The Facts Machine

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

Saturday, August 02, 2003


The numbers are in, and based on extrapolating from Q2, GDP has grown at a 2.4% annual rate.

Must be those tax cuts, right? (hehehehe)

Obviously Kevin Drum is an America-hating Saddamite whose only goal is to poo-poo good news because it's politically expedient to do so. Wait, you mean he's right? You mean a one-time increase in defense spending was behind the bulk of the increase?

George W, you let me down, man. Now I don't believe in nothing no more. I'm going to law school!
(the not-as-ancient Klingon proverb)

As you may have heard, starting monday, Howard Dean will be running a campaign ad ... in Texas.

Demosthenes has reaction, and in the process, supplies a bit of historical and contextual perspective on the Dean campaign. The reason behind the ad? Not as much to do with winning Texas (not likely for any candidate who wasn't a drunk until 40), but more to do with building his force of supporters.

Friday, August 01, 2003


Check out Bartcop's recall page.

While you're there, be sure to read BC's interview with TFM-approved gubernatorial candidate Georgy Russell. Excerpt:
BC RECALL CENTRAL: First, I hope you realize that on MTV the moderator will now have to ask: Boxers, Briefs or Thongs. How can you deal with being the person who brings the image of Bob Dole in a thong to millions of MTV viewers?

GR: I realize! Like Bill Clinton before me, I'm getting attention for my underwear! As long as it brings some attention to my platform of clean elections, clean energy and cleaning up the criminal justice system... bring it on.
I imagine that her thong is something of a wedge issue (doh!). But seriously, more power to her. She's pro-gay marriage, frames decriminalization and legalization as budgetary issues, and appears to idolize the Big Dog. You go girl.

Meanwhile, Ahnuld plans to announce his intentions next week, just before appearing on Leno. I suppose that's what I would do, were I in his position. I'm still betting against him running. If he says no on the basis of "family considerations", interpret it as "I didn't want it public that I...".

Would jailed congressman James Traficant just knock it off?
WASHINGTON - James A. Traficant, a former Ohio congressman in prison for bribery and racketeering charges, has given his approval to supporters to form a presidential exploratory committee.

"The battle to free James Traficant and to evict the Socialists and 'free traders' from the Democratic Party is now under way," campaign spokesman Marcus Belk said. "Someone buy the Washington establishment a bottle of Maalox."
Mr Belk, um, whom exactly does that leave?

Earlier this year, some were mocking 2004 candidate Dennis Kucinich as "the left's Gary Bauer". Well, I think we have a new winner.

Naturally, this promises to be a "hair-raising" campaign.

Thursday, July 31, 2003


I've been lagging behind in terms of talking about the Davis recall. So let's do so in a relatively scattershot fashion!

BOLD TFM PREDICTION: No scenario will arise in which the recall election results in a Republican governor taking office.

Why not? Simply because Democrats outnumber Republicans, registration-wise, by a significant margin in the state, and with the media frenzy around the recall continuing to grow, Republican hopes of low turnout will likely be dashed. Besides, California's higher Republicans (in more ways than one, if they think they can win, hehe) have egos the size of Yosemite, and I don't mean Sam. Riordan, Issa, Simon and McClintock are all likely to run, and with the cramped campaign period, it is unlikely that three, two, or even one of them will drop out. Even without the Democrats' advantage in registration, the Republican candidates will split the vote too much, and California's statehouse will remain in liberal hands. (er, Davis counts, I suppose)

As I see it, the Republicans have one, and only one hope, in the recall ballot itself. The ballot is, of course, a two-part contraption: First, you vote whether or not you want to recall Governor Davis from office, and then, regardless of how you voted in the first question, you choose from the list of candidates (now around 120, wow!) the one you want to become the new governor, should the "yes" vote in question one reach more than 50%. This is monstrously important. Even if you vote not to recall Davis, your vote as to his potential successor will be counted. In the blogosphere and elsewhere, I've read some people who aren't completely clear on this, and if us too-much-time-on-our-hands net-heads don't have it straight, imagine the "average" California voters. The NAACP, for example, is currently challenging the recall election for just that reason, the possibility that many voters will be ill-informed about the voting process. And again, Republicans find themselves in a position to benefit from a lack of knowledge and/or a confusing ballot (remind you of something?). If a voter is under the impression that by voting no on the first question he/she has no say in the second question, that certainly benefits those who support the recall, don't it?

WHAT DO I THINK OF DAVIS, ANYWAY? I'm not a big fan of his, really. Recall opponents are almost obliged to preface their comments with "I'm no fan of Gray, but...", in a similar way to how anti-war liberals are obliged to say "Saddam's an evil man, but...". I certainly appreciate Gray as governor a lot more than ol' Barbed Wire Pete or Simple Simon. But what I think of him is not the point. It doesn't matter if I'm pro-Gray, but it does matter that I'm anti-recall, and I'm anti-this recall. Reasons? First off, we just had an election a matter of months ago, and Davis won, fair and square. Do the Republicans want a do-over or something? That's simply not how the democratic process works, dudes. Secondly, shouldn't the institution of recall elections be better reserved for when lawmakers engage in some sort of actual wrongdoing? Why recall someone for reasons of scoring cheap political points? Even if the recall election resulted in a Republican governor, I'm sure the Democratically-held Legislature and Senate will just roll over for him after such tactics were used, right? Thirdly (and I've seen this point made elsewhere too), not only would this recall take place only months after the previous election, subverting democracy, it is also inherently undemocratic. Let's do the math:

Let's say in question #1, whether Davis should be recalled, the results are:
Yay recall -- 52%
Boo recall -- 48%
That means Davis would no longer be governor, essentially picking up 48% of the vote.

Now let's say in question #2, despite the long odds, a Republican wins a plurality of the vote, which is all that is required to win. The voting might look something like this:
Darrell Issa -- 24%
Arianna Huffington -- 16%
Richard Riordan -- 13%
Georgy Russell -- 9% (see below)
(and so on...)
(note: i'm being charitable here; the winning plurality in the second ballot could even end up being under 20%)

In this scenario, Congressman Darrell "Hotwire" Issa, the man with the money behind the recall effort, becomes our new governor. Keep in mind, it is thoroughly unlikely that a large number of people would both vote against the recall and vote for Issa as the new governor. Virtually all of Issa's support in the second ballot will come from among the 52% who voted for the recall.

So in essence, the shares of the vote would be:
Gray Davis -- 48%
Darrell Issa -- 24%
(2nd note: there will, however, be some overlap between liberal candidates like Huffington & Georgy, and no-votes in the first ballot)

That's right, we could see a situation where Issa (or Arnold, or Riordan, or McClintock, or others) register only half of the support (and votes) gained by Davis, yet become governor anyway. That's democratic?

No wonder Drudge is reporting that Bill and Hillary plan to come to Cali to speak out against the recall. They've seen subversion of democracy like this before, in an impeachment over things that were none of our collective business. They should call up Al and Tipper, who've seen just as vicious an operation carried out against them.

In the end, I don't think Davis will need them. If he is good at anything, he is a great fighter and survivor. It is likely that he will survive this effort. He was puppet-master supreme in last year's election, getting empty-headed California Repubs to think that Bill Simon was more electable than a popular, centrist, pro-choice mayor with a pretty good record.

BUT TFM! YOU HAVEN'T EVEN MENTIONED AHH-NULD YET! Well, I did say his name earlier. He's not going to run. He's too chummy with Riordan to get in his way (and Dick is known for having quite a big . . . head). And there's too much about his past (and his present) that would render him unelectable (though it would certainly qualify him for the "Kennedy status" he thought he was receiving through his marriage). And there are those wholesome movies, too. Aside from the ones that give us the all-Arabs-are-crazy-terrorists feel (read: True Lies), there are the stinkers we'll always remember. (to quote Wiggum: "Magic ticket my ass!")

IS THERE A CANDIDATE YOU LIKE, TFM? Obviously, I'll be voting against the recall, but I'll have plenty of candidates to choose from in question #2 (though I believe Davis will not be recalled). Either it's Arianna, if she throws her hybrid in the ring (yay!), or it's the lovely Georgy Russell, a sharp, cute, 26-yearold Berkeley grad and Democrat. 26? She looks about 17 in her picture. Though judging by her keyboard, she probably backs President Clinton's workplace ergonomic standards, you know, the ones Bush overturned.

PARTING THOUGHTS? Well, while anyone enjoys a big media circus like this is going to be, it's bound to take focus away from both A) the WMD issue and B) the momentum of the Democratic presidential candidates. The half-full way of looking at it is, perhaps the focus on the recall will illuminate how anti-democratic the proponents of ousting Davis are being, and combined with impeachment and Florida, will paint a pretty picture for the greater American public. We'll see...

For solid coverage of the situation as it develops, check out the Sacramento Bee's recall page, as well as the blog of Beeman Daniel Weintraub.

"I'll be back"
Drudge is "reporting" that Vermont's GOP Chair thinks Howard Dean has something to hide in his gubernatorial records in the state.

I'm sure Mr Barnett was just as emphatic that the 9/11 commission report shouldn't have been stalled the way it was, and that Cheney's energy files be made public as well.

Dean has a great record in Vermont, I assure you he will run on it . . . of course, it just so happens that he can point to his consistent record of balanced budgets in VT in stark contrast to our tax giveaway-boosted federal budget deficits... Just be patient and put your strawman away.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003


You miss so much these days, even when you take just one day off (I was gonna blog yesterday, but I got caught up).

Pentagon cooks up idea of starting a "terrorism futures market", amounting essentially to gambling on events in the Middle East . . . Democratic Senators alert the world to the idea . . . Pentagon says, "oh, nevermind!"
"My understanding is it's going to be terminated," Wolfowitz told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

He added that while the Defense Department was supposed to be imaginative, "it sounds like maybe they got too imaginative" with the online futures market plan.
When I saw the headline yesterday morning as I strolled by the newspaper stands across the street from Strada, I was struck with dual thoughts of "how cute" and "how callous". That is to say, on one hand, "this is creative, outside-the-box thinking from Rip Van Rummy's people", but on the other hand, "can't they stick to more traditional means of making money off death and destruction? you know, like no-bid contracts and campaign contributions by tobacco companies?"

Certainly, the idea of gambling on what religious fundamentalists do isn't without its perverse charm. But imagine if a member of the SF Fog had struck up a conversation with someone who had "hit the jackpot" on that fateful September morning a couple of years ago.

Of course, perhaps the Pentagon was planning to shift resources into this program, and away from the air marshal program... Joshua has more.

Congrats to Bill Mueller!

You're still a Giant to me.

Making the rounds in the lefty blog quadrant right now is Conceptual Guerilla's quasi-manifesto, giving us a nice, concise, fitting moniker for our ideological opponents:

"Cheap-labor conservatives"

Go read the whole thing, including the more in-depth discussion linked at the bottom.

Please excuse my week-long absence. Summer session is becoming a bit hectic as it nears its conclusion, and this past weekend I went here:

That's Vernal Falls, which is, of course, within the yummy confines of Yosemite National Park. From friday through sunday I went camping and hiking with Laurie and her family. I posted the Vernal picture (from the SF Chron, one sec) because among places, I took the Mist Trail (better known as the "Fathers holding hands with crying 7-year-old sons Trail") to the top, which was nice.

Anyway, speaking of Yosemite, a bit under the radar, the Bush administration is wavering on its adherence to the Clinton-era "Valley Plan", which was meant to return Yosemite Valley to its past greatness, through reorganization of campground space and restoration of trampled grasslands.

As you might expect, the battle lines in this matter are familiar ones, pitting proponents of increased access against environmental groups looking to conserve the natural beauty of the Valley.

This is not a clean slate situation, for environmental groups can point to results:
If Yosemite Valley has ever looked lovelier than it has in the past year, it was probably during the tenure of John Muir.

Recent restoration programs have rehabilitated trampled meadows, transformed former campgrounds into sun-dappled woodlands and reconfigured eroded, unsightly trails.


Approved at the end of the Clinton administration, the Yosemite Valley Plan was adopted after several years of study and about 10,000 public comments.

Under the plan, large portions of forest and meadowland would be restored, hundreds of campsites would be retired, parking spaces would be slashed from 1, 500 to fewer than 600 and an ambitious public transportation system would be instituted.

About 15 projects authorized by the plan are already under way, and the effects are dramatic.

Formerly dog-eared meadows are now luxuriant with native bunchgrasses and perennials.

Milkweed -- a handsome indigenous plant that is the sole food of monarch butterfly larvae -- is especially abundant. The rare butterflies now swarm the milkweed stands in the morning and early afternoon, laying their eggs on the broad, light-green leaves.

Two erstwhile campgrounds -- which once supported a total of 350 campsites and were inundated by a 1997 flood on the Merced River -- have been utterly transformed. What were formerly two of the busiest places in the valley are now peaceful riparian woodland.

Work is proceeding apace on a multitude of other projects, including the replacement of the valley's old diesel buses with new low-pollution shuttle vehicles.
Despite such progress, Republican Congressman George Radanovich (CA) has other ideas about the park's direction:
Radanovich's bill, introduced July 14, would overturn much of the valley plan.

Radanovich, the Mariposa Republican who chairs the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Land, wants to rebuild about 150 campsites in the old river campgrounds, increase parking spaces in the valley and quash the shuttle project.

In a dig at the Sierra Club, Radanovich's bill also calls for the demolition of the LeConte Memorial Lodge, a historic building that the conservation group occupies under a special use permit from the National Park Service.

Initially, it looked like the bill didn't have much of a chance because the Bush administration supported the valley plan.

But during the past week, administration officials have drifted from four- square support of the plan to ambiguity.

"We have not taken a final position on (the Radanovich bill)," said Craig Manson, assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks for the Department of the Interior.

"The administration has not repudiated the valley plan, but we talk to Congressman Radanovich and his staff on an almost daily basis. We are willing to work with him and other interests. We want cooperative solutions."
Question for Mr Manson, Interior, and the administration: how exactly is the demolition of a historic building used by the Sierra Club part of a "cooperative solution"? Now now, I'm not saying such an act was the administration's idea (it was Radanovich's), nor is there any indication that such an aspect of the bill is necessarily endorsed by the White House. But there is no other explanation for that part of the bill besides pissing off environmentalists. This could be seen as a window into the psyche behind the construction of the plan on the whole.

Don't believe me? Consider the ANWR drilling debate. Even if that had gone forward, it would be more than half a decade before a single drop of oil would have been produced, let alone millions of barrels. The point of such a project was nothing more than a Bush/Cheney/Norton/Abraham middle-finger at environmentalists and conservationists. They knew how angry such groups would be if they sent their drills up there, and how they would angrily squirm if drilling began. How fitting it would have been for their juvenile "I want to see liberals cry in pain and defeat" philosophies. Sure, it was convenient that they could try to brand opponents to Alaskan oil drilling as Saddamites who wanted us to keep doing business with our friends in the mideast (quite a thin-ice argument by the anti-environment right indeed). But the psychological underpinning behind the ANWR idea was more about schoolyard bully tendencies than anything else.

The same probably goes for Radanovich's Yosemite bill. He overlooks the fact that campground space within the borders of the park is actually increasing. Sure, not all of it is in the valley. But having just spent the weekend camping in the Valley (Upper Pines #153, to be exact), a few things:

1) During the day, you'll probably be going to the valley anywhere, no matter where in the park you camp; the new public transportation programs will certainly cater more to that need, and
2) At night in the valley, you're camping in a campground surrounded by trees. Thus, you can't see shit!! Qualitatively, camping in and out of the valley are about the same!
3) Having driven up to the valley this past weekend -- a very busy weekend I might add -- and being the 3rd car in my group, I had to park away from my actual campsite, and I discovered that I had almost no problems at all finding parking, even at noon on sunday by Lower Y. Falls.
4) Though getting a reservation is tough (it's the best park in America, thus it's popular, duh!), camping is extremely affordable.

Ok, I'm done on this one for now.