Friday, April 29, 2005

 

SAEN, Democrat Mouthpiece

On page 4A of Friday's SAEN is a story about the federal budget headlined "$2.6 trillion budget that cuts Medicaid approved." The report tells us that:
Medicaid gets marked for a $10 billion reduction over four years.

But as I will show you, that isn't entirely true (or true at all), and strangely the SAEN is echoing exactly what Democrats are saying; curious, yes? The $10 billion "cut" in Medicaid is actually only a reduction in the rate of growth. Over the next four years spending on Medicaid increases significantly as the CBO shows in projections of mandatory, I said mandatory, spending on Medicaid:
FY 2005 - $327.5 billion
FY 2006 - $378.6 billion
FY 2007 - $428.0 billion
FY 2008 - $456.2 billion

That is an increase of $77.6 billion over the four years that the SAEN reports a decrease; however, the SAEN story fails to point this out preferring instead to leave readers with the impression that the nasty old Republicans are taking money out of healthcare for the poor and giving it to rich people in the form of tax cuts. Here is how one local blogger put it:
So the Republican budget calls for $10 billion in cuts to healthcare services for the poor while turning around and showering the wealthiest folks with $106 billion in tax cuts.

So, somebody want to explain to me why the SAEN decided to leave this important fact out of it's reporting on the budget?
 

Iraq In Pictures


COL Polik from the Polish CIMIC(civilian military corporation) unit, greets two grils during a cermony commemorating the completion of a new Medical Clinic on April 27th 2005, in AL Diwaniyah, Iraq. The CIMIC conducts various projects that aid the rebuilding of the Iraqi infrstructure. That's right folks, the US isn't the only country with troops in Iraq! Posted by Hello
 

Victory For The Cedar Revolution?

Michael Totten of the Spirit of America blog declares victory for the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon (hat tip Instapundit):
Chalk up another, final, victory for the Cedar Revolution.

The Lebanese government formally announced the election will be held on time - on May 29th 2005.

The million-person demonstration, the two-month sleep-in at the tent-city, the countdown campaign, the village campaign, the media pressure, the international pressure - it all came together. It's a new era in Lebanon now. The time of post-war occupation and oppression is over. The Cedar Revolution is now over, too.

I am little more skeptical of declaring a final victory, but this is still good news: freedom continues to march on in the Middle East. He also writes that the importance of the evacuation of Syrian forces cannot be understated:
The Syrian military has now withdrawn to their side of the border. The secret police are almost certainly still around, but they're a lot less scary when they can't back up their agenda by force of arms. Syrian intelligence agents can still operate as terrorists and spies, but without an army they can't control what happens on the ground. The pall of fear over Lebanon has largely been broken. The democracy activists feel the difference. I feel it, too. I wouldn't quite call this a free country yet - not while Hezbollahland still exists as its own entity - but it feels like one now. The air is different. It's lighter.

And I don't think you can underestimate the importance of the Bush Doctrine in making this happen. President Bush has never wavered in his belief that all people want to be free, even in the face of withering denunciations from Democrats, and Lebanon is just another example proving the president right. I would like to welcome the Lebanese back into the community of free nations!
 

El-Kikhia: Off The Deep End

I could barely read the latest from El-Kikhia today, but I did it for you guys. He starts out with a story about a friend of his who was tortured by Qaddafi, and of course this reminds him of the people at Guantanamo Bay. But before you shed a tear for the folks down at Club Gitmo, please check out what I wrote back on April 20th in a post titled "Let's Talk About Gitmo," and you will see the folly of El-Kikhia's latest screed. Here is the more important parts of that post:

From the Washington Times:
Detainees at Guantanamo Bay are providing the U.S. military with its best information on America's No. 1 enemy, Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terror group, says a new Pentagon report.

More than three years after many of the al Qaeda and Taliban fighters were captured in Afghanistan, the 550 prisoners continue to divulge new information on recently nabbed bin Laden operatives and on remotely detonated bombs killing U.S. troops in Iraq.

More from the Washington Times:
The report said that at least 10 former detainees the Pentagon knows by name have rejoined the war against coalition forces.

One of them, Abdullah Mahsud, had denied links to al Qaeda and said he was forced to join the Taliban army. Today, Mahsud is back in Afghanistan leading a gang of kidnappers.

And did you know that Gitmo detainees are helping us fight the terrorists in Iraq:
The bomb makers picked up in Afghanistan are experts in the same types of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that have killed hundreds of coalition troops, including Americans in Iraq.

"One detainee also detailed how pagers and cellular telephones are used to initiate detonations," said the Pentagon report. "Another detainee has been cooperative enough to draw schematic diagrams of the bombs he designed and built. In addition, he has provided his critiques of the design of IEDs being constructed by terrorists in Iraq."

And in another blow to the left's crazy notion that poverty breeds terrorism:
More than 50 detainees hold college degrees or obtained other higher education. Among the educated are doctors, pilots, engineers, translators, lawyers and computer experts.

A detainee who attended Texas A&M for 18 months "has threatened guards and admits enjoying terrorizing Americans." Others obtained degrees in aviation management and petroleum engineering.

Let's look at the kind of person that El-Kikhia is shedding tears for:
"A detainee who has assaulted [Guantanamo] guards on numerous occasions and crafted a weapon in his cell stated that he can either go back home and kill as many Americans as he possibly can, or he can leave here in a box," the report said. "Either way, it's the same to him."

And why it is important to keep them locked up:
The capture of these terrorists and others likely deprived al Qaeda of new leaders[emphasis added]. "It is likely that many Guantanamo detainees would have risen to positions of prominence in the leadership ranks of al Qaeda and its associated groups," the Guantanamo report said.

I think it is pretty clear that El-Kikhia is shedding tears for killers. If that is what he wants to do, fine, but I won't be losing any sleep over the killers we have detained at Gitmo. El-Kikhia asks "when did torture become American?" Well, the answer to that question is that it isn't, and his comparison of Qaddafi's torturers to the men and women of the United States fighting the war on terror is absurd, and he should be (but won't be) ashamed of himself for saying so. One things is for sure, views like El-Kikhia's are a dime a dozen on jihadist sites across the internet, and they certainly don't belong in the pages of any newspaper.

Update: A smart SAEN Watch reader points out one of many errors in El-Kikhia's column:
In American hands he was tortured, electrocuted, starved, smeared with human excrement and whipped silly by Pakistanis in Guantanamo.

The problem is with the word "electrocuted," which the dictionary defines as "to kill by electric shock." Clearly El-Kikhia's friend was not electrocuted, and that makes we wonder what else he isn't telling the truth about.
 

Dropping $occer

Kudos to the SAEN Editorial Board for ripping the plan by Mayor Garza, who just happens to play soccer, to bring Major League Soccer to San Antonio. From today's editorial:
The deal the City Council has approved to bring Major League Soccer to San Antonio requires greater scrutiny.

Mayor Ed Garza and other proponents have failed to justify it adequately. The City Council should think again and hit the brakes on what appears to be a terrible deal.

Among the many questionable aspects of the plan, perhaps the most objectionable is that it would give the franchise 70 percent or more from the corporate naming rights for the Alamodome. Why allow this city landmark to become an advertisement when the city is not even the major benefactor?

It shouldn't cost the taxpayers of this City $22 million just because Garza likes soccer, and wants to be able to go to MLS games and play on nicer fields. This "deal" stinks anyway you look at it, and the sooner the City drops it, the better. Hey Garza, I have a stupid idea, lets take the $22 million that you want to blow on soccer, and fix the many potholes around my house.
 

They Finally Did It

After days of anxious waiting on my part, the SAEN has finally reported the results of a recent less-than-reliable Washington Post/ABC News poll. From page 5A of today's SAEN:
A Washington Post poll published this week found 66 percent of Americans oppose changing Senate filibuster rules to make it easier for the Republican majority to confirm President Bush's judicial nominees.

Really? Are you sure? Here is what Best of the Web had to say about the poll:
The poll not only doesn't use the word filibuster; it doesn't even describe the procedure. The way the question is worded, the Democrats could have "blocked" the nominations by the normal method of voting them down--and there is no reason to think that "randomly selected adults" would have been paying enough attention to know the difference.

And not only did the poll never specifically ask about filibusters, but many more Democrats than Republicans were polled, and the questions were misleading at best. For some serious destruction of this poll check out AnkleBitingPundits.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

 

SAEN Editorializes Another News Story

On the front page of today's SAEN is a story headlined "House OKs bill aimed at abortions." The story is available online, but the headline there is "House OKs bill toughening abortion consent." The bill simply requires that parents be notified when their child is going to have an abortion. Here is how the bill is described:
After an easy House victory, the latest push to curb abortions moves to the Senate where Republican gains increase the likelihood of making it harder for minors to cross state lines to end pregnancies without telling a parent[emphasis mine].

I just love the part that says "...latest push to curb abortions..." How is that for unbiased reporting? The bill that was passed has exemptions for when the procedure would save the life of the mother, when a judge has signed off on the procedure, and when the minor has been the victim of sexual abuse by a parent, so what are abortion advocates complaining about? It gets better. The online story reports that four bills "aimed at reducing the number of abortions" have been passed while Bush is in office (oh the horror!). Here is an example of one of those bills:
Last year, Congress made it a separate crime to harm a fetus during an assault on a pregnant woman.

Huh? The paper edition simply mentions this bill without giving a reason why, as if everyone automatically agrees with the liberal view that this bill was somehow secretly aimed at curbing abortions. Let me get this straight, Congress passes a law making it a crime to harm an unborn baby during an assault and it was really a stealth attack on abortion rights? All of these assertions being made in this news story rightfully belong on the op/ed pages, not on the front page.

Update
It looks like Best of the Web agrees with me:

"The House passed a bill Wednesday that would make it illegal to dodge parental-consent laws by taking minors across state lines for abortions, the latest effort to chip away at abortion rights after Republican gains in the November elections," reports the Associated Press.

"Chip away at abortion rights"? That's editorializing, isn't it? Since a pregnant minor is, by definition, a victim of statutory rape, one could just as easily characterize this as an effort to prevent the destruction of criminal evidence.

Then there's this, from another AP dispatch on the same subject:

Four bills aimed at reducing the number of abortion [sic] have been enacted since Bush won the White House in 2001:

Last year, Congress made it a separate crime to harm a fetus during an assault on a pregnant woman. . . .

So according to the AP, assaulting a pregnant woman and harming her "fetus" constitutes abortion. Do "pro-choice" advocates want to keep violence against pregnant women safe and legal?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

 

"Air America" wants President Bush dead?

Recently, Commando pointed out the pathetic ratings of liberal talk radio show "Air America". Perhaps the ratings are due to the hate speech spewed by the show's hosts.
The skit this week by Air America host Randi Rhodes featuring simulated gunshots fired at President Bush is at least the second time Rhodes has used her program to discuss the idea of killing the president.

On her May 10, 2004, Air America program, Rhodes compared Bush to Fredo Corleone, the weak son in the Godfather movies, who was, on his brother Michael's orders, taken on a fishing trip during which he was murdered with a gunshot to the head. "They are the Corleones," Rhodes said of the Bush family. "The Fredo of the family is the president of the United States, so why doesn't his father take him, or his brother, one of them, take him out for a little, uh, fishing? You know, let him say some Hail Marys, he loves God so much. Yeah, take him out, you know, 'Hail Mary, full of grace, God is with thee' -- POW!" Rhodes paused briefly before adding, "Works for me."
Can you imagine the outrage if Rush Limbaugh had said something like that about Slick Willy? I'm thankful no stations in San Antonio air this tripe.
 

Jonathan Gurwitz Responds

Last week I commented on a column by Jonathan Gurwitz in a post called "A Gurwitz Puzzler." Reinforcing why he is one of our favorites SAEN columnists, Mr. Gurwitz has taken the time to respond to our commentary. Most folks over at the SAEN will not take the time to respond to our commentary (especially publicly) and we appreciate Mr. Gurwitz's efforts. If you want to see my original comment then follow the link above. Here is Mr. Gurwitz's response:
The strategy of Zarqawi and the Baathists has always been to plunge Iraq into civil war. By committing atrocities against the Shiite majority, the objective has been to provoke a violent response. Thus far, the Shiite leadership hasn't -- to their credit -- taken the bait.

Two things have changed in recent months. U.S. forces have severely undermined the fighting capability of the insurgents. Hitting hard targets is a decreasingly attractive option for the insurgents, who have taken significant losses in recent ambushes. As attacks on U.S. troops have declined, they have risen against soft targets -- Iraqi, namely Shiite, civilians.

This is occurring as the new government is struggling with sectarian power sharing. In other words, the insurgents have stepped up the Zarqawi strategy just as the sentiments and stakes are highest for the different political and ethnic groups and their leaders.

I'm not suggesting things are about to unravel. I am suggesting that the danger to Iraqi democrats is significantly greater. If a bomb takes out Jafari, I don't think you'll see the equivalent of the Cedar Revolution in Iraq.

In retrospect, it might have been better to write, "The forces seeking to plunge Iraq into sectarian conflict have intensified their efforts at a critical moment." But then I'd have to spend some space explaining the critical moment, as above. With only 140 lines, I wanted to move to the more meaningful -- to my mind -- development: Iraqis taking an increasing role in their own destiny.

 

Out To Lunch

I will be out taking care of some family business for most of the day and probably won't be able to post until later this evening. Sorry for the inconvenience.

--Commando

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

 

The Sky Is Falling, The Sky Is Falling...

Okay, the sky isn't falling, but it might as well be because today I find that I actually agree with an editorial in the **GASP!** super-liberal Los Angeles Times. After reading about the L.A. Times editorial be sure to keep reading for lots of info on the filibuster fight. Okay, here is what the LA Times had to say:
At the risk of seeming dull or unfashionable for not getting our own intellectual makeover, we still think judicial candidates nominated by a president deserve an up-or-down vote in the Senate. We hardly see eye to eye with the far right on social issues, and we oppose some of these judicial nominees, but we urge Republican leaders to press ahead with their threat to nuke the filibuster. The so-called nuclear option entails a finding by a straight majority that filibusters are inappropriate in judicial confirmation battles.

So the next time you hear somebody say that only conservative Christian right-wing zealots want to end the filibuster over judges you can tell them that isn't exactly the case any more. But of course one editorial in the L.A. Times won't convince many of my liberal friends that the filibuster on judges should be ended, so let's take a look at what some prominent Democrats had to say about judicial filibusters:

Senator Leahy, D-VT (Congressional Record, 6/18/98)
"I would object and fight any filibuster on a judge, whether it is somebody I opposed or supported..."


Senator Kennedy, D-MA (Congressional Record, 2/3/98)
"We owe it to Americans across the country to give these nominees a vote."


Senator Shumer, D-NY (Congressional Record, 3/7/00)
"The basic issue of holding up judgeships is the issue before us, not the qualifications of judges, which we can always debate. The problem is it takes so long for us to debate those qualifications. It is an example of Government not fulfilling its constitutional mandate because the President nominates, and we are charged with voting on the nominees."

All three of these Senators now support the filibuster of judicial nominees. Can you say hypocrite? Oh, by the way, the Democrats don't want you to know this, but there already are rules preventing the filibuster in certain situations:
1. You cannot filibuster a federal budget resolution;
2. You cannot filibuster a resolution authorizing the use of force;
3. You cannot filibuster international trade agreements; and
4. You cannot filibuster legislation under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.

Amazing that the SAEN sort of "forgets" to report this in their stories or editorials on the current fight over judicial nominations.
 

Defying Laws of Physics, Air America Sinks Lower

The latest radio ratings have been released by Arbitron and it does not look good for Air America. Many liberal complain loudly that there aren't enough liberals on talk radio, but as Air America shows, there is no market for liberal radio beyond government-funded NPR. From The Radio Equalizer:
It's been a full year for Air America's flagship station, WLIB, in New York City. Month after month, it has gone nowhere in the ratings.

This month is no exception, as the full Winter 2005 ratings book is released tonight for New York City.

WLIB's tiny 1.2 audience share, for all listeners 12 and older, is the same as for Fall 2004. The audience is actually smaller now than when the station first flipped to the liberal talk format from Caribbean programming.

And the station ranks a whopping 24th place overall.

On Long Island, a distinct radio market, Air America's WLIB dropped again, to take 31st place overall.

Don't believe any of the leftist spin, there's no way to dispute this factual information. If I seem irritated here, it's because the dishonesty from the Air America supporters has just become tiresome.

KTLK's general manager wrote to the LA Times, insisting more time was needed to see where his station was headed. But so far, still no growth for the station: it held a flat, miniscule 0.3 share of all listeners 12 and older in the Los Angeles market.

Drop any lower than that and a station becomes too small to show up in the ratings at all.

With no sign of growth, KTLK ranked, are you ready for this, 44th overall in Los Angeles.

That was tied for last place in the Southland. In the initial months, with all of the publicity, KTLK should have had a huge tune-in factor, as people check out the new station in town because they're curious about it.

Keep in mind, New York City and Los Angeles should be hotbeds for liberal talk radio, yet nothing is happening.

If interested, you can check out the ratings for San Antonio here.
 

He's A Terrorist.

I was wandering through the pages of ABC News online and came upon this interesting story about the near capture of al-Zarqawi:
Jordanian rebel Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — Iraq's most wanted fugitive — recently eluded capture by American troops, but left behind a treasure trove of information, a senior military official told ABC News.

On Feb. 20, the alleged terror mastermind was heading to a secret meeting in Ramadi, just west of Fallujah, where he used to base his operations, the official said.

What is it with the press in this country? ABC News calls him a "Jordanian rebel" and an "accused terror mastermind;" who are they kidding? He's a stone-cold killer, period. I wonder if the press realizes how foolish they look playing word games in their descriptions of murderers like Zarqawi? As long-time readers of this blog know, we have continually criticized the SAEN for refusing to call a terrorist a terrorist (see here, here, here and here).

Update: Bill Roggio has more news on the near-miss capture of al-Zarqawi, as well as analysis of where the information on his whereabouts came from over at The Fourth Rail. If you are interested in the war on terror you can't afford to miss this.

Monday, April 25, 2005

 

Filibuster Not A "Check & Balance"

From a front page story in today's SAEN headlines "Christians step into filibuster fray:"
The rally's critics...warned that its sponsors wanted to remove one of this nation's Democratic checks and balances---the filibuster---all in the name of imposing their religious ideals on America."

I just wanted to point out to the SAEN reporter, Maro Robbins, that the filibuster is not part the government's system of checks and balances. It is a Senate rule, and changing it in no way affects the constitution. One last, tiny point, "democratic" should not be capitalized.

Note: the quote above does not appear in the online version of this story.

Mark adds:

Another classic example of bias:
Roughly 500 participants crammed into a downtown Presbyterian church for what was called a "Freedom and Faith" rally. (It was arguably a stout turnout in a city already absorbed by festivities leading up to the Kentucky Derby in two weeks.)

OK, so if 500 people was a stout turnout, then I suppose the 2,000 who turned out at the actual event means they were FOUR TIMES as "stout"?
 

Christians Need Not Apply

Bob Rivard may have "apologized" yesterday for the SAEN's headline announcing the new Pope, but don't think that means a shift in attitudes at the paper. Check this out from today's column by Leonard Pitts:
Though no one seems to have hard numbers, published reports suggest a widespread pattern of "Christian" pharmacist refusing to fill prescriptions with which they disagree. And a chilling report last month in the Washington Post suggests that some have gone even further. It told of pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth-control pills to unmarried women, of those who will not sell contraceptive devices to anybody, period, and of those who not only won't fill morning-after prescriptions, but who hold the prescriptions hostage...[emphasis added]"

More and more these days Christians are the only group of people not allowed to follow their convictions. Those scare quotes around Christian are Mr. Pitts' by the way. Second, check out the language he uses in his column, words like "chilling" and "hostage." In fact, later on in the column he calls such acts "lunacy." And did you notice the Pitts does not mention the source of the "published report" that suggest the widespread pattern he talks about? No doubt it is from an advocacy group with an agenda because in the next sentence he gives the Washington Post as the source of another study he cites. Interesting. So folks, you can add pharmacist to the list of jobs the MSM doesn't want Christians to have, along with appellate court judge and president. Indeed, Mr. Pitts offers some advice to "Christian" pharmacists who are indecent enough to hold to their beliefs:
Get another job.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

 

Victor Landa is a terrorist organization

Well, not really, but if he can say that to unfairly make a point, so can I, right?
The National Education Association, a teacher's union referred to as a "terrorist organization" by former Education Secretary Rod Paige...
Oy. This is a half-truth almost as insidious as the slander about John Ashcroft supposedly covering up nude statues in the Justice Department during his tenure as Attorney General.

But before we quote the full context of Secretary Paige's comment, just consider the tendentiousness of Landa's claim, on its face. The Secretary of Education of the United States refers to the National teacher's union as a "terrorist organization". What, did he claim they blew up schoolbuses filled with Israeli children? Was he referring to teachers being involved in the 9/11 attacks? Perhaps they just issued press releases supporting jihad?

Well, not...exactly.
Education Secretary Rod Paige said the National Education Association, one of the nation's largest labor unions, was like "a terrorist organization" because of the way it was resisting many provisions of a school- improvement law pushed through Congress by President Bush.
Specifically, the teacher's union holds our children hostage to their political agenda. Now, granted, the words were poorly chosen, and Paige almost immediately made numerous abject apologies for the remark. I'm sure what he regretted most of all was the certainty that it would be used against him for eternity by partisan columnists such as Landa.

But still, what sort of person reads such a completely out of context assertion, nods their head in agreement, and moves on to the rest of Landa's NEA press release...er, I mean column. And what sort of columnist is so bitterly partisan as to willfully inject misunderstanding such as this into his writing?
 

Rigid editor apologizes

Kudos to Bob Rivard for apologizing for the offensive headline his newspaper printed upon the selection of Pope Benedict XVI.

There is a fine line between subjective judgment and bias on the one hand and objective, independent reporting about Pope Benedict XVI and the state of the Catholic Church on the other hand.

The uninspiring Wednesday headline, "Rigid theologian selected" crossed that line. Some within the church would use such wording to describe the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, but others would not.

The right place for such a description is within a well-balanced analysis, not across the top of Page One over the story reporting the election of the new pope. For those offended, we apologize.
But: the "uninspiring" headline? What's that supposed to mean? Is that a euphemism for "biased"?

Friday, April 22, 2005

 

The Story The SAEN Won't Report

More info out today on the investigation into fund raising irregularities involving Senator Clinton. I think it is fair to say that the SAEN is showing it's bias by not reporting a story this important. Senator Clinton is a major player in American politics, and the SAEN's refusal to report this story is downright absurd. Moreover, the case also involves the brother-in-law of Senator Kennedy, and still the SAEN ignores it. Read on:
A New Orleans political consultant who is Senator Kennedy's brother-in-law, Raymond Reggie, has been operating in Democratic circles for the last three years as an undercover informant for the FBI, sources close to the matter said yesterday.

At a federal court hearing yesterday morning, Reggie, 43, who organized fund-raisers for President and Mrs. Clinton, pleaded guilty to two felony charges, bank fraud and conspiracy. Prosecutors described check-kiting and loan fraud schemes he operated involving three Louisiana banks, but they did not publicly detail his cooperation with the government.

The New York Sun reported yesterday that an unnamed witness with ties to a prominent political figure has been involved in recent federal investigations of campaign fund-raising violations, including a probe into alleged financial misreporting in Mrs. Clinton's bid for the Senate in 2000. The informant, described in court papers only as a "confidential witness," was part of an FBI plan to secretly audiotape conversations with political operatives, including a well-known person who prosecutors said was seeking to funnel donations from foreigners to federal campaigns.

We know now that Reggie was involved in Senator Clinton's campaign:
The disclosure that Reggie was surreptitiously recording conversations for the FBI may have caused some heartburn yesterday for Democrats who have had contact with him since 2002.

Reggie was a regular presence at Mr. Clinton's side when he visited New Orleans during his presidency and thereafter. Just last September, Mr. Clinton had lunch in that city with Reggie, as the former president swung through town to sign his autobiography and attend a $10,000-a-head Democratic Party fund-raiser, the Times-Picayune newspaper reported. A former congresswoman and ambassador to the Vatican, Lindy Boggs, joined Reggie and Mr. Clinton at the lunch, as did two federal judges whom Mr. Clinton appointed.

When Mrs. Clinton traveled to New Orleans in May 2000 to raise $100,000 for her Senate campaign, Reggie was on the host committee.

I guarantee that if this case involved a person close to Tom Delay, who was also a relative of a Republican Senator, this story would be front page fodder for the SAEN. You can read more about it here.
 

Pic Of The Day: Iraq


Soldiers from 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 155th Brigade Combat Team, attached to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, conduct a raid on the insurgent's Hateen Weapons Complex in Babil, Iraq. Posted by Hello
 

What Exactly Is El-Kikhia Smoking?

Why do I do it, why do I even bother? El-Kikhia's columns have gone so far off the deep end, and are so predictable that I don't know why I even take the time to point it out anymore. The title of today's columns is "America spending won't sway Arabs." Fine, and terrorists flying planes into our buildings or blowing us up won't sway us. I have a hard time taking any analysis seriously that compares the president to a pharaoh and calls Republicans in Congress minions:
The American president is not a dictator, but his administration's policies are beginning to resemble those of a 12th-dynasty Pharaoh from ancient Egypt.

His minions in Congress are on a rampage, modifying in the name of security and family values America's modern social and political topography. Their goal is a permanent myopic vision of the world and life. No segment of American society is immune. Judges notorious for wanting to turn back the clock are being appointed to all levels of the judiciary to ensure the longevity of their agenda. It is rather odd that a party that prides itself on cherishing individual freedoms should be the one that takes so many of them away.

I especially love that last sentence about Republicans taking away freedoms, but you will notice El-Kikhia leaves it there, he doesn't cite examples. But if you think that is over the top, you will love this:
My major fear is of this administration's foreign policy, particularly toward the Middle East and Islam. It is embarking on a ideological war that will make the Crusades appear like child's play.

I see, so America is now the Crusader in El-Kikhia's mind. Come on, is this what passes as intelligent debate at the SAEN. I don't agree with much of what comes off the SAEN op/ed pages, but most of it is at least reasoned which is way more than I can say about today's offering from El-Kikhia. He says the same things week after week (America and/or Israel Bad, President Bush stupid). He runs a dog and pony show without the pony. El-Kikhia goes on to explain what the U.S. is planning to do:
The major emphasis is on infiltrating Islamic organizations and countering Islamic teaching perceived as incompatible with Western thought.

To make it more palatable to Muslims, the U.S. government is funding the rebuilding of mosques, gathering of ancient Korans and arranging for conferences to discuss the benefits of Western thought and a new version of Islam.

El-Kikhia claims that money won't sway Arabs, but is sure has worked for the Saudis hasn't it? Where does he think we got the idea about rebuilding Mosques from? The Saudis have spread Wahhabism around the world with nothing but money. I don't want to get to deep into El-Kikhia's ranting so I will leave you with one last thought and you can read his column if you want to. He takes a not-so-veiled stab at Christians, and what nincompoops we are:
It is not surprising that such initiatives should emanate from an individual who is convinced that God put him in office. However, the nincompoops who advise him on these outlandish policies need to make two things clear to him.

It is certainly hard not to take seriously any argument using the word nincompoop, and his references to Bush's religion in combination with his use of the word Crusade are pretty obvious aren't they. Why the SAEN editorial board wants to associate itself with this guy is beyond me.

You know, El-Kikhia teaches political science and so you would think he'd get it. We don't want the Middle East to become America on the Persian Gulf. We don't want to stick around for decades like we have in Europe. We want Arabs to be free and democratic, and I can guarantee we want to leave as soon as possible. El-Kikhia offers nothing constructive to the debate that I can't read on one of the myriad jihadist sites on the internet.

Update: If you want to read more about this please check out this post by Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch.
 

So What's The Problem

On page 5A there is a report about the latest "allegations" against John Bolton. Apparently the Democrats are still upset about Bolton calling North Korea a "hellish nightmare" and Kim Jong Il a "tyrannical dictator." I ask again, what's the problem? Life in North Korea is a hellish nightmare and Kim Jong Il is a tyrannical dictator. You know a guy like Bolton is qualified when the Democrats don't attack his work, but choose to go after his character. The SAEN has been a willing accomplice in this. The Dems complain he is quick to anger or he tells the truth when he shouldn't and that is the reason they won't confirm him.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

 

$occer Plan Now At $22 Million

WOAI is reporting that the council will now vote on a package worth $22 million to bring soccer to San Antonio; more than three times the $6.2 million originally proposed:
The proposal to bring Major League Soccer to San Antonio continues to balloon, with the price tag of the proposal San Antonio City Council is set to vote on today in excess of $22 million, 1200 WOAI news reported today.

That's three times higher than the $6.2 million dollar price tag which was placed on the deal just one week ago.

When the soccer deal was first proposed, the cost of the soccer fields was set to be $3.5 million. But city council today will vote on a proposal to spend $3.7 million on a practice facility, and $10.6 million on thirteen 'tournament quality' soccer fields, all constructed at Brooks City Base.

Driving all of this is Mayor Garza of course. Why is it the tax payers of this city always get screwed because of the hobbies of whoever is the current mayor?
 

Call a spade a spade, and a union a union

So, a lawsuit has been filed against the No Child Left Behind educational reform law. And who are the plaintiffs, according to the Express-News?
The Texas State Teachers Association...the Texas teachers group...TSTA
Teachers? Hold on...let's see what we get when we Google up "Texas State Teachers Association".
Texas State Teachers Association - Union representing teachers who are affiliated with the National Education Association.
Ah: a union. Well, that explains why this "group of teachers" wants more money and less accountability. What it doesn't explain is why the Express-News fails to properly identify their sources when they have a vested interest in the issue under discussion. You'll also note the article fails to include a single source defending the No Child Left Behind Act.

Dear SAEN: can we occasionally hear from both sides of a "news" story, instead of only from the people who support your ideological position? It would be a refreshing change, thank you.
 

Double The Trouble

You can follow all the action regarding the Castro twins posing as each other at public events over at the Jeffersonian.
 

Hillary Must Resign! Hillary Must Resign!

I am sure all my good liberal friends will agree with me when I say that, based on the following story in the New York Sun, Senator Clinton must resign:
A Democratic fund-raiser involved in Senator Clinton's 2000 campaign has offered a guilty plea to bank fraud charges and is likely to become a government witness at the upcoming federal trial of a top finance aide to Mrs. Clinton, David Rosen, court records obtained by The New York Sun show.

As part of an FBI investigation into alleged campaign finance reporting violations by Mrs. Clinton's campaign, the mystery witness secretly taped a conversation with Mr. Rosen in September 2002 and apparently tried to elicit statements from the former Clinton staffer about financial irregularities involving an August 2000 Hollywood fund-raising event.

This case involves some serious charges:
While the informant's work for the FBI on Mr. Rosen's case dates back to 2002, the agency continued to work closely with the witness through the end of 2004, court documents indicate. The November 2004 filing indicates the FBI was planning to use the informant in an investigation of "a prominent political figure who may be involved in illegally soliciting foreign nationals to contribute to national political campaigns." The target of the inquiry was suspected of "funneling illegal campaign contributions from foreign nationals to individuals running for federal office."

Don't be ashamed if you have not heard about this story because the SAEN is so busy hammering DeLay that they aren't reporting it. I guess by now some of my more liberal readers are thinking that this is absurd. Maybe it is, but it is no more absurd than calling on DeLay to resign because somebody he worked with has been indicted. What's good for DeLay is good for Hillary, right?

You can read more about it here.
 

Mocking Terri Schiavo

No matter what your position on the Schiavo situation, all decent people agree that her disability and death was a tragedy...except for Garry Trudeau.

In his Doonesbury strip today, Trudeau continues a juvenile "Tom DeLay Political Death Watch". In one of the panels, a news reporter states, "The only thing that might save him is if Congress passed a law affirming his continuing viability." In the final panel, responding to the question of whether Bush would sign the law, the reporter states, "Oh, yes. He supports the culture of persistent vegetative state."

Shame on Trudeau, and shame on the Express-News for publishing this insensitive, repulsive garbage.
 

A Gurwitz Puzzler

I enjoyed Jonathan Gurwitz's insights as usual yesterday, but I was troubled by the opening sentence of his column:
Iraq sits on the precipice of a sectarian conflict.

It seems to me that if you read the rest of his column he directly contradicts this idea because there is hope in Iraq:
Some Sunnis had already come to the realization that the train of Iraqi democracy is leaving the station without them. Earlier this month, a group of 64 Sunni clerics and scholars issued an edict urging followers to join the Iraqi security forces and help protect the country.

And although Sunni voters largely sat out the Jan. 30 elections and hold only 20 of 275 seats in the National Assembly, a group of Sunni leaders has banded with Vice President Ghazi al-Yawer to negotiate for Cabinet positions in the new government.

The perils for Iraqis, and for the 142,000 Americans helping secure their country, are still great, the outcome of the democratic experiment in Iraq unknown. But Iraqis are finally claiming for themselves a greater stake in that experiment.

A society Iraqis are willing to risk their lives to build and defend is an Iraqi society that has taken on a life of its own.

And it's not just that he contradicts his opening line, but I am just not sure the premise is even correct. As he says, many Sunnis are starting to participate in the democratic process, and the Shiites have held back from reprisals for violence against them by the Sunnis for over two years now, so what makes it so likely that now is the time for this to all unravel?
 

We Love Taxes!

Posting by me will be light today, but before I go I wanted to point out that the SAEN editorial board continues it's "We've never seen a tax we don't like" attitude in all three of today's editorials. First, they come out in favor of raising sales taxes to buy land. Great idea, but the city always ends up paying two to three times more than the value of the land. In today's second editorial the SAEN throws it's support behind a tax increase to buy park land. Again, great idea but not in the hands of City Hall. And to top it all off the editorial board is against freezing property taxes for senior citizens. Clearly this editorial board wants as much of your money in the coffers of City Hall as possible.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

 

Pic Of The Day: Iraq


Lt. Col. Mark Martinez from Task Force Victory's Surgeon Cell, administers deworming medicine to local Afghan animals during a Civilian and Veterinarian Medical Assistance (CMA/VMA) mission in the village of Babrak Tana, Afghanistan, on April 14, 2005. Just another example of what the SAEN won't show you.
 Posted by Hello
 

"Rigid theologian selected"

That's the headline in today's SAE-N. I suppose we should be thankful Bob Rivard and company refrained from the "Nazi Pope!" headlines spewed by the London press.

The irony is that, while the intent is to paint Ratzinger as some sort of intolerant, out of touch academic, faithful Catholics applaud his stance in support of church doctrine. For them, the headline is a compliment to the new Pope.

When you read this week the incessant griping about the church's "failure to embrace modernity" (coming, I suppose from all those frustrated women whose only goal in life is to become a Catholic priest), please consider this perspective:
The media have kept noting that many Catholics, especially in the West, have flouted the Church's teachings on abortion, birth control, and sexual morality. This is true; but it should be put in context. Even more Catholics have flouted Church teaching on, say, the universal obligation to love one another and the immorality of lying. The odds that the Church will change its teaching on love or lying are approximately as great as the odds it will bless abortion and non-marital sex - regardless of what the church of the television anchors may want.

[National Review, April 25, 2005, page 16]
Those who have failed to live up to the teachings of the Church need to conform themselves to God...not the other way around.
 

Poking Fun At Democrats

Let's lighten things up a bit. Dave over at Dead Can't Rant has an excellent joke up at his blog today. Mike, this one is for you!
 

Let's Talk About Gitmo

Two stories on page 15A of today's SAEN regarding the detention center at Gitmo. First, the SAEN happily reports on baseless claims of torture by some recently released prisoners. Second, a story reporting that the AP is suing the DoD for access to documents relating to military hearings for Gitmo detainees. What the SAEN does not tell you is that many detainees at Gitmo are still providing valuable intelligence on al Qaeda. From the Washington Times:
Detainees at Guantanamo Bay are providing the U.S. military with its best information on America's No. 1 enemy, Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terror group, says a new Pentagon report.

More than three years after many of the al Qaeda and Taliban fighters were captured in Afghanistan, the 550 prisoners continue to divulge new information on recently nabbed bin Laden operatives and on remotely detonated bombs killing U.S. troops in Iraq.

I have to say that knowing this I think the AP could perhaps find something better top do than tie up the DoD with another law suit. The SAEN story about released prisoners goes on to say that "Some freed detainees have charged they were mistreated and tortured..." Well, boo-freaking-hoo. Why do I appear so callous? Here is what happens sometimes when we release folks from Gitmo:
The report said that at least 10 former detainees the Pentagon knows by name have rejoined the war against coalition forces.

One of them, Abdullah Mahsud, had denied links to al Qaeda and said he was forced to join the Taliban army. Today, Mahsud is back in Afghanistan leading a gang of kidnappers.

Perhaps it is time for the SAEN to rethink it's stance on Gitmo. Today's story on page 15A has plenty of accusation against Americans, but not once does it mention the value of the information were are getting there or that some of those released from Gitmo have rejoined the fight. In fact, some of the info learned at Gitmo is helping in Iraq:
The bomb makers picked up in Afghanistan are experts in the same types of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that have killed hundreds of coalition troops, including Americans in Iraq.

"One detainee also detailed how pagers and cellular telephones are used to initiate detonations," said the Pentagon report. "Another detainee has been cooperative enough to draw schematic diagrams of the bombs he designed and built. In addition, he has provided his critiques of the design of IEDs being constructed by terrorists in Iraq."

And in another blow to the left's crazy notion that poverty breeds terrorism:
More than 50 detainees hold college degrees or obtained other higher education. Among the educated are doctors, pilots, engineers, translators, lawyers and computer experts.

A detainee who attended Texas A&M for 18 months "has threatened guards and admits enjoying terrorizing Americans." Others obtained degrees in aviation management and petroleum engineering.

Let's look at the the kind of person that the SAEN and other media appears to be championing:
"A detainee who has assaulted [Guantanamo] guards on numerous occasions and crafted a weapon in his cell stated that he can either go back home and kill as many Americans as he possibly can, or he can leave here in a box," the report said. "Either way, it's the same to him."

Finally, and perhaps most important, the continued detention of these terrorists at Gitmo is a vital strategy in the war on terror:
The capture of these terrorists and others likely deprived al Qaeda of new leaders[emphasis added]. "It is likely that many Guantanamo detainees would have risen to positions of prominence in the leadership ranks of al Qaeda and its associated groups," the Guantanamo report said.

 

More News The SAEN Forgot

In Afghanistan, American and Afghan forces killed eight Taliban terrorists:
U.S. and Afghan forces conducting a sweep in a mountainous area south of the capital exchanged fierce fire with suspected Taliban rebels, killing eight and capturing 16 in some of the heaviest fighting in months, officials said Tuesday.

You can read the rest here.
 

Terrorists Surrender In Mosul

I have not seen this in the SAEN so I guess I have scooped them again:
Four senior leaders of the ongoing insurgency in the northern city of Mosul are said to have surrendered.

Iraqi army officers, refusing to be named, said the four gave themselves up to the authorities after several days of negotiations.

One of the insurgent leaders, called Abu Kifah, had a bounty of millions of dollars on his head.

Two others were reported to have occupied senior positions in the former army and intelligence.

The authorities have revealed very little about the identity of the fourth.

Mosul is scene of almost daily attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops. Insurgents overrun the city lat year, but the troops regained control following fierce street fighting.

There are still mounting security problems in the city and its suburbs.

The insurgents are active in certain headquarters and outlying districts like Tel Affar.

The suspects, who were reported to have surrendered, led operations in Sillamiya, a restive district south of Mosul.

Meantime, the Mosul police contingent has freed 15 detainees who were found not to have been involved in “armed operations against the security forces and villains,” a police statement said.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

 

Using Terri: Why Is The SAEN Silent?

Back on March 30th the SAEN editorial board (and newsroom) made clear their disdain for those they felt were attempting to capitalize on the Terri Schiavo case for political gain, Republicans specifically in this case:
Decent people may disagree on important issues, but when public officials use a tragedy as a forum for their own political goals, it is reprehensible.

So where are they now that DNC Chairman Howard Dean had this to say, via the LA Times:
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Friday that his party would wield the Terri Schiavo case against Republicans in the 2006 and 2008 elections, but for now needed to stay focused battling President Bush on Social Security.

"We're going to use Terri Schiavo later on," Dean said of the brain-damaged Floridian who died last month after her feeding tube was removed amid a swarm of political controversy[emphasis added].

Where is the front page news story? Where is the angry editorial?

Perhaps the editorial board, and the newsroom, save their indignation for Republicans only? Can somebody please explain to me how this is economics and not liberal bias?
 

A model for San Antonio?

Let's hope not. For L.A. homeless: a gym, movies, and hair salon.

Now, I suppose Patti Radle, Susan Ives and company will jack up their estimate for our own Homeless Resort to match.

One nice thing is that the article includes a lot of negative comment from people who realize building such monstrosities is not about helping the homeless in the long term.
"Since the late 1980s, America has built a mammoth infrastructure of shelters and the number of homeless has gone up, not down. It's a bit of the if-you-build-it-they-will-come phenomenon at work," says Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. As Ms. Roman and other national officials see it, the lack of affordable housing is what needs to be addressed.
And note the population count for the homeless in Los Angeles:
The shelter is the city's latest effort to address one of its most visible and resistant social problems: the more than 6,000 people who live on the streets.
Is there anything more ridiculous than the estimate of 25,169 homeless in San Antonio? Any sane person knows there aren't even that many tourists downtown on a given night. But it allows the usual suspects to piously pontificate about how miserly the taxpayers of San Antonio are, in terms of funding per homeless person.
 

Tan, Rested & Ready

Well folks I am back. I want to thank my good friend Mike Thomas for guest blogging with Mark while I was away. Posting from me will be light today as I catch up on some things, but I do want to leave you with this: we all know that the SAEN is all over Tom DeLay. Mike has spent the last few days trying to convince you that there is no liberal bias at the SAEN. Well, I have proof positive that there is bias. The SAEN recently ran a story reporting a "split" in the Republican party because one congressman from Connecticut called on DeLay to resign; however, when a Democratic congressman defended DeLay the SAEN not only didn't report on a split in the Democratic party, it didn't report the event at all:
Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel said Thursday that GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay did nothing wrong by taking several trips abroad and having the costs picked up by lobbyists, and even praised the top Republican - after he was confronted with NewsMax's report detailing his own congressional junkets.

He went on to note that that he has no problems with the travel DeLay has taken:
The Bronx Democrat said that unless members of Congress are allowed to have their travel expenses picked up either by the taxpayers or private groups, only wealthy members who can afford to travel will be able to go on fact finding missions.

So where is the story about a split in the Democratic party? What about just a story reporting that a Democrat is supporting DeLay; surely that is news?

Monday, April 18, 2005

 

Swindlers and cheats

John MacCormack, one of my favorite reporters at the SAEN, had an informative article on Saturday detailing one of the smarmiest episodes among all the scandals currently swirling around Republican Leader Tom DeLay.

The story of how one of DeLay's top political fundraisers swindled the Tigua Indians out of $4.2 million will give readers a good idea of where the term sleazo-con came from. Jack Abramoff and his partner Mike Scanlon, a former spokesman for Tom DeLay, pitted one Indian tribe against another while taking money from both sides as they fought to keep their casino operations alive.
In a three-year period, Abramoff and Scanlon raked in more than $66 million from tribal casino interests. Now federal prosecutors are investigating "how tribal money funneled through Abramoff may have illegally benefited the political operations of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay..."

People wondering what all the fuss is about Tom DeLay's ethics troubles should read this story and realize this is just one of the many examples of the corruption that is rampant throughout DeLay's Washington power network.
 

Another good Gurwitz column

Jonathan Gurwitz has another good column in Sunday’s paper taking the City Council to task for the fiasco surrounding the decision by Sheryl Sculley to pass up a job offer to be city manager in San Antonio.
He hits all the key points in the City Council’s sad tale:

* Trying to rush this process through right before a mayoral election
* Narrowing the field to one before starting salary negotiations
* And further weakening their bargaining power by announcing a salary range in advance

As Cincinnatus notes at The Jeffersonian, Gurwitz makes an excellent point about getting what you pay for - whether its $265,000 for a talented city manager who could save the city millions through efficient management over the years, or $20 per week for a City Council that can’t seem to get its act together.
And unless I’m mistaken, it would seem that Gurwitz may even share my disdain for San Antonio’s idiotic term limits law. If you are going to throw council members out after just two two-year terms it hardly gives them time to acquire any institutional knowledge or to learn from their mistakes.
 

The Living Constitution

The SAEN ran an op-ed on Saturday that calls for the impeachment of all judges who refuse to denounce the vague notion of a “living Constitution.” The author of the piece was Allan E. Parker of San Antonio who is president of the Texas Justice Foundation.

For those already familiar with the debate over strict constructionist
vs. broad constructionist interpretations of the Constitution, the article is fairly simple to surmise and can be summarized as such:
Liberal judges are bad and should be impeached. Conservative judges are good and should not be impeded by those nasty Democrats.

But for those not familiar with this debate, Parker provides these helpful definitions:

There are two major competing methods of interpreting the U.S. Constitution today. The liberal view espouses a "living constitution" whose meaning must be changed with the times by the U.S. Supreme Court.

So if one side espouses a “living Constitution,” does that mean the other side favors a “dead Constitution?” Never mind that, here is what Parker says conservatives favor:

The traditional "rule of law" is that the purpose of a written constitution is to have a fixed meaning with limits on the power of government.

“A fixed meaning with limits on the power of government.” That sounds nice, but what would it mean in practice? Remember that when the Constitution was written its freedoms and protections applied only to white male landowners. It was a document that tolerated slavery and indentured servitude. Women had no rights to vote or participate in government. Many of the major regulatory conflicts of our age had not even been conceived at that time when there was no electricity, automobiles, airplanes, telephones, computers and so forth. Would we have had a Civil Rights era with a court full of strict constructionists?

It would indeed be a “dead Constitution” worth little more than the paper it was written on if we treated it like an ancient relic written for a time long past. Fortunately, the Founding Fathers gave us a Supreme Court with the power to interpret the Constitution and apply it to today’s laws in such a way that it remains relevant as the centuries pass. The folks who object to this, in my view, do so only when a court case doesn’t go their way.

Parker makes his agenda clear when he claims that “the "living constitution" has removed prayer from public schools, created abortion rights out of whole cloth, created homosexual rights and possibly homosexual marriage in the future.”

In other words, the courts limited the government’s ability to sanction and promote particular religious views through government-run schools, gave women the freedom to control their own reproductive systems and have overturned certain laws targeting a particularly oppressed minority group. So as our society and our courts continue to expand liberty and freedom for all people, we continue to have folks like Parker who long for a time when those rights and freedoms were limited to the privileged few.

Friday, April 15, 2005

 

The Bush boom continues...

While we are on the subject of Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security (see the comments in the previous post), check out what is happening in the markets today:

Wall Street suffered its worst single day in nearly two years Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average falling 191 points for its third straight triple-digit loss. Deepening concerns over economic growth and higher prices led to the worst week of trading since August.
An already uneasy market began the biggest one-day selloff since May 19, 2003, after the Federal Reserve reported drops in manufacturing and other industrial production, and a Labor Department report showed higher oil costs driving up import prices.


Weren’t Bush’s tax cuts for the rich supposed to “jumpstart” the economy about two years ago?
 

The myth of media objectivity, left or right

I was hoping Mike would bring this up.

Some will say that pure objectivity is not possible. That some hint of a person’s bias is going to come out no matter what they do. In fact, they would prefer to see newspapers abandon objectivity altogether and just pick one side or the other.

In fact, newspapers did not purport to be "objective" until well into the 20th century. Prior to that, they bore their partisanship proudly. It's about time that today's media admits that "objectivity" is an evidently impossible ideal. "Truth in Labelling" and all that. Fox News should revise its motto to "Fair Because Counterbalancing". The New York Times would admit "all the news that's fit to print, so long as it discredits the Bush administration."

 

El-Kikhia wrong again...yawn

Mansour El-Kikhia has gone so far over the edge I almost feel guilty for fisking him nowadays...sort of like picking on the mentally retarded. But today's column includes two particularly obnoxious lies which cannot go unremarked.

It seems an odd request for a government seeking peace. If peace is the objective, then why the need for walls and checkpoints?
Imagine, if you will, El-Kikhia's world: where there are no suicide bombers...where Israelis build security walls simply to oppress Palestinians.

Since coming to power, Bush has shaken the world, and the only thing that he succeeded in dislodging has been the United States.
Again, El-Kikhia's world: Bush did not dislodge the Taliban in Afghanistan...Bush did not dislodge Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Why do I even bother with this asshat? Why does the Express-News?

 

Credit where due

The Express-News has done an excellent job of featuring news from the current legislative session in a special section they call "The Lege". A couple of notes from there today:

Life Without Parole

It looks like we will finally have a "life without possibility of parole" sentence. As a Catholic, I am pleased that Texas now meets the doctrinal requirement to enable me to oppose capital punishment in most cases.

Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent."

I quote that doctrine at length because people are constantly accusing the Church of hypocrisy in unconditional opposition to abortion but not capital punishment...as you see, the church's position is firm, but allows for exceptions - for example, in my opinion, incarceration of Osama bin Laden would pose a continuing threat to society due to the undoubtedly bloody and persistent efforts which would be made by terrorists to effect his freedom.

As an added bonus, the bill reached compromise by removing the old "life with parole after 40 years" option, which conflicts with the above teaching by allowing the possibility of eventually releasing a dangerous murderer back into society.

State Senator without a Clue

A bill was approved to display race on Texas driver's licenses. Thankfully, the bill was amended to allow Texans the option of refusing to include this information. Nice of them to allow us to at least strive to get past racial obsession.

Unfortunately, the debate gave racebaiting senator Royce West another opportunity to put his ignorance/hypocrisy on display - twice!

West later added in an interview, "In a perfect world, we shouldn't have to look at race, but the reality is that we look at race, and it divides us every day."
Yes, it divides us every day, Senator...thanks to people like you.
But West said there is a "huge problem" in collecting statistics on stops because the information isn't displayed on the license.

He said that law officers often must make a visual determination of race and such perceptions aren't always accurate.

Wow. Step back for a moment and reflect on this. Disregard for now the fact that so-called "racial profiling" has been shown to be a statistical myth, supported only by anecdotal accounts.

Just look more closely at what West is saying: law officers cannot tell a person's race, so it needs to be placed on a driver's license...so the law officer will know for sure...the same law officer who has been accused of "racially profiling" the driver! According to West, a law officer, from 30 or 40 feet away, maybe through tinted auto glass at high speed, can determine a driver's race in order to "racially profile" him - but the same officer cannot tell the driver's race from two feet away as he is handed the driver's license!

Can you imagine the level of ideological blindness required for West to not see this obvious contradiction?

 

Why I like Jonathan Gurwitz

I may not agree with most things that he writes, but I still read Jonathan Gurwitz’ columns in the SAEN each week. That’s because he writes about things that are both timely and interesting. His columns are well written, reasonably thought out (although still wrong most of the time) and don’t resort to the kind of liberal-bashing, name-calling silliness that infects so much of the rest of what passes for conservative commentary today. You also have no doubt after reading a Gurwitz column as to where he comes down on a particular issue. He has very strong opinions and argues his points forcefully and intelligently. Many of the other columnists at the paper tend to write featurey, meandering columns about non-controversial topics that sound like they are trying to please everyone and no one.

It makes me wish that the SAEN had a liberal equivalent of Gurwitz who could write at his level and serve as a counterweight to his arguments each week. Sadly, they do not. The closest they had was Jane Jarboe Russell who left the editorial page several months ago. Oh, I know there are other liberal columnists like Mansour El-Kikhia and Susan Ives. I don’t mean to denigrate them in any way, but they are for the most part what I call one-noters. They are advocates for one particular position and they seldomly deviate from their area of expertise - Middle Eastern affairs for El-Kikhia; homeless advocacy for Ives. Whenever they do venture away from their areas of specialization on rare occasions you can tell their hearts are just not in it.

So the conservatives are fortunate to have someone like Gurwitz advocating their positions on a wide array of topics each week. I hope they appreciate it as much as I do. I’m jealous.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

 

Professional journalism

Yes, journalism is actually a profession. Most newspapers expect their reporters to have earned college degrees from institutions that teach them how to be objective. You learn quickly in this field that the biggest no-no is interjecting your own opinions into hard-news stories.
So what does it prove when you see a survey like the one that Mark has pointed out where 34 percent of media folks surveyed identified themselves as liberal versus only 7 percent who identified themselves as conservative?
Nothing, really. It is a far leap from knowing someone’s political persuasion to claiming that they would compromise their integrity and professionalism by writing slanted and biased news stories. Can you think of any other profession where a person’s ability to do competent work is called into question based on their political or social views? Would you demand to know who your plumber voted for before letting them into your house to fix a clogged drain?
Over the years I’ve known many reporters some of who were very liberal and some who were very conservative. But you could not tell who was who by reading their stories. They were all very capable of writing news stories without interjecting their personal beliefs and views into them.
Some will say that pure objectivity is not possible. That some hint of a person’s bias is going to come out no matter what they do. In fact, they would prefer to see newspapers abandon objectivity altogether and just pick one side or the other.
But I say that is splitting hairs. You don’t expect the plumber to restore all the pipes in your house like they were brand new. Why would you expect the newspaper to exactly mirror your definition of objectivity everyday?
Charges of bias are serious matters in journalism. It’s like charging a banker with embezzlement or accusing an architect of designing a building that is structurally unsound. Most reporters will bend over backward to avoid the charge of bias in a news story.
 

I don't mean to contradict our guest blogger, but...

Regular readers know I am by no means a prolific poster. So, with Commando offline it's starting to look like the New York Times around here with our esteemed guest blogger, Mike Thomas. If I don't get enough posts up to keep pace, just pretend Mike is pulling a filibuster like his Democrat buddies in the Senate...although his posts are much more interesting than Pat Leahy reading from the Washington, DC phone book.

I will take issue with Mike's "move along, no liberal media bias here" contention. Mike asks us to believe the media has no agenda whatsoever other than maximizing revenue. If that's the case, then all of the aspiring Woodwards and Bernsteins in the press rooms are surely fools. Perhaps, in the highest walnut-lined board rooms, it's the bottom line that counts - but that just means that as long as the newspaper makes money, they don't care what goes into print. And it's the grunts on the newsroom floor who really decide what gets in the paper.

Here is where we can get past the anecdotal evidence (even the anecdotal documentation we do here at Express-News Watch) to hard facts. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, only 7% of national news reporters identify themselves as conservative, versus 34% who call themselves liberals. We are to believe that this makes no difference in the reporting?

One way to try to brush aside such quantitative analysis is by insisting that the reporters hold basically the same views as those of their readership. That is debunked by the same survey, which also compares the responses of reporters to ideological questions and compares them to the general public.
The sample of 547 journalists and executives in a wide range of print and broadcast organizations, found that 88 percent of those surveyed at national media outlets think society should accept homosexuality; about half the general public agrees. And while about 60 percent of Americans say morality and a belief in God are inexorably linked, only 6 percent of national journalists and executives surveyed believe that.
The truth is, newsrooms (and note the above liberal figures include executives as well) are filled with liberal reporters who have vastly different political opinions than the public they serve. Yet we are to believe they maintain perfect objectivity in the stories they file.

At this point, I could cite a half dozen recent studies using various quantitative means to analyze bias in the media. But the mechanics of this sort of analysis (how many times an organization is described as "conservative" versus another organization "liberal", etc.) is problematic, and Mike and I would be here all day hashing out the semantics. Far more compelling is the simple fact that of these sorts of studies, all of them - all of them - document a left-leaning media. In fact, in one of the more recent, "The authors say they expected to find that the mainstream media leaned to the left, but they were 'astounded by the degree'." I challenge anyone to cite a survey which reports even an objective media, much less a conservatively-biased media.
 

Conservative comics

One area where I think there is some bias in our local paper is in its comics selection. We now have four comics in the paper with an overtly conservative political agenda - Mallard Fillmore, Prickly City, Nacho Guarache and B.C. - while there is only one comic with an overtly liberal political agenda - Doonesbury.

I happen to be a big fan of Nacho Guarache, despite its conservative leanings, and think it is an excellent and well-done strip. I like that it is a locally-based comic strip and the fact that it has not been picked up for syndication to other papers around the nation is a real shame.

Instead, the syndicates pick up dreck like Mallard Fillmore and Prickly City. Mallard is a crudely drawn gag strip that has no character development and serves only to take cheap political shots at liberal "strawmen." The strip’s modus operandi is not unlike that of your typical junior high school bully and the intellectual level of its arguments rarely even rise to that level.
Mallard typically features grotesque caricatures of famous liberals with their noses and/or chins extending off the page, oversized buck teeth sticking out in all directions and eyes-crossed to denote stupidity. When he is not taking cheap shots at Bill or Hillary Clinton, John Kerry or Barbara Streisand, he makes up liberal strawmen to serve as the butt-end of his attacks.

What is worse, however, is that the assertions made in the strip are often times blatantly false. But for some reason newspapers around the country continue to run the strips everyday without correction. For example, last year the strip did a series lampooning comedian and liberal activist Janeanne Garafolo because she had at one time promised to apologize to President Bush if weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. The strip showed Mallard the duck waiting impatiently in front of the White House for Garafolo to show up to make her apology - the implication being that the WMDs had already been found. Of course, no WMDs have been found and there has been no retraction from the cartoonist who simply changed the subject and went back to attacking the Clintons once again.

Compare this with the smartly-drawn Doonesbury strip which has had enormous character development over the years combined with engaging and intelligent storylines that don’t strive to score political points everyday. Doonesbury even provides a bevy of sympathetic conservative characters such as B.D. who has fought in every major conflict since Vietnam and recently lost a leg during an operation in Iraq. Even Michael Doonesbury, the strip’s namesake, is a Republican, although a moderate one.

Surely, conservatives can come up with something better than the embarrassingly bad Mallard Fillmore to pair up with Doonesbury.

Then there is Prickly City, a strip which features a little girl and a young coyote who constantly make right-wing observations and take pot-shots at Democrats and liberals. While somewhat better than Mallard Fillmore, it is still rather crudely drawn and likes to play fast and loose with the facts.

Finally, there is B.C., Johnny Hart’s long-running strip about prehistoric cavemen which in recent years has been turned into a forum for his far-right evangelical Christian views. He regularly uses the strip to slam liberals, Democrats, feminists, public education and much more. His political statements can be every bit as blunt and incendiary as anything in Mallard Fillmore.

I’m not suggesting that the SAEN get rid of any of these strips. Instead, I would like to see them add a couple more liberal strips for balance. Some obvious suggestions would be The Boondocks and La Cucaracha.
 

No victory dance here

My first example of “mainstream” journalism is the story on Page 1 of today’s SAEN about the bill in the state Legislature that would make it easier to rollback city and county tax rates Property-tax limits take another hit.
It is actually a well written story that presents both sides of the issue fairly. However, the SAEN could have easily played up the story as a victory for local city and county governments (i.e. a good thing), rather than as a defeat for Gov. Perry (i.e. a bad thing). After all, it is the opposition of city and county officials that is causing setbacks for this bill and others that seek to limit local governments’ ability to raise revenues. The bill is being pushed by Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, a hard-line conservative who is no friend of local governments. His legislation would lead to a flood of never-ending rollback elections and would hamstring local governments as they try to provide services for their growing populations.
But rather than a “Booyaa!” story celebrating the potential demise of this regressive legislation, our mainstream newspaper carefully weighs both sides of the issue and presents a straight-forward news story with a headline that implies that it may be a bad thing.
 

Middle of the Road

Hello. I’m Mike Thomas and I will be a guest blogger here for the next few days while Alamo City Commando is out on a top secret aquatic reconnaissance and requisition operation. I maintain the locally-based blog Rhetoric & Rhythm.
The Commando has graciously extended this invitation to me in spite of the fact that I am a liberal and tend to disagree with most if not all of his stated positions. For example, I don’t believe the San Antonio Express-News, or the media in general, is biased.
I am a journalist by trade - although I do not work for the Express-News - and can say based on my 15 years of experience in the business that if the media has any bias at all it is a bias in favor of making money. Newspapers are for-profit business operations, after all, and it doesn’t make economic sense for them to consistently take positions that isolate them from large segments of their communities. The pejorative term MSM (mainstream media) that the right has lately embraced is more accurate than they realize because the media strives to be in the mainstream or the middle of the road where it can attract more readers and thus generate more advertising revenue.
I will be pointing out examples this week of this tendency of newspapers to avoid the ideological extremes and to stay safely mired in the deepest part of the stream. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

 

Iraqis On Iraq

The BBC reports on what ordinary Iraqis are saying about their country. Here is what a 32 year-old man from Basra had to say:
Let me describe our situation before the fall of the previous regime. We were like a sick, weak prisoner under the thumb of a cruel jailer.


Then, suddenly and without warning, the gates of our prison were flung open. We were told: "Come on, you are free!"
The previous regime used to tell us what to read, what to watch and what to listen to.

There were no newspapers except the regime's and the Baghdad and Shabab youth radio stations. Even then, Shahab was owned by Uday, Saddam's eldest son.

If you tuned into these two stations, you would hear all about the president's audiences and activities.

On television we had, once again, the Iraq and Shabab stations. And again, the latter used to air the president's sayings and had a very entertaining programme called "Poems about the love of the leader"!

The previous regime used to tell us what to say and what work we could do. It would decide how much we earned. Indeed, we did not even get salaries but "gifts" from the president.

Please note that the "gift" my sister - a doctor and a specialist - used to get would amount to only $8 per month.

Then the moment of salvation came. Perhaps I shouldn't use the phrase "moment of salvation", for to do so implies we were expecting such a moment when in truth we were feeling hopeless.

Call it what you will, it happened and it was a magnificent thing.

Iraqis are feeling better. They are breathing the air of freedom. They read, watch and say what they want.

They travel, work and receive a living wage. They use mobile phones, satellite dishes and the internet, which they did not even know before.

The negative side, which is transient, is that some here are trying to force others to accept their way and even using force to achieve that.

As for terrorism, we are now beginning to unite against it and to defeat it.

I say to you: Wait two or three years and you will be pleasantly surprised.

There is no mistaking the optimism in his voice! You can read more, pro and con, here.
 

Democracy & Women

Jonathan Gurwitz's column in today's SAEN discusses the importance of women's rights in the spread of democracy:
The American goal of fostering democratic change abroad is largely contingent on expanding the rights and roles of women.

That was an underlying message I gleaned earlier this month when a group of editorial writers attended two days of briefings with top-ranking State Department officials spanning a variety of geographic areas and disciplines.

Where women have full legal rights, where societies afford them the same educational, economic and political opportunities as men, freedom is ascendant. Where violence, human rights abuse and every form of deprivation reign, women are generally excluded from full participation in civic life.

In Afghanistan, women have been granted the right to drive for the first time:
A new plan in Herat to teach women to drive and give them licenses is at once a symbol of the official rights women continue to win in Afghanistan and a reminder of the difficulties they still confront in exercising those freedoms.

Inaugurated a few weeks ago, the driving program is part of a flowering of liberties here that followed the central government's dismissal in September of the provincial governor, Ismail Khan, a religiously conservative strongman who proved almost as repressive toward women as the Taliban militia he replaced.

It is important to remember stories like this when there are still people in this country stupidly implying that our interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq were motivated by oil or empire. In the face of all the good America has done for women in those countries, we still get statements like this from Kim Gandy, head of NOW, regarding President Bush:
In only three-and-a-half years, George W. Bush and the right-wing leadership in Congress have undermined and eroded more than four decades of advancements for women....We are declaring a State of Emergency for women's rights and calling upon all of our allies and supporters to get involved in the election process to put an end to the relentless attacks on women.

I suppose Ms. Gandy only supports rights for women when a Democrat does it. How sad.
 

Media Bias: More Of The Same

I have pointed out before that the SAEN's attacks against Tom DeLay are partisan because the paper always refuses to report on similar actions by Democrats. Now comes this story about Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt):
Rep. Bernard Sanders used campaign donations to pay his wife and stepdaughter more than $150,000 for campaign-related work since 2000, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Jane O'Meara Sanders, his wife, received $91,020 between 2002 and 2004 for "consultation" and for negotiating the purchase of television and radio time-slots for Sanders' advertisements, according to records and interviews.

See here and here for past commentary on this. I hold out no hope that this story will make it into the pages of our local "newspaper."

Update:

Let me set the record straight. I keep hearing from the left this excuse "sure, others do it, but DeLay is the worst." It's a silly argument, but let me address it anyway. The $500,000 figure being bandied about by the left was for payments over a 5 year period, and constitutes payments for the work of two individuals. So we are looking at $50,000 a year per individual. I think this demonstrates that DeLay is no better or worse than others in Congress.

Finally, it has just been reported that Barbara Boxer paid her son $150,000 in 2002; just one year. That far outweighs the $50,000 that DeLay paid to his family per year, but somehow I doubt we are going to hear in cries about what Pelosi has done; mea culpa anyone?
 

News Or Opinion: You Decide

Read the story on page 5A of today's SAEN, headlined "Bolton appears likely to get OK" and you would be excused if you thought you were really reading something in the op/ed pages. From the opening paragraph:
...that he[Bolton] was a "serial abuser" of analyst who disagreed with his hard-line views.

Notice that the report leaves quotes off of "hard-line" as if it is a foregone conclusion. Clearly Bolton is "hard-line" to the reporter who wrote the story, but does that kind of editorializing belong in a so-called news story?
 

Friedman v. El-Kikhia

On Friday, El-Kikhia was upset at the supposed move to "muzzle" professors in the UT system:
A move to muzzle academics is well under way. Tenure, the only barrier preventing recrimination against faculty who teach and express their views on controversial issues, is also under attack.

And of course he was particularly upset at attempts to silence professors of Middle Eastern studies such as himself. He claims that the "system" punishes those who speak out against Israel, or pro-Israeli policies:
Nowhere is this more evident than in Middle Eastern studies, where supporters of censorship have succeeded in pushing through the House of Representatives HR 3077, the International Studies in Higher Education Act. And although the act covers a host of international relations programs, it particularly scrutinizes Middle Eastern programs in the country.

Middle Eastern scholars are finding it very difficult to teach, write or lecture on U.S. foreign policy or Israeli politics. They are accused by those on the extreme right of "anti-Americanism" for criticizing U.S. foreign policy and by the supporters of Israel with "anti-Semitism" for criticizing Israel.

So how do we square the hysteria displayed by El-Kikhia with this statement by Thomas Friedman in today's SAEN:
Until the recent elections in Iraq and among the Palestinians, the modern Arab world was largely immune to the winds of democracy that have blown everywhere else in the world. Why? That's a pretty important question. For years, though, it was avoided in both the East and the West.

In the West it was avoided because a toxic political correctness infected the academic field of Middle Eastern studies - to such a degree that anyone focusing on the absence of freedom in the Arab world ran the risk of being labeled an "Orientalist" or an "essentialist[emphasis added]."

Speaking from personal experience only, and having sat through nine credit hours with El-Kikhia, I can say that Friedman is more on the mark here.
 

Guest Blogger Coming Soon!

I am happy to announce that SAEN Watch will have a guest blogger for a few days. My good friend Mike Thomas of Rhetoric & Rhythm is going to be guest blogging with us for a few days starting tomorrow. Mike looks at things more from a liberal viewpoint so it should be fun. Welcome aboard Mike!
 

Just Thinking Out Loud...

Have you noticed that now that even the SAEN cannot deny that things are going better in Iraq that news from that country has migrated from the front page (bad news) to the middle of the paper (good news)? How interesting, and how sad.

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