Thursday, May 10, 2007

Express-News publishes inaccurate editorial

The San Antonio Express-News published an outrageous and inaccurate editorial yesterday attacking Democrats over ethics reform.

I suspect the editorial was written by Jonathan Gurwitz since it contains the same error that appeared in his column that same day. But that is still no excuse to publish false information.
They have the gall to use the fact that more Republicans keep coming under scrutiny from the Ambramoff lobbying scandal as a springboard to attack Democrats over ethics reform. Here is how they try to accomplish this:

House Minority Leader John Boehner forced the two congressmen to resign key assignments on the Intelligence and Appropriations committees.
That's more than can be said of the Democratic leadership. Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., is the target of an 18-month bribery probe that uncovered $90,000 in cash in the lawmaker's freezer. Yet Jefferson still sits on the Homeland Security Committee.

The problem here is that the Democrats DID take action to discipline Congressman Jefferson after the FBI probe was revealed last year. The whole gist of the editorial is false.
The Democratic leadership stripped Jefferson of his seat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
It was only after he was re-elected to his seat in November, despite strong national Democratic support for his primary opponent, that he was grudgingly allowed to take a seat on the Homeland Security committee. What more could the Democrats do? He is the legitimately elected representative for the people of the 2nd District of Louisiana and they still deserve representation in Congress even if they have poor judgement in who they send to represent them. Until the Justice Department gets off its duff and pushes forward with an indictment of Jefferson or something, the Democrats’ hands are tied.
And as I mentioned earlier, I suspect the reason the Justice Department is sitting on this investigation is because they know that it looks bad for Democrats to have Jefferson in their midst and allows Republicans to continue to claim that the “culture of corruption” in Washington is bi-partisan. That is the result of Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales’ politicization of the Justice Department.

I’m curious if the E-N will run a correction once this is pointed out to them. We shall see.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A convoluted column

Jonathan Gurwitz’ latest column in the E-N is a partisan screed that veers off in all kinds of strange directions.
He starts off by setting up a classic strawman argument:

Invariably in politics, someone comes along to declare that his party has a monopoly on virtue while the opposition has the sin syndicate.

And who would that someone be, Jonathan? Nobody in particular? Just a nameless strawman that you can proceed to knock over?

He jumps off from that to create a bogus presumption:

And invariably in public discourse today, the presumption is that conservatives are dirty, rotten scoundrels while liberals are pious, incorruptible angels.

That’s funny. I always thought that liberals were supposed to be the dirty, unpatriotic hippies - moral degenerates, spaced out on drugs, etc. Now we are pious angels. Interesting.
I think Jonathan may be spending too much time reading liberal blogs or something. It has certainly put him in a pissy mood.

Jonathan goes on to acknowledge the Republicans’ overwhelming complicity in the Abramoff scandal, but then dismisses it as only being representative of the DeLay era, as if that were some brief period long since forgotten on Capitol Hill.

Then, suddenly, he veers off to rant about the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings of 15 years ago complaining about the “smears” that “continue to dog him today.” He implies strongly that Democratic objections to Thomas “conveniently fit some stereotypes about race.”

I take offense at this suggestion. I remember the Clarence Thomas hearings quite well and even wrote several letters to the editor of my local paper protesting his nomination. My complaint had nothing to do with “personal peccadilloes” or “salacious gossip,” but rather with the fact that he little more than one year’s worth of experience as a jurist. I compared the situation to a rookie baseball player in his first season in the Major Leagues suddenly being enshrined in the Hall of Fame and I noted a number of African-American judges with far more impressive credentials and lengthier resumes who were far more worthy of a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. But it was clear from the start that Thomas had been selected chiefly because of his extreme right-wing political views and nothing else.

But why we were suddenly talking about Clarence Thomas was unclear until this line:

They forget that his chief inquisitor in Senate confirmation hearings, Joe Biden of Delaware, has a verifiable history of dishonest and unattributed scholarship.

And this has what to do with Thomas’ fitness to serve on the high court?
No, wait, what Jonathan is upset about is the different treatment that Thomas and Biden recieve today:

Thomas is greeted with derision when he speaks at law schools across the country. Biden is once again a Democratic candidate for president. Why the differing treatments?

Is Thomas really greeted with derision everywhere he goes? I find that hard to believe.
And Biden being a presidential candidate again, so what? He still doesn’t have a prayer of a chance of winning. He hasn’t been taken seriously as a presidential candidate since the Neil Kinnock plaigirism charge clobbered him in 1988.
I fail to see some great disparagement in treatment here. So what is next?

Jonathan then returns to his bogus presumption:

Because in this partisan tale, conservatives are dim bulbs and moral hypocrites while liberals are imbued with an endless reservoir of virtue — and the grace of never having to say you're sorry.

Yeah, whatever. So what’s next?

According to this presumption, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales must resign, though no one can point to any law that was broken in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. But Rep. William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson, in whose freezer the FBI found $90,000 in marked cash last year, occupies a seat on the House Homeland Security Committee.

What?!!? This is ridiculous! Talk about comparing apples and oranges. Does Jonathan expect anyone to take this lame argument seriously?
Gonzales has been called on to resign by Republicans and Democrats alike because he either lied to Congress or failed to peform his job adequately in overseeing the U.S. Attorney offices under his direction. Heck, even the editors at the National Review have called for Gonzales to go. We don’t have to wait for a criminal indictment or conviction before we can expect to have honest and competent leadership at the Department of Justice.
And Rep. William Jefferson? Every Republican partisan’s favorite Democrat? Sure he is on the Homeland Security Committee. But Jonathan fails to note that he is no longer on the powerful Ways and Means Committee after Democrats stripped him of that role when the whole FBI sting operation was first revealed. Democrats also withdrew their support for Jefferson during the mid-term elections and supported his primary opponent instead. Unfortunately, Jefferson won re-election regardless.
So now, what would Jonathan have the Democrats do? Refuse to grant him committee assignments? Does Jonathan think the people in Jefferson’s Louisiana district are not worthy of full representation simply because he does not like the person they picked to be their representative? Personally, I wish the feds would hurry up and throw the book at Jefferson so that he can be forcibly removed from the House and replaced with someone without the taint of corruption.
But after hearing about recent revelations of the politicization of the Justice Department under Alberto Gonzales, I can’t help but wonder if they are purposefully sitting on this case because they know it helps Republicans to keep Jefferson around so that they can continue to claim that the flood of corruption and scandals in Washington are “bi-partisan.”

Sheesh! But Jonathan is not through. He goes on to whine about a bogus Internet story that alleged that George W. Bush has the lowest IQ of any president, not that such a study is needed to give people that impression.
What this has to do with anything is unclear, but a few short paragraphs later he seems to imply that the people behind the bogus Internet story are responsible for the tough questions being faced by the marriage-challenged Republican presidential candidates this year.

Now the purveyors of this brand of hypocrisy are taking their wares on the presidential campaign trail. The Republican front-runners, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, face persistent questions about their personal and professional lives.

Still following Jonathan’s logic here? Yeah, neither am I.

But wait, now it seems that this whole line of thought was meant as jumping off point so that Jonathan could raise all kinds of spurious accusations against the Democratic presidential candidates:

the Democratic candidates have to worry about more than just perceptions of the two Americas — the one where multimillionaires like John Edwards get $400 haircuts and the one inhabited by the rest of us common folk.
Depending upon what the meaning of the word "is" is, personal life is a serious problem for Hillary Clinton. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's embellished Major League Baseball résumé is a character issue, as are Sen. Barack Obama's real estate deals.

What fun! He got to put in the dig about John Edwards’ expensive taste in hair salons and raise the old “meaning of the word ‘is’” canard to smear Hillary. In addition, he gets to whack Gov. Richardson for an old resume snafu and he gets to make a shady reference to some obscure real estate deal that involved Barak Obama. Nevermind that the same stories that exposed the transaction also noted that “there have been no allegations that Obama ... broke the law or committed any ethics violations.”

Jonathan finally concludes this convoluted mess of a column with the observation that “voters have a way of sorting out the hucksters in both camps.”
Let’s hope they can also sort out the B.S. from the wisdom in columns such as this.

Monday, May 07, 2007

50 ways to lose your money

The E-N reported this weekend that the Texas Lottery has a new $50 scratch off game for gamblers who just can’t seem to throw their money away fast enough.
The odds for winning the million dollar prize are astronomical — 1 in 618,000. You have a much better chance of being killed in a car wreck on your way over to cash in your winning ticket.
But what people don’t seem to realize is how bad their odds are of winning anything. The odds to just break even (i.e. to win $50) are greater than 1 in 6. That’s crazy!
Imagine walking up to someone and handing them $50 for the chance to roll a six-sided die. Let’s say you are trying to roll a six. If you don’t hit it on your first try, they put your money in their pocket and walk away. If you do luck out and roll a six, then you get your money back. Whoop-de-doo!
In order to double your money and win $100, the odds are 1 in 20. As an old D&D player, I’m very familiar with 1-in-20 odds because a 20-sided die is used quite a bit in fantasy roleplaying games. Needless to say, I would be extremely poor if I had to shell out $50 everytime I missed rolling a 20 on a 20-sided die. Try it some time!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Conservatives are no longer influential

Time Magazine has just come out with its annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World and just looking at the cover of the issue I can tell it is sure to infuriate my conservative friends.
There are practically no conservatives in the list at all, but lots of liberals and Democrats.
Most prominently topping the list this year is Democratic presidential contender Barak Obama. Hillary Clinton is in there too. But you won't find Rudy Guiliani and you won't find John McCain.
George W. Bush isn't in there either. In fact, the only member of his cabinet to make the list was Condolezza Rice.
Nancy Pelosi made the list, and so did Al Gore. But the only Republican politicos are Michael Bloomberg - the liberal Republican mayor of New York - and Arnold Schwarzenegger who is lauded for his environmental advocacy.
The closest thing to a conservatie in the list is Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts - and quite frankly I think Anthony Kennedy deserved that spot more since he is obviously the influential swing vote in every major decision now.
But as if this sparcity of rightwingers weren't bad enough, Time rubs salt in the wound by adding a whole host of liberals certain to make the rightwingers' blood boil inlcuding Rosie O'Donnell, George Soros, Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney and Michael J. Fox.
And while rightwingers will surely be outraged and will dismiss the list as liberal bias by the so-called MSM, I think it is just being honest about the current predicament that conservatives are in. Thanks to four years of broken promises and false optimism in Iraq, the public no longer trusts what most Republicans say. I mean, who else on the Bush team has a shred of credibility left these days? Dick Cheney? Karl Rove? Alberto Gonzales?
So I think the Time list is just being honest about the wingers current and future predicament.