Friday, December 29, 2006

Washington State Earns a D+ from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Originally via Instapundit, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun violence puts out a yearly scorecard for all states giving a letter grade based on a number of criteria, and Washington State earned a D+ for 2005. The breakdown of the grades are as such:

Juvenile Possession Law B+
Juvenile Sale/Transfer Law A
Child Access Prevention Law F
Gun Safety Locks and Safer Design Standards F
Allow Cities To Regulate Guns (Non-Preempt) D-
Secondary "Private" Sales Background Checks F
Carrying Concealed Weapons Law F

The good news is that in the upside down world that is gun control, a low grade from the Brady Campaign actually means if anything, we are less prone to violent crime as Howard Nemerov writes at Chron Watch:.

Since 2001, RTC states, where more people carry guns in public, consistently average a “D”. Brady continues to be unhappy with the country’s direction regarding gun control: between 2001 and 2005, RTC states increased from 32 to 38 and Brady downgrade the U.S. average from “C-” to a “D+.” Their response is curious, since the national violent crime rate fell 7.0% during this time frame.
Even worse for Brady, violent crime trends are not spread equally across all states. RTC states (average Brady grade “D”) saw an aggregate 7.8% drop in violent crime, while non-RTC states (average Brady grade “B”) saw a 5.2% decrease. Even when Brady grades synchronize with violent crime trends, it fails to give an accurate picture: Brady dropped the national average grade from “C-” to “D+” in 2005, the same year that the violent crime rate increased 1.3%. This would seem to make sense, as a lower grade is supposed to reflect less safety for citizens. Unfortunately for Brady, most of that increase occurred in non-RTC states, which saw an aggregate increase of 2.8%, while RTC states increased 0.6%. Using Brady’s criteria of grading each state as an equivalent entity, non-RTC states averaged a 5.6% increase in violent crime, while RTC states averaged a 0.6% increase. Since 2001, the violent crime differential between RTC and non-RTC states increased from 26.0% to 27.5%, meaning that RTC states are becoming relatively more law-abiding compared to non-RTC states.3

Arms and the Law analyze the data in more detail and come to the conclusion that:

In short, your chances of being killed, raped, or assaulted are, on average, no better, and no worse, in states that got the coveted Brady A or A-, than they are in states that got a D or an F. If the laws the Brady Campaign favors were very successful in combating violence, you could not possibly get this result.

The problem the Brady Campaign has is the crime statistics are available to anyone willing to spend the time to take a look.

So sure enough, I imported the stats into a database and ran some queries and here is what I found out. If you rank the states, and the District of Columbia by violent crimes per 100,000 residents, the 5 most violent are :
District of Columbia B
South Carolina D+
Tennessee D+
Florida F+
Maryland A-

The 5 states with the least violent crimes per 100,000 residents are:
North Dakota D
Maine D-
Vermont D-
New Hampshire D-
South Dakota D

So except for Florida, all of the least violent crime states have a worse grade than the 5 most violent crime states. In fact you have to go 8 spots into the least violent list before finding a grade “better” then a D.

Look at the same results for Murder:
The worst ranking states by murders per 100,000 residents:
District of Columbia B
Maryland A-
Louisiana F
Nevada D
Alabama F

The best ranking states by murders per 100,000 residents:
North Dakota D
Vermont D
Iowa C+
Maine D-
New Hampshire D-

Off on a brief tangent, the fact that the District of Columbia lead both lists was not that much of a surprise although what was amazing was how far ahead they were. For violent crime, D.C. had 1459 crimes per 100,000 residents almost double 2nd place South Carolina which had 761, 3rd place Tennessee had 753, Florida 708, Maryland 703. For murder, D.C. had 35 per 100,000, 3.5 times 2nd place, Maryland and Louisiana each had 10, Nevada and Alabama had 8. So I decided to look at the District of Columbia and see what gave them the score of B.

Juvenile Possession Law A
Child Access Prevention Law A
Allow Cities To Regulate Guns (Non-Preempt) A
Ability of Congress to Repeal DC's gun laws F Congress has authority to repeal DC's gun laws. (DC residents and City Council do not favor repeal)
Secondary "Private" Sales Background Checks A
Carrying Concealed Weapons Law B+

Clearly the District of Columbia deserves a grade of A except for the fact that Congress has the ability to repeal DC’s gun laws. This strikes me as being dishonest. What does it matter that Congress has the ability to repeal DCs gun laws? It sure appears to me that Brady simply did not want to give the most violent murder capital of America the grade it deserved, an A. That leads to another issue, no states got an A, 7 got an A-, 1 B+, 1 B, 2 B- meanwhile there were 7 Fs, 3 F+, 7 D-, 9 D, 6 D+. 11 grades above C+, 32 below C-. Clearly Brady does not grade on a curve and that is fine, you just need to know that when you look and see how many Fs and Ds there are when looking at the most violent states compared to As or Bs.

So here is my issue with the Brady Campaign, I do not believe they truly want to reduce gun violence. If they did, one of the things they would be pushing for would be gun safety classes in schools. Now there is a way to reduce gun violence, teach and train gun safety. Additionally, what they are proposing does not and will not work. The crime statistics have shown that. I know it sounds counter intuitive that reducing the number of guns will not reduce crime but you have to remember what guns are being eliminated. Criminals are not going to give up their guns when gun laws are passed, just law abiding citizens. So the reality of what happens is criminals are the only ones with guns and they now know that the overwhelming majority of potential victims will be unarmed. Here is a simple way to understand the concept. Assume you live on a street where every house on one side of the street has a sign in the window that says “Insured by Smith and Wesson” or “Member N.R.A.”. Each house on the other side of the street has a sign that says “Gun Free Zone”. Which side of the street is going to have a higher crime rate? Which side would you rather live on? Are you willing to put a Gun Free Zone sign in your window?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Keith Ellison, Muslim Member of Congress

As many already know, the residents of the 5th district of Minnesota elected Keith Ellison, a Muslim to congress. He is the first Muslim ever elected to congress. There is a bit of a controversy over the fact that Rep. Ellison has stated an intent to be sworn in on the Quran instead of a Bible and I am assuming he is going to say so help me Allah as well. I really, really, really do not care. He could request that he be sworn in on a severed goats head and say so help me dark lord and I would not care. If anything the fact that he can be sworn in on the book of his choosing shows how great this country is because we have this thing call the first amendment which states
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

and since the residents of the 5th district of Minnesota do not appear to have an issue with Rep. Ellison's religion or the fact that:
While a law student in 1989 and 1990, Ellison wrote several columns as Keith E. Hakim in the student newspaper, the Minnesota Daily. "The first article defended Louis Farrakhan against accusations of antisemitism "[49], defended Nation of Islam spokesman Khalid Abdul Muhammad, and spoke in the voice of a Nation of Islam advocate."[50]. The second column "called affirmative action a 'sneaky' form of compensation for slavery, suggesting instead that white Americans pay reparations to blacks,"[49]. The third suggested the creation of a separate state for black residents

I would personally be more concerned about his inability to follow laws:
Campaign finance has also been an issue for Ellison. In early 2006, the Minnesota State Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board reprimanded Ellison for unreported contributions, discrepancies in cash balances, and misclassified disbursements. These transgressions occurred in the years 2002-2004. In 2005 when the board tried to get more information about the problems in Ellison's reports, they got no response from Ellison or his treasurer (his wife Kim). When the board heard nothing, they opened the investigation. Ellison was subpoenaed and fined. The board has also fined Ellison numerous times for late filings, been sued twice by the attorney general, and has been warned many times for absent or incomplete disclosure.

Early in Ellison's campaign, his driver's license was suspended for failure to pay multiple tickets and fines. When asked how many times his license has been suspended, he said, "I don't know how many prior suspensions I've had; I don't keep count." Reports indicate that he had accumulated over forty parking and traffic tickets, and that his license was suspended twice. Ellison also failed to pay all or part of his income taxes five separate years between 1992 and 2000, forcing the state and Internal Revenue Service to put liens on his home. He later paid in excess of $18,000

What I find interesting about the situation is when Rep. Ellison recently spoke with a Muslim group and said:
"You can't back down, you can't chicken out, you can't be afraid, you got to have faith in Allah, and you got to stand up and be a real Muslim," Detroit native Keith Ellison said to loud applause. "Allahu akbar" - God is great - was the reply of many in the crowd.
Once again, I have no problem with him doing that but the response from the separation of church and state crowd... lets just say the silence was deafening.
Muslims begin annual hajj

From the Seattle Times, it is the beginning of the annual hajj pilgrimage for Muslims with 3 million expected this year.
More than 30,000 police and other security forces have fanned out to help smooth traffic around ritual sites that have been plagued with deadly stampedes. More than 360 people were killed during last year's hajj in a stampede at Mina during a ritual symbolizing the stoning of the devil, sparked when some pilgrims in the crowd stumbled over luggage.

360 dead, three and a half times more dead during a religious pilgrimage than the number of U.S. soldiers in a war zone in the deadliest of months of fighting in Iraq.

Problems are so common that Wikipedia has an entire page of "Incidents during the Hajj":
On July 2, 1990, a stampede inside a pedestrian tunnel (Al-Ma'aisim tunnel) leading out from Mecca towards Mina and the Plains of Arafat led to the deaths of 1,426 pilgrims.

On May 23, 1994, a stampede killed at least 270 pilgrims at the stoning of the Devil ritual.

On April 9, 1998, at least 118 pilgrims were trampled to death and 180 injured in an incident on Jamarat Bridge.

On March 5, 2001, 35 pilgrims were trampled to death in a stampede during the stoning of the Devil ritual.

On February 11, 2003, the stoning of the Devil ritual claimed 14 pilgrims' lives.

On February 1, 2004, 251 pilgrims were killed and another 244 injured in a stampede during the stoning ritual in Mina.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Seattle In The Winter

For all of my complaints about Seattle, and believe me, I have lots, seeing this, a Pileated Woodpecker, about half a block from my house in a city park, makes me forget some of the bad things... at least for a while.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Hamas "Opens Fire" On Crowd of 100,000

Hamas gunmen opened fire at a large political rally by the rival Fatah movement earlier Sunday, wounding three people, Palestinian security officials said. An estimated 100,000 Fatah supporters were participating in the rally.

Someone needs to check those weapons for "storm trooper" mode.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

"Holiday" Trees Removed From SeaTac

From 710 Kiro:
All Holiday trees at Sea-Tac Airport were removed this morning after several community member complaints. They say the trees don't represent all cultures and religions...The trees will not go up again...the airport policy on decorations will be reviewed after the holidays.

Let me see if I can explain this... the trees are not suppose to represent all cultures and religions because... THEY ARE CHRISTMAS TREES!

Good Lord.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Let the Sunni Slaughter Begin

I am with Ace on this one... if the Sunnis would rather we let the Shi'tes slaughter them, well OK.

A few highlights:
The Sunnis cannot win this war. They are greatly outnumbered. The best they can hope for is... well, to be slaughtered en masse and ethnically clensed from all Kurdish or Shi'ite strongholds. And make no mistake: That is the inevitable consequence of an American withdrawal. The odd truth of this war is that Sunnis are fighting their greatest protector, the American military, which will not permit slaughter on a mass scale, even against the Sunnis, who pretty much deserve it by this point.
The Sunnis will never control Iraq again; the best they can hope for is the success of the American plan to create a stable, peaceful, power-sharing and federalist Iraq in which they have, yes, a disproportionate amount of power, but not the total control they once had.

That's their best option. The other option -- the one they may finally have brought to fruition -- is to have no power at all, and to be driven out of the cities into the barren (and oil-free) wastelands of the western deserts, to live out their lives in misery and privation, and to occasionally have these sad lives cut short by Shi'ite gangs raiding villages and killing them by the dozens.

It's time to use that fact to our advantage. It's time to get "realistic." And the realistic way to settle this is to announce -- couched in diplomatic language that makes it seem less vicious than it actually is -- that unless the Sunnis disarm immediately, and before the Shi'ite militas do, the US can no longer justify the cost in lives to protect the Sunnis from Shi'ite militas. Compliant Sunni areas that give up or drive out their Al Qaeda or Ba'athists terrorists will have US/coaltion garrisons to defend them, and vigorous patrolling to protect them from murder.
But if they do not accept the terms of their defeat -- then we ought to stop attempting to disarm the Shi'ite militias, and let them do as the please.

Except for those Shi'ite militiamen who attack US forces, of course. Those should be wiped out mercilessly.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Parental Involvement

Nicole Brouder of the Seattle Times has a followup column, I found from Sound Politics, that talks about the response she got from those defending the Seattle School District from a previous column that was critical of the district.

The following quote is all you need to know about how to improve schools:

Kathleen Bose told me how she wanted to put her daughter in a Catholic school in Magnolia, but it was full.

"I wasn't happy about it," Bose wrote, "but I enrolled her at Catharine Blaine and got involved in the school."

Bose, a graduate of West Seattle High, was in one of the first waves of parents "who came into the school and began to turn it around. It wasn't easy, but we rolled up our sleeves and just did it."

The school is lucky to have her.

Here is the story about how I came to discover parental involvement as the key to a good education. I was driving home to Seattle from my wife's hometown of Eugene Oregon, the cradle of wacky liberalism, and I simply asked my wife, who always votes the way her union tells her to vote, if she could have a classroom full of kids with one characteristic, any one, what would it be. Without blinking she answered Mormon. I found this odd as she is not religious at all, baptized Catholic but does not practice. I asked why Mormon and she said she has never had a problem with a Mormon kid and the reason was both parents are always involved. The parents make sure the kids does his/her homework, makes sure the kid gets to school each and every day, they come to the parent teacher conferences, etc., etc. I then asked what one characteristic would she not want in a student and the answer was Jehovah's Witness. She claims she has never had one that was not totally screwed up. So I guess religion is not the underlying factor. She then went on to explain that any teacher that is being honest will tell you, the most important factor in educating a student is parental involvement. Without parental involvement, the student is going to struggle.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Seattle Will Never Be Able To "Fix" Its Public School System

First let me be clear, I do not think the entire Seattle School District is broken. I sincerely believe that some of the schools are very good, including my child's elementary school. My child gets a very good education and is light years ahead of where I was in first grade and is substantially ahead of many of the neighbor kids who go to private schools. The problem with the Seattle School District is some of the schools are not educating the students and for most of those schools, that is a problem that the school district will never be able to fix because the problem is not within the schools walls.

I agree with my friend over at Leaning Straight Up that fixing schools is a better solution than the race based assignment plan that was before the U.S. Supreme Court the other day, audio of which can be found here, thanks to Sound Politics for the link. Where we differ is my contention that I do not care how much you spend on the facilities or staff, the one thing missing from the poor performing schools, the most important factor by far in a child getting a good education is something the district has no control over, parental involvement.

Let's assume we could start from scratch with almost unlimited funds to build a school district where each and every kid would have access to the exact same facilities, staff and programs. If you were to take a tour of each school, look at the facilities, talk with the teachers, see what programs they offer, you could not tell one school from another. Now let’s add the students. For the first school, let’s only allow in kids that come from a two parent household. Now for the second school, only allow in those students from single parent households. Will one of these schools produce better results? Of course they will and luckily for us, the Seattle School District has compiled the data starting on page 145.

I have analyzed the data for six of the eight K-8 schools. I removed Alt. School #1 and New School @ So. Shore because of incomplete data. I choose the K-8 schools because it is a manageable number of schools to do a quick comparison, I have no connection to any of them, in fact I do not know where any of them physically exist. I compared WASL test scores with three factors, percentage of white students (ethnicity), percentage of kids on free or reduced lunch (wealth) and students from a two parent household. For three of the six schools, two parent households was clearly the best predictor in how the students scored. In two of the schools, two parent households was an extremely close second behind ethnicity, in the sixth school, two parent household was a clear second. Ethnicity placed first twice, second once and third three times. Free and reduced lunch was first once, second twice and third three times.

There is no question that based on the 2005 test data for the six K-8 schools with complete data that the higher the percentage of two parent households, the more likely the school will have higher test scores.

Now a little of my own personal observation from my own personal experience. My son’s school, a Seattle Public School, consistently has some of the highest test scores in the district. My son’s school also has 100% PTA participation. Every single family signs up for PTA. Just for comparison, my wife works in a Seattle area school district, her school has a high percentage of free and reduced lunch, high minority population, and she says the average PTA meeting has less than 10 parents present. At our school, it is standing room only. The last meeting I attended, I was not able to stand in the cafeteria, I had to stand in the hall. In addition, each and every family, 100% of the families, also contribute money to the PTA to finance additional programs. Now I know that is not something that all families at all schools will be able to do but here is something they can do and you may want to be sitting down before you read this. My son’s PTA puts on a “math night”. Let me repeat that… the PTA puts on a “math night”….and people actually go. If prior to going last year, Vegas had posted an over under number on how many students would show to math night and that number was set at 10, I would have gone with the under. When I heard the school was going to have a math night, I made all sorts of cracks about the wisdom of having that over say an Xbox night and I can make those types of remarks because one of my college degrees is in math. So here is how it works, the student and an adult “math buddy”, that would be me, go to the age appropriate class and complete 9 math related activities and get a sticker at the completion of each activity. At the end of the night, everyone gathers in the cafeteria where more fun math activities happen and then everyone who has completed all 9 activities get put into a drawing for fun and exciting math related prizes. I am going to guess that close to a third of the schools showed up for math night. Tonight was also the school Christmas Holiday Winter concert. Once again I was standing in the hall and tonight was just for grades K-2. Bottom line is the parents are involved and the test scores show it.

Nice new buildings, I am all for them. Well trained staff, let’s make sure all the schools have them. Lots of interesting programs that keep students interested in learning, super idea. You want to see high test scores, make sure the parents are involved. Unfortunately, in a city like Seattle, where nobody is willing to point a finger at anything other than a nameless faceless scapegoat like “lack of diversity” or “under funding”, there will always be schools that will always be in need of “fixing”.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Seattle School District’s Supreme Day

As most know, the Supreme Court is hearing a case based on the Seattle School Districts use of race as a "tiebreaker". The case originated when a group of parents sued the school because their children were not allowed to attend Ballard High School, their neighborhood school, which also just happened to be the brand new rebuilt school with all of the new facilities. The school district wanted to make sure the ethnicity of the kids at Ballard matched that of the kids in the district as a whole. The reason the district gives is that a diverse population is an important part of the education process. Now a little background, the Ballard area of Seattle is historically the Scandinavian section of Seattle. You can not go a block without seeing a Scandinavian flag, Norway, Sweden, Finland, etc. The area is overwhelmingly white and also overwhelmingly liberal. The Republican Party does not even bother running candidates for state offices that cover the Ballard area. I happen to live just North of Ballard, drive through it on my commute to work every day. In addition, my son’s neighborhood high school would be Ballard High if we were still in our house in another 7 or 8 years. I also had a relative who worked at Ballard High up until recently. I know Ballard and yes it is true, people in Ballard do not know how to drive.

A couple of points…

I always question when something like this is used as a "tiebreaker". I would be curious to know what constitutes a tie. This is a bigger issue when you are talking college admissions and you are truly looking at each candidate and comparing GPAs and SATs and outside activities but still, when are two potential students considered tied where race would be used?

As I have mentioned before in a previous post, this strikes me as a situation where both sides simply want the best school for their kids. I am reasonable sure that if Rainier Beach was rebuilt tomorrow with all of the latest and greatest programs, parents from Ballard would be fighting to get their kids in at Rainier Beach and Rainier Beaches neighborhood parents would be fighting to keep the Ballard kids out.

The one really, really odd thing to me is a much under publicized fact that in the district program being reviewed, often the minority child that ended up going to Ballard, did not have Ballard as their first choice. In effect both kids were being denied their first choice in order to make Ballard more diverse.

Another fact that you are not hearing about is that the racial balancing that the district deems so important is only being used at over subscribed schools. There was not a plan in place that would make the schools kids did not want to go to be more diverse. It was just the popular schools were affected by the plan. So if a school had more desks than kids, the Seattle School District was not doing anything to change the underlying racial makeup of those schools. This fact seems to undercut the district claim that diversity is an important element of the education process.

Another problem is the existence of the African American Academy. While the program under review covered just high schools, the African American Academy is a K-8 school that was specifically created to lessen the achievement gap between white and black students. Now if you were to look at the most current test scores, it is painfully obvious that the achievement gap is not being narrowed by the existence of the AAA. 5th grade, 2%, 1 out of 50 students, meet the minimum WASL standard for all 3 subjects. 7th grade, 4%, less than 1 out of 20 meet the minimum for WASL. 8th grade, 3%, 1 in 33 meet all 3 minimums. This is one of, if not the worst, performing school in the district and is also by far the most non diverse school in the district, 94% African American, 3% Hispanic, no other group above 1%. I would be interested in hearing a school district representative’s response if asked why is it important to bus kids across the city in order to make the student body diverse yet there is a school specifically designed to be segregated? It would be one thing if test results from the AAA were above average but when they are at the very bottom for all schools, that is going to require some explaining. Like I said, it would be interesting to know, I have asked and can not seem to get a reply. I would also be interested in finding out why a parent would send their child to a school that is doing such a poor job of educating the children.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

6 to 8 Black Men

For those who were at the KVI Christmas Party on Friday and were dissapointed that Bryan Suits did not tell the story, here it is.

The official reason it was not told at the party, just not the right crowd.

Friday, December 01, 2006

World Aids Celebration Day

I was informed this morning by the "walking on logs" display in West Seattle that today is Worlds Aids Celebration Day. Not sure what the proper way to celebrate is and I am not sure I want to know. According to the Seattle Times, :

World Aids Day was marked around the globe by somber religious services,
boisterous demonstrations and warnings that far more needs to be done to treat
and prevent the disease in order to avert millions of additional deaths.

It went on to say

President Bill Clinton warned in an interview with the BBC that India, which has
the largest population of HIV infected people in the world, has become the new
epicenter of the global AIDS pandemic. The challenge of controlling the epidemic
in India, with 5.7 million infected, is "breathtaking," he said, but it can be
"This is not rocket science," Clinton told the BBC. "We know what
to do."
Here is one thing we can all do to stop the spread of Aids, do not act like Bill Clinton. Far more needs to be don’t to treat and prevent the disease?!? We know how to prevent the disease. Anyone who is not aware of how to prevent the disease is purposely not paying attention.
The amazing thing about Aids is how easy it is to NOT catch the disease. For the overwhelming majority of people, do not use illegal intravenous drugs and do not have sex, especially a specific kind of sex, with multiple partners and the probability that you will get Aids is almost zero. Aids really is preventable, we as a society are not willing to hold accountable those who catch it because of their reckless behavior and until we do, it is something we will be dealing with for a long, long time.