by Goldy, 11/30/2006, 10:40 PM

Andrew at NPI live-blogged this evening’s FCC hearing on media consolidation, and he reports that Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen was the first to speak.

Blethen, who was politely welcomed, used most of his time to complain about consolidation and centralization of media in America, and grumble about “the powerful who co-opt the free press”. Indeed.

How about that. Frank and I agree on something.

All snarkiness aside, Frank and I do agree on this issue, which is rather ironic, because as passionate as Frank is in his opposition to loosening federal restrictions on media consolidation, that didn’t seem to stop him from directing his editorial board to endorse a slate of Republicans who uniformly support these new rules. (Or, in the case of Dave Reichert, had absolutely no idea what the phrase “media consolidation” meant.)

Okay… I guess I couldn’t quite put my snarkiness aside. But Frank and I do agree. In theory.

Anyway, Andrew has more on tonight’s hearing here, here, here, and here.

by Darryl, 11/30/2006, 9:20 PM

From a KIRO TV report this evening:

According to booking records, Larry Corrigan, the former director of operations and budget for the King County Prosecutors office, was arrested Wednesday in an online sting.

Corrigan, accused of attempted child rape and communication with a minor for sex, was released Thursday on his own recognizance, KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reported.
Corrigan was allegedly using an Internet messenger service to contact what he thought was a 13-year-old girl to meet for sex.

Police arrested Corrigan Wednesday afternoon at a Capitol Hill video store where he had arranged to meet the teenage girl.

Corrigan had worked as the director of operations and budget for 25 years before leaving nearly two years ago to pursue business interests, KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reported.

Oh, man, a 25 year employee of King County…and in operations and budget. No doubt the Wingnuts will be up our liberal asses claiming Corrigan—a long term King County bureaucrat—is a typical Democrat. They’ll accuse the King County Dems of harboring and nurturing child predators. No doubt the righties will use this as an example of why Ron Sims is corrupt, and use it to claim King County steals both children and elections.

No doubt this will ultimately be blamed on…Dean Logan!

Oh wait a minute…It looks like Larry Corrigan is a big cheerleader for Republicans. I mean, he endorsed Sam Reed, and he is one of Bret Olsen’s distinguished supporters. The PDC shows him contributing mostly to Wingnuts like Luke Esser and Bret Olsen.

So, suck it Wingnuts. He’s one of yours.

(Man…what is it with these King County Republicans, anyway?)

by Goldy, 11/30/2006, 3:31 PM

Following up on a previous post, I just invited Geov Parrish to blog here on HA. Geov was an editorial board member and regular columnist at the Seattle Weekly before that publication imploded under new management. Apparently, he’d rather write for free here, than prostitute himself there. I guess that’s why they call it a “free press.”

by Goldy, 11/30/2006, 12:35 PM

Sonics owner Clay Bennett claims he’s serious about building a new suburban arena for the team. Personally, I don’t believe him. His recent announcements are most likely intended to provide cover when he finally picks up and moves the team to Oklahoma City.

But if the state Legislature does decide to give him everything he wants (you know, a free, $300 million arena where he keeps all the revenue, state and local government picks up all the tabs for repairs, and he can still leave before the bonds are paid off,) I’ve got a suggestion on how to fund it: an income tax on the salaries earned by visiting athletes during their “duty days” in the state.

No… really.

At least twenty other states already levy just such a “jock tax”… a tax our own Sonics, Mariners and Seahawks players already pay on nearly every away game. So why shouldn’t we tax opposing players too?

It won’t cost WA residents anything, and in fact, it won’t cost most of the visiting players all that much either, as any tax they pay here can be deducted from their state and federal income taxes, and they’re already hiring accountants to file tax returns in a dozen or more states. And they’re millionaires. Put a high exemption on the tax so as not to burden low-paid athletes in low-profile sports, but make the A-Rods pay their due. They can afford it.

As it is we don’t seem to have an ethical problem taxing visiting tourists for car rentals and hotel rooms to pay off the bonds at Safeco and Qwest fields, so why shouldn’t we be taxing the people who benefit most from these public projects, the athletes whose multimillion dollar contracts are subsidized by the super luxury boxes Bennett covets?

As for the constitutional issues, well that’s just a bonus as far as I see it. We get to test that bogus 1933 decision without the prospect of throwing the state into financial chaos should it inexplicably be upheld. And with that red herring out of the way, we can finally debate tax restructuring purely on the merits, without the constitutional question being used as a sledgehammer or an excuse.

I’m absolutely serious. You want the Sonics to stay in the region, but you don’t want to raise local taxes to pay the ransom? Tax visiting athletes. What could be so controversial about that?

by Goldy, 11/30/2006, 11:29 AM

You’ve already seen some changes on HA with the recent upgrade to WordPress 2.0, and I intend to add some more feature enhancements over time. But in perhaps the biggest change, I’ll be experimenting with loosening my grip over HA’s editorial content.

Yesterday, I invited Darryl of Hominid Views and Will (AKA Belltowner and formerly of Pike Place Politics) to post whenever and whatever they want. What they write is up to them. Whether they keep their posting privileges is up to you. Well… it’s up to me really, but I’ll certainly consider your feedback. Sorta. We’ll see how it goes.

So in the future, before you angrily attack me for challenging your assumptions or offending your stick-up-your-ass sensibilities, please take a look at the author credit at the top. If you’re going to flame a blogger, at least make sure it’s the right one.

by Goldy, 11/30/2006, 9:34 AM

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat and I don’t always see eye to eye on education. During the school closure process we got into quite a heated email exchange in which I accused him of failing to question the assumptions and data put forth by the district, and he accused me of myopic NIMBYism. We both thought the parent revolt I was engaged in would likely end up undermining the entire closure process. On that count, we were both wrong.

But I wouldn’t have argued so passionately with Danny if I didn’t respect his opinion, and so it is gratifying to see us both on the same side of the manufactured debate over a proposed city takeover of Seattle schools: “Schools in crisis? Not really.”

Danny is sick of being told that he’s sending his kids to “a collapsing institution run by dysfunctional boobs,” but unlike most of the district’s critics, who seem content to back up their arguments with hyperbole and stereotypes, Danny decided to actually look at the numbers. He compared test scores from districts in the state’s ten largest cities, and what did he find?

Seattle high-schoolers rank 3rd in reading, behind only Bellevue and Federal Way. Seattle scores five points above the state average in math, ahead of Federal Way, Renton, Auburn, Enumclaw, Mukilteo and Lake Stevens… and 22 points better than Tacoma. As Danny writes, “If we’re in crisis, Tacoma’s schools must have cracked off and fallen into the sea.”

And what of the vaunted Bellevue schools that so many former urban families have abandoned Seattle for? Well, they’re great. If you’re rich.

Math and reading scores for low-income elementary kids in Seattle have doubled since 1998, and now are higher than scores for low-income kids in Bellevue — even though this at-risk group makes up 40 percent of the student body in Seattle, and 20 percent in Bellevue.

Danny asks for a little perspective, which is exactly what I’ve been asking for (here and here,) though not so politely. I think Danny sums it up best:

The schools themselves simply aren’t “blighted” or in “crisis.” Some are great and some aren’t, which isn’t good enough. But what they need is constructive help, not broad-brush insults.

The mayor and the former mayor and the editorial board for this newspaper ought to back off. My kid goes to a Seattle public school, and from where I sit you all are starting to do more harm than good.

The only thing I’d add is that it is the disparity between the great, the good and the not-so-good schools that is really at the heart of most of the district’s problems. It is this issue that I intend to focus on in future posts.

by Goldy, 11/29/2006, 11:40 AM

An editorial in today’s Seattle Times agrees with Gov. Christine Gregoire’s proposal to delay the requirement that students pass the math portion of the WASL in order to graduate from High School. But they reiterate their “grim assessment” that Washington students are woefully “ill-prepared for the rigors of math.”

No further evidence is needed than the failure of nearly half of the state’s sophomores — about 34,000 — on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning math test last spring and in summer re-takes.

Hmm. So… “no further evidence is needed” than students’ poor performance on the WASL. And yet, further down the editorial we find this throw-away little tidbit:

There is a disconnect when it comes to high-achieving students as well. Bellevue Superintendent Mike Riley tells Seattle Times education reporter Lynn Thompson that many of the district’s students do well on the math section of the SAT but stumble on the WASL.

Uh huh.

So if students do well on the SAT, but stumble on the WASL, is that “evidence” that we aren’t preparing these students for math. Or rather, is it evidence that one or both of these tests suck? I mean, would it be okay if the majority of our state’s students passed the WASL, but performed far below the national average on the SAT?

Understand where I’m coming from on this. I’m a smart guy, but was not always the most diligent or cooperative student; I had a tough time spitting back what the teacher wanted, even knowing that doing so was a sure-fire path to an A. I also had a run-in with with an absolutely nutcase, 10th grade English teacher who picked me out as the annual uppity smart kid she liked to fail as an example to the rest of us uppity smart kids. That’s right, despite being one of the best writers in my class (throughout my academic career) I failed 10th grade English, often getting essays returned with a big fat zero, and no other marks or comments. (The teacher had tenure. She also died of a slow growing brain tumor a couple years later.)

So while I mostly got A’s in high school, my GPA was somewhat below that typically needed to qualify for our nation’s top colleges and universities. And yet at least one Ivy League school was willing to overlook my less than stellar GPA, at least partially because my SAT scores were so high.

See, there are a lot of smart people out there, and we can be smart in many different ways, but I happened to be blessed with something college admissions officers highly valued back in the early 1980′s: the standardized test taking gene.

I loved filling in those little circles. It was a puzzle. It was a game. And it was a game I always won.

On the English portion of these tests I could intuit the answer whether or not I could verbalize the grammatical and syntactic rules at play. Sentences either felt right, or they didn’t. And on the math portion of these tests I rarely had to do the math at all. I could almost always instantly eliminate one or two of the multiple choice answers, and make an educated guess that virtually assured me a better than 50-percent chance of getting it right.

I was like a card-counter at a blackjack table, and I always understood the unfair advantage I had over the house or the other players. In 9th grade, after playing around with a couple practice tests in an old prep book, I decided to take the Biology achievement test… and I nearly aced it. I’d never studied most of the subject matter, let alone a three-chamber heart, but one of the practice tests had almost identical questions about a two-chamber heart, and it didn’t take much to connect the dots.

The point is, the one thing these standardized tests are truly capable of evaluating is the ability of the student to take these standardized tests. They do not necessarily test the student’s grasp on the material, and they do not necessarily predict the student’s future performance in college or the real world. Hell… look at me: according to the SATs I’m a fucking genius, yet here I am blogging for free while my thermostat’s set to 58 and I’m struggling to pay my mortgage. How smart is that?

So when I read all these editorials and columns lamenting our student’s poor performance on the WASL, it absolutely infuriates me that nobody ever questions the performance of the WASL. I mean, did it ever occur to anybody that when it comes to measuring the ability of a typical high school student to grasp and apply a body of knowledge, that perhaps the WASL sucks? Is it so outside the realm of possibility to even consider the notion that the very same educators who are constantly being accused of failing to teach our children might also have devised a crappy means of measuring a student’s progress?

In fact, the WASL was never designed to serve as a graduation standard or as a measuring stick for punishing failing schools under President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind.” It was originally developed to provide schools with a tool for measuring academic progress so that they could better target their students’ needs. The purpose was not to teach to the WASL, but to use the WASL to help teachers better teach the students.

I’m not saying we’re doing a good enough job educating our students. Of course we’re not. And I’m certainly not arguing against the value of standards. But when grades say one thing, and SAT scores say another, and then the WASL says something entirely different… well… I fail to see the logic in assuming that the WASL is the be-all and end-all of academic standards. Indeed, if you spend a little time in the classroom and watch how distorted the curriculum has become, it’s beginning to look like this whole WASL craze has morphed into a faith-based initiative that’s doing more harm than good.

No doubt the WASL is a boon to tough-talking politicians and editorialists. But a passing score won’t pay your mortgage.

by Goldy, 11/28/2006, 5:11 PM

Hmm. Looks like “Mark the Redneck” isn’t the only welcher in the Republican Party.

by Goldy, 11/28/2006, 3:32 PM

The Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally meets tonight (and every Tuesday), 8PM at the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Avenue E. At least, I think it meets tonight, but who knows how many people will chicken out because of a little frozen water on the roads?

Anyway, I plan on showing up, so I hope some others join me.

Not in Seattle? Washington liberals will also be drinking tonight in the Tri-Cities and Vancouver. Here’s a full run down of WA’s eleven Drinking Liberally chapters, including our newest chapter in the former Republican stronghold of Mercer Island:

Where: When: Next Meeting:
Burien: Mick Kelly’s Irish Pub, 435 SW 152nd St Fourth Wednesday of each month, 7:00 pm onward December 27
Kirkland: Valhalla Bar & Grill, 8544 122nd Ave NE Every Thursday, 7:00 pm onward November 30
Mercer Island: Roanoke Tavern, 1825 72nd Ave SE (Starting January) Second and fourth Wednesday of each month, 6:00-8:00 pm January 10
Monroe: Eddie’s Trackside Bar and Grill, 214 N Lewis St Second Wednesday of each month, 7:00 PM onward December 13
Olympia: The Tumwater Valley Bar and Grill, 4611 Tumwater Valley Drive South First and third Monday of each month, 7:00-9:00 pm December 4
Seattle: Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Ave E Every Tuesday, 8:00 pm onward November 28
Spokane: Red Lion BBQ & Pub, 126 N Division St Every Wednesday, 7:00 pm November 29
Tacoma: Meconi’s Pub, 709 Pacific Ave Every Wednesday, 8:00 pm onward November 29
Tri-Cities: O’Callahans – Shilo Inn, 50 Comstock, Richland Every Tuesday, 7:00 pm onward November 28
Vancouver: Hazel Dell Brew Pub, 8513 NE Highway 99 Second and fourth Tuesday of each month, 7:00 pm onward November 28
Walla Walla: The Green Lantern, 1606 E Isaacs Ave First Friday of each month, 8:00 pm onward December 1

(And apparently there’s also an unaffiliated liberal drinking group in Olympia that meets every Monday at 7PM at the Brotherhood Lounge, 119 N. Capital Way.)

by Goldy, 11/28/2006, 9:34 AM

Yeah sure, I know Puget Sound weather is weird, and can vary greatly from one backyard to the next, but it’s hard to get excited about today’s snow “emergency” down here in my South Seattle neighborhood where there’s barely a dusting on the ground and the roads are dry and bare. As a result, my daughter is confronted with a sad reality I never faced as a child: a snow day from school when she can’t even scrape up a snowball, let alone go sledding.

But then what should I expect from a city where the rain falls nine months a year, yet still makes headlines?

by Goldy, 11/27/2006, 10:51 PM

Some things in life aren’t fair. Like the fact that I’m just too damn old to participate in the 6-month political training program conducted by the Institute for a Democratic Future (IDF).

The IDF program is available to young Democrats age 21 to 35, and a few slots are still open for the Class of 2007. Past graduates include State Senator-elect Derek Kilmer ’02, State Representative-elect Kevin Van de Wege ’02, WashTech Founder Marcus Courtney ’98, former Seattle City Councilmember Judy Nicastro ’99, former Brier City Councilmember Sasha Doolittle ’01, as well as numerous legislative assistants, Party activists, young professionals, nonprofit executives and political campaigners.

The program runs from January to June (mostly weekends) and covers the legislative process, running a campaign, critical issues and developing a game plan for the future. This is an incredible opportunity for aspiring young politicians and activists, but hurry: applications are due December 1st.

by Goldy, 11/27/2006, 4:08 PM
by Goldy, 11/27/2006, 1:03 PM

Hmm. I originally wrote a lede to this post in which I accused the Seattle Times editorial board of flat-out “lying,” but I’ve decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and accept the possibility that they may have only been inadvertently, but flat-out wrong.

In an editorial today advising state legislators to exercise fiscal restraint — a sentiment with which I don’t necessarily disagree — the Times characterizes our current state budget as the largest increase in spending in over a decade… technically accurate, for whatever it means. But then the Times slips in a totally gratuitous piece of GOPropaganda:

[The budget] followed the 5-percent increase of the previous two years presented by Sen. Dino Rossi.

Yup. There you have it: the Times editorial board echoing the key Rossi campaign talking point that he authored the 2003-2005 budget. Only problem is, this talking point was directly contradicted way back in 2003 by Dino Rossi himself, and in the Times’ own reporting:

The Republican budget has much in common with the all-cuts plan that Democratic Gov. Gary Locke unveiled in December. In fact, Rossi opened a press briefing yesterday with a PowerPoint presentation titled: “Following the Governor’s Lead.”

That’s right, Rossi was only “following the Governor’s lead.” And in fact, according to the Times’ reporters, he actually presented a 1-percent (not 5-percent) increase in spending, which would have been largely achieved by leaving 46,000 children without health coverage.

The myth that Rossi authored the 2003 budget is largely that, and while I suppose its inclusion in the unsigned editorial may have been an honest mistake, the total irrelevance of its inclusion to the subject at hand suggests otherwise. Fresh on the heels of a campaign season in which Times editorialists aggressively and intentionally misled readers about the facts pertaining to the issues and candidates endorsed, the Times seems to be already gearing up for the 2008 season.

Dino Rossi authored the 2003 budget the way, you know… Dave Reichert caught the Green River Killer. But considering how unremarkable Rossi’s legislative career really was, prepare to see the Times repeatedly trumpeting this fictional accomplishment over the next 23 months.

Of course the Times has the right to use their op-ed pages to present their own opinions — opinions with which I often agree — but they do not have the right to present their own “facts.” Even if you buy into the argument that there is a wall between editorial and news that protects the ability of reporters to remain objective, it is a wall that is entirely invisible to the readers. The average reader may understand that editorials represent the opinion of the publisher and the editorial board, but he also expects that the information used to back up these opinions is as factually accurate as that presented in the rest of the paper. Thus when an editorial misleads the readers either through a lie of omission or through a deliberate or accidental misstatement of fact, it diminishes the credibility of the publication as a whole.

Today’s editorial is filled with hard numbers that one assumes have been appropriately fact checked, and then almost as a non sequitur it throws in the factoid that Rossi deserves credit for authoring a fiscally responsible budget… an assertion that is refuted by the Times’ own reporting. It is this type of blatant electioneering that made the Times op/ed page a laughingstock during the 2006 campaign and which threatens to carry our state’s largest paper further down the road towards irrelevance. Eventually, we’ll just come to the point were the only people who bother to read Times editorials are the copywriters putting together Republican political ads.

by Goldy, 11/27/2006, 10:57 AM

Yesterday I criticized the critics of Seattle Public Schools for comparing the district to “the failing school systems of blighted East Coast cities,” a critique I find irksome both for its intentionally hyperbolic portrayal of the district’s woes, and the narrow-minded provincialism in which it off-handedly disparages historic cities that long ago achieved the kind of economic and cultural greatness Seattle’s civic boosters have aspired towards since the city was first christened Alki New York: “New York, by-and-by.” (We’re still waiting.)

The post generated quite a vigorous debate, some of which was openly hostile and personally dismissive, with many commentators choosing to take offense at words I never wrote. Apparently, I’m a selfish elitist because I choose to send my daughter to an underfunded and ethnically diverse South End school. Go figure. I’m also, apparently, an unashamed apologist for the district establishment. (Um… did any of you actually read my running commentary on the school closure process?)

What all this tells me is that an awful lot of people seem emotionally or ideologically invested in portraying Seattle Public Schools as a district in extreme crisis on the edge of an abyss… if not already irreversibly plummeting towards the bottom. And at risk of resorting to the same sort of broad-brush-stroke methodology adopted by my detractors, I’d wager that many of those advocating drastic measures such as a city or state takeover of the district, don’t actually have children in the Seattle Public Schools. How much of this is cognitive dissonance (Seattle residents who opted for private schools, now seeking to justify their decision,) or political convenience (non-Seattlites looking to block spending more state money on city students) I don’t know. But I do know that the rest of the state uses this popular portrayal of the district as a bloated piggybank for corrupt, incompetent officials as their primary justification for refusing to throw good money after bad. And as long as civic leaders prop up this simple-minded analysis we will never restore state education spending to adequate levels.

Fortunately, we still have two newspapers in this town, and this morning the Seattle P-I warned the crisis-mongers to “back off“:

Yes, the board has handled school closures badly, essentially leading to the resignation of Superintendent Raj Manhas. But is the school system in “crisis”?

The district has turned a multimillion-dollar deficit into a multimillion-dollar surplus. Academic performance is on the rise and the district retains its “market share” with private schools.

Again, let me repeat for the umpteenth time that I’m no fan of the current school board and district administration, and I’m sick and tired of uninspiring bean counters and educational amateurs guiding the district on their own. But as the P-I rightly points out, “poverty, not governance, is Seattle education’s greatest challenge,” and all this talk comparing Seattle schools to those in Boston or New York or Philadelphia or any number of other “blighted East Coast cities” is not only misleading but counterproductive.

Yes, there are governance problems, and I’m not opposed to considering reforms that include appointing some (but not all) school board members. And while I’m not convinced, I’m intrigued by the possibility of a Superintendent Norm Rice who can wield his political skills and connections on behalf of the district.

But the district is not anywhere near a crisis that warrants a takeover, nor does it appear to be heading in that direction, and any debate over such a move would only distract us from the more important debate over prioritizing real educational reforms, and coming to consensus on how to pay for them.

by Goldy, 11/26/2006, 5:31 PM

Tonight on “The David Goldstein Show” on Newsradio 710-KIRO, from 7PM to 10PM:

7PM: Can you take a joke? While filling in for Dori on Thanksgiving day, I did a very funny hour with General JC Christian of the satirical blog Jesus’ General… and man did he light up the lines with angry callers. Callers took the General at face value, even as he talked of tazering folks who refuse to say “Merry Christmas,” and of arming fetuses with tiny in utero handguns. The General will break character with me tonight to talk about whether some people really do lack the satire gene. Then later, I intend to raise the thorny question of whether comedian Michael Richards’ racist tirade was more an example of bad comedy than virulent racism, and whether perhaps his hecklers might not have been innocent victims after all.

8PM: Are Malkin and Coulter joking? Recently, a devotee of Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin perpetrated an anthrax hoax by mailing a white powder to Nancy Pelosi, Jon Stewart and other political and media figures. Malkin claims to have no responsibility for the actions of others, but author/blogger David Neiwert of Orcinus — who has made a career of tracking right-wing hate speech and militia groups — says Malkin and other spouters of eliminationist rhetoric are fundamentally irresponsible. Neiwert joins me for the hour.

9PM: What would victory in Iraq actually look like? I asked this question of my righty trolls last week, and got very little in the way of a serious response. Now with the situation continuing to deteroriate, and King Abdullah of Jordan warning of civil war in Palestine and Lebanon as well as Iraq, I’m asking the question once again. Republicans ran against Democrats arguing that we would “cut and run” from Iraq. So if we stay and fight, what exactly would we be fighting for? And if Henry Kissinger is now right when he says that victory is no longer possible, why are we still there?

Tune in tonight (or listen to the live stream) and give me a call: 1-877-710-KIRO (5476).

by Goldy, 11/26/2006, 11:18 AM

No doubt there are profound problems with the Seattle School District and its management, but it still kinda irks me when some stodgy old white guy starts pontificating about how crappy our schools are without ever spending any meaningful time in them himself:

Seattle has problems but it prides itself on being a living urban center, a city with rich talent and both a creative and entrepreneurial class. Such places do not have the failing school systems of blighted East Coast cities.

And neither does Seattle.

I’ve lived in a couple of those “blighted East Coast cities” (which FYI, Seattle doesn’t hold a candle to in many ways,) and I can’t imagine subjecting my daughter to the typical inner city school there. By comparison, at least at the elementary school level, Seattle has many more good and great schools than it does failing ones, which is why so many of us parents fought so hard to save our neighborhood schools from closure.

Don’t get me wrong, Seattle Public Schools has plenty of problems, from chronic underfunding to an acute lack of leadership — problems complicated by the fact that like all urban school districts it is tasked with educating some of the most difficult (and expensive) to teach students. But lumping Seattle schools in with say, Philadelphia’s educational disaster, is a lazily facile comparison at best and a harmfully misleading one at worst. It is also insulting to teachers and students… and especially to the parents who choose not to abandon their public schools. In fact, it stinks of patrician snobbery.

And while the Seattle Times and other critics are right that the district needs new leadership, I’m not so sure that handing the reigns over to a city government so timid and consensus driven that it puts bathroom breaks out for a public vote would instill much confidence.

Yeah, well, maybe former Mayor Norm Rice would provide the leadership the district has so desperately craved since the death of John Stanford, and maybe appointing a couple school board members might instill a little professionalism into the mix. (Paying them might not be such a bad idea either.) But haughtily pointing towards low WASL scores tells us nothing, and broadly branding schools as “failures” only drives more families away.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the closure process it’s that WASL tests aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, and that results can be cherry-picked and manipulated to justify nearly any argument. The WASL is transforming our state’s educational system into the public school equivalent of a Stanley Kaplan prep course, and thus the only thing it ends up effectively testing is how well teachers prep students for the test itself. For example, perhaps one of the reasons so many of Seattle’s students do so poorly on the science portion of the WASL is that teachers lack the time and resources to prep for that portion of the test at all?

So far I’m as unimpressed with the creativity and intellectual rigor of most of the district’s critics as I am with the leadership of the district itself. For much of the criticism seems intentionally designed to distract attention away from the elephant in the room — the simple fact that no amount of reform or innovation can give our children the educational opportunity we all profess to want, unless we are willing to adequately fund it.

by Goldy, 11/24/2006, 11:02 PM

According to the Seattle P-I, bowling is hip:

Brisk business has prompted the Garage’s owners to propose adding six to eight lanes, plus more lounge space, on what is now their parking lot.

“Fourteen lanes just kind of handcuffs us a lot of the time,” said Mike Bitondo, the Garage’s managing partner, who owns the lanes with Alex and Jill Rosenast. “When people walk up on a Friday night and they have to wait an hour or two hours or three hours for a lane, that’s just as frustrating for me as it is for them.”

Apparently a new wave of trendy, upscale bowling alleys is revitalizing the industry, bringing new life to a sport that’s long been one of America’s most popular. Imagine that. Bowling alley proprietors capturing new business by catering to, um… bowlers.

In reading about bowling’s urban-chic resurgence, I was reminded of a piece I wrote way back in May of 2004 — only my sixth post on HA — in which I abused the state’s bowling alley owners for insisting that legalizing slot machines was the key to their survival. We were in the midst of Tim Eyman’s I-892 campaign, the slot machine initiative that eventually went down to a landslide defeat at the polls. Bowling alley operators had became fixtures on local talk radio arguing that they’d be forced to shutter their doors unless voters approved slots. I was um, dubious.

I remember one particular phone call from a woman who pleaded for slot machines on behalf of the bowling alley that had been in her family for three generations. She claimed she just couldn’t compete against the tribal casinos anymore, and if I-892 didn’t pass, she would probably shutter the family business.

Now, at the risk of sounding unsympathetic, I’d like to impart a bit of wisdom from one small businessperson to another:

YOU’RE RUNNING A FUCKING BOWLING ALLEY!!!

And perhaps, instead of trying to compete with the tribal casinos, you should spend a little time and effort promoting… gee, I don’t know… bowling?!

Saying that bowling alleys need slot machines to compete with tribal casinos is like saying Chuck E. Cheese’s needs a liquor license and strippers to compete with the Deja Vu.

The point is, if you can’t make ends meet enticing people to chuck balls at pins, then perhaps you’re in the wrong business. Or sadly, perhaps bowling just isn’t a viable industry anymore.

That may sound harsh… but that’s capitalism. And until the tribes start building bowling alleys instead of casinos, I don’t want to hear anymore whining about unfair competition.

And whad’ya know? Two years later, people are waiting in line for three hours to bowl at hip new urban alleys. Ain’t capitalism great?

by Goldy, 11/24/2006, 11:00 AM

A few years back I shopped around a satirical guest column in which I suggested we could solve our education funding crisis by slaughtering our worst performing students and feeding them to their classmates. The editorial board of one major daily was intrigued, but after a few weeks of mulling it over they eventually rejected my “modest proposal” with the explanation that their readers “lacked the satire gene.”

I was deeply disappointed at the time by what I felt to be a display of editorial cowardice, but in the years hence I have grown to appreciate the editors’ healthy cynicism towards their readers’ own limits. For as I have repeatedly learned during my two and a half years of blogging, some people simply don’t get satire. Ever.

One might think by now that my regular readers would have grown accustomed to my penchant for persiflage, yet many, of both political persuasions, wouldn’t know irony if I dropped the “y” and savagely beat them around the head and face with it. For example, however outrageous or intentionally offensive my attempts at satire may be, accusing a sitting state senator of “fucking pigs” is most definitely not libel, nor is it fair to characterize as “hate speech” a proposed initiative to exempt Christians from our state’s anti-discrimination laws. And when I urged that all extraordinary efforts be used to save a critically ill Rev. Jerry Falwell, no matter how painful or intrusive — to the point of keeping his brain alive in “a jar of nutrient-rich fluid” — well… that was not, as one angry reader conversely described it in an email purportedly copied to the FBI, a “terrorristic [sic] death threat.”

It was a joke.

And as a connoisseur of humor, I would have hoped that it would not be necessary to appreciate a joke in order to at least acknowledge that it exists. But apparently, some people just don’t get satire.

This sad reality was brought home yesterday when General JC Christian of the satirical blog Jesus’ General joined me on 710-KIRO as I was subbing for Dori Monson. This was without a doubt the funniest hour of radio I’ve ever produced, an experience enhanced for the guys in the booth as the lines lit up with angry callers. One would think that when the General started talking about tazering shopkeepers who refused to say “Merry Christmas” and arming fetuses with tiny in utero handguns that nearly everybody would have realized that he was in fact joking. Yet the overwhelming majority of callers chose to take him at face value.

Of course, talk radio callers, just like blog commenters, are a tiny, nonrepresentative segment of the larger audience, so I remain confident that the majority of listeners got the joke. But if not, who cares?

My job as both a radio host and a blogger is to engage the audience, and it doesn’t really matter how I do it. If the audience is laughing, that’s great. If the audience is enraged, that’s okay too. As long as they’re listening to me, they’re listening to the ads, and that after all is KIRO’s business. And oh yeah, as long as they’re listening to me they’ll come away better informed, whether they like it or not… and that after all is my business.

Everybody wants to be liked. But I’ll settle for people just tuning in.

by Goldy, 11/23/2006, 9:17 AM

I’m filling in for Ron Reagan and Dori Monson from noon to 4PM today on Newsradio 710-KIRO, and here’s the lineup as of the moment:

Noon: What really happened on election day? Us “nutroots” claimed the Democratic sweep as a huge win for a revitalized, grassroots progressive movement, while many in the media and political establishment talked about a big victory for Southern “blue dog” Democrats. Thomas Schaller, author of “Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South” joins me to analyze the election and measure the prescience of his thesis.

1PM: Is there really a War on Christmas? Thanksgiving Day kicks off the Christmas Holiday season — are secular humanists/Jews like me trying to de-Christianize it? Michael Johnson, chief legal counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund apparently thinks yes, and he joins me to talk about his organization’s efforts to save Christmas. Personally, I’m a touch dubious.

2PM: Is this guy for real? We’ll stick to the religious theme for another hour when Gen. JC Christian of the nationally renowned blog Jesus’ General joins me to present his own far-right views on the Holiday season and politics in general. No stranger to controversy, it was the General who challenged fellow Republicans to join the military via his Operation Yellow Elephant, and who has made a career out of championing the rights of Blastocyst-Americans. It should be an, um… interesting hour.

3PM: Not quite sure yet. Maybe we’ll just beat the crap out Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin? Or maybe I’ll surprise my family back East by calling them up without telling them I’m on the air. (Oops. Hope they don’t read my blog.)

Tune in today as you’re cooking your Turkey (or listen to the live stream) and give me a call: 1-877-710-KIRO (5476).

by Goldy, 11/23/2006, 8:47 AM

On this Thanksgiving Day — as on all days — I am thankful for the greatest run-on sentence in human history:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

(Yeah sure… I did this same post last year. But since there’s nothing more American than dissent, I thought it was worth repeating.)