Monday, February 27, 2006

34...And Other Bad News

PRESIDENT BUSH GOT bad news on several fronts over the weekend. Not only did a new poll show his approval rating at an all-time low of 34 percent, but a couple of key Bush-defenders had some harsh words for POTUS. Fred Barnes ripped into Bush in a piece in the Weekly Standard. Then, as if a slap in the face from Barnes wasn't enough, fellow Standard crony Bill Kristol went on Fox News Sunday and said, 'we have not had a serious three-year effort to fight a war in Iraq.' Of course, this prompts the obvious question posted over at Think Progress: 'Mr. Kristol, if the administration's policy in Iraq the last three years has not been a serious effort why have you spent the last three years defending it?'

Then this little number from Chris Wallace's interview with White House Home Land Security Advisor Fran Townsend on FNS:
WALLACE: But you say you want people to learn what you've learned. If you're doing a 45-day review, it sounds like that's more for public education than it is for you to study you, the administration, to study these issues yourselves.

TOWNSEND: Well, the answer is we haven't received a request yet from the company. There are ongoing discussions. We'll have to see what that letter or what that request would include.
But the answer is as we go up to Congress, as we talk to people about the facts of the deal, we believe more people will be comfortable with it as they learn the facts.

WALLACE: But here's, I guess, the point. Just two days ago, the president's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said that there's nothing to reopen. He said that the review was complete. What's changed?

TOWNSEND: Well, that's right. Steve was absolutely correct when he said that. We have no mechanism we, the government, have no mechanism, having completed our review, to reopen it. The only thing that could cause it to be reopened would be a request from the company itself. We can't generate that. That's really up to the company

So let me understand this. We can't reopen the review of the DPW deal unless the very company we want to review requests it? And the WH thought that argument would work?

In related news...Dubai Ports World has formally asked the United States to reopen the review of their deal. Shocker!

45 Days

YOU SAW THIS coming. The White House announced yesterday that, at the request of Dubai Ports World, there will be a 45-day review of the national secruity implications of the company's plans to take control of operations at six major US ports.

The WH sure could have saved some political capital if they had done this review in the first place. Now it appears that they are buckling under pressure from Democratic (and quite a few Republican) senators and governors.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dubai and Our Ports...Just Getting Started

THIS I FIND a little hard to believe. The White House is now saying that Bush didn't know about the Dubai ports deal until after it was approved. "He became aware of it over the last several days," says Scott McClellan.

And there is more...The NY Times reported today that this sort of deal is actually governed by
law -- a law that says when 'the acquiring company is controlled by or acting on behalf of a foreign government,' a 'mandatory,' 45-day investigation must be completed. But here's the thing: that was never done in this case. And to make matters a bit more unclear, 'Administration officials...could not say why a 45-day investigation did not occur."

You can read the law for yourself at the NYTimes.

I still stand by my initial reaction to this whole issue, but I'm wavering a little. This 'oops, we didn't mean to mislead you' routine by this Administration is getting -- OK, has gotten -- really old. Skepticism is to be expected.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Who Shall Run Our Ports?

I HAVE TO admit that my initial reaction to the ports story is to side with Bush. I'm sure I'll have a chance to reconsider once I've read more about the emerging issue (I'm claiming ignorance during my current trip to New England). But it seems a bit quick-on-the-draw to assume that a simple change in ownership, even if it is to UAE Ports, will somehow threaten our ports. Remember, the operations at these ports are currently being run by a British company called Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. Perhaps the bigger question is why 6 of the largest ports in the United States are being run by foreign companies. It does seem like this issue is every conservative Republican's nightmare: they have to decide whether they side with Jimmy Carter or Hillary Clinton.

Much more to come, I'm sure. WaPo and NYT have much more, including comments regarding POTUS's impromptu press conference with the media today on AF1.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Time for Top 50 Prospects

A BUSINESS TRIP to New England got me thinking about baseball (the Boston Globe will do that to you). Nothing says spring like the new baseball season and nothing says new baseball season like...rookies. Baseball Prospectus is always on the lookout for the next star and they're out with their annual Top 50 Propects list.

The Globe always has a great tribute to Curt Gowdy, who died today

Friday, February 17, 2006

I'll Have a Rose of the Prophet Muhammad, and a Large Coffee

IT'S GOOD TO know that the world is still looking to the United States for ideas. Perhaps taking a cue from some US Senators' decision a few years ago to refer to French fries as 'Freedom Fries', the Iranian confectioners' union has now ordered its bakeries to rename 'danish' 'Roses of the Prophet Muhammad' in response to the Danish-Muhammad-Cartoon controversy. If burning down Danish embassies around the world doesn't get the message across, this certainly will.

A delicious raspberry
Rose of the Prophet
Muhammad with
toasted almonds.

Cartoon Contest in Isreal

INTERESTING STORY OVER at the Freakonomics blog today about a publisher in Isreal holding an anti-semitic caroon contest:

So what do you do if you’re a Jewish cartoonist in Israel and the following happens:
a. A Danish newspaper commissions artists to draw editorial cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad, and said cartoons set off a furor in the Muslim world.
b. Iran responds to said furor by putting out a call for anti-Semitic cartoons about the Holocaust. (Sure, that’s a non sequitur of a response to the Danish cartoons, but what the heck.)
Amitai Sandy, a 29-year-old graphic artist and comic-book publisher in Tel Aviv, came up with the following solution: a new anti-Semitic cartoon contest, with the submissions drawn by Jews themselves.
“We’ll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published!” Sandy said. “No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!”
This is reminiscent of how Planned Parenthood responds to abortion-clinic protestors: by soliciting donations based on how many protestors show up.
Here’s a link to the Israeli anti-Semitic cartoon contest website; here’s a Reuters article about the contest.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Who's Running the White House

DESPITE ALL THE obvious jokes that come from the Cheneyshoot story, there are a couple of serious issues that merit discussion. John Marshall has some interesting thoughts at TPM. But I'm thinking about the role Cheney plays in this administration as a whole.

We know the Cheneyshoot timeline -- at least as it was given to reporters by the owner of the ranch -- and we know that the WH didn't release information about the incident until at least 18 hours after it happened. What we don't know is why the WH decided to 'let the Vice President's office handle it." This morning on Imus, Howard Fineman implied that it might have something to do with the fact that Cheney answers to no one in this adminsitration. We have heard from POTUS advisors, including Scott McClellan, that they would probably have handled the situation in a 'different' way. Is that right? Well then why didn't they? Could it be because Cheney wouldn't let them? Perhaps it was Cheney who called the shots during those 18 hours, leaving Bush and his staff wimpering in the corner.

We've joked in the past that Cheney is really in charge of this country. Maybe in the end this story will confirm that it is Bush who answers to Cheney, not the other way around.

Just a thought.
Paul Begala is from Texas and is an avid hunter. He has some thoughts and perpective about the Cheney accident at TPM Cafe.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Breaking News...

JUST INSIDE THE BELTWAY has learned that there is no truth to the rumor that this photo was taken just after Scott McClellan said, "Don't Shoot, Mr Vice President."

With Friends Like This...

SO DICK CHENEY shot someone over the weekend. Under different circumstances I might have suggested that this news didn't surprise me. However, it appears it was an accident. Cheney was bird hunting with several friends, including Austin attorney Harry Whittington at a ranch in South Texas. Long story short -- Whittington took several shots (bird shot) to the face, neck, and chest and was rushed to a Corpus Christi hospital where he is now resting comfortably and is expected to make a full recovery.

But what's so interesting about this story is the fact that Cheney's office did not confirm (or mention) anything about this story until after it was reported on the website of a Corpus Christi newspaper. I'm no political insider, but it seems to me that if you're one of Cheney's top aides and you learned that your boss had just SHOT someone -- you might want to get ahead of that story.

When Cheney's office finally addressed the story (more than 24 hours after the incident), an aide told reporters that the VP had expressed sincere apologies to Mr. Whittington. I would have loved to hear that apology: 'Gee Harry, I'm really sorry that I SHOT YOU! Anyway...I gotta get back to Washington. See ya.'

At least this story reminds us all that guns don't kill people, but trigger-happy Vice Presidents can come pretty close.

JIB Note: I haven't consulted my history books yet to confirm this, but I believe Cheney now joins Aaron Burr as the only Vice Presidents to shoot someone while in office. If I have this wrong, semd me a comment.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Websites Will Tell You Just About Anything

HAVE YOU EVER wondered what your neighbor's house is worth? Yes you have! A new website called has an interesting feature. Simply plug in your address and it will give you a satelite shot of your house. But it doesn't stop there. It also gives an estimated value of your house and all the houses in the surrounding area.

Before you go nuts with this site, Freakonomics blog insists the info on the site is suspect at best. The pricing seems to be inconsistant from region to region and it doesn't always rely on the actual sale prices of homes. However, that being said, I plugged in my address and had some fun with the site.
Here's a site that will show you all the registered sex offenders who live in your neighborhood. John Walsh, of 'America's Most Wanted' is behind the site. I'll be honest, it's a bit daunting at first when you see the number of offenders. But the opening screen covers a pretty big area -- don't forget to zoom in a few levels.
The snow storm that hit DC overnight has given more time to waste on the web. I thought it would only be appropriate to pass on the information.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

DC Council Votes No..I Mean Yes

THE CONTINUING SAGA that is the DC City Council took an interesting turn Tuesday night as they first voted against the finance plan for a new baseball stadium for the Nats, then they voted yes to a new plan a few hours later. The Post's Marc Fisher has a good column today in which he outlines Marion Barry's (remember him?) role in the 11th hour reversal. When asked what changed his mind, Barry said, "Things shift."

Things shift? That's the answer he's going with? Why couldn't they have shifted 12 months ago?

Apparently three others had a 'shifting of the mind' as well as Carol Schwarts (R) and two other councilmen (who, along with Barry, ran on an anti-stadium deal platform in 2004) changed their vote. That makes three candidates (Barry, Kwame Brown, and Vincent Gray) who won races in '04 on an anti-stadium platform who Tuesday voted FOR the deal. But what makes this political story even better is that the deal they voted for Tuesday is about $100 MILLION MORE THAN THE DEAL THEY OPPOSED AS CANDIDATES. It seems that 14 months of haggeling by the DC Council has led to a rapid increase in the cost of the stadium deal. Politics 101 tells that this issue may come up in re-election campaigns.

Move coverage from Tom Boswell at the Post [WP]

Thursday, February 02, 2006

SOTU Already in the Review Mirror

MY GUESS IS that the average State of the Union Address gets about 36 hours of play. After that, no one remembers (or cares) unless you happen to be FDR in '33 or JFK in '61. With that in mind, here's some interesting commentary from some of talking and writing heads:

  • Conservative babe Peggy Noonan thinks Bush was lecturing a bit. She also wishes Hillary had a better sense of humor.
  • Conservative blimp Bob Novak can't help but wonder why Bush seems to be promoting a bigger government.
  • Conservative nerd George Will sees two problems facing Bush: one political, one conceptual. (I, on the other hand, only see one problem with George Will: I can't read his columns without a dictionary).
  • Liberal wack-jobs from around the country chime in as well. More to come.

Couple of final notes of my own on SOTU:

  • Did anyone else notice that the when Bush mentioned that Hammas must disarm and disavow their desire to eliminate Isreal, the cutaway shots all went to Lieberman? I guess the cue for the cameramen at that moment in the speech was 'find a Jew.'
  • I hate to get crass, but The Daily Show had a great line to describe Hillary's look when Bush made the 'two of my dad's favorite people' joke. Jon Stuart described the look as 'the place where boners go to die.'
  • I want to like Tim Kaine -- but the eyebrows. Wow. Those things are distracting.
  • Am I the only one who thinks that this speech -- with only a few changes -- could have been given in any of the past 3 years? I'm looking for vision and I'm not finding it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Grand Ol' Docket

LET'S FACE IT, when rich famous people get in trouble with the law it makes the rest of us feel a little better about ourselves. TPM has a link that chronicles the upcoming court dates (with results!) of some of Washington's major players -- past and present. It's nice read when you have some time to kill. The Grand Ol' Docket.