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  xSaturday, September 28, 2002

ultraman is back!


w00t! Fox has added Ultraman Tiga to its Saturday morning lineup! Darn, missed it this morning--it comes on at 7:30 and 9 am on Channel 59. (But we did drop in Godzilla vs. Megalon...) Anyway, this'll make a nice addition to the Saturday morning cartoons the girls and I enjoy.

(via Destroy All Monsters)




  x

that's getting there


I have not been following this matter as closely as it deserves, but I note with satisfaction that the Iraq resolution's language giving the President carte blanche authority to "restore international peace and security in the region" has been struck.




  x

now he tells us


Gee, Dubya, why didn't you just say what this whole Iraq thing is about from the beginning?




  x

oh, by the way...


big storm on bourbon street
My parents are from New Orleans and I still have many relatives there. I'm pleased to report that despite the drenching tropical storm Isidore gave the Crescent City the other day, my kin and their property weathered the storm quite well.




  x

sometimes my girls are too darn ardorable


making bread
Cecilia and I made dough for bread this morning (the first time, I might add, I've ever made bread from scratch). Anyone who's ever seen me cook knows that it's a much more chaotic process than what you'd see on the Food Network...I crash about the kitchen, grabbling implements and ingredients as I need them. As you might imagine, adding a three-year-old to the mix makes it even more chaotic, and right now the kitchen's a mess, with flour everywhere. But she had fun mixing the ingredients and kneading the dough. As we began, I hunted through the stacks of CDs in the kitchen muttering about finding good bread-making music (settling on The Gin Blossoms' New Miserable Experience). When we put the dough into the bowl to rise, Cecilia said she wanted some rising music. If you guessed that I put on this song, score yourself ten points. We're washing out hands at the sink; she's standing on a kitchen stool, and she asks me to dance with her. When the song gets to the slow break in the middle, she tells me that the song talks about tears. Then as the E Street Band starts building the tempo, she said "The music is getting faster and faster!," bouncing up and down in my arms in time with the quickening pace (she has good rhythm!). As if I'm not charmed enough (I'm holding back tears of love and pride at this point), she starts singing along with the "Li li li" chorus at the end of the song. When the song stops, she says, "Daddy, I have to tell you something...you're my best friend," which is how she tells her mother and myself that she loves us.

I held her tight. That moment was worth all the mess and more.




  x

is there a lawyer in the house?


I get Wired News' daily email notification, so of course I saw this story about a former Marine/small-town cop who recently got busted in a child-pr0n sting. Although the article raises ominous implications that innocent Web surfers can face child-pr0n posession charges with one inadvertent mouse click, I declined to comment on the artice. (I actually chose to, as opposed to simply lacking the time, as is the case with so many other things that cross my radar.) For one thing, although the article seemed to portray suspect Adam Vaughn as a high-energy, risk-taking kind of guy who basically downloaded a lot of pr0n and didn't realize there were some kiddie images in the mix, as a result of a Yahoo newsgroup he once joined and apparently forgot about,

Now lawyer Dodd of Ipse Dixit has a legal analysys of the statute under which Mr. Vaughn was charged, and he concludes that--while the discretion and zeal of a prosecutor always needs to be taken into account--that a single, inadvertent, promptly deleted image appearing on one's computer doesn't pose the legal risk the article implies.

[to be continued...I am having trouble connecting to Dodd's blog and therefore can't link his post or cite his analysis.]
Update: Everything's working now, so here goes.
I thought that the article seemed a bit overblown, so I did what the author apparently thought was un-necessary: I read the actual statute (18 USC 2252A). It took less than one minute to find it and determine that I was right. Every variation (possession, distribution, and conspiracy) of 18 USC 2252A has the word "knowingly" in it. In short, possession of child pr0n is not a strict liability crime. [Emphasis in the original]

So, one cannot be convicted for having a single image in one's deleted files - the act of deletion establishes that one took "reasonable steps to destroy" it. One also cannot be convicted for having an image one does not know one has...

With all due respect to Dodd's legal knowledge, I would offer the small dissent that one could not be justly convicted. Although Dodd is certainly correct that the statue makes the noted excptions, whether one is actually convicted has much to do on the lawyers, judge and jury. A jury could, after all, decide to disregard evidence that the pr0n was unintentional, or a defense lawyer fail to assert the defense at all, or with sufficient vigor. That said, I'm sure such a convition ultimately would not stand. Of greater concern would be am innocent person who accepted a plea bargain despite the availability of this defense. After all, the thrust of the Wired article as I understand it was that Mr. Vaughn accepted a plea bargain believing that no matter what defense he raised--and apparently unaware of a flaw in the prosecutor's case--a just seeing the images would convict him no matter what. I'm not erudite enough on the law to know the availability of appeal to one who has pled guilty rather than been convicted.
Was Mr. Vaughn treated unjustly? That's hard to say. We cannot ever know for certain that the 300 images he had on his hard drive were unintentional downloads. Quite possibly they were; as described (albeit by a demonstrably sloppy author), he didn't act guilty. But the only way to reduce the draconian effect on people who really do get snared by this law for unwitting violations would be to increase the defense threshhold across the board. Doing that would make it easier for the people who do intentionally traffic in this stuff to evade prosecution, as well. A balance between society's desire to crack down on child pr0n and the reality that simply using the Internet may cause one to end up downloading an illegal image entirely by accident has to be struck somewhere. As a policeman, Mr. Vaugh should be expected to know and understand this even better than ordinary citizens. Maybe the 3 images threshhold really is too low; but there's no way it would be increased to 300, now is there?

The lesson here is that ordinary, everyday Internet users need to be careful what they say, do, and especially download when they're on the 'Net. We already know we need to be careful because of viruses. Mr. Vaughn's case shows that we have to be wary of other hazards, too.

Indeed, one perception I got from the Wired piece was that for the most part--down to both electing to accept and then not challenge his plea bargain--Mr. Vaugn's situation arises from a series of choices he has made. Perhaps that situation is not just, and perhaps Mr. Vaughn could have made better decisions WRT his legal strategy had he been better informed or better advised, but ultimately I don't see Mr. Vaughn having anyone to fault but himself.

By the way, Dodd also has another thought-provoking post that I'm cooking up a (favorable) response to.




  xFriday, September 27, 2002

telling it like it is


Oliver Willis links, via Electrolyte, to this excellent post at Public Nuisance, and I'll do the same by appropriating the same quote Oliver used, because it's a killer:
When Al Gore talks, conservatives listen. And then they lie. And they never, ever, apologize or retract. They just play up one lie until it's discredited, or long after, and then go on to the next one. Conservatives pundits have been doing so for years. And their younger brethren in the blogosphere have learned the same rules.

To cite one obvious example, the claim that Gore said he "invented the Internet" is pure bunkum, but it was repeated often enough that it's accepted as fact. Don't stop there; read the whole post.

I might add that we saw the same pattern in the whole Democrats "not interested in the security of the American people" (that's a direct quote by Bush, folks--he didn't say "Homeland Security" or "National Defense," he said that); I challenged those who agree with the Administration to admit that Bush had gone too far, but what I saw instead (although I admit, I didn't look much) were attacks on Daschle. I have problems with the way the Dems are approaching this debate, of course, but that isn't the issue.




  x

tpm on the iraq debate


Talking Points Memo links to some interesting debate going on over Iraq at Slate, and then has the following analysis of the lates Administration lies claims WRT a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda:
Powell told a Senate Committee that while there was evidence of Iraqi-al Qaida cooperation there was still "no smoking gun" connecting Iraq to 9/11. I would hasten to note that there is also still no definitive proof that the author of Talking Points lives in a mansion in Georgetown or even that he owns that villa in Capri. But somehow stating this undeniable fact in such a fashion strikes me as a touch misleading.

Normally when you have a claim for which you have no evidence you characterize this as 'a claim for which you have no evidence.' Or one might even be bold and say 'it's not true, as far as we know.'

When you say there's no smoking gun, the obvious implication is that there is a lot of information, a lot of clues pointing in that direction, but no real slam-dunk evidence. But of course there simply isn't any evidence pointing to an Iraq-9/11 connection, and a lot of circumstantial evidence -- to the extent that one can ever prove a negative -- to the contrary.

So, as I asked several days back, why the endless attempts to fudge? Why the resistance to having this debate on the basis of the very serious facts and threats at hand? ...It's almost like these little bogus stories are the bon-bons of war, the little morsels and appetizers to chum up those who can't quite swallow the whole complicated rationale whole.

While it's true that had Iraq been behind 9/11 there'd be all the causus belli you could ask for, I can't help but wonder why, if the Administration is sooooo convinced of the righteousness of its case, it keeps grasping at these flimsy straws?

(Hey, remember back when "no smoking gun" was spun to indicate Bush has a squeaky clean record as CEO of Harken?)




  x

zombie link of the day


I loooooove zombie movies, and I plan to kick off my Halloween movie binge October 1 by watching my DVD of Lucio Fulci's The Beyond (reviews here, here and here). Since I'm an avid zombie movie fan, the following story from The Onion came as no surprise at all:

Zombie Nutritionist Recommends All-Brain Diet

By the way--just so we have our facts straight, zombies in the classic George Romero films craved human flesh but not exclusively brains. The brain angle was prominent in the Dan O'Bannon homage Return of the Living Dead.

(via Ken Layne)




  x

movie review site of the week


I recently referred a friend to the movie review site that I mentioned here a while back: Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension. Arch-reviewer Ken Begg writes lengthy and frequently hilarious reviews of bad movies of all stripes, from Johnny Mnemonic to Magnificent Obsession to Bad Movie touchstones The Lonely Lady (with Pia Zadora) and Showgirls (a film so bad, not even an endless parade of nudity could make it interesting). The Jabootu site also hosts an invaluable Bad Movie Glossary that defines terms like the Hero's Battle Death Exemption (in which the movie's protagonist survives an extended encounter with a monster/villain that makes short work of everyone else in the film, as seen in Prophecy, which Begg also skewers).

Here's the master at work, in his Showgirls review:
The script was by Joe Eszterhas (for which he received three million dollars), Hollywood's most famous misogynist. Some of his other women-friendly scripts include Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct. Eszterhas kept complaining about how moral his story was (the "corruption" angle), and continues to jabber about his "strong" female characters. However, he writes women not only like he never met one, but as if they were a mythological species that he was too lazy to research. Watching one of Eszterhas' woman characters is akin to watching a werewolf expert in a horror movie state that "the only way to kill a werewolf is by driving a wooden stake through its heart." You snort, wondering how anyone could be so ignorant about something so basic, much less commit it to paper (or film).


Begg is also deft at lambasting left-wing bias, especially in films where the roles of hero and villain seem to be assigned based on political stance rather than the character's actions (two excellent examples: his blistering takedown of sucky sequel The Lost World and the Peter Benchley made-for-TV The Beast).

Almost everyone loves great movies. Personally, I love many bad ones too, and Begg is generous in observing the differences between movies that turned out bad because directors lacked the budget to adequately portray a compelling vision (or hire a decent cast) and ones that should have been good, but the producers and directors just didn't care enough to deliver a quality product (see the Lost World review again).

In related news, Nathan Shumate of Cold Fusion Video Reviews has a Web log! Check out this rant on the annoying--but still ineffective--pop-up ads.





  x

lego site of the day


Brickshelf is an awesome site claiming to contain more than 175,000 pictures of LEGO creations, from buildings to mecha to spacecraft to model trains. For a sample, check out its random gallery.

(via Wis[s]e Words)




  x

thoughts from the hitchens post


Martin Wisse left a thoughtful comment on the first part of my post regarding Christopher Hitchens' column. (By the way: It--and this one, for that matter--spans multiple postings; from where I ususally post, Blogger chokes and dies on posts if they get too long, so I have to break 'em down.) Hitchens wrote:
It is almost certainly a mistake to assume anybody's position on Iraq is determined by evidence alone. After all, last year there was overwhelming evidence of the connection between the World Trade Center aggression, al-Qaeda and the Taliban - and a decisive UN mandate for action - but many on the left opposed military action in Afghanistan, and still do.

Then I said:
Outside of wingnuts, exactly who did? And who still does? (Frankly, given the continued presence of al Qaeda and Taliban elements along the Afghan/Pakistan border, I for one would like to see more military action there...) But this ad homenem attack implies that the case is obvious without evidence, and that anyone opposing action WRT Iraq wouldn't be convinced by evidence anyway. Which, I predict, will absolve Hitchens from presenting any...

And Wisse responded thusly:
I did oppose the war against Afghanistan and still think it was a bad idea. I don't think it enhanced the safety of the US nor did it solve the problems of Afghanistan itself.

I don't support any call to war by the current US administration mainly because I don't trust them.





  x

I certainly didn't mean to portray Wisse, or anyone in particular, as a wingnut simply for doubting the Administration's hawkishness. As I've pointed out myself, I don't trust the Administration, nor do I feel the Administration is doing much to earn that trust. And part of my response is based on my past experience with warbloggers leading me to distinguish my own skepticism from what I beleive is a straw man argument that equates questioning the war with denying the United States should ever act in self defense. Nevertheless, I was overly broad in my statement, and I apologize for any offense it may have caused.

However, I think I'm right in trying to deconstruct what Hitchens is trying to do here. He's saying:

  • War skeptics will never accept any evidence justifying an attack on Iraq. Not true; but speaking solely for myself, I do not accept the Administration's claims that it has evidence as equivalent to seeing said evidence.

  • Hitchens draws a parallel between the "overwhelming evidence" of al Qaeda's connection to the Taliban and whatever goods the Administration claims it has on Iraq. If the Administration has overwhelming evidence WRT Iraq, I'd love for them to present it.

  • Hitchens is implying that opposition to the Administration's use of the military is driven solely by ideology (which is, of course, why it ignores that "overwhelming evidence"). But I wouldn't imagine even Hitchens would include the Joint Chiefs of Staff as among those ideologues, yet they too have voiced concerns.


The bottom line is that Hitchens attempts to portray opposition to the war as driven by blind dogmatism. I couldn't disagree more. As Wisse points out, opposition to the military action in Afghanistan is a reasonable position. It's entirely possible that one could have basically gotten behind the action in Iraq and yet have grave doubts about Iraq. And distrust of the Administration is, I believe, not only a reasonable position but an essential response to the unprecedented powers it seeks to assume. As I've said before, when the case supporting action against Iraq is based on rampant distortions of the threat Iraq poses and the nature of the opposing arguments, the inevitable result is to be all the more skeptical.




  xThursday, September 26, 2002

notice notice


Welcome visitors from Atrios! Many thanks to Atrios for linking my dissection of Christopher Hitchen's column. You have my graitutde.




  x

retro gallery of the day


miss may 1961
A collection of Playboy centerfolds from 1960 to 2000. (Pictured: Miss May 1961) Of, er, historical interest, natch--for example, here's Miss August 1967, the month I was born; apparently Miss(es) October 1970 was a pair of identical twins, the first black centerfold was in April 1973, and the first Asian in the same month in 1976. And oh, Lord, those 1980s hairstyles...

Not safe for work, obviously.

(via FARK)




  x

for the record


I'm not sure what to make of this. This graphic reconstructs the events President Bush experienced on September 11, 2001. Although it tends toward a paranoid tone ("Did Bush need an excuse for not going to the White House straight away, or did Cheney just prefer to have President Bush out of the way?"), its main purpose seems to be to debunk public statements Bush is alleged to have made indicating he saw the first plane hit the World Trade Center on TV just before addressing a group of Flordia elementary students (the crash of the first plane was not, of course, broadcast live).

I know where I was when I heard about the attacks. And frankly, who could blame Bush for being unaware of the attack until informed by one of his staff? But if Bush would lie about such a trivial--and easily verified--matter, what else (*ahem*Iraq*ahem*Harken*ahem*you-name-it*ahem*) might he be lying about?

(via annatopia)




  x

cereal review: star wars episode 2


star wars cereal box
Last night I chowed down upon a bowl of Star Wars cereal that I picked up cheap at my local supermarket.

I've never been a big fan of marshmallow-spiked cereal; when I'm in the mood for a sugar fix, I generally turn to Cap'n Crunch; otherwise, I'm pretty much a corn flakes--or better yet, oatmeal--kinda guy. But I was pleasantly surprised with Star Wars cereal. The corn puffs were not overly sweetened--alone, they had a lightly sweet, faintly cinnamon taste reminiscent of Kix--and until the milk soaked in, the marshmallows barely registered. After a few minutes in the milk, the corn puffs retained a pleasant crunchiness, but the marshmallows had released more sweetness into the concoction. Even so, the wholesome, robust flavor of the corn puffs prevented the whole deal from dissolving into a big puddle of sugar.

Toss in the shiny box (in two "collector's editions") with their bright photos of Star Wars characters (including Christopher Lee as Count Dooku, Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi and of course the yummy Natalie Portman as Padme Amidala) and a board game on the back of each (which can be combined for a double-size "travel around the Star Wars universe" game), and you have a cool breakfast--or late-night videogame fuel--experience.

Interested in a second opinion? Destroy All Monsters editor-in-chief Musashi (who added some comments to the original post) recently tried it out as well, and he emailed me his impressions:
I finally ate a bowl of the SW cereal, and I'd have to give it a solid 3 out of 5 spoons, if for no other reason than the fact that it's not nearly as horrid as one would expect. It's definitely a bit too sweet for my palette, but somehow the puffed corn spheres and marshamallows form a nice marriage of cereal elements. I wouldn't rank it at the top of my 'must buy' list, but if they still have some next time I'm at the store, I may pick up a few more boxes...





  x

oh swell


Wired News points out yet another sticky point about Iraqi war plans: assuming we find Saddam's stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, how to get rid of the darn things.
Even if the American military can actually find where Saddam Hussein has hidden his chemical and biological arms -- and that's a big if -- the military has no way of quickly and safely destroying these weapons once they've been tracked down.

That said, I'm glad that at least someone in the government (specifically, the Office of Naval Research among others) is taking such matters into consideration. It's an encouraging sign.




  x

speaking of coffee...


Needcoffee.com (the "Official Website of the Sleep Deprivation Institute") is a cool collection of rants, essays, and reviews of music, DVDs, comix and more. It also provides handy link to the Coffee FAQ and the Caffeine FAQ as well as other coffee information resources. Check it out!




  x

i guess that's progress


A recent survey found that while workers spend an average of 8.3 hours a week surfing the Web from work, news sites have supplanted pr0n, gambling and shopping as the most popular destinations, with 23 percent reporting news as the most addicitive versus 18 percent for pr0n. (What about *cough*blogging*cough*?)

Experts speculated that companies monitoring or blocking pr0n or gambling sites might have contribute to the upswing in news' popularity. That doesn't explain all the people who come here looking for pictures of a certain Miss America contestant, though.

Many respondents also said they'd sooner give up coffee than the Internet. Ooooh...that'd be a tough choice.




  x

more bad movie news


doom screen shot
...Coming soon to a theater near you?

Warner Brothers is negotiating film rights to the computer game Doom.

Folks...I love Doom, but aside from killing every demon and zombie that moves, it has no plot at all! Come to think of it, a Doom movie might go along well with Hollywood's recent output...

(via FARK)




  x

jpop/cantopop wallpaper site of the day


idol wallpaper
Idol Zone...some links seem to be broken, but nevertheless a good collection of Japanese and Hong Kong movie and pop star wallpapers.




  x

japanese link of the day


painting of japanese woman
The Virtual Museum of Japanese Arts. c00L!

(via The Avocado Couch)




  x

noted and admired


Glenn Reynolds quotes Mark Knopfler (from "Industrial Disease," one of my favorite Dire Straits songs).




  x

hitchen lays out the (typically flawed) case for war


This Christopher Hitchens column puports to lay out the case for war to a Brit point of view. Let's take a look...
It is almost certainly a mistake to assume anybody's position on Iraq is determined by evidence alone. After all, last year there was overwhelming evidence of the connection between the World Trade Center aggression, al-Qaeda and the Taliban - and a decisive UN mandate for action - but many on the left opposed military action in Afghanistan, and still do.

Outside of wingnuts, exactly who did? And who still does? (Frankly, given the continued presence of al Qaeda and Taliban elements along the Afghan/Pakistan border, I for one would like to see more military action there...) But this ad homenem attack implies that the case is obvious without evidence, and that anyone opposing action WRT Iraq wouldn't be convinced by evidence anyway. Which, I predict, will absolve Hitchens from presenting any...




  x

I have the feeling that Tony Blair would feel happier making the moral case that Saddam must go. He could then lay more stress on the atrocious character of his regime, the plight of the Iraqi people, the aspirations of the Kurds and - perhaps most importantly - the opportunity to turn the tide against despotism in the wider Middle East.

Okay, here's the deal with the whole "moral case" for ousting Saddam. No one questions that Saddam is a terrible person and a murderous dictator, but none of the reasons cited by Bush, Blair and others are terribly new--indeed, they're things the entire world seems to have decided it could live with for at least a decade, including, of course, Bush the Elder. So the question remains: why is it suddenly soooooooo important that we act now, and to such an extent? I predict that Hitchens won't address that question either.
But as Prime Minister of a nation which has a permanent seat on the Security Council of the United Nations, he is obliged to be somewhat legalistic.

It'd be so much easier if he were a dictator...that pesky obligation of the leader of a democratic nation to present a case to the people!
It must be obvious to anyone who can think at all that the charges against the Hussein regime are, as concerns arsenals of genocidal weaponry, true.

It's obvious, so we don't need no steenkin' evidence.




  x

Saddam has been willing to risk his whole system and his own life rather than relinquish this goal.

Whoa! Now Hitchens totally goes off the deep end. I defy anyone to show me how Saddam has not placed his own personal survival above all. He was deterred from using WMD against either Coalition forces or Israel during Gulf War I, and his flaunting of the UN is clearly meant to preserve his own power, not to provoke a showdown--if it were, he wouldn't freakin' appear to cave every time, regardless of whether he intends to go back on his word.
I doubt that even if this evidence [of WMD, presumably] could be upgraded to 100 per cent it would persuade the sort of people who go on self-appointed missions of mediation to Baghdad.

Once again--leaving aside the fact that no new evidence has yet been presented, Hitchens just contends that his straw man wouldn't believe it anyway, so he doesn't bother presenting any.
These people further fail to see that governments now have a further responsibility to their citizens - namely to see that something is done to prevent future assaults on civilisation.

Hitchens fails to see that a democratic government has a responsibly to its citizens to offer more than bland assurances--or ominous warnings--that it's using the nation's military force in their interest. They must demonstrate it, sir, in no uncertain terms.




  x

President Bush calls this the doctrine of pre-emption, which obviously has its perils and could be used to justify very rash actions.

You ain't just whistlin' Dixie, buster. Which is, of course, why te standards of justification should be if anything higher than normal, and the obvious reluctance of the administration to give specifics is alarming. Further, see my earlier post--it isn't just preemption of a "clear and present danger" but a substantial diffusion of the standard under which preemption can take place.
Nonetheless, anybody with any sense must confess that there can be no return to the security posture adopted before September 11, 2001.

Yeah, I'd love to have a competent intelligence service with the ability to perceive threats, but it doesn't look like anything the Bushies--or Congress, for that matter--are doing is leading in that direction. And notice how cleverly all this obscures the fact that we had warnings and didn't react to them--it wasn't sheer incompetence on the part of our intelligence structure clear up to the White House! It was a lack of Presidential power to use the military as he pleases!

Notice, too, throughout this the implicit and false choice between war on Bush's terms or nothing at all. But even the status quo--sanctions, no-fly zones, etc.--is far from "nothing."
We have inherited, along with the right to destroy an illegal system of aggressive weaponry, a responsibility for the Iraqi and Kurdish peoples.

...Who we left hanging out to dry at the conclusion of Gulf War I (hence the continued need for no-fly zones). And since just about no one but the Kurds wants to see an armed Kurdish state between Iraq and Turkey, I have little doubt we'd do it again.
And a friendly Iraq, free again to trade and to make contact with the outside world, could transform the atmosphere of the Middle East.

Yes, that's true, but where's the connection--other than implicit--between the war plans and this highly desirable result? In short, what exactly are the plans for Iraq if and when Saddam is ousted?




  x

I'm skipping a bit, but this next part is choice:
Just on the material aspect - I love it when people darkly describe the coming intervention as "blood for oil", or equivalent gibberish. Does this mean what it appears to mean, namely that oil is not worth fighting over?

Maybe it means that people are willing to sacrifice their lives for their national interest but not an economic one. Or if this is to be a war for oil, our democratic leaders owe it to their people to be honest about it. No one questioned the fact that oil was a part of the rationale for Gulf War I but most people signed onto the concept when it was discussed openly.
Or that it's no cause for alarm that the oil resources of the region are permanently menaced by a crazy sadist who has already invaded two of his neighbours?

Saddam depends on oil revenue. Exactly where is the evidence that Saddam has either the ability or the inclination to "menace" oil resources? If he wanted, he could stop exports today. If he wanted, he could launch SCUDs or what's left of his army against either Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. He doesn't do so, even if he wanted. Why? all together class: because he's deterred from doing so! (Notice, too, the characterization of Saddam here as a "crazy sadist"--intended, no doubt, to keep you from raising exactly that question. He can't be deterred, you see, because he's crazy.
There is another base rumour in circulation, to the effect that Bush is doing all this for electoral reasons.

Base indeed, and one that until recently no one took seriously. However, regardless of motivation, there's absolutely no doubt that Republicans from Bush on down have used the Iraqi situation to score political points. This fact alone means the Administration's case on Iraq merits the closest scrutiny. And Chris, I still don't see you dishing up any of that evidence we were talking about. If you have it, I'll believe it. I promise.




  x

It's hard to imagine a sillier or nastier suggestion: the
American public does not want a war and, as usual, prefers a quiet life.

Which is exactly why the Administration should be a little more forthright considering its justifications....
But one proof of the worthwhileness of this enterprise is its riskiness. Nobody can guarantee a successful outcome, and both Bush and Blair know they could face great reproach for failure.

Oh, swell--it's a good idea, because it's so risky.
But the long period of unwise vacillation and moral neutrality seems to be drawing to a close, and this is a good thing in itself.

Finally something with which I can sort of agree. I think it's high time the world got serious about Saddam. I think Bush's galvanizing speech tothe UN was, on the whole, A Good Thing. But it doesn't follow that the only recourse is invasion. And while certain countries--I'm looking at you, Russia and France--would prefer not to deal with Iraq at all, no one of consequence in the US or the UK condones Saddam's actions or beleives he should be left alone and unfettered. The thing is, there are many possible paths. The job of the hawks is to demonstrate that the case for war is the superior one, but arguments like these--that both misrepresent opposing viewpoints, fail to present concrete evidence and demonstrate a dangerous willingness to flirt with untruth--far from convince, but lead to greater skepticism. And the fact that warbloggers tend to point out such specious arguments as the one that, this time, finally makes their case unanswerable, naturally leads one to wonder. This is what keeps bothering me. If the "case for war" is so easily poked full of holes, it seems to imply that those making the case are counting on people not to question it, and that alone is enough to raise serious doubts.

(via InstaPundit)




  x

as if that weren't enough...


Oh, yeah, one more thing...even if you accept the necessity of Bush's doctrine of preemtion, can there be any question that such a doctrine would rely on ironclad intelligence? Given the US intelligence establishment's massive and increasingly well-documented failures to react to warnings of the 9/11 attacks--and the fact that, for all the pissing match over how much authority Bush wants to fire civil service workers without appeal (the bill already gives him the authority to move and fire workers, but simply provides for--gasp!--a check on that power via appeal) for not being Republican lack of qualifications, intelligence services are not covered by the massive bureaucracy proposed by the Homeland Security bill--exactly how much confidence shold we have in the system the Bush administration has adopted?




  x

kinsley calls it


Michael Kinsley's Slate column sums it up in a nutshell: the steadfast refusal of the Bush--and even Blair--administrations to provide fresh, convincing information on Iraq makes the question of whether citizens should decide to support their policy of regime-change-by-preemptive-force one of whether they trust their claims.
So, how is a citizen of a democracy supposed to decide the most important question any nation must decide: Should we go to war?

In this case the issues are mainly factual. That is not always so. In Vietnam, though there were factual disputes, the big disagreements were about moral and strategic issues on which the government's policy had no home-team advantage. With Iraq, by contrast there would be almost no opposition to imposing what is being called, with comic delicacy, a "regime change" if Blair and Bush are right that Western nations are in imminent peril. But this turns on facts and analysis that ordinary citizens must take on trust.

But let's pretend we actually do have some role in deciding whether our nation goes to war. How should we go about it when our leaders don't come PR-ratified by democracy and when crucial information for an independent decision is unavailable to us? We aren't capable of answering the actual questions at hand: Is Saddam Hussein an imminent threat to our national and personal security, and is a war to remove him from power the only way to end that threat? So, we must do with a surrogate question: Based on information we do have and issues we are capable of judging, should we trust the leaders who are urging war upon us?

The answer to that last one is easy. The Bush administration campaign for war against Iraq has been an extravaganza of disingenuousness. The arguments come and go. Allegations are taken up, held until discredited, and then replaced. All the entrances and exits are chronicled by leaks to the Washington Post. Two overarching concepts—"terrorism" and "weapons of mass destruction" (or "WMD" as the new national security document jauntily acronymizes)—are drained of whatever intellectual validity they may have had and put to work bridging huge gaps in evidence and logic.





  x

Josh Marshall, who concluded that he supports military action against Iraq, noted the same problem. For a number of warbloggers, it isn't even a question. Bush is Good and Saddam is Evil and therefore nothing Bush says could be anything other than The Right Thing, and With Purest of Motives to boot.

For Kinsley, Marshall, and myself, the question isn't so easy. Warbloggers love to deride the no-war-under-any-circumstances crowd--if it is a "crowd"--but their response to factual challenges tends to be either deafening silence or a repetition of the orignal assertion. No one doubts that Saddam is a bad man, but the question remains, why should the American people simply trust Administration's assurances that they have the goods when they refuse to provide them?

Just as a for-instance: Bush himself recently alleged ties between al Qaeda and Iraq. Now, I don't doubt that members of al Qaeda are in Iraq now. There are credible reports of groups in northern Iraq (where, of course, Saddam has little authority thanks to the no-fly zones). There are also groups of al Qaeda in Iran, Pakistan, and allegedly even the United States. I'm tired of the Administration hinting at connections or implying that some al Qaeda members hiding there implies a cozy relationship between Saddam and bin Laden's group. If you have the evidence, let's see it. Put up or shut up.

I've been meaning to draw a parallel between Administration policy and the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union very nearly went to nuclear war overthe stationing of ballistic missiles in Cuba. In this speech, President Kennedy called the presence of missiles in Cuba a "clear and present danger" and demanded that the Soviets withdraw them, going so far as to throw a blockade around the island. Kennedy produced surveillance photos that demonstrated the missiles' existence.

No military attack had been launched, of course, but the threat posed--a clear and present danger--justified the US military response. Bush's recent UN speech called Iraq a "grave and gathering danger," which to me indicates that even he couldn't call it "clear and present" with a straight face. His new doctrine of preemption demands the strictest scrutiny and utmost candor from the Administration. The fact that such has not seemed to be forthcoming doesn't seem to matter to the warbloggers, but it should.




  x

this is the armey, mr. jones


House Majority Leader Dick Armey not only said the following:
"I always see two Jewish communities in America. One of deep intellect and one of shallow, superficial intellect. Conservatives have a deeper intellect and tend to have 'occupations of the brain' in fields like engineering, science and economics. Liberals, on the other hand, tend to flock to 'occupations of the heart,'" which Armey defined as people with jobs in the arts.


but he appears to be utterly unashamed of it.

As Jeanne D'Arc points out, it's difficult to decide whether to be more offended by the slur of Jewish people or of liberal people, so I'll just settle for both. Blogger Dwight Meredith has some choice comments as well.

Folks, this is the kind of rhetoric Republicans--and prominent Republicans, yet, not fringe embarrassments who are quickly repudiated in the next election--employ.





  x

axis of evil watch


Counterspin Central has this interesting comparison between Iraq, the alleged threat* of which the Administration hawks keep insisting must be met with nothing short of total war, and North Korea, with which the Administration will reportedly enter new negotiations.

I'll ask again...prior to 9/11, wasn't the proposed missile defense system to be oriented, if you will, toward the Pacific?

*In case this needs to be said, I'm not saying Iraq poses no threat at all--and no one credible is--merely saying that I remain unconvinced that Iraq, which has been contained and deterred for more than a decade--is suddenly uncontainable and undeterrable. Repeated but unsupported assertions to the contrary and ominous speculation does not cut it, thanks.




  x

now this is a horror movie i'd see...


When Office Supplies Attack

(via Absurdistan, who wonders in a separate post: "Paul Simon tells us there are 50 ways to leave your lover. Why, then, in the last four and a half years have I singularly failed to find a suitable one?")




  x

this is no way to start the halloween season


This is honestly one of the reasons I con't make Ain't It Cool News a regular read. I'd rather read blogs by Bush boosters all day than endure the gut-churning foulness that Hollywood contemplates. Some of this stuff provokes a positively Lovecraftian reaction--I can feel the onset of gibbering insanity by beholding Foulness That Was Never Meant To Be.
Case in point: this reported script for a Dawn of the Dead (reviews of the original classic here, here, here, and here) remake. You heard me. And by the screenwriter of the Scooby-Doo movie, yet! Ye gods!




  x

Before I get off on a rant, I have to say that I am not categorically opposed to remakes, or even ones of beloved Romero zombie movies. The 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead--written by the Master himself and helmed by F/X ace Tom Savini--was, while lacking the sheer impact of the original, was a faithful update that, rather than pretending the first movie never existed, cleverly assumed the audience's memorization familiarity and played off it. The gore effects were, of course, top-notch (Savini and crew used sources like autopsy photos to capture the appearance of a real corpse), and the acting superb--especially by leads Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman and Tom Towles--but what really impressed me was how the remake could have a substantially different storyline and still remain faithful to Romero's "we-are-our-own-worst-enemy" theme. And despite debuting at the start of the cynical '90s, the NOTLD remake managed a more (relatively) upbeat conclusion to the dark, nihilistic original (excellent review at Teleport City).

But this...it may have, as the writer contends, the potential to be a pretty decent zombie movie, and I'd be all for that, but it clearly has little to do with the original except the presence of a a mall. The world is already full of remakes that share little of the original's quallities--for example, quality--save the title. I hope the producers have the sense to hire a good horror director, and better still to drop the "Dawn" title and stop trying to ride on the Master's work any more than is inevitable when making a zombie picture.

But again, I'm not holding my breath.




  x

more bad news


barry white
Soul singer Barry White is undergoing kidney dialysis in an effort to combat kidney failure brought on by chronic hypertension. The 58-year old singer of such swank tunes as "Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe," and "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" hopes to locate a donor for a kidney transplant. I wish Mr. White well and hope he enjoys a full recovery.




  x

it's superman, and you ain't gonna like it


Ain't It Cool News reports on a reported draft version of the screenplay for the new Superman movie (apparently to be helmed by Rush Hour director Brett Ratner), and the news isn't good. Apparently the film kicks off with a fight between Supes and an equally super-powered baddie (think the three Kryptonian villains from Superman 2 rolled into one character) in which the pair employ Matrix-style martial arts moves. (That's just the beginning; the AICN article provides a lenghthy synopsis of what seems a L4m3 story.)
Look... I think JJ Abrams could well be the right guy for the job. I think he might have a great Superman script in him. The moments that are good are so good they make you woozy. This is the Superman that lives right alongside Santa Claus and Bugs Bunny and Luke Skywalker in the inner lives of American children from the last few generations, the simple force of good wrapped in red and blue. If there was an entire film of this stuff, I’d be weeping right now, telling you how we were in for this amazing love letter, this beautiful reintroduction to this classic character.

But of course that’s not what it is. No, Warner Bros. wants to recreate things that don’t need to be recreated. They want to distance themselves from what’s come before.

The burning question is....why?
Reality check: One of the central character traits of Superman is that he doesn't need martial arts moves. Indeed. throughout the excellent 1978 version of Superman, he never used his fists at all--which, of course, is why the super-fracas in the sequel was especially thrilling. But Superman's strength and invulnerability would absolutely preclude the need for fancy kung-fu. Admittedly, that can make Supes a fairly boring character if not written with imagination. One of the great things about the first two Richard Donner Superman films was the way Superman came up with clever ways to use his powers to solve the problem at hand, be it subbing in for a missing engine on Air Force One to tossing General Zod into the Coke sign in Times Square.




  x

superman
Superman painted by Alex Ross--memo to Superman screenwriter: stare at this picture every day and remember who the hell you're supposed to be writing about!

I was a pretty big comix fan back in the day, and so have become accustomed to disappointing superhero movies. That said, there have been a lot of good ones, especially lately. In a lengthy review of Superman 4, Ken Begg of Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension posits a rule of what makes superhero movies sux0r:
...the studios have finally noticed a certain historical trend: When superhero movies are played more to less straight -- Superman, Batman, X-Men, Blade, Spider-Man -- they make huge money. When they are played for camp -- Superman III, Batman and Robin, Mystery Men -- the public loses interest. How it took so long for this elementary fact to hit them remains somewhat puzzling. Still, the scent of money is now in the air, and as long as writers and directors with a genuine respect and, in some cases, love for the material continue making the films, things should continue looking good.


Well, from the look of things so far, it seems that the studio is not approaching this Superman flick with much respect for the source material, and the trend Ken Begg identified points to the result being a likely crap-fest. I'll keep my fingers crossed, but in the meantime await the DVD release of Spider-Man.

Update and Spoiler Alert: I read to the end of the lengthy synopsis, and it did indeed contain much L4m3n3ss...but all of it paled beside an utterly ridiculous, deranged, disgraceful "plot twist" at the end. If I were to write the words here, I'd need to go wash my hands over and over. Read for yourself...if you dare. Prepare to be displeased.

(via Destroy All Monsters)




  xWednesday, September 25, 2002

looking for a job?


Be sure to avoid these 10 classic "résumé bloopers," courtesy of Monster.com.

(via FARK)





  x

welcome to the blogroll


I noticed Oliver Willis through some reasoned commentary on the whole Iraq thing cited in today's WaPo Media Notes column, and there's plenty more where that came from.

Update: Oliver has a post on the Bush "The Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington, and not interested in the security of the American people" flap, with a response from me in the comment thread.




  x

need a bush break?


If you share the disgust at Bush's partisan rhetoric that I express in my previous post, you can ease your mind by creating your own mad lib Bush speech with this Flash app.

(via Alas, a Blog)




  x

bush takes the gloves off


There's a lot on the Iraq debate I wish I had addressed, and still hope to, but this one I can't let pass:
Speaking on the issue of homeland security before a fundraiser for Republican Senate candidate Doug Forrester, the president said, "The House responded, but the [Democratic-controlled] Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people. I will not accept a Department of Homeland Security that does not allow this president and future presidents to better keep the American people secure."


Fine, then veto the darn thing and move on; the Homeland Security bill is a mess anyway. How dare Bush imply that Democrats--or anyone outside of the lunatic fringe of American politics--are "not interested in the security of the American people." Especically at a time when Bush has submitted a resolution that would give him carte blanche authority to do pretty much as he pleases in the Middle East for Congress to rubber-stamp approve. Perhaps the President got carried away by his administration's repeated assertions that anything short of full-scale war is doing nothing at all. Perhaps the President wanted to deter the Congress from approving a more limited authorization. Perhaps the President feels the end justifies the means. No matter which way you slice it, this is an odious piece of divisive rhetoric that's better suited to certain rabid warbloggers I don't read than the Fundraiser-in Chief. It's utterly indefensible, it stinks on ice, and the President indeed owes an apology to the American people and especially the Democrats he slandered.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo--who basically supports getting rid of Saddam--has pointed out that the hawks' case is filled with unabashed lies--indeed, Big Lies, as they're repeated often enough to be accepted as fact even though they've never really proven--or even provided convincing evidence for--their case.
...[L]et me discuss with you for a moment what I find the most difficult about this debate. The more ardent supporters of regime change lie a lot. I really don't know how else to put it. I'm not talking about disagreements over interpretation. I mean people saying things they either know to be false or have no reason to believe are true. Perhaps the word 'lie' is a very slight exaggeration. Perhaps it's better to say they have a marked propensity to assert as fact points for which there is virtually or absolutely no evidence.

But for the most part, it's fallen to the President's hatchet men advisers like Rumsfeld and Cheney to issue the whoppers. This time, it's straight from Bush's own mouth. Regardless of their positions on the war, it's time for bloggers, pundits and politicians (except, appartently, Trent Lott) to acknowledge in no uncertain terms that this time, Bush has gone too far. But I'm not going to hold my breath.

Update: I'm indebted to the Reverend Gregory for providing a fuller quote of Bush's remarks in a comment thread on Oliver Willis' blog:
So I ask congress to give me the flexibility necessary to be able to deal with the true threats of the 21st century by being able to move the right people to the right place at the right time so we can better assure America that we are doing everything possible. The house responded but the senate is more interested in special interests in Washington, and not interested in the security of the American people. I will not accept a department of homeland security that does not allow this president and future presidents (the flexibility) to better keep the American people secure. People are working hard to get it right in Washington, both Republicans and Democrats. You see this isn't a partisian issue. This is an American issue. This is an issue which is vital to our future...

Props to the Prez for acknowledging Democratic efforts, but that doesn't change the fact that he's although he may be giving with one hand, he's taking away with the other. His quote may have been "taken out of context," but he said what he said.

I also caught National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, where she said this:
...if you actually read those comments, the president said that some Senators had had a tendency to put special interests ahead of national security...

The President's words again (emphasis mine):
...the senate is more interested in special interests in Washington, and not interested in the security of the American people.

Nothing about "some," "tend to," or any of the retroactive softeners of Rice's revisionism explanation in trying to claim "there simply isn't any politicization here." But let's face it, even if this were the first time Bush himself has used such sharp rhetoric, is there any denying that various Administration figures--Cheney, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft spring to mind--have not hesitated to characterize dissent as not only unpatriotic but tantamount to aiding the enemy?






  x

still busy...


...but Destroy All Monsters has posted a batch of news items by myself. I hope to have additional posts here later on.




  xTuesday, September 24, 2002

next modest milestone


If the current traffic pattern holds up, I should hit 4,000 visitors (since July 16) either today or tomorrow. I've seen a minor spike in hits lately, mostly referred by searches for video of the recent high-profile child-beating incident. (No, I don't have any here.) I'm not sure why someone would want to download the video, but I'm giving my visitors the benefit of the doubt (as opposed to the people who're still looking for those Rebekah Revels topless photos). When I finally saw the clip on TV Sunday morning, I was shocked by its savagery.




  x

cantopop wallpaper site of the day


cecilia cheung wallpaper

I found this site looking for Shaolin Soccer wallaper the other day. It features images and wallpaper of cantopop stars such as Ekin Cheng, Michelle Yeoh, Grace Yip, and Cecilia Cheung (pictured).




  x

another homeland security triumph


A ribbon-cutting ceremony at a Pennsylvania airport was hampered because scissors are no longer allowed in airports. Officals resorted to tearing the ribbon with their hands.

(via FARK)




  x

starbucks not kiss of death for independents


This interesting WSJ article points out that while nationwide chains are perceived as driving out local competition, the trend has not proved applicable to Starbucks. The article points out that independent and small-chain coffee houses seem to be thriving, and that at least one small chain has adopted the strategy of locating their outlet neat its rival's.

Among the reasons cited are the possibility that premium coffee stores like Starbucks create greater demand, the generally low startup cost of coffee houses, the high profit margin on coffee beverages even without Starbucks' volume discounts, and customer loyalty to their local hangouts.

(via MetaFilter)




  x

very busy day


If you've visited this morning, you've noticed that I haven't had a chance to post anything fresh. I'll try to toss in a few links a little later, but for now, I'll point out that CNN profiles the many tourist possibilities of Indianapolis. Enjoy!




  xMonday, September 23, 2002

wallpaper link of the day


shaolin soccer wallpaper thumbnail
This Chinese-language Shaolin Soccer site is the source of my desktop wallpaper this week. This German site has two other wallpaper designs.




  x

useful link of the day


This Wired News article has the lowdown on the "all your base are belong to us" "e-kudzu." Props for the term to Destroy All Monsters editor-in-chief Musashi, who also provides this handy link--if you're so inclined--to all things Yatta.




  x

move over, anna--or not


Sports Illustrated recently profiled the blistering talent, revealing attire and uninhibited sexuality of tennis' hot new superstar--with the emphasis on hot. Unfortunately, the magazine failed to reveal that Simonya Popova is fictitious--apparently created to make some sort of point about sexism or superstardom in women's sports--until the very last paragraph. The Women's Tennis Association was reportedly not amused.

(via the WaPo's Media Notes column)




  x

one more reason why we win


One thing about the war on terrorism that no one can deny is that in the days, weeks and months immediately following the 9/11 attack, it became clear that Osama bin Laden and his odious al Qaeda organization had miscalculated badly in predicting the United States reaction. Even during the attacks themselves, passesngers on the fourth aircraft, informed of the hijackers' intentions by cell phone calls, fought back, and the plane never reached its intended target, although all aboard were killed.

This article displays the kind of indomitable American spirit that OBL failed to consider, or brushed aside as myth. On the very day of the attacks, realizing that the blow would be felt throughout the American economy, executives at General Motors overcame their horror and grief to spark an idea that many credited with helping boost the entire economy--zero-percent auto financing.
Within days Ford, the Chrysler Group and others followed GM's lead on zero-percent financing. The result: October 2001 would be the best sales month in U.S. auto history. Nearly a year later, more new vehicles are being sold than even the rosiest forecasts.

While nearly every other major industry -- retail, construction and banking to name a few -- sputtered following Sept. 11, the auto industry soared.

"I think everyone in Detroit should be proud about what Detroit did. I think automakers saved the economy from a deep recession," said Anthony Chan, chief economist for Bank One Investment Advisors in Columbus, Ohio. "Other industries, kind of inspired by the automakers, copied them and offered deals on their products. The U.S. economy is stronger today because of what the automakers did."


(My apologies; I've lost the referring URL)




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more celebrations of the day


Happy birthday, Bruce Springsteen!




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sept. 23, 2002


Happy first day of autumn to all! It's a gorgeous day here in Indianapolis.





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