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  xFriday, January 24, 2003

body of evidence

Body and Soul has the numbers: The American people are joining the rest of the world in:

Jeanne D'Arc comments: "[T]his looks increasingly like they're trying to give a war and nobody's coming."


jpop gallery of the day

noriko sakai

A gallery of Japanese pop singer Noriko Sakai.


quote of the day

Helen Thomas on George Bush: "Worst President Ever." And she's had to deal with Nixon!

(via Eschaton via Orcinus)


show me the money update

What a difference a day makes...

AP: U.N. Nuclear Agency Will Give Iraq Good Grades in Report to Security Council, Spokesman Says (via Interesting Times)

WaPo: Bush Evidence of Iraq 'Appetite' for Nuclear Weapons in Doubt (via Daily Kos)

CNN: White House weighs extending inspections

...not that I put a lot of stock in the latter report, mind you. My distinct impression is that Bush long ago made up his mind that he wants nothing short of an invasion (let's face it, using "military force" could mean just bombing any Iraqi WMD sites we know of, and that's a step that seems to offer not only some good effect but also offers some chance of gaining support, but the hawks don't seem to offer limited strikes as an option), that he's going to go ahead with it regardless of what anyone else thinks, and that Bush's petulance at the way things aren't going according to his script is obvious to both an increasingly skeptical American public and allies smarting under the daily dish of dissing from Administration officials. I don't think this combination spells a successful policy or a benefit to the national interests.


what's in a name

For a while, the Bush Administration seemed undecided as to what they'd call their so-called "economic plan." "Stimulus package" seemed a tantamount admission that the economy wasn't doing so well, after all, so "growth package" was kicked around. But I like the moniker used by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle: the "Leave No Millionaire Behind Act"

(via Nathan Newman)



Gene Lyons weighs in with this enlightening and unsettling point:
It doesn’t appear to have registered that if the White House geniuses really thought Saddam capable of attacking with “weapons of mass destruction,” the well-publicized U.S. troop buildup in Kuwait offers the fattest target since Pearl Harbor.

(via Seeing the Forest)


more from the sclm

The so-called "liberal media" strikes again, this time in a Washington Post puff piece about economists disagreeing with White House adviser Glenn Hubbard that deficites don't effect interest rates, in light of the fact that Hubbard himself contended they did in a recent textbook, and DeLong has called him on. While noting that the writer "space to tell his readers that Glenn Hubbard is "owlish," that Larry Lindsey's shirttail often hangs out, that Glenn Hubbard writes meticulous handouts and gives crisp Powerpoint presentations," Brad DeLong points out, utterly fails to go into the substance of the disagreement:
[T]his Washington Post reporter tells his readers absolutely nothing of why Paul [Krugman] and I are annoyed with Glenn. It's an outsiders-critical-of-administration-official story--which, in the context of Washington, is dog-bites-man: not news at all.

This is not a partisan point. The article is at least as unfair to Glenn Hubbard as it is to me. ...A reader knows no more about why Glenn believes that reductions in dividend taxes are a very good thing after reading the article than she did before she started reading it.

And so from Glenn's point of view as well as from my own, the article is a loss: it is a failed chance to educate Americans about what kinds of taxes are good and what kinds of taxes are bad, as well as a failed chance to educate Americans about why it would be much better to be running budget surpluses than budget deficits.

How do we create a press corps that will think that its business is to inform readers about economic policies and their effects rather than about the owlish visage, crisp Powerpoint presentations, and untucked shirttails of economic advisors? How do we create a press corps that will raise the level of the debate over economic policy in this country, rather than lower it?

God only knows. I certainly don't.


java site of the day, not that Java...this java.

(via SixDifferentWays)


hardly a secret

Ted Barlow comments on the Bush Administration's nomination of an outspokenly anti-gay individual to its commission on AIDS:
Upon reflection, I don't think there's any way that Jerry Thacker's nomination could be the result of a poor vetting process. Thacker's anti-gay message isn't buried in an old interview- it's the only reason anyone has heard of him. In private life, Jerry Thacker may be a conflicted and multifaceted human being. But as Jerry Thacker, Public Persona, he has written one book, and is known for one thing- he's the HIV+ guy who thinks gays are wicked. His career as an activist exists for that reason alone- he's the Good Person who tours the country condemning Nasty Homosexuals for their "deathstyle".

It's like nominating Ward Connelly for a panel on affirmative action, and then pretending that you didn't know he was against affirmative action. It's his whole reason for being.

How could this not be an intentional message to the anti-gay right? If it wasn't, was Bush nominating people out of the phone book?

Remember when Bush said, "I'm a uniter, not a divider?" Does the evidence--the sum total of his actions over the past two years of his administration--support that contention? I think not, but of course that'd hardly be the first or biggest whopper he's told...


sec chair is the pitts

The Rittenhouse Review wonders what the deal is with the Securities and Exchange Commission:
Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt submitted his resignation, under cover of darkness, more than two months ago.

And yet, there he sits, in all his sliminess, still on the commission, still casting votes, and, presumably, still influencing the agenda.

William H. Donaldson has been named Pitt’s successor by the Bush administration but he has not yet been nominated. What’s going on?


ted barlow: payola sux0rz

Ted Barlow reminds us that "[p]ayola never really went away, it just got outsourced."

(via The Sideshow)


old-skool computing link of the day is a collection of--you guessed it!--ASCII text files from the BBS/USENET days, including texts, ASCII art, computer/hacking tutorials, game walkthroughs, occult, UFO, humor and more.

(via MetaFilter)


hopeful sign of the day

The Senate has put the kibosh on the odious and ominous Total Information Awareness domestic snooping program. The move comes in the wake of urging from public interest groups from both sides of the political spectrum for legislators to scrap the proposal to collect a massive database of information of US citizens. Senators voted to block funding for the program until the Pentagon explained its impact on civil liberties (and with Iran-Contra figure John Poindexter in charge of it all, that ought to be a hot one!).

(via BoingBoing)


obvious news of the day

According to this Sports Illustrated column, women in sports have their priorities screwed up: They're busy setting records and getting ignored, instead of adhering to the hallowed sports tradition of getting attention by using their sex appeal.

(via FARK)


medical miracle: 'severed' head reattached

Great googly moogly! An 18-year old man whose car was stuck by a drunk driver suffered horrific injuries, not the least of which was that his head was almost entirely severed from his body, held on only by skin, the spinal cord and major blood vessels. Yet emergency room doctors were able to reattach the head, and after many hours in rehabilitave therapy, the young man is making great progress in his recovery.

(via FARK)


scarf this up

In light of the recent cold snap, Very Big Blog reviews the various styles of wearing a scarf, colplete with a visual guide. And for a bunus helping of cool, Jen provides (temporarily) a swank Louis Prima song.



Indianapolis is among the several states being blasted by frigid Siberian air, with water mains beginning to rupture as the temperature hovers around zero Farenheit. A 39-year-old man was found frozen to death yesterday; the local paper has offered a series of cold-weather tips. For my part, I'm actually considering buttoning up my overcoat, which I almost never do.


cd of the day

r4 soundtrack

w00t! I finally obtained the Ridge Racer Type 4 soundtrack that I'd listed on the Destroy All Monsters 2002 Xmas Shopping Guide (and desired long before that).

  1. Urban Fragments

  2. Turn the Page

  3. On Your Way

  4. Garage Talk

  5. Spiral Ahead

  6. Pearl Blue Soul

  7. Naked Glow

  8. Your Vibe

  9. Lucid Rhythms

  10. Thru

  11. Silhouette Dance

  12. Burnin' Rubber

  13. Revlimit Funk

  14. Quiet Curves

  15. Motor Species

  16. The Objective

  17. Move Me

  18. The Ride

  19. Movin' in Circles

  20. The Parade

  21. Epilogue

  22. Ridge Racer -One More Win-

  23. Ready to Roll!

  24. Party's Over

  25. Eat'em Up!!


show me the money

Reuters: US Says It Can Prove Iraq Has Banned Weapons

I've heard this song before, and it's usually followed by a deafening silence when it comes to the Administration actually providing the proof it says it has. If they can prove their claims, then by all means I encourage them to do so, but until that time, their credibility is such that I decline to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Update: U.S. evidence on Iraq questioned
After weeks of investigation, U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq are increasingly confident that the aluminum tubes were never meant for enriching uranium, according to officials familiar with the inspection process.

...As the U.N. inspections continue, some weapons experts said the aluminum tubes saga could undermine the credibility of claims about Iraq’s arsenal. To date, the Bush administration has declined to release photos or other specific evidence to bolster its contention that Iraq is actively seeking to acquire new biological, chemical and nuclear arms, and the means to deliver them.

(via Oliver Willis)



In my comments at Ipse Dixit that I mentioned yesterday and my citation of Kevin Drum's timeline of Bush's recent actions regarding racial issues, I pointed out Bush's commemoration of Confederate war dead, believing it was a resumption of a discontinued tradition based on a Time magazine article.

In the Ipse Dixit comment thread, Bret pointed out a correction Time ran that I was previously unaware of; it indicates that, contrary to the original story, Bush did not resume a discontinued tradition, but rather simply continued a tradition--observed by both his father and Bill Clinton--of placing a wreath at the Confederate memorial in Arlington Cemetery. Bush I changed the date of the observance from Jefferson Davis' birthday to Memorial Day, and both Clinton and Bush II have observed the changed date.

Say what you will about the Civil War, the soldiers on both sides--like those in wars previous and subsequent--were not personally responsible for the policies of their governments. While commemorating war dead can still carry a political charge--as Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi recently learned--I think it's appropriate to acknowledge the humans who died on both sides. Indeed, doing so is a tacit acknowledgement that national conflicts are among political systems, not individuals, and yet it's individuals who suffer and die.

  xThursday, January 23, 2003

comments ipse dixit way

My friend Dodd wondered if anyone of the liberal persuasion would take Hillary Clinton to task for the following comment with regards to a brief she co-filed in the Michigan affirmative action case:
“Yes, we want to be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. But what makes up character?” she said, quoting from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. “If we don’t take race as part of our character, then we are kidding ourselves.”

In the comment thread, I volunteered:
All right, Dodd, count me in. Hillary Clinton without a doubt twisted King's words in a foolish and inexcusable manner. While I haven't researched the brief she intends to co-sponsor, her public comment is ridiculous, condescending, and contrary to King's vision, not to mention showing a conspicuous lack of political acumen.

But so what? Hillary Clinton's ridiculous comment hardly lets the GOP off the hook for its policies, or lack thereof, for combating the lingering racism that demonstrably still exists in this country and limits its opportunities for a significant segment of the population.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Opponents of affirmative action have also and often taken the meaning of Dr. King's words out of context--he dreamed that a race-neutral society would one day evolve, but never claimed that simply eliminating the more odious legal barriers would be enough; indeed, King explicitly supported remedial measures. Yet while I don't deny that principled opposition to affirmative action is a legitimate position, it falls short when no other alternative is offered (a criticism the GOP has been quick of late to tag the Democrats with).

I for one agree that "separate but equal" is inherently unfair, unconstitutional and un-American. Eliminating affirmative action is *not* going to eliminate racial disadvantage, so if I'm to be convinced it's the best course, I'll need to see the alternative.

I know it's all fun to bash Hillary, Dodd, and as far as I'm concerned you're welcome to it. I don't for a moment consider Hillary Clinton to speak for me or for the entire Democratic Party, and you can mark my words, I don't believe she ever will, as a nominated national candidate.

Bush, on the other hand, as the President and leader of the GOP, does arguably bear that responsibility, so having answered your challenge, I issue one to you: Do Bush's recent actions, including:

* the inaccurate use of the highly charged word "quota" four times to describe Michigan's affirmative action program, which is not at all a quota system

* The revival of a tradition to commemorate Confedeate war dead that was discontinued by his own father
, and

* The swift renomination of Judge Pickering, who has a record of judicial opinions arguably hostile to civil rights (and please, note that I'm not calling him a racist by any means)

support, or contradict, the notion that there's an unreconstructed segment of the Republican base that Bush feels he needs to appeal to?

Update: That comment thread is really jumping!

Update 2: As I pointed out, Bush did not in fact revive the wreath-laying tradition, and I've withdrawn that contention over at the discussion thread.


remembering 2000

Interesting Times reminds us that back in 2000, Bush could have followed a process that not only would have almost certainly led to his election as POTUS, but also done so by a perfectly legitimate and prescribed Constitutional process--and chose not to.

IT doesn't mention the protests that intimidated the vote-counting officials and that proved to be led by Republican activists, but that fact too deserves recalling.


wow, that was fast

I was all getting set to unleash my contempt for the Bush Administration's nominee of a man who called AIDS the "gay plague" to serve on the Presidential Advisory Commission on HIV and AIDS. Just this morning, The Washington Post reported this about nominee Jerry Thacker, who is HIV-positive:
In his speeches and writings on his Web site and elsewhere, Thacker has described homosexuality as a "deathstyle" rather than a lifestyle and asserted that "Christ can rescue the homosexual." After word of his selection spread among gays in recent days, some material disappeared from the Web site. Earlier versions located by The Washington Post that referred to the "gay plague," for instance, were changed as of yesterday to "plague."

But it seems Thacker has suddenly withdrawn his name from consideration. As Atrios said, we win again.

White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer said that Thacker's views are "far, far removed from what the president believes," adding that "the president has a total opposite view. ... The president's view is that people with AIDS need to be treated with care, compassion."

But given that Bush has shown a proclivity for surrounding himself with people whose views are close to his own and takes actions in stark contrast with statements of tolerance, the fact that Thacker was nominated should hardly be regarded as a fluke. I doubt this story has legs, but


the (un)silent (un)majority

I just love Google! GOP activists have apparently spammed a bunch of newspapers with copies of a form letter praising Bush's "genuine leadership" of the economy (without mentioning, of course, that he's leading it straight down the toilet, but oh well). The ruse came to light when Google started reporting hits on certain identical key phrases in various newspapers.

No More Mister Nice Blog points to various sites tracking at least six astroturf letters, and comments: "But, of course, weren’t we all told that Bush and his party have a solid mandate from the American people to govern as they see fit? If so, why is it even necessary to use deception to nudge public opinion GOP-ward? We’ve all simply embraced the Republican agenda unquestioningly -- haven’t we? ...This campaign to manufacture consent seems sicker and sicker the more you examine it."

Failure Is Impossible suggests sending a polite, well-written letter of your own if your local newspaper gets taken in by this phony PR campaign.

(via CalPundit and Eschaton)


illusion of the day

fake backdrop

The other day, Bush gave a speech promoting tax breaks for small businesses at a St. Louis warehouse, and was photographed in front of a stack of boxes stamped "Made in the USA." Now as shocking as it must be to imagine anything about the Bush presidency to be a matter of image over substance, it turns out that the boxes were fake--a painted backdrop. The delicious irony is the backdrop concealed a stack of real boxes--labeled "Made in China."

(via Counterspin Central , Eschaton and Daily Kos)

Update: "To television viewers around the country, the banner was indistinguishable from a real wall of boxes made in the good old U.S. of A., which were perfectly lined up on either side of the banner. For an event meant to draw attention to the president's plan to help small businesses hurt by the sagging economy, it appeared to be another hit designed by the White House advance staff, known for their eye-catching "made for TV" backgrounds." (via Never Trust a Monkey)


kurtz on krugman

Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz has taken another look at columnist--and relentless Bush critic--Paul Krugman, which qoutes the one-time Reagan staffer as saying:
"I certainly am angry," he says in a quiet monotone that doesn't quite match his rhetoric. "I just resent being lied to. We've been lied to a lot, and I'm scared. I think we're talking about levels of irresponsibility here that have real consequences."

"It's a very uncomfortable thing to question the honesty and motives of your leaders," the Princeton academic says. "I'm saying that the men who are controlling our destiny are lying. Not many journalists or many people want to confront them. . . . I probably have a bloody-mindedness that a longtime journalist wouldn't."

Last November, Kurtz gave Krugman prominent mention in his Media Notes column, headlining it--accurately--as "The Man Who Calls Bush a Liar," which linked to this Washington Monthly profile of the economist/columnist.
Krugman argues that the White House is pulling the wool over our eyes – on the economy, on Social Security, on corporate malfeasance, on just about everything. (Hence the title of his book, "Fuzzy Math.") He doesn't mince words and doesn't let up. No post-ironic detachment here. No "on the other hand" temporizing. He sticks it to the president week after week under headlines like "Clueless in Crawford."

That column provides a number of juicy Krugman quotes; here's one of my favorites:
"The shifting rationale for the Bush tax cut – it's about giving back the surplus; no, it's a demand stimulus; no, it's a supply-side policy – should have warned us that this was an obsession in search of a justification. The shifting rationale for war with Iraq – Saddam Hussein was behind Sept. 11 and the anthrax attacks; no, but he's on the verge of developing nuclear weapons; no, but he's a really evil man (which he is) – has a similar feel."


flash app of the day

Wow! A Flash-based exporation of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Incredible!

Related online film: A LEGO parody of 2001!

(via MetaFilter)


japanese gallery of the day

japanese sdf recruiting poster

Here's a break from the usual posting of Japanese hotties to spotlight a gallery of recruiting posters for the Japanese self-defense forces. I love this anime-inspired battlesuit design.

All's a hottie from the gallery:

japanese sdf recruiting poster

(via BoingBoing)


news at dam

Destroy All Monsters editor-in-chief Musashi and I have some fresh news items, including this welcome item about acclaimed Japanese actor "Beat" Takeshi Kitano's upcoming role as director and star of a new Japanese film based on the classic Zatoichi films. c00L!


i'm with bush 100% on this

Just so y'all know I'm not a reflexive Bush hater, I do want to register my accord with his administration on at least one score: The election of a representative from Libya as the head of the UN human rights panel is a travesty, and the US was absolutely right to break with the tradition of approval by acclimation and insist on a vote.


shocker of the day

SEC Allows Auditors As Tax Consultants; Agency Abandons Proposed Ban
The Securities and Exchange Commission voted yesterday to back away from some tough restrictions on accounting firms it had considered in the wake of widespread corporate accounting scandals.

One of the most controversial proposals would have prohibited accounting firms from crafting tax shelters for audit clients and could have cost the firms millions of dollars in lost revenue. Investor activists saw the proposal as a bold stroke to restore public confidence, but it was strongly opposed by the accounting industry.

...Some investors closely watching the agency's actions were disappointed by the vote. "Passing watered-down rules does nothing to restore investor confidence," New York State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi said through a spokesman.

This news--and indications that the SEC is considering backing away from other reforms--comes at a time when the stock market has now retreated from the slight uptick it enjoyed at the beginning of the year, and jobless claims jumped by another 18,000 (I won't be part of that figure until next month). These figures clearly point to an ongoing weakness in the economy and lack of confidence on the part of corporations and consumers alike.

I do want to point out that the decision was unanimous among the three Republicans and two Democrats appointed by Bush. This development is less about partisanship than about a government more intent of doing the bidding of corporations than protecting the public interest. But these developments indicates that the crisis of investor confidence that contributed to the stock market plunge persists. The bottom line is, no amount of dividend tax cutting or regulatory waivers designed to boost corporate profilts are going to help the markets if investors don't believe they can trust financial reports. But I don't think we can trust the SEC to police the industry in anything like an adequatre fashion. Good news for corporate boardrooms, bad news for both Wall Street and Main Street.


bill mauldin r.i.p.

We start the day on a sad note...Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Bill Mauldin died yesterday of complications from Alzheimer's disease at the age of 81.

A noted cartoonist for the Chicago Sun-Times, Mauldin was perhaps best known for his World War II-era comics that depicted infantrymen Willie and Joe as they slogged their way through the mud of war-torn Europe. Mauldin was also a decorated rifleman himself, having received the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in a mortar attack.
For World War II veterans, Mauldin will be best remembered for uplifting their spirits during the darkest days of the war. Many of Mauldin's admirers had showered him with letters of thanks in recent years as his health slowly declined.

"Willie and Joe were like a secret weapon on our side," one writer told him.

His burial is planned for Arlington National Cemetery.

  xWednesday, January 22, 2003

boa update


Thanks to the Destroy All Monsters forums, I learned something I'd wondered about BoA, the jpop singer I mentioned recently (and am listening to now). Her name is apparently derived from "Beat of an Angel" and seems to be pronounced the same as in "boa constrictor."

Meanwhile, here's another BoA gallery.


pork benefits military-industrial complex*

This disturbing Wired News article describes a military procurement process that results in overpriced weapons programs for which no real mission exists, and only then after a too-long development process that makes their timely readiness impossible.
In the late 13th century the Venetians, fighting an overseas war against Turkey, launched the world's largest warships on a one-a-day basis, handily beating Eli Whitney to the invention of the assembly line. During World War II in the United States, West Coast shipyards equaled the Venice Arsenal's output while building Liberty ships.

But the seeds for many tech weapon systems planted in the early 1980s have yet to bloom. Critics contend that many of these programs are purebred political pork designed to battle dead enemies with aging technology.

The $64 billion Raptor project, intended to counter advanced Soviet aircraft that were never built, is a prime target for such critics. As is the crash-prone $46 billion V-22 Osprey helicopter, almost canceled by then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in 1992 but supported by now-Vice President Dick Cheney in 2002.

"We have a bloated, corrupt and unaccountable military industrial congressional system that thrives on a policy of perpetual war for perpetual peace," said David Theroux, president of The Independent Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. "Weapons procurement systems are in reality not linked to need or accountability ... they are primarily pork programs for congressional districts, defense bureaucracy and defense contractors. If they are in any way obsolete, duplicate other systems, do not meet a schedule for a real defense need or go over budget, who is going to hold them accountable?"

Remember, folks, just being in favor of more military spending doesn't make one strong on defense if all that spending results in a situation like this.

*...and in other news, the sky is blue (with props to FARK)


wired on copyright case

This Wired News article describing the Supreme Court's upholding the odious copyright extension legislation once again identifies Congress as where change needs to occur, and points out an interesting aspect of the SCOTUS ruling:
[Music attorney Whitney] Broussard, however, noted that the decision could someday haunt copyright owners because it clarifies that Congress is the ultimate forum for copyright law. If Congress someday took away terms now enjoyed by copyright owners, he said, it might be more difficult to argue that it's an act of "taking away" under the Fifth Amendment.

"That seems to be the other edge of this decision," he said.

While the lobbying strength of media companies makes such prospects unlikely any time soon, the future balance of power may depend on the success of grassroots efforts.

"It's my hope that there's actually good to come out of this decision," said Kraus of "It's a wake-up call. It's a rallying cry."

Absolutely. Congress must be pressured to give the public domain back to the public, and any Congresscritter who votes to take the public domain away for the benefit of media conglomerates should be exposed as the corporate shill he or she is.


asian photo of the day

chinese woman phoning

I found this photo of a Chinese woman using a public phone while researching the short piece of falling cell phone sales in the People's Republic that appeared yesterday at Destroy All Monsters.



Brad DeLong hands skeptics of Bush's so-called economic planning all the ammo they'll ever need when confronted with citations of support from economists, administration officials, or editorial boards:
Were these people advocating this same position two, four, eight years ago, or have they just all of a sudden seen a blinding light? In this case, three years ago the Bush campaign was arguing that it was important to maintain a surplus--important, in fact to maintain a really big surplus, a surplus larger than the excess of Social Security taxes over Social Security expenditures. However, the Bush campaign said, we could afford a big tax cut and still have a really big surplus. The sudden, surprise emergence of the doctrine that it wasn't important to have a surplus because there is no downside to a deficit should make you suspicious. [Ed: Of course, just because someone is a long-time proponent of the Laffer curve doesn't make their economic outlook realistic; just consistenly unrealistic.]

Are these people assuming that supply curves don't slope upward (i.e., that increases in demand don't raise the price and that decreases in demand don't lower the price), or that demand curves don't slope downward (i.e., that increases in supply don't lower and that decreases in supply don't raise the price)? In this case, the market is the financial market--the market in which those who wish to borrow (firms that wish to invest and the government to pay its bills) pay (in the form of promising interest) those who wish to lend for the temporary use of their purchasing power. A government deficit increases the demand for loanable funds. If the supply-of-funds curve slopes upward, this should increase the price, and the price of loanable funds is the interest rate. (Oh, one time in a hundred you will find a market in which things are different, and in which simple supply-and-demand goes wrong. But be very suspicious of someone who says that he has found such a market and who cannot explain why it is an exception to supply and demand.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Is there a paper trail telling you that this bunch of people are playing fast and loose with the truth? For example, chief Bush Administration economist and Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers R. Glenn Hubbard--he of the "no evidence" that budget deficits raise interest rates--wrote in the fourth edition of his textbook Money, the Financial System, and the Economy that "by the late 1990s, an emerging federal budget surplus put downward pressure on interest rates." The quote is not out of context. The textbook was published in 2002. If the Bush Administration's chief economist believed only last year the opposite of what the administration is now saying, what are the odds that you should believe them today?

These three principles--is this a newly-invented or -resurrected argument? is this consistent with supply-and-demand? is there a paper trail showing that this was believed before it became politically advantageous to do so--will generally serve you in very good stead.

A poster to the comments adds: "We have moved from "the tax cuts won't cause deficits" to "deficits won't push up interest rates". Any bets on how long before we start hearing that "higher interest rates don't stifle growth"?"


mclawsuit dismissed

I'm a little surprise that this is getting the play it's getting: the infamous lawsuit against McDonald's blaming the fast-food giant for the obesity a steady diet of its fat-laden fare inevitably causes has been laughed out of court dismissed.

Of course it's been dismissed. Proponents of denying citizens redress of grievances tort reform enjoy the headline-grabbing attention that big and sometimes frivolous lawsuits get. But those same suits are very often dismissed once they actually reach a judge, and unprecedented damage awards--which, let's not forget, are the judgment of a jury--are often either reduced on appeal or negotiated down in settlement--and these developments frequently don't get a lot of news play. It's simple, really; I learned it in college journalism: Lawsuits are public records, so it's elementary for reporters to look thru them in search of a story. And just about any yutz can file a lawsuit; the truly frivolous ones never see trial, because the defense inevitably moves for a summary dismissal like this. In short, these events don't indicate the system is broken--it worked exactly the way it's supposed to.

On a similar subject, P.L.A has an eloquent post on the ridiculous inadequacy of Bush's proposed caps on malpractice suits in light of how some would spend US$250,000. Remember, folks, under those rules the suffering that even shocking malrpactice like this causes would be worth a lousy quarter-mil.


more economic symptoms

I learned this morning via email that a downsizing at the company for which I consult has eliminated my position; the consulting company for which I work also informed me that they will not be able to carry me while I'm not working, so I'll officially join the ranks of the unemployed on February 4. I've already been looking for work in anticipation of such an event, and I'm certainly accelerating that search now.

Of course, these developments may affect the frequency of future postings, but for the time being things should continue at the status quo. Further developments will be reported as they occcur.

Update: I want to express my gratitude to the kind wishes in the comment thread.

Update 2: Fortunately, I was able to secure another consulting gig before my two-week notice was up, so everything's copacetic, at least for the present. It's a great relief, of course. Once again, to all who've expressed support, you have my gratitude.

  xTuesday, January 21, 2003

news at dam

Destroy All Monsters has just posted several news items by me.


lipstick lesbian post of the day

russan pop duo taty
Lena (right) and Yulia are the Russian pop duo Tatu

The latest pop sensation in Russia is a pair of perky teenage songstresses. That alone is nothing surprising, but the duo known as "Tatu" has a twist--the two female singers of the duo are said to be passionately in love with each other. However, promoters acknowledge that the duo's lesbian subtext is part of a carefully crafted image.
The act, whose name is an abbreviation of the Russian phrase "Ta lyubit Tu," or "This girl loves That girl", has sold a cool million and a half albums worldwide, monopolized music TV channels everywhere from the United States to Turkey and South Africa and gone on tours in numerous countries.

Sex -- specifically of the girl meets girl variety -- is indeed a key component of the group's appeal, along with a cheeky teenage rebelliousness against the grown-ups' world.

Tatu's official website shows Lena, an 18-year-old redhead, and 17-year-old brunette Yulia exchanging a passionate kiss on the mouth, and their songs' lyrics make no bones about their proclivities.

"Yes, we love each other," volunteered Lena in an interview with AFP at their producer's office in downtown Moscow, before teasingly adding in a touch of ambiguity about the true nature of their relationship.

In real life, however, both girls have boyfriends and their plans for the future include getting married and having children, they said.

And for all the displayed sexual interest they officially have in each other, their mutual attraction is mostly a marketing concept, Tatu's producer admitted.

Here's a FAQ on the pop duo, and their bios are available on their official site, which also has sample songs available for download.

Update: Long Story, Short Pier blasts critiques the "exploitation" and "objectification" of this "manufactured pop phenomenon taking on the trappings of marginalized sexuality for edgy thrills." (via Alas, A Blog) Update update: I exchanged some very courteous and informative emails with Mr. Kip Manley of Long Story, Short Pier, and he mentioned in passing that he didn't feel he'd "blasted" the group. While he by no means requested a change, after rereading his post I agreed and have made a slight alteration.


bush timeline

Kevin Drum performs the invaluable service of summarizing Bush the Lesser's actions on racially sensitive issues since the ouster of Trent Lott from his leadership post, including his choice of Martin Luther King's birthday to announce his opposition to the University of Michigan's affirmative action program (which he dishonestly described as a quota system), the renomination of Judge Charles Pickering, who arguably has a judicial record that's hostile to civil rights, [and] the phony story about Condoleeza Rice's support for the aforementioned brief, and reviving a tradition his father discontinued of paying homage to Confederate soldiers.

Let's apply a little logic to this situation: Given the premises a) that Bush seeks to appeal to suburban, middle-class voters uncomfortable with policies that smack of racism or b) that Bush feels he has to appeal to a small but ardent core GOP constituency of unreconstructed racists, which premise does this set of actions support? While any one of these actions may be explainable, at some point the forest emerges from among the trees. Bush has sent a clear message with this series of actions. It remains to be seen if whatever political calculations that inspired them prove correct.

Update: As I mentioned in a subsequent post, Time has run a correction regarding its story about the Confederate memorial.


shipwreck link of the day

It's deja vu all over again--another oil tanker has foundered off the coast of Spain, once again threatening the coastline with a massive oil slick. Two crew were rescued but the ship's captain is feared drowned.

(via Blog Left)


al hirschfeld r.i.p.

How sad...I just learned that famed cartoonist Al Hirschfeld died Monday at 99. His spare pen-and-ink caricatures of celebrities have been appearing in various publications, including several collections, since the 1920s.

(via MetaFilter)

Update: Alas, A Blog has a fine appreciation of Hirschfeld's work.


gop adds loopholes to ethics rules

What a difference eight years makes. Today's Washington Post takes a closer look at the current GOP Congress's efforts to relax ethics rule changes that the Republicans themselves made when they came to power eight years ago (and for the record, I believe the GOP did perform a service then in reforming a system that'd been abused). Now that they're in power, though, it looks like the Republican leadership wants a chance to abuse those perks themselves.

The real shame of these changes is that they're a transparent effort to give lobbyists even more influence over Congress; it's practically a direct solicitation of a bribe. Here's a key quote from the story:
By relaxing the gift ban, Republicans have provided corporations, labor unions and other interest groups many new avenues -- which are closed to ordinary Americans -- to try to influence lawmakers and their staffs. Lobbyists footing the bill often get coveted face time with key lawmakers and their aides.

Folks, this is not about pizza. I'm ordering pizza tonight, in fact, and it'll cost about 12 bucks for two large pies, plus tip. It's about giving special interests of all stripes even more access and even more influence than the citizens the Congresscritters purportedly represent enjoy. These lax laws let lobbyists lavish luxuries on Congresscritters, even especially ones considering legislation that affects them. The loopholes the GOP have added stink on ice.


x-men: inhuman?

In today's example of life imitating art, a judge has ruled that the X-Men--Marvel Comics' popular mutant superhero team--are indeed non-human. The ruling stems from a toy manufacturer's efforts to avoid higher import duties on "dolls," defined as representations of people, in favor of "toys," which are not. But by siding with the toy company and declaring the X-Men "nonhuman creatures," the judge sparked the ire of X-Men fans, who sympathize with the comic's theme of the heroes' desire to be recognized as humans, albeit ones with extraordinary abilities.

Apparently, the judge had a more difficult time classifying characters from the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man series, such as Kraven the Hunter, although he apparently isn't human either:
The judge found that Kraven exhibited "highly exaggerated muscle tone in arms and legs." He wore a "lion's mane-like vest." Both features helped relegate him, in the judge's mind, to the netherworld of robots, monsters and devils.

(via Destroy All Monsters)


matrilx teaser trailer debuts in japan

matrix reloaded trailer

If you don't want to wait for the super Bowl for a look at the teaser trailer for the new Matrix movie, you can check out the Japanese version. c00L!

(via Destroy All Monsters, which links to several mirror sites.)


milestone of the day

Sometime late last night, the hit counter passed 13,000. Thanks for visiting!

  xMonday, January 20, 2003

happy mlk day

Today's the official observance of Martin Luther King's birthday, and in honor of the occasion we take note of this absolutely surreal story: the Bush Administration plants a story in the Washington Post indicating the National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice took part in a rare public policy debate in support of Bush's stance on affirmative action, summed up in a speech that not only uses the inflammatory term "quotas" no fewer than four times, but does so inaccurately. (CalPundit helpfully sums up the real program.) Ms. Rice, who is black, was not questioned for the initial story, but issued a statement denying that her support was as strong as the original story implied, asserting that she does believe--as current Supreme Court precent holds--that race can be among the factors considered (a test the Michigan system appears to pass, in my view).
Officials who described her role to The Post noted that it was unusual for her to become such a major factor in an issue that did not involve foreign policy. Their comments had the effect of associating a respected African American adviser to Bush with a decision that has been criticized by many black leaders. Rice reportedly was angry about the article in part because she believed it had been written only because she is black.

How's that for a quota system?

By the way--I can't believe a professional journalist would run this story without even calling its purported subject for a comment! Back when I edited my freaking college newspaper, I'd have rejected a story on those grounds.


loyalty programs explained

Kevin Drum gives the skinny on those supermarket loyalty programs. As I do most of the grocery shopping, I carry those li'l plastic cards and use them (I love it when the cashier recites how much I "saved," because as Drum points out, the non-program price is usually inflated. Every week I'm aware of making another entry into the supermarket's database, and also aware of how cheaply I'm "selling" that info. So far I've compensated by lending my card to anyone who needs it--any bad data I can provide--but what I really need to do is cut up my existing card and sign up for a new one with bogus info. The store would still get a record of my purchases, but it'd be tied to intentionally inaccurate demographic data.


weekend recap

It was a fairly busy weekend full of more social activity than we're used to. (It's also been a fairly busy morning, as the dearth of posts should indicate.)

Friday we had company for dinner. Saturday my lovely wife went to the symphony with one of her colleagues; the girls and I visited some neighborhood friends for dinner, and as a result got to bed an hour late. Sunday morning I finally got to watch the cheapo DVD I got of Drunken Master (quick summary: Letterboxed, dubbed, obviously ripped from VHS, poor sound--in other words, a fairly standard Beverly Wilshire offering ,but still well worth the four bucks I paid for it). Sunday afternoon I took the girls and their friends Madison (age 4) and Taylor (age 6) to the excellent Indianapolis Children's Museum. It was a fun, but of course exhausting, two hours--Maddie and Taylor both fell asleep in the car on the way home, and the girls crashed for a nap as soon as we got home.

I also obtained the soundtracks to Metal Gear Solid 2 and Parasite Eve 2, as well as the SquareDance CD mentioned in the Destroy All Monsters 2002 Holiday Gift Guide! w00t!


the halfway point

Good news! Today (January 20) is the halfway point of the Bush II administration! Just two years to go and counting!

Now seems a good time to point out--in case you missed it--the countown to election day 2004 I've placed at left. Feel free to swipe the JavaScript, but if you use it, I'd appreciate a shout!

(via Interesting Times via MadKane)

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