February 29, 2004

Jean-Bertrand Aristide has fled Haiti. It's not clear where he will go, nobody seems to want him. The following was mentioned toward the end of the article:

President Bill Clinton sent 20,000 troops to restore Aristide [in 1994] but insisted he respect a constitutional term limit and step down in 1995.

Aristide hand-picked his successor, Rene Preval, but was considered the power behind the scenes until he won a second term in 2000. Those elections were marred by a low turnout and an opposition boycott.

Hmmm. Unilateral military action to install a failed leader who didn't even respect American wishes. And I was getting ready to blame the Haitian crisis on Bush's "go-it-alone foreign policy".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:32 AM
What Left-Wing Anti-Semitism?

Ian McCartney, the chairman of Britain's Labour Party, last night described a Jewish leader of the opposition Conservative Party as a "Fagin".

This 21st century Fagin will pick the pockets of Scotland's pensioners by abolishing the pension credit and then plan for a new generation of poor pensioners by abolishing the second state pension.
McCartney claimed the comment wasn't intended to be anti-Semitic. Perhaps not. And here is how Charles Dickens described the character "Fagin the Jew" in Chapter 9 of Oliver Twist:
the Jew stepped gently to the door: which he fastened. He then drew forth: as it seemed to Oliver, from some trap in the floor: a small box, which he placed carefully on the table. His eyes glistened as he raised the lid, and looked in. Dragging an old chair to the table, he sat down; and took from it a magnificent gold watch, sparkling with jewels.

'Aha!' said the Jew, shrugging up his shoulders, and distorting every feature with a hideous grin.

Presumably Dickens didn't intend that to be anti-Semitic either.

Meanwhile, the "S-word" seems to be staggeringly popular in Western Africa.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
February 28, 2004
Dot.Com Peace Plan

The other day I mentioned Jason Alexander's sitcom actor Middle East peace plan, aka George Costanza's Peace Plan About Nothing.

Now that I've seen the sponsoring organization's website -- http://www.silentnolonger.org/ -- I realize it's the "Dot.Com Peace Plan", as it has all the elements of one of those fluffy and unsustainable dot.com bubble companies ca. 1999 -- e.g.
(1)an overachieving founder with an impressive resume in unrelated areas but little understanding of the target customer and no other essential qualifications to succeed in the task at hand

(2) a business plan that has no basis in reality

(3) an insane belief that Internet technology will solve an age-old problem

(4) an overdesigned website that has Flash animation but doesn't otherwise work very well

(5) a window-dressing advisory board and an executive team which they formally call the "The Team",

(6) a list of strategic "partners" who don't add any value


(7) at best polite comments, but few real-world customers who are actually buying.

Also like the 1999 dot.coms the Dot.Com Peace Plan has convinced itself that it has strategic alliances with entities that are really competitors, and who really are only looking for a hostile takeover. Should the Dot Com Peace Plan ever be seriously funded, it would do like most of the 1999 dot.coms and turn into another "Dot Bomb". And Israel would end up on fuckedcountry.com

UPDATE: I discover that not all of the above links into the Dot.Com Peace Plan web site bring up the pages that they were meant to. See ( 4) above.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:45 PM
Syria's Swedish Nukes?

Der Spiegel reports that Swedish authorities and the CIA are investigating the possibility that a Swedish technology company has been secretly and illegally supplying nuclear capabilities to Syria.

Between 1999 and 2002, a now closed Swedish nuclear facility, "Ranstad Mineral" had been importing radioactive waste from the German Hanau nuclear plant for reprocessing in order to extract uranium. Technicians had been sent from Syria to train on the project. During this period, a few grams of plutonium that originated from the German plant mysteriously disappeared from Ranstad Mineral's inventory [some of this had apparently been illegally dumped but questions remain].

Meanwhile, the Swedish company "Meab" has built a plant in the Syrian city of Homs, publicly described as a "fertilizer factory", but which is suspected by western intelligence of being a center of WMD development. One red-flag: the "fertilizer factory" is operated by the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission, (SAEC). Another red flag: the "fertilizer factory" is said to be similar in construction to the Ranstad Mineral uranium extraction facility.

Meab's chief executive, Dr. Hans Reinhardt, claims his company's only connection to Syria really does involve fertilizer and/or the "food industry" and that he doesn't know what "SAEC" stands for. This stretches credulity, as this page on Meab's website would suggest.

UPDATE: The Der Spiegel article was largely sourced from the following two articles from the Stockholm daily Expressen: here and here. Mårten Barck has a translation of one here and quotes the other (see Watch, Feb. 28).

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:30 AM
Germany's Opinion of America

A recent public opinion poll of German attitudes toward the United States reveals that 71% of Germans consider America's conduct in the world to be "inconsiderate and egotistical". Only 20% of those surveyed agree with the statement that "The USA is the only power that can settle conflicts in trouble spots". At the same time, a spokesman for the ruling Social Democrats says:

I am absolutely certain that the Chancellor will stick to his position that no German soldiers will be going to Iraq
About half of those surveyed have
doubts about the United States'' ability to solve international problems while it still has so many unsolved internal problems
Meanwhile, unemployment in the "sick man of Europe" is upwards of 11% (nearly 20% in the former Communist east). The American unemployment rate, by comparison, is 5.7% and falling, unlike Germany's, which is still rising.

The German government's solution to the unemployment crisis is an online "Virtual Job Market", currently a major scandal for its fabulous cost overruns with allegations of peculation: EU 114.6 million (US $143 million ) and climbing. I don't know how many people are going to find jobs at Virtual Job Market either. The font is so small it's unreadable!

Not that I feel any Schadenfreude for a country that has insoluble internal problems and is also ineffectual on the world stage.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:00 AM
February 27, 2004
Howard Dean Cargo Cult

The Howard Dean people are holding a rally in Seattle tomorrow, Feb. 28.

Washington state backers of Howard Dean have scheduled a rally at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Westlake Center, the site of Dean's biggest crowd of his campaign. Congressman Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, a Dean backer, is billed as the headliner for the event.

The rally is designed in part to remind voters in Super Tuesday states that they can vote for Dean even though he has suspended his campaign.

The original South Sea cargo cults saw that when westerners built air strips on their islands, airplanes filled with cargo soon arrived. After the westerners departed, the natives kept building new airstrips with the expectation that it would cause more cargo planes to arrive. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out the similarities to Howard Dean's Seattle fan club.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:16 AM
Palestinian Lack of Authority

The Palestinian Authority appears to be disintegrating, and so is its chairman, Yasser Arafat:

During Thursday's meeting, Arafat security aide Nasser Yusouf expressed doubt in regard to the effectiveness of Palestinian security forces as long as there is no reform in the security bodies. According to the report, Arafat hurled a microphone at Yusouf, while the security aide threw a pen at the PA Chairman in response. The two exchanged a series of curses, with Arafat ultimately leaving the meeting.
Arafat's days are numbered. Even a terrorist leader requires equanimity in order to project authority.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
Good News from the Education Quagmire

Here's the sort of education story we like to see -- Matt Rosenberg's profile of Charlie Hoff, School Board vice president in Federal Way, WA. Hoff is a rare school official who can both speak honestly about the problems facing public education and also offer effective solutions:

[Hoff] says that nationally, it's going to be "hell" meeting tough new federal and state achievement-testing standards because junior-high schools and high schools have become "juvenile social halls," and most educators — while well-intentioned — have given up.

Too much of the school day is wasted, says Hoff. He's right.

Beyond the frequent interruptions of bells, loudspeakers and messengers, there's the sacred cow of high-school athletics, which steals additional time and warps priorities. Worse, many schools downplay the basics to teach about diversity, character, drugs, sex, fitness and diet. All are important. Yet why can't parents provide these lessons at home?

But Hoff has a response
The charter-like Federal Way Public Academy is part of the blueprint for success, Hoff says. This junior high follows a rigorous college-prep model. Forty percent of the 280 students are non-white; entrance is by lottery. Core subjects are limited to English, math, science and social studies. Then come computers and foreign language. Athletics are non-existent.
And the school is showing good results. Read the whole thing.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
February 26, 2004
North Korea for Kerry

If you thought Canada for Clark was meddlesome, how about North Korea for Kerry:

North Korea has never had a real election, doesn't believe in democracy and wouldn't dream of putting the political fate of "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il in the hands of ballot-wielding commoners. But it does have an election strategy — as far as the United States is concerned.

The regime in Pyongyang, analysts say, is rooting for virtually anyone other than George W. Bush to be the next U.S. president.That's why many observers are expecting little progress at the six-party talks aimed at halting North Korea's nuclear program that started yesterday in Beijing.

The Norkies are undoubtedly using the time they're waiting for the Kerry Administration in order to advance their nuclear program. If John Kerry can do this much to damage to our national security when he's merely a candidate, just imagine how dangerous he'd be if he were ever to become President.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:25 PM
Kangaroo Court

The Israeli Foreign Ministry released this statement regarding this week's proceedings at the International Kangaroo Court of "Justice" in the Hague:

The suicide bomber who blew up the number 14 bus in Jerusalem yesterday, murdering 8 people, and wounding more than 50, was a member of Yasser Arafat's own Al Aksa martyrs brigade.

Could anything be more shameful than recruiting, inciting, and paying the murderer of 8 children - students, parents, the brother-in-law of Israel's commercial attache here in the Hague? Could anything be more shameful than that?

And the answer is yes, there is something more shameful: To do all this and then come to the city of The Hague, to ask the United Nation's Court of Justice to censure the victims of terror for trying to defend themselves. To come to the 'Palace of Peace', to the 'Court of Justice', on the very morning that the victims are being buried and mourned, murdered by Arafat's own henchman, to attack Israel for building a fence which might have saved their lives.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:22 PM
Crayon Diversity Award
Today's Crayon Diversity Award goes to the Washington State Senate, for unanimously passing this bill, which institutionalizes the stereotype equating skin color with economic status
WHEREAS, A disproportionate burden of disease, disability, and death exists among people of color in the state ...
The proposed solutions include:
Consider opportunities to improve health status of people of color by addressing barriers to culturally and linguistically appropriate health care and health education materials and practices, including a review of opportunities to increase the number of minority health providers in the state through development of career ladder, expanded recruiting, education, and retention programs, so the entire health work force more closely mirrors the people they serve;
Is the Senate suggesting that black and Asian employees of say, Microsoft, have less adequate health care than their white colleagues? And what about that serious physician shortage in overwhelming white rural Washington?

As far as proposing that health care providers "closely mirror the people they serve" -- this seems to suggest that world-class neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson should restrict his practice to black folks, and that all those life-saving immigrant country doctors from South Asia should be replaced with native-born Americans. I hope that's not what the Senate is proposing, but I fear that it would be the inevitable consequence.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:03 PM
British Spying on the UN

Former British cabinet Minister Clare Short claims that the British government spied on UN chief Kofi Annan.

The BBC's Nick Assinder (no really, that's his name) asks the rather lopsided question: Have Short's spy claims hurt Blair?. Why start with the assumption that spying on this collection of criminals and bigots is a bad thing?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:27 AM
February 25, 2004
Public Non-disclosure

Armen Yousoufian e-mails this description of last week's oral arguments in the Washington Supreme Court trial of his public disclosure lawsuit against King County:

The county's attorney conceded virtually every issue, and at times there was open laughter and open snickering from the audience toward the King County senior prosecutor presenting the case for King County. It was a stunning display of admissions of gross negligence, the withholding of documents, bungling, lack of training, incompetence, etc. The King County prosecutor even volunteered that he thought the case merited higher fines. One Supreme Court Justice commented from the bench on how much the County's lawyer was agreeing with the case against his client! All of us who watched the display were in awe - the King County attorney acted like he had nowhere to hide, nowhere to run. He acted nervous and was poorly prepared.
Whether the county presents an effective defense or an inept defense in this case, either way it's a lousy use of the public's money.

More Non-Disclosure

In a different public disclosure case, this one regarding Gov. Locke's sweetheart deal with the Boeing Corporation, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation emailed last night:

At 5:29 p.m. this evening, two days before a public records court hearing and 15 hours before a legislative hearing to determine the supplemental Capitol budget, the state released details of a multi-million-dollar, 40,000-square-foot, taxpayer-funded employee training center for Boeing. The state will be required to pay all fees and costs associated with building, operating, maintaining, repairing, replacing and equipping the facility... Boeing “will have exclusive use of the ERC for at least five years” and will have first rights to use the facility in the years following if the company chooses
These details had been withheld by the governor's office for several weeks on the grounds that they were Boeing's "trade secrets", and more such "trade secrets" are still being withheld.

I feel obligated to mention that Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial front-runner Christine Gregoire is arguing against full public disclosure in both of the above court cases.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:45 PM
What Liberal Academia?

Today's L.A. Times has a terrific profile of Victor Davis Hanson. The piece is quite favorable to VDH, but mentions that he is not without his critics:

Prominent colleagues in classics accuse him of putting scholarship in the service of neoconservative, bellicose politics.

"Hanson is a very skillful scholar who made some major contributions," said W. Robert Connor, a retired Princeton University classicist. "What makes me nervous is that over time, the political agenda in his work has become stronger and more evident. I worry that the scholarly talent has become subservient to the political."

Thank God we aren't seeing very many left-wing professors making their scholarship subservient to their political agenda.

Hat tip: LGF

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:13 PM
Food not Bombs

Israeli security forces raided Palestinian banks today, confiscating 20 million Shekels (US $4.5 million) in cash. The money had apparently been donated by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah to fund terrorist attacks, including the two recent bus bombings in Jerusalem.

Israeli security sources said the seized money would be used to fund Palestinian humanitarian projects.
But the Palestinian Authority is unhappy about the redeployment of funds from genocide to social services:
"This is destructive to the Palestinian economy and people are really worried," Erekat said.
I'm waiting for the Food Not Bombs people and others to applaud Israel's contributions to Palestinian humanitarian projects.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:36 AM
It's in the P-I

Today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a guest editorial from Peter Lippman, identified as "independent human rights researcher": Barrier violates international law

This week the International Court of Justice is meeting at The Hague to consider the legality of the "separation wall" that Israel is building in the West Bank. During the hearings, more than a dozen governments are presenting statements against the barrier. While the court's non-binding conclusions will not change the course of the wall, the structure is indeed in violation of international law, and it should be removed.
on the other hand,
Last weekend's suicide bombing on a Jerusalem bus was horrific, a crime in its own right. But this act cannot be taken as proof of the need for a wall. Together with other ongoing Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians, the wall forms a trap that only leads to more despair and thus more revenge.
So building a defensive wall is a "violation of international law", but genocide is brushed off as a "crime" that is anyway explained by Israel's self-defense?

Lippman goes on to allege that the defensive wall "violates the Fourth Geneva Convention". But he chooses not to mention that bombing a commuter bus also violates the Geneva Convention.

A two-minute google search discovers that Peter Lippman is actually an ISM activist. He's not an "independent human rights researcher". He's on the other side.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:39 AM
February 24, 2004
"blog democrat"


Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:46 PM
Education Quagmire

A sixth-grader in Belpre, Ohio has been suspended for bringing the Sports-Illustrated swimsuit issue to school, on the grounds that it violated the

school's policy on nonverbal harassment and possession of lewd or suggestive material, Superintendent Tim Swarr said
Swarr added that "he had never seen SI's swimsuit edition before".

Superintendent Swarr's other reading material doesn't look all that exciting, so I'd be willing to bet that he'll be tempted to take a peek at the SI swimsuit issue again sometime.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:19 PM
Sitcom Peace Plan

Seinfeld's Jason Alexander, Friends' Jennifer Aniston, Taxi's Danny DeVito and Cheers' Rhea Perlman are all backing a new Mideast peace plan.

The "One Voice" campaign, backed by Alexander and several other Hollywood celebrities, seeks to gauge the feelings of ordinary Palestinians and Israelis on core issues in the conflict through an Internet referendum.
Didn't ordinary Israelis already have their feelings gauged in a referendum about core issues in the conflict?

I predict that the George Costanza peace plan will come to be known as "The Peace Plan About Nothing"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:59 AM
Budget Funnies

The Washington state legislature has just put two proposed supplemental budgets on the table, one from the Democrat-controlled House, another from the Republican-controlled Senate. Each proposal is 100+ pages long, here are just a few of the more entertaining highlights:

The House version allocates $231,000 to Violent Video Games Litigation:

In 2003, the Legislature enacted the violent video game statute ... which prohibits the sale or rental of video or computer games to minors where the player causes physical harm to a human form depicted as a law enforcement officer. The Video Software Dealers Association filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Count challenging the statute as unconstitutional.
Uh, maybe because it really is unconstitutional.

The House wants to spend $330,000 on an Asparagus Technology Study

for research and development activities related to asparagus harvesting and automation technology.
Sadly, no new money to find a cure for asparagus pee (see below)

The House also wants to give away capital equipment to agribusiness, spending $3,000,000 on

the purchase of agricultural products packing equipment. The department shall negotiate an appropriate agreement with the agricultural industry for the use of the equipment.
And I'd like a free flat-panel display for my office. Who do I call?

The most offensive item in the House budget is an additional $358,000 to Evergreen State "College" (on top of the $90 million already budgeted to Evergreen)

to expand state-supported general enrollment slots by 58 full-time equivalent (FTE) students in FY 2005. New budgeted enrollment for resident undergraduate students is supported by the state at an average rate of $5,437 per FTE.
Does it really cost that much money to train teenagers to cut classes to rally in support of the Taliban and to smash their own cars in moving traffic? But at least the Democrats are sticking to their promise to fund higher education.

But no money for charter schools

The Senate budget allocates $466,000 for charter schools contingent on charter school legislation passing both houses this session. The House budget does not include any contingent allocation for charter schools. When House Speaker Frank Chopp says he "supports" charter schools, I guess this is the amount of support he has in mind.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:21 AM
Medical Malpractice Reform

The U.S. Senate is debating a bill that would put a $250,000 limit on pain-and-suffering awards for patients who successfully sue their obstetricians for botched deliveries or prenatal care. The bill would set no limit on economic damages.

Over-the-top pain-and-suffering awards contribute to the escalating cost of healthcare in two ways: raising the price of malpractice insurance to the point of driving many practitioners out of the market; defensive medicine, where doctors cover their tails by ordering more tests than are actually necessary (and sometimes these tests are themselves invasive and risky).

This has become a big issue in Washington's U.S. Senate race. Incumbent Patty Murray, a long time beneficiary of trial lawyer campaign contributions, opposes the bill on the grounds that it "discriminates against women". As if perpetuating a system that drives OB/Gyn doctors out of practice doesn't discriminate against women.

Congressman George Nethercutt, who is challenging Murray, wants to make health care more affordable by placing reasonable limits on the pain-and-suffering lottery. Meanwhile, the Trial Lawyer's Association has publicly commended Patty Murray for protecting their gravy train.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:29 AM
February 23, 2004
Fighting for Asparagus

The Washington State Legislature is hard at work, passing symbolic resolutions to defend the state's strategic asparagus industry from consumer choices:

Summary of Bill: Congress is asked to eliminate the preference given to asparagus products under the Andean Trade Preference Act and refuse to extend any further protection to Andean asparagus producers upon expiration of the act.
Unless we subsidize our local asparagus growers, we may never be able to discover a cure for the side-effects of eating asparagus.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:59 PM
John Edwards' Sense of Filial Duty

Democratic Presidential hopeful Sen. John Edwards speaking to a union audience in Youngstown, OH recently [audio 2:24]

My mother is a retired member of the Letter Carriers. She and my father have healthcare today only because of the union. This is not an academic issue for me. I've lived through this.
Listen to the emphasis on the word only.

Edwards is worth, what, tens of millions of dollars and he's not willing to pitch in to help take care of his own parents?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:13 PM
NEA Delenda Est

The Secretary of Education understands some of the root causes of the education quagmire:

Education Secretary Rod Paige called the nation's largest teachers union a "terrorist organization" Monday, taking on the 2.7-million-member National Education Association early in the presidential election year.
Paige said later that his comment was "a bad joke; it was an inappropriate choice of words."
Asked if he was apologizing, Paige said: "Well, I'm saying that I'm sorry I said it, yeah." In a statement released to the media, Paige said he chose the wrong words to describe "the obstructionist scare tactics" of NEA lobbyists.
No, he's not apologizing, and why should he? Personally, I think it's more accurate to characterize the NEA less as a "terrorist organization" than as an "extortion mafia". But let's not quibble over details.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:53 PM
Education Quagmire

Washington's superintendent of public schools wants to exempt teachers from background checks that are designed to detect sexual predators:

As legislators move toward passing a package of bills targeting sexual misconduct by school employees, a new amendment would significantly weaken the intent by exempting teachers from full background checks.
Under the amendment proposed by the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), staff members such as janitors, secretaries and nonteaching coaches still would have to undergo full background checks. But all certificated employees would undergo less-thorough checks.
Oddly enough, the only reports I've ever read about sexual abuse in schools involve teachers and certificated coaches, but not janitors or secretaries.

The state school superintendent, Terry Bergeson, is a fomer president of the state's largest teacher union. Hmmm.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:55 AM
Government-Run Healthcare

Before we plunge headlong into a Canadian-style paradise of a government healthcare monopoly in this country, perhaps we should first take some baby steps to see how well it might work. We could start, for example, by having the government provide, say, mental health care to foster children. If the government does a good job with this assignment, we could then give the government some additional responsibilities. Oh, wait.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:22 AM
I'm Back

The Shark Family is back from a weekend in San Francisco to attend a friends' wedding. Not one of those same-sex weddings you've been reading about, but an old-fashioned opposite-sex wedding. We also visited with many other friends and family.

This our first visit back to San Francisco since moving to Seattle last May. The city still seemed familiar, but only in a strange deja vu sort of way. Fortunately, all the old friends and family are still familiar. The kids are growing up, though.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:58 AM
February 20, 2004
Seattle Downtown Republican Club

Monday's dinner speaker at the Seattle Downtown Republican Club will be John White, the attorney representing the state GOP in the Supreme Court case over the state's blanket primary. More details on the events page that I am now hosting as a courtesy to the Seattle Downtown Republican Club.

UPDATE (2/23 am): The Supreme Court has declined to hear the case. The future of the state's primary is a big open question. Several state officials are pushing for a "Cajun-style" primary that could devastate the states' parties. Unfortunately, I can't make it to this evening's program. But it should be very interesting.

UPDATE 2 (2/23 pm): Jacqueline Passey attended the dinner and has a debriefing.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:01 AM
Another Rober Scheer Canard

Robert "Canard-o-Matic" Scheer is back with a brand new canard. This time it's an actual canard, as in duck:

Quack, quack. So much for the constitutionally mandated separation of powers.
Quack, quack. Say goodbye to judicial integrity. Quack, quack. Forget about holding the nation's vice president accountable for his dealings. Quack, quack. Trash the right of citizens to transparent government. Quack, quack.

Bizarre as it sounds, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia quacked like a duck last week during his defensive denial that a duck-hunting trip with Vice President Dick Cheney was improper.

The section of the Constitution where it says that "separation of powers" means that members of the Supreme Court aren't allowed to socialize with vice presidents must be right after the section that says that employees of the Executive Branch are not allowed to lobby for special favors from Congress.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
Campaign Finance Violations

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) has been found in violation of campaign finance laws:

The Federal Elections Commission admonished Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell for failing to disclose more than $3 million in loans to her 2000 Senate campaign until Jan. 30, 2001.
As usual, when a Democrat supports campaign finance regulations, what they really mean is they want to regulate other people's campaign finances.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
February 19, 2004
Public Non-Disclosure

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation continues to expose the various gifts of taxpayer dollars that Democrat Gov. Gary Locke has been shovelling on the Boeing Corporation:

The documents provide more information on the Employment Resource Center that taxpayers will build and operate for Boeing—details that are redacted in the contract exhibits to protect "trade secrets." The state-of-the-art center will be 30,000-40,000 square feet and located within ten minutes of Boeing's manufacturing site. It will be entirely funded by state and federal dollars. Boeing will pay no costs. Boeing and its contractors will have exclusive use of the facility for the first five years, and Boeing will have priority use thereafter. We believe this facility violates the state constitution, which prohibits lending of credit and sole benefits for a corporation.
Hmm. There's more in them there documents, but the EFF will have to go to court before it can pry any of those public documents out of the Governor's hands:
A hearing on the case was originally scheduled for February 20 with Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks, but the Attorney General's office (representing the governor) asked the court to remove him from the case, arguing that he would not give them a fair and impartial hearing. Judge Hicks has a history of upholding and enforcing the state's public records law.
Isn't that his job?

Democrat Attorney General Christine Gregoire is running to succeed Gov. Locke. I think we're getting a clear answer to the question asked about Gregoire's pro-secrecy stance in a different public disclosure case:

Is this the kind of governor she'll be?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:43 PM
Colin Me Softly

Here's the latest example of Colin Powell's not-very-tough love with the Terrorstinian Authority:

There is now a new Prime Minister, Abu Alaa. We're encouraging him to do more in the area of security to end terrorist attacks.
Add this one to the list.

Hat tip: reader Dave Olim

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:09 PM
Critical Thinking

This notice in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about an American professor who taught in an Iraqi university during the Saddam Hussein era caught my attention:

A Stanford University professor who taught English at Baghdad University will give her personal reflections on Iraq during a public address next week.

Kathleen Namphy, who teaches writing and critical thinking ...

Sadly, Namphy's definition of "critical thinking" is to be unwaveringly critical of America and Israel and not at all critical of genocidal fascists or terrorists.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:07 AM
Car Theft in Seattle

The Seattle Times reports that the incidence of automobile theft in Seattle is climbing at an alarming rate:

The value of all the cars stolen last year in Seattle totaled more than $40 million; 8 percent of all auto-theft cases from last year have been solved.
$40 million is in the same ballpark as the amount of money that the implausible yet insatiable Monorail steals from car-owners each year in the form of bonus registration taxes.

Meanwhile in Olympia, Seattle Representatives Murray, McDermott, Sommers and Santos sponsored a bill to force Seattle car-owners to pay the Monorail tax or lose their cars. If the bill passes the Senate it will cost me hundreds of dollars a year, all for the privilege of owning a Monorail that is too far from my house to do me the least bit of good. I wonder what I'll have to cut back on in order to come up with this dough. Hmmm. Well I hope I won't have to forego any of those campaign contributions I had been planning to make to some of the legislators who went on to surprise me by voting for this abomination.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
February 18, 2004
Howard's Beginning

The wags are all saying "Howard's End", but Howard himself says "A Beginning not an End". That begs the question: the beginning of what?

In any event, it's the end of the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party and a new day for the Jane Fonda Wing of the Democratic Party and the Faux Populist Trial Lawyer Wing of the Democratic Party!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:20 PM
Make or Break for Charter Schools

The Washington House Charter School Bill, HB2295, missed yesterday's deadline and never made it to the floor for a vote. The Democratic House Speaker Frank Chopp is a nominal supporter of charter schools, but he didn't bring the bill to the floor because he didn't have enough votes in his own caucus.

I've also heard indications that some of the Democrats are using the charter issue as leverage to extract concessions from the Republicans on school financing issues. If true, that would be both unfortunate and counterproductive. If you want to build political support for spending more money on schools, then rebuild their constituency by making the public schools better and more responsive to parents! Fostering charter schools is the best way I can think of to introduce competition and accountability to parents in the near term.

There is still hope to pass a charter bill before the legislature adjourns on March 11. There are legislators from both parties who are committed to make this happen. The single most important thing that any of us can do at this point is to contact our representatives and express support for charter schools. Speaker Chopp's aide told me that his calls are running 3:1 against charter schools. Many of these are teacher union activists and others who have a financial stake in maintaining their unaccountable monopoly on public education. It's critical to demonstrate that the rest of us care about actually improving our schools.

See the Education Excellence Coalition website for more details and tips about contacting your legislators.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:29 PM
Kangaroo Court

The United States and Europe are shunning next week's oral hearing at the "International Court of Justice" regarding Israel's security fence:

only 14 governments, plus two organizations, plan to testify during the three days of oral proceedings. The hearing starts with the Palestinians on Monday morning and ends with the League of Arab States on Wednesday morning.

The other 13 countries are South Africa, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Belize, Cuba, Indonesia, Jordan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Senegal, Sudan, and Turkey. The Organization of the Islamic Conference will also testify.

With enemies like those, who needs friends?

Meanwhile, Egyptian jurist Nabil Elaraby will remain on the "International Court of Justice" panel that will pass judgment on Israel's security fence, in spite of his open prejudice against Israel which he declared in this 2001 newspaper interview:

"... UN jurisprudence, in fact, has always been on the Arab side. Israel avoids the UN because it means that a third party will always be looking at the facts."

Today, he is concerned about a tendency to play into Israel's hands, and thus to marginalise the crux of the Arab Israeli conflict, which is the illegitimate occupation of territory.

Click on Elaraby's nose for a musical surprise!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:42 PM
Campaign Finance Reform

As I've argued previously, the only impact of "campaign finance reform" is to create obstacles in the flow of campaign funding and therefore raise the cost of campaigning. Here's an example I learned about last night at my local Republican party meeting.

The Seattle Republicans launched a wonderful new website a few months ago. It's funded by the county party, which is willing to spend only so much money on it, because, after all, we're an uncompetitive minority in this city, so who's going to invest in chasing Seattle Republican votes for, say, Congress or state legislative races? The main value in the Seattle Republican Party at the moment is as a get-out-the-vote machine for statewide races -- e.g. Re-elect Bush/Cheney, Nethercutt for Senate, Rossi for Governor, McKenna for Attorney General. But the Seattle Republican website cannot promote or even mention the federal races, because of McCain-Feingold aka BCRA (pronounced Bike-Ruh). If a local party organization wants to promote a federal candidate, it has to "establish a federal account", which entails more paperwork than is worth spending money on.

To avoid this, there has to be a separate local Bush-Cheney campaign website, duplicating the cost of the local website that can only mention generic Republican events and local Republican candidates. Naturally, more money has to be raised to pay for all of this. A fine way to reduce the influence of money in politics, no?

On the other hand, this is my own independent website, which I pay for out of my own independent pocket. I can say whatever I want and promote whichever candidates and websites I want without filing any paperwork with the FEC. At least for now.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:47 PM
Biotech Boondoggle

I recently sat in the audience of a panel discussion on the plan to redevelop the South Lake Union as a biotech hub.

[Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels] said the massive building plans driven by Paul Allen's company, Vulcan, could directly create 23,000 jobs and add more than $160 million in tax revenues to the city in 20 years. "What you'll see, I hope in neon, is the word 'jobs,' " the mayor said.
As reported earlier, the hoped for $160 million in tax revenues over 20 years are contingent on spending $500 million in public funds in the short run. That's obviously a good deal for somebody, if not the taxpayers.

I had two new epiphanies during the panel discussion, which discussed the "independent economic study" touting the proposed development:

The first is that the biotech businesses that the city is eager to lure to South Lake Union will contribute neither Sales nor Business and Occupation (B&O) Tax to the city coffers. Why? Because these businesses aren't expected to produce revenues. They are expected to return value to their investors by being acquired. But neither Seattle nor Washington state will capture any of this value, because there is no state or local income or capital gains tax. At the same time, many of the same folks (like Gov. Gary Locke) who want to divert wealth from otherwise profitable businesses to build infrastructure for biotech R&D, are also forcing down the prices of prescription drugs, which will do more to discourage private investment in biotech R&D than the subsidies will do to encourage it.

Will there be enough new investment in biotech to even produce the hoped for property taxes? The only way we'll find out, apparently, is if we spend the $500 million first.

I asked the panel what incentive there is for a small business owner like myself to stay in Seattle and pay higher taxes than I do elsewhere in order to subsidize other people's boondoggles. None of the panelists could come up with a reason.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:07 PM
February 17, 2004
Mad How Disease

Dr. Dean appears to suffer from delusions of optimism:

Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean headed toward an anticipated defeat in the Wisconsin primary on Tuesday but trained his focus on next month's big round of contests and said, "I'm optimistic."
Mad Howard has earlier expressed optimism about his own prospects in the New Hampshire primary
Crowds still pack ballrooms and overflow areas at Howard Dean's rallies, fervent supporters shout "Give 'em hope, Howard!" and the one-time Democratic front-runner claims he is "catching up" in the first-in-the nation presidential primary race.
Jihoward is also optimistic about the prospects for peace in the Middle East if Sheik Yassin were to succeed Yasser Arafat:
Dean, who last year described Hamas members as freedom fighters, said Friday he realizes they are terrorists. But he added that his comments to the Canadians - that Hamas would be a moderating influence if it took over the PLO - were an expression of optimism about improvements that would follow the eventual departure of PLO chief Yasser Arafat.
Other than more frequent suicide attacks, what sort of "improvements" does Dean anticipate?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:58 PM
Good News from Amherst

The University of Massachusetts-Amherst, which is well-known for its embrace of Islamic fascism and terrorism-friendly stunts such as a campaign for divestment from Israel, is also home to a more sensible variety of Middle-Eastern activism: Student activists launch campaign promoting Israel's image

Pro-Israel student advocates met at 7 p.m. yesterday at the Hillel House, and passed through campus, posting in their wake, their messages of Israel's technological, environmental and humanitarian accomplishments.
"Everyone focuses on the negative aspect of suicide bombing and people getting blown up from terrorism, and [hasn't] focused enough on the positive aspects of Israel, like a heart attack blood test diagnosis by phone."

Indeed this somewhat complicated-sounding technology is only one of many modern conveniences the group brought to attention through its flyers. Also highlighted was cell phone technology, America Online Instant Messenger, the Intel Pentium MMX processor and Microsoft Windows NT. According to the group, Israel has played a significant role in the development of these technologies.

It will be interesting to see how well the other side will do in its counter-campaign touting Palestinian technological achievements.

And speaking of highlighting Israel's positive contributions to the world

BlueStar PR of San Francisco is organizing a contest to design a billboard that best illustrates Israel's positive, progressive policies and achievements. The winning design will be posted on billboards around the Bay Area and its designer will win fabulous prizes. Enter your design by Feb. 29.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:58 AM
Gov. Gary Locke's Legacy

Washington's lame-duck Gov. Gary Locke touts his own "Legacy of Achievement". His administration is a kind of reverse osmosis engine, pushing the people's money in the wrong direction up the efficiency gradient from productive uses into:

Subsidies for uncompetitive industries:

Provided Boeing significant incentives to build the new 7E7 Dreamliner airplane in Washington ... Promoted Washington’s emerging technology including biotechnology
Permanent government jobs:
Developed and secured passage of state construction budgets that created thousands of family-wage, private-sector jobs ... Secured civil service reform and collective bargaining for state workers ... Won annual cost-of-living adjustments for state employees.
[the latter two are listed under "Government Efficiency"]
expensive, unnecessary programs that warm the hearts of liberal activists :
Delivered smaller class sizes and learning assistance to public schools, boosting spending by $480 million this biennium alone compared to the biennium in which the Governor took office ....provide commuters with transit, rail and other alternatives to driving

Gov. Locke will end his legacy with a bang, promoting a massive tax hike that the rest of the state's politicians are smart enough not to touch.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:39 AM
Ashraf Khalil

One of the episodes that launched me into the blogosphere nearly two years ago was when I took a closer look at an oddly propagandistic San Francisco Chronicle "news analysis" column written by an Ashraf Khalil. What the Chronicle didn't tell its readers was that Ashraf Khalil was the editor of the Cairo Times, from which the column had been reprinted, and also that the Cairo Times is subject to Egyptian-government censorship.

Khalil is now freelancing from Baghdad for such publications as the Atlanta Constitution-Journal, for whom he penned this article that gives detailed instructions on how a terrorist might breach security and enter the American HQ district ("Green Zone") in central Baghdad: THE IRAQ WAR AFTERMATH: U.S. base of operations too easy for 'tourists' to infiltrate.

By way of a reader who writes:

I might have just read over this bit of self-inflating fluff except that my son is located in the Green Space that Mr Khalil so eagerly infiltrated, then exposed - not to the 1st Armored Division, but to the real terrorists who surround the Green Space and who have publicly vowed to kill as many American, etc. soldiers as possible.
One has to wonder: Is Ashraf Khalil a journalist, or is he on the other side?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:09 AM
February 16, 2004
Public Disclosure

The largest Public Disclosure Act lawsuit in Washington history goes to the State Supreme Court with oral arguments this week.

Armen Yousoufian was awarded over $100,000 in fines and attorneys fees against King County, which failed to satisfy his requests for documents pertaining to the publicly-funded construction of stadiums for the Seattle Seahawks and Mariners.

The pending appeal to the State Supreme Court petitions for a larger fine consistent with the Public Disclosure Act:

Any person who prevails against an agency in any action in the courts seeking the right to inspect or copy any public record or the right to receive a response to a public record request within a reasonable amount of time shall be awarded all costs, including reasonable attorney fees, incurred in connection with such legal action. In addition, it shall be within the discretion of the court to award such person an amount not less than five dollars and not to exceed one hundred dollars for each day that he was denied the right to inspect or copy said public record.
The lower court which ruled in Yousoufian's favor subtracted an arbitrary number of days from the calculation, based on the time from Yousoufian's request to the time he first filed a lawsuit. It also aggregated his requests for multiple records for penalty purposes and treated them as a single request. The Supreme Court appeal seeks to calculate the award based on the total number of days that the request was denied and also on the total number of records that were withheld.

There have been 13 amicus briefs filed in support of Yousoufian, including by the state's major newspaper associations. On the other hand, there were 2 amicus briefs supporting King County -- one by the Washington State Association of Municipal Attorneys and the other on behalf of the State of Washington, by Attorney General Christine Gregoire.

Gregoire's brief [large PDF] argues that any PDA request for multiple documents should be treated as a single request and refusal to divulge a large body of documents should be fined no differently than failure to release a single document. I disagree. King County, like many other government agencies, routinely refuses citizen requests for documents, on the assumption that few people will go to the trouble of pursuing an expensive and lawsuit. Trivializing the consequences to government officials for flouting the law appears to be a tacit way of permitting non-compliance with the Public Disclosure Act.

Christine Gregoire is not only the Attorney General, she is also the leading Democratic candidate to succeed Gary Locke as Governor. As a local business journal comments on Gregoire's brief:

Gregoire’s argument directly contradicts her statements on the importance of open government. She said the public, “...is entitled to pretty much any (government) document,” and that withholding documents makes people believe government is “hiding something.” At least we agree on that.
How can Gregoire make those statements and then argue a citizen disenfranchised by government’s denial of public documents doesn’t deserve the full penalties mandated by law?
Is this the kind of governor she’ll be?
More details on Armen Yousoufian's lawsuit on behalf of open and accountable government may be found on his personal website.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:40 PM
Dinner with George Nethercutt

Congressman George Nethercutt, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Patty "Osama Daycare Center" Murray, is the speaker at tonight's Seattle Downtown Republican Club dinner meeting.

There will be a small group discussion over dinner with Congressman Nethercutt, followed by a half-hour interview/formal Q&A session to be broadcast later in the week on community access cable.

Time: Today, Feb. 16, 2004, 5:00pm-7:00pm
Location: The College Club, 505 Madison Avenue, Seattle, at the SE corner of 5th Avenue and Madison.; free parking in the College Club garage after 4:30pm
Price: The only charge is dinner, ordered off the College Club menu; The all-inclusive price is usually $10-$15; no-host bar is also available.

Join me for this rare opportunity to chat with Congressman Nethercutt in a low-key small-group setting.

UPDATE: I really enjoyed the dinner and the chance to meet Congressman Nethercutt. It was a small group, so we all did get to chat with the Congressman, ask him questions and hear his views. His personal style is warm and approachable, affable and unflappable. More than any other politician I've met, he has a knack for putting people at ease.

His positions on the issues are mainstream and pragmatic. And unlike the incumbent Patty Murray he understands that we're at war with a real enemy, not with any overly ambitious daycare center operator.

For more information, see George Nethercutt's official campaign site

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:16 AM
February 15, 2004
Re-elect McDermott

Seattle Congressman "Baghdad" Jim McDermott is running for a ninth term and he's so wildly popular here that he'll face no real opposition. The cover story of today's Seattle Times weekend magazine is a gushing portrait of the man who went to visit Saddam before the war and who on the day after Saddam's capture claimed that the timing was pre-arranged.

The profile depicts McDermott as a passionate advocate who is more interested in speaking his mind than in being an effective legislator:

his way of expressing himself has even some Democrats wondering if his views and methods for sharing them are so polarizing that he can't form the alliances or do the horse-trading that gets results in legislative work.

"I do believe, in many ways, being the voice in the wilderness is more important to him than transforming the wilderness," says Jenny Durkan, a politically active Democratic attorney in Seattle who personally likes McDermott but says he's become one of Congress' most ineffective members.

"Jim McDermott has always been willing to take positions of leadership, even if they were unpopular, but saw the purpose of being effective as well. Now it's enough for him to take positions, even if they are unpopular."

I approve. Seattle voters would inevitably elect a Congressman who fights for the most extreme, self-defeating liberal policies. So it's not a bad thing that the Congressman himself be similarly self-defeating and incapable of getting much of his program enacted.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:42 PM
February 14, 2004
Washington Democratic Reality Discount Factor

The Washington state Democrats are now backing down, way down, from their earlier giddy estimates of participation at last week's caucuses:

Democrats say the caucuses seemed busy enough to energize party members and attract newcomers to the cause. But turnout will probably fall far short of state party Chairman Paul Berendt's caucus-day estimate of 200,000.

Jeff Smith, the party's former executive director who was brought back to organize the caucuses, said it was likely no higher than the 125,000 he predicted months ago.

It even sounds like they're being optimistic about the 125,000, but we'll give it to them for now. In other words, we should discount any estimate given by the Washington Democrats by at least 37.5%. I'll calculate the exact value of the Washington Democratic Reality Discount Factor when they reveal the final caucus participation tally.

Assuming they ever do. And assuming we can believe it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:30 PM
Market-driven Healthcare?

To those who say that the problems of the U.S. healthcare system are caused by our "market-driven healthcare system", take a look at this bill that just passed in the Washington House of Representatives, the digest of which is:

Provides that a health care facility certified as a critical access hospital under 42 U.S.C. 1395i-4 may increase its total number of licensed beds to the total number of beds permitted under 42 U.S.C. 1395i-4 and may redistribute beds permitted under 42 U.S.C. 1395i-4 among acute care and nursing home care without being subject to certificate of need review.

Provides that these critical access hospital beds will not be counted as either acute care or nursing home care for certificate of need review purposes.

Provides that if a health care facility ceases to be certified as a critical access hospital under 42 U.S.C. 1395i-4, the hospital may revert back to the type and number of licensed hospital beds as it had when it requested critical access hospital designation.
Market? What market?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:11 PM
February 13, 2004

Dogs probably originated in Asia 100,000 years ago, experts say

From Yorkshire terriers the size of a teacup to Irish wolfhounds near the size of a small pony, all dogs originated from a single species, probably an East Asian wolf seeking the warmth of the human hearth and an easy meal.
Easy meal, yes, but for whom?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:20 PM
Today in Europe

Interesting nuggets in today's European press:

Austrian right-wing politican Jörg Haider when asked today whether he stands by his earlier statement equating dictator Saddam Hussein with the democratically elected George W Bush, answered : "Hitler also came to power democratically".

Meanwhile in Italy, the Parmalat scandal is deepening:

The chief lawyer for Calisto Tanzi, the imprisoned founder of Parmalat, resigned on Friday after he was placed under investigation for allegedly laundering Mr Tanzi's cash in Switzerland
Tanzi claimed that the money was not laundered, but used for undocumented "extra-judicial services". This report alleges that the money went to politicians. If anybody is to blame for the Parmalat scandal, it's obviously the U.S. corporate culture.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:27 PM
Ass. Press?

The woman at the center of the alleged Kerry sex scandal has been identified as Alex Polier, a reporter for the Associated Press. Polier's parents were not impressed by their daughter's alleged suitor:

Her mother Donna claims Kerry, 60 — dubbed the new JFK — once chased Alex to be on his campaign team and was “after her”.

There is no evidence the pair had an affair, but her father Terry, 56, said: “I think he’s a sleazeball. I did kind of wonder if my daughter didn’t get that kind of feeling herself.

“He’s not the sort of guy I would choose to be with my daughter.”

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:55 PM
It's in the P-I

Two praiseworthy guest columns in the P-I this week:

Israel doesn't deserve brickbats

The media are sullying Israel's character. Frequently criticizing Israeli actions and promoting an image of Israelis as Nazis, the media ignore all the good Israel does for the world. For more than 40 years, while still struggling for its own survival, Israel has been providing substantial humanitarian assistance to people worldwide.
Hat tip: Yael, the Zioneocon

On a very different subject: Toss out those myths about recycling

The Seattle City Council's decision to make curbside recycling mandatory is a misguided step that will burden taxpayers, antagonize residents and waste resources.

As an economist who has been studying recycling for nearly 15 years, I long ago learned that the desire for curbside recycling is based mostly on misconceptions. Here are some of the most serious errors.

The list of commonly held misconceptions includes: "We are running out of room for trash." and "Recycling saves irreplaceable resources"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:36 AM
Another Johnny Taliban

Ryan Anderson, an American-born convert to Islam and member of the Washington National Guard, has been arrested for trying to pass intelligence to Al-Qaida.

As with the other cases of Muslim soldiers charged with suspicious activities, this is just an aberration. There is absolutely no reason to suggest that an active practicing Muslim American should not be able to serve his country loyally in the current war against Islamist terror. After all, during the Cold War many Communist Americans served loyally and helped defend our country against the Soviet Union; and during World War II many Nazi sympathizers fought valiantly for the Allies against Germany.

UPDATE American-born Muslim convert James Ujaama is to be sentenced today for conspiring to aid the Taliban.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
February 12, 2004
A San Francisco Wedding

Longtime partners Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79, were married today at San Francisco City Hall. The "Defense of Marriage" people are whirling themselves into a fever and issuing warnings that everybody else's marriage is under attack.

I'm relieved to reassure you, having confirmed this with my Mrs., that I am still happily married. I'm also pleased to announce that our son is still playing with his trucks.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:43 PM
Abe or Herman?

John Kerry's looks have often been compared (favorably and unfavorably) to those of Abraham Lincoln.

Kerry's head does have an eerie resemblance to marble statuary, and most of us are primarily familiar with Lincoln as he is rendered in copper or stone:

A letter to the editor of the Seattle Times offers a somewhat different observation:
In response to [an earlier letter] that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry has a resemblance to Abraham Lincoln:

I always thought he more resembled Herman Munster.
John Picinich, Seattle

We report, you decide.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:00 PM
Kerry-Edwards Ticket?

Now that Kerry and Edwards seem to have slipped into their respective grooves of first and second place for the nomination with no other credible challengers in sight, it seems natural to speculate about the possibility of a Kerry-Edwards ticket.

This article appears to pour cold water on the idea:

Several Kerry advisers say the Massachusetts senator is skeptical about Edwards' strength as a running mate, saying he appears to lack the clout with Southern voters that he often brags about being able to deliver. Edwards' inability to win more than a single primary state thus far may give him the aura of a loser in the general election, these Kerry aides said
at the same time:
Edwards, meanwhile, has dismissed talk that he would accept anything other than the Democratic nomination and has said he would not want Kerry to consider him for a running mate. Top Edwards staff members say he has never had a serious discussion about the vice presidency with them nor mused aloud about the possibility.
Kerry's choice of running mate is still an open question, but don't believe these denials.

First, the only real drama remaining in this race is "Who will Kerry pick as VP?". Even if he were leaning towards Edwards, you wouldn't expect him to tip his hand this early and spoil all the fun and media buzz, do you?

Second, what else could Edwards possibly be aiming for? He's not returning to the Senate next year; he knows he's not going to get the nomination this year; and if it's a future race for the White House he's preparing himself for, then wouldn't being the VP or at least a VP candidate put him in the strongest possible position? The most plausible alternative that I can come up with is that Edwards is angling for Attorney General in the Kerry administration, should there be one. I still think Kerry-Edwards is more likely.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:20 AM
What liberal media?

From the latest issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly, an interview with The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel '81.

What are some issues you think the mainstream media aren’t addressing?

How often do you see the idea of a living wage being addressed in the mainstream press? How often do you see the media address the fact that universal health care is a core human right and not some wacky left-wing idea? How often do you see any questions raised about the folly of the militarization of our foreign policy? How often do you see real reporting on how the pharmaceutical companies are writing our drug bills, the oil and gas industry is writing our energy bills, or corporate media are writing telecommunications law?

I see those issues being addressed Several times an hour, actually.

And about that so-called "fact" that "universal health care is a core human right and not some wacky left-wing idea". Perhaps, but only in the sense that owning four wives is also a "core human right" and not some wacky Islamic idea.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:59 AM
February 11, 2004
Education Boondoggle

The other day I mentioned Gov. Gary Locke's proposal to raise $1 billion in new funding for education by raising the state sales tax by 1¢ (to nearly 10% in some communities).

I've obtained a draft of the bill that is circulating in Olympia. The bill promises not only to tax and spend with reckless abandon but also to

Ensure greater accountability, cooperation, and efficiency by requiring trust fund recipients to develop and meet key performance benchmarks.
But a closer look at the so-called "accountability" provisions reveals just more of the same hocus-pocus phoney-baloney public education "accountability" that we're all familiar with -- a grand facade of financial "transparency" and a lot of serious happy talk about self-defined "performance benchmarks", but no real consequences for failure to meet those benchmarks.


And the other unfortunate aspect of this bill is that it would increase funding for the Evergreen State "College".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:29 PM
Good News for Charter Schools

The Washington House Appropriations Committee voted after midnight this morning to approve the Charter Schools Bill (SHB 2295). The vote was 16-11, with 8 Democrats and 8 Republicans in favor, and 4 Republicans and 7 Democrats opposed. (Committee roll call at bottom). The bill was strengthened slightly with an amendment that grants the State Superintendent of Public Instruction authority to sponsor a school even if local school boards decline to do so.

The bill moves to the House Rules Committee, and must now win a majority of the votes on the floor of the House of Representatives no later than next Tuesday, February 17.

If you live in Washington state, be sure to contact your local House members and encourage them to support SHB 2295.


Republicans Democrats
Gary Alexander Bill Grant
Glenn Anderson Ross Hunter
Marc Boldt Lynn Kessler
Jim Buck Kelli Linville
Bruce Chandler Jim McIntire
Joyce McDonald Mark Miloscia
Barry Sehlin
(Ranking Minority Member)
Laura Ruderman
Gigi Talcott Helen Sommers (Chair)
Jim Clements Eileen Cody
Don Cox Steve Conway
Kirk Pearson
(Asst. Ranking Minority Member)
Hans Dunshee
Rob Sump Bill Fromhold (Vice Chair)
  Ruth Kagi
  Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney
  Shay Schual-Berke
Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:27 AM
Mrs. Arafat's Millions

French prosecutors have launched a money-laundering probe into the alleged transfers of millions of dollars to accounts held by the wife of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, judicial officials said Wednesday

Miss PiggySuha Arafat

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:58 AM
Sleepers in Seattle?

Funded by Saudi cash:

Al Qaeda terrorists, operating through "sleeper cells" scattered throughout the United States, continue to recruit new members, assist in the acquisition of safe houses and equipment, conduct pre-attack surveillance and relay messages from terrorist leaders and planners, U.S. law-enforcement authorities said yesterday.
I'll bet there are a number of these sleepers right here in my hometown, where the Shi'ittle City Council has declared the city to be a safe-haven for illegal immigrants and especially Muslims who might be terrorists.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:16 AM
Hanoi John?

He won two southern primaries yesterday, but will some folks now start calling him "Hanoi John"?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:59 AM
February 10, 2004
Asinine News File

More asinine misrepresentation of the Atkins Diet from the Ass. Press:

Atkins was the author of the best-selling "Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution," which advocates meat, eggs and cheese and discourages bread, rice and fruit.
Most news reports I've read about the Atkins Diet make the same characterization that it advocates "meat, eggs and cheese" and invariably fail to mention that Atkins also advocates ample quantities of vegetables and except in the initial phase, moderate amounts of fruit.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:30 PM
Seattle Monorail Disaster

The once-vaunted Seattle Monorail project continues to face an unending parade of financial difficulties and disgruntled citizens that threaten its viability. I've been arguing for months that it's time to shut down this expensive yet infeasible boondoggle. Finally, a group has formed to organize a ballot recall drive to stop the Monorail.

The group's website MonorailRecall.com (Is Seattle Being Taken for a Ride?) lists 23 Reasons for the Recall.

If you live in Seattle, be sure to sign up to support the recall and help end the Monorail disaster before it gets even worse.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:26 PM
Be careful what you wish for

Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath has said he hopes that Palestine could eventually become a member of the Europeaser Union.

Hat tip: David Frankfurter, who explains why this is not likely to happen, but also observes:

Of course, if a Palestinian state were to join the EU, then Jews facing anti-semitism in Europe could simply utilise their European passports to settle in their biblical homeland

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:47 PM
The origins of Arab terrorism

Some will always claim that the Palestinian terrorists who murder Israeli civilians are simply displaying the natural response to "desperation" caused by the "occupation of Palestinian land" or something along those lines.

A suicide bombing in Iraq today killed several dozen people, most of them Iraqi civilians. As far as I can tell none of these Iraqi civilians are responsible for occupying anybody else's land or causing anybody else to become desperate; and neither were any of the hundreds of other casualties of similar bombings in Iraq in the last several months.

As I've said before, Arab terrorism has nothing to do with desperation, oppression or occupation. It's simply part of the language used in the Arab world to assert dominance in order to acquire political supremacy.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:20 PM
Fun and Games with Euphemisms

The Washington House of Representatives is contemplating a bill that would replace current euphemisms with new euphemisms:

Under a proposal backed by a group of disabled people, the state would have to use "people-first" terminology in its laws and official documents.

For example, "the disabled" or "the mentally ill" would be replaced by phrases such as "individuals with disabilities" and "individuals with mental illness."

We are told these name changes are necessary because
the "outdated" language currently used in laws "attaches negative labels to the self-esteem."
Terms such as "the disabled" and "the mentally ill" are themselves euphemisms, having replaced earlier euphemisms including "cripples" and "lunatics".

It is inevitable that "Individuals with mental illness" will also eventually acquire negative connotations until one day there will be calls to replace it with something else -- e.g. "People with a self-constructed model of reality", perhaps?

In the meantime, I will learn from this proposal and I promise not to call the representatives who sponsored this bill "useless idiots who waste the taxpayer's money on do-nothing legislation". Instead I will call them "individuals in the legislature who have too much time on their hands and need to try harder to add some real value".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:46 AM
Progress in the War on Palestinian Terror

Questions from the latest Palestinian public opinion poll:

Some people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip support the continuation of the Intifada, while others call for a halt to it which of these two opinions is closer to yours?

27 Nov 200030 Jun 200330 Sep 200312 Nov 200309 February 2004
1. Continuation of the Intifada73.0%44.9%56.3%42.6%35.2%
2. Halting the Intifada19.6%37.0%30.9%44.5%39.8%
3. Do not know / refuse to answer7.4%18.1%12.8%12.9%25.0%

Forty months back, to the time when the current Al-Aqsa Intifada broke out, do you believe that it served or harmed the Palestinian interests?

20 Nov 200214 Apr 200330 Sep 200312 Nov 200309February 2004
1. Considerably served13.3%12.6%14.1%13.9%8.8%
2. Somewhat served28.4%33.8%32.8%35.4%29.1%
3. Somewhat harmed15.8%17.1%17.2%18.1%15.8%
4. Considerably harmed25.1%21.8%23.0%18.7%21.6%
5. No opinion17.4%14.7%12.9%13.9%24.8%

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?:

20 Nov 200227 Mar 200330 Sep 200309February 2004
1.Such attacks must halt29.8%43.0%27.2%35.4%
2. Such attacks must continue45.3%38.3%54.9%30.7%
3. Refuse to answer / do not know24.9%18.7%17.9%33.9%

I don't know what I find more remarkable, the stunning drop in support for the Intifada and suicide bombings; or the fact that an equal number of Palestinians assert that the Intifada serves Palestinian interests as admit that it harms their interests, and that this was also the case back in Nov. 2002. Either way, Sharon and Bush deserve more of the credit for Palestinians losing their appetite for senseless violence, than does the world community of terrorism appeasers. This is good progress, but there's still more work to be done.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
February 09, 2004
Molly Ivins on Vacation

Molly Ivins, December 4, 2003:

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. I'm for Howard Dean -- because he's going to win.
Better luck next time, Molly.

Meanwhile, Molly Ivins is still "on vacation', so the Seattle Times today filled Ivins usual Monday spot with Froma Harrop, who explains "Why Dean doesn't register with the grownups".

I guess that means that Molly Ivins isn't one of the grownups. I hope she's having a nice vacation somewhere in any case.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:27 PM
Say goodbye to accountability

Today's Seattle Times editorial is a little too optimistic about last week's school levy vote:

A slam dunk for area schools

Hurray for Seattle School District voters who clearly separated the missteps of board members and administrators from the needs of students in last Tuesday's election

The Times seems to agree with our correspondent on the Seattle School Board that the voters should accept any amount of waste, incompetence and dishonesty as long as children might also benefit. The Times also makes too much of the margin of victory:
The district's maintenance and operations levy and its capital levy not only passed, they were slam dunks — with 77.8 percent and 73.8 percent yes votes, respectively.
The other way to look at this, is that only 31% of the city's registered voters (112,096) cared enough about the schools to bother to vote. This is down from the 115,282 who went to the polls in the 2001 levy election. Likewise, the number of voters who bothered to vote in the elections for School Board has declined from 182,905 in 1999 to 176,936 in 2001 to 132,610 in 2003. The weakest new board member won her seat last November with the support of only 16% of the registered voters.

It is not good news for the city's schools when the number of voters who care enough to vote for school elections continues to decline. If only a small and shrinking minority feels it has a stake in the school system, the levies might pass (for now, at least), but the accountability to ensure effective operation is not what it should be. And that's not to the long-term benefit of either taxpayers or students.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:28 PM
It's in the P-I

Sunday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer favors a property tax reform proposal on the mistaken belief that it is somehow progressive:

A fairer tax break is in the works

Washington voters who are sincerely concerned about the impact of rising property taxes on neighbors least able to afford them should welcome a legislative alternative to more draconian tax-slashing proposals

A bipartisan collection of co-sponsors has introduced a homestead exemption bill (HB 3076) that would free from any property taxation a certain percentage of the value of one's home.

In fact, the homestead exemption would only apply to owner-occupied residents and would therefore benefit only a limited class of homeowners, namely those who own and live in homes that are on the lower end of assessed values in the state. The proposal is revenue-neutral so it would merely shift the tax burden to: owners of more expensive homes, (including the solidly middle-class who happen to live in more expensive communities like Seattle), business property, and most notably -- rental housing! Renters don't pay property taxes directly, but a rise in property taxes will inevitably show up as higher rents. Whatever good there might be in redistributing the tax burden to favor one group of property owners at the expense of another, it's hard to argue with a straight face that giving certain homeowners tax relief at the expense of renters is in any way "fairer".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:33 AM
Washington Democratic Caucus

Yesterday I mentioned the exceptionally high turnout at the Washington Democratic Caucus on Saturday, estimated by state Democratic chairman Paul Berendt at 200,000. I added the qualification: "Assuming that Berendt is not being unreasonably optimistic with his headcount".

Well, it turns out that Berendt probably was being unreasonably optimistic with his headcount. The Democrats are now backpeddling:

A state party spokeswoman, Kirstin Brost, estimated the turnout for Saturday's caucuses could top the 100,000 mark for the first time.
I'm still shocked (shocked!) that the Democrats would have earlier exaggerated their own numbers.

I still don't think Washington state will be a cakewalk for Bush and the Republicans in November.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:59 AM
Multi-culti Meltdown

In a hypothetical scenario in which Dennis Kucinich gets elected President of the United States, it would be interesting to watch the civil war that would have to erupt between his various followers, some of whom want to embrace the others with non-violence, and others of whom want to topple brick walls on some of the others.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:01 AM
Education Quagmire

Grade inflation doesn't just benefit students anymore. When Michigan schools were asked to evaluate themselves, most gave themselves A's and B's, including some of the worst schools in the state:

Many of Michigan’s chronically failing schools gave themselves the highest possible marks on state report cards, saving themselves from a D or a flunking grade that would have brought their students more state oversight and assistance.

Schools in Utica, Pontiac, Detroit and Wayne-Westland were among the 76 percent of troubled schools statewide that gave themselves A’s on a self-evaluation that was worth a third of their grades in report cards issued last week.

All of those schools have failed to meet federal standards on test scores for at least four years.

Imagine that.

Hat tip: Aaron, of the Shekel Blog

Meanwhile Kimberly Swygert noticed that some Ohio schools seem to be stealing credit for other people's achievements:

Matthew Benton, a self-possessed sixth-grader with an "A" average and an I.Q. of 132, is likely to pass the Ohio Proficiency Tests next month with ease.

But his prowess on the tests, which are used to assess schools' performance, won't help Bennett Elementary, where Matthew is in a citywide program for academically gifted students.

Instead, Matthew's scores will be ascribed to a school closer to his home, which he has never attended. Told of this practice, the 11-year-old looked puzzled. "It doesn't make sense," he says. "Why will my score count for a school I don't go to?"

Yet another indication of Matthew's precocious genius. Now I wonder how many of the education experts at the Ohio Department of Education's "accountability" office who tried to pull this stunt might have been eligible for gifted learning programs when they were in sixth grade? Hmmm...

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
February 08, 2004
If you didn't already have enough to worry about...

Al-Qaida has obtained tactical nuclear explosive devices that can fit inside a suitcase, Israel Radio reported Sunday night, citing the London Arabic daily Al-Hayat:

The report said that members of Osama bin Laden's group purchased the devices from Ukrainian scientists who sell them to anyone willing to pay the price.
Supposedly, the devices are not intended for use,
except in the event that the existence of the organization is threatened.
I knew there had to be some silver lining in letting George Tenet keep his job at the CIA.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:10 PM
Boobs on Television

Mark Steyn:

When I was asked what I thought of the huge boob exposed in prime time, I thought it was a reference to Al Sharpton not knowing what the Federal Reserve was in that candidates' debate.
Read the whole thing.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:01 PM
Washington Democratic Caucus

An exceptionally large number of people participated in yesterday's Washington Democratic Caucus:

The caucuses at more than 550 sites brought out a record number of voters, as many as 200,000 Democrats, state party Chairman Paul Berendt said.
and it's not just in hippy-dippy enclaves like Seattle:
At Yakima's Wesley Methodist Church, which is next to an apple orchard in this largely Republican and rural region, 200 usually scarce Democrats packed the fellowship hall, one of 10 caucuses around Yakima County. Just a dozen turned out at the fellowship hall for the 2002 caucus.
Assuming that Berendt is not being unreasonably optimistic with his headcount, 200,000 is more than 40% of the number who voted for Democrats in the 2000 primary, which demanded a much smaller commitment of time than the caucus. It is also about 8% of the state's total turnout in the 2000 Presidential election. That strikes me as a pretty large number of people who are sufficiently motivated to spend their Saturday morning at a political caucus.

I don't think Washington state is going to be a cakewalk for Bush and the Republicans in November.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:47 AM
Education Quagmire

Today's Seattle Times Opinion section features education professor David Marshak arguing against No Child Left Behind and its emphasis on standardized testing:

Look at Bush's education plan: reading, math and science. And the only accountability measure that is supposed to matter: standardized tests.

No Child Left Behind puts a standardized test gun to the head of every child, educator and parent in the nation. It guarantees pain and suffering for millions of children and teens whose cognitive and learning styles do not readily fit the narrow structures of standardized testing.

Marshak admits later that standardized testing might have a place in education
It's not that standardized testing has no role in the post-industrial school. Indeed, it does have potential value as one of many different assessment tools that can be used to fairly and accurately measure the learning and capabilities of diverse students.
Unfortunately he doesn't tell us what other assessment tools and accountability measures he has in mind.

I heard Marshak speak at a school board hearing last month. His most notable contribution was to recommend that underperforming teachers should be inspired to do a better job, but should never be "punished". One gets the impression that he's not just opposed to using standardized testing as the "only accountability measure that is supposed to matter", but that he's opposed to holding public education to any form of meaningful accountability, period.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:20 AM
February 07, 2004
Mexifornia here I come

The Washington House Judiciary Committee has voted to surrender Washington state to Mexico:

By a vote of 6-3, the House Judiciary Committee yesterday passed House Bill 3029, which authorizes statewide acceptance of the card, known as a matricula consular and issued by the Mexican government to nationals living in the United States.

Acceptance of this card, needed mostly by illegal immigrants with no other legal form of ID, is a controversial and divisive issue, particularly in this political season and in an era when Latinos have emerged as the country's largest and fastest-growing minority group.

Advocates call it an act of humanity; immigration purists say it undermines U.S. immigration law

I gather the reporter defines "immigration purist" as someone who thinks we should have any immigration laws at all.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:18 AM
February 06, 2004
Kucinich Fever

A Seattle microbiologist, possibly delirious from a brain infection, is working the phones for Dennis Kucinich:

For three decades, Jim Mullins, a professor of microbiology at the University of Washington, has buried his head in his research on diseases such as AIDS. He hasn't volunteered for a presidential campaign since George McGovern's in 1972.

But Mullins is making cold calls to voters in his Laurelhurst precinct, trying to persuade them to attend tomorrow's caucuses in support of Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich..."Nothing has gotten me out of my laboratory for the last 30 years. This is important," Mullins said.

I'm not sure what kind of microbes were in the vat that Jim Mullins buried his head in, but they seem to be causing an epidemic of sorts among Seattle's Kucinich-American community. Take, for example, Michael Green, who was moved to pen this letter to the Seattle Times:
While I thoroughly support Dennis Kucinich in principle, even his staunchest supporters agree there is no possibility of his winning either the nomination or the election ... An endorsement from Kucinich could quite possibly make Dean unbeatable, but withholding it could lead to a GOP victory in 2004.
If Michael Green were in full command of his senses, he would be arguing for the more plausible scenario, which is that an endorsement from Dean could quite possibly make Kucinich unbeatable. Oh, wait.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:55 PM
Universal Healthcare = Universal Misery

Here we go again. The silly wing of the Democratic Party continues to promote "universal healthcare" with rationale like "Every other industrialized nation in the world provides universal health care to its citizens". Yes, but these same industrialized nations are paying for their "compassion" by cannibalizing their own future with high taxes and high unemployment.

At the same time that the U.S. unemployment rate has dropped to 5.6%, unemployment in the universal healthcare Wunderland of Germany has risen to 11%.

Meanwhile in this hemisphere, people are so desperate to escape the Cuban universal healthcare paradise that they are trying to drive off the island.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:45 PM
Education Boondoggle

Washington's lame-duck governor Gary Locke has proposed a 1¢ hike in the state's sales tax in order to raise $1 billion for education.

I personally don't object to the principle of higher taxes and higher spending for education, provided however, that the money is well spent. Unfortunately, like most Democrat tax and spend proposals, this one offers only more spending, but nothing in terms of accountability for results. As the Evergreen Freedom Foundation observes:

If we could significantly increase student learning by spending more money, most of the children in our state would be highly literate by now. The legislature and taxpayers have increased spending by up to 13% (inflation adjusted) during this past ten years and the academic results have been very disappointing ... Currently, Washington state allocates somewhere between $8,600 and $9,400 per student—state officials don’t seem to know the exact number. Much of that money never makes it to the classroom. Some of our lowest performing schools in the state receive the highest per student allocations
Locke's initiative appears to be D.O.A. in the legislature
"If we threw that issue on the Senate floor, I'd be surprised if we got 10 votes, and half the Senate would be busy somewhere else," said Senate Education Chairman Stephen Johnson, R-Kent.
With no traction in the legislature, we can expect to see the League of Education Voters put this initiative on the November ballot under the slogan "It is time to retool and refuel". Make that "It is time to refool".

Meanwhile, the Washington Education Association is pouring cold water on the bill and making a political blunder, in my view, by being a little too candid about the only issue the union really cares about:

The teachers union supports increased funding for education but is concerned because the league's proposal doesn't address teachers' salaries.
Next time the teacher union asks for support on a bill that happens to raise teacher salaries, everybody else can now say "Sorry, I don't get a pay raise out of this, why should you?"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:05 PM
February 05, 2004
Dino Rossi for Governor

Rosenblog explains why Dino Rossi has a very good chance of being elected Washington's first Republican governor since 1980.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:37 PM
Sifting and Winnowing

Howard Dean announced that he will exit the race after he loses the Wisconsin primary.

Howard Dean told supporters today he will be out of the race for the Democratic nomination for president if he fails to win the Wisconsin primary, declaring "all that you have worked for these past months is on the line on a single day, in a single state."
Howard Dean aspires to repeat George McGovern's 1972 Wisconsin primary victory:
McGovern, hitherto regarded as a one-issue antiwar champion of the liberal-left, exploited his own superb organization in the state, tapped deep wells of economic discontent and, by winning a 30% plurality, transformed himself at last into a major candidate.
But by the most recent Wisconsin public opinion poll, Mad How is looking only like an angry, unpopular McGovern wannabe:
Among the Democratic candidates, the poll found:

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's favorable rating here grew to 42%, from 17% in early December. Eighteen percent had an unfavorable impression of Kerry, the Democratic presidential front-runner.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's favorable rating sank slightly, from 20% in early December to 18% in the new poll, while his unfavorable rating jumped from 20% to 34%.

Howard Dean could console himself after his defeat by tucking into a nice slice of fudge bottom pie at the Wisconsin Union.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:41 AM
Dhimmis Kucinich

Fantasy candidate Dennis "Dhimmis" Kucinich was campaigning at a Seattle mosque and Islamic school yesterday. Kucinich is promising a "swift withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq" followed by imposition of sha'aria law throughout the United States, or something like that.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:02 AM
Public School Accountability

Seattle School Board member Sally Soriano testified against charter schools yesterday at a hearing of the Washington House Appropriations Committee [audio at 37:15]

As it currently stands in the wording of the bill, charters and conversions have no mechanism to ensure accountability to the public. The allocation of taxpayer money for educating our students is an enormous public responsibility. The Seattle School Board follows strict state budgeting regulations. These include open budget hearings, ongoing public input on substantive policy issues as well as continual administrative oversight of our critical infrastructure.
The Seattle School District enjoyed a $33 million budget deficit last school year. Now, under Sally Soriano's watchful eye, it has a brand new $4.5 million deficit. The Seattle School District also interprets "public accountability" to mean telling the public that a school tax increase is not an increase.

I'm willing to accept charter schools only if they DON'T have the same fiscal mechanisms that the Seattle School Board uses.

I had the pleasure of meeting Sally Soriano a few weeks ago. She told me proudly that she was elected with "very strong electoral support".
"No you weren't," I shot back. "Only 17% of the registered voters bothered to vote for you."

Her face collapsed as if she were learning this for the first time.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:01 AM
Rep. Maralyn Chase

One of the delights of living in the state of Washington is a front-row seat on the state's Democrat politicians, who provide an unending supply of cheap entertainment. (Cheap, that is, when you don't count the horrendous taxes and lost economic growth for which the Democrats are responsible).

One of the best amusement values is Rep. Maralyn Chase, D-Edmonds, who seems to have all the common sense of a Raggedy Ann doll.

Rep. Maralyn Chase
Raggedy Ann
Rep. Chase is notable for being on the wrong side of history on various education issues -- promoting racial preferences, lowering standards and protecting failing schools from competition and accountability.

Rep. Chase has also just introduced a bill encouraging Washington couples to have only two or fewer children. At the same time she is also sponsoring bills that would have younger workers subsidizing prescription drugs and other healthcare for the elderly.

I'm tempted to ask Rep. Chase how her generous eldercare state will be able to sustain itself if we produce fewer children and also destroy the educational system, but I wouldn't expect Rep. Chase to give any more logical of an answer than Raggedy Ann would give.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
February 04, 2004
Taxed out of existence

My friend Armen Yousoufian was forced to sell his hotel. In spite of the sluggish economy, local authorities kept raising Yousoufian's taxes until he had no choice but to close the hotel and lay off all of his workers. In an e-mail, Yousoufian explained:

A few examples of how businesses in Seattle are under assault by local and state government – in the form of innumerable license fee, payroll tax, and utility rate increases of 25% to 58% or more:

1. Electricity rates rose 58% in the past two years. For my hotel, that meant a $5,000 monthly electricity bill increased to $8,000 – a $36,000 annual increase that could not be covered by profits that had ceased to exist.

2. As of January 1, 2004, the unemployment insurance payroll tax went up nearly 50%, after having increased 30% only a year ago.

3. The annual elevator, boiler, restaurant, hotel, signage, and other license fees increased 25% to 50%. (My hotel is subject to approximately 15 to 20 different licenses, fees, and permits, everyone of which has increased by exorbitant percentage amounts.)

4. At January 1, 2004, Washington State’s minimum wage increased to $7.16 an hour – putting it $2.01 an hour above the federal minimum wage. Worse yet, unlike 80% of the other states, there is no reduction in Washington state’s minimum wage for the extra $10 an hour or more in tips earned by restaurant workers (i.e. the Federal “tip credit” observed in 80% of the other states is not observed under Washington law, burdening restaurant employers so heavily that restaurants keep going out of business). The combination of the highest minimum wage in the U.S. and no “tip credit” is lethal to most full service restaurants. In fact, as many know, I closed my hotel's restaurant and bar operation in mid-December. That closure was a prelude to the closure of the entire hotel operation.

This should be a lesson to those who believe that an activist city government can create economic growth by redistributing income. But I'm not optimistic.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:19 PM
An underperforming distraction

Today's Seattle Times has an op-ed by Washington Education Association president Charles Hasse, where he calls charter schools "An underperforming distraction". Hasse repeats some of the WEA's familiar objections to charter schools, such as:

Experience more staff turnover
Evidence greater racial segregation
As I noted the other day, this only highlights the benefits of charter schools relative to traditional union dominated public schools: namely they can actually fire incompetent teachers, and they also step up to the plate to do a better job of serving low-income minority communities.

Naturally, Charles Hasse doesn't mention the real reason why the WEA hates charter schools: it would stand to lose $744 a year in mandatory union dues from every teacher that chooses to leave the WEA in order to work in a charter school. And that might jeopardize Hasse's own extravagant salary and benefits.

Meanwhile, the Times' Susan Byrnes has a more realistic column about the benefits of charter schools.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:04 PM
Education Quagmire

As expected, the Seattle Schools Levies seem to be passing by a comfortable margin. This afternoon I sent one of the Seattle School Board members a courteous e-mail explaining how the School District alienated my support in the last few weeks (listing reasons I gave here). I concluded:

I expect both of today's levies to pass. I also expect that I will support other levies in the future. My opposition this time is simply intended as a message to the School District's leadership that it has room for improvement in a few areas, such as priorities and financial transparency.
The Board member replied:
It's a lot of words but it still comes down to punish the kids for the sins of the adults. I'm not impressed.
The message being, apparently, that voters are supposed to tolerate an unlimited amount of waste, dishonesty and incompetence and keep approving tax increases with only the hope that the funds will somehow benefit children.

And, hey, I always thought it was an elected official's job to impress the voters, and not the other way around!

Meanwhile in the State Legislature

The Democrats are trying to make it even easier for the zero-accountability government monopoly schools to exploit the taxpayers by lowering the threshhold needed to pass a levy. (Only about 22% of Seattle's registered voters voted in favor of the last levy. Is this an unacceptably high bar?) Fortunately, the Senate is in the hands of Republicans who understand the concepts of accountability and fiscal responsibility and don't want to make it easy for school insiders to victimize the taxpayers.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
February 03, 2004
Light Blogging Today

Light blogging today as I have some business projects that need my focused attention.

The Seattle School Levy vote is today. I'm voting NO on both levies. I expect the levies to pass, but I'm voting NO to express my disappointment with the School District, most recently for misleading the voters by saying that the levy is not a tax increase when it very clearly is a tax increase.

I was on NWCN-TV news last night in a segment about the levy that has been replayed several times. My segment is not on the NWCN website, but an earlier piece about the levy is on the website. Watch the video and see a levy campaign volunteer mislead a voter that the levy is not a tax increase.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:33 AM
February 02, 2004
Peace on Earth

Tiffini Reed, a 16-year-old from Richmond, California was stabbed in the chest by another girl from her high school. Tiffini also happens to have a singing role in "Peace on Earth", an "educational film about kids and world peace":

Tiffini is one of two American children in the film's cast, which represents 30 countries. The theme of the movie is what world peace means to children and what they can do together to promote it.
"World peace" should mean the same thing to children as it does to grown-ups. In both cases, singing about "peace" isn't likely to be as effective at promoting peace as is being prepared to defend oneself against those who are armed and dangerous.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:29 PM
Locke Endorses Kerry (sort of)

Washington Gov. Gary Locke today endorsed Sen. John Kerry for the Democratic nomination. But it's not exactly brimming with enthusiasm. Hear how Gov. Locke damned Kerry with faint praise in a Jan. 20 radio interview when asked if he would be endorsing any of the Democratic contenders (about 4:15 into the broadcast):

Locke: I'm big fans of Senator Kerry and Howard Dean. I've worked with Howard Dean when he was the governor and very, very impressed with his record and what he's been able to talk about. But I've also been very impressed with Sen. Kerry and told some of the members of the press that I think he's a person that people should be watching for and a few weeks ago I was saying don't count out Sen. Kerry.

Interviewer: Give me two positives. One from each of them that you're impressed by in terms of Kerry's record or his proposals and Dean.

Locke: Gov. Dean was a good manager of his state of Vermont. He's long championed better medical services for people all across the country in terms of truly good medical coverage where people would still choose their own doctors but greater funding and really good coverage of prescription drugs for every senior in America and really offering better quality health care. As governor he really did lead his state in expanding access and affordability of health care to children and to low and middle class families in his state.

Sen. Kerry , I think, has really got that international experience. I think he has credibility in terms of foreign policy. He's a Vietnam war vet. At the same time he's made a very ....I think he's very correct in saying that President Bush at every single turn has basically screwed up and mishandled international relations and the war in Iraq. I mean, Sen. Kerry supported, authorizing the President, the United States to go into Iraq but again it should have been done with more cooperation and help from other countries it should not have been basically a U.S. endeavor.

As Mark Steyn puts it, Democrats are rallying behind Kerry only because he has less obvious unelectability than any of the others.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:12 PM
Public Opinion and Public Health in Palestine

A recent Palestinian public opinion poll reveals that a majority of Palestinians support the continuation of the intifada, and a large plurality still favors suicidal attacks in Israel.

Meanwhile, the latest Palestinian public opinion poll also says that 59% of Palestinians believe that Israel should give them more medical services:

Which medical services should Israel provide? please indicate all the services you think Israel should provide:
1. Vaccinations for children/adults 22.1%
2. School breakfast 7.4%
3. Prenatal/Maternity Care13.2%
4. Cancer Screening/Health Information. 23.0%
5. Cancer treatment.25.3%
6.Don't know/Refused (Do Not Read ) 9.0%
In fact, the greatest advances in Palestinian public health occurred under Israeli rule, after 1967 but before the intifada and the war by suicide bombing:
mortality rates in the West Bank and Gaza fell by more than two-thirds between 1970 and 1990, while life expectancy rose from 48 years in 1967 to 72 in 2000 (compared with an average of 68 years for all the countries of the Middle East and North Africa). Israeli medical programs reduced the infant-mortality rate of 60 per 1,000 live births in 1968 to 15 per 1,000 in 2000 (in Iraq the rate is 64, in Egypt 40, in Jordan 23, in Syria 22). And under a systematic program of inoculation, childhood diseases like polio, whooping cough, tetanus, and measles were eradicated.
Palestinian access to Israeli health care has indeed fallen off as Israel has tightened border security to protect itself. All of those very popular suicidal attacks are suicidal in more ways than one.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:58 AM
February 01, 2004
Clean Air, Hot Air

The Michael Medved Fan Blog points out some of the inherent difficulties with the secular religion of enviromentalism. Even the greenest technologies can cause environmental damage.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:31 PM
Charter School Update

The Education Excellence Coalition reports that the Washington House Education Committee finally passed a charter school bill, but one that is substantially weaker than any previously bills. The most serious shortcoming of the bill is that

The State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) is NO LONGER AUTHORIZED to approve a worthy charter school application on appeal UNLESS the SPI gets permission from the same local school district that rejected the application or from an Educational Service District (ESD).
[Note: a knowledgeable reader posted a comment correcting the above quote. Be sure to read the first comment for details]. An ESD is a regional authority elected by local school boards, so for all intents and purposes the only way a charter school can be created is if the local school board is bold enough to authorize a competitor with itself. That has happened elsewhere, but it isn't likely to happen very often.

This is a pretty disappointing bill for a state where not only the Republican legislative caucuses charter schools, but where the Democratic governor claims to support charter schools, as does the Democratic Speaker of the House. Still, this bill is better than nothing. If this bill passes and charter schools are legally possible, then it makes more sense for local community groups to organize and apply pressure to their local school boards to authorize a particular school. Once a solid constituency for charter schools exists and once there are successful charter schools operating in the state, it will be easier to get a better bill at a later time.

On the other hand, the current bill is so weak that I hope the pro-charter legislators will still improve the bill in both the House and the Senate. I also hope they didn't have to trade any other concessions to the obstructionist Democrats to get this version of the bill, which really isn't worth very much.

The Washington Education Association's Position on Charter Schools

The state's largest teacher union has a very simple position on charter schools:

WEA does not support any charter school legislation
Not any. None. The reason is very simple: charter school teachers would be allowed to join the WEA, but they wouldn't have to. Most would prefer not to. Therefore, the WEA would lose an average of $744 a year in union dues for each teacher that chooses to leave a traditional public for a charter school. Yes, it really is that simple.

Nevertheless, the WEA can't come out and say that they're fighting to preserve the revenue stream which pays for their extravagant union executive salaries and their generous illegal campaign contributions. Instead, the WEA's stated arguments against charter schools are pathetic, but also hilarious when you look closely. For example:
1) Charter schools "Experience higher staff turnover". This is so, but only because public schools experience unnaturally low staff turnover, due to the fact that the teacher unions exist largely to make it impossible to fire the dismally incompetent.

2) "Enrollments evidence greater racial segregation than regular public schools". If this appears to be the case, it is only because a disproportionate number of charter schools exist in order to serve largely minority communities that are so poorly served by the traditional public schools. The WEA is implicitly shaming those same minority parents for pulling their kids out of the failing teacher union schools and placing them in higher-performing charter schools.

WEA delenda est.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:00 PM
Pipes on American Diplomacy towards the Palestinians

Daniel Pipes picked up on my recent entry that recited several of Colin Powell's toothless statements insisting that the Palestinians "end terror".

Pipes takes these statements as an indication that "there's something fundamentally wrong" with American diplomacy toward the Palestinians. He recalls his essay from a year ago "Does Israel Need a Plan?", which explains why diplomatic initiatives toward the Palestinians keep failing, and proposes a more sensible approach. Do read the whole thing.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:32 PM