Talk Peace,” praising the criticism of Israeli government policy from four former heads of the General Security Service (Shin Bet).

We saw one of the four former heads on television. He seemed too old for the assignment. The journalist who interviewed him had to finish a number of his sentences. He asserted that he was so long out of office that he could not offer advice to the present incumbent, but then offered some of the standard platitudes as his advice. He said that Israel must think about the needs and feelings of the Palestinians. Another of the four has begun a political career. He was elected head of a Yuppie-populated suburb of Jerusalem where criticism of government policy is conventional wisdom. Yet another has been pursuing his own well publicized peace deal with the head of a Palestinian university.

The present head of the General Security Service argues that the Palestinians have yet to forego a policy of terror, and that Israel must be forceful in protecting its citizens.

What is lacking in the views of otherwise distinguished papers and columnists is a recognition that Israel offered the Palestinians practically all that they demanded in their meetings at Camp David and Taba in the summer of 2000. Instead of pursuing further negotiations, the Palestinian responded with violence.

It is not only leading figures in American and European media who look to Israel to offer more without recognizing that Israel had offered more. What is called the “Geneva agreement” is being promoted by a group of former Israeli office holders with substantial financing from European governments. Their product is a virtual copy of the former government’s offers of the year 2000. While the offer in 2000 then had the support of a thin Israeli majority according to public opinion polls, more recent indications of public feeling—and election results—suggest that the Palestinians will not get another chance to consider what they rejected three years ago. The individuals promoting the relic from the year 2000 include a former foreign minister, a former chair of the Knesset, and a former chair of the Labor Party. They each have been repudiated by their own left of center political party for holding to postures now considered irresponsible.

Israeli centrists who once supported the offer of 2000, as well as those further to the right, want Palestinians to stop using school books that portray all of Israel as Palestine and to stop inciting young people to become suicide bombers. A reasonable demand of the current Israeli government—and the United States—is that Palestinian authorities make an initial step toward peace by acting forcefully against the numerous sources of their violence.

We argue a great deal about what we should—and should not—do for the Palestinians and ourselves. Former officials who oppose policy reflect what is strong rather than what is weak in Israel. A cultural trait of severe self-criticism draws on ancient roots. The Book of Jeremiah describes a chronic dissident who urged soldiers not to resist the Babylonian onslaught, yet was given refuge by the king against officials who wanted him killed as a traitor. With a man like Jeremiah revered as a spokesman of the Almighty, what else can we expect from a handful of former office holders.

Palestinians and other Muslims would profit if they could acquire a greater degree of self-criticism. And if that happens, we Jews can get ready for the Messiah.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:15 AM
The Democrats' Fighting Heroes

Andrew Jackson was a major general in the War of 1812 and became a national hero when he defeated the British at New Orleans.

Davy Crockett gave his life trying to defend the Alamo.

John Lewis led the march at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, risking his life to demand voting rights for the disenfranchised.

And then there's Nancy Pelosi:

Nancy Pelosi capped her first session as House minority leader in the predawn hours of last Saturday by battling Republican leaders to a standstill, forcing them to scramble for three hours before they secured enough votes to pass their historic Medicare bill.
Standing in the way of progress for three whole hours. God, what a woman.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
December 02, 2003
The ACLU has its moments

The ACLU is actually doing something useful

The Washington chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit yesterday on behalf of Medina City Council candidate Katie Phelps. The chapter is asking King County election authorities to count all ballots that have a candidate's name clearly written on them.
In fact, that's the second useful thing the ACLU has done this week.

It's nice to see an organization living up to its name for a change.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:26 PM
Give it to the P-I

Charles Johnson has opened the nominations process for the 2003 Robert Fisk Award for Idiotarian of the Year (Fiskie for short). In Charles' words:

The Idiotarian of the Year Award is devoted to “honoring” the useful idiots of the world; the creatures who are so naive, willfully blind, or astoundingly Ivory Tower brilliant that they aid the causes of dictators, terrorists, communists
Last year's winner was Jimmy "Final Solution" Carter. For this year's award I am pleased to nominate the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. I first championed a Fiskie for the P-I back in August. The P-I has continued to earn this honor every day since then.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:00 PM
Die Endlösung

Jimmy Carter in an interview at the signing of the Geneva "Accord":

"Had I been elected to a second term, with the prestige and authority and influence and reputation I had in the region, we could have moved to a final solution," he said.
By way of Randal Robinson, who observes:
You know, Jimmy, I think that a "final solution" is exactly what Israeli Jews are afraid of.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:24 PM
Right to Exist
I just finished reading Right to Exist: A Moral Defense of Israel's Wars by Ya'acov Lozowick
Lozowick is director of the archives at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust museum. He is an observant Jew, a self-described "liberal humanist, a lover of peace and a seeker of justice", who seeks peace and security for Israel, but recognizes that territorial compromise is necessary. "For decades", in his words, he "had been voting for candidates and parties to leave no stone unturned in their efforts to achieve peace". Twenty years ago he demonstrated against Ariel Sharon and the war in Lebanon. In the first chapter of the book, Lozowick explains the Palestinian betrayal of the peace process that launched the Intifadah of 2000 and how those events persuaded him, reluctantly, to vote for Sharon in 2001.

With that background, the book is a passionate, eloquent and deeply moral defense of Israel's right to exist and its right to defend its existence using appropriate force. The books takes the reader through Israel's history, specifically the history of Arab insistence to nullify the existence of any Jewish homeland.

Much of the book is concerned with the fallacy of Oslo and its inevitable collapse, the ensuing Palestinian violence and the complicity of those in the west who encourage the terrorists. The essence of the conclusion that summarizes the underlying and recurring themes:

Oslo demonstrated what we should never have forgotten: that the will to murder Jews was never the result of oppression and cannot be resolved by removing it. The fact that a sincere offer of peace sent the Palestinians into a paroxysm of violence can be explained only by their fear of its finality, the obligation to relinquish their fantasies in favor of reality, and the inevitablity of becoming responsible for their own destiny within the limits of the possible rather than in their irresponsible dreams.
The collapse of Oslo focused our minds on fundamental facts: this is not a war for settlements or an attempt to deprive Palestinians of their own state; it is a war for the right of Jews to self-determination, in a world that is quite willing to live without them.
Especially helpful for those of us who follow the media closely is the chapter titled "Immoral Decisions: The Bad Faith of Israel's Detractors", which gives the "eight rules by which journalists operate, six of which often give false results". e.g,
Third rule: Foreign languages are unimportant and a dedicated journalist can find out what is going on without them. This aspect of the journalistic mind reflects a combination of arrogance and laziness. Only rarely does a foreign journalist posted to the Middle East know either Arabic or Hebrew and certainly not both.
Sixth rule: Good journalists know better than natives, whose antics they observe with cool detachment. The natives, being totally submerged in their subjective perspectives, cannot pull themselves out of their dramas by their own shoelaces, but we the reporters, and you our readers, know better. This superior knowledge allows us to preach to the natives, even though they will not listen.
As we say in the blogosphere, read the whole thing. Or buy it as a holiday gift for those who are interested in the Middle East, whether sympathetic to Israel or the Palestinians or questioning both sides. The style is engaging and the book is nuanced, realistic and persuasive; passionate without being polemical and moral without being preachy. Only the most dyed-in-the-wool opponents of Israel will come away from this book without a clearer sense of the situation and what is at stake.

Major book reviews for Right to Exist include National Review and the New York Times. The New York Times also has the book's first chapter.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:10 PM
The Good Fence

Arafat is terrified of Israel's security fence

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has told the United Nations on Monday that Israel was threatening to end chances for a Middle East peace by insisting on building a barrier cutting deep into West Bank land.
Well of course, because the only peace that Arafat contemplates is a peace without Israel and the fence diminishes that possibility.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:31 AM
It's in the P-I

Today's editorial in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says that

The conflict with Iraq has taken on a multilateral flavor -- at least in the morgue.

This weekend brought the deaths of seven Spaniards, two Japanese, two South Koreans and a Columbian. These deaths come on top of those of 19 Italians and 14 others two weeks ago and those killed in the United Nations headquarters bombing.

True enough. But the P-I fails to mention the scores of Iraqis who have also been killed by the insurgents. When one looks at all the slaughter committed in the name of fighting the "American-led occupation", one should conclude that the insurgents' goal is the reimposition of a brutal dictatorship in Iraq, no matter who they kill in the process.

The P-I's solution:

The Bush administration should enlist the United Nations in finding a swift and legitimate way to return political power in Iraq to the Iraqis
The United Nations' reaction to the murder of its representatives was to retreat. If the UN had a larger role and was again attacked, who seriously thinks it would not surrender as quickly as possible to whomever attacked it? Yes, the UN would swiftly "return political power in Iraq to the Iraqis", not to the best Iraqis, but to the most vicious ones.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:14 AM
December 01, 2003
Geneva 'Accord' Round-up

The Ass. Press finally gets the scare quotes right with this headline: Mideast Activists Launch Peace 'Accord' .

'Accord' because it has no legs. As Charles Krauthammer puts it

This is all rather peculiar: The agreement is being signed not by Israeli and Palestinian officials, but by two people with no power.

On the Palestinian side, the negotiator is former information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, who at least is said to have Yasser Arafat's ear.
The Israeli side, however, is led by Yossi Beilin, a man whose political standing in his own country is so low that he failed to make it into Parliament. After helping bring his Labor Party to ruin, Beilin abandoned it for the far left Meretz Party, which then did so badly in the last election that Beilin is now a private citizen.

There is a reason why he is one of Israel's most reviled and discredited politicians. He was the principal ideologue and architect behind the "peace" foisted on Israel in 1993. Those Oslo agreements have brought a decade of the worst terror in all Israeli history.

Now he is at it again. ... Moreover, this "peace" is entirely hallucinatory. It is written as if Oslo never happened. The Palestinian side repeats solemn pledges to recognize Israel, renounce terror, end anti-Israel incitement, etc. — all promised in Oslo.

Israeli businessman David Frankfurter says it's Time to voice a little skepticism
I have avoided commenting on the Geneva Accords because, regardless of what I think of the process, anything which has a chance of bringing peace should be encouraged.
The document itself goes further than any proposal to date - for both sides. I leave the Palestinian side for them to discuss - but I note that the proposal requires us to give up the sovereignty of the Temple Mount, dismantle settlements and withdraw to the indefensible 1967 borders, and rely on the promises of a new Palestinian State to limit its arms purchasing, dismantle and control its terrorist infrastructure and govern its own borders from all aspects. In short - declare defeat in the current war, and give the Palestinians everything that they have not been able to achieve by force.
Frankfurter observes that "the Swiss government seems to be a hidden financial sponsor of the process and its publication." Ah, those neutral Swiss.

Jimmy Carter, not always very good at counting votes, went to Geneva to sprinkle some Peanut Oil on the 'Accord' and declared:

"It is unlikely that we shall ever see a better foundation for peace," said Carter, after receiving a standing ovation from a packed Geneva conference hall. "The people support it. Political leaders are the obstacle to peace."
Some people support it but the political leaders who don't support it may in fact be acting on the wishes of their domestic majorities who don't.

Ha'aretz, almost as excited as Jimmy Carter, declares: Narrow gap seen between Geneva deal's supporters and detractors. In fact, the results of the Ha'aretz poll of Israelis were as follows:

Oppose the Accord: 38%
Support the Accord: 31%
No opinion/Unaware: 31%
Actually, about 22% more oppose than support, and if the undecided split like the decideds, the margin of defeat would be 55% - 45%, which is a pretty decisive rejection.

Furthermore, only 25% believe that the "final peace deal" will resemble the Geneva 'accord', while 22% believe that the "final peace deal" will be different and 32% believe that "there will be no final peace deal".

Finally, 52% of those polled believe that Sharon's performance has been "very good" or "fairly good" while 41% believe that it has been "terrible" or "fairly terrible".

If Jimmy Carter dedicates his life to promoting democracy around the world, why is he having such a good time disparaging the democratic choices of Israelis voters and their still-popular elected officials? Never mind, you don't have to answer that.

For all the Israeli rejection of the Geneva "Accord", the discussion has been civil. Among the Palestinians, on the other hand, the desperate and oppressed who view the Geneva "Accord" as an unfair compromise in that it would postpone the dream of chucking the Jews into the water, have no alternative but to express their dissent the Palestinian way:

Many in Fatah oppose the accord because it states that the Palestinians must give up their demand for large numbers of refugees to return to Israel. In return, Israel would grant the Palestinians sovereignty over the Temple Mount, except for the Western Wall.

On Sunday, some 200 demonstrators attacked negotiators on their way to the signing ceremony at the Rafah crossing shouting "traitors" at the Palestinian dignitaries.

They blocked the road near the crossing into Egypt and beat and kicked the Palestinian negotiators as they emerged from their cars. Unarmed Palestinian policemen intervened and restrained the demonstrators.

Last week gunmen from Fatah fired shots at the home of former PA minister and Arafat confidant Yasser Abbed Rabbo, who led the negotiations that led to the symbolic peace accord.

Imagine that.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:12 PM
More Fiction on the Seattle Times Editorial Page

The Seattle Times editorial page, whose self-declared mission is:

To be the most respected editorial voice in the Northwest
To be a forum for community dialogue and learning.
Today brings us in lieu of respectable editorial dialogue and learning, another piece of humorous fiction from Molly Ivins. Ivins is worried that the FBI is "targeting peace groups"
Now, of the various menaces faced by our republic, I must admit peace groups are not high on my list. A motley assortment of vegetarians, Unitarians, Quakers, miscellaneous pacifists, unclassified idealists, sweet damn fools, followers of Gandhi and Dr. King, and some others I suspect are far ahead of the rest of us both morally and politically.
In fact, if you read the actual news reports whose ink fumes Ivins apparently only inhaled, you will see that the FBI is not targeting "peace groups", but that
FBI officials said in interviews that the intelligence-gathering effort was aimed at identifying anarchists and "extremist elements" plotting violence, not at monitoring the political speech of law-abiding protesters.
Oh. Ivins also believes that
Some peace people also use civil disobedience as a tactic. For those who need a refresher course, civil disobedience -- as opposed to just getting arrested at a demo -- is deliberately breaking a law you consider unjust and being prepared to pay the legal penalty for doing so. Those engaging in civil disobedience do not attempt to avoid or evade arrest, they go willingly, often limply, and stay in jail singing "Kumbayah" as long as the law prescribes. Not a public menace.
First of all, many of the self-appointed "peace protesters" (more accurately, the "keep Saddam in office" folks) have damaged property and assaulted police officers. And those who deliberately try to get arrested under the pretence their actions are "non-violent" are indeed acting as a public menace. They choose to obstruct the movement and activities of innocent people and they endanger public safety by diverting police attention from other crimes.
Since when have one's constitutional rights depended on one's political opinions? I have news for the Bush administration: This country is a free speech zone. There are no zoning ordinances that apply to our rights. Freedom is a beautiful thing, and it is fantastic to come to a country where people are free to express their views. Let us give thanks.
Yes, Molly Ivins, it is fantastic to live in a country where you can get your column published in dozens of newspapers no matter how silly your opinions or specious your arguments, and where the only resistance you encounter is from guys like me, who point out your fallacies and ask you to try harder to be more honest.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:17 PM
It's in the P-I

Mark Trahant, editorial page editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has lately been using his Sunday column to act humble, apologize to his readers and/or justify the various silly things his editorial page publishes during the rest of the week. In yesterday's column he gives us a howler of a defense for publishing Ted Rall's emetical comic strip.

A number of readers have complained about the P-I's Saturday Spin and syndicated cartoonist Ted Rall.

Rall's humor is biting. It's outrageous satire -- and completely unbelievable. He's drawn Bush as a generalissimo, a dictator and warmonger. He's made fun of terrorists. And, most important for our conversation here, he is a sharp critic of Israel and its policies.

Does he go too far?

Literally, yes. But peel back and look for the point and it's not hard to uncover.

Rall's work suggests that Israel, in order to survive, must change its policies. He's written about this in addition to his cartoons.

"Anyone who has visited the Middle East can't help but be impressed by the energy, intelligence and resolve of the Israeli people. An end to American subsidies would force them to deal with such longstanding structural problems as high unemployment, systemic constitutional tensions and demographic trends that threaten to turn their country into a Jewish state with a Jewish minority," Rall wrote recently. "Independence from Washington doesn't have to lead to Arafat's fantasy of pushing Israel into the sea. A cut in U.S. subsidies could be phased out gradually, perhaps over the next 10 years. More important, the U.S. should sign a mutual defense treaty committing to come to Israel's aid in the event of an invasion. Independence shouldn't equal abandonment, and support shouldn't equal international welfare."

I too look forward to the day when Israel isn't dependent on the largesse of its only friend in the "international community" to
protect it from being annihilated by the 300,000,000 oil-rich Arabs that surround it. But the most serious complaints that the P-I received about Ted Rall and his commentary on Israel were NOT about the words quoted above, but about this cartoon which makes the false and outrageous accusation that Israel's desire is to commit genocide:

See Jim Miller's commentary (here and here) where he references the above cartoon and quotes a private e-mail from Trahant that indicates very clearly what the concerns over Rall were about:
Thank you for the note. For the record, folks have noticed. I had a morning meeting last week with a variety of pro-Israel and Jewish community groups specifically to talk about the cartoon because they saw it as offensive.

I learned a lot from the meeting and even there are times we disagreed, I came away with a great deal of respect for their view of the cartoon.

Sorry, Mark, restoring credibility does not come from acting humble while pulling a fast one. It comes from dealing honestly with readers' concerns.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:06 PM
More on "The Law"

A few readers, including some of my favorite blog pals, disagreed with my endorsement of non-compliance with the Seattle Monorail car tax (see my entries and reader comments here and here). "The law is the law, you have to obey it" some wrote (I paraphrase) and/or "the election was won fair and square. If you don't like the outcome, you can work to change it, in the meantime, comply with it".

Let's step back for a second and ask ourselves what the outcome of an election means in practice and whether or not the natural state of affairs is for people to comply with laws simply because they are laws.

The fundamental political principle of our society is that our government derives its "just powers", as the Declaration of Independence puts it, "from the consent of the governed". Elections, legislative actions and court rulings are useful tools to establish the "consent of the governed", but they are only part of the story. Such actions create formal laws, fill offices and establish procedures, but the de facto rules by which our society is run are established by, well, the consent of the governed -- i.e. (a) compliance with each specifc law and (b) the political will to enforce each law. This consent is not just granted at the ballot box and maintained until the next election, but is renewed every day by individuals complying with laws and by governmental agencies enacting sanctions against those who violate the laws.

Those who hector that we must follow the law because it is the law are being naive and/or hypocritical, but certainly self-defeating. Do you always obey the speed limit, because it's the law? Did you never drink beer as a 20-year-old college sophomore, because it was against the law? Do you always file withholding taxes for people who perform domestic services in your home, because it's the law? If you're gay, did you eschew sodomy when it was illegal, because it was against the law? Perhaps. But most folks pick and choose all the time which laws to follow and when to follow them, and when to disregard them.

Yes, if we disagree with a law we should work within the formal political sphere to repeal it. But as long as the political will to enforce the law exceeds the will of individuals to violate the law, the law is unlikely to change. In other words, the widespread breaking of laws is very often a necessary precursor to a change in the law. Otherwise, the momentum to change the law formally is unlikely to exist. Some wrote that, why yes, in the case of, say, abolishing racial segregation, breaking the law is justified. I agree. But take a look at many other examples.

Anti-sodomy laws. The 55-mph speed limit. Prohibition on alcohol. These laws were not overturned by massive compliance supported by letters to one's elected representatives. They were overturned by widespread refusal to obey the laws. Then there is immigration. Many people say they support tough laws and measures against illegal immigrants, but we still have millions of aliens living and working in this country illegally, and by extension millions of Americans who hire them, rent housing to them and otherwise interact with them without reporting them to the authorities. Likewise, governmental bodies at all levels either tacitly or explicitly decline to enforce immigration laws. Immigration laws exist on the books, but with widespread refusal to comply and enforce, these laws have withered away in practice and will ultimately be rewritten.

At the same time, electoral outcomes alone do not always translate into a de facto change in the effective rules of governance. In 1994 California voters approved Prop. 187 by a large margin, intending to deny social services to illegal immigrants. Those with the greatest stake in maintaining such services filed lawsuits and the law was never implemented. In 2002 San Francisco voters overwhelming approved the "Care not Cash" initiative, which would change the way services are delivered to the homeless. Lawsuits were filed and the law was overturned. Similarly, other voter initiatives in California and Washington ending affirmative action and ending bilingual education were largely but incompletely implemented, as some public universities and school districts chose to challenge the will of the voters. In other words, the will of the voters was either completely or partly set aside, because the political will to challenge the outcome exceeded the political will to keep fighting to maintain it.

Interest groups with a large amounts at stake over a law they don't like have an incentive to dedicate the resources to challenge the law. Large numbers of individuals each of whom have only a small stake in the law do not have the same economic cost-benefit analysis and cannot realistically be expected to devote the required amount of time, money and energy to fight for (against) the laws they voted to enact (oppose). Resistance by lawsuit is the optimal strategy for some. Resistance by non-compliance is the optimal strategy for others.

The Monorail car tax does not rise to the level of civil rights issues such as racial segregation and anti-sodomy laws. On the other hand, I see an important principle at stake here. Imposing the financial burden for the Monorail on automobile owners (especially those who cannot use the Monorail to replace automobile trips) is both dumb and unfair. Maintaining this tax will only encourage the imposition of more dumb and unfair taxes in the future. We already have plenty of other dumb and unfair taxes, but this one is both particularly egregious and relatively easy to avoid. Those who believe in supporting the Monorail by paying the tax should by all means do so. Those who oppose the Monorail tax but pay it anyway are not upholding civic virtues. They are only wasting their money and postponing, rather than hastening, the demise of an ill-conceived public project.

Worse than that, those who choose to abide by laws they know to be bad are dampening the flame that preserves our free society. In the words of Thomas Jefferson:

what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:41 PM