The Facts Machine

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

Friday, June 20, 2003


Had too much of Brendan's political and cultural musings, yet not enough of his groovy emotional pop-rock stylings?

Then come check me out, tuesday night, June 24th, at the Starry Plough pub! It's open mic night, and I've played there a handful of times (pretty well-received each time if I may say so, hehe). The music starts at 8 (I usually try to play in the first hour), and sign-ups to perform are at 730. Plus, free beers are given away at regular intervals throughout the night to those who correctly answer quizzes asked by the lovely Joan, who hosts the night.

Starry Plough is at 3101 Shattuck, on the east side of the street, between Ashby and Alcatraz. Here is a map!

I'll be playing three songs most likely . . . and for longtime fans of my stuff, you'll be treated to a rare performance of that old adolescent Brendan standard, "Kill Me So Slow"! Wow!

Thursday, June 19, 2003

I found this joke in the comments for a Kos post on the interesting but rather wishful thinking of disgruntled Libertarians (capital-L) voting Democrat. It's good, and worth reprinting here:
Attorney General Ashcroft is visiting an elementary school. After the typical civics presentation to the class, he announces, "All right, boys and girls, you can all ask me questions now."

A young boy named Bobby raises his hand and says, "I have three questions:
1. How did Bush win the election with fewer votes than Gore?
2. Why are you using the USA Patriot Act to limit Americans' civil liberties?
3. Why hasn't the U.S. caught Osama bin Laden yet?"

Just then the bell sounds and all the kids run out to the playground.

Fifteen minutes later, the kids come back in class and again Ashcroft says, "I'm sorry we were interrupted by the bell. Now you can all ask me questions."

A young girl named Charlene raises her hand and says, "I have five questions:

1. How did Bush win the election with fewer votes than Gore?
2. Why are you using the USA Patriot Act to limit Americans' civil liberties?
3. Why hasn't the U.S. caught Osama bin Laden yet?
4. Why did the bell go off 20 minutes early?
5. Where's Bobby?"

Yesterday, walkin through "the" plaza, I was among many who signed a counter-petition, opposing Rep Issa's $800,000 effort to recall Governor Davis. Of course, there's nothing practical or legal that such a counter-petition could accomplish, though it is an important symbolic gesture. 31 recall attempts in California down the drain, hopefully this is one more.

I'm not the biggest Davis fan, but Republicans across the country are stricken with an affliction centering around disrespect for the electoral will of the people.


While thinking about the anti-recall campaign, it suddenly hit me. We can use the words of a certain former Governor of California against Issa and the gang! How's this for a poster:

"I don't recall"

If he doesn't, why should you?

Stop the recall
Well, he said it! Didn't he? Sure, it was about, you know, that whole selling weapons to those evil, evil Iranians (about whom now many conservatives are complaining, my how the chickens ever come to roost, dont they!). But it'll do!

UPDATE: Yes, I know that the title of this post is shared with that of an Ah-nuld movie, and that makes it, well, ironic. But let's put it this way: it was a good Ah-nuld movie.

UPDATE UPDATE: I do not mean to say anything about our former Governor, President and Birch Society member's current physical condition. My quoting him as having said "I don't recall" regarding selling arms to Iran, etc, would be the same as quoting him saying "Well..." at a press conference. Again, it was not my intent to make fun of anyone's current physical condition.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003


As others have pointed out, Bush's "revisionist historians" comment has to be among the most ironic things ever said. The best thing about it is that it gives news correspondents quite the softball. It is rare that a moment of irony can be caught in such a cut-and-dry fashion as this (from the Australian):
GEORGE W. Bush, facing growing questions over the failure of the US to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, hit out yesterday at "revisionist historians", whom he claimed wanted to ignore Saddam Hussein's record.

The President's defiance came in the face of strong pressure from Democrats for congressional inquiries into whether intelligence about Iraq's weapons was inadequate or wrong, or twisted by the administration to suit its case for ousting the Iraqi dictator.

"This nation acted to a threat from the dictator of Iraq," Mr Bush insisted yesterday in a speech in New Jersey. "Now, there are some who would like to rewrite history – revisionist historians is what I like to call them.

"Saddam Hussein was a threat to America and the free world in 91, in 98, in 2003. He continually ignored the demands of the free world, so the United States and friends and allies acted."

Mr Bush did not mention weapons of mass destruction – a trend in recent speeches. He recently insisted the US would find "the truth" about the weapons programs, rather than weapons themselves.
A revisionist trend? And more subtly Orwelian, a revisionist aim about the weapons (the "truth about" them, rather than the WMD themselves).

Somewhere or other, I came across this article saying that Howard Dean is gaining ground in South Carolina, a state where some write him off because he is viewed as more liberal than his primary opponents. Anyway, it got me wondering: Aside from the polled-to-death early states, like New Hampshire and Iowa, how is it possible to really get a feel for which partisan primaries are going to go which way?

If you superficially look at the Democratic primaries, you would assume that states like New Hampshire, Washington, California, etc, would favor more liberal candidates, because hey, those states are certainly more liberal than many of their counterparts, and would vote that way (Dean, Kerry, perhaps Kucinich). Conversely, states like South Carolina, Texas, and the like would seem to vote for more conservative candidates (Gephardt, Graham, Kerry). Right? Well, not necessarily. The states on the whole may lean that way, but that doesn't necessarily say anything about the political leanings of the Democratic population of a given state. As an example, Idaho and Montana's Democratic voters may be very liberal, but because they are vastly outregistered by Republicans, the state itself doesn't lean that way. It's completely possible that a "liberal" candidate could decisively win a primary in a state that is generally viewed as "conservative", and vice versa.

The wild-card, of course, lies in the states which have open primaries. The logical thinking would be that if Republicans and independents could cross over and vote in a Democratic primary, this would generally benefit more conservative candidates. Right? Again, not necessarily. The assumption I would make is that any voter who chooses to cross over and vote in an opposition party's primary is probably a sophisticated voter who is making a sophisticated choice. An example of this would be: Let's say the 2002 California GOP Gubernatorial primary were an open primary. In that case, I, as a Democrat, would have voted for the weaker potential opponent to Davis, Bill Simon, to defeat the more dangerous candidate, Richard Riordan. Of course, that wasn't even necessary, as the California GOP loves to slip on its own banana peels, and thus gave Simon the nomination all by themselves. (tbogg has more on their current idiocy, the effort to recall Davis)

So, bottom line, partisan primaries that haven't been polled to death are hard to predict. At least until Super Tuesday, at which point the media tries to cut costs on covering the campaign and anoint a winner.

Canada's parliament will soon be voting on same-sex marriage legislation.

I'm sure with this news, Rick Santorum will be cancelling his summer vacation at Niagra.

(link via capozzola who, i regret to say, has decided not to run for Senate this time around)
STRIKE 2000!

Remember this?

Yeah, the box that was discovered last fall, which was thought to once contain the remains of James, the brother of Jesus, the reason being that an inscription in Aramaic said as much?

Well, file it next to the Shroud of Turin. Oh how Brendan loves using the H-word when referring to the gospels:

Israeli archaeological experts said Wednesday an inscription on an ancient stone box suggesting it once contained the bones of Jesus' brother, James, was a forgery.

The burial box and its Aramaic inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" had excited speculation it could be the earliest physical reference to the founder of Christianity outside the New Testament.

But the director of Israel's Antiquities Authority, Shuka Dorfman, called it a hoax.

"The ossuary is real. But the inscription is fake. What this means is that somebody took a real box and forged the writing on it, probably to give it a religious significance," Dorfman told Reuters after a news conference on the matter.
"Israeli archaeological experts"? [billy graham]Jews! They killed Jesus! Obviously they have an interest in calling it a forgery![/billy graham] (hehe)

I will now present you with two stories. Your assignment is to guess which one of these is the buzz of outraged conservative bloggers...

#1: Occupiers' proposed new code to regulate Iraq's media draws apprehension from journalists, Associated Press.
Faced with a freewheeling Iraqi media, the U.S.-led occupation authority is devising a code of conduct for the press, drawing protests from Iraqi journalists who endured censorship under Saddam Hussein and worry for their newfound freedom.

Coalition officials say the code is not intended to censor the media, only to stifle intemperate speech that could incite violence and hinder efforts to build a civil society. The country is just too fragile for a journalistic free-for-all, they say.

#2: A motion by the Council of Europe (no, not the EU, which is an actual legislative body with the power to pass laws), recommending the creation of a system for right of reply to online media for factual concerns. (not opinion, mind you). The pertinent text:
(The Committee of Ministers) Recommends that the governments of the member States should consider introducing measures in their domestic law or practice so as to extend the right of reply to the on-line media along the lines of the following principles
I don't think you have to guess which one.

(i like how eager sully is to equate the council of europe with the eu . . . i also like that if you scroll a shade up, you find him linking to a murdoch-times piece attacking michael moore, commenting that europe is finally "catching up to him")

For sane commentary on story #2, go here and here. (other links from atrios and kos and elsewhere)

Tuesday, June 17, 2003


That's the rank enjoyed by my old digs, San Mateo High School, in Newsweek's silly ranking of the top 800 or so public high schools in the USA.

The rankings were based on:
the number of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests taken by all students at a school in 2002 divided by the number of graduating seniors
Jim C at Rittenhouse has some analysis.

Of course, such criteria is rather narrow, and the result, as Jim points out, schools could act narrowly with the single purpose of improving their position on such a glamorous list, at the possible expense of the local taxpayers, and worse, the students.

Another note is that because the criteria for the list is heavily weighted towards AP tests, schools that lack AP and IB programs yet feature solid standards and programs of other forms for students get short shrift in lists like this. And of course, if your school is anywhere near a prestigious country club, that will most likely bump you up a spot or two (Torrey Pines HS, #79). More generally, though, if you are white and live in an affluent neighborhood, chances are your local high school is on this list. Take my old district, for example. San Mateo High School (#545) has a higher percentage of non-white students (57%) as those of the two district schools that finished ahead of them in the rankings, those being Burlingame (#373) and Aragon (#502).

All this being said, this is a dumb list. Next?

Monday, June 16, 2003

commander-in-chief "shocked and awed" by scooter!

I'm sure by now we've all seen photos of the Boy King falling off his brand new Segway at Kennedrunkport. Oh what the hell, here they are again:

The question of the week is: How do you fall off a device that is ever so intricately designed to ensure your balance and safety?

Answer: you forget to turn it on (via lambert of eschaton):
It would have been brilliant publicity: the leader of the free world, tooling around the family compound on a newfangled Segway scooter.

If only the leader of the free world hadn't fallen off.

On Thursday, President Bush failed to flip the ''on'' switch to the scooter he had purchased for his father, so the self-balancing mechanism didn't work. The president tumbled to the ground, unhurt. And news photographers, lingering outside the compound with long lenses, picked up grainy images of a presidential spill.

When Ann Hershfang spied the pictures in a newspaper yesterday, she couldn't suppress a giggle. As president of the advocacy group WalkBoston, she questions the New Hampshire company's bid to make its scooter legal on Massachusetts sidewalks. So she didn't mind a black eye for the big-wheeled contraption some have billed as a transportation revolution.
First of all, George W Bush's inability to operate what is supposed to be an idiot-proof, overly-user-friendly vehicle shouldn't constitute any sort of "black eye" for the producers of the vehicle.

Apparently he hit the ground, though. None of the pictures show that. We see him beginning his tumble, then the next picture we see is of him awkwardly walking away. What, no picture of our majestic, fearlest leader experience the force of gravity at its finest? Yeah, probably the photographer was only able to squeeze the shutters a certain amount of times, and missed the full Ford-ness of a man who once piloted National Guard Jets (well, not in 1972, but you know).

And look carefully at the photos. Pay attention to the background. You can see a darkened doorway, or space in the wall, in the upper-left portion of the first photo, as he's just about to get on. In the other three photos, which show Bush's tumble, the door, is now in the upper-right of each picture. That means in the whole process of Bush getting on the Segway and then falling off, no more than a couple of feet are covered. Just take a moment to picture that in action: A grown man, the leader of the free world, steps onto it and almost immediately falls forward. It reminds me of when cartoon characters step on rakes (including but not limited to sideshow bob).

Presumably that's Jenna next to him in the first of the photos. Thus, it is possible that Bush tumbled after sharing some of Jenna's "shipment" from her good buddy Ashton.
Okay, I took a few days off. As I mentioned in my prior post, I have now relocated to Berkeley, and will be operating there until September.

This is my off-week before classes begin here, I have been treating it in a very vacation-y, "yay it's summer!" fashion. But I'll still try to be an active member of the "new media".

One of today's big stories appears to be a WashPost story on former National Security Council presidential aide Rand Beers, who is now A) working for John Kerry's campaign and B) has some interesting things to say about the Bushies' "war on terrah":
"The administration wasn't matching its deeds to its words in the war on terrorism. They're making us less secure, not more secure," said Beers, who until now has remained largely silent about leaving his National Security Council job as special assistant to the president for combating terrorism. "As an insider, I saw the things that weren't being done. And the longer I sat and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out."


"Counterterrorism is like a team sport. The game is deadly. There has to be offense and defense," Beers said. "The Bush administration is primarily offense, and not into teamwork."

In a series of interviews, Beers, 60, critiqued Bush's war on terrorism. He is a man in transition, alternately reluctant about and empowered by his criticism of the government. After 35 years of issuing measured statements from inside intelligence circles, he speaks more like a public servant than a public figure. Much of what he knows is classified and cannot be discussed. Nevertheless, Beers will say that the administration is "underestimating the enemy." It has failed to address the root causes of terror, he said. "The difficult, long-term issues both at home and abroad have been avoided, neglected or shortchanged and generally underfunded."

The focus on Iraq has robbed domestic security of manpower, brainpower and money, he said. The Iraq war created fissures in the United States' counterterrorism alliances, he said, and could breed a new generation of al Qaeda recruits. Many of his government colleagues, he said, thought Iraq was an "ill-conceived and poorly executed strategy."

"I continue to be puzzled by it," said Beers, who did not oppose the war but thought it should have been fought with a broader coalition. "Why was it such a policy priority?" The official rationale was the search for weapons of mass destruction, he said, "although the evidence was pretty qualified, if you listened carefully."
"evidence was pretty qualified" sounds pretty darn politie, if you ask me. Meanwhile, over the weekend Nicholas Kristof gets a bit closer to the point.