June 30, 2004
Every Dope for EveryHope

Paul EveryHope [sic] is running for the Washington State House of Representatives from the 40th district, challenging incumbent Democrat Dave Quall in the primary.

Rep. Quall is on the left, EveryHope is the one on the right who looks like he's exhaling a lung-full of marijuana smoke. (Well he is from Bellingham). Rep. Quall is chairman of the House Education Committee. As a former teacher, he understands the value of charter schools, which is why he has helped lead the fight to bring charter schools to Washington State. EveryHope is a science teacher and he also understands the impact of charter schools on failing public schools, which is why, as an activist in the teacher union, he is smoking mad at Rep. Quall and doing whatever he can to try to stop charter schools.

EveryHope explains his opposition to letting parents instead of union-endorsed bureaucrats choose the best schools for their children:

EveryHope sees the trend toward charter schools as part of a larger national movement to privatize everything from health care to the restoration of Iraq.

In his view, putting schools in competition for limited dollars is a recipe for disaster, not a way to improve accountability.

"I think schools work best in a cooperative, safe environment," he said. "We shouldn't be competing with the school down the street. We should be helping them."

It's been a dozen years since the Soviet Union collapsed and EveryHope still imagines that centrally-planned government monopolies are the answer to all our problems? He really must be smoking dope.

UPDATE: EveryHope's campaign website is here. Hope or dope? You be the judge.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:51 PM
Clogged courts?

The latest installment of hand-wringing and self-flagellation over the imperfections of post-Saddam Iraq includes this item:

The country's court system is more clogged than before the war
Did the person who wrote this stop to think that the court system might be busier now than it was during the Saddam era in part because due process takes longer than summary executions?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:14 PM
Biased against Nethercutt

Both the Times and the P-I appear to be biased in favor of Patty Murray and against George Nethercutt.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:34 PM
Las Vegas Moronorail

The Las Vegas Moronorail is finally about to open (maybe), many months behind schedule:

The Las Vegas monorail is back on track for a scheduled July 15 opening after nearly six months of costly delays during which engineers worked out various kinks that threatened the rail system's reliability.
Cost overruns! It's probably still unreliable! It's way behind schedule! And it's ugly! But Seattle's Moronomaniac cult is still drooling to bring one to town:
Seattle monorail backers, especially City Councilman Peter Steinbrueck, have pointed to the Vegas project as proof elevated transit can work in Seattle. Opponents have pointed to the delays as a bad omen for the Green Line, and even Steinbrueck agrees that the generic-looking concrete columns in Vegas are not attractive enough for Seattle tastes.
Sigh.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:16 PM
June 29, 2004
It's in the P-I

Seattle's Mayor and City Council are trying again to lard up the city's property tax by renewing something called the "Families and Education Levy". Like most tax increases, it would appear on the September primary ballot when turnout is lower than in the November general election. Today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer quotes Councilmember Richard Conlin's tortured explanation that it's a good idea to renew 1997's expiring $69 million 7-year levy with an increase to $143 million:

The city's total assessed property value has doubled since the levy was first approved, he said, and household income is up 81 percent.

"You can make an argument that we're tapping way less of this community's resources, even if we increase the levy to $143 million," he said.

You can make that argument. But unless you're speaking to someone who is incapable of performing arithmetic, you just can't make that argument stick. $143 million represents a 107% increase over $69 million, which is certainly more than the purported increase in household income. (How many households saw their incomes increase 81% in the last 7 years anyway?) 107% is also more than the "doubling" of the assessed values (With a 98% increase, according to the King County Assessor, it actually fell slightly short of "doubling"). But using real estate price inflation as an excuse for raising taxes is particularly specious, because people can't actually benefit from appreciation in their property values unless they sell and move to a less expensive community. An option that a tax hike only makes more attractive.

Nevertheless, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's reporter didn't challenge Councilmember Conlin's innumerate claim that using more of the community's resources is somehow using "way less" of the community's resources, and we can only speculate about the reasons for this. Meanwhile, the Post-Intelligencer's editorial board endorses the levy under the headline "Smart spending sells Seattle levy". Please, no jokes about the juxtaposition of "smart" and "post-intelligencer".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:29 PM
June 28, 2004
Federal Bureau of Incompetence

The mystery of the poisoned cows has finally been solved.

To recap -- Earlier this month several cows belonging to Washington dairy farmer John Koopman suddenly became ill. Some of the cows died. Thousands of pounds of milk had to be destroyed.

Koopman would like to know who killed his cows. So would the federal Food and Drug Administration, the King County Sheriff's Office and the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Teams of federal investigators were on the case.
A task force of federal investigators -- including members of the FBI, Food and Drug Administration, Agriculture Department and the Department of Homeland Security -- joined local sheriff's deputies and local and state health and agriculture officials to investigate the poisoning incident.
There was a raid
FBI agents raided a house in Algona Thursday looking for clues to the poisoning of dairy cows at the Koopman's Dairy in Enumclaw.
...
FBI agents seized weapons and materials from the home, but they aren't saying specifically what they found.
The federal investigators concluded that the cows had been poisoned by an oxidizing chromium compound. The man whose house was raided had years earlier pleaded guilty to illegal storage of the same chromium compound. He is also a friend of the cows' owner. The implication is all but obvious, but no motive is apparent.

Fortunately, the mystery is now solved. There were no criminals or terrorists involved, only a careless farmer:

Three weeks of federal investigation — including an FBI raid of an Algona man's home — appear to have ended, narrowed to a canister of toxic material that was stored above where rancher John Koopman feeds his cattle. The substance apparently corroded through the container and dripped onto the cows, according to the FBI.
Yes it's odd that Koopman would keep deadly poisons where he feeds his cows. But why should it have taken a sizeable inter-agency terrorism task force three whole weeks to figure this all out?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:02 PM
The Tax Man Cometh

Washington gubernatorial candidate Ron Sims is betting his political career on a promise to raise taxes. Why not? It worked so well for Walter Mondale.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:41 AM
Education Quagmire

The managers of the Roslyn, New York public school system have stolen millions of dollars of the public's money:

Pamela C. Gluckin, a senior administrator, was charged with stealing more than $1 million in school funds. Several days later, the superintendent, Frank A. Tassone, resigned after the school board discovered that a word processing company hired to do $800,000 worth of work was owned by his roommate.

Now, as school officials, state auditors and Nassau Country prosecutors pore through the district's bills, it has become apparent that not only were the district's financial safeguards woefully insufficient, but its spending on items like limousines and restaurants was often out of bounds.

This makes me think of all those public education insiders here in Washington State who are fighting tooth and nail to prevent the formation of charter schools.
Referendum 55 will allow voters to repeal controversial legislation that allows millions of public school dollars to be given to unaccountable charter schools.
But charter schools are accountable. Unlike existing public schools they are accountable to parents. What the charter school opponents really want is to keep the millions of public school dollars in the existing unaccountable public schools. Like the ones in Roslyn, New York. Or the ones in Seattle, where, by the way, the anti-charter-school School Board members still haven't responded to my requests to document the "institutional racism" which they're going to spend an unlimited amount of money to eradicate.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:11 AM
June 27, 2004
What Liberal Media?

Liberal media bias all over the place --

The Seattle Times reveals its biases in a story about the House race to succeed George Nethercutt.

The Associated Press is too biased to properly apply Godwin's Law

National Public Radio is both biased and sloppy with the facts when looking at casualties in Iraq.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:41 PM
Alice Woldt

Yesterday I met the Alice Woldt, who is running for the Washington State House of Representatives in Seattle's 36th district, challenging the 32-year incumbent Helen Sommers. Although Sommers represents the ultra-liberal wing of the Democratic Party, she is at least of the faction that still visits the Planet Earth from time to time. Woldt, on the other hand, is challenging Sommers from the Democrats' Outer Limits left-wing, whose inhabitants believe the laws of economics, logic and physics shouldn't always be strictly enforced.

Woldt was out campaigning yesterday by taking part in the "Green Lake Peace Vigil", a weekly ritual of sclerotic hippies, anti-Semites, Kucinichoids and other assorted misfits who, for lack of anything better to do, prance around with Bush=Hitler signs and mutilated American flags to protest the "liar's oil war" and the "Occupation" (of liberated Kurdistan, Tel-Aviv, etc.). This google-cached page from its now-defunct website reveals the vacuum at the "Green Lake Peace Vigil"'s core. Less than two weeks after ecstatic Iraqis toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein, the Peace Vigil commandante wrote:

On Sunday, April 20th, we had about 70 people. Everyone there want to continue the vigil. The focus is yet to be decided.
But enough about Alice Woldt's core constituency.

I asked Alice herself why she was protesting. Did she want to give Saddam his country back? No, she said, she wanted to give Iraq back to the Iraqi people. And she didn't like Saddam and she also protested before the war against the sanctions because they hurt the Iraqi people more than they hurt Saddam. I tried to explain that the war had the effect of fulfilling both her goals of ending the sanctions and returning Iraq to its people, but this message somehow didn't penetrate into her personal version of reality space.

Then she started talking about state issues and explained that she wanted to change the state's unfair tax structure and lower the sales tax and do away with the B&O Tax. It's hard to disagree with this until you press her to confess that she wants to institute an income tax and that she also supports I-884, which seeks to raise the sales tax by a billion dollars a year.

In other words, Alice Woldt, if elected, will simultaneously raise and lower the sales tax. Which is about what you'd expect from somebody who still protests against the President for ending Saddam's brutal regime, saving thousands of Iraqi lives and returning the country to its citizens even though that's what she says she wanted in the first place.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:38 PM
Napoleon Dynamite

If you see just one movie this summer, you'll want that movie to be Napoleon Dynamite.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:45 PM
It's in the P-I

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer confesses its contempt for democracy with today's editorial headline "Drive for votes harms U.S. policy".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:40 PM
June 26, 2004
Poll: "Iraq war a mistake"

A new public opinion poll indicates that a majority of Americans believe that the Iraq war was a mistake. But that shouldn't be much of a surprise given the overwhelming bias in the way the war has been reported.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:18 AM
June 25, 2004
Deborah Senn

The other day I mentioned Deborah Senn, who's seeking the Democratic nomination in the Washington Attorney General race. Senn used to be the state's Insurance Commissioner. As a result of her mismanagement, her office lost its national accreditation. But that's not all she screwed up. A reader e-mails:

This article is quite accurate as to what happened to Washington State's health care -- it was socialized by Lowery and Senn in the 1990s with the result that individual policies (which cover very little) now cost as much as $600 per month.

In addition about 1/3 of the physicians have left the state or retired -- in Seattle Providence Medical Center which was the CHARITY hospital in the area (they NEVER SUED ANYONE FOR ANYTHING) went out of business along with the Sisters of Providence health insurance pool (lost $30 million in six months playing Senn's roulette...) I know because I was a manager at the institution....

The pool of the uninsured in Washington is growing at an alarming rate -- fewer companies can offer health insurance (on top of the state's tax structure) and the types of uninsured are moving up the scale from temporary workers to those with regular jobs -- ONLY GOVERNMENT WORKERS ENJOY NEARLY UNLIMITED ACCESS TO HEALTH INSURANCE FOR THEMSELVES AND THEIR FAMILIES (OR SAME-SEX LOVERS) --- taxpayers in King County pay up to $900 per month in health benefits for every county worker --

This will not right itself -- ever....the entire health system in the state was brought down and destroyed by Debbie (and Mike) and Hillary -- the doctors have fled, the vast pool of cash accumulated over the decades by insurance companies is gone, and the basic charity care institutions are gone -- they will never return....

DEBBIE SENN IS THE SINGLE MOST DIRECT CAUSE OF THIS CATASTROPHE...
Do read the article that the reader mentioned, which appeared in the March/April 2000 issue of the Medical Sentinel.

It's tempting to support Deborah Senn in the Democratic primary, but only because she would be such an easy Democrat for the Republicans to beat.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:57 PM
Racism?

By following a link on Ambra Nykol's wonderful blog, I found these bloggers' thoughts on racism -- check out what Samantha Pierce and Avery Tooley have to say.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:45 PM
It's in the P-I

Today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a touching story about an elderly Jewish couple and a local Muslim community group that have exchanged acts of kindness. But the article also leaves unchallenged this howling bit of historical revisionism from one of the Muslims quoted in the story:

"Muslims and Jews have always gotten along until recently with the state of Israel," [Ann] El-Moslimany said.
First, let's consult a Muslim holy book -- Hadith Volume 4, Book 52, Number 176:
Allah's Apostle said, "You (i.e. Muslims) will fight wi the Jews till some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will (betray them) saying, 'O 'Abdullah (i.e. slave of Allah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him.' "
This page has a list, with references, of episodes of historical persecution of Jews in Muslim lands.

From 18th Century Cairo, come these guidelines for the treatment of both Jews and Christians:

They should not be permitted to employ mounts like the Muslims. They must use neither saddles, nor iron-stirrups, in order to be distinguished from the true believers. They must under no circumstance ride horses because of the noble character of this animal. The Most-High has said [Qu'ran 8:62]: 'And through powerful squadrons [of horses] through which you will strike terror into your own and God's enemies.'
...
'Jews and Christians shall never begin a greeting; if you encounter one of them on the road, push him into the narrowest and tightest spot.' The absence of every mark of consideration toward them is obligatory for us; we ought never to give them the place of honor in an assembly when a Muslim is present.
And there is much, much more.

N.B. It might be interesting to note that Ann El-Moslimany's daughter Samia is the vice-chair of the local chapter of CAIR. The younger El-Moslimany was recently in the news for giving an award to Congressman "Baghdad Jim" McDermott while applauding an anti-Israel resolution from the local Democratic party. You don't suppose the El-Moslimany family has an anti-Israel propaganda agenda?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:30 AM
Failed Moronorail already wants to expand

Sound Transit, the financial disaster / light rail agency, at least has enough sense to "just say no" to adding Moronorail to its boondoggle empire.

When and if it expands, Sound Transit should stick with light rail, commuter rail and buses, and forget about monorail, the agency's planners said yesterday.
But the Seattle Moronorail Project, which is barely hanging on for its life as it is, won't take no as an answer:
Cleve Stockmeyer, a member of the Seattle Monorail Project board and chairman of Citizens for King County Monorail, said taking monorail off the table now would be premature.

"We're not saying, 'Do monorail.' We're just saying, 'Study it,' " Stockmeyer said.

It's been studied to death, Monoman:
[State Transportation Secretary Doug] MacDonald is no fan of monorail technology for a transportation system.

Around the world, cities have shunned monorail as a system, although some use it as a short point-to-point line, he said. Its switching technology is inferior to rail's. It is a proprietary technology, meaning a transit system will be stuck with the same technology from a single company for future expansion, he said.

I recently had an oddly disturbing conversation with Stockmeyer, which I wrote about here.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:59 AM
It's in the P-I

Today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a curiously brief "news brief".

Also in the P-I, syndicated columnist Helen Thomas says:

Let's keep religion out of the presidential election campaign. Or is it too late?
Of course she's referring only to the political use of religion that benefits Bush. When will Helen Thomas and the P-I criticize this:
"As people of faith, we consider it part of our religious duty to participate in public processes,"
The theocrat who uttered the above is:
Rev. Leslie Braxton, senior pastor at Seattle's Mount Zion Baptist Church, which is participating in a multicity campaign called "Let Justice Roll: Faith and Community Voices Against Poverty."

The local effort is part of a broader campaign, sponsored by the National Council of Churches USA and the Center for Community Change, that aims to draw public attention to poverty issues and to register voters

When will Helen Thomas and the P-I criticize this use of religion to advance a political agenda? I can only wonder.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:30 AM
June 24, 2004
Al Gore has lost his mind

Former Vice President Al Gore appears to be showing symptoms of a psychiatric disorder. In today's speech at Georgetown University Gore said:

The Administration works closely with a network of “rapid response” digital Brown Shirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors for “undermining support for our troops.”
These paranoid hallucinations are scary enough (what exactly is a "digital Brown Shirt" anyway?) but it gets even worse. Gore goes on to quote New York Times columnist Paul Krugman as saying:
"... After 9/11, if you were thinking of saying anything negative of the President…you had to expect right-wing pundits and publications to do all they could to ruin your reputation.
You'd almost have to be a schizophrenic yourself to take seriously a man who goes around telling people that the CIA can read his thoughts.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:12 PM
Moronorail Now

The Seattle Times reports that the Monorail is under pressure from City Councilmembers to set its fare pricing before it will be given permission to build. The lack of agreements with other transit agencies for reasonable transfer fares is one of the many missing pieces that casts doubts on the Monorail's financial viability. Nevertheless, the article quotes Monomaniac spokesman Peter Sherwin who says:

he's concerned that if the city strives to guarantee a perfect system by delving into fare policies now, that could decrease the chance of getting a rapid-transit system built.
Wouldn't that be a shame.

Peter Sherwin is one of those people the press loves to trot out as the one guy they always quote on a particular perspective. Sherwin is apparently the designated Mr. One-Track-Mind. Reading the press reports one gets the impression that he speaks for a massive grassroots movement, called "Monorail Now". If ever a Monorail critic raises concerns about the project, Peter Sherwin is the guy who is quoted as saying things like "The naysayers always bring that up. But we can't stop momentum on the Monorail just because a lot of people might be killed. It was designed to be a fire hazard on purpose in order to create more jobs for firefighters" or something to that effect.

I saw Peter Sherwin last week when we both were giving testimony at a City Council hearing. He's an amusing little homunculous , but somebody's presumably paying him a real salary. The P-I reported recently that he was brought on as "chief spokesman for Monorail Now". The P-I makes it sound like Monorail Now is an organization of the little people fighting back against

On Track, a group of critics that includes several downtown landowners, set up a staffed office downtown and hired a lawyer to mount legal challenges.
But the MonorailNow.com domain is registered to an expensive-sounding P.R. firm called the Gallatin Group. When I saw Sherwin at the City Council meeting he was wearing one of the expensive looking pro-Monorail green T-shirts that were being given away for free by the dozens. You really gotta wonder who's paying for the T-shirts and for Sherwin and the Gallatin Group to shill for the Monorail. But it's not clear who it is. I hope the Times and the P-I will look into this and let us all know.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:14 PM
Democrat Fever

Local Democrats are so excited about Michael Moore's crockumentary Fahrenheit 911 that they're using it in their election campaigns

Deborah Senn, who's running for attorney general, wants you to see the movie with her. So do the ACLU, the 32nd District Democratic Committee and Congressman Jay Inslee.
Even before it opens tomorrow, Michael Moore's Bush-bashing docu-satire, "Fahrenheit 9/11" is being harnessed by Democratic candidates and liberal groups to raise money and rally the troops.
I haven't seen the movie yet, but after seeing Bowling for Columbine, I have little reason to believe that the new movie is anything more than fact-free Bush-hating primal scream therapy. Christopher Hitchens confirms my suspicions.

Don't the Democrats realize how pathetic they appear if they can't rally their troops on the strength of their own platform and all they have to go with is a faux documentary full of half-truths saying little more than "everything Bush does is wrong because he's a lying moron"?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:38 AM
I-884, Hanauer and TeachFirst

I recently mentioned that Nick Hanauer, the major campaign donor for I-884 (a ballot initiative to raise the sales tax to fund public education), is a director/investor in an education services firm that stands to benefit from I-884.

An executive of Hanauer's firm, TeachFirst, contacted me after reading the blog post and graciously offered to answer any questions I had about the company and Hanauer's involvement. From our conversation I learned the following:

* Hanauer was an early investor in the company, brought in both for his extensive business experience and interest in education issues. The source was not aware of the size of Hanauer's investment, but said he was not one of the largest investors.

* The company creates online and video training programs for teachers, which are more efficient and convenient than traditional seminar-type programs. The biggest source of revenue is training teachers to work with English-learners, as mandated by "No Child Left Behind".

In short, I learned nothing either sinister or inconsistent with what I gathered from reading the company's website.

The language of I-884 specifically mentions that the measure would fund:

Training in effective instructional strategies for certificated instructional staff and classified staff who have instructional responsibilities for special education students or students whose first language is not English;
So it does appear likely that TeachFirst would benefit directly from the initiative.

There's not necessarily anything wrong with that. The product, as described to me, sounds like it performs a valuable service. Helping more English learners learn more English is important. I have no objection to for-profit companies serving public educators as long as vendors are selected on the basis of quality and price and they deliver on their promises. There should probably be a lot more privatization throughout the educational system than there is today.

Nevertheless, it is remarkable that a person with a financial stake in a company creates and bankrolls a ballot initiative that is likely to benefit one of his portfolio companies (and, it's fair to assume, other educational business ventures he might have now and in the future). That doesn't necessarily mean his main interest in I-884 is his own financial interest. More likely than not he got involved in both ventures primarily because of his passion for education.

Still. This is the sort of inside relationship that should properly be reported and discussed, just as any other case when somebody with a commercial interest bankrolls a campaign. As the Seattle Times wrote in a recent editorial about a different race

this is Washington, where voters place great value on campaign transparency. Reporting donors' occupations and employers helps voters make an informed decision about which candidate they would like to become governor.
The P-I concurs:
Voters deserve to know how much money political candidates are getting and from whom.
The same holds true about donors to initiative campaigns and those donors' major investments. Will the Times and P-I report on Hanauer's investments in educational service firms that stand to benefit from I-884? I hope so.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:01 AM
They're not peace activists. They're on the other side

The Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin reports on some local "peace activists" who recently visited Iraq. Marion Stuenkel admits that deposing Saddam was the right thing to do, even though she's sure there's a dark lining in that silver cloud:

The people of Iraq are grateful that Saddam Hussein is gone. And a year ago they were filled with hope, she said, but that is not the case now.
Both Stuenkel and her partner in peace, George Martin, say it's time for the troops to leave and surrender Iraq to the terrorists:
"We hear the argument that if we leave, there will be a civil war," Martin said. "But it couldn't get any worse." The people he talked to in Iraq want to take charge of their own destiny, he said.
I can't say with certainty whether Marion Stuenkel took to the streets in early 2003 to call for the overthrow of Saddam which she now endorses. But her sponsoring organization, "Christian Peacemaker Teams", was doing what it could to "get in the way" of the liberation of Iraq, so it's fair to assume that she probably wanted to keep Saddam in office.

Meanwhile, George Martin went on the record in February 2003 claiming that

there's unanimous support in the Middle East to say there should be no attack on Iraq
If the people of Iraq really are grateful that Saddam is gone (which we're also hearing from other sources), the Middle Eastern support for leaving him in power probably wasn't "unanimous". So if Stuenkel and Martin were completely wrong about Iraq before the war, why should anybody pay attention to what they have to say about Iraq now?

This member of their audience put it all in perspective

Activist and Vietnam veteran Will Williams, sitting in the back of the room, piped up.

America is governed by powerful corporations that pull the strings of its politicians, he said. Before the war in Iraq there were protests around the world, and the people were ignored.

"If democracy in Iraq is anything like it is here, they are better off without it."

That says it all. In the minds of these so-called "peace activists, it really is better to leave the world to tyrants and terrorists than it is to build democracy and nurture freedom.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
June 23, 2004
Playing the race card

In today's Seattle Times, City Councilmember Richard McIver uses the Times familiar canard of "the achievement gap between white students and students of color" to play the race card in support of a tax increase.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:25 PM
Washington Attorney General Race

Today's Seattle Times has a profile of the four major candidates for Attorney General: Democrats Deborah Senn and Mark Sidran; Republicans Rob McKenna and Mike Vaska.

Deborah Senn promises to try to lower gas prices. Mark Sidran vows to get tougher on identity theft. Rob McKenna talks tort reform. Michael Vaska promotes his experience as a litigator — and that he doesn't have any as a politician.
Deborah Senn is the most entertaining of the four candidates. What exactly will she do to lower gas prices? Will there be price controls and rationing? The article doesn't say. Senn's major qualification for the AG job is that she was the state's elected Insurance Commissioner for 8 years. But the article avoids mentioning that her tenure was a disaster, that resulted in:
Accreditation by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners was withdrawn in 1999, while Senn held the office, after a NAIC audit found fault with staffing levels, training, exam procedurees, timeliness and management oversight,
Now that's the sort of competence we need in the Attorney General's office! If Deborah Senn sounds good to you, you can join her at her upcoming campaign fundraiser screening of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911.

The best candidate and leading fundraiser of the four is Republican Rob McKenna, a King County Councilmember, whom the Times describes as

McKenna, who lives in Bellevue, has spent much of his time on the County Council pushing lower property taxes and railing against what he sees as wasteful government spending. He has been a relentless critic of Sound Transit's light-rail plan.
Sounds good to me. His primary opponent, on the other hand:
Vaska, as a volunteer, helped seek federal funds for Sound Transit. His support of regional funding for transportation led him to oppose Tim Eyman's initiatives and take part in several debates with him.
In other words, a man who rails for wasteful government spending!

In an apparent display of bias against McKenna, the Times article includes an extended quote attacking McKenna that appeared in a Vaska campaign letter written by former Republican Governor Dan Evans. The article does not include a single quote from any other third party that criticizes any of the other candidates. Hmmm.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:44 AM
June 22, 2004
TaxFirst

The Seattle Times reports that I-884, a ballot initiative to raise the state sales tax by 1¢ / $1.00 in order to boost education spending, is leading all other ballot initiatives in campaign funds raised. 44% of the campaign's war chest is from a single individual:

An Amazon.com founding investor, Nick Hanauer, has given $185,000 to the committee. ... "I have shouldered a big part of this effort," Hanauer said. "But I'm happy and proud to have been able to do it. It's a great project."
$185,000 is an astonishing amount of money for any individual to contribute to any single political campaign. One can only wonder why Nick Hanauer was so happy and proud to contribute so much to this great project. Perhaps he's simply engaging in what he believes is good citizenship and philanthropy. On the other hand, Nick Hanauer is also a director (and presumably an investor) in a privately held company called TeachFirst, which develops training programs for public school teachers. If passed, I-884 will increase spending on ... training public school teachers. The ballot language specifically mentions some of the types of training offered by TeachFirst.

I don't know whether or not there is a direct connection between Hanauer's involvement in TeachFirst and his political activism on public education issues. But I do know that if I were a TeachFirst salesman I would work into any sales call on any Washington school district a mention of TeachFirst Director Nick Hanauer and his selfless support for I-884.

One would hope that the local media would at least mention Hanauer's stake in TeachFirst and explore this connection as it relates to I-884. But neither the Times or the P-I has done so to date. Hanauer was also recently interviewed on a local public access cable program [3/29/04] (by another board member of the League of Education Voters, which launched I-884). The interview touches on Hanauer's public education political activism as well as his extensive business experiences and how the two worlds relate to one another. It would have been natural for the interviewer to ask about TeachFirst, but the question never came up.

Of course, when a ballot initiative seeks to lower taxes, its campaign funders' business interests are reported on the front page. Anybody care to predict when the TeachFirst / I-884 connection will first appear in the newspapers? Please, no wagering.

[N.B. You can look up WA campaign spending on the web, here]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:47 PM
It's in the P-I

Today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a glowing tribute to local plutocrat Stimson Bullitt, who has apparently made numerous contributions to Seattle during his 85 years. The P-I concludes its profile with this howling mischaracterization:

Bullitt still likes to communicate through his writing today. Recently, he penned a few columns for local newspapers, in which he opposed the war in Iraq and advocated for a free Palestinian country.
In fact, Bullitt's op-ed which appeared in the P-I on January 2, 2004, did not "advocate for a free Palestinian country", it advocated ending the state of Israel. Apparently the Seattle Post-Intelligencer doesn't understand the difference.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:13 PM
Institutional Racism (II)

Yesterday I mentioned that the Seattle School Board has committed itself to "eradicating institutional racism" in the School District. Unfortunately, details about the existence of institutional racism in the Seattle schools or how the Board plans to eradicate it have been scarce. So I e-mailed each of the members of the School Board and asked them to answer the following questions:

1) What is your definition of the term "institutional racism"?
2) What are some specific examples of institutional racism in the Seattle schools?
3) What specific steps will be taken to eradicate institutional racism?
4) How will the School District measure its progress toward this goal?
I thank School Board Member Brita Butler-Wall for sending a prompt and substantive reply to my questions. Her complete reply follows (indented) along with my inline commentary.
I agree that there can be many different views of racism. The board and senior staff recently went through the training offered by the People's Institute for Survival and Beyond and you may be interested in taking a look at their website to learn about their analysis.
Done. The People's Institute principles include "Undoing Militarism : Militarism must be recognized as applied racism. It is the force that maintains the current imbalance of power. " and "Racism is the single most critical barrier to building effective coalitions for social change. Racism has been consciously and systematically erected, and it can be undone only if people understand what it is, where it comes from, how it functions, and why it is perpetuated." The website does not explain "what it is", let alone "where it comes from, how it functions, and why it is perpetuated". I guess you have to attend the entire expensive seminar before they even tell you why you're there.
These trainers come to Seattle every few months--I think they may be doing a training at the end of June, if you are interested in participating.
I can only wonder how much of the School District's budget was spent sending the board members and senior staff to the People's Institute workshop and how much money and staff time they expect to spend sending teachers and administrators in the future.
Basically, I define institutional racism as the combination of race privilege plus power, meaning that the system is set up (inadvertently or not) to favor people of one race over another, and the mechanisms of the institution then reinforce with institutional power these discrepancies. We should bear in mind that 'race' is, according to many social scientists, a social construct which was created for a specific purpose. Racism and prejudice are thus two separate things. For example, a person could have very little prejudice toward people of a certain race, but still benefit from the unequal treatment provided by institutional racism. Even relatively poor white people enjoy some privileges they may be unaware of just because of their race.
Two observations I've made elsewhere leave me skeptical about the claim that white people have special "race privilege" and "power" in Seattle schools. First, the highest performing ethnic groups in Seattle schools are not white, but East Asian. Second, only half of Seattle's white children attend Seattle public schools, the other half go to private schools. If the Seattle schools were a bastion of white privilege, why do so few white parents send their kids there?
Gary Howard has written extensively about 'white privilege' and you may find his work interesting.
Here is one thing that Gary Howard has written: "our goal is neither to deify nor denigrate Whiteness, but to defuse its destructive power.”. Yes, I do find that interesting.

Director Butler-Wall gave two examples of "institutional racism".

Example 1:

In Seattle, we expect children to learn to read standard written English as part of their education. However, we do not always acknowledge or support the extra work it takes to learn to read standard written English when the child comes from a home where another language or dialect is spoken, unless they actually come from a different country.
Berkeley linguist John McWhorter, one of the leading academic experts on African American dialects, dismisses this notion as "Throwing Money at an Illusion".

Example 2:

most of our teachers are white and many of our students are not. Children of color are much less likely to have a role model from their own 'race' or ethnic group in the classroom. This does not mean that our principals are racist, but that our system is set up to attract white teachers.
First of all, most of our teachers are white because most of the people who live here are white. So are most trained teachers and education school graduates. The only way to get around these statistics is to hire unqualified teachers or to engage in zero-sum competition with other school districts for the limited supply of non-white teachers. Second, why should one assume that a child's role model needs to be of the same skin color as the child? Does this mean that a black teacher cannot be a good role model for an Asian child? And if the assumption is that a white teacher cannot be a good role model for an Asian child, why are Asian children outperforming everybody else in the schools?
We will be looking at institutional racism as part of the 5-year plan and I'm sure that there will be many steps we can take to dismantle it over the next few years, or at least get a good start on the process. Some of the areas may involve teacher training, curriculum review, student assignment, or whatever.
An unconvincing paucity of specifics. And isn't it illegal in the state of Washington to assign students on the basis of race?
The Superintendent is adding a position of Director of Equity and Race Relations so that there will be a senior administrator making sure we don't lose momentum on this. I assume this person will be able to be a 'go-to' for all of us in getting information and ideas. Part of our work will be to develop assessment measures. For one, we certainly hope that in the future, race will not be a good predictor of how well a child does in school on our traditional measures such as tests, grades, graduation rates, etc. (In other words, how a kid does in school will continue to vary by individual, but will not be correlated with their 'race'.)
I'm pleased that the School Board recognizes that assessment measures are needed to quantify the status of "institutional racism" and to measure any progress toward its eradication. But on what basis has the Board already determined that "institutional racism" is a problem that needs to be solved before any of those assessment measures have even been created?
This is a sensitive topic and there are many controversies surrounding racism. I appreciate your thoughtful questions and comments on this. We have increasing numbers of mixed race students in our district and the issue of institutional racism is increasingly important.
If the district has an increasing number of mixed race students it's a sign of increasingly integrated families, which suggests that race is becoming less important in the community at large. Why should the school district need to spend more of its time dealing with racism at a time when society as a whole is becoming integrated to the point that the old concepts of race are beginning to fade away?

I do appreciate that Brita Butler-Wall took the time to reply to my questions. But she hasn't yet convinced me that the School Board is taking the most productive path towards helping the thousands of underperforming Seattle public schoolchildren to achieve their potential.

Board members Irene Stewart and Darlene Flynn also replied to my e-mail, although their remarks did disappointingly little to advance their arguments. I include their complete replies in the second part of the post.

Irene Stewart

Mr. Sharkansky,

Your Web site would indicate that you are not particularly interested in understanding my perspective on this issue. I have to wonder why you would call the school board "a bunch of racists" because a resolution commemorating Brown v. Board of Education calls for the eradication of institutionalized racism and refers to students of color (SharkBlog, 6/20/04). You wrote to me after that was published.

The school board resolution calls for the elimination of "processes, attitudes, and behaviors, whether intentional or unintentional, which prevent students of color from receiving consistently appropriate and high-quality services in our schools." In no way does that goal deny the same treatment for any other racially- or culturally-defined group of students.

I do not care to contribute to intentionally inflammatory publications. I already run the risk that you will publish this message, or parts thereof, out of context. However, in response to your specific questions:

* Institutionalized racism is defined in the resolution and in the paragraph above.

* You can get more information about institutionalized racism by doing a Google search.

* You can find Seattle Public Schools reports on academic performance and other measures, disaggregated by race, as well as strategies and outcomes, at http://www.seattleschools.org/area/eag/reports.xml on the Web.

* The school board will play a key role in the years to come by examining policy and budget implications with an eye to access, equity, and success for all students.

Darlene Flynn
I believe Director Stewart did a thorough job responding to your questions. Thank you for contacting us for clarification.
I replied to Directors Stewart and Flynn and assured them that I am interested in learning their position; promised not to quote them out of context; reiterated my request for specific examples of institutional racism in Seattle Schools; and observed that:
I think you'll have a greater chance of winning community support for the direction you're taking if you engage the skeptics head on and present a compelling case for what you're attempting to do.
UPDATE: Irene Stewart e-mailed back promising to write more later. In the meantime, she notes that her definition of institutionalized racism is
"processes, attitudes, and behaviors, whether intentional or unintentional, which prevent students of color from receiving consistently appropriate and high-quality services in our schools."
I'm troubled by the apparent distinction between white students and students of color. When a non-white student receives poor service it is called "racism". But what is it called when a white student receives poor service? I'll withhold other questions about this definition until the board members send me more documented examples of what they consider to be institutional racism.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
June 21, 2004
Guns don't kill, units above kill

Headline: "Woman hit by bullet shot from unit above".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:48 PM
It's in the P-I

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Foreign Desk Editor Larry Johnson came back from Syria all excited to report that the "Arab and Muslim world wants to be friends with us". It's just our Jew-loving government they can't stand.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:07 AM
June 20, 2004
"Institutional Racism"

The Seattle School Board has committed itself to "eradicate institutional racism". I've yet to see any document from the School Board that defines the term "institutional racism" or gives any concrete examples of institutional racism in the Seattle School District. Nevertheless, the board members assure us that institutional racism exists and that they will eliminate it, no matter how much it costs.

"While unable at this time to quantify the resources necessary to accomplish [the goal of eradicating institutional racism], we anticipate a major shift in the way existing resources — including staff time, materials, supplies, and money — are utilized, now and in the years to come."
The cash-strapped School District is now advertising to hire a "director of equity and race relations", a newly created position which will have a budget of $200,000 a year.

UPDATE I've found a concrete example of institutional racism after all. The School Board's own resolution calling for the elimination of institutional racism concludes:

RESOLVED, that the Seattle School Board of Directors calls upon every Seattle Public Schools employee, school volunteer, and community member to work to eliminate the processes, attitudes, and behaviors, whether intentional or unintentional, which prevent students of color from receiving consistently appropriate and high-quality services in our schools.
What, they're only committed to eliminate ineffective processes, attitudes, and behaviors that harm "students of color", but not those that harm white students? Sheesh, what a bunch of racists.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:29 AM
June 19, 2004
Religion of Perjury

Fawaz Damra, Imam of the Islamic Center of Greater Cleveland, was convicted Thursday in federal court of lying on his immigration documents. Damra denied having ties to terrorist groups when he applied for citizenship several years ago, but he left an audit trail:

Investigators built their case on videotapes of Damra raising money and fervor for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. On the tapes, the cleric screams about the need to fight a holy war against "the sons of monkeys and pigs, the Jews."
Damra faces sentencing which could include stripping him of the U.S. citizenship that he fraudulently obtained.

One would expect that other Muslims would choose to distance themselves from a convicted immigration criminal. But the opposite seems to be true. At yesterday's prayer service at Damra's mosque:

nearly 1,500 people prayed with Damra, about double the normal turnout for an afternoon service on Friday
Perhaps CAIR should feature Damra in one of its 'I am an American Muslim' "public service announcements".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:09 PM
Suppression of Dissent in Ashcroft's America

The Monorail Recall Committee has won only a partial victory in its defense against the One-Track-Minds of The Seattle Monorail Project, who sued to stop the Recall initiative. The Monomaniacs attempted to crush dissent by claiming, ludicrously, that the ballot title on the petition was somehow "confusing". In yesterday's ruling, Judge Steven Gonzalez sawed the baby in half and ruled that the ballot title was indeed confusing and ordered the Recall campaign to revise its petitions, but that any signatures already gathered will be valid.

Here is what is printed on the old petition:

PROHIBIT NEW MONORAIL FACILITIES ON CITY STREETS

Initiative Measure Number 83 concerns the use of City rights-of-way for new monorail transit facilities

This measure would enact the following provision as City law; "From and after the effective date of this enactment, the construction, operation or use of City right-of-way for monorail transit facilities is prohibited. Any agreement, contract, permit, license, grant or other authorization for use of City right-of-way for monorail transit facilities shall be revoked and declared null and void.

The P-I article says that
Gonzalez, in his ruling, agreed with monorail officials' argument that the original title was confusing and didn't describe the initiative's intention.
What part of "PROHIBIT NEW MONORAIL FACILITIES ON CITY STREETS" would confuse the average person into thinking that the initiative will accomplish something other than, uh, prohibiting a new monorail on city streets? The Moronorail folks are simply throwing out bogus excuses to stifle legitimate opposition, and if Gonzalez were any kind of a judge he would have sanctioned them for abuse of process. Instead, he insisted on fixing the "confusing" language by adding a third instance of the word "prohibit" to the top part of the petition, in case anybody missed the other two occurrences of the word "prohibit".

At least the previously gathered signatures will be valid (unless the Monofascists sue to void them for some other fabricated reason). But invalidating signatures on old petitions from this point forward means that a large number of currently circulating petitions will be voided, and a significant amount of the Recall campaign's time and money will have been wasted.

Yet another example of the Suppression of Dissent in post-9/11 America. I blame Ashcroft!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:22 PM
June 18, 2004
It's the economy, stupid

John Kerry offers his plan to bring more illegal immigrants to this country in order to take jobs away from Americans.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:31 PM
Even Helen Thomas occasionally asks an insightful question

Helen Thomas asks:

Is the Democratic Party so bereft that it has to seek out a Republican for the No. 2 spot on its presidential ticket?
It would appear that way.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:59 AM
Unsound Transit

More cost overruns at Sound Transit. (Another pork sandwich, please!) Yes, Sound Transit really is a money-eating sinkhole. And a people-eating sinkhole, apparently.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:14 AM
How to get more kids to graduate from high school

The Seattle School District, responding to a crisis of low high school graduation rates, is proposing to lower the standards needed to graduate. Among the proposed changes is elimination of the requirement to maintain a minimum 2.0 grade-point average.

33 high school principals and counselors recently surveyed overwhelmingly said the district should not retain the 2.0 GPA rule, which may be encouraging students with low GPAs to drop out.
You'd almost have to be a public education professional to think like that. No doubt they'll all be patting each other on the back next year for increasing the graduation rate.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:35 AM
June 17, 2004
It's in the P-I

And speaking of Tim Eyman (see the immediately preceding post), have you noticed the magnitude of the media's bias against Eyman? Take, for example, the front page of yesterday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Shameful.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:51 PM
Ron Sims Mugabe Watch

King County Executive / Contender for the Democratic nomination in the Washington gubernatorial race Ron Sims, in his speech to the state Democratic convention earlier this month:

Sims beat up on initiative king Tim Eyman--"I want to send him a message: There's a new sheriff in town," Sims thundered
The word "sheriff" is clearly intended to suggest that Eyman is a criminal. But he is not any kind of a criminal, he is merely a political activist who organizes ballot initiatives (most of them quite popular) that challenge the entrenched political elites, such as by lowering taxes. Reasonable people can disagree about the initiatives that Eyman supports. But to imply that Eyman's legitimate opposition to Sims' political machine marks him as an appropriate target of the criminal justice system, is well, exactly how Robert Mugabe operates.

On a lighter note, it occurs to us that both Zimbabwe's "President for Life" Robert Mugabe and King County's "Executive for Life" (unless he gets elected governor) Ron Sims prop up their failing regimes by using the charms of female dancers. Robert Mugabe:

Zimbabwe's Government has begun a huge propaganda campaign to cheer up the country with music, football and sex. All the main forums of popular culture have been harnessed to depict government policies as reasons to smile and break into song.

State-sanctioned jingles with upbeat tunes that feature wriggling female dancers and next month's African Nations Cup football final dominate television and radio.

Ron Sims' gubernatorial pageant at the Democratic convention:
But King County Executive Ron Sims was clearly determined not to be outdone by his opponent's pageantry. When his turn came, a throbbing tribal beat, more African juju than Scottish war clan, filled the auditorium. The audience began to clap rhythmically as a crew from the Alpha Phi Alpha step team performed a synchronized hiphop dance routine. Two elaborately costumed ranks of young Asian women--the Filipino Youth Activities Drill Team--marched into the hall in regimented lockstep, followed by a large posse of Sims partisans. Their chieftain, standing at the podium, raised his fist in the air, gyrating it wildly.
Ron Sims gyrating his fist wildly Robert Mugabe gyrating his fist wildly

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:50 AM
June 16, 2004
Die, Monorail, Die

I'm off on a highly important top-secret mission to help Smash the Moronorail. And I couldn't do it to a whinier bunch of spoiled rotten children.

Blogging will resume shortly.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:28 AM
Meet Mark Griswold

Mark Griswold, Republican candidate for the Washington House of Representatives in the 43rd District (challenging incumber House Speaker Frank Chopp) is having a campaign kick-off barbecue tomorrow evening, Thursday June 17 at 6:30 PM at Gasworks Park in Wallingford.

Come on down to meet Mark and help us break the Democrats' monopoly on Seattle electoral politics. If you're a Republican -- you'll see that you're not alone! If you're an open-minded Democrat or an independent voter, hear what Mark has to say (Hint: he's more middle-of-the-road than some people give the Republicans credit for and he's a wonderful alternative to entrenched one-party rule). And have some fun and a hot dog while you're at it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:25 AM
June 15, 2004
Washington Democratic Platform

If you're in the mood for a good laugh, take a peek at the Washington State Democratic Party's Platform, passed at the recent convention. I already mentioned the Platform's Jew-abandoning jihad-friendly statement of moral equivalence, here. But that's not all. According to the platform, the Democrats believe in:

Government control of the media:

the public owns the broadcast airwaves and the Internet, which should be managed to serve the public interest.

The Liberation of Iraq (although many would probably be surprised if it were explained to them what they approved):

U.S. foreign policy must empower and support the right of all people to self governance and self determination;
but at the same time they support
developing and implementing an equitable and rapid exit strategy from Iraq and Afghanistan;
If foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, what is foolish inconsistency?

A symptom of being a Democrat, apparently. Another example of this is that the Democrats believe in "affirmative action" and

using diversity of ownership as the centermost principle of broadcast licensing;
[ you know what "diversity" is code for] but at the same time, they call for
elimination of all forms of racial profiling by government or law enforcement;
Can any Democrat explain to me how you intend to achieve the former without the latter?

More inconsistency: The Democrats affirm

the right to sovereignty over our own bodies.
But as you might expect, their belief in individual choice extends only to a woman's right to have an abortion. They do oppose a parent's sovereignty over their own children's minds:
We oppose:
• Charter Schools;
• voucher payments to private schools;
The Democrats want to nullify all immigration laws and appear to endorse cultural suicide:
We Oppose:
• any immigration policy that denies civil and/or human rights or educational opportunities for immigrants and their children regardless of their immigration status.
and
We Support:
• challenging any legislation that:
o declares English as the official language of the United States;
Finally, my favorite planks in the Democrat platform are found in the Transportation section:
• vigorously encourage revising safety standards for tires based on real world safety performance for new and retread passenger tires, medium and heavy vehicles;

• safer intersections for vehicles and pedestrians through better design, improved traffic control measures, and where warranted, revision of existing practices for traffic control devices to permit longer phasing to pedestrian signals to enable safer crossing at highvolume roadways;

Now there's a party that can not only see all the trees in spite of the forest, but can also see the veins on their leaves!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:50 PM
Monorail "Mandate"

The Seattle Times reports today that our esteemed City Council is charging forward to build the Moronorail under the illusion that it has a mandate:

The voter-approved monorail tax passed in 2002 by just a few hundred votes, but the council is treating it as a mandate: "We're living in an era of close margin when it comes to votes," Councilman Peter Steinbrueck said.
I actually testified at a City Council public hearing about the Monorail later yesterday afternoon. The specific topic of the hearing was the "Transit Way Agreement", in which the City Council grants permission for the Monorail to use public rights of way in exchange for certain conditions and guarantees. The single most astonishing thing to me about the TWA and that I mentioned in my testimony, is that the TWA permits the City to rely on the Monorail Project's own financial analysis, without requiring any independent financial analysis or audit.

As I said in my testimony, this is like trusting the fox to guard the chicken coop. I also added, unaware of the earlier statements purporting a "mandate", that the Monorail has no mandate. Not only did the Monorail win the last vote with only a tiny margin of victory, it inspired fewer than 22% of registered voters to show up and vote for it. These votes were concentrated in a narrow corridor along the proposed route and in one other region of the city known as a hotbed of liberal and environmental activism. The vast majority of the city that is far from the proposed route voted strongly against it. It is inconceivable that a vote taken today would be any more favorable to the Monorail. Those who live far from the proposed line aren't going to be any happier about paying hundreds of dollars a year in increased car registration taxes for a train they can't use and that won't reduce traffic along their commutes. At the same time, there is now much greater opposition to the Monorail along the proposed route, as neighborhood residents begin to understand the serious downside of having the train in their neighborhood. A vote held today would lose. I encouraged the Council to hold off on giving the Monorail any new permissions until after the recall vote in November.

There were bursts of applause from the audience as I made my comments.

The Mysterious Green T-Shirts

Nevertheless, there were plenty of One-Track-Mind Moronorail supporters in the audience and giving testimony. A mysterious group called "Monorail Now" had set up a table in the lobby and was giving away green T-shirts with a pro-Monorail slogan. The Morono-Raelians were all wearing these, giving the impression that they were part of a strange space-age cult that was trying to take over the city. These were not cheap T-shirts either. They were the highest quality 100% cotton. And they were free! I asked the lady at the T-shirt table to tell me who was paying for them. She wasn't able to say.

The Monorail Now! website gives no detail about its funding source. Its WHOIS database entry gives a contact at the Gallatin Group, an expensive-looking lobbying and political strategy firm. There's obviously some big bucks behind the "grassroots" facade of Monorail Now. I suspect the prospective monorail builders and the Monorail Project itself are behind it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:52 AM
Religion of Peaceful Blow-ups

A Somali immigrant in Ohio has been arrested for planning to blow-up a Columbus shopping mall.

An East Jerusalem man has been arrested for planning to blow-up Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office.

An Iranian mother has enlisted 15,000 volunteers to blow-up themselves and others:

those deemed fit would be trained for one of three missions: killing members of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, slaughtering Israelis (all are deemed "occupiers of Palestine," according to official Iranian policy) or assassinating author Salman Rushdie.
The Iranian government is forging ahead with its nuclear weapons program (big blow-up waiting to happen), UN oversight be damned.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:52 AM
June 14, 2004
Favorite Fictional Characters

John Hawkins has posted the results of a fun survey where he asked a number of bloggers to vote for their favorite fictional characters. I was invited to participate and I meant to send in my answers, only procrastination kept me from completing the mission.

My entry would have included, but wouldn't have been limited to (in no particular order):

Willie Stark, from Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men
Morris Zapp, from David Lodge's Changing Places
Peter Fallow, from Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities
Jim Dixon, from Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim
Just about everybody from P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories.
Holly Go-lightly, from Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's, and for that matter every role I've ever seen Audrey Hepburn in.

When I say "favorite" character I don't necessarily mean that I like or admire the character, only that I think the character is particularly well drawn and interesting to follow.

Of the characters that made it to the top of the Hawkins survey, the only one that was also on my list was Inigo Montoya, from the movie The Princess Bride. I should also have included Capt. Yossarian from Joseph Heller's Catch-22, but for some reason I didn't think of him off the top of my head.

Obviously, there are many, many others worthy of note.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:48 AM
Your Federal Tax Dollars Down the Drain

What is that great big loud flushing sound?

The first federal money for Sound Transit's Link light rail project was presented in symbolic form yesterday by Federal Transit Administration Administrator Jennifer Dorn and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

King County Executive Ron Sims, a Sound Transit board member, accepted a check from the two for $43.8 million -- part of the $75 million set aside for Link in the 2004 federal budget.

Swoosh!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:49 AM
June 11, 2004
The Death of Representative Democracy?

On this National Day of Mourning dedicated to the memory of President Reagan, the Seattle Times chose to feature an op-ed by Walter Williams, professor emeritus of the Evans School of Public Policy at the University of Washington. The op-ed, titled "Reagan's destructive revolution", is a hilarious example of the mendacious and illogical partisan screaming that so often masquerades as legitimate university scholarship. The thesis of the column, as in Williams' book Reaganism and the Death of Representative Democracy is that

Reagan's unshakable conviction that the federal government was the nation's biggest domestic problem, and his efforts to constrain it, severely reduced that government's capacity to serve the American people and undermined representative democracy.
This so-called killer of representative democracy, recall, was re-elected in one of the most decisively representative democratic victories in our history. What else does Williams present as evidence of the death of representative democracy?
To start with, there is iron political control from the top ensuring far greater White House domination over the federal agencies than at any time in the past.
I don't get it. Would our government somehow be more representative and democratic if the unelected career bureaucrats in the federal agencies were not being managed by the elected leader of the Executive Branch?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:19 PM
The Times misses the point

I applaud today's Seattle Times editorial for supporting charter schools and for slapping the teacher unions for trying to block them. But the editorial ultimately misses the point.

The focus on charters is diverting attention from the real issue, which has much broader implications: When will state leaders muster the will to fully fund public education and boldly support what we know works to improve schools?
In other words, charter schools are nice but not all that important. This seems to be the Times way of changing the subject from reforming the way schools are managed to simply spending more money on them. This looks like the segue into a Times campaign for I-884, a measure to increase the state sales tax in order to pour another billion dollars a year into the unaccountable swamp of the state's mismanaged and failing education system. This measure is just another device of the usual public school employee groups to skim more money off the state's productive economy with no obligation to deliver any value in return.

The Times tries to diminish charter school proponents with the silly mischaracterizaton that

Zealous proponents will call charter schools the answer to all that ails public education.
I've been among the most zealous of charter proponents, all of whom are perfectly realistic in their expectations and none of whom have uttered any nonsense about a cure-all. But charter schools not only provide immediate benefits to the handful of students who would be able to attend them. They are also an important step to raising the bar for all the public schools through competition and meaningful accountability. Without which all the spending in the world will only reward and reinforce the failed practices that exist today.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:50 AM
It's in the P-I

Today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial praises the groundbreaking of Sound Transit's light rail line in the Rainier Valley. The editorial doesn't praise light rail as an effective and efficient way to move commuters because, of course, it isn't. The P-I loves light rail, but the only good thing that the editorial can find to say about it is that it is a wonderful pork barrel project:

if the proposed end result will do what Mayor Greg Nickels predicts -- "bring jobs, renewal and opportunity for all" -- it should prove worth it.
Worth it to all of the lucky vendors and employees working for the boondoggle, perhaps, and to the politicians like Greg Nickels whose campaign coffers the boondogglists fill. Not worth it to the rest of us poor shnooks who have to pay for the waste while the real transportation problems remain unaddressed.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:52 AM
June 10, 2004
Washington State Dhimmicrats

The Washington State Democrats (Dhimmicrats) have posted their 2004 Platform as adopted at last weekend's convention. This is the platform plank regarding Israel, showing the convention floor editing on the draft platform as prepared by the platform committee. (Strikethrough indicates a deletion, underline an addition). See if you can spot the most interesting change:

The United States should commit to vigorous, serious, and persistent and evenhanded engagement towards a peaceful resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, promoting negotiations that lead to a viable two-state solution resolution and ensure security and a good quality of life for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.
As I noted earlier, the moral vacuum of the word "even-handed" is bad enough. But even more noteworthy was the deletion of the phrase "two-state solution". This was apparently removed because enough delegates were pushing for a one-state "solution" (i.e. a Palestinian state to replace Israel). The resulting plank was the "compromise".

Compare and contrast with the state Republican platform plank supporting "...Israel in winning their war against terror in their homeland."

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:02 PM
Not the last chance to rein in Sound Transit

Trust and Transit initiative co-ordinator Maggie Fimia sent this e-mail in reaction to the very good editorial in today's Seattle Times endorsing initiative I-894:

The only point of argument with the Times is that it is not the people's last chance to make Sound Transit accountable. If we do not get the required 200,000 valid signatures by July 2nd - The State Legislature could fix this in a day. They could introduce and amend RCW 81.104 - The High Capacity Transit law to close the loopholes with the 900 words from Initiative 894.

The continued failure to reach consensus and garner voter support for the RTID, Regional Transportation Investment District projects should be the wake up call for the Region- light rail is the problem not the solution.

How much longer will this region have to wait for real and truly effective alternatives to driving alone and to our congested highway system? It's not roads or transit - it's how do we maximize our investments in both and more importantly, regain voter trust?

Our elected officials and candidates should be pressed to support closing the loopholes in RCW 81.104.

Indeed. "Should be pressed" means that you, gentle Washington voter, can and must press your own elected officials and candidates to support closing these loopholes. In fact, call or e-mail the state legislative representatives and candidates for your own district ASAP and ask them (1) whether or not they support I-894 and (2) if they would vote next session for legislation that would accomplish the same result as I-894. If they say no, then find out why not. Please report any responses (or lack thereof) back to me (email me here) and I will keep a running tally of answers at this space.

[You may find your own legislative district number and elected legislators by visiting the legislature's home page. Once you determine your district, you can find out the names of your local registered candidates by visiting the state Democratic and Republican parties (Senate candidates and House candidates) respectively]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:58 PM
The Face of Evil


Washington Education Association president Charles Hasse.

Hasse might not be a terrorist, but he is a loathsome evil man who conspires to deprive children of opportunity and destroy their lives for his own greedy, selfish, evil purposes.

Evil must be defeated. WEA delenda est.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:36 AM
Meet Mark Griswold

Two events in the coming week where you'll have a chance to meet Mark Griswold, Republican candidate for the Washington State House of Representatives from the 43rd District.

1) Mark will be the guest speaker at next Monday's (June 14) dinner meeting of the Seattle Downtown Republican Club. Details here.

2) Mark's kick-off barbecue will be next Thursday, June 17 at 6:30 PM at Gas Works Park. Hot Dogs and soda will be served. BYO other stuff.

Mark is also proud to announce that he's picked up numerous endorsements, most notably from former governor and senator Dan Evans, Secretary of State Sam Reed and Senate Majority Leader Bill Finkbeiner.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:07 AM
Christine Gregoire Meltdown

It's no longer just Christine Gregoire's gubernatorial campaign that is melting down. The poor woman herself is falling apart. Washington's Democrat Attorney General, facing an unending fusillade of allegations of mismanagement, incompetence and obstruction of justice, is now suffering from hallucinations:

In her bid for governor, Attorney General Christine Gregoire has been warning fellow Democrats that the Bush White House is promising to pump $9 million into the campaign of Republican Dino Rossi, more than double what any candidate has raised in the past... Rossi calls the figure a fabrication. Gregoire acknowledges she has no proof
Gregoire could be either off her prescribed medications, or on some unprescribed medications. Either way, she's out of control and unfit to be governor.

UPDATE: Matt Rosenberg has more and discovers that the track record of Gregoire spokesman Morton Brilliant is less than brilliant.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:39 AM
"A money-eating sinkhole"

An article in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer leads:

Sound Transit may not itself be a money-eating sinkhole, but the agency does own one.
This is inappropriate editorializing. Sound Transit is too a money-eating sinkhole. The article describes the physical sinkhole:
Sounder's Seattle-Tacoma trains were pulled off a newly constructed 1.3-mile segment of track in January after Sound Transit discovered soil in a new earthen embankment was sinking ... Somerstein said Sound Transit does not know the cause of the problems, how to fix them or when service will return to the tracks.
Same damn geniuses who couldn't figure out that more people want pork sandwiches than want vegetable sandwiches. And this has been going on for years:
The introduction of Sounder train service between Everett and Lakewood in Pierce County is many years behind schedule. At one point, Sound Transit had promised to have 15 round trips by the end of 2001. Currently, there are three round-trip trains running between Tacoma and Seattle and one round-trip train running between Everett and Seattle.
Look on the bright side. The fewer trains they run, the less money they waste!

Meanwhile, today's Seattle Times has a terrific unsigned editorial endorsing I-894, the Trust and Transit initiative to reassert public control over the "runaway train" of Sound Transit. It's time to either get new permission from the voters to keep pouring money into this sinkhole, or to walk away from it altogether.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:51 AM
June 09, 2004
Ron Sims Mugabe Watch

Zimbabwe chieftain Robert Mugabe is once again confiscating private land:

In its latest crackdown on democratic freedoms, the government announced yesterday that all farmland will be nationalized and private land ownership abolished.
King County Executive Ron Sims also wants to effectively abolish private land ownership:
Sims presented an outline of what he will propose to the County Council Monday for revising the comprehensive plan and the county's critical-areas ordinance ... Rural residents would be required to retain existing trees on at least 65 percent of their property and have no more than 10 percent covered by impervious surfaces.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:02 AM
Bad News for Charter Schools

The Washington Education Association claims to have gathered enough signatures to put its anti-charter school referendum on the November ballot. This may well only be F.U.D. to stymie efforts underway to start charter schools for next fall. The WEA might not be a "terrorist organization", but they're not exactly honest either. Either way, the union's greed is reprehensible. As charter school advocate Jim Spady reacted to the union's announcement:

"For the WEA, it's about union dues. They're the ones that are skimming the taxpayer dollars that are meant to help kids."
In fact, the state union skims about $56 million in dues each year, right off the top of tax-funded teacher salaries. The union's opposition to charter schools is based on the belief that
they would divert precious education money from regular public schools ... The voters want investments made in our public schools, not money siphoned off to some experiment
Look at it this way. The charter school law permits only 5 new charter schools to be started in each of the first 3 years. Each charter school would get $5,500 per student in state funds. A national survey indicates that the average number of students per charter school is 233. This all means that in the first year of operation, about $6.5 million would be shifted from existing public schools to charter schools (while also relieving the public schools of a corresponding burden). On the other hand, the union sucks $56 million right out of the school budget and at best does nothing for the children. Pictorially the difference looks like this (drawn to scale):

Of course I wouldn't expect the union to give up any of its $56 million. But I would hope that the good citizens who want every last dollar of education funds to go to the public school classroom would start not by banning school choice, but by taking back a fair portion of the $56 million that is now diverted to the union.

UPDATE: In today's Seattle Times the anti-charter school initiative campaign manager is quoted as saying that

charter schools would divert $1 million from [existing] public schools by the end of 2009
So my comparison of $56 million to $6.5 million was wrong. It should actually be more like $280 million to $1 million. My apologies to the teachers' union and its supporters.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
June 08, 2004
Welcome, Sound Transit visitors

It's come to my attention that I've been getting a lot of readers lately from Sound Transit HQ. Welcome! I'm pleased that you're spending your time productively, learning what people in the community actually think of Sound Transit, instead of, say, dreaming up new pork barrel bonanzas to waste our money on.

Whistleblowers are especially welcome. Word on the street is that there's a fair amount of monkey business going on down there and that there are more than a few principled civic-minded insiders getting ready to blow the lid on it. I promise absolute confidentiality if requested and to publish even the stuff that the Times and the P-I are too timid to touch. E-mail me here.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:41 PM
McIver Drops a Bombshell

Reporters from all the Puget Sound newspapers, state legislators and government watchdogs take note. A newsworthy bombshell was dropped at the Sound Transit celebration this morning. Seattle City Councilmember and ST board member Richard McIver gave us this bit of news [video clip here, this quote at 1:30]

Light rail is going to be around for a long time. This is just the beginning segment. We've got another 30 years of building to do. You can go through the apprenticeships. You can get on the job. You can stay on the job. And if you're lucky you might be able to retire from the job if you start here and start now.
[emphasis mine]. Building for 30 years? The plan that was approved by the voters (8 years ago) promised that everything would be built in 10 years. Okay, things have evolved. But I'm unable to find any other repot about 30 more years of construction.

At least McIver is honest that Sound Transit is little more than a permanent make-work program. But I sure hope somebody who has a larger audience than I have asks some tough questions about this "30 year" business.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:26 PM
A celebration of pork

I attended today's "groundbreaking celebration" for the multi-billion dollar Sound Transit light rail boondoggle.

They were giving away pork sandwiches, which is kind of a good metaphor for a useless pork barrel construction project.

The place was swarming with well-fed Sound Transit employees eating pork sandwiches.

The hardhat, of course, was just for show. There wasn't any real construction going on.

There were also a lot of extra policemen lounging around eating pork sandwiches while failing to protect the citizens from overzealous Sound Transit goons (keep reading).

Unfortunately, there were no pork sandwiches for me. The famously accurate Sound Transit planners somehow misestimated demand for the sandwiches. By the time I showed up at the food line, all the pork and chicken sandwiches were gone, all that was left was an enormous pile of vegetarian sandwiches that nobody wanted. But we all know that Sound Transit's crack staff has done a much better job of predicting ridership demand for the multi-billion dollar train system.

See the next part of the post for a tale of "The Suppression of Dissent in Ashcroft's America", and more photos!

Suppression of Dissent

I showed up at the "celebration" carrying some signs and initiative petitions. A Sound Transit official told me that I wasn't allowed to collect signatures inside the perimeter of the event. I told her that I wasn't actually collecting signatures inside the event area (nearly everybody there was either a Sound Transit employee or an elected official, so why bother?), I was merely holding the petition in my hands. She told me that I wasn't even allowed to carry a petition inside the event area. Hmm. Then this creepy-looking private security officer (see photo below) kept following me around and telling me that I couldn't even carry my sign inside the event area and I had to stand on the sidewalk. Hmm.

After all the speeches, the various ST Board Members did the customary "Five Well-Fed Guys in Business Suits Put On Hard-Hats, Pick Up Shovels and Pretend to Dig In The Sandbox for The Cameras" pantomime, I stood on the sidewalk behind the fence behind them and held up my sign for the news cameras. A beefy guy in turtleneck and blazer told me to get off the sidewalk. "But it's a public sidewalk," I said. I held my ground and asked "Who are you, anyway?". He refused to tell me who he was and then shoved me ever so gently, in a gesture meant to insult and intimidate. Just as the Five Well-Fed Guys stuck their shovels in the dirt, I yelled out to the policemen standing nearby "Officer, this man just assaulted me". The police not only ignored me, but they walked off in the other direction.

I blame Ashcroft.

L: Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, a strong advocate of taxpayer-funded public transportation (for other people) R: Mayor Nickels' taxpayer-funded chauffeur-driven limousine

There were dozens of Sound Transit "public relations", "communications" and other assorted lackeys standing around, shown here in front of an anti-Sound Transit petition. How many flacks does a public agency justifiably need on its payroll? All they actually did at this event (in addition to eating pork sandwiches) was to follow the protesters around to suppress First Amendment rights.

Sound Transit Executive Director Joni Earl. Some might think she's a sourpuss, but I'd bet she's a riot at office holiday parties.

State House of Representatives candidate and Sound Transit critic Mark Griswold (left), talking with one of the hundreds of thousands of area voters who are eager to put an end to the wasteful lunacy of Sound Transit.

This creepy-looking Wackenhut palooka kept following me around, telling me to move

King County Councilmember Dwight Pelz addresses the crowd, while the 3 Musketeers of public fraud look on. l-r King County Executive Ron Sims, Mayor Nickels, Sound Transit Board Chair / Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg.

John Ladenburg looking for another pork sandwich, or something.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:35 PM
Bread and Circuses

Sound Transit, the multi-billion dollar "runaway train" pork barrel light rail agency, is having a public groundbreaking ceremony today (Tuesday)

The event will include food and entertainment
If you live in King, Pierce or Snohomish counties you already paid for the food with your sales and motor vehicle licensing taxes. So you might as well come on down and stuff as much of this food into your face and pockets as you have room.

I'm not sure what sort of entertainment they have in mind, but I do know that a number of pissed-off defrauded citizens (including yours truly) will be on hand to

meet Sound Transit Board members and local elected officials
Entertaining discussions and photo-ops will ensue.

Join us to give the big Hello! to Ron Sims and his cabal of unindicted swindlers. B.Y.O. megaphone.

Today, Tuesday, June 8, Corner of MLK Jr. Way South and South Othello Street in Rainier Valley, Seattle. Official festivities 10:45am - 12noon.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:01 AM
June 07, 2004
What Republicanism isn't

Andrew Sullivan today: "WHAT REPUBLICANISM NOW IS"

Just read this story about the Texas Republican Party. Their convention began with prayers and invocations, as any religious gathering might do. One pastor who spoke to the group said the following: "Give us Christians in America who are more wholehearted, more committed and more militant for you and your kingdom than any fanatical Islamic terrorists are for death and destruction. I want to be one of those Christians." Then read the platform, proposing, among other things, "new restrictions on lawsuits brought over exposure to asbestos" and making it a felony for anyone to perform a marriage for a same-sex couple. If you want to know why someone who loved Ronald Reagan can no longer support the Republican Party, then the extremism of George W. Bush's own party in his home state is Exhibit A. Republicans who say that these people do not represent the GOP as a whole can prove this by taking them on. But they won't, will they? They never do.
"Never do"? That is simply not true. I've personally taken on social conservatives within the party when I felt it was appropriate, and I'm hardly alone. This is the first year I've gone to Republican caucuses or conventions and I'm already doing my own modest part to help move the party in a more moderate, inclusive direction. At the King County convention last month I spoke out against a platform amendment to ban "physician assisted suicide" (Do you really want John Ashcroft's agent in your hospital room ordering the doctor to cut back on your medication when you're dying and in agony? I don't). I moved to strike language from the platform that endorsed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. (Reasonable people can disagree about marriage laws and customs, but forgive me, we Americans have always been capable of planning our own weddings without having to consult the Constitution). Both of my motions failed, but many other people in the room also spoke out with me.

The platform that did emerge was not entirely to my liking but was widely regarded as far more moderate than any King County Republican platform in years. And the state party is now firmly in the hands of people who have been working for years to moderate the party and keep it focused on the core issues of economic opportunity and national security. (follow the news about this year's Senate primary and you'll see what I mean).

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:11 PM
Charter Schools

Today's Seattle Times has a terrific article about the KIPP charter school program.

For the past six years, KIPP was the highest-scoring middle school in the entire Bronx in reading and math, and last year among the top 10 percent in New York City. In contrast, the middle school that operates in the same building as KIPP has test scores that rank among the area's lowest.
The Times can't find anything negative about KIPP, except this:
Critics question whether KIPP skims the more-motivated parents and students from nearby public schools, making its job easier
That's not a bug, it's a feature! Traditional public schools don't offer options for more-motivated parents and students to escape the tyranny of disruptive students. It's an enormous benefit that KIPP offers a way out and a supportive environment to children who are eager to learn.

KIPP wants to open a charter school here in Washington state and this week we'll find out whether it can. Even though Governor Locke recently signed a law that would permit charter schools to open this fall, the teachers' union is out gathering signatures on a petition to kill charter schools. Yes, the union bosses are so desperate to enlarge their revenue stream that they'll do whatever it takes to keep more poor children hostage in their crummy schools. (I'm not going to call the WEA a "terrorist organization", but I will call them a bunch of selfish greedy child abusers). Word on the street is that their signature gathering effort is a miserable failure and they're far short of the goal. But we'll find out for sure after this Wednesday.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:44 AM
Washington Dhimmicrats

The Washington State Democrats (Dhimmicrats) had a bit of a floor fight at their convention this weekend:

The most heated debate came over a proposal to add a statement to the platform that "no U.S. military, material or financial support shall go to Israel or any other country while it is in violation of international law."

The anti-Israel statement, similar to one approved last month by the King County Democratic Party, was soundly defeated after a lengthy and sometimes acrimonious debate.

"Why don't we change the name Israel to 'Pariah,' " said delegate Harvey Rosenbloom. "What we're really saying here is 4 million Jews should be at the mercy of 300 million Muslims."

Charlie Bendock, a delegate from Seattle, said he felt it was an important issue for the party to take up in the quest for a "peaceful and just world."

"I don't want this to be a statement against Jews," said Bendock. But, he said, "we can't address the threat of terrorism unless we address our role in the Middle East."

What was adopted, I believe (but haven't confirmed yet) is
"The United States should commit to vigorous, serious, persistent and evenhanded engagement towards resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, promoting negotiations that lead to a viable two-state solution and a good quality of life for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples."
"evenhanded" as in not wanting to stand up for the small Jewish minority surrounded by 300 million hostile Muslims who keep trying to exterminate the Jewish state.

At least the outrageous Jew-scapegoating amendment was defeated, but it doesn't say much for the quality of the audience at the Dhimmicrat convention that there would have to be a long and acrimonious debate about it. I think it's also telling that the one speaker the Times quoted was named Rosenbloom. Are there any gentile Democrats who still genuinely support Israel these days, or is support for Israel merely a bone they throw to their Jewish contributors? The Republicans, on the other hand, have far fewer Jewish activists, but the state Republicans support Israel vigorously, sincerely and without controversy.

Does anybody who was at the state Democratic convention care to defend their party? E-mail me or post a comment.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:16 AM
June 06, 2004
Bad boys

Washington state's government workers and media elites love to pick on tax-reduction initiative promoter Tim Eyman. In the latest attack, AP Olympia reporter David Ammons calls Eyman a "bad boy".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:32 PM
A date with twins

I have never seen David so excited as he was this afternoon when he had a play date with the twin sisters from around the corner

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:06 PM
June 04, 2004
Stranger Contest

Seattle's alternative weekly newspaper The Stranger is running a contest asking their readers to pick a "pithy masthead line" for the Seattle Times, along the lines of the New York Times' "All the News That's Fit to Print".

I have to commend The Stranger for poking fun at the Times, even if for the wrong reasons. So here's my entry for a Seattle Times pithy masthead line:

"Not as dumb as The Stranger"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:15 PM
Unsound Transit

The other day I mentioned Seattle's downtown bus tunnel that will be closing next year to be retrofitted to accommodate the frightfully expensive Sound Transit light rail system. I received an e-mail on the subject from transportation consultant John Niles, one of the region's leading independent experts on Sound Transit.

His remarks are essential background for understanding the wasteful foolishness of Sound Transit.

--
The bus tunnel capacity is measured in maximum number of buses in the peak hour, where the two directions are independent of each other. According to the Initial Segment Environmental Assessment, 70 buses operate in each direction during the 4:30 to 5:30 pm peak hour. According to Metro, who under Ron Sims wanted to make light rail look good, that number of buses in an hour could be raised to 125 if no trains were intermixed, and others believe it could get to 150 or 160. Mayor Royer (in office when the Tunnel was built) thought 140 was reasonable, and recommended in summer 2001 that this volume be implemented immediately, but nothing has changed. With this many buses, the Tunnel could carry more people on buses than it could if it were 100% rail only.

The current ST retrofit plan is to close the tunnel in September 2005 for up to two years to lower the floor bed of the tunnel and install new rails. The plan after the trains get going in 2009 is to have 10 trains per hour per direction run in the peak hour with about 50 to 60 buses per hour interspersed between the trains. Some of us don't think that volume of buses or trains is likely to be possible given the need for cautious spacing and the time it takes to reverse the direction of trains. The tunnel right of way will NOT be widened. The trains and buses will follow the same path. Basically, buses will be allowed to follow trains pretty closely, but trains will not be allowed to get too close behind a bus, since trains are ten times heavier than buses. In effect, a platoon of three or four buses will be sent down the tunnel behind each train in the peak period.

The apparent ST plan is to reopen the Tunnel with its new floor and rails in 2007 for buses only, because light rail won't be done and tested then. At night, the Tunnel would be part of the light rail test track, back and forth between the train yard on Forest and the Convention Place train reversal area. It's possible that light rail shuttle service from Safeco-Mariners/Qwest-Seahawks to Westlake Mall would be run as soon as the trains are tested out, which could be in 2008.

ST promised the downtown community in autumn 2001 that a plan and funding for getting to Northgate would be in place before the Tunnel was closed for conversion. That promise was and is incompatible with the terms of the Full Funding Grant Agreement, and Sound Transit now denies that a promise was ever made. But it was. And for some reason, Chamber of Commerce and DSA are refusing to raise hell about it. They are apparently buying into ST's new promise that the train will go to Northgate someday, somehow. Since it would require voting for a doubling of ST taxes, that might be a good trick.
...
Trains will have priority in the Tunnel over the suburban buses because of the nature of a single flow of trains, you can't have delays with six minute headways, or else things get bad fast. There will thus be delays in moving buses intermixed with trains compared to the present situation.



More on the subject at Niles' own website, here.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:31 PM
Good Bye, Green Giant

The Jolly Green Giant is closing his Dayton, Washington asparagus cannery

Washington's last and biggest asparagus canning plant will close next year, taking half of the state's market with it and eliminating potentially thousands of seasonal jobs in the Columbia Basin and Yakima Valley.
In spite of generous government subsidies, Washington's asparagus industry fell victim to the state's high minimum wage. Not only is $7.16 the highest minimum wage in the nation, but it is indexed to inflation. Sure, you can force a company to pay a minimum wage to whatever workers it has. You just can't force a company to keep workers on the payroll in order to make products that nobody is willing to buy at the price it costs to make them.

The Yakima-Herald got an important part of the story wrong:

Bills that would reverse voter-approved automatic minimum wage increases have been passed by the House each of the last two years, he said, only to go nowhere in the Senate.
In fact, it was the Republican-controlled Senate that passed the bill twice, and the Democrat-controlled House that didn't act on it.

I still say the single most important thing that the State of Washington could do to boost its asparagus industry would be to fund research to find a cure for asparagus pee.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:50 PM
Cities with their own foreign policy

A number of U.S. cities (or at least some of their city councilmembers) are working to adopt their own locally-grown anti-American, pro-jihad foreign policies.

The Madison, Wisconsin City Council, as previously mentioned, is debating whether to form a "sister city" relationship with the Hamas nest of Rafah, Gaza Strip.

In Olympia, Washington, the home of Evergreen State "College", the city council has prevented Navy submarine the USS Olympia from docking in its namesake city.

A member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is spending the people's time on a resolution to hang a painting of humiliated Abu Ghraib prisoners in City Hall. This is obviously a partisan statement against the liberation of Iraq. If the Supervisor really wanted to make a statement about civil rights abuse, he could just as easily hang a painting of Fajitagate.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:54 PM
The leftist / Islamist Axis

More evidence of the affinity between fanatics on the far-left and fanatical Islamists.

In the hippie-dippie enclave of Madison, Wisconsin, there is an anti-capitalism group called "Madison Hours"

Madison Hours are community currency, issued by the people of the Madison area to increase our local money supply. Because they remain local, Hours enhance and strengthen the economy by employing a local person each time they circulate, without ever draining away to distant parts of the country or world. Since they have value only when they are circulating, participants should emphasize earning and spending Hours rather than saving them
Islamist Connection #1: The Madison Hours monthly Pancake Breakfast ("The pancakes are organic and vegan") is sponsored by the Hamas-friendly Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Islamist Connection #2: "Hours may not be lent at interest", which is exactly the same economic idiocy mandated by Islamic law.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:33 PM
Washington State Dhimmicrats

From a source close to the Washington State Democratic Party. The following is the party's official platform plank to be adopted at this weekend's state convention:

"The United States should commit to vigorous, serious, persistent and evenhanded engagement towards resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, promoting negotiations that lead to a viable two-state solution and a good quality of life for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples."
(Emphasis mine). "Evenhanded"? Being "evenhanded" towards Israel would be like being "evenhanded" towards Britain in 1940.

Compare and contrast with the platform plank adopted by the Washington State Republican Party at its convention last week:

In defense of Israel...
Israel, as a sovereign state, has the right to self-defense against foreign enemies and state sponsored terrorism. The Bush Doctrine clearly includes supporting Israel, which is being targeted by terrorists. For a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state to exist, we must support Israel in winning their war against terror in their homeland.
The Washington Republicans know whose side they're on. The Washington Democrats (Dhimmicrats) have turned their party into a sewer of perverse moral equivalance.

Washington's Democratic congressional delegation and candidates need to take a stand. Patty Murray? Maria Cantwell? Jay Inslee? Adam Smith? Brian Baird? Norm Dicks? Rick Larsen? Dave Ross? Alex Alben? Whose side are you on? Should America be "evenhanded" towards a movement that celebrates terrorism, or should America support Israel?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:43 AM
June 03, 2004
Humorless Liberals

This letter to the editor appeared in Wednesday's Seattle Times

Times editorial cartoonist Eric Devericks has been lured into the muck of the media echo machine.

Aside from the fact that ABC News has admitted and apologized for enhancing — that is, turning up the volume on — the "Dean Scream," Devericks ignores the substance of Al Gore's speech to take the easy cheap shot (Gore on firing, editorial cartoon, May 28).

After three and a half years of listening to a president who can't negotiate the English language, it is preposterous to focus on the climax of Gore's talk that took over an hour to deliver and was filled with substance and clarity. That is sheer laziness. We are not amused.

Robert Shields, Charla Mustard-Foote, Seattle

Well, okay, Devericks' cartoon isn't quite as amusing as, say, the "dark heart of suburbia", kinky gifts, the movie Ishtar, or the name "Mustard-Foote", but it's still fairly amusing.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:38 PM
Bill Cosby, the blogosphere and the old media

Rosenblogger Matt Rosenberg has an interesting piece in National Review Online today "Bill Cosby & the blogosphere". How the blogosphere kept the story of Cosby's speech to the NAACP alive -- while the old "news" media couldn't figure out what to do with it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:23 PM
Bus Tunnel, R.I.P.

For an example of public transportation that's actually working well, check out the Seattle downtown bus tunnel. It's a specially built tunnel, more than a mile long, running under downtown streets. It carries 140 buses and 23,000 commuters every workday and reduces congestion and fumes downtown.

In September 2005 the bus tunnel will be shut down for at least two years so it can be adapted for Sound Transit light rail. 23,000 commuters from all over the region will experience longer commutes and downtown streets will become more congested and more dangerous. Just to build an overpriced demonstration project of a train that will hardly make a dent in road congestion.

If you depend on the bus tunnel to get to work, you'll want to press Sound Transit to keep the bus tunnel open. The best way to do that is to support the Trust and Transit initiative to force a revote on Sound Transit.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:12 PM
Who voted for the stupid Monorail anyway?

The Seattle Times' editorial cartoonist Eric Devericks has a nice take on the Monorail this morning:

But how did we get into this disaster in the first place?

The Times has a nice visual map of the Nov. 2002 vote where the Monorail was approved by a razor close 94,993 to 94,116. Look at the map [pdf].

Blue for precincts that voted for the Monorail, orange and red for precincts that voted against it. I did some additional analysis by legislative district.

The 36th district, which includes Ballard and the north of downtown area along the proposed route favored the Monorail 54 - 46% (+3500 votes).

The 34th district, which includes the proposed route through West Seattle (but also areas farther from the route) favored the Monorail 51 - 49% (+300 votes)

The 37th and 11th districts, the bright red and orange areas south and east of the downtown that are far from the proposed route, rejected the Monorail 43 - 57% (-3900 votes)

The 46th district, the bright red and orange areas in the north and northeast parts of the city, also rejected the Monorail 43 - 57% (-6000 votes)

So where did the margin of victory come from?

It came from the 43rd district (my home team!), the dark blue bulges far from the proposed route (labeled "Capitol Hill" and "Ravenna"). The 43rd voted for the Monorail by the largest margin in town, 58 - 42%, (+6900 votes).

Even if the Monorail is a horribly flawed approach to transportation, it is at least understandable that people who live close enough to the Monorail to use it would vote for it, and certainly that people who live too far from the line would reject paying for it. But why would the 43rd district vote to make everybody in the city pay through the nose for the Monorail when they themselves can't even use it?

Very simple. The 43rd district is full of delusional environmental totalitarians. Any proposal that is pitched as pro-"public transportation" and anti-car, no matter how mindless, expensive or useless to the residents, is guaranteed to win here. I used to think that the biggest danger in democracy would be when too many people look after their own selfish interests at the expense of everybody else. In this case the danger was too many people looking after everybody else's interests instead of their own at the expense of everybody else.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:16 AM
June 02, 2004
Thank you, Michelle Malkin

I've long been a fan of columnist Michelle Malkin and today I had the wonderful surprise of discovering that she's also a fan of mine.

John Hawkins polled a number of conservative columnists to find out which blogs they read and Michelle included the Shark Blog in her list of favorites!

Michelle writes forcefully and honestly about subjects on which most mainstream columnists will only spout politically correct platitudes. An archive of Michelle's columns is here. Start by reading today's column: "The ambulances-for-terrorists scandal".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:52 PM
Why do so many Jews still cling to the Democrats?

Ha'aretz reports that American Jews are "still sworn Democrats", summarizing the conclusions of a recent and as yet unpublic Gallup poll.

I have a hard time understanding why so many of my fellow Jewish Americans still cling to the Democrats. We Jews are a people of industry and upward mobility and social justice. The Republicans are a party of equal opportunity, enterprise, self-reliance and security. The Democrats, who once successfully carried the mantle of social justice at least, have decomposed into the party of losers and parasites; the party of the infinite unearned entitlement; the party of surrender and appeasement; the party of race-based hand-outs; the party of sinecured unaccountable government employees. The Republicans are the pro-Israel party. The Democrats are the party of Rachel Corrie, Baghdad Jim and other jihadi fifth columnists. I only wish more Jews would come to their senses and realize that the Democratic Party is no longer the party that best represents our interests and values.

The Ha'aretz article offers some hope:

many figures in the Jewish community feel that the younger generation of American Jews are not the same committed liberals their parents were. The young Jews are more mature, believe more in the Republican economic approach and are cut off from the big protest movements of the 20th century. In that case, it will be much easier for them to digest Bush's attitude and adopt it as their own, thanks to his foreign policy positions and despite his approach to domestic policies.
I don't agree with all of Bush's domestic policies, but especially on the issues that matter most, he's headed in the right direction, while the Democrats are heading only toward economic and social self-destruction. That's why I bailed on the Democrats and am now a Jew for Bush. If you're still a Jew for Kerry, Hollings, Pelosi and McDermott -- why?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:04 AM
June 01, 2004
A rub or a flip?

Scripps Howard News Service reports on the Memorial Day visit of Democratic hopeful John Kerry to the Vietnam War memorial in Washington, DC:

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, who served two tours in Vietnam, paid an early morning visit to the black-granite monument, rubbing his finger along the name of one of 10 soldiers engraved this month on the wall.
Scripps Howard doesn't mention this, but there are other reports that Sen. Kerry did more with his finger than merely rub it along the wall:
Democratic senator - and certain presidential nominee - John F. Kerry gave the middle finger to a Vietnam veteran at the Vietnam Memorial Wall on Memorial Day morning, NewsMax.com has learned.
I haven't seen the latter report confirmed anywhere other than NewsMax, but it would be consistent with the pattern of finger-flipping observed among John Kerry's supporters.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:28 AM