The Facts Machine

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

Saturday, May 14, 2005


This article about how the police tracked down the source of the famous Wendy's finger was given an amusing title on the SF Gate homepage:

And if you can stand to go inside a Wendy's, they're giving away free Frostys this weekend.

The title background is a crudely-photoshopped digital photo of mine, depicting UCSB's Storke Tower from directly below. It doesn't have a clock on it, yet it has a series of bells that ring both on the hour, and ten minutes before the hour. For those not in the know, the chimes at 10 of the hour correspond to letters of the alphabet, spelling out the UC motto, "Let There Be Light".
L = C high
E = A
T = C low

T = C low
H = F
E = A
R = D
E = A

B = B
E = A

L = C high
I = E
G = G
H = F
T = C low
By the way, last night's gig went really well. I'll be performing there again on Friday the 27th at 8pm. More details as that time approaches.

Democrats trying to show the backbone that Sen Voinovich didn't.
Senate Democrats opposed to
President Bush's nomination of John R. Bolton to be U.N. ambassador are trying to delay a Senate vote with a legislative maneuver that ultimately could lead to a filibuster.

As a result, Senate consideration of the nomination is unlikely before the end of the month, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's spokesman said.

The White House, in pushing for confirmation, has taken the position Bolton was needed badly and promptly at the United Nations to work on reform of the institution.

But Sen. Barbara Boxer (news, bio, voting record) of California said Democrats were holding up the nomination to compel the State Department to provide more information about the embattled undersecretary.

Frist's spokesman Bob Stevenson said it was "an ominous signal," but that talks would be held with the Democrats to try to work out arrangements for bringing the nomination to the floor.

Next week the Senate will concentrate on a confirmation fight over two of Bush's conservative judicial nominees.

At the State Department, spokesman Richard Boucher indicated the Democrats' demands for more Bolton documents would not be met.

"We think that we have provided everything that is relevant to this nomination," he said.

The nomination was voted out of the Foreign Relations Committee 10-8 on Thursday without an endorsement, and Democrats vowed to take their fight to the Senate floor.

Boxer told The Associated Press on Friday she would use procedural delays until Democrats receive the requested information.

"It is not fair to bring this nomination to the floor for debate and a vote until all the information has been delivered," she said.

Boxer said the Democrats want to know if Bolton sought the names of U.S. officials whose communications were intercepted by U.S. intelligence, details on the private business activities of a Bolton assistant, Matthew Friedman, and the circumstances of a tough Bolton speech on Syria.
With this, along with the looming debates on the nuclear option and Social Security privatization, the Senate promises to be a very interesting place in the next month or two.

Note how Frist, through his spokesperson, doesn't voice any strong objection to the Dems' obstructing Bolton, possibly even filibustering him, only mentioning that the trajectory of the nomination is "ominous" given the Dems' actions. Frist's anti-judicial-filibuster jihad isn't polling well, so in order to come off as something bordering reasonable, perhaps he is going out of his way to indicate that he's alright with the filibuster elsewhere, such as here (and it may very well loom for Social Security legislation if the private accounts make it out of committee). Mind you, TFM doesn't endorse the removal of the judicial filibuster, of course, but Frist's efforts have yielded an interesting political byproduct. That is, unless/until he goes back on his word. He wouldn't do that, would he?

That's what all those kitties he rescued from the pound said.

Friday, May 13, 2005


Brendan will be performing at about 8:45pm at Java Jones coffee house on Pardall in Isla Vista, for those of you in the area.

Oh, and I made some cosmetic changes to the blog, including making the typeface bigger, something I probably shoulda done a while ago.

For the first time in my memory, my first name was used in a network television commercial. Too bad it was Burger King, but at least I got to hear Darth Vader say it.

"Brendan, I am your father." Sweeeeet.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


In the first time that a federal judge has struck down a state constitutional provision limiting marriage to heterosexual couples, U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon on Thursday declared void a provision of the Nebraska constitution that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman and that banned same-sex civil unions, domestic partnerships and other similar relationships.

Bataillon declared in his ruling that under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Nebraska cannot ban same-sex marriages and civil unions.

The ruling may call into question similar provisions in other states’ constitutions.

Nebraska voters enacted the provision five years ago, with 70 percent approving it.
And this oughtta piss off the theocons:
Bataillon, who was nominated to the federal bench by President Clinton in 1997 and unanimously confirmed by the Senate, based his ruling on two Supreme Court decisions, Romer v. Evans in 1996 and Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, with the majority opinion in both written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Even better is that... If Frist and his buddies even think of criticizing a Federal judge for intervening in state law, we can tell them to take the ad hoc Schiavo legislation they passed, which attempted to undermine a state court decision, and stick it where they tell us not to.

What makes this ruling politically interesting is that it will be the first test-case to see how the public at large reacts to the homophobic right post-Schiavo. In 2004, espeically in the context of the election, the conventional wisdom was that putting same-sex marriage front and center was politically harmful to the Democrats, and that the right had a stranglehold on those "traditional heartland values", so often the subject of figurative auto-erotic stimulation among the major tv talking heads.

But now, the arrogant, theocratic invasiveness of the fundie right has been bared for all to see, through the grandstanding of DeLay, Jeb and most of all Bill Frist in both the Schiavo story and the "Justice Sunday" stuff. The Democrats have an opportunity to hard-wire the fundy GOP's opposition to equal rights for gays and lesbians to the greater narrative of fundamentalist home invasion and perversion of the United States Constitution. Surely this is not lost on Howard Dean.

On the other hand, it is lost on John Kerry, who continues his useless straddling on the issue.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Now this is surprising. Out of the 31 reviews released so far for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, 28 have been positive.

This would make the new Star Wars trilogy the exact reverse of the Godfather trilogy.

This is friggin hilarious. (via Marshall)

I will be performing this Friday night at Java Jones coffee house on Pardall Road in Isla Vista, at around 845, possibly later, after my friend Jake Thorn performs a set of his unique retro-alternative acoustic tunes.

Be there! Please!

After a week and a half of covering such pressing stories as a runaway bride and the return of Pat O'Brien to "The Insider", CNN has finally bothered to make the Blair/Bush/Iraq memo a headline.
Eighty-nine Democratic members of the U.S. Congress last week sent President George W. Bush a letter asking for explanation of a secret British memo that said "intelligence and facts were being fixed" to support the Iraq war in mid-2002 -- well before the president brought the issue to Congress for approval.

The Times of London newspaper published the memo -- actually minutes of a high-level meeting on Iraq held July 23, 2002 -- on May 1.

British officials did not dispute the document's authenticity, and Michael Boyce, then Britain's Chief of Defense Staff, told the paper that Britain had not then made a decision to follow the United States to war, but it would have been "irresponsible" not to prepare for the possibility.

The White House has not yet responded to queries about the congressional letter, which was released on May 6.

The letter, initiated by Rep. John Conyers, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said the memo "raises troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications for the war as well as the integrity of your own administration. ...

"While various individuals have asserted this to be the case before, including Paul O'Neill, former U.S. Treasury Secretary, and Richard Clarke, a former National Security Council official, they have been previously dismissed by your administration," the letter said.

But, the letter said, when the document was leaked Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman called it "nothing new."

In addition to Blair, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, Attorney General Peter Goldsmith, MI6 chief Richard Dearlove and others attended the meeting.

A British official identified as "C" said that he had returned from a meeting in Washington and that "military action was now seen as inevitable" by U.S. officials.

"Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

"The NSC had no patience with the U.N. route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."
And no, the 2002 memo didn't have much to say about democracy promotion.

Dennis Miller: cancelled! (via attaturk)

TFM offers its congratulations to Ben Sheldon-Tarzynski, the newly elected President of UCSB Campus Democrats for the 2005-2006 school year. The club will be in very capable hands, and will continue to be an electoral force in the greater region.

Campus Dems were the driving force behind the area's rejection of Ahhnuld-supported stooge Bob Pohl in the race for the local State Assembly seat, won by Democrat Pedro Nava. And yes, given his name, some of us Democrats did wear those campy "vote for pedro" shirts. We're the best-organized college Democratic Party group in the state, and while I only became active in it later on in my college career, I will miss it.

I will also be performing at their end-of-year banquet on the 24th, hehe.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


I'd be a lot more prone to giving Mickey Kaus credt for some of the better points he makes in his article on the Social Security debate from a few days ago if he hadn't allowed himself to buy into the Big Lie from the Bush/Pozen plan. Basically, the cuts start at (or for you partisan Republicans, "the smaller increases in guaranteed benefits start at) people with incomes of $20,000 or more. I've lived in California for all of my life, and in the Bay Area for most of it. If you're an adult there, and you're making $20,000, there's no two ways about it, you're poor. Especially if you're supporting a family. And when you retire, you'll be a lot more fucked than under the current system.

With that in mind, the big problem with Kaus' piece is quite fundamental: Cuts or not, he buys the Bush line that the people being affected are "middle and upper class" Americans. Having done that, he dwells on the "richer/poorer" dichotomyh throughout the piece. To wit:
What's more, what Bush has proposed is similar to "means-testing"--cutting the Social Security benefits of the more affluent--and I've been in the means-testing camp for decades.

...Currently we're using 12.4 percent of our national payroll to mail Social Security checks to rich and poor alike.

...The Pozen plan is really not a means test at all but rather an adjustment in Social Security's existing benefit schedule, gradually lowering the benefits to which higher-wage earners are entitled, whether they are wealthy or imporverished when they get older (although high-wage workers would still get slightly higher benefits than low-wage workers).
(emphases mine) In throwing this dual model at us, Kaus never mentions where on the income scale the benefit cuts begin under the Bush/Pozen plan.

What makes this dichotomy all the weirder is what Kaus says when he goes after his bearded arch-nemesis Paul Krugman:
NYT columnist Paul Krugman, criticizing Pozen, repeats the old saw that "programs for the poor always turn into poor programs." But even if Pozen did make Social Security a program for the poor, which it doesn't, the old saw isn't true. The disproof: the Earned Income Tax Credit. It's a program for the poor--it goes only to people making less than $35,000. But it's a good program! It works. It's popular. Congress after Congress has supported and indeed expanded it. It's popular because, like Social Security, it's work tested. As its name implies, it only goes to people who've earned some income. If means testing makes Social Security as unpopular as the EITC, Democrats have nothing to fear.
(Emphasis mine) In making this designation, Kaus has made a bit of an overlap, which I will now demonstrate in The Facts Machine's first ever table:
IncomeKaus thinks they're...
$35k and upRich
In his haste in trying to prove Krugman wrong, Kaus has contradicted himself. It's a bit more hilarious when you consider that 35k is pretty close to the median income in this country. Furthermore, using the EITC as an example is a shoddy tactic; after all, in effect it's a tax cut, so it's low on the GOP's list of "welfare-ish stuff to kill". The better example is Medicaid. And guess what? The Republicans just cut it by $10 billion!

Monday, May 09, 2005


That Arianna Huffington-organized group blog is up and running, and for starters, I recommend Larry David's post expressing his principled support for John Bolton.
I am dismayed by all of this yammering directed at John Bolton. Let's face it, the people who are screaming the loudest at Bolton have never been a boss and have no idea what it’s like to deal with nitwits as dumb as themselves all day long.
He then goes into an interesting anecdote, let's leave it at that.

Perusing recent posts on the blog, I see that the authors do run the ideological gamut, at least moreso than some people might have predicted they would. I came across posts the likes of Byron York and Jim Pinkerton on the front page, in addition to the Huffingtons and Cronkites. I also saw David Frum in there somewhere...

UPDATE: (5/10) With posts like this one, how in the world can Jim Lampley enjoy hanging around all those golfers?