The Facts Machine

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

Friday, July 22, 2005


At my MySpace music site ( you can now listen to a live performance of a new song of mine, "What's the Matter With Kansas?", from a recent appearance on KCSB. Yes, the song is based loosely on the Thomas Frank book of the same name. Also, keep in mind that this was recorded at 5 in the morning and I was on zero sleep, hence some slight guitar-flubbage at the beginning.

Enjoy the left-wing vitriol! Oh, and I say "gulag" in the song. You're just gonna have to deal with that. (:

Thursday, July 21, 2005

It would appear that some people didn't see AP's correction of the context of Wilson's quote.

He doesn't appear to be the only one.

(by the way, the title of this blog is a joke based on a misheard ACDC lyric, though I must admit I'm thinking of getting a new name)

Another setback for the Gropenfuhrer:
A Superior Court judge on Thursday kicked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting measure off the November ballot, ruling that supporters violated California's constitution by using two versions of the initiative in the qualifying process.

"The differences are not simply typographical errors," Judge Gail Ohanesian said. "They're not merely about the format of the measure. They are not simply technical. Instead they go to the substantive terms of the measure."

The proposal, Proposition 77, is one of three initiatives that the Republican governor endorsed for the Nov. 8 special election that he called last month. It would take the power to draw legislative and congressional districts away from the Legislature and give it to a panel of three retired judges.

Margita Thompson, spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger, said the governor was disappointed in the decision and hoped that it would be overturned on appeal.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer asked the judge to order the measure off the ballot because its supporters used two versions — one to gather voter signatures and another that they gave to him to prepare a title and summary of the proposal to use on petitions.
The AP account notes that the author of the redistricting plan is one Ted Costa who, you may recall, was one of the Republicans initially behind the effort to recall Gray Davis.

Speaking of Gray Davis, Arnold sure is doing a good imitation of the Democrat through his poll numbers.
Ann Coulter, plagiarist?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Late last week we learned how Valerie Plame's identity found its way into the Bush administration, through a State Department Memo that was passed around Air Force One in the days prior to Rove and Libby talking to Cooper, Novak, etc. Rove's cover story is that he learned about Plame from "reporters", the names of which he is suspiciously hazy about (given that he has a reputation for having a very sharp mind).

In tomorrow's Washington Post, it will be revealed that the State Department memo was marked as secret:

A classified State Department memorandum central to a federal leak investigation contained information about CIA officer Valerie Plame in a paragraph marked "(S)" for secret, a clear indication that any Bush administration official who read it should have been aware the information was classified, according to current and former government officials.

Plame -- who is referred to by her married name, Valerie Wilson, in the memo -- is mentioned in the second paragraph of the three-page document, which was written on June 10, 2003, by an analyst in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), according to a source who described the memo to The Washington Post.

The paragraph identifying her as the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was clearly marked to show that it contained classified material at the "secret" level, two sources said. The CIA classifies as "secret" the names of officers whose identities are covert, according to former senior agency officials.

Anyone reading that paragraph should have been aware that it contained secret information, though that designation was not specifically attached to Plame's name and did not describe her status as covert, the sources said. It is a federal crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for a federal official to knowingly disclose the identity of a covert CIA official if the person knows the government is trying to keep it secret.

Prosecutors attempting to determine whether senior government officials knowingly leaked Plame's identity as a covert CIA operative to the media are investigating whether White House officials gained access to information about her from the memo, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.
Note the page number for the article (A01). Looks like Bush's deliberately moving up the timing of his SCOTUS nominee bought him (and Rove) a reprieve of . . . about 36 hours. I think they're losing their touch.

Bitch PhD looks at John Roberts' record to answer the question of whether that lovely anti-Roe brief he co-wrote has anything to do with judicial decisions he might make in the future.

Rest in peace, Scotty.
The Canadian-born Doohan fought in World War II and was wounded during the D-Day invasion, according to the Web site. He was enjoying a busy career as a character actor when he auditioned for a role as an engineer in a new space adventure on NBC in 1966. A master of dialects from his early years in radio, he tried seven different accents.

"The producers asked me which one I preferred," Doohan recalled 30 years later. "I believed the Scot voice was the most commanding. So I told them, 'If this character is going to be an engineer, you'd better make him a Scotsman.' "
And there's a bit more about his military experience:
At 19, James escaped the turmoil at home by joining the Canadian army, becoming a lieutenant in artillery. He was among the Canadian forces that landed on Juno Beach on D-Day. "The sea was rough," he recalled. "We were more afraid of drowning than the Germans."

The Canadians crossed a minefield laid for tanks; the soldiers weren't heavy enough to detonate the bombs. At 11:30 that night, he was machine-gunned, taking six hits: one that took off his middle right finger (he managed to hide the missing finger on screen), four in his leg and one in the chest. The chest bullet was stopped by his silver cigarette case.
Wow. I never noticed that about his hand. Well, I guess I have no choice but to induct him into the Fat Gray-Haired Guys With Missing Right Middle Fingers Hall of Fame, joining you-know-who.
Glad to see that TBogg had the same reaction to John Tierney's latest column that I had.
"Moral values", I guess?

Absolutely horrible.

It's a guarantee that we're going to learn a lot about John G Roberts in the coming days, both in the "facts" fashion and in the "spin" variety. There will be a lot said about him, many lines of both defense and attack from both sides. But let's put one of those attacks in perspective, shall we?

Both Digby and Chris Bowers call Roberts a partisan hack, and to support this position both of them cite his involvement with the Bush-Cheney legal team during the Florida recount saga in 2000.

Okay that's true. And there will be plenty of evidence linking him to GOP hackery, the least of which being his close association with Ken Starr.

But if it's alright, I'd like to point out that Roberts has been nominated to replace Sandra Day O'Connor who, if you recall, was the 5th and deciding vote in Bush v Gore, effectively handing George W Bush the presidency, and inspiring not one but two books by famous attorneys on how awful and unamerican that decision really was.

Okay, feathers ruffled, time for bed.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


11 former CIA agents wrote a letter to House and Senate leaders from both parties providing some much-needed clarification regarding Valerie Plame's NOC status pre-Rove, in the process taking Michael Medved, John Gibson and Roy Blunt over their collective knee for their ignorant nonsense.
The fact is that there are thousands of U.S. intelligence officers who “work at a desk” in the Washington, D.C. area every day who are undercover. Some have official cover, and some have non-official cover. Both classes of cover must and should be protected.

While we are pleased that the U.S. Department of Justice is conducting an investigation and that the U.S. Attorney General has recused himself, we believe that the partisan attacks against Valerie Plame are sending a deeply discouraging message to the men and women who have agreed to work undercover for their nation’s security.

We are not lawyers and are not qualified to determine whether the leakers technically violated the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act. However, we are confident that Valerie Plame was working in a cover status and that our nation’s leaders, regardless of political party, have a duty to protect all intelligence officers.
Link via Marshall.

There you have it.

Like Clement earlier in the day, Roberts has been described by the cable news bobbleheads as "a blank slate" with "little to no paper trail". Also, in 2003 he was confirmed to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, with a number of prominent Democrats voting for him. However, Appellate court confirmations and SCOTUS confirmations are different beasts altogether, and the pie bar is, indeed, higher.

If you're a worried liberal, fear not . . . er, actually, fear. Our new friend Mr Roberts, with whom we'll all soon be well acquainted, is a darling of the Federalist Society (of which he is a member).

And of course we have to get to reproductive rights. Roberts has contradicted himself in the past:
Unlike some possible Supreme Court nominees, Roberts, 50, is considered low-key and has generally avoided weighing in on disputed social issues.

Abortion rights groups, however, have maintained that he tried during his days as a lawyer in the first Bush administration to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion.

Roberts did co-write a brief that stated, "We continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled." Pressed during his 2003 confirmation hearing for his own views on the matter, Roberts said: "Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land. ... There's nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent."
Well, he's in a position to overturn it now if the right case comes up. Which prominent statement will come out on top? Bill Frist and his buddies will have to forgive me when I say that this is a very reasonable line of questioning to pursue during confirmation hearings.

By the way, RoveGate pretty much guaranteed that Bush was going to pick a Scalia-esque conservative judge. By nominating such a person, Bush has set the stage for a large-scale political battle, waged by reproductive rights advocates and the evangelical right, probably regardless of Roberts explanations for his contradictory statements on abortion. Bush wants to suck the air out of the Rove story, and he thinks this is the way to do it.

The problem with such strategery? It assumes that RoveGate is fueled by the Democrats and Rove's political opponents. Rove's apologists have repeated the phrase "Democratic smear campaign" so many times that they believe their own hype. The only reason this story really ever flares up is because of developments in the investigation, and hard journalism. In the end, Karl Rove is still fucked, for while he and Bush can change the subject for a little while, they can't slow down Pat Fitzgerald's investigation. They're afraid, they moved up a huge decision because of their fear, they selected a potentially polarizing figure because of it, and they're nowhere near out of the woods.

Bush to announce his nominee in a primetime speech. His recent primetime speeches have had two problems, the first being that very few people have been watching them, and the second that he hasn't really said anything newsworthy in the last few. I can see NBC's future: "we interrupt the President's primetime address to bring you this XFL rerun..."

It's funny waking up and seeing that all the news networks are in frenzied speculation over someone they had never even mentioned in the last three weeks of frenzied speculation.

The name being thrown around is Edith Brown Clement, and apparently her record doesn't give us much to go on. Man, if he picks her and she goes all Souter on Dubya, there's gonna be trouble.

And about the timing of the nomination, which was moved up at least a week . . . I wonder which of Bush's senior advisers came up with that idea?

UPDATE: Ezra Klein...
[T]hat the Rove mess has thrown the White House off schedule with the Supreme Court is about as good as it gets. The less they dictate the news cycle, the less they decide the timing, and the less they can do things according to plan, the better off Democrats are in the upcoming battle. The smart thing now would be to cut Rove loose, stop the bleeding, and reassert control over the Court fight. That Bush is instead trying to speed up the nomination to force Rove out of the news cycle is a very good thing.
Also, Nathan Newman has a lot more on Clement, and from what he's got it's pretty clear she's no Souter.

DOUBLE SUPER SECRET UPDATE: Or someone else, perhaps?
Sy Hersh on the Iraqi elections last January:
The January 30th election in Iraq was publicly perceived as a political triumph for George W. Bush and a vindication of his decision to overturn the regime of Saddam Hussein. More than eight million Iraqis defied the threats of the insurgency and came out to vote for provincial councils and a national assembly. Many of them spent hours waiting patiently in line, knowing that they were risking their lives. Images of smiling Iraqis waving purple index fingers, signifying that they had voted, were transmitted around the world. Even some of the President’s harshest critics acknowledged that he might have been right: democracy, as he defined it, could take hold in the Middle East. The fact that very few Sunnis, who were dominant under Saddam Hussein, chose to vote was seen within the Administration as a temporary setback. The sense of victory faded, however, amid a continued political stalemate, increased violence, and a hardening of religious divides. After three months of bitter sectarian infighting, a government was finally formed. It is struggling to fulfill its primary task: to draft a new constitution by mid-August.

Whether the election could sustain its promise had been in question from the beginning. The Administration was confronted with a basic dilemma: The likely winner of a direct and open election would be a Shiite religious party. The Shiites were bitter opponents of Saddam’s regime, and suffered under it, but many Shiite religious and political leaders are allied, to varying degrees, with the mullahs of Iran. As the election neared, the Administration repeatedly sought ways—including covert action—to manipulate the outcome and reduce the religious Shiite influence. Not everything went as planned.
Uh oh. Read the rest for more.

House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, yesterday on Face the Nation (transcript -pdf file):
It certainly wouldn't be the first time that the CIA might have been overzealous in sort ofmaintaining the kind of top-secret definition on things longer than they needed to...

SCHIEFFER: Let me just interrupt here. Are you saying that the CIA took this too seriously?

Rep. BLUNT: I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is I think often the CIA classifies things as top secret that really don't need to be top secret. This could very well be a time when they have continued to call an agent a covert agent long beyond the time when she would have met the statute.
Forget that this is the rhetorical equivalent of "got nuthin'". As I've mentioned before, this points to a fundamental unseriousness on the part of Bush apologists when it comes to national security, especially when it intersects with politics.

Whether or not you accept Blunt's general argument about the CIA, wouldn't you say that at a time like this -- any time really -- that the identity of a CIA agent working in the field of WMD PROLIFERATION would probably be a good thing to keep clandestine? Given that we're in a war started over weapons of mass destruction? But nevermind all that important stuff, it's time to protect our political allies!

I simply do not trust these people to keep Americans safe.

Monday, July 18, 2005


"If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration." -Bush, today

...Sooo, effective noon tomorrow?

Kudos to TigerHawk (and by extention, to Hugh Hewitt) for his (and his) strong denunciation of House International Relations Committee member Tom Tancredo's suggestion that in the event of a nuclear attack against us by Islamic terrorists, we nuke Mecca.

My former tangential relationship with the Berkeley blogosphere has given me a certain unpleasant intimacy with Tancredo. Not that I've read those guys in months, but I'm sooo sure Tanky's quote will go over well in Iowa and New Hampshire. Eh...

But back to the TigerHawk post. In contrast to Jack being, well, sane, there's this from "The Apologist" in his comments:
I heard a portion of this interview on the radio and it was my impression that Tancredo was talking about how you disuade Al Qaeda from using the weapons if they have them. A kind of M.A.D. for jihadis. I don't think he was talking about simple revenge. Also he was very carful to couch it explicitely in hypothetical terms.
Oh, ok, that makes it all better. See, he wasn't talking about an actual bombing we've already undertaken, but rather just something we should do. And Tancredo was saying we should call the Islamic terrorists' bluff by doing the one thing that would not only turn the entire Islamic world, but also the bulk of Europe and Asia against us! Yeah, war of ideas indeed.

Reminds me of Ann Coulter's Observer interview from a few years back, when she said, famously,
My only regret with Tim McVeigh is that he didn't go to the New York Times building.
Which was bad enough, until she explained her comment when the interviewer warned her to 'be careful':
You're right, after 9/11 I shouldn't say that.
Quick, what's wrong with that?

I remember bloggers who would claim to be sane people defending her remark based on that qualifier.

(And by the way, Tancredo's idea is worse than anything Michael Moore has ever said. And Tom is in Congress)

(UPDATE: Also worse than anything Dick Durbin said.)
George Bush, flip flopper.

Of course, his current statement, the one that is "operative", is meaningless. If you're convicted of leaking such information, you're probably going to jail, and it would be mighty hard to work for the White House from a jail cell.

So really, what Bush is saying is "Short of the feds dragging them out of the building, I'm not firing anybody." Shows just what a flipflop this really is.

UPDATE: The folks at TPM Cafe discuss the implications of Bush's bold new "No Felons" policy. I suppose this is what he meant in 2000 when he said he'd "restore honor and integrity" to the White House.

From ABC News:
Just a quarter of Americans think the White House is fully cooperating in the federal investigation of the leak of a CIA operative's identity, a number that's declined sharply since the investigation began. And three-quarters say that if presidential adviser Karl Rove was responsible for leaking classified information, it should cost him his job.

Skepticism about the administration's cooperation has jumped. As the initial investigation began in September 2003, nearly half the public, 47 percent, believed the White House was fully cooperating. That fell to 39 percent a few weeks later, and it's lower still, 25 percent, in this new ABC News poll.

This view is highly partisan; barely over a tenth of Democrats and just a quarter of independents think the White House is fully cooperating. That grows to 47 percent of Republicans — much higher, but still under half in the president's own party. And doubt about the administration's cooperation has grown as much among Republicans — by 22 points since September 2003 — as it has among others.

There's less division on consequences: 75 percent say Rove should lose his job if the investigation finds he leaked classified information. That includes sizable majorities of Republicans, independents and Democrats alike — 71, 74 and 83 percent, respectively.

If you haven't already, you really should read Frank Rich's sunday column, "Follow the Uranium". He warns us not to get too caught up in the supporting characters in the CIA leak case, noting not only where the buck stops but also where the scandal truly originates:
[W]e shouldn't get hung up on [Rove] - or on most of the other supposed leading figures in this scandal thus far. Not Matt Cooper or Judy Miller or the Wilsons or the bad guy everyone loves to hate, the former CNN star Robert Novak. This scandal is not about them in the end, any more than Watergate was about Dwight Chapin and Donald Segretti or Woodward and Bernstein. It is about the president of the United States. It is about a plot that was hatched at the top of the administration and in which everyone else, Mr. Rove included, are at most secondary players.

To see the main plot, you must sweep away the subplots, starting with the Cooper e-mail. It has been brandished as a smoking gun by Bush bashers and as exculpatory evidence by Bush backers (Mr. Rove, you see, was just trying to ensure that Time had its facts straight). But no one knows what this e-mail means unless it's set against the avalanche of other evidence, most of it secret, including what Mr. Rove said in three appearances before the grand jury. Therein lies the rub, or at least whatever case might be made for perjury.
If that sounds familiar to you, then you're right, but we'll get to that. What about Joe Wilson?
This case is not about Joseph Wilson. He is, in Alfred Hitchcock's parlance, a MacGuffin, which, to quote the Oxford English Dictionary, is "a particular event, object, factor, etc., initially presented as being of great significance to the story, but often having little actual importance for the plot as it develops." Mr. Wilson, his mission to Niger to check out Saddam's supposed attempts to secure uranium that might be used in nuclear weapons and even his wife's outing have as much to do with the real story here as Janet Leigh's theft of office cash has to do with the mayhem that ensues at the Bates Motel in "Psycho."
And the rub?
This case is about Iraq, not Niger. The real victims are the American people, not the Wilsons. The real culprit - the big enchilada, to borrow a 1973 John Ehrlichman phrase from the Nixon tapes - is not Mr. Rove but the gang that sent American sons and daughters to war on trumped-up grounds and in so doing diverted finite resources, human and otherwise, from fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. That's why the stakes are so high: this scandal is about the unmasking of an ill-conceived war, not the unmasking of a C.I.A. operative who posed for Vanity Fair.


Once we were locked into the war, and no W.M.D.'s could be found, the original plot line was dropped with an alacrity that recalled the "Never mind!" with which Gilda Radner's Emily Litella used to end her misinformed Weekend Update commentaries on "Saturday Night Live." The administration began its dog-ate-my-homework cover-up, asserting that the various warning signs about the uranium claims were lost "in the bowels" of the bureaucracy or that it was all the C.I.A.'s fault or that it didn't matter anyway, because there were new, retroactive rationales to justify the war. But the administration knows how guilty it is. That's why it has so quickly trashed any insider who contradicts its story line about how we got to Iraq, starting with the former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill and the former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke.

Next to White House courtiers of their rank, Mr. Wilson is at most a Rosencrantz or Guildenstern. The brief against the administration's drumbeat for war would be just as damning if he'd never gone to Africa. But by overreacting in panic to his single Op-Ed piece of two years ago, the White House has opened a Pandora's box it can't slam shut. Seasoned audiences of presidential scandal know that there's only one certainty ahead: the timing of a Karl Rove resignation. As always in this genre, the knight takes the fall at exactly that moment when it's essential to protect the king.
(emphasis mine) The irony of the right's attacks on Joe Wilson is that when placed against the background of the CIA leak case in general, they may remind you of the Niger uranium claim as compared to the administration's total case for the existence of Iraqi WMD. Except that the Bush defenders have made contradictory arguments. In the case of Wilson, they trash him specifically with the intent of delegitimizing and undermining the investigation against the leakers, saying no crime was committed because . . . because Wilson is a poopoo-head. Yet when the "16 words" lie was brought to the public's attention, the choice defense of the administration by its apologists was that regardless of the uranium claim, it was part of an extensive, rich tapestry, just a thread in an ocean of evidence that Saddam had WMD.

What the the facts show is that these positions should be flip-flopped. What Joe Wilson says and does has precisely zero bearing on Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation. Whether or not he enjoys being on camera, whether of the video or Vanity Fair variety, makes no difference. What matters is that someone leaked the identity of a CIA operative. Wilson's July 6 opinion column could be lies from start to finish (it isn't) and it still wouldn't matter.

On the flip-side, the administration's response to the revelation that its claims about Saddam and uranium weren't true is very telling about their opinion of their own case for the existence of Iraqi WMD in general. There were the weeks of buck-passing (It was Tenet's fault! No, Rice! No Tenet! Hadley! Cambone! Oh my!), the tortured parsing of the statement to hide behind meaningless technical veracity, and of course, the hatchet-flyswat that was the revenge leaks against Joe Wilson and his wife. This grotesque display of defensiveness speaks not only to the absolute politicization of just about everything by this administration, but also to the fatal flimsiness of their WMD case on the whole. Exact massive retaliation against Joe Wilson, not only to punish him for speaking out, but also in the hope that others won't come forward and uncover the rest of their deceptions. Sy Hersh and Richard Clarke as the notable exceptions, this strategy worked; they generally kept people away from the truth long enough to change the rationale for the war about six times.

The problem is, this was an expedient short-term strategy that dooms them in the long run, one in which the chickens are hard-wired to come to roost eventually, in the form of impending criminal indictments.

I'm inclined to agree with Rich's assertions about Rove in the final paragraph of his piece... to a point. It may very well come to sacrificing Rove for the good of the administration, but he is a character in this saga who has no true parallel to any from Watergate. His work is more closely tied to Bush's political fate, and has been since the early 1990's, than any advisor was to Richard Nixon's. If he stays, he may be a visible liability electorally for Bush, but under the surface he is, and always has been key to Bush's success, as well as that of othe Republicans for a long time. Even if Texans knew him in 1986 like they do now, his dirty trick in that year's gubernatorial race (bugging his own office and blaming it on the Democratic incumbent governor) still would have worked. If Rove goes, it will be because Bush (and others) made a decision that public Rove is more harmful to him politically than private Rove is helpful.

What is really at stake here -- and it will become more clear as time goes by -- is not the mere legal fate of Karl Rove or Scooter Libby or any other Bush underling. It is about pulling back the curtain, and exposing the Mayberry Machiavellis for what they are and for what they've done. The politicization of everything. Compromising national security for the purpose of political revenge. And perhaps most damning of all, the administration's unseriousness about national security.

Consider: The unseriousness that allowed Bush, Rove & co. to out Valerie Plame, an operative working on WMD nonproliferation (exposing CIA front company Brewster-Jennings in the process) without a care for the national security implications is the same unseriousness they had about Iraq's supposed weapons. Remember, when they were looking for them, the motives of the administration and its allies amounted to wanting to be proved right; if they really believed the weapons existed, they would have shown a lot more concern that they had gone missing. There was no such concern from the Bushites, only a desire to zing the naysayers. For them, politics is the only seriousness.

This sort of attitude starts at the top; Rove may have a hand in this, but in the end it's laid at the feet of George W Bush. And now begins their collapse under the weight of their own folly. The polls are showing that people don't buy their guff anymore. The law may soon follow.

I'm in a Yahoo Fantasy NFL league, and we still have 7 open spots, drop me a line if interested. Our draft is currently scheduled for August 1 at 7:45pm eastern, but Yahoo will autodraft for those who can't make it.

For you old-school Nintendo fans, my current team name is "10-Yard Fight".

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Mark Kleiman sums up the new info from Matt Cooper's Time story.

UPDATE: And Digby discusses some related issues.

UPDATE: And Billmon.

I think I have an explanation for Karl Rove telling Matt Cooper "I've already said too much"

("I thought that I heard you leaking...")