The Facts Machine

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

Saturday, September 03, 2005


Hammers the administration.
Stuff happens.

And when you combine limited government with incompetent government, lethal stuff happens.

America is once more plunged into a snake pit of anarchy, death, looting, raping, marauding thugs, suffering innocents, a shattered infrastructure, a gutted police force, insufficient troop levels and criminally negligent government planning. But this time it's happening in America.


Who on earth could have known that Osama bin Laden wanted to attack us by flying planes into buildings? Any official who bothered to read the trellis of pre-9/11 intelligence briefs.

Who on earth could have known that an American invasion of Iraq would spawn a brutal insurgency, terrorist recruiting boom and possible civil war? Any official who bothered to read the C.I.A.'s prewar reports.

Who on earth could have known that New Orleans's sinking levees were at risk from a strong hurricane? Anybody who bothered to read the endless warnings over the years about the Big Easy's uneasy fishbowl.


It would be one thing if President Bush and his inner circle - Dick Cheney was vacationing in Wyoming; Condi Rice was shoe shopping at Ferragamo's on Fifth Avenue and attended "Spamalot" before bloggers chased her back to Washington; and Andy Card was off in Maine - lacked empathy but could get the job done. But it is a chilling lack of empathy combined with a stunning lack of efficiency that could make this administration implode.

When the president and vice president rashly shook off our allies and our respect for international law to pursue a war built on lies, when they sanctioned torture, they shook the faith of the world in American ideals.

When they were deaf for so long to the horrific misery and cries for help of the victims in New Orleans - most of them poor and black, like those stuck at the back of the evacuation line yesterday while 700 guests and employees of the Hyatt Hotel were bused out first - they shook the faith of all Americans in American ideals. And made us ashamed.
Look, it's very simple. We look at the destruction and death in New Orleans, and we see that it's as bad as, or even worse than what happened on 9/11. Then we note that around 90% of what a government would do to help a place struck by a large-scale terrorist attack is pretty much the same as what it would do to help a place struck by a natural disaster. And we arrive at the conclusion: this administration is wholly incompetent and has not learned a thing from The Day That Changed Everything. And that incompetence even reaches the head of FEMA.

When calls go out for an independent commission to investigate the disaster, will the administration stonewall?

I'll be out all day.

Friday, September 02, 2005


Jeffrey Dubner is right, this is wholly inappropriate:
NUH-UH. Yes, the president really just said:
The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now -- that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch. (Laughter.)
Performing a standup act when you're supposed to be managing the recovery from the greatest natural disaster in American history is bad enough, but it gets even more disgusting than that: Trent Lott has another house. I'll let you take it from there.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Priorities from our friends at the National Review.

Are they worried about Canadian prescription drugs coming with the food and supplies or something? Jeebus.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Recently, vicious homophobic church leader Fred Phelps, of picketing-Matthew-Shepard's-funeral fame, has been, with his equally vicious followers, protesting the funerals of American soldiers, claiming that their deaths have been brought about as a result of the government's accommodation of homosexuals.

A thought occurred to me a couple weeks ago. Some right-wing pundit is going to associate Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church with the mainstream opposition to the war. Farfetched? Sure, Phelps isn't exactly a liberal. But these things aren't meant to make sense. The Ann Coulters of the world are happy to conflate the American left with the Taliban, even if it was the Reagan administration that helped create the Taliban in the first place.

And sure enough, we have a winner: Sean Hannity.

This simply doesn't need to be said, but just in case any of my right-wing friends are confused, I think Fred Phelps is human scum, and the only people even remotely on par with him in America are the Turner Diaries book clubs and so on.

(link via atrios)
Josh Marshall has compiled a series of emails received from people in the affected Gulf Coast region, you can read them here.

Breaking news:
Up to 500 people died when a crowd of Iraqi Shi'ites stampeded off a bridge over the Tigris river in Baghdad on Wednesday, fleeing rumors of a suicide bombing threat, Iraq's deputy health minister said.

"So far we have 500 dead," Jalil Al-Shumari, the deputy minister, told Reuters.

The crowd, on its way to the Kadhimiya mosque for an important religious ceremony, panicked as rumors spread that a suicide bomber was preparing to blow himself up...

One hospital said it had received at least 100 bodies by 12:30 (0830 GMT). The hospital source said bodies were being sent to two other nearby hospitals as well.

A crowd of several thousand had been marching through the old Kadhimiya district of northern Baghdad to a major Shi'ite religious ceremony.

The streets leading to the mosque are narrow, making it almost impossible for rescue workers to reach the dead and injured in the packed throng, and raising the possibility that the death toll could rise further, witnesses said.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Right-wing anti-choice nutjobs think Hurricane Katrina looks like a fetus.

I dunno, kinda looks like a pimento to me.

Monday, August 29, 2005


Donate to the Red Cross.

(First of all, I've been gone a while. In the middle of a recording project which, along with other post-college errands, is taking up a lot of my time. I'm not finished with my compositions right now, but if you want a silly taste, as a goof I recorded a cover version of Avril Lavigne's "My Happy Ending", an mp3 of which you can find on my old webpage.)

The evolution vs intelligent design debate is the latest of the arguments stirred by conservatives on the basis of ignorance. To wit:

--Iraq and WMD. As recently as late in the 2004 campaign, polls showed that a large chunk of the American people still believed Iraq had WMD, and even more amusing, that we had found it. Similar chunks of Americans believed that either Saddam's regime had a hand in organizing the attacks of 9/11, or that there were Iraqis among the 19 hijackers. Whatever the hawkish elements of the blogosphere think, it was these perceptions that kept support for the war afloat. The administration knew what the truth was on each of these fronts. Instead of selling Iraq on the merits, it chose to cultivate ignorance. This strategy is failing, and that failure is personified by Cindy Sheehan and her supporters camped out in Crawford.

--Gay marriage. Social conservatives love their polls that show opposition to gay marriage, as much as they love their state initiatives banning it. But legalizing same-sex marriage has very little to do with whatever it is your particular church will and wont do; it pertains to what is and isn't recognized as valid by city hall. If more Americans understood that legalizing it does not mean that the government is imposing its will on churches, the poll numbers would be different. Again, these conservatives base their argument on obscuring this truth, choosing instead, just as with Iraq, to cultivate ignorance among Americans.

Which brings us to...

--Evolution and Intelligent Design. The tactical employment of ignorance by the conservatives and creationists has been twofold...

1. The selective definition of the word "theory" as it applies to the theory of evolution. Look at the American Heritage Dictionary's definitions of the word "theory". The creationists seek to replace definition #1 (the relevant one) with #6 (relevant to, say, a discussion at happy hour).

But more importantly,

2. Intelligent Design's artificial threshold of understanding. ID proposes that the universe, and some things within it, are so complex that they could have only come into being as the result of the actions of an intelligent entity, be it God, gods or the commissioner of Major League Baseball. But really, they mean God. ID proponents often cite the eye as an example of something so complex it could not come to be by accident.

But what if we had the evolution/ID debate 1000, 500, 300 or even 150 years ago? Consider the things, relative to scientific capabilities of the given periods, that would have been seen as too complicated for science to explain. Diseases were attributed to imbalances in the "humors" or even to evil spirits. At any of those times it would have been absolutely preposterous to identify some things in nautre, throw one's hands up and say "we can't learn anything more about how this came about, it must be a divine hand at work". And there is no reason -- hell, less reason -- to apply that sentiment to scientific understanding today.

My Experience:

If you're a young-earth creationist who believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible, then obviously you have good reason to take issue with evolution. But if you think about it, there is a lot of generally accepted science, even universally accepted science that flies in the face of Biblical literalism. Off the top of my head...

-Einstein's theory of relativity tells us that the light from the stars above us has been travelling through space for billions of years...

-Supercontinent theory shows us how the Earth's landmasses drifted over time, and were never, uh, covered by a global flood.

-Our improved understanding of the double helix and of human genetics casts serious doubt on the human race starting from a gene pool of... two.

-Other ad hoc theories, such as "Bushes can't talk". (Well, at least one of them can't. Heyo!) Also, the well-known "Whales don't have breathable cavities" theory.

I could go on. Yet of all the science out there, it's evolution that really gets their overused antibiotics in a bunch. Why is that?

Here's my hypothesis, based on anecdotal evidence, i.e. conversations with Christian friends of mine...

The creation story in Genesis has psychological advantages over evolution because it provides a link between the creation of matter and that of a moral order for humanity. Regardless of what one believes, it includes some of the more eloquent, beautiful, and evocative language in the Bible. A practicing Christian, while growing up and attending services and Sunday school and so on, will have eventually discussed nearly every word in Genesis. (My brief flirtation with evangelical Christianity five years ago included a lot of parsing.) Thus, the creation story, when presented in a thorough manner, must be very hard to let go.

It's more than just a "If it's not true then I might as well throw out the rest of the book" thing, or even a "If it's not true than Jesus lied a whole bunch in the New Testament, and I just can't handle that" thing. It is a deep, emotional, comfortable bond with the story. Which goes well with Intelligent Design, because ID sacrifices genuine scientific curiosity and scrutiny in favor of a comfortable theological explanation.

And a note to those who assert that the pro-ID crowd is somehow separate from the pro-creationism crowd: There wouldn't even be a debate between evolution and ID if it weren't for some people reading a book of morality tales as a literal history.

--Katrina: I'm up late right now and it's about to come ashore. Looks devastating, I'm suspending my usual contempt for the carnival-esque manner in which the news stations cover hurricanes in order to convey the hope that her destructive power does not prove to be as great as feared. Also, many people are taking shelter in the Superdome... couldn't we send Joe Montana down there to throw a half-dozen touchdown passes? You know, for old time's sake, to entertain the huddled masses?

--Pat Robertson: "Blessed are the heads of state in South American countries more democratic than Iraq will be anytime in the near future... for they will be whacked!"

--Cindy Sheehan: You know, watching Bush give that speech last week where he referenced a different military mom, did any of you older hands have flashbacks to Nixon and Colson siccing a then-young John O'Neill on an then-also-young John Kerry? It's the same strategy, only the war has changed. Or has it?

--Iraqi Constitution: I see Leo. I see Kate. I see Billy Zane. And a lot of deck chairs. Well, the Green Zone has a constitution. Now if they ever secure the road between the Green Zone and the Airport (only a few miles west), they might have something.