The Facts Machine

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

Thursday, June 12, 2003


BuzzFlash interviews Al Franken.

Today is moving day, as TFM "Official" Headquarters will be shifting 325 miles north, to the south side of Berkeley, for the summer. I'd say where exactly, but, you know, I don't want certain people punching holes in my wall or attempting to sell me hundred dollar cookies to make a "point" of some sort.

Now I promised myself I wouldn't get sentimental (and when was the last time you really read a blogger being sentimental?), but it has been a happy and productive year down here at Jack Johnson University. I've had nine months surrounded by film majors, yet I am proud to say my tastes have not grown the slightest bit more pretentious, and I probably still can't use the word "postmodern" in a sentence. Now I must make the momentous shift from Freebirds burritos to La Burrita ones. Freebirds is open 24/7, if only I could say the same for that little slice of heaven on Durant.

Okay, that's enough outta me, I have to go load the TFM-mobile with three guitars, two boxes of frosted mini wheats, one subwoofer, two old Clinton-for-president shirts, about eight guitars, and of course, two hand-carved wooden baboons from northern Zimbabwe. And don't worry, they don't have VD.

Peace out.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003


From Arianna Huffington, a day in the life of Karl Rove. You have to go read the whole thing.

Heh. Indeed.

In articles, blogs and elsewhere, I've seen "weapons of mass destruction" abbreviated in two fashions: WMD, and WMDs. Which is correct? I'd say WMD, because the word "weapons" is already plural. "WMDs" is, then, a tad redundant ("Weapons of Mass Destructions"). It reminds me of how the plural for Attorney General is "Attorneys General".

On a completely unrelated note, last night's Jay Leno Monologue Scorecard reads:
Hillary Clinton 5
Martha Stewart 4
Scott/Laci Peterson 2
OJ Simpson 0
Ok those are just estimates. Back to finals...

Fumbling through a maze of my belongings to initiate the cleansing ritual better known as packing for the Bay Area, I came upon a printed copy of an article given to me by my roomate, Daily Nexus Science Editor Josh Braun. In fact, I briefly blogged about it at the time (for once my permalinks don't appear to be bloggered).

Anyway, this is the article. Excerpt:
HHS Seeks Science Advice to Match Bush Views
By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 17, 2002; Page A01

The Bush administration has begun a broad restructuring of the scientific advisory committees that guide federal policy in areas such as patients' rights and public health, eliminating some committees that were coming to conclusions at odds with the president's views and in other cases replacing members with handpicked choices.

In the past few weeks, the Department of Health and Human Services has retired two expert committees before their work was complete. One had recommended that the Food and Drug Administration expand its regulation of the increasingly lucrative genetic testing industry, which has so far been free of such oversight. The other committee, which was rethinking federal protections for human research subjects, had drawn the ire of administration supporters on the religious right, according to government sources.

A third committee, which had been assessing the effects of environmental chemicals on human health, has been told that nearly all of its members will be replaced -- in several instances by people with links to the industries that make those chemicals. One new member is a California scientist who helped defend Pacific Gas and Electric Co. against the real-life Erin Brockovich.

The changes are among the first in a gradual restructuring of the system that funnels expert advice to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.
Why is this relevant? Because it is very possible that the Bush administration's MO regarding science is similar to their MO on justifying the Iraq war. This is assuming the absolute best, of course, being that the administration ignored many of the intelligence findings of the CIA and others, while having their bellicose fantasies tickled by Chalabi's flights of fancy "insider" information. Bush seemed so utterly convinced that Iraq still had thousands of tons of WMD, and the confidence regarding WMD of the public face of the administration (Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rummy, Wolfy, and to a less sane extent, Perle) was a big part of why a big chunk of flyover country was sold on the case for war. (of course, doing the equivalent of Conan O'Brien's "If They Mated" with Saddam and Bin Laden sure helped)

Yeah, the intelligence community was iffy, including the leaked "no reliable information on Iraq's chemical weapons" report from September, but dern it, the Bushies seemed so suuure!* The only explanations for this could be 1) outright deception or 2) a very selective ear for intelligence.

And if they manipulated HHS to hear what they want to hear, wouldn't they do that with the intelligence community too! I wouldn't put it past them. Either way, that "Bush Lied, People Died" potential 2004 bumper sticker will remain justified until further notice.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003


Why is Martha Stewart under indictment and not Ken Lay?

(from thoughtcrimes, via bartcop)
Sorry about my 40-some hour absence, finals were calling, and lucky me, I accepted the charges.

I should be around today, tonight, tomorrow, the future, etc.

In the meantime, congrats, Smells Like Teen Spirit! No surprise there.

Sunday, June 08, 2003


Today's sentence preface: "The way things are looking"

As in, "The way things are looking, Bush and Blair sure have a lot of explaining to do about those missing WMD".

I don't have time to speak at length right now about my opinion of the apparent lack of WMD in Iraq despite whatever intel Bush/Blair claim to have had. In short: If he is proven to have lied, impeach.

But in the meantime, here are three things for you to read.

1. Former presidential counsel John Dean gives us some historical perspective on presidents who lie, probably possibly including this one.
In the three decades since Watergate, this is the first potential scandal I have seen that could make Watergate pale by comparison. If the Bush Administration intentionally manipulated or misrepresented intelligence to get Congress to authorize, and the public to support, military action to take control of Iraq, then that would be a monstrous misdeed...

...To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be "a high crime" under the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony "to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose."
2. The account of a former State Dept official, about how the administration "distorted intelligence and presented conjecture as evidence" in the lead-up to war.

3. This post by Steve Gilliard at Daily Kos, on the best, best, best-case scenario the way things are looking, for Bush: He was duped by Chalabi. Perhaps not flat-out lying, but certainly grossly incompetent. And even to believe this, in my opinion, requires a number of leaps to accept that what the Bushies were telling us in the lead-up wasn't a carefully calculated effort of exaggeration and distortion.

And a good evening to you!

Saw their CSPAN appearance replayed earlier today, most awesome to see Bill get clocked the second he entered a format other than his precious "no-spin zone". Franken deserves a lot of credit. Paul Bruno has more.

During O'Reilly's pre-show segment, taking calls, he -- surprise! -- lied. A caller commented that he was aghast that O'Reilly, on his tv show, compared the Koran to Mein Kampf, which of course is Adolf Hitler's prison manifesto. O'Reilly lashed back, saying it was a "flat-out lie", I believe those were his words. To the transcripts! (Fox News may have their own memory hole, but Google's cache sure doesnt!)

On this particular day, July 10th of 2002, Bill had on his show Dr Robert Kirkpatrick, a UNC prof who assigned a book explaining portions of the Koran to incoming freshmen. There's a discussion about Islam and Xianity, we'll skip that and get to the relevant segment...
BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Impact" segment tonight, an unbelievable situation at the University of North Carolina. Each incoming freshman this fall will be required to read a book that explains portions of the Koran.

Joining us now from Raleigh, North Carolina, is Dr. Robert Kirkpatrick, who selected the reading. "The Early, Approaching the Koran, The Early Revelations," is the book, I guess, professor.


But my problem is this with there. I don't look. I'm for academic freedom. I want all the students in universities and colleges across the country to be as well versed as possible. But I don't know what this serves to take a look at our enemy's religion. See? I mean, I wouldn't give people a book during World War II on the emperor is God in Japan, would you?

KIRKPATRICK: Sure, why not? Wouldn't that explain, wouldn't that have explained kamikaze pilots?

O'REILLY: No. It would have just -- I don't think it would have. I mean, I would say the culture of Japan, fine, but not the religion. The religion aspect of this bothers me.

Now, you're going to let kids not read it if they want, correct?

KIRKPATRICK: Of course, yes.

O'REILLY: And they have, but they have to write a 300-word essay telling you why they don't want to.

KIRKPATRICK: Well, I think that's part of the whole incoming first year student project is to get them to recognize that as a member of an academic community, they have to learn to think and to read and to write and to defend their opinions. And defending the right not to read the book is something that will be very interesting to read.

O'REILLY: Absolutely. I wouldn't read the book. And I'll tell you why I wouldn't have read "Mein Kampf" either. If I were going to UNC in 1941, and you, professor, said, Read "Mein Kampf," I would have said, Hey, professor, with all due respect, shove it. I ain't reading it.

KIRKPATRICK: Why? Well, is that because you think you would have been converted to -- if you read it?

O'REILLY: No. It's because it's tripe.


KIRKPATRICK: How do you know if you haven't read it?

O'REILLY: Because I know I would have read a summary about it and be conversant enough to argue and debate with you, as I am now.

I've looked at the Koran. All right? And I have nothing against the Koran, by the way. I mean, there are some things in the Koran that are good, and there are some things that aren't good. Same thing in the Old Testament, some things that are good, some things that aren't good.

But I'm telling you, these are our enemies now. I mean, the Islamic fundamentalism is our enemy. And I would have preferred you to have an overall global look at the Islamic world rather than the Koran. See? I think it would have been more instructive. Would I be wrong there?

KIRKPATRICK: Well, I think you would have a number of books to choose from, and each one of those books would have had its own slant.

O'REILLY: Yes, but you don't have them.

KIRKPATRICK: And we were trying to -- we were trying to pick a book that did not have a particular slant.

O'REILLY: You don't think you made a mistake here? It does have a slant, though. It has a slant! It's a re -- it's based on Islamic code, it has a slant.

KIRKPATRICK: It's a scholarly text showing any reader how these particular surahs are structured and how the poetry plays a part in making them clear to us.

O'REILLY: All right. Would you have read "Mein Kampf" in 1941 if you were a student then and they ordered you to do it?

KIRKPATRICK: I hope I would have, yes.

O'REILLY: All right.

KIRKPATRICK: I mean, knowledge is power. What -- if we don't understand other people, then we are putting ourselves in jeopardy.

O'REILLY: OK. Appreciate your point of view, thanks very much. Very provocative. (emphases mine)
O'Reilly associates the Koran specifically with religious fundamentalism. This is simply foolish and stupid. More importantly, Mein Kampf, on its own, stood as a mission statement for a universally detestable view, not of a religious faith shared by hundreds of millions of people around the world. Thus, to equate reading the Koran now with reading Mein Kampf during WWII (respective "books of the enemy") is ridiculous.

Not to don some tinfoil or anything, but there's a bigger thing going on here. If I were a student during WWII, I would hope that I was assigned Mein Kampf, because reading it would have helped me understand the nature of Hitler and the Nazi Party more clearly than otherwise, and would have revealed further justification for the military efforts of the Allied forces. Flash forward to now: Why don't people like Bill O'Reilly want to have the Koran discussed fairly on campuses across America? Because it would be revealed that the Koran is a religious text on par with the Bible, both in cultural influence and broadness of readers and followers. "Normal", "peaceloving" people read the Koran, and it informs their religious beliefs and daily lives. To associate it most closely with "fundamentalism" (read "extremism" and/or "terrorism") is simply to misrepresent it, just as it would be to associate the Bible first and foremost with Tim McVeigh and Eric Rudolph.

In short, what Bill O'Reilly did in July 02 was tantamount to channeling Franklin Graham. And he lied about it on CSPAN.

Now I have a lot of work to do, so this is probably the last you'll hear from me today.