The Facts Machine

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

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Reagan died. I'll delay my take on this until tonight, because 1) I still need to sort it out, and 2) I have a study group/potluck to attend, and then a wine&cheese party at home.

Until tonight, Digby's take will suffice.

Friday, June 04, 2004


Over at World O' Crap is a post concerning this wingnut article by a Bruce Walker exploring three ways Bush might still win the election. The second of those three?
Morbidity could also change the race. President Reagan will die someday, and only God, Nancy and his doctors have much of an idea when that might be. When he dies, the nation will realize its loss. Almost everything about the Gipper was good, noble and successful. It would be logical for President Bush to give the eulogy and most Americans would watch.

President Reagan was the most popular political figure in the history of California. His funeral and California seeing President Bush at his very best could cause many Californians to sit back and reflect on what principled and compassionate conservatives could do. Reagan was also beloved in the Pacific and Rocky Mountain regions. His death could affect the vote in Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and several other states.


What is some Democrat blurts out something bad about a recently dead Reagan or Ford? Republicans could demand that Kerry repudiate it, and if Kerry hesitates, he is lost; if he speaks glowingly of the dead Republican, he weakens his own arguments; if he endorses libel of the dead, he risks a massive exodus of moderates.
Now I find this idea rather silly. Even for Reagan, who's basically been treated like he's been dead for some time (the airports, the attempts to put him on the dime, and so on), I don't think there would be much of a "death bounce", especially for someone far removed from the Presidential line of succession. Generally, the American pattern is to spend 4-7 day period mourning the deceased through TV specials, hastily-thrown-together magazine tributes, and so on, and then we go on with our lives.

Plus, the whole "wishing someone dead for political gain" thing just ain't right. I don't with Dubya dead. I just wish that the other guy getting more votes than him will actually mean what it's supposed to this time.

Anyway, back at W o' C, some fun is had with this idea, as theirs is a land of thick, tasty snark:
So, if both Reagan AND Ford were to die, Bush could take at least half a dozen of the undecided states, ensuring his electoral victory. And since Reagan and Ford are bound to be pass on soon anyway, I'm sure they will be happy to do it now, a crucial time for Bush, so they can help their party by allowing him to speak at their funerals.

And then maybe somebody like Michael Moore could be bribed to badmouth the dear departed, making everybody hate Democrats. It's a plan that can't fail!
As if by sheer magic, tonight Drudge reports:
Hollywood sources tell LA Weekly columnist Nikki Finke that former President Ronald Reagan's medical condition has suddenly worsened. "He really took a downslide today," the insider told Finke Friday evening. "Doctors are at the house. Things aren't good." At the start of the day, several news organizations chased down a rumor that the ex-president had died, but it wasn't true... Family members gathered at the Reagan's Bel Air home late Friday... Developing...
Oh my.

St. Ray-gun didn't agree to go along with this, did he?

Well, at least it's nice to know that someone in America is jumping for joy over this one.

Via The Poor Man, Gorenfeld gives us this highly-useful chart comparing the sugar daddies of the two political parties: George Soros and Sun Myung Moon.

You should click on the Poor Man link too, cuz he points to an unfortunate quote from Moon employee Tony Blankley, aimed at Soros.

Slate's Bryan Curtis tries to develop an explanation for why Letterman consistently loses to Leno in the ratings. His thesis?
...Dave's show -- because of his heart surgery, his age, his new baby, whatever -- has become a syrupy facsimile of Leno's. Guests trot on to plug their latest projects. Mild comedy follows the monologue. Given Tonight's inherent advantages -- the franchise name, the vestigial shadow of Carson -- it takes an extraordinarily heartwarming event for Letterman just to make a dent in the ratings. Indeed, Dave's few victories usually involve one of his comebacks from a gruesome surgery. After his quintuple bypass in 2000, Dave made a gallant return five weeks later, choking back tears as he introduced his team of doctors. The episode beat Tonight in the ratings and went on to become one of Dave's highest-rated shows ever. Last spring, Letterman sat on the bench for five weeks while recovering from the shingles, and when he returned, interest spiked again. But within days, viewers had fled back to the Tonight Show.
I don't think this is quite right. Dave's comeback episodes don't get high ratings because they're schmaltzy, they get high ratings because they're comeback episodes! Everyone loves a comeback. Furthermore, when Dave has a highly relevant guest -- Hillary, for example -- he is often able to beat Jay in the ratings. Part of the reason is because of Letterman's eccentricities as an interviewer: People are prone to wonder "what is Dave gonna say to her?", and that doesn't really happen with Leno.

Look, I'll save you the time you would have otherwise spent reading Curtis' piece. The reason Jay Leno consistently beats Letterman in the Nielsen ratings, and has for the last 9 years, is simple: The monologue. Jay's monologue is long -- it often exceeds ten minutes -- and it covers most of the relevant news stories of the day. It is certain that for many people, Leno serves as their primary news source. Not a huge amount of people, but certainly enough to make a difference in the Nielsen ratings. Jay's delivery of monologue jokes is highly consistent:
Sentence describing a news story that may well have been yanked right out of an AP write-up.

1.5 second pause.

Quickly delivered punchline, usually making light of how boring John Kerry is or how sleazy Bill Clinton is.

Kevin Eubanks slowly chuckles. If the joke is drug-related, Leno nods knowingly at the band.
Meanwhile, over at the Ed Sullivan Theater, Letterman's monologue is just as it always has been: Three, maybe four jokes, often New-York-centric (rats, hookers, etc), followed by the introduction of Paul Shaffer. If I were a stuck-up liberal -- hey, I am! -- then I'd say that Dave respects his audience enough to believe that they wouldn't use him as their primary source of news.

Dave's fans eat this up like hot cakes. But there are no guarantees that it will work well for others, particularly those that are stuck in traffic during the 5 and 6 o'clock hours, and really aren't ones for AM radio news.

That's why Jay beats Dave consistently. It has nothing to do with sappiness.

UPDATE: I copied the bulk of this entry and posted it in The Fray over at Slate, in response to the article itself, and my post received one response, from a MatthewGarth, and it made a couple of interesting points:
Leno's move to the long monologue came at a point when they decided--obviously rightly--that there was no appetite for the desk bit anymore. Letterman didn't want to follow along, and has been paying for it.

They've also been coasting. When Conan came on the air, he sucked. But they tried really damn hard. When Jon Stewart took over for Kilborn, no one knew how much fixing that show needed. Flash forward to today, and Kilborn is wallowing (effortlessly) and Stewart and his minions are cranking through the culture.

A midwesterner like Dave should know the value of hard work. He needs to rediscover his inner tyrant and demand more.
Hmm. I think I speak for a more-than-insignificant population when I say, "Hey! I love desk bits!"

I think it's not as much a matter of the unpopularity of the desk bit as it is the popularity of Leno's long, news-based monologue. Any fan of Conan -- which I definitely am -- knows that the tone of his show is really set by the desk bit. So it's not the bit in and of itself. Perhaps Dave's desk bits have grown stale and tired over the years. But I don't think that's quite it either.

My theory is that Dave more or less hasn't changed, it's just that the contrast between him and Carson -- a plain vanilla prude WASP -- is different from that between him and Leno, who does manage, to some extent, to bridge the gap between the older late-night viewers and the all-important 18-29ers. Suddenly Dave isn't the edgy alternative, he's Dave.

Dave will always be the more naturally funny person -- Dave talking about anything is potentially funny -- but his show requires, at least for ratings, a status as the edgy alternative.

I'm sure there's a lot more I could say, but I'll stop there for now.
Over at Fark they Photoshopped the Bush umbrella photo, the same one I posted here the other day. The results are mildly entertaining, and it only took about 3 or 4 entries before someone went for the Mary Poppins reference. Woohoo.

Via Ailes and others, according to The Hill, Republican Congressman Tom Davis has "reservations" over their candidate's loss in South Dakota on Tuesday:
Republicans downplayed Diedrich’s 2,981-vote loss, their second consecutive special-election defeat this year, and said they looked forward to watching Herseth defend her six-month voting record before the November rematch.

“If you take out the Indian reservation, we would have won,” said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), former chairman of the NRCC.
Hmm. Or if Native American votes counted less than white votes -- something it seems you wouldn't mind, and you certainly imply -- "we" would have won!

Marshall has a lot more on the tendency of some Republicans to view non-white voters as not quite real voters.

UPDATE: Digby's take on this is pretty funny: "On the other hand, if you take out the assholes, Herseth would have won in a landslide."


That's what Bush and Blair each do, in this briefly amusing animation, found via the guy who did that fake NYT corrections page thing.

Thursday, June 03, 2004


This Matthew Yglesias post on the "myth" of JFK started a very invigorating debate in the comment thread about the relative merits of Kennedy and Johnson.

The debate isn't really tilted either way, as interesting arguments are made in favor of (and against) the legacies of both presidents. The major sticking points in the debate are Kennedy's handling of Cuba (both the crisis and the botched invasion), the Diem coup (and its meaning regarding our future plans in Vietnam), and the weight of LBJ's domestic program and whether or not Kennedy receives any credit for it, or his own program when he was in charge.

Given that my primary source on this is the Donald Sutherland scene from JFK, I am reluctant to dive too far into this one.

Oh, wait. Blogs are free-for-alls, so it doesn't matter. Okay... but I'll keep it limited to a couple thoughts...

--It has always been my understanding that the civil rights portion of Johnson's domestic program was an extension of (and tribute to) steps taken especially by Kennedy (James Meredith, for example). It's the same as the moon landing. Nixon was president at the time, but what we remember president-wise is Kennedy presenting the idea to the American people.

--LBJ's 'Nam conduct is a deal-breaker for me. The Gulf of Tonkin and the opportunism that followed is a matter completely removed from any Kennedy policy. (Side joke: Just like LBJ, George W Bush has brought us a large war and a large Medicare bill! Though I don't think LBJ deceived congress as to its cost.)

--At the time of his death, Kennedy was still a very good-looking man, and yes, that contributes to his allure. If he had lived long enough to see the graying of his hair, he would have looked like a slightly-more-presentable version of Bill Kristol, and we just can't have that.

--I was negative 17 years old when Kennedy was assassinated, so I'll stop there. Once again, here's the link.
View the Fahrenheit 9/11 trailer.

He used the "now watch this drive" video. Hehehe.


This means that Al "obviously crazy" Gore is 1 for 3 in post-speech resignations for the big three, leaving Rice and Rummy.

More on this later.
& a couple other docs

Just in case anybody missed it, Michael Moore's award-winning documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 will be in theaters three weeks from friday:
Film director Michael Moore's latest controversial documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, will hit theaters throughout America on June 25, now that backers Bob and Harvey Weinstein have struck distribution deals for the Cannes Film Festival winner.

Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. and IFC Films, major players for independent movies, will release Moore's film nationally to theaters. Cable network Showtime will handle sales for pay-TV. No DVD/video deal has been struck yet.

Fahrenheit 9/11 caused a firestorm of publicity in May after the Walt Disney Co. refused to allow its Miramax Films unit, run by the Weinstein brothers, to release it to theaters, claiming it was too politically charged.

Fahrenheit 9/11, which won the Palme d'Or, the top prize at Cannes, examines America's reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It also attempts to link President Bush and his family to powerful Saudis, including the family of Osama bin Laden.

IFC Entertainment president Jonathan Sehring said his company has a mission of being a place where independent filmmakers can come to get their voices heard by a wide audience.

"This film will cause debate, but that is also what this country is founded on," Sehring said.
Here here.

I remember a couple weeks ago when the movie was first blocked actively by Disney. Various people -- on the right -- were attacking Moore for apparently manufacturing a controversy, since Disney made it clear a while ago that they had no intention of distributing the movie, which had been picked up by Mirimax, the art-house-ish subsidiary of Disney.

To them, I say "DUH".

In case you've been living under a rock, Michael Moore is a provocateur. Of course he's stirring up shit! He wanted people to pay attention to his movie, a movie he wants to use as a mechanism to help send Bush back to Connecticut, er, Crawford.

I think the Daily Show put it best when they made the point, through Lewis Black's hit-and-miss segment "Back in Black", that Moore is doing pretty much what Mel Gibson was doing in the lead up to the release of The Passion. Though Gibson often stated that his movie wasn't anti-semitic (an assessment with which I generally agree), he was also conscious that the brewing controversy over the tone of his movie regarding the Jews was raising interest in the movie precipitously. That's part of why Gibson kept certain people from seeing the movie for a time. And now Michael Moore is taking the same "any publicity is good publicity" tack as ol' Mel.

So anyway, I'm thoroughly psyched to see it when it comes out on the 25th. It's one of four documentaries I have on my to-see list. The other three are (based on recommendations from my documentary filmmaker friend Josh Braun):

--The Control Room, Jehane Noujaim's followup to the great 2001 doc, this time exploring Al Jazeera's coverage of the Iraq war, and the light it sheds on how our media covered it.

--The Corporation, Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan's documentary on the rise of the corporation as present day's dominant institution. Features interviews with Moore, Chomsky, Howard Zinn and others, so it should be interesting.

And of course,

--Super Size Me, one man's quest to live on nothing but McDonald's for one month, and the hilarity (and medical visits) that ensue.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004


From when The Mighty Reason Man spoofed Instapundit:
At the bar the other night, my girlfriends and I were talking about some of the law professors at our school (we attend a major southern university). One of them mentioned how she had heard that the most common injuries suffered by southern law professors are complications due to falls caused by tripping over their own larger-than-average penises. Who better to confirm or deny this than you?
Indeed. I can't speak for anyone else, but I've never had any problems maneuvering around my enormous cock, although there have been a few close calls. It's just something you learn to live with, although, like my synesthesia, it does allow me to focus on other problems while my tremendous wang completes mundane tasks.

Update: Another reader has a question as well:
I too have a monstrous johnson, as do most of my Republican friends. My liberal friends, on the other hand, refuse to talk to me when I ask them about it. This leads me to believe that they are, shall we say, light in the drawers. So, my question is, does Republicanism cause one's equipment to grow, or do people with massive schlongs naturally tend to be Republicans?
I don't think there is necessarily a causal relationship - after all, I am not a Republican, yet my gargantuan tool is, so far as I know, without equal.

Another Update: Alan Colmes emails:
First of all, big fan of your site. Hannity sent this to me, and I figured I'd add my two cents. While I'll grant you that conservative dick is quite a bit larger, on average, than liberal dick, it is important to bear in mind that size doesn't matter, so long as you know how to use it. Not that many of us do, I know, but still...
That's what they all say.

Yet Another Update: Tim Blair, on his website:
Having repeatedly licked The Professor's balls over the last two years, I am in a position to say that the hardest part of doing so is holding up his elephantine peter in order to keep it from flopping down on your head, causing a mild concussion.

Still More: This is getting out of hand. Virginia Postrel is demanding pictures. Lileks wants collectible porcelain figurines.

posted at 04:16 PM by Glenn Reynolds
That was a week ago. Flash forward to today:
INSTAPUNDIT: The blog women love! But of course.

posted at 02:19 PM by Glenn Reynolds
Oh boy.
Jenna Bush is hiking through Spain on a "pilgrimage".

Trying . . . to resist . . . can't hold out . . . much . . . longer . . .

Oh hell, out with it:

Come on, we all know why college students go to Spain!

This concludes my ragging on the Bush daughters for the day. Now if you please, scroll down and look at the funny Bush umbrella picture. Thank you.

Practically imperfect in every way.

I figured since cats were getting all the glory in blogtopia, it was time for their natural prey to enter the spotlight.

These are two of the six little finches that occupy a corner of our dining-ish room here in TFM's World Headquarters in Isla Vista. These two birds are actually mother and child! The four males -- certainly o'erflowing with sexual frustration -- are in two adjancent cages.

Though it's true that finches can/do masturbate -- you thought that was shit on your car -- such has not taken place here. Maybe they wait until the cage is covered up for the night. Eh.

Anyway, they're well-fed and happy, they sing (at dawn sometimes, not music to this college student's ears), and they get their luxury spinach from time to time.

They belong, first and foremost, to TFM Official Housemate Kim.

Well, two things, if you count that time I flew over the handlebars of my bike in 1995.

From the Washington Post:
The pistol wielded by Saddam Hussein when he was captured in his spider hole last year isn't the only war relic President Bush is fond of showing visitors to the White House. Recent guests tell us that Bush proudly displays two other iconic items in a study off the Oval Office: a brick from Taliban leader Mohammad Omar's home in Kandahar, and a roughly two-foot-high cross made of steel recovered from the World Trade Center wreckage.
I can relate to the brick. Currently at TFM Alternate Headquarters, located somewhere in the Bay Area, I have two bricks salvaged from the wreckage of San Mateo High School, which was demolished at the tail end of 2002. But fear not! The school is being rebuilt -- in a U-shape, rather than a T --and will look almost exactly the same from some angles, particularly from Delaware Street just to the west.

So yeah, I'm all about keeping commemorative bricks.

The other big deal about Bush's trophy room -- aside from housing the pistol of "the guy who tried to kill my daddy" -- is:
Another visitor, who asked not to be identified, said the collection is in the same private area where Bush's predecessor once trysted with Monica Lewinsky.
Sigh. Those were the days. And ain't that just the perfect paradigm: What once was used for love is now a monument to war.

But have no fear, not all things are doom and gloom!
The collection isn't entirely somber. It also includes a few bobble-head dolls depicting the president -- which, we're told, Bush likes to flick with his finger for guests' amusement.
For Bush's sake, I sure hope he doesn't find that funny every time. Imagine yourself as a Secret Service agent, within earshot of multiple demonstrations of the bobbleheads by Bush. *Flick!* *Chuckle chuckle smirk!* Now that's an eye-roller.

Now I'm gonna bust out my copy of Surfacing and remember the good old days...

Those Marxists at the RNC have created "Kerryopoly", a Monopoly take-off designed to take shots at Kerry's high-priced lifestyle.

Of course, if the RNC attacks others for being wealthy, then they have a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do problem. In the AP article, the RNC's spokesperson handles it in, uh, a novel fashion:
Three leading Republicans in the federal government — President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee — are multimillionaires. Asked Tuesday if their lifestyles also were out of reach of most Americans, RNC spokeswoman Christine Iverson responded "no" but declined to elaborate.
[bart]"As long as you don't have any followup questions . . . no."[/bart]

That's too bad that AP didn't press for elaboration there. Imagine an RNC spokesperson having to explain, using the example of George W Bush's life from age 5 to about 45 (though any period works), how a person in the 40k bracket could make such an ascension.

Example: How many people from such tax brackets "worked it out with the National Guard" so they could leave early during the Vietnam era to go to grad school?

With thick RNC wallets comes very, very thin ice when criticizing others for their large livin'.

Politicians don't have to be men and women of the people. For the people will do. Thank you, o kind screenwriters of Gladiator!

Mickey Kaus swings at air for a while, trying his darndest to spin Kerry non-paramour Alexandra Polier's quite entertaining recounting of her ordeal in such a way as to damage Kerry and continue to suggest that he has affairs and, of course, character problems.

Kaus has five suggestive questions, all of which are suggestively stupid:
1. Just how had she "cadged a ticket to the World Economic Forum in Davos" in 2001, where she forumed with Vicente Fox, Thabo Mbeki and Naomi Campbell? My impression is that Davos tickets are not that easy to cadge.
Billmon went to this year's WEF. I'm pretty sure a motivated AP reporter or two would be able to get in.
2. Why didn't she just deny immediately that she'd had an affair with Kerry? Isn't that what most people would do? She says she "should have asked more clearly for advice" from Kerry aide Stephanie Cutter. But wasn't this a no-brainer? Why didn't Cutter ask her to issue an immediate denial?
My first response to this moronic question is "YOU try dealing with a shitstorm like this right when it hits you!" But for a political blogger who prides himself on knowing the nuts and bolts of how politicans use the media and vice versa, doesn't he know that a high-profile denial is exactly what the press is trying to get (just as the political opponents of the target are)?

One of the main points of floating scandal rumors is getting the targets of said rumors to prominently deny them. At the bare minimum, that means that the party involved viewed the rumors as important enough to warrant a response.

Both Kerry and Polier had a good reason not to initially dignify the rumors with a response: Drudge. Kaus himself refers to Drudge as "80% true". Well, this is that other twenty.

3. "We shook the tree," a reporter for The Hill tells Polier. "A bunch of names fell out, and yours had the most flesh to it." A bunch of names? Hmmm. Had Polier heard such names? Doe she think the hopes for a good Kerry sex scandal are completely unfounded? She's remarkably reticent about Kerry's behavior with others. ...
Again, Mickey digs himself into an even deeper hole. Does she think the hopes for a scandal are unfounded? Well, Sherlock, let's add it up:

She knows the rumors about her and Kerry are bullshit.

The reporter from The Hill refers to her name has having "the most flesh to it."

Therefore, other names would have "less flesh", so to speak.

Since the one with the most flesh is completely false, the other names can only be even more preposterous.

If Mickey had better reading comprehension skills and didn't have finding any opening whatsoever on Kerry on his mind, he would've figured that out for himself.
4. How clueless is Polier to have--until the end of March-- "assumed that the story was part of a Republican dirty-tricks campaign to break Kerry's momentum" when there were plenty of Democrats who wanted to do Kerry in, and Drudge himself had cited General Clark? ("As I continued to dig, it occured to me that Bush wasn't the only one with a motive." Duh!) And is Polier credulous or cynical when she says that Kerry "seemed to be under the impression that he was a victim of the right," as opposed to seeming to want to give the impression that he was a victim of the right.
To answer that question, may I please refer you, Mickey, to the 1990's in their entirety!!! Whatever could have given her that idea? You know, since she was being described as "an intern" and all.

In regards to the other question, Kaus is projecting his views on to Polier. Par for the course for him.

5. And, OK, why did Senator Kerry call her right back when she called his office?
Knowing Mickey, if Kerry hadn't called back, he'd go on and on about how this was yet another example of Kerry shitting on a member of his campaign team. He'd file it right next to the Secret Service agent into whom Kerry accidentally crashed on skis, and pronounce to the world that the Senator has -- yes -- fundamental character problems.

Bill Gates pays this guy?

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Herseth wins! And it was close too!

A hearty congratulations from all of us at The Facts Machine.

In researching the previous post, I found the pic of Pachachi and Chalabi at the SOtU on the White House website, through a link from Hesiod's blog that was posted a couple weeks ago.

The picture is from a State of the Union photo gallery on the White House site. However, the picture itself is no longer accessible from the SOtU portal page. You can only get to it by searching for photos from January 20, 2004.

I guess I can't blame them. Though I must wonder if Chalabi's neocon dead-ender allies mentioned the photo snub when they confronted Condi & company in the West Wing a few days ago.

But the White House has gone further than that. It looks like Chalabi's name has been cleansed (vaporized? hehe) from the State of the Union guest list.

Maybe it wasn't there to begin with (the mysterious "Mrs. Bush's special guest" entries on the linked page). But since the guest lists the White House released to various news organizations at the time included Chalabi, one has to assume at at some point his name was among those listed on the White House page.

...Chalabi was not only dead, he was abolished, an unperson. Any identifiable reference to him would have been mortally dangerous...

Josh Marshall sums up the recent Iraqi-leader-selection drama thusly:
Now that some of the dust has settled, we can see one thing pretty clearly: the IGC basically hijacked the process. The IGC essentially reconstituted as a caretaker government. The new President, Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar, was the current president of the IGC. Hoshiyar Zebari, who was the foreign minister in the IGC, is now the foreign minister under the interim government. Allawi was a member of and choice of the IGC, etc. And so on down the list. The only key issue is that Chalabi, if not his crew, has been purged. Brahimi agreed to a laying on of hands. But he didn't make the choices. He was sidelined.
A lot of this stuff happened pretty quickly, and a lot of people -- including the news departments of a few major papers -- were confused and offered contradictory interpretations and explanations for what was going on. Thus, I have not commented on this story until now.

The one thing I expected about the process for selecting members of post-June-30 Iraqi government was that we would witness a sort of Kabuki act, complete with silhouette lighting, between the US government, the Iraqi Governing Council, and UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. Each party involved has a goal, and while they're not mutually exclusive, they could be:

The US government wants, first and foremost, Iraqi leaders to emerge who are particularly friendly to American interests.

The Iraqi Governing Council wants its own people in leadership posts following the June 30 transfer of "sovereignty".

The UN and Brahimi want Iraq to have leaders who are as legitimate, both nationally and internationally, as possible.

Naturally, these goals do, or at least can overlap. The US created the Iraqi Governing Council, and the IGC has only had nominal-to-no authority at best up to this point when compared to Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority, so they are not as independent of each other as they may seem. Brahimi's mere presence serves multiple roles. He's there to provide the international community with reasons to have confidence in the largely US-led transition to Iraqi "sovereignty", and he's also there, partially, as a statement to get the US to see the value of international, multilateral support for things like this.

The problem is that if the goals of the US and the IGC are pursued nakedly, then they will create questions about the legitimacy of the Iraqi transitional government and how the Iraqi people in general feel about it.

Hence, the Kabuki act.

Brahimi's role in the act is basically to look good. Marshall describes him as being "sidelined", which is about right. The main jostling and positioning in this act is between the US and the IGC.

In order for the US to get what it wants -- leaders that like them -- they need to build the perception that not only are they not in charge of the selection of new leaders, but also that the Iraqis are choosing their leaders in a way that is somehow contrary to American wishes.

That's why the Bush administration made a big deal about how it was "surprised", but happy with the selection of Allawi as Prime Minister. That's why the administration also floated the idea of the IGC selecting Adnan Pachachi, who's over 80, to be the transitional government's president, right before the IGC went ahead and picked Yawar, the current IGC president. (Pachachi is picutred here standing next to Laura Bush at this year's State of the Union address. Also note that Chalabi is standing right behind Laura.)

Luckily (well, not really luck) for the US, the IGC was originally created by the US, and to an extent, has been controlled by the US. It's clear that the IGC wants to pick from among their own, so to a point, the US is happy to go ahead and let them, without much concern that Al Sadr will be taking the oath of office anytime soon.

This is an uphill battle for the US, unfortunately, because perceptions of our occupation of Iraq, and the legitimacy of a transitional government "stands upon the edge of a knife", as Galadriel might say. It was the mismanagement of the war and occupation up to this point that has left us such a challenge. If we're to stay involved in Iraqi affairs into the forseeable future -- which we will -- then we don't have much of a choice other than to try this Kabuki act and hope.

Of course, when Iraqis notice this summer that their government has "full sovereignty", yet 150,000 American troops are walking around essentially negating any real power the new government has, we may have a whole new set of problems.

Monday, May 31, 2004


Unless she gets hit by her predecessor's car while biking, looks like Stephanie Herseth has South Dakota's lone Congressional seat completely sewn up. You can check out her campaign site by clicking here. I'm disturbed that her campaign sign type-face is quite similar to those Bush-Cheney bumper stickers, but hey, whatever works!

Don't believe me? Ask her challenger:
Republican congressional hopeful Larry Diedrich is effectively conceding defeat in today's South Dakota special House election before the polling booths even open.

The former state senator dramatically ratcheted down expectations during an interview with The Hill at his campaign headquarters, saying he would be happy to lose to Democrat Stephanie Herseth by only five percentage points.
Of course, this could all be part of some weird, backwards strategy on Diedrich's part. He figures that effectively conceding might drive down turnout for both his supporters and those of Herseth. Not a likely situation, but he figures that he loses anyway if he stays put, so he might as well shake things up.

Would that work? Let's try out our thickest Cockney accent: "Not bloody likely!"

The real reason Diedrich is doing this is to try to lower expectations. Tomorrow's election is a special election to finish out the just-released-from-prison Bill Janklow's term in the House. In November, there will be another election for the same seat, so Diedrich wants to reframe a 5-point loss as being "not so bad", thus giving him some sort of momentum heading into November. Odds are such momentum will be filed next to "Joe-mentum" in the annals of history.

Neither strategy will work. The veritable Eye of Sauron that is the GOP fundraising machine will shift instead towards the Black Gate, where the newly-crowned Kerrygorn (Kerryssar?) waits, leaving Herseth to represent one of the nation's more conservative states. You're glad I rescued myself from that analogy, huh. (:

By tomorrow night, we will be one step closer to Speaker Pelosi.

Matt Drudge's big headline at the moment links to this recap of Bush's speech at Arlington National Cemetery, has a picutre of Bush and Rummy at the podium, and says "STANDING OVATION FOR RUMSFELD IN D.C.". (see)

The linked article, titled "Bush Honors U.S. Military Dead from War on Terror" (itself a suspect headline, as it very casually suggests that Iraq had something directly to do with terrorism, but that's another matter) was written by Reuters' David Morgan. The entire Rumsfeld section of the article goes like this:
Appearing on stage with embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Bush lauded the character of U.S. military personnel who he said have made America safer by ending "two terror regimes" and freeing more than "50 million souls."

"Since the hour this nation was attacked, we have seen the character of the men and women who wear our country's uniform," said the president, who has backed Rumsfeld despite calls for the Pentagon chief's resignation over his handling of Iraq.

"We have seen their decency and their brave spirit," he added.
But no mention of a standing ovation for Rummy. A Google News search to that effect did not reveal any results pertinent to today's events. Neither the Reuters recap nor Pete Yost's AP recap mentions a standing ovation, or any other audience reaction whatsoever, to Rumsfeld.

But here's the other thing. Drudge's headline says "STANDING OVATION FOR RUMSFELD IN D.C.". Bush and Rumsfeld appeared at Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington, you may recall, is in Virginia. Were people watching with really good binoculars from across the Potomac? Were Wolfowitz and Feith watching on closed circuit TV?

Of course, this could just be standard sleight of hand from Drudge. While technically accurate that at some point since 2001 Rummy received an ovation in DC, it appears that pertaining to today's news, Drudge's claim is unsubstantiated on two counts. I really wouldn't mind some independent verification of this from an actual news source.

Until then, all we have is a pathological liar in a fedora claiming an embattled Secretary of Defense was given a standing ovation that nobody else is reporting, in a place he wasn't even at, presumably at an event that would be a bit solemn for audience overenthusiasm.

One place where we know Rummy received an ovation was at the West Point grad ceremony on Sunday, where apparently he told the graduating officers to rely on their "moral clarity". That's not the guy from whom I'd like to hear that message.

UPDATE: As of 6:47 Pacific, there is no longer any mention of an ovation for Rummy on Drudge's site. Usually his main headline spends some time in the main bulk of his links, but not this time. Hmm...

2ND UPDATE: The NY Times recap has Rummy receiving "a rousing round of applause". In Virginia, of course. No word on a standing ovation at a military cemetery for a civilian who ordered several hundred Americans to their death.

Sunday, May 30, 2004


Just a brief notice: We're heading into finals season here on the west south coast of Cali. Thus my dedication to blogging during the next two weeks may appear diminished at times. Knowing me, I'll find time, but consider yourself warned.

If you want to waste about an hour of your life, while learning a thing or two about our administration, you could do a lot worse than by playing this game. Hulk Hogan, Mr T and an obese He Man battle the Bush Administration and Voltron!

Though I wonder how in the world Voltron ever got mixed up with those guys in the first place...

Something else Europe does better than we do. From Reuters:
A Swedish aid organisation will roll out a new line of defence to the country's emergency services next week -- the condom ambulance.

From Friday, June 4, amorous couples can call the telephone number 696969 and a white van featuring a large red condom with wings as a logo will deliver them a packet of 10 prophylactics.

"We need to increase the usage of condoms," said Carl Osvald, marketing manager for the Swedish Organisation for Sex Education, the non-governmental organisation behind the initiative. "It is 50 percent about pregnancy and 50 percent about sexually transmitted diseases."

The ambulances will operate in Stockholm and the southern cities of Malmo and Gothenberg. The service, aimed at young people, will run until June 25 and be available between four in the afternoon and nine at night.

A packet of 10 condoms will cost 50 crowns (3.66 pounds), less than they cost on average in the shops.

The incidence of sexually transmitted disease is increasing rapidly in Sweden and not enough young people use condoms, Osvald said.

"We need to change attitudes to condoms," he said. "If we need to get out in to the bedrooms to make things better we will do it."
Hmm. File this under "Things I'd like to see make it into the EU Constitution".

Bonus EU nerdy humor: "I like the Euro, I really do, but it just feels better to use my own currency."


* - you know, as in "trojan maaan"