The San Angelo Sub-Standard Crimes

Ridiculing the nonsense of the San Angelo Standard Times Editorial Board since 2007

Friday, April 4, 2008

Ultra-short post

Today's article (Controversies Cloud Jackson's Tenure) is about the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Needless to say, it's one of the most irrelevant and boring pieces I've ever read. However, there was one are of note in the article - the first sentence. Here's how the SASTEB leads into the op-ed.

Almost as when Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans, another key Bush appointee has come up short in the midst of a crisis.

I have no idea what that means. I don't think anybody knows what that means. I'm not even sure the writer of this article has any idea what this means. When you're starting an op-ed with the phrase "Almost as when," you know you're in trouble.

I think the editor for the SAST is out with the flu. That's the only explanation for this rash of atrocious mistakes. Anyways, on behalf of all 20 of us who religiously read the "In Our Opinion" column in the SAST: Get well soon, buddy. We need you. The English language needs you.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Warning: The English language was harmed during the writing of this op-ed

Grammar: some like it; others don’t. Others, like the SASTEB, just plain ignore it. There are twelve sentences in the April 2 column, “Cast wary eye on regulatory reform.” Let’s see how many are actually full and complete sentences.

Treasury secretary Henry Paulson was right about one thing when he introduced his sweeping 218-page overhaul of our financial regulatory system: The midst of a financial crisis is no time to do it.

I like the mildly indefinite reference at the end of the first sentence. It readies the palate for the pure trash we’re going to be served later.

Paulson and the White House seem resigned to the prospect that if broad reforms are to be enacted, it will be the next president and the next Congress who will do so. A long skeptical look at the overhaul is in order if only because it not only greatly expands the authority of the Federal Reserve but also over time might fundamentally change the character of the central bank. And, we might keep in mind, the Fed by design is not the most transparent of institutions. That serves it well as steward of the nation's currency, not so well as overseer of the financial markets.

Impressive, a nice run with only a bit of tortured syntax in the third sentence and awkward phrasing in the second.

However, the fourth sentence gets nasty. First, there’s an indefinite reference starting the sentence. That’s nitpicky, though, compared to the real travesty: THE FOURTH SENTENCE CONTAINS A SENTENCE FRAGMENT!!! DOES NOBODY EDIT THESE THINGS???? WHO OK’D THIS?????

There needs to be some kind of conjunction between the comma and the word “not.” Any fourth-grader can tell you that.

On another note, I’ve really got to wonder exactly why transparency is a positive trait in a steward of currency, but a negative trait in an overseer of financial markets. Sadly, the SASTEB offers no actual reasoning for this rather interesting claim. If only they would write an article about that issue. But then again, that would require actual analysis, when the board is really too busy mangling the English language.

Certainly it might be worth seeing how the Bear Stearns mess plays out. Whether the $30 billion infusion of taxpayer money was a well-crafted, one-time bailout - Chrysler and Mexico come to mind - that prevented further damage to the system, or whether we've set a bad precedent for rescuing investment banks from their own recklessness.

Chester P. Worthington, Spokesman, Society for the Preservation of the English Language: That last sentence just made me vomit.

This is a ridiculous sentence fragment - it has two dependent clauses held together only by awkward phrasing. This is a complete embarrassment to any paper. Two sentence fragments. In one op-ed. UN-believable. RI-diculous. A-rugula.

Also, when you think “bailout,” does Mexico really come to mind?

Streamlining the regulatory structure sounds like a good idea and so does extending federal oversight over previously unwatched institutions such as hedge and private equity funds, but this broader purview doesn't seem to be backed up by additional regulatory muscle.

This sentence is needlessly long and awkward. It could easily be put into two digestible sentences, but that would violate the basic rule of modern journalism: one sentence = one paragraph.

The Bush administration is unashamedly regulation-averse and it's a fair question to ask whether an aggressive use of existing regulatory powers might have ameliorated the current credit meltdown. Paulson says no. "I do not believe it is fair to blame our regulatory structure for the current market turmoil," he said.

Really? Really? Did you just write, “and it’s a fair question to ask whether?” Really? Because “fair question to ask whether” is blatantly redundant. Painfully so. To the point of being comical.

Sweet Jesus, you people can’t write. Who were your professors? Who are your editors? They ought to be tried at the Hague.

Market cycles happen, but it's hard to believe no one in a position to act saw this coming. Reform advocates would argue that the two are unrelated, but politically, Congress isn't going to do anything for the big guys until it can credibly claim it has done something for the little guy - namely, government help with foreclosures.

I like the completely worthless insertion of the word “politically.” It’s like adding the word “Congressionally” in that spot. It adds absolutely nothing and makes an already wordy sentence even more awkward.

The issue for the lawmakers will be the same: Striking a balance between good public policy - keeping people in their homes, healthy financial markets - and underwriting imprudent speculation, which could set ourselves up for another debacle.

This sentence makes no sense. The SASTEB writes that there are two options: good policy and funding imprudent speculation. Thus, there is a bad and a good option. Then, the board contends that lawmakers need to strike a balance between the good and bad options. Why then, don’t the lawmakers just take the good option??? THE SENTENCE DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE!!!!

In the end, 2 out of the 12 sentences contained fragments. 1/6. That's 1 minus 5/6. 17%. In a professional article. This performance would warrant an F in a high school english course.

The English language has survived far more insidious and prominent attacks than these minor scuffles with the SASTEB. Thank God the Standard-Times’ circulation numbers are atrocious, or else this kind of trash would be able to get out to the general public. What really scares me, though, is that these newspapers are given to students in San Angelo public schools, and many teachers presume the writing, since it is professional, is of reasonable quality. This is patently false.

The SASTEB writers are professional journalists the same way William Hung is a professional singer.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Yeah, I've been thinking too much about sports lately

Game time!!! What percentage of SASTEB articles are unexamined quotes or summary and what percentage is actual analysis? The April 1 article is 330 words long. Let’s see how many words are in each category!

Republican nominee-apparent John McCain is at increasing pains to show that his presidency would not be a third term of George W. Bush's presidency.

Excellent: A quick, simple, and reasonable thesis. I’ll count this as analysis.

Analysis: 25
Summary and Quotes: 0

In a recent major speech on foreign policy, he emphasized that his administration would substantially differ in tone and outlook. He would not be the go-it-alone cowboy as Bush has been caricatured by foreign leaders.

Ok, sure. A nice and concise summary of McCain’s words in a previous speech - an easy way to show his point in only 37 words.

Analysis: 25
Summary and Quotes: 37

"Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the power and wisdom to succeed. We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies," he said.

Ugh. Lots and lots and lots of unnecessary words. This is just the same stuff you said he said! 

This is the new way to write persuasively: tell them what you say they said, tell them what they said, and tell them what you said they said.

Analysis: 25
Summary and Quotes: 83

With the glaring exceptions of the war on terror and the invasion of Iraq, Bush was never quite the unilateralist he seemed. He was quite willing to work with other nations, the European Union and the United Nations on such problems as North Korea, Iran and the Mideast. His flip attitude put off many foreign leaders and many of his own constituents.

Nice job. This is all rather debatable and definitely not well backed up, but it is certainly analysis.

I like how Iran and “the Mideast” are separate entities. I also want to see somebody express a “flip attitude.” I’m guessing the president’s emphasis on gymnastics hurt his image at home and abroad.

Analysis: 87
Summary and Quotes: 83

OHH!!!! And analysis pulls ahead! Clearly, this late in the game, the SASTEB will be focusing on analysis to build their argument, so it looks like analysis will be in the lead for good!!!

McCain promised to be a different kind of leader, "a realistic idealist," and in doing so he sounded much like another Bush, George H.W. Bush.

Hmm. The first part is summary, but the last part is analysis. Not bad - I like how the SASTEB interwove the summary, the quote, and the analysis. Impressive.

Analysis: 101
Summary and Quotes: 95

Turn off the lights, the party’s over!!!! Looks like analysis has this locked up.

McCain's speech indicated that had he had to fight Gulf War II it would have looked much more like the grand coalition that fought Gulf War I. He promised an activist foreign policy - free-trade agreements, cooperation on fighting AIDS and environmental degradation, and the creation of a League of Democracies to advance the cause of democracy.

Wait! An entire paragraph of nothing but summary!!!

Analysis: 101
Summary and Quotes: 152

The big finish is coming....

On the biggest foreign-policy issue, McCain did not flinch from the Iraq war's increasing unpopularity. He would continue to fight that war, only smarter and better than the Bush administration, and do so on moral grounds. Abandoning Iraq would be "morally reprehensible." A hasty withdrawal, he said, "would be an unconscionable act of betrayal, a stain on our character as a great nation." In essence, McCain pledged to win the war George W. Bush could not.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES????? YES!!!!!!!!

Summary and Quotes went on a 134-0 run to end the article. What an amazing finish.

The final score:
Analysis: 101
Summary and Quotes: 229

The article was 70% summary and quotes and 30% analysis. And the analysis was completely uncritical of McCain’s speech - there was not even a whiff of a counter-argument.

The necessary question: why didn’t the SASTEB just completely reprint the speech?

Back! With boring economic stuff!

I’ve been away for a while, but I’m picking up on a SASTEB trend: economic cheerleading. Here’s the sad part: some cheerleaders would be far more competent at analyzing economic data. Plus, the rest would admit they have no clue what they’re talking about.

Such paths are not for the SASTEB, though. Thus, the Mar. 27 article: “Housing Data Could be Positive Sign.”

First, a brief background on the current state of the economy. Most non-comatose humans understand we’re experiencing a significant economic drawback, probably a recession, and we might yet see a full-blown collapse. The reasons for the downturn are complicated, but I’ll make the story short.

The Fed cut interest rates to insanely low levels during the economic downturn of 2000/2001, which created a credit bubble. Lenders were falling all over themselves to give out loans at low rates to unworthy candidates. While housing prices were rising, it was no problem - people could keep borrowing against their always more valuable house to pay off debts. However, when people began to realize that their doghouse was being appraised at $200K, home prices started to fall. Soon, homeowners couldn’t pay back their loans and lenders foreclosed on their houses. Lots of financial institutions had bought the homeowner’s debt, so they weren’t getting paid, either. Soon, few had any money to lend, and the hand full that did had no idea who was a worthy recipient of funds.

Now, this credit crunch has impacted the entire American economy. Almost all sectors have been hit - financials the hardest. Some of the oldest and stablest financial institutions are in dire straits, and one giant has already fallen.

Long story short: The entire economy is on very shaky footing.

Lots of recent data has come out regarding the economy - let’s see how the SASTEB responds.

We are aware that the U.S. housing market is still slumping, but one figure stands out in the latest outpouring of statistical indicators, mostly ranging from bad to real bad, that could signal positive signs ahead.

Really? One good sign... in a sea of really nasty ones. Does that portend happy things? Because I would think the whole sea of nasty signs seems like what you should look at.

Sales of existing homes actually rose in February, 2.9 percent over January, according to the National Association of Realtors. If this is a turnaround, it is a modest one because sales were still down nearly 24 percent from a year ago.

Nice. Way to make this whole article seem completely unnecessary. A 2.9% increase? After a 24% decrease? It seems kind of paltry. Mainly because it is.

At this point, we'll take any positive news we can about a sector in the struggling U.S. economy.

Sure, but does it really warrant a full article? Seems like you might be running out of steam - there’s not much else to write about, and a full 5 or so inches left to fill.

The home sales rose as prices are still falling. The median home price, $195,900, is down 8.2 percent from $213,000 a year ago February. And home prices will likely continue to fall, although perhaps not as precipitously, until the vast inventory of foreclosed homes - currently one in nine on the market - is liquidated.

Excellent strategy to waste space - bombard us with unanalyzed and unexamined statistics. Let’s see if the SASTEB ever gets back to this statistics dump.

But some economists see the uptick in sales as a promising indicator that prices have fallen far enough to entice buyers back into the market.

Well, forget analyzing those statistics. Just uncritically and vaguely cite "some economists" - that's a good way to fill newsprint.
 
Here’s the part the SASTEB forgets, though: buyers can't be enticed back into the market unless they have creditors willing to back them. And these creditors aren't currently willing to do so. The thesis seems a bit underdeveloped, to say the least.

In the best case, these buyers would be the working families who were priced out of the market during the boom. And priced out they were.

Forget priced out - these working families have no access to capital. That’s the root of the economic downturn, not the housing market! You can’t buy a house without credit. You can’t expand a business without credit. The economy functions on free access to capital, and in a credit crunch, there’s not nearly enough to go around. That’s the problem, not working families being priced out of the market. THEY DON’T HAVE THE MONEY TO BUY HOUSES AT ANY REASONABLE PRICE LEVEL!!!!

The oft-cited S&P/Case-Shiller index showed home prices rising 74 percent from 2001 through 2006 while the median household income rose only 15 percent. These are buyers who want a home for the best possible reason - to live in it - rather than as an improbably ever-rising investment.

Q: Why is buying a house as an investment a bad idea? Real estate has been the strongest performing sector over the past 50 years - why shouldn’t people invest in such a robust market? Why are investors somehow less ideal than these “working families?” Why aren’t investors also considered workers?

A: Why do you care? This paragraph was obviously a space filler.

Q: Whoops. Sorry.

Some economists see the housing market stabilizing in the second quarter, others by the end of summer, still others by the end of the year, with the more pessimistic not seeing real improvement until next year.

Ok, so you clearly have no real prediction or analysis as to when the housing market will stabilize. And, heck, it doesn’t even matter, does it? The housing crunch hasn’t even hit San Angelo - new home sales are through the freshly-shingled roof. Existing home sales haven’t really been hit. The housing market in the only place the SAST delivers is A-OK. So... why even write this article?

This may not be the absolute bottom of the market, but maybe we can at least see it from here.

Really? You have no reason why the downturn will end. 1 out of 9 homes on the market have been foreclosed. There’s no credit available for potential home purchasers. The economists you cite clearly have no idea when the downturn will end. And, even if the housing decline ends, there’s no reason the credit crunch will also end, the economy will still be in dire straits.

Thanks, SASTEB. This article was an embarrassment to humanity. If you guys don't have anything to write about, just pay for a decent op-ed from the Christian Science Monitor or the New York Times. Save yourselves the embarrassment.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Copy, paste. Copy, paste. Repeat until desired length is met.

The message of the August 5 piece, “Most decisions best left to local schools,” appears to be: Big government is bad. And we don’t need to tell you why, because we copied and pasted large swaths of an organization’s report about schools. And that’s all the evidence we need to make baseless assertions.

Remember that the main argument is supposed to be that local schools are a more efficacious actor than the Federal Government. Let’s see how they back up that argument.

When Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, it was seen, for good or ill, as a federal intrusion into an area — elementary and secondary education — that was traditionally a local and state prerogative.

Indeed, NCLB was a major shift. Was it bad?

Now comes evidence that the act has reshaped, often in major fashion, the school day, particularly in elementary schools.

Indeed, NCLB was a major shift. Was it bad?

According to a sample of the nation’s school districts by the nonpartisan Center on Education Policy, 62 percent of the districts reported their grade schools spending substantially more time on reading and math — the two subjects on which the law requires annual testing between the third and eighth grades.

Indeed, NCLB was a major sift. Was it bad?

The increases in instruction time were substantial — 46 percent for English and 37 percent for math.

Indeed, NCLB was a major shift. Was it bad?

In 44 percent of school districts, the stepped-up instruction came at the expense of other subjects, including a 36 percent drop in time spent on social studies, 28 percent on science, 16 percent in art and music, and even cuts in lunch, recess and gym.

Indeed, NCLB was a major shift. Was it bad?

As a side note, is it bad that they’re spending more time on math and reading? If you can’t read, you can’t do social studies. If you can’t do math, you can’t do science. It appears that this back to basics philosophy is sound. Any objections?

The law contains sanctions for schools that fail to perform on the tests and, not surprisingly, the shift in emphasis was greatest in districts where at least one school was identified as underperforming.

Indeed, NCLB was a major shift. Was it bad?

Whether this is good or bad seems to depend on the educator. Some say the emphasis on reading and math at the expense of other subjects makes the school day too narrow and uninteresting.

Okay. So the SASTEB’s main issue is that too much reading and math makes the day.... uninteresting??? Here’s uninteresting: trying to discuss East Asian Cultures when the reading level of the students is so low that they can’t comprehend what they’re reading. That’s not just uninteresting, that’s mind-numbing.

Bottom line: If, as the SASTEB purported, this shift away from social studies and science is happening in the low-performing schools, then those schools need to be teaching reading and math above all else.

Still, others argue that reading and math are the indispensable foundation to studying those other subjects, particularly science and history.

Great. You just killed your own argument. That's just cruel - it's like executing the mentally retarded.

Congress will thoroughly hash over these arguments when it considers re-authorizing the act this year.

Was that all you guys had to say about why NCLB was bad? It makes school... uninteresting? That’s a major trait of school - kids find it uninteresting.

The Center on Education Policy study clearly shows what many of us already knew: the federal government is a major force in decisions that really should be handled by local officials.

No!!!!!!! You never told me WHY they should be handled by local officials. You can’t just take for granted that the local districts are better than the Federal Government - you have to back up your argument with pertinent facts. The only facts you guys gave were about some random report. You didn’t show how local control was good!!! Or how Federal control was bad!!!! AAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!

JULIUS LOGIC
by William Shakespeare. Kind of.

Rome, 44 BC

Brucus McLarenus
(kneeling) O Logic -

Logic
Hence! Wilt thou lift up Olympus?

Angelus Shafferus
(kneeling) Great Logic -

Logic
Doth not the SASTEB bootless kneel?

Tyus Meighanus
Speak, hands, for me!

The conspirators stab Logic, SASTEB last.

Logic
Et tu, SAST√ČB? - Then fall, Logic.
(dies)

Tyus Meighanus
Liberty! Freedom! Logic is dead!
Run hence, proclaim, cry it about the editorial pages!

Flourish. Exeunt. Curtain.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Perjury: Not that big of a crime

That’s what the SASTEB is arguing on July 31, in “Special Counsel not Needed for Gonzales.”

Transcribing White House press releases must be giving them terrible writer's cramp. On the plus side, their brains have to be quite well rested. Let’s dive into the muck:

Senate Democrats have come up with a bad idea — demanding the appointment of a special counsel to investigate whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales committed perjury. What makes this more than just political grandstanding is that they have been joined by at least one senior Republican.

So, they’re saying that nobody needs to see whether Gonzales committed perjury or not. The SASTEB must, necessarily, be arguing one of two things:

1) Gonzales has not committed perjury.
2) Perjury is not so serious as to necessitate investigation.

Let’s see which one they go with.

Four senators from the Judiciary Committee wrote to Solicitor General Paul Clement, the official in the depleted Justice Department who would have to make that choice, condemning the testimony Gonzales gave Congress as “at a minimum half-truths and misleading statements.”

To be kind, Gonzales’ appearances before Congress have been marked by opacity and memory lapses. His appearance before the committee last Tuesday was, said GOP Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, “devastating. But so was the hearing before that, and so was the hearing before that.”


I guess I’ll put you guys down for #2. This is impressive - they are actually arguing that perjury doesn’t really matter. Lie to Congress, make stuff up in front of Federal Grand Juries, as long as you can say you’re protecting national security, it’s all cool. How can they write this without gagging?

The beleaguered Gonzales says he is determined to stay as attorney general, and President Bush seems determined to stand by him.

Am I the only person wondering why it appears that only two people in the universe feel that Gonzales is even remotely credible? I’m wondering if Fredo’s mom still likes him. I wonder if the SASTEB has a thought about why Bush is standing by Gonzales.

Loyalty might be driving Bush’s decision to keep Gonzales, but there might be more at play here. The president would face difficulty in finding someone willing to take over the department this late in his presidency and in getting the Senate to confirm that person.

Yes, it is so tough to find lawyers who would like to be the most powerful lawyer in the nation. That’s a tough job to fill - not a whole lot of interest out there. Plus, how in the world is anybody going to sign on for a job that only lasts 539 days?

A list of Attorneys General who have served less than 539 days: (note: calculated with July 31st as the starting date.)
William Bradford
John Breckinridge
Henry Gilpin
John J. Crittenden
John Y. Mason
Nathan Clifford
Isaac Toucey
Reverdy Johnson
Edwin M. Stanton
William M. Evarts
Ebenezer R. Hoar
Amos T. Akerman
Edwards Pierremont
Alphonso Taft (Interesting guy - founder of the Skull and Bones Club at Yale and father of the William Howard Taft. The Taft family in Ohio has probably been the most influential political family in American History.)
Wayne McVeagh
Joseph McKenna
An almost - James C. McReynolds served 542 days, essentially equivalent to what is left of Bush’s term.
Harlan Fiske Stone
Frank Murphy
James P. McGranery
Richard G. Kleindienst
Elliot L. Richardson (served a grand total of 148 days)
William B. Saxbe
Benjamin R. Civiletti (a perfect modern example - he started August 18 of 1979 to finish off Jimmy Carter’s term - exactly the same time frame as we currently have.)

All in all, 23 (not counting James C. McReynolds) of the 80 Attorneys General (including Gonzales) have served less than 539 days. That, of course, is roughly one out of four. Having a new Attorney General would not be odd at all.

Plus, Pat Leahy, Arlen Specter, and Co. would fall all over themselves to get a new attorney general. Confirmation shouldn't be a problem.

All this to say: the SASTEB is full of baloney. Plus, whether you can find a suitable replacement for an employee or not is not a criterion when judging if there should be a perjury investigation.

The perjury allegations arise out of what took place at meetings involving the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping and the firing of U.S. attorneys where Gonzales’ recollections conflict with those of others who were present.

Gonzales said that a specific meeting had nothing to do with the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP). Everybody (to a person, Republican and Democrat) else at the meeting said it was about the TSP. The Director of National Intelligence has documentation proving that the meeting was about the TSP. Here’s the point: Gonzales is wrong.

Here’s the catch: Gonzales has a week to correct his testimony in writing. He has failed to do so. It’s pretty much a slam dunk, to quote Medal of Honor recipient George Tenet.

The question is what is to be gained by appointing a special counsel, especially in view of the outcome of the special-counsel investigation into the CIA leak. The senators are going to find out what happened in those meetings anyway, and if Gonzales did willfully mislead, there’s no way the president should keep him on.

Didn’t you guys read what I just wrote? Faced by the facts, Gonzales still hasn’t corrected his testimony! He’s willfully misleading. We already know “what happened in those meetings.” The President is still keeping him on. Congress should do something.

The best defense Gonzales has come up with is that when the meetings happened, the program wasn’t called the TSP yet. That would be like me saying that I never talked about the Apple iPhone in December of '06 because, back then, Apple was was “Apple Computer,” not “Apple, Inc.” It’s ludicrous.

The CIA-leak case took three and a half years. If that is any benchmark, the probe will not be completed until well after Bush and Gonzales have left office, assuming the president doesn’t pardon him first.

The CIA leak case is not a benchmark. Fitzgerald spent two years having sand thrown in his eyes by Libby. When the prosecution actually began, the case only took about a year. If you take that part, I guess it could be a benchmark. But, then again, if you take that part, your entire thesis would seem absurd. Plus, if the President pardoned Gonzales, he should be impeached, according to James Madison at the Constitutional Convention.

A special counsel would be overkill.

Um... what should Congress do, then??? Just sit around and do nothing?
Here’s what they should do: ask the Solicitor General to look into it. If he refuses, then they should hold impeachment hearings for Gonzales. Pretty simple.

This is against a backdrop of a more serious issue — whether the president can defy congressional subpoenas and keep current and former top aides from testifying under oath by asserting executive privilege. Regretfully, Bush and Congress seem determined to force a resolution in court. But like a special-counsel investigation, there’s no telling where a court case is going to lead them.

What??? A court case leads to.... perjury charges. That easy. I love how this random stuff about the underlying investigation gets thrown in at the end. It really puts an exclamation point on the end of a largely incoherent and altogether poorly researched editorial.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Now they think they know about the economy

The San Angelo Standard-Times Editorial Board (SASTEB) officially HATES the Democratic Congress. And all things Democrat. This includes the words Democrat, Democraty, Democratic, Democratalicious, Democratastic, and Democracy.

Behold: “Democrats shouldn’t tie wage boost to war” - May 2.

President Bush and most members of Congress agree that the minimum wage should be raised.

This as, at best, hyperbole. They both agree in an increase in the minimum wage. However, Bush and many Republicans have a far different policy from the Democrats. Bush’s plan differs in two ways:

1) The increase is phased, which means that the minimum wage increases incrementally by year, thus preventing major supply shocks to the economy.
2) The overall increase is less (even more so when adjusted for inflation) than the Democrats' plan.

But, please continue. You were oversimplifying?

Last year, when the Republicans controlled the House, they passed an increase but got a little too politically cute and attached a steep cut in the estate tax, knowing that this was unacceptable to Senate Democrats.

The idea was to force the Democrats into an embarrassing vote, reneging on one campaign promise to make good on another, but the Democrats simply bottled it up and the bill died.

Once again, very oversimplified. The Republicans had an entire economic package to pass. The estate tax and the minimum wage increase were just components of the package (albeit the major parts). Also, the minimum wage increase was proposed in the lame duck session, and the Democrats simply killed it by slowing the process, which bought time for the Dems to take power.

They did this for three reasons:

1) The Dems wanted the political credit for the minimum wage increase.

2) It would have no effect on the actual time that the increase would take place, since the increase would only be implemented by the beginning of 2008 whether the Republicans passed it or the Democrats passed it.

3) The increase was more than a dollar less than what the Democrats wanted.

You would think the Democrats would have learned some lessons from that about being in the majority, but political logic is not the same as textbook logic.

There are 29 syntactical errors in that sentence. Can you count them all???

I’m not even going to try to parse this sentence. Both the indefinite reference of “that” and the odd distinction between “political logic” and “textbook logic” are baffling.

The Democratic leadership instead tied the minimum-wage increase to an Iraq-war funding bill.

Sure. Why not? It’s going to be passed. And the increase will happen at the same time (Jan 1, 2008). Why not make it a political football? It won’t hurt anybody.

The Iraq bill is an emergency supplemental spending bill.

An emergency spending bill??? The Pentagon itself has said that the funds aren’t needed until AUGUST!!!! This is the farthest thing from emergency. If you went into the emergency room claiming that you will be stricken by a disease in three to four months, you’d be laughed out of the ER. And then featured on an episode of Scrubs, where Dr. Perry Cox will rip you a new one.

The minimum wage, while vital to workers at the bottom of the wage ladder, is hardly an emergency.

Indeed. It will be implemented at the same time no matter when it’s passed (assuming it will be this year). However, the Iraq Bill is clearly not an emergency, either.

Bush has said all along he will veto the Democrats’ Iraq bill, and the fact that the minimum wage is tucked in there won’t make him change his mind.

Stubborn as a mule to the end.

Thus, a measure that would be easily passed on its own will now be caught up in feuding between the White House and congressional Democrats over Iraq timetables, deadlines and troop withdrawals.

Actually, the minimum wage increase was passed on its own. It just went to conference committee and got tagged onto this bill. It has already been passed by both the House and Senate. And, get this: It doesn’t matter when the increase is passed, it will go into effect at the same time. I will now be repeating this after every paragraph from the SASTEB.

The federal minimum wage is currently $5.15 an hour. This bill would raise it to $7.25 an hour.

It doesn’t matter when the increase is passed, it will go into effect at the same time.

(Also, this is awkward space filler. Wouldn’t this have done better at the top than at the bottom?)

The increase is more symbolic than economic because of higher minimums in most states and the passage of time. The federal minimum was last increased 10 years ago.

It doesn’t matter when the increase is passed, it will go into effect at the same time.

(Now you’re critiquing the increase itself???? This editorial took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.)

Sadly, Congress can afford to play politics with the minimum wage because, unlike the war-funding bill, there’s no great urgency to it — unless, of course, you’re the one making $5.15 an hour.

You just argued that the increase was symbolic and not urgent. And now you say it's urgent? Make up your mind!!!

Also:

It doesn’t matter when the increase is passed, it will go into effect at the same time.
It doesn’t matter when the increase is passed, it will go into effect at the same time.
It doesn’t matter when the increase is passed, it will go into effect at the same time.
It doesn’t matter when the increase is passed, it will go into effect at the same time.
It doesn’t matter when the increase is passed, it will go into effect at the same time.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Constitution??? What's that????

The SASTEB is now dabbling in Con Law. Hide the women and the children.

“DC should not have full vote in congress" - May 1st.

House Democrats and 22 Republicans congratulated themselves recently by voting to give the residents of the nation’s capital a member of Congress with full voting rights.

The bill, which passed 241-177, would expand the number of House members from 435 to 437. This proposed deal would give the reliably Democratic District of Columbia a member and reliably Republican and fast-growing Utah another seat.

Reliably Republican, yes. Fast-growing is debatable. The proposed 4th district of Utah is actually the slowest-growing portion of the state (although the St. George metropolitan area is booming in the Southern portion of the district). Also, Utah is growing about half as fast as Arizona.

The Senate should reject this proposal because it violates the U.S. Constitution.

Oh, SASTEB!!!! Enlighten me with your wisdom. Let your constitutional brilliance shine forth upon the dark souls of the uneducated and unenlightened.

House seats are apportioned based on population, and the standard congressional district is about 685,000. Regardless of D.C., Utah surely will qualify for another seat after the 2010 census. D.C. had a population of 550,500 as of 2005, down 22,000 from 2000, and likely to decline again in the next census. On population alone, Washington doesn’t qualify.

Where to begin?

1) DC only lost 519 people last year. This is hardly a cause for alarm. Actually, if murders went down, then DC would probably be gaining population.
2) It is not constitutionally mandated to have 685,000 people per district. This is merely a rule of thumb (aka: “General Thumb”). Many districts have much more and many districts have far fewer than the average. That’s why its an “average.” Thus, this argument is totally incongruous with the idea of the piece: that the proposal violates the US Constitution.
3) Wyoming has only 509,000 residents. Based on the SASTEB’s logic, it should be stripped of its Congressional seat. Sorry, Barbara Cubin (R-WY)!
4) Delaware has 850,000 people but only one congressperson. The 685,000 number is extremely rough.

Pray continue. You were misrepresenting the Constitution?

The Constitution gives the House members a free hand in choosing their number, but it is also unmistakably clear that the House “shall be composed of Members chosen every second year by the People of the several States.” Article 1, Section 2 creating the House goes on to specify the “states” or “state” seven more times.

True. DC residents also have to pay income taxes, even though the 16th Amendment refers to “apportionment among the states.”

Should we get rid of the income tax for DC residents? No! Of course not; such a plan would make DC a continental Bermuda. However, we tax DC like a state but represent it like a territory. It gets screwed.

It’s not surprising that Democrats would support D.C. getting a full-voting member of Congress. That would give them one more vote in Congress. This type of political chicanery at the expense of the Constitution is not why voters put Democrats in control of Congress.

What??? You previously wrote that they will add a seat in Utah. UTAH!!! Can you get more conservative than Utah’s proposed 4th district? NO!!!! You even called Utah’s proposed 4th “reliably Republican!!!!” They will vote Republican ALL THE TIME. Just like DC will vote Democrat ALL THE TIME. Thus, there is a net gain of zero for either party. This type of blatant misinformation at the expense of truth is not why people subscribe to your newspaper.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to block the bill on constitutional grounds, and if he can’t, President Bush has pledged to veto it for the same reasons. Quite simply, the District of Columbia is not a state, and attempts to make it one have failed twice in the past 30 years.

Yes. It’s not a state, but it should be taxed as such. Wouldn’t the taxing of DC without representation not hold up under Constitutional scrutiny?

Currently, the representative of the District of Columbia, like those from Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Guam, can vote in House committees but not on final passage on the House floor. It might be unfair, but the solution is not to play fast and loose with the Constitution.

What??? The Constitution isn’t even truly harmed by this proposal. It’s currently being flaunted - hence the DC license plate: “No taxation without representation.”

Monday, April 30, 2007

In Our Opinion without any

Really, there’s nothing too egregious here. However, it appears that the SASTEB has taken to heart my recent criticism - there are very few claims in the entire piece. So few, indeed, that there really is no opinion developed.

Behold, the timidness that is: “Political briefings push legal envelope” (Apr 30).

In the bad old days of machine politics, government workers were often coerced into contributing to political campaigns of the party in power and working for its candidates. In response to such charges surrounding New Deal relief programs, Congress passed the Hatch Act in 1939.

Fascinating. Reading the Standard-Times is almost as much fun as reading my high school US History Textbook.

The Act is intended to insulate federal civil servants from political pressure by broadly barring them from partisan political activity and prohibiting the use of federal offices and supplies for political purposes.

Thanks for the background. I can’t wait to hear exactly what the SASTEB thinks about the act.

Federal investigators are probing whether the Bush administration crossed that line. Following a briefing on the midterm elections by a White House political operative, the head of the General Services Administration asked how the GSA could be used to help “our candidates.”

Interesting. Tell me, is this an opinion piece or a news brief?

The GSA is often described as the government’s landlord and provides a variety of services intended to improve federal workplaces.

Honestly, was this space padding necessary? (Hint: the answer is: NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!)

At this point, the article moves from dull to simply absurd in its inability to express any real opinion. We are now six sentences into a twelve-sentence editorial without even the slightest semblance of a true opinion.

The White House has disclosed that there were as many as 20 such briefings at 15 federal agencies. White House officials insist the briefings were appropriate, but it doesn’t look terribly good that they’re only disclosing them now that Democrats with subpoenas are breathing down their necks.

Yes. Most people, after committing a crime, are not overly eager to admit to committing said crime. It’s basic human instinct. Also, if the White House believed the meetings were “appropriate,” then why would they report them? That fact in no way works against the administration.

In addition, the SASTEB made it 7 sentences without an opinion. That’s 7 sentences where 2 or less would do. The SASTEB: where word economy goes to die. Plus, the last sentence doesn’t really appear to be much of an opinion - more like a random observation.

All administrations chafe at the Hatch Act and try to push the legal envelope. This White House argues that its briefings were purely informational and open only to the agency’s political appointees. But as the Abramoff lobbying scandal and the firing of the U.S. attorneys have demonstrated, this administration doesn’t have altogether clean hands when it comes to politics.

Wow! There still seems to be no real opinion advanced by the SASTEB. Also, the ties between Bush and Abramoff are sketchy at best. The only real ties were between Abramoff and Gale Norton, the then-director of the Interior Department. The real scandal was in Congress.

Even if the briefings were within the letter of the Hatch Act, it doesn’t make them right.

WHAT???? You haven’t shown why they were wrong! You can give all kinds of reasons. Let me do your job for you:
Using government bureaucracies for political purposes:
1) Kills Separation of Powers
2) Causes uneven enforcement of justice (e.g. attorney scandal), which makes a mockery of democracy
3) Decreases effectiveness of bureaucracy
4) Unfairly persecutes parties not in office
5) Causes parties who get in office to stay in office due to of sheer inertia, which is bad for governmental efficacy.

All of these would be acceptable arguments. Yet the SASTEB makes none of them. If you make an article entitled “In Our Opinion,” please have one.

Analyzing Iraq with one coherent thought or less!

Here we go again. It appears that the San Angelo Standard-Times Editorial Board (SASTEB) glanced at a quality paper and realized that they needed something about foreign affairs. Here’s how the meeting went:

Ty Meighan
: We need something “foreign.” Whatever that means.
(Lots of head-scratching, with a few awkward side-glances)
Bruce McLaren: Hmm.... Hey, I just heard about this place called Massachusetts. They just thought of giving people health care. Pretty foreign, huh? We can write about that!
Ty (Slowly shaking head): No.... we can’t even pretend that we know anything about health care. Ah, we’ll do what we always do. We’ll reprint White House press releases about this place called Iraq.
SAST Editorial Board: Awesome! Let’s go back to writing about how the internet is evil!
Flourish. Exeunt. Curtain.

Let’s play a little game with this article. We’ll count claims, and then we’ll count warrants. Recall from elementary debate and middle school English that when you make an overarching statement, or “claim,” it’s cool to back it up with facts. Usually at least two facts, or “warrants,” will suffice. So, we’re looking for a two-to-one warrant-to-claim ratio. Let’s get ready to rumble!!!

And here you have it, ladies and gentlemen. The entirety of the sequel to “Give Bush a Second Chance in Iraq” - “Iraq situation grim but not yet lost” (Apr. 24, 2007). The editorial will appear in bold while the snarky comments will appear in regular font.

If you think of the Iraq war in terms of winning or losing, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may well be right, if premature, in his judgment last week that the war is lost.

Okay, so it appears that the San Angelo Standard-Times Editorial Board (SASTEB) will be backing up Reid’s call. Or, maybe they’re not thinking about “winning or losing” - they’re just interested in good sportsmanship. Apparently, war is like Tee-Ball. (Claims: 1 Warrants: 0)

Still, Reid’s comments do a disservice to our troops who are in Iraq fighting and dying for the cause. Sometimes our elected officials do more harm than good by making comments without thinking of the consequences.

Ohh.... bold call. Straight out of a White House Press release. Exactly how does Reid do a disservice? How does he do more harm than good? I anxiously await the reasoning for this. (Claims: 3 Warrants: 0)

Reid said, “I believe myself ... that this is lost and that the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq.” He also said he believed that the secretaries of state and defense shared that view.


Awesome. A random quote that appears to have no purpose. Here's another random fact: roughly 60% of the population share Reid’s views! That last sentence was either a textbook case of space-filling or the entire paragraph was taken out of the wrong White House press release. Still awaiting the reason why Reid’s comments hurt the troops.

A planned conference May 3-4 in Egypt of Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran and Syria, could offer some hope in the war. Surely, no one in the region is served with an Iraq that collapsed into chaos. Although the Bush administration has refused to talk with Iran and Syria, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will have the chance to talk to both privately at the conference.

OK!!!! We have hope because we can talk to Iran and Syria! But we won’t actually talk to them. It will be a private meeting with no force of law. Or trust, really. Yes, that’s right, the SASTEB undercut their own argument. This gives them half of a warrant, and I’m being generous. Plus, their argument that nobody is served by a chaotic Iraq is false. If they’ve ever read any quality journal, they would have learned (March-April Foreign Affairs) that Iran is backing almost all the factions in Iraq, so that any militia or coalition that takes power will be friendly to the only Shiite nation in the Middle East. Call it hedging their bets. Iran would LOVE to see chaos, because out of the chaos would rise an Iranian puppet state. Plus, I’m still anxiously awaiting the reason why Reid’s comments hurt the troops. (Claims: 4, Warrants: 0.5)

Iraq is a peculiar war. Militarily, the United States could “win” it in relatively short order by picking one side and crushing the other, but the cost and moral implications are unacceptable.

Another awkward paragraph that doesn’t belong. The SASTEB gives an option which they say would be a win, and then immediately argues that such a win would not actually be winning. To sum up: Iraq’s weird, we can win, but winning would be awful, so we don’t want to win. Still nothing on how Reid’s comments hurt the troops. I’m getting impatient.
Also, “Iraq is a peculiar war” is philosophy for the halfwit. (Claims: 6, Warrants: 0.5)

The Bush administration entered the war with several clear objectives. The United States, the United Nations and the Western European nations believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and little remorse about using them.

If by “the Western European nations” you mean “England and Spain,” then yes. Oh, and the Downing Street Memo pointed out that neither Bush nor Blair believed a word of the WMD nonsense they were spouting. And the UN weapons inspectors couldn’t find anything. So, really, you mean that Spain bought it. Cool.

We certainly satisfied ourselves that there were no WMDs.

Victory is ours!!! Did you know that the only way to find out if WMD’s exist in a country is to invade it? We came, we saw, we conquered, we said, “our bad!”

We did succeed in driving Saddam from office and holding a free election.

Indeed, and at the low, low, price of a few trillion dollars, 3,000 American Soldiers, nearly 800 private contractors, and 600,000 Iraqis.

Also, this has nothing to do with Iraq being “lost.” This is merely recapping the news from 2004. I refuse to grant any warrants. However, I will be kind, gracious, and noble - I will not charge SASTEB with any claims. The score remains: Claims: 6, Warrants: 0.5

And what of the president’s other goal: A democratic Iraqi government that can “govern, sustain and defend itself and be an ally in the war on terror”? Hardly so far.

So... you’re saying that... Iraq is in good shape? Or now it is terrible? You appear to be changing your argument mid-article. If you disagree with something you wrote above, you can change it. That’s within the rules. Also, I’d like to hear how Reid’s comments hurt the troops.

Also, that’s another claim without a warrant - Claims: 7, Warrants, 0.5

Even so, all is not lost, and as a leader of our country and with troops in the field, Reid should not state so publicly. Still, few would argue with the assessment that the situation in Iraq looks grim.


What??? Let me make it simple. When you write about why the Senate Majority Leader shouldn’t say something, it’s usually a good idea to cite any and all deleterious effects that would result. The ONLY thing the SASTEB cited was that it would “do a disservice to the troops.” Oh, we can’t tell the toughest people in America that the war they’re fighting in is unwinable? Yeah, they’ll suddenly all become mopey, depressed, and teary-eyed because some old guy from Nevada said something bad about their mission. News flash: we must treat the troops like children.

Do you remember in 2003, when tanks were rolling into Baghdad, and the Iraqi Information Minister gave press conferences screaming, “there are no troops in Baghdad! Never!”??? This whole argument seems a bit like that. Even if we’re loosing, which the SASTEB seems to claim we are, we can’t say it - we must say we’re winning. Praise Allah! The emperor is finely clothed and the infidels are rotting in hell!

Impressive finish for claims, sneaking in two in the last paragraph without any warrants getting in the way. The final tally: Claims: 9, Warrants: 0.5. For those of you keeping track at home, there should be at least 18 warrants for 9 claims. So, the SASTEB is only off by a factor of 36.

Why this blog exists

Each blog is read by roughly one person. I hope to reach that total. If not, at least I'll feel better.

This blog is dedicated to dissecting the nonsense written by the San Angelo Standard-Times in their daily "In Our Opinion" article. It is, on average, the greatest single source of misinformation on so many different levels. Plus, the syntax is atrocious and the analysis behind the opinions are usually shoddy at best.

Hopefully, this blog will die a peaceful death when the the members of the San Angelo Standard-Times Editorial Board learn how to write.

Also, inspiration for this blog comes from the good people at www.firejoemorgan.com. Visit the site. Visit it often.