The Facts Machine

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

Saturday, December 28, 2002


Time has sure made it hard to find Bush's new approval rating online.

But here's a scan of the page, courtesy RightWingSlayer:

("ABSOLUT failure", hehe)

I've read articles like this one so many times that it makes me really sad.

I think about the Bush Administration's sexual demagoguery on abstinence-only, and it's "pro-life" policies around the world, and sad becomes angry.

I think about the heartless and greedy American drug companies that took years, years, years to finally cut deals to send significant quantities of AIDS drugs to South Africa (including drugs to keep HIV-positive mothers from transmitting the virus to their children when they are born), angry becomes tinged with disbelief and incredulity.

But then I remember that so much good in the world could come from simple adjustments in attitude, compassion and understanding among those who have the power to make changes. And when I think like that, I rediscover the optimism in my heart. Because I want to do my part to help the world.
A company . . . started by some weird religious sect that believes in aliens . . . claims it has had the first clone birth on earth.
A healthy 7-pound girl, nicknamed Eve by scientists, was delivered by Caesarean section Thursday somewhere outside the United States, said Brigitte Boisselier, chief executive of Clonaid. Boisselier said the girl is an exact genetic copy of the American woman who gave birth to her.

At a news conference, Boisselier offered no scientific proof, provided no photographs and did not produce the mother or child. She said proof — in the form of DNA testing by independent experts — will be available in perhaps eight or nine days.

"You can still go back to your office and treat me as a fraud," she told reporters. "You have one week to do that."

Cloning experts were skeptical or reserved judgment on the announcement, which is certain to touch off fierce ethical, religious and scientific debate. In Washington, the Food and Drug Administration said the agency will investigate whether the experiments violated U.S. law.
I guess we may know for sure whether it's legit soon.

I like the idea of human cloning in that it pisses off religious conservatives. However, I also dislike the idea of human cloning for a number of reasons, including these:
1) One of the primary reasons for evolution is to combat diseases. If we pass down the same sets of genes, then we aren't mixing genes, and thus our human evolution may lag behind that of various diseases. But more importantly to me,
2) Why do that when you can have children from making love? I would rather take my chances with any of the potential genetic possibilities of mixing my sperm with someone else's egg, than walk into a cold, sterile office to offer a blood sample from which to clone a child.

However, if there are other positive things that could come from human cloning, then so be it, perhaps. Then again, I think of 1984, and The Inner Party's control of sex and reproduction. Anyway, it's pretty late.

Friday, December 27, 2002


... if only because it combines two of my favorite things: 1) disliking Dubya, and 2) Tool music!

Here, check it out!

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Sorry, I took most of the day off.

While I was busy, I hope you caught this week's Time, cuz if you did, you would have seen the new Time/CNN poll which has Dubya's job approval rating down nine points, to 55%! Pretty close to pre-9/11 levels.

Just curious, has anyone heard this reported on tv?

(via Liberal Oasis)

Wednesday, December 25, 2002


Some new lyrics to an old song, found at the Happy Heretic:
We Vishnu a merry Krishna,
We Vishnu a merry Krishna,
We Vishnu a merry Krishna,
And a Hopi New Year!
Also, in my lone reference of the day to the Jesus story, here is a picture of me, along with seven of my fellow Apostles, from Broadway By the Bay's 2000 production of Jesus Christ Superstar:

Did you find me?

Anyway, I should be blogging again at some point today.

I have spent the last couple of years wondering whether I am an atheist or an agnostic. One of the reasons it can be hard to distinguish between the two is that the reasons for being those two things are strikingly similar, while there are subtle differences in their philosophical applications.

According to American Atheists, their reason for atheism, in terms of god, goes like this:
We are atheists because:
-There is no proof of the existence of god.
-There is no need of, or use for, a god.
-A good god would be useless if it were not powerful.
-A powerful god would not deserve worship if he were not good.
-There is no all-powerful good god; otherwise there would be no imperfection.
-If this is the best world god can make, the stories of Heaven must be lies.
Most of those, if not all, could be perceived as reasons for being agnostic. I mean, atheists and agnostics essentially agree that the existence of a godlike deity cannot be proven. I think that it's the theists who get the most out of such somewhat false distinctions, because it weakens us god-free types, in a Napoleonesque divide-and-conquer sense.

Case in point (warning: you probably wont know what i'm talking about): When the great religious email "holy war" or March 2000 (with myself and a couple of allies taking the atheist/agnostic standpoint, while my one-time friend and bowling-buddy Mark N and some Berkeley evangelicals -- yes, they exist -- told me all about what a great time I was going to have in Hell), I took a defiant and strong stance for the inability to prove the existence of the judeo-christian-etc god, as well as the sheer cognitive dissonance that comes with western religious doctrine. Mark N (see the parentheses) decided that if my arguments went unchecked, the all-powerful god would soon be destroyed, as if I were one little blond dude firing torpedoes down a ventilation chute in the Death Star. To combat this inevitability (hehe), Mark N sent my most recent email at the time, along with his lengthy and rather defensive rebuttal (nothing like the last word), to a long list of common friends and acquaintances, apparently to show them how misguided I was and "not to be taken in" by my arguments. It's easy to sound right when you speak last, and this is one of the disadvantages of email.

Anyway, a day or two later, a friend of mine, a student in San Diego, instant messaged me, telling me that she had received Mark's email overreaction, saying "I don't know what's up with that". And she described herself as an "agnostic".

Anyway, my point is that people shouldn't be trying to draw thick lines between atheism, agnosticism, secular humanism, and even, for that matter, unitarianism. That is the way too many Christians think of themselves, drawing thick lines between Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, etc. And they see a plus in giving atheists/agnostics/etc the same treatment, in that it weakens the resolve of the concept of nonbelief in general.

What brought about these thoughts was a rather silly piece in Slate by a fellow named Jim Holt, basically going after atheists philosophically. (Holt himself doesn't seem the most pious fellow, though) He makes the usual false takedown of atheism: He puts the onus on the atheists to prove that god doesn't exist. Repeat after me, Mr Holt: You can't prove a negative! It's not the atheist's responsibility to prove the non-existence of god; it's the responsibility of the theist to prove that god does exist. If someone feels that theists have not shown any proof that there is a god, then s/he can feel free to be atheist or agnostic if s/he wants to. After all, the first rationale given for atheism at American Atheists, as I mentioned, is "There is no proof of the existence of god". That is not "There is proof of the non-existence of god". I hope I've made myself clear.

All that being said, we at TFM would like to wish you, yours, and others who celebrate it, a quite merry xmas. My xmases center around family and togetherness above all else. And decorating the hell out of the tree, hehe.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002


You're upset that we're all taking such a long look at Bill Frist, that the New York Times prints a number of articles critiquing him. You say this is slanted, unfair treatment, evidence of the "liberal media".

Guess what? You deserve it!

In the early 60's, when the Democrats embraced the civil rights movement (leading to the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, etc), they purged the segregationists (including one Strom Thurmond) from their party for good.

In the late 60's and early 70's, when Nixon employed the so-called "southern strategy" to win two presidential elections, the Republicans welcomed racism and hate into their party.

And virtually nobody in the press talked about this for decades. But thanks to our loose-lipped senator from Mississippi, eyes are finally being opened.

So, until the forseeable future (that is, when Republicans stop using code words like "states' rights", no longer go easy on the Confederate flag, and no longer use computer software to wrongfully purge tens of thousands of black Floridians from the voter rolls), any prominent Republican deserves the racist litmus test.

You don't like it? Go talk to your party, help them with their soul-searching (one needs to have a soul in the first place, I remind you). Even friggin Noonan, in her way, is trying to do that. (though she does attempt to smear Clinton in doing so)

Anyway, have a merry (and most certainly white) xmas.


Coleen Rowley, Sherron Watkins and Cynthia Cooper, the whistle-blowers, were very courageous in their actions (and hmm, all women telling the truth about the abuses of mostly men, in the FBI, CIA, Enron and WorldCom). Because of the example they have set, I'm very cool with Time designating them as the persons of the year.

There's just one problem, well-expressed in today's Krugman:
They deserve to be celebrated. After all, thanks to Ms. Watkins and Ms. Cooper, Jeff Skilling, Ken Lay and Bernie Ebbers have been indicted, and the politicians who did their bidding have been disgraced. Thanks to Ms. Rowley, incompetent officials at the F.B.I. and C.I.A. have been removed from their posts, and we've had a searching inquiry into what went wrong on Sept. 11.

Oh, I'm sorry. None of that actually happened. The bravery of the whistle-blowers was real enough, but Time seems to be celebrating what should have been, not what was.
That such things didn't happen as a result of the whistleblowers' actions, I must note, should not take anything away from what they did. They are still very deserving of Time's recognition. It's still a bummer, though, that about six months after Rowley's memo went public, the Bushies chose Henry Kissinger to head up the independent 9/11 commission. Sometimes it just sucks too much to think about.
I find Trent Lott's "they set me up" comments amusing in general, but what really caught my attention was this statement:
"There are people in Washington who have been trying to nail me for a long time," Lott said. "When you're from Mississippi and you're a conservative and you're a Christian, there are a lot of people that don't like that. I fell into their trap and so I have only myself to blame."
Let me get this straight: Lott got in trouble for making a segregationalist comment, but then he makes an accusation of what amounts to white-southern-christian profiling? The man is still clueless.

Rip Van Rummy says we can fight two wars at once.

By which he seems to mean Iraq and North Korea.

Oh, hmm, how's that Afghanistan thing going these days anyway?
FORT BRAGG, 2:02 p.m. EST December 21, 2002 - An soldier based at Fort Bragg was killed in Afghanistan early Saturday morning when his unit came under fire from enemy forces, army officials tell NBC 17.

Sergeant Steven Checo, 22, was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division assigned to Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Checo was the first American soldier killed in combat in Afghanistan since May.

His unit came under enemy fire while conducting a security patrol with special operations and other conventional forces near Shkin along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The forces that attacked the unit are suspected of being linked to the ousted Taliban regime or the al-Qaida network, said Army spokesman Maj. Steve Clutter. "They had these individuals under observation for awhile," Clutter said. "They were actually getting ready to approach them to investigate and as they got closer they realized they were armed." The enemy forces fled across the border into Pakistan, Clutter said. (emphases mine)
TFM recalls Andy Card's comments a couple months ago, saying that the administration took a "marketing" angle on pushing the potential Iraq war. What happens when you "roll out a new product" in september? You roll out the old producs from the summer! Hence less attention is paid to Afghanistan, and we get incidents like this. And not only that, but the attackers fled to Pakistan! Ugh. Was Rummy thinking about this?

A week ago, I openly admitted my theft of two bricks from the rubble of San Mateo High School. In fact, I inspired a number of friends to engage in the exact same action in subsequent days.

Now I find out that my company includes NASA:
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Three student employees at the Johnson Space Center in Houston have pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to steal moon rocks collected by Apollo astronauts.

Tiffany Fowler, Thad Roberts and Shae Saur pleaded guilty in federal court in Orlando last week to conspiracy to commit theft and interstate transportation of stolen property.

Undercover FBI agents arrested Roberts, 25, Fowler, 22, and a fourth defendant, Gordon McWhorter, 26, in Orlando in July. Saur, 19, was arrested in Houston the same day. The student workers were fired after the arrests. (Full story)
Maybe NASA needs to get in on an even larger share of that corporate welfare money.
TFM is proud, overjoyed, and much more, to welcome home the official girlfriend of TFM, the most wonderful Laurie! Saw her at the airport yesterday, had lunch with her family, and saw her off to Sac-to. What a wonderful day it was for TFM. (:

I'll return to covering news as soon as I'm not overcome by euphoria. Ok that could be a while. (:
Last edition!

A little later than usual, but I finished my xmas shopping. I was reasonably economical, and I think I did a reasonably good job at it too.

If you want to follow my last recommendation, you'd better hurry. Some genius came up with an ideal entitled "Cow Parade"

They are lightweight painted cows, about 7-8 inches long, eached painted to a different theme. There's artists (Monet, Matisse, etc), locales (such as Vegas, pictured above), and even an entire set devoted to The Wizard of Oz!

You can find them at the Museum Company, but only if you hurry!

Monday, December 23, 2002


CNN has an interesting interview with singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton. She's cool because she's a dancer, singer, and songwriter. She's a triple-threat!

Then again, she wrote the most trite and silly chorus in the history of song.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming fell by 1.2 percent last year, the largest decrease in a decade, due in part to slow economic growth and a milder winter, the government said.

Last year's decline was in sharp contrast to the average 1.3 percent annual growth rate in U.S. emissions from 1990 to 2000 and was twice the level of the only other drop since 1990 -- a 0.6 percent decline in 1991 -- according to a report from the Energy Information Administration. (Full story)
This is a reasonably good sign, but why has this decrease occurred? According to the Energy Information Administration, reasons include:

-decreased economic growth
-drop in manufacturing
-warmer weather
-decreased demand for coal power

The article continues:
President George W. Bush withdrew the United States last year from the international Kyoto treaty that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions among industrialized countries, fearing that the treaty's requirements would hurt the U.S. economy.


Instead, the Bush administration said it wants to conduct years of further research on the causes of global warming and in the meantime will promote voluntary efforts among U.S. industries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The European Union and Japan, which have adopted the Kyoto treaty, have criticized the Bush administration for not doing more to cut U.S. emissions. The United States is the world's biggest energy consumer and also its largest emissions producer.
You can go ahead and argue the merits and usefulness of the Kyoto treaty all you want (my opinion is that despite whatever imperfections its critics claim it has, the US should have ratified it, if only for the purpose of being a cooperative and positive member of the world community). But from the EIA findings we come upon some irony. They cite the sluggish economy as a factor in decreased emissions. Yet what has Bush claimed the Kyoto treaty would do? Hurt the economy! So it looks like either way, we get decreased emissions and a faltering economy.

Thus, we would have had, arbitrarily, the same result if we had ratified Kyoto. The only difference is that people around the world might have liked us more if we did. And that's important.
JOE STRUMMER, 1952-2002

Rest in peace, man. I don't blame you for leaving. If you guys were upset with the monotonous load of blah on the radio back in the late 70's and early 80's, I can only imagine how you must have felt lately.

It's been a tough year for punk rockers.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

In a very direct and concise manner, TBogg makes a point about Dr Laura.

My smashingly-smashing review of The Two Towers is now up at my archaic geocities website.

Check it out! I was amusing!