The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Saturday, May 03, 2003

I have to tell you, from the few minutes of the USS Abe Lincoln photo-op fest, I knew one thing: "Maureen Dowd is going to write a Top Gun-themed column"

And just a few days later...
This time Maverick didn't just nail a few bogeys and do a 4G inverted dive with a MIG-28 at a range of two meters. This time the Top Gun wasted a couple of nasty regimes, and promised this was just the beginning. Mav swaggered across the deck to high-five his old gang: his wise flight instructor, Viper; his amiable sidekick, Goose; his chiseled rival, Iceman.

MAVERICK: I feel the need . . .

GOOSE: The need for speed!

ICEMAN: You're really a cowboy.

MAVERICK: What's your problem?

ICEMAN: Your ego's writing checks your body can't cash. You didn't need to take all that water survival training in the White House swimming pool. The Abraham Lincoln was practically docked, only 30 miles off shore, after 10 months at sea. They had to steer it away from land for you. If you'd waited a few hours, you could've just walked aboard. You and Rove are making a gorgeous campaign video on the Pacific to cast you as the warrior president for 2004, but back on shore, things are ugly. The California economy's bleeding, even worse than other states'. When you took office, the unemployment rate in San Jose was 1.7 percent; by February of this year, it had risen to 8.5 percent. Your motorcade didn't bother to stop in the depressed high-tech corridor in Silicon Valley. Every time you cut taxes and raise deficits while you're roaring ahead with a pre-emptive military policy, you're unsafe. National unemployment goes up to 6 percent and you just hammer Congress to pass your tax cut. The only guys sure about their jobs these days are defense contractors connected to Republicans and the Carlyle Group, which owns half of the defense plant you visited here. You're dangerous.

MAVERICK: That's right, Iceman. I am dangerous.
Hehehe, read the whole thing.

The first Democratic presidential debate was held earlier today on campus at the University of South Carolina. (and no jokes about mixing Democrats and Cocks! jeez!)

Nine candidates were present: Kerry, Edwards, Dean, Gephardt, Lieberman, Moseley-Braun, Kucinich, Sharpton and Graham. A couple of the candidates apparently went after Gephardt's health care plan, but apparently when the focus was on the economy, the candidates were more united, focusing their attacks on Dubya's economic policy (or lack thereof).

Two things:
1) I'll have more analysis tomorrow when I watch the debate on CSPAN, and
2) It's a year and a half until the election, and that's an eternity. Kos points to a couple of old poll samples that really hit this point home: A year and a half before the 1992 election, Bill Clinton was at 1%.

That is what Offspring frontman Dexter Holland said recently of G 'n R recluse Axl Rose. You see, Holland and his band have decided to call their forthcoming album Chinese Democracy -- the same title as the long awaited Guns N' Roses album, still yet to come out after years, years and years (not to mention, years) of waiting.

But look on the bright side, 80's hard rock fans: Chinese Democracy is coming out!

WASHINGTON — Some of the big companies caught up in accounting scandals are now asking the government to refund some of their federal taxes, saying they overpaid based on the artificially inflated profits they reported.

WorldCom, Enron, Qwest Communications and HealthSouth are either pursuing or considering filing for federal tax refunds or credits for payments made on billions of dollars falsely claimed as earnings, a Senate Finance Committee aide said yesterday, confirming a report in The Wall Street Journal. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity.

The four companies — all under investigation by federal authorities — were among the biggest corporate scandals that came to light over the past year and a half.

The Senate Finance Committee chairman said yesterday he is asking federal prosecutors to move against companies seeking tax refunds because their overpayments were based on artificially inflated profits they reported. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said he will "encourage (the Justice Department) to take aggressive action against the companies and individuals who were in on the con." (full story)
What kind of an example is this? Think of the children! What will we tell them? Frankly, I'd send each and every business student in America an intern or two right now, to keep their greed, um, lustful, hehe.

This all reminds me of how Enron tried to get back the $100,000 they gave to Gray Davis after he started going after them, Duke and others for the way they gouged California. Though I wouldn't have accepted Enron money in the first place, Davis did exactly what he should have when Enron asked for that: in effect he said "T.S." In that case, if you give contributions in order to peddle influence, you run the risk of such things not working. The moral for Enron would be, "don't give Gray Davis anymore money", but of course, it was too late for they had no more money to give! In the case of the tax refund request on Enron etc's part, the same moral applies: you puff up your earnings estimates, you fuckin deal with it. Muahaha.

Friday, May 02, 2003


(via marshall)

William Bennett, compulsive gambler.

And he's not very good at it, either.
Indeed, in recent weeks word has circulated among Washington conservatives that his wagering could be a real problem. They have reason for concern. The Washington Monthly and Newsweek have learned that over the last decade Bennett has made dozens of trips to casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, where he is a "preferred customer" at several of them, and sources and documents provided to The Washington Monthly put his total losses at more than $8 million.

Bennett has been a high-roller since at least the early 1990s. A review of one 18-month stretch of gambling showed him visiting casinos, often for two or three days at a time (and enjoying a line of credit of at least $200,000 at several of them). Bennett likes to be discreet. "He'll usually call a host and let us know when he's coming," says one source. "We can limo him in. He prefers the high-limit room, where he's less likely to be seen and where he can play the $500-a-pull slots. He usually plays very late at night or early in the morning--usually between midnight and 6 a.m." The documents show that in one two-month period, Bennett wired more than $1.4 million to cover losses. His desire for privacy is evident in his customer profile at one casino, which lists as his residence the address for (the Web site of Empower America, the non-profit group Bennett co-chairs). Typed across the form are the words: "NO CONTACT AT RES OR BIZ!!!"

Bennett's gambling has not totally escaped public notice. In 1998, The Washington Times reported in a light-hearted front-page feature story that he plays low-stakes poker with a group of prominent conservatives, including Robert Bork, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist. A year later, the same paper reported that Bennett had been spotted at the new Mirage Resorts Bellagio casino in Las Vegas, where he was reputed to have won a $200,000 jackpot. Bennett admitted to the Times that he had visited the casino, but denied winning $200,000. Documents show that, in fact, he won a $25,000 jackpot on that visit--but left the casino down $625,000.

Bennett--who gambled throughout Clinton's impeachment--has continued this pattern in subsequent years. On July 12 of last year, for instance, Bennett lost $340,000 at Caesar's Boardwalk Regency in Atlantic City. And just three weeks ago, on April 5 and 6, he lost more than $500,000 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. "There's a term in the trade for this kind of gambler," says a casino source who has witnessed Bennett at the high-limit slots in the wee hours. "We call them losers."
I'm surprised Larry Flynt didn't get to this first. Of course, he's busy chasing down the nude video of one of them crazy Bush daughters.

Our long national nightmare is over.
Ol' Dirty Bastard (a.k.a. Russell Jones) was freed today after spending more than two years incarcerated on drug charges. On his first day of freedom, ODB (who has also gone by the handle Big Baby Jesus and Osiris) appeared at a New York City press conference to announce his signing with Roc-A-Fella records, the obligatory new line of clothes and the assumption of yet another identity: Dirt McGirt. Roc-A-Fella CEO Damon Dash and Mariah Carey were present along with ODB's mother, wife and his crew the Brooklyn Zoo.
Oh, he'll always be the hurricane.
From MWO:


By the way, that was a monstrously dumb photo-op situation going on there. George, this is not "Independence Day", and you're not Bill Pullman! Besides, I'm curious if a guy who deserts his unit for two years should be allowed to fly a plane...

Brendan and Laurie are, today, celebrating one full year of vegetarianism!!!

more on this later, i think

Thursday, May 01, 2003


Laurie, who's been busy lately, points to this toubling report on the imminent danger which Syria poses...
LANGLEY, VA—In an alarming report released Monday by the Central Intelligence Agency, Syria may be harboring upwards of 15 million known Arabs within its borders.

"Reliable intelligence collected by our agency indicates that Syria has conspired to lend physical and economic support to a massive number of people belonging to this group," CIA director George J. Tenet said. "The shocking truth is, there are nearly as many Arabs in Syria as there are people in New York and Los Angeles combined. In fact, Syrians openly refer to their nation as the Syrian Arab Republic, despite knowing full well America's opinion on these matters."

Explaining the CIA's methods of gathering data on the rogue ethnicity's presence in Syria, Tenet said it relied on a combination of satellite imagery, computer-system infiltration, reports from Syrian covert operatives, intercepted radio and television transmissions, and The World Almanac And Book Of Facts 2003.

"It's practically an open secret these days," Tenet said. "Syrian television brazenly shows Arabs in military uniforms carrying guns, or delivering political speeches to other members of the group. Walk into any house of worship in the country, and you'll see people reading the Koran and bowing their heads in prayer toward Mecca. It's almost like they're daring the United States to get involved."

"Disturbingly, more than 90 percent of these Arabs have been linked to the practice of 'Islam'—a defiantly non-Western system of faith whose core principles are embraced by none other than Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein," Tenet added. "If this is true, and we do consider this information to be correct in all particulars, then this is troubling at best."
Hehehehe, obviously Franklin Graham has been sitting in at the intelligence briefings.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

There are many sobering realities around the world. One is a continuing African famine that is more or less ignored by all of America, while all the focus is on Iraq.

This time from the Trade Regulation Organization. They cite a number of factors for their decision to print retaliatory cards, including:
1) The death toll from the first Gulf War, including but not limited to depleted uranium-related deaths.
2) Our disrespect for Iraqi culture and history.
3) And, as they put it, the sheer criminality of America in the world at the moment.

Take a look at the cards themselves. Notice that Dubya has been demoted, properly, to the four of clubs (and that they use that jesus picture of him). And kudos for putting the entire Scalia 5 in there.

Looks like the Navy is clearing out of Vieques...
VIEQUES, Puerto Rico - On the eve of the U.S. Navy's departure from the Puerto Rican island they used for bombing exercises, residents celebrated and activists laid claim to the property.

The Navy is handing over 15,000 acres of land on the eastern end of Vieques to federal authorities. After an extensive cleanup, the property will become a wildlife refuge.

"We are here today to mark the beginning of a new era in peace and prosperity for Vieques," Gov. Sila Calderon said Wednesday to the thunder of applause. "It is a moment of great joy, for we have achieved our dream."

Pulling large wire cutters out of their knapsacks, activists rushed to help U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service workers dismantle a chain-link fence on Wednesday.

After President Bush last year approved the Navy's departure, Congress transferred the Vieques land to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The land, along with 3,100 acres from a munitions warehouse on the western end of the island, will create the largest federal wildlife refuge in Puerto Rico.
This is all very good, and a vast improvement over the prior use for the place. However, as with the Maasai in Kenya and local tree farmers in Indonesia, a new split arises between the environmental concern and the, well, the local people concern:
But activists say that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service risks being perceived as another intruder.

"These lands are ours," said Ismael Guadalupe, who protested for years to oust the Navy from Vieques. "We don't recognize the right of the Fish and Wildlife Service to administer the land."

Guadalupe said activists will continue to stage invasions, in an attempt to reclaim the land.

In the 1940s, the United States bought 25,000 acres — about two-thirds of the Puerto Rican island — to create the bombing range. The families and farmers had to leave.

Many hoped the land this year would be turned over to local authorities, for development projects that would stimulate tourism and create jobs. The unemployment rate on Vieques is about 12 percent.

"What's to celebrate? This is no victory," said Severina Guadalupe, 75, who described how her family was given 24 hours to pack their belongings in 1940 before a bulldozer ripped down their wooden farmhouse. "We still don't have the land."
TFM's advice? Take what you got so far, and then build on it. I have the Israeli-Palestinian situation in mind. When Arafat walked away from the table in 2000, that may have been the dumbest single act in a long time there. He had a deal in front of him that many say would have netted him at least 90% of what he and the Palestinian Authority wanted, and he balked. They could have got the other ten percent through other diplomatic means at a later date. Instead, we get the second intifada, we get a platform for a washed-up monster like Sharon to win power in Israel, and we get bulldozed refugee camps and peace activists. In this regard, I say to Vieques activists: take this as a victory, accept that a wildlife refuge is better than a testing range. After that, begin your next campaign. Anyway...

One last thought: As you may remember in 2001, or was it last year? I forget, but Al Sharpton was among those protesting at Vieques, where he was arrested and briefly imprisoned (where he hunger-striked and came out looking pretty fit actually). Could the timing of this -- as the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination heats up -- be a bone from conservatives to Sharpton, their proclaimed new best friend? Probably a coincidence, but hey, it's my blog. (At least until after Laurie's done with finals, hehe.)

First it was uggabugga, now Greenpeace has come out with its own retaliatory set of playing cards.
GENEVA (AP) -- In a play on the deck of cards distributed to U.S. troops in Iraq, anti-nuclear campaigners on Wednesday issued their own most-wanted list -- with President Bush replacing Saddam Hussein as the ace of spades.

"It's an exact copy (of the U.S. deck) in terms of the design and layout," said William Peden, spokesman for the disarmament campaign at Greenpeace.

But while the U.S. cards were meant to help soldiers capture America's most-wanted Iraqi leaders, the Greenpeace deck is meant to focus attention on the dangers posed by nuclear arsenals, Peden told The Associated Press.

Campaigners are handing out 600 decks to delegates at a two-week meeting on the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The conference precedes a review of the 188-nation accord in 2005.

"We haven't had any negative comments -- not even from the U.S. delegation," said Peden. "They're such a hot item."

Along with photographs of Bush and seven other leaders are details of the number of nuclear weapons their countries possess. The ace of spades notes that Bush has around 10,600 weapons.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is the ace of hearts in the Greenpeace deck, with around 18,000 nuclear weapons.

French President Jacques Chirac is the ace of clubs, while Britain's Tony Blair is the ace of diamonds. The kings feature the leaders of China, Pakistan, India and Israel -- all countries with nuclear weapons.
Just a curious question: Why oh why might Saddam Hussein not be included among this new deck of cards? Well, perhaps because he doesn't have nukes and wasn't ever close to having them, despite the attempted lies of our fearless leader.

Anyway, this game also reminds me of a card game I used to play with friends, Nuclear War. Anyway, gotta jet.

I got some, uh, "fanmail" over at my Patriot watch blog.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

WASHINGTON, April 29 — Most American forces are pulling out of Saudi Arabia, ending an uneasy 12-year presence in the gulf kingdom, U.S. officials announced Tuesday. The withdrawal addresses one of the most sensitive issues for Muslims — and one frequently cited by Osama bin Laden — who have complained about the large U.S. presence in the home of Islam’s two holiest shrines.

The air operations center at Prince Sultan air base — headquarters for the first gulf war in 1991 — will move to Qatar’s al-Udeid air base, where commanders ran the recent Iraq war.

“We want to get the footprint down pretty quickly in Saudi Arabia,” a defense official told NBC on Tuesday.

American forces — whose numbers doubled to 10,000 during the Iraq war — have already begun withdrawing, officials said.

By the end of the summer, nearly all of the 4,500 Air Force personnel who were permanently stationed in Prince Sultan as well as the 100 U.S. planes will be gone, said Rear Adm. Dave Nichols, deputy commander of the center.

Control of military flights in and around Iraq moved on Monday from Prince Sultan to Qatar, he said.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and officials traveling with him said the U.S. military will remain in Saudi Arabia, but with a much smaller force focused primarily on training the Saudi military.

Asked if Saudi Arabia had requested the move, first reported last week by, a senior U.S. official accompanying Rumsfeld that the decision was by “very mutual agreement.” (full story)
You realize, if we had done this without invading Iraq, then our goofy color-coded terror alert scale would be down to GREEN right now? Thanks George! (you too, Ralph)

Hmm, also earlier today the Bushies signed a cease-fire agreement with an Iranian group that the US had previously branded terrorists! And they get to keep their weapons! But . . . but . . . but the United States doesn't negotiate with terrorists! What about Bush's "moral clarity"???

The high-end estimate of Iraqi civilian casualties is, as of this typing, at 2615.

The death toll form 9/11 was 2,630.

This would be "revenge" if, say, Hamlet killing the Dutch king constituted "revenge".
A small handful of new stuff is up over at my sister blog, watchin' the California Patriot.

From the looks of it, Time and Newsweek are having a scary cover contest...

"Is it safe?"

And of course, not to be outdone, David Gergen gets into the act:

What a week. Of course, the disease is apparently peaking everywhere except for Hong Kong, and the WHO lifted its travel ban to Toronto. Hopefully things will be alright soon.

You don't truly know pain until the nation's librarians open up a can of whoopass (sp?) on you!
(CBS) Across the country librarians and bookstore owners are worried that reading the wrong book could make them suspect, reports CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone.

Neal Coonerty, who owns a bookstore in Santa Cruz, California says, "We've always argued that what you read is not necessarily who you are. So if you read a murder mystery, it does not mean that you are plotting a murder."

Coonerty is among those who have joined a growing campaign against some provisions of the USA Patriot Act. The Act, approved hastily by Congress days after September 11th, makes it much easier for federal investigators to seize records of bookstores and libraries.

"Going into bookstores, going into libraries, finding out what people are reading is not really going to make us safer from terrorism," Coonerty says.

Customers at his store are warned that their purchases may not be private, and the best way to asure that they are is to pay in cash.

And just around the corner at the public library, the shredder starts up at the end of every day, destroying records of reference requests and Internet usage, Blackstone notes.

"The right to privacy is a basic American right," Anne Turner, the head librarian in one Santa Cruz facility, reminds Blackstone. She has put up signs warning patrons the FBI could be watching.
I wonder, are terrorists more likely to use microfilm or microfiche?

Remember those tv ads the government put out last year, showing a hypothetical situation whereby a guy was dragged from the library for checking out certain books by govt types? Those ads were supposed to express that this sort of thing would never happen in America, and not to be a glimpse of the near future. Argh.
Mickey Kaus writes:
Why Joe Lieberman and John Edwards Love Howard Dean: TNR's estimable Ryan Lizza notes,
Just as Kerry is threatened by Dean in Kerry's must-win state of New Hampshire, Gephardt is threatened by Dean in Gephardt's must-win state of Iowa.
So Dean could knock off two big Dems before expiring on cue in the conservative South. That's the plan, anyway. (italics mine)
It's a possibility, I know. I think that Dean's high rating with the NRA could offset whatever damage his war stance and (possibly) his gay rights stances would cause in the South; it's guns guns guns down there. And by the way, last I checked it's not the Dem's who base their entire electoral strategy on the South, is it?

UNITED States soldiers shot back at anti-American protesters, hitting at least seven, including three young boys, after being fired on in a town near Baghdad. A local hospital director said 13 people were killed.

The shooting took place on Monday night in the town of Fallujah, about 30 miles west of the capital. Though residents reported 15 deaths, Col. Arnold Bray of the 82nd Airborne Division said seven people in the crowd were hit.

But Dr Ahmed Ghanim al-Ali, director of Fallujah General Hospital, said there were 13 dead, including three boys under 11 years old. He said his medical crews were shot at when they went to retrieve the injured, which he said numbered 75.
The US claims some of the protesters had AK-47's, while others claim it was a peaceful protest and that no arms were present.

Others present say the shooting was provoked by the throwing of a rock. Way to overreact there, guys. I wonder how many new Al Qaeda recruits there will be to correspond to those 13 more dead Iraqis. Yeesh.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Krugman hits hard on the "it was more of a matter of emphasis" comment from the Bushies on WMD's, as well as the way the media hypes a potential WMD discovery and buries the debunking.

Also, a possible shot at fellow NYT columnist Thomas Friedman?...
Does it matter that we were misled into war? Some people say that it doesn't: we won, and the Iraqi people have been freed. But we ought to ask some hard questions — not just about Iraq, but about ourselves.

First, why is our compassion so selective? In 2001 the World Health Organization — the same organization we now count on to protect us from SARS — called for a program to fight infectious diseases in poor countries, arguing that it would save the lives of millions of people every year. The U.S. share of the expenses would have been about $10 billion per year — a small fraction of what we will spend on war and occupation. Yet the Bush administration contemptuously dismissed the proposal.

Or consider one of America's first major postwar acts of diplomacy: blocking a plan to send U.N. peacekeepers to Ivory Coast (a former French colony) to enforce a truce in a vicious civil war. The U.S. complains that it will cost too much. And that must be true — we wouldn't let innocent people die just to spite the French, would we?

So it seems that our deep concern for the Iraqi people doesn't extend to suffering people elsewhere. I guess it's just a matter of emphasis. A cynic might point out, however, that saving lives peacefully doesn't offer any occasion to stage a victory parade.

Meanwhile, aren't the leaders of a democratic nation supposed to tell their citizens the truth?
God I can't wait to vote these assholes out next year.

Atrios points to an interesting nugget from the WashPost's Al Kamen about a recent Dubya hiree:
The White House made a number of recess appointments last week as Congress fled for spring break. One was April H. Foley, a "homemaker," according to campaign contribution disclosure documents, from South Salem, N.Y. She was named to the board of directors of the Export-Import Bank. The appointment is good until Congress adjourns next year.

So why a homemaker for this job? Well, "early in her career," the White House announcement says, she was director of business planning for corporate strategy with PepsiCo Inc. and director of strategy for Reader's Digest Association. More recently, she was president of the United Way of Northern Westchester County, N.Y. Not all of it, just the northern part.

Still not locked in on the merits? Did we mention she used to date George W. Bush when both were at Harvard Business School and has remained friends with him?
Hmm, of course we'll all be waiting patiently for the outrage to pour in from the right about how the President is getting a job for his girlfriend. Oh wait, you mean he's not president anymore? And Bush is? Oh, nevermind, we'll be waiting a while.

TFM INJOKE ALERT: Was Ms Foley "somewhere in LA" when she heard the news?

And just in case you were curious, no, this isn't the girlfriend for whom Bush paid for an abortion.

Remember back on valentine's day, when I said "if you love her, you'll get her What Liberal Media?" ? Well, I lied. What I meant to say was, if you love her you'll get her The Clinton Wars.

Is it really nerdy of me to say that I don't know whether I'm looking forward to this or Matrix Reloaded more? I think so.

With little to go on (no serialization of any chapters before its release), VRWC internet gossip Matt Drudge tried to slime the book, but the only thing he could muster was that it was ranked in the 28,000's on Amazon. So I guess it's ironic that Drudge's publicity helped the book shoot to number one among non-fiction books at Amazon. Hmm, Drudge is helping Blumenthal get paid, I guess that counts as a settlement!

(of course, Drudge is scared shitless because he knows he's gonna be in the book, and it's not going to be flattering)

Another reason to go see Pearl Jam this summer:
Pearl Jam plan to offset the estimated 5,700 tons of greenhouse gas emissions generated by the trucks, buses, airplanes and their fans' 1 million cars on their current world tour by purchasing 5,700 tons of carbon produced by the Makira Rainforest Conservation project in Madagascar.

"We're excited about the work that we've been doing with Conservation International," reads a band Web post. The environmental organization helped the band -- currently supporting Riot Act, released last fall -- estimate the direct emissions of its tour's 30,000 mile route. Pearl Jam then purchased the carbon to conserve it, offsetting the warming potential of the emissions.

The Makira rainforest conservation project is housed on a 1400 square mile area that stores 140 million tons of CO2 at risk of being lost to the atmosphere through fire and logging and is home to thousands of rare and endangered plant and animal species.
Now that's cool. Someone remind me to do that in a few years, hehe.