I'd downloaded the Quake soundtrack way back in May, and the MP3s pretty much sat in my download directory until last night, when I burned them onto a music CD. I figured Trent Rezonor's music would be appropriate Halloween background music (and I've been listening to the OSTs from the first two Resident Evil games and Parasite Eve way too much at work). I played the CD today, and it was just as I expected--murky, industrial, and ominous, a perfect background for the Halloween season. I expect this CD will be in heavy rotation until the end of the month.
For a change, we don't have too much planned for this weekend, but we're going to take advantage of it by spinding time together and catching up on our household chores. I also owe Musashi at Destroy All Monsters an article or two, and several other friends some email. Thus, while I'll be around today, posting is likely to be light today and perhaps tomorrow.
On the up side, I did make a few long-overdue HTML tweaks to fix a couple of annoying layout bugs.
From The Associated Press, good news for, um, lots of people in Alabama, I'm sure:
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - An Alabama law banning the sale of sex toys was struck down by a federal judge as a violation of the right to privacy.
"The fundamental right of privacy, long recognized by the Supreme Court as inherent among our constitutional protections, incorporates a right to sexual privacy," U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith Jr. said Wednesday.
He said the state did not prove it has a legitimate interest in banning the sale of sex devices for use in private, consensual relationships between adults.
The 1998 law — part of a package of legislation strengthening the state's obscenity law — banned the sale of devices designed for "the stimulation of human genital organs." It was challenged by six women who either sell sex aids or said they need them for sexual gratification.
Jeez, seriously...who cares? If there were ever a case where the state had no right interfering with what its citizens do in private, this would qualify. I wonder how much tax money these nitwit legislators and prosecutors have spent on this nutty law?
A downloadable full version of an installement of the horror/comedy variety show "The Hilarious House of Frightenstein" (featuring Vincent Price!).
Update: Great googly moogly! I downloaded it, and was surprised to discover I remember this show from waaaaay back in the '70s. It's truly bizarre but funny in a whacked-out kind of way. Vincent Price is a sort of MC who introduces the various sketches with odd verse. There's an oracle who drops his crystal ball, a character resembling Lobo from the Ed Wood flick Bride of the Monster, and the truly wacky vampire/puppet segment you see here. Quite a blast from the past!
The prize committee cited Carter's efforts to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, including the hitoric peace treaty between Israel and its formerly sworn enemy Egypt. Contrasts with the current administration's policies are left for the reader to draw.
Here are a couple of great columns on the confusion generated by the Administration's Rationale of the Day approach to selling the war on Iraq--a war it obviously wants badly but has badly failed to make a compelling case about.
"Iraq could decide on any given day" to give biological or chemical weapons to terrorists for use against the United States, Bush said Monday night. The wording is cleverly designed to imply more than it actually says. It doesn't say an Iraq-sponsored biological attack could actually happen tomorrow. But the only purpose of the phrase "on any given day" is to suggest that it might.
So the question then arises: If Saddam Hussein has the desire and ability to attack the United States with chemical and biological weapons, either directly or using surrogates, why hasn't he done so? Possibly because he fears reprisal.
...The Bush campaign for war against Iraq has been insulting to American citizens, not just because it has been dishonest but because it has been unserious. A lie is insulting; an obvious lie is doubly insulting. Arguments that stumble into each other like drunks are not serious. Washington is abuzz with the "real reason" this or that subgroup of the administration wants this war.
A serious and respectful effort to rally the citizenry would offer the real reasons, would base the conclusion on the evidence rather than vice versa, would admit to the ambiguities and uncertainties, would be frank about the potential cost. A serious effort to take the nation into war would not hesitate to interrupt people while they're watching a sitcom.
Talking Points Memo seems to have scooped everyone on a little detail regarding the current labor flap on the West Coast docks: It seems that Labor Department Solicitor Eugene Scalia--the head lawyer in the negotiations between union and management--once represented the management, and yet has refused so far even to respond to requests that he recuse himself. And the "liberal" media hasn't seen fit to bring it up, so far:
No one seems to think it's even important enough to report on. The AFL-CIO's Lane Windham told TPM today that Scalia "can't try to be impartial when he's represented one of the parties." And we find it sorta hard to disagree with her.
Look, I have not a shred of doubt that the Bush Administration would come down against the union in this dispute no matter what, so the question is, why not have Scalia recuse himself and then proceed with Taft-Hartley with a subordinate in charge? Same result, less mess (unless you want to beef about the Bush administration's hostility to labor unions, which would be fine with me). A conflict like this stinks on ice, and it strikes me as incongruous for an administration that promised "a new era of responsibility," or somesuch.
Republicans are holding fast to the idea that getting money into the hands of businesses and the rich "creates jobs."
I ran a company for 13 years. I know a little bit about how it works. I employed exactly as many people as we needed. I did not employ extra people because I perhaps had more money in the bank account than usual. If times were slow and someone handed me a sackful of money I'd say, "THANKS!" and pocket the money. The only thing that would get me hiring more people was customers with money coming in the door. Period. And if I didn't have extra money around I would find it.
Let me repeat that. Customers with money coming in the door [emphasis in the original]. That is what gets companies to hire. They hire just enough employees to handle the extra customers. Period. And when there are customers with money coming in the door companies will find the money to hire them, don't you worry about that.
Now, I do not endorse his call to "Raise [taxes on the rich] till they squeal and then raise them some more," but given that:
I support economic policies that benefit the consumer. I certainly don't think that the President caused the recession, but the causes of the economic doldrums are less important than what's being done--or not done--to remedy the situation. Voters are concerned about the economy, and they're likely to vote based on their perceptions of which party addresses those concerns. I think the Democrats have doen a miserable job of campaigning on economic issues, though, so we'll just have to see how it shakes out.
SEC. 2. SUPPORT FOR UNITED STATES DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS.
The Congress of the United States supports the efforts by the President to --
(1) strictly enforce through the United Nations Security Council all relevant Security Council resolutions applicable to Iraq and encourages him in those efforts; and
(2) obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions.
SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.
(a) AUTHORIZATION -- The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to --
(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.
(b) PRESIDENTIAL DETERMINATION -- In connection with the exercise of the authority granted in subsection (a) to use force the President shall, prior to such exercise or as soon thereafter as may be feasible, but no later than 48 hours after exercising such authority, make available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his determination that --
(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and
(2) acting pursuant to this resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorists attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION -- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS -- Nothing in this resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.
SEC. 4. REPORTS TO CONGRESS.
(a) The President shall, at least once every 60 days, submit to the Congress a report on matters relevant to this joint resolution, including actions taken pursuant to the exercise of authority granted in section 3 and the status of planning for efforts that are expected to be required after such actions are completed, including those actions described in section 7 of Public Law 105-338 (the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998).
At first glance, the resolution appears to be better than the one propsed by the White House. I applaud the language supporting diplomatic efforts, for example. I'm still concerend that the language "The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to...defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq" is a bit too broad, but I don't interpret this resolution as giving the President carte blanche. How the President interprets the resolution is, of course, another matter, and I am sure of one thing: This resolution will lead to a U.S. attack on Iraq. The White House wants it, and now it has the authority to do so. It remains to be seen how the Congress and the American public will respond to the Administration's Rationale of the Day once hostilities start and the hawks' optimism is put to the test.
Today's horror movie desktop is from the 1979 made-for-TV adaptation of Stephen king's chilling vampire novel 'Salem's Lot. Helmed by Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper, the adaptation of 'Salem's Lot proved a chillingly effective movie, especially considering its made-for-TV origins. Look for the full-length (three hour) DVD version instead of the 90-minute "feature-length" version edited for release on video. Hooper and a cast of familiar character actors (including David Soul, James Mason, Bonnie Bedelia, Lew Ayres, Elisha Cook Jr., George Dzundza, Barbara Babcock, Ed Flanders, and Fred Willard!) achieve the dual goals of invoking an atmosphere of dread as the small town of 'Salems Lot is taken over by vampires and creating some unforgettable episodes of horror. The memory of the scene in which young Lance Kerwin is awakened by the vampiric form of one of his friends scratching on the window brings chills even today.
Trivia: Viennese actor Reggie Nalder, who appeared uncredited as the Nosferatu-inspired vampire Barlow, starred that same year as Van Helsing alongside the likes of John Holmes and Annette Haven in a pr0n version of the Dracula tale.
The Frito-Lay company has announced that it is reducing the average weight of the bags of Lay's potato chips it sells in the Northeast in order to stay competitive. Parent company PepsiCo decided that 12.25-ounce bags sold in the region will be reduced in weight by a quarter of an ounce. The 2 percent loss in weight will result in four or five less chips in every bag.
The company said it has no immediate plans to apply the cuts to its other popular brands, which include Doritos, Fritos and Cheetos.
Xiao Xiao 9 is the demo version of an awesome Flash game that features fighting stick figures on a computer desktop. The cool part is the moves, enemies and general gameplay resemble the video game Final Fight.
This seemed like a good opportunity for a photo of Kentucky native Jim Kelly and his 'Fro of Power (in Black Belt Jones--photo courtesy The Bad Movie Report).
Abandoned Places is a c00L photo gallery that chronicles the strange, sad appeal that empty, decaying building sometimes have. It's an interesting site, especially during the Halloween season. (Related link: Abandoned-Buildings.com)
Bunko Kanazawa is an example of the varied career some Asian models have. The 23-year-old model has appeared in a number of harc0re and softc0re pr0n VCDs (Video CDs, a format popular in Asia) and n00d pictorials, but she also has a number of regualr modeling gigs and photo books to her credit (several, of course, have her modeling the ever-popular schoolgirl drag). While most jpop idols never pose in the altogether (and the kind of hardc0re pr0n Ms. Kanazawa has done is out of the question), modeling in glossy magazine spreads or books of glamorous photos is often an important component of their career.
And Taiwanese beauty Vivian Hsu has not only worked both sides of the modeling profession (that is, n00d and otherwise--no hardc0re here), but has also appeared in a number of dramatic movies and released a couple of pop CDs. It's kind of difficult to imagine an American pr0n star releasing a glossy photo book in which she does strictly G-rated modeling.
My friend Sparky emailed me some thoughts on Iraq and invited me to post them, so here goes:
To give credit where it's due, I applaud Bush's choice of military targets. Having toppled the Taliban, he's now aiming at the next most despicable, repressive regime on the planet. There's no doubt that Saddam Hussein is a dangerous and evil character with bad intentions toward the U.S. There's little doubt that Iraq, the Middle East and the world would be a better place if he and his regime lost power. And there's no doubt that the U.S. is capable of removing him. I suspect that, while American casualties would be greater than in the Gulf War or Afghanistan, the Iraqi campaign would end within a month or less, with a complete American victory.
Nevertheless, I also believe it would be mistake for us to take that step at this time, and without broad-based support from the international community. If we act now, we will win in then short term but suffer grievous losses in the long term, far worse than anything that Saddam alone could inflict.
Consider the possible benefits to America attacking Iraq. Taking out Saddam would necessitate the establishment of a new democratic state that would be reliant on the U.S. for its survival (at least in the short term). From a self-interested point of view, this would give America the opportunity to install strategically placed military bases in the Middle East, and to obtain a steady source of oil (either free ? as reparations ? or at bargain prices). From a broader-minded point of view, this would provide the opportunity to build a nation capable of proving that an open, free-market democracy can succeed in the Middle East, and serve as a model for other nation states in the region.
However, the price we would pay for those strategic boons, to help plant that flower of democracy in the Middle East, and for the satisfaction of dethroning Saddam would be very, very high.
Taking this action unilaterally, without the support of the U.N., Iraq's neighbors in the Middle East, or Muslims around the world, will only serve to reinforce the impression that we are a domineering bully, and will likely foment new anti-American sentiment (and terrorism) for generations to come. We will have cut one head off the Hydra, but 10 more will appear in its place.
In the worst case scenario, attacking Iraq could provide the impetus to unite the various anti-American movements currently divided among different extremist sects and terrorist organizations throughout the Muslim world, bringing about the Muslims vs the West global conflict Osama bin Laden aspires to trigger. That scenario becomes even more likely if Saddam elects to fire missiles at Israel during the conflict. Arial Sharon has made clear that (unlike during the Gulf War) Israel will retaliate if attacked by any adversary. The sight of U.S. and Israel together are attacking an Arab Muslim state would provide some truly high-octane fuel for the anti-America fire.
Taking this action without a mandate from the U.N. will undermine the rule of international law and compromise America's moral authority. This appears to be of little concern to the Bush administration, but after such an attack we would be ill-equipped to argue with any other country on the planet who, at any point in the future, wants to attack a neighbor it dislikes and bring about "regime change."
Since we'll be doing this on our own, we will bear the financial ramifications of this action alone. The original Gulf War cost about $60 billion to execute, and the U.S. was eventually reimbursed most of that cost by our allies. This will be a more extensive, costlier campaign. Factor in inflation and a conservative estimate of the cost will run toward $100 billion, with no hope of reimbursement this time. Also, factor in the staggering costs of nation-building in postwar Iraq. You can throw the so-called "Powell Doctrine" out the window. If one of our stated aims is to plant a sustainable democracy there (as we did in Japan following WWII), we will have to remain in the region at least 20 or 30 years, probably much longer. So we're looking at a final tab that is probably incalculable, but which will certainly run into the hundreds of billions. I doubt that the wobbly American economy can support that kind of giant, long-term burden. And a weak economy poses a greater immediate threat to the health and well-being of most Americans than Saddam Hussein.
Our presence in Iraq will immediately land us in numerous quagmires. First of all, Iraq, like Yugoslavia, is an artificially-created nation with disputed borders. It will take a Herculean effort to prevent Iraq from splintering into its historical component parts (Kurdistan, Mesopotamia, Basra, etc.), and to quell ancient tribal conflicts (much like those in Afghanistan) that will be uncorked once Saddam's totalitarian grip is removed. Iraq is also embroiled in long-standing border disputes with Iran, Turkey and Kuwait, so expect to become embroiled in those conflicts immediately.
Dealing will all of those headaches will preoccupy our military. Already, the military has requested 75,000 peacekeeper troops to help stabilize a post-Saddam Iraq. (Again, since we're doing this on our own, we won't able to turn that job over to the U.N.) That's a sizable chunk of our forces, with another big chunk still busy in Afghanistan. By stretching ourselves this thin, we compromise our ability to respond to new crises as they arise in other parts of the world. One of the lessons of WWII is that it is unwise to fight a war on multiple fronts.
Since the specter of WWII has appeared, let's also address the much-espoused idea that taking out Saddam is simply the right thing to do, and that anyone who opposes this action must be some latter day Neville Chamberlain. This argument is pure rhetoric and demagoguery. It holds no water. Although valid comparisons can be drawn between Hussein and Hitler, Iraq is not Nazi Germany. At the beginning of WWII, Germany had one of the strongest militaries in the world (at that point, more powerful than America's) and a strong industrial base. Iraq has neither. What Iraq does have are chemical and biological weapons, but no long-range delivery systems for those weapons, and the desire (but not capability) for nuclear weapons. Iraq is simply not capable of wreaking the kind of havoc the Nazis caused.
In fact, the nation whose current behavior reminds me of the Nazis is, ironically, America. Bush continues to skip from one rationale to the other (preventing Saddam from gaining nuclear weapons, possible but unproven al Quaeda links to Iraq, etc., etc.) trying to justify an attack it's obvious he desires, regardless of the reasoning. This is the same sort of shifting, sometimes inconsistent rhetoric Hitler spouted to "justify" his invasion of the Sudatenland. That should not suggest that I equate Bush with Hitler in any way; only that in both cases the arguments are equally transparent and, at least in the judgment of the international community, unconvincing.
Bush has tried to frame the looming attacks as "pre-emptive strikes," but that distorts the meaning of "pre-emptive." The attacks cannot be pre-emptive unless there is a clear and immediate threat to be pre-empted. No such threat exists. Or at least, if it does, it has not been demonstrated in any of the documents released by Bush or by Tony Blair. These attacks would not be pre-emtive, they would be preventative. The goal is to nip Saddam before he has the chance to pose an immediate threat. That's a dicier proposition, and a tougher sell. And, although Bush seems to be oblivious to this reality, what the international community thinks matters. A lot. To paraphrase a line from Jeff Goldblum in JURASSIC PARK, "You were so busy wondering if you could do it, nobody stopped to ask if you should do it."
If there's one thing I know for certain about life, it's that timing is everything. The fact remains that Saddam Hussein is a danger and must be dealt with, but I simply do not believe that the time to deal with him is now. This may sound counter-intuitive, but in the long run, America would be better off to wait. Wait until we have incontrovertible evidence that Saddam is on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons, or a smoking gun linking Iraq and al Quaeda, or until Iraq attacks one of its neighbors or one of our allies. Then we could go in with the backing of the entire world, as a white knight instead of a loose cannon.
Today's wallpaper obviously got me thinking about the Silent Hill game. Last Halloween it was the survival horror game I chose to obsess over, and it was an entertainingly creepy experience.
The gamer plays Harry Mason, a writer who somehow gets lost on his way to vacation in the town of Silent Hill. Awakening after a car accident, he finds his daughter Cheryl missing and the town…changed. Snow is falling in the middle of summer, and fog enshrouds the streets. (The fog effect was developed to avoid overloading the PSX’s graphics capability with the level of detail the designers wanted, but it proved so effectively spooky that the designers included it in the PlayStation 2 sequel, even though the PS2’s higher graphics power made it unnecessary.) Some of the city street end abruptly in yawning chasms, as if the very town were somehow torn away from reality as we know it.
Pick up the ammo by that abandoned police car, Harry...you'll need it!
Even more frightening, almost all the town’s inhabitants have vanished, and monsters—from fiendish winged creatures to zombified dogs—prowl the streets. Although Harry has a handgun, ammunition is limited and worse, Harry’s a pretty lousy shot. One of the effective horror elements in the game are the weapons Harry collects. In addition to the standard shotgun—for which ammo is even more rare—and the useless but somehow comforting kitchen knife, Harry finds a variety of blunt instruments, from a steel pipe to a sledgehammer. Harry can conserve ammo by bashing in a few zombie skulls—but the clubs are slow and clumsy, and missing is bad news indeed.
Fortunately, Harry doesn’t have to fight every monster thanks to an outstanding innovation: Harry’s pocket radio no longer works in Silent Hill, but the presence of monsters cause it to emit a steadily louder burst of static. This excellent system means the player hears monsters long before they’re visible, and the static’s increasing volume ratchets up the tension as the player attempts to avoid or confront the thing.
Harry finds himself in a twisted, nightmarish parody of the town of Silent Hill.
Another enhancement to the atmosphere of horror is a frequent change of setting. As Harry explores the deserted Silent Hill in search of his daughter, the town changes to a nightmarish parody of itself, a dark and twisted wasteland of rust and blood that’s positively creepsville. The eerie and bizarre setting of Silent Hill renders the various puzzles Harry must solve a logical part of the nightmare, instead of a frustrating and incongruous obstacle.
Numerous other nice touches abound. When Harry runs for an extended distance, he pants when the player stops running. The soundtrack is also a definite plus—the music alternates between sinister and melancholy, and the game abounds with subtle background noises, from the creatures' moans to to the faint air-raid siren in the alternate reality to Harry's echoing footsteps and the radio's warning static. References to other horror writers and their work are scattered throughout the town, from the street names to details hidden among the town’s scenery. The game creates an unrelenting atmosphere of dread that doesn’t rely on frequent combat; when fights are unavoidable, Harry’s limited prowess with a weapon lends a realistic touch to the game. The creepy atmosphere makes Silent Hill a fiendishly entertaining place to revisit, enhanced by the fact that the game’s multiple endings present obscure and mutually contradictory hints about how the evil gripped the small town. In fact, while I'm currently working through the B games of Resident Evil 2, I think I may just dust off my copy of Silent Hill between now and Halloween.
..the analysis does tend to reinforce the deep-thinking geopolitical rationale for an attack since, given the fact that Saddam's capacity to hurt us will only grow with time, it reminds us that soon enough a Saddam left in power may be able to counter-deter the US from deterring him against launching another regional war. The whole possibility of Iraqi terror-based blackmail against the US and the balance of power in the Middle East strikes me as a very murky issue, but it would be a big step forward if the administration would admit that this is the real question. Since they won't discuss it in these terms, I don't really know what balance of power they plan to see struck in the region after an invasion, but that's obviously relevant to assessing whether or not the risk is worth taking. The administration's coziness with Saudi Arabia, it's burgeoning rapprochement with Syria, and it's total refusal to deal with the whole Iran question makes me wonder whether they even have any plan in this regard at all. Frankly, I'd rather see Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, and Iraq all warily circling and checking one another than simply remove one (admittedly, somewhat more terrible) piece without an overall game plan.
His conclusion is especially memorable:
War with Iraq could be the first step down many roads, and I'd very much like to know which one it's going to be before I start my trip.
Tom Petty is mad as hell, and he's not going to take it any more.
Most of Petty's new disc, THE LAST DJ, is devoted to a stinging indictment of the music industry (with tracks like "The Last DJ," "Money Becomes King," "Have Love Will Travel," "Joe," "Dreamville" and "Can't Stop the Sun"). "Money Becomes King" is a particularly scathing and hilarious bit of satire. The only thing missing is a cover of Elvis Costello's "Radio Radio." The tracks not devoted to this topic blast other social evils or tell tales of loss and recrimination. Love songs need not apply.
While the thematic content is uniform, the musical tones and styles of the album remain varied, which prevents THE LAST DJ from falling into the kind of monotone rut that weakened Springsteen's THE RISING. Petty's tunesmithing here is as skilled as it was on WILDFLOWERS and ECHO -- which is to say, among the best of his career. The title track and "Like a Diamond" are as good as anything Petty's ever given us.
Petty's longstanding status as a record industry dissident is well-earned. Still, you have to admire the courage and personal integrity that went into recording an album so pugnacious. My only concern is how well such a narrowly themed record will age. That aside, this is one of the best albums I've heard this year.
Remember when I pointed out the CIA's assessment that Iraq probably wouldn't use its chemical or biological weapons unless we attack them? No problem, says White House mouthpiece Ari Fleischer, it just proves how dangerous Saddam is. I'm amazed that the White House is spinning what to me seems like an embarrassing contradiction into the Rationale of the Day (collect 'em all!) for attacking Iraq.
Let's take a closer look:
What the CIA said is the obvious and yet uncomfortable (for the hawks' case) fact that Saddam has been quite effectively deterred from using WMDs, but that removing his motivation not to use them poses a risk.
Don't forget that the CIA was postulating Iraqi use of WMDs against invading troops, or perhaps civilian targets in the region. Even if we motivate Saddam to use WMDs, that doesnt' give him the capability to attack the US directly.
As for attacking the US indirectly, through terrorist groups, it comes down to deterrence once again. What would be the risk that in the event of an attack, Iraq might try to turn some kind of WMD over to terrorists as a kind of doomsday weapon? And how would we stop such a scheme once it was set in motion?
Many nations possess some kind of military capability; the threat they pose is obviously how likey they are to use that capability to attack rather than defend. I see the CIA's analysis as saying "not bloody likely" to the attack scenario. But almost any country would use what resurces it had to respond to an attack, even by the US. I bet Russia, North Korea or even France (well, maybe not France) might use weapons of mass destruction were we to invade them--does that make them a threat on the order claimed for Iraq?
Deterrence was, of course, the key to Cold War strategy, but I don't think anyone pretended that if one side used nuclear weapons, the other side wouldn't respond in kind. Of course someone with WMDs is dangerous, but that simply means that one shouldn't be reckless in dealing with them.
Dwight Meredith also makes an interesting proposal in light of the ballistic evidence gathered in the Maryland sniper case. He notes that ballistic evidence has linked the shootings to the same weapon, and points out that a ballistic database would quickly link the weapon with the owner. Such a database doesn't exist, though, because of opposition from lobbying groups, whose opposition influenced Congress to specifically ban the establishment of such a database.
Meredith proposes that the Supreme Court explicitly recognize private gun ownership as a Constitutional right under the Second Amendment. Doing so would aid the gun control debate because it would remove the "slippery slope" argument on both sides. With the right firmly established, gun control legislation couldn't aim toward eventual elimination of private gun ownership. And it'd force opponents to argue against given legislation on its merits, rather than on a theory of where it might lead.
Meredith's proposal makes sense to me. I favor gun control, as I favor reasonable regulation of any potentially deadly force. But I don't advocate the banning of all firearms. (After all, if zombies ever attack I'm going to want a shotgun.) A national ballistics database would serve as an awesome--although not infallible--deterrent to crime, as weapons could be easily linked to owners. If the arguments against such a database are founded on predictions of later confiscation, removing that possibility should enable the creation of what would surely be a vital crimefighting tool. I have little doubt that were such a system in place, the Maryland shooter would be identified by now.
The two policy options available to us are 1) regime change through invasion or 2) disarmament by inspections backed by force. If Saddam were to be assassinated this afternoon, no additional options would be presented. The core of the justification for any intervention in Iraq is that Iraq poses a substantial threat to American interests. The core of that threat is the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the potential for development of additional WMD including a nuclear arsenal. The substitution of a different Iraqi strongman for Saddam in no way changes that threat.
...We should not base a policy of disarmament on the good intentions or cooperation of the Iraqi government. Disarmament must be carried out by international inspectors and backed by credible force. If it dependent on the cooperation of the Iraqi regime, then it is the wrong policy option. Our idea of an inspection policy backed by force does not require Iraqi cooperation. If the Iraqi government impedes the inspectors, then force must be applied to accomplish the disarmament.
...The major issue with regard to a policy of disarmament through inspections backed by force is whether or not they will work. If you believe that such inspections will work with Saddam in power, there is no reason to think that they will not work if Saddam is deposed. If you believe that inspections will not work with Saddam in power, it is difficult to see why that position would change when another strongman takes his place.
One of the posts in the comment thread also notes the contradiction inherent in the Administration's predictions that the Iraqi military would stage a coup to avoid casualties, but would launch a weapons of mass destruction attack in which the Iraqi armed forces would incur much greater retaliatory damage.
The first major crawler-based search engines to use the meta keywords tag were Infoseek and AltaVista. It's unclear which one provided support first, but both were offering it in early 1996. When Inktomi launched in mid-1996 through the HotBot search engine, it also provided support for the tag. Lycos did the same in mid-1997, taking support up to four out of the seven major crawlers at the time (Excite, WebCrawler and Northern Light did not provide support).
The ascendancy of the tag did not last after 1997. Experience with the tag has showed it to be a spam magnet. Some web site owners would insert misleading words about their pages or use excessive repetition of words in hopes of tricking the crawlers about relevancy. For this reason, Excite (which also owned WebCrawler) resisted added support. Lycos quietly dropped its support of the tag in 1998, and newer search engines such as Google and FAST never added support at all.
After Infoseek (Go.com) closed in 2000, the meta keywords tag was left with only two major supporters: AltaVista and Inktomi. Now Inktomi remains the only one, with AltaVista having dropped its support in July, the company says.
"In the past we have indexed the meta keywords tag but have found that the high incidence of keyword repetition and spam made it an unreliable indication of site content and quality. We do continue to look at this issue, and may re-include them if the perceived quality improves over time," said Jon Glick, AltaVista's director of internet search.
This sort of thing is exactly why I continue to have questions about Iraq: CIA Director George Tenet told a joint hearing of the House and Senate intelligence committees that Saddam Hussein's apparent policy of not resorting to terrorist attacks against the United States (remember, there's no record of his direct involvement since 1993, although Bush does take that one kinda personally) could change if he concludes a U.S.-led attack against him was inevitable.
Tenet, in a letter read before a Tuesday, said that "Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or chemical or biological weapons."
But Tenet went on to say that should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack against his country could not be deterred, "he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist action."
Let's get this straight--The CIA has concluded that an attack on Iraq would make its using WMDs in a terrorist strike more, not less, likely? Great.
There's some wondering aloud going on as to why anyone could possibly still oppose a war with Iraq, especially after the Presdent's speech. Well, here's a big one: The persistent sense that the Administration and its supporters are being less than honest in its justifications for the war. Let's recap:
Vaguely ominous (or ominously vague) assessments of Iraq's WMD capability coupled with steadfast refusal to consider deterrence as an option
Murky linkages of Iraq with terrorism
In short, the generally bogus nature of the pro-war case is ample grounds for skepticism of the Administration's desire for an invasion. While each of these reasons are compelling individually, it's the terrorism question that for me, lately, has been causing the Administration's case to fail the sniff test.
Let's be perfectly clear about this: it there's really a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda, then the debate is over. The Congress has already given the President authorization "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2011, or harbored such organizations or persons." Moreover, if the President could demonstrate those links, he'd enjoy a resurgence of support.
It seems the President and his advisers can't do that, though; if they could, I can't fathom why they haven't made that case already. Yet al Qaeda's name keeps getting mentioned, and specilation about terrorism keeps getting bruited about. These are lies, plain and simple. When the Administration starts dealing with the debate more honestly--for starters, a definitive statement by Bush that attacks on dissenter's patriotism are positively un-American and not to be tolerated would be nice--I'll grant them more credibility, but for now skepticism is not only justified, but the only rational approach.
A recent USA Today poll indicates that I'm hardly alone in my skepticism. Among likely voters, those who favor and oppose an invasion to depose Saddam are split almost evenly. More, support for an invasion decreases as casualty estimates increase, and people seem to want Congress and allies involved.
The bottom line is, Iraq certainly is a threat, but it's been contained for more than a decade. Certainly Iraq must comply with the appropriate UN resolutions and abandon its weapons of mass destruction. While I'd grant that military force might be necessary to enforce such compliance, it doesn't follow that such force can only be applied via a full-scale invasion. Frankly, I suspect that the trend of events are indeed addressing this threat; Iraq will accept inspectors or accept the consequences. And Bush's team deserves some credit for these occurrences. But even then, this outcome however beneficial strikes me as an unintended consequence of a spectacular failure to gain public support for a much more radical policy.
Halloween, of course, is time for costumes (I used to joke that if you couldn't convince your significant other to dress as a French maid any other time, you at least had a shot at Halloween...), but for others, any anime convention is an opportunity to dress up like one's favorite anime or video game character. "Cosplay" (from costume play) is especially popular in Japan, as thesetwo galleries of cosplay at the 2002 Tokyo Game Show in the Mainichi Daily News suggests.
The deal hammered out by House Judiciary Committee Chair James Senenbrenner (R-Wis) would allow smaller Internet radio stations such to pay a percentage of their revenues to the musicians and record labels whose songs they play, rather than a flat per-song rate set in June by the Library of Congress. Webcasters maintained that the rate established in June would be ruinously expensive and unfair, as over-the-air radio stations were exempted based on notions of their "promotional" value.
Under the terms of the deal, small Webcasters would pay 8 percent of their revenues for broadcasts between 1998 and the end of 2002, increasing to 10 percent over the next two years, or 12 percent if the station's revenues exceeded $250,000.
Alternatively, Webcasters would pay 5 percent of their expenses for the 1998-2002 period and 7 percent over the next two years, if that amount was greater.
The deal only applies to Webcasters who will have taken in less than $1 million in total from 1998 until the end of this year. The revenue cap increases to $500,000 in 2003 and $1.25 million in 2004.
Regular readers will note that I often crtiticize Republican policies, but m4d props to Chairman Senenbrenner for forging what appears to be a deal that's acceptable to all sides. The bill is expected to have the support of the Senate, although a limited timetable may pose yet another obstacle.
Accotding to this Blogcritics article, negotiations betyween the RIAA and small webcasters over royalty fees has apparently hit a snag: the RIAA seems to want a provision that royalty payments go directly to artists be changed so the payments first go through the RIAA ("through," of course, being misleading as it implies the payments will ever emerge from the record comanies...).
Under an agreement reached previously, royalty money would be distributed directly to musicians, rather than going through record companies, after lawyers' fees and other expenses were taken out. But while the new agreement states that legal fees will be taken out of royalties, it makes no guarantee that musicians will then be paid directly...
Upon receiving a very kind email from Jeanne D'Arc of Body and Soul, I decided to participate in today's Open Letter BlogBurst. The following letter contains thoughts I hope Congress keeps in mind as it considers granting the Executive authority to conduct military action against Iraq.
The Open Letter BlogBurst page contains a complete list of entries in the Open Letters BlogBurst, but I wanted to point to the letters from some of my favorite bloggers:
An open letter to the United States Congress By Gregory Harris Webmaster of Planet Swank
This evening, the American people anxiously await a Presidential speech justifying ambitions for “regime change” in Iraq. As you know, the President has sought Congressional authority to use military force to effect this regime change. While I recognize that such authority is likely to be granted, I nevertheless oppose the use of force as a method of first resort. I urge Congress to grant the President authority in a strictly defined fashion, and that it do so in a judicious, deliberative and restrained manner.
At this time I do not support the concept that the President should be granted authority for immediate, unilateral use of force in a reckless attempt to effect a regime change. Until and unless advocates of military action can demonstrate a compelling threat, and at the same time establish how whatever threat Iraq may pose can not be contained or deterred, a massed invasion of Iraq should not be contemplated as a measure of first resort. Furthermore, I would demand that any proposed invasion proposals be accompanied by concrete plans for postwar Iraq, including concrete estimates of the potential commitment of time, money and American lives.
Iraq is unquestionably in defiance of United Nations resolutions demanding it give up its weapons of mass destruction. An ironclad inspection regime is clearly the policy that most benefits the United States and the world. United States policy should be to enforce that inspection regime, backed by a credible threat of military force. Furthermore, use of force should initially be contingent upon United Nations Security Council resolution and executed in concert with a coalition of allies.
Containment and deterrence work. They worked in the Cold War, and they have worked for more than a decade against Iraq, as well as other rogue nations such as North Korea. When necessary, limited military strikes against Iraqi military facilities have also damaged Iraq’s ambitions to develop weapons of mass destruction. Over the years, many a politician pointed to a record of advocating containment and deterrence as evidence of strong support of defense. Advocating containment and deterrence is no evidence of weakness, but an acknowledgment of U.S. strength.
The Constitution wisely divided the power to make war between the President and Congress. I urge you to insist that the United States military be used only if necessary to enforce the longstanding policy of the Unites States that Iraq disarm. Doing so in far from tying the President’s hands; it’s the very essence of the democratic-republican system the President claims to—and took an oath to—defend.
Bill's Content points out this Slate column, which paints an unflattering picture of the shoplifting prosecution of Winona Ryder. The column's take is that the movie star is being subjected to a much harsher prosecution than anyone accuesed of similar infractions, possibly in compensation for the LA prosecutor's office high-profile bungling of other celebrity case (*cough*OJ*cough*).
From the get-go, her lawyers have insisted that she is innocent and has merely been singled out for her notoriety. While this is hardly a novel tactic in celebrity cases, the suggestion that Ryder woke up last December in a Kafka story has been reinforced by the bizarrely overzealous prosecution she has endured.
First, there was the ridiculous press conference, staged by the L.A. district attorney's office and over very strong objections from Ryder's counsel, less than 24 hours after her arrest. At the conference, police announced that video surveillance cameras had caught her cutting tags off merchandise with a pair of scissors. Then, when the grainy Zapruder-type video was released to every news outlet in the free world, all of America witnessed live footage of Winona ... shopping! Except, after seven or eight viewings, we all assumed that we were either missing something or seeing the wrong bit of tape (precisely what the jury pool will assume). Because the district attorney's office wouldn't lie about the evidence, right?
Two months later, the district attorney's office, which had by now had time to not only view the surveillance tape several thousand times but to enter it in the Sundance Film Festival, was still repeating the claim that they had videotape evidence of Ryder's crime. Only months later did it become clear at a preliminary hearing that there was no smoking-gun video, just the testimony of a single security guard who apparently saw Ryder clipping tags.
...The fact that there were felony charges filed at all is astonishing in its own right, as an exposé conducted by [an entertainment newspaper] revealed that in court records of all 5,000 grand theft felony cases filed in Los Angeles County last year, not one defendant was facing penalties as harsh as Ryder's. In fact, in all cases involving theft exceeding the amount alleged in Ryder's case, the defendants received standard misdemeanor plea deals. The district attorney's office has refused to accept a plea for anything less than a felony in Ryder's case.
In fact, the district attorney's office has refused to accept Saks' own multiple requests to drop the charges against Ryder.
...Instead of pleading this case out and getting on with the business of prosecuting murderers and rapists, Cooley's office has now diverted at least eight attorneys to work full time on this case, with a deputy district attorney having to reschedule a murder prosecution so she can convict Ryder.
We're back from the St. James Court Art Show in Louisville. It was a fun yet tiring weekend. Our friend Onye enjoyed the trip, and it was certainly good hanging with her. In addition to visiting with my family, I saw several of my friends, and enjoyed an especially pleasant conversation with Dodd. After getting home and getting the girls into bed, I settled in to watch my cheapo DVD of Night of the Living Dead. I was pleased to see that the picture quality remained excellent, although there were some clumsy edits and the sound quality was inconsistent.
I'm spending the morning getting caught up on a variety of chorse, so posting will remain in lite mode for the time being.