Friday, June 30, 2006

Weekend Roundup

FLAG BURNING, MILITARY tribunals, World Cup, and a lot more...
  • The Dems can't beat the Republicans at anything! Not even baseball. [Roll Call]
  • Freakonomics always has a uniqe way to look at an issue. Here, it looks at an interesting statistical development in the Duke rape case.
  • Hinduism, meet soccer. Soccer, meet Hinduism. [photo]
  • 'Somalia defeats Rowanda to win Third-World Cup.'[The Onion]
  • Is the United States winning the war on terror? Not according to more than 100 of America‚Äôs top foreign-policy hands. They see a national security apparatus in disrepair and a government that is failing to protect the public from the next attack. [FP]

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Not Exactly a Burning Issue

THE US SENATE failed once again to pass an Constitutional amendment banning flag burning. But from the sound of things, most Senators -- even on the GOP side -- aren't too smoked about it. 'I don't think anyone would say it's the most important [issue],' said Trent Lott (R-Miss). Do other Senators think it's one of the most important issues facing the country right now?

'No, no, not even close,' said amendment co-sponsor John Ensign (R-Nev).

'Ha, ha, ha,' replied fellow co-sponsor Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Tex).

'It's not a burning issue,' was the clever response from Gordon Smith (R-Ore)

In the end, the measure came one vote short of the 67 needed for it to pass. But that won't bother too many in the Senate because the floor debate and the ensuing vote wasn't designed to actually get the amendment passed. Instead, it was an attempt to get Senators on record one way or another in order to use the issue in the upcoming elections -- and you can bet the Republicans will push the rhetoric to new levels.

I can see the Rove-inspired TV spot now: 'John Kerry voted against an amendment to ban flag burning. No wonder the insurgents in Iraq are gaining so much power.'

Of course, no one is talking about the fact that the Supreme Court upheld the right to burn flags as an expression of free speech in TWO separate decisions in the 1980s.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Turns Out There Was Polling During WWII

TONY SNOW TRIED to make a critical point last weekend by suggesting on one of the Sunday morning talk shows that it's the media that is causing people to be so nervous about Iraq. How can we win in Iraq, the argument goes, if the American people are only hearing about the bad news? "If somebody had taken a poll in the Battle of the Bulge, I dare say people would have said, 'Wow, my goodness, what are we doing here?', Snow said.

Well guess what? Turns out there were several extensive polls taken right about the time of the Battle of the Bulge. Hadley Cantil had a poll that showed 'no downtick in public support for the war during the battle of the Bulge.' Al Kamen at WaPo has details about a Gallup poll taken in 1944-45:
In fact, there was a poll taken by Gallup from Dec. 31, 1944, to Jan. 4, 1945 -- three years into that war and right in the middle of the bloody Battle of the Bulge, where U.S. casualties were estimated between 70,000 and 80,000. It found that 73 percent of Americans would refuse to make peace with Adolf Hitler if he offered it and that 86 percent of Americans thought there was no chance that we would lose the war in Europe.

Oops. Again.

Getting Our Metaphors Straight

WHAT'S WITH ALL the 'cut and run' references lately? It's a favorite among Republicans trying to argue that the Dems want to flee Iraq. Some Republicans have amended the phrase, saying that what some on the left want to do is 'cut and jog.' Mitch McConnell even said, 'cut and walk' the other day. Tony Snow uses the phrase at nearly every press conference.

Here's my issue: 'cut and run' is a sailing term that refers to sails and slips, not a metaphor for turning on your heels and running.

So cut out the 'cut and run' references. Now!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Money Race

ACCORDING TO RECENTLY released FEC records, the Democrats in the House and Senate find themselves in an unusual position: they have raised more money than the Republicans for the upcoming mid-term elections. The dems have nearly $50 million in the bank (compared to $39 mil for the Republicans). Let's see if they can use some of that money to buy a message they can all agree on.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Snow's Blame Game

APPARENTLY THE ONLY people who don't know that the war in Iraq is going well is the biased media. At least that's what Tony Snow has been saying on the morning shows. Snow toured the morning shows Sunday with this basic message: Bush doesn't make policy decisions based on polls (fair enough), and the only reason Americans appear to be overly impatient with the war is because of all the negative media coverage. Perhaps Snow didn't read the recent Wall Street Journal editorial suggesting that, in fact, the media may be underplaying how dire things are in Iraq.

Or maybe he didn't read the cable from the US embassy in Baghdad to the State Department (signed by Ambassador Khalilzad) in which it painted a pretty grim picture of what's going on right now. The cable was sent just prior to Bush's surprise visit last week.

But whatever the reason, Snow is pushing the idea that the media is to blame. Check out this comment on Fox News Sunday:
The thing is the way the war is being covered -- and we've seen it right now. We have two US servicemen -- and God bless them. We hope they're Okay. We're focusing on them and we forget that since Zarqawi was killed, hundreds of bad guys have been rounded up.

Or this from CBS's Face the Nation:
the fact that two American servicemen are missing -- that becomes the big story, rather than the fact that you've got almost 60,000 forces on the ground going after bad guys. We've apprehended hundreds of bad guys since Zarqawi died.

How dare the media focus on two young marines that are missing, and have since been found dead in the street. Perhaps Snow would prefer if the government controlled the news -- you know, so this kind of reckless journalism could be put in check.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Lieberman-McCain/McCain-Lieberman '08?

IF RECENT POLLS are accurate (and I'm not saying they are), both Joseph Lieberman and John McCain are in a bit of trouble within their own party. A recent Rassmusen poll shows that Lieberman is losing ground in his own Senate bid in Connecticut. McCain has no worries in terms of his Senate seat, but Republicans -- especially the talking heads and the Christian Coalition types -- are not anxious to see him as the nominee.

That brings me to my point: both Dems and GOPers have hinted -- joked, really -- that Lieberman and McCain could both run as Independents. So, could we see a McCain-Lieberman or Lieberman-McCain ticket? And, more importantly, could a viable third party ticket be just what our political system needs right now?

Condi Having More Influence? Let's Hope So

THERE IS HOPE that the Rummy-Cheney death grip on this administration is beginning to ease. It appears that Condi Rice is beginning to hold a bit more sway at the White House. Andrew Sullivan explains in his Times of London column this week.

Bush certainly had a good week last week. The death of Zarqawi and his surprise trip to Baghdad were widely viewed as yet another 'turning point' in the war on terror. However, I'm still waiting for the moment when a member of the US government can actually phone ahead before visiting Iraq. You know, to let the Iraqi government know that they are coming.

Now that will be a turning point.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Will Someone Please Give Ann Coulter a New Act

JUNE IS UNOFFICIALLY the month when the world doesn't care about anything but the World Cup. With any luck then, most of the world will miss Hurricane Coulter, the Cat 5 storm that hit Fox News this week. And in typical Fox News style, Coulter is on the channel almost every day, shilling for her new book. But don't worry, the coverage is 'Fair and Balanced,' thanks in part to hard hitting questions from Sean Hannety and Allan Colmes. (My favorite questions was from Hannety: 'Ann, aren't you being demonized by the liberals?' Wow, hope she was ready for that fastball.) Coulter, of course, is loving the attention that her new controversial book is getting ($$$). Of course, this only helps prove my theory that the only way she can sell books is by swimming to the bottom of the barrel and scraping up the reckless, biting commentary that even far-right operatives won't touch. Without the controversy, no one cares about her opinion -- that is clear. But hey, she's whoring herself to the frenzied media and it's working. God Bless America.

Some other items of interest for this week:
  • Fairly good (and not necessarily negative) column about Ann Coulter by NYT's David Carr (of course, you have to have a password to read it. Damn you, New York Times!)
  • A convention in Las Vegas for liberal bloggers. Tell the hookers to get ready -- these socially challenged, unattractive, internet hermits will be looking for some action.
  • A former student of mine has a full-page piece in the USA Today about the Volvo Ocean Race.

The Bush-Clinton Doctrine on Negotiating with Nuclear Powers?

AS PRESIDENT BUSH visited with members of the new Iraqi government today, I was struck by the fact that POTUS was probably only a couple hundred miles from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Any chance AF1 took a short detour to Tehran for some nuclear (or is it nucular) talks with the Iranian Pres?

I doubt it, but it's worth noting that as Bush contemplates the possibility of nonproliferation talks with Iran, he is running some of the same risks he said the Clinton administration took in their approach to North Korea. Does anyone else see this? Bush (and the Right) were quite critical of Clinton's negotiating tactics with the regime in Pyongyang, arguing that despotic states make unstable, untrustworthy negotiating partners.

As the WSJ put it in today's edition, 'Now the Bush team has opened the door to the possibility of holding similar talks with Iran -- not direct talks, but as part of an international dialogue already started by America's European allies. Indeed, these talks could ultimately lead to an agreement like the one the Clinton team reached with North Korea.'

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Bits & Pieces

AS FAR AS headlines go, this one is pretty good from the NY Post:

...'boost hicks in sticks.' How great is that? The Washington Post chimed in Saturday with this editorial.

Other interesting items for your weekend reading:

  • Tom Shales wonders why the only good new television shows are dramas. I wonder if he's ever seen 'The Office' or 'My Name is Earl'? Both are comedies and both have been nominated for best new show at the 22nd Annual Television Critics Association Awards. Lisa de Moraes has details in WaPo.
  • FP Magazine has an interesting list of failed states that attempts to identify the least stable (economically, politically, etc.) country in the world. If you had Sudan in your office pool, you win!
  • Very interesting series in the Washington Post called 'Being a Black Man.' On Friday, Michael Fletcher's installment called At the Corner of Progress and Peril.
  • The Washington Times says that Bush is beginning to circle the wagons in response to low pollin numbers.