Saturday, April 21, 2007

Bomb, bomb, bomb... bomb, bomb Iran!

Although it did seem for a moment that John McCain decided to tear a page out of the John Kerry political comedy play book this past week, but as off-key as the "Bomb Iran" faux comedy incident was, it did remind me that McCain wasn't being original, and that the "Bomb Iran" parody dates at least from the 1980's.

Sometime back in the mid-1980's I was in Washington, D.C. for a weekend and was staying at the Watergate Hotel and happened to turn on the TV late Saturday night and catch part of Saturday Night Live. They were doing a skit which was a parody of the ubiquitous TV ads for "Greatest Hits" records.

Believe it or not, they had former presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy (1968), dressed up in a general's uniform and he was calling out the "hits" of the imaginary mock record, one of which was "Bomb Iran." The sing-over of the lyric fragment "Bomb, bomb, bomb... Bomb, bomb Iran!" was to the tune of the Beach Boys "Barbara Ann", except it was done very well and came across hysterically funny. You have to remember, that this was in the depths of the Reagan presidency. As far as McCain, I guess this incident simply illustrates that some people simply don't know how to tell a joke.

There were two other "hits" that I recall from the skit.

The conflict between Ronald Reagan's chief of staff,  Don Regan, and Nancy Reagan was the inspiration for the mock hit entitled "Help Me, Ronnie" which parodied the Beach Boys hit "Help Me, Rhonda", but with the lyrics changed from:

Help me Rhonda
Help, help me Rhonda
Help me Rhonda yeah
Get her out of my heart


Help me Ronnie
Help, help me Ronnie
Help me Ronnie please
Get her off of my back

The other mock hit was a parody of the Cyndi Lauper hit "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" mocking the Reagan administration's support for the Nicaraguan Contras (of Iran-Contra scandal fame), and was entitled "Guerillas Just Want to Have Guns."

I thoroughly enjoyed all three parodies. There may have been others, but I don't recall. [A lot of people around that time had fuzzy memories!]

Political humor is greatly valued in America and alive and well, but presidential candidates should stick to their political knitting and leave the comedy to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, et al.

Unfortunately, this SNL skit predated the Internet, so I am unable to find any reference to it.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Is concern over global warming primarily a political issue rather than a matter of science?

There is an interesting chart on the Framing Science blog by Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D in a post entitled "The Two Americas of Global Warming Perceptions: Concern Among Dems Rises While Republicans Remain Unmoved" which essentially shows that anxiety over global warming is rising among Democrats, but declining among Republicans. To me, this strongly suggests that so-called "global warming" has largely become primarily a partisan political issue rather than a matter of science.

The comments on the post are interesting as well.

I only ran across this post today, but it does confirm my belief that global warming/climate change has morphed from being an area of scientific research to a hard-core social and political movement that is now almost wholly divorced from the underlying science.

-- Jack Krupansky

Who has less credibility, Cheney or Congressional Democratic leaders

A story in the Washington Post by Ben Feller entitled "Cheney: Democrats Will Back Down on Iraq" has Vice President Dick Cheney crowing that he's "willing to bet" that the Democrats will back down and not pass an Iraq war-spending bill that calls for pulling troops out of Iraq and the Democrats counter-crowing that Cheney has lost all of his public credibility. I'll continue to vote with the Democrats, but I do have to admit that Cheney is dead-on right on this one. The chaos and lack of leadership within the ranks of the Democrats makes Iraq look like an organized football bowl-game parade. It is completely and totally obvious that the Democrats don't have a game plan to get the votes to be able to override a veto by President Bush. Sure, they can huff and puff for a while longer, but eventually the re-election efforts of moderate, centrist, and center-right Democrats will take precedent over simply trying to score political points and embarrass the administration.

Sure, technically the Democrats might be able to pull it off, but it would take a lot of spine, none of which is currently evident in the current Democratic Congress.

Cheney's credibility may be quite low, but the credibility of the congressional Democratic leadership to be able to exert veto control over the administration's efforts in Iraq is equally low, if not much lower.

I sincerely hope this sorry state of affairs within the ranks of the congressional Democrats will change soon, but I wouldn't bet on it.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wolfowitz should do the honorable thing and resign

Conservatives love to talk about values, the rule of law, and the evilness of corruption, but right here right now with the situation with Neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank, somehow the normal "rules" have been suspended. Somehow, the normal "rules" don't apply to the ruling Neoconservative elite. No surprise there.

What should Wolfowitz do? He should do the honorable thing to protect the reputation of the World Bank as an institution and resign.

Will he resign? Not of his own volition. The "rules" promoted by the Neoconservatives are design to permit them to gather and keep power. The mere thought that the "rules" of the Neoconservatives could be applied to one of their own is, well, unthinkable.

President Bush is under enough pressure on so many fronts that the World Bank is the least of his concerns. Although Wolfowitz was one of the primary architects of the U.S. "liberation" of Iraq and the mess that has followed, even now I don't think President Bush blames Wolfowitz for even one iota of the criticisms being heaped on the administration. President Bush and the Neoconservatives will blame everybody else, especially "critics", but they will never blame Wolfowitz for "fighting the good Neoconservative fight."

Even though President Bush is disinclined to dump Wolfowitz, there are enough pragmatists in the White House and the Republican National Commitee, and there are enough people worried about the impact of disillusionment over Iraq on the elections in 2008, that the pragmatic view will ultimately win out and Wolfowitz will be "instructed" to submit his resignation.

Loyalty is extremely important within the Neoconservative ranks, but survival and clinging to power are even more important.

If Wolfowitz isn't gone by the end of the week, the Neoconservatives will have committed a major blunder and will be handing the Democrats in Congress a veritable feast on a silver platter.

-- Jack Krupansky

Nuclear power in the Middle East

This post is more of a bookmark for future reference.

There is a curious article in The New York Times by William Broad and David Sanger entitled "Eye on Iran, Rivals Pursuing Nuclear Power." What initially caught my eye was the loose and dangerous ambiguity of the title with reference to the term "nuclear power" which can be read as reference either to peaceful "nuclear energy" or military "nuclear arms" or "nuclear weapons." Most of the article discusses efforts in the Middle East to ramp up use of nuclear energy, but then there are quotes and characterizations of various right-wing hawks whose position is a classic "where there is smoke there is fire" approach to connecting the dots between peacful nuclear energy and a nuclear arms race.

The alleged "connection" between pursuit of nuclear energy and nuclear arms was drawn by The Times itself in the short sumary of the article I received by email:

Eye on Iran, Rivals Pursuing Nuclear Power
Officials from Middle East governments have warned of the
possibility of "a grave and destructive nuclear arms race
in the region."

That summary suggests that the title refers to countries wanting to become "nuclear powers" (i.e., obtain nuclear arms), but the actual article offers no evidence of "rivals pursuing nuclear weapons." That "connection" is left to the reader, but is very clearly implied by the article summary. Shame on The Times for such sloppy, misleading, and outright, inciteful yellow journalism.

Further, the article is not properly labeled as being "news analaysis", where characterizations and judgments of the writer are to be expected. It is unlabeled so that the reader is lead to belief that they are reading actual news, when mostly the article is "analysis" and connecting the dots by the writers.

The Times draws an incorrect and misleading inference in the lead paragraph:

Two years ago, the leaders of Saudi Arabia told international atomic regulators that they could foresee no need for the kingdom to develop nuclear power. Today, they are scrambling to hire atomic contractors, buy nuclear hardware and build support for a regional system of reactors.

First, it misguidely uses the ambiguous term "nuclear power" when "nuclear energy" would aid clarity and eliminate the (hopefully) unintended effect of implicitly drawing a connection between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.

Second, it misguidedly implies that there are some dark and sinister forces at play that caused the change of heart, when in reality the same change of heart has occurred even here in the U.S., being driven by a combination of sky-high fossil fuel prices and concern over the role of fossil fuel consumption on global warming. Today there are plans for new nuclear plants to go forward here in the U.S., while two years ago there were none. The simple fact, completely unmentioned by The Times is that compared to two years ago, the future of nuclear energy is looking much brighter. Why shouldn't the future look equally bright in the Middle East?

With high oil prices, it makes perfect economic sense for both oil exporters and oil importers to wean themselves away from domestic consumption for production of electricity. For oil exporters in the Middle East, it makes more sense to export oil at $60 a barrel than to burn it for mere electricity production. Again, no mention by The Times of this rationale for pursuing nuclear energy.

I'm very disappointed in the editorial judgment of The New York Times for how they handled this article. If The Times has solid evidence that countries are pursuing nuclear weapons, lay it out. If not, spare us the misguided implications that a connection exists when they are unable to produce any evidence. This is the kind of shoddy "analysis" that got us in trouble with Iraq.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, April 09, 2007

Bill Richardson for President?

Bill Richardson is effectively a dark horse candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Few people know very much about him. I only know a little, but I think that he is worth considering.

I once attended a congressional hearing (House Science Committee) at which he was testifying when he was Secretary of Energy about security problems at the national labs. He came across as being very competent, very disciplined, very patient, and very sensible. Overall, that's the simple phrase I'd use to describe him: competent and sensible.

Yeah, he doesn't have much in the way of charisma or passion, but I'm not convinced that that's what this country needs right now. I think we need somebody who is willing to put ideaology and passion aside and focus intensely on hard-core sensibility. He also seems quite effective as a diplomat, which seems to be a quality that the U.S. needs right now.

As I said, even I don't know much about him, so it behooves us all to do our homework on him. I suspect that he's a centrist, but I don't know for sure.

He's certainly not in the top three, but I wouldn't count him out yet.

The real bottom line is that if he was our President, I would probably be able to sleep well at night.

-- Jack Krupansky