The Facts Machine

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

Saturday, November 15, 2003


Once again, we leave it to Louisiana to find the silver lining in a Democratic election cycle.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco became the first woman ever elected governor of Louisiana on Saturday, defeating a conservative Indian-American and scoring a rare gain for Democrats in an election season that has seen a string of Republican victories.

Blanco's victory puts the Louisiana governorship back in the Democratic column for the first time since GOP Gov. Mike Foster won the first of his two terms eight years ago. He cannot run again because of term limits.

With 96 percent of precincts counted, Blanco had 52 percent, or 703,226 votes, to Jindal's 48 percent, or 658,806.
I think this AP account of the election cycle is not entirely fair to the Democrats. Sure, they lost three statehouses, one to a RINO actor in a special election and the other two in Southern states that Dean/Clark/etc probably wouldn't win anyway. But they also took the legislative majority in New Jersey and performed well in much of Virginia.

What's also yummy about this news is how Blanco won:
Jindal, a 32-year-old former Rhodes Scholar whose parents immigrated to Louisiana from India, had been slightly favored, partly due to strong backing from Foster. But Blanco, a 60-year-old Cajun, accused him of harming the poor by enacting budget cuts when he served as Foster's health secretary. He later became an assistant health secretary for President Bush.
If this sounds familiar, it's because this was a similar strategy to how Senator Mary Landrieu fought off Bush-puppet Suzanne Terrell last year, by waiting for the time between the main election and the runoff, and taking one specific issue and hammering Jindal with it.

Kos points out that this puts almost every statewide office (including both Senate seats) in Democratic control, so expect a recall effort against Blanco perhaps this could help the eventual Democratic nominee win there.

I've had a change of heart on the issue of the right's persistent hope that somehow, someway, Hillary Clinton would enter the 2004 presidential race. (go here, here, and here)

The newest installment of this is that Clinton (or "Hitlery Klintoon", as often referred to by the Freepers and their ilk), is breathlessly linked by Drudge, as "ready for Iowa".

Nevermind that it's just a fundraiser in Des Moines at which Hillary will be speaking, not to mention the fact that every time a camera has been within 50 feet of her in the past several months, she's made a point that she absolutely won't run in 2004.

I spent a while being really annoyed by this continuing Hillary obsession on the right, even from relatively level-headed conservatives like George Will (notice I said "relatively"), and not just the "Hitlery Klintoon's death squads" types. My new stance is this: let 'em obsess! To borrow a line from Tom Petty: "Well Yeah I might have chased a couple of Clintons around / All it ever got me was down" Going after Bill and Hillary, despite the right's claims about how unpopular they are, has never boded well for them.

Furthermore, this all seems like a lot of misappropriated energy on the right's part. The conventional wisdom seems to be that candidates like Gephardt, Dean, Kerry etc, are annoyed the the Hillary rumor (a creation from thin air by the right) is diverting attention from them. If I were Dean or the others, I'd welcome all the Hillary speculation; it gives conservatives a rather significant decoy target, so the candidates can go on the offensive and sort out their issues without the right's guns fully trained on them.
Two more copters down, at least 17 US soldiers dead.

Some reports say it is not yet known whether hostile action was involved, but one wire piece quotes a US officer as saying one of the choppers was hit in the tail by an RPG.

This puts the US military death toll in Iraq over 400.

It appears the kids at the Boondocks have found a man for Condi Rice. Heh.

Continuing the "how hard should Dems go after Bush" debate is David Brooks, though his most recent entry on the issue is disingenuous and lame. Here, Brooks, a conservative, endorses the unilateral disarmament plan for Democrats in terms of aggressive partisanship and taking on Republicans. That's nice, Davey, your objection is duly noted in the record. Of course, he'd never, never mention in his writings that whenever Democrats go after Bush significantly, his poll numbers go... down. What a concept!

Sometimes I feel like at least half the column space recently taken up by conservatives like Brooks, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, and a few others has been devoted to giving Democrats advice regarding their choice of candidate to take on Bush next year. My advice on their advice? Zone it the fuck out. True, I am not entirely sure as to how negative the tone of the general election campaign should be, or the primary one for that matter. But if I'm Gep/Kerry/Clark/Dean/etc, I'm not about to take advice from the likes of David Brooks. Certainly Bush and Republicans aren't about to take advice from us liberals, nor are they going to unilaterally disarm from the "war" in DC.

UPDATE: Jesse does some creative reworking of Brooks' speech.

Friday, November 14, 2003


Boycott Italy! Why does Berlusconi hate America so much? (via marshall)
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said today he had tried to stop US President George W Bush from going to war against Iraq.

"I didn't support every action of the United States. I tried to persuade them not to intervene militarily," Berlusconi said.

"But when I saw there was no way (to prevent it), I stood by the United States."

Berlusconi's statement came as a surprise because he has been a staunch ally of the US administration in the conflict and he is one of the few European leaders who has contributed troops to help rebuilding Iraq.
Soooo, what to boycott?

-The Italian Job
-Italian dressing
-anything that leans slightly
-cities with canals
-playing "Marco Polo" at your local swimming pool

I'm sure there must be much more. Ideas?

Hesiod links to this story:
A group of students who attended Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean's appearance at Dartmouth College on Thursday unveiled Confederate flags as he was introduced.

The group of about nine students, whom fellow students and Dean campaign staffers identified as conservative activists, did not otherwise disrupt the former Vermont governor's speech about paying for higher education. And Dean did not acknowledge them or refer to controversy surrounding his recent remark that he wanted to attract voters with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks.

The students sat with the flags draped across their shoulders throughout Dean's appearance.


The demonstrators refused to say whether they were affiliated with any college organizations, even though one of their names appeared in the conservative publication Dartmouth Review as a contributor.

Student Xi Huang said he and his fellow demonstrators wanted to make a statement about what they felt was Dean's inappropriate use of the Confederate flag image.

"He said that for six months, and just recently gave an apology," said Huang, 19, of Boston. "We felt his apology was insufficient."

Dean's appearance also was marked by posters around the Dartmouth campus bearing the Confederate flag image. The posters were identical to ones Dean's campaign had printed, except that they were against a backdrop of the Confederate flag and they said "sponsored by young Democrats."

The president of Young Democrats at Dartmouth, Paul Heintz of Cambridge, Mass., said his group had nothing to do with the posters.

"The idea that we would have any part in using that symbol in any sort of way is preposterous," he said.

Heintz, who said he supports Dean, doubted that the incident was organized by any of the other Democratic campaigns. "I would say it has a lot more to do with a very small number of students who are socially conservative," Heintz said.
Hesiod wonders what sort of reaction a stunt like this would have received had it been orchestrated at a Bush appearance. Of course, Bush is on record as saying the Confederate flag is a symbol of "heritage". Here's a picture of the flyers the conservatives made.

But of course, there's one question that needs to be asked: Gee whiz, those young conservatives seem to be really savvy about acquiring Confederate flags, tell me, why is that?

Thursday, November 13, 2003


This piece by former Clinton speechwriter David Kusnet is pretty good in that it highlights the dilemma facing Dean and the other Democratic candidates should they win the nomination. In short, the premise is that because Bush still earns high personal marks (despite his dropping approval ratings), going after him personally or too viciously may cause enough of a backlash as to seal reelection for him. Kusnet notes that the recent first-term presidents hated most by the opposition -- FDR, Nixon, Clinton (and I'd add Reagan) -- were elected to second terms by wide margins. As for the other incumbents who were less reviled by the opposition:
In 1976, Carter beat Ford by killing him with kindness. Promising "a government as good and decent as the American people," Carter never attacked Ford for pardoning Nixon, his disgraced predecessor. Four years later, in the midst of recession, inflation and the Iranian hostage crisis, Reagan beat Carter without ever attacking him personally. Reagan's pollster, Ronald Wirthlin, cautioned in a memo: "Care must be taken so that the Governor's [Reagan's] criticism of Carter does not come off as too shrill or too personal. We can hammer the President [Carter] too hard, which will spawn a backlash ... The Governor must never attack Jimmy Carter's personal integrity." In 1992, Clinton won the nomination against several rivals who attacked the first President Bush much more harshly than he did, including Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, who said, in his stump speeches: "George Bush has feet of clay, and I'm going to take a blow-torch to them."

In his speech announcing his candidacy, Clinton declared: "We're not going to get positive change just by Bush bashing. We have to do a better job of the old-fashioned work of confronting the real problems of real people and pointing the way to a better future." In the primaries and in the general election, Clinton did something none of this year's Democratic contenders are doing: He expressed empathy with the plight of people "working longer and harder for less" and explained how government could help them improve their lives.

"Very little of what Clinton said was attacking Bush," recalls former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers, who traveled with Clinton during the 1992 campaign. "The tone was, 'We all know President Bush is a decent man. But he is just misguided on the economy, healthcare, and what life is like for most Americans.'"
This sort of a strategy would appear to come more easily to Wesley Clark, who hasn't gone after Bush as viciously as the other candidates (not to mention, uh, speaking at a Bush event a couple of years ago). But is this something Dean can do too? Personally, I think so. Howard Dean is a very smart politician and campaigner, who has very talented and intelligent people working around him, and has as motivated and substantial a base of core supporters as any primary candidate has ever had at this point.

Sure, some his most dedicated supporters are among the biggest haters of Bush. But he needs those hardcore Dems to win. Remember back in 2000 when Bush spoke at Bob Jones University and referred to the stars&bars as a symbol of "heritage"? That was about solidifying his conservative base. Sure, they're his racist conservative base, but that's what he was doing. And Dean electrifying crowds of people highly critical of Bush accomplishes the same thing (without the implicit racism of course).

Dean will move to appeal to the center and add positivity to his message in the general campaign. I'm sure of it, he's too smart not to, and he's seen enough of Bill Clinton to know the blueprint here. But in discussing his ability to do that, Kusnet brings up a nonsense piece of CW on Dean's supporters:
So Dean has both the message and the policy agenda to make the case to the undecided electorate that he can solve problems Bush can't. The challenge for the feisty front-runner is to present those policies with optimism more than anger, and to strike the right note when it comes to the president. As long as he's fighting for the Democratic nomination, that could be difficult, since the Bush-hating base may prefer Angry Howard to Dignified, Optimistic Howard. But if he wraps up the nomination early, he'll have time to modulate his appeal.
What kind of fickle fools does Kusnet take the Democratic base for? They're not naive, they know how campaign politics works. No matter what centrist, non-combative overtures Dean makes in the coming months, the anti-Bush, Deaniac base will give the good Dr. the Jerry McGuire treatment ("You had me at hello").

It's just like Bush and his "compassionate conservatism" (as Robin Williams said, "I don't know what that is, it kinda sounds like a Volvo with a gun-rack"). Bush was saying to his base, "you may hear all this rhetoric about 'compassion', but don't worry, my scaly, evil base, my heart is truly still with you, your imperial, christianist objectives will always be paramount to me." The best part is Dean can accomplish the same thing without being his base being full of racists and xian fundies. Yeah, it's too bad that the whole invoking-the-Confed-flag thing became so awkward, but hey.

Lastly, the bigger question of the article: Is the 1992 strategy applicable to 2004? Kusnet argues that the difference that offers Dems the best point of attack lies in Bush's policy priorities in relation to the relevant facts.
But can the second President Bush be beaten the same way the first one was? Or is the only way to defeat this Bush to demolish the personal credibility that has been at the core of his appeal but could be his greatest vulnerability? The case has been made -- implicitly by Dean and explicitly by Gore -- that Bush is different from previous presidents, particularly his father, and must, therefore, be challenged differently.

Few Americans believed that Bush I was personally to blame for the recession or other problems during his presidency, much less that he was lying about them. They just thought he didn't have a clue about how to solve those problems.

But Bush II is very different -- or so this analysis argues. While his father seemed clueless about how to solve the nation's new problems, the younger Bush always has an answer. The trouble is, it's an answer that he -- and his conservative base -- favored long before the problem emerged.

Bush has always wanted to cut the taxes of wealthy people, so he justified the tax cuts first because the nation could afford them when the federal budget was in surplus and then because the nation needed it when the economy was in recession. He always wanted to remove Saddam Hussein, so, after Sept. 11, his administration kept suggesting that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was working with al-Qaida, however shaky the case for both claims.

Just as his solutions fit any crisis that comes down the pike, so does Bush always seem able to find facts to make his case. Summing up this analysis of why Bush is deceptively dangerous, Gore told the Internet-based liberal activist group "The president seems to have been pursuing policies chosen in advance of the facts" and is making "a systematic effort to manipulate the facts in service to a totalistic ideology that is felt to be more important than the mandates of basic honesty."

If Gore is right, then maybe, just maybe, the best way to challenge Bush is to "go right after him," as Dean promises to do. Challenge his premises as well as his policies. Make the voters look behind Bush's friendly smile to see his extreme agenda and his habit of making up the facts as he goes along.
I am hopeful that the eventual nominee will find a way to finesse Bush's personal appeal and attack both the premises and the policies, but whatever works to get Bush out will do.

Both Bush's had sputtering economies and armed conflict in Iraq coming into their reelection campaigns. The difference there is that Bush II is highly vulnerable on his Iraqi endeavor, while the economy might recover in the coming months (though then again it might not). The latest polling shows that only 40% of Americans think the Iraq war was "worth it", while 51% believe it was not. That's the Dean position (and to a lesser extent, the Clark position). The challenge is how to package that position in a way that is both positive and proactive.

There will be much more to ponder, but the library is closing soon so I'm outtie.


Whoops! With that initial letter, I have contributed more to my blog than Ann Coulter has to hers in the three months of its existence!

Couldn't she at least hit the spacebar with that robust adam's apple of hers?

Obviously Kos is unfit to father a child. Get Jeb on the case!

My life is rated R.
What is your life rated?

Not bad, considering that my associations with drugs and alcohol are rare, at most.

Of course, the MPAA rating system is utter bullshit, given that School of Rock was PG-13.

(found via this guy. Also, inspired by that guy, I stuck a "random blogspot blog" link in my blogroll, clidking on it will take you to a different blog each time.)

But he's struck first in the race to get Bush's USS Lincoln stunt into an ad. (scroll down to "Carrier" and choose your desired player and speed)

Well, to be fair to BushCo, getting the aircraft carrier stunt into campaign commercials was precisely what they had in mind. Of course, they thought it would come in handy for their commercials, but you take what you can get.
Evidently, the Mighty Reason Man didn't approve of Matrix Revolutions
See, this is why I keep a primarily non-personal blog.

As I had much better things to do, I missed this week's installment of Monday Night Football, where Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb threw a game-winning touchdown to Todd Pinkston with under a minute left to dispatch the Green Bay Packers 17-14.

This ought to add another two or three weeks to Rush's rehab.

First of all, McNabb, who bore the brunt of the racist comments that got Limbaugh fired from Sunday NFL Countdown, performed very well in a clutch situation

Second, the Eagles didn't manage 100 yards on the ground, so Rush can't say the Eagles' backs bailed out Donovan.

Third, Packers RB Ahman Green set the Packers' single-game rushing record with 195 yards, so Rush can't say the Eagles' D bailed out Donovan.

Fourth, McNabb did what he did on Monday Night Football, a program for which Rush had long been desirous (hehe) to do commentary work, though he failed the audition.

And fifth -- this is my favorite -- Donovan McNabb outperformed Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre, who not is not only white, but also a former painkiller addict!!! Damn, it doesn't get any better than this.

Hey Roy Moore: Thou shalt not cut in line at the unemployment office.
The Alabama chief justice whose refusal to obey a U.S. order to move a Ten Commandments monument fueled a national debate over the place of God in public life was stripped of his office by a state judicial panel on Thursday.

"Finding no other viable alternatives, this court hereby finds that Roy S. Moore be removed from his position as chief justice of Alabama," said a statement read by a member of the nine-member judicial panel.

The panel found that Moore "willfully and publicly" defied the federal order, placing himself above the law in doing so. The 5,000-pound monument was removed on Aug. 27. The U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to hear appeals from Moore in his bid to restore the marker to public view.
He's another one who can go hang out with Reverend Phelps and leave us alone.

Tbogg notes that Focus on the Family is throwing a tempertrantrum over a recent episode of Law & Order: SVU.
Focus on the Family said this week's Law and Order episode offered "60 minutes of misinformed homosexual activist rhetoric."

The episode focused on a therapist counseling men and women about leaving homosexuality. According to Focus on the Family, "The show's writers took every opportunity to discredit the effectiveness of such counseling and even had the therapist murdering his homosexual son's lover by show's end."

Focus on the Family says current research proves that sexual orientation can be changed, and its staff includes a man, Mike Haley, who says he "personally walked away from homosexuality over a decade ago."

In a press release, Haley said he was "stunned" by the "misrepresentation" depicted on Tuesday's Law and Order episode: "The truth is that, for those struggling with unwanted homosexuality, there is a way out, and thousands of men and women who have voluntarily taken that journey are surely expressing outrage at this attempted invalidation of their lives and experiences."
Always one for biting humor, tbogg notes: "Haley later conceded that SVU star, Christopher Meloni has '...a really nice ass. And I'd do him if I weren't so gosh-darned hetero...' "

Hmm, of course if Haley and his FotF bretheren watched Meloni's other show they'd have access to much, much more than an ass through a pair of slacks. Hmm, for "recovered" homosexuals they sure enjoy their Keller fix.

Kudos to NBC for actually airing something that might piss off conservatives, unlike some other networks I could name. Too bad, Haley et al, why don't you guys go have a barbecue with Reverend Phelps or something.

(slight sidebar: in 2001 and early 2002 Oz was probably among my two or three favorite shows on all of television, I miss it terribly, and seeing Harold Perrineau in the Matrix sequels just isn't enough for me)

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

GORE SLIPS FURTHER BEHIND IN THE, UH, HIGHLY MEANINGFUL "HAVE A BEER WITH" PRIMARY dissing TV's impact on society and democracy. Thing is, he's dead-on.
The "quasi-hypnotic influence" of television in America has fostered a complacent nation that is a danger to democracy, former Vice President Al Gore said Tuesday.

Gore, speaking on "Media and Democracy" at Middle Tennessee State University, told attendees the decline of newspapers as the country's dominant method of communication leaves average Americans without an outlet for scholarly debate.

"Our democracy is suffering in an age when the dominant medium is not accessible to the average person and does not lend itself most readily to the conveyance of complex ideas about self-governance," Gore said. "Instead it pushes toward a lowest common denominator."

Gore said the results of that inaccessibility are reflected most prominently in the changed priorities of the country's elected officials, who feel that debating important issues is "relatively meaningless today. How do they spend their time instead? Raising money to buy 30-second television commercials."


Gore said democracy in America flourished at the height of the newspaper era, which "empowered the one to influence the many." That changed with the advent and subsequent popularity of television, he said, noting that the average American watches four hours of television a day.

"What does it do to us that has relevance to democracy? Does it encourage passivity? Is it connected to the obesity epidemic? ... If people are just staring at a little box four hours a day, it has a big impact on democracy," he said.

Gore said a remedy to television's dominance may be the Internet, a "print-based medium that is extremely accessible to the average person."

"We have to choose to rehabilitate our democracy in part by making creative use of these new media and by insisting within the current institutions of our democracy that we open up access to the dominant medium," he said.
The only thing I'd say against all this is that use of the internet, particularly at home, might be related to some of the same over-eating issues as TV-watching. Other than that, rock on.

I wonder what sort of flashing lights and shocking music FauxNews will use when they mention his remarks. I wonder how quickly Brit Hume or Fred Barnes will sneak in a "well, he invented it" cheap shot.

...just about. Stuff tonight, or possibly tomorrow. Now off to Subway for a Jared-approved 'wich, not that I'm on a diet or anything.

Chew on this for now, about the implications of "crisis talks" regarding Bremer and the transition of power in Iraq. In short, the CPA's "seven-step" plan to transfer power to an Iraqi democracy is in deep doo-doo, particularly given that the Shi'ite majority in the Governing Council is acting like, well, the Republican majority, and that the Council recommends elections before the drafting of a constitution, rather than the other way around as Bremer wants. So we'll end up with a Shi'ite-dominated government that probably wont be democratic, or we'll overenfranchise the Sunni minority, paving the way for a dandy ol' civil war. Or it'll end up in complete chaos. O what a tangled occupation we weave.

Monday, November 10, 2003

While a bit oversimplified a process, Slate's "Whack-a-Pol", in which you find your desired presidential candidate through a policy-driven process of elimination, is good fun.
I'm not quite back yet, but I shall be by tomorrow night.

In the meantime, read anything you see on the left.

Things I found in the last few minutes (I need caffeine, otherwise I'd provide inciteful commentary):

--Independents in favor of getting rid of Bush by a margin of 53-40.

--Al Franken to challenge Norm Coleman in Minnesota?

--In our continuing effort to solidfy our goodwill with the rest of the world, the Bush administration wants to exempt the chemical pesticide methyl bromide from the Montreal Protocol for the sake of American farmers, despite the chemical's significant effects on the ozone layer.

--The budgetary crisis in Washington is causing lawmakers to take a second look at prison sentences, including treatment options for drug offenders. Attention Norquistian conservatives: This is the future of Alabama's prison system after your anti-tax jihad there. Ironic, I suppose, that hard-line conservatives may indirectly be behind the shortening of sentences and the availability of drug rehab programs in lieu of hard time. Maybe Limbaugh's involved. Atrios has a little more on this.