The Facts Machine

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

Saturday, April 30, 2005


Jeanne D'Arc notes that our friends at the Family Research Council have found a new scourge to rally against: a potential vaccine for HPV.
"Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV," says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group that has made much of the fact that, because it can spread by skin contact, condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.

"Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex," Maher claims, though it is arguable how many young women have even heard of the virus.
The women I know have. And what they'll tell you is that HPV, or human papilloma virus, is the most common cause of cervical cancer which, of course, can be rather fatal.

Thus, what we have here is that the FRC would rather see women die of cancer than have access to a medical vaccine. All in the name of puritan demagoguery.

When major progress is made on the AIDS vaccine, you can bet they will be there protesting it as well.

UPDATE: Ezra adds:
Bush likes to conceal his stance on abortion through the inegnious "culture of life" formulation. But these people don't really want a culture of life. Their overriding objective is not protecting women from AIDS and HPV and cervical cancer and potentially deadly childbirth (as in partial-birth abortions) and other potential killers, it's stopping them for having premarital sex. And if a few -- hell, if a lot! -- have to die to make that future manifest, then so be it. So next time you hear someone spout off about the "culture of life", don't be fooled -- this is a culture of puritanism and subjugation, nothing more, nothing less. A culture of life, you can tell them, doesn't kill.

Guess the Google Image Search!

Friday, April 29, 2005


Kevin is right: These British campaign ads are well worth your time. Comments:

1) The girl in the Labour ad is quite attractive.

2) Apparently the Tories sought out the Wachowski brothers for their ad's color scheme.

3) You can recognize LibDems because they're wearing yellow sweatshirts.

Sadly, the Brits lag way behind us Americans in the use of cute puppies in campaign ads.

UPDATE: Aw nuts, they're not actual ads. Still good though.

Scottydoo says:
But White House press secretary Scott McClellan said that calling Bush's proposal a cut is "irresponsible." He argued that Social Security's long-term fiscal problems mean that the benefits the system is guaranteeing today "are an empty promise" and that everyone's checks will eventually be smaller if no action is taken.
Silly Republicans, and the games they play with the future.

During the 2004 campaign, when any of the Democratic candidates, be they Dean, Gephardt, or Kerry, made noise about repealing portions of future Bush tax cuts, Republicans of all shapes and sizes, from the President on down, criticized them by calling this "raising" taxes.

Now, we have McClellan arguing that the current Social Security program is an "empty promise", and that the lower benefits for the great majority of Americans under the Bush plan does not constitute a cut.

Well dude, the future tax cuts haven't happened yet, and what if we can't afford them? Heck there are plenty of people who'd say we can't afford them now. It would seem that Republicans like McClellan (thus, the White House) can only make one of these arguments, and not both.

25 hours after the end of Bush's press conference in which he introduced new wrinkles to his Social Security plan, let's see how the wire services did in cutting through Bush's mumbo-jumbo and pointing out the obvious point, that the middle class is going to see large benefit cuts if the plan passes.

Knight Ridder:
President Bush's proposal to restore solvency to Social Security by deeply cutting benefits for some Americans faced extreme peril Friday on Capitol Hill where few lawmakers are eager to tell their constituents that they will be receiving less money in the future.


The president, in his Thursday night news conference, called for revamping Social Security by curbing the growth in benefits for middle-class and wealthy Americans while pledging that low-income workers would see their benefits rise faster than those for the well-to-do.
President George W. Bush appealed to Congress on Friday to back his new plan to overhaul Social Security by reducing promised benefits for all but low-income retirees, but Democrats dug in for a fight and warned about the biggest-ever cuts in the program.
Associated Press:
President Bush on Friday pitched his new proposal to fix Social Security's finances by cutting the benefit now promised to future retirees for all but the lowest-income recipients and warned Democratic opponents not to "play politics as usual" with it.


Under Bush's approach, future Social Security checks would increase more quickly for the lowest-income retirees than for everyone else. Though Bush promised that middle- and upper-income retirees would get benefits "equal to or greater than the benefits enjoyed by today's seniors," they would be smaller than what the system is now promising for the future.
All in all, it could be worse. And it has been... on TV.

MediaMatters notes:
Most major televised media outlets failed to note that President Bush, in his one-hour press conference on April 28, made two flatly contradictory statements about the viability of U.S. treasury bonds, in which the Social Security trust fund is invested. Repeating a claim made in his recent travels throughout the country in support of Social Security privatization, Bush said that the treasury bonds owned by the trust fund represent worthless IOUs from the U.S. government. But he later touted those same bonds for holders of his proposed private accounts looking for a safe investment that would be "backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government."
But I noticed! (5:09 entry)

Also, eventually the realities of the plan Bush spoke of at the press conference -- namely that everyone making over a mere 20 grand will be subject to large benefit cuts -- will make it into the national press... even though it hasn't yet. Still, I'd be more concerned if Bush hadn't made such a big deal about private accounts in the conference, saying they "gotta be" part of a SS plan. As long as they're there, he doesn't have the votes in the Senate.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


One of the advantages for Bush in having his primetime press conference on a Thursday evening is that The Daily Show with Jon Stewart will be unable to lampoon it.

You think I'm kidding, right? Consider...

1) Lately, The Daily Show's ratings have been comparable with the more popular shows on the Fox News channel.


2) The Daily Show's audience is made up disproportionately of young people (18-34), the people to whom Bush is most interested in selling his Social Security overhaul.


By all means, send him out there, whenever he opens his mouth, his numbers go down.

And Gannon won't be there to help him out, either. Let's liveblog it.

5:02 - I love that long walk. He's rushing already.

5:03 - "...make gasoline prices more affordable". He will hold every hand in the world if he has to!

5:04 - Here comes Social Security. "I traveled the country to talk to the American people". Yes. The carefully screened yes-men and women.

5:05 - Here come the context-free numbers!

5:06 - There's our friend 2041. Remember, as he talks about these "holes" in the system, that he's in favor of the permanent repeal of the Estate and Gift Tax.

5:07 - Translation: Large cuts in benefits for middle-class recipients of Social Security. No mention of private/personal/individual/freedom accounts yet.

5:08 - There it is!

5:09 - Treasury bonds. But those are just pieces of paper! IOUs! Well, going by his logic...

5:11 - First question "are you frustrated?" Starting him off light I see (translation: "Please ramble until you remember your talking points"). This is around where people start zoning ou-- a dog chasing its tail? Gah? Forced.

5:13 - An Iraq insurgency question. "he went on to say we're winning". Yes, after Rumsfeld made great pains to not say we were winning. Bush sounds like he hasn't talked about Iraq in a while... he hasn't, you know. He's now retreating to his generalized lines about democracy.

5:16 - He's still going... meanwhile, CAP catches him in a lie.

5:18 - "I view religion as a personal matter". So is that a rebuke of the FRC and FristChrist, or what?

5:19 - "If you choose not to worship, you're equally patriotic". Remember that one.

5:20 - He's currently dodging the question of how the energy bill helps the gasoline price immediately. Click on the link in the 5:16 entry to find out what he really thinks. Ahh, there, he got to it. It took him a little while to twist and twirl his way to that Fort Hood anecdote. Then he segues to ANWR, which wouldn't have the slightest effect on the price of oil (or gasoline) for close to a decade. Not to mention that by then we shouldv'e been on various alternative energy fuel vehicles several times over.

5:26 - "Vladimur". This is quite a convoluted explanation for how it's dandy that Russia is giving enriched uranium to the Axis of Evil.

5:29 - Bolton. It's too bad the questioner neglected to mention Tony Blair's opinion on Bolton. Or Colin Powell's, for that matter. "Isn't afraid to speak his mind". Especially when he's chasing after you and throwing things.

5:33 - While Bush yammers on about his Social Security plan, read this Nathan Newman post (via atrios) about the true nature of his proposal.

5:34 - I wonder if you east coasters are wondering how tonight's O.C. is going...

5:42 - Here's Matt Yglesias on Bush's hypocracy on "legislating from the bench".

5:44 - "I'll share credit!"

5:48 - Ah, a question about third-party interrogation. Slight dodge. Ahh the delicate line, sounding *tough* but giving lip service to Geneva.

5:51 - Asbestos reform is the key to growing our economy? And I really wish he'd stop saying "neighborhood" instead of "region".

5:58 - Sane right-wing blogger James Joyner is live-blogging the conference, and his stuff makes for a pretty good Cliff's Notes version of the conerence.

6:00 - "I talked to all sorts of people whose spouses died and all they got was a burial benefit." Guess he did listen to those Iraq war widows!

RECAP: New wrinkle with the income-oriented plan for Social Security, but again, no specifics. Remember that saying "lower income people will have their benefits increase faster than those for higher income people" certainly doesn't preclude "cuts for middle income earners", and probably requires it. Read the linked Nathan Newman piece to get an idea of what's up. North Korea was same old same old, as was Iraq. Blitzer is currently arguing that the point of the conference was for Bush to reach out to Congressional Repubs and tell them he's "with them", and not to get weak-kneed yet. That's nice, but how enthusiastic will those Republicans be if Bush's numbers stay in the low-mid 40's?

I see you voted against armoring Humvees in Iraq. Can't wait to see your GOP primary challengers "Kerry" you over that one!

Oh how charming of them!
Republican Alabama lawmaker Gerald Allen says homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle. As CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, under his bill, public school libraries could no longer buy new copies of plays or books by gay authors, or about gay characters.

"I don't look at it as censorship," says State Representative Gerald Allen. "I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children."

Books by any gay author would have to go: Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. Alice Walker's novel "The Color Purple" has lesbian characters.

Allen originally wanted to ban even some Shakespeare. After criticism, he narrowed his bill to exempt the classics, although he still can't define what a classic is. Also exempted now Alabama's public and college libraries.
(Let's link to this again!)

Even when you look past the question of what does and doesn't constitute a "classic", and when you look past the outlandish, UnAmerican bigotry, there's the problem of just how much literature this bans. It's not just Williams, Capote and Vidal, is it? Nope: The list includes a wide assortment of authors. (scroll through the list, quite interesting actually)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


The Family Research Council, the Christian Wingnut group behind last weekend's "Justice Sunday" event, is the main organization working with Senator FristChrist to implement the "nuclear constitutional freedom option" to eliminate the ability to filibuster judicial nominees in the Senate. Obviously the FRC has a hardline position against filibusters.

Er, no.

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann noted a couple days ago that the FRC vigorously defended the filibuster in the past. Guess who was President then. First name: Bill.

And if you were interested, they supported the Republican filibuster (and threats of filibuster) of the nomination of James Hormel to the pivotal position of Ambassador to Luxembourg. Hormel, as you may recall, is gay.

I've been away for a while (Midterm season! Last one ever! For real this time!), so let's work our way in with something blatantly Marxist, shall we? You know, something like... protecting Social Security.

The hardcore advocates of private personal individual freedom accounts replacing Social Security -- Norquist, Stephen Moore, and their ilk -- have a number of goals in mind. One of them, as I have mentioned before, is "decapitation" -- that is, the privatizers oppose the entire FDR/LBJ welfare state, and they figure that if they can take down its cornerstone (Social Security), it will break the backs of their opposition and the rest will fall more easily.

But there's another reason they're after Social Security: It's essentially an insurance policy that everyone buys into and essentially everybody benefits from. This is, obviously, unacceptable to them. What they want is to turn the retirement situation in America to one that is similar to the health care situation. And what is that situation? The people who have medical insurance get good care and are generally happy with it, while the people who are uninsured get screwed. The trouble is, there are over 40 million American citizens who are uninsured, something like 14-15% of the population. The Republicans don't have a plan to address this; when one was proposed, as was done by Bill Clinton in '94, they were unified in opposition, and they weren't exactly quick to submit any compromise ideas. No, what they really want is to sweep those 40 million people under the rug, and not have to think about them. They like it that way. In other words, they'd like totally have a B+ average if you didn't count all those F's.

The same could become true if Social Security is gutted. Face it, not everybody is going to have access to knowledge to invest their 4% wisely and get that 3% growth rate. When I think of the 3% figure, I think of the $1,600 average Bush used to promote the 2001 tax cut. In addition, an Enron here and an WorldCom there, and some people will be really, really screwed. I know that's a somewhat sensationalist point to make, but I really would believe Bush's support for private accounts to be more genuine if they were coupled with some, uh, additions to Sarbanes-Oxley and other such oversight efforts.

The potential with a private account system is that it would be similar to the current state of health care in America, in that many Americans do fine with them, or even better than their SS checks would've been, but a large chunk of the population gets screwed. And what happens to them? They get swept under the rug, just like the uninsured! Is this a short-term political problem for them? Well, no, because were they to get their private accounts rendered into law, that means they would have already split the large anti-privatization constituencies, namely AARP. Right now they are relatively unified, so that's not an immediate concern.

They'll hide behind "averages" that make the situation look better than it is, those that handle the investments get a nice little windfall, and what was once an all-encompassing insurance policy becomes a game of winners and losers. When George W Bush says "ownership society", he means "some people win and some people lose". If you support the protection of Social Security, you're standing for "everybody doing alright at the very least".

Monday, April 25, 2005

So, those 200 judicial nominations that were approved by the Senate, all those people were godless heathens, right?

The Facts Machine will return tonight.