The Facts Machine

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

Friday, March 24, 2006


This has the ring of somebody who hasn't read the charges. How sweet, I suppose.


UPDATE II: Kudos -- rare kudos -- to Michelle Malkin for dealing with this (somewhat) seriously. Apparently our recently-departed wingnut man-boy edited one of her books at Regenry. Huh?

Forever ever? forever ever?

From Friday's LA Times:
Even as military planners look to withdraw significant numbers of American troops from Iraq in the coming year, the Bush administration continues to request hundreds of millions of dollars for large bases there, raising concerns over whether they are intended as permanent sites for U.S. forces.

Questions on Capitol Hill about the future of the bases have been prompted by the new emergency spending bill for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives last week with $67.6 billion in funding for the war effort, including the base money.

Although the House approved the measure, lawmakers are demanding that the Pentagon explain its plans for the bases, and they unanimously passed a provision blocking the use of funds for base agreements with the Iraqi government.

"It's the kind of thing that incites terrorism," Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said of long-term or permanent U.S. bases in countries such as Iraq.

Paul, a critic of the war, is co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill that would make it official policy not to maintain such bases in Iraq. He noted that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden cited U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia as grounds for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The debate in Congress comes as concerns grow over how long the U.S. intends to keep forces in Iraq, a worry amplified when President Bush earlier this week said that a complete withdrawal of troops from Iraq would not occur during his term.

Associated Press, March 20:
The concrete goes on forever, vanishing into the noonday glare, 2 million cubic feet of it, a mile-long slab that's now the home of up to 120 U.S. helicopters, a "heli-park" as good as any back in the States.

At another giant base, al-Asad in Iraq's western desert, the 17,000 troops and workers come and go in a kind of bustling American town, with a Burger King, Pizza Hut and a car dealership, stop signs, traffic regulations and young bikers clogging the roads.

At a third hub down south, Tallil, they're planning a new mess hall, one that will seat 6,000 hungry airmen and soldiers for chow.

Are the Americans here to stay? Air Force mechanic Josh Remy is sure of it as he looks around Balad.

"I think we'll be here forever," the 19-year-old airman from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., told a visitor to his base.

The Iraqi people suspect the same. Strong majorities tell pollsters they'd like to see a timetable for U.S. troops to leave, but believe Washington plans to keep military bases in their country.
What follows is a discussion of the semantic differences between "permanent" and "long-term". One relevant similarity seems to hold: "as long as Bush is calling the shots".

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Oh, it's just the classic story, isn't it?

Washington Post hires wingnut man-boy to write "Red America" blog.

And then we find out that he's...

...a plagiarist...

...a plagiarist...

...a plagiarist...

...and finally, a plagiarist.


Maybe the Post should hire this guy. (:

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Over at Dkos, mcjoan quotes Joe Lockhart, who says the following about Feingold's censure resolution:
[Lockhart] sees no political downside to Senator Feingold's proposal--and likewise sees much desperation in the Republican spin that it would be another self-inflicted Democratic wound that would haunt the minority party in the fall elections. All the G.O.P. bluster about an early vote on the Feingold proposal to smoke out weak-sister Democrats for elimination in November, Mr. Lockhart said, "is complete nonsense."

He said: "One simple rule of politics is that the more ferociously you're pushing your talking points, the less you believe in them. The Republicans jumping so hard on this tells you that they believe they're in a really vulnerable position--that this issue is not the winner they thought it was."
Exactly. Perhaps the words "cornered, wounded animal" have some meaning in this situation?

But the problem is bigger than that. Every time a Democrat or group of Democrats does something aggressive -- Reid shuts down the Senate, Feingold calls for censure, opposition to Alito's confirmation, even Murtha calling for withdrawl from Iraq -- it's a sure bet that there will be a cadre of self-styled "sensible Democrats" (the Klein/Kaus/Beinart/DLC/BullMoose sort) ready to tell us via TV, print and the internet that such aggressive tactics are tantamount to political suicide for the party.

If a prominent Republican is about to be indicted (as is often the case these days!), they are the ones with their ears to the ground, ready to bleat about whatever bits of glee or schaudenfraude they think they hear. Ready to lecture us about how "bad for the country" they think we are.

And where does this leave us? Well, most of the Senate minority runs for cover in precisely the sort of situation as the one Joe Lockhart talks about. Fear in the face of aggression.

I'd like to talk, for a minute, about how this is caused, and how the dividing lines on how elected Democrats react to fiery Republican rhetoric are more blurry than just "liberal" and "moderate".

The problem for many Democrats is that they've bought into "The Myth of 'The Moment'", the idea that in a favorable political climate, they have one, and only one chance to use this climate to their advantage with the American people.

Everyone, from Kucinich to From, agrees that the current political conditions are favorable for Democrats, and are comparably unfavorable for Republicans and, especially, President Bush. The President's numbers are in the mid-to-low 30's, and the generic congressional polls are giving the Democrats a double-digit edge over their GOP counterparts. Iraq is a mess, and the American people know it. Government corruption has reared its ugly head more prominently lately, and the vast majority of its shadow is cast over the elephant and not the donkey (Abramoff, DeLay, Cunningham, and a whole host of supporting characters).

And yet, in spite of such a preponderance of evidence that the political tides are turning, there still exists a feeling that the opportunity for the Democrats to capitalize is both fragile and fleeting, as if they think they have only one shot to fully capitalize on the situation, and if they don't it's all for naught, defeatism sinks in, and Unka' Karl squeezes another 51% out of the electorate in November.

It's as if the bulk of the party has a deep, primordial fear of premature ejaculation.


"Should we try to block John Roberts' confirmation?"

"No, our scorched-earth battle should be saved for someone else"

"Should we try to block Samuel Alito's confirmation? He's worse than Roberts, and he's taking over for the abortion swing-vote, so...?"

"No, that would distract the public from... (insert other issue here)"

"But you said..."

"I know what I said, but we can't blow our wad YET"

"Should we go to the mattresses for John Murtha?"

"No, because the President equates leaving with losing. Remember you guys need to look strong and security-minded for the midterms"

"Should we go to the mattresses for Russ Feingold?"

"No, that would energize the Republicans. Remember, you guys are supposed to be afraid of them"


...And so on.

The Democrats need to understand something: Just as Republicans are sometimes adept at tweaking the "official narrative" of a political issue in their favor, there are other things that develop in spite of their actions, or those of the Democrats or even the media. The American people turned on the Iraq war, and the President's handling of it, all on their own, even though there were very, very few voices in the media openly expressing displeasure with the war, even though the media continues to sugar-coat the situation on the ground there. The American people, by and large, made up their mind on the source of the vast majority of official corruption in our elected officials, in spite of GOP attempts to wishywash the issue by bleating "Abramoff gave money to both parties!" over and over (which he didn't btw).

My point is, these public sentiments aren't going anywhere, even if Feingold or any other Democrat tries some sort of political tactic, like the censure resolution, only to see it fall flat.

To continue the "premature ejaculation" metaphor, the American people will remain horny for a long time, if you catch my drift.

Elected Democrats who would otherwise be more aggressive should remember the following whenever a DLC'er suggests they should back off: They didn't consider 2004 to be a proper time to "blow their wad", so to speak, so if they didn't then, when would they ever? They're not being sincere. And you shouldn't be afraid because of it.

The Democrats don't need a magic bullet, or a perfect, force-assisted shot into a relatively-unguarded thermal exhaust pipe to blow up the Death Star. What they need is a long-term frontal offensive. For example, just because they stayed on the sidelines, in large part, during the debate over Dubai controlling operations in six American ports, that should not stop them from hitting the GOP over the head with this.

It is not about capitalizing on a moment, or saving up for a single chance at achieving a political goal. The Democrats have the long-haul public sentiments on their side, and they need to know that those aren't going to fizzle away just because some Republicans accuse Joe Biden of being a "bully" or say that Russ Feingold is being "too partisan". And they really shouldn't listen to the SSS's (Self-Styled Sensibles) say the same thing, only in sheep's clothing.

Be aggressive.
Be-e aggressive.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Not late, am I?

--Bush had a press conference today. A what?? BUSH!?!? Yup. Drudge's screaming headline is "BUSH TAKES ON PRESS AND HELEN THOMAS TOO". Apparently covering every president since JFK means you aren't part of the "press". Cute. Still, Josh Marshall notices that Bush's exchange with Thomas included a very blatant lie on his part:
I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That's why I went to the Security Council; that's why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences ... and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.
(emphasis added)

--Fox News' Carl Cameron: Whore. Though if you saw Outfoxed, this comes as no surprise.

But let's expand on that... The goal of that talking point has nothing to do with honest debate; it only has to do with confusing the issue, and pretending that the debate is about whether or not suspected terrorists should be wiretapped, and not the legality of Bush's warrantless (and widespread, nearly arbitrary) wiretapping. The goal is satisfied when our depth-challenged media goes along with it. Sure, Carl Cameron and his buddies at Fox are happy enough to do so. But then there's Wolf Blitzer, in a classic example of how this media strategy works, on The Situation Room.

Here's the Tivo-assisted transcript:
BLITZER: He was asked about Senator Russ Feingold's resolution censuring him for authorizing wiretaps without court warrants.
Okay, so far so good, a reference to the fact that the wiretaps were warrantless. Hopefully that point will find its way into the context of this report. Right?...
(VIDEO) BUSH: I think, uh, during these, uh, difficult times -- and they are difficult, when we're at war -- the American people expect there to be an honest and open debate, without needless partisanship. And that's how I view it. I did notice that nobody at the Democratic party has actually stood up and called for the, you know, getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program. You know, if that's what they believe, the people in the party believe, then they ought to stand up and say it. They ouught to stand up and say the tools we're using to protect the American people shouldn't be used.
Confusing the issue. Will Wolf unconfuse it, or will he take the bait?
BLITZER: Senator Feingold fired back just a short while ago, accusing the president of playing politics by implying that Democrats don't want to wiretap terrorists.
Now would be the time for context, dude... but instead we get...
BLITZER: Adding to the partisan heat, the Republican party is running a new radio ad in Feingold's home state of Wisconsin, accusing the Senator of being more interested in censuring the president than in protecting freedom.
...And Wolf moves on to another topic.

There you have it. A factual argument is boiled down by our brain-dead press into a he-said she-said tennis match. And sad to say for the Dems, but the Republicans simply do a better job of exploiting this condition. It all comes down to artificial objectivity. Obsoive...

To the media, an issue has three things: The facts, Side A and Side B.

You'd think that the negotiable portions of the issue would be the Sides, right?

Not to the media: To them, the facts are negotiable.


Ask Goldilocks. Because her view of "tasty pourridge" is pretty close to the media's view of "objectivity". Obsoive foither...

On an issue (the NSA stuff), the facts are "Bush approved numerous instances of warrantless (and thus, not legal) wiretapping of (spying on) American citizens, even though there was a specific legal framework (FISA) designed for precisely this sort of stuff."

The Democrats take Side A, "Warrantless wiretapping is illegal".

The Republicans--understanding how the media works--take a ridiculous Side B that doesn't directly correspond to side A at all, "Democrats don't think we should wiretap terrorists."

The media, then, mistakes splitting the difference for achieving objectivity. The end result? The he-said-she-said out of Wolf Blitzer's mouth today. To him, the pourridge is just right. The facts are negotiable, defined as the midpoint between one side of the debate and another ridiculous side to a completely different debate.

The Democrats are either reluctant or unable to play this game well. Perhaps because it requires blatant lies and obvious strawmen. Hmm, obvious strawmen... who uses those a lot?

Anyway, good to be back.