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  xFriday, January 10, 2003

say it ain't so, joe

Up until now, I've resisted the "it's just about oil" theory for the Bush administration's obsession with Iraq. But this Newsday article quotes Administration sources as eyeing the Iraqi oil supply as a "spoil of war":
Bush administration officials are seriously considering proposals that the United States tap Iraq's oil to help pay the cost of a military occupation, a move that likely would prove highly inflammatory in an Arab world already suspicious of U.S. motives in Iraq.

Officially, the White House agrees that oil revenue would play an important role during an occupation period, but only for the benefit of Iraqis, according to a National Security Council spokesman.

Yet there are strong advocates inside the administration, including the White House, for appropriating the oil funds as "spoils of war,” according to a source who has been briefed by participants in the dialogue.

"There are people in the White House who take the position that it's all the spoils of war,” said the source, who asked not to be further identified. "We [the United States] take all the oil money until there is a new democratic government [in Iraq].”

...Another source who has worked closely with the office of Vice President Dick Cheney said that a number of officials there too are urging that Iraq's oil funds be used to defray the cost of occupation.

Jennifer Millerwise, a Cheney spokeswoman, declined to talk about "internal policy discussions.”

That last sentence, especially, is an unsettlingly vague non-denial.

My friend Dodd's recent argument against the "it's about oil" concept was that if it were true, the Administration would drop sanctions and buy all it could. But free oil as a result of an invasion...that's another matter.

What's profoundly worrying about this is, should it prove true, the US's international support would collapse, and the Arab would would be furious. Even acknowledging Iraq as a security concern, is an invasion really worth the damage these actions would cause to the US's relations with practically every other country in the world?

(via CalPundit, Body and Soul, and Blog Left)


newly permalinked

William Gibson has a Web log. c00L!


i didn't miss it, actually

Gosh, I hadn't received a Nigerian spam email in ages, until today...
Compliments of the seasons

Good Day!,Sir / Madam

With warm heart I offer my friendship, and greetings,and I hope this mail meets you in good time. However strange or surprising this contact might seem to you,as we have not met personally or had any dealings inthe past, I humbly ask that you take due consideration of its importance and immense benefit. I also sincerely seek your confidence in this transaction,which I propose to you as a person of integrity.

First and foremost I wish to introduce myself properly to you. My name is Paul Oliveira Savimbi, I am a nephew and Personal Assistant to Late Jonas Malheiro Savimbi, leader of UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola). As led by my instinct, I selected your email address from an internet directory, in my search for a partner, hence this proposal.

...I am sincerely proposing to you to render me your highly needed assistance in respect to safekeeping of some of my Uncle's money that arose from Diamonds sales. This money (US$18.5million), which was already on its way to my Uncle's Swiss Bank account, through the Diplomatic means we use to move money abroad, and was on transit with a private safe deposit Finance / loans Discount house &Security company here in Amsterdam, Netherlands in February when the tragic incident of my Uncle's death occurred. I then instructed the company to secure the consignment containing the money pending on further instructions from me. I have waited for sometime now for security reasons, and have now deicded to act with your reliable assistance. As a matter of fact, the reason I came to Holland and sought for political asylum here is the safe deposit.

Your role in this project, is clearing the safety deposit containing the money which is deposited in my name, from the Security company, after which, the money will lodged into an account preferably a new account you should open for this transaction. My share of the money will be returned to me when my asylum application in this country is granted, and I have permission to do business and open an account here.

For your reliable assistance, I will reward you with 15% ($2,775,000) of the money.

...yadda yadda yadda.


more good economic news

Payrolls Stage Unexpected Slide
The U.S. economy suffered a surprise 101,000 jobs drop in December, the government said on Friday, underscoring gloom among retailers and other employers and raising the political stakes for President Bush as he touts a $674 billion stimulus plan.

WaPo: Payrolls Tumble in December
The U.S. jobless rate last month remained at its eight-year high of 6 percent while the number of workers on private industry payrolls fell to its lowest level since the recession began in early 2001, the Labor Department reported today.

Analysts said those figures, plus downward revisions in earlier estimates of payroll employment in October and November, were evidence that even though the economy is growing employers aren't hiring.

Companies Slash 101,000 Jobs in December
The nation's unemployment rate held steady at 6 percent in December as a dismal holiday season for retailers and manufacturers cost over 101,000 jobs, the sharpest loss in 10 months.

Meanwhile, Cheney seems to have seen which way the economy is heading, and is attempting a preemptive strike: Cheney Warns of Slowdown if Tax Cuts Stall

Oh, and let's not forget the recent Bush administration decision to cease publishing the Labor Department's Mass Layoffs Statistics on factory closings. Hey, there's no bad economic news if there's no information, is there?

Seriously, this is distrubing...consumer spending simply can't keep the economy going forever. I'm sure Bush, ever-mindful of his father's re-election defeat, really does want to be perceived as "concerned" about job losses. Heck, people may even buy it. But I think current events suggest that Bush's economic policies aren't doing a lot for the economy right now, and I expect voters will assess his performance accordingly come Election Day.


reviews: hentai games sux0rz

hentai game screen cap

One of the Destroy All Monsters news posts I just mentioned links to a review excoriating a Japanese hentai game that involves the rape and molestation of the losing fighter. It's part of a regular feature of Something Awful in which the staff pan hentai computer games.

(Three Sisters Story screenshot courtesy Moby Games)

Hentai games ususally revolve around the player's quest to have sex with one or (usually) more anime hotties. They're frequently little more than click-fests that send the player through a linear storyline studded with 256-color depictions of various sexual acts. The, um, illustrations are frequently obscured by a mosaic-style censor; other times, the male member is invisible (a common convention in hentai anime). Less savory themes such as bondage and non-consensual sex are not uncommon. The player is frequently offered few choices, and thus the games pose little challenge, but they also frequently require the player to click through a vast number of options and text messages before moving on to the next stage of the game. As a result, the boredom factor can be surprisingly high, and replayability low. (Winning a game usually unlocks a picture-gallery mode.)

Dating simulators such as Seasons of the Sakura sometimes incorporate hentai elements as well, but are frequently milder than their H-game counterparts. For example, winning a game might lead to a brief consummation cutscene. However, dating sims are much more concerned with the characters, and offer many more choices for the player. As such they're both more difficult and more replayable, as they frequently include multiple endings. For more on dating simulators, see this FAQ.

One reviewer's take on hentai games is summed up in this paragraph in a review of Ring Out:
I would just like to take a second to point something out to all of the people who incessantly e-mail me asking "where can I get this game?!" You are horrible human beings for wanting to play any of these games. I do these reviews as a public service to all of mankind so that no one has to experience the perversion or more importantly the tedium of one of these [bleep]-fests.

I briefly mention hentai games in my debut article for Destroy All Monsters, which covered anime abandonware.

Update: Due to Blogger limitations, this post formerly consided of ttwo parts; I combined them and changed the title.


news at dam

Destroy All Monsters has just published a batch of news posts by yours truly.


the girl from iplayboyma

SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - Still tall, tanned and stunning at the age of 55, the legendary "Girl from Ipanema" will again grace the Playboy Brazil magazine cover.
But this time, Helo Pinheiro, who first posed for Playboy 15 years ago, will be snapped along with her youngest daughter, Ticiane.

Initially Playboy wanted to snap Ticiane alone for its March edition, but the 24-year-old actress only agreed to do so with her mother by her side.

"Playboy said that it would be more angelic, sweeter and familiar. My daughters are still very close to me," Helo told Reuters on Thursday.

Helo, who inspired the famous Bossa Nova song as a teen-ager in 1962, said that when she first posed for Playboy in 1987 people thought it was her eldest daughter.


comments ipse dixit way

I've been participating in a comment thread regarding Ipse Dixit's citation of a Charles Austin post grousing about the Democrats' criticism of Bush's economic plan in advance of its official release.


blix: 'no smoking gun' in iraq

Okay, let me get this straight: the current rationale for the US confrontation with Iraq is about weapons of mass destruction (that whole "regime change" thing didn't sell). Bush agrees, reluctantly or otherwise, to postpone his coveted attack until UN weapons inspection goes forward. Now the chief UN weapons inspector--while far from handing Iraq a clean bill of health--says, basically, that his teams haven't found much in the way of evidence of violations. Essentially, we're in no different a situation than we were prior to inspections--Bush insists that Saddam has WMDs, (don't forget, that leaves aside the question of deterring Saddam from using them), but can't or won't cough up the evidence. I take the sharing of US intelligence data with the inspectors as a positive sign, but not evidence by itself.

That'd make the Administration rationale for its coming war with Iraq (does anyone believe Bush when he says he hasn't decided yet? Does anyone even believe he hadn't made up his mind months ago?) something like "We don't want Iraq to have weapons of mass destruction, and the UN hasn't found any, so that means they must therefore exist and be well hidden"?

I am certainly not denying that Iraq could have WMDs. But I do assert that Bush has, as far as I'm concerned, long since blown his credibility WRT Iraq, and I positively refuse to support going to war against Iraq based purely on his assertions. It hinges, rather, on--if not proof--at least evidence. Show me the money.


oh, swell

The Washington Post: North Korea Quits Nuclear Arms Treaty, World Urges Caution as N. Korea Raises World War III Fears

It's a given that North Korea's moves are all part of the great diplomatic chess game, and that the North's withdrawal from a treaty it'd already admitted violating is largely symbolic, but these things do matter. What's most distressing is that they give no indication that US policy is achieving the aims of American national interests, but rather the contrary. Our goal should be a cooling off, not an escalation, of rhetoric.

In fact, throughout this crisis situation, there's been a conspicuous failure of Bush Administration policy to achieve American goals on the Korean peninsula. For starters, it may well be that Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech and stated support for preemption made an already-paranoid North Korean government even more fearful and prompted this confrontation. There's also this disquieting analysis indicating that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il may be more confrontational than his late father and less likely to compromise for fear of appearing weak before Korea's powerful generals.

We absolutely must pursue a foreign policy congruent with American goals. Haughty insistence that North Korea make concessions before negotiations begin is foolhardy in light of the fact that negotiations are what we want. This policy is doomed to failure, and the possible outcomes are a choice between bad or worse: Either Korea refuses to comply, and no negotiations occur, denying America one of its objectives, or Korea refuses to comply and negotiations occur anyway, thus weakening the US hand.

I'd love to hear evidence or argument suggesting that the Bush Administration's stance toward North Korea is the result of some clever strategy--or indeed, any coherent policy at all. Of course, such an argument would have to be weighed against ample evidence to the contrary. Sadly, all indications point toward policy--such as it is--being crafted by the White House political establishment with an eye toward selling the administration's policies (*cough*Iraq*cough*), not achieving American objectives.

One last thing...I've heard hawks saying argue that the Korean situation only proves that we need to confront Saddam militarily now, while he hasn't yet developed nukes. That argument stinks on ice, as it implies that we're only strong in the face of weaker nations, and pussycats against foes packing a greater threat (in short, the classic traits of a bully). Policy based on such a concept, rather than ensuring security, leads inevitably to destabilization, as it motivates hostile nations to develop nukes as an anti-interventionist trump card. Great going, guys.

(Update: I've combined this formerly two-section post into one.)

  xThursday, January 09, 2003

anime and manga spotlight on npr

Great googy moogly! Listening to NPR on the way home this evening, I heard a lengthy All Things Considered segment on the popularity of anime and manga among American audiences. The impetus is the US release of the popular Japanese mag Shonen Jump. The story's Web page contains a couple of anime links and a cosplay pic.


virtual idol of the day

ai fukami

I mentioned last June in connection with my post on virtual idol Kyoko Date (more on Kyoko Date here, here and here).

ridge racer v box shot

Since I've been playing a lot of Ridge Racer V on my PS2 lately, I thought I'd mention that game's virtual girl, Ai Fukami. So far, she's appeared in the game a lot less than her Ridge Racer Type 4 counterpart, Reiko Nagasi (not at all, in fact, aside from the opening animation and in silhouette in the menu screen). Random-abstract has a page devoted to both Ai Fukami and Reiko Nagasi. Here's an appreciation of Ai Fukami at

hitmoi yoshino

Update: Namco apparently debuted another "Sports Image Girl" late in 2001. Meet Hitomi Yoshino. The folks at still say the all-time virtual-race-queen crown belongs to Reiko Nagase, though.


simply brilliant

P.L.A. reminds us that there are real heroes in this world with this superb essay on the Freedom Riders.

P.L.A. also asks some hard questions about recent developments, and points out the Bush Administration's recent heresy from conservative economic dogma:
The fact that the economy did well under Clinton’s policies drove conservatives crazy. It simply could not be that the good fortune that the country experienced under Clinton was actually caused by the policies enacted under Clinton. The good things must be attributed to something, anything else.

The conservative spin was not long in coming. Clinton had nothing to do with the operation of the economy. Conservatives attributed the economic growth during the Clinton years to the hard work and industriousness of the American people and to Alan Greenspan. Never was Bill Clinton to be given any credit for the economy whatsoever. Only a liberal Democrat would believe that government has any role in creating jobs or growing the economy.

...President Bush announced his alleged economic stimulus package today. At the very end of the Washington Post article on the announcement we noticed the following:

"Overall, Bush's Council of Economic Advisers said the president's plan would create 2.1 million jobs over three years, the White House said."

What? Government policy and not the hard working entrepreneurs create jobs? Now surely the right wing pundits will not allow that claim to stand.


partiotic post of the day

model tamira fox

(swiped from Oliver Willis)


'hawks vs wimps'

Newsweek has an interesting analysis on the policies of Clinton and Bush II regarding North Korea.
“What they are trying to avoid at all costs is looking like the Clinton administration,” says Kurt Campbell, a senior Clinton Pentagon official for Asia and now senior vice-president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “You can’t imagine how much they hated everything the Clinton administration stood for. There is a personal dimension, because of the defeat of [Bush’s] father, that cannot be underestimated. But they are starting to finesse the line that they don’t negotiate, and that is a smart thing to do. There will be informal talks, then some multilateral arrangement, with China, Russia and Japan negotiating together with the U.S.”

In the meantime, the Bush administration’s tough talk is serving to strain ties further with Seoul. Relations with the South were hurt in the first months of the Bush administration when President Kim Dae Jung visited the White House in 2001. Secretary of State Powell pledged to pick up where the Clinton officials had left off, suggesting more engagement with the North. But the next day, sitting alongside President Kim, President Bush dismissed the idea of talks until there was “complete verification” of previous agreements with Pyongyang.

Administration officials did little to hide their glee at the prospect of President Kim being replaced with a conservative hardliner, Lee Hoi Chang, in last year’s elections. Instead Roh Moo Hyun, a center-left former human rights lawyer, won power with the promise of greater dialogue with the North.

“In reality the Bush administration faces not one crisis but two,” says Campbell. “One is the crisis involving nuclear weapons in the North. The second is the crisis of confidence with our allies in the South.”

...President Bush repeatedly says he will not allow “the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most dangerous weapons”. How he goes about doing that in North Korea is likely to be as tough a test of machismo as any military conflict in Iraq.

(via Neptune World)


jpop artist of the week


Ever since reading about her in a post on the Destroy All Monsters forums, I've wanted to know more about the Korean-born jpop singer known as BoA.

boa album coverboa album cover

The other day, I obtained a couple of her albums and singles, including songs in Japanese, Korean, English and Chinese (!). Here are a couple of more images of the young songstress.




Interesting Times lays down the ground rules for questioning Bush's policies:
I can remember when I was heavily into the anti-drug-war movement a few years back that one of the most effective strategies I found for dealing with those who supported the drug war was to ask them questions about its effectiveness. For example, I would ask them how many people would have to be put in jail before we could consider the "drug war" to be "won". And, if they were strong Christians, I would ask them which they thought Jesus was more likely to do in response to drug use: build more prisons or more hospitals.

In other words, engage people in a dialogue where you put the onus on them to explain why their position is the right one.

So, if you encounter people who are buying into the Bush PR line, don't scoff at them or throw around negative comments about Bush. Ask them honestly to explain why Bush's proposal appeals to them. Then ask them to explain the details behind those parts of the proposal that appeal to them. Then ask them even more questions. Get them to start the digging into the details.

I find that it is easier to convince people when you can make them think that it was they who came up with the idea.

Lies are easy to hide under layers of obfuscation. Many people don't know how to navigate their way through those obfuscations. Many don't even realize that there is obfuscation involved. But, once you start trying to get them to explain what it is they support, the deficiencies in the proposal start to become apparent.

The key here is to not be snide and insulting while doing this. Try to be as unthreatening as possible. Try to be as interested in the other person's point of view as you can be. Don't try to sell your point of view. Get them to convince you.


dead on

CalPundit perfectly sums up my own reservations about the death penalty:
The death penalty has always been a curiosity to me. I don't really have a philosophical objection to it, but let's face it: the risk of killing innocent people is a really big practical objection. If you imprison someone and later find he's innocent, at least you can free him and make restitution. You can't do that after you've executed someone.

But the real curiosity is this: why are there so many people who are passionate about keeping the death penalty? What's the emotional appeal? A life sentence without possibility of parole keeps murderers off the street just as effectively, but death penalty advocates are dead set against accepting this as a substitute. Even the risk of killing the occasional innocent person doesn't keep them from demanding an eye for an eye.

Why is this?

On a similar subject, I was listening to Talk of the Nation yesterday via Internet radio, and the program looked at a recent Justice Department policy of imposing stiffer prison sentences on first-time white-collar offenders. Several of the callers--including one ex-con--commented that even minimum-security prison is not exactly a day at the beach. Even from a retribution standpoint, I'm far from convinced that keeping someone in prison for decades is somehow a softer penalty than the death sentence.


more bush deceptiveness

Robbed by a Fountain Pen has a great take on the pains Bush's image doctors take to portray the President of the United States as a "non-politician."
To underscore that he’s not a captive of Washington, President Bush’s Christmas card this year is postmarked Crawford, Texas, although the return address reads, “The White House, Washington, D.C. 20500.” But the record 1.7 million cards the Bushes sent were too much to handle for the Crawford post office, which is a two-person operation. To accommodate Bush’s down-home image, the post office arranged for the cards to be stamped in Austin, where a special dye was ordered to authenticate the Crawford postmark. Bush, who spent Christmas at Camp David, is apparently the first president to insist on an out-of-town postmark.

BJ comments:
Let's recap: the cards were stamped and mailed from Austin, distributed to a mailing list compiled in Washington, DC, and signed by an autopen for a man that spent Christmas at the presidential retreat at Camp David. Crawford had about as much to do with it as I did.

Time after time, this Administration has rolled out policies that would be wildly unpopular if their true nature were known, and to compensate, has insisted that the policies are something they are not - often, the exact opposite. (Have a budget with numbers that do not add up? Call that criticism fuzzy math. Got a tax cut for the very wealthiest people? Call it tax relief for everyone. Need to sell a logging plan? Say it's for forest health.) They've clearly discovered the power of shamelessness.

That Bush went to such lengths to convince convince recipients that the cards - and the senders - are something they are not seems like a fitting year-end metaphor for his regime.

By the way, if memory serves me right, Bush purchased his Crawford ranch just before, or in the early stages of, the 2000 Presidential campaign.



House GOP Eases Some Ethic Rules
House Republicans unraveled some of their strict ethic rules Tuesday, passing changes that would allow charities to give lawmakers free travel and lodging at resorts and make it easier for lobbyists to send free food to congressional offices.

The move by the Republican leadership was hidden so well it even caught leaders of the House Ethics Committee by surprise. A Republican leadership aide called the changes cosmetic, but Democrats characterized them as a serious erosion of ethical standards.

The revisions were part of a package of rule changes that passed on a 221-203 party-line vote. A Democratic effort to kill the revisions lost, 225 to 200.

"The Republican majority made much of past abuses in this body," said Rep. Martin Frost (D-Texas) in the House's first debate of the 108th Congress. "Yet, now that the Republicans believe they have a safe and secure majority for the foreseeable future, they want to undo some of the significant strides that were made."

Remember, folks, the GOP claims it's the party of "integrity." What hooey.

(via Body and Soul, who also cites this juicy comment by The Agonist that once again blows up the myth of the so-called "liberal media": "...the entire text of the article is devoted to the "pizza rule" and completely avoids the much more important issue of travel and lodging expenses. Pizza versus travel and lodging expenses? Which is more likely to be abused? You can only eat so much pizza!")


and now for something completely devo

Mark Mothersbaugh, former frontman of the great new wave band Devo, has cheerfully admitted spiking the band's songs with subliminal messages.

(via insanekungfu)


more thoughts on korea

or, the Bush Administration needs to attend International Relations 101
Now for a few other points:

  • One reservation some critics--myself included--have regarding the Bush administration's obsession with Iraq is that the focus could leave the US ill-prepared to deal with other threats, such as al-Qaeda and, yes, North Korea. Recent developments would tend to support that perception.

  • The US has been adamant about resolving the Korean situation through diplomacy, in stark contrast with both its aggressive policy toward Iraq and its stated doctrine of preemption. While I agree that negotiation is the proper first response, the US's efforts have been muddled, leading to some embarrassing backtracking from bellicose rhetoric.

  • The bottom line is, the US must negotiate. In foreign policy, a nation achieves its aims with some combination of the carrot and the stick. Unless the US is indeed to prepare to go to war in Korea, and all that implies, the US has absolutely no choice but to give the North Koreans something--either directly or through an intermediary such as Japan--to change its actions. The fact is, we want them to negotiate, so insisting on a list of preconditions for talks is doomed to failure. Further demands with nothing to back them up leave the US in an untenable and ridiculous position.


a korean crisis situation primer

Let's pause briefly to recapitulate just what the heck is going on in Korea.

  • In 1994, the Clinton Administration negotiated the "Agreed Framework," by which the North agreed to suspend its pursuit of nuclear weapons in exchange for economic support. It agreed to international inspectors at its plutonium-capable nuclear plants.

  • By early 2001, Clinton administration officials had evidence that Korea had begun a uranium-based program. They tipped off the incoming Bushies, who proceeded nothing apparent.

  • Back in October, North Korean negotiators acknowledged they'd been cheating on the program, catching the Administration by surprise. The cheating in question involved the development of uranium-based nuclear weapons--in essence, the North Koreans agreed to shelve one nuclear weapons program and then started another. While alarming, the program was not expected to yield an actual weapon until some time in the future.

  • As the situation--which the Administration refuses to define as a crisis--escalated, North Korea announced it would fire up the closed plutonium-capable nuclear plants, booting inspectors out destroying monitoring devices. These actions shortened the timetable for weapons production from many months to few dozen weeks.

  • Meanwhile, South Korea elected a President who favors peaceful engagement with the North, rejecting a more hawkish candidate.
  • Most recently, the US has agreed to "talk"--but not "negotiate"--with Korea.


moral clarity doesn't equal policy

Talking Points Memo also points out this Newsweek column observing that, while the Bush administration's bellicose stance toward North Korea has moral clarity, it lacks strategic coherence.
Let’s start at the beginning. What is the goal of our policy toward North Korea—nuclear disarmament or regime change? President Bush has repeatedly hinted that it’s regime change. Most recently he explained to Bob Woodward that while there are those who worry about the fallout of overthrowing the regime, he did not. “Either you believe in freedom ... or you don’t,” he explained.

But we have no way of achieving this goal. A military attack on North Korea is impossible, not because it may have one or two crude nuclear weapons, but because it will retaliate by obliterating a large part of South Korea. Seoul is 35 miles from the North Korean border. Our options are constrained not by nukes, but by geography. Without the means to do it, regime change is not a policy, but a daydream.

And the crisis at hand is not that Kim Jong Il has suddenly become more evil. It is that North Korea will, within months, become a plutonium factory. A nuclear North Korea will overturn the strategic landscape of East Asia, weakening deterrence on the Korean peninsula. It might make Japan go nuclear, which would push China and Japan into a nuclear-arms race. In other words, very bad stuff. That’s why our primary short-term concern has to be disarmament.

Harvard professor Ashton Carter, one of President Clinton’s senior defense aides, puts it sharply: “We told the North Koreans that we were not out to topple them but we would not tolerate their going nuclear. The Bush administration is doing the opposite. For two years it signaled that it was out to get them, but now that they’re going nuclear, it says that’s not a crisis. For American interests, this gets things backwards.”


tpm: your korea source

Joshua Marshall has been all over the Korean crisis.


but first, some stipulations

Let's get this out of the way up front: I'm sure Bush's defenders are going to be all, "It's Clinton's fault, because he appeased them in 1994, yadda yadda yadda." Maybe--maybe--they have a point. But that isn't really the question anymore. Dubya has been in charge for two years now, and it's time to ask what his administration is doing. In short, debating the origins of a particular situation is all fine, but that debate tends to obscure scrutiny of how the Administration is addressing it. And as we'll see, I think the Bush administration's Korea policy--or perhaps more accurately, its conspicuous lack of one--is a national embarrassment and profoundly damaging to the interests of the United States and the world.

And I'm going to draw another line, an echo of a sentiment I've seen expressed in the lefty blogosphere. While I think Bush's policies are ripe for criticism, I'm not happy the Administration is screwing up so I have more to grouse about. I don't want the Administration to enact bad policy so I have something to criticize--I don't want the Administration to enact bad policy. I have little doubt that the next two years will do much to lower the public's opinion of Bush, but I'm genuinely distressed at the bad policy his team is going to enact in the process.

Should the Democrats be "obstructionist"--that is, do all they can to block a Bush agenda that they, and a substatntial number of Americans--oppose--in the meantime? You betcha.


boondocks explains it all

boondocks on korea

Today's Boondocks strip sums it all up as far as I'm concerned. I plan to do a lot of blogging about the Korean crisis mess today, and this seems a good way to kick it off.

  xWednesday, January 08, 2003

new t-shirt

8-bit theatre shirt8-bit theatre shirt
A week or so ago, I spent some of the same batch of surprise Xmas money that let me pick up Devil May Cry on this swell T-shirt from one of my favorite Web comics, 8-bit Theatre. I was very pleased to find it arrived today. I'll likely wear it under my shirt tomorrow.


news at dam

I have several news posts up today at Destroy All Monsters.


wallpaper of the week

devil may cry wallpaper

It's a bit late, but I wanted to mention that this week's desktop is of Dante and two of his friends from the awesome PlayStation 2 action game Devil May Cry.

(Courtesy AnimeWallpapers)


a different take...

I took the liberty of paraphrasing the humorous essay from the previous post from the dad's point of view...

If You Give A Dad A Donut

If you give a dad a donut,
He'll want a cup of coffee to go with it.
He'll pour himself some.
His three-year-old will spill the coffee.
He'll wipe it up.
Wiping the floor, he will find dirty socks.
He'll remember he has to do laundry.
When he puts the laundry in the washer,
He'll trip over boots and bump into the freezer.
Bumping into the freezer will remind him he has to plan supper.
He will get out a pound of hamburger.
He'll look for her cookbook. (101 Things To Make With A Pound Of Hamburger.)
The cookbook is sitting under a pile of mail.
He will see the phone bill, which is due tomorrow.
He will look for her checkbook.
The checkbook is in his briefcase that is being dumped out by his two-year-old.
He'll smell something funny.
He'll change the two-year-old.
While he is changing the two-year-old the phone will ring.
His five-year-old will answer and hang up.
He will remember that he wants to phone a friend to come for coffee.
Thinking of coffee will remind him that she was going to have a cup.
He will pour himself some.
And chances are,
If he has a cup of coffee,
His kids will have eaten the donut that went with it.


funny forwarded email (gasp!)

In general, I don't like email jokes and anecdotes that get forwarded around. But my lovely wife got one yesterday that I actually thought was pretty goofs on the children's book If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, by Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond. This whimsical book is a favorite of my daughters, and I think it's a lighthearted parody of what it's like to live with young children...the titular mouse is always one step ahead of the child in the story; everything the child does for the mouse sends him off on a tangent. The email my wife received was a parody from the parent's point of view.
If You Give A Mom A Muffin

If you give a mom a muffin,
She'll want a cup of coffee to go with it.
She'll pour herself some.
Her three-year-old will spill the coffee.
She'll wipe it up.
Wiping the floor, she will find dirty socks.
She'll remember she has to do laundry.
When she puts the laundry in the washer,
She'll trip over boots and bump into the freezer.
Bumping into the freezer will remind her she has to plan supper.
She will get out a pound of hamburger.
She'll look for her cookbook. (101 Things To Make With A Pound Of Hamburger.)
The cookbook is sitting under a pile of mail.
She will see the phone bill, which is due tomorrow.
She will look for her checkbook.
The checkbook is in her purse that is being dumped out by her two-year-old.
She'll smell something funny.
She'll change the two-year-old.
While she is changing the two-year-old the phone will ring.
Her five-year-old will answer and hang up.
She will remember that she wants to phone a friend to come for coffee.
Thinking of coffee will remind her that she was going to have a cup.
She will pour herself some.
And chances are,
If she has a cup of coffee,
Her kids will have eaten the muffin that went with it.

  xTuesday, January 07, 2003

josh marshall: cheney sux0rz

Joshua Marshall of Talking Points Memo has a blistering deconstruction of Vice President Dick Cheney's alleged competence in The Washington Monthly.
Last March, [Cheney] went on a tour of Middle Eastern capitals to line up America's allies for our war against Saddam. He returned a week later with the Arabs lining up behind Saddam and against us--a major embarrassment for the White House. Much of the success of the administration's Iraq policy came only after it abandoned the strategy of unilateral action against Saddam, the strategy Cheney championed, to one of supporting a U.N. inspections regime--a necessary and successful course correction that Cheney resisted and almost halted. Indeed, broadly speaking, the evolution of White House Iraq policy might be described fairly as a slow process of overruling Dick Cheney.

Much of the reason Cheney so often calls things wrong--even on those business issues that would seem his area of expertise--can be traced to the culture in which he's spent most of his professional life. Despite his CEO credentials and government experience, Dick Cheney has been surprisingly insulated from the political and financial marketplace.

...Cheney is conservative, of course, but beneath his conservatism is something more important: a mindset rooted in his peculiar corporate-Washington-insider class. It is a world of men--very few women--who have been at the apex of both business and government, and who feel that they are unique in their mastery of both. Consequently, they have an extreme assurance in their own judgment about what is best for the country and how to achieve it. They see themselves as men of action. But their style of action is shaped by the government bureaucracies and cartel-like industries in which they have operated. In these institutions, a handful of top officials make the plans, and then the plans are carried out. Ba-da-bing. Ba-da-boom.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

...The danger of this mindset is obvious. No single group of people has a monopoly on the truth. Whether it be plumbers, homemakers, or lobbyist bureaucrats, any group will inevitably see the world through its own narrow, mostly self-interested, prism. But few groups are so accustomed to self-dealing and self-aggrandizement as the cartel-capitalist class. And few are more used to equating their own self-interest with the interests of the country as a whole.

...Not since the Whiz Kids of the Kennedy-Johnson years has Washington been led by men of such insular self-assurance. Their hierarchical, old economy style of management couldn't be more different from the loose, non-hierarchical style of, say, high-tech corporations or the Clinton White House, with all their open debate, concern with the interests of "stake-holders," manic focus on pleasing customers (or voters), and constant reassessment of plans and principles. The latter style, while often sloppy and seemingly juvenile, tends to produce pretty smart policy. The former style, while appearing so adult and competent, often produces stupid policy.

Why, though, has the press failed to grasp Cheney's ineptitude? ...Cheney's reputation as the steady hand at the helm of the Bush administration--the CEO to Bush's chairman--is so potent as to blind Beltway commentators to the examples of vice presidential incompetence accumulating, literally, under their noses. Though far less egregious, Cheney's bad judgment is akin to Trent Lott's ugly history on race: Everyone sort of knew it was there, only no one ever really took notice until it was pointed out in a way that was difficult to ignore. Cheney is lucky; as vice president, he can't be fired. But his terrible judgment will, at some point, become impossible even for the Beltway crowd not to see.


review of the two towers, at last

lord of the rings

As promised, I finally composed my review of The Two Towers (having enjoyed the benefit of a repeat viewing), and it's now posted at Destroy All Monsters. The site may be down for maintenance in the next 24 hours, so if you can't reach it, please keep trying. And please let me know what you thought!


copyright victory of the day

A Norwegian court has rebuffed the piracy case brought against Jon Johansen, the author of the DeCSS program by the MPAA, clearing the young man of all charges.
The studios argued unauthorised copying was copyright theft and undermined a market for DVDs and videos worth $20 billion a year in North America alone.

But Johansen argued his code was necessary to watch movies he already owned, on his Linux-based computer, for which DVD software had not yet been written.

He said since he owned the DVDs, he should be able to view them as he liked, preferably on his own computer. The court, citing consumer laws which protect consumers' fair use of their own property, agreed.

The court ruled there was "no evidence" that Johansen or others used the decryption code called DeCSS for illegal purposes. Nor was there any evidence that Johansen intended to contribute to illegal copying.

The court also ruled that it is not illegal to use the DeCSS code to watch DVD films obtained by legal means.

In the United States, Johansen's case raised concerns among Internet users of what they see as a constitutional right to freedom of expression. A battle is raging in the U.S. over a 1998 copyright law that bans software like DeCSS.

Of course, the Norwegian court has no jurisdiction here in the U.S., no matter how wise its verdict, but w00t anyway!


i approve

Tom Daschle has decided not to run for President. Basically, it seems he's decided to stay in the Senate and attempt to block as much of Bush's agenda as he can.

As should be obvious, I still haven't dived back into political commentary yet (with the economy and Korea, plus the administration's singleminded determination to attack Iraq, there's almost too much), but I think standing pat is the right move. For starters, I think Daschle would have a hard time rounding up support in the first place, even among Democrats (like me) who see him as too timid at confronting the more rancid portions of Bush's agenda. And, frankly, the GOP wouldn't have hesitated--and won't hesitate--at blasting Daschle's obstructionism, regardless of whether the public really supports the GOP agenda. (Memo to Republicans, especially Mr. Bipartisainship Bush: Craft legislation even faintly palatable to both sides, and it'll likely pass. Pretend the GOP enjoys more support than it does, and you're doomed. Have a nice day.)

But I've noted one interesting trend--despite Bush's wartime popularity, the Democrats are lining up to challenge him for the Presidency in 2004. My read of this fact is that the Dems see Bush as vulnerable (and if the centerpiece of his economic plan is an elimination of the dividends tax, it's reasonable to conclude that this administration has nothing to offer but discredited trickle-down economics). It's a marked difference from 1992, when the perceived popularity of Bush the Elder discouraged many prominent Democrats from what they considered a losing bid for the Presidency, enabling an obscure Arkansas governor to grab the nomination.


fair warning

Back in December, I posted a number of Xmas-oriented MP3s. I'm preparing to remove them from my server--they take up a relatively large amount of space that'd deter me from posting others in the future. If you'd planned to grab one of those swank Xmas tunes, please visit the archives for the last week or two of December and grab 'em now.


milestone of the day

Some this morning, the hit counter passed 12,000, thanks to someone searching for pr0n star Ar1a G1ovann1 at 4 in the morning. Thanks to all who visit, and feel free to drop a comment!

  xMonday, January 06, 2003

cantopop star of the day

carrie ngcarrie ng
The lovely Hong Kong actress Carrie Ng (City on Fire, Naked Killer), whose image graces my Destroy All Monsters coffee mug (which has a tiny crack in the handle now, dash it all). Here's a gallery of more photos.carrie ng


pulp paperback link of the day

pulp novel cover
Lurid Paperback of the Week posts covers and summaries of pulp fiction novels from the site owner's personal collection. There are also summaries of various themes in pulp paperbacks and a listing of the owner's entire collection. Although it isn't updated weekly, it's still a fun look at vintage paperbacks.


megatokyo link of the day

Fred "Piro" Gallagher, author of the awesome online comic MegaTokyo, gives a lengthy interview to a UK-based fanzine.


spam news of the day

I meant to mention back in December this AP story suggesting that the workplace has not been as hard-hit by spam as home email accounts. My experience is congruent with these findings--while I do get the occasional spam message at work, it's a spit in the ocean compared to the amount that shows up at home. In related news is this eWeek commentary on that story and this Register story noting that some popular Web-based email services are trying to make it harder for spammers to launch email floods from "disposable" accounts.


wintry flash app of the day

Also courtesy Very Big Blog, a nifty little Flahs app that lets you build your own snowman, no matter the climate.


momoko, i love you so*

momoko kikuchi
Very Big Blog links to the Mac Observer translation of student/hottie Momoko Kikuchi in the Japanese version of Apple's Switch ad campaign (noted in these pages back in October).

*Not to be taken literally--I'm goofing on the title of the 1955 Crew Cuts hit "Kokomo, I Love You So."

  xSunday, January 05, 2003

a rare sports-related post

I rarely watch TV, so I don't take in a lot of sports, even those that I enjoy, like college football and hoops. Yesterday, though, I visited my parants in Louisville, and checked out the U of L-Ohio State game with my dad. Although both teams were plagued by L4m3 shooting in the first half, Louisville had the worst of it, suffering a 14-point deficit at the half, with the score 32-18 in favor of the Buckeyes. However, I was glad to see 24th-ranked Louisville rally; although they couldn't hit the gamewinning shot at the buzzer, their deep bench help produce a 72-64 overtime victory.

I was also pleased to see the game report led the college hoops roundup in today's Indianapolis Star; Cardinal basketball, of course, rarely appears in the sports pages up here. Of course, there's more extensive coverage at the Courier-Journal.


i'm honored

Many thanks to the superb blog The Rittenhouse Review for the endorsement!

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