The Facts Machine

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

Saturday, October 12, 2002

Well, George, maybe there is one, but you'll need Winston and O'Brien to nominate you.
A little more perspective on the nearly-inevitable Iraq oil war, from Maureen Dowd.

If you are in the greater Santa Barbara/Tri-Counties area, you should check me out at Java Jones, 6560 Pardall Road in Isla Vista, 8pm on friday nights, I'll be playing open mics there and eventually be a featured performer, oh boy!

October 18, November 1st confirmed, more to come...

Friday, October 11, 2002


Ted Rall has an interesting take on the implications of the Supremes not taking the Torch/Forrester/Laughtenburg case on the GOP's appeal. Namely, the SCOTUS did what they should have done almost two years ago:

Florida, the court has now clearly signaled, was not the beginning of a transfer of electoral administration from states to the federal government. It was an exceptional ruling for a unique circumstance. At the same time, the New Jersey case reaffirms that its ruling in Bush v. Gore was a deviation from constitutional law. This reinforces Bush's illegitimacy, essentially admitting that, as far as the law is concerned, Al Gore is the President of the United States. Bending the rules may have seemed expedient during the confusion of December 2000, but the reputation of the Supreme Court--and the strength of the Constitution it is sworn to uphold and interpret--have been irreparably damaged. We'll be living with the fallout for years to come.

Over at Hanks' hapless MWO-watch blog, his spin on the Nino's decision not to hear the case was that it shattered the left's talking points after Florida. On the contrary, I think it strongly reinforces them.

UPDATE! . . . my use of the phrase "the Nino" reminds me of Chris Farley on SNL, saying that El Nino was spanish for "... the nino!"

A little perspective on relative rights in the Mideast, courtesy Uggabugga.
Rolling Stone has just started their annual Readers Poll again. Something tells me it's Bruce against everyone else. But just for some color, if you decide to create an entry, TFM strongly endorses the inclusion of Beck, Norah Jones, Red Hot Chili Peppers, White Stripes, Weezer, Pearl Jam somewhere in there. Not to mention Audioslave (the Rage + Chris Cornell project, so yummy!).

OH AND WHILE YOU'RE AT IT, check out RS's current feature "Women in Rock"! Fortunately, very little pop-nonsense is represented there.
Over at Altercation, Eric has put together a hefty string of links to stories on Iraq that all should read.

Congratulations are in order for former President Jimmy Carter (he was legally elected btw) for winning this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

A jab at the current administration? Especially given their reaction when Carter went to Cuba earlier this year? Hmm...

The Onion AV Club brings us a plethora of major and minor celebrities, answering that groovy question: "Is there a God?"

One highlight (especially if you do the voice):

Actor, director, writer, and occasional singer William Shatner is best known as Captain James T. Kirk on various incarnations of Star Trek.

The Onion: Is there a God?

William Shatner: There is, but we don't know where. Or who. And, indeed, why.

Live long and prosper, goodnight!
ROLL CALL! ("cambot!... gypsy!...")

Seventy-seven US Senators voted in favor of the Persian Gulf of Tonkin Resolution early this morning.

Twenty-nine Democrats favor the resolution. Notable among them:
-Joe Lieberman (duh!)
-Hillary and Schumer (The New York senators are in a precarious position. Both are liberal, but given Smirk's attempts to tie Iraq to 9/11 and the "war on terrah", they might have been in political hot water if they voted no, given their home state. Still, I expected a little more principle here.)
-Tim Johnson (close race in a fly-over state, you had to expect it)
-Zell Miller (again, duh!)
-Tom Daschle (will he be retracting that demand for Bush to apologize?)
-Dianne Feinstein (argh, how could a California senator do this, especially after Congressman Stark's valiant speech on thursday? then again, feinstein has her hawk streak)

Notable Democrats who voted NO, you know, the courageous ones who are operating fully on principle:
-Ted Kennedy (stalwart)
-Pat Leahy (him too)
-Paul Wellstone (you paying attention, Ralph? Michael? McGaa?)
-John Corzine (funny, the only principled Dem senator in the NY area is the one with the most money)
-Russ Feingold (can always count on him)

Quickly on the Republicans: I know McCain voted yes, but did anyone else see him ragging on Bush during his recent Letterman appearance? I don't know if they've resolved their feud or not, but something tells me they're somewhere inbetween Owens-Mariucci and Marichal-Roseboro (ahh, the sports-politics parallel, how fun!)

And Jim Jeffords? He voted no.

I sure hope there's a method to the Democrats' roll-over madness. I find it almost to be Naderite thinking: Tilt the agenda to the Bushies, and the country would potentially see the errors of its ways down the road if/when the Bushies fuck up beyond repair. This is completely possible, but why did today's events make me sick to my stomach?...

If you wanted to see the first-hand work that a number of Harvard students did to uncover the most recent fold of the Bush-Harken scandal, you can check it out here.

What surprises me is the 77 votes in the Senate. But there are no excuses, this is a fucking disgrace.

The Moore in me is getting pretty pissed at my government. The Democrats fucked up big time, and it's their own fault. Al Gore and Robert Byrd were trying to give them a chance. But friggin Gephardt has one eye on 2004, and shoved aside principle in favor of centrist political gain.

Part of the problem? That Al Gore was the messenger of principle here. Not because Al Gore is unprincipled or not genuine. But because the press/pundit narrative perception on Al Gore is that he's full of shit and always acting for political gain. The media has shit on Al Gore since 98, remorselessly (remember the heckling during the 2000 primary debates?), and that above everything else has contributed to generalized perceptions of him. And Gephardt&co. fear that perception above anything, so they held their noses and signed on to taking it up the posterior from Dubya.

So much for international law and any number of UN resolutions. And where does our tactical moral high-ground go if we pre-emptively strike Iraq?

(as I write this, my roommate's mp3-list has come upon REM's "It's the End of the World as we Know It (And I Feel Fine)", how fitting)

Thursday, October 10, 2002


Here's an impassioned speech from Representative Pete Stark (D-Ca), the other outspoken liberal congressman from the East Bay, from the House Iraq war debate. Highlights:

"Let us not forget that our president -- our commander in chief -- has no experience with, or knowledge of, war. In fact, he admits that he was at best ambivalent about the Vietnam War. He skirted his own military service and then failed to serve out his time in the National Guard. And, he reported years later that at the height of that conflict in 1968 he didn't notice 'any heavy stuff going on.'"

"So we have a president who thinks foreign territory is the opponent's dugout and Kashmir is a sweater.

"What is most unconscionable is that there is not a shred of evidence to justify the certain loss of life. Do the generalized threats and half-truths of this administration give any one of us in Congress the confidence to tell a mother or father or family that the loss of their child or loved one was in the name of a just cause?

"Is the president's need for revenge for the threat once posed to his father enough to justify the death of any American?

"I submit the answer to these questions is no."

Coincidentally, according to the Green Party's candidates page, they aren't running a candidate in Stark's district. Yet they still have a guy running against Wellstone. Does... not... compute...

All of us wait excitedly for
1) Nabokov to get signed, and
2) Charlow to frantically post over at the O House
Paul Krugman picks up on the Bush-Harken-Harvard story, originally broken a couple of days ago, when the entire press was scooped by Harvard undergrads.

Note that Yahoo's (and thus Reuters') headline reads

Bush oil firm did Enron-style deal

Wait a minute, you're probably saying, are they recycling this headline? Cuz dern it, I sure seem to remember reports from the pre-Iraq-fervor days about Harken selling Aloha Petroleum to itself to inflate their company's value. Dubya, a member of Harken's board at the time, somehow tried to get away with pleading ignorance at the time (against the claims of others who were on the board with him at the time), and the stonewall seemed to have worked up to this point.

This time? According to Krugman:

Wednesday's Wall Street Journal reported another piece of the Harken Energy story, one that provides even more evidence of how family connections smoothed Mr. Bush's business career. The key defense against charges that his sale of his Harken stock amounted to insider trading has always been the fact that while that stock's price plunged soon after he sold his shares, it then recovered, albeit temporarily.

Now we know why it recovered. It wasn't just the mysterious invitation to drill for oil off Bahrain. Harken also pulled a trick that would be emulated on a larger scale by Enron: In effect it borrowed money to pay its bills, while using loopholes in accounting rules to conceal the resulting debt.

What made the trick possible was Harken's guardian angel, a powerful institution controlled by an oil man, Robert Stone, who was a strong political supporter of Mr. Bush's father. This institution acquired a large stake in Harken as soon as Mr. Bush became a board member, and subsequently showed itself willing to do whatever it took to keep the hapless company afloat. This included taking much of the company's debt off its books in return for assets of doubtful value, and giving Harken a share in their partnership almost twice as large as its contribution to the partnership's capital.

The name of the guardian angel? The Harvard University endowment. Don't be surprised; professors don't run the university's money.

In short, Harvard loaned money to Harken in order to keep Harken afloat. Harken, in turn, didn't report the debt resulting from the loan on their ol' ledger, thus misleading investors in another Enron prototype deal to be filed next to the Aloha scam.

Like I said before, Dubya pled ignorance on the Aloha deal, but this time? According to Reuters:

BOSTON (Reuters) - President Bush's former oil firm formed a partnership with Harvard University that concealed the company's financial woes and may have misled investors, a student and alumni group said in a report on Wednesday.

The partnership between Harken Energy Corp. and Harvard, created with Bush's approval, bore strong resemblance to the partnerships that helped disguise Enron's problems, the report's authors said.
(emphasis added)

It'll be fun to see how Ari handles this one.

Now we know what two years and a Harvard MBA will get you...

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Bill Simon circles the drain...

"Showdown at High Noon" indeed, Patriot.

I like how even though the photo was discredited ("The location where the governor received this campaign contribution is now in question," as Simple Simon put it), Simon still wants an investigation! See, that's a problem when the photo was your only professed piece of evidence. And Gray takes the opportunity to have a little fun, and call for Simon to drop out of the race.

Let me put it this way: The only way the GOP has a chance in hell of capturing Sacramento is if Frank Laughtenburg suddenly changes party afiliation and moves west.

(btw, it's in my personal interest to keep the GOP as far from Sacramento as possible, hehehe)

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Dubya says "we cannot wait for final proof of Saddam's plans"

Good point! (btw as much as i detest mickey kaus, i love saying 'good point!') Funny thing is, Saddam has outwardly hated us for 11-12 years now, and no plans have even come up! It seems that all he wants to do is run his secular oppressive regime*, grow some gazelles for dinner, make sure his doubles don't sleep with his mistresses, and maybe, just maybe throw some anti-aircraft fire up at some no-fly-zone patrol planes from time to time.

Of course, Bush could have a point, if you creatively lengthen his quote a little bit:

"we cannot wait for final proof of Saddam's plans, because we might not find proof before the midterm elections!"

In this case, of course, "we" refers to Bush's own regime.

* -as opposed to a Muslim fundamentalist regime, the preferred regime of choice for Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. In his speech yesterday, Bush tried to make it sound as if Saddam were running a fundamentalist regime, when in fact his is a secular Arab regime. And if we look at the "war on terrah", we see that a number of secular oppressive regimes, namely Abdullah's Saudi Arabia and Musharraf's Pakistan, are viewed by the Bushies as allies. Nevermind, of course, that Saudi Arabia produced 15 of the 19 hijackers, and that Pakistan was the birthplace of the Taliban, and Bin Laden may still be hiding there.
From the Houston Chronicle...


While President Bush marshals congressional and international support for invading Iraq, a growing number of military officers, intelligence professionals and diplomats in his own government privately have deep misgivings about the administration's double-time march toward war.

These officials charge that administration hawks have exaggerated evidence of the threat that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein poses -- including distorting his links to the al-Qaida terrorist network -- have overstated the amount of international support for attacking Iraq and have downplayed the potential repercussions of a new war in the Middle East.

Hmm, and this comes the day after Bush's no-new-evidence speech. Again, note that among these critics are "military officers", certainly people who have been a lot closer to actual wars than, say, Richard Perle. And prior to this, it had been guys from Poppy's administration who spoke out, and now we're getting people from inside the Dubya Death Star. What a lovely day!

Monday, October 07, 2002

Slate's William Saletan analyzes Bush's Iraq speech...

President Bush opened his Monday night speech on Iraq with two stories. "Eleven years ago, as a condition for ending the Persian Gulf War, the Iraqi regime was required to destroy its weapons of mass destruction, to cease all development of such weapons, and to stop all support for terrorist groups," he began. "The Iraqi regime has violated all of those obligations." Then Bush turned to a second story: "On Sept. 11, 2001, America felt its vulnerability, even to threats that gather on the other side of the earth."

Throughout his speech, Bush tried to weave the two stories together. He argued that Iraq was entangled with al-Qaida and that Sept. 11 revealed new dangers in Iraq that required military action. He tried to show, as he has for months, that war in Iraq would be part of the war on terror. Instead, he confirmed the opposite. If Bush had evidence linking the two wars, this was his last plausible chance to divulge it. He didn't. It's clear that the two stories are objectively unrelated. The link between them is subjective: The events of Sept. 11 lowered our standards for using force.

Simply enough, this was Dubya's last, best chance to explain clearly why we should fight Iraq. He needed to tell us something new, but instead we heard the exact same nonsense and vaguery that we've heard for months.

I can never quite tell sometimes with Saletan (he fares better with simpler issues). In TFM's opinion, 9/11 shouldn't "lower our standards for using force". Of course, I'm against unilateral pre-emption, so that goes without saying. 9/11 should have lowered our standards at which we perceive there to be a necessity to pursue, for example, a "Manhattan Project for alternative and renewable energy" that Tom Friedman has proposed.

Anyway, Bush not articulating anything compelling or new in the case for war in Iraq, added to recent polls which show that the public would rather Bush focus on the economy, equals bad news for Karl Rove's 2002 (and 04) election plans.
Who says Bush isn't a pacifist?
If you TiVo'd the Dubya speech, or came across a transcript, you should watch/read it again, and as you watch, ponder these questions posed by Hesiod.
From Buzzflash, a retelling of the other day's protest in my fair city of San Francisco:

I had never attended a rally as big as today's. I have no idea exactly how many people congregated in Union Square, but I estimate it at somewhere between 4 - 5,000. The crowd completely filled the square, and the streets and sidewalks on all four sides of the square were packed with people. Many people were on roof tops and hanging out of windows in buildings overlooking the square.

I remember going to an anti-GulfWar protest in 91 with my family, a chant I remember was "Send George Bush, Send Dan Quayle, Send Neil Bush when he gets out of jail!"

While randomly surfing the net, I stumbled on a piece in (where "the conservative movement starts"!... right). It was the transcript of a speech by a fellow named Bruce Bartlett entitled "Conservative Pop Music: the Top 40 of the Top 40".

I'd be a bit hesitant to take advice on pop music from a guy who looks like this, particularly from a guy who looks like this but also has been a member of the Heritage Foundation.

Anyway, browsing through his list . . . Paul Anka . . . Neil Diamond . . . Lee Greenwood . . . Judy Collins . . . Kenny Rogers . . . I'd have to say dude, you'll have to do a lot better than that! Also, I believe that Bartlett has taken some serious liberties in his interpretation of the Beatles' "Revolution". I'd counter him with these lines:

But if you want money for people with minds that hate,
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait

Bruce Bartlett worked in the Treasury department during the Bush-41 years. If he remembers the 1992 presidential campaign, he should take a look at the tape of 41 basically giving the "young whippersnappers" talk to Tabitha Soren while on a train on MTV.

Don't stop thinking about tomorrow!

Sunday, October 06, 2002


Has the dog been all wagged out? We'll see... according to a CBS/NewYorkTimes poll, looks like Americans want Bush to pay a bit more attention to our sluggish economy (or "ooching" as Smirk put it . . . good work, abstract boating references really play well with the common man).

As the headline put it, "Even Queen Elizabeth II Likes Hockey". Hmm, a good sign for the sport of missing teeth and long hair and Kournikova ex's, wouldn't you say?

The deal is, she dropped a ceremonial face-off in Vancouver, for an exhibition game between the Canucks and our local heroes the San Jose Sharks. Her Majesty dropped a puck within one foot of Mike "pretty boy" Ricci. I wish I had a picture of that.

But is this truly a good omen for hockey's future? Consider this: The Queen of England isn't elected, she's a product of bloodlines and not the will of the popular majority. Baseball, on the other hand, is the choice sport of President George W Bush, and unlike the unelected Elizabeth, George was . . . oops, bad example!

I really like Michael Moore. Over the years he's done outstanding work, and I'm looking forward to seeing his new film, a gun-related documentary called "Bowling for Columbine".

But currently on his website, he has a pledge-petition up, which reads:

Take the pledge and let the Democrats in Congress hear you.

"I pledge to never vote again for any Democratic candidate for public office who has voted in favor of George Bush's war in Iraq."

We call on the Democrats in Congress to oppose a war on Iraq, to vote "No" to Bush's war cries. We pledge to never again vote for any Democratic member of Congress who supports George W. Bush's war against Iraq. To the Democrats in Congress, we give you fair warning: You are either with us, or you are fired.

This really appeals to my well-developed idealistic side, but I have some real problems here. First of all, I don't think Michael Moore is voting Democratic anymore anyway. But that's beside the point.

So every Democrat in congress who votes in favor of a resolution for war in Iraq, no matter what type of resolution it is, has committed grounds for outright job termination in Moore's eyes. That's too black-and-white for me by a longshot. Suppose the Senate Democrats "show some backbone" (as His Royal Smirk put it) and lobby hard for a war resolution that has a strong deference to the terms of the UN and their deal with Iraq on weapons inspectors. Such a resolution would render America a more responsible and integrated member of the world community. And it would be the most ideal resolution that the Democrats could hope to have passed in congress in the eyes of those who don't want a bullshit unilateral oil-war...

...But perhaps according to Moore's pledge, would such a resolution be favoring war? I'd say probably. My point is that a black-and-white view of the current situation is simply counterproductive, and that the situation requires a more nuanced understanding on the part of the American people. Mr Smirk and Cheneyplasty have not done anything to grow a nuanced understanding of the Iraq situation among the American people, rather attempting to cultivate fear ("he gassed his own people!" "we found a lot, A LOT of uranium in Turkey!") to make a case for war.

Moore does have one thing exactly right: Where in the hell are the Democrats to start pointing this out? The Bushies have created something of a vacuum of understanding, which Democratic congressional leaders could fill. The current Iraq-narrative is a tragic-comedy of fear, smoke and mirrors. In that light, Moore's "office of homeland security"'s color-coded alert system is on level three, "Spineless".

However, Moore shouldn't necessarily shouldn't attack Gephardt the way that he did:

The Democrats in Congress are yellow. Dick Gephardt gave away the House, striking a ridiculous deal with Bush.

If Gephardt had fought with all his might to slow the rush to war in the House, no matter how much in lockstep the Dems in there would be, he would have lost anyway due to the zombie-esque GOP majority in that chamber. While I think Gephardt could surely do a lot more on a rhetorical level, he didn't have a chance of getting his wishes turned into legislation.

(in other "where are the Democrats?" news, read today's Friedman)

And by the way, guess who's the one Democrat who's made the most anti-war noise in the last several weeks, Michael? That's right, Albert Gore Jr. If he were president right now, we wouldn't even be talking about going to war with Iraq! So by that logic, in states like Missouri, West Virginia, New Hampshire and above all Florida, a vote for Nader ended up being a vote for an oil-war in Iraq! TFM cynically wonders if that has anything to do with Nader's investment in the Fidelity Magellan Fund, which has millions of shares in Raytheon, General Dynamics, Amoco, Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Sunoco, Occidental, Texaco, Chevron, and... Halliburton.

Not likely, I'm sure, hehe. But the point remains, the Iraq situation, where it stands at present, is not simple and black&white, and thus we shouldn't simply call for the firing of someone who votes for one certain piece of legislation, no matter how nuanced and conditional that resolution may end up being.

Bush recently complained about some suggested Democratic ideas in a potential Iraq resolution as having the effect of "tying my hands". With that in mind, TFM has a suggested augmentation to Michael Moore's pledge. Let's not pledge to threaten Democrats for something we aren't showing any worldy perspective on. Let's pledge to tie Bush's hands! (: