The Facts Machine

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

Friday, July 09, 2004


The NY Times reports:
Military records that could help establish President Bush's whereabouts during his disputed service in the Texas Air National Guard more than 30 years ago have been inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon.


The destroyed records cover three months of a period in 1972 and 1973 when Mr. Bush's claims of service in Alabama are in question.

The disclosure appeared to catch some experts, both pro-Bush and con, by surprise. Even the retired lieutenant colonel who studied Mr. Bush's records for the White House, Albert C. Lloyd of Austin, said it came as news to him.

The loss was announced by the Defense Department's Office of Freedom of Information and Security Review in letters to The New York Times and other news organizations that for nearly half a year have sought Mr. Bush's complete service file under the open-records law.

There was no mention of the loss, for example, when White House officials released hundreds of pages of the President's military records last February in an effort to stem Democratic accusations that he was "AWOL" for a time during his commitment to fly at home in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.

Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director who has said that the released records confirmed the president's fulfillment of his National Guard commitment, did not return two calls for a response.
"Inadvertently destroyed"? As Smithers would say, "Honesty sir, you just don't put the effort into your schemes anymore."

But gee, "inadvertently destroyed" sure sounds familiar. Was this the same inadvertent destruction that caused the State Department to "inadvertently" leave a couple of months off its annual terrorism report for 2003, thereby drastically undercounting the number of terror attacks for that year?

If there's a bright side, it's that perhaps this is evidence that the Pentagon and the State Department have finally buried the hatchet and are sharing sources and methods with each other.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

The California NAACP is calling for the resignation of California Education Secretary Richard Riordan, because he told a Santa Barbara pre-schooler named Isis that her name meant "stupid dirty girl."

Hmm, hope nobody tells Riordan that his name means "dick"!

Anyway, look for the McClintockians to join the chorus of calls for his resignation, due to his being "too moderate".

UPDATE: The Smoking Gun has posted a video of Riordan making the comment in question. From watching it, it's clear that he's trying to make a joke, but either failed horribly to get it right, or was trying to say it with a sort of dry sarcasm on which kids of that age would never pick up. I don't think this is either earth-shattering or worthy of firing, even if it was mind-bogglingly stupid. And if we're gonna make a fuss over the comments of Education Secretaries, we should keep it on the federal level. You, however, are free to make up your own mind.

So said President Bush, yesterday, when asked what the difference was between Cheney and Democratic VP candidate John Edwards.

With that in mind, over at Pandagon, Ezra put together a cute little chart examining the relative qualifications of Edwards this year, and Bush in 2000. Go read now.

He gassed his own people! Uhh, someone gassed his own people without his prior knowledge or consent! (link via holden)
Evidence offered by a top CIA man could confirm the testimony given by Saddam Hussein at the opening of his trial in Baghdad Thursday that he knew of the Halabja massacre only from the newspapers.

Thousands were reported killed in the gassing of Iraqi Kurds in Halabja in the north of Iraq in March 1988 towards the end of Iraq's eight-year war with Iran. The gassing of the Kurds has long been held to be the work of Ali Hassan al-Majid, named in the West because of that association as 'Chemical Ali'. Saddam Hussein is widely alleged to have ordered Ali to carry out the chemical attack.

The Halabja massacre is now prominent among the charges read out against Saddam in the Baghdad court. When that charge was read out, Saddam replied that he had read about the massacre in a newspaper. Saddam has denied these allegations ever since they were made. But now with a trial on, he could summon a witness in his defence with the potential to blow apart the charge and create one of the greatest diplomatic disasters the United States has ever known.

A report prepared by the top CIA official handling the matter says Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the massacre, and indicates that it was the work of Iranians. Further, the Scott inquiry on the role of the British government has gathered evidence that following the massacre the United States in fact armed Saddam Hussein to counter the Iranians chemicals for chemicals.
The rest of the article provides more context for this claim, so check it out and see what you think. Basically one of the sticking points is that the type of gas used in the Halabja massacre was one the Iraqis were believed not to have, yet the Iranians had in abundance.

One thing the CIA official, Stephen C. Pelletiere, said was this:
Pelletiere says the United States Defence Intelligence Agency investigated and produced a classified report following the Halabja gassing, which it circulated within the intelligence community on a need-to-know basis. "That study asserted that it was Iranian gas that killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas," he wrote in The New York Times.

The agency did find that each side used gas against the other in the battle around Halabja, he said. "The condition of the dead Kurds' bodies, however, indicated they had been killed with a blood agent -- that is, a cyanide-based gas -- which Iran was known to use. "The Iraqis, who are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have possessed blood agents at the time."

Pelletiere write that these facts have "long been in the public domain but, extraordinarily, as often as the Halabja affair is cited, they are rarely mentioned."
(emphasis mine) Rarely mentioned, eh? No shit! I try to keep on top of things, yet this was the first time I heard about this. Big ups to our jingoistic media. Guys, telling the truth is patriotic, think about it.
Ohhh Kenny Boy, the Feds the Feds are caaaallling...

UPDATE: Whoa! I beat Roger Ailes to this idea by just six minutes. Still, you should check his version out, since he does the entire song.
"No, Kobe, clean elections" edition

The Golden State Warriors gave defensive-minded center Adonal Foyle a 5-year, $41.6 million dollar contract the other day.

The downside is from a sports angle: While Foyle is a hardworking, solid player, he is not a noteworthy offensive force. But with Eric Dampier likely to sign elsewhere, this is his chance.

Moving from sports to politics, there's a huge upside here: It's nice to know where a lot of that money is going to go.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


Bombshell in The New Republic:
This spring, the administration significantly increased its pressure on Pakistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman Al Zawahiri, or the Taliban's Mullah Mohammed Omar, all of whom are believed to be hiding in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan. A succession of high-level American officials--from outgoing CIA Director George Tenet to Secretary of State Colin Powell to Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca to State Department counterterrorism chief Cofer Black to a top CIA South Asia official--have visited Pakistan in recent months to urge General Pervez Musharraf's government to do more in the war on terrorism. In April, Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, publicly chided the Pakistanis for providing a "sanctuary" for Al Qaeda and Taliban forces crossing the Afghan border. "The problem has not been solved and needs to be solved, the sooner the better," he said.

This public pressure would be appropriate, even laudable, had it not been accompanied by an unseemly private insistence that the Pakistanis deliver these high-value targets (HVTs) before Americans go to the polls in November.
Let's stop there for a moment. Yes, their motivation in wanting to nab one of those guys before November is electoral, but I'm willing to cut them some slack there. Any administration of any party wouldn't mind being able to point to the capturing/killing of Bin Laden going into an election, and when everything is weighed, getting him or one of the others would be a net good thing.

If Gore or Clinton were President right now, either of them would have a strong interest in getting Bin Laden before the election. Of course, Gore and Clinton would have made a more concerted effort than Bush did to get Bin Laden two and a half years ago, since they would have listened to the recommendations of people like Richard Clarke to not wait two months to get ground troops into southeastern Afghanistan, and... ok let's have that discussion another time.

I stopped the excerpted paragraph early, maybe we should look at the rest of it:
...The Bush administration denies it has geared the war on terrorism to the electoral calendar. "Our attitude and actions have been the same since September 11 in terms of getting high-value targets off the street, and that doesn't change because of an election," says National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack. But The New Republic has learned that Pakistani security officials have been told they must produce HVTs by the election. According to one source in Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), "The Pakistani government is really desperate and wants to flush out bin Laden and his associates after the latest pressures from the U.S. administration to deliver before the [upcoming] U.S. elections." Introducing target dates for Al Qaeda captures is a new twist in U.S.-Pakistani counterterrorism relations--according to a recently departed intelligence official, "no timetable[s]" were discussed in 2002 or 2003--but the November election is apparently bringing a new deadline pressure to the hunt. Another official, this one from the Pakistani Interior Ministry, which is responsible for internal security, explains, "The Musharraf government has a history of rescuing the Bush administration. They now want Musharraf to bail them out when they are facing hard times in the coming elections." (These sources insisted on remaining anonymous. Under Pakistan's Official Secrets Act, an official leaking information to the press can be imprisoned for up to ten years.)
Again, other than the obvious complaint that they should have been seriously looking for Bin Laden in 2002 and 2003 (and 2001 for that matter), I can't get myself that worked up that the Bushies want to catch him before the election. However, I can, nay, WILL get worked up about this:
A third source, an official who works under ISI's director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed tnr that the Pakistanis "have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs before [the] election is [an] absolute must." What's more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: "The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington." Says McCormack: "I'm aware of no such comment." But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.


This is cynical, crass, and awful. Look, the horrors of September 11th were shared by all of us. The bringing to justice of those who masterminded the attack should be for all our sakes, and not for use by a political party with an eye on politically disadvantaging another patriotic political party. It's that simple. There is no comparable ploy of any sort on the Democratic side of the aisle, and don't come to me with quotes from Patty Murray, Cynthia McKinney, etc.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum thinks the money quote -- "twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July" -- sounds a little too perfect. Either way, we'll find out soon.

(Photo by AP)

I watched Jeopardy! for the first time in a while yesterday, and I finally got to see this Ken Jennings fellow that Rebecca posted about the other day.

By the way, I should note that I was a Teen Tournament tryout non-selectee in 1996, in my freshman year of high school. Having long hair, as I did back then (and do now), isn't necessarily a window to being telegenic. Also, the studio is a LOT smaller then the television cameras convey. And I kept the pen they gave us to take the qualifying test. But I digress...

In short, Jennings knows his shit. I think his other secret, though, is his reflexes with the clicker. Sure, his knowledge base is quite extensive, but it's not like the average two challengers they throw out there are doorknobs. It's likely that on a given question, all three contestants, or at least two of them, may know that, say, Franz Liszt* wrote the Faust Symphony. But the secret of Jeopardy champions, including Jennings, appears to be in the clicker: Somehow he always gets in first, even on the easiest questions.

It could be a matter of better reflexes, just as it was for that fellow who won a hundred grand by memorizing the sequences of lights on "Press Your Luck" back in the 80's. But perhaps Jennings has an added intimidation factor. If you're a challenger going up against a guy who's won 20+ straight games, it's possible you'll be a bit on edge, and your clicking reflexes may suffer. (Jeopardy keeps people who click too early from being able to answer the clue. At least that's how it worked in 96.)

Still, eventually Ken will bite the dust. Even if it means Alex Trebek announces categories like "Obscure Events in the Childhood of the Two Challengers" or "Hey Look Over There! MST3K Is On!" or something. Oh yeah, that's right, Rebecca mentioned he's a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan. Good for him, as I was a die-hard MiSTie for much of the mid-late 90's. Maybe if his next two challengers were Torgo and Mitchell, that would throw him off.

Oh, and I totally had him on Final Jeopardy last night. Captain Cook, dude!

* - First Rule of Jeopardy: When there is a category devoted to classical music, Franz Liszt will always be the answer to either the 4th or 5th clue.

Via DeLong, Jack Balkin has the definitive response to the Bush campaign's "First Choice" ad (viewable at One-Termer Central):
I see that Bush is now running an ad noting that McCain was Kerry's first choice for Vice-President.

The Dems should run an ad noting that Al Gore was the country's first choice for President.

Yes, that's funny, but I'm a man of discriminating taste when tasty irony is concerned. Couldn't we find something a little more, um, direct?

Turns out the answer is yes: Dick Cheney -- Bush's second choice.

Yep, that's right, via Kos, McCain himself, while making the morning news rounds in March, told multiple news outlets that Bush had asked him to be the VP candidate in 2000, but he refused.

And of course, let's not forget that Cheney was the head of Bush's VP search committee before becoming the nominee, meaning other candidates both 1) were considered (Ridge), and 2) turned Bush down (McCain).

Take it away, Death Cab for Cutie:

Ba baaaa, ba baaaa
Dick is the sound of settling!

Ok, that was strained.
The Onion notes some problems with Fahrenheit 9/11, notably that it "totally ruined that 'the roof is on fire' song for everyone".
The Murdoch Post corrects its error
Hoffmania is right that Air America screwed up royal by not having any live radio for the bulk of what may have been the most important day in John Kerry's candidacy to date. He also makes the obvious suggestion, that being to get some fill-in people, you know, like Rush and Hannity do. Hell, I'll do it! Sure, my speaking voice is a shade to nasal for radio, and I'd probably spend half the time plugging my music, but still, sign me up! I work cheap!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


(photo from AP)

Matt Drudge links to this with the headline:
ANNOUNCEMENT DAY: Editorial slamming Kerry was featured on official Edwards website!
I'm sorry -- well, no I'm not -- but what a nitwit. While the editorial does have a paragraph that's pretty hard on Kerry (as well as harsh paragraphs for all the other remaining candidates at the time), something tells me Edwards had a more compelling reason to feature the editorial: IT ENDORSED EDWARDS FOR PRESIDENT! Nice try, Matt.

How do I feel about Kerry tapping John Edwards for VP? In a word, great. I think it was Kerry's best possible choice for a variety of reasons. While it will be nice to see North Carolina become competitive (even if Kerry doesn't win it, Bush will have to expend more resources there now), I'm not all that big on the whole Southern thing. I mean, it's nice that with Edwards Kerry has a chance of being of being more competitive there, or at least helping Congressional candidates more effectively there. Still, in terms of the White House, 2000 showed that the Democrats can win without the South.

The biggest thing about Edwards is his natural ability to connect to audiences. I was never more excited today than when I pondered what Edwards' speech at this month's Democratic Convention will look and sound like. Not that anybody watches these conventions anymore, but still, he'll have an hour on primetime, interrupted only by raucous applause. The man is gonna electrify the Fleet Center. To say the least, that will be quite the contrast from 2000, with Lieberman's droopiness that makes Steven Wright look energetic by comparison.

Edwards' clarity, charisma and ability to connect will be the best thing ever to happen to the Kerry campaign's message. For more on that, I defer to Bill Saletan.

Lastly, there's the eventual VP debate with Cheney. Obviously, Edwards has a substantial charisma advantage over Vice President Go Fuck Yourself. But the problem is in the details: Too often during the Democratic Presidential debates, Edwards got a little lost on specifics in answering more esoteric questions. The original rationale for Bush tapping Cheney in 2000 was Cheney's "competence". Though it is worth wondering why that myth persists given everything since January 2001, it doesn't matter, Edwards needs to do his homework. The media will pounce on him if he makes any noticable errors. Of course, let's all remember the high standard to which our media held Governor Bush at this point.

For the next while, the programs of O'Reilly, Rush, Hannity etc will make very good "trial lawyer" drinking games. To which I happily respond: At least Edwards had a successful career before entering politics, which can't be said for some sitting Presidents I could mention.

Ok that's enough for now. Now let's all go laugh at the New York Post.
Tim Noah of Slate seems to agree with me about Barbara Ehrenreich, the temporary NYT columnist who deserves a permanent gig there.

I was thinking about staying up for the Veep pick, being on the West Coast and all, but I have summer classes that begin in mere hours, so nuts to that.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Dear Allen Fredrickson, photographer for Reuters,

What the fuck?


"I love the US. It is fixable, it can be unselfish."