The Facts Machine

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

Friday, September 12, 2003


With almost every other poll showing his approval in the low-50's and at least one major poll showing him in the 40's, George W Bush knew he could always count on the folks at Gallup to give him some reasonably good news.

Until now.
President George W. Bush's job approval rating has dropped significantly over the last two weeks, and now, at 52%, is at its lowest point since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and within one point of the lowest rating during his presidency. The percentage of Americans who disapprove of Bush's performance, 43%, is the highest measured since he took office. Bush's job approval rating on his handling of the situation in Iraq has dropped from 57% to 51%, and a slight majority of Americans say Congress should not authorize Bush's request for $87 billion in additional funding for Iraq and the war on terrorism.

Or perhaps the worst thing about this for Bush is: what if this is the good news?

Earlier today I mentioned how Fox News attempted to "gore" Howard Dean. Now, I see that CNN's Inside Politics (current motto: "getting on its knees for Arnold faster than a hooker in the wings at a bodybuilding competition"), through bad editing, has made Senator John Kerry look stupid, in a manner that truly wasn't his fault.

Judy Woodruff was reporting on a cutesy bit about Kerry holding a concert-fundraiser. They showed footage of the senator meeting up with Moby on stage, and then joining a local band called Pop Gun 7 on the guitar.

Then CNN showed a few seconds of the song they were playing (Bruce's "10th Avenue Freezeout", a most righteous choice indeed).

The problem? The audio was a half-second off from the video.

Why is this a big deal, that mere half-second? Well, it makes Kerry appear as if he's cluelessly strumming his guitar along with the music. In short, it makes him look like a boob. But it's not his fault. You can see in the video that the band's drummer (to Kerry's right) is not only out of sync with the audio, but he's perfectly IN sync with Kerry's guitar. Not only that, but the chord Kerry is strumming is an F, which is correct for the snippet of "Freezeout" that CNN played for us.

There are two possibilities here:
1) CNN edited this bit in a lazy, incompetent fashion,
2) CNN was trying to make Kerry look bad

At least they didn't cut to Candy Crowley to discuss his seemingly horrible musicianship. (In a side note, Candy Crowley truly is the Bill Walton of political reporting)

Anyway, CNN owes John Kerry an apology.

I'm feeling lazy, and I have a pretty busy weekend ahead so I'm not sure how much blogging I'll be doing. So I'll post an old rambling religion piece I did at my old, archaic Geocities website. You'll notice in the piece that I incorrectly guessed that Episode 2 would be the highest grossing film of 2002. Hey, I didn't have advance knowledge that it would suck.

God Already Knows?
calvinism, etc: dumb
originally written 9/18/01

In the Judeo-Christian concept of God, God knows and sees anything. With bigger words (as in words that George W Bush does not yet know), God is omniscient and omnipotent. God knows everything about us, heck, he created us. God knows everything that has happened up until now. So, based on Judaism and Christianity, does he know what's going to happen tomorrow, and every day after? Of course he does! When we say "god knows all", the future of human and universal events is certainly included in that "all". What's the point of having one true god if there are things that are news to him? If there is a threshold in the knowledge of God, no matter how high it is, then god becomes just another dude who knows a lot. Therefore, staying within religious tenets, we must assume and believe that God knows everything about what will happen in the future for every human being out there. God knows what movie will make the most money in 2002. (actually I think I know that too, and god, may the force be with you, hehe). God knows when and with whom every college student will get laid. And God knows the average windspeed of the next 20 hurricanes to hit the eastern seaboard, and the dollar value of the damage that each one will bring, both by today's standards, and adjusting for inflation. He knows all that shit.

You with me? Ok good...

Now let's limit this thought to the Christian requirements for salvation. If God knows everything that we will do until we die, then surely he knows who will be saved and who will be damned. Say there are two guys, A and B. Both of them are drug dealers, both around 20. Guy A deals until he is about 35, at which point he sees the "errors" of his ways, hits bottom, and realizes that he's gonna turn his life over to Jesus. He then leads a purer and prosperous life, retaining his faith, until his death 40 years later. Guy B, on the other hand, is shot down at age 20 in a deal gone bad. Because Guy A died a born-again, presumably he goes "upstairs" to the kingdom of the father, er, Heaven. Conversely, because Guy B died prematurely, before he could have come to the same realization that Guy A arrived at, he goes "downstairs" to the big barbecue in the ground. God knew, before either guy was born, that one guy would have time to find religion, while the other, in similar circumstances, wouldn't. Forgive me, but I'm not sure where the justice is in that.

But it goes further than that. Away from similar circumstances, think about just anybody. God knows, for each person he creates, which ones go to Heaven and which ones Hell. Based on Christian parameters, God knew, before I was even born, where I am going to go when I die, as well as before you were born, where you are going to go. That means, of course, that God created specific people with the ADVANCE KNOWLEDGE that they were going to end up in eternal damnation. Conversely, of course, God created specific people with the advance knowledge that they would be saved and go to Heaven. No amount of good deeds could changed the fate of those God has chosen to damn. Also, no amount of misdeeds could change the fate of those God has chosen to be saved. There isn't any justice in that. More importantly, there isn't any love in that. Nothing done by the damned can mitigate their pre-destined, God-ordained fate. There is no love in that.

Expanding on that, there is the accidental nature of the salvation of Christianity. Take the Tibetan Buddhist monk, who lives in the Himalayas, and sees maybe several dozen people in his entire life, and he dies without ever having heard a single thing about Christianity. God created him not only knowing he would never be saved in his lifetime, but also that he would NEVER COME INTO CONTACT with anyone who knew anything about, or had even heard of Jesus. As Hanson once sang, "Where's the Love?"

For these reasons, among many others, I have divorced myself from any fear about my post-life future. Such bogus, rigged judgement is illogical, imperfect, unjust and unloving. In my eyes, death only means that we shall advance to the next world. My favorite representation of the afterlife is, by far, the classic Albert Brooks Movie "Defending Your Life", starring Brooks and Meryl Streep, as newly-deads who go to "Judgement City", where their life is examined to see if they have overcome their personal fears from their lives, and either being reincarnated if they haven't, or moving to the next world if they have.
You know how you can tell that Republicans are taking the Howard Dean threat very very seriously?

When they start Goring him.

Busy, Busy, Busy catches Faux News political correspondent Carl Cameron taking a snippet of a Dean quote grossly out of context, to cast him as pro-terrorist.

If only this took place a few weeks ago, that way Al Franken could have used this in court to argue that Faux is not actually "fair and balanced".

According to a new LA Times poll, supporters and opponents of the recall of Gray Davis are now running in a statistical dead heat.
Likely voters in the Oct. 7 election support the ouster of Davis by 50% to 47%, with just 3% undecided, the poll found. The result, a statistical tossup, is virtually unchanged from an August Times poll.
The 50% in favor remains unchanged from the last LAT poll, but the 47% against is up from 45% in the last poll. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 3%, so it's officially a tossup.

And this is with a month to go. And this is also before Clinton comes to town, and before Davis' new series of ads, which will run mostly in the central valley.

Thursday, September 11, 2003


To be honest, I don't really have much of an urge to talk about the 2-year anniversary. There's been so much demagoguery, from all directions, about how any particular citizen of America/Earth should feel about the events of that day.

The biggest disappointment in the two years since comes in knowing that this was our big chance. We were being given a level of international goodwill not seen in ages. It was our chance to make a serious, apolitical effort to rid ourselves of the moral tether that is our dependence on Saudi oil, and embark upon, as Tom Friedman put it, a "Manhattan Project for renewable energy".

Instead, we saw the Bush Administration push for and get an unjustified, unilateral war that had nothing to do with 9/11, Al Qaeda and the "war on terrah". Not only that, but we got that war with the added bonus of pissing off a great many of our allies (Chirac and Schroeder were among the first to visit NYC after the attacks), and denouncing the United Nations as "irrelevant". Meanwhile Osama still cannot be found, but you wont hear Bush mention that.

And we still don't have the truth on a number of important questions about 9/11.

There is no doubt that on that fateful morning two years ago, in Lower Manhattan, in the still-burning rubble of the Pentagon's south wall, and in the aisle (and perhaps, the cockpit) of Flight 93, we saw the very very best in human character. Men and women in uniform, covered head to toe in dust and soot (which we now know was toxic), risking their lives to help eachother, regardless of difference, regardless of any of the culture-war bullshit that sometimes pulls at the fabric of American society. Needless to say, their acts of sacrifice were not forged in the interest of giving some of our government a political opening to launch an unrelated, unjustified war of choice against a country that neither attacked, nor threatened us. But years from now, when the memory of 9/11 is committed to history, the memories of the day itself will find their way, first and foremost, to the brave souls who went above and beyond in unbelievable ways that morning.

Because Andrew Sullivan seems to think so, I want an answer: How, exactly, does this cartoon from Le Monde constitute "anti-American hate"? It's a tough cartoon, I'd admit, but I don't see hatred. And yes, the timing is interesting, with 2-year (9/11) and 30-year anniversaries (the CIA-backed Allende coup) happen to coincide.

Needless to say, far more Chileans died under the iron fist of Pinochet than did Americans in the attacks. And I know, Sully isn't worth my time, but it's just so . . . easy!

...and his excellent new book, which I finally got my hands on for a couple hours earlier today, I learned that Bill "splotchy" O'Reilly is a capable describer of cunnilingus.

1) You learn something everyday.
2) Some of those things you can't forget fast enough.

This is just a little thing, but it lends itself well to post-2AM posting.

Sully writes:
POSEUR ALERT: "One you've never heard of. 'Jaspora' by Wyclef Jean." - Howard Dean, when asked what his favorite song was. Here are the lyrics, from the lead singer/rapper for the Fugees. Is this some sort of Jamaican slang? Can someone translate for me? It could be really interesting. I'm sure Joe Lieberman would love to find out what "Yo pa respekte Izrayèl" might mean.
Three points, in no particular order:

1) FYI, that's Haitian Creole. Jamaica is, well, a completely different country.
2) The singing/rapping duties on the Fugees' one album were distributed fairly equally between Wyclef and Lauryn Hill (Pras too).
3) From the sound of that last sentence, is Sully trying to "Bustamantify" the good governor and doctor? Roger Ailes (extra tasty crispy non-evil version) thinks this is a possibility.

Who's the poseur now?

(Though I'd admit, some of the other candidates' choices for favorite songs border on mindless cliche . . . you listening, Dick "Born in the USA" Gephardt? Though I give Kerry credit for picking a less obvious, yet far superior song from the Boss, "No Surrender")

UPDATE: Here is a translation of "Jaspora".

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Leni Riefenstahl has died.

She died one day after Showtime premiered "DC 911".

The torch is passed.

CNN reports that Peter Ueberroth is dropping out of the recall race.

Does this help Arnold? Pete's a moderate Republican, so perhaps the answer is yes. Or is it? It appeared that his support came from those moderate conservatives who wanted a "serious" candidate, and wouldn't touch Arnold with a 40-foot poll made entirely out of rolled-up copies of Oui magazine. Some of those voters may be pragmatists and find their way to Schwarzy, but not all, or perhaps not even a majority of them.

This does, however, increase the chances of the other Peter in the race, Camejo, dropping out in order to boost Bustamante's chances (though who knows what Arianna will do).

What I don't get is, Ueberroth just came out with tv ads and only just introduced his job creation plan (Shorter Ueberroth debate performance: "jobs . . . jobs . . . business . . . jobs . . . business, oops, i mean jobs . . . "). Does it only take 24 these days to get a sense of the impact of such things? Such a huge shift seems to suggest a very calculated decision about the recall election. Given Peter's social views (at least, the ones he has so far), it's unlikely that he's made a decision to swing his support towards McClintock. I doubt he'll endorse Arnold either; has Governor Gang-Bang done anything in the past month to make himself appear closer to being a "serious" candidate? Three-minute speeches, debate-ducking, the occasional egging, and stupid platitudinal nonsense about "cleaning house", "special interests", etc, none of this adds up to any real substance. Musclehead is running on his celebrity, that's it.

I'm sure CNN or whoever will verify this and then have a story up, maybe then we can make more sense of the situation.

Monday, September 08, 2003


Bush didn't lie about WMD in his address last night, though he only did so by not mentioning anything about them, with the exception of Saddam's using them in the 1980's, when he was our buddy.

It appears, however, that he wasn't entirely accurate on the nucleus of his address, that being the cost of the postwar effort in Iraq.

Via Atrios (who's having a better night than his hometown Eagles), we see that the White House is ALREADY ADMITTING that the $87 billion they requested for the postwar effort isn't nearly enough.
The White House acknowledged Monday that it substantially underestimated the cost of rebuilding Iraq, and that even the additional $87 billion it is seeking from a wary Congress will fall far short of what is needed for postwar reconstruction.

Administration officials said President Bush's emergency spending request -- which would push the U.S. deficit above the half-trillion-dollar mark for the first time -- still leaves a reconstruction funding gap of as much as $55 billion dollars.

"It is fair to say that the level of decay and underinvestment in the Iraqi infrastructure was worse than almost anybody on the outside anticipated," said one senior administration official.

"We were all surprised," said another.

The revised estimates underscored the political challenge facing both the president, who asked Americans on Sunday evening to prepare themselves for a longer and costlier engagement in Iraq, and members of Congress, who are being asked to more than double the financial commitment of U.S. taxpayers. It comes amid the increasing clamor of the 2004 election cycle, and growing concern about the wisdom of spending more money overseas when the U.S. economy is shedding jobs and the federal deficit is ballooning.

Administration officials stressed that they had no plans to ask Congress for more than the $87 billion during the coming fiscal year, which ends just before next year's elections. They said they would pressure other countries to come up with the additional funds needed to restore security in Iraq and repair its ravaged infrastructure. An international donors conference is scheduled for Oct. 23-24 in Madrid, Spain, to solicit money for reconstruction.
Well, that was mighty fast.

Surely, Bush's contributors would be happy to give back parts of their purty tax cuts to help finance the situation?

Simply enough, it went from "it will all be covered by Iraqi oil revenues" to "the most expensive post-war effort since the Marshall Plan".

All completely predictable, by the way.

In the past month, we've seen a number of polls on the California recall election. Generally, the trends show a decreasing amount of support for removing Davis, from 64% (Gallup, 8/13) to 58% (Field Poll, a few days later) to 50% (LA Times, a week after that). While we haven't seen multiple polls from the same organization, this trend has held reasonably true over time.

But now, we have a second poll from a specific organization. The Field Poll has done a second round of recall polling, which seems to verify the suspected trend.
The Field Poll, set for release Tuesday, found that 55 percent of likely voters support the recall, down from 58 percent in an August poll.
Supporters of the recall don't really have anything new to say, so it's hard to see how the pro-recall numbers could ever make it back to the high 50's or 60's. Combine this with Dianne Feinstein's anti-recall ads continuing to saturate the tv networks, as well as Bustamante's plan to energize Latinos and others by pouring money into the anti-Prop54 effort, and the prospects for the recall dim.

With only a month to go before the election (pending a 9th Circuit ruling), it is uncertain how far the downward trend will take support for the recall by then. It's gonna be very close. I'm going to stick with my prediction that Gray holds on.

Mister Durst, in the name of all that was good in rock, not to mention given the Puffy-sampling-"Kashmir" debacle, please stop.
In addition to the originals, Results features a cover of the Who's "Behind Blue Eyes." "I identify with the lyrics," Durst said, going on to relate it to his melancholy mood after his tabloid-documented fallout with Britney Spears. "I was in a weird state at the time."
Though I'm sure ol' Pete would love to get his hands on Britney, I don't think this was what he intended that song for.

I miss the good old days, when bands like Limp Bizkit had the good sense to do no more than title their songs after Who songs ("My Generation").

All this being said, I'm quite cool with covering decades-old music. While surely a cheap way to success and radio-play, many capable efforts in recent years have come about. Try me, I'll defend Adam Duritz singing Joni Mitchell any day of the week.

Sunday, September 07, 2003


Well, two things for me:

1) Showtime's cinematic fellatio for wingnuts, via DC 9/11.

2) Tom at the great Matrix Essays blog links to an unbelievably hilarious string of Matrix-related photoshop gags.

What about Dubya's speech earlier tonight? It was nothing more than fifteen minutes of fluff, designed to distract as much of America as possible from that 87 billion dollar price tag for our splendid little project in Iraq.