April 30, 2004
Words we should never use

This report appeared in yesterday's The Olympian, but it could just as easily belong in The Onion.

Lora Dowell (left) was discussing bullying in her fifth-grade class Wednesday at Roosevelt Elementary School when a teacher used a racial slur as an example of an inappropriate word. Her stepgrandmother, Deborah Kelley (right), wants an apology from the district and disciplinary action against the teacher. Steve Bloom/The Olympian
Steve Bloom/The Olympian
What happened?
a student had asked whether it was OK to call someone gay. Teacher Richard Kalman responded by asking the class if it was OK to call someone by a common racial epithet for blacks, which he used.
I find this story strange for a number of reasons. First, the unnamed but inferable racial epithet is not a particularly good analogy for "gay", as the former is only ever used to disparage, while the latter is a label of choice and pride for many homosexuals. It would be unfortunate if the teacher felt that calling someone gay is necessarily an insult. I agree that the racial epithet in question is inappropriate in a classroom -- except as an object in an instructional moment, which this obviously was. Lastly, there are no indications that any African-Americans have complained about this incident, so I'm especially puzzled by the woman's hysterical reaction to the use of the word in this context. I might be more inclined to understand her umbrage if the teacher had uttered an epithet aimed at, say, morbidly obese people. Or morbidly stupid people.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:25 PM
D.O.A. Transportation Bill

Various local Mandarins from Puget Sound counties have voted to approve a wildly expensive and deeply flawed transportation tax package for presentation to the voters in November. $12.6 billion for a combination of highway improvements and public transit upgrades. But Seattle officials don't like it because "too much" is spent on roads, and "only" $875 million is proposed for the infinite black hole of Sound Transit light rail. The high priests of the Seattle Train Cargo-Cult insist on $1.2 billion for Sound Transit, whose board is otherwise expected to kill the whole deal.

Sound Transit should be defunded altogether, so please don't ask me to pour another $875 million into that hole. The other problem with the package is that it includes more "high occupancy vehicle" lanes, the dumbest way to allocate road capacity that has ever been conceived. (I can use the HOV lane if I take my two-year-old to the shopping mall at rush hour, but not if I go by myself at noon. Give me a break).

I'll agree to vote on a big-ticket transportation measure if and when they implement market and congestion pricing for major highways. In the meantime, don't look to me for subsidizing other people's commutes. I work at home.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:17 AM
It's in the P-I

A round-up of today's editorial page from the Seattle (Shi'ittle?) Post-Intelligencer:

Never mind that polls consistently show that a large majority of Iraqis feel that getting rid of Saddam was the right thing to do and that they are both better off than they were before the war and optimistic about the future. The unsigned editorial says: "A war gone terribly wrong, and deadly".

Hubert Locke, pathologically anti-Bush former Dean of the Evans School of Public Policy, writes: "Bush ignores the horrors of his war". Got that? It's Bush's war, he single-handedly conjured it up and he's the only person on the planet that might have benefited from the liberation of Iraq.

Guest columnist Mary Pneuman, a member of one of Olympia's finest hippie-dippie liberal Anglican/Jihadist congregations, writes from "East Jerusalem, Israel" [sic] (Our King Abdullah I Memorial Award goes to the first reader who can spot the error): "Our Place in the World: U.S. betrays international community"

Surely, an end to the occupation, removal of the settlements and recognition of human rights are the only ways to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Holy Land. The United States would do well to champion this cause rather than turn our backs on the international community and the Palestinian people.
I couldn't agree more, Mary Pneuman. Recognition of human rights is an essential part of the equation, including the human right to ride the bus to school without getting one's head blown off. That is why I have officially invited Mary Pneuman to become a Human Shield for Palestine. I'll let you know whether or not she accepts my invitation.

Finally, another bit of evidence of the Seattle P-I's transformation into the Shi'ittle P-I. Islamic-style prudishness and disdain for women's rights: "Don't lift strip club ban just yet"

The Seattle City Council must avoid moving too fast in considering whether to lift a moratorium on strip clubs.

Given that the moratorium has been in place since 1988, haste is not imperative. Before the council takes up the issue, the city needs to have better controls on the clubs. Finally.

First, the city should adopt rules that require a 4-foot separation between dancers and customers, a limitation that makes it relatively simple for police to decide whether inappropriate conduct is occurring.

Send in the Saudi sex police!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:46 AM
April 29, 2004
Monorail Malfeasance

The Seattle Monorail Project's multi-million dollar "education" (= fraudulent disinformation) campaign continues today with yet another double page full-color newspaper ad title "Quality of Life". "Get ready for a whole new way of life. A much better one."

The Monorail aims to make life easy with convenient transfers between the Monorail, buses, ferries and light rail. How will we do this? By working closely with other transit agencies,
The only thing that is true here is the "aims". None of the necessary agreements to coordinate routes, schedules and fares with other transit agencies currently exist.
69,000 passengers every weekday, 20 million every year can get where they need to go.
As I mentioned earlier, that isn't "69,000 passengers every weekday". That is a years-old projection of 69,000 round-trips in the year 2020, assuming the Monomaniacs hit their optimistic numbers, which would be a first.
And what's with the "20 million every year"? Their other ad says "5 million a year".

Most intriguing is the map that the ad uses to illustrate the Monorail's reach. At left is a map of the entire city, at right is the Monorail ad mini-map. Displaying them side-by-side at comparable scale reveals how the Monomaniacs are trying to fool the people into thinking that the Monorail serves a much lareger portion of the city than it actually would.

The current Seattle Weekly has two good pieces about the Monorail: An editorial by Knute Berger trashing the Monoplan to rip up Seattle Center, and an analysis by Rick Anderson which takes apart the financial oxymoron that is the Monorail: The Monorail can only be justified as a civic project if it reduced the need for car ownership, but because it is financed by a vehicle excise tax, it is dependent on escalating car ownership.

The good news is that it is both legal and easy to avoid the Monorail tax. And you can also vote against this looming civic disaster at the ballot box.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:26 AM
How high?

When Islamofascist terrorists say "Jump!", Europeasers ask: "How high?"

Hundreds of people from across Italy gathered Thursday for a peace march demanded by kidnappers of three Italians in Iraq.

The march, near St. Peter's Square, has been promoted by the families of the captives, who have been threatened with death unless Italians stage a "huge demonstration" in Rome to denounce the government's involvement in Iraq.

l'Unita says that 10,000 people "rallied around the rainbow flag". The Pope participated in the march by sending his official representative who read a statement to the crowd. The entire festival of appeasement and surrender was broadcast live on Al-Jazeera.

In the La Repubblica webpoll at this writing, 60% of respondents support the demonstration as "humanitarian". Only 32% say that it's wrong to submit to terrorist demands.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:00 AM
April 28, 2004
Kiss of Death

Al Gore: Dec. 9, 2003:

Howard Dean really is the only candidate who has been able to inspire at the grassroots level all over this country the kind of passion and enthusiasm for democracy and change and transformation of America that we need in this country ... So I'm very proud and honored to endorse Howard Dean to be the next president of the United States of America ... He was the only major candidate who made the correct judgment about the Iraq war. And he had the insight and the courage to say and do the right thing.
Today Al Gore announced that he will give several millions of dollars to support the campaign of John Kerry, a man who, in Gore's stated opinion, has been unable to inspire passion and enthusiasm at the grassroots level, made incorrect judgments about the Iraq war, and lacked either the insight and/or the courage to say and/or do the right thing.

For whatever reason, the Kerry campaign website has no mention of Gore's announcement at this time.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:15 PM
Justice Terry Lukens?

This item doesn't seem to be in the major local media yet, but it probably should be. King County Superior Court Judge Terry Lukens has filed papers with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission to run against State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Madsen.

Madsen deserves to be thrown off the bench. She voted with the majority in two recent cases that were a slap in the face to the state's voters. Last June the court gutted the anti-discrimination ballot measure I-200 by ruling that public school districts could use race as a factor in assigning students to schools. Last month Madsen voted to nullify the wishes of the voters to place limits on Sound Transit's authority, thus allowing the rail operator to function as an unaccountable rogue agency.

I don't yet know enough to, er, judge whether or not Judge Lukens would be a better Justice than Madsen. Lukens was appointed by Gov. Locke, whose judgment on judicial appointments I would tend to question. Lukens was on the Sound Transit "citizen's oversight panel" at the time of his appointment to the bench. Did Sound Transit's fatal flaws become apparent during his period of oversight? I don't know. Lukens was in the news most recently for ruling in favor of the teacher's union that the legislature acted illegally to shorten the school year. Supporting the WEA against the people's representatives should raise eyebrows, but Lukens' reasoning leaves room for hope:

Judge Terry Lukens said by eliminating that teacher workday, the Legislature failed to honor Initiative 732's mandate of a 3.6 percent pay raise for teachers. Voters passed I-732 in 2000, giving teachers automatic cost-of-living pay increases.
I wonder how Lukens would evaluate the abovementioned Supreme Court rulings in light of his commitment to honor the will of the voters in this case.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:28 PM
Christine Gregoire Meltdown

The long, slow, painful meltdown of the Christine Gregoire for Governor campaign accelerated today as Attorney General Gregoire's office has failed to settle the lawsuit of the former AG staffer who claims she was unfairly scapegoated and wrongfully terminated to cover-up Gregoire's mismanagement and failure to appeal an $18 million judgment against the state.

The federal lawsuit filed by former assistant attorney general Janet Capps, alleging civil-rights violations, wrongful termination and defamation, will proceed to trial this July, according to attorneys representing Capps and Gregoire.
It promises to be a long, hot July for Gregoire. Hot enough to melt a campaign.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:57 AM
Crayon Diversity Award
Today's Crayon Diversity Award goes to Washington Gov. Gary Locke
In a speech to the state's Superior Court judges this week, Locke said:
As highly respected role models, you also have the power to attract more people of color and more women to careers in the judiciary. I mentioned the more than 20 percent minority and nearly half women I’ve appointed. While I am proud of our progress, it isn’t enough because the overall profile of our judiciary falls short of reflecting our communities. Indeed, our judiciary should reflect not just our society, but to some degree the litigants appearing before our judges so that the rulings, especially in criminal cases, have greater acceptance.
While I agree with the broad principle that the judiciary should represent the diversity of the state's population, Gov. Locke seems to be saying that skin color is the only basis on which that diversity should be measured. I always thought that America aspired to realize the ideal that "Justice is blind", but Gov. Locke rejects even the ideal that justice should be colorblind.

The notion that judges should look like the litigants whose cases they decide is not only novel but also difficult to implement. If a black man sues a white woman, should the judge then be a mulatto hermaphrodite?

But never mind the moral and practical limitations of the Gov. Locke's proposals. They are also statistically challenged. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's most recent estimates, Washington's population is 78.1% non-Hispanic white. If Gov. Locke proposes that many more than 20% of judicial appointees be "people of color", this would leave white people underrepresented. On the basis of what nobel principle is this a good idea?

As a Chinese-American, Gov. Locke should be careful about embracing policies that distribute political offices on the basis of ethnic representation over individual merit. The Census Bureau also tells us [large PDF, page 3] that only 1.0% of the people of Washington state are Chinese. Gov. Locke is completing his eighth year in the governor's mansion. According to his theory, only 1.0% of Washington governors should be Chinese-Americans, which means he would have us wait another 792 years before we elect the next Chinese-American governor.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:58 AM
April 27, 2004
The Old Man and the Sea

Many Washingtonians dream of retiring on Orcas Island. 85-year-old App Applegate already lives on Orcas Island. His dream is to finish building his boat so he can sail away from Orcas Island -- to Fidel Castro's Cuba.

Applegate has two major obstacles to overcome: getting the boat down from the mountain where it is being built, and recruiting enough crew members to make the journey:

The Aproximada has eight berths and will need a crew of at least five. So far, there is only one sure bet.

She is Rivkah Sweedler, 58, a woodcarver and longtime exile from what she calls "the dominant culture." She and Applegate joined forces in 1997, shortly after her husband died. He helped her move on after her loss; she eased his loneliness and turned him into a phenomenally healthful eater. She typically serves him a breakfast that includes triticale flakes, buckwheat groats and pumpkin seeds.

Applegate and Sweedler see eye to eye on religious, environmental and political matters: Her late husband, Walter, was also an atheist. App and Rivkah are outspoken advocates of open-field defecation. They deeply dislike President Bush.

You can't please everybody.

Hat tip: J.A.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:28 PM
Werewolves of Boston

The John Kerry campaign might have already imploded, but at the very least we can say that "his hair was perfect".


Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:30 PM
Explosions in Damascus

Something is happening in Damascus, Syria, but details are sketchy:

Blasts and heavy shooting shook the Syrian capital, Damascus, late on Tuesday, Arab television stations reported.

Al Jazeera television said the blasts and shooting were heard from a western district of Damascus where it said the British ambassador's residence and the Saudi embassy are located.
More as the story develops.

UPDATE: A later report says:

Masked assailants fired rocket-propelled grenades at a building which formerly housed a UN office in the Syrian capital, witnesses said.
I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the concept of terrorists embarrassing a terror regime that happens to sit on the UN Security Council by attacking a former, not even current, UN building and what this says about the UN's prospects for bringing an insurgency-free legitimacy to the next Iraqi government. But I'm stumped.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:15 AM
April 26, 2004
Come, Sweet Death

"Come, Sweet Death" is the title of the Austrian murder mystery I finished reading last night. It is also an apropros headline to introduce two unrelated news stories about an excess of sugar in the American diet.

By way of David Halliday:

Corn syrup and other refined foods may be much to blame for the huge increase in type-2 diabetes in the United States over the past few decades, U.S. researchers said on Thursday
And on NPR this morning:
The World Health Organization is targeting sugary, fatty, salty and processed foods as the culprits behind the global obesity epidemic. The food and beverage industry is on the defense.
Listen as Sugar Association CEO Andrew Briscoe bemoans the recommendation to reduce the proportion of daily caloric intake from added sugars:
In the United States our average consumption figure is 15.7%... if we were to implement the figure of 10% we would be asking Americans to reduce their sugar intake by roughly 30% and there's not a scientific justification for that type of restriction.
Just like there's no scientific justification for the link between smoking and cancer. And presumably Andrew Briscoe can give us a scientific justification for the billions of dollars sucked out of the productive economy in the form of subsidies for the American sugar industry.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:17 PM
Toy Trains

[See photos of the backyard monorail built by Kim Pedersen of Niles, California].

Here in Seattle we're plagued by plans to create two frighteningly expensive rail systems that are both about as useful as Mr. Pedersen's backyard monorail -- Sound Transit Link light rail and the Seattle Monorail. Both projects are fiscally unsound and neither will accomplish much in the way of reducing road congestion. So what explains their existence?

A reader suggested I read Emory Bundy's essay "Why Rail?" [subhead: Why do we support systems that almost never work?] Long, but worthwhile. Bundy observes that new rail systems are hardly ever cost-effective given their capacity and benefits, but come into being mainly for the following reasons: Idealistic nostalgia for pre-automobile 19th century America, unrealistic expectations about the actual costs and benefits of rail systems, and cynical pork barrel politics. His alternatives to wasteful rail spending: make more efficient use of existing road infrastructure, e.g. carpooling and congestion pricing of highways. (Along the same lines I would add encouragement of telecommuting and home-based work) and promote modern transit technologies, such as personal rapid transport.

Along similar lines, John Kirchner, a Professor of Geography and Transportation at Cal State L.A. emails:

it is the fantasy world of the monorail that is the most curious. The concept is old and the technoogy proposed is that of the 1950's.

Monorails are slow, inflexible, and have a surprisingly rough ride. Almost any modern light or heavy rail line is far superior, and can, like San Francisco's BART, be mounted on single pedestal elevated supports. I show images of the BART system to my students and most think it is a monorail, but it is far faster, much more comfortable, and it is easy to add and subtract cars as needed. I was on a monorail in Tokyo just two weeks ago, and compared to the other transit options that make that place a transit dream, the monorail is an amusement park joke. Short and simple. Tokyo does have "freeways," but they are all toll roads, and if I read the rates correctly, it would cost you at least $6-7.00 US to make a freeway trip in your car (I'm sure regulars get monthly discounts). But think about it; if good capitalists demanded freeways be paid for directly by users (as in France or Japan), what would happen to our overall urban transport picture.

So, the irony is that I support mass transit, but think Seattle made a stupid mistake in its choice of technology. The tax loophole is funny, but think about the implications of having to pay for each ride on the freeway, which as you know is how most trips are generated in urban areas, Seattle and L.A. included.

I do agree with market (and congestion) pricing of major roadways.

In the meantime, what can we do about the massively expensive and largely useless Monorail and light rail systems? We can refuse to pay for them and we recall them at the ballot box. Do what you can to help the intiatives to force revotes for both Sound Transit (www.trustandtransit.org) and the Monorail (www.monorailrecall.com)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:01 PM
Support UNRWA

No, really. David Frankfurter reports that

After many years of complicity with corruption and the abuse of Palestinian Arab children, UNRWA has finally taken some tentative steps to correct their ways - and as expected are experiencing tough resistance from the local committees.
Among other things, UNRWA's new director general in Lebanon, Richard Cook, has ordered that pictures of liquidated Hamas leaders Yassin and Rantisi be removed from UNRWA schools.

Frankfurter's entry provides contact information for sending words of encouragement to Mr. Cook.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:28 AM
Christine Gregoire Meltdown

The gubernatorial campaign of Attorney General Christine Gregoire imploded last week with revelations that her office tried to doctor an "investigation" into its own failure to appeal a verdict that cost the taxpayers $18 million.

That was the implosion, now comes Gregoire's long painful meltdown. Republicans in the legislature are calling for an investigation into what the P-I calls Gregoire's "appeal fiasco". Yesterday's Seattle Times says that whether she fights or settles the wrongful termination claim of the AG staffer who was scapegoated in the fiasco, Gregoire looks bad and the taxpayers lose.

Even worse, we learn that the taxpayers have lost much more than the $18 million in the original unappealed verdict.

As a result of the Beckman mistake and other significant verdicts and settlements in 2000-2001, the state's insurance deductible jumped from $5 million to $25 million for claims against the Departments of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and Corrections.

For all other state departments, the deductible amount was increased from $5 million to $15 million, said Betty Reed, director of the Division of Risk Management.

Unfortunately, Washington's taxpayers can't require Christine Gregoire to make us whole for her mismanagement. But we can and will reject her bid to become our next governor.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:14 AM
Tom Campbell responds

As mentioned the other day, former Congressman Tom Campbell (now Dean of the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business) received a campaign contribution from Oil-for-Food bribee Samir Vincent. I e-mailed Dean Campbell for his reaction to this news. His response:

As you suspected, the news was a surprise. I do not know if Mr. Vincent has been convicted of any law violation; but I can tell you that I do not know him personally, nor do I remember ever meeting him. Hence, I do not know the specific reason he contributed. Since we had no communications of which I'm aware, I can assure you I took no contribution in connection with whatever anyone might have been doing with Saddam Hussein.

I was, however, proud to receive the support of many Arab Americans and Muslim Americans in my 2000 US Senate campaign. The reason for that support was as follows.

The practice of arresting individuals in America and keeping them in jail, sometimes for years, without sharing with them the evidence on which their detention was based, struck me as wrong. I introduced a resolution to end this practice; and in the Presidential debates, then-Governor George Bush promised to end it. I recall that, during President Clinton's time, of the 23 individuals kept in jail on the basis of secret evidence, 21 were Muslim or Arab-American. I was able to pass an appropriations rider to take money out of the Bureau of Prisons equal to the amount it cost to keep 23 people in jail for a year, and explained to my colleagues that this was a test vote on whether they supported the use of secret evidence or not. The appropriations rider won support of a majority of members of Congress, by quite a large margin. I was also able to prevail on the appropriate judiciary committee subcommittee chairman to hold hearings on this practice, at which several representatives of Arab-American and Muslim American organizations, and relatives of incarcerees, testified. They were grateful for what I did to bring attention to the plight of their brothers and husbands.

My 2000 US Senate campaign account is now closed. There is no surplus left over. Refunds from the small surplus I had were mailed to individual donors some time ago. Nor do I have any political committee of any kind. I did not "park" any money from my 2000 US Senate campaign in some other committee. It's all gone.

Furthermore, even were I to have the funds to return, it is an open question raised by one of the commentators to your dialogue-space as to whether the ethical thing is to return money to an individual under this kind of suspicion. In any event, however, there are no such funds to return.

That strikes me as a reasonable response. I always liked Tom Campbell and voted for him in various House and Senate races when I lived in California. I don't know whether I'd agree with his position on these specific detentions. (At least one was not an "Arab-American", but an undocumented immigrant accused of supporting a terrorist organization). But I imagine Campbell's stance was motivated by a principled concern for civil liberties and not out of any sympathy or naivete about what these detainees were accused of.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:36 AM
Who is Javier Robert?

The list of Oil-for-Food bribe recipients includes a certain Spaniard by the name of "Javier Robert". Interestingly, this name has not yet been matched to an actual person.

H.D. Miller reports on speculation that "Javier Robert" may in fact be Spanish Ambassador to the United States Javier Rupérez

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:03 AM
Corrie Cantata

No, not the Coffee Cantata, the Rachel Corrie Cantata.

Alaskan composer Philip Munger celebrates the life and death of terrorism cheerleader Rachel Corrie with a cantata in her honor, called "The Skies Are Weeping".

The Corrie Cantata has created quite a controversy in Alaska.

hat tip: Tom Scott.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:45 AM
April 25, 2004
Fool Proof

The Seattle Times' Nicole Brodeur writes today about Arianna Huffington, non-taxpaying multi-millionaire anti-tax-cheating "populist", who as Brodeur puts it:

spent $700,000 trying to get elected governor of California, only to pull out six days before the vote.
The Cambridge-educated Greek-born Arianna Stassinopoulos, who became an American after marrying homosexual oil-heir Michael Huffington, is speaking in Seattle Tuesday as part of the "American Voices" series of something called "Foolproof Performing Arts".

Other recent and future guests of the Foolproof series include: Bill Clinton, Molly Ivins (twice), Garry Trudeau, Michael Moore, Robert Reich, Al Franken, Janeanne Garofalo and Gore Vidal.

The American Voices describes itself as

a forum for ideas, people and viewpoints under-represented or excluded from the national political and media mainstream [like the people mentioned above, presumably]. Its purpose: to revitalize the national public policy debate by engaging, informing, inspiring and motivating our citizenry to take part in the crucial conversations and decisions destined to affect our lives and the lives of generations to come.

Democracy takes effort.

Yes it does, but what do these folks mean by "Democracy"? The advisory board consists of the following individuals:
Gary Gibson [General Manager of Seattle's city cable TV station]
Deborah Jacobs [Seattle City Librarian]
Hubert G. Locke [feverishly anti-Bush former Dean of the Evans School of Public Policy]
Karen Marchioro [member of the Democratic National Committee]
Virginia McDermott [wife of Democratic House member "Baghdad Jim" McDermott]
Krist Novoselic [anti-free-trade Nirvana bassplayer, who contemplated running for Lt. Governor as a Democrat]
The Hon. Deborah Senn [Democratic former State Insurance Commissioner, now candidate for Attorney General]
Eileen Tietze [doesn't show up on google]
democracy as the exclusive province of Democrats!

I'm still puzzled about the name "Foolproof". Is the implication that the audience of people who would pay money to listen to, say, Arianna Huffington, is impervious to fools, or is buying a ticket to one of these events supposed to prove something?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:40 AM
April 24, 2004
Put your body where your mouth is

My father e-mails from Jerusalem, where there have recently been two terrorist drive-by shootings in his neighborhood:

We've had the second after dark drive-by shooting in our area of Jerusalem. At least one of our neighbors thinks this is a reason to increase strolls all hours of the day and night. "If we surrender the night we'll have to surrender the day." I can't report if night-time strollers are declining. I'm no longer out there after dark, and I look with suspicion on unfamiliar fellow strollers and vehicles. My penetrating gaze should scare off all the baddies. I hope that the security forces are applying moderate physical pressure on all potential sources of information, and will soon neutralize the sources of our worry. For those delicate souls who sicken at the thought of anything that might be torture or targeted killings, come visit and walk the neighborhood after dark. The views are impressive. Your service as bait will be duly appreciated. Always carry i.d., along with the name and telephone number of a friend or relative.
UPDATE: As pointed out in the comments below, Jerusalem police have apprehended three Palestinians who confessed to the shootings:
The three Palestinians, who police have termed
"murderous and cruel" have refused to express remorse for their actions, asserting that they were based on the teachings of the Koran and in the name of God.

"We did this so that God would be satisfied, and in the name of God," Sajid Abu-Alous said at his remand hearing this weekend, adding he feels "no remorse" for his actions.

Please, no snide comments about "Religion of Peace".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:15 PM
Robert Fisk Blood Libel

Robert Fisk in the Independent, April 14, 2002:

As Israel's indisciplined soldiery yesterday continued to hide their deeds from the outside world by preventing the Red Cross, aid workers, ambulances and journalists from entering the rubble of Jenin, Mr Powell was sitting idly by in Israel, calling for the "utmost restraint'' from an army that has not yet finished filling the mass graves of Jenin.
Robert Fisk on a recent Irish television broadcast, screaming hysterically in an attempt to defend himself from the suggestion that the above [false and unretracted] description of the Jenin battle was a blood libel:
Don't you dare call me a blood libel [sic]. That's a highly racist comment. ... How dare you make that accusation. I want it withdrawn by you. I'm sorry. I don't make blood libels. I want that withdrawn.... that expression "blood libel" [is] highly libelous. It is slanderous and it is actionable.
But, Bob, it was blood libel. So sue me.

UPDATE: As a reader notes in the comments below, Fisk's latest column mentions the Irish broadcast:

I did not say they committed a massacre. But I should have.
Whatever, "Blood Libel" Bob.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:59 PM
April 23, 2004
Avoiding the Seattle Monorail Tax

As I've mentioned earlier, the dubious Seattle Monorail Project is funded solely by an excise tax on Seattle automobiles, paid upon vehicle re-registration.

Unfortunately for the Monorail, no law has ever created an enforceable mechanism for collecting the tax and there are no penalties for not paying the tax. In other words, the "tax" is voluntary. If you are one of the tens of thousands of Seattlites who believe that the Monorail should not proceed in its present condition, one of the most effective things you can do to both stop the Monorail and reduce your personal exposure to its consequences is to simply choose not to pay the tax.

It comes down to this: The only way you end up paying the tax is if you register your car at a Seattle address. But there is no state law that mandates which address must be used for vehicle registration and the mechanisms designed to encourage registration at a specific type of address are flimsy and, I believe, easily surmountable.

Avoiding the tax got a little harder as of today, with a new administrative rule change imposed by the Department of Licensing, that supposedly requires a vehicle owner to provide their "primary residence" address under penalty of perjury. But this rule change is of questionable legitimacy -- it is not required under current law and it was adopted in direct contradiction of legislative intent. Furthermore, it appears to be unenforceable. Again, there is no law that requires you to register your vehicle at the address where you are, say, registered to vote. And there is no penalty for registering your vehicle at a different address. The only penalty now would be for committing perjury at the time that you register your vehicle. You do not want to commit perjury.

Committing perjury by supplying false information on the new DOL form is a "Class C felony", the maximum penalty for which is:

confinement in a state correctional institution for five years, or by a fine in an amount fixed by the court of ten thousand dollars, or by both such confinement and fine.
Again, YOU DO NOT WANT TO COMMIT PERJURY. Therefore, as I understand it the key is to fill out the form with your choice of address, but in such a way that you do not commit perjury.

The new form guides you to provide your "Washington State primary residence address" and to sign the form. If you provide anything other than your "primary residence address" and sign the form, it is perjury. On the other hand, if you amend the form with a handwritten note of clarification, such as "the above address is a valid address for vehicle registration consistent with my understanding of Washington state law" before you sign it, then I believe that it would not be perjury. (Again, you probably want to check with an attorney before you actually do this, and I invite any attorneys to comment on this suggestion). I did run this idea by the manager of one of the private-sector vehicle registration agencies and she said that they would accept a form with such an amendment and file your registration as complete and hand over the tabs.

Bear in mind a couple of other things:
1) The above analysis applies not only to avoiding the Seattle Monorail tax, but also avoiding the Sound Transit tax which applies to vehicle registrations in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties. Unless you like the idea of paying for vastly expensive train service that carries hardly any passengers, why not register outside the tri-county area altogether.

2) I don't believe you actually have to receive any mail in order to register your vehicle. All steps can be accomplished online and in-person. In other words, the address you provide for registration doesn't have to be one where you can easily retrieve your mail. Just be sure to remember your next renewal date.

Yes, this might seem a little aggressive, but it's not against the law. On the other hand, both the Monorail and Sound Transit are projects of highly questionable value, and their agencies are largely unaccountable to the public and disregard voter intent whenever it suits their agendas. Refusing to cooperate with them is not merely a legal prerogative. It's a civic duty.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:12 AM
Racism Trumps Democracy

In today's Seattle Times, columnist Danny Westneat encourages government agencies to disregard the will of the voters, especially in order to institutionalize racism.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:01 AM
The biggest poison

Days after the latest car bombing that murdered dozens of Iraqi innocents, the United Nations special envoy for Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, blames Israel:

The biggest poison in the region is the policy of Israeli power and the suffering of the Palestinians," Brahimi was quoted as telling a French radio station. The UN envoy, who is from Algeria, reportedly said many people both in the Middle East and outside it agree with the statement
Kofi Annan repudiated the statement, but there are no indication that Brahimi will not continue in his role.

The biggest poison in the region may in fact be the UN.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:40 AM
April 22, 2004
Seattle Monorail = Fraud, Racism and Pork

As I mentioned last week, The Seattle Monorail Project is spending millions of dollars of its insufficient budget buying advertising under the pretense of "educating" the public about the (fantasized) "benefits" of the Monorail (some ads are posted here).

Among the claims is:

Five million fewer car trips a year. The Monorail Green Line will live up to its name by reducing environmental problems, not contributing to them. It’s expected to have 69,000 riders every weekday, which in turn will reduce car use by around 5 million trips a year. That’s worth saying again: take the city of Seattle and subtract 5 million car trips a year.
But deeper digging reveals that even under the Monorail's own most rosy assumptions, those are not 69,000 riders, but rides (i.e. 34,500 riders making round trips) and not "every weekday" but "every weekday" in the year 2020, and these projections were made years ago. Furthermore, community activist Kent Kammerer e-mails that
To the uninitiated, [5 million] probably seems like a large number. The reality is that Seattle residents and visitors make about 1.7 million car trips EVERY DAY and over 600 million per year. So the impact of the Green Line on car travel is worth, at the most, about three days of car trips, or less than 1 percent of all daily or annual trips. Since the SMP has at least a few transportation professionals on its staff, the use of the 5 million figure indicates that public relations has trumped technical veracity.
It's not "education", it's fraud.

Today's Seattle Times reports that the Monorail Project is more interested in perpetuating racism and handing out pork than in serving any useful purpose:

Seattle monorail officials are aiming to hire minority and female workers for one-third of the Green Line's 600 construction jobs, undaunted by a state law that forbids racial and gender preferences in public hiring.

Diversity targets are a cornerstone of a new labor agreement with 19 union locals that was signed yesterday by the monorail agency and union leaders.

Companies that win $1.3 billion in monorail design and construction contracts must hire mainly through the union halls, which in turn are expected to recruit "people of color" for at least 21 percent of the on-site workers and women for 12 percent of the jobs.

The more I learn about the Monorail project the stronger I feel that it should be shut down as soon as possible. Declining to pay the Monorail car tax is not only your legal right, it's your civic duty!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:47 AM
Dino vs the Democrats

Washington's Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi has some revolutionary ideas about state government:

“We've got to improve the business climate and create more jobs, and we must start by changing the culture of state government. We have a lot of talented, dedicated state employees who do a great job, but the leadership in state government and at state agencies has grown arrogant and out-of-touch with the people. As Washington 's new Governor, I will require state agencies to change their attitude and treat the people of Washington as their customers…and ultimately, as their bosses.
This shouldn't be revolutionary, but after two decades of Democrats in the governor's mansion it really is revolutionary. And it's the diametrical opposite of Democratic hopefuls Christine Gregoire and Ron Sims, who spend their time pandering to public employee unions and promising to raise taxes while rejecting the notion of government accountability.

One party believes that state government exists in order to serve the people, the other party believes that the people exist in order to pay for state government. It really is that simple. What sort of governor would you rather have?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:05 AM
Killing terrorists works

Who says that assassinating terrorists will only lead to more support for terrorism?

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has evicted 21 Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades out of his Muqata compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Israel Radio reported on Thursday
Palestinian sources said that Arafat's security chiefs had be pressing the chairman to expel the men, fearing that Israel would attack the Muqata in order to arrest the militants.
Yes, it really does seem that a couple of well-aimed missiles are far more effective than years of mushy diplomacy.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:11 AM
On the Hugh Hewitt Show

I've been a regular listener of the Hugh Hewitt Show for a while, and called in for the first time yesterday. After listening to Hugh's interview with Claudia Rosett about the Oil-for-Food scandal [see Rosett's comprehensive article in the current issue of Commentary], I called to mention my blog post about some of the American beneficiaries of the Oil-for-Food money.

After we ended the call, the producer cued the Shark theme from Jaws and Hugh told the audience:

Do you know what I like about the Shark Blog? He's hell on wheels to Robert Scheer. Scheer has no harsher critic than the Shark.
It's been a while since I last sheered Scheer. I'll do another one soon.

I also learned that I committed a grave faux pas when I said that it was a beautiful sunny cloudless day in Seattle. This prompted a furious e-mail from a local listener who is also a regular reader of the Shark Blog:

You haven't been in this area long, so you may not be aware of all the local rules. When you call a national program,you must always say that it is raining here, even if it is as nice as it is this afternoon, yes, even if you are calling from Eastern Washington, where it rarely rains.

This is especially important when calling shows located in California. It is OK to chuckle a bit to let other Northwesterners know you are kidding, when you say that it is raining and has been for days.

I promise I'll never make that mistake again. And incidentally, I was hoping to go on a lunch hour bike ride today but can't, because it's raining cats and dogs. Damn.

Lileks also heard my call in to the Hewitt Show and this prompted him to link to me from the top of today's Bleat!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:42 AM
April 21, 2004
Saddam's American Beneficiaries

As reported by ABC News and others, the American recipients of Saddam's "Oil for Food" bribes were:

Samir Vincent: 7 million
Shakir Alkhalaji [sic]: 10.5 million
(Most other reports spell the second name "Al-Khafaji").

The Seattle Times reported on Saturday that Al-Khafaji had made a (now returned) donation of $5,000 to Congressman Jim McDermott's legal defense fund and also gave an unspecified amount of money to the "charity" that paid for McDermott's 2002 trip to Baghdad.

This led me to wonder what other American politicians might have benefited from laundered "Oil for Food" bribes.

According to the Center for Responsive politics, Samir Vincent gave $1,000 in 2000 to then Republican Congressman Tom Campbell for his unsuccessful challenge against California Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Shakir Al-Khafaji was more generous to political candidates:

Michigan's David Bonior, at the time the second ranking Democrat in the House, received $2,500 between 1998 and 2000. Bonior accompanied McDermott to Baghdad in 2002.

Then Senator, now Energy Secretary, Spencer Abraham received $250 in 1999

Detroit Democrat John Conyers received $1,000 in 1999. (Conyers introduced a bill in the House to end economic sanctions against Iraq in March 2000)

Michigan Republican Joe Knollenberg received $1,000 in 1998.

The Arab American PAC received $500 in 2002, while James Zogby's Arab American Leadership Council PAC received $5,000 in 2000.

The latter's top recipients in 2000 and 2002 included Democrat Congressmen Bonior, Conyers, Dingell, McKinney, Rahall and Moran and Republicans Stephen, Sununu and Issa. The former PAC's sole recipients in 2002 were: Bonior and Dingell.

Of course, this only accounts for a tiny portion of the "Oil for Food" money, that which is properly disclosed in federal FEC filings. Donations to state and local candidates, charitable organizations, activist groups and candidate's "legal defense" and other off-the-radar slush funds are harder to uncover, but I'll keep digging.

I haven't seen any indications that any of the aforementioned recipients actually knew that Vincent and Al-Khafaji were on Saddam's payroll. But it would be a good thing if they followed McDermott's example and returned their share of Saddam's bribes. In fact, they could do McDermott one better and return the money to the Iraqi people.

UPDATE: I've contacted the offices of Congressmen Conyers and Knollenberg, the Arab American Leadership Council PAC, the Arab American PAC, and former Congressmen Bonior and Campbell, asking for a comment on these contributions and wondering whether they would return the money to the Iraqi treasury. The individuals I reached said they were not aware of the specific contributions and would research and get back to me. I'll report any responses.

UPDATE 2: David Bonior pulls into the lead as the #1 American beneficiary of Saddamite largesse. Alkhafaji also gave Bonior $3,400 for his 2002 gubernatorial bid, as well as a $150 contribution in 1999 to now Governor Jennifer Granholm's 1998 A.G. campaign. $150 is not a lot of money, but the timing is interesting. (query at Michigan Sec. of State database)

UPDATE 3: Former Congressman Tom Campbell response is here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:02 PM
Christine Gregoire Implosion

The Christine Gregoire for Governor campaign continues to implode this week as Attorney General Gregoire tries to suppress damaging public documents:

Lawyers for Attorney General Christine Gregoire yesterday accused political rival Ron Sims and an attorney for a former employee of leaking documents in hopes of damaging Gregoire's bid for governor this year.

Sims' spokesman, Tim Hatley, acknowledged that the campaign "came across" thousands of pages of documents and gave them to The Seattle Times.

The Times used the documents, some of which also are publicly available in a court file, as the basis for a story Sunday that showed Gregoire's office had shaped an "independent" investigation of the office by urging the author to downplay broad management problems. The investigation was conducted after the Attorney General's Office missed an appeal of a jury verdict, costing taxpayers more than $18 million

Gregoire has asked the trial judge to keep the rest of the documents under wraps. Of course, that only confirms the perception that the documents really are damaging to Gregoire.

Whatever those documents contain, Gregoire continues to build an impressive track record for opposing the public's right to view public documents. (see here and here).

UPDATE (4/22): An e-mailed press release from the state Senate Republican Caucus says that

Senate Majority Leader Bill Finkbeiner, R-Kirkland, has requested the Senate Judiciary Committee exercise its legislative powers to review allegations of questionable communication between Attorney General Christine Gregoire's office and an independent investigator hired to evaluate the circumstances surrounding [the] missed appeal
Yes, it's partisan, but it's also the right thing to do.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:54 AM
April 20, 2004
Extrajudicial Executions

As soon as the United Nations Security Council is finished condemning Israel for using missiles to defend itself from terrorists, its next order of business will be to condemn these extrajudicial executions of Iraqi criminals

Mortar rounds apparently fired by anti-coalition insurgents Tuesday killed 21 Iraqi detainees at the largest facility used by U.S. troops to detain Iraqis.

As many as 18 mortar rounds struck Abu Ghraib prison where thousands of criminals and anti-coalition insurgents are held. No coalition troops were hurt in the incident and as many as 100 other prisoners were wounded in the attack.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:44 AM
Doubting Thomas

Helen Thomas, the doyenne of the Washington press corps approximately since the antebellum, is inventing property rights that have never existed.

If President Bush wants to give land away, there is always his 1,600-acre ranch at Crawford, Texas.

But he has no right to endorse the Israeli claim to the captured or settled property on the West Bank that belongs to the Palestinians.

Where was Helen during the illegal occupation of the West Bank by Jordan?

And what would she have to say about this?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:34 AM
Mono de-rail

The Seattle Monorail Project continues its inexorable swirl down the drain of trouble today, as one of only two potential prime contractors has withdrawn its name from the competition.

Kiewit withdrew, a company official said, because it already has committed extensive resources to three other major regional transportation projects: the second Tacoma Narrows Bridge, replacement of part of the Hood Canal Bridge and initial parts of the Sound Transit light rail system in Seattle.

"To a contractor this is a riskier project. ... There's not a whole lot of monorails constructed across the country,"

What do you mean "not a whole lot of monorails"? Ogdenville, North Haverbrook, and Brockway all have monorails.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:09 AM
Hitler, Husseini and Hamas

David Kaspar notes Hitler's 115th birthday by reminding us of the fond connection between Nazism and Palestinian nationalism.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:49 AM
April 19, 2004
Hezbollah Game Show

Iranian-backed terrorist gang Hezbollah has its own television game show, the New York Times reports:

Quick. What is the name of the Palestinian village near what is now the Israeli city of Ramla that was destroyed in 1949 and replaced by a town called Yavne?

Too difficult? It's Yibna. Try another.

What structure built of gray sandstone in 1792 became the source of all oppressive decisions the world over?

This one should be easy: the White House.

If you answered both questions correctly, you might be prime fodder to compete on "The Mission," a game show running on Al Manar, the satellite television channel of Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese group.

The main purpose of the game show is to incite more Muslims to work for the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish people from Israel. The New York Times characterizes the show as "a tad more subtle than the channel's other offerings".

Hat tip: Combustible Boy

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:24 AM
An American Tragedy

Saturday's Seattle Times reports on the latest crisis to hit state government workers: Not everything in life is free.

Joe Witczak paid $395 for a root canal and a crown last year even though his family has not one, but two dental-insurance plans.

He and his wife, Charlene, both work for Washington state, which bans employees whose spouses also work for the state from claiming each other as dependents — and doubling their insurance coverage. So instead of his wife's dental plan picking up the unpaid portion of his bills, Joe Witczak paid $275 in co-payments and $120 in other charges out of his own pocket.

I'm horrified. Next thing you know, people will have to pay out of their own pockets for coffee, underpants, wall-to-wall carpeting, and ski-lift tickets. What kind of society are we allowing ourselves to become?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:05 AM
Freeze, Schmeeze

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has announced an immediate hiring freeze due to the city's tight budget. Only "crucial" positions are exempt from the freeze. Among the 1,000+ exempted positions:

Community development specialist, Mayor's Film and Music Office, The Mayor's Film and Music Office is staffed solely by its director and this support position. This person produces public-relations and marketing materials, provides Web management and maintenance and represents the office at film and music events. "There are no alternatives available in the office. No current staff are available nor meet the criteria for the position."
Community garden coordinator, Neighborhoods Department. This person would oversee and expand P-Patch community-gardening sites, organizing gardeners at 66 sites with roughly 2,000 plots. "Staff currently oversee a far greater number of sites than they can reasonably manage. ... Appearance of gardens, many of which are on publicly owned land, may decline. ... Neighborhood complaints to the P-Patch office may increase."
Without flunkies to represent the mayor at music festivals or city officials to coordinate P-Patch gardeners, the city's buildings could just as well slide off the continent and into the Puget Sound.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:53 AM
Europeaser Watch

This quote doesn't seem to have made the English language media yet. European Commission President Romano Prodi today characterized Israel's extermination of genocidal terrorist chief Abdel Aziz Rantisi as:

these are illegal and irresponsible acts. The condemnation is total and without any reservation
Prodi has previously expressed his "total condemnation of all forms of terrorism". So what he's saying, at best, is that stopping a mass murderer from killing again is just as bad as doing nothing and allowing more innocent civilians to be murdered.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:36 AM
Travelogue from Orcas Island

We spent the weekend on Orcas Island, largest of the San Juan Islands.

The whole thing was very pleasant and peaceful. We highly recommend the Kangaroo House Bed and Breakfast. The room was comfortable and the location convenient. Hosts Peter and Helen Allen are hospitable and accommodating and cook an excellent breakfast!

Largish photos follow in the second part of the post.

View from atop Mt. Constitution in Moran State Park, the highest point in the San Juan Islands.

Also at the summit of Mt. Constitution -- David's mom saves the little guy from taking a 2,400 ft. fall.

An island on an island, the smaller one in the middle of Mountain Lake in Moran State Park.

The farm of the late Burton A. Burton, founder of the Casablanca Ceiling Fan Company. Elsewhere on the farm is an artificial pond, a covered bridge over the pond and a railroad.

David at the terminal, waiting for the ferry to take us home. He was having such a good time on the island, it was almost unfair of us to make him leave.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:11 AM
April 18, 2004
Baghdad Jim on Saddam's Payroll

It turns out that Seattle Congressman "Baghdad Jim" McDermott received indirect payoffs from Saddam Hussein.

Congressman Jim McDermott this week returned a $5,000 contribution made to his legal defense fund by an Iraqi-American businessman who has admitted to financial ties with Saddam Hussein's regime.

Shakir al-Khafaji, a Detroit-area businessman who had been active in the anti-Iraq-war movement and who accompanied McDermott, D-Seattle, on his highly publicized trip to Iraq in 2002, acknowledged to the Financial Times of London this week that he received lucrative vouchers for Iraqi oil from Saddam's government.

It's to McDermott's credit that he returned the money. But the fact remains that McDermott had both given Saddam's people the impression that he would be a good dupe, and that he also fell for their overtures. And there's still this:
A nonprofit organization, Life for Relief and Development, paid McDermott's $5,510 travel expenses for the Iraq trip, according to a disclosure form filed with the House clerk. Al-Khafaji has been named as a financial supporter of the organization, though the extent of his support is not known.
"Life for Relief and Development"'s website is here. Baghdad Jim owes the people of this district some more answers.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:06 PM
Christine Gregoire

More revelations of foul play surrounding Washington Attorney General/gubernatorial candidate Christine Gregoire:

A review billed as an independent investigation of Attorney General Christine Gregoire's office in 2000 was rewritten to downplay broad management problems at the urging of Gregoire's top deputies.

Internal documents show the investigation — begun after Gregoire's staff missed a deadline to appeal a record $17.8 million verdict against the state — was redirected to focus more blame on one attorney who later was forced to resign.

Another black mark against Gregoire, who has recently supported government secrecy in two separate high-profile Public Disclosure Act cases (here and here). Gregoire has also violated campaign finance laws.

With that kind of execrable track record, who could possibly want Gregoire to be their governor? The Washington Education Association. "For the children", no doubt.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:28 PM

We were off in the San Juan Islands for the weekend, so the news of the Rantisi extermination reached me a little late. I started referring to the late Pediatrician of Death as the "soon-to-be-dead" Pediatrician of Death last August, so I was eight months ahead of the curve. Tomorrow, I expect, we will have another round of puking and mewling from the same editorial writers who complain every time Israel exterminates a mass murderer.

Meanwhile, as Hamas threatens "bloody revenge", none of its members is willing to succeed the splattered Rantisi as the group's leader. Hmmm. And I thought those guys wanted to become martyrs.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:53 PM
April 17, 2004
Here and There, April 17

Oklahoma City, TWA Flight 800, and the Gorelick connection.

A force of several hundred German police surrounded two mosques in the city of Bochum yesterday. They were checking the identity papers of Friday worshippers, looking for "militant Muslim extremists". One of the mosques used to be attended by 9/11 co-pilot Ziad Jarrah. No word whether the police found the folks they were looking for. Der Spiegel has more.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
April 16, 2004
Ron Sims or Robert Mugabe?

King County Executive Ron Sims is running for the Democratic nomination to be the next Governor of Washington. But Sims's platform is so much about unrestrained government that the Democrats might just as well nominate Robert Mugabe instead.

Zimbabwean Dictator
Robert Mugabe
King County Executive
Ron Sims
Sims is crafting a campaign message he hopes will appeal to devout Democrats. He's promising the sky for education and vowing to make health care available to all.

Too costly? No problem; he's putting together a proposal for a state income tax. He's speaking out in favor of gay marriage and against charter schools.

Okay, they differ on gay rights, but that's a minor detail. The important thing is to keep the people poor and ignorant. That's the Mugabe way! The problem is not that Sims is merely in favor of taxing and spending, it's that he champions unrestrained, unaccountable spending:
We differ dramatically. I would fund education. [opponent Christine Gregoire] says, 'We have to have accountability first,'" Sims says. "People cite accountability when they don't want something to happen."
Actually, people cite accountability when they want something to happen well. Sims's resistance to accountability is not just campaign rhetoric. He's delivered on his promises of badly run, unaccountable government for years.

And like Robert Mugabe, Ron Sims confiscates privately-owned land for "the people" and he also uses illegal methods to crush his opponents!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:04 AM
April 14, 2004
Monorail Fantasies

The infeasible Seattle Monorail Project has launched a $7 million ad campaign designed, apparently, to fool voters into forgetting about the Monorail Project's yawning financial shortfall that the ad campaign only exacerbates. As part of the campaign, today's Seattle Times carried a double-page color ad.

Unfortunately, I can't find a copy of the ad online, but the claims are interesting, to say the least. First, the Monorail claims to be even more energy-efficient than a perpetual mobile machine:

No combustion. [Fossils everywhere are breathing sighs of relief.]

The Monorail has no engine. It burns no fossil fuels. It has an electric motor.

Sadly, the supply of hydro-electric power is not infinite and all that electricity to be consumed by the Monorail would require City Light to burn a lot of, uh, coal and natural gas that it is not burning today.

The Monorail also claims that it will fabricate human beings who don't currently exist:

It's expected to have 69,000 riders every weekday, which in turn will reduce car use by around 5 million trips a year.
Now hold on. 69,000 riders every weekday (assuming that's a realistic number) comes out to nearly 18 million round trips a year. Where do these extra 13 million trips come from? Some may choose to ride the Monorail instead of the bus, but why build a new form of public transportation only to draw ridership from another? Some pedestrians and bicyclists might opt to ride the 'rail, but that's hardly a step in the right direction. Some people who might not otherwise come to Seattle might choose to visit just for the novelty value of riding the Monorail, but there are more cost-effective ways to create tourist traps. Are there shut-ins who now refuse to leave the house pending the coming of the Monorail? Or will thousands of Monorail riders simply be willed into existence along with the as yet non-existent money to pay for the silly thing?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:36 PM
"Liberal Radio" falls from the airwaves

Yet another instance where "liberal" mainly means being liberal with other people's money:

After just two weeks of broadcasting, Air America Radio, the fledgling liberal talk-radio network featuring Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo, was pulled off the air this morning in Chicago and Los Angeles, the network's second- and third-largest markets, in a dispute over payments for airtime.

Arthur Liu, owner of Multicultural Radio Broadcasting, which owns Air America affiliates WNTD-950 AM in Chicago and KBLA-1580 AM in Los Angeles, said Air America bounced a check and owes him more than $1 million.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:39 PM
Optional drivers licenses

One of the biggest public issues raging in Seattle these days is whether to stop impounding the vehicles of people who are caught driving with suspended licenses. Many in the city's hippie-dippie political class, such as City Councilmember Nick Licata, think it's an act of compassion to end the impound and keep bad drivers on the streets on the grounds that a disproportionate number of people who lose their licenses are low-income minorities (Never mentioned is the number of poor people and minorities who are killed and injured in traffic accidents caused by unlicensed drivers).

The Seattle Times throws its editorial weight against the issue today. "Seattle's impound law: not fair to too many"

The offense, "Driving While License Suspended," comes in three sizes: class one, for violators with a long history of dangerous driving; class two, for violators with a short history of serious infractions, such as driving drunk; and class three, mainly those who have had licenses suspended for failure to pay traffic tickets. The argument is over the last group, which is the least serious but the largest.
I've never seen a straight answer on what sort of infractions put one in the third group. Driving at night without headbeams? Running a red light? Driving 60mph in a school zone? Wrong way on a one-way street? I have no idea. I e-mailed the following questions to all nine members of the City Council:
Which specific traffic violations would still lead to the impoundment of the violator's vehicle?

Which specific traffic violations that currently require impoundment would no longer lead to impoundment?

How would the city then penalize the above violations that no longer lead to impoundment?

What is the expected budgetary impact of these changes?

What is your position on this proposal?

That was two weeks ago, only Councilmember Richard Conlin responded. He didn't answer any of my questions, the substance of his reply was:
While I have concerns about the impact of impoundment, it is a better alternative than sending people to jail, as is permitted under state law. Therefore, repeal of the law must be combined with a clear agreement with the City Attorney that ensures that jail does not become the alternative. There must also be a clear alternative that provides for enforcement of the law and that the offending driver has an enforceable plan for payment of the delinquent tickets and for obtaining a valid license.

As Chair of the Public Safety Committee, Councilmember Licata has the responsibility for negotiating such an agreement, and I look forward to the results of his discussions with the City Attorney.

With the rest of the City Council delegating public safety to Nick Licata, we might as well make drivers licenses optional, at least for people who claim poverty and ethnicity as an excuse not to follow traffic laws.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:19 PM
April 13, 2004
Another spiritual leader arrested

Hungarian police today arrested three Arab men on suspicion of plotting to blow up the country's new Holocaust museum. One of the men is described as

the spiritual leader of an Islamic community in Budapest
The attack would have coincided with the visit of Israeli President Moshe Katsav to dedicate the museum.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:33 AM
Overheard in Seattle...

In my neighborhood coffee house this morning, three wizened Seattle peace activists were reading the newspaper and lamenting the war in Iraq. They were pointing to a page in today's Seattle Times that has pictures of both Shi'ite gangster/preacher Muqtada al-Sadr and Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy chief of U.S. military operations in Iraq.

Muqtada al-SadrBrig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt
The conversation went something like this:
Look at that guy.

Yeah, he's one mean looking dude.

God, I hate that guy. I just hate the way he looks.

Fucking Kimmitt.

I hate that guy.

Have you ever heard him speak?

No, but the way he looks. It just makes me want to kill him.


Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:11 AM
April 12, 2004
The Best of Times

Today's Seattle Times has a terrific in-house piece that exposes numerous errors in Richard Clarke's book -- "Clarke book has errors about arrest of Ahmed Ressam". And the Times article examines only the portions of the book dedicated to the Ahmed Ressam case. It lists many errors, and is absolutely devastating to Clarke. Here is just one example:

Clarke reported Canadians had somehow "missed" the existence of Ressam's cell of radical Algerian Muslims in Montreal and that, after Ressam's arrest, the Canadian government cooperated.

According to testimony at Ressam's trial and interviews with Canadian intelligence officials, Ressam and the cell in Montreal had been under surveillance for at least two years before Ressam's arrest. But the Canadian Security Intelligence Service never told anyone.

U.S. prosecutors have complained bitterly about Canada's foot-dragging as the Ressam case proceeded. Canadian prosecutors blocked U.S. access to at least one crucial witness — an Algerian who gave Ressam a gun and talked about blowing up Jews in Montreal.

Indeed, the U.S. came within hours of dropping charges against Ressam on the eve of his March 2001 trial because the Canadian government attempted to withdraw the witnesses.

Hmm. And I thought it was Bush's unilateral war on Iraq that squandered our allies willingness to help us in the fight against terrorism.

The Worst of Times

Then there is this headline on page A-11 of today's Seattle Times -- "Sources label Hamas a key intefadeh player". The headline suggests the James Taranto-style question "What would we do without sources?" In fact, the editor who wrote the headline got his Islamic terror groups mixed up, as the lead paragraph makes clear:

The Islamic group Hezbollah has become a key sponsor of Palestinian violence, funding suicide bombings that have killed dozens of Israelis in recent months, Israeli intelligence sources, Palestinian Authority officials and militants said.
Just above the Hamas/Hezbollah story on the print page (not online) is another article about Israel that concludes with this paragraph:
Israeli troops exchanged fire with Palestinians near the Israeli settlement of Netzarim in Gaza, today, the army said. Palestinian security officials reported three Palestinians were killed in the exchange; the Israeli army said it killed at least one of the Palestinians.
No mention of the fact that the "exchange of gunfire" was the result of an attack that was inititiated by the Palestinians and that the Israelis were firing in self-defense.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:44 AM
April 11, 2004

We went to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Mount Vernon today.

David helped his mother buy flowers:

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:33 PM
The biggest jerk in Seattle

An item in today's Seattle Times tells us who might be the biggest jerk in Seattle:

Douglas Harshfield of Seattle says when he moved here in 1977 he obtained Washington plates for his 1976 Volkswagen Rabbit within the first 30 days, while he recently noticed a neighbor has been using out-of-state plates for two years.

Believing the monorail needs the cash (from vehicle registrations), Harshfield said he called the Seattle Police Department and was told that since Tim Eyman's initiative passed, the department no longer pursues scofflaws. "What's up?" he asks.

Yes, Douglas Harshfield is quite possibly the biggest jerk in Seattle. Except, of course, if his unnamed neighbor was an even bigger jerk to inspire Harshfield to rat on him.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:38 PM
April 10, 2004
Photo-blogging from Madison

We spent last weekend and the Passover Seder with my mother in Madison, Wisconsin. Here are just a few photos taken near my mother's house that you're not likely to see elsewhere.

A mecca for refrigeration fetishists and gourmet kitchen afficionados everywhere, the world headquarters of the Sub-Zero company. When I was growing up in Madison in the 1970s, the Sub-Zero building was little more than a long quonset hut. They've come a long way, baby.

The city has been converting retired railroad beds into bicycle/pedestrain trails. This recently completed segment is in the Nakoma neighborhood.

Lake Wingra, as seen from Odana Rd.

Across the street from Sub-Zero is the worldwide HQ of the Pacific Cycle company. I have no idea how good their bikes are, but to call yourself "Pacific" anything when you're 1,800 miles from the Pacific ocean takes some nerve.

UPDATE: A reader from Madison e-mails:

Pacific Cycle is one of the largest (if not the largest) bicycle manufacturers/marketers in the world, owning such names as Schwinn, Mongoose, GT, Murray, Flexible Flyer, Roadmaster, and InStep jogging strollers.

When you're the biggest, you can call yourself Pacific, even 1800 miles away.

(As an interesting note, they started out as the company that supplied the
free bikes for Crazy TV Lenny's bike-give-away sales)

You would have to have lived in Madison during the 1970s to understand the Crazy TV Lenny reference. But the good news is that Pacific Cycle is bringing back the Schwinn Sting-Ray! The bad news is that the new Sting-Ray looks nothing like the old Sting-Ray.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:06 PM
Tax freedom and those who resent it

Today's Seattle Times brings us the good news that tomorrow is "tax freedom day", the earliest in 37 years. But Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin, in a letter to the editor, is asking to be re-unliberated from tax freedom:

In doing our income taxes, we were dismayed to discover that, as a two-income, upper-middle-class household, we would benefit from the Bush tax cut. We know that those who are having the hardest time making ends meet will get little or nothing.

A tax cut for the well-off is foolish and ill-advised while we have a huge federal deficit and the Bush administration is cutting essential services like education, health and the environment (see "Taxes: a fair share?" Times, News, April 7).

We want to change the priorities of the federal government, and to help, not turn away from, those in need. So we are taking our tax cut and sending part of it to the Kerry campaign, and donating the rest to community health clinics, which provide essential services to the millions who have lost their jobs and health insurance.

We hope others will join us in converting a luxury bonus to a patriotic action.
Sue Ann Allen and Richard Conlin, Seattle

I commend Councilmember Conlin and Ms. Allen for donating more of their income to charity. But it's hard to understand what they're upset about. The tax cut gives people more opportunities for self-directed taxing and spending to support the programs they consider most valuable. And Conlin and Allen want to spend some of the money they could otherwise give to charity to promote a candidate who aims to limit the freedom that Americans have to choose their own charitable beneficiaries? Sheesh.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:31 PM
April 09, 2004
Israel calls on U.S. to "use maximum restraint" in Iraq

Reacting to news reports that

A U.S. AC-130 gunship raked insurgents Friday night after hundreds of women and children fled the besieged city of Fallujah
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom appealed to President Bush to "use maximum restraint" in Iraq
Shalom said the Sharon government was "gravely concerned" at the situation on the ground in Fallujah and other areas where the American military was conducting operations.

He called upon the American administration to "put in place procedures that will allow safe and secure passage for humanitarian purposes."

"We deplore the killing and wounding of innocent Iraqis, and we urge the United States to use maximum restraint to avoid harm to civilians and permit access for humanitarian services," said Shalom.

"We are deeply concerned by American defense actions that put civilians in harm's way

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:04 PM
Iraq = Vietnam

Ever since Sen. Kennedy said the other day that "Iraq is Bush's Vietnam", I've been struggling to come up with actual similarities between the two conflicts. I think I've finally come up with one.

In Vietnam Buddhists burned themselves alive as an act of protest.

Now Iraqis are threatening to burn Buddhists alive as an act of protest.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
April 08, 2004
Out of Commission

My tummy started to malfunction yesterday, food poisoning or possibly a virus. I was up all night suffering the various agonies and indignities of such an ailment. Today has been spent drinking rehydration fluids, delivered by a kind neighbor, and lying in bed.

Back to work and blogging tomorrow, I hope.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:12 PM
April 07, 2004
Arab despots fearful

Reuters reports that despotic rulers all over the Arab world are terrified about what's happening in Iraq:

Arab leaders worry that if the United States falters and Iraq degenerates they will be left with a failed state spreading instability and terror through the region.
That perfectly describes the Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Not to mention all the other Arab countries under their current unelected regimes. Note how all of the Arab despots are publicly speaking out against U.S. efforts to rebuild Iraq, instead of, say, openly supporting the coalition. Undeniably, they all want the U.S. to fail, precisely to ensure the status-quo-preserving outcome they claim they want to avert.

The report goes on to quote unnamed analysts who complain that

increased Kurdish power in Iraq has already created ripples, with unrest last month among Kurdish minorities in neighboring Syria and Iran.
the nerve of those Kurds to demand civil rights.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:59 AM
Israel is not allowed to defend itself

Ha'aretz columnist Ze'ev Schiff, always worth reading, observes today that anything that Israel has ever done in self-defense has drawn criticism:

From the minute the current round of conflict broke out, there have been waves of criticism of Israeli actions, whether offensively or defensively.

First there was criticism of the use of pinpoint snipers by the Israel Defense Forces. In the critics' eyes, it apparently would have been preferable if the army used machine guns, which later came under criticism. The initial use of combat helicopters prompted a wave of complaints. Then there was the ruckus over Israel using F-16s to drop bombs. The criticism also came from the American side, which a few years later used planes to attack targets in Baghdad, even after the American army was in control of all of Iraq.

Presumably if we were to defend ourselves in this war of terror by throwing rocks, the world would still complain. Most critics don't believe Israel has a right to self-defense
Read the whole thing.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:48 AM
Neal Starkman Award

Today's Neal Starkman Award, given to Seattle liberals who think their political views are evidence of superior intelligence, goes to Rev. Stephen Sundborg, a Jesuit priest and president of Seattle University. This is Sundborg's attempt to explain why Seattle residents seem less interested in helping out with homeland security than people in other cities:

"I think that Seattle, and the Puget Sound, is a very intelligent population," Sundborg said. "The reluctance to volunteer is an issue of credibility with homeland security. I think we're having a hard time sorting out the threats against the U.S. with the underlying problem of how we're viewed outside the U.S."
The same mindest would explain why the Seattle Post-Intelligencer thinks it's intelligencer than the rest of us.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:23 AM
It's in the P-I

Today's editorial in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

U.S. forces and coalition partners now face the challenge of showing strength and quelling an insurrection, all while trying to convince the people of Iraq that there's hope for the future.
As I mentioned earlier, a public opinion poll taken only a few weeks ago indicated that 70% of Iraqis answered that "things are going good today" and the same percentage also responded that "they thought their lives would be better a year from now."

Unlike the folks at P-I headquarters, it sounds like most Iraqis have already been convinced there's hope for the future.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:30 AM
April 06, 2004
Europeasers blame Jews for Al Qaeda

Miguel Angel Moratinos, Spain's new foreign minister and recently the European Union's "special envoy to the Middle East" told the Financial Times today:

he believes al-Qaeda will not be defeated until there is a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Sadly, that seems to be a polite way of saying for "as long as Israel is permitted to exist".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:23 PM
April 05, 2004
Details, please

Canadian officials and some media outlets seem reluctant to say what they know about the arson attack on a Jewish school in Montreal today. CBC :

At the front door police found a note referring to the Middle East, but they won't give any more details.
Toronto Star:
Montreal police spokesman Yves Surprenant said the notes were signed by an unknown organization but didn't provide details about their contents.

"What was written on the notes really told us it was a hate crime," he added.

The CBC and the Toronto Star might not want to confront the unpleasant truth about the motives and identities of the arsonists, but at least some Canadian journalists are doing their jobs:
The TVA network quoted sources who said the notes denounced recent attacks against Palestinians, including the killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, leader of the Islamic Hamas movement, and threatened further attacks.
The contents of the note and the name of the "unknown organization" that signed the note should be released.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:11 PM
Religion of Peace

An Iraqi Shiite cleric, Moqtada Sadr, and his aide, Mustafa Yaqoubi, are wanted for inciting their followers to murder a rival cleric:

Sadr and Yaqoubi were among 25 people wanted for the killing of the cleric, Abdul-Majid Khoei, on April 10, 2003, a day after the fall of Baghdad. Khoei was hacked to death by a mob at the shrine of Imam Ali.
A shrine of peace, no doubt. It almost makes you wonder why clerics from other religions of peace, such the Unitarian Universalists for example, don't often encourage their followers to lynch other Unitarian ministers.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:10 PM
April 04, 2004
Train Derailment Averted

German investigators are still puzzling over an apparent attempt to derail a high-speed inter-city train yesterday:

A HIGH-speed train driver braked to avoid derailing after spotting slabs of metal attached to tracks near the western German city of Dortmund, authorities said on Sunday.

None of the InterCityExpress train's 200 passengers were injured in the incident, which happened early Saturday morning. The six metal slabs, weighing 17.5 kilos each, had been screwed onto tracks between the towns of Kamen and Nordboegge, on a line that links Cologne with Berlin.

No suspects or motives yet. Der Spiegel has photos and indicates that whoever did this must have planned the operation carefully. There was only an 18 minute window between successive trains on that stretch of track.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:55 PM
Religion of Peace

Not to keep hounding on this "religion of peace" thing, but here's what happened in Madrid yesterday shortly before the train bomb suspects blew themselves up:

As the terrorists shot at police from the apartment, "they shouted 'God is great' and Islamic verses," the newspaper El Mundo quoted a resident of the building as saying. It identified him only as Alberto M., who lived two floors up.

El Pais said special forces preparing the assault managed to communicate with the terrorists and gave them a deadline to surrender. But the terrorists shouted back "God is great, we are going to go out killing," the newspaper said, quoting police.

As-salaam aleikum.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:30 AM
April 02, 2004
Trust and Transit

Danny Westneat reports on an initiative to put Sound Transit up for a revote:

Sound Transit may soon get what it has long had coming: A regional vote on whether to kill its troubled light-rail project.

An anti-rail group called Trust in Transit [sic] has filed a statewide initiative that would force all voter-approved transit agencies to build roughly what they promise in those glossy pre-election brochures.

Sounds good to me.

I'm also told that the initiative campaign has a website, here. They need to gather nearly 200,000 signatures in the next couple of months in order to get the initiative on the November ballot. Do what you can to help.

UPDATE: A representative of the intiative campaign group e-mailed me to clarify that the group is actually called Trust and Transit, not Trust in Transit as Westneat reported.

The reason this was chosen is we want both - we want trust in government, and we want transit, so the import is higher than just 'trust in transit.'
That's an important distinction which didn't make it in to Westneat's column either. He simply portrayed the group as "anti-rail". So I guess I'm not the only one whose nuances Westneat managed to overlook.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:05 AM
Religion of Peace

Not to beat this whole "Religion of Peace" idea to death, but what's the deal with worshippers who throw stones?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:57 AM
April 01, 2004
Unsound Transit

The new Sound Transit commuter train from Everett to Seattle is a good deal for somebody, but not for the taxpayers, today's Seattle Times reports: Sounder train is low on riders, high on cost:

Adults pay $3 for each one-way trip on the train. At current ridership levels, that amounts to a taxpayer subsidy of more than $35 for each passenger.
That alone would make the Sounder one of the most expensive commuter trains in the country, but the total cost is even more extreme than the figure of "$35 per one-way trip" suggests.
The current subsidy is just for operating costs such as train crews, equipment maintenance and insurance. It doesn't include any part of the line's estimated $393 million capital cost through 2009.
When you add in the capital cost amortized over, say 20 years, and then use the the Times estimate of 314 round-trip passengers per day, it comes out that the annual cost per Sounder commuter is $75,500, of which about $74,000 is pure subsidy. As a comparison, this estimate calculates that the average annual subsidy per automobile commuter (15 mile one-way commute) is $2,809. The distance between Everett and Seattle is 28 miles, so the annual subsidy for incremental road capacity to serve the same $74,000 train rider is only $5,243.

Another data point is that typical road construction projects in Washington State cost in the range of $1 to $9 million per lane mile (adjusted for 2002). Even at the high end of that range, adding one more lane of road on the 28 mile stretch between Seattle and Everett would cost $252 million, a lot less than the capital cost of the Sounder.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:52 PM
Washington State Primary

Washington Gov. Gary Locke today vetoed the Louisiana-style "Top Two" primary that passed the legislature last month. The likely result will be a "Montana-style" open primary that lets every voter vote in any party's primary, but that restricts each voter to a single party per primary election. The voter's choice of party would be kept secret. This strikes me as a very reasonable compromise between openness, privacy and party integrity.

The "Top Two" primary, in which only the top two finishers would go on to the general election, regardless of party, would have both destroyed the parties as viable organizations and also reduced voter choices in the general election.

The Seattle Times lobbied pretty hard for the "Top Two" system. (Unsigned editorials Mar. 10 and Mar. 24, Danny Westneat's column Mar. 17 and Erick Devericks' editorial cartoon Mar. 28). Other newspapers also endorsed the Top Two primary: The Olympian, Mar. 17; The Columbian Mar. 13. I can understand why some newspapers might prefer the "Top Two" system. If parties are rendered irrelevant, candidates lose organizations that can help them get elected and voters lose organizations that help recruit, brand and provide information about candidates. In a party-less world, media outlets with their ability to create name recognition and bestow endorsements become that much more powerful.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, on the other hand, opposed the Top Two primary. I think of the P-I as the "Baghdad Jim McDermott" of newspapers. Far to the left, and more interested in expressing its feelings and ideals than in actually having any influence.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:20 PM