The Facts Machine

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

Saturday, March 13, 2004


...on tomorrow's Meet the Press, following Condi Rice, who will appear for the first half-hour.

This was my second-most-desired scenario, the first being them appearing together. But now Dean gets to emphatically refute whatever mangled nonsense comes out of Condi's crooked lying mouth. Ex-cellent.
Over at Salon, Bill Maher attacks both Bush and Kerry for the apparent posturing as "Washington outsiders", in a column that's adapted, verbatim, from a segment from Maher's show last night. Bill does a paragraph on Kerry's rich wives, for no apparent reason other than as a setup for a really silly joke:
Please, John Kerry: Stop rolling up your sleeves at campaign rallies like you're about to man a register at Costco. You're a Boston Brahmin who married not one but two eccentric heiresses -- you're not Joe Sixpack, you're Claus von Bulow. I think your current wife is great, but hello, she inherited the Heinz fortune! She's the ketchup lady! -- which explains why sometimes he's gotta smack her on the bottom to get her to come.
Oh god.

That line got about 2 minutes worth of laughter -- not laughter and then applause, but just sheer laughter -- on the HBO show on Friday.

But putting that aside, I don't think that when Kerry "rolls up his sleeves" he's trying to assume a populist, "outsider" stance. Such a roll-up can imply that, but it can also stand for preparation for hard work, and sending Bush back to Crawford will be just that.

And yes, we know all about Yale, Nantucket, Skull&Bones, and so on. But as Senator Gracchus said in Gladiator, "I don't pretend to be a man of the people. But I do try to be a man for the people."
Elton Beard has a piece up that serves as a fitting coda to my "why aren't we thinking outside the box?" rant at the end of this post from yesterday afternoon. Yes, he's dealing with a Kaus post, but since I didn't follow the link, my Lent pledge holds true.

Studying for finals and all...

But just one thing:
Spain's interior minister Saturday announced the arrest of five suspects in the Madrid bombings, including three Moroccans.

The other two are Spaniards of "Hindu" origin, minister Angel Acebes said.

The five were arrested in connection with a cell phone inside an explosives-packed gym bag found on one of the bombed commuter trains.

The suspects "could be related to Moroccan extremist groups," the minister said. "But we should not rule out anything. Police are still investigating all avenues. This opens an important avenue."
Wait a minute . . . arrests!?!?

[andrewsullivan] Don't the Spanish understand? They're at war! There are no "arrests" in war! Why aren't detainee camps being set up in the Azores? Clearly they are morally unserious about terrorism. [/andrewsullivan]

Friday, March 12, 2004


WMD Al Qaeda links Via tapped, it looks like the Bushies are burying the democratic domino theory, at least as an active policy.
The Bush administration, yielding to protests from European and Arab leaders, has set aside its plan to issue a sweeping call for economic, political and cultural reform in the Middle East at a June conference of major industrial nations, American and Arab officials said Thursday.

Because of Arab objections that such a call would give the appearance that change was being dictated from without, the officials said, the summit conference will instead proclaim its endorsement of reforms under way in the Middle East.

Administration officials said they would work with European leaders to encourage Arab nations to proclaim their own reform measures before the meeting, which is to take place at Sea Island, Ga., with President Bush as host.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell met with Jordan's foreign minister, Marwan Muasher, and discussed Jordan's attempt to persuade the Arab League to call for more open societies and democratic institutions at a meeting this month in Tunisia.

"Reform is important and needed in the Arab world," Mr. Muasher said in an interview on Thursday. "We agree with that completely. But for it to work we need ownership of the process, not a one-for-all blueprint from Washington."

A draft of the American call for change was circulated to some European countries and then leaked to Al Hayat, a London-based Arabic newspaper, in February — all before the administration had shown it to Arab leaders, angering many of them.

"Our objective is for this document never to see the light," Mr. Muasher said of the draft. He said Secretary Powell had accepted the idea that the Sea Island meeting would not adopt the proposal.

In recent years King Abdullah II of Jordan has led the way in encouraging independent political activities. The United States was so eager to highlight those reforms that it was considering inviting the king and leaders from Morocco, Bahrain and other countries to the meeting.

That idea has receded, say various officials involved in planning the meeting. A European diplomat said there was a fear that those leaders would be viewed sneeringly as "good students" in the Arab world.

A senior State Department official said that in his meeting with Mr. Muasher, Mr. Powell understood that "nothing is going to work if it looks like it is being imposed" and that aid, investment and trade preferences should be used to "enhance" the reforms under way.

Another administration official said the lengthy draft published by Al Hayat was considered dead. It has been denounced by two close allies of Washington, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

"All peoples by their nature reject whoever tries to impose ideas on them," Mr. Mubarak said.
But Mister Bush, who is trying to impose his ideas on the rest of us here at home by supporting a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and make civil union laws unenforceable, gave one of his trademark blank, thousand-mile stares when hearing of Mubarak's comments.

If President Bush had his way, Khatami and Assad would still be in power! Oh wait, they are! I can't wait for John Gibson or Brit Hume to ask Dubya that one.

And as Matt Yglesias points out... isn't this a flip-flop?

On Meet the Press this Sunday.

Should be fun!

I'm not sure if they'll be on together though. I'm guessing not.
Some tasteful, some almost tasteful

"President Anzar, I mean, Aznar? This is Dubya. Hey, that's so terrible what happened yesterday, Laura and I are just devastated. But hey, Jose, I know that y'all have an election coming up this weekend. And guess what, I have a great idea for something you can put in your party's last set of campaign ads..."

(prophylactic for any who try to drag me over the coals because of this: I am sickened and angered by what happened yesterday)

Now that I've dispensed with the edgy portion of my commentary, how's about a little perspective: The Madrid attacks occurred nine days short of the nine-year anniversary of the sarin gas attack on the subways of Tokyo, conducted by the Aum Shinrikyo cult. The Japanese government caught, tried, convicted and sentenced essentially all of the people involved in the attack. (I was in Japan when Shoko Asahara was arrested) What's more, they did so without declaring a rhetorical "war" on their terrorists. And this was a country that experienced the largest one-day attack on its own soil in the history of war!

Differences, of course, are that the Tokyo attack caused fewer fatalities, but more injuries and long-term illnesses. And while the people who carried out the Tokyo attack were quickly identified, the situation in Spain is somewhat ambiguous at the moment.

Moving on, a couple of random paragraphs on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda: The issue at hand is "lumping", and it happens on both sides of the "war on terrah". Some critics of the Bush and Blair administrations make a rhetorical argument against the Iraq war, saying that by attacking Iraq, Bush/Blair are lumping all Arab Muslims together. The larger extension of this argument is that it plays into the argument that Bush sees the world in excessively black-and-white terms; Bin Laden is "evil", Saddam is "evil" so they must be in cahootz.

The trouble with this argument is that I don't think it's quite right; the Bushies know there are differences between these people, they're not the stupid buffoons some people make them out to be. However, they have an interest in other Americans not knowing the difference. The more the line is blurred between Bin Laden and Saddam, the more easily they can fade out one face from the telescreen for the Two Minutes Hate, and fade in another. The Iraq war was sold, partially, because of a suggestion of a link between the two men, and this existed in a world separate from the intelligence: Using the same rhetoric, putting the two men together in campaign ads in 2002, and so on.

But Bin Laden lumps too, and it's just as disingenuous. And just as with the Bush administration, it serves a political end. One of the results desired by people who carry out attacks like those of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda is to incite the population of the attacked country to move to the right politically, or to make it act in unpopular ways (unilaterally invade countries tangential to the pertinent issue, clamp down on civil liberties, etc). Bin Laden knows that there's a significant difference between, say, international public opinion on Bush (generally bad) and his immediate predecessor (generally very good). He thinks that because of this, he might be able to mobilize international public opinion against the leadership of the attacked nation, and by extension, towards him. Whether or not this strategy achieves his desired end is a more complicated matter.

It's hard to know exactly what would have happened if 9/11 had occurred during an Al Gore presidency in an alternate universe where votes are counted. Would there have been an Iraq invasion? Probably not, no matter what Saint Ralph says. Would there have been an Afghanistan invasion? You betcha, and no, conservatives, we didn't "dodge a bullet" when Bush became president.

But let's get back to Bin Laden and his example of lumping. While he surely can identify a political difference between the leadership of different Western countries -- and is prone to try and exploit it from time to time -- this recognition of distinction does not seem to trickle down to the actual people his organization attacks. Case in point, Spain (if the attack truly was carried out by a splinter of Al Qaeda as some reports suggest), where the Aznar government strongly supported the Iraq war, but the Spanish people themselves opposed it by a very large margin (hence, no troops took part in the invasion). This would suggest that the while Bin Laden is mindful of the political stances of world leaders, he is possibly indifferent to those of the general populations of countries, regardless of their leadership. So in theory, Northern California would be just as vulnerable to a potential attack as Dallas.*

There were very few voices in the two years after 9/11 who looked at the course of action taken by Bush's America after the attacks and wondered aloud, "Are we doing precisely what Osama wants us to do?" I'm not even talking about this question being asked politically (as in, "Are we sure we should trade our freedoms for more security?"), but rather about the question being asked existentially, as in "Are we moving the chessboard, or are we the pawns?" One of my problems with America's/Bush's response to 9/11 in the past couple years on the whole is that there was never any stopping to smell the roses. In this case I'm not talking about our rush to war in Iraq, but more broadly, I'm talking about the administration's near-automatic desire to fill the role that Bin Laden and Al Qaeda begged us to fill. I'm not saying we should have turned around 180 degrees. I'm just saying we could have followed a similar course with a dual, from-the-sidelines perspective on our role.

This concludes an early afternoon's worth of rambling, now on to studying for finals...

* - extra prophylactic: I am not suggesting an outright moral equivalence between Bush and Bin Laden. I am, however, identifying an interesting aspect shared by the decision-making processes of each.
Northrup has more on the new Bush ad. Grab hold of something before you click the link, lest you fall off your chair.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Terrible attack in Madrid.
In the worst terrorist attack in Spanish history, at least 10 bombs exploded during rush hour today in three commuter train stations here, killing more than 180 people and wounding more than 1,000.

As the country struggled to absorb the carnage and shock of the highly coordinated attacks, Prime Minister José María Aznar appeared on television and told his people, "Terrorists tried to cause as much pain as possible. March 11 now has it place in the history of infamy."

There was no advance warning of the attacks and no claim of responsibility, although Spanish authorities immediately ruled out international terrorism and blamed the Basque separatist group E.T.A.

Mr. Aznar, whose armored car saved him from an E.T.A. attack when he was an opposition leader in 1995, added that his government would never negotiate with "killers."
How horrible.
Shorter Maureen Dowd:
Whence the Wince?

** John Kerry received botox because he didn't respond to my transparent inanities the way I wanted him to. **

Ryan Lizza of the New Republic makes a good catch.
From a Bush campaign press release:
"In My First Hundred Days In The White House, I Will Roll Back George Bush's Tax Cut..." (Sen. John Kerry, Remarks In Manchester, N.H., 12/27/03)
From Kerry's actual remarks:
In my first hundred days in the White House, I will roll back George Bush's tax cut for the wealthiest so that we can invest in education and health care.
Whoops! (link via just about everybody)

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Go Ron Gonzales.

Hahaha, poor Freepers, sorry but quoting scripture isn't going to change anyone's mind outside of your circle jerk.
Kerry is tied with Bush . . . in Tennessee!

Al Franken's new afternoon radio show on the new liberal radio network Air America Radio, set to debut on March 31, is called:
"The O'Franken Factor"

(link via blah3)

Look, guys, you're great. And I'm in no way in favor of unilateral disarmament by the American left, in terms of our tactics against Republicans.

But please, why do you have to get all William F Buckley on us and do a company cruise?

The speakers list -- Conason, Joe Wilson, Blumenthal, and so on -- sounds very good, I admit. And yeah, there's no way in hell I'd ever want to be stuck on a boat with these guys. But really, of all their elitist activities, why this one?

I can't pinpoint exactly why I'm so worked up about this. It just makes me a bit sad for some reason.

Thank you, AP, for getting to the bottom of this, so to speak.
More and more Americans are buying vehicles with DVD players, usually to keep the kids entertained. But an increasing number of other people on the road are catching a glimpse through the windows of more than just "Finding Nemo" and "SpongeBob SquarePants."

Depending on where they are driving or parked, motorists could face fines and even jail time for screening X-rated stuff. But where the law may not be clear, some are calling for tighter regulation.
"Residents should not be subjected to those obscenities," said Flint City Councilwoman Carolyn Sims, who is examining whether an ordinance packing a $500 fine is needed. "They do have a right to have peace and tranquility and not to have this exposure to sex in their face."
A driver in Schenectady, New York, was arrested last month after rolling past police with a DVD titled "Chocolate Foam" playing on the passenger-side sun visor in his Mercedes-Benz, authorities said. The movie also was rolling on screens set into the car's headrests.
Guess the adjacent drivers could see all the way past Schenectady, eh?
The driver was accused of breaking state laws prohibiting watching TV while driving, as well as another law making it illegal to exhibit sexually explicit material in a public place.
Yeah, jeez, if you really want sexual activity in your car, go talk to Ms Specyalski.

Martin S. Indyk of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy challenges the notion that Qaddafi gave up his WMD programs because of the Iraq war. Indyk does so by employing the facts in the matter, which suggest that this was many years in the making, and that Libya had offered to give up its chemical program all the way back in 1999. (at that time, whatever there was of its nuclear program was barely existent)
On the issue of WMD, the US at the time was concerned about Libya's clandestine production of chemical weapons. Expressing a preference for a multilateral forum, Libyan representatives offered to join the Chemical Weapons Convention and open their facilities to inspection. In a subsequent meeting in October 1999, Libya repeated its offer on chemical weapons and agreed to join the Middle East multilateral arms control talks taking place at the time. Why did we not pursue the Libyan WMD offer then? Because resolving the PanAm 103 issues was our condition for any further engagement. Moreover, as Libya's chemical weapons programme was not considered an imminent threat and its nuclear programme barely existed, getting Libya out of terrorism and securing compensation had to be top priorities. We told the Libyans that once these were achieved, UN sanctions could be lifted but US sanctions would remain until the WMD issues were resolved.

The fact that Mr. Gadaffi was willing to give up his WMD programmes and open facilities to inspection four years ago does not detract from the Bush administration's achievement in securing Libya's nuclear disarmament. However, in doing so, Mr. Bush completed a diplomatic game plan initiated by Mr. Clinton. The issue here, however, is not credit. Rather, it is whether Mr. Gadaffi gave up his WMD programmes because Mr. Hussein was toppled, as Mr. Bush now claims. As the record shows, Libyan disarmament did not require a war in Iraq.
I'd love to see if this tidbit makes it into my final PS129 lecture tomorrow afternoon. I'm placing initial odds at around 15 to 1. The ball's in your court, Buggy!

(link via yglesias)

UPDATE: This piece from another fellow from the Saban Center makes a good complimentary argument.

You just knew the second that news broke that John Ashcroft required immediate surgery for gallstone pancreatitis, the right wing do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do morality patrol would be out there, combing the internet and the airwaves for any possible expression of joy or glee that a conservative so reviled by the left was in medical peril.

You know, this coming from the party of Jesse Helms who jokingly warned Clinton not to come to North Carolina because he might get shot, and so on.

First Projectionist of the Hypocritical Morality Squadron Michelle Malkin is on the case, and she finds, uh, a lot:
Those oh-so-compassionate liberals could hardly contain their glee upon hearing the news that Attorney General John Ashcroft is suffering from a severe case of gallstone pancreatitis.
And what liberals does she find?
"He has it coming. He is utterly sub-human and evil. Suffer, bastard," gloated an Internet user on the Web site.
Someone from DU? Good work there, Michelle! But surely you found more than that, right?
"(T)he world would be better off without him," responded another writer on the forum.
Someone else from DU! And we don't even know if that was a sentence fragment being taken out of context. Nice work! And?
"I hope he is in the most severe pain a human being can suffer, and after that, I hope he remains in constant pain with no hope of relief," chimed in yet another bleeding-heart Democrat.
This one is completely unsourced! Who else?
Out in Hollywood, comedian Bill Maher echoed these unsparing sentiments during his HBO talk show monologue, speculating that Ashcroft contracted his unimaginably painful and potentially deadly illness from "wiping his (expletive) with the Bill of Rights." The audience roared with laughter.
Uh, Michelle? Bill Maher refers to himself as a libertarian, did you know that?

Though I'm impressed that "ass", presumably, required censoring in the hallowed cyberspace of Townhall.

From there, Malkin's column descends into the usual rightist paean to Ashcroft's work. I'm a big fan of all that great counterterrorism work he was doing in the months leading up to 9/11, ya know.

Anyway, what's the point of using DU for just about all your sources of liberal sadism if we can just point here and here?
Salon gives us an inside view of the Office of Special Plans, which played a large part in hyping the case for war in Iraq, from an actual eyewitness who worked in the Department of Defense. Boy, these people sure seem friendly with Chalabi...

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

John Kerry has raised $7 million in a week. Go contribute now! He needs every penny to combat the Bush slime machine.
Over at CalJunket, Tommaso cuts through the rhetoric of religious bigotry and discusses what Jesus, you know, actually says in the Bible. Go read now.

While alive (aside from always being "alive", as those perky songs from my misguided month in Campus Crusade for Christ told me), Jesus strongly criticized divorce, but said not a peep about homosexuality. Anyway...
Cheney vs Tenet on Iraqi intel:
CIA Director George Tenet on Tuesday rejected recent assertions by Vice President Dick Cheney that Iraq cooperated with the al-Qaida terrorist network and that the administration had proof of an illicit Iraqi biological warfare program.

Tenet's comments to the Senate Armed Services Committee are likely to fuel friction between the White House and intelligence agencies over the failure so far to find any of the banned weapons stockpiles that President Bush, in justifying his case for war, charged Saddam Hussein with concealing.

Tenet at first appeared to defend the administration, saying that he didn't believe the White House misrepresented intelligence provided by the CIA.

The administration's statements, he said, reflected a prewar intelligence consensus that Saddam had stockpiled chemical and biological weapons and was pursuing nuclear bombs.

But under sharp questioning by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Tenet reversed himself, saying there had been instances when he had warned administration officials that they were misstating the threat posed by Iraq.

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you what my interaction was ... and what I did and didn't do, except that you have to have confidence to know that when I believed that somebody was misconstruing intelligence, I said something about it," Tenet said. "I don't stand up publicly and do it."

Tenet admitted to Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee's senior Democrat, that he had told Cheney that the vice president was wrong in saying that two truck trailers recovered in Iraq were "conclusive evidence" that Saddam had a biological weapons program.

Cheney made the assertion in a Jan. 22 interview with National Public Radio.
Lambert provides some much-needed snark, while Calpundit has some commentary.

One thing I'd add is that the dynamic between Tenet and Cheney is a problem for the administration, not only because they disagree, but because of the sides of the argument they're on. Remember, after Kay's "we were almost all wrong" revelations a while back, Bush conjured up a commission to look into how the CIA overhyped prewar intelligence on the threat posed by Iraq. These revelations -- though nothing all that new to those who have been paying attention -- cut against that narrative.
The most recent Gallup poll gives us more Nader math:
The poll, released Monday, found that among likely voters, Kerry was the choice of 52 percent and Bush 44 percent in a two-way matchup, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

In a three-way race with Independent candidate Ralph Nader, Kerry had 50 percent, Bush 44 percent and Nader 2 percent.
Via Ping, if you voted on one of those smashing new paper-trail-free touch-screens, and have in interest in knowing that your vote counted, go check out Verified Voting.

An apparent change of policy for Bush and the time, or lack thereof, he intends to spend with the 9/11 commission?
President Bush will answer all the questions of a federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, the White House spokesman said today, suggesting that the president will be more flexible in his approach to the commission.

Commission members said late last month that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had placed strict limits on the private interviews they will grant to the commission, saying that they would meet only with the panel's top two officials and that Mr. Bush would submit to only a single hour of questioning.

The apparent shift in the president's position today followed accusations by Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, that Mr. Bush was hindering the commission's investigation by not agreeing to more than an hour of questioning about intelligence and law enforcement blunders in the months and years before the 2001 attacks.

"He's going to answer all the questions they want to raise," the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, told reporters today. When pressed, Mr. McClellan repeated this statement but did not clarify whether the time restriction had been dropped.
That's an impressive summation of this morning's gaggle.

So in short, they've gone from "one hour" to "answer all questions", which may or may not mean "all the time the panel needs". Still, at this point they've only agreed to have Bush meet with just the two co-chairs.

Lo and behold, we have stumbled onto the "pay stubs and dental records" strategy yet again!

What the hell does that mean? It means that the Bushies are following their usual trend of backing away from an unpopular position or decision in as politically incremental and cryptic a manner as humanly possible. This is the reason why Scotty-doo was so reluctant this morning to come out and actually tell Helen Thomas and the rest of the press corps that yes, Bush is willing to sit with the commission for more than an hour. "Not an hour", compared to "An hour" would be too much of an about-face for Bush's purposes. Especially since he's trying to attack John Kerry as being a flip-flopper.

By the way, someone needs to start a Scott McClellan "unprecedented cooperation" drinking game. Of course, mentioning "unprecedented cooperation" as a phrase doesn't mean much when the context of the cooperation is a virtually unprecedented event in American history. It means even less considering that Gerald Ford testified before the House Judiciary Committee when he was running the show.

So let's give it a week or two, and we'll eventually have McClellan on record measuring Bush's committment to the panel in terms of time ("As long as...") and not just by amount of questions ("As many as..."). And maybe we can get the whole panel in there too. Clinton and Gore were happy enough for such stipulations. And the right has been screaming about how they were the ones who were responsible for 9/11, so Bush should be fine, right?

David Brooks compares the faith-inspired works of Mel Gibson (The Passion) and author Mitch Albom (The Five People You Meet in Heaven):
I worry about Albom more, because while religious dogmatism is always a danger, it is less of a problem for us today than the soft-core spirituality that is its opposite. As any tour around the TV dial will make abundantly clear, we do not live in Mel Gibson's fire-and-brimstone universe. Instead, we live in a psychobabble nation. We've got more to fear from the easygoing narcissism that is so much part of the atmosphere nobody even thinks to protest or get angry about it. (italics mine)
I just choked on my V-chip. Sure, there are the daytime talkshows and such to which Brooks is referring, but has he been keeping tabs on news and movies lately? Shock! Awe! Janet's boob!

Anyway, I need to get you far enough into Brooks' column to understand my headline...
All societies construct their own images of heaven. Most imagine a wondrous city or a verdant garden where human beings come face to face with God. But the heaven that is apparently popular with readers these days is nothing more than an excellent therapy session. In Albom's book, God, to the extent that he exists there, is sort of a genial Dr. Phil. When you go to his heaven, friends and helpers come and tell you how innately wonderful you are. They help you reach closure.

In this heaven, God and his glory are not the center of attention. It's all about you.

Here, sins are not washed away. Instead, hurt is washed away. The language of good and evil is replaced by the language of trauma and recovery. There is no vice and virtue, no moral framework to locate the individual within the cosmic infinity of the universe. Instead there are just the right emotions — Do you feel good about yourself? — buttressed by an endless string of vague bromides about how special each person is, and how much we are all mystically connected in the flowing river of life.
There's a bit of code-ery at work here. "Hurt"... suffering! "Right emotions"... the eight-fold path! A religion just isn't a religion without righteous dogma about sin and damnation and such, huh David.

Also, I don't know what movie Brooks saw:
Reading "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" is a sad experience because it conjures up a mass of people who, like its hero, feel lonely and unimportant. But instead of offering them the rich moral framework of organized religion or rigorous philosophy, instead of reminding them of the tough-minded exemplars of the Bible and history, books like Albom's throw the seekers remorselessly back upon themselves.
Uh, David? The only "frameworks" to be found in The Passion were the various pieces of wood to which James Caviezel was attached when he had his skin removed, his ribs exposed, and his hands nailed.
Hans Blix disarms the 49ers

What sad times are these, that us poor Bay Area sports fans must go through yet another dismantling of the 49ers.

Jeff Garcia signs a 4-year deal with the Browns.
Free agent quarterback Jeff Garcia agreed to a $25 million, four-year contract with Cleveland, ending Tim Couch’s rocky era with the Browns.

The Browns and Garcia’s agent, Steve Baker, confirmed the deal Tuesday to The Associated Press. The team said it was making plans for a news conference.

Browns president Carmen Policy told WTAM, the team’s radio rights holder, the contract was worth $10 million over the first two years, and there’s an option for the final two years.

The 34-year-old Garcia, a three-time Pro Bowler, was unable to agree on a restructured contract with the San Francisco 49ers, who released him earlier this month.
Great career move there, Jeff. Two problems:

1) You just signed to QB a team with almost no discernable WR talent.
2) You just left San Francisco to live in Cleveland. That's... uh... great.

Hope that money's worth it. Though to be fair, with Owens' departure, there isn't much WR talent left here either.

And it gets worse. In one of the great management decisions of all football history, the 49er top brass decided to let go of Garcia, a scrambling quarterback who can make things happen even when he's getting knocked around, while retaining Tim Rattay, a very good pocket passer when he gets protection and time to throw. The problem is that at the same time, they got rid of two of their three best offensive linemen, Derrick Deese (who didn't allow a sack last year) and Ron Stone, a former Pro Bowler. Simply brilliant.

I have seen the future, and it is 6 and 10.

Okay, back to politics and such...

Because CNN won't put the numbers on their front page, and Drudge won't float mid-day exit polls, the media has left it up to me.

Here now are special, super-duper-exclusive exit polls from the Democrat primaries going on today in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida:

Kerry 98
Lyndon Johnson 1
Lyndon LaRouche .1


Kerry 97
a Crocodile 2
Johnny B Goode 1


Kerry 99
Huckleberry Finn 1


Kerry Pat Buchanan 97
Dan Marino 2
Nader 1
Remember, this is an exclusive! You must credit the Facts Machine!!!
If John Kerry is to be smeared, I really wish that Republicans would do better than trying make him out to be DPRK's bosom buddy.

I thought everyone was busy painting Kim Jong Il as a madman, now when he says something that Republicans want to use to their electoral advantage, he suspiciously starts making sense?

I thought the point Republicans were trying to make when DPRK continued its nuclear program despite promises to President Clinton not to proved that we couldn't trust what they had to say... and now they're trustworthy all of a sudden?

And I thought McCarthyism was dead.

Get a life, guys.

And furthermore, as press accounts make clear, the rationale North Korea has is a "better the devil you don't know" mentality. They would've had such a mentality if this were 2000 and Bush was the unknown quantity. To use that to partisan political ends is ridiculous.

But if they're going to go there, I suppose it opens up the "Bush and the Saudi Royal Family" angle, and in that one, the devil is quite known, so to speak.

UPDATE: And for those of you who try the sister-line to "DPRK loves Kerry!", that being "Kerry loves Yasser Arafat!", please go read Jesse.

Over at the American Prospect, Matthew Yglesias addresses the "Kerry is a flip-flopper" line of attack from Bush and the right. In short, it's an example of conservatives manipulating the nuance of the positions Democrats take and trying to cast it as hypocrisy and waffling. For example, on Iraq:
The situation in Iraq is a somewhat more complicated matter. Kerry's position here has been genuinely nuanced, neither dogmatically hawkish nor reflexively dovish, but rather changing to reflect an evolving factual situation. In the fall of 2002, when Bush asked Congress for a resolution authorizing him to threaten the use of force if necessary to ensure Iraqi compliance with U.N. dictates, three situations held: inspectors had not visited Iraq for years, the consensus of the global intelligence community was that Iraq possessed prohibited weapons of mass destruction, and it remained an open question whether the United States could attract substantial international support for military actions. Kerry supported a resolution.

Months later, when the war actually began, much had changed. Inspectors were in the country, casting doubt not only on the administration's more extravagant claims but on much of the intelligence community's earlier work. Saddam was not cooperating fully with the inspectors, but they maintained that they were engaged in productive and useful work. A series of botched diplomatic moves had left the United States internationally isolated, not only lacking a U.N. resolution because of the opposition of veto-wielding France, but lacking even majority support on the Security Council. Global public opinion had turned dramatically against the American position, with majority support for war limited to the United States, Israel, and (on some days, at least) the United Kingdom. A compromise resolution was on the table that would have tightened the screws on Saddam somewhat and given the inspections process more time. It was clear that Saddam did not pose an imminent threat to the national security of the United States or any other country. Nevertheless, Bush chose to go to war, though his administration had failed to even assemble a reasonable plan for the postwar occupation or conduct an honest assessment of the costs. Kerry opposed this course of action, and rightly so.
Matt makes a concession on the "why did Kerry trust Bush?" question, which mostly came from the Dean campaign, and then makes an interesting point about it:
Many liberals questioned the propriety of having delegated so much authority to Bush the previous fall, especially in light of the president's general record of dishonesty and ineptitude. This is a legitimate issue to raise (and it was raised, many times, in the Democratic primary), but it's hardly a criticism available to conservatives, and has nothing to do with flip-flops or inconsistency. Criticism of Kerry's record on the war, moreover, cuts against the notion that he is an opportunistic panderer. His vote for the authorizing resolution was deeply unpopular within the Democratic Party and nearly cost him the nomination, forcing him to spend months trailing behind the more forthrightly dovish campaigns of Dean and Gen. Wesley Clark.
And lo and behold, the Democrats are united around Kerry, Dean will support Kerry and is in fact metting with the Senator this week.

Go read Matt's piece, it also features a handy list of Bush's flip-flops, since the Prez is opening up that line of argument, and just in case those don't satisfy you, here are plenty more.

Monday, March 08, 2004

I see that some people have google-bombed somebody else to the top search result for "miserable failure".

But I have to ask, and I'd love to hear the answer: How is he a miserable failure?
Dear Senator Kerry,

Everything you were quoted as saying in this account of your responses to Bush's attacks sounds good, except:
"I am convinced that we have the ability to win this race," Kerry said. "It's going to be hard fought, they're going to do everything possible to tear down my character personally (and) Teresa. That's the way they operate." (italics mine)
John, babe, this is not a college freshman term paper with a minimum word count, that prose there is just a bit to fanciful. And I don't want to hear about your being "able" to win, I want to hear about how you will win!


On the heels of last month's Oscar coronation in which The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King pulled off a historic 11-for-11 sweep, New Line has announced plans to bring the final chapter in Peter Jackson's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy saga to home video on May 25, months ahead of schedule.

The two previous installments, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, were both released in August.
But nooo!
As with the previous video releases, Hobbitheads obsessed with every nook and cranny of Middle-earth will have to wait a little longer for the four-hour extended edition of King. That four-disc set, featuring even more extras, is slated for a holiday release.
Argh. I'm not buying it twice, I can hold out until the holiday season, I think.
Has Vermont declined into a disease-laden, hedonistic cesspool since Howard Dean signed the nation's first civil union legislation there almost four years ago, where heterosexual marriages have devolved into utterly meaningless institutions, and boys exchange vows (and fluids) with goats?

Well, no.
To Vermont's town clerks and justices of the peace, civil unions have become almost as routine as traditional weddings. And readers of the state's newspapers see civil union announcements alongside wedding notices nearly every week.

"It's just everyday business," said Brattleboro Town Clerk Annette Cappy, who a few minutes after midnight on July 1, 2000, became the first Vermont clerk to issue a gay couple a license for a civil union. Last year her office dispensed 185 civil union licenses and 318 marriage licenses.

Just four years ago, civil unions for gay couples were considered a positively radical idea. Now, they are practically routine in Vermont.

In fact, in some parts of the country, civil unions have become the moderate fallback position in the nation's growing debate over gay marriage.


Vermont officials are amazed at the shift in political reality.

"Now our 'radical' civil union thing is the compromise proposal for moderates," said Attorney General William Sorrell.


The issue caused a political backlash in Vermont at the time [of its passage]. But now, even some state legislators who were voted out of office because of their support for civil unions have gotten elected again.

Vermont Gov. James Douglas, a Republican, said in 2000 that the Legislature was moving too quickly in approving civil unions. But now he opposes a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Civic dialogue also has returned to normal.

Linda Weiss, a justice of the peace in Corinth, a community at the heart of the civil unions opposition movement four years ago, said many of her conservative neighbors have let go of their anger.

"Although there's still a fair amount of grumbling, there's much more of an attitude of, 'Well, if that's what they want to do, let them,"' said Weiss, who had a civil union ceremony with her partner more than three years ago.
There's a paranoia on the religious right that people who promote "the homosexual agenda" (as a certain hunting-with-Cheney Supreme Court Justice put it) wont be satisfied until every *sacred* institution they cherish will be trampled on and done away with, leaving liberals and gays free to remake the whole of society in any Sodomite way that they see fit.

The reality, on the other hand, is that when same-sex couples obtain equal rights under the law, they seem pretty happy, and have no urge to stamp on whatever you do with your wife or husband.

Kind of undercuts the whole slippery-slope angle, don't it?

A California State Senator has an interesting idea:
Millions of California's teenagers would become the nation's first to vote under a proposed constitutional amendment introduced Monday by a 71-year-old state senator.

Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, proposed the idea alongside three other lawmakers, saying the Internet, cellular phones, multichannel television and a diverse society makes today's teens better informed than generations of their predecessors.

Coming on the heels of an expected record low turnout among adults in the March 2 election, Vasconcellos would give 16-year-olds a half vote and 14-year-old a quarter vote in state elections beginning in 2006.

The idea, formally called "Training Wheels for Citizenship," first requires two-thirds approval by the Legislature to appear on this November's ballot.

The California suggestion comes 33 years after the United States lowered its voting age from 21 to 18, and amid a fledgling youth movement in the U.S. and other nations to lower the voting age. Supporters say Israel allows 17-year-olds to vote in local elections, while Austria and Germany allow 16-year-olds to vote in some local elections. A bill in California letting 17-year-olds vote in primary elections when they will be 18 years old for the general election has languished.
I kinda like this in principle. Now I have known a fair share of pre-18 types in my life who I thought were well-informed enough at the time to warrant being part of the electoral process. Also, since the Gropinator is raising student fees by a tune of 15-40% ("fees", a politically useful synonym for "college tax"), this is a policy that has a pretty direct effect on the 16 and 17yearolds of California today, dontcha think? (Depending on current student aid plans, some UC's and others have compensated students with fee increase grants, though who knows what future students will get)

On the other hand, you have to draw the line somewhere. We have a legal system that generally sets concrete limits on whether an alleged criminal is to be tried as an adult or as a minor. (Well, at least in California we have a semblance of that) Voting does require a level of maturity, just as understanding the full consequence of one's actions does. And we're not going to do a person-to-person civics test to screen out ignorant 14-17yearold voters; you might as well bring back poll taxes. So the line should be drawn somewhere.

Also, the "training wheels" program suggested by Vasconcellos seems a bit condescending. Disenfranchising a well-informed 17yearold is one thing, but to give proportional weight to votes based on age does not cast a positive light on the electoral process (and good thing they steered clear of using three-fifths as one of their vote values). One of the causes of voter apathy, voter fatigue, what have you, in America is the perception from individuals that "my vote doesn't count" (or, in Florida, "my vote doesn't count because Jeb is pretending that I'm a convicted felon"). Is saying to teenagers "your vote counts a quarter as much as anybody else's" sending a message that would conteract such views?

Once again, my view is that the best solution is for the line to be drawn somewhere. I say 17, instead of the current 18. Why? Because with the current system, most high school students do not get the opportunity to vote in any major elections until they reach college, because only a small percentage of them turn 18 in time. (I turned 18 in December of my senior year, missing the 1998 midterm elections by six weeks.) Lowering the voting age to 17 for state elections would allow most high school students to take part in at least one state election, and would give high schools a chance to provide meaningful, right-here right-now education on the democratic process, rather than the lackadaisical, "here, do whatever with it" government programs that are present in many public high schools, including my old one.

The final implication is that no matter what new system comes about, if any, lowering the state voting age could complicate the electoral process, because "youth" ballots would have to be well segregated from ballots that include national elections, so as not to mess with the United States Constitution. And if there's anything TFM opposes, it's unnecessarily messing with the Constitution!

ABC/WashingtonPost is out today:
A majority of Americans -- 57 percent -- say they want their next president to steer the country away from the course set by Bush, according to the survey. Bush's standing hit new lows in crucial areas such as the economy (39 percent support him), Iraq (46 percent) and the budget deficit (30 percent).

Bush's overall support, 50 percent, was unchanged from February and equal to the lowest of his presidency; only the war on terrorism continues to garner Bush the support of more than six in 10 Americans.

As a result of these doubts, Bush narrowly trails likely Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry by four percentage points, 48 to 44 percent, among registered voters in a hypothetical presidential matchup. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader claims 3 percent. Of a dozen policy areas, Kerry leads Bush in eight, including the economy, education and health care, while Bush leads only in the war on terrorism. The two are virtually tied in the other three: Iraq, gay marriage and civil liberties.
And one for the fridge of your friendly neighborhood cooperative:
In a bit of good news for Bush, Nader is drawing essentially all of his support from Kerry, who leads Bush by nine percentage points in a two-way matchup with the president -- an indication Nader could play the spoiler for Democrats in 2004 as he did four years ago. Underscoring that potential, nearly two thirds of Democrats opposed Nader's decision to run, while half of all Republicans approve of his move.
And of course, Bush is a uniter, not a divider:
The Post-ABC survey reflects the pounding Bush has taken from Democrats during the primaries, as well as disappointing news about job creation and more signs of difficulty in Iraq. While half approve of the overall job Bush is doing, the proportions of Americans who disapprove (48 percent) and strongly disapprove (36 percent) have never been higher. Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq has shifted from strength to weakness, with a double-digit increase in opposition this year.

Bush no longer is viewed as someone who can bring the country together. Slightly under half the public say the president has done more to unite the country while just as many say he's done more to divide Americans. Fifty-four percent of Americans view Kerry favorably while just 26 percent take an unfavorable view (respondents were evenly divided on Bush, 47 to 46). Nearly half -- 49 percent -- of those interviewed said they trusted Kerry to handle the biggest issues facing the country while 44 percent preferred Bush. Barely a month ago, the two were tied.
For all I've excerpted, there's even more.

Again, the usual caveats, long way to go, and so on.

UPDATE: I was thinking about that 57% of voters who want the next president "to steer the country away from the course set by Bush", according to the poll, when it hit me: From the looks of Bush's first round of ads -- "America is turning the corner" -- isn't that what Bush wants to do too? You know all that bad stuff that happened in my first term? Well elect me to a second term, and all kinds of different stuff will happen!

...with Kerry leading Bush by eight percent, 52-44.

And if you're curious, Ralph Nader got 2 percent. That's more like it.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall linked to the same USA Today poll 17 minutes after I did, yet made the same comment I did on Nader's 2% ("that's more like it"). Do I get a cookie? (:
Via Marshall -- and I can't believe this -- Bush is still trying the "we created 350,000 jobs in six months" spin.

Okay. I can believe it. But alas, 350,000 divided by six is just over 58,000, which is a third of the amount of jobs that need to be created monthly just to keep up with population growth.

And furthermore, that 350,000 number is just above the amount of jobs Bush claimed his 2003 tax cut would create each month. Obviously, uh, 9/11 changed everything!
Kos has polls galore from state to state, pitting Bush and Kerry head-to-head. Note that most of these polls were taken before Super Tuesday, and thus before Democratic support for Kerry truly consolidated.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Via Calpundit, how liberal or conservative is your Senator or Representative relative to other members? Keith Poole of the University of Houston, through some sort of magic fun formula, gives us the rankings.

Of course, it's early, very early, but that's no reason I can't point out the recent Miami Herald poll of voters in Florida:
Democrat John Kerry leads President Bush by 6 percentage points in the Sunshine State, whose 27 electoral votes are crucial to the president's re-election, a St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald poll shows.

Eight months before the election, Florida voters are widely skeptical of Bush's handling of the economy, the war in Iraq and the overall direction of the country. With the general election race effectively under way, fewer than half of Florida voters approve of the president's overall performance.

"Florida is in play," said pollster Kellyanne Conway. "This poll clearly demonstrates that the state that gave us drama and nail-biting in 2000 is proving no differently in 2004."

If the election were held today, 49 percent would vote for Massachusetts Sen. Kerry, 43 percent for Bush, and 3 percent for independent candidate Ralph Nader. Only 5 percent were undecided in a state that remains starkly polarized politically.
Obviously, there's a long way to go, and these polls could be relfective of a presumed-nominee bump for Kerry. But there are plenty of veterans among the beachside communities of what Conan O'Brien once jokingly referred to as "America's End-Zone".

I'm skeptical about Florida, nevertheless. Because of the 2000 hoopla -- you know, when tens of thousands more Floridians went to the polls with the intent of voting for Gore, but then all that fun stuff happened -- Florida will probably get more attention as a battleground state than it deserves. I'm guessing that if the national race is close, Bush will probably hold on to Florida; perhaps Democrats like myself believe this after our ill-founded optimism that Bill McBride could defeat Jeb back in '02. (Needless to say, however, Kerry is no McBride) If it's close, the more relevant battleground states will probably be Ohio, Arizona, Missouri, and Pennsylvania. You could also throw in Louisiana, Nevada and New Hampshire if you wanted.
What do Backdraft and Bush's ads have in common?

Answer: Actors portraying firefighters.
Another less-publicized aspect of the ad flap: the use of paid actors—including two playing firefighters with fire hats and uniforms in what looks like a fire station. "Where the hell did they get those guys?" cracked Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, which has endorsed John Kerry, when he first saw the ads.
(link via atrios)