Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Wish: Civil Debate

My wish for 2006 is for civil, honest, political dialogue and debate. As I have stated before, I believe that ultimately, regardless of party affiliation or political philosophy, we all basically want the same end goals; i.e., peace, a strong economy, security, happiness, opportunity, a clean environment, etc. With these common goals, it would sure be nice if we could have true political dialogue with give and take. However, the focus seems to be on winning, getting credit, and dealing blame. We become more polarized and seem to focus on our differences, of which there are many despite the common end goals.

For what it is worth, I was thinking about where some of the key philosophical differences lie. Here is one way of looking at it. I have drawn a Freedom-Control Continuum below. The dashed line represents the current state of balance between personal freedoms and governmental control. The more this line moves to the right, the more socialistic things are with stronger governmental control. The more it moves to the left, the more it moves towards a libertarian view. I believe that somewhere in the middle there is a good compromise. Some governmental laws are necessary for us to be able to get along as a society. But, when there are problems, how do they get solved? Conservatives would tend to push the line to the left to allow people to solve the problems, while liberals would push the line to the right to allow the government to work things out. Neither side would want to go too extreme in either direction and maybe the natural tension between the two groups keeps things in a moderate place. If we can have honest discussion maybe we can sort these issues out.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

RNC vs. DNC: Support or Fight Samuel Alito Nomination

Both national committee web sites have opportunities for supporting or fighting Samuel Alito’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. The Republican National Committee has a petition that people can sign which is designed to go to your state senators. The Democratic National Committee has a place where you can draft a letter that lists talking points you can use. These letters can be directed to local and national newspapers. Here are the links:

http://www.democrats.org/page/speakout/alito
http://www.rnc.org/GetActive/Petition.aspx

The RNC petition reminds the reader that the President nominates and that the Senate confirms:

RNC: “… the President has the responsibility under the Constitution to nominate an individual to fill that vacancy who is qualified to serve and who will faithfully interpret the Constitution … As a citizen and a voter, I am asking you, Sen. Maria Cantwell and Sen. Patty Murray, to fulfill your Constitutional obligations and confirm Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.”

The DNC talking points emphasize that the President needs to work closer with the Senate:

DNC: “The lifetime appointment of a Supreme Court Justice has significant ramification for the future of America and it’s time for the White House to treat this process with the respect it deserves by cooperating with the Senate as they fulfill their constitutional responsibility.”

On a side note, the RNC does not mention the Democrats but the DNC uses some name-calling and strong terms when referring to Bush, Alito, and conservatives. These are mentioned in the DNC talking points:

the most extreme political fringe
too far out of the mainstream
a weak president
the radical right
bad behavior of right-wing radicals

Saturday, December 24, 2005

DNC vs. RNC: President Bush Wiretaps

The Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee web sites both address the controversial approval of wiretaps by President Bush. The contrast is interesting with the DNC saying it is an “extra-legal” move on the administration’s part that “explicitly violates” the law. Howard Dean wrote a letter that is published on the DNC’s site. He makes a comparison with President Nixon. Conversely, the RNC site quotes from a Washington Times article in which President Clinton is used as an example of approving similar measures. Here are some excerpts:

DNC: These actions explicitly violate a law designed to protect US citizens. But the administration says that other laws somehow allow for this unprecedented use of a foreign intelligence agency to spy on Americans right here in the United States.

We have seen this kind of arrogance of power before. Richard Nixon once said in an interview that, "if the president does it, it can't be illegal." He found out that wasn't true. This administration may need a reminder.

RNC: Previous administrations, as well as the court that oversees national security cases, agreed with President Bush's position that a president legally may authorize searches without warrants in pursuit of foreign intelligence.

"The Department of Justice believes -- and the case law supports -- that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes and that the president may, as he has done, delegate this authority to the attorney general," Clinton Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick said in 1994 testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

That same authority, she added, pertains to electronic surveillance such as wiretaps.

One of the most famous examples of warrantless searches in recent years was the investigation of CIA official Aldrich H. Ames, who ultimately pleaded guilty to spying for the former Soviet Union. That case was largely built upon secret searches of Ames' home and office in 1993, conducted without federal warrants.

In 1994, President Clinton expanded the use of warrantless searches to entirely domestic situations with no foreign intelligence value whatsoever. In a radio address promoting a crime-fighting bill, Mr. Clinton discussed a new policy to conduct warrantless searches in highly violent public housing projects.

Links to the articles:

http://www.democrats.org/a/2005/12/did_george_bush.php

http://www.rnc.org/News/Read.aspx?ID=6018

Thursday, December 22, 2005

vacation

posts will be infrequent during the holidays -- want to spend time with family. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

President Bush's Speech on Iraq

President Bush addressed the nation tonight and CNN’s web site coverage is much more negative relative to Fox’s News’ more positive coverage. Both home pages had pictures of Bush as shown by the partial screen shots below (as of 9:00 pm PST). CNN’s headline which accompanied the picture has Bush more on the defensive with “Bush: 'Do not give up on this fight for freedom'.” So, CNN is presenting Bush saying we should not give up, implying that some want to give up. This is quite a contrast to Fox News’ “'We Are Winning the War in Iraq'.”

CNN:


FOX:



When you click on their home page headlines, the articles show similar perspectives. CNN again has Bush on the defensive with “Bush: Iraq pullout would hurt credibility.” The sub-headline notes problems with “President acknowledges divisions, cites 'steady gains'.” CNN’s opening sentence similarly sounds defensive:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush acknowledged deep divisions and difficult progress in Iraq Sunday night, but said U.S. forces were making "steady gains" in the nearly 3-year-old war and urged Americans not to "give in to despair."

http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/12/18/bush.speech/index.html

Clicking on Fox’s home page headline brings you to an article with the positive statement, “Bush: Iraq Vote a Landmark for Liberty.” The opening sentence is similarly positive:

WASHINGTON — Elections in Iraq last Thursday were "a landmark day in the history of liberty," and set the stage for the first Arab democracy in the Middle East, President Bush said Sunday night in a prime-time television speech from the Oval Office.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,179026,00.html

The reader of just Fox News may have a more positive image of Bush and the Iraq War than a reader of just CNN.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Patriot Act Fails to Pass

The Patriot Act was rejected by the Senate today. CNN and Fox News ran articles about it. Biases can be seen in their opening sentences with CNN being less friendly to the administration, or conversely, Fox is more friendly towards President Bush. I believe the opening sentences can be important in framing the perspective of the article for the reader.

Here is CNN’s opening sentence which emphasizes a “major blow” to the administration.

CNN: The Senate on Friday rejected efforts to renew expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, dealing a major blow to President Bush and the Republican leadership.

Fox’s opening is much more neutral sounding.

FOX: The Senate on Friday blocked a vote to reauthorize 16 expiring provisions of the controversial USA Patriot Act.

While the “blow” to Bush is implied, it is never explicitly stated by Fox as CNN does.

CNN quotes White House spokesman Scott McClellan at the end of its article while Fox quotes him near the beginning of its article. CNN’s quote (shown below) is in defense of a veto threatened by Bush. Fox, on the other hand, uses quotes (also shown below) that emphasize the administration’s viewpoint and talks of protecting the American people.

CNN: "We've expressed our views how we believe the provisions should be permanent," he [McClellan] said. "And I think what's happening now is that some people are playing politics with this legislation."

FOX: "We are going to continue to do all we can to save lives, that is the president's number one priority," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said immediately after the vote. "The president is going to continue to act to protect the American people ... we will continue to work with members of Congress on those matters."

He added: "This law has helped prevent attacks from happening by breaking up terrorist cells within the United States ... We urge them [senators] to get this done now."

Both treat differently the recent New York Times report of President Bush approving eavesdropping. CNN devotes 24% of its article (by word count) to this issue and makes it a big issue in the Senate vote. Fox’s article was twice as long as CNN’s. Fox only devoted 8% of its article to the issue and made it seem less of an issue.

Links to the articles:

http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/12/16/patriot.act/index.html

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,178898,00.html

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bush as Iraq Elections Begin

As I write this, the polls have opened in Iraq. President Bush delivered a speech today at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. CNN and Fox News ran stories on the speech and the emphasis for each, by headline and picture, is predictable. Here are some screen shots below that show CNN emphasizing that Bush is responsible for the war and Fox News emphasizing the successes in Iraq.

CNN: "Bush: I am reponsible"



Fox News: "Bush touts 'watershed' Iraq vote" and (upper left corner) "The right decision" which is based on an interview tihe Fox News

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Condi Rice in Europe: Half Full or Half Empty?

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice finished a visit to Europe. CNN and Fox News however give different treatment to her success, or lack thereof. This can easily be seen from the headlines and the opening sentences of their respective articles:

CNN: Europe fears linger on U.S. torture

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice eased European ministers' worries with reassuring denials of allegations of torture by American forces, but many across the continent remained unconvinced as she wound up a European visit Friday.

FOX: Rice Europe Trip a Success by Most Counts

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is getting mostly high marks from European leaders after a trip there viewed by some observers as a test of her ability to convince allies that the United States remains committed to the human rights of terrorism detainees.

Links to the articles:

http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/12/09/rice.europe.ap/index.html

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,178185,00.html

DNC vs. RNC: Where is the true dialogue?

I am so disappointed by the lack of dialogue on the issues by our politicians. It seems to me that our political system is much like our justice system. Let me elaborate on that. In a criminal trial courtroom, you have a lawyer for the defense and a lawyer for the prosecution. The idea is that both sides try to convince the jury that their side is correct. In the end, it is hoped that the truth prevails and justice is served. From each lawyer’s perspective though, it can really come down to just winning the case, regardless of the truth. There is a whole arsenal of tricks that the lawyers can use in questioning witnesses. It can come down to strategy and the lawyers’ skillful use of words and argument. It can come down to how much money either side has to buy the right set of skills to shape the jury’s opinion.

Similarly, in the political “courtroom” of the two-party system, you have two sides. Representatives from each side try and convince the public that their side is correct. But, as in the legal system, it can come down to just trying to win and using various tricks and gimmicks to do so. There is no honest searching for the truth. Neither side can admit a mistake because the other side will use it against them through repeated playing of sound bites. Neither side can concede a good point that the other side may have because it will show weakness and give credit to that side. It all becomes about winning. It can come down to how much money either side has to buy and shape public opinion.

Here are two examples from the web sites of the Democratic and Republican national committees. On December 8th the DNC posted an article entitled, “Fact Check: President Bush Said We Can't Win.” The first paragraph says:

Washington, DC - The RNC got it wrong. Today, they falsely claimed that President Bush has always predicted victory in the War on Terror, and argued in a release that "President Bush Never Said We Couldn't Win." In fact, last summer, on the first day of his convention, President Bush told Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today Show" that he didn't think "we can win it."

It goes on to give a portion of the transcript of the show (which was August 31st of 2004) and a quote from a New York Times article. This is part of an ongoing war of words on statements that each side has recently made on whether or not we can win in Iraq. My point here is that I think it is pretty clear that President Bush believes we can accomplish his goals for Iraq. Winning a global war against terrorism is probably not possible in the traditional sense of signing a peace treaty. Yet, the DNC is exploiting the words that Bush said regardless of the fact that we probably all really know what Bush meant.

On the other side, the RNC has exploited recent words used by DNC Chairman Howard Dean. The RNC has released a web ad. The announcement of their ad is shown in a partial screen shot below. It shows Howard Dean with the words “Retreat and Defeat” with a white flag flying. I think that Dean is not suggesting defeat. I am sure he wants the U.S. to accomplish something in Iraq and then get out as soon as possible, sooner rather than later.







In reality, there is great disagreement in this country about why we are in Iraq. However, I believe that, given we are there, the vast majority of Democrats and Republicans want to see some good come of it, with minimal loss of lives, with our troops returning as soon as possible. So, let’s have more debate on those issues, recognizing our common ground.

Links to the web sites:

http://www.democrats.org/

http://www.rnc.org/

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

President Bush: Progress in Iraq

President Bush spoke today to the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank. Bush highlighted progress made in Iraq. At the time of my posting, CNN had one article of 920 words while Fox News had two articles (one from the President’s view and one for the Democratic response) totaling 3539 words. I decided I would take a look at a section of each article with almost identical sub-headings; CNN with “Najaf, Mosul cited as examples” and Fox with “Progress in Najaf, Mosul.”

CNN discounts the selected examples by noting that these are cities “where relatively few insurgent attacks occur.” A few paragraphs later CNN adds “Neither city lies in the Sunni Triangle in central Iraq, the area where most insurgent attacks have taken place.” Fox, on the other hand, indicates that these are good examples in that these cities were “once the sites of some of the bloodiest battles of the war.”

I pulled out the specific references to progress in Najaf and these are indicated in the table below. CNN makes some brief general statements while Fox goes into much greater detail.

CNN

FOX

U.S. and Iraq officials "worked with Najaf's governor and other local officials to rebuild the local police force, repair residents' homes, refurbish schools, restore water and other essential service, reopen a soccer stadium, complete with new lights and fresh sod."

But when the militias were routed, Najaf began to blossom, the president said, quoting one Najaf resident by saying: "Three years ago, we were in ruins, one year ago we were fighting in the streets, now look at us — shopping and eating."

Although there's still plenty of work to be done in Najaf and around Iraq, and reconstruction has been full of "fits and starts" in terms of sustained electricity and making sure the influence of armed gangs is reduced, Bush said progress in Najaf includes:

— Rebuilding of the local police force with the help of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Najaf's governor and other local officials;

— Repair of schools and homes and the rebuilding of a soccer stadium;

— Restoration of clean drinking water;

— The opening of new businesses and markets even in some of the poorest areas;

— Visits by religious pilgrims;

— Creation of construction jobs that are putting people back to work;

— Return of the Najaf Teaching Hospital, which was looted and used as a military fortress by militias and is now open to serve hundreds of patients each day.

"Najaf is now in the hands of elected government officials, and elected provincial officials are at work," Bush said, adding that U.S. forces are 40 minutes outside the city and only go into Najaf when called.

"They have no intention of returning to the days of tyranny and terror," the president said of the residents in Najaf.

Links to the articles:

http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/12/07/bush.iraq/index.html

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,177925,00.html

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Howard Dean on Iraq

I’ll see how this story continues to be handled but the initial coverage of Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean’s speech Monday was quite different by CNN and Fox News. CNN ran a 380-word story with a picture of Howard Dean. Fox News ran an AP story that was uncharacteristically short at only 152 words. Its story did not have a picture of Dean but rather a picture of Secretary Rumsfeld. Fox also ran a story Monday on comments by Rumsfeld with the headline, “Rumsfeld: Americans Should Be Optimistic About Iraq.” CNN did not run that story.

Links to the articles:

http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/12/06/dean.iraq.1935/index.html

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,177771,00.html

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,177680,00.html

Monday, December 05, 2005

Secretary Rice's Visit to Europe: Headlines and Photos

Wow, quite a difference in the coverage of Secretary of State Condi Rice’s visit to Europe. Both CNN and Fox News use the same AP article, but the headlines and pictures used this morning show their biases.

Here are the headlines. CNN has Rice on the defensive and includes the secret prisons. Fox touts the benefit of the war (not the “Iraq War” but the “War on Terror”).

CNN: Rice defends U.S. terrorism policy amid reports of secret CIA prisons

FOX: Rice: War on Terror Has Saved European Lives

As I have noted before, CNN has used less complimentary pictures of Rice. That is the case today with CNN showing a scowling Rice (maybe to fit the headline position of her being on the defensive). Fox shows a smiling Rice. Here are the pictures:

CNN:
















FOX:




















[Note: Sometimes the articles and headlines are updated during the day but the information in this posting is accurate as of 6:30 am PST.]

Links to the articles:
http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/12/05/us.secretprisons.ap/index.html
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,177661,00.html

Saturday, December 03, 2005

DNC vs. RNC: Issues

Since I usually point out differences I thought this time it might be nice to identify similarities. This morning I looked at both the Democratic National Committee’s web site and the Republican National Committee’s web site. Both groups have published a list of issues (the DNC uses the term “agenda”). I was amazed at the similar goals that are desired by both parties in many areas including national security, the economy, education, and social security. The table below illustrates those similarities and compares them side by side. If both sides agree so much on where we want to go, why can’t we have civilized debates about how to accomplish those goals instead of the angry attacks, politicizing, grandstanding, etc.?

Democratic National Committee

Republican National Committee

Security-Keeping America Safe at Home; Strength Overseas; Honoring Our Troops, Veterans, and Their Families

Democrats are unwavering in our commitment to keep our nation safe.

… we led the fight to create the Department of Homeland Security


Democrats support fair immigration reform that keeps our borders secure.


Democrats believe that strong international alliances are the cornerstone of our foreign policy.

We will also continue to stand up for the families of those who serve our country, …

Democrats believe we must support our troops by modernizing our military to that it better meets the threats of the 21st century.

Safety and Security

Immigration Reform


President Bush is committed to keeping the nation strong and secure

President Bush proposed and Congress approved a single, unified Department of Homeland Security

… the administration plans to reform our Nation's immigration laws to create a system that is fairer, more consistent, and more compassionate.

President Bush is committed to … strengthening the NATO alliance

President Bush is committed to … supporting military families and veterans.

President Bush signed into law landmark legislation that better prepares our defense establishment to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Opportunity-A Strong Economy

We are committed to expanding economic opportunity to all Americans and creating the new jobs of the future.

The Democratic Party believes in balanced budgets and paying down our national debt …

Jobs & Economy

President Bush will not be satisfied until … we turn our economic recovery into lasting prosperity that reaches every corner of America.

To accomplish this, the President has proposed: Restraining spending by the Federal Government

Opportunity-Education

Democrats know that the key to expanding opportunity is to provide every child with a world-class education. We want to meet our responsibilities to America's children by ensuring that our schools have the resources they need to help our kids meet high standards.

Education

President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) so that testing, accountability, and high standards will join with record new funding to help ensure educational excellence for every child.

Opportunity-Retirement Security

Our commitment to protecting the promise of Social Security is absolute. … We are open to any and all ideas that ensure that the current and future generations of retirees receive the benefits they were promised …

Social Security

President Bush is committed to ensuring the promise of Social Security is kept for current seniors and those nearing retirement, and that we fix the Social Security system for our children and grandchildren.

Of course there were differences, with the RNC making points about legal reform, faith-based efforts, tax reform, and nominations. The DNC agenda addresses election reform, environmental protection, health care, civil rights, and honest government (I wonder if the latter was listed on the DNC’s web site when Clinton was president).

If you want to check things out for yourself, here are the links:

http://www.democrats.org/agenda.html

http://www.gop.com/Issues/

Friday, December 02, 2005

National Christmas Tree: Ba Humbug CNN

Where is CNN’s Christmas spirit? So far they have not covered the annual lighting of the national Christmas tree. Fox has run these four artcles:

Bush Dedicates Tree Lighting to Troops - Thursday, December 01, 2005 - WASHINGTON — For the fifth year in a row, President Bush on Thursday dedicated the lighting of the National Christmas tree to U.S....

Capitol Holiday Tree Is a Christmas Tree Again - Tuesday, November 29, 2005 - WASHINGTON — House Speaker Dennis Hastert has told federal officials that the lighted, decorated tree on the West Lawn of the U.S....

Holiday Trees Arrive at Capitol, White House - Monday, November 28, 2005 - WASHINGTON — Two of the nation's three branches of government were adorning themselves with more branches Monday as holiday trees were...

Horse-Drawn Wagon Brings White House Christmas Tree - Monday, November 28, 2005 - WASHINGTON — A horse-drawn wagon pulled up to the White House Monday with an 18 1/2-foot Christmas tree that will adorn the Blue Room,...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Polls on Pres. Bush and Iraq

CNN and Fox News released poll information on President Bush. CNN paints a more negative picture. Its headline is “Poll: Most doubt Bush has plan for Iraq victory.” This headline is misleading as there obviously is a plan. The poll question was whether or not Americans believe Bush has a plan “that will achieve victory.” There was some relatively positive news in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll but CNN chose to highlight this result. Fox’s headline is more positive with “12/01/05 Fox poll” Bush approval rises; public split on pre-war intel.”

Most questions between the two polls are different but there is one that achieved relatively similar results. That question, asked from different angles but getting at the same point, is about how the U.S. will fare in the long run, based on our intervention in Iraq. The results show that there is a slight edge towards us being better off but CNN adds that the results are within sampling error. CNN also lists the latest death toll in Iraq. Here are the statements from the articles:

CNN: Asked if the war will make the United States safer from terrorism in the long run, 48 percent said yes and 43 percent no, within the poll's sampling error.

FOX: Just over half of Americans (52 percent) think the world would be worse off … if the U.S. military had not taken action.

Links to the articles:

http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/11/30/iraq.poll/index.html

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,177333,00.html