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October 09, 2004

"I own a timber company?"

Yes, Mr. President, it appears you do:

Bush got a laugh when he scoffed at Kerry's contention that he had received $84 from "a timber company."  Said Bush, "I own a timber company? That's news to me."

In fact, according to his 2003 financial disclosure form, Bush does own part interest in "LSTF, LLC", a limited-liability company organized "for the purpose of the production of trees for commercial sales."

So Bush was wrong to suggest that he doesn't have ownership of a timber company. And Kerry was correct in saying that Bush's definition of "small business" is so broad that Bush himself would have qualified as a "small business" in 2001 by virtue of the $84 in business income.

From the site Dick Cheney tried to refer viewers to a few days ago: factcheck.org.


October 08, 2004

Bush's bulge

No, I don't mean the sock he stuffed in that flight suit, but rather the odd boxy-shape under the back of his suit jacket during the first debate. (Also note the snaky cable-like shape that appears to run up to his neck).

If he had a transmitter of some sort, it would at least explain that strange moment in which he barked out, "Let me finish!"--even though he had time left on the clock and, well, no one had interrupted him. No one we could hear, at any rate.

Salon picks up the story:

Was President Bush literally channeling Karl Rove in his first debate with John Kerry? That's the latest rumor flooding the Internet, unleashed last week in the wake of an image caught by a television camera during the Miami debate. The image shows a large solid object between Bush's shoulder blades as he leans over the lectern and faces moderator Jim Lehrer.

The president is not known to wear a back brace, and it's safe to say he wasn't packing. So was the bulge under his well-tailored jacket a hidden receiver, picking up transmissions from someone offstage feeding the president answers through a hidden earpiece? Did the device explain why the normally ramrod-straight president seemed hunched over during much of the debate?


Was it possible the bulge had been Photoshopped onto Bush's back by a lone conspiracy buff? It turns out that all of the video of the debate was recorded and sent out by Fox News, the pool broadcaster for the event. Fox sent feeds from multiple cameras to the other networks, which did their own on-air presentations and editing.

To watch the debate again, I ventured to the Web site of the most sober network I could think of: C-SPAN. And sure enough, at minute 23 on the video of the debate, you can clearly see the bulge between the president's shoulder blades.


So what was it? Jacob McKenna, a spyware expert and the owner of the Spy Store, a high-tech surveillance shop in Spokane, Wash., looked at the Bush image on his computer monitor. "There's certainly something on his back, and it appears to be electronic," he said. McKenna said that, given its shape, the bulge could be the inductor portion of a two-way push-to-talk system. McKenna noted that such a system makes use of a tiny microchip-based earplug radio that is pushed way down into the ear canal, where it is virtually invisible. He also said a weak signal could be scrambled and be undetected by another broadcaster.

Mystery-bulge bloggers argue that the president may have begun using such technology earlier in his term. Because Bush is famously prone to malapropisms and reportedly dyslexic, which could make successful use of a teleprompter problematic, they say the president and his handlers may have turned to a technique often used by television reporters on remote stand-ups. A reporter tapes a story and, while on camera, plays it back into an earpiece, repeating lines just after hearing them, managing to sound spontaneous and error free.

Suggestions that Bush may have using this technique stem from a D-day event in France, when a CNN broadcast appeared to pick up -- and broadcast to surprised viewers -- the sound of another voice seemingly reading Bush his lines, after which Bush repeated them. Danny Schechter, who operates the news site MediaChannel.org, and who has been doing some investigating into the wired-Bush rumors himself, said the Bush campaign has been worried of late about others picking up their radio frequencies -- notably during the Republican Convention on the day of Bush's appearance. "They had a frequency specialist stop me and ask about the frequency of my camera," Schechter said. "The Democrats weren't doing that at their convention."

There's more at the isbushwired site.

My guess is, even if he is wired, they'll be hiding it better tonight. Still, it might be fun to see if you think he's listening to voices only he can hear. And--assuming for the moment that this is true--if I were on the Kerry campaign, I'd be working doubletime today to figure out a way to either jam the signal or to break in on it. Imagine Bush trying to stay focused while someone recited old Beat poetry in his ear, or maybe just read names out of the phone book. What could he do? Complain that someone was unfairly interferring with the system he'd set up in order to cheat?

This is, of course, why I am a cartoonist and not a paid political advisor.


October 07, 2004

Final report: no WMDs
When the United States invaded Iraq last year to disarm Saddam Hussein's regime, there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or any facilities to build them, according to a definitive report released Wednesday.

The 1,000-page report by chief weapons searcher Charles Duelfer, a document that President Bush said would represent the last word on the issue, confirms earlier findings and undermines much of the Bush administration's case about the Iraq weapons threat, though it does say Saddam intended to restart his weapons programs once United Nations sanctions were lifted.

Story here. As August notes, this probably isn't what Bush was hoping for last June:

Q Mr. President, a year ago in Evian, there was an expectation that in the ensuing months, weapons such as chemical or biological weapons, would be found in Iraq. I wonder if you can share with the American people your conclusions, based on what you've learned over the past 15 months, sir, as to whether those weapons were -- existed and they were hidden, were they destroyed, were they somehow spirited out of the country, or perhaps they weren't there before the war, and whether you had a chance to share this with your G8 partners.

THE PRESIDENT: Right, no -- Bob, it's a good question. I don't know -- I haven't reached a final conclusion yet because the inspectors -- inspection teams aren't back yet. I do know that Saddam Hussein had the capacity to make weapons. I do know he's a dangerous person. I know he used weapons against his own people and against the neighborhood. But we'll wait until Charlie gets back with the final report, and then I'll be glad to report.

And the really convenient thing is, there's a major debate tomorrow night, at which Bush can gladly report that he was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Shop update

Per reader requests, Smirky/Snarly buttons are now available as well.

Driving America to think

Freeway Free Speech Day is October 13. Details.

Absentee follies

From a reader in Japan:

I live in Japan, just got my absentee ballot from VA and was required to fill the whole thing out in easily-erasable #2 pencil!! Gee, I'm glad I went through the trouble of ordering that absentee ballot and paying about $2 to mail it back...not only will it not be counted unless the race is close, it could be counted as a vote for anyone.

And if this is on the level, it's pretty horrifying. It's allegedly a scan of the Michigan absentee ballot--note the misaligned arrows in the Presidential section.

Update from a Michigan reader:

It's not MICHIGAN's absentee ballot; it's Gratiot county's (not my county, BTW). It's a small county (pop. 42000; maybe 25000 voters?) in the center of the state (where my bro-in-law is from). The printer made a mistake; they've sent out corrected ballots already (from the comments at LiveJournal). Chances are that any misprinted ballots would have to be hand counted. Gratiot County is probably 80% Republican, so a likely max of 5000 Kerry votes, of which maybe 500 would be absentee, most of whom will use the corrected ballot. If they somehow manage to get some court to agree that connecting the arrow by Kerry-Edwards is somehow a vote for Bush, it would probably cost Kerry 100-150 votes. If the Dems in that part of the state are on the ball, they'll let everyone know to use the corrected ballot. Possibly significant, but most likely not. The Repugs have much more efficient ways to steal elections.

It's why I used the word "allegedly"--it's always wise to approach things one comes across online with a grain of salt.

Lies, lies, lies



October 06, 2004


Sullivan, on Cheney's performance:

He had no response to the charges (largely new to me) about Halliburton.

Largely new to him?

How is that possible?

Maybe Andrew should have spent a little more time over the past couple of years listening to critics of the administration and a little less time denouncing them as Fifth Columnists.

Just a thought.

New design in the shop

Just a little something I threw together after the debate last night. I know it's late in the game but if you order now you'll certainly have it in time for those fabulous election night parties.


Before the two men had left the stage, the talking heads were already declaring it a victory for Cheney. I think they're delusional. Edwards may have faltered at a couple of points but Cheney radiated malignant evil throughout. And it's about time somebody stood up on a national stage and pointed out things like this:

While he was CEO of Halliburton, they paid millions of dollars in fines for providing false information on their company, just like Enron and Ken Lay. 

They did business with Libya and Iran, two sworn enemies of the United States. 

They're now under investigation for having bribed foreign officials during that period of time.

Not only that, they've gotten a $7.5 billion no-bid contract in Iraq, and instead of part of their money being withheld, which is the way it's normally done, because they're under investigation, they've continued to get their money.

All Cheney could do in response is bluster about it being a "smokescreen" and direct viewers to Factcheck.com--which, as numerous readers have pointed out, is actually George Soros's site. (Cheney presumably meant Factcheck.org). You gotta love that anyone who clicked on the site at Cheney's direction would have been greeted with the headline, "President Bush is endangering our safety, hurting our vital interests, and undermining American values."

...ah, here's the problem: I was watching MSNBC. From Salon:

So what debate was the crew at MSNBC watching Tuesday night?

Following the vice-presidential faceoff, which most observers declared a draw, giving Cheney points for articulating an Iraq strategy in a way President Bush failed to do last week, and Edwards credit for holding his own against the much more experienced veep, the MSNBC team of pundits, led by "Hardball" host Chris Matthews, immediately declared the debate a knockout for Cheney.

The Cheney group hug began before Edwards had even exited the debate stage in Cleveland, with NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell declaring, "Dick Cheney did awfully well in putting John Edwards in his place." MSNBC host and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough, who didn't flinch in naming Sen. John Kerry the debate winner last week, declared, "There's no doubt about it, Edwards got obliterated by Dick Cheney." (Perhaps he was trying to appease his right-wing fans who, he later remarked, flayed him alive for giving the debate to Kerry last week.) Newsweek's managing editor Jon Meachem chimed in that Edwards seemed like "Kerry-lite," while host Matthews skewered Edwards in a strangely personal way, reminiscent of the way Matthews hounded President Bill Clinton throughout the impeachment process...

Yet nowhere else on the television landscape -- not even on Fox News -- was Cheney crowned the winner. Most pundits saw the debate as an obvious draw...

Update: apparently factcheck.org wasn't Soros's site at all--some undetermined mischief-maker redirected the traffic. Via Josh.


October 05, 2004

The purloined president

Isn't there somebody that Dick Cheney is noticably neglecting to mention? Smirky, hunched-over fellow with shifty eyes? Ring any bells?

Flip flopping Rumsfeld
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Tuesday said he believes Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al-Qaida had ties, backtracking from a statement a day earlier that he had "not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two."


And then there's this (another one you Atrios fans have already seen):

PHILLIPS: So, do Americans agree with Kerry's statement during his debate that Osama bin Laden was behind the 9/11 attacks and not Saddam Hussein?

NEWPORT: Well, that's the key issue. You know, all these comments by Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defense, have come into the fore even yesterday and today. It's very political.
This is fascinating. Look carefully. If you're a Republican, 62 percent say, yes, Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks. Almost two thirds say yes. But Democrats and Republicans, exactly as many, two thirds say, no, there was no connection.

62 percent of Republicans say that Saddam was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks. Atrios has it exactly right: too stupid to breathe. It's a wonder these people can get up in the morning and dress themselves properly.

Reality check

Atrios is on the case:

On CNN TV just now:

[rough transcript]
Officials here again say that during the time frame Paul Bremer served in Iraq he was in constant contact with the Penatgon, with the White House, he visited here several times and spokesman for Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld says the Secretary doesn't recall any point that Paul Bremer brought up with him at least the need for more troops. If it had come up, the Secretary would have paid a great deal of attention to that.

From July 1, 2003:

WASHINGTON - The top American administrator in Iraq, confronting growing anti-U.S. anger and guerrilla-style attacks, is asking for more American troops and dozens of U.S. officials to help speed up the restoration of order and public services.

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld was reviewing the request from L. Paul Bremer, U.S. officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Rumsfeld is a piece of work. It's extraordinary that the people who get so upset about a network anchor getting punked by some fake memos seem nonplussed by a Secretary of Defense who just blatantly lies.

Or maybe he's just losing it.


October 04, 2004

Now that's just sad

About 15 miles south of Iowa City, Iowa, there's a little town called Riverside, which has declared itself the "future birthplace of Captain Kirk." Roadsideamerica.com explains:

Riverside is where interstate 380 ends and "the Trek Begins," or so says a sign as you exit. James T. Kirk, captain of the starship Enterprise, will be born here on March 21, 2233. A concrete blob behind a former barber shop marks the spot for present (and future) fans. Riverside wanted to put up a bronze James T. Kirk bust, but Paramount wanted $40K to license the image. Instead, a scale model of the "USS Riverside," which bears a remarkable (but not legally indemnible) resemblance to the USS Enterprise, is docked in the town square...Sharp-eyed residents, knowing they've got a good thing, have changed Riverside's summertime "Riverfest" to "Trek Fest."

I spent half my childhood in Iowa City and still have family there, and my wife and I made the, um, you will excuse the expression, trek down to Riverside one year when we were back visiting. It's a tiny little town that found a gimmick, like so many towns have to do these days, a way to stay alive after the jobs dry up. It's all harmless enough. And apparently, they've been trying to get Captain Kirk himself to pay a visit for years. So you can imagine how thrilled they all were when William Shatner not only visited, but announced that he would film a movie there:

William Shatner of "Star Trek" fame beamed down to the "U.S.S. Riverside" this past week and has virtually turned the town upside down. Boom-mikes, movie cameras, technicians, security guards and an entourage of fans have flooded the streets of town for a week now, and today (Sept. 30), Shatner will be signing autographs, just prior to his departure. The longtime television and movie actor was in Riverside filming and directing scenes for his own science-fiction movie, which will be called "Invasion Iowa." Earlier last week, Shatner personally facilitated a special "casting call," in which seven local residents were selected for supporting speaking roles. Those locals include John Conway, age 57 of Wellman, who will play a priest; Wayne Simon, age 45 of Riverside, who will play "Pa"; Leanne Sexton, 43, of Riverside, who will play "Ma"; and Brooke Lempke of Iowa City, who will play the daughter. Three others will also be in the film, portraying "local punks." They include Brandon Kaufman, age 19 of Riverside; Bill Blank, age 26 of Des Moines; and Mike Poch, age 21 of Riverside, who also happens to be the son of Riverside Mayor Bill Poch.

Except that, well, there's no movie. Shatner was playing a little prank on this town for a reality tv series:

RIVERSIDE — Barb Simon stood outside St. Mary’s Catholic Church trying to keep back the tears Wednesday morning.

For two weeks she had been one of the biggest supporters of “Star Trek” star William Shatner’s filming of “Invasion Iowa” in Riverside. She took vacation time to become a set dresser for a wedding scene at the church.

When Shatner called the movie his “passion” and swore that he wouldn’t sacrifice his principles moments after arriving nine days ago, she believed him. So much so that the 59-year-old thought the film would be the biggest thing to ever happen to the community of about 930.

Now she is having her doubts and wondering exactly what Shatner’s principles are.

During a Tuesday night town meeting Shatner revealed there was no movie and that the small community had been unwitting stars of a reality series for Spike TV to air early next year. Not everyone in town shares Simon’s sense of betrayal. Many are just as thrilled by the hoax as they were the movie, and many simply enjoyed the experience.

At the town meeting, Shatner gave Riverside $100,000 for being such a good sport and the cast and crew donated $12,000 for the Riverside Elementary School Book Fund. Tuesday night, and at a press conference Wednesday morning, Shatner and producers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick assured townspeople they won’t be made fun of in the series.

My old hometown paper is not impressed:

On Tuesday evening they revealed that their film project in Riverside -- the self-proclaimed and now studio-sanctioned birthplace of Captain Kirk -- was a big hoax. A prank. An April Fools' joke pulled in autumn. Shatner quickly ameliorated the nearly 1,000 residents of Riverside with a $100,000 check for community betterment, as if money always makes everything all right.

It doesn't. Think of the disappointment of Riverside residents, who for 20 years have been trying to get Shatner to attend a Trek Fest (which helps promote his program and hence line his pocketbook), and who were excited when the actor finally arrived in town and then announced he planned a movie there. How many residents from Riverside and the surrounding community, some of whom unwittingly auditioned as extras and phoned their friends and loved ones to tell the news? Sent e-mails? Clipped newspaper articles and mailed them? Even if the film sounded cheesy (and the title "Invasion Iowa" was pretty bad), they now get to tell everyone, "We got fooled."


Ultimately, though, Shatner and Spike TV's deceit shows a reckless disrespect for Iowa and Middle America in general. No doubt the Spike TV show, planned for broadcast next year, will be about how easy it was to fool those hicks in small town Iowa (er, "the hinterlands" anybody?): Look at those silly Iowans trying their best to be in a low budget science fiction movie! Who could imagine how easily supersophisticated Californians could fool those Iowan hayseeds? Ha, ha, isn't that funny?

Shatner really is an asshole, isn't he?

...speaking of Trek, I've been horribly remiss. My pal Wil Wheaton's new book, Just a Geek, came out a month or two ago, during a lull in my blogging. It's great fun, whether you're into the Star Trek thing or not.


According to an ad in the latest New Yorker, they've just published a book-and-CD set which purports to contain every cartoon ever published in that magazine. Now, I had several cartoons published in the New Yorker between 1999 and 2002 (when I finally gave up trying to get political satire I could be proud of past the editorial timidity of the post-9/11 period). And if memory serves--it's been awhile and the relevant files are still in storage somewhere--I never did sign the standard contract giving them the right to reprint my work without first getting my permission. As a self-syndicated cartoonist, I'm very leery of such rights grabs. So unless I caved at some point and signed the contract, and subsequently blotted the entire episode from memory, either this book/cd package reprints my work without permission, in which case someone from the magazine really needs to give me a call to discuss compensation, or the book is misrepresented in the advertisement. Be curious to know which it is.

...a reader tells me I'm not in the index, so I guess the answer would be (b), "misrepresentation."


The Talent Show takes a peek at Bush's debate notes.

Fox News

Fox has updated the article mentioned in this post to acknowledge that "Communists for Kerry" are, in fact, pranksters.

In a version of this article that was published earlier, the Communists for Kerry group was portrayed as an organization that was supporting John Kerry for president. FOXNews.com’s reporter asked the group’s representative several times whether the group was legitimate and supporting the Democratic candidate, and the spokesman insisted that it was. The Communists for Kerry group is, in fact, a parody organization.

Translation: we're very, very gullible.

In other Fox news, Carl Cameron has been publicly named and chastised for posting that other fake story about Kerry. Doesn't seem like enough to me--he certainly should be taken off the Kerry campaign, after having so clearly demonstrated his bias against Kerry...if not suspended or fired entirely. I mean, we wouldn't want anyone to doubt the fairness and balance of the Fox News Network, would we?

Sense and Sensibility

Tom Friedman is back:

What I resent so much is that some of us actually put our personal politics aside in thinking about this war and about why it is so important to produce a different Iraq.

Translation: I was right to support the war, which should have gone well, but the Bushies screwed everything up. Blah blah blah. You hear this a lot from Sensible Liberals who furrowed their brows and thought things through and decided that they had no choice but to support the war in Iraq, what with the WMD's and all--and nothing annoys me more. Well, that's not true--having someone stand on my feet and shout "neener neener" in my ear in a screechy voice would annoy me more, and I'm sure there are other examples. But we'll let it stand as a rhetorical device. The point is, the Sensible Liberals steadfastly refused to take into account what the rest of us understood to be obvious: of course the Bushies are going to screw this up. Look at who you're dealing with. Halliburton Dick and the PNAC Posse--you think these people are going to get it done right? All that crap about being welcomed as liberators, rose petals thrown at our feet--it was obvious from the start that the people in charge of this thing were living in a policy wonk fantasy world. Add to this the fact that anyone with the slightest historical perspective should have been able to extrapolate from past experience and understand that the Law of Unintended Consequences often governs U.S. interventions--and, well, let's just say I'm not terribly impressed with the Sensible Liberals who sensibly supported the war and now reluctantly must acknowledge that things have not gone as well as one might have hoped.

Site business

As you may have noticed, a few blogads have started popping up in the margins. I've got three categories of ads--one premium top-of-the-page spot in each column, and the normal ad strip on the right. (For some reason, only the left premium ad is showing up on the main Blogads page--I'm hoping they'll get that straightened out soon...?)

My policy on advertising is mostly intuitive, and subject to constant revision, so nothing I say here should be set in stone. Nonetheless, my sense of it so far is that I don't really think that I should accept ads from specific political candidates, though advocacy ads from MoveOn and the like are more than welcome. And while I'm going to try to keep things mostly site-appropriate, I should note that advertising here does not constitute an explicit endorsement from me.

Having said that, I do want to welcome this site's charter advertisers and thank them for their support. Click through, check them out. The click-through stats show up on Blogads--help me demonstrate that advertising on this site attracts eyeballs.


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