SocraticGadfly: 9/4/05 - 9/11/05

September 08, 2005

Millions of pollutants for cement plants, not one cent of relief for New Orleans poor

South exurban Dallas Rep. “Smokey Joe” Barton was one of 11 GOPers to vote “no” on the Katrina relief package.

Just when I thought Smokey Joe had turned over a new leaf by admitting, in an interview with the editor of another of the newspapers in my company’s newspaper group, that Peak Oil might be real,
“We’ve always assumed it’s somewhere else in the world, and all we have to do is say we want it and it will come,” he said. “That worked until around a year ago. But what if there is no more oil? What if there are no more oil fields to be found?”

he has to go and revert to type.

Other naysayers include Jeff Flake of Arizona, Tom Tancredo of Colorado (probably afraid that illegal immigrants would get something, big Bush apologist James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin and Scott Garrett of New Jersey (isn’t your district right across from NYC and the 9/11 disaster?)

NOW he tells us

Colin Powell fesses up, calls U.N. speech on Iraqi WMDs a “blot ... on his record.”

Bush’s international water-carrier flunky admits he was wrong, and how appropriately, he does it to Barbara Walters.
“I’m the one who presented it to the world, and (it) will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It is painful now,” Powell said in an interview with Barbara Walters on ABC-News.

However, showing he did learn the Bush buck-passing game well, he immediately shifts blame to then-CIA Director George Tenet.

A couple of questions, Colin:
1. Did you know this was a “blot” before or after the 2004 election?
2. As a sworn officer of the U.S. Army before you ever became a political appointee, do you consider your loyalty to first be to the President (and other higher-ups) or to America as constituted in the American people? (Answer honestly, and remember that people like me know your connection to My Lai.)

I saw the Burgess Shale

For those of you interested in matters scientific, above all the study of evolution, the Burgess Shale is the Holy Grail of paleontology. This rock strata in the Canadian Rockies bears a profusion of early Cambrian-era fossils, shedding much light and demanding much interpretation of the so-called “Cambrian explosion” of multicellular life.

Acclaimed paleontologist and science popularizer Stephen Jay Gould came up with his theory of “punctuated equilibrium” after wrestling with the artifacts of the Burgess Shale.

Anyway, after I decided to go to Banff National Park in Alberta as part of my vacation last month, I realized the actual Burgess Shale is in neighboring Yoho National Park in British Columbia. So I included it as part of my trip.

In the picture at right, the Burgess Shale is in the mountain behind beautiful Emerald Lake.

Now, you can’t actually visit it without a tour guide, similar to not being able to visit places like Mesa Verde National Park and Navajo National Monument in the United States solo, and for similar reason. Just as some of the American and other visitor to those sites in the Southwest will steal Anazasi pots and other artifacts if left alone, like-minded people would hack fossils out the shale at Burgess if not monitored.

No matter. I saw an important part of the refutation of Intelligent Design, if from a distance, in an absolutely beautiful setting on a wonderful day.

DSO season starts and my comments, including good riddance to Litton

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra began its 2005-06 season tonight. After a decade, it is Music Director Andrew Litton’s last with the orchestra. Due to his penchant for butchery such as the way he conducted the Shostakovich Fifth, I say good riddance.

Here is what I e-mailed Dallas Morning News classical critic Scott Cantrell:

I'm talking about the Shostakovich.

Tempos and interpretation all off, above all in the second half of the finale.

The first movement itself was too deliberatively slow, sounding too Mahlerian to me. The second movement at first I was prepared to categorize the same way, but then said, no, it's too deliberately slow in a way that sounds like some neoclassical music. I found myself thinking of a large-orchestra Pulcinella.

The third movement not bad.

The finale? First, the opening bars were way too slow, not just deliberative. After that, the first third of the finale, the initial development of the main theme, was just about right, but given the deliberate tempo of the first two movements and the too-slow intro to the finale, sounded rushed.

Of course, this was nothing compared to the horridly slow tempo for the reintroduction of the main theme.

Yes, a bit slower tempo is called for. But nothing like that.

I found myself thinking that Stalin had in fact killed Shostakovich and somebody had finished out the movement as a dedicatory funeral march.

And, as you have noted in the past, bombast from the brass by itself does not cut a triumphal attitude.


On the plus side, Yefin Bronfman was very good in the opener (Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto). (I'm not a huge Tchaikovsky fan, not much more of him in apex late Romanticism than I am of Mozart in apex late Classicism. But Bronfman was very good. Clean pedaling, as well as good playing. And Andrew managed not to over-romanticize the orchestra.)


Update, an hour later:
Scott e-mailed me back, and said he actually liked the Shostakovich. I should say that I found much in the playing, the music-making, to like, as did he. But we'll have to agree to disagree on Litton's interpretation, I guess.

Indictment couldn't happen to a nicer guy

Or, at least, to his political front group

The Hammer himself yet officially in legal trouble, but his political action committee now is.

Here’s the money grafs:
AdvertisementThe charge against Texans for a Republican Majority alleged the committee illegally accepted a political contribution of $100,000 from the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care.

Four indictments against the Texas Association of Business include charges of unlawful political advertising, unlawful contributions to a political committee and unlawful expenditures such as those to a graphics company and political candidates.

Let’s see the sputtering indignation on TV news this evening and weekend.

The Dallas Morning News shifts emphasis on the story to name the Texas Association of Business as the primary culprit.

In a technical sense, that might be journalistically understandable, as it was indicted on four counts, compared to TRMPAC’s one.

But, we all know who initiated this idea. He gets named in a one-sentence graf, one graf after the TRMPAC initial mention. And this is a News-generated story, not the AP, so it had time to at least try to get a quote from the Hammer. Maybe later, maybe not.

Update from Josh Marshall:
I'M TOLD TOMORROW'S Congress Daily says Tom DeLay has now acknowledged he met voluntarily last month with Travis County DA Ronnie Earle about the TRMPAC case.

A new global warming woe

The warmer soil gets, the more carbon it releases into the atmosphere. as one of just three preferred recipients of Katrina relief contributions.
A study in the journal Nature looked at the carbon content of soil in England and Wales from 1978-2003 and found that it fell steadily, with some 13 million tonnes of carbon released from British soil each year.

And, unlike George Wingnut Bush, British environmental scientists know just how serious this is:
“Our findings suggest the soil part of the equation is scarier than we had thought,” Professor Guy Kirk, of Cranfield University, told journalists at a science conference in Dublin. “The consequence is that there is more urgency about doing something.”

Well, maybe you have more urgency, professor, but somehow I doubt the folks on Pennsylvania Avenue do.

“God bless Hurricane Katrina victims”

I hate to sound like a hardcore secularist, but, nonetheless, seeing this message blaring night after night on the signboard at a Lancaster (suburban Dallas) Whataburger is just too much.

If a god — not necessarily even omnipotent, just more powerful on a regular basis than the atmospheric dynamics of planet Earth — really were that blessing, would Hurricane Katrina ever even have hit New Orleans? Or, for that matter, would it ever even have formed?

(Note to you evangelical ministers, seminarians, etc.: I have a graduate divinity degree. I know what the word theodicy means.)

September 07, 2005

Whatever you do, charitable Texans, don't give to OneStar

You just can’t get much more slimy than Gov. Rick Perry promoting his own charity as one of just three preferred recipients of Katrina relief contributions.
"One thing about politicians, you can never overestimate their shamelessness," said Fred Lewis, director of Campaigns for People, a group that favors greater disclosure of political donations and limits on the influence of large donors.

And, lest you have any doubt this has ultimate political ramifications:
Mr. Perry created OneStar as a nonprofit charitable organization in January 2004 to coordinate faith-based initiatives and promote volunteerism. Its chief executive is Susan Weddington, who left the state Republican Party chairmanship to run the organization.

Can’t we get that pistol-packing grandma, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, to audit OneStar’s books or something?

Morning News fesses up, weakly, on government-sponsored op-ed fiasco

As I noted yesterday, The Dallas Morning News (don’t forget to properly capitalize that first “T”) got burned or else rolled over and played along with running two Department of Education-sponsored op-ed columns in 2004, plus one more in Al Dia.

I don’t know how many people besides me e-mailed the News, but the paper did run a brief editorial apology today.

Here’s the money grafs:
The Department of Education's inspector general released a report late last week saying that the department paid education advocacy groups to produce newspaper opinion pieces, advertisements and other public materials without revealing that the government paid for their production and distribution.
Unfortunately, we published on our op-ed pages two pieces by a writer affiliated with one of those groups. We had no idea that Marcela Garcini had “government financial sponsorship” through her position as director of parent outreach for the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options.

My thoughts:

1. Assuming this is a true account, the News gives no indication it has tightened editorial page oversight to prevent this in the future. Until they offer some assurance on this account, we don’t know this won’t happen in the future.

2. The News does not say that, in a similar situation in the future, it will not run such a column. It merely indicates it will (I assume) have some sort of disclosure blurb graf at the bottom, as it does with reps of lobbying groups, etc. Problem is, though, there’s a big difference. My tax dollars don’t pay the salary of the CEO of the American Petroleum Institute. They do, though, help pay for some government grant. They shouldn’t pay for that grant to be used to advance a political point of view with which I disagree.

In fact, the Department of Education IG report suggests the News bit hook, line and sinker:
Marcela Garcini, the Director of Parent Outreach for CREO [Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options – ed.], wrote the op-eds published in August and October 2004. CREO’s September 2004 progress report to the Department states that Garcini “had the opportunity to become a regular guest writer for the Dallas Morning News.

One also wonders if the News will apologize to the Dallas Independent School District, based on Garcini's second column:
:In the October 2004 op-ed, Garcini accuses the Dallas Independent School District of engaging in a “conscious effort to prevent eligible students from exercising their right to transfer to a better school,” and “blaming parents for their children’s underachievement.” She also states “I am tired of hearing excuses about the lack of funding for schools, particularly under No Child Left Behind… Don’t get caught up in the hype about funding, laws and politics. This is about our children.”

And, how about an apology to metropolitan Dallas public schools in general, based on this:
Garcini also wrote the op-ed published in the Al Día in January 2004 and En USA in April 2004. The op-ed encourages parents to be educated on school choice and supplemental service options under NCLB and to take charge of their children’s future. The op-ed also asserted that local officials were unresponsive to her concerns.

We won’t hold our breaths, though, wondering if Editorial Page Editor Keven Ann Willey, let alone somebody above her head, will actually write a real apology.

September 06, 2005

Even after Armstrong Williams affair, Morning News on federal op-ed payola

The Dallas Morning News has reportedly been taking Department of Education payola money for some of its op-eds.

Here's the detailed word from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee:
The Department of Education has paid education advocacy groups to produce newspaper opinion pieces, advertisements, and other public materials that reached audiences all over the country without revealing that the government paid for their production and distribution, according to a report issued late last week by the Department’s Inspector General that concluded that such practices were improper.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, requested the report in January. Miller said the report raises two key concerns: first, that it describes the consistent use of covert propaganda by the Department of Education over a period of years; and second, that it shows a disturbing pattern of neglect on the part of the Department when it comes to properly overseeing its grants and contracts.
For example, opinion articles appearing in an untold number of newspapers all over the country were written and placed by authors paid by the federal government who failed to disclose this relationship in their columns. These writers offered opinions – sometimes strident ones – about controversial areas of federal education policy.

The IG report names the Dallas Morning News, Sacramento Bee, Mobile Register, Grand Island (NE) Independent, Al Dia, (the News' Spanish-language publication) and En USA as publications that published government-funded op-eds whose authors failed to disclose the government’s financial sponsorship. Separately, Miller’s office also determined that additional opinion articles ran in the New York Sun and the Charleston Gazette. …

The Inspector General did conclude that it was improper for organizations to use Department of Education grant money to produce and disseminate public materials without including a disclaimer about funding, and said that the appropriate course of action is to recover grant monies paid to the organizations.

I have e-mailed Keven Ann Willey, the News' editorial page editor, and senior news management at the News, to find out what if any comment they will have. I'll post that when I get it.

September 04, 2005

Doesn’t accepting U.N. help have to be hard for Bush to swallow?

And hypocritical as well?

While United Nations Ambassador John Bolton scurries beneath the stage doors trying to gut the General Assembly, BushCo, after swallowing hard, I’m sure, has accepted a U.N. aid offer for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

On an international political sidebar, maybe that little fact will get shoved in Bolton’s face later this month at the U.N. Millennium Goals conference.

Times-Picayune tells Bush: Heads must roll

As Editor & Publisher reports:
In an “open letter” to the president, published on page 15 of the 16-page edition, the paper said it still had grounds for “skepticism” that he would follow through on saving the city and its residents. It pointed out that while the government could not get supplies to the city numerous TV reporters, singer Harry Connick and Times-Picayune staffers managed to find a way in.

It also cited “bald-faced” lies by Michael Brown. “Those who should have been deploying troops were singing a sad song about how our city was impossible to reach,” the staffers pointed out. “We’re angry, Mr. President, and we’ll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry.”

My questions:
1. Will the Big Media gaggle ask Scotty McClellan about this in the Sept. 6 press briefing?
2. Will any of the Big Media call BushCo officials on the carpet on next Sunday’s talk show gaggle?
3. Will Big Media, or an outraged public, push Bush for an official apology?
4. And will a BushCo operative, for the first time in this administration — namely, Michael Brrown — get fired for incompetence?

Direct link to the article is here.