Friday, December 07, 2007

The Gurwitzification of the Express-News

The editorial the other day in the San Antonio Express-News about the new NIE report on Iran is a perfect example of what I call the Gurwitzification of the San Antonio Express-News editorial page.
That is what has happened lately as columnist Jonathan Gurwitz has become the driving force behind most of the paper’s editorial opinions. Gurwitz’ hawkish neo-con views are clearly evident in this editorial that trys to play down the NIE reports conclusions and glosses over the fact that the Bush administration has been trying to cover the report up for the past year while beating the war drums for a military confrontation with Iran.
Gurwitz is by far the sharpest tool in the E-N’s tool pouch and so it isn’t too surprising that he has managed to steer the listless editorial board his way on most issues, foreign policy in particular. I have long said that Gurwitz is the best columnist the E-N has and he would be a good columnist even if the other columnists at the paper weren’t so worthless. But unfortunately Gurwitz stands especially tall above the pack because the others are so pitiful. Most of the so called “columnists” on the page write the kind of non-controversial pablum that would be more at home in the Lifestyles section than on the Opinion page — Maria Anglin, Gloria Padilla and Kathy Clay-Little fit that bill while Rebeca Chapa, who started out more promisingly, is rapidly heading in that same direction.
For a time, I thought that Chapa might actually be the liberal voice that the paper is so severly lacking, but lately it seems as if she has fallen under Gurwitz’ spell just like the rest of the staff. Her last two columns, bashing leftist leader Hugo Chavez and the fundamentalist mullahs in Saudi Arabia, with only the mildest rebuke directed at President Bush, could have easily been penned by Gurwitz himself.
While Gurwitz is a hardline partisan on most issues, he does have a humanitarian streak which I find admirable that comes through on occasions like when he focues on the crisis in Darfur. I’m guessing Darfur will be one of the next topics that Chapa will tackle under Gurwitz’ tutelage.
But back to the Iran editorial, it trys to cast doubt on the latest NIE report by noting that it differs sharply with the one done in 2005. What they fail to acknowledge is that the intelligence agencies haven’t forgotten about their 2005 report, it is just that they have new information now that clarifies things in the 2005 report that they did not fully understand at the time.
I am not privvy to all the classified information obviously, but this is what I have gleaned from the news articles I have read. Back in 2003-04 sometime they obtained a laptop belonging to some Iraqi scientist that had information about a nuclear weapons programs and made some references to it that they did not fully understand. The person was apparently upset about something but they did n’t know why. What they have learned since then is that the person who owned the laptop was upset because the funding for his program had been cut off when the government shut down the weapons program in 2003. So the 2005 report now makes better sense, although the ultimate conclusion they had drawn has been reversed. And they are more certain about that now than they were in 2005.
Knowing this, it is irresponsible for the E-N to ignorantly cast aspersions on the new report. Moreso, it makes little to no sense to continue hounding Iran about a weapons program that they have not been pursuing for the past four years. If we truly have a stick and carrot approach, it would seem that it is long past due to present the carrot, not bash them over the head with another stick.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

McCain after all?

Maybe John McCain will be the Republican nominee after all. First, Fred Thompson’s late-start campaign fell flat. Then Rudy Giuliani’s campaign began to freefall with the recent revelations that he used state resources to supplement his extramarital affairs while serving as mayor of New York City. Then it seemed there was an opening for Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Southern Baptist preacher who has become the darling of the religious right crowd.
But now it looks like Huckabee will get hammered over his role in releasing a convicted rapist who turned around a week later and sexually assaulted and murdered another woman. It is like Willie Horton all over again, except worse because Huckabee was more involved in Wayne Drummond’s release than Mike Dukakis was in the furlough of Horton. Willie Horton was furloughed as a result of a program supported by most law enforcement and prison officials for its effectiveness in reducing recidivism rates. Dukakis had no direct role in Horton’s release other than that he supported the program itself.
Huckabee, however, was directly petitioned by a group of Clinton-hating wingnuts in the 1990s who wanted Wayne Drumond released solely because his victim had been a distant cousin of President Clinton’s. The fact that Huckabee went along with that crowd should disqualify him from ever holding public office again.
So that leaves Mitt Romney, who is having trouble selling his mormonism to the wingnuts, and John McCain. And I still haven’t figured out why McCain got cast aside early on other than that he perhaps wasn’t the fresh new face they were looking for.

It shouldn’t matter anyway it goes, however, because 2008 will be a Democratic year thanks to George Worst.President.Ever Bush.

Sticks and carrots

Despite the conclusion of our intelligence agencies that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003, President Bush is still trying to garner international support for sanctions.
But what sense does that make now? Bush even mentioned at one point in his news conference the other day that the “stick and carrot” approach had worked back in ‘03 - the Iranians apparently dropped their weapons program as a result of international pressure. But where is the carrot in Bush’s current policy? Instead, we have the stick and bigger stick approach. Iran does what we wanted - four years ago - and we continue to bash them over the head the entire time. Great diplomacy there, guys!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Dead Parrots

Sometimes I feel like we are living in a Monty Python sketch. For the past year, the Bush administration has been pushing for a military confrontation with Iran by claiming that the country is developing nuclear weapons.
Now we find out that Iran halted its nuclear arms bid in 2003 according to a National Intelligence Estimate that came out over a year ago. So the Bush administration has been pushing this line about Iran and nukes all the time knowing that the consensus view of the intelligence community was the complete opposite.
And now when you try and confront the administration or its apologists/defenders they start acting like the pet shop owner in the Monty Python skit, refusing to acknowledge that the parrot is dead.
“Iran’s nuke program is dead.”
“No, it’s not. It’s only resting.”
And so on.
But that is the state of political discourse today. We essentially have a rouge regime in control of our country pushing forward with a foreign policy agenda that is opposed by the vast majority of the citizenry. And the only way they can continue to do this is by repeatedly denying the obvious. They lie. They obfuscate. They play word games (”The President never said it was an ‘imminent threat’.”) And they push ahead as if the will of the American people does not matter.
And if they succeed in doing so and still win the next election with a Bush clone like Giuliani, then perhaps they will have been right.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Evel Knievel

People of a certain age know where they were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I know where I was when Evel Knievel attempted his rocket-powered jump over Snake River Canyon. I grew up watching Knievel on the Wide World of Sports and his antics inspired a generation of youngsters to race their bicycles over makeshift ramps. I still remember the thrill from the feel of your bike lifting off the ground and being temporarily airborne before coming down with a hard jolt.
Knievel took a lot of hard jolts. I read way back then how he had more than 100 broken bones (the real figure I think is closer to 80).
I had just thought about Knievel the other day before I learned that he had died. I was flipping through a catalog with “vintage” toys and saw an Evel Knievel motorcycle set that was one of the coolest toys of my youth.
Knievel was more than just a stunt man, he was a pop culture icon of the ‘70s.

NIE: Iran ended weapons research in 2003

When I first saw the news about Iran dropping its nuclear weapons research in 2003, I wondered how the Bush administration could still justifying beating the war drums for a military confrontation.
Then I saw this tidbit from Kevin Drum noting that the NIE report has been out for more than a year, meaning the Bush administration knew about it this whole time.
This is appalling on every level, but, unfortunately, not without precedent for this administration.
Now I’m curious how the wingnuts will react, but I figure they will simply ignore it like it didn’t happen and go on with their warmongering as usual.

A pro/con sham

On Sunday, the San Antonio Express-News ran a canned editorial feature on its Views section front about clean air legislation under a pro/con format. They didn’t post it online, but it is essentially the same as what ran in the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch a week earlier.

Here is the thing that always galls me about this - They get a reknowned scientist who is an expert in this field to write an op-ed piece, in this case it is Michael E. Kraft, the Herbert Fisk Johnson Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Then they turn around and for the con view do they get another academic whose studies have pointed to an opposite conclusion? No. They get some right-wing hack from a “conservative think tank” to review the article and then pen a rebuttal.
That always seems to be the pattern. For the “liberal” side you have a dispassionate academic and/or scientist applying their research to real world situations, and for the “conservative” side they go to an ideological warrior, funded by the oil industry, with no real expertise in anything but churning out propaganda and disinformation.
While I am glad to have the intelligent person who actually has a clue on my side, this is still not a fair fight in that they are pitting apples against oranges. The academic is not being paid to push a specific agenda like the "think tanker" and thus doesn't always come across as having the slam-dunk answer to everything. So people who don't know any better at best walk away thinking the two sides are equally correct when there is really no comparison.