The Facts Machine

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

Saturday, August 14, 2004


Two of my more dedicated readers take issue with some/all of my initial post on the resignation of New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, after he disclosed his homosexuality in a public statement. Jack from TigerHawk thinks liberals like me are raising a red herring by making McGreevey's coming-out a central issue in the matter, citing a possible harassment suit that may soon be filed against him (McGreevey claims it was consensual), and some sort of social nepotism involving McGreevey. And Hovannes of RIL takes issue with my "victimization" of McGreevey, saying right after citing the same issues Jack does:
Somehow, this doesn't seem like the right story for gay-agenda-activists to rally around. Even if McGreevey had resigned for the sole reason of him being a homosexual, he would still have no one else to blame but himself. The judgment that his sexuality might have an impact on his ability to lead was one he made, not one that was made for him. Had he been removed from office on the basis of his sexual-orientation, there would clearly be a case to be made.
Leaving aside the paranoia inherent to the classification of those who seek equal rights for all in that opening sentence, it's a bit of strawman, since pretty much everybody, regardless of where they stand on sexuality, was initially (and for the most part, still) puzzled by McGreevey's announcement.

The last sentence provides us with some interesting, yet flawed goalpost-placement. The implication here is that it would take the removal of an official due specifically to his/her sexual orientation for us wacky gay-friendly liberals to have a point. Guess what: No. Like it or not, McGreevey's sexual orientation is a significant complicating factor to the situation. And given my numerous gay friends and family members, it is the aspect of the matter with which I'm most interested. Coming out publicly is not like disclosing the sale of illicit arms to a dictatorship or something, it's about who you are.

But in general, this idea of "victimization" on the part of the "gay-agenda-activsts" is just your usual right-wing advantageous paranoia. Hovannes is quite right when he says that McGreevey's asessment of his ability to lead in the future was his own. But let's take one of those other examples I cited...

Former Arkansas Senator Tim Hutchinson cheated on his wife of 29 years . . . with a staffer, eventually divorcing his wife and marrying her in 1999. You can argue the specifics if you want, but that's certainly analogous enough for our model, at least in scope of action. With all of this coming to light, Tim had a decision to make: Given the political/social climate, would those actions and their implications have a detrimental effect on Hutchinson's ability to represent his constituents?

Hutchinson decided "no", and ran for re-election in 2002, a tight race he lost by, if memory serves, just two percent. Hutchinson's asessment of his future, just like McGreevey's, was his own, and had to have been, at least in part, informed by the cultural values present in his state. If McGreevey had an affair with a female member of his staff, I do think it's possible that his judgment of his future may have been different.

Which brings me to my point which, sadly, was missed the first time around earlier in the week. I'll try this again. Like I said, America still has a ways to go on tolerance, but by resigning, McGreevey isn't really helping. McGreevey leads New Jersey, which is right next door to Santorum Country, so it's not like the "eww, two men" sentiment is that foreign from the area. Unfortunately, from a political standpoint McGreevey's resignation plays into the continuation of that sentiment. I will continue to think that his coming out in the process of resigning was a personal, more than political choice (to thine own self be true), but the political reality of his choice is still there.

It was at this point when I finally realized that the only reason I was linked to was because some people wanted to make a pre-conceived argument and had to shoe-horn mine into an ill-fitting strawman. Tomorrow I will be at the Marin Renaissance Faire pretty much all day, so don't expect posting from me until at least Sunday evening. Goodnight everybody! Huzzah!

P.S. Again, if Ahhnuld groped men instead of women, would he be Governor today?

P.P.S. Regarding the threatened harassment suit, was it just a game of chicken? Since lawyers for the accuser, Golan Cipel, seem reluctant to elaborate on the case, and Cipel himself may not even go forward with it at all (McGreevey's resignation would have no effect on Cipel's need for financial restitution), it could be.

My friend Ben, probably the most pun-prone person on the face of the earth, is currently wandering the streets of Nice. Hide the women and children, er, just hide everybody!

Anyway, that's all.

Watched small portions of the Olympic opening ceremony. Bjork sang, and all was well with that.

But man, it was nice to see that Tommy Chong's first act after leaving prison was to design the Olympic torch-lighting ceremony:

Sure makes it easier for the audience to sit through that whole ceremony if they have a seventeen thousand kilogram doobie to pass around, I suppose.

Given recent Olympic doping scandals, does this constitute a mixed message? Well no: Steroids and their kin are performance-enhancing drugs. So until the 400-meter Pop Tart Eating Contest makes it in, there shouldn't be a problem.

UPDATE: A quick Googling of the relevant terms reveals this item from 2000:
Nimbin HEMP (Help End Marijuana Prohibition) categorically refuses to comment on the rumour that the Big Joint will be used to light the Olympic Cauldron at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Games in Sydney.

Spokesperson for the organisation, Mr.Michael Balderstone, called upon all Australians to respect the need for secrecy and security around SOCOG's choice for the method of lighting up the Olympic games.

"It's a complete coincidence that the Big Joint is leaving Nimbin for Sydney this week", he said. "Law reform activists are meeting in Sydney for two important events; the culmination of the Freedom Ride Tour of NSW prisons at Long Bay Jail on Father's Day and the inaugural Sydney Hemp Olympix on September 9".
Four years later, I extend my hearty congratulations! Now let's go watch some cartoons...

LAST UPDATE: One more Olympics tidbit for you. Google's temporary Olympic-themed logo is pretty cute.

Friday, August 13, 2004


Michael Moore has posted the video of Representative Porter Goss, Bush's nominee for Director of Central Intelligence, explaining how he isn't qualified for a job in the CIA.

Before viewing the video, I had thought that apologists might try to say that Goss was joking, or being tongue-in-cheek, but the clip does not suggest this. So, yeah, this could be a problem for the spook-chief nominee.
Via TBogg, here's a nice lil toy to help you pass the next few minutes of your life: Give Bush a new face. (TFM suggests a combination of "comb-over", "dreaming", and "unshaven". Or just press the "random" button for instant hilarity.)

I'm sure something similar could be done for Big John, but if I had to guess, contorting his face would just end up making him look like the "Chosen One" from one of the great films of the early 3rd millenium, Kung Pow! Enter the Fist

"That's a lotta nuts!"
Via Drudge (yeah, I know), it looks like we have moderators for the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates:
First Presidential Debate: Jim Lehrer (PBS)

Second Presidential Debate: Charlie Gibson (ABC)

Third Presidential Debate: Bob Schieffer (CBS)

Vice Presidential Debate: Gwen Ifill (PBS)
Let's just count our blessings at the pleasant lack of Tim Russert. Though I'm sure the Debate Commission was hamstrung, since they needed to find the four American journalists who aren't currently under subpoena in the Plame leak investigation.

Thursday, August 12, 2004


I just tied myself down, Clockwork Orange-style (eyelids and everything), and watched Bush's new ad, viewable at Miserable Failure Central.

My thoughts?

-Why is Bush wearing my shirt? I have that damn shirt!

-Gotta love the random close-up shot of his arms. Nothing says "bold leadership" like a monstrous tan. He's been out clearing brush or earning 3 Purple Hearts playing pool-volleyball again, hasn't he.

-What exactly is Laura looking at?

-They're using the same friggin music from the very first round of Bush04 ads, the "it's not my fault" series. That same piano, and that same precious muted trumpet . . . takes me back to the wonderful days of the primary campaign. YYEEAAAARRRGGHHH!

-That pick-up-the-kids line is, well, weird.
"I can't imagine the great agony of a mom or a dad having to make the decision about which child to pick up first on September the eleventh."
First of all, in the phrase "make the decision" he pretty much puts a comma after "make". But doesn't the message of the line pretty much amount to "Remember 9/11? Weren't you scared that day? Am I making you scared now? Good, vote for me."

-From there, it's just the usual "we will not this, we will not that" platitudes he's been giving us for years.

Ok that's enough, I'm out for the night.

Two bits of news today on the struggle for equal rights and treatment for the non-hetero people of America. And both are annoying.

The first is the resignation of New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey, after his disclosure of an extramarital affair with another man:
"My truth is that I am a gay American," he said.

"Shamefully, I engaged in adult consensual affairs with another man, which violates my bonds of matrimony," the married father of two said. "It was wrong, it was foolish, it was inexecusable."

The Democrat said his resignation would be effective Nov. 15.

McGreevey said he would step down because his secret both his sexuality and his affair leaves the governor's office vulnerable.
This bums me out, because it means that our country still has a ways to go on the tolerance front. Now mind you, I have a detailed opinion about the merits/"sanctity" of marriage, but that can wait. I only offer up two examples: Tim Hutchinson and Rudy Giuliani. Both of them were elected politicians who cheated on their wives (in both of their cases, the end result was divorce). Neither resigned, and Hutchinson even ran for reelection, losing by a mere few percent to the current Senator Pryor of Arkansas.

What it boils down to, unfortunately, is a continuing sentiment of "ewww, two men together" that remains pervasive in our culture. Even in Jersey, which is a "blue" state, for those who are into the red-blue-divide deal. Hutchinson and Giuliani were also politically "vulnerable" (the latter until he became "America's Mayor" or whatever), but not on a resignation level. America still needs to grow up.

Shakespeare said it best: To thine own self, be true. McGreevey had to do what he did today because of how he felt and who he was. I wonder what's in store for his future.

The other bit of bad news today was one I expected: The California Supreme Court anulled the marriages of the thousands of same-sex couples who were married in San Francisco earlier this year. Still, as we've seen in the US Supreme Court lately, there was some punting involved:
In its ruling Thursday, the court said San Francisco illegally issued the certificates and performed the wedding ceremonies, since state law defined marriage as a union between a man and woman. The justices nullified the nearly 4,000 marriages performed between February 12 and March 11, when the court halted the weddings.

The court did not resolve whether the California Constitution would permit a same-sex marriage, ruling instead on the limits of authority regarding local government officials.
Gavin is gonna appeal upward, so we'll see how that works out.

San Francisco and Massachusetts are so important in the cause of marriage for all, but not primarily for legal reasons. The biggest reason is that it puts the actual couples front and center, and shows them to be real people, with real jobs, real love, and endeavoring to honor the real committments of marriage. The more same-sex marriages there are, the more they become just "marriages". And that's the goal.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The top-right and bottom-right are really funny.

Among paleontological circles, the great T-Rex debate of "aggressive hunter!" versus "plodding scavenger!" has been going back and forth for ages. Now some researchers have given us a new wrinkle: "They're like James Dean!"
Tyrannosaurus Rex grew incredibly fast during a teenaged growth spurt that saw the dinosaur expand its bulk by six times, but the fearsome beasts "lived fast and died young," researchers said on Wednesday.

By counting the age rings in dinosaur bones, much like botanists count tree rings, paleontologists have concluded that T. rex grew from 1 tonne to 6 tonnes in just four years before leveling off around age 18 and living out a brief adulthood of about 10 years.


At the peak of its growth spurt, T. rex added 4.6 pounds (2.1 kg) to its frame each day, developing into an 11,000-pound (5,000 kg) bone-crushing giant.


"T. rex lived fast and died young," [Florida State University scientist Gregory] Erickson said. "He's sort of the James Dean of dinosaurs," referring to the actor who died in a car accident at age 24.

The scientists compared age rings from 60 bones from 20 specimens that lived between 78 million to 67 million years ago -- seven T. rexes, five Albertosauruses, five Gorgosauruses and three Daspletosauruses -- to those of modern-day descendants such as snakes, lizards and crocodiles.

T. rex grew the fastest and had a growth spurt, unlike crocodiles that tend to grow steadily if food is plentiful.

Thanks to the discovery in recent decades of more complete fossil skeletons of T. rex -- such as the 67-million-year-old "Sue" on display at the Field Museum -- paleontologists have learned much more about how dinosaurs moved, lived and died.

"Sue," it turned out, was 28 years old when it died -- Erickson described it as an elderly "train wreck" with infectious lesions, broken bones and arthritis -- and had stopped growing 9 years earlier.

Close enough?

It's really interesting when you do a Google Image Search for the tyrannosaurus, because there's an approximate 60-40 split between the two sides of the debate. A bit more than half the time, the T-Rex is depicted as an agile, purposeful hunter, leaning forward, ready to pounce or sprint. And a bit less than half the time, the T-Rex is shown as an upright, plodding creature with his tail dragging on the ground, and his head up, presumably so he can deliver whatever witty, humanizing lines his masters at Disney have assigned to him.

One of my favorite toys as a youth was a large (foot tall) blue tyrannosaurus. To this day, a Hamburgler toy from a McDonalds Happy Meal in 1987 is lodged within the mighty beast's hollow interior, due to a spurt of bad, but eventually sentimental playtime judgment on my part. Ok I'd better stop reminiscing before I start thinking about crying at the first day of school, or the time I cut a gash in my hand from the cheap public kindergarten carpet when I was 5, or a week later when I hurled during PE (on baton relay day, no less).

As you may have already heard, George Bush nominated Republican Rep. Porter Goss to be the next Director of Central Intelligence.

One problem... well other than that of injecting even more partisan politics into the intelligence-gathering process...

If this is true, then one Michael Moore may have video of Goss describing himself as unfit for a job at the CIA. Moore has, shall we say, a penchant for publicity, so this is bound to come out. (Though he did hold off on releasing the Nick Berg interview, but in this case, classiness is not a concern)

UPDATE: Well, that was fast. Reuters is running a story on this, and according to Moore's site, the video will be up tomorrow.

It was nice to click over to the NY Times and see that David Edelstein, film critic for Slate and NPR, has written a fun-filled piece covering the various Big Lebowski conventions happening around the country this summer.

In the piece, we also learn about Jeff Dowd, the real-life inspiration for The Dude. And if there was any doubt about his political leanings:
Nowadays, the real Dude is back in the saddle. He's registering Lebowski fest attendees to vote, and vowed to deliver a gift basket to the Republican National Convention containing (according to his news release) "symbolic gifts including an oversize pair of glasses to help the Republicans see what's going on in our country, a copy of the Constitution to remind them of our rights as free citizens and a bowling ball so they will have something to do for the next four years."
Dowd likens the Coen brothers (directors of the film) to "Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain". Perhaps that's a bit excessive (Intolerable Cruelty?), but I know some people who might agree.

Yesterday, taking a break from studying, I finally got out to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco's current exhibit on Geisha. The collection was extensive, the kimonos were quite enjoyable, the guided tours were avoidable, and the explanation-blurbs on the wall were quite repetitive and rife with subtle orientalism. Not bad, I suppose.

The descriptions of the various items in the exhibit (paintings, scrolls, kimonos, instruments, photographs, sketches, etc) were geared heavily towards convincing patrons to discard any preformulated idea of geisha being "hookers with white facepaint". I guess that's what you have to do. I mean, it was hyper-self-conscious, no doubt. But perhaps their necessity was suggested by the presence, near the end of the exhibit, of a series of 1950's posters for movies featuring famous American actors crossing the Pacific and meeting exotic Asian women!. John Wayne and Marlon Brando had such film roles.

Included in the exhibit was a smattering of musical instruments used by geisha, including a stringed banjo-like instrument called a shamisen. Happily abiding by the tacit code of conduct to be found in any large museum, I did not open the plastic case, remove the instrument, and lead the exhibit hall in a medley of some sort. But what I could surmise from viewing the shamisen is that it's probably a lot lighter, and infinitely more comfortable to play, than the heavy, cumbersome, leave-a-dent-in-your-right-quad banjo. I've been banjo-free for over four years now.

Lastly, if you check it out and then find yourself in the museum's internal eatery, I also highly recommend the soba noodle salad.

Okay, back to studying or something!

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Bill Saletan has an amusing take on the Swift Boat Vets ad campaign:

"I know John Kerry is lying about the hamster, because I treated the hamster for that injury." (link)

Monday, August 09, 2004


This is finals week for my summer classes at Berkeley. That, coupled with various other items of business, is the culprit that has, and will through at least thursday, keep blogging light here at The Facts Machine.

Lots of bloggy (and otherwise) goodness in the left-hand column. Also, my group music blog, If Six Was Nine, has been restored to its normal condition after at least a month of posession by a template demon of some sort.