The Facts Machine

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

Saturday, April 12, 2003


In just about every way, Tony Blair is Britain's Clinton (that's a big "just about", of course). He's hip, he was the former lead singer of a rock band (called Ugly Rumours), and worked as a bartender before heading off to Oxford. His wife is a professional and is pregnant, so obviously some things work in the Blair household.

But then there's the war/Bush's-poodle thing. Whatever happens over on Airstrip One, whether or not the parliament eventually goes no-confidence on him or more cabinet resignations pile up, hopefully the Labour Party can get out of this one without landing a neo-Thatcher in power. Blair was a fool for supporting the Iraq war, but I have this feeling -- or perhaps I'm being too optimistic -- that if Iraq turns out to the the beginning of a full-blown neocon crusade by Bush (Syria, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Iran, France, etc), then Blair may have substantial second thoughts.

But in the meantime, Blair will be appearing on "The Simpsons"...
LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair put aside his concerns about Iraq for a few minutes to star as an animated version of himself in an episode of cult TV cartoon "The Simpsons," a Downing Street spokesman said on Saturday.

Blair, a longtime fan of the show, spent a short time on Friday recording a few lines of dialogue for a special edition of the hit series in which the dysfunctional yellow cartoon family come to Britain for a holiday.

"The Prime Minister takes every opportunity he can to promote Britain and the script enables him to bang the drum for the tourist industry to a worldwide audience," the spokesman said, adding that the long-planned episode had nothing to do with the war on Iraq.
The show will also feature British standouts du jour (haha) Sir Ian "Gandalf McNeto" McKellen and pre-teen hypnotist JK Rowling.

Obviously, TFM will watch this. The article says that Clinton made an appearance on the show, but honestly I can't remember him actually ever doing the voice. Nevertheless, this certainly blows Nixon's "Laugh In" appearance out of the water.

Occasionally we find things that liberals and conservatives can agree on. Things that are abhorrent beyond all forms of reproach, where all of humanity can stand together in opposition.

Yes, that's right, Ben Afflect and Jenifer Lopez are planning on remaking Casablanca.

Sign the petition to stop this.

(link via tbogg and well, just about everyone else)

Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey, who nixed the "Bull Durham" celebration due to the political views of Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins (the real ones, not us, hehe), warmly welcomed the appearance of another um, political figure to the Hall in February of last year . . . Ari Fleischer.

The text of Petroskey's announcement letter was found by those hardworkin peeps at BuzzFlash (again, goggles on):
The Cooperstown Winter Cultural Series opens on Saturday, February 2 in the Louis C. Jones Center at The Farmers’ Museum with President Bush’s Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. As White House Press Secretary, Mr. Fleischer is the primary spokesperson for the President and delivers the daily White House briefing. He previously served as the Senior Communications Advisor and Spokesman for the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign.

Prior to joining Governor Bush’s campaign, Mr. Fleischer was the national spokesman and Communications Director for Elizabeth Dole’s presidential campaign.
Mr. Fleischer was hired by the House Committee on Ways and Means after Republicans took control of the Congress in November 1994. As Communications Director there, Mr. Fleischer was the House of Representative’s principal staff spokesman on issues relating to taxes, Medicare, Social Security, welfare and international trade.

“In his first year Ari Fleischer has had a more demanding job than any White House Press Secretary in history” said Hall of Fame President Dale Petroskey. “He has managed to be a candid spokesman for the President while clearly and simply articulating the Bush Administration’s goals, both foreign and domestic. We are thrilled to welcome him to Cooperstown and hear his perspective on life in the White House and the current political scene which of course includes the war on terrorism.” (emphases mine)
First of all, when I think of an Ari Fleischer press conference, a lot of words come to mind, but "clearly" and "simply" (or even "articulating") are not among them. Secondly, there you have it, Petroskey is telling us "Fleischer views: good, Robbins/Sarandon views: bad". The politicization of The National Pastime, ladies and gents.

Now Petroskey is trying to explain himself and wiggle out of the controversy, and this is priceless:
"I wish that the reasoning had been better articulated so it could have been better understood,'' Dale Petroskey, a former official in the Reagan administration, said from his office at Cooperstown, N.Y
But gee, what was his job in the Reagan administration? That's right assistant press secretary! It's his job to articulate things to they can be better understood . . . in that case, better understood then Napping Saint Raygun. Steeerike two!

Is there a steeerike three? Well yes. Famed sportswriter Roger Kahn is cancelling his own appearance at the Hall of Fame later this year, and he did so with a very strongly-worded letter to the Hall, namely Petroskey:
"By canceling the Hall of Fame anniversary celebration of "Bull Durham" for political reasons, you are, far from supporting our troops, defying the noblest of the American spirit," wrote Kahn, who was to speak there in August about his new book.

"You are choking freedom of dissent. How ironic. In theory, at least, we have been fighting this war to give Iraqis freedom of dissent. But here you, through the great institution you head, have moved to rob Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Ron Shelton of that very freedom."
Yerrr out!

Benjamin Netanyahu's nephew is refusing to be drafted into the IDF.
JERUSALEM - Ordered to report to court in uniform, Yonatan Ben-Artzi instead showed up in blue jeans and a T-shirt — another act of defiance against the military he refuses to serve in.

The 20-year-old pacifist, a relative of one of Israel's top hawks, is one of 16 young Israelis refusing to be drafted.

It's a small rebellion, but one the military is trying to squash by court-martialing conscientious objectors and jailing many of more than 500 reserve soldiers refusing to serve in Palestinian areas.


Ben-Artzi believes militaries fight avoidable battles "motivated by the erratic decisions of some government or general with nothing rational behind it."

Israel's fight with the Palestinians is in vain, he says, and though Israel cannot realistically do away with its army, Ben-Artzi believes it could make do without mandatory conscription.

One of the events shaping his views was a visit at age 14 to a cemetery in Verdun, France, where more than 300,000 people were killed during the bloodiest battle of World War I. "You see the graves and you know those people thought they did something useful. Then years later people say it was stupid and could have been avoided," Ben-Artzi said.
(Some of the other paragraphs in the article go over, with fawning praise, the pride and tradition of the Israeli military. It's "goggles on" territory, I assure you)

Apparently he could face up to three years in prison for this, yikes.

On the other hand, am I being unfair to Jenna and Barbara for the nature of their personal rebellions? I mean, they're demonstrating -- even acting -- in support of their cause: the liberation of Jack Daniels from his glass prison.
Steve Gilliard at Daily Kos gives us a reality check on our "victory" in Iraq.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Readers of MWO respond to Reaganite Dale Petroskey of the Baseball Hall of Fame for the Bull Durham thing.

That whole pre-emptive war for peace thing is really great! If every country on earth pre-emptively attacks every other country on earth, we'll be, like, the most peaceful planet ever!!!

Gotta love that Bush vision. Some in India sure seem to:
JODHPUR, India (AFP) - Defence Minister George Fernandes reiterated Indian warnings that Pakistan was a prime case for pre-emptive strikes.

"There are enough reasons to launch such strikes against Pakistan, but I cannot make public statements on whatever action that may be taken," Fernandes told a meeting of ex-soldiers in this northern Indian desert city on Friday.

The renewed warning came just hours after US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Washington would strive to cool tensions between nuclear enemies Pakistan and India, who have fought three wars since 1947.

Fernandes said he endorsed Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha's recent comments that India had "a much better case to go for pre-emptive action against Pakistan than the United States has in Iraq."

Sinha also argued that Pakistan was "a fit case" for US military action, because it had weapons of mass destruction and terrorists.
Oh Mr Sinha, get with the program! I'll tell you what the Bush administration and the State Department would: Pakistan is ruled by a good brutal military dictatorship, not an evil brutal military dictatorship. Have you no appreciation for subtlety in this world? Jeez! (hehehe)

I'm sure Gandhi's loving all this, btw.

Thursday, April 10, 2003


A conservative actually apologized for something!!!
WASHINGTON — A contrite U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., Tuesday gave a full apology for critical comments he made about the late Sen. Paul Wellstone in a Capitol Hill newspaper.

Coleman was quoted Monday in Roll Call as saying, "To be very blunt, and God watch over Paul's soul, I am a 99 percent improvement over Paul Wellstone. Just about on every issue."

But just when 100 angry Minnesota Democrats began organizing a protest outside of Coleman's St. Paul office, the freshman senator apologized and promised to speak respectfully of Wellstone's memory.

"I apologize for those comments which diminished the memory and legacy of Sen. Wellstone," Coleman said in an interview. "The people of Minnesota should expect more from this senator. When it comes to comments about my predecessor, anything about his legacy, I'll do my best to act that way, and speak that way, in the future. And I'll make sure it doesn't happen again."

Asked if he wanted to explain the context of the Roll Call remarks, Coleman replied, "No, it doesn't matter. The context doesn't matter if the inference, or the perception, is something else. I need to hold myself to a higher standard. I think the legacy of Sen. Wellstone deserves that."
Obviously, the soothing voice of Garrison Keillor was what did the little weasel in.

Obviously, this is too much for Major League Baseball to handle.

Especially when the Hall of Fame president is a Reaganite (and kudos to AP for mentioning that in the very first paragraph of their story):
NEW YORK - The Hall of Fame president, a former official in the Reagan administration, canceled a 15th anniversary celebration of "Bull Durham" because of anti-war criticism by co-stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon.
The most hilarious part of this whole thing is certainly the letter the president, Dale Petroskey, sent to the participants:
"In a free country such as ours, every American has the right to his or her own opinions, and to express them. Public figures, such as you, have platforms much larger than the average American's, which provides you an extraordinary opportunity to have your views heard — and an equally large obligation to act and speak responsibly," Petroskey wrote.

"We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important — and sensitive — time in our nation's history helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger. As an institution, we stand behind our President and our troops in this conflict."
Wow. The obvious first question, of course would be whether Petroskey acted to bar Trent Lott, Dick Armey, Tom DeLay, etc, from visiting the Hall of Fame in 1999 during the Kosovo campaign.

But more importantly, this is the attempted politicization of a sport that's supposed to belong to everybody, plain and simple. There are people with whom I have little or nothing in common with politically, yet we can find common ground in our shared enthusiasm for the Giants, 49ers, etc. So if you're a conservative and you're gloating about this -- you know who you are -- then by all means, get a $#*@ing life. You, like our friend Mr Petroskey, are acting counter to the ideals of sports, and to those of the United States Constitution. And my guess is that the vast majority of conservative males who have seen Bull Durham really like it! (a poll of readers last year voted Bull Durham the best sports movie of all time)

Furthermore, it can be argued -- by myself in this instance -- that the concept of competitive sports is, by nature, a liberal one. It is the competition of war, but without death and destruction. It does not have an official religion, its professional participants are thoroughly active in local communities, for the disadvantaged and otherwise.

Finally, next year is 2004, which is the 20th anniversary of "The Natural". Robert Redford ain't exactly the, um, most conservative guy around, so is that ceremony going to go forward or what?

Wednesday, April 09, 2003


Ok, it looks like we more-or-less took Baghdad.

And there was much rejoicing on the streets of the city:
Amid chaotic scenes of rejoicing, looting and scattered gunfire, Iraqis danced and trampled on the fallen 20-foot high metal statue in contempt for the man who had held them in fear for 24 years in which the country sustained massive human losses and economic damage from three wars.


Earlier, in scenes recalling the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, Iraqis hacked at the marble plinth of Saddam's statue with a sledgehammer. Youths hooked a noose around the statue's neck and attached the rope to a Marine armored vehicle, which dragged it over.

The crowd swarmed over what was left of the statue, waving their arms and fists in the air and dancing for joy. (emphasis mine)
This, as you may have seen if you turned on your friendly cable news channel, was the scene:

Thing is, if you watched the video, there were no more than several hundred, or maybe a thousand people there.

Yet Reuters calls it a "crowd" that "swarmed". I was a little confused by this. In August of 1991, as Boris Yeltsin stood on a tank outside the assembly buildings in Moscow and yelled into his bullhorn, he and anyone else there could have been easily shot, yet there were hundreds of thousands of people there, people who had been oppressed and often brutalized for decades, celebratory about being on the brink of freedom. Or howbout the hundreds of thousands, or more, who filled the streets of Belgrade to call for the ouster of Slobodan Milosevic? They went through plenty of shit too!

I'll let BartCop take it from here (he had the same questions I had):
Wait a minute - Baghdad is a city of five million people - where are they?

Out of five million, only 1,000 people are celebrating in the streets? I'll bet if Iraq won the World Cup, there'd be a full million dancing in the streets.

They can't be afraid to come out - the Marines are sitting on curbs smoking cigarettes, talking and laughing with the locals. It's obvious Saddam has no forces with which to attack them, so where are the other 4,999,000 people?

Did we kill them all?
Well, no, but the amount of dead civilians certainly exceeds the size of that "crowd" today.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003


Time Magazine, the mother of centrist weeklies in America, shows its sense of humor with this week's cover. I swear, it looks like Saddam Hussein is about to tell a joke:

"George W. Bush walks into a bar..."

Hehehe. (thanks to reader Ben for the idea)

The Oakland police department used rubber bullets and their equivalents to attack non-violent protestors near the Airport yesterday.

And contrary to what some may think, rubber bullets aren't exactly a walk in the park.

Hesiod has an even more graphic example.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Thabo Mbeki on Iraq, Britain, and more...
Mr. Mbeki opened a conference on elections and democracy in Africa by challenging participants to do more than simply recommit to Western principles such as free elections, a multiparty system and independent human rights monitors.

He compared the invasion of Iraq to force-feeding a person on a hunger strike, and said that real democracy was the product of evolution, not something to be imposed.

"The prospect facing the people of Iraq should serve as sufficient warning that in future we, too, might have others descend on us, guns in hand to force-feed us," Mr. Mbeki said. "If the United Nations does not matter," he continued, why should "the little countries of Africa" think that "we matter and will not be punished if we get out of line?"


Mr. Mbeki, architect of what government officials call a "quiet diplomacy" in Zimbabwe, has avoided public condemnation of Mr. Mugabe. And in his speech today, he lashed out instead at Britain.

"Great Britain does not limit the period during which a person may hold the position of prime minister, to say nothing about the hereditary position of head of state," he said. "It does not have an independent electoral commission that conducts elections. It does not have an independent human rights commission."

He offered what seemed to be a sarcastic comment about Britain, the former colonial power in both South Africa and Zimbabwe, and its pronouncements on the validity of elections in Zimbabwe.

"I have never heard of international observers verifying whether any British election was free and fair," Mr. Mbeki said. "Instead, I have heard of observers visiting the United Kingdom during election time to learn about how democratic elections should be conducted."
To his credit, sarcasm is a little too advanced a verbal concept for some world leaders I could think of. He makes some good points about the UN and Bush/Blair's potential "compassion" for Africa (TFM suddenly thinks about all that AIDS money bush promised, and the invisible-hand-strings that will come attached). I'm not sure, though, what attacking Britain's democratic system accomplishes exactly... I'll think about this more later.
New Krugman is up, and he's all over Racicot, DeLay etc on their lack of perspective on both patriotism and criticism of wartime presidents. Specifically, he makes a WWII allusion:
In 1944, millions of Americans were engaged in desperate battles across the world. Nonetheless, a normal presidential election was held, and the opposition didn't pull its punches: Thomas Dewey, the Republican candidate, campaigned on the theme that Franklin Roosevelt was a "tired old man." As far as I've been able to ascertain, the Roosevelt administration didn't accuse Dewey of hurting morale by questioning the president's competence. After all, democracy — including the right to criticize — was what we were fighting for.

It's not a slur on the courage of our troops, or a belittling of the risks they face, to say that our current war is a mere skirmish by comparison. Yet self-styled patriots are trying to impose constraints on political speech never contemplated during World War II, accusing anyone who criticizes the president of undermining the war effort.

Last week John Kerry told an audience that "what we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States." Republicans immediately sought to portray this remark as little short of treason. "Senator Kerry crossed a grave line when he dared to suggest the replacement of America's commander in chief at a time when America is at war," declared Marc Racicot, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Notice that Mr. Racicot wasn't criticizing Mr. Kerry's choice of words. Instead, he denounced Mr. Kerry because he "dared to suggest the replacement of America's commander in chief" — knowing full well that Mr. Kerry was simply talking about the next election. Mr. Racicot, not Mr. Kerry, is the one who crossed a grave line; never in our nation's history has it been considered unpatriotic to oppose an incumbent's re-election.
Heh, indeed.

Barbara Boxer, politician she may seem, is nevertheless a liberal. More often than most, or just about all of congress, she stands up for liberal points of view. For Jebus' sake, she single-handedly killed drilling in ANWR!

So why in the frig do the Greens want to run a candidate against her in what looks like a tough 2004 reelection campaign?
Like Hamlet weighing whether to stoically suffer the world's ills or take resolute action against them, the Green Party is weighing whether to field a candidate against California's Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2004 -- a candidate who could sap Boxer's support from the left and leave her more vulnerable to Republican attack.


After Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., died last year, Boxer went to the top of many pundits' most-liberal senator lists, and many now believe her bid for a third term could be 2004's costliest and most hard-fought Senate race.

"The question is, how much more liberal does the Green Party want a Democrat to be?" Stern asked.

Greens can't really use the "no-difference-between-Democrats-and-Republicans" argument from Ralph Nader's 2000 presidential campaign in the upcoming Boxer race. They tend to like many of Boxer's stances, such as those on women's rights, the environment and social issues.

But many believe she has committed at least one unpardonable sin.

"She is compromising too much on this issue of the war," said Peter Miguel Camejo of Walnut Creek, the Greens' 2002 gubernatorial candidate and among influential Greens urging a challenge to Boxer.

She hasn't appeared at anti-war protests; she hasn't spoken against development and potential use of a new generation of nuclear weapons and she hasn't supported creation of a permanent United Nations war crimes tribunal, Camejo said. And this month she joined in the 99-0 vote for a resolution that "commends and supports the efforts and leadership of the president, as commander in chief, in the conflict against Iraq."

That's not what Greens want, Camejo said, and so "the Greens should run; the Green point of view should be heard.

"The last thing Greens want is for Barbara Boxer to be replaced by a Republican," he acknowledged, adding that on the whole she's "one of the better people in the U.S. Senate. But why criticize the Greens if an individual chooses not to vote for Barbara Boxer because he or she doesn't agree with her? That's what democracy is all about."
First of all, I'm not going to condemn a senator for being part of a 99-0 vote. Anyway, this is just preposterous. As someone who's likely to be volunteering for Boxer's campaign next year, I'm rather annoyed by this.

Yes I would possibly have been more aggressive than her about the war at times. But Greens (particularly you, Ralph): President Gore would not have started an unjust, evil war in Iraq, and you sure did a lot to put Bush in a position to carry out such an operation.

Umm Peter, isn't killing ANWR drilling a statement against Bush policy of continued oil dependence?(and thus salivation over the prospect of occupying Iraq and its precious, precious petroleum?)

I agree with a lot of the Green Party's platform. But that's not the issue. Let's say, hypothetically, that a Democratic representative, senator or president --even one with corporate ties-- will give you, say 60-70% of what a Green in the same position would give you. (actually probably closer to 90%, given that it's not like the GOP is gonna lay down for the Greens) But what would a Republican, who won a seat due to a spoiler Green candidacy, get you if you're a progressive? Yep, about 0% of what you want. I dunno, but I'd take those 60-70% (minimum) any day of the week.

Howard Dean, for example, is a Wellstone Democrat. Yet he has a good rating from the NRA. Is that one issue reason enough for the Greens to play spoiler again in the 2004 election? Challenge Democrats if they're really drifting that far to the center, but why Boxer? I know it's a gross and heartless word, but consensus is important. And mainstream Democrats have a lot of common ground with Greens on one signifcant, important issue: Emphatic opposition to the Bush junta. That's where the energy should be.

I'm all for third parties, mind you, as long as they're aware of the consequences of their choices.

The Bushes were supposed to "restore honor and integrity" to the White House, yada yada. In reality, they boast: A father who bought his son his entire life, daughters wilder than the racist guy from my old high school who drove into the train, a wife who likes to go out on afternoon drives and run over highschool boyfriends, and a brother with a penchant for losing children and conspiring to steal elections.

Oh, and there was Neil, who was in jail during that last Gulf War. He's in the news again, standing up for Bush family values: he's in divorce court!
Neil Bush and his wife, Sharon, are headed to divorce court, and a source says their lawyers are frantically working for a last-minute settlement.

The president’s brother is splitting from his wife of 23 years — there have been published reports that he has a replacement waiting in the wings — and a trial date has been set for mid-April in a Houston court, says a source familiar with the case.

“This thing could get really ugly,” says the insider.“We’re hoping that it will all get settled out of court. The last thing we want now is for the Bush family to be airing its dirty laundry.”

The couple are the parents of model Lauren Bush.

“Of course,” adds the insider, “in the current political climate, maybe no one will touch the story because they don’t want to be accused of being unpatriotic.”
Ahh! An affair! Isn't that what the Bushes aren't supposed to have!?!? Change the tone!?!?!? Though I'm sure they'll play up the big wedding to the new girl somewhere down the line, and use it for political gain.

(hmm a model Bush daughter? what does she wear, caribou?)

Here's audio of Aaron McGruder, creator of The Boondocks, on Real Time with Bill Maher, most excellent.

(via bartcop)

So where are those weapons of mass destruction we've been hearing about?

Time after time the Bushies and Blairies claim to have proof of WMD in Iraq. But then . . . Niger documents were forgeries . . . Powell's dossier is old and plagiarized from a high-school student . . . unmanned drone turns out to be made of balsa wood and ductape . . . pounds of uranium turned out to be ounces of non-fissile material . . . just last week, US troops found a site with vials of white powder. Is that it? Er, no, it turned out to be explosives.

And today, Americans who logged onto the internet or turned on their 24-hour infotainment stations this morning saw screaming headlines saying that SARIN GAS had been found!!! At an Iraqi site! And suddenly the gun appeared smoky.

Curious but out of time, I bounded off to class, returning an hour later, to find that oops! Nevermind! It was just pesticide.
NEAR NAJAF, Iraq (AFP) - A facility near Baghdad that a US officer had said might finally be "smoking gun" evidence of Iraqi chemical weapons production turned out to contain pesticide, not sarin gas as feared.

A military intelligence officer for the US 101st Airborne Division's aviation brigade, Captain Adam Mastrianni, told AFP that comprehensive tests determined the presence of the pesticide compounds.

Initial tests had reportedly detected traces of sarin -- a powerful toxin that quickly affects the nervous system -- after US soldiers guarding the facility near Hindiyah, 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Baghdad, fell ill.

Mastrianni said: "They thought it was a nerve agent. That's what it tested. But it is pesticide."

He said a "theatre-level chemical testing team" made up of biologists and chemists had finally disproved the preliminary field tests results and established that pesticide was the substance involved.

Mastrianni added that sick soldiers, who had become nauseous, dizzy and developed skin blotches, had all recovered.
If there's any consolation, I suppose we can add the Orkin Man to the axis of evil.

Sunday, April 06, 2003


Here's one you wont read in America.