The Facts Machine

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

Friday, December 12, 2003


Happy Subversion of Democracy Day! I can't believe it's been three years. Good thing nothing that bad has happened since then.

Cough cough thanks ralph cough cough...

I'm back in the Bay Area for the next few weeks...

Via Kos, recent polling in Iowa is showing a huge post-Gore-endorsement surge for Howard Dean. SUSA has him at 42%, with Gep behind him at 23%, and Kerry back at 15%.

Thursday, December 11, 2003


Congratulations, Dow Jones, you closed above 10,000 for the first time in a year and a half.

Now let's, uh, see some jobs...

Atrios has another fun idea.

That George W Bush sure is unelectable.

For the results of the previous campaign, started at Blah3, enter "miserable failure" into a google search.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


Reader Alex emails with this troubling story from Amnesty International. Apparently, not only do we export items used explicitly for torture, but we send them to the very countries we condemn for using methods of torture!
A new Amnesty International report charges that in 2002, the Bush Administration violated the spirit of its own export policy and approved the sale of equipment implicated in torture to Yemen, Jordan, Morocco and Thailand, despite the countries' documented use of such weapons to punish, mistreat and inflict torture on prisoners. The US is also alleged to have handed suspects in the 'war on terror' to the same countries.

The total value of US exports of electro-shock weapons was $14.7 million in 2002 and exports of restraints totaled $4.4 million in the same period. The Commerce and State Departments approved these sales, permitting 45 countries to purchase electro-shock technology, including 19 that had been cited for the use of such weapons to inflict torture since 1990.

The report – The Pain Merchants – also reveals that the US approved the 2002 export to Saudi Arabia of nine tons of Smith & Wesson leg-irons. Former prisoners in Saudi Arabia have stated that their restraints were stamped with the name of Smith & Wesson. In a 2000 Amnesty International report, Phil Lomax, a UK national who was held for 17 days in 1999, recounted how shackles used in Malaz prison in Riyadh, were made in the US: "When[ever] we were taken out of the cell we were shackled and handcuffed. The shackles were very painful. They were made of steel... like a handcuff ring. The handcuffs were made in the USA."
Wow, well I'm glad we still have all that moral high ground to fall back on.

This seems to be consistent with stuff like Bush's pop arming Osama and Saddam in the 80's, and Bush's pop's boss approving the sale of arms to Iran, Cheney/Halliburton doing business with Iraq in previous years, and so on.

And now they can add "we wanted to see what the torture scene in Three Kings would look like in real life" to the list...
Something I've noticed about political cartoonists:

Most of them have no idea how to draw Howard Dean.

From America's finest news source:
NEW YORK—Citing curiosity as his primary motive, Bill Clinton typed his own name into the popular search engine during a lull in his daily activities, the former president reported Monday.

"I had no idea I would get 2,790,000 results!" Clinton said while seated before the Apple PowerBook in his Harlem office. "Besides all the news articles, there were encyclopedia entries, links to Amazon for books about me, and tons of photos, too. I even came across some frame captures from those Rock The Vote shows I did back in 1992. I'm going to take a couple of those and make them my desktop picture, once I figure out how to tile them."

Although Clinton said he'd always assumed there was material about him on the Internet, his busy schedule prevented him from exploring it sooner.

"When I was president, people would sometimes mention an article about me on Slate or, but I was too busy to read about myself then," Clinton said. "Out of the blue, though, I thought I'd just see what was out there in cyberspace about me. I'd just been sitting around playing online Mah Jongg, anyway. "

"I never knew there was a Bill Clinton Joke-A-Day site," Clinton said after opening his Internet browser, typing in "Bill Clinton," and clicking the "I'm feeling lucky" button.
Actually, the lucky button goes to his bio, kinda like that miserable failure guy.

My favorite touch is the picture Clinton has on his wall behind him, hehehe.

Kevin Drum points to a piece in today's LA Times by Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who was sent by American agents to a grave-sized cell in Syria, and was tortured repeatedly.

Here's a chunk:
I recently spent 10 1/2 months in a grave-sized cell in Syria, unsure why I was there, unsure how to get out. Fear paralyzed my wits when I needed them most. I was beaten and I was tortured and I was constantly scared. Every day I worried that I would never be released, that I would disappear into that concrete grave forever.

Why was I being held? I still don't really know. I am not a terrorist. I am not a member of Al Qaeda. I am a Syrian-born Canadian. A father and a husband. A telecommunications engineer. I have never been in trouble with the police and have always been a good citizen.

My ordeal began on the afternoon of Sept. 26, 2002, when my flight back from a family vacation in Tunisia stopped over in New York and American immigration officials pulled me aside to answer a few questions. At first it was only an inconvenience — thorough airport security, post 9/11-style. But my questioners persisted. And when someone waved a copy of the 1997 lease for my Ottawa apartment, I was shocked and confused. What was going on here? Who gave them the lease and what was its significance to them? For the first time, I began to realize that the questioning was not simply routine.

My interrogation in the United States took days. Shuttling in shackles among immigration officials, FBI agents and police officers, I asked repeatedly for a lawyer but was told that I didn't have the right to one because I was not an American citizen. There were no phone calls home either.

Only after days of often abusive, insulting, degrading questioning about whom I knew and what I was up to (besides computer work for my Boston-based employer) was I finally permitted to use a telephone.

But still I couldn't see the full picture. In the early hours of Oct. 8, 2002, I was formally notified that the U.S. government had classified information about me that it would not reveal — and it would be deporting me that very day, without a word to my family, to the long-forgotten place of my birth, Syria.

To this day, unnamed American officials continue to allege that I have ties to Al Qaeda, although I have not seen the details and I have not been charged with a crime.

I hadn't been to Syria since moving to Canada with my family when I was 17. For half my life I have had no connection at all to that country. Yet I would surely be tortured, I told my New York captors, because I'm a Sunni Muslim; because my mother's cousin had been accused of being in the Muslim Brotherhood and imprisoned for nine years; because I had left the country before undertaking my military service.

My arguments were useless. Soon I was in a small private jet, chained and panic-stricken; then in a succession of cars in Jordan and Syria, blindfolded and beaten repeatedly; and finally placed in that shallow grave.

I describe my cell in Syria as a grave because it was just 3 feet wide, 6 feet long, 7 feet high and unlit. While I was there I sometimes felt on the verge of death after beatings with a black electrical cable about two inches thick. They mostly aimed for my palms but sometimes missed and hit my wrists. Other times, I was left alone in a special "waiting room" within earshot of others' screams. At the end of the day, they would tell me that tomorrow would be worse. In those 10 1/2 months I lost about 40 pounds. I never saw, but only heard, the agony of my fellow prisoners. I was so scared I urinated on myself twice.
And there's more where that came from. And boy, does it ever sound familiar.

Why are we sending people to Syria, a country we've threatened to attack? Remember, we have Bush and other warmongers running around saying that our justification for the Iraq war (after the fact, of course) was that we had to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime who, among other things, engaged in torture.

The US Supreme Court has ruled that the main portions of McCain/Feingold will stay in place for the 2004 election. (link via roger ailes, who's pithy analysis of the opinion is "Ken Starr bites a big one")
The Supreme Court today upheld the most important provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign reform act of 2002, an attempt to control the unregulated, uncontained and often underground system of fund-raising and spending that now dominates federal election campaigns.

The decision, allowing a ban on "soft money" and restrictions on "issue ads" that benefit individual candidates, means the current election campaign can proceed without interruption under the new law, according to attorneys on both sides of the case.
Kudos to Sandra Day O'Connor, who joined Stevens, Souter, Breyer, and Ginsburg in keeping the law in place. I imagine that this is part of her continuing "operation infinite rehabilitation of reputation" tour. That's great, Sandra D, just make sure you save some of it for the upcoming cases on gay marriage, the pledge, and the gitmo detainees.

But then, something caught my attention on the second page of the Post article. The attorney for McCain-Feingold opponent Mitch McConnell (R-not a handsome man), made a statement:
There were eleven different challenges to the law, all of which were consolidated in today's ruling, called McConnell, United States Senator, et al., v. Federal Election Commission et al. The court worked with uncommon speed to get the decision published before the actual beginning of the formal election year, 2004. On only one minor matter did the challengers prevail. The court said congress went too far in banning contributions by minors. This provision was designed to prevent adults from funneling money through children.

"I think the result is disappointing but not altogether unexpected," said Jan Baran, one of the attorneys representing the main challenger of the law, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "And the 5-4 decision reflects how evenly divided opinion is on these issues." (emphasis TFM's)
Oh, reeeeeaaallly? Did that thought occur to the senator from Kentucky when he enthusiastically voted for three large, top-heavy tax cuts?

Oh well, not that I expect consistency from these guys.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003


It would seem that some conservatives are taking Howard Dean very seriously, in this case Weekly Standard editor and PNAC nut Bill Kristol.
And how liberal is Dean anyway? He governed as a centrist in Vermont, and will certainly pivot to the center the moment he has the nomination. And one underestimates, at this point when we are all caught up in the primary season, how much of an opportunity the party's nominee has to define or redefine himself once he gets the nomination.

Thus, on domestic policy, Dean will characterize Bush as the deficit-expanding, Social Security-threatening, Constitution-amending (on marriage) radical, while positioning himself as a hard-headed, budget-balancing, federalism-respecting compassionate moderate. And on foreign and defense policy, look for Dean to say that he was and remains anti-Iraq war (as, he will point out, were lots of traditional centrist foreign policy types). But Dean will emphasize that he has never ruled out the use of force (including unilaterally). Indeed, he will say, he believes in military strength so strongly that he thinks we should increase the size of the Army by a division or two. It's Bush, Dean will point out, who's trying to deal with the new, post-Sept. 11 world with a pre-Sept. 11 military.
I'm not sure what to make of this, but Kristol hasn't held his tongue on criticizing Bush on the Iraq war. (of course, he's criticizing from the right, I might add)

He's no McGovern/Dukakis, guys.
Dean's Sooo Hot


Why Al Is Doing It

The real truth emerged approximately one tenth of a second after news broke that Al Gore will be endorsing Howard Dean. It emerged simultaneously on tens of thousands of blogs, and on talk shows across the 386 available television channels. And here I am to sum it up for you. Gore chose to endorse Dean because:

1. He's gunning to run against Bush in 2008

2. He wants to find out what the Vice Presidency would be like

3. Make that Secretary of State

4. He's heading off the draft Hillary movement

5. He's working for Hillary

6. He's taking a jab at the DLC

7. He's working for the DLC

8. He's trying to force the hand of the Clintons

9. The Clintons forced his hand

10. He's running in 2012

11. Hillary's running in 2012

12. He thinks Wesley Clark is too stiff


Too friggin funny.

Via tbogg, apparently Bush signed the Medicare bill and in the background, the musical accompaniment was John Phillip Sousa's "Liberty Bell March". (right-click and download LIBERTY.MID)

Many of you will recognize that as the theme music from Monty Python's Flying Circus.

And that's about right.

I'm on about 5 hours sleep for the past two nights combined, yay finals.

I mentioned yesterday that Mickey Kaus was among the first to Clinton-ize the Gore endorsement, though only in a hinting manner.

Well, I guess it takes a good night's sleep, or at least a big schizophrenic slumber party, to cook up some BS Clinton conspiracy theories. What kind of a mind spews out this claptrap:
Take 4--or maybe it should have been 3: It's now a Gore vs. Clinton Democratic party, today and in 2008. Noam Scheiber and Ryan Lizza lay it out in TNR. (See also John Ellis.) Scheiber says Gore helps his presidential chances because he now has a wing of the party to call home--the Gore/Dean wing! [Isn't that the name of an old HUD scandal?-ed] Scheiber might have added that by endorsing Dean early, Gore may be attempting to ensure that only one big national figure (i.e. rival) comes out of the 2004 race--a figure who will probably be defeated and removed from the scene by 2008. If the endorsement works, Gore cuts off any chance that Edwards, Gephardt, or Kerry will emerge from the primaries as potential rivals in stature for 2008 (although whomever Dean picks for his running mate will still be a potential rival.) ... Take it away, Dick Morris! ... You'd think Clark, as the representative of the Clinton Wing, is the 2004 Dean rival least squashed by Gore's announcement, under this theory. Clark may also appeal to relatively conservative Dems who (unlike potential Kerry, Edwards, and Gephardt supporters) are less likely to be influenced by Gore in his current incarnation. ... More: Sullivan argues that, in the anticipated 2008 Gore-Clinton matchup (kill me now), Gore will have a left, activist base and Hillary will represent the center. If you had to pick one of those bases with which to win the Democratic nomination, you'd pick the left. But this ignores Hillary's bizarre personal appeal for so many of the left-liberals she so often betrays (e.g., on welfare reform, and now Iraq). ...
Whoa there! Calm down, have some dip.

Guess what, I have the inside scoop as to why Al Gore endorsed Howard Dean: Because he thinks Dean is the best guy to beat Bush! Conventional enough for ya?

These Clinton conspiracy theorists are hilarious in how they get so worked up about it. My gut feeling is that Al Gore is probably more motivated by, oh I dunno, HAVING AN ELECTION STOLEN FROM HIM than any sort of Bill/Hillary soap opera.

Please, just get over it.

Now back to studying for my PS121 final...

Monday, December 08, 2003


Apparently Bill Janklow has been found guilty on all counts.

Josh Marshall has Joe Lieberman's press release:
“I was proud to have been chosen by Al Gore in 2000 to be a heartbeat away from the presidency -- and am determined to fight for what’s right, win this nomination, and defeat George W. Bush next year.

“I have a lot of respect for Al Gore -- that is why I kept my promise not to run if he did. Ultimately, the voters will make the determination and I will continue to make my case about taking our party and nation forward.”
I echo Marshall's sentiment: Ouch!

Lastly, what will St. Ralph do about this? The liberal revitalization candidate has gained the blessing of The Lesser Of Two Evils! What about the U'Wa!? Oh, Nader has Occidental stock too. I forgot.

Nevermind that aside from Dean, Al Gore was the most prominent Democrat to speak out against the Iraq war back in fall '02. He told Gep and Daschle what to do, they didn't listen, and they lost the congress 13 months ago.

At least this one's already written:
New Zealand film director Peter Jackson, tipped to win an Oscar for his "The Lord of the Rings" epic, says he would like to make "The Hobbit" prequel to the trilogy and work with some of the same actors again.


Jackson is not resting on his laurels and said if complex rights issues can be resolved he would like to direct "The Hobbit", J.R.R. Tolkien's prequel to the "Rings" trilogy set some 50 years earlier.

"I'd be interested in doing it because I think it would give continuity to the overall chapter," he said.

While many of the lead "Rings" characters do not appear in "The Hobbit" story, the wizard Gandalf, played by Ian McKellen, and Gollum, the cave dweller corrupted by the powerful ring, do and should make a comeback. Arwen, the elf princess played by Liv Tyler, could also feature again, Jackson said.
I have two words for Peter Jackson:

Leonard Nimoy.

That is all.

Mickey Kaus gets in there.
Predicted CW Take 1: The nomination fight is over. Predicted CW Take 2: Maybe Democratic primary voters would like to, you know, vote. New Hampshirites, in particular, don't like to take orders. ... It wouldn't be the first time Gore has prematurely concluded that the result of an election is inevitable. Predicted CW Take 3: There's only one bigger endorsement.
Let's score Mickey:

1: Probably right.
2: Give me a break.
3: There it is!

Bill will likely stay above the fray, and deny Mickey the satisfaction.

UPDATE: Ramesh Ponnuru of The Corner:
No word yet from McGovern, Mondale, or Dukakis. . . . Come to think of it, the Ds now have a candidate with McGovern's foreign policy, Mondale's domestic policy, Dukakis's regional background, and Gore's arrogance. How perfect is that?
Or a candidate with Clinton's domestic policy, Clinton's foreign policy, Clinton's charisma, and Clinton's charm. But who's counting?

I remember a while back, watching Bill O'Reilly complain about Sam Donaldson, accusing the veteran ABC newsman as being a "gotcha" journalist.

Something Bill should know: You'd probably be well-served to clean up your own FoxNews closet. It seems like every time the network has a Democrat on, particularly a Prez candidate, the format goes something like this:
"Hey, good to have you with us. I'm going to take a quote from some speech and completely misrepresent its meaning or distort it to question your patriotism. Gotcha! What say you?"

(wait through completely rational response)

"But you're not answering my question. Do you really want to bathe in the spilt blood of the gentials of our fighting men and women overseas?"

(wait through another completely rational response)

"Hey, I'm just quoting your words. Now, moving on, some questions about the budget..."

(repeat about 8 times, then cut to an ad featuring Michael Reagan wearing a cheap hat, plugging NewsMax and his dad)
The trouble for Fox is, the Dem candidates are now on to them. Wes Clark picked up on the strategy pretty quickly. His response was to give the interviewer a Grade-A tongue lashing. ("Don't you DARE...") I liked this tactic, but I think Howard Dean improved on it yesterday: Speak in paragraphs, hit hard, and make a lot of sense, not to mention call out the interviewer quickly to reveal the strategy.

Like I said, this interview was a string of gotcha's, some more honest than others. Interviewer Chris Wallace spewed gotcha after gotcha:

Gotcha #1: You said Bush's foreign policy lacks moral purpose!
Gotcha #2: You're a conspiracy theorist!
Gotcha #3: Hey, I took a joke you made and misrepresented it as serious, you're a secretive calculating politician! Dean hits back with lightning speed:
WALLACE: I want to take you through this because -- and I know that you're somewhat frustrated that people keep asking about it. But just as you talked about President Bush, people are concerned when public officials decide not to make records public. In January, you gave Vermont Public Radio a very different reason. Here is what you said: "There are future political considerations. We didn't want anything embarrassing appearing in the
papers at a critical time in any future endeavors." Governor, was it politics?

DEAN: If you actually listen to the tape, which CNN played this week, you will find that I was laughing about that and teasing the press about it. No, it's not politics. Every governor has done this. Some governors have sealed their records for their lifetime.
Gotcha #4: You're not being reckless, thus, you're a secretive calculating politician!
Gotcha #5: A conservative rag said something! (in this case, the Boston Herald)
Gotcha #6: I'm willfully ignorant enough to draw false dichotomies. You don't care about civil rights and abortion issues!

Going back to gotcha #3, I knew that quote sounded familiar. Ah yes, because Newsweek hack and world-class Bush-fellater Howard Fineman brought it up as evidence that Dean is secretive and dishonest! Says he:
Dean is no babe in the woods: Everyone knew what he was up to. He was burying what he could of his papers to keep them from the prying eyes and hands of the “oppo men”—opposition researchers for other Democratic contenders and, of course, the Republican National Committee. The proudly combative Dean admitted as much last January, telling Vermont Public Radio in teasing fashion, “Well, there are political considerations. We didn’t want anything embarrassing appearing in the papers at a crucial time in any future endeavor.”
Apparently Fineman doesn't know what the definition of the word "joke" is.

To be fair, I'm sure that lowering the chances of a replay of the incredibly dishonest 1988 Willie Horton smear is on the mind of Dean and all of the other candidates, so I'm sure it factored in there somewhere. The problem is, this is exactly what Dean will be dealing with in the future. It's a subtle form of Gore-ing. Bring up something that, in and of itself, is just trivial enough that it doesn't require a press conference, repeat it enough so that the Bush-friendly media whores will run with it, and somewhere down the line someone will say something about Howard Dean's "character". That's how the game is played. Al Gore invented the internet. Al and Tipper were the basis for the lead characters in "Love Story". Al Gore didn't go to that one disaster site with James Lee Witt. And so on...

The difference is, Al Gore didn't have an online defense force of thousands in 2000. The rapid response strategy Clinton employed in 1992 is now the rapid-rapid-friggin'-rapid response team, thanks to Dean's online legions, as Newsweek's Michael Isikoffnotes:
Dean’s aides say they can also count on their own electronic firepower to fight back against late hits. More than just a machine for generating cash and supporters, the Internet has vastly expanded Dean’s research team beyond its Burlington, Vt., headquarters. Like a virtual version of the Clinton war room, Dean’s supporters (some styling themselves as Dean Defense Forces) monitor the Web to pounce on the latest attack at warp speed. Last week the conservative Club for Growth ran its first ads against Dean in Iowa and New Hampshire, casting the governor as a tax-hiking Democrat in the mold of McGovern, Mondale and Dukakis. Within minutes of the club’s press release, a software executive in Naperville, Ill., was deploying his own instant rebuttal on behalf of the Dean campaign. In the time it took to drink his morning coffee, Rick Klau spotted the ad and tracked down a September article by the club’s CEO, Stephen Moore, hailing Dean as “a Democrat we could work with.” Klau pinged an instant message to the Dean camp, which began citing the article to reporters. “Twenty people sitting in a war room can’t possibly do what 2,000 or 20,000 people can,” says Joe Trippi, Dean’s campaign manager.
By the way, what are Isikoff's big scoops in his attempts to sling mud at Dean?

1. An innocent misunderstanding about a private jet that Dean doesn't even use anymore.
2. Dean did something Bush/Cheney are simply in no position to criticize him about. But I'll feel free to compare it to Cheney's energy task force!

Either way, if any of this came up for real, Dean's legions would make short work of it.

I think I know why Gore is endorsing Dean. Remember maybe a year and a half ago? Al Gore was talking about the 2000 campaign, and was quoted as saying if he had to do it over again, he would have "let 'er rip". Well, he found the candidate that's doing just that.

If this is true, wow!

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) - Former Vice President Al Gore intends to endorse Howard Dean for the Democratic presidential nomination, a dramatic move that could cement Dean's position in the fight for the party's nod.

Gore, who lost to President Bush in the disputed 2000 election, has agreed to endorse Dean in Harlem in New York City on Tuesday and then travel with the former Vermont governor to Iowa, sight of the Jan. 19 caucuses which kickoff the nominating process, said a Democratic source close to Gore.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Dean will return from Iowa in time for Tuesday night's Democratic debate in New Hampshire.
First of all, the non-cynical take: Remember all those silly stories in the news about how people worried that Dean wasn't going to get the black vote? Yeah, those were odd stories, but I can't imagine seeing anymore of them after Mister 92% Of The Black Vote In 200 endorsing the Doctor/Governor. So memo to Howard Fineman and everyone else: knock it off. Actually, Mr Fine, I'm not through with you, but I'll get to that in my next post.

And now, the Gore/Dean idiot blogger sweepstakes!

Which right-wing weblogger and/or pundit will be the first to frame this as a Gore-Clinton split, with Al backing Dean and Bill/Hillary backing Clark?

The candidates are...
Kaus? (so far he's blogged it as breaking news but hasn't done any of his conspiracy-gossip-girl shtick.
The corner?
Will Drudge post some sort of "RAGING BILL! CLINTON FUMES OVER GORE NOD" crap?

Stay tuned, I suppose, not that I'll have time to update this...

Anyway, you can pretty much stick a fork in Clark, Gep, and the rest, the nomination is Dean's to lose. Having watched Dean's barnstorming performance at the Florida convention the other day on CSPAN, I must say, I'm pleased.

I had my first of four finals this morning, I have two tomorrow and one on thursday, so once again, I'm not sure how much I'll post. To those who bear a burden like my own, good luck, and jebus-speed!

In the meantime, while our Justice Department "investigates"the Valerie Plame leak, these guys want to cut out that conflict-of-interest middleman. Go sign their petition, and get Novakula to come clean.

[Think it'll make a difference? -ed. Of course not! But who cares, the whole thing is "bogus" anyway, heh.]

Sunday, December 07, 2003


Significant posting may or may not occur between now and thursday.