The Facts Machine

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

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Tomorrow is a travel-day for TFM, so it is unclear as to how much posting will actually occur. Definitely none between around 10AM and 5PM, but we'll see as to the rest...
Not to steal someone's idea from a year ago, but as of this moment, my finals are...

Pour the gin, I'm coming home.
Via Road to Surfdom, by way of Atrios:
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, one, we didn't put together just the coalition of the willing. A coalition is always a coalition of the willing. And this particular coalition of the willing now has 47 nations; 47 nations are openly members of the coalition, and have asked to be identified with this effort. And there are many other nations that for a variety of reasons don't want to be publicly identified, but are also a part of the coalition of the willing.
That quote comes from March 26, 2003.
Bill O'Splotchy interviews Hans Blix. This is an interesting read, and Hans holds his own in the Only Bill Gets To Spin Zone. (link via pontificator)

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I wish I could laugh.
Associated Press gives us a preview of Dean's new organization, which will be called Democracy For America:
Supporters say the new organization, Democracy For America, will help return political power to the community level.

Dean has been seeking to build excitement among those supporters with a promise to announce Thursday his plans "about the future grass-roots campaign built from the principles of Dean For America," the former presidential campaign said in a posting to its own Web log. "We will show solidarity in our continued campaign to take back the core of power in American politics from back rooms and special interests to a political ethos based in, and built from, community."

Rallies are planned in Seattle and San Francisco on Thursday, a month to the day Dean dropped out of the presidential race without winning a contest in spite of spending six months as the Democrat with the most money, endorsements and momentum. A third rally is planned Friday in New York. Dean won a primary, Vermont's, after he dropped out.

The new organization will play a role in helping Kerry win the presidency in November. Democracy For America also will seek to influence the Democratic Party in much the way that conservatives helped to reshape the Republican Party more than 20 years ago.
And his massive email list?
Dean believes he can help to raise money for important congressional races by asking the more than 600,000 people who signed up for his campaign via his Web site to donate. When he was leading in the presidential contest he successfully did that for an Iowa congressman who had not even endorsed him.

Democratic leaders hope that Dean can and will do the same thing to help Kerry raise money. The question is whether he'll turn over the list of names and e-mail addresses he gathered.

Some of his aides have said they are researching the legalities, including how the list would be viewed by federal elections regulators. It could be considered valuable enough that it would exceed campaign contribution limits. Putting a value on it could be difficult.
The official unveiling of the site will be tomorrow.
Jack notes a short Boston Herald piece on how John Kerry says he forgot about a St Patrick's breakfast in Boston.

This is the part where liberal bloggers like me are supposed to make the joke about the reasons why Bush did remember St Patrick's day. But I won't, so you'll have to go elsewhere for satisfaction, hehe.

Of course, I'm fine with Jack's "I didn't inhale" analogy, mostly because I have vague recollections of how that election turned out.

To help boost the uncanny parallels between 2004 and 1992, as well as to celebrate what remains of St Patrick's Day here on the west coast, go give some green to Kerry.
Great new ad from MoveOn, essentially nothing but an unedited video of Rummy's appearance on Face the Nation a few days ago.

Hehe, maybe they could have worked that other famous Rummy video into the end there, just for kicks...

And was that Tom Friedman grilling Rip van Rummy on his "imminent threat" quotes? Wow, somebody really wants his link back on my blog.
Let's play by the right's rules, shall we?

Just for fun, let's dive into the whole "should we do what Al Qaeda wants" thing.

A group with links to Al Qaeda and who claimed responsibility for the Madrid attack released a statement today regarding Spain, but also had words for the upcoming American election:
The statement said it supported President Bush in his reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, as it was not possible to find a leader "more foolish than you, who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom."

In comments addressed to Bush, the group said:

"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization."

"Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."

The group said its cells were ready for another attack and time was running out for allies of the United States.

"Whose turn is it next? Will it be Japan or America, or Italy, Britain or Oslo or Australia?" the statement said, adding Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were also targets.
"embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization". Wow, sounds like Al Qaeda's been reading Friedman columns.

But it goes to show us: When talk arises about Al Qaeda's motives and desires, there's something for everybody! So let's all shut up and find ways to protect the homeland, alright?

And for another thing, at least we know that the Washington Moonie Times' poll was wrong. (link via atrios)

UPDATE: Kos adds:
Okay, this is one foreign "leader" we can scratch of Kerry's list.
TFM addresses Snitchens piece . . . nearly 48 hours ago.

Apparently some people can't be bothered to scroll down, I suppose. And Hitchens doesn't mention that Aznar was lying about the attack in the lead-up to the election either.

Steve, Tom, I love you (well, one of you). But please, don't do it.
Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise will bring "The War of the Worlds" to the bigscreen, with Cruise expected to star.

Depending on how quickly the two get a "War of the Worlds" script they like, the sci-fi epic could start in late 2005. Spielberg is now completing work on "The Terminal" with Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

David Koepp will rewrite a Josh Friedman-penned first-draft script based on "War," the classic H.G. Wells alien-invasion novel.

Cruise and his C/W Prods. partner Paula Wagner set up the pic at Paramount in May 2002. DreamWorks will come aboard as a partner, now that Spielberg is involved.

Cruise and Wagner will produce, and it is likely Spielberg and DreamWorks Pictures co-heads Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald will be involved in that capacity as well.

"War" became permanently etched in American culture when Orson Welles' Mercury Theater performed the story on radio in 1938 and ignited a nationwide panic when listeners didn't realize it was fiction.

H.G. Wells wrote "The War of the Worlds" in 1898. In addition to the Mercury Theater radio production, the book inspired a 1953 film starring Gene Barry and Les Tremayne.

Producers have been toying with "War" for many years. David Brown persuaded Paramount to commission a script by Anthony Burgess during the Barry Diller regime, but the project didn't gel. Years later, Brown pitched it to Spielberg, resulting ultimately in the development of a related story, "Deep Impact." But, the Wells story was again sidetracked.
Uhh, that's quite a departure from "War" there.

But anyway, I feel like this is a little much. And how can you improve on Mars Attacks! anyway?

But of course, Spielberg knows that hard-and-fast rule: When you need a star for a movie about an alien invasion, it's not a bad idea to go with a scientologist, who's probably knowledgeable about this sort of thing.
Y = X - Blair - Berlusconi (maybe) - Kwasniewski

...where X = Every foreign leader, and Y = The number of leaders who want John Kerry to win.

In all this stupid hoopla of something stupid that Kerry said (yes, it was stupid), that's the truth around which everyone is dancing. Even Colin Powell probably understands this.

Funny thing is, I'll bet even Blair wouldn't mind a change here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

I agree with Roger Carter.

Well, not really.
A Hartland man was treated at a Pittsfield hospital after he nailed himself to a cross. The 23-year-old man apparently was trying to commit suicide Thursday evening in his living room, the Bangor Daily News reported.

Somerset County Sheriff Barry DeLong said Monday that no charges will be filed. "There is no crime here," he said.

Police said the man appeared delusional and told them he had been "seeing pictures of God on the computer." He told them he had not seen the hit movie "The Passion of the Christ," which depicts the Crucifixion of Jesus.
Okay, if that were any other guy on the cross in the movie, there'd be organizations everywhere calling for the movie to be yanked from theaters across America, as if it were The Program or South Park.

But here's my favorite part:
Lt. Pierre Boucher said the man took two pieces of wood, nailed them together in the form of a cross and placed them on the floor. He attached a suicide sign to the wood and then proceeded to nail one of his hands to the makeshift cross using a 14-penny nail and a hammer.

"When he realized that he was unable to nail his other hand to the board, he called 911," Boucher said.
See, for this to work, you need a death-wish AND some Centurions. Oh well, better luck next time, sir!
It's pretty clear that Tommaso over at CalJunket has precisely the ouside-the-box viewpoint on Al Qaeda that I had hoped to hear from somebody. In discussing the motivations of Al Qaeda (or whoever) in Spain:
Some conservatives have tried to spin this as a victory for Al-Qaeda. They say that Al-Qeada wanted to [use] the bombs to scare the Spanish into pulling out of Iraq. If you are still stuck thinking of Al-Qaeda as some conventional far off country run by logical people with logical goals, this makes sense. If you see Al-Qeada as a terrorist organization with the loopy goal of starting a war between the Islamic world and the West (like some other terrorist organizations want to start race wars), you understand that what they are really rooting for is the election of the most thoughtless, reactionary, unserious, political opportunists. They're looking for the kind of people that will ramp up separatist rhetoric and attack countries that have nothing to do with terrorists. If they do so while cutting funding for first responders and port security; Hell, you just hit the jack-pot!
And in the comments:
Here then, we see that Al-Qaeda's effective goal was not to have Spain pull out of Iraq and refocus its anti-terror efforts more efficiently and honestly, but to make it appear like they had the power to effect elections. The organization is just trying to propagate itself and earn more recruits. Unfortunately, many America conservatives fell right into Al-Qaeda's trap, declaring Al-Qaeda to be so powerful that it has the ability to decide European elections. That the election was actually swayed by incompetence and unseriousness on the part of Spanish conservatives is extra ironic. It is interesting to note that the elections were in a dead heat until the Spanish conservative party's lies were exposed on television. They did so only because the Socialist party threatened to reveal the information themselves.
Memo to David Brooks, Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds (apparently, haven't checked), Christopher Hitchens, nutbar Freepers, and all the rest: What is Osama bin Laden supposed to think when you keep saying that he's won? You're the only ones saying that! Do you want him to win? You guys need to get more serious about terrorism.
Because it will disappear from the main site later today,

Cheney Clotheslines Aide

Damnit, Drudge, you're letting me down.

You link to a story about how Hillary Clinton and others are getting together a big fund drive for John Kerry . . . yet you neglect in your headline ("HILLARY CASH-A-THON FOR KERRY: $10 MILL IN 10 DAYS...") to replace each "S" with a "$". What kind of muckraker are you, anyway?

I think he's hit a new low on this one. At least, from the perception of anyone who's paid more than cursory attention to the situation in Spain. It takes the superficial "they're appeasers!" argument as hilariously far as it can go.
I am trying not to think harshly of the Spanish. They have suffered a grievous blow, and it was crazy to go ahead with an election a mere three days after the Madrid massacre. Nonetheless, here is what seems to have happened:

The Spanish government was conducting policies in Afghanistan and Iraq that Al Qaeda found objectionable. A group linked to Al Qaeda murdered 200 Spaniards, claiming that the bombing was punishment for those policies. Some significant percentage of the Spanish electorate was mobilized after the massacre to shift the course of the campaign, throw out the old government and replace it with one whose policies are more to Al Qaeda's liking.

What is the Spanish word for appeasement?
Damnit, David, this column went up Monday night at midnight. This means that you had plenty of time to read all kinds of different news outlets and notice that Spanish voters ousted Aznar because he pushed the lie that ETA was behind the attack, even as all the evidence supported a quite different conclusion. Yeah David, I know, the actual events in a given situation can be quite problematic when trying to paint a broad picture of appeasement. Especially when those events show that Aznar wasn't serious about terrorism, certainly not about telling the truth about it.

Brooks had time to hear about this. Either he was lazy and wrote his column without researching the election, or he was just being his usual hack self.

Let's rejoin Mister Brooks, as he feigns even-handedness, while continuing to denigrate the voting population of an entire country:
There are millions of Americans, in and out of government, who believe the swing Spanish voters are shamefully trying to seek a separate peace in the war on terror.

I'm resisting that conclusion, because I don't know what mix of issues swung the Spanish election during those final days. But I do know that reversing course in the wake of a terrorist attack is inexcusable.
Exercising one's right to vote is "inexcusable"? Of course, lying about a terrorist attack is inexcusable, but Brooks certainly doesn't mention that in his column, when he certainly could have.

Anyway, Brooks' gross neglect pretty much negates his entire column.

UPDATE: And this column, which more or less says exactly the same thing, appeared more or less right next to Brooks' column in Tuesday's paper. Nice work, guys. Showing up to the prom in the same dress and all. And what a tacky dress it is.
Over at the pretty cool new progessive web-mag The Gadflyer, Tom Schaller has a little quote quiz for y'all.

I just came from a bruising final, so any posts in the next hour or three will be of the "go look at this, I'm tired" variety.
Hmm, I'm not regretting my Insta-boycott at all...

Monday, March 15, 2004

Via TalkLeft, what if John Ashcroft wasn't insured?
Yeah, right:
The candidacy of Ralph Nader looms as a potentially lethal threat to Democratic hopes of regaining the White House: With Mr. Nader in the race, Mr. Bush leads Mr. Kerry by 46 percent to 38 percent, with Mr. Nader drawing 7 percent of the votes.
Note the poll asked registered voters rather than likely voters.
Near as I can tell, the point of Hitch's take on Spain is that Al Qaeda is more or less prone to attack everybody regardless of what they do, so there isn't much of a way to deter or appease them. Agreed to an extent.

But two points come to mind:

1) Just because Al Qaeda is undeterable and unappeasable, it doesn't necessarily follow, or even possibly follow that their desire to attack a given country is not informed by the actions of that country, in this case Aznar's decision to neglect the will of his own people in favor of that of Bush. Remember, Osama bin Laden is, as Tom Friedman once described him, a combination of Charles Manson and Jack Welch: Crazy, but not stupid. Terrorism in nature has a randomized element to it -- that's why it's so terrifying, yo. But again, it doesn't necessarily follow that all targets of terrorism serve no purpose outside of a vague "you are Western infidels, I fuck with you now!"

2) I should have read Salon's great piece on Spanish politics first. There has been waaaay too much bumper-stickerism from the punditocracy and the blogosphere on the Spainish elections. This has come in two forms, either insultingly superficial and inaccurate ("Spain chose to appease the terrorists after the attack"), or insultingly insulting ("Spain was bullied by terrorists into voting for socialists!"). Salon's piece, which traces some aspects of the current Spanish political climate back to Franco and others, is a breath of fresh air.

Stop looking at the Spanish election through such superficialities, all of you! That goes for the right ("this proves that they aren't serious about fighting terrorism"), and a little bit for the left too ("Aznar's gone because of Iraq!"). Naturally, it's all more complicated than that. Aznar proved he wasn't serious about telling the truth about terrorism. And Iraq is relevant to the election in that it was sold as a means to fight terrorism, and naturally it couldn't do that in the short term, and that's what 11-M horrifically showed.
Say what you will about Nike -- believe me, I would -- but I wholly agree with this glowing review of their latest ad, "Trading Places", in Slate.
Ezra points out a paragraph from a story in this week's Time on the presidential campaign:
Administration sources tell TIME that employees at the Department of Homeland Security have been asked to keep their eyes open for opportunities to pose the President in settings that might highlight the Administration's efforts to make the nation safer. The goal, they are being told, is to provide Bush with one homeland-security photo-op a month.
Uh, George... Don't they have better things to do than go hunting for Bush photo-ops? You know, like hunting for, I dunno, terrorists??? More politics being placed ahead of actual national security issues. The first couple rounds of Bush ads are not the exception, but the rule, apparently.

I can see why the administration fought so hard to keep DHS employees from having whistleblower protection.
Did the Spanish elections constitute either "appeasement" or victory for the terrorists? Jacob Levy of the Volokh Conspiracy says no, and is dismayed that so many commentators are saying yes. He mentions Saudi Arabia, for example:
The U.S. has withdrawn almost all of its troops from Saudi Arabia. It was able to do this because it won the Iraq war; and getting the troops out was the right thing to do. Leaving troops there to prop up the House of Saud, leaving them there to live under Saudi restrictions, and leaving them there as a constant irritant that provided new al-Qaeda recruits were all counterproductive in the war on terrorism. That means it was our judgment that our interests would be better-served by leaving, once Sadam Hussein was out of power. I think that judgment was right; indeed, the opportunity to leave Saudi Arabia was a very important ancilliary benefit to getting Saddam Hussein out of power. But al-Qaeda wanted us out, too; indeed, after the Soviets left Afghanistan but before Osama bin Laden started talking about restoring the Caliphate, his primary interest seems ot have been in getting the infidel troops off Arabian soil.

Was it 'appeasement' for us to leave? No. It wasn't appeasement even though al-Qaeda wanting us out was relevant to the calculation of our interests. Neither is it appeasement for Spain to decide to withdraw peacekeeping troops from Iraq simply because al-Qaeda wanted all western troops out of Iraq as well. It's a legitimate choice for Spain to make about where to concentrate its efforts. And if it was a legitimate non-appeasing choice before last Thursday, it remains one after.
And just before those grafs, he says something that you couldn't get most righties to say if you dangled a filet mignon and a bottle of Chateau 1968 in front of them:
And it's entirely possible to be vigorous in the prosecution of the war against al-Qaeda while opposing the war in, and withdrawing peacekeeping troops from, Iraq.
Oh uncomfortable truth, how sweet you sound!
Edward at A Fistful of Euros has some in-depth analysis of Spain's election, which will do you much better than just to listen to people shout "they voted to appease terrorists!" and such.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Marshall on the Spanish elections, Iraq, and the war on terror:
America and Europe never saw eye-to-eye on how to take down the network of terror cells and associated Islamist terror groups we know as al Qaida. But the disagreements have been greatly overstated. The heart of the matter, the rub, has always been about whether the 'war on terror' in any way included or was in any respect advanced by overthrowing the government of Iraq.

(To frame the matter ungenerously but with real precision, the question came down to whether you fight back against the terrorists by striking back at the terrorists or at someone else.)

Whatever else they thought of the Iraq war, very few people in Europe saw any real logic to the (terror war = Iraq war) equation. Some supported the Iraq war for other reasons. But few saw the two connected as the Bush administration tried to present them. And not a few saw the Iraq adventure as positively counterproductive to stemming the tide of Isalmist terror.

Whoever you think is right or wrong in this, that is the nature of the rift over the 'war on terror'.

Now, if that's the war as you see it, that Iraq war was either irrelevant to fighting terror or would itself produce more terorrism, then the apparent response of the Spaniards doesn't seem at all difficult to fathom. Nor is it reducible to facile claims of appeasements.
He also makes an important point that not many people are talking about: Nobody, absolutely nobody knew this attack was coming, no security warnings, no color-coded alerts, nothing. Yikes.
I think I'll get this for my sister. Cool.

(llink via wonkette)

NTodd singles out this Condi statement from this morning's Meet the Press:
The president wants to know, as much as anybody, and probably more than anyone else, what became of the weapons of mass destruction. We were all somewhat surprised that we have not yet found them.
This comment perfectly illustrates how remorselessly full of shit the Bush administration is on WMD, as if it weren't clear already.

If I based my case for invading a country on weapons of mass destruction, and I fully believed that the invadee had stockpiles of them, then if I were unable to find any weapons when I got there, wouldn't I be, you know, genuinely concerned for the safety of earth because I thought that lots of weapons must have fallen into various untrackable hands? But no, Condoleeza Rice is "somewhat surprised".

In the 2003 State of the Union, Bush assumed a very grave tone in describing the weapons he claimed Saddam had. But when they were actually looking for them after the toppling of Saddam's regime, and they couldn't find any, all graveness departed, and the lone motivation for finding WMD seemed to be so they could say "see? I told you so!" These are not serious, trustworthy people.
Friggin censorship.

They've never heard my version. (-:

Oh, in case you don't know, back in 2001 I used to record entire Pink Floyd albums for fun, playing all the instruments and doing it all at home. Email me if you want a copy of either The Wall or DSOTM (my version of The Wall is probably better)
On Friday, Bill Moyers interviewed John McCain on his PBS show Now, which he's been doing for years and years.

Why do I love Bill Moyers?

Read the transcript.

Notice how in all the questions Bill asks McCain, all of them were questions of substance. The Senator was on the show to promote his book, Worth Fighting For, which is primarily about the influence of money in politics. Given the scope and format, there was no reason whatsoever that a different journalist or reporter would have slipped in a bunch of stupid, tabloidy bullshit questions to McCain ("would you be John Kerry's running mate?" "are you switching parties?" "are you and Bush on good terms?" etc).

But not Bill Moyers. He delved into the campaign finance issue, and stayed there for the whole interview. TFM salutes you!
William Rivers Pitt on the Spanish election:
America's role in the Iraq invasion itself played a central role in the Thursday attacks, and bears a lion's share of responsibility for the horror. George W. Bush sprinted to attack a nation that posed no threat to his country, or Spain, or any other. He has poured hundreds of billions of dollars and nearly 600 American lives into the endeavor, in no small part because of now-debunked claims that Iraq and al Qaeda enjoyed an operational alliance.

Had Bush chosen to press the fight against al Qaeda itself, and not against toothless red herrings like Iraq, it is entirely possible that the bombings in Spain would never have happened. The force and funding of American wrath would have been brought to bear against actual terrorists, severely impeding actions like the one which so shook Spain. Had Bush chosen to press the fight against al Qaeda itself, and not Iraq, Spain and Aznar and all those dead would not now be on the forefront of the carnage.

Again, many will find some grim satisfaction in this, but the facts auger towards a deepening gloom. Clearly, the Iraq war has not made America or the world safer. It has, in fact, further imperiled many nations and many peoples. The people of Spain were right to resist it. The hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Americans who took to the streets to resist it were right to resist it. The 30 million people who protested in every capitol on Earth on February 15th were right to resist it.


When the bombs went off in Spain, that nation and the world faced a tipping point. The fear and horror could have compelled the Spanish people to support their government and its role in the farcical War on Terror. They could have allowed themselves to be swept up in hysteria and lined up behind leaders who have, thus far, done everything wrong. They did not do this. They did, in fact, overwhelmingly repudiate their government and its war. This came at a terrible cost in blood, but had they done otherwise, the precedent as witnessed and potentially followed by the world could have spiraled beyond even a semblance of control.

...The bombing took place on Thursday. Two days later, the people of Spain were battering down the doors of government offices demanding information, demanding truth. "We cannot vote without knowing who are the assassins," cried the protesters. "The government is hiding information. They think we're idiots." Emilio Jimenez Tomas of Madrid, in a comment given to the New York Times as he surveyed the wreckage left behind by the bombings, said, "Look at this. This is an election and the government pretends that they don't know anything about who really did it. They've been lying to us and we won't know the real truth until after the election."

Two days. That was all it took for the people of Spain to become impatient, to pressure their government for the truth. When they did not get it, they threw that government out on its ear. For America, a nation approaching the 1,000th day in which their government has not provided the truth of September 11th, this is a lesson to be taken deeply to heart.
Good work, George: By choosing a war with Iraq, he has not only turned his back on terrorism, but he has also promoted a socialist renaissance!

Afghanistan had many terrorists within its borders who were responsible for 9/11.

Iraq had a dictator who didn't have any WMD nor any ties to Al Qaeda, and was thoroughly contained anyway.

Jose Maria Aznar strongly supported an operation in Iraq that diverted the bulk of our resources from Afghanistan, where we could have looked for the real terrorists, including the terrorist, Osama bin Laden.

Aznar was complicit in letting bin Laden go.

And PSOE are the appeasers???

Anyway... Hesiod has more.

UPDATE: John Cole, mind-reader:
[T]errorist (sic) have changed the outcome of an election in Spain, using the deaths of 200 innocents to bully a population into submission
Umm, right. And I suppose Aznar didn't change the course of the election by trying to pin the whole thing on ETA when all the available evidence was leaning in a quite different direction. Voters don't generally respond well to lies on national security issues for the sake of political expidency. Well, at least there they don't.

Oh, and I like the rest of the post, where he goes after Atrios for supposedly politicizing the attacks, when he was clearly politicizing sunday's election. But yeah, elections were great until they started getting so political all the time.

Fellow Gaucho Nico suggests that liberals do some Passion-esque work when the global-climate-change epic blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow is released:
Religious groups have been running some creative, very successful outreach and education campaigns in coordination with The Passion of The Christ, and the Left ought to learn some lessons from their work. At the very least, one of the major environmental groups should make a well-designed leaflet that folks can pass out at theaters. Beyond that, though, it seems like a great opportunity for the Kerry campaign...
I like the premise, but there's a problem.

This is a Roland Emmerich film we're talking about. This is a man who wanted us to believe that when the aliens come to kill us, they will do so using a Mac-compatible operating system. Regardless of whatever success the film enjoys, if groups use it to further their cause, the movie will be assailed by the right (and eventually, the center) for its use of anything from "junk science" to "bullshit science".

Sure, a great many people have complained about The Passion. But the difference is that the claims made in Gibson's vanity project are essentially unverifiable. The sentiment to be expressed in The Day After Tomorrow had better be backed up by more than thematic elements, or else using it for environmental advocacy would be tantamount to using the courtroom scenes in Big Daddy to argue in favor of judicial reform.

Sullywatch makes the relatively trivial point that Europeans wouldn't refer to the date of the Madrid bombings as "3/11", since they put the date first ("11-M"), but then goes on to make the much less trivial point that, for the most part, the sweeping overtures of solidarity shown by other countries in 2001 have, for the most part, not been made by Americans, including warbloggers and other conservatives, in the wake of last Thursday:
When the World Trade Center towers were felled, our papers were filled with stories about displays of sympathy for America abroad ... the band at Buckingham palace playing "The Star-Spangled Banner", displays of the U.S. flag, total strangers walking up to Americans in Romania and Africa, offers to donate blood, etc.

We wondered at the time, would Americans do this for any other country? If the CN Tower had been felled by hijacked jetliners, would we all stop to sing "O Canada"? Would we put the Maple Leaf up in store windows? Would our politicians wear Canadian-flag lapel pins?

We doubted it, and Thursday we got our proof, alas.
And this was a country whose government defied the desires of a staggering majority of its people to support Bush's war in Iraq (of course, due to said mass opposition, no Spanish troops took part in the invasion force). But of course, now that the conservative party has been booted from their majority by the Spanish people in favor of the socialist party, the situation there has changed.

The Associated Press account really tries to hammer home the point that this election turned in PSOE's favor as a direct result of the Madrid attack. This would seem to run counter to the idea I discussed the other day, that terrorist attacks can be targeted with the interest of making the targeted country more hawkish, broadening the scope of the conflict, and potentially muddying international opinion on the targeted government in the long-term. But how does that explain what happened today in Spain? Days before an election, they were attacked, and then the ruling conservative party gets its hat handed to them by the voters today. This would, at first glance, give some conservatives the opportunity to say "Hey! The terrorists want us to have leftish governments!" Such reasoning by conservatives is what motivates them to create nonsense polls like this one. So what's really going on here?

The X-factor in all this can be summed up in one word: IRAQ. The move toward the socialist party in Spain in the wake of the 11-M attacks is best understood through the guise of the Aznar government's strong support for the war in Iraq. The proponents of the Iraq war (of which there weren't many among the Spanish people) said it was an integral part of fighting terrorism (whether or not we use "war" rhetoric). The war's opponents said that it was tangential to the aim of combatting terrorism, and that attacking Saddam Hussein would not further that cause. Because Aznar, Bush and others discussed the Iraq war as being part of the fight against terror, the obvious implication was that toppling the Ba'athist regime there would make the world safer from terrorism. And the opponents, naturally, would argue that the Iraq war hasn't increased security. With the blasts in Spain on Thursday, the argument of the proponents of the Iraq war was completely undercut, and that sent voters away from them in droves.

Who's been proven right in all of this? Howard Dean. Ain't nobody gonna be givin' him no more guff for saying "the capture of Saddam Hussein has not made America safer." Expand that sentiment to the Coalition, and he's got it.

One of the pitfalls for supporters of the Iraq war who claimed that it would make America/the world safer is that either they believed their own hype, or were confident that nothing would happen to disprove their hype. Only in a very, very long-term perspective could the plan sought in Iraq do a thing to make people in America, Spain, or elsewhere substantially safer from terrorism. In the process of diverting the bulk of war-on-terror resources to Iraq, the United States and its small group of major allies were betting that either 1) there wouldn't be a major terrorist attack in the near future to make the Iraq war seem as misguided and tangential as its opponents claim, or 2) even if there would be an attack, our people will rally around us just like they did Dubya in 2001.

Trouble is, in Spain this reasoning was wrong on both counts. The difference between 9/11 and 11-M was that the United States, prior to the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, was generally a clean slate in terms of terrorism. Sure, people can point to all kinds of historical and geopolitical factors that led towards 9/11, and they'd be right. But in terms of what the bulk of the American people knew, it was a foreign policy Big Bang. The 9/11 attacks did not occur with the backdrop of a highly controversial foreign policy decision that may or may not have directly led to the attack, at least not in the eyes of the American people. Spain, because of the Aznar government's support of the Iraq war, was not a clean slate in this regard, and therein lies the difference.

So why did Al Qaeda (if they did it) act in a way that brought the left back into power in Spain? That's not clear, though whether they did it or not isn't clear either: There have been muslims in Spain for, oh I dunno, 1300 years, and that, along with an as-yet-unverified tape, continute to make the assignment of casting blame a tough one. But if an Al Qaeda group was, indeed, behind the Madrid attacks, my sense is that retaliation against a country with a pro-Iraq war government was the prime motivation here. And timing the bombings to occur just before an election? Maybe they just wanted to create chaos at a pivotal moment, regardless of who led in the polls.

TFM's Revised and Overly-Broad Rule of Al Qaeda Attack Political Goals: If country is a blank slate, to make them more bellicose. If country is already engaged, then more traditional retaliatory motivations surface.