The Facts Machine

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

Thursday, April 17, 2003

(Brendan and Laurie will be having a weekend-long TFM Official Convention starting tonight. We will print t-shirts and buttons and bumper stickers, inquire if you must. There will be thorough discussions, X-Files, and serious studying at times. In other words, blogging could be light between now and monday. Happy easter or something!)

Why do conservatives, on tv and elsewhere, try to promote this idea that the speedy prosecution of the war somehow disproves the anti-war contingent's argument?

Good thing Arianna is on the case.
From the moment that statue of Saddam hit the ground, the mood around the Rumsfeld campfire has been all high-fives, I-told-you-sos, and endless smug prattling about how the speedy fall of Baghdad is proof positive that those who opposed the invasion of Iraq were dead wrong.

What utter nonsense. In fact, the speedy fall of Baghdad proves the antiwar movement was dead right.

The whole pretext for our unilateral charge into Iraq was that the American people were in imminent danger from Saddam and his mighty war machine. The threat was so clear and present that we couldn't even give inspectors searching for weapons of mass destruction -- hey, remember those? -- another 30 days, as France had wanted.

Well, it turns out that, far from being on the verge of destroying Western civilization, Saddam and his 21st century Gestapo couldn't even muster a halfhearted defense of their own capital. The hawks' cakewalk disproves their own dire warnings. They can't have it both ways. The invasion has proved wildly successful in one other regard: It has unified most of the world -- especially the Arab world -- against us.



But seriously, the widely-respected commentator is offering up his weekly HBO sports talk show On the Record with Bob Costas to hold a makeup Bull Durham anniversary celebration, and will happily include stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon.
Sportscaster Bob Costas says officials were wrong to nix the upcoming event in the wake of anti-war statements by Hollywood stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, and he's looking to stage the event on his own cable TV program.

Costas says he's invited the stars of the film to appear on HBO's "On The Record" "not to talk about the controversy, but re-create what they would have done up in Cooperstown."
Bob is one of the smartest guys in all of sports, and at his height, he'd better be! Anyway we should all get him something nice. Word on the street is that candlesticks make a nice gift...

Salon's Eric Bohlert on two very similar but very differently labeled crimes:
On Independence Day last summer, a depressed 41-year-old Muslim immigrant by the name of Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, whose views on the Arab-Israeli conflict had become increasingly extreme, approached the ticket counter of the Israeli-run El Al airline at Los Angeles International Airport. Loaded down with a recently purchased .45-caliber semiautomatic Glock pistol, a 9 mm handgun and a 6-inch knife, he opened fire. During a 30-second rampage, Hadayet emptied the 10-round revolver, killing two people and injuring scores more, before an El Al security guard shot him dead.

Six weeks later, in Tampa, Fla., a depressed Jewish podiatrist by the name of Dr. Robert Goldstein, 38, who wanted to send a message on behalf of "his people" following the attacks of Sept. 11, and to express his anger over the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict, was arrested after police raided his home. There they discovered a detailed plan to blow up 50 local mosques and Islamic centers, "kill all 'rags‚'" and "liquidate" Muslims during the attacks if necessary. Police also uncovered a vast illegal stash of weapons, including 30 explosive devices, light-armor rockets, hand grenades, a 5-gallon gasoline bomb, .50-caliber machine guns, silencers, and sniper rifles.

Ultimately, law enforcement authorities would label one man a terrorist, and the other a dangerous but deluded perpetrator of hate crimes.
Hmm, before clicking on the link, guess which is which. Not too hard.

...especially if you live on the east coast, in which case you'd be able to see Sonic Youth and Wilco together.

I heard Wilco, the reigning faux-radiohead du jour, will also be touring with REM this summer. If they do a stretch with, say, Guided by Voices, they will have completed the Geek Trifecta!

Bush talks tough on Cuba:
WASHINGTON, April 16 — The Bush administration is considering a series of steps to punish the Cuban government for its recent crackdown on dissidents, officials said today.

Among the more drastic are the possibility of cutting off cash payments to relatives in Cuba — a mainstay for millions of Cubans — or halting direct flights to the island, the officials said.

President Bush is likely to make a public statement soon about the crackdown, which has stirred grave concern among Cuba policy experts here and dampened the hopes of lawmakers and others seeking to ease the current trade sanctions.
("How can you imprison dissidents?" asked an incredulous Bush. "Round these here parts we just don't let 'em on TV!")

Part of the possible penalties, of course, would be forcing Cuba to lower itself from a total literacy rate to, you know, ours.

Want more?

Joke #3: ownership of cigars will be added to the criteria for enforcement of Patriot Act II.

Tim Robbins rocks the house at the National Press Club.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003


Right now, Colin Powell has a total Linda Blair thing going. He is posessed by the Bush Fedayeen, and it was those demons that compelled him to sit at the Security Council with a plagiarized dossier and a small vial of god-knows-what.

But today, despite Powell being under the control of the cult of the soulless, it seems the ol' "help me" is rising on his abdomen.

Today he spoke out against that cornerstone of the rabid anticommunist conservatives, the US-instrumented 1973 coup in Chile that gave the world Augusto Pinochet, and gave tens of thousands of Chileans an early assignment to go six feet under.
WASHINGTON - When a student asked Secretary of State Colin Powell about the 1973 military coup in Chile, the retired general turned diplomat made no secret of his deep misgivings about the U.S. role in that upheaval.

"It is not a part of American history that we're proud of," Powell said, quickly adding that reforms instituted since then make it unlikely that the policies of that Cold War era will be repeated.
It's funny, I just mentioned Pinochet in passing in a recent post. I do good work! Now let's get him started on Central America, then on to the mideast, hehe. And he could talk to the pharmaceutical companies about Africa, and Japan about that whole nuke thing, and...

MWO has the siren up for this story, as well they should:
BAGHDAD (AFP) - Anti-American protests intensified here and in southern Iraq as US forces struggled with the complex task of rebuilding the country after toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Exasperated US military officials tried to hamper the media from covering new demonstrations in Baghdad on Tuesday while some 20,000 people in the Shiite Muslim bastion of Nasiriyah railed against a US-staged meeting on Iraq's future.

Some 200-300 Iraqis gathered Tuesday outside the Palestine Hotel, where the US marines have set up an operations base, for a third straight day of protests against the US occupation.

For the first time, visibly angered US military officials sought to distance the media from the protest, moving reporters and cameras about 30 meters (yards) from the barbed-wired entrance to the hotel.

"We want you to pull back to the back of the hotel because they (the Iraqis) are only performing because the media are here," said a marine colonel who wore the name Zarcone but would not give his first name or title.
I second the Horse's sentiment on this one: I love this brilliant US military (and otherwise) reasoning that protesting is a "performance", cheering, giving roses to troops, and kissing pictures both of Dubya and of Sly Stallone as Rocky aren't. The bottom line is: we're censoring the war . . . again.

And ooh, this one's gonna sting:
The crowd later moved to the nearby square where the statue of Saddam was toppled Wednesday to signal the end of the regime. As three of the marines' armored amphibious vehicles passed by, they chanted: "No, no, USA."

Meanwhile, demonstrators marched to the center of the predominantly Shiite southern city of Nasiriyah, chanting "Yes to freedom ... Yes to Islam ... No to America, No to Saddam."
When will some intrepid columnist from the Weekly Standard or the National Review (or perhaps Instapundit) slam the Iraqi people for their dreaded "moral relativism"? Haha.

And "yes to Islam"? Surely, the righteous reverend Franklin "Islam is a wicked and evil religion" Graham will fix that!

What a mess we're making.

Congratulations to Melissa Etheridge, who is now engaged to be married!
Singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge and actress Tammy Lynn Michaels (Popular) announced that they are engaged and will be married by year's end.

The forty-one-year-old, Grammy-winning Etheridge and the twenty-eight-year-old Michaels issued no specifics about the date of the ceremony, only that it would be "a 2003 holiday wedding." The marriage will be the first for both women. Etheridge has two children from her relationship with Julie Cypher, her partner for twelve years; they split in September 2000, months after the couple revealed that David Crosby was the biological father of their children. Etheridge and Michaels met early the following year.
I hope that the ceremony takes place somewhere other than, say, Burlington. Yes, I know that same-sex marriage is legal there. Hell, that's part of why I dig Howard Dean so much. But I want them to do this somewhere else, if only as an emphatic "fuck you" to the Ashcroftians around the country. One interesting thing about Etheridge is her broad, two-toned appeal. Her music has a blue-collar, working-class ethic to it (most evident in the Springsteen influence that's all over her music), but it's also socially liberal in some ways (yes, I know, particularly that one).

Anyway, this is happy news. I have no plans to get married in the near future, but I salute Melissa and Tammy nevertheless!

From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON, April 15 — President Bush declared today that "the regime of Saddam Hussein is no more," and his administration used America's rapid success in overthrowing the Iraqi leader to put new pressure on Iran and Syria, neighbors of the newly occupied nation.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the United States was moving to cut off an important oil pipeline running from Iraq into Syria, the first major economic penalty against Syria.

Mr. Rumsfeld's statements, as well as remarks by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, were part of a declared strategy to consolidate the allied victory in Iraq by beginning to reshape the Middle East, while Mr. Bush said he planned to make the new Iraq a model for democracy in the Middle East. (emphasis mine)
Nevermind that third paragraph, that's the usual neocon daydream crap. Yes, other Arab nations will take notice of the United States' military might. But they've also noticed how we stood idly by as we allowed cherished institutions of Iraqi history and culture to be destroyed in the post-"liberation" chaos.

The donning of my tinfoil hat centers around Rummy's supposed economic penalty for Syria: to cut off an oil pipeline from Iraq. Ummm, we're in Iraq in the first place because of oil, so wouldn't we have done that anyway? My guess is we would have done this even if we hadn't been lashing out at Syria. But now Rummy gets to mask it, saying this is part of the Bushies being tough on a "rogue nation".

Ok, back to work.
(er, "NO!")

Oliver Willis links to a sad, sad piece of news: TNN is going "Maxim-y".
The name change is set to take effect June 16 and will be backed by a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign. In a statement, network president Albie Hecht said Spike TV would be "unapologetically male."

As part of its move to cater to the men's market, the network also unveiled a new slate of programming with a strong bent toward both the loud and the lewd, though the it will also carry daily news briefs on issues like health and finance.

"Guys like money, and girls like guys that have money. Therefore, guys are interested in the financial markets," the network said in previewing a series of daily market reports from CBSMarketWatch.

Men's Health magazine will contribute brief reports, Spike said, as will Stuff magazine, a "lad magazine" known for its scantily clad cover girls.

Joining the network this June, Spike said, will be an animation block featuring "Stan Lee's Stripperella," starring frequent Playboy model Pamela Anderson, as well as new episodes of the series "Ren & Stimpy."
I wouldn't care less about this, if it weren't for one thing: This likely means the impending end of Star Trek: The Next Generation reruns on TNN! Heavens no! Guess I'll be firing up the TiVo back home for the next 1.5 months.

Though, given the format of the new network, Blind Date probably isn't going anywhere. =P

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The Baghdad palace of Saddam Hussein's oldest son Odai is revealing more about his so-called "playboy" lifestyle.

Looters stripped the palace of most valuables, but there was still ample evidence of Odai's extravagance.

Reporters said they've seen pages of downloaded pornography, expensive liquor, cigars, guns and ammo magazines, and love letters from girlfriends.

The palace itself is adorned with ornate gold and gilt fixtures, lighting and furniture.

There were also some unusual discoveries in Odai's palace.

In addition to finding a lot of liquor, electronics, Cuban cigars and porn -- U.S. soldiers say they found pictures of President George W. Bush's twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara Bush.

They say the pictures were hanging in one of Odai Hussein's gymnasiums.

Captain Ed Ballanco said soldiers took those pictures down. (full story)
Hahahaha! This of course begs a disturbing question: During the 1991 war, did Odai have a picture of Laura up? Or worse, Bar?

Of course, if Hussein the younger was going for pure superficiality and not some strange Graduate thing with the twins, why not Dubya's niece Lauren:

She's a relatively vacant model for Tommy Hilfiger (ugh). When asked how she got into modeling:
"I fell into modeling when I was in New York with my family for the Macy's Parade. A family friend suggested that I meet with a few modeling agencies, and things just happened from there."
Hmm, a Bush "family friend", eh? Let's see . . . Bin Laden? . . . Saddam? . . . Pinochet? Well hey, they have connections.

Her favorite movies are "Great Expectations" and "Tommy Boy". Gee golly, I wonder which one of those movies more closely applies to Unkie Smirk...

("that's gonna leave a mark")

Please, pay no attention to that Syrian war plan behind the curtain...
WASHINGTON - Trying to calm a charged atmosphere, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday the United States has no plans to go to war with Syria or anyone else to bring democracy to a totalitarian state.

"Iraq was a unique case, where it wasn't just a matter of a dictator being there," Powell said at a news conference with foreign reporters. "There is no war plan to go and attack someone else, either for the purpose of overthrowing their leadership or for the purpose of imposing democratic values."

"Democratic values have to ultimately come from within a society and within a nation," he said, tempering heated rhetoric from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and some other senior U.S. officials.


...he rejected any suggestion the administration had a list of countries against whom it might send troops again.

"There is no list," he said, even as he registered unhappiness with some policies of Iran as well as Syria.
(...quietly adding "like we'd write that shit down???")

I'm very suspicious. They've got all the news networks talking about Syria. Then again, this could be a ploy. To what end? To crowd out news about the mess that they've made of Iraq, where chaos reigns, and we stood idly by as thousands of years worth of artifacts are looted and libraries are burnt to the ground. Instead of allowing the average American to ask him/herself "why are we guarding the Oil ministry while the national library and musem burn?", or "why are we installing former ba'ath party members to high-level transitional posts?", or even "hey, come to think of it, where's Saddam?", our government wants us to seethe at Syria and their own (young, western-educated) dictator.

So if there ends up being war in Syria, judging by the 8-month buildup to war in Iraq, the Bush administration will need at least one more war after that to provide political cover from our shithole economy to survive the 2004 election. You betta watch yo' ass, (country to be named later)!!! Dubya and the neocons are coming for ya!

In a related story, Dr Strangelove will be shown on June 3rd, in Chem1179 here at ucsb...


Aaron McGruder, you need to come to my birthday party or something. If only for "saddam never stole my vote", hehe.

The new issue is awesome, and I urge you to check it out, but the highlight is definitely the infographic:


Monday, April 14, 2003


...instead of Santa Barbara's KEYT-3, the local ABC afiliate.

In a 15second teaser for monday's 11pm news, anchor Debby Davison plugged an upcoming story about a roadside discovery of "...the body of a fetus".

No, you moron.

It's not the body of a fetus.

It's just a FETUS.

This is the creeping anti-abortion culture, almost Orwelian, that will fuck with the uteri of urban women someday.

I will be emailing to complain, of course, seeing as I have nothing much else to do tonight. Nah, hehe.

And another monday brings us another Bushism. He said this to the Iraqi people:
"You're free. And freedom is beautiful. And, you know, it'll take time to restore chaos and order—order out of chaos. But we will."—Washington, D.C., April 13, 2003
Hmm, Bush is diving into chaos theory here. Obviously he's been hanging out with this guy...

("I'm the only one who knows how screwed we are")

Of course, the distinction is that Jurassic Park dealt with living fossils, while Bush's war in Iraq was about fossil fuels. Heh.
-- then-governor George W Bush, 1999

Atrios points to a tidbit from the BBC: the Iraqi National Library has been completely destroyed.

We let this happen. Argh. But we're still ruthlessly guarding the Oil Ministry!

Bush recently went on the air to Iraqis and told them that they were a "gifted" people (of course when he says that he means ethnic). What does it say about Bush's respect for Iraq's history and culture if he has the troops stand idly by while their historical and cultural institutions (museum, library, etc) burn?

I flip between the three cable news networks, and they're all talking about Syria simultaneously. Actually 4 networks if you count the BBC feed on public tv.

I knew the economy was bad, but I didn't realize the Bushies needed a new diversion this quickly!

So far, we're (and by "we" of course, I mean "not me") talking about sanctions.
WASHINGTON - Triumphant in Iraq, the Bush administration looked across the border to Syria on Monday, accusing it of harboring remnants of Saddam Hussein's government and supporting terrorism. Secretary of State Colin Powell raised the possibility of diplomatic and economic sanctions.
Gee, Mr Powell, that's funny, cuz I'm noticing that we're taking remnants of Saddam's regime and giving them promotions.

Anyway, we'll watch this over the coming days weeks and months. At least this time we'll know that if the word "inspections" comes from anyone in the Bush adminstration, that they're completely and pre-emptively full of shit. Then we're on to Iran . . . Saudi Arabia . . . North Korea . . . umm, France . . . Germany . . . Russia . . . and hey, don't we have chemical weapons? Uh oh...

You're wavering. I can see it. You have held a principled opposition to this war from the day Bush brought it to the fore of his agenda (shortly after his "Fuck Saddam, we're taking him out!" outburst in early 02). But you saw those pictures of the statues coming down. The small hordes of Iraqis cheering the arrival of US troops into the Baghdad. And maybe, just maybe, the thought crossed your mind: "what if these neocon hawks are really on to something here?". Will you turn your back on the pacifism of your youth? Your belief in international consensus and the relevance of the United Nations? Will you embrace Pax Americana wholeheartedly, without looking back?

Well, naive children, before you walk that plank, be sure to read Digby's mock conversion first. I love his use of the JFK quote, I haven't laughed that much in a long while, hehehe.

Ok, I took most of the weekend off, but I'm back, and output should be cruising through thursday afternoon, though I can't make any guarantees about the weekend.

Remember how shortly after 9/11, one of the en vogue questions at the time was "why do they hate us?", with "they" being Al Qaeda and such. Well if we pose that that question again, this time aimed at the people of Iraq, we find a rather concise answer: because we blew up their country, and we're standing idly by as their culture, establishments and history are destroyed by looters and riots.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - At first they cheered, smiled, offered hearty thumbs-ups to the U.S. soldiers newly in their midst. But across Iraq's lawless capital, that sentiment is evaporating as quickly as Saddam Hussein's government melted away.

Baghdad was bursting with anti-American feeling Saturday as residents saw their city being stripped by its own citizens while U.S. forces stood by, rarely intervening and in some cases even motioning treasure-laden men through checkpoints.

Some still agreed with the United States' assessment of itself as a liberator. In the middle-class Zayuna neighborhood, friendly people offered American Marines baths, bread and buoyant greetings — and asked for both autographs and help against looters.

But for other Iraqis, in dozens of interviews conducted across Baghdad, the assessment was drastically different: America as conqueror.

"The coalition forces are responsible. Where is the law?" said Safa Hussein Qasim, 44, a jeweler. "This is the promise of the United States to Iraq? This is democracy in Baghdad?"

To walk the streets Saturday was to wade through a crazy-quilt blend of disarray and sadness, rage and jubilation and self-hatred. Though available booty was running low, looting continued apace, as did citizen resistance to it. One man carried a purloined tuba up the street. Baghdadis fretted and argued: What would become of their country?

"Saddam Hussein's greatest crime is that he brought the American army to Iraq," said Gailan Ramiz, 62, helping a mob that was trying to tear down yet another Saddam statue at Shorji market, Baghdad's biggest.

It is stories like Hassan Shrawa's that are making them turn their backs on the uniformed Americans who swept in days ago.

Shrawa, 30, an engineer from Baghdad's Saddam City section, said he and his neighbors captured a Syrian mercenary and turned him over to U.S. troops Friday. As Shrawa tells it, the commander flatly refused to take custody of the man.

"What happens in the future?" Shrawa mused.

U.S. forces say they are doing the best they can under chaotic conditions — chaos, many Iraqis point out, that the United States itself created. Few praised Saddam. But at least, they said, he offered stability.

Baghdad lacks that right now. Water, electricity and gasoline are pipe dreams, and food is becoming almost as scarce.
Holy crap, it took less than a week, and we already have the "at least he offered stability" nostalgia!?!? This is like "democratic" Russia, only what took twenty years there took a week in Iraq, all thanks to us! In Russia, you had Yeltsin and now Putin, with a democracy that isn't quite democratic, and a free market that really isn't that free (in fact that's being very charitable, the more apt term would be bribeocracy or kleptocracy). Talk to some old hands there, and interestingly, you'll hear nostalgia for the days of Brezhnev. And though it's close, I'd say that Saddam was (is?) probably a bit worse than ol' Leonid was.

The looting continues as we speak. Hospitals are being looted. Rummy tried to talk such things off as the "untidy" consequences of newfound freedom. And the most insulting paradigm of America's motivations in Iraq? From the Washington Post:
Some Iraqis, however, question the allocation of U.S. forces around the capital. They note a whole company of Marines, along with at least a half-dozen amphibious assault vehicles, has been assigned to guard the Oil Ministry, while many other ministries -- including trade, information, planning, health and education -- remain unprotected.

"Why just the oil ministry?" Jaf asked. "Is it because they just want our oil?"