The Facts Machine

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

Saturday, December 27, 2003


With Cal winning the Bowl over a pretty good Virginia Tech team in one of the most entertaining games I've ever seen (101 points, no turnovers), wouldn't this help USC in an alternate universe? Sure, there's no polling until after the early January games, but say someone activated the BCS supercomputer this morning: Would another quality win for Cal, the only team that defeated USC, boost the Trojans' score enough to overtake LSU and earn a title berth?

The other irony is that Cal has had a series of tough, close losses this year (Colorado St, Utah, UCLA, Oregon), and if the Golden Bears had been able to pull out, say, two of those, that could have been enough to make it USC vs Oklahoma. Before Cal fans take glee in keeping OJ University out of the national championship game, consider this: If Cal had been able to pull out the overtime game against UCLA, and had been able to hold on to a 10-point lead in Eugene, they'd be in the Rose Bowl right now. Seven points from the Rose Bowl. Ouch.

Via Hesiod, I really must say, Howard Dean is one of the most optimistic presidential candidates in recent memory.

Unlike that pessimistic fool G Dub.

Friday, December 26, 2003


If there are people in Virginia who want to name schools after Jefferson Davis, would it be okay if I send my kids to John Walker Lindh Elementary School?

Just saying.

TFM has tracked down a photo of one of the missing passengers from the AirFrance flights involved with the rumored plot to attack Las Vegas:

You heard it here first.

That's it. No more Christmas blogging for me.

The Eye of Sauron campaign smear machine of Dubya is beginning to turn towards Howard Dean, as the Bushies appear to be tipping their hand a bit, via this Adam Nagourney piece in friday's NYT.
President Bush's campaign has settled on a plan to run against Howard Dean that would portray him as reckless, angry and pessimistic, while framing the 2004 election as a referendum on the direction of the nation more than on the president himself, Mr. Bush's aides say.

Some advisers to Mr. Bush, increasingly convinced that Dr. Dean will become their opponent next fall, are pushing to begin a drive to undercut him even before a Democratic nominee becomes clear. But others said the more likely plan would be to hold back until after the Democratic contest had effectively ended, probably no later than March.

As a Bush strategist put it, Dr. Dean's rivals are "doing a great job for us" with their increasingly tough attacks on him.

"Voters don't normally vote for an angry, pessimistic person to be president of the country," Matthew Dowd, a senior Bush adviser, said as he pressed the anti-Dean theme this week in an interview at Mr. Bush's re-election campaign headquarters. "They want somebody, even if times are not great, to be forward looking and optimistic."

As the second part of a two-part strategy, Mr. Bush's aides said, the president will set out upbeat themes and policy ideas, starting with the State of the Union address on Jan. 20. That would be part of a drive to buttress what polls show is a growing feeling among voters that the country is on the right track. The goal, Mr. Bush's advisers said, is to make the election more about the nation's success in confronting great challenges than about Mr. Bush personally.

By depersonalizing the election — at least when it comes to Mr. Bush — the White House is seeking to counter Democratic efforts to play to sharp anti-Bush sentiment among Democrats. Dr. Dean, a former governor of Vermont, has repeatedly said that the key to victory next year is heavy turnout among Democrats alienated by Mr. Bush.
I can't quite put my finger on it, but having read this, I'm less worried about Howard Dean's chances in the general election. Sure, I am a strong supporter of his, but I still worry about the Bush wurlitzer and what Dean will be hit with.

My reason is this: Howard Dean and his team are much, much smarter than they are given credit for. Dean has shown great versatility as a candidate, in assuming the roles of insurgent, frontrunner, barnstormer and (to Bush's dismay) optimist. TeamDean has also shown a great ability to fend off attacks from all sides, the man really is teflon at this point. The Gore-ing of Dean has begun, with nitpicky attacks and faux outrage on little things like Dean's "insulting the military" by talking about his deceased brother. But nothing seems to stick, and there are even shades of the rapid-response tactics of Bill Clinton circa 1992.

So what he faces is a 2-pronged Bush strategy: define and depolarize. This is all they've got? Regarding the first aspect, this is misunderestimation of the highest order. Dean is not Gore, for whom there was a long, pre-existing book already written, figuratively speaking. When talking about Howard Dean the angry-pinko-liberal (as Bush wants to paint him) one should keep in mind that every bit of Dean's current persona is his doing. He was a centrist, gun-friendly, deficit-hawk governor in Vermont who often enraged the far left in his state, yet he has energized the Democratic base more than anyone in recent memory. Now THAT screams of versatility, a prerequisite for running a successful candidacy against the Bush regime.

Assuming he's the nominee, Dean will have unprecedented amounts of money for a Dem, with which to define and redefine himself in the general election campaign. If George W Bush was able to go to Bob Jones University and refer to the Confederate flag as a symbol of "heritage", and still portray himself as a moderate in the general election, then Howard Dean will have no problem appealing to the American center come next summer and autumn.

Regarding the second aspect, if Bush thinks he can depolarize the 2004 election, he's simply dreaming. He's trying to hold back a glacier if that's his intent. What did he expect with his top-heavy tax cuts and his wars of choice, after winning the 2000 election by negative five hundred thousand votes?

Naturally, it would help immensely if the American media adhered advice given in Krugman's latest. (click on the link and read the whole darn thing) But with the Kurtz's, Noonan's and Brooks' of the world hell-bent on flogging inconsequential bullshit in this campaign, I have my doubts. I am, however, optimistic that Dean can weather the Bush shitstorm.

The recent reports of a confirmed case of mad cow disease within the US got me thinking . . . about The Matrix. Yeah, you heard me.

I remembered Morpheus as he described the endless fields of pod-humans being grown by the machines. In particular, he said something like:
I watched in horror as the dead were fed intravenously to the living...
Hmm. One of the causes of mad cow disease that has been isolated is the practice of including cow meat in the feed of still-living cows. Soooo, does this mean that the machines were unwittingly cultivating a "mad human" disease? Could "entire crops" be "lost" due to this? I wonder if the W Brothers were trying to make a point, nothing they do is by accident.

There, new ground has been broken. Maybe this is because of the unfortunate fact that the conclusion of the trilogy blew more than Ann Coulter on Ronald McDonald*, but whatever.

* - dang, it's too late at night to find that picture

Thursday, December 25, 2003


Kevin Drum precariously walks the line between unbelievably cute and unbelievably scary, with a Christmas message from his beloved cat Inkblot.

Lots of things make it a special day.

Take the "naked elves" of Birmingham, for example.

Or take the series of attacks in Baghdad in the past day that have killed 3 more US troops and at least 4 Iraqi civilians. Wait, that's not a good thing. But the capture of Saddam -- Bush's early Xmas present -- was supposed to crush the insurgency and make Americans safer. Ah well.

Or take Pope John Paul II, who gave us this message from the Vatican:
"Too much blood is still being shed on earth," the 83-year-old pontiff said in the homily of a Christmas midnight mass in St Peter's Basilica that once again tested his strength.

..."Too much violence and too many conflicts trouble the peaceful coexistence of nations," he said, speaking slowly in Italian and reading his homily in a relatively clear voice.

"You come to bring us peace. You are our peace," he said in a homily that was mostly of religious content, recalling the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

"May the radiance of your birth light up the night of world. May the power of your message of love thwart the proud snare of the evil one. May the gift of your life make us understand ever more clearly the worth of the life of each human being," he said.
Over to you, Bob Jones III and Pat Robertson, to tell us all about how he's not a real Christian.

Anyway, if Xmas is your thing, have a swell one. Blogging will resume soon, you never know, I might do some Xmas blogging if there's a lull... Season's greeeetings!

Wednesday, December 24, 2003


Put down the dice from your copy of Lord of the Rings RISK, and come play Howard Dean's new flash game.

Actually, based on Bill Safire's latest trip to fantasy land, some heavier drugs may be at work.

His latest piece, "Don't Stop Dean", represents a veritable critical mass of right-wing paranoid delusional reasoning. All the bases are covered:

--The Democratic Party is severely split between the Dean wing and the "Old Democrats" (read "Clintons").

--Furthermore, attacks made by candidates towards other candidates constitute a rift in the party, a claim not made even with John McCain.

--A dispute between two candidates over an issue now moot is a microcosm of a rift in the party.

--Wes Clark waits for approval from his "Clinton handlers" to say or do anything. This idiocy alone should allow Bill Keller to quickly eliminate Bill the elder from the NYT payroll.

--Bill Clinton and the DLC are one and the same.

--The "Clinton Establishment" is rooting for a 2004 loss so Hillary/whoever can run in 2008.

--Howard Dean will run as an independent if he doesn't win the nomination.

--Al Gore is likened to Al Qaeda for some reason.

If I were the Dean campaign, or any Democrat (new or "old"), I'd simply ignore this nonsense. But in order to give them the freedom to do so, I'll handle this. Mark my words, Safire: The Democratic Party will support Howard Dean or whoever gets nominated, candidates attack eachother in primary seasons, Dean and Wes Clark have an honest dispute regarding a turn of events which were rendered meaningless by Clark's declaration of candidacy, Clark is his own man and a very smart man at that, attacking the DLC is not tantamount to attacking Clinton, no one in the Democratic Party leadership would be so callous Machiavellian and cynical as to wish for 4 more years of Bush in the interest of 2008 (this strikes me as right-wing projection), Howard Dean is not Ross Perot and he understands the practical implications of being a neo-Nader, and finally, while Al Gore has sported a beard from time to time, I'm fairly certain that he remains a church-going Christian.

Bill Safire should reserve his conspiracy theories for shadowy meetings with terrorists in Prague. Oh wait, Bill, that didn't happen either, as reported by James Risen from your own damn paper.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003


I love the right wing.

Suddenly Pope John Paul II is once again a figure of moral authority to them. Why? Because he liked The Passion.

But of course, a person in his position could have no moral basis to have an informed opinion on, say, war and capital punishment, but hey.
WASHINGTON - Ralph Nader, the third-party candidate viewed by many Democrats as the spoiler of the 2000 election for taking votes away from Al Gore, has decided not to run on the Green Party ticket next year, a party spokesman said Tuesday.

Nader, who garnered nearly 3 percent of the national vote in the last presidential election, has not ruled out running for president as an independent and plans to make a decision by January.

"I think we're all a little bit disappointed," said Scott McLarty, a Green Party spokesman. "I suspect Mr. Nader would have gotten the nomination." (full story)
His Holiness St Ralph has yet to rule out running as an independent. However, I doubt this will come to pass, for two reasons. First, he spoke in the past about "building his party", the Green Party, and just as Nader himself served to split the Gore vote in 2000, a 2004 independent run would split the Green Party. Of course, that would fit perfectly into Ralph's clear plan to give progressives even less of a voice in electoral politics, but I don't think he's that cynical.

Second, if Nader runs as an independent, it would essentially prove that his campaigns are primarily about him. Ego trips fueled by megalomania and a self-professed angelic purity.

But anyway, as a registered Democrat who was on to his electoral folly in 2000, I view this as nothing other than good news.

Tbogg notes that the progression of Rush Limbaugh's behavior in the investigation involving his preciousss painkillers fits rather well into Kubler-Ross' five stages of grief.

Monday, December 22, 2003


It's been a nice week off, but I'll be easing back into blogging this week. Hope your holidayish season is going well.

Over at Pandagon, Jesse Taylor has an interesting theory as to why Libya is giving up its nukes: It wants to host the 2010 World Cup.

To be honest, I find this pretty damn plausible. Most Americans, who lose virtually all interest in "soccer" at around 17-18 at the latest, can't fully understand the importance and impact of football/futbol in most of the rest of the world. Certainly the neo-con back-patters who give credit to a Bushian domino theory of sorts can't.

Libya's rival bidders for the Cup are Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia and Morocco. Despite General Gaddafi's very positive step, my money's on the Rainbow Nation.