March 31, 2004
The best of Times

Today's Seattle Times editorial is on the right side of the charter school argument, as the Times editorial page has consistently been:

The state's largest teachers union has decided to challenge the new charter-school law. What a waste of time and money. All the effort to get voters to overturn the law will do nothing to improve public education in this state.

The worst of Times

Today's lead editorial, "The troubling arc of media concentration", is more self-interested than it is factual or sensical:

Five owners now dominate American television: Viacom, which owns CBS; Disney, which owns ABC; News Corp., which owns Fox; General Electric, which owns NBC; and AOL Time Warner.
In other words there are two more news networks than in the good old days of the "Big Three Networks". And then there's the sixth major TV news outlet, PBS. Some might think that a doubling of nightly news shows is an ominous sign of concentration. Others might disagree. And if the Times is so concerned about concentration in the news business, why is it trying to shut down the only other daily newspaper in town?

Floyd McKay's op-ed column is almost always one of the worst things to appear in the Seattle Times and today's column is no exception.

Today's front page story on the recent wave of violence in Uzbekistan refers to the suicide bombers as "alleged terrorists" and "suspected terrorists". Not to jump to conclusions or anything...

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:04 AM
March 29, 2004
Legislative Intent

Among the distinguished guests at Fawn Spady's campaign kick-off on Sunday (see the previous post) was state Senator Jim Horn, chair of the Senate Highways and Transportation Committee. I chatted with him for a few minutes and asked him about the vehicle registration bill that I've mentioned in connection with the Monorail tax. (Actually, I started the discussion by thanking him for killing the bill).

Sen. Horn told me that he felt that it should be left up to individual localities to decide whether to require vehicle registration at a specific address and that it shouldn't be imposed on the entire state to do it that way. He explained that some people in the state have multiple residences and that the precedent here is that "people live where they say they live". I asked him what he thought about the Department of Licensing adopting an administrative rule to achieve an outcome that the legislature rejected. He said that he did what he felt he needed to do to establish legislative intent and the facts are there if anybody wants to challenge the DOL in court...

Sen. Horn is a good man.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:33 PM
Ground Zero

I spent Sunday afternoon at "Ground Zero", of sorts.

The Washington State House of Representatives has a 52-46 Democratic majority. So all the Republicans need to retake the House is a net gain of four seats. According to this news report, the state GOP is optimistic and:

The battleground races are generally in the Puget Sound suburbs and Southwest Washington. [Republican strategist Dave] Mortenson says "ground zero" of the House races will be the showdown between freshman Democrat Judy Clibborn and Republican firebrand Fawn Spady in the 41st on Mercer Island.
Our "Ground Zero" afternoon was in fact the Fawn Spady campaign kick-off event at the Mercer Island Jewish Community Center.

Regular readers of the Shark Blog will recognize Fawn as the leader, along with her husband Jim, of the lobbying effort for the state's recently signed charter school law. The Spadys fought for ten years to get the law passed, and developed a bipartisan coalition that prevailed over the fierce resistance from the teacher unions and other entrenched interests. Now that's leadership and perseverence.

Fawn has solid backing from the state GOP. The crowd at the kick-off included a Who's Who of the state legislature and local elected officials. Fawn is a terrific candidate, experienced, ebullient and personable; and she's in a strong position to defeat the freshman Democrat incumbent in the traditionally Republican district. If you live in the 41st District, you'll want to vote for Fawn Spady in November. To volunteer, contribute or learn more, her campaign website is here.

Now I get to blow my own horn... While mingling at the campaign kick-off, I went over to introduce myself to one of the honored guests, a top-ranking member of the state Senate. Before I could say anything he looked at my name tag and then said "I've been reading your stuff. It's really good. Thank you!"

That made my day.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:01 PM
Patty Murray should debate

Washington Senator Patty Murray would do well to debate her Republican challengers. It almost looked like Murray was challenging her main opponent, George Nethercutt, to a debate. The Spokane Spokesman-Review reports:

In a story Tuesday in Roll Call, the manager of the Murray campaign was dismissive of Nethercutt's financial support from the American Medical Association, saying her boss has a better record on health care. "If they want to have a debate on health care, we welcome that debate," Carol Albert said.

Nethercutt and his campaign pounced on that statement and sent a letter agreeing to debate.

"I'm excited about debating Senator Murray. I'm taking her invitation at face value," he said Wednesday.

But Murray didn't offer her invitation at face value. Her campaign later said:
she was talking about "the rhetorical type of debate that candidates go through, in the news media, during a campaign."

Any face-to-face, Lincoln-Douglas style matchup should wait until after Nethercutt wins the GOP nomination, she said.

"We'll be happy to discuss the possibility of debates, after the primary in September," she said.

It wouldn't necessarily be unreasonable to wait until after the primary to see who the Republican nominee is before there's a debate. On the other hand, there's a good chance that the state will go ahead with the (regrettable) Cajun-style Top-Two primary that was just approved by the legislature. In that case, there is no "Republican nominee". So Murray should offer to debate all candidates, regardless of party, who are showing at a reasonable minimum threshhold in the polls. The first debate should take place as soon as possible. Or is the "mom in tennis shoes" afraid she can't hold her own?

Hat tip: Ron Hebron

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
March 28, 2004
With us or against us

George Bush, Nov. 6, 2001:

"You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror."
Hamas warlord Abdel Aziz-Rantisi, Mar. 28, 2004:
"We knew that Bush is the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam and Muslims. America declared war against God. Sharon declared war against God and God declared war against America, Bush and Sharon"
He's not exactly with us, is he.

Dr. Rantisi must want martyrdom badly enough that he's even giving Israelis P.R. cover to make their decision even easier!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:54 AM
March 27, 2004
WEA Delenda Est

The Washington Education Association, the state affiliate of the non-terrorist National Education Association, has announced that it will launch a ballot initiative to overturn the state's recently passed charter school law.

The WEA has over 76,000 members, each of whom is required to forfeit an average $745 of their salary each year in union dues as a condition of teaching in a public school. This is effectively a direct but off-the-books transfer of $56 million of the taxpayer's money to the teacher unions every year. Much of the WEA's budget goes toward influencing the political process (often illegally) in order to maintain the union's unaccountable monopoly on public education spending. Charter schools, whose teachers are not required to join the WEA, are a threat to the union monopoly, especially if charter schools perform better than unionized public schools.

Although membership in the WEA is voluntary, paying dues to the WEA is mandatory. Maybe it's time for a ballot initiative that would dismantle the WEA altogether, or at least permit public school teachers to opt out of the union entirely and keep their entire paycheck.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:04 PM
Only in Madison

A few students at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, are suing for cheaper beer:

A Minneapolis law firm Wednesday filed a class-action suit against 24 Madison bars and the Dane County Tavern League alleging a conspiracy to illegally fix drink prices through bans on late-night weekend drink specials.

The suit, filed in Dane County Circuit Court on behalf of three bar patrons, seeks "tens of millions of dollars" in damages for all customers allegedly cheated by the practice. It also would break the "cartel," as the lawsuit refers to the group of bars who participated in the ban, and seeks to reinstate "competitive pricing."

It's a tough job market out there, boys. It wouldn't hurt to cut back on the boozing and crack a book for a change.

Hat tip: Matt Rosenberg.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:36 AM
Happy Anniversary

Irene and I were married five years ago today.

Thank you for the best five years of my life, sweetheart. May there be many, many more.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:22 AM
March 26, 2004
I'm quoted in the Times

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat quotes me in today's column about the Monorail tax.

This is sort of an update to the story of the "letter that was never printed", that I mention below.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:21 AM
March 25, 2004
Letters that were never printed

Here is a letter to the editor that the Seattle Times never printed.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:58 PM
March 24, 2004
200,000 anti-Semites can't be wrong

Yesterday's Seattle Times editorial condemning Israel for the extermination of master Jew-killer Ahmed Yassin justified its disapproval by noting

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw was unequivocal: Assassination "is unacceptable, it is unjustified and it is very unlikely to achieve its objectives."

The 200,000 Palestinians who took to the streets to mourn Yassin's death suggest the foreign minister is right.

For some reason, 200,000 seems to be a popular size for crowds of seething bloodthirsty anti-Semites. Several references report on Hitler's rallies in Nuremberg during the 1920s and 1930s.


The massed ranks of Hitler's followers marched for the first time on a grand scale in 1929 at the big Party Rally in Nürnberg. Over 200,000 people arrived in special trains.
From the movie Triumph of the Will (1935)
HITLER: "One year ago, we met for the first time on this field; it was the first general review of the political leaders of the National Socialist Party. Now 200,000 men have been assembled; summoned not by their mere hearts but also their fidelity...
"I went to the hear an address Hitler was making to Nazi political leaders gathered from all over Germany. The stadium was packed with nearly 200,000 spectators... "
If the Seattle Times ever learns of Hitler's popularity, it may will condemn the United States for pushing the Nazi leader into suicide.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
March 23, 2004
Shilling for Hamas at the Seattle Times

Today's Seattle Times coverage of Israel's liquidation of genocide promoter Ahmed Yassin is so astonishingly pro-Hamas that the Islamist ethnic cleansers of Hamas couldn't have purchased more sympathetic P.R. And that's just the "news" page. The editorial page is even more fawning in its memorial to the wheelchair-bound mass murderer.

"Oh, That Liberal Media" has my full entry on the subject.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:18 PM
March 22, 2004
What Liberal Media?

The hottest topic on "Oh, That Liberal Media" today is the extermination of master terrorist Ahmed Yassin.

The Associated Press just can't bring itself to call Yassin a terrorist.

the L.A. Times bestows Yassin with "moral authority"

The BBC whitewashes Yassin's villainy.

While most of the media jump to parrot Hamas' routine threats for "unprecedented revenge", none seem to report that the targeted killings of Hamas leaders have actually coincided with a reduction in terorism.

and lots more good stuff. Just visit the home page and keep reading.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:59 PM
Europeasers angry with Israel for defending itself

The successors of Hitler, Chamberlain, Petain and Franco have whipped themselves into a paroxysm of appeasement today: "EU blasts Yassin assassination, fears fallout"

The European Union rounded angrily on Israel on Monday for killing Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, warning that his assassination was "very bad news" for the Middle East peace process.
British, French, German, Spanish and Polish figures all condemned the extermination of an implacable terrorist.
"I am afraid that it may have very, very negative consequences, not only in terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict," [Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz] said at the EU talks.

"I am afraid that the threat of terrorist attacks against other countries, including Europeans, is growing."

The Poles, in particular, have a track record of trying to score points by sacrificing the Jews.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:18 AM
March 21, 2004
Unilateral Adventure

On NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday this morning, we heard a sobering reminder of the international sacrifices in Iraq:

56 British military personnel have died, 1 Ukrainian soldier, 5 Bulgarian soldiers, 2 Japanese diplomats, 2 South Korean civilian workers, 1 Colombian contractor, 16 Italian soldiers and police officers, 2 Thai soldiers, 1 Venezuelan soldier, 1 Polish soldier and 7 Spanish intelligence officers.
Fallen heroes from 11 different countries, and thousands of others from around the world who continue to put their lives on the line for the liberation and reconstruction of Iraq, and all John Kerry can say about them is that they are part of Bush's "fraudulent coalition" for "unilateral preemption".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:24 AM
March 19, 2004
There goes the neighborhood

This went down a few blocks from my father's house:

Unidentified assailants in a passing car shot and killed a man walking along a street in the French Hill neighborhood in Jerusalem on Friday evening. The Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades claimed responsibility for the shooting.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades is the official terrorist wing of Yassir Arafat's Fatah party.

Yassir Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

UPDATE: Dad e-mails:

We're all right, but one of our neighbors was killed by a drive-by shooter while jogging about 100 meters from here. He was George Elias Houri, one of the numerous Arab university students and young professionals whose residence in this neighborhoo demonstrate that Israel is not an apartheid society. He was a student at the university. A faction of Yassir Arafat's PLO claimed credit for the deed.

It's not the first time killers seem to have stuck the wrong ethnic group. It may not matter to them. Muslim fanatics may take credit for there being one less Christian in Palestine, and concepts of terror put a greater emphasis creating insecurity than accuracy. We still haven't decided whether or not to continue walking the dog and ourselves around the neighborhood after dark, or at all. If we give it up, it will surrender one of the benefits of this location.

The Arab who filled my tank at the gas station on the border of French Hill (Jewish) and Isawea (Arab) was not his usual cheerful self this morning. Security investigators probably worked through the night, and their interrogations are not likely to be pleasant.

We filled up on the way to Park Brittania. It's the end of the rainy season, and wild flowers are at their best. Not all is violent in the Promised Land.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:32 PM
Unsound Transit

Shoreline City Councilmember and transit watchdog Maggie Fimia has an op-ed in yesterday's Tacoma News Tribune about the multi-billion dollar Sound Transit light-rail scandal: Sound Transit's bait and switch will do long-term harm

State legislators clearly wrote the rules governing Sound Transit. They now must rein it in and hold it accountable by sending this nonapproved project back to the voters. They should also consider changing this agency from an appointed body to a directly elected one.
As I mentioned the other day, House Transportation Committee chair Ed Murray promised legislation to make Sound Transit's board elected, but then killed the bill in his own committee. Ed Murray seems to have a habit of voting against his promises, so I think the only way we're going to get an accountable Sound Transit is to excrete Murray out of the legislature and/or get a Republican majority in the House.

Hank Bradley e-mails his suggestion to also dethrone the state Supreme Court justices who ruled that it was okay for Sound Transit to pull a fast one on the voters:

Even worse, the Washington Supreme Court in siding with the ST Board has made suckers of the voters all over again. Perhaps this was predictable, since it was the same Court which enabled many of the same officials to force taxpayer financing of the Mariner Stadium by declaring a specious 'public emergency'. However, those two decisions by the Court are the opposite of dispensing justice. The impeachment of all six Justices who supported Sound Transit in this latest case is certainly warranted, whether according to statute or not.
The only one of the six justices who is up for re-election this year is Barbara Madsen. (Faith Ireland's seat is also up this year, but she has indicated she will step down). Electing suitable replacements for Madsen and Ireland, while also re-electing Justice Richard Sanders, who dissented in this case, should at least give the court a responsible majority next year.

The other justices who should be voted off the court are, in 2006: Chief Justice Gerry L. Alexander and Susan Owens; and in 2008: Bobbe Bridge and Mary Fairhurst.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:07 PM
It's in the P-I

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has an interesting article today: "Saddam's ouster worth war, local Iraqis say"

One year after the start of the war that ousted Saddam Hussein, many local Iraqi emigres view their native country as reborn, a work in progress and heading in the right direction.

"What happened in Iraq should be the eighth (modern wonder of) the world," Everett resident Ali Al-Sadoon said, "because nobody could get rid of Saddam. He said, 'We'll build our regime to stay in power for at least 300 years.' Thank God it was no more than 30 years."

Reyal Sindi, director of Kurdish Human Rights Watch in Kent, holds no doubts about the U.S. intervention in Iraq.

"It was worth it, a thousand times," he said. "Ask any Iraqi, although we are sorry for the people who died as a result of that war. In any war they are going to have casualties. Nothing is free. On our part, we will be appreciative."

Read the whole thing. The P-I's own editorial board apparently didn't read the whole thing, as it still seems to be mired in its own mental quagmire:
The war in Iraq cannot be undone, the bombs returned to their bays, the missiles to their launchers, or the dead raised from the grave.
and the people can't be unliberated either, but let's not get carried away when the real question, as the P-I goes on to tell us, is whether "the authority and respect of the United Nations [can be] restored".

Meanwhile, even as millions of Iraqis in Iraq and in exile are still saying "thank you!" for the war, Mumia-supporting sitcom actors from all over Malibu are converging on Seattle tomorrow to piss and complain that Saddam was forced to give up his gold toilet.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:33 AM
Charter Schools are now the law

Washington Gov. Gary Locke yesterday signed into law a number of education bills, including HB 2295 which authorizes the creation of a limited number of charter schools.

The next step is for charter school developers to organize and submit applications to their local school boards. Here in Seattle there is a demonstrated need for alternatively managed public schools, so I expect a few charter applicants will appear in the months ahead. The Seattle School Board has already dug in its heels against charter schools, partly with the excuse that offering independent schools would somehow distract the School District from the fight to "overcome institutionalized racism in our schools and in our communities".

Among the community organizations that have announced their intentions to help establish charter schools is the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle. It will be interesting to watch as the Seattle School Board's charter school opponents Brita Butler-Wall and Sally Soriano try to smash racism by denying fundamental choices to the clients of the Urban League.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:41 AM
March 18, 2004
Household Emergency

The Sharkansky family confronted its most serious crisis in decades this evening, when two-year-old David took a dump in his bath. Boy, what a mess. It is during such "all four hands" rescue operations that you understand why every child should have two parents.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:11 PM
Kerry's Foreign Friends

John Kerry still hasn't revealed the names of the foreign leaders who are working behind the scenes on his behalf, but today's news reports contain some relevant items.

Jose Zapatero, the appeasement-happy Al-Qaeda-endorsed Spanish prime minister-elect endorsed Kerry:

Prime Minister-elect José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero yesterday described the U.S. occupation of Iraq as "a fiasco" and suggested American voters should follow the example set by Spain and change their leadership by supporting Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in November.
Former Malaysian prime minister Dr. Mohammed Mahathir, a Muslim who is best known for propagating anti-semitic conspiracy theories, also endorsed Kerry today:
"I think Kerry would be much more willing to listen to the voices of people and of the rest of the world," Mahathir, who retired in October after 22 years in power, told The Associated Press in an interview.

"But in the U.S., the Jewish lobby is very strong, and any American who wants to become president cannot change the policy toward Palestine radically," he said.

A posting on Kerry's campaign blog says that Kerry "rejects any association with ... Mahathir", but doesn't repudiate Mahathir's characterizations of Kerry's positions that led to the endorsement. Kerry also doesn't dispute the statements made by the appeasement-happy Al-Qaeda-endorsed Spanish prime minister-elect.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:20 PM
Time to Privatize Evergreen?

For a while now I've been wondering why Evergreen State "College" continues to be funded by Washington's taxpayers. This week's celebration of Rachel Corrie, whom the Evergreen students and faculty incited to throw herself in front of a moving bulldozer only reminded me of this massive waste of taxpayer funds that pretends to be a college.

Evergreen was allocated $90,670,000 in state funds for the 2003-2005 biennium. The 2004 supplemental budget gives Evergreen an additional $442,000 which includes a subsidy for an additional 37 full time students. The question is, why? What do the people of Washington get out of this? The state has an interest in funding higher education, to be sure, but only if it helps create a more capable workforce. It's difficult to understand how Evergreen contributes to that goal. Students who want to spend their early twenties learning how to "re-oralize" themselves instead of attending a real university should be free to do so, but let their own families pay for the experience, and not the taxpayers.

I'd be interested in hearing what other Washington taxpayers think about the value of Evergreen. I'm especially interested in hearing from the lawmakers who approve Evergreen's budget to explain why they're convinced that Evergreen is a worthwhile use of public funds.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:31 AM
March 17, 2004
What Liberal Media?

Today on Oh, That Liberal Media --

The Seattle Times is biased in favor of liberal journalism professors who are biased against accountability in academia

The Seattle Times hires economically ignorant liberal columnists to write about economics.

The major media discovers that the liberation of Iraq wasn't unilateral only after the coalition loses a member.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is biased against Republicans.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer celebrates Rachel Corrie on the news page.

The Chicago Tribune is prejudiced against Republicans.

and more good stuff. Just visit the home page and keep reading.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:28 PM
March 16, 2004
Celebrating Rachel Corrie

Both the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer today published nauseating guest editorials celebrating Rachel Corrie, who killed herself one year ago by jumping in front of an Israeli army bulldozer in order to prevent it from completing an anti-terrorist defensive operation.

From the Times: Rachel Corrie was killed by Israel's illegal wall, by Steve Niva, one of Corrie's instructors at the Evergreen State "College".

From the P-I: Rachel Corrie fought for world she believed in -- Rachel Corrie believed in a Judenrein world, apparently. The op-ed's author, a Molly McClain who "lives in Seattle and works with the Palestine Solidarity Committee", closes:

To people all over the world, especially in Rafah, she is a hero. If you have thought that she was just an idiotic kid who deserved to die, I ask: What kind of world do you imagine, believe in or fight for?
Well, Molly, I would not say that Rachel Corrie was either an idiot or that she deserved to die. But to answer your question, I imagine, believe in and fight for a world where respectable newspapers don't publish the sort of anti-semitic trash of which your essay is an example. I also imagine, believe in and fight for a world where people like Steve Niva do not receive stipends from the taxpayers so they can incite their impressionable young students to throw themselves in front of moving vehicles in order to defend a terrorist movement.

UPDATE (3/17): As Dave Halliday correctly points out in his comment below, today's Times published four letters critical of Steve Niva's op-ed. I have to take exception to one of the letters, which closes:

I just expect more from an Evergreen State College teacher
I hope for more, but I don't expect more.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:53 PM
Blowback from Madrid

Der Spiegel writes today that Shock in the White House: Spain's retreat torpedoes Bush's election campaign. It's true that a Spanish retreat from Iraq doesn't help the coalition effort to stabilize Iraq, but I don't think it hurts Bush's re-election.

If anything, Americans are shocked that Spain's electorate seemed so ready to appease the terrorists and I think that makes us even more resolute against Kerry-style appeasement. See today's letters to the editor page from the Seattle Times, for example. If so many in hippy-dippy pacifist Seattle are shocked by the Spanish surrender, imagine what the rest of the country is thinking.

Spain Torpedoed Kerry, not Bush

Indeed, the fact that the Kerry blooper about "foreign leaders supporting his election" is getting so much traction is another reflection of this sentiment. The underlying concern is not so much that "Kerry lied to attack the President" but that he's proud of the fact that unspecified foreign leaders are supporting him for President. Even worse, he seems to think that American voters would view this as a good thing. I think that most of us, fortunately, recognize that unnamed foreign politicians don't necessarily have the US' own best interests in mind and the Spanish capitulation only reinforces that view.

Spain gave Israel more freedom to operate

The Spanish bombing and election outcome also made it easier for Israel to disregard the unfortunate obstacles to its self-defense imposed by the "international community". Two things are even more crystal clear than they were a week ago: the terrorism against Israel is the same as the terrorism against the rest of the civilized world; And all those European (especially Spanish) calls for "restraint" in the face of terrorism are as predictable as they are worthless. Europe has shown itself as ineffectual at fighting terrorism as it would be at preventing Israel from fighting terrorism. I don't think it's a coincidence that Sharon has only in the last few days announced that he won't negotiate with Palestinians and that he is also escalating efforts to eliminate terrorists in Gaza.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:07 AM
Europeaser Union Surrenders Again

EU Commission President Romano Prodi speaking in reaction to the Madrid bombing and Spanish election. (I didn't find these particular quotes in the English-language press):

I believe that our defense policy can not rely solely on arms. It's appropriate to have some reflection... That means, from my point of view, not only material defense and the use of police and the military. It also means to have a world political strategy and in particular vis a vis the Mediterranean world."
On the Spanish election:
They say that a year ago the citizens of the EU were all united against the war. It seems to me that would also be the case today.
[The attack of March 11] has given a great sense of necessity for a political response and the European Constitution is a fundamental element of this. I would hope the Constitution will be considered one of the indispensible political instruments for the fight against terrorism
Yes, it really is the 1930s all over again.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:11 AM
March 15, 2004
Kerry's Foreign Supporters

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry declines to name the foreign leaders whom he claims told him they are rooting for him to defeat President Bush. If Kerry was foolish enough to invite speculation, I'll be more than happy to speculate, based on what I've been reading in the papers:

1. Jean-Bertrand Aristide

2. Kim Jong-Il

3. Saddam Hussein

4. Fidel Castro

5. Ayatollah Khamenei

6. Jose "Let Al Qaeda Win" Zapatero

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:14 PM
Ed Murray could be taken out

Rep. Ed Murray is one of my state legislators. Here's why I think he might be vulnerable to losing his seat in November.

Ed Murray doesn't keep his word. I called his office a few weeks ago to encourage him to vote for the charter school bill. The aide told me that Murray supported the bill. One of Murray's colleagues in the House Democratic Caucus also told me that Murray had committed to support the bill. Just before last Wednesday's floor vote I called Murray's office again to reiterate my support for the bill. His aide reassured me he had no information to suggest that Murray's position would have changed. But Ed Murray voted against the bill. His NO vote didn't matter in this case, the bill passed anyway. Maybe Murray thought his vote was a safe way to pretend to be a hero for the teachers union. But still, my reaction was "What a duplicitous bozo. How can you trust this guy?"

The short answer is: I don't think you can trust him. This seems to be the way Ed Murray operates.

Last year as chair of the House Transportation Commitee, Ed Murray claimed to support accountability measures for Sound Transit, the runaway train agency, but then killed the bill in his committee. (It looks like he changed his position as part of a deal that would give him a future light rail station in his neighborhood)

A lot of people in Seattle are unhappy about Sound Transit's billion dollar cost overruns and lack of accountability. Other powerful elected officials have recently been thrown out of office for giving free rein to Sound Transit. Ed Murray could be part of the next wave to fall.

Monorail Car Tax Also a Bad Move for Murray

Ed Murray seems to have a fetish for protecting unpopular and badly managed transit agencies. He also introduced a bill this session to change the voluntary Monorail car tax that the voters approved, into a mandatory tax that the voters did not approve. Fortunately, the Senate Republicans, who apparently have more respect for voters and taxpayers than Ed Murray does, allowed the bill to die in committee.

Ed Murray has never had to run for his seat

Murray was appointed to his seat in 1995. He was "re-elected" in 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2002 with a Soviet Union-style 100% of the vote. He has never had to face an actual opponent. The district is so overwhelmingly Democratic that no Republican has run here since at least 1996 and possibly earlier. And the local Democratic machine has simply re-annointed Murray every two years.

It's probably tough to take out a committee chairman in a single-party district, but not impossible. In any event, the people of my district deserve a real choice in November and at the very least, a vigorous challenger could only teach Ed Murray to be a more responsive legislator. I hope to see Murray face some tough opposition this year.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:29 AM
What Liberal Media?

Oh, That Liberal Media.

Lots of good posts today and over the weekend:

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is terribly confused about the meaning of Madrid

The Washington Post is nominated for Worst Economic Reporting in a Major Newspaper

The Associated Press is biased when it comes to terrorism

The Seattle Times celebrates Rachel Corrie.

The broadcast news media is biased against Bush

The L.A. Times is still biased in favor of Justice Ginsburg

The Sioux-Falls Argus Leader is still biased in favor of Democrats, as it has been for decades.

Knight Ridder is biased in favor of Democrats on campaign finance reform

And the Daily Journal (professional newspaper for the California legal community) is biased against the state's Three Strikes law.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:43 AM
Senseless in Seattle

The Seattle City Council today is voting on a proposal to grant property tax exemptions to developers who create "affordable housing" in certain neighborhoods.

Sadly, this particular proposal would merely shift the property tax burden from a handful of politically favored builders onto the rest of us -- and it doesn't even advance the stated goal of making more housing available to lower-income people. The rent cap on the so-called "affordable housing" requirement is $950 a month for a studio apartment.

As the Seattle Times new columnist, Danny Westneat, wrote Friday:

Before they vote, council members should check out the real-estate ads themselves. This week there were 101 studios listed for rent in Seattle. Only two were priced more than $900, with most falling in the $500 to $700 range.
Westneat seems to accept the general concept of subsidizing affordable housing:
Using tax incentives to help keep down rents is a great idea. It's supported in principle by virtually everyone, from advocates for the needy to business lobbyists.
I agree with tax incentives, but only if we lower taxes for all property owners equally. Targeted tax incentives only create opportunities for political patronage and real estate arbitrage that favor only a few. As Armen Yousoufian e-mailed:
I agree completely with [Westneat], especially now that he has added some facts drawn from some easily enough done checking on prevailing rents. The one nuance he has missed ... that the existing property owner of a parcel that could be developed and is eligible for the tax subsidy is the one who will make the money from the resulting increase in the land's value by the present value of the future taxes that will be forgiven - not necessarily the "developer". The existing landowner may sell to a developer at a higher price than they could otherwise have obtained
As I've written before, the high price of housing is a simple matter of high demand for scarce supply. The only ways to lower the price are to increase supply or lower demand. We can increase supply by scrapping height and density restrictions and other counter-productive regulations and by lowering taxes for everybody. Or we can decrease demand by maintaining burdensome regulations and raising taxes to the point of driving people out of town. Sadly, the mayor and city council seem to favor the latter approach.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:22 AM
March 14, 2004
Al Qaeda victorious in Spanish election

Spain's Socialists scored a dramatic upset in elections Sunday, unseating conservatives stung by charges they provoked the Madrid terror bombings by supporting the U.S.-led war in Iraq and making Spain a target for al-Qaida.

Now that millions of Spaniards have chosen to reward the terrorists who murdered hundreds of their countrymen, it's not hard to imagine that Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups will step up their activities against Spain in order to extract concessions on, well, just about anything.

It also seems more likely now that rogue elements (Al Qaeda or anybody else) who want to unseat other regimes would commit pre-election terrorism in the U.S. or elsewhere.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:56 PM
Uprising in Iran

There seems to be a successful anti-Mullarchy rebellion in progress in the northern Iranian city of Fereydunkenar. Details and photos here.

hat tip: Mike Nargizian

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:14 AM
March 12, 2004
What Liberal Media?

Today on "Oh, That Liberal Media":

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune is biased in favor of increasing the minimum wage

The Seattle Times is biased against individual responsibility.

Reuters declines to be biased against Al Qaeda

The L.A. Times is still biased in favor of Justice Ginsburg.

Many news organizations are biased against Andrew Card

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:48 PM
March 11, 2004
Ron Sims

King County Executive Ron Sims "kicked-off" his gubernatorial campaign yesterday. He's been officially running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination since last July, but he's badly trailing Attorney General Christine Gregoire, so this "kick-off" looks like a desperately manufactured ploy to beg for some media attention.

"We need to make sure the entire state of Washington knows the man," Seattle real-estate investor and Sims adviser Ken Alhadeff told the crowd.
Well, I'm happy to do my part to help make sure the "entire state of Washington knows the man".

Ron Sims has been behind two of the largest public-financing scandals in state history -- the Seahawks Stadium and Sound Transit. The man deserves to be recalled as County Executive and probably even thrown in jail.

Ron Sims has this Republican's support for the Democratic nomination.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:30 AM

Last week's Seattle Weekly had a terrific cover story on the disastrous Seattle Monorail. One of the problems with the Monorail is that it is funded entirely by an excess registration tax on automobiles registered in Seattle, but many city residents are registering their cars elsewhere to avoid the tax and this has created a serious budget shortfall.

I wrote several weeks ago that it is an appropriate act of civil disobedience to register one's car outside of Seattle to avoid the Monorail tax. In fact, I was wrong. It is not an act of civil disobedience as it is not against the law. There has never been a legal requirement in Washington to register one's vehicle at one's primary residence. (The House Bill Report for the bill that failed in the legislature in an attempt to change the situation makes this very clear). In other words, the Monorail car tax as approved by the voters was voluntary, not mandatory, and those who choose not to pay it are entirely within their rights. Nevertheless, the local newspapers continue to editorialize against the non-payers as "scofflaws" and "evaders" when they are not. (examples: P-I Feb. 15, Seattle Times March 1, and the aforementioned article in the Seattle Weekly).

I wrote letters to both the Times and Weekly alerting them to their error. The Weekly published my letter in this week's issue. The Times has not published my letter.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:34 AM
March 10, 2004
Charter School Bill Passes Senate!

The Washington charter school bill passed the Senate this evening, 27-22. It passed the House earlier this afternoon. Gov. Locke is expected to sign the bill.

The people of Washington owe thanks to the governor and the legislators on both sides of the aisle for putting the interests of children above the wishes of employee unions and school administrators; and to Jim and Fawn Spady of the Education Excellence Coalition for devoting the last ten years to bringing school choice to the state.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:07 PM
Charter School Bill Passes House!

The Washington charter school bill passed the House of Representatives today 51-46. The latter link is not yet updated for the final roll call. In the meantime, I'm told that the vote count was 18 D and 33 R in favor with 33 D and 13 R opposed. Only one of the many amendments was approved. Kudos to Reps. Quall, Talcott, Rockefeller, Hunter, Anderson and Tom who led the debate in favor.

Next stop for the bill is the Republican-controlled Senate, which has until tomorrow evening to vote. My own Senator, Pat Thibaudeau is opposed to the bill on the specious grounds that "it would drain resources from public schools" and that "there is already enough flexibility in the system".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:10 PM
Home Stretch for Charter Schools

The public school monopolists who threatened to kill the Washington charter school bill with 100 dilatory amendments managed to produce only 13 actual dilatory amendments. And 9 of these originated with Rep. Maralyn Chase. The amendments are flagrantly ridiculous, e.g. requiring a majority of voters in each school district to approve every charter school application and that charter schools must provide bus transportation for their students by contracting with the local school district. (Who cares about longer instructional days? The essential issue is protecting overtime for union bus drivers!)

I take this as a sign of desperation that the anti-charter obstructionists know they're going to lose today's vote in the House. Nevertheless, it's important to contact your legislators and encourage them to vote for the charter bill. And without any of the destructive amendments.

UPDATE The House is debating the charters school bill and amendments at this moment (12:10pm). Watch on TVW (Seattle Cable 23) or listen here,

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:48 AM
The Best of Times

The best pieces in today's Seattle Times include:

Bi-weekly op-ed writer and Rosenblogger Matt Rosenberg's column: "Bush, not Kerry, can drive Mideast democracy forward"

In-house editorial writer Bruce Ramsey on the challenges of operating an industrial business in a city (Seattle) that is viscerally hostile to industry.

Yet another exposé of cost overruns and hallucinatory mismanagement on the Seattle Monorail.

And the Worst of Times

Today's lead editorial in the Seattle Times, "Don't Play Games With State Primary", argues for the bizarre Louisiana-style "top two" primary on the grounds that "the people want it" (where's the evidence of this?) and claims that it would somehow be improper for Gov. Locke to exercise his legitimate prerogative to veto such legislation

That is too bad, especially since the last day of the regular legislative session is tomorrow. If the governor had any impulse to ram his preference down the throats of the state's citizens — over lawmakers' best efforts — he should have been more forcefully prescriptive.
"ram ... down the throats?". The nasty excessive tone of this editorial suggests the snotty hyperbole of Joni Balter, who wrote similarly over-the-top and dishonest hatchet-jobs on Seattle's proposed district elections last October.

From the newspaper's perspective, these two seemingly unrelated election issues are, in fact, quite similar. In both cases -- favoring city-wide elections over neighborhood elections and favoring a non-partisan primary over a partisan primary -- the advantage goes to candidates who come into a race either with substantial name recognition and/or support from the, uh, media. Yes, the Seattle Times is campaigning for a change to the election law that would enhance its own influence. Imagine that!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:40 AM
March 09, 2004
Public servants disserving the public

Here is today's legislative update from the Washington State School Director's Association (WSSDA) "Serving Washington State's 1,482 Locally Elected School Board Members". It looks like the anti-charter school forces are going to try to kill the bill with a flood of dilatory amendments:

One thing we do know: when/if the charter schools bill is brought up for debate on the House floor, legislative opponents are prepared to put up a fight. There is an effort to draft as many amendments to the bill as possible in an effort to water the bill down or kill it outright. The goal of those leading the charge in the House is to have at least 100 amendments "on the bar" ready to be debated. The hope is that proponents will decide it is not worth the time or energy to debate that many amendments. With the Regular Session set to end on March 11, time is running out and leadership will have to make a decision about priorities. If this bill is moved with as many amendments as opponents hope, there may be little time left to act on other issues.
Courtesy of the Education Excellence Coalition which also observes that:
Anti-charter legislators also don't care that killing the charter school bill will also kill two other parts of the Governor's "education package" (the LAP bill and the levy lid bill) that together will provide millions of dollars of additional education funding for disadvantaged students and school districts across the state.
Even while the public school officials are sacrificing children in order to protect their monopoly, they're still telling us that they're doing it for the children.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:24 PM
What Liberal Academia?

The Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA) names 10 Honorary Fellows, who are:

outstanding internationally recognized scholars who have made major contributions to Middle East studies Honorary Fellows are nominated by MESA’s Board of Directors and conferred by a vote of members at the annual business meeting.
These are the 10: Elizabeth W. Fernea, Oleg Grabar, Halil Inalcik, Nikki R. Keddie, Majid Khadduri, Ann Lambton, Muhsin S. Mahdi, André Raymond, Maxime Rodinson, W. Montgomery Watt.

Quiz question: Do you notice any obvious omissions? If you give up, Martin Kramer has the answer.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:09 PM
Washington State Primary

Both houses of the Washington State Legislature have now approved versions of a "Louisiana-style" primary, which would let voters cast ballots for any candidate and would send the top two finishers to the general election.

The "top two" strikes me as a terrible idea, as it would undermine the parties (all of them) and give a big advantage to candidates who have either their own organizations or substantial name recognition. Why is this a good thing?

Hopefully Gov. Locke will veto this one and we'll get the more sensible "Montana-style primary", which lets the voter secretly declare their party affiliation at the ballot box and vote in exactly one party's primary per election.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:10 PM
Foreign aid the Europeaser way

David Frankfurter brings us up to date on the saga of Chris Patten and the Europeaser Union's funding of the Palestinian Authority. Much of the money has disappeared, either down the pants of Arafat and his cronies or has been diverted to finance terrorism:

The scale of the alleged fraud is immense. Brussels has handed around € 4 billion to the PA since 1993, directly and via non-government organisations like UNRWA. This excludes significant contributions from individual European countries, from the USA, Canada, and from Arab League states. In 2003, EU transfers reached € 245m. Some suggest that total foreign aid to the PA has finally exceeded the level of funding provided to Israel by the United States.
Read the whole thing

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:32 AM
Charter Schools Floor Vote

Today's editorial in the Tacoma News Tribune says, more or less, what the Shark Blog wrote yesterday:

It's time for House Speaker Frank Chopp to come clean on charter schools.

The speaker needs to demonstrate that he's not privately blocking charter-school legislation while publicly professing support for it. He can do that by allowing a full House vote on HB 2195 [should read 2295], which would enable Washington to begin an extremely modest experiment with an educational innovation already used in 40 states.

In fact, the Education Excellence Coalition e-mailed today that the Speaker is bringing charter schools to a floor vote this afternoon.

If you live in Washington State, be sure to contact your local representatives in the House to encourage them to vote for 2295.

UPDATE: The House charter bill floor vote has been rescheduled for Wednesday morning.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:51 AM
March 08, 2004
Kerry self-destructs

My point with Oh, That Liberal Media is not that the media is unfailingly liberal, only that the media is more often liberal than not.

Here is a delicious counter-example, an article from the often liberal New York Times that is brutally devastating to John Kerry's credibility on foreign policy:

Had he been sitting in the Oval Office last weekend as rebel forces were threatening to enter Port-au-Prince, Senator John Kerry says, he would have sent an international force to protect Haiti's widely disliked elected leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide
The article both cites Kerry as praising Colin Powell as having better instincts than his administraton colleagues, and also quotes Colin Powell as dismissing Kerry's statements on Haiti:
In Haiti's case, [Kerry] contended that if he had been in Mr. Bush's shoes, "I would not have allowed it to arrive at where it was," with mobs roaming the streets of Haiti's cities.

Mr. Bush's aides, led by Mr. Powell, said last week that such critiques distort of the administration's efforts. The crisis grew from Mr. Aristide's own actions and his sponsorship of the marauding gangs, Mr. Powell said last week, and the United States decided not to prop him up after he had lost his legitimacy.

Most devastating to Kerry is his own criticism of Bush for invading Iraq but not North Korea, because Iraq "was the easier [problem] to solve":
"There's a reason the Bush administration walked that backwards and chose Iraq," he said. "And the reason is in the first eight hours of a conflict with North Korea, you'd have over a million casualties, and they knew that in Iraq you wouldn't."
And Kerry says that to criticize the President? It looks bad enough for Kerry if such a statement was meant only as a gratuitous attack. But what are we to think if Kerry said it in all seriousness?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:00 PM
What Liberal Media?

Today on "Oh, That Liberal Media" --

Lessons on how to read the Los Angeles Times: (part 1 and part 2)

and a prediction about a story that will appear any day now in the L.A. Times or not!

The national media is strangely quiet about certain aspects of John Kerry's service in Vietnam.


The Associated Press and Seattle Post-Intelligencer are somewhat harsher in their portrayals of activists who lower taxes than on politicians who seek to raise taxes.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:21 PM
Down to the Wire for Charter Schools

The Washington State Legislature is scheduled to adjourn sine die on Thursday, March 11. The charter schools bill I've been advocating is still in limbo.

The Education Excellence Coalition which has been leading the campaign for charter schools in Washington believes that a vote on charter schools is likely this week. A compromise is on the table where Republicans would support three other education bills, if Democrats support charter schools. I'm hopeful this deal will happen, but I'm skeptical that the Democrats will go along with it.

My own representative, Democrat House Speaker Frank Chopp, claims to support charter schools, but when push comes to shove he consistently lets charter bills die quietly. Chopp declined to bring the charter bill to a floor vote last session. This session he declined to pass the charter school bill out of the Rules Committee, which he chairs, and his proposed budget contains no allocation for charter schools. Besides, why should charter schools be spun as a Democratic concession to Republicans, when most of their immediate beneficiaries are low-income minority children? It doesn't make any sense. Indeed some of the strongest advocates of charter schools are solidly liberal Democrats, including Gov. Gary Locke and House Education Committee Chair Dave Quall. The real opposition to charter schools comes from the school employee unions who don't want to lose their unaccountable monopoly on public education spending. The union-financed Democrats in the legislature have too much of a stake in the status quo to jeopardize the unions' franchise.

I suspect that this proposed deal is more of a way for Republicans to justify not making concessions on the Democrat-sponsored education bills than it is a way for the Democrats to authorize charter schools. But I hope Speaker Chopp and his caucus will prove me wrong.

If you live in Washington State and care about improving the quality of our education system, this is your last chance this year to encourage the legislature to authorize charter schools. Please contact both your own representatives and also Speaker Chopp's office. (see the Education Excellence Coalition for details on contacting your legislators)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:39 AM
March 07, 2004
Optional Driver Licenses

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels wants to save money by making driver licenses optional:

One of the major savings was in the Law Department, where city officials expect to save about $450,000 by converting the least-serious crime of driving without a license into an infraction. City Attorney Tom Carr said that one crime represents 30 percent of the department's caseload.

Today, if someone is issued a ticket for driving with a suspended license but doesn't appear for a court hearing, a warrant is issued and the driver is jailed. Under the proposed change, drivers would receive a ticket but would not be booked into jail or prosecuted on a criminal charge. Unpaid tickets would be sent to a collection agency.

"We wanted to take the cases out of the criminal-justice system," Carr said.

By changing the offense to an infraction, the Law Department expects to save $232,000 a year in jail costs and $219,000 in public-defender costs, since the drivers wouldn't be entitled to a public defender to contest an infraction.

Anybody who both (a) does something dumb enough to lose their driver license and (b) can't afford a lawyer, isn't the best candidate to pay their bills on time either. It wouldn't take very many additional accidents before the cost of this leniency exceeded $450,000. And I'd be willing to bet that a fair number of these incompetent indigent drivers are also uninsured.

A better solution, I think, would be to impound the vehicles of anybody caught without a valid license. But that policy would never go over in Seattle, because you know that somebody would oppose it on the grounds that it discriminates against poor people and "undocumented workers".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
March 06, 2004
It depends on the definition of "failure"

A headline from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

"Failed suicide attack claims six Palestinian lives"

No Jews were killed, but four of the dead guys were trying to commit suicide. They shouldn't be written off as a total failure.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:09 PM
Unsound Transit

In 1996, Puget Sound voters approved a regional transit plan that would provide a 21-mille light rail line extending from northern Seattle to SeaTac airport by 2006. It didn't quite work out that way:

By late 2000, however, the project was $1 billion over budget and three years behind schedule.

So, in November 2001, the Sound Transit board downsized the project to a 14-mile line from downtown Seattle to Tukwila [a few miles short of the airport], to be finished in 2009.

Not exactly what the voters approved. Nevertheless, the Washington Supreme Court ruled 6-3 Thursday that such wild changes to the package sold to the voters is perfectly legal. But the dissenting opinion cautioned:
It gives proponents of a measure "almost unfettered discretion to (do) whatever they want regardless of what the resolution submitted to the people promises to the people,"

And speaking of unsound bait-and-switch transportation projects, this is a good time to do your part to help kill the Monorail.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:35 PM
Half-full or half-empty?

Treasuries Soar on Paltry Payroll Growth, Reuters, March 5, 2004

Treasury Yields Plunge on Weak Payroll Growth, Los Angeles Times, reporting on the same market day.

Both headlines are correct, of course, a bond's yield must fall when its price rises, but the choice of words depends on what picture the headline writer wants to paint.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:05 PM
March 05, 2004
Calling All Republicans

I spent yesterday evening at a phone bank calling Republican voters in my precinct to invite them to next Tuesday's party caucus.

The last time I worked a phone bank was in 1988 when I was living in Palo Alto, CA and made calls reminding local Democrats to get out and vote for Michael Dukakis. No, really.

Last night was a slightly different experience. I'm in Washington's 43rd Legislative District, which is so unassailably Democratic there hasn't even been a Republican on the ballot in any of the last 5 legislative races. My call list was composed of likely Republican voters, not bullet-proof certain ones. Even then there were only a few dozen people on the list. Every time I introduced myself with "I'm calling from the local Republican party", I braced myself for the worst invective. But I only got a few responses along the lines of "Give me a break" and "There's absolutely no way I would ever vote for someone like a George W Bush". Nobody was abusive.

A few people were even glad to hear from me, but most of these were too old and infirm to make it to the caucus. The best moment was when I reached a gentleman who said "Wow, I didn't even know there were any other Republicans around here." It almost sounded like there were tears in his eyes, as if he felt like he was the last Jew in Afghanistan and then one day discovered there was a local minyan after all.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:47 PM
March 04, 2004
What Liberal Media?

Oh, That Liberal Media

In case you were looking for a handy comeback to the interrogative title of Eric Alterman's book What Liberal Media? look no further.

As of today there is a new group blog, Oh, That Liberal Media [ ], which has the focus of highlighting liberal bias in the nation's media. I'm pleased to be joined in this endeavor by several other fine bloggers. [Patterico, Captain Ed and Xrlq have already posted, other contributors will be posting shortly] Go check it out!

We're still accepting new members. Send me an email for details.

P.S. In case you missed it, I debunked some of the zanier claims Alterman made in his book: here, here and here.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:21 PM
Extortionists, not terrorists

The Washington Education Association, the local subsidiary of the non-terrorist National Education Association, has reversed its position on the proposed $1 billion hike in the state sales tax to fund education.

The WEA opposed the original proposal on the grounds that it did not include a pay raise for teachers. Now that a revised proposal includes a 3.6% pay raise, the WEA is enthusiastically on board.

You can always count on the teacher unions to be there "for the children".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:10 AM
March 03, 2004
Second Best of the Web Today

One of my favorite sites is James Taranto's Best of the Web Today. Every once in a while I send in a tip, not expecting anything in return, but simply for the joy of helping Taranto give his readers, well, the Best of the Web that day. Seeing my suggestion appear on his page and my name in the long list at the bottom is just an added bonus. In the last few days I've sent in various tips that I thought were pretty good. But they apparently weren't good enough to be included with the Best of the Web, so I recycle them here for your pleasure, as:



What would we do without polls?
"Motorists drive and talk on phone — but know it's dangerous, poll finds"--headline, Seattle Times, February 25

Not too brite
The Seattle Times reports on a man who stole a Cadillac and then led the police on a brief but incompetent car chase that ended inside a nail salon:

The Cadillac's driver, a 30-year-old man, tried a quick left turn onto North 80th Street but missed the turn and then sped south in the northbound lanes for two blocks, Moss said.

The driver tried another left, onto North 78th Street, and missed again. The driver slammed into the closed storefront of Glamour Nails, collapsing a 12-inch support beam and littering the sidewalk with bricks.

It's the Eponymy, Stupid
If you ever find yourself in Irving, TX and in need of a chiropractic manipulation, you are fortunate to be within reach of the caring hands of Alan Bonebrake, DC.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:43 PM
Homosexual Lobby Attacks Again

I knew something like this was going to happen. As soon as we opened the door to same-sex marriages, the Homosexual Lobby would spread its tentacles and take over the schools:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal officials plan to significantly loosen their restrictions on same-sex public education

UPDATE: I received an odd piece of hate mail over this post. So I now feel compelled to explain that it was meant to be ironic. If the irony wasn't immediately apparent, please have your Irony Detector recalibrated for Shark.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:20 PM
Reparations for Victims of Public Schools

Columnist William Raspberry says he's cool to reparations for the descendents of slaves, but he does advocate reparations for some residents of Prince Edward County, Va., where:

what we used to call the "white power structure" shut down the public schools rather than integrate them in accordance with the 1954 school desegregation decision. The schools remained closed from 1959 until 1964, during which time there was no tax-paid education for black children.
It's hard to know what the recompense ought to be. Think of the difference between your present circumstance and what it might have been if you had been forced to miss five years of schooling.

Or simply listen to John W. Hurt, who was 7 when they shut his school down. Five years later, when the schools reopened, he still had the reading skills of a first grader. He endured the taunts for a time, then dropped out of school.

I agree with Raspberry that a terrible injustice was done to John Hurt and the othe black children in Prince Edward County. But why stop there?

Large numbers of black public school students leave high school functionally illiterate and many fail to graduate at all (in Seattle, for example, the drop-out rate is 47%). Some of these dropouts are undeniably attributable to insufficient support at home. But many others are caused by failing public schools, incompetent teachers and the unions that defend the lousy teachers and the counter-productive work rules. Perhaps the NEA should pay reparations to the millions of public school victims whose educations and lives have been ruined by the union.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:56 PM
March 02, 2004
Something in Common

What do these three incidents have in common?

I) "At least 143 killed when explosions rock Shiite shrines in two Iraqi cities"

II) "At least 41 killed in attack on Shiite procession in Pakistan"

III) "A suicide terrorist blows up a Jerusalem bus, killing 8, injuring 60 "

a) The killers were desperate and oppressed because their great-grandfather turned down the country he was offered in 1948.

b) The killers were desperate and oppressed by the Jews living in certain neighborhoods of Hebron.

c) The killers were desperate and oppressed by the West Bank security fence.

d) The killers were Sunni Muslims, attempting to intimidate and assert political control over civilians of a different faith.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:51 PM
Should Felons be Reenfranchised?

Some people think so:

a lawsuit pending here and similar cases across the country have asked the courts to overturn state laws that keep felons from the ballot box, claiming the laws discriminate against minorities who make up a disproportionate number of the nation's prisoners.

So far, the felons have won some key rulings here and in Florida.

Still, they face major hurdles, considering the U.S. Supreme Court ruled long ago that prohibiting felons from voting is constitutional. Such state laws date to the 1800s.

I'm waiting for someone to file a lawsuit to overturn laws against murder, rape and robbery on the grounds that a disproportionate number of those arrested for these offenses are minorities. But this would face major hurdles, as laws against such violent crimes date to the 1800s (B.C.).

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

Today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer carries this report from the Scripps Howard News Service, which leads:

Confidence in America's military involvement in Iraq has dropped to its lowest level since the war began -- slightly more than a quarter of U.S. adults say they are "very certain" the occupation of Iraq was the right thing to do.

According to the latest in a series of surveys about Iraq conducted by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University, nearly half say they are "not certain" the nation has done the right thing in invading Iraq.

The actual poll results were:
As you know, the United States sent troops into Iraq to force it to disarm its weapons of mass destruction. Are you absolutely certain, pretty certain or not certain that this was the correct thing to do?

Absolutely Certain ........... 28
Pretty Certain ............... 22
Not Certain .................. 47
Don't Know .................... 3

Indeed, this is the same question that Scripps Howard has been asking every month. And as no working WMD have been found, this would appear to be an insufficient reason for invading Iraq. On the other hand, the existence of working WMD was never the sole justification for regime change and there are plenty of other questions that would probably encapsulate the situation better. e.g. As you know, the United States sent troops into Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power and ensure that he would never be able to use weapons of mass destruction again. Are you absolutely certain, pretty certain or not certain that this was the correct thing to do?. It would be interesting to see what the responses to that question might be.

The rest of the article is similarly biased and misleading

The P-I article continues:

Support for a pre-emptive strike -- attacking a country like Iraq because of concerns that it may attack the United States in the future -- has also declined in recent months. The public appears to be evenly divided on whether the United States should consider deploying troops to countries other than Iraq or Afghanistan, if necessary, to combat terrorism.
Here's what was actually asked and answered:
Thinking about America's foreign policy, how do you feel about our policy of preventive military attacks on countries that we feel threaten our national security? Do you strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree or strongly disagree with this policy?

Strongly Agree ............... 15
Agree ........................ 32
Neither Agree or Disagree .... 16
Disagree ..................... 21
Strongly Disagree ............ 11
Don't Know .................... 5?

So the pre-emptive strike doctrine wins handily 47% to 32%! A different question "Should the United States send troops to countries other than Iraq and Afghanistan in order to combat terrorism?" was split 42% to 43%, and largely, I imagine, because no action against any other specific country has been seriously discussed. So a more accurate interpretation of the poll, I think, is that "Americans support preventive military attacks when necessary and appropriate" but that's not what the article would tell you.

The P-I article does mention some of the facts I brought out, but they are buried toward the bottom. Isn't the "inverted pyramid" supposed to bring out the most important information first?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:13 AM
March 01, 2004
What Liberal Media?

Today's Seattle Times reports on the budget negotiations in the Washington State legislature between the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate. The differences between the two budgets are vast (the Democrats want to spend $145 million more this year than the Republicans do).

The Seattle Times displays its liberal bias by fixating on this issue: Health-care fee for poor kids causes split

Many Washington residents easily part with $5 a day at their local coffee shop.

For others, $5 means they'll be able to buy groceries, pay the electricity bill, or get school supplies for their children.

In the next 10 days, legislators will decide whether poor families can afford $5 a month in Medicaid premiums for their kids.

The article quotes a compassionate legislator:
"Five dollars to a poor family is like $100 or $500," said Sen. Rosa Franklin, D-Tacoma. "It is not that they do not care for their children; it is simply that they do not have the money."
But the Democrats want to eliminate all premiums for families that are at twice the poverty level, i.e. for a family of four making $37,700 a year. $5 to such a family is like $500 to whom? To the average family making $3,770,000 a year, of course!

Would spending $5 a month on health coverage prevent a lower income family from buying food for their children? The most recent USDA survey of American food intake reveals that the average child (6-11) in a family with income below 130% of the poverty level consumes each month 13.5 cans of carbonated beverages, 2 pounds of "cakes, cookies pastries, pies" and 12 oz. of "crackers, popcorn, pretzels, corn chips". [look at the numbers for average daily intake in grams and do the math] At my local Safeway that costs $8.12 assuming store brand cookies and a 2-for-1 special on Doritos. I imagine that even most poor families can afford $5 a month for their children's health care if they manage their budget responsibly.

The article also admits that it's not really about the money after all:

The problem with premiums isn't just the expense, it's the hassle, said Jon Gould, deputy director of the Children's Alliance, a statewide child-advocacy organization.
It's not about the money, it's about choosing not to encourage poor people to take responsibility for their own lives.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:14 PM
Blondes Have More Fun

Even on Mars

An astronomy team led by a Boulder, Colo.-based Space Science Institute researcher has detected hydrogen peroxide for the first time in the Martian atmosphere

And in beauty parlor news back on planet Earth

A police chase involving a man driving a stolen Cadillac ended when the car crashed into a nail salon:

The Cadillac's driver, a 30-year-old man, tried a quick left turn onto North 80th Street but missed the turn and then sped south in the northbound lanes for two blocks, Moss said.

The driver tried another left, onto North 78th Street, and missed again. The driver slammed into the closed storefront of Glamour Nails, collapsing a 12-inch support beam and littering the sidewalk with bricks.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:26 AM
Cycle of Violence

Tim Robbins last night, accepting the Oscar for his supporting role in Mystic River:

In this movie I play a victim of abuse and violence and if you are a person who has had that tragedy befall you, there is no shame and no weakness in seeking help and counselling.

It is sometimes the strongest thing you can do to stop the cycle of violence

You'd think that a man of Tim Robbins' compassion for the victims of abuse and violence would have been more enthusiastic about stopping the cycle of child abuse and violence in Iraq.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:54 AM