The Facts Machine

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

Saturday, September 18, 2004


What Kevin said.
The Navy's chief investigator concluded Friday that procedures were followed properly in the approval of Sen. John Kerry's Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals, according to an internal Navy memo.

Vice Adm. R.A. Route, the Navy inspector general, conducted the review of Kerry's Vietnam-era military service awards at the request of Judicial Watch, a public interest group. The group has also asked for the release of additional records documenting the Democratic presidential candidate's military service.

Judicial Watch had requested in August that the Navy open an investigation of the matter, but Route said in an internal memo obtained by The Associated Press that he saw no reason for a full-scale probe.

"Our examination found that existing documentation regarding the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals indicates the awards approval process was properly followed," Route wrote in the memo sent Friday to Navy Secretary Gordon England.

"In particular, the senior officers who awarded the medals were properly delegated authority to do so. In addition, we found that they correctly followed the procedures in place at the time for approving these awards."
In other words: Drop it.

Friday, September 17, 2004


Rasmussen polled the nation on Bush and Kerry's respective military service. The questions were framed in a "was the candidate's Vietnam-era service more admirable, less admirable, or about equally admirable to the service of others during that time period?" manner. The results?
Compared to Other Young Men of that Era, was Kerry's Military Service...

More honorable - 26%
Less Honorable - 23%
About the Same - 45%

Compared to Other Young Men of that Era, was Bush's Military Service...

More honorable - 8%
Less Honorable - 41%
About the Same - 46%
(emphasis mine, naturally)

It appears that Rasmussen has inadvertently shown that 8 percent of Americans are just as well-acquainted with a certain white powdery substance as Bush was when he was in the Guard.

Thursday, September 16, 2004


Those the right deemed nuts (Ritter), those the right deemed apologists for Saddam (Blix), the anti-CIA former Bush shill (Kay), and the current Bush shill (Duelfer) have all come to the same conclusion: No weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Stay tuned for doomsday reports from the administration about program-related activities...

USA TODAY reports on the new Gallup Poll:
President Bush has surged to a 13-point lead over Sen. John Kerry among likely voters, a new Gallup Poll shows. The 55%-42% match-up is the first statistically significant edge either candidate has held this year.


Now now, don't panic just yet, Sheila. In fact, Colorado is a swing state this time around, so we'll need you.

Anyway, USA Today's Susan Page notes that Gallup isn't the only one out there polling:
A Pew Research Center poll released Thursday shows a tighter contest. The survey, taken Saturday through Tuesday, gives Bush a statistically insignificant lead of 47%-46% among likely voters.
Yeah, that's this poll right here.

Of course, USA Today doesn't mention that another poll from Harris shows the race to be just as close as the Pew poll shows it to be. Gallup will need some friends before that poll gets taken as anything other than an outlier.

One more nugget from the USA Today recap:
Presidential candidates have won after trailing by similar margins. One was George W. Bush himself. In 2000, he was behind Al Gore by 10 points among registered voters in early October and then prevailed in the Electoral College, though he lost the popular vote.
I assume she's referring to an early october Gallup poll. The funny part is that another Gallup poll from two weeks before the election had Bush up by a baker's dozen. So either:

1) Al Gore can fall 23 points in 3 weeks and then come back to win the popular vote, or
2) Gallup doesn't have much of a track record at this stage in the game.

UPDATE: Chris Bowers at MyDD has more on Gallup.

UPDATE II: Oh, and Investors Business Daily had it tied a couple days ago.

UPDATE III: Via Steve Soto, we learn that Gallup oversamples Republicans. Oh I'm shocked.

That's how the National Intelligence Council thinks things are in Iraq:
A highly classified National Intelligence Estimate assembled by some of the government's most senior analysts this summer provided a pessimistic assessment about the future security and stability of Iraq.

The National Intelligence Council looked at the political, economic and security situation in the war-torn country and determined -- at best -- the situation would be tenuous in terms of stability, a U.S. official said late Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

At worst, the official said, were "trend lines that would point to a civil war." The official said it "would be fair" to call the document "pessimistic."
Before you say it, unlike before the war we have real intelligence on the ground that brought our establishment to this conclusion. And before you say it, no, the National Intelligence Council is not part of the elite media establishment.

And even the Green Zone may not be safe.

President Bush is "living in a fantasy world of spin," failing to tell U.S. troops or the American people the truth about the situation in Iraq, Democratic challenger John Kerry told National Guard veterans Thursday.

Two days after Bush addressed the same group, Kerry said of the president, "I believe he failed the fundamental test of leadership" by failing to level with the veterans.

"The president stood right where I'm standing and did not even acknowledge that more than 1,000 men and women have lost their lives in Iraq. He did not tell you that with each passing day we're seeing moref chaos, more violence, more indiscriminate killings," Kerry said in remarks prepared for delivery to the National Guard Association of the United States.

"You deserve a president who will not play politics with national security, who will not ignore his own intelligence while living in a fantasy world of spin, and who will give the American people the truth about the challenge our brave men and women face on the front lines," the Democratic senator said.
For the difference people identify between Bush and his father, one similarity holds: A chronic detachment from reality.

Two days, two new memes from the Kerry campaign. Bush the "excuse president", and and Bush the "out of touch president". Sure beats that previous line of his, no matter how true it is.

And along those lines, did Kerry listen to Krugman?
If Senator John Kerry really has advisers telling him not to attack Mr. Bush on national security, he should dump them. When Dick Cheney is saying vote Bush or die, responding with speeches about jobs and health care doesn't cut it.

Mr. Kerry should counterattack by saying that Mr. Bush is endangering the nation by subordinating national security to politics.
It looks like that's exactly what Kerry did today. Good.

But CNN seems to treat the arrival of hurricanes as if they were Elvis concert tours. Even the promo-voiceover guy cannot hold back his... glee at the situation.

Keep talkin' dirty to me, Big John:
Democratic candidate John Kerry blasted George W. Bush's "excuse presidency" on Wednesday and demanded that he take responsibility for the economy instead of playing victim.

"This president has created more excuses than jobs," Kerry told the Detroit Economic Club.


"The president wants you to believe that this record is the record of the victim of circumstances, the result of bad luck, not bad decisions," Kerry said. "Well, Mr. President, when it comes to your record, we agree -- you own it."


"His is the excuse presidency -- never wrong, never responsible, never to blame ... no, it's not our fault; no, there's nothing wrong; no, we can't do better; no, we haven't made a single mistake," Kerry said.
I would note that Reuters did not provide the context for Kerry saying "you own it". (That context being Bush's recent rhetoric about creating an "ownership society")

Also, the article includes one rather egregious error that I won't let stand, and I don't think Kerry would either:
At a rally later in Madison, Wisconsin, a fist-pumping Kerry took the stage to the cheers of thousands and the reverberating beat of Bruce Springsteen's "No Retreat, No Surrender."
Yes, the beat is indeed reverberating, but the song is called just "No Surrender". John would care because it's his favorite song, as he said during the debates last year. And I admit, he had Howard "Jaspora" Dean beat on that one.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


After the first day, I was no longer all that interested in the amateur document-analysis much of the righty blogosphere was conducting since CBS went public with the Killian memos.

Frankly, I didn't feel any need to listen to some of the same people who were all too eager to pimp various unsubstantiated claims about Iraq's WMD stockpiles, Saddam's attempts to buy uranium, and John Kerry's "unearned" medals, yet suddenly became meticulous forensic examiners when Dan Rather was involved. (On the one hand, John Kerry is responsible for manipulating the Navy into giving him awards. On the other hand, Bush couldn't have done anything wrong because "he got an honorable discharge!") I therefore resolved to wait it out until the dust settled a bit.

What's going on right now?

--Tonight Dan Rather interviewed Marian Carr Knox, secretary for Lt Col Jerry Killian, the fellow believed to have written the memos in question. Her stance on the issue is that while she believes the physical memos themselves are not authentic (she never typed them), the content of the documents is not only accurate, but similar to that found in other documents she did type. Her comments support the idea that the documents in question may have been recreations of actual documents with similar subject matter.

--Congressional Repubs attack CBS, essentially saying: "How dare Dan Rather and those bastards at 60 Minutes make conservatives on TV and the the internet get so worked up about the authenticity of a couple decades-old memos that didn't tell us anything we didn't already know, thereby causing the issue of Bush's service record to gain much more traction than it otherwise would have!"

--The origin of the documents, according to the Washington Post, has been traced to a Kinko's in Abilene, Texas. This is noteworthy because that origin may implicate Bill Burket, resident of nearby Baird, as the source of the documents. The deal on Burkett is that he has previously claimed that Bush's Guard record was "cleansed" (as in, some damaging bits were taken out) in 1997. For more on him, go here.

Ok, those are the bits of news on this matter that are relevant to me. My take? I'm guessing the specific documents in question will turn out not to be authentic documents. If that's the case, it looks as if CBS fucked up in that regard, and a spanking is in order.

Some people, though, think that Dan Rather should have done to him what Jim Caviezel had done to him by the Romans. (and I mildly enjoyed that movie) To them I'd offer a warning: The babies got their bottle, in that those specific documents may not have been written on early 70's typewriters. But tonight's interview of Ms Knox may bring people's eyes back on the ball, that the bigger issue is that Bush still got in through his connections, did not fulfill his obligations, refused a direct order, and has been lying in recent years about his service. Going on about a couple questionable documents is going to start looking very petty soon. But don't ask me, ask the White House.

And by the way, with Ms Knox, the Instapundits and Ratherbiased's and the Powerline's and their bretheren got exactly what they wanted: Dan Rather talked to someone on national television who said, rather bluntly, that the Killian memos as presented by CBS are not authentic. Note that the "they're fake!" crowd has focused pretty much exclusively on the fonts and spacing of the documents, while giving virtually no attention to their content, which Knox and others (like Scott McClellan) say is --gasp!-- consistent with other accounts of Bush's service record. Too bad for all them bloggers that Knox had to go and give them blueballs with that whole "I've typed up other memos with those sentiments" thing.

I will not post again on this until real news comes up.

John Kerry will be on Letterman monday.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


The consensus these days is that Bush is leading by a little bit.

But why?

Josh Marshall has one persuasive explanation: A "laq" of Iraq.
The president's campaign has managed to take Iraq out of the election debate.

Iraq remains ever-present, but as a rhetorical fixture, not a reality. Who's tougher; who's been consistent; who likes Saddam Hussein more, and so forth -- that's all there. The increasingly tenuous claim that Saddam Hussein had any relationship to Islamic terrorism -- that's there too.

But the actual Iraq war is nowhere to be found. Sunday was a disastrous day in Iraq, both for the Iraqis and for the American enterprise in Iraq.

But it garnered little attention here. The American death rate has creeped up as the occupation has continued. And to anyone who has eyes to see it, the entire American venture in Iraq has become a disaster of truly monumental proportions.
(Marshall adds all the relevant context in the remainder of his post, notably the reasons we went in the first place)

While it's not just this (I'll get to it), the shift in focus away from the situation on the ground in Iraq has been a net plus for Bush electorally, and has contributed to whatever lead he actually has. A number of factors have contributed to this shift. The "sovereignty"-transfer back in late June did serve to "Afghanize" media coverage of the Iraq war. And when the Bush campaign does talk about the Iraq war, they almost never talk about the objective progress being made (see: Bush convention speech). Instead, Bush's defense of the war is a two-pronged rhetorical assault that focuses on 1) framing his decision to go to war, largely upon the context at that time, in the most advantageous way possible, and 2) flowery "democracy" and "freedom" talk.

If Bush had to talk about objective reality in the context of the first prong, he'd have to seriously address the lack of WMD, and his running mate's Ahab-esque obsession with the idea that Saddam Hussein and Mohammed Atta played skee-ball together at a Chuck E Cheese's in Eastern Europe.

And if Bush had to talk about objective reality in the context of the second prong, he'd have to seriously address that large portions of western Iraq are not under control and are thus not nearly ready for democratic elections, and that even if we pulled off an election, four out of every five Iraqis want an Islamic state.

From a political standpoint I don't fault Bush for this strategy, he wants to get re-elected and this is pretty much the only way he can do that.

However, from a standpoint of decency, morality and well, reality, this is inexcusable. Bush wants the American electorate to judge him just on his decision-making process, and not on the actual results of his decisions. This coming from the leading face of the self-proclaimed "party of personal responsibility". We'll come back to this.

The other reason it's inexcusable to treat the Iraq war, or any war, like this is that doing so fundamentally ignores the human toll. My opinion -- and I've expressed this before on this blog -- is that support for a war cannot be fully processed in one's mind until one adjusts for the death and destruction involved. Without that, war becomes a video game -- or just "a game" as Republican congressional candidate Pete Sessions described it in a debate the other day.
And this is all a part of why Bush is ahead: He just goes around saying "Saddam bad, democracy good", and for whatever reason this alone works with some voters.

But there are two other reasons why Bush is ahead, or at least why Kerry can't overtake him right now:

1) Stupid bullshit. In August it was the lies of John O'Neill and his co-conspirators, and this month it's the amateur fontology of our friends on the right, regarding CBS News and the 1970's memos they found on Bush's guard service/lack thereof. I could get into the minutia of the debate over the authenticity of the memos, or I could point out that nobody has effectively rebutted Ben Barnes' account of how he got Bush into the "champagne wing" of the Guard, and I could even pat the right on the back for how easily they helped shift the focus of the reaction to the CBS story from Bush's service to typefaces. But I'm not going to do any of that. What I am going to say is this: When the American people are focused on the big issues, support for Bush creeps downward while Kerry's position improves. When Americans are focused on stupid bullshit, Bush's position improves, while Kerry falters. Hence the whispers that Bush may back out of one of the three debates.

This may be a winning strategy for Bush and his supporters, but not one I'd feel comfortable about if I were them when I went to sleep at night.


2) The fear fest convention. Boy, did I hear plenty from quite a few of my Democratic friends after the GOP convention, about how the Democrats should've hit harder against Bush. The premise for such sentiments was that Bush's convention helped him more than Kerry's convention helped Big John because the Republicans were on the offensive more than the Dems were. While a fair statement, I don't think that's why Bush got whatever bounce he did. The reason the RNC was viewed as effective is because the Republicans were willing to use blatant fear, vis a vis 9/11, as a weapon to get swing voters to support Bush. The Democrats were not willing to do that in Boston. Whether or not this is a choice between winning and sleeping at night is yet to be seen.

The entire Republican convention can be summed up in a couple sentences: "Remember 9/11? Weren't you scared? Good, now remember Bush with the bullhorn? Wasn't that great? Good, now vote for him!"

I do think John Kerry needs to be more aggressive in attacking Bush in the coming weeks, but I see no need for the Democrats to crassly cultivate and exploit fear.

Am I panicky about all this? NO! The realities of the Iraq war can only be avoided by certain people for so long, eventually they creep back into the mainstream. CBS memos and bittter, lying veterans cannot hog the first five minutes of newscasts forever, they will fade soon. The news cycle has ebbs and flows of trivialities and real focus on real issues; I'm glad we've reached the peak of a trivial phase now, hopefully that means our collective focus will become more substantial as the leaves begin to turn.

And the debates will help. If, however, after the third debate, the polls are the same and we're still talking about inanities, then yes, I will be concerned. Until next time, that's enough outta me for now.

The Onion tackles the lifting of the assault weapons ban through their man-on-the-street feature, and hilarity ensues:
"Hey, if I could turn the clock back to a time before titanium deer with full electronic countermeasures, I would. But face it, I need this Kalashnikov."
-Sam Li, electrician

When you hear some gun nut enthusiast or right-wing TV talking heads saying things like "oh, this was a stupid ban to begin with", remember: Most of these people support eliminating waiting periods, drastically downscaling background checks, and making gun-show loopholes the rule instead of the exception. And of course, some of those people go to gun shows and buy books like this one, but that's a whole 'nuther can of white supremacist worms.

Monday, September 13, 2004


Assault weapons ban lapses.

Uh... in your face, King of England!

More blogging later...

Since taking over as Governor of California 10 months ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger has shown bold leadership.

When the primary season came along, Arnold boldly... supported a couple of bond measures that effectively put off the inescapable budget crisis for a year.

When the budget stalled in Sacramento earlier this summer, Arnold boldly... supported a budget that borrowed even more money.

When Gavin Newsom took a stand for equal rights, Arnold boldly... agreed but refused to act on his principles.

Okay, okay, so maybe he hasn't shown bold leadership. And perhaps it's fair to say that the only thing he's done boldly in his tenure in Sac-town was to boldly lie about the presence of Soviet tanks in Austria and the debate schedule of the 1968 presidential campaign.

But at last, at long last, our musclebound, dinimutive Governor has finally made a bold, daring decision:
Having sex with corpses is now officially illegal in California after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill barring necrophilia, a spokeswoman said on Friday.

The new legislation marks the culmination of a two-year drive to outlaw necrophilia in the state and will help prosecutors who have been stymied by the lack of an official ban on the practice, according to experts.

"Nobody knows the full extent of the problem. ... But a handful of instances over the past decade is frequent enough to have a bill concerning it," said Tyler Ochoa, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law who has studied California cases involving allegations of necrophilia.

"Prosecutors didn't have anything to charge these people with other than breaking and entering. But if they worked in a mortuary in the first place, prosecutors couldn't even charge them with that," Ochoa said.
And they said Gray Davis was stiff.

(thanks to alex for the link)