The Facts Machine

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

Saturday, April 17, 2004


From Woodward's new book:
Bush said he did not remember asking the question of his father, former president George H.W. Bush, who fought Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. But, he added that the two had discussed developments in Iraq.

"You know he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to," Bush said.
Steve Soto has some thoughts on this.

(* - from George Carlin's "Back in Town", 1996)
Hoffmania thinks that this new DNC ad is much better than its predecessors. TFM agrees, while noting that it wouldn't take much to outdo some of the flash blunders they've come up with.

For the link-phobic, the ad plays a segment of Tuesday's Bush press conference, that segment being his response to the "what mistakes have you made" question, with the DNC offering a few handy suggestions (among others, "Mission Accomplished" and "Bring 'em on"). I heard the Q&A on the radio, so I didn't see it live, and I must say, those long pauses are even more telling with video.

Hostage situation involving American troops abroad? That's right: You better call Jesse:
The Rev. Jesse Jackson will contact religious leaders in Iraq to seek the release of Thomas Hamill, the American civilian truck driver abducted in Iraq, Hamill's wife said today.

Kellie Hamill, who has been pleading in the media for her husband's release, said Jackson made the offer last week and she asked him to intervene.

"We talked with him several days ago," she said in a telephone interview from the couple's home in Macon.

U.S. Sen. Trent Lott said Friday at a news conference in Tupelo he had talked with Jackson and helped the longtime civil rights advocate contact the Hamill family.

Lott said one step Jackson wanted to take was to write a letter to Al-Jazeera, the Arabic language television network, and encourage Hamill's release.

There was no immediate response to messages seeking comment from Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH coalition in Chicago on Saturday, and it was unclear if he had already sent the letter or taken other steps.
(link via Atrios)

Wait, Trent Lott? Before we make too big a deal of the fact that Trent Lott is making common cause with a man who was standing with the guy who ended the policies so adored by Lott's late ideological brother Strom when he got shot, (that was a mighty handful of prepositional phrases there, hope you made it, fyi "when he got shot" modifies "guy"), note that the hostage's home-state is Mississippi, so this is run-of-the-mill constituency service on Trent's part. In the meantime, Lott gets some incidental good press.

Remember, conservatives ran Lott out of his Majority Leadership position because they thought he was a shitty leader, not because he was racist. Rather, his unfortunate quip at Strom's bday party gave them an opening to do what they had wanted to do anyway. If Senate Republicans were actually concerned about his racism, he wouldn't still be chairman of the Rules Committee.

I dunno, but the mention of Trent Lott in the article got me thinking about the blog response to Strom-Lott-gate back in late '02. At the time, there was a broad left-right consensus that Lott was in deep shit and needed to be punished for his remarks, whether it meant being stripped of his Majority Leader status, or removed from the Senate altogether. But while both sides of the partisan spectrum kept the heat on Lott, it was largely the left half (particularly Josh Marshall and Atrios) who pushed the story of the racism advocated by Thurmond (and by extension, Lott), including the "blog-excavation" of the 1948 Dixiecrat party platform. While there are sure to have been exceptions, the right was much more concerned at the time with political implications (Lott's ineffectiveness as a leader going back through the years, etc). Again, broad brush, but it's what I observed.

Interesting fact about Trent Lott: He voted to convict President Clinton in 1999, but voted against impeaching Richard Nixon in 1974, when he was a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Explain.

Anyway, TFM sends its kudos to Trent Lott for communicating with Jackson on this matter. Sure, since he's no longer a standard-bearer for the Republicans, Lott has less to lose party-wise by corresponding with a man long-reviled by the right wing. As Chris Rock once joked about Jesse's efforts to win the release of US hostages in Serbia: "He said 'Listen, if you really want Americans to hate you, you should give the hostages to me!' "

(note: TFM thinks very highly of Jesse Jackson)

And speaking of Chris Rock, don't miss his new HBO special "Never Scared", tonight at 10. Salon has a good piece on it, btw.

...was damn good. I will not write a full-scale review here, because to do so would require me, as designated by the Holy Tarantino-Reviewer Codes dating back to antiquity, to reference movies none of us have ever seen and name-drop directors none of us have ever heard of.

Just go see it, and while not completely necessary, it would help to have seen Volume 1 before you do. In short, great acting (particularly Uma, David Carradine as Bill, and Michael Madsen), more eclectic cinematography and music, engaging and witty fight scenes (including a delicious sequence pitting Uma against Daryll Hannah), and plenty of helpful, context-building dialog.

For a review that A) captures my view of the movie relatively well, and B) includes some of the name-dropping to which I referred at the beginning of this post, here's Elvis Mitchell of the NY Times.

Friday, April 16, 2004

In a little over an hour I'll be seeing the 2nd installment of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. Should be fun. I really enjoyed the first one, though perhaps because of the theater, it was simply the loudest movie I've ever seen.
A month ago I noted that while I'm sympathetic to the idea, using the upcoming blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow to promote global warming awareness could be problematic because the verifiable science in the movie could be suspect. (by contrast, since there is nothing verifiable in The Passion, Chrisitian conservatives had no qualms about bludgeoning the public with its message, so to speak)

Sure enough, we have a first round of scientists belittling the movie:
Climate scientists have been stirred to ridicule claims in an upcoming Hollywood blockbuster that global warming could trigger a new ice age, a scenario also put forward in a controversial report to the US military.

The $125-million epic, The Day After Tomorrow, opens worldwide in May. It will show Manhattan frozen solid after the warm ocean current known as the Gulf Stream shuts down.

The movie's release will come soon after a report to the US Department of Defense (DoD) in February predicting that such a shutdown could put the northern hemisphere into a deep freeze and trigger global famine within 15 years.

But in the journal Science on Thursday, Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, surveys the current research and concludes "it is safe to say that global warming will not lead to the onset of a new ice age".


The DoD's doomsday scenario, which is very similar to that in the film, was drawn up by Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall of the San Francisco-based Global Business Network. Neither is a climate scientist.

The scenario suggests that as global warming melts Arctic ice packs, the North Atlantic will become less salty. This would shut down a global ocean circulation system that is driven by dense, salty water falling to the bottom of the north Atlantic and that ultimately produces the Gulf Stream.

This much is respectable scientific theory, and some researchers believe it could happen for real in 100 years or so. But the film-makers and DoD authors go further.

They say it could happen very soon. And that if it did, the northern hemisphere would cool so much that that ice sheets would start to grow, creating a catastrophic new ice age.

This is too much even for sympathetic climatologists. Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, whose own models say the Gulf Stream could shut down within a century, told New Scientist: "The DoD scenario is extreme and highly unlikely."
Certainly, I'm not climate expert. However, it seems that if the scientific community gets too cozy with the movie, it'll be too easy a target for those who would poo-poo the global warming issue.
First it was the Pledge of Allegiance. Now, those goofballs at Slate have rendered the August 6 PDB into a PowerPoint presentation.

...except, say, to the IMF:
Uncontrolled U.S. budget deficits would pose a serious threat to global prosperity in coming years as rising interest rates depress economic growth in the United States and around the world, the International Monetary Fund warned Wednesday.

The IMF released a new analysis that predicted if nothing is done to get control of the soaring U.S. deficits, it would shave global economic output by 4.2 percent by 2020 and reduce U.S. economic growth by 3.7 percent during the same period.

IMF economists said much of the adverse impact would occur because of increased borrowing demands in the United States to finance the budget deficit. This would drive up U.S. interest rates and interest rates in other countries as the global supply of available capital is reduced, they said.

"The rest of the world is affected seriously by the U.S. fiscal deficit," IMF chief economist Raghuram Rajan told reporters in a briefing on the new report.

The IMF's forecast that the U.S. budget deficit will be a significant drag on growth reflected what will occur if there is no improvement in the deficit, which the Bush administration projects will hit $521 billion this year, a record in dollar terms, and show little improvement in coming years.
And what good is one of these stories without a laugh-line?
President Bush submitted a budget to Congress this year which projects that he will be able to cut the deficit in half over the next five years, reducing it to a shortfall of $237 billion in 2009.
Ha ... ha ... ha.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Via Suburban Guerrilla, that's a big "duh" for the Washington Post.
Is this Roy Moore for President site in good faith?

I don't know, part of me feels like I could have done just as well putting a site like that together.

And the link cosmos for the Moore site doesn't shed much more light on the subject either.

(link via this Kos diary)

Now for a bit of UCSB news, since as far as I know I have the market cornered in terms of UCSB-centric blogs.

Could Isla Vista's utopia of free parking be coming to an end?
Over a dozen students and residents who spoke out against a plan to require permits for parking in Isla Vista did not sway the Project Area Committee and General Plan Advisory Committee (PAC/GPAC), which voted overwhelmingly to approve the plan at its meeting Wednesday night.

The eight-to-one vote followed a presentation of the parking plan by staff from the Santa Barbara County Public Works Dept. and nearly two hours of public comment - the majority of which expressed discontent with the proposed $195 cost of an annual permit and a perceived lack of opportunity for student input in the plan's design.

While the meeting began with a crowd of approximately 70 people at the Francisco Torres Residence Hall, most of those in attendance left immediately after the PAC/GPAC voted to adopt the parking plan. Several stayed to continue lobbying county staff and PAC/GPAC members during a five-minute recess.

"We use our cars because it's convenient. We have to get to work. We have to go to work to pay for rising school fees and high rent," said Jaime Marks, a UCSB junior film studies major. "These are our homes, not events that we need to pay for."

Other students said paying nearly $200 to park in front of their own houses was "ridiculous," and that the permit program would not solve I.V.'s parking crunch because it aims to protect resident spaces from commuters during the day, even though parking is more difficult to find at night.

Jason Everitt, UCSB Inter-Fraternity Council president, said the permit program will not solve parking concentration problems. Since the permits do not guarantee spaces, people will still want to park as close as possible to their homes resulting in the same competition for prime spaces at night that currently exists,

"People would rather drive around for 20 minutes [looking for a space] than pay to drive around for 20 minutes," Everitt said.


The PAC/GPAC-approved parking plan requires residents purchase a permit for parking anywhere in I.V., but it preserves free but time-limited parking for beach access on Camino Majorca. It also creates a pay-by-space zone covering I.V.'s downtown district, including parts of Pardall Road and the Embarcadero loop. In all areas west of Camino Pescadero, the plan allows for one hour of free parking.

John McGuiness, a county employee who presented the plan to the PAC/GPAC, said annual resident permits could be purchased online and 24-hour guest permits - costing $3 for the first 15 permits per resident and $7 for each additional permit - could be picked up from a local parking office. For a slightly higher cost, residential permits could be purchased on a quarterly basis, and special price breaks will be available to those able to demonstrate financial need.

McGuiness said primary goals of the plan include freeing up the roughly 600 to 1,600 spaces occupied daily by UCSB commuters who park in I.V. and then walk to school to avoid paying on-campus parking fees, in addition to increasing traffic to local businesses by facilitating quicker space turnover. He said the plan also aims to prioritize space availability for residents.
600 to 1,600 spaces? Bullplop. Grade-A bullplop. I've lived in Isla Vista for a couple of years now, and I can say with pretty good confidence that not only is there no space-related parking problem here in IV, but also that even if there was one, out-of-town commuters aren't the problem. They are likely cancelled out by Isla Vista residents who either park on campus during the day for various reasons, or commute to work in other parts of the Santa Barbara area.

I'm amazed that the Committee can't just come out and tell the truth: They want more revenue, and since Ahhnuld seems pleased as punch to milk the students of the UC system, then heck, so do they.

It reminds me of every county-wide referendum in the country that has been geared to the sole purpose of bringing in a Wal Mart; they never come out and say so, but speak in vague references to land-space requirements for businesses, even when the truth is plain to see.

Guys, come out and say it: You want revenue, and you like our money. And the recording industry wonders why CD sales are down.

The fact is the Isla Vista, more than Berkeley, Westwood, La Jolla or other UC cities, is truly a community that's essentially all college students. As Tyler Durden would put it, it's a "shelving unit" for college students, twenty thousand of them in a few square miles. We're not competing with the general population for parking, like students at other schools often are.

Furthermore, virtually never have I had trouble finding parking in IV, whether in the "downtown" district (if you can call it that) or in the residential sector in which I live. The only exception has been on the swingingest of party-nights around Halloween.

This is not about clearing congestion, this is about revenue. If PAC/GPAC would just come out and say it, I wouldn't have much of a problem. But a little honesty would be nice.
Paul Krugman discusses the Iraq/Vietnam analogies in a way similar to Ted Kennedy's intent, rather than in the way people like Bob Novak, Glenn Reynolds and Kay Bailey Hutchinson pretended Kennedy meant:
A fiscal comparison of George Bush's and Lyndon Johnson's policies makes the Vietnam era seem like a golden age of personal responsibility. At first, Johnson was reluctant to face up to the cost of the war. But in 1968 he bit the bullet, raising taxes and cutting spending; he turned a large deficit into a surplus the next year. A comparable program today — the budget went from a deficit of 3.2 percent of G.D.P. to a 0.3 percent surplus in just one year — would eliminate most of our budget deficit.

By contrast, Mr. Bush, for all his talk about staying the course, hasn't been willing to strike anything off his domestic wish list. On the contrary, he used the initial glow of apparent success in Iraq to ram through yet another tax cut, waiting until later to tell us about the extra $87 billion he needed. And he's still at it: in his press conference on Tuesday he said nothing about the $50 billion-to-$70 billion extra that everyone knows will be needed to pay for continuing operations.

This fiscal chicanery is part of a larger pattern. Vietnam shook the nation's confidence not just because we lost, but because our leaders didn't tell us the truth. Last September Gen. Anthony Zinni spoke of "Vietnam, where we heard the garbage and the lies," and asked his audience of military officers, "Is it happening again?" Sure enough, the parallels are proliferating. Gulf of Tonkin attack, meet nonexistent W.M.D. and Al Qaeda links. "Hearts and minds," meet "welcome us as liberators." "Light at the end of the tunnel," meet "turned the corner." Vietnamization, meet the new Iraqi Army.
And earlier in the piece, he finds some interesting new angles on the analogy, showing the Iraq situation to be even worse in some respects:
It's true that the current American force in Iraq is much smaller than the Army we sent to Vietnam. But the U.S. military as a whole, and the Army in particular, is also much smaller than it was in 1968. Measured by the share of our military strength it ties down, Iraq is a Vietnam-size conflict.

And the stress Iraq places on our military is, if anything, worse. In Vietnam, American forces consisted mainly of short-term draftees, who returned to civilian life after their tours of duty. Our Iraq force consists of long-term volunteers, including reservists who never expected to be called up for extended missions overseas. The training of these volunteers, their morale and their willingness to re-enlist will suffer severely if they are called upon to spend years fighting a guerrilla war.
There's more where that came from.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports a poll (registration req'd) suggesting that college students are flocking/trending towards Kerry:
Anti-war sentiment is sparking political interest on college campuses, where students now prefer John Kerry to President Bush by a 10-point margin, according to a national survey released Thursday.

The poll by Harvard University's Institute of Politics shows a stark turnaround from the fall, when a plurality of America's college students preferred Republican Bush to a generic Democratic candidate.

The new survey shows Democrat Kerry leading Bush 48 percent to 38 percent, with 5 percent of the students saying they intend to vote for independent Ralph Nader and the remainder undecided.

During the past six months, Bush's job approval rating among college students has fallen from 61 percent to 47 percent, according to the survey, which is taken every fall and spring. During the same period, many students switched party allegiance, with 32 percent now identifying themselves as Democrats and 24 percent as Republicans. In the fall, 27 percent said they were Democrats and 31 percent, Republicans. The others described themselves as independents.
But of course, given the large quantities of alcohol consumed by college students who aren't me, Bush still fares reasonably in the "beer primary":
Despite his slippage in the poll, Bush apparently remains as likable to college students as Kerry. Asked which of the presidential candidates they would prefer as a college roommate, 43 percent of the students picked Bush and 42 percent said Kerry. The remainder were undecided.
Silly college students. Despite that, good to see y'all back on track. Was it Kerry's appearance on MTV's "Choose or Lose" forum? Or was it that America's student population conducted a much-needed recalibration of its collective bullshit-detector? Yeah, that's it.

Kerry's Secret Weapon: Young Voters.

My how things can change. Heh.

UPDATE: Here's a CNN story on the poll for those of you who are registration-phobic, and I don't blame you.
In researching the Congressional career of Dennis Kucinich for my role in PoliSci 155 (Congress Simulation), I noticed something interesting: Among the 3 co-sponsors of Kucinich's most recent submission of a bill to de-militarize space is none other than Pennsylvania Senate candidate Joe Hoeffel. Sweet.
Reader Jonathan informs us that has a very telling non-scientific poll up at the moment.

"Has the war in Iraq made al Qaeda stronger or weaker?"

You know what to do.
Why yes, Brad, that's a great idea!
Is this really a good idea?
The project was designed to incorporate wireless technology into large classrooms to address the "chronic problems" of large lecture classes--impersonality, isolation, and difficulties in engaging students intellectually.
I agree that there are parts of my lectures during which students would rather have the options of using IM technology to flirt with each other and of surfing the web. But are they good judges? Is this a capability we really want to give them?
Would you rather that students be doomed to play Solitaire, or god forbid, FreeCell on their laptops during lectures? The more we expose America's young people to card games, the more likely they could become compulsive gamblers, and just maybe, could pursue a life of crime! We can't have that!

I remember a class I took at Berkeley last summer (PS 140D: War Violence & Terrorism), in which there was a student who usually sat one or two rows in front of me in the lecture hall, with his laptop. He spent the bulk of most of the lectures -- nearly two hours a pop, no less -- playing a freeware "snowball fight" game of some sort. And he'd always cheat: He'd take two members of his team and drag them to the bottom corner of the screen, where enemy balls could not reach, due to programming shortcomings in the game. If that young man had wireless access, at least he'd be reading, or downloading better games, or something.

And Brad, "flirt"? All wireless access would do would be to eliminate the passage of paper notes... thus helping the environment! Don't you know where you work?

Full disclosure: I am, uh, a student. And I often use IM technology. (-:

Hey, that was fast:
Just announced on Air America Radio: a judge has ruled in favor of Air America in a contract dispute over the Chicago station, WNTD 950AM. As we reported yesterday, the owner of the Chicago and Los Angeles stations, Arthur Liu, pulled the plug on both stations over a contract dispute relating to the LA station (KBLA 1580 AM).

A spokesman for Air America also said that they expect to resolve the problem with the LA station soon. Progress Media had learned that during a time that it had leased KBLA, Multicultural Radio was also leasing the station to another party. What Liu did is similar to someone renting an apartment and having the landlord also lease the apartment to another person until the first renter started moving in; control of the apartment belonged exclusively to the renter and should not have been leased to another party at the same time.

Because of Liu's actions, Progress Media stopped payment on the check they'd mailed Liu for the LA station until the dispute over the charges was settled in arbitration, as their contract with Multicultural radio requires.

Claims of checks bouncing, poor ratings, revenue promises unkept (which doesn't apply at all considering the station is leased), the network running out of money, the network having "serious cash-flow problems" (as implied by the conservative media), etc are all false.
Well, well, well.

I'd say something snarky, but the truth will have to do.

Oh, what the heck...

Once again a nuisance impediment is put in front of Al Franken, and is quickly dispatched once an actual judge has a look at it, while giving Franken and his gang a bunch of media attention in the process. Thanks!
From the Onion's "What Do You Think?" feature:

"Bush did say we'd be welcomed with an open display of small arms."
-Karl Wright

You know, he just might try that.

Rush Limbaugh, a while ago, on the William Kennedy Smith trial:
"Folks Mr. Kennedy has hired famed criminal defense and trial attorney Roy Black. You don't hire Roy Black unless you are guilty, folks."

Via tbogg, some scientists in Milan have made a "discovery":
Italian scientists have found a matching image of a man's face and possibly his hands on the back of the Turin shroud, believed by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, one of the researchers said on Thursday.

The discovery that the ghostly image on the back of the linen cloth matches the face that adorns the front is likely to reignite debate over whether the shroud is genuine or a skilful medieval fraud.

"The fact that the image is two-sided makes any forgery difficult," Professor Giulio Fanti of the University of Padua told Reuters.

The findings of Fanti and Roberto Maggiolo, both from the university's department of mechanical engineering, were published this week by a journal of the Institute of Physics in London.

Fanti said the discovery would support those who maintain the cloth is genuine.
Tbogg also has a new picture of the shroud.

Of course, the Shroud of Turin has also been carbon-dated, showing it to be a Medieval item, created no earlier than the 12th Century. In truth, it should be filed next to this:

Also, speaking of Jesus and Tbogg, since I'm already going to hell for a variety of reasons, might as well link to this.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Next door at the California Patriot Watch, it looks as if in the process of commending those who attacked George Soros, the Patriot has made a compelling batch of friends...
DUBAI (Reuters) - Arab television stations have aired a new audio tape purportedly from Osama bin Laden offering a truce with European states if they stop attacking Muslims, but not with the United States.

The voice on the tape, broadcast on Thursday by Dubai-based Al Arabiya channel and then by Qatar-based Al Jazeera station, said there would be no truce with the United States.

The taped message also vowed revenge on Israel for the death of a Hamas leader.

It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the tape. (link)
Well, actually I have no idea what to make of this, it has yet to be verified and so on. Frankly, I don't know if we should be going from cue to cue in the war on terror based on these tapes, but the tape, if verified, is nevertheless interesting.

Now let us all lay our pre-existing positions on appeasement and the war on top of this tidbit, and have at it. Round one: FIGHT!

(actually, round one was Madrid)

UPDATE: Repudiations all around! Good.
Bush's press conference didn't go over well with a certain 3-member panel of judges.
And here's a more complete explanation of what happened with Air America in LA and Chicago earlier today, from the network itself. True to its form, or at least my expectations, they have written it in a mock-Drudge fashion. And apparently it was a cancelled check, not a bounced check, Matt.

I get the distinct feeling that Franken wrote this. Hehe.

And it also seems that the guy who was ripping off Air America has a history of contributions to Republican politicians. Hmm...

UPDATE: There's an AP story on the matter, yet Drudge continues to link only to his sensationalist on-site page.
Tom Toles. (via hoffmania)
A possible explanation for why AirAmerica went dark in LA and Chicago...

Bill Saletan: "Bush doesn't see the problem. He's too preoccupied with self-consistency to notice whether he's consistent with anything else."

Also, I forgot to mention last night that Paul also live-blogged the event.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004


I have not read Christopher Hitchens' "This Is Not Vietnam" piece over at Slate yet. I am about to...

I hereby predict that that it will go after the analogy in terms of actual events on the ground, our "winning" and "losing", and so on, rather than the analogy Kennedy was making that brought the 'Nam question to the fore, that being the way the misinformation peddled by the administration plunged us into the war on false pretenses.

Now, to click on the link...
Here is the reason that it is idle to make half-baked comparisons to Vietnam. The Vietnamese were not our enemy, let alone the enemy of the whole civilized world, whereas the forces of jihad are our enemy and the enemy of civilization. There were some Vietnamese, even after the whole ghastly business, who were sorry to see the Americans leave. There were no Lebanese who were sad to see the Israelis leave. There would be many, many Iraqis who would be devastated in more than one way if there was another Somalian scuttle in their country. In any case, there never was any question of allowing a nation of this importance to become the property of Clockwork Orange holy warriors.
So, what do I win?

So anyway, Hitch writes about a strawman for a while, and we move on.
(I was in my car!)

And since I was in my car, looks like I missed Dubya's magic necktie, apparently on loan from the Emerald City, in the land of Oz.

Here is the transcript. I'm just going to note a couple things I recall that stayed in my memory long after the broadcast ended...

--I would note that the NYT transcript is missing some of these: "[LONG PAUSE]"

--Bush's babbling answer to the "did you make a mistake" question seemed to indicate that either he doesn't think he made any mistakes in the War on Terror, or that he doesn't want us to think that he made any mistakes (or that he doesn't want us to think that he thinks he made any mistakes, etc). I mean, he could have talked about the disbanding of the Iraqi army after Bremer took over if he wanted, but of course, Bush is busy trying to perserve the image that he and his administration neither makes mistakes nor is responsible for those that occur. Is this one believing one's own hype? That would fit in with Saletan's thesis here.

--When the WMD issue did come up, Bush made some creative use of the word "thing" as a substitute for actual items:
I thought it was very interesting that Charlie Duelfer who just came back -- he's the head of the Iraqi Survey Group -- reported some interesting findings from his recent tour there. And one of the things was he was amazed at how deceptive the Iraqis had been toward Unmovic and Unscom, deceptive at hiding things. We knew they were hiding things. A country that hides something is a country that is afraid of getting caught. And that was part of our calculation. Charlie confirmed that. He also confirmed that Saddam had a -- the ability to produce biological and chemical weapons. In other words, he was a danger. He had long-range missiles that were undeclared to the United Nations. He was a danger. And so we dealt with him.
Wait, he had long-missiles that Unmovic found and dismantled. At the time, the Bush administration claimed that their allowing those Al Samoud missiles to be destroyed by Blix and his team was "what they were going to do all along" and "didn't prove they were cooperating", or words to that effect. It's hard to be a danger when UN inspectors are destroying your long-range missiles. Interesting that Bush mentions the only weapons we have any proof of existing as a centerpiece for his being a danger; ones that were destroyed by inspectors. But I digress...

George, "hiding things"? When we say that, are we helping the credibility of the United States on the WMD issue? More than a year after the invasion, all you can say is "hiding things"? Remembering that parts of the Kay report trumpeted by Bush were papers with drawings on them and small centrifuge parts buried in a backyard for over a decade, we have to wonder what "things" means.

Think about it logically: At the State of the Union, Bush said "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities." Now he says "things". Therefore, this can only mean that the "things" cited by Bush do not even qualify as "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities." So in other words, "nothing".

On Easter, George Bush hosted the annual White House egg hunt. The eggs were hidden, to be found by children. George Bush was "hiding things". See? Guess it's time for regime change!

--And has GMEI been brought back? Bush brings it up, but with a twist:
That's why I'm pressing the Greater Middle East reform initiative, to work to spread freedom. And we will continue on that. So long as I'm the president, I will press for freedom. I believe so strongly in the power of freedom. You know why I do? Because I've seen freedom work right here in our own country. I also have this belief, strong belief that freedom is not this country's gift to the world. Freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world.

And as the greatest power on the face of the earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom. We have an obligation to help feed the hungry. I think the American people find it interesting that we're providing food for the North Korea people who starve. We have an obligation to lead the fight on AIDS, on Africa. And we have an obligation to work toward a more free world. That's our obligation. That is what we have been called to do, as far as I'm concerned.
So in short, God has called upon America/Bush to democratize the Middle East, apparently by force. Incidentally, God has also called on the United States to "help feed the hungry", even though we, you know, give the lowest amount of international aid, in terms of percentage of GDP, of any developed country. Also, I guess Bush thinks God told him to underfund his own AIDS initiative too. Anyway...

--For more analysis of the "claim vs fact" variety, go here. Also, over at Pandagon, Jesse and Ezra covered it live.

UPDATE: I almost forgot about the 9/11 Commission question that almost got me into a car accident from laughing, or crying, or something. Italics mine:
Q. Mr. President, Why are you and the vice president insisting on appearing together before the 9/11 commission? And Mr. President, who will you be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30?

A. We'll find that out soon. That's what Mr. Brahimi is doing. He's figuring out the nature of the entity we'll be handing sovereignty over. And secondly, because the the 9/11 commission wants to ask us questions. That's why we're meeting, and I look forward to meeting with them and answering their questions.
Is that an answer to Mike Allen's question? He tries again:
Q. Mr. President, I was asking why you're appearing together rather than separately, which was their request.

A. Because it's a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9/11 commission is looking forward to asking us, and I'm looking forward to answering them.
Again, question not answered. Both of them can answer questions separately, without Cheney holding his hand. Is anybody satisfied by this?

Moving on, Bush makes sure Allen doesn't get a chance to press him any further in order to get an actual answer:
Let's see. Hold on for a minute. Oh — I've got some must calls, I'm sorry.

Q. You have been accused of letting the 9/11 threat mature too far, but not letting the Iraq threat mature far enough. First, could you respond to that general criticism? And secondly, in the wake of these two conflicts, what is the appropriate threat level to justify action in, perhaps, other situations going forward?
That softball, cleverly-worded strawman question comes from Washington Times right-winger Bill Sammon, as Josh Marshall notes.

At Jack's suggestion in the comments to my previous post, I did a quick Googling on the issue of military suicide rates, and came up with this Chicago Tribune piece on the issue, from December:
Army's Suicide Rate Has Outside Experts Alarmed
By Michael Martinez
Chicago Tribune

Sunday 28 December 2003


LUFKIN, Texas - Army Spc. Joseph Suell had been distressed before. He missed his wife and their daughters so badly last year that he was granted a short visit home from his yearlong assignment in South Korea.

It was a different story this year. In March, five months after completing his Korean tour and right after re-enlisting, the 24-year-old was sent to Kuwait and then Iraq.

The day after Father's Day, Suell died in Iraq, reportedly after taking a bottle of Tylenol. His death was classified as "nonhostile," but a military chaplain told Suell's wife, Rebecca, it was a suicide.

Suell's death comes as the military is investigating the growing number of suicides by American forces in the Persian Gulf region. Since the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq last spring, 18 soldiers and two Marines have committed suicide, most of them after major combat was declared over May 1, the military said.

The Army is concerned about the deaths. Outside experts have said the rate is alarmingly high compared with the military's average suicide rates. A report by a 12-member team of military and civilian mental health professionals dispatched to Iraq in October to evaluate mental health of soldiers is expected to be released after the holidays, officials said.


Suicide experts with military backgrounds say the 20 suicides in the Iraq conflict are a high number. Using the military's 12-month rate of a dozen suicides for each 100,000 soldiers, self-inflicted deaths this year in Iraq should amount to no more than 13 at this point, according to Dr. Paul Ragan, who was a Navy psychiatrist for 11 years and is a Vanderbilt University associate professor.

Last year, the Army reported a 12-month suicide rate of 11.1 for each 100,000 soldiers and is expected to report 12 for each 100,000 this year, matching the military's overall rate.

The current count of 20, with the Army investigating more deaths as possible suicides, is worrisome, Ragan said.

"My educated, military, psychiatric guess is that 20 is definitely high, and it's something that needs attention. You don't sit around for months and months and see what happens," Ragan said. "In this case, there is a legitimate concern to move on this."

"If you extrapolate to a full year," added David Rudd, president of the American Association of Suicidology and a former Army psychologist, "it would seem to be potentially high."
On the other hand,
While Army officials acknowledge that the suicide figure appears high, the overall number of 61 such deaths for that branch this calendar year is about average, officials said.

The Army's 130,000 service members in Iraq represent almost all the U.S. force there, an Army spokesman said.

The 61 Army suicides in this year compare with 68 Army suicides last year, 49 in 2001 and 63 in 2000, the military said. The Army's worst period in the past 13 years was 1991, the year of the Persian Gulf war, when it reported 102 suicides.

Figures before 1990 were unavailable, military officials said.

"Even with Iraq, our numbers at the end of this year aren't going to be out [of ] line with what they have been in previous years," said Army spokeswoman Martha Rudd, who is not related to David Rudd.
Is there an explanation for this?
"Traditionally in wars, when soldiers are fighting in combat, there are very rarely suicides, because their survival instinct is active and their adrenaline is flowing," Martha Rudd said. "But once the [war] ceases, at first you are very busy in the aftermath ... setting up where you are, but then eventually you have time on your hands, and you are miserable where you are."
That seems like a good outline answer to this riddle. Certainly, it's been a very long time since the US Army had a large-scale post-war occupation similar to this. (Afghanistan notwithstanding)

So from there, the question is whether it was fair for Rooney to bring up the statistic, given the seemingly logical explanation given. I'd say not, but for reasons other than the one Jack supplies: Regardless of one's position on the war and occupation, the current situation for America's troops there is a unique one, for which there is little recent grounds for comparison. From there, one could have an expansive discussion on the decisions made by the administration and others that led to our troops being in that position, and that would be truly stimulating indeed. But in his editorial, Rooney doesn't acknowledge the difference between the "major combat" and "occupation" roles of the military, and how they might affect morale differently, so in referring to the rise in the military suicide rate, Rooney needs to "unpack his answer", as one of my old political science profs likes to say.

All that being said, using the military suicide rate as part of an argument that the troops "aren't heroes" is pretty damn lame.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Jack at TigerHawk is right that Andy Rooney would've done better to put his point another way. (Of course, I'm mincing words, Jack refers to Rooney as "a turd", and that's his right)

There's a lot going on here though. I don't think Rooney's words would have received as much attention -- and certainly not a Drudge link -- if one of the words he used hadn't been "hero". Jack himself concedes that some of the points Rooney makes are accurate. This leaves a couple of possible perspectives on Rooney. First of all, he could have made his point otherwise, so going out of his way to say they "aren't heroes", regardless of context, is to be seen as a slap in the troops' face. I'm of the "my beef is with the administration, not the troops" set, so that position on Rooney's comments is obvious; many of our young men and women are in a very tough position in Iraq, particularly lately, so I'd be annoyed if I were there and heard those comments, regardless of why I was there.

That being said, two other things. First, is this an example of Ted Kennedy out-of-context syndrome? Last week, Ted Kennedy discussed comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam, in the context of the dishonesty that led us into an escalation of both wars, and not of the "we lost that war, we're losing this one" variety. However, others, from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson to Instapundit, have attacked Kennedy's comment by interpreting it in the latter context, when Kennedy clearly meant the former. (Glenn Reynolds then ridiculously criticized Kennedy because gosh, he should have known that the right would have taken the quote out of context, so it was Ted's fault)

In this case, Rooney made a significant short statement -- "aren't heroes" -- in the context of points that are generally accurate, yet is receiving grief from pro-war conservatives in a manner similar to Kennedy. From here, the difference is subjective: Kennedy's comment begs for contextual expansion, while Rooney's is, let's say, much less careful and much more blunt. One could say it's a symptom of Rooney being an anti-war liberal, but I get the feeling that being a cranky 90-something has a way of loosening the tongue. Andy Rooney is Andy Rooney, turd or no.

But my one problem with Jack's analysis of Rooney's column is on the suicide issue:
He is also disingenuous. He supports his argument with very misleading evidence:
One indication that not all soldiers in Iraq are happy warriors is the report recently released by the Army showing that 23 of them committed suicide there last year. This is a dismaying figure. If 22 young men and one woman killed themselves because they couldn't take it, think how many more are desperately unhappy but unwilling to die.
Of course, Rooney did not bother to look into suicide rates for the American population as a whole, which are quite obviously available on the National Institutes for Mental Health website. According to my back of the envelope calculation, the soldiers in Iraq are committing suicide at a rate no greater than typical for Americans of that age cohort and gender (men over 20 commit suicide at the more than 20 per 100,000 per year).
That may be the case, but the military, by nature, is a disproportionately controlled environment, where a greater amount of attention is paid to individual morale, so in an ideal, or normal situation, the military suicide rate should be lower than the general one, right? (Access to automatic weapons notwithstanding of course.)

NOTE: Regular TFM blogging should resume tomorrow in the afternoon/evening.
Over at World O'Crap, the final installment of the Left Behind series is read and reviewed, so you don't have to do either. Essentially, Jesus comes back as a Big Brother-like character and essentially creates a post-Apocalyptic (literally) Oceana. Which makes sense, because I always thought that Orwell was arguing against religious fundamentalism just as much as he was against political totalitarianism. (i.e. O'Brien's invokations of "God is power" and such)




Looks like the McCain VP fantasy is over. From yesterday's Meet the Press:
SEN. McCAIN: When my kids were smaller, my wife used to wear a T-shirt that said, "What part of no don't you understand?" I'd like to start wearing that T-shirt myself. No, no and no. I will not leave the Republican Party. I cherish the ideals and principles of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. I will not be vice president of the United States under any circumstances. I feel I can be far more effective in helping shape policy in the future of this country as a United States senator, and I will not, I will not, stand for vice president of the United States.

MR. RUSSERT: What if you could stay as a Republican?

SEN. McCAIN: It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. I will not. I will not change.
Obviously, the Moonie Times and others are overjoyed by this news, not necessarily because a Kerry-McCain ticket would be potentially very damaging to Bush and the Republican Party, but rather because this will give them the chance to resume their usual Hillary speculation regimen. Those damn power-hungry Clintons!

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Lost in the shuffle of the violence in Iraq and the August 6 PDB debate, is this little nugget.
The U.S. military pulled back Saturday from an earlier prediction that Osama bin Laden would be captured this year, even while preparing its largest force to date for operations along the Pakistani border where the al-Qaida chief is suspected to be hiding.

Catching bin Laden and other top fugitives remains a priority of the expanding American operation in Afghanistan, a spokesman said, but the growing mission is "not about just one or two people," a spokesman said.

"We remain committed to catching these guys. It's pretty much ... just about everything that we do here," Lt. Col. Matthew Beevers said.

But he declined to make any new predictions of when the fugitives might be behind bars.
Well, there are two ways we can look at this:

1) They were never really close to getting him, and this rhetorical retreat was made clearly, but at a time when the public's attention was on other things. Or, just as possible,

2) They are playing the expectations game. Because Bush is essentially unable to campaign on either 9/11 or Iraq for the time being, they think the payoff from capturing bin Laden would be greater if the expectation was that they weren't likely to nab him.

Of course, there's always option 3, being that you're one of those tinfoil cranks who thinks they have bin Laden essentially cornered, ready to be captured at the most politically opportune moment. Not that they essentially waited to trot out Jose Padilla at just the right moment in 2002, but that's another matter.

Anyway, Happy Easter everybody! If I could find those Onion Easter cards, I'd post them here. I will make my triumphant post-Lent return to Instapundit and Kausfiles at some point today or tomorrow.