The Facts Machine

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

Saturday, June 26, 2004


Josh Chafetz of OxBlog weighs in against the Kerry camp's mass email to supporters alerting them of the use of Hitler in a Bush web ad.

Here's the full text of the email, which as a signed-up Kerry supporter, I received earlier today:
Dear Brendan,

Yesterday, the Bush-Cheney campaign, losing any last sense of decency, placed a disgusting ad called "The Faces of John Kerry's Democratic Party" as the main feature on its website. Bizarrely, and without explanation, the ad places Adolf Hitler among those faces.

The Bush-Cheney campaign must pull this ad off of its website. The use of Adolf Hitler by any campaign, politician or party is simply wrong.

We sent you a fundraising plea earlier this morning. But when this came up, we decided it was important to show you just what we're up against: a presidential campaign that is willing to do or say absolutely anything to win. You're our only line of defense against these underhanded tactics. Please contribute today:

If he were a real leader, George Bush would be talking about his first-term accomplishments -- and his second-term vision for America. But he has cast aside that opportunity because he has nothing to offer except a string of broken promises and a steady stream of fear and deception.

John Kerry is talking to this country about his optimistic vision for a stronger America. By contributing, you're giving him the resources to get that vision to millions more Americans every week. Help keep up the incredible momentum of this campaign by making a donation today:

Thank you,

Mary Beth Cahill
Campaign Manager

P.S. It's hard to believe that the Bush campaign would use images of Adolf Hitler. See it for yourself:
Here are the relevant grafs from Chafetz's take:
Indeed, do see it for yourself, because here's what the ad is: It's a series of clips of Al Gore, Howard Dean, Richard Gephardt, and John Kerry making totally over-the-top denunciations of Bush. Interspersed are clips from MoveOn.Org ads comparing Bush to Hitler. The ad ends with, "This is not a time for pessimism and rage. It's a time for optimism, steadly leadership, and progress. President Bush."

In other words, Bush is criticizing his opponents for, among other things, comparing him to Hitler. In response, the Kerry Campaign sends out this incredibly dishonest email suggesting that Bush has compared his opponents to Hitler and asking for money.
There are two big problems here. First, the Hitler issue: The ad from MoveOn featuring images of Hitler was not made, conceived or funded by MoveOn, but was merely one nominee among a number of ads, of which just one (not that one) was chosen to receive rotation on network and cable television. The Bush ad takes this marginal ad that was never shown on television, and places it on par with well-known public statements by Dean (shouting over a loud crowd), Moore (not really a Democrat), Gore (how dare he be angry about something Abu Ghraib-related other than that pictures were taken!), etc.

Besides, given the frequency of recent occurences of conservatives bringing up Nazis when talking about liberals, the right doesn't have much ground to stand on here.

But it's Chafetz' second paragraph that gets me: "In response, the Kerry Campaign sends out this incredibly dishonest email suggesting that Bush has compared his opponents to Hitler and asking for money."

Uh, excuse me, but where in the Kerry email does it suggest that?

Scroll back up and reread the email. Mary Beth Cahill makes it abundantly clear that her problem -- and by extension, Kerry's -- is that she believes Adolf Hitler should be off limits for all political campaigns. It is Chafetz, not Cahill, who is making a leap, and being, dare I say, a little dishonest.

Naturally, Instapundit linked to the Chafetz post approvingly.

UPDATE: Over at Pandagon, both Jesse and Ezra are all over this one, though Ezra replaces my "a little" with his "astonishingly" regarding the dishonesty of the response from Radiohead-land. I'm so polite!

UPDATE UPDATE: Yglesias too.

Friday, June 25, 2004

GodWin'S LAW

I'm sorry -- well, no I'm not -- but the "Nazi Democrats yell a lot!" video on the front page of Miserable Failure Central just makes me laugh. Really hard.

Imagine the sound-proofed recording studio where a Bush staffer sat next to some keyboardist and debated which three major piano chords best convey that Bush is "an optimist".

And of course, Dick Cheney's recent choice words kind of pull the carpet out from under this ad, don't they?

Using Hitler in a high-profile ad like that is, to say the least, over the line, and I agree with the Kerry campaign, as well as any decent observer, that it should be taken down.

If you want to know why those darn Nazi Democrats are just so darn angry, a good first stop would be the scenes from Fahrenheit 9/11 featuring Lila Lipscomb. I'll be posting a review later, I think. I'm still a little overwhelmed.

POSTSCRIPT: Now that the Bush campaign is going after Kerry by attacking other Democrats for yelling, or being "pessimistic" or something, is this a tacit admission that the Bush negative onslaught against Kerry in the past few months failed? Judging by Kerry's steady/rising favorability ratings, I'd say so!

I'm about to head out to see my local theater's first showing of the doc. (11:50)

Get ready for a week of fun ways which conservatives will try to discredit the movie.

Exhibit A: Matt Drudge has made this story his main headline, in the hope that the Wayans film White Chicks beats Moore's movie at the box office. The idea, of course, is that this will somehow downplay the effect, or success, of Fahrenheit.

When you click on the link, though, you notice something:
Will the flood of attention given to "Fahrenheit 9/11," which Lions Gate and IFC Films will bow in 868 venues, translate into boffo B.O.?

While Michael Moore's pic has dominated headlines this week, it's not the top dog going into the weekend box office race.

Continuing the summer's trend of midweek bows, Sony/Revolution's "White Chicks" opened on Wednesday, taking in $4.2 million from 2,412 locations.
Emphases mine. For those light on math, Chicks is being shown in nearly three times as many theaters as Fahrenheit.

But the most relevant comparison, for those keeping track, is to the box office performance of other documentaries in past years, a measuring stick for which the movie is set to obliterate all records.

Also, documentaries generally thrive on word-of-mouth, and not on blockbuster opening weekends.

Lastly, Dear Lee Rodgers,

You described Michael Moore this morning as a "fiction filmmaker".

I am very glad that you enjoyed Canadian Bacon so much, but you should be interested to know that he also makes fact-based documentaries. TFM suggests you see them before submitting an opinion. After that point, you may challenge whatever facts you like. Jerk.
Via Oliver, The Poor Man presents: Poker With Dick Cheney.

This is too funny.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Bill Clinton, My Life, page 183, on his early views of Hillary's politics:
What I liked about her politics was that, like me, she was both idealistic and practical. She wanted to change things, and she knew that doing so required persistent effort. She was as tired as I was of our side getting beat and treating defeat as evidence of moral virtue and superiority.

Reminds me of Ben Folds Five's "Fair": I'm lonely and I'm right.

(the preceding post was a gift to a special someone who's getting her wisdom teeth out this weekend)

David Sirota gathered some relevant quotes in light of Cheney's use of the F-word.

(For some reason CNN's crawler referred to Cheney as having "invoked" the word, as if it were some form of evidence in an argument. Please give me a break, guys.
TBOGG is all over the response to Clinton's book at Townhall.

Hint: They didn't read it.

I'm several chapters in, by the way.
$500,000 FINE!

Cheney to Leahy on the senate floor: "Go fuck yourself".
Vice President Dick Cheney blurted out the "F word" at Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont during a heated exchange on the Senate floor, congressional aides said on Thursday.

The incident occurred on Tuesday in a terse discussion between the two that touched on politics, religion and money, with Cheney finally telling Leahy to "f--- off" or "go f--- yourself," the aides said.

"I think he was just having a bad day," Leahy was quoted as saying on CNN, which first reported the incident. "I was kind of shocked to hear that kind of language on the floor."

"That doesn't sound like language the vice president would use but there was a frank exchange of views," said Cheney spokesman Kevin Kellems.
Really, Mister Kellems?

I seem to remember Vice Presidential candidate Cheney happily approving a Bush's characterization of a journalist as a "major league asshole". And I'm sure he didn't mind when Bush poked his head into Condi's office in March 2002 and said "Fuck Saddam! We're taking him out!"

And to have the blood pressure he has, he must bust out the sailor-talk every now and then.

Now, to be honest, I don't mind some good ol' swearin from time to time. But frankly, these guys are running out of areas in which they can say they "changed the tone".

Since he was on the Senate floor, did it get picked up by CSPAN? And if so, when's Michael Powell gonna knock on Dick's office door, waiting for his check?

"Persuasive and passionate. Fahrenheit 9/11 is both. It's also Michael Moore's best film." --Mick LaSalle
Ah good. The real NYT review of My Life, written by someone (Larry McMurtry) not on an anti-Clinton jihad, or closely affiliated with the American Spectator, or involved in breaking zippergate.
scotus punts again

Supreme Court Refuses to Order Cheney to Release Energy Papers:
The Supreme Court handed a major political victory to the Bush administration today, ruling 7 to 2 that Vice President Dick Cheney is not obligated, at least for now, to release secret details of his energy task force.

The majority of the justices agreed with the administration's arguments that private deliberations among a president, vice president and their close advisers are indeed entitled to special treatment — arising from the constitutional principle known as executive privilege — although they said the administration must still prove the specifics of its case in the lower courts.

"A president's communications and activities encompass a vastly wider range of sensitive material than would be true of any ordinary individual," the court said in a summary of the majority opinion written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

By sending the case back to the lower federal courts, the majority removed a significant political headache for President Bush and Vice President Cheney. As a practical matter, the outcome today means that the final resolution will not come until well after the November elections.
This case always reminded me of a bit on infidelity in Chris Rock's 1997 stand-up show Bring the Pain, in which the woman tells her man "I know you did it, just admit it!" We know that there were plenty of foxes in that henhouse of Cheney's when they were crafting the administration's energy policy, we were just trying to get a finalized list of names.

Would I have rathered that the decision went the other way? Of course. And a lower court might still force them to release the papers, albeit long after the November election.

And that's probably the point: This decision was another part of the Supreme Court's "punt at all costs" strategy for 2004: They're taking every precaution not to make a decision that could strongly affect the coming election, so as to ensure the greatest legitimacy possible for the November results, after what happened in 2000.

They punted big-time on the Pledge case, shooting it down on a technicality not related to the church-state debate. And now they're neutralizing any political implications from this one by sending it back to a lower court, delaying the full result of the situation until next year at least. And since the vote was 7-2 (with Stevens and Breyer joining the Florida Five in the affirmative), it's harder for us to complain about Scalia and his duck-hunting. But it wasn't a full victory for the administration, since the Justices agreed that Cheney still had to positively make his case in court in the future.

So basically it's a draw and we go on with our lives, for now. The Court neutralized two politically charged cases, one that could have helped Republicans by giving them a wedge issue ("under god") they could try to use against the Democrats, and one that could have hurt the administration by shedding more light on its strong connections to the Enrons and other various polluters of the country. I suppose it's a fair trade-off. I'd rather be talking about Iraq and terrorism anyway.

UPDATE: Good question from Kevin: "And just what is it about energy policy that the White House thinks ought to be kept secret, anyway? After all, it's not like national security or military policy was part of the discussion, right?"

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

passive blogger stalking

Well, no.

My sister's former public policy professor is off to give a talk at Esalen, longtime home of one of my older brothers.

Yes, I'm being passive stalked by a blogger who doesn't know me.

This coming from a guy (me) who pondered walking down the street immediately after reading this.

Oh btw I'm in Berkeley now. Down with Mumia! Free NAFTA! Wait, strike that, reverse it. (-:

Just over three weeks ago, I wrote in this post on the "kabuki dance" bewteen the US, the Iraqi Governing Council, and Brahimi:
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.
In the comments to that post, Jack from Tigerhawk, in the process of complimenting me on the post (it's rather kind to the administration, for once!) called my theory cynical and "a bit artful" if true.

But based on this bit from yesterday's David Ignatius column, it seems there was a dance of some sort, though not quite how I surmised:
The final challenge in the run-up to Iraqi sovereignty has been the selection of an interim government. This process was jointly managed by U.N. special representative Lakhdar Brahimi, Bush National Security Council official Robert Blackwill and U.S. occupation chief L. Paul Bremer.

In choosing an interim president, the three "B's" in Baghdad forwarded to Washington the names of two Sunnis on the Governing Council: Adnan Pachachi and Ghazi Yawar. The White House responded that either was acceptable. Hoping to boost Yawar's popularity with Iraqis by distancing him from Washington, his supporters leaked to American journalists a false report that Bush had decided on Pachachi. In fact, it was Brahimi who wanted Pachachi. When the 80-year-old Pachachi turned the job down, it went to Yawar by default.
Too bad Jack's on vacation right now.

Whether "his supporters" means IGC members or people involved with Bremer/Brahimi/etc isn't 100% clear from Ignatius' column, but the distinction isn't terribly meaningful, as they are at this point tentacles of the same octopus, and any two of those tentacles can tango. The point is the parties involved are trying to artificially distinguish the selection process for Iraq's transitional leaders from the preferences of the Bush administration.

Fasten your seatbelt for some high praise for the administration: This is the best thing they can do, given the circumstances, and given their objectives (i.e. getting Iraqi leaders who are friendly to US interests).

Unfortunately, that's where the praise ends. The given "circumstances" to which I refer are ones which the US 1) brought upon itself, and 2) could have easily predicted before the war began. And it certainly doesn't help that we've basically turned Muqtada al-Sadr into William Wallace with a political party, no matter what certain southern law professors say.

(note: I did get to the Ignatius column via Kaus who, interestingly enough, initially believed the kabuki-dance theory to be "cynical", just as Jack did)

UPDATE: Regardless of the fact that the interim government is basically the IGC reconstituted, if a majority of the Iraqi people think well of it, then that's a good development, possibly meaning this shadow puppetry is bearing fruit. Let's hope it stays that way, as Iraq is about to go through the gauntlet as never before since the occupation began.

Tuesday afternoon, the White House made a substantial document dump regarding torture policy. The release of these documents is both incomplete and self-serving for the administration, yet they will certainly go to some length to characterize this release as comprehensive, or at least indicative, content-wise, of most or all possible documents.

Anyone remember the last time they did something like this?

Sure you do: The revisiting of the Texas/Alabama National Guard story last February. The administration dumped a boatload of documents on the press, told them "this is everything we have", and the media ate it up. And it gave Matt Drudge a chance to write the headline "BUSH ORDERS FULL RELEASE". So it wasn't all bad, then.

Anyway, the "dump a bunch of stuff and just say it's everything, even if it isn't" strategy seemed to work like a charm.

That is, until Tuesday.
The Associated Press sued the Pentagon and the Air Force on Tuesday, seeking access to all records of George W. Bush's military service during the Vietnam War.

Filed in federal court in New York, where The AP is headquartered, the lawsuit seeks access to a copy of Bush's microfilmed personnel file from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in Austin.

The White House says the government has already released all the records of Bush's military service.

Controversy surrounds Bush's time in the Texas Air National Guard because it is unclear from the record what duties he performed for the military when he was working on the political campaign of a U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama.

There are questions as to whether the file provided to the news media earlier this year is complete, says the lawsuit, adding that these questions could possibly be answered by reviewing a copy of the microfilm of Bush's personnel file in the Texas archives.

The Air National Guard of the United States, a federal entity, has control of the microfilm, which should be disclosed in its entirety under the Freedom of Information Act, the lawsuit says.
Now I admit, I'm much more interested in discussing what George W Bush did from 2001 to 2004 than what he did in 1972 and 1973. But the juicy part of this story is the reaction and coverup as much as it is the history itself. (as in, why did they initially only give up some meaningless pay stubs and a dental record?)

But more importantly, if the Associated Press is wising up to the Bush mass-document-dump strategy, as shown by their lawsuit, why would the administration try the very same thing again A) at the same precise moment as the AP filing, and B) with information of much greater importance that could be easily shown as being selective and self-serving?

We'll see how this pans out. Anyway, it's past my bedtime. If you want to know more about the torture document release, this guy has a pretty comprehensive roundup.

UPDATE: Washington Post editorial, "A Partial Disclosure"

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

I'm trying to think. There must be someone out there . . . someone with a particularly unique perspective on the current efforts to attack Clinton as his book comes out . . . someone who's seen the other side, nay, who's been the other side. Oh yeah, Brock's all over it.
A gift for Vice President Cheney, from the good folks at the University of Virginia.

That's the best I can do. And of the two, only Saddam can be linked to Kevin Bacon.

Monday, June 21, 2004


Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader selected longtime Green Party activist Peter Camejo to be his running mate on Monday, a move sure to boost his chances of winning the Green Party's endorsement this week and its access to ballot lines in 22 states and the District of Columbia.

Camejo, an investment adviser from Folsom, Calif., had been one of two leading contenders for the Green Party's presidential nomination.

The announcement came in advance of the Green Party convention beginning Wednesday in Milwaukee. Nader, who ran as the Green Party candidate in 2000, is not seeking the party's nomination but he has pursued an endorsement from the third party.

"Camejo shares my concerns for economic and social justice as well as the urgent need to protect our environment," Nader said in a statement before introducing him at an afternoon news conference.

One Green Party leader said a Nader-Camejo ticket would have a very strong chance of winning the party's endorsement.

"This is an opportunity for Nader to make an overture to the party membership," said Ben Manski, one of five co-chairs of the Green Party. "I think it certainly would put him much more in the running but not a guarantee."
Dammit, I really like Peter Camejo. His performance in the California recall debates was very impressive, even though most of the other debating candidates treated him like he was Gary Coleman or the porn star, I forget her name.

If Nader does get the Green endorsement after the Camejo selection, that will certainly help his chances at ballot access in a whole slew of states, which is at least better than having to piggyback on extreme right-wing petitions.

As someone who first and foremost wants Bush gone, perhaps this news is distressing me more than it should. I live in California, and while Peter Camejo is a pretty well-known figure here, this does not hold as much in the rest of the country. To them, perhaps he's just another Admiral Stockdale.

Right about here is the point in every Nader post where I ponder whether or not I should go into some long thing about third parties, but this time I shall resist that urge.

Sunday, June 20, 2004


Via Schaller, the Washington Post has a story today by Alan Cooperman, suggesting that same-sex marriage may not be the devisive cultural wedge issue that some of its supporters -- including the president -- had hoped it would become.
Across the country, evangelical Christians are voicing frustration and puzzlement that there has not been more of a political outcry since May 17, when Massachusetts became the first state to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Evangelical leaders had predicted that a chorus of righteous anger would rise up out of churches from coast to coast and overwhelm Congress with letters, e-mails and phone calls in support of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

But that has not happened.

"Standing on Capitol Hill listening, you don't hear anything," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, one of the country's most vigorous Christian advocacy groups.

Perkins and other evangelical leaders contend that the outrage is out there. They say it has not been felt in Washington because defenders of traditional marriage are still in shock, or are focused on winning state constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage, or are distracted by the war in Iraq and other issues.

But a few skeptics on the Christian right, as well as many on the Christian left, are beginning to conclude that there is more fervor for a constitutional amendment in America's pulpits than in its pews. And politicians of both parties say the issue has had less grass-roots sizzle than they had expected.

"So far, it's really been a top-down issue," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), a strong opponent of gay marriage who has used his chairmanship of a Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution to hold three hearings on the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment.

Though he is convinced that gay marriage is going to be a "huge" issue, Cornyn said, "what it's going to take is some more bottom-up concern about whether people are losing control of their lives."

Senate Republican leaders said last week that they plan to bring the amendment to a vote in mid-July, a move that evangelicals hope will energize supporters around the country even though the amendment appears headed for defeat. Despite President Bush's endorsement, it is at least 15 votes short of the 67 needed for passage in the Senate, congressional staffers said.
There's plenty more there too, so read.

So the Republicans think that the wedge can better be driven in mid-July, and that people will actually notice. Something tells me that the immediate aftermath of the June 30 transfer of "sovereignty" and John Kerry's running-mate choice are gonna take up a lot of the public's attention at that time. Middle America isn't going to spend much energy on this if they haven't already, especially for a vote that's doomed to fail anyway.

Basically, what worked to some extent in the 90's isn't working now. Extended periods of peace and economic expansion have a way of allowing the American people to relax enough on the big things so that they can get disproportionately riled up about the small things, blowjobs included. Cultural wedge issues don't work as well when the generally-accepted view is that things are not going well.

But going beyond the "do culture war strategies still work" angle, it is important to look at same-sex marriage itself. The problem for opponents of same-sex marriage is that it requires them to act like the Wizard of Oz and shout "pay no attention to that marriage behind the curtain!"

Look, religious conservatives, if you give and go to sermons arguing that allowing gay marriage would lead to the "downfall of western civilization", the apocalypse, and so on, you're setting your own trap. Marriage has been legal for all in Massachusetts for over a month now, and guess what? People are going about their lives quite nicely there, and nobody has yet been smote. All this after so much sound and fury from both sides (particularly the anti-gay right) beforehand. Same thing in Vermont: Howard Dean had to campaign in a bulletproof vest because of the death threats he received after he signed the nation's first civil union legislation, yet now in Vermont, life goes on.

And hey, Rush Limbaugh's steady stream of divorces continues unabated, regardless of developments in the same-sex marriage debate.

After this happens, no amount of strategically-timed votes, fiery sermons or transparently-timed Presidential news conferences can get the vast majority of Americans fully energized or mobilized on an amendment.