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  xSaturday, February 01, 2003

some good news

Not all is bleak alma mater won yet another hoops game, this time in a decisive victory over IU. Here's how the local paper put it:
Trailing by just two points with 3:37 to play, IU lost its composure against Louisville's hounding, full-court pressure and eventually lost the game in a big way.

Freshman forward Francisco Garcia came off the bench to score a career-high 23 points as the No. 8 Cardinals scored the game's final 17 points in a 95-76 victory over No. 19 Indiana before a Freedom Hall record crowd of 20,086.

It was the 15th win in a row for Louisville (16-1), its longest winning streak since the 1986 NCAA championship season. It's the Cardinals' best start since the 1974-75 season.

The game was supposed to have been nationally televised on CBS but was pre-empted because of the space shuttle tragedy.


According to U of L Sports Information Director Kenny Klein (and man, did I just get a flashback...I used to write sentences that began like that a lot back in my days with U of L's newspaper...), the game will be broadcast late tonight.


text of bush's address

shuttle columbia crew
The crew of the space shuttle Columbia: Colonel Rick Husband, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Anderson, Commander Laurel Clark, Captain David Brown, Commander William McCool, Dr. Kalpana Chawla, and Ilan Ramon
It's no secret that I'm not a huge fan of President Bush, but his brief remarks today in response to the tragic loss of the space shuttle Columbia made a favorable impression. I believe his sorrow over this tragedy is obvious, but Bush's personality enabled him to say the right words in the right manner. I also, of course, applaud his stated determination to continue America's commitment to space exploration. After the shock of this tragedy come questions. After questions come the answers. But the answers will not hinder, only help, our efforts to reach out into space.
My fellow Americans, this day has brought terrible news and great sadness to our country. At 9 o'clock this morning, Mission Control in Houston lost contact with our space shuttle Columbia. A short time later, debris was seen falling from the skies above Texas.

The Columbia's lost. There are no survivors.

Onboard was a crew of seven--Colonel Rick Husband, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Anderson, Commander Laurel Clark, Captain David Brown, Commander William McCool, Dr. Kalpana Chawla, and Ilan Ramon a colonel in the Israeli air force.

These men and women assumed great risk in this service to all humanity. In an age when space flight has come to seem almost routine, it is easy to overlook the dangers of travel by rocket and the difficulties of navigating the fierce outer atmosphere of the earth.

These astronauts knew the dangers, and they faced them willingly, knowing they had a high and noble purpose in life. Because of their courage and daring and idealism, we will miss them all the more.

All Americans today are thinking, as well, of the families of these men and women who have been given this sudden shock and grief. You're not alone. Our entire nation grieves with you. And those you loved will always have the respect and gratitude of this country.

The cause in which they died will continue. Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on.

In the skies today, we saw destruction and tragedy. Yet farther than we can see, there is comfort and hope.

In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."

The same creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth, yet we can pray that all are safely home.

May God bless the grieving families, and may God continue to bless America.
I join the nation in expressing my shock and grief, and I can only express my condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of this fine crew at their sudden and tragic losss.


happy chinese new year

Despite the day's sad news, I'd be remiss in not observing that today is the Chinese New Year. Happy Year of the Ram!

Update: Here's a feature article on the celebration from Thursday's edition of the local paper.

Update 2: We celebrated with a family dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant; then after the girls went to bed, my lovely wife and I watched Iron Monkey.


oh no

The Space Shuttle Columbia appears to have broken up in flight during its re-entry. More later.

Update: Although the CNN story I just cited mentioned terrorism concerns in the third graf, the network's TV coverage is quoting officials as saying the mishap is unlikely to be terrorism-related. Of course, it's much too early to draw many conclusions, aside from the obvious: the Columbia appears to have broken up during re-entry.

Update 2: CNN is showing launch footage that seems to depict a chunk of debris falling from the large, orange external fuel tank and striking the Columbia's left wing; however, they're also reporting that mission controllers at the time assessed the occurrence as posing no threat.

Update 3: As I feared, CNN is now reporting that, as the shuttle was traveling at more than Mach 6, there's no way the crew could have ejected. This news, while not at all unexpected, is sad indeed.

  xFriday, January 31, 2003

accomplishment of the day (well, night)

metal gear solid 2
I just finished Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. That only took about a month, although I've hardly been playing constantly during that time. Here's the review at Destroy All Monsters, but be aware I liked the game more than Musashi did. I agree that the fact that the player only takes the role of Solid Snake through less than one-third of the game is a disappointment. The game is talky, but that's in keeping with its predecesor. The espionage action the game puts the player through is basically enjoyable; the player is called upon to exercise many skills and use many gadgets (also a Metal Gear hallmark). I was a little let down by the ending--the final boss fight isn't much of a challenge, although the prior confrontation with the titular Metal Gears is among the more difficult videogame challenges I've experienced. But while the original Meral Gear Solid ended on a somewhat wistful, yet positive note, this incarnation leaves a much stronger and slightly dissatifying impression that the conspiracy the player has been battling has not really been defeated. (There's also, as far as I can tell, no opportunity for an alternate ending as there was in the earlier game.) Visually, though, the game is simply gorgeous, and it's quite a challenge to sneak through steel strucktures crawling with Russian guards. As I said, it's an enjoyable game, and it posed enough of a challenge that finishing it provides a sense of accomplishment. I expect to replay it in the near future. metal gear solid 2 box


cantopop gallery of the day

jaymee ong

I watched the Gen-X Cops DVD I got for Xmas again last night. Here's a massive gallery devoted to lovely Hong Kong-based film star Jaymee Ong (part of a fan site), who plays love interest Haze in this entertaining flick (interestingly, she delivers all her lines in Australian-accented English).



Mark A. R. Kleiman has this to say about the politics of personality, in reference to recent speculation in the blogosphere over whether Bush dyes his hair:
As soon as Bush apologizes to Gore for the remark about hair-dye and the thousand other petty personal insults he and his minions spun into a "character issue," and has Karl Rove tell his tame media attack dogs to cool it on John Kerry's haircut, I'll be happy to say no more about Bush's petty vanity.

But Bush's whole political shtick is to be the Personally Decent Man, by contrast to Clinton. There are two things wrong with that claim: its irrelevance, and its falsity. If the other side will admit to the irrelevance, I'll be happy to shut up about the falsity. I'd much rather talk about how he cooks his budget numbers.

A year ago in his State of the Union he promised that deficits would be "small and temporary." Now we're headed for $300 billion worth of red ink next year, and, according to Bush's own OMB Director, deficits stretching into the next decade. Yet Bush never condescended to explain to us why last year's promise is now inoperative. That's the kind of dishonesty we ought to be talking about. The personal stuff is merely metaphor.


excellent analysis

Interesting Times has a thoughtful post on approaching Iraq as a policy issue that ties in with my previous post about the Administration's war-or-do-nothing dualism.
I believe, in my heart, that there is a case to be made for removing Hussein from power. Yes, even if it means going to war to do it.

The problem is, I simply do not trust Bush to do it right.

Any proposed solution to a problem has to meet three criteria in order for me to support it:

  1. Show that it is a problem that needs solving.

  2. Show that there is a solution that will fix the problem*

  3. Show that the solution will not cause as many problems, if not more so, than the original problem to be solved.

If any proposed solution fails to meet any of these three criteria then I will not support it. This is based on the conservative principle that "no solution" is better than a "bad solution".

IT goes on to reach much the same conclusion I've been forced to: "I do not trust Bush to tell me the truth about the real reason we are going to war. I do not trust him to use the war machine at his disposal in a judicious manner. And I do not trust him to either assess the consequences of his actions handle them when they come up to bite him (and us) in the ass."

The killer thing about this post is that Chris wrote it--this reluctant assessment that Bush has proved himself unfit to wage this war--after seeing a Fox News broadcast of the aftermath of an alleged Iraqi poison gas attack whose victims included children. From my reaction to his description, I'm sure I'd have found the images just as upsetting.

*Note: in the comment thread, I mentioned my belief that with regard to step 2, there's often more than one possible solution, so there's an additional burden to show that the favored plan is more desirable--lest risk/cost, more benefit, or both. I just am not seeing anything to support the notion that the Administration is willing to engage in an honest policy debate.



I may not be blogging much, but I am participating in several comment threads at Ipse Dixit:


most prescient headline ever

...and it's from The Onion (January 2001):
Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity is Finally Over'
"My fellow Americans," Bush said, "at long last, we have reached the end of the dark period in American history that will come to be known as the Clinton Era, eight long years characterized by unprecedented economic expansion, a sharp decrease in crime, and sustained peace overseas. The time has come to put all of that behind us."

Bush swore to do "everything in [his] power" to undo the damage wrought by Clinton's two terms in office, including selling off the national parks to developers, going into massive debt to develop expensive and impractical weapons technologies, and passing sweeping budget cuts that drive the mentally ill out of hospitals and onto the street.

During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.

"We as a people must stand united, banding together to tear this nation in two," Bush said. "Much work lies ahead of us: The gap between the rich and the poor may be wide, be there's much more widening left to do. We must squander our nation's hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent. And, on the foreign front, we must find an enemy and defeat it."

(via Daily Kos)


flash app of the day

The Gulf War 2 game...go ahead and play, it's easy!

(via everyone, most recently Daily Kos)


liberal oasis explains it all

Liberal Oasis, like myself, is sick of hearing the enormously dishonest characterization that the only alternative to war Bush's way is "doing nothing," as Bush himself implied in the State of the Union.
Let’s get something straight [emphasis in the original] once and for all.

This is not a choice between war and nothing.

No assuming the best of Saddam.

And it’s completely dishonest to characterize the majority of Americans who are against unilateral war as believing as such.

Dubya said on Wednesday, “We're having an honest debate in this country.”

Well, we are. But you’re not participating.

And, as if it were necessarily, let me point out that the international community wasn't "doing nothing about Saddam even before Bush took office; sanctions were in place, and the US and UK patrolled the no-fly zones as they do today. One could argue the efficacy of the sanctions, but my perception of the weapons inspectors findings seems to indicate they were at least somewhat successful--no one can point to bulging weapons caches, and there seems to be no evidence at all that Saddam has a nuclear program. Bush's relentless repetition of this bogus dualism undersores the wakness of his case yet again. It implies that he isn't willing to argue his war as the best of all possible alternatives--just as better than nothing (which seems to be something of an administration theme for promoting half-baked policy).

(via Counterspin Central)


return of the son of sotu comment part 6: the final chapter

Here's my final link on Bush's State of the Union speech: the Institute for Public Accuracy's point-by-point analysis of the speech.

(via Body and Soul via Better Rhetor)


aw shoot

According to this quiz, I'm not a hipster; I fall just short with a score of 60%.

Like Grampa Simpson said, "I used to be with it, then they changed what 'it' was."

(via MadKane)


slow blogging ahead

I may not be unemployed, but I am wrapping up my current gig, so posting will be light for the next several days as I conclude several projects and settle into the new situation.


employment update

Excellent news! I've secured another consulting position at the company at which I currently work, so I won't be unemployed after all. A tremendous relief, needless to say.

My lovely wife was out late for choir practice last night; I had a bottle of champagne chilling in an ice bucket when she cam home, so she knew immediately.

  xThursday, January 30, 2003

cantopop gallery of the day

kelly lin

A gallery of lovely Taiwanese-born Hong Kong actress Kelly Lin (Fulltime Killer).


connectivity post of the day

Like Charles, I use Winamp, but I'm glad to hear he found a use for Windows Media Player!

Seriously, I love Winamp. It's compact, it works like a charm, and it's so efficient I ususally copy it onto my MP3 CD-ROMs so I can play them in any computer.


wlf update

Dwight Meredith tracked down the source of funding for the Washington Legal Foundation, whose lawsuit attacking IOLTA (Interest On Lawyer Trust Account) programs Meredith passionately decried in a post I mentioned yesterday. Prepare to not be surprised.

P.L.A. also has another list of what Bush didn't mention in the SotU.



AP: Evidence is scant and some policy nuances are lost in Bush speech
In asking Americans to accept his account of Iraqi misdeeds Tuesday night, President Bush issued a kind of promissory note: allegations now, evidence later.

Not for the first time but certainly in front of his biggest U.S. audience as well as those paying heed around the world Bush stated flatly that Iraq is hiding banned weapons and has had dealings with the al-Qaida terrorist network that conducted the Sept. 11 attacks. As before, he did not lay out the supporting facts.

In his State of the Union speech, Bush left Americans to take those points on faith, or to choose not to, at least a while longer. Officials say new evidence is coming soon.

(via Orcinus)


roost to chickens, clear for landing

The Washington Post: Obstacles to Bush Agenda Loom in Senate
One day after President Bush laid out his far-reaching domestic agenda in a nationwide address, Democrats and a few key Republicans raised serious questions about his vision for lowering taxes, restraining spending and changing the health care system.

Even though the president enjoys GOP control of both houses of Congress, a confluence of Democrats' rising anger and moderate Republicans' wariness is producing some of the biggest obstacles of his presidency. Senate Democratic centrists, who worked with Bush to enact tax cuts and education reforms in the past, are furious with the president's tactics in last year's elections and are refusing to work with him on key policies.

Bush burned many of his bridges to Democrats with his aggressive campaign tactics last fall against Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Max Cleland of Georgia. After Landrieu voted with Bush on tax cuts and his war resolution, the president's political team ripped into her record during her tough, but ultimately successful, campaign to win reelection in a December runoff.

More troubling to Democrats was the administration's treatment of Cleland, who lost two legs and an arm in Vietnam. The White House was deeply involved in a campaign that questioned Cleland's patriotism because he supported civil service protections for employees of the new Department of Homeland Security. Cleland lost his race.

"For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind." --Hoseah 8:7

(via Oliver Willis)


the right kind of affirmative action

Nathan Newman writes about "stealth" judicial candidate Miguel Estrada, noting that the Right seems to be employing a little--gasp!--affirmative action in recommending him:
Here is a very young candidate (only 41) with relatively little experience and almost no writings of note (any that exist from his days in the Justice Department are being withheld for fear of what they would reveal about his rightwing views).

So how do they sell him? As a Latino, purely and simply.

...Like the President who nominated him, Estrada was born on third base and likes to brag that he hit a triple. Back in Honduras where he was raised, his family was well-off and well-established. His father was also a lawyer and Estrada studied in private schools his whole life.

Nothing wrong with that per se, although it's reflective of conservative viewpoints that they think the American Dream is sliding from privileged public schools to rightwing patronage jobs into high office, while never having published or said anything of note before that point.

But selling that as "the American Dream" is an insult to families that have struggled and dealt with the real racism facing poor latinos every day.


comments ipse dixit way

I'm participating in a lengthy comment thread over at Ipse Dixit in response to Dodd's citation of a Dick Morris op-ed criticizing Clinton's handling of North Korea.


meanwhile, on the home front...

Daily Kos pointed out one peculiarity of the State of the Union speech: "I went back and reread the SOTU address to confirm something that had nagged me all day: Bush didn't tells us about the state of the union. Not a thing."

Maybe this is why: Economy Grows at 0.7 Percent Rate
The U.S. economy slowed dramatically in the final quarter of last year, growing at a annual rate of just 0.7 percent as consumers turned cautious in the face of war worries, a rollercoaster stock market and a stagnant job climate and increased their spending by the smallest amount since 1993.

This is also telling:
Consumers have been virtually the sole source of support keeping the economy going.

But in the fourth quarter of 2002, they grew tired. Consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of all economic activity in the United States, grew up a rate of just 1 percent in the final quarter of last year. That was down from a brisk 4.2 percent growth rate in the third quarter and marked the worst showing since the first quarter of 1993.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Bushonomics, is it?


show me the money update part 2

USA Today:
Officials cautioned that no one photo or piece of evidence will conclusively prove the administration's case; instead, they describe what they say will be an accumulation of damning details. ''What we're showing is a pattern of behavior,'' a senior administration official said. ''You're not going to have pictures of warheads.''

Although final decisions have yet to be made, administration sources said the photos Powell could display next week include satellite images of tractor-trailers with unusually large roof-mounted air vents, indicating that they could be mobile bioweapons labs. There are also overhead photos of Iraqis conducting apparent cleanup operations and operating bulldozers at suspect sites a day or two before the weapons inspectors arrive.

Powell also will present evidence of imports of chemicals, metals and hardware that could be used to produce chemical and biological weapons in small labs. [Emphasis mine]

Could other words, it would seem, even we don't know. What a surprise: The alleged threat to US national security that's supposed to justify escalating from a policy of containment to one of insvasion is based on questionable evidence. "Could be" hardly sounds like "clear and present danger," does it?

(via Daily Kos)


bougs statement update

U.N. Finds No Proof of Nuclear Program
IAEA Unable to Verify U.S. Claims
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said today that two months of inspections in Iraq and interviews with Iraqi officials have yielded no evidence to support Bush administration claims that Iraq is secretly trying to revive its nuclear weapons program.

...ElBaradei also cast doubts on U.S. claims that Iraq has sought to import uranium and high-strength aluminum tubes destined for a nuclear weapons program.

...ElBaradei's remarks, combined with a relatively upbeat assessment of Iraq's cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors, delivered to the U.N. Security Council on Monday, have complicated Bush administration efforts to make a case for military action against Iraq. The remarks also increased pressure on the United States to provide inspection teams with more intelligence regarding Iraq's suspected nuclear weapons program.

The administration's concerns about Iraq's alleged intent to develop nuclear weapons formed the basis of the case President Bush made to the United Nations in September for disarming Iraq. Bush said in an Oct. 7 speech that satellite photographs revealed that "Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past." White House officials produced satellite images showing recent construction at a former uranium enrichment plant at Furat, one of several sites searched by U.N. inspectors.

"At the majority of these sites, the equipment and laboratories have deteriorated to such a degree that the resumption of nuclear activities would require substantial renovation," ElBaradei wrote in his report to the council.

ElBaradei said today that the findings did not prove that Iraq has abandoned its nuclear ambitions. He also faulted Baghdad for failing to provide more "proactive cooperation" that could shed light on Iraq's past weapons programs.

ElBaradei said that continued inspections offered the best chance of deterring Iraq from rebuilding its weapons programs. "We are not getting optimal cooperation," he said. "But still we are inching forward, and we still believe that barring something exceptional, we should be able in a few months to come to a conclusion on Iraq's nuclear weapons program."

Make no mistake about it, when it comes to weapons of mass distruction, nukes are the big enchilada. And Bush's relentless drumbeat has centered around the specter of a nuclear-armed Iraq. But while Iraq may still have other weapons of mass destruction--that is, chemical and biological agents--and such are indeed a concern, they're nowhere near the threat that nukes are. If Bush can't provide convincing evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program, his case for invasion as opposed to continued inspections, containment and deterrence (which are not "doing nothing")--becomes even weaker than before.

(via Interesting Times)


show me the money update

USA Today: Case for attacking Iraq still short on critical details
The president's remarks, coming in what normally is the most-watched political speech of the year, provided a welcome prologue to the extended public discussion that is required before he orders U.S. forces into battle. While Bush made a compelling case for why Saddam is a menace, he barely touched on questions that still need addressing in an equally high-profile way:

* What is the U.S. goal? Before U.S. troops march into Baghdad, the public needs to know what constitutes success coming out. Is the aim to disarm Saddam, replace him with a pro-U.S. dictator or nudge Iraq toward democracy? Bush didn't say, though each option entails different commitments, risks and costs. [Ed: This is an essential question.]

* Will the U.S. go it alone? Bush said his actions won't ''depend on the decisions of others,'' but he would try to enlist broad support. For now, most key allies other than Britain oppose a war absent more persuasive evidence that Saddam is defying U.N. demands to disarm. A global alliance not only improves the chances of military victory, it also eases the U.S. burden for managing post-war security and reconstruction.

* What are the risks? Bush warned of suffering, in spite of technological advances in military combat. But will Americans support a war that could be deadlier than the 1991 conflict with Iraq? Another fear is that it could engulf the Middle East or prompt new terrorist attacks.

* What are the costs? Bush was silent on that, although anxious Americans wonder how a war might affect their economic well-being. What would it cost the U.S. Treasury? Might Saddam blow up his oil fields, sending gas prices soaring and the world economy into a deep slump? [Ed: Not to mention, how does the US intend to pay for this war? Right now the answer seems to be, put it on a credit card.]


bogus white house statement of the day

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush closed ranks with allies supporting his hard line against Saddam Hussein as the White House lashed out Thursday at U.S. critics, accusing them of "doing nothing about a growing menace."

This kind of dishonesty is exactly what's keeping me skeptical about Bush's desire to invade Iraq. There's a huge difference between opposing an unprovoked attack and advocating "doing nothing." Iraq has been contained since 1991, and inspectors found no evidence that it has revived its nuclear program (unlike chemical and biological weapons, a nuclear program is extremely difficult to conceal). Bush himself seems to agree, at last, that negotiation is the proper tack with Iraq's fellow axis of evil member, North Korea.

The Bush Administration is going to war whether anyone supports them or not. But if they had a case to make, they should make it, and not create bogus rhetorical distinctions like opposing invasion=doing nothing.

In further Bush-wa developments, Kevin Drum points to Tim Dunlop's post on an Ari Fleischer press conference dealing with the fact that Bush himself blew one of its intel sources during the SotU: prisoner interrogations:
Q: Would you then consider releasing, for example, a transcript of the interview with the detainee that establishes that link so that we can judge more fully the information?

A: I don't even know

In other words, once again, they claim they have evidence. And no, we can't see it.


swank gallery of the day

sweater girl

RetroCrush presents a swell gallery of sweet sweater-clad models from a 1963 knitting catalog. Check out the first pic, of the girl and the firefighter--it's hysterical!

(via FARK)


geek of the week


Some genius recorded the flight of a model rocket via a 2.4GHz microwave link from a lipstick video cam, and has posted construction details and videos--in several formats--on his Web site. c00L!

(via BoingBoing)


a little more sotu

Michael Kinsley in Slate:
It may seem petty to pick apart the text. But logical consistency and intellectual honesty are also tests of moral seriousness. It is not enough for the words to be eloquent or even deeply sincere. If they are just crafted for the moment and haven't been thought through, the pretense of moral seriousness becomes an insult.

...This orgiastic display of democracy's great weakness—a refusal to acknowledge that more of something means less of something else—undermined the moral seriousness of the call to arms and sacrifice that followed. Sneering at the folly of tax cuts spread over several years instead of right away, Bush failed to note that those gradual tax cuts were part of his own previous tax bill. Bragging that he would hold the increase in domestic discretionary spending to 4 percent a year, Bush probably didn't stop to wonder what that figure was under his tax-and-spend Democrat predecessor. Short answer: lower.

and there's this...
There are actually plenty of differences between the situation on the Korean Peninsula and the one in the Middle East, and good reasons why you might decide to bring Iraq to a crisis and steer North Korea away from one. But all these reasons cut against the Manichean notion of an absolute war against an absolute evil called terrorism. Bush is getting terrific credit for the purity and determination of his views on this subject. But either his own views are dangerously simplistic or he is purposely, though eloquently, misleading the citizenry.

What mystifies me is why my principled Republican friends aren't going ballistic over this apparent betrayal of their ideals. Or did it somehow become okay in the past two years to sput dishonest rehtoric just to garner support?
(via Eschaton)


kurtz on the sotu

I'm not going to have much more of my State of the Union roundup, but today's Howard Kurtz column is a must-read:
Imagine – hard as it is – President Gore standing in the House chamber and delivering his annual address to the nation.

He calls for spending $400 billion over the next decade to strengthen Medicare and launch a prescription drug program.

He calls for $450 million to bring mentors to disadvantaged students and children of prisoners.

He calls for $600 million for treatment programs for drug addicts.

He calls for $15 billion over five years to combat AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean.

He calls for $1.2 billion to develop clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles.

What do you suppose the Republicans would be saying about Al Gore?

Big spender? Wild-eyed liberal? Doesn't understand that government is the problem, not the solution?

Wouldn't there be lots of accusations of fiscal irresponsibility – especially when the $417 billion in new spending is coupled with $674 billion in tax cuts?

But no one in the GOP that we've seen is suggesting that George Bush's brand of compassionate conservatism is, well, kind of expensive. And the Democrats, who have their own domestic laundry list, obviously don't want to go there.

Much of this, of course, was overshadowed by the intense focus on the Iraq portion of the State of the Union.

But if Bush wants to spend all this money on new programs – admirable as that might be – how is he going to restrain overall spending, as Mitch Daniels keeps promising? Exactly which programs is the White House going to cut (or, excuse us, restrain the growth of spending)? How is the administration going to keep the nasty ol' deficit – which has now shot up to $199 billion, according to the CBO yesterday – from exploding?

No Democratic president would get a pass on this sort of fuzzy math, not with the budget plunging back into the red after years of surplus. But it's not the script to question the spending habits of a supply-side Republican president, since the GOP no longer cares very much about this sort of bookkeeping or thinks we can Laffer-curve our way into the black. Now we can all get back to worrying about the butcher of Baghdad.

Looks like the "liberal media" strikes again...



Some genius has created a retroactive PowerPoint presentation of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

(via FARK)

  xWednesday, January 29, 2003

sotu by the numbers

Emma has the numbers on Bush's speech:
Total length of speech: 5,400 words

Percent devoted to tax cuts: 10
...On race and affirmative action: 0

...Percent devoted to Iraq: 25
Korea: 4
Iran: 1

Number of times "Saddam Hussein" was uttered: 19

"Osama bin Laden": 0

(via Eschaton)


shocker of the day

Bush budget to set record deficit
A congressional agency on Wednesday raised its federal deficit estimates by tens of billions of dollars, but President Bush is planning for an even deeper hole — one that could break the record. Overshadowed by the president’s State of the Union speech was a notice issued by Bush’s budget director that the Bush budget, to be unveiled on Monday, will project deficits of around $300 billion in 2003 and 2004. The record is $290 billion set in 1992, when Bush’s father was president.

But the figures by the nonpartisan agency almost certainly understate the shortfalls. Since CBO by statute must only count taxes and spending enacted into law, its estimates omit the costs of Bush’s proposed $674 billion, 10-year economic growth package, possible war with Iraq and billions in spending increases that Congress is likely to approve.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Just a couple of points:

  • I seem to recall Bush trumpeting his fiscal restraint, but there's a clear disconnect between the impression his speech gave and he CBO's numbers. Thomas Spencer comments, "Since W and the boys are quite adept at media manipulation, I suspect they released this little tidbit on the same day as the SOTU address so that it would go largely unnoticed."

  • Some analysts beleive the deficits could be even bigger, up to [Dr. Evil voice] four hundred billion dollars!

  • While it's arguably good economic policy to run a deficit during a recession, the clear disconnect between Bush's proposals for revenue and expenditure are nothing short of a blueprint for deficits forever
  • The problem is, Bush doesn't have any intention of reining in overall government spending--just shifting it to guns, not butter, and slashing taxes all the while--a credit-card conservative. I suspect Bush knows that support for his Iraq adventure would plummet if he presented the American taxpayer with the bill, but it would be perfectly reasonable to propose a tax increase--or even the deferral of a tax cut--to pay for it. It'd be interesting to know where bush's priorities lay if it came down to a choice between tax cuts or his Iraq adventure.

  • The truly disingenuous aspect of that attitude is it spotlights the GOP's unwillingness to admit that tax revenue goes for spending the public not only approves of, but demands. They want to project the attitude that taxes are just wasted money, when in fact the public has shown great favor to a number of government programs.

  • Of course, eventually a Democratic president will have to take the fiscally responsible position and raise taxes, if for no other reason than to finally pay for Bush's binge. Naturally, the GOP will go ballistic then...but they've forfeited the mantle of the party of fiscal responsibility, and the Democrats shouldn't let them forget it.

(via Interesting Times and History News Network)


poll: sotu had little impact on opinion

An ABC News poll confirms what you could probably surmise from blog posts here and elsewhere: Bush's State of the Union speech was seen as convincing by those who already agreed with his policies, and less so by those who didn't.
Bush had less success, moreover, bolstering public confidence in two other issues he tackled — the economy and health insurance. Just about one-third of viewers say the speech raised their confidence in his ability to handle either one, and again these disproportionately are Republicans. Nearly two in 10 — disproportionately Democrats — say they came away with less confidence in Bush's ability to handle these issues.

[B]ottom-line views barely budged: Most support military action to oust Saddam Hussein, but that drops fairly sharply if the United Nations won't go along; and a smaller majority supports a ground war, again dropping if it means substantial U.S. casualties.

Bush's overall job approval rating was 62 percent after the speech; his approval rating for handling Iraq, 58 percent; and for handling the economy, a much lower 46 percent — all essentially the same as they were Monday night.

(via History News Network, which comments: "If this speech was aimed at those on the fence with regard to war with Iraq as some journalists have said, it doesn't appear to have worked at all.")

Update: Daily Kos has more numbers.


fanboy alert

Interesting Times also calls my attention to this interesting piece of information: According to a recent Internet posting--and mind, this information comes secondhad several times removed--George W. Bush is a Babylon 5 fan.
[Bruce Boxleitener quoted Karl Rove as saying] "I just wanted to tell you that I'm a big science fiction fan, and that Babylon 5 is the best science fiction television series *ever*."

Then there's a pause, and he adds....

"And the President thinks so too."

In light of that fact, IT helpfully provides a link to an online article by B5 creator J. Michael Straczynski pointing out that he intended the events of his show as a warning that history can repeat itself.


the return of more sotu response

Interesting Times has a series of posts on the SotU speech. IT notes that Bush chose as the capper of his diatribe against Iraq the thoroughly-debunked claim that a cache of aluminum tubes were somehow intended for Iraq's nuclear program:
Notice the clever obfuscation in the comment about the aluminum tubes. Bush gets around the inconvenient fact that there is no evidence that they are being used for "nuclear weapons production" by asserting the undisputed claim that they have "attempted to purchase" them and then leave it as an exercise to the listener to conclude that the only reason this was done was for "nuclear weapons production".

and then wonders about the rhetorical purpose in saving such a lame claim for last:
Consider this: generally speaking, when giving a list of particulars, the rhetorically correct thing to do is build to a dramatic finish with your best points. This aluminum tube canard is so old that it is turning as green as Bush's hair. It has been repeatedly debunked just as recently as Monday's inspection report to the Security Council. It is by far the weakest link in Bush's chain of evidence of Sadaam's perfidy.

Yet he chose this item to conclude his list.

Bush doesn't care about proving anything. He cares about scaring the living bejeesus out of the American people. Nook-u-lar weapons are scarier then chemical and biological weapons so they are the best choice for concluding a list of terror.

For years I never understood the hullabaloo that was the multiple Clinton scandals. All of that noise, yet very little sense was to be made of it all. That is until I realized that most of the accusations against the Clintons were easy to understand so long as you didn't presume the Clintons were guilty.

Similarly, most of the rhetoric from the Bushies is confusing as hell, but only so long as you presume that they actually have the best interest of the American people at heart. Once you acknowledge the possibility that they would deliberately scare the citizenry in order to get what they want then most of what they do makes perfect sense.

There's lots more good stuff over at Interesting Times, too.


more sotu response

Like I said, I didn't watch it, but others did. Frankly, I'm not going to link the "what an inspiring speech!" posts from the right, but instead cite some arguments of substance.

Nathan Newman calls bull@#$%^&*! on one aspect of Bush's agenda: "a budget that will increase discretionary spending by only 4% next year, about as much as the average family's income is expected to grow."
Aside from the stupidity and heartlessness of cutting spending in a recession, when the need for government help expands precisely because family incomes are dropping, the basic statement is economically illiterate.

IF the population stayed the same year to year, benchmarking government spending to family income might make sense. But if the population is expanding, the demand for services, the number of children in schools, the number of police needed, and so on-- will automatically expand even if income stays the same. And with more people working (okay, well not under Bush, but under any competent President), tax revenue should automatically increase with a greater population.

Just to deliver the same service on a per capita basis, government spending has to increase at the same rate of inflation PLUS growth in the population.

Anything else is a cut in services.

Which is what Bush is proposing in the middle of a recession.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Newman did praise Bush's statements in favor of worldwide AIDS funding (as always with Shrub, it's his actions you have to watch out for). [Oops--spoke too soon! NN looks at the numbers, and says they aren't encouraging. (Bush says one thing and takes vastly different actions? I'm shocked--Shocked!)]

With regard to Bush once again trotting out allegations of Iraq-al Qaeda ties, Newman agrees that "[i]f Bush has proof of this, he's got his invasion," but says it's time for Bush to "put up or shut up."

Meanwhile, Slate's William Saletan noted that Bush didn't exactly talk much about the state of the Union:
The state of the union isn't a process. It's a result. Yet in the few minutes Bush spent on what he had "accomplished," he spoke of processes, not results.

...That isn't a record. It's an agenda. An agenda is the measures you enact: education reform, a Homeland Security department, tax relief, corporate oversight reform. A record is what those measures are supposed to accomplish: lifting public schools, protecting the country, ending the recession, improving corporate integrity. By inserting these hypothetical achievements at the beginning of each sentence about his agenda, Bush made them sound real. They aren't. His education bill remains unfunded. The corporate reforms he signed were watered down. The first Secretary of Homeland Security was sworn in four days ago. And the economy is still a wreck.

What Bush said of Saddam's disarmament record could equally be said of Bush's domestic record. He has given no evidence of progress. He must have much to hide.

(via Mark Kleiman)


delong on the economy

My friend Dodd and I agree (what, again?! What's the world coming to?) that the 2004 election will largely hinge on public perception of the economy. Dodd doesn't see a problem for the GOP, citing this column to support his contention that prosperity is just around the corner. I have my doubts, given the National Bureau of Economic Research's recent declaration that it's too soon to tell what direction the economy is moving, and that what recovery there has been appears to be jobless--that is, employment isn't lagging, but rather isn't likely to increase at all, as business are still burdened by overcapacity in an atmosphere of weak demand.

Economist J. Bradford Delong cites more "jobless recovery" evidence, and has a slightly different take on economic perception:
The question that should be asked is not, "Will the U.S. economy grow in 2003?" The question that should be asked is, "Will the economy grow fast enough in 2003 to reduce the U.S. unemployment rate?" And the answer to this second question looks to me to be "No."

An excellent point, especially considering that what recovery we have seems to be jobless, and that the Administration's "deficits forever" economic policy is sure to raise interest rates and serve as yet another brake on the economy.

DeLong also notes that "nobody thinks that the Bush administration's economic proposals are going to do anything to boost aggregate demand in the short run," paraphrasing columnist Paul Krugman in noting a pattern: "the Bush administration's modus operandi is to propose "solutions" that have nothing to do with the problems they pretend to address, but that do advance other administration priorities that they don't think can gain support on their own" DeLong also cites Krugman's annoyance "as the gap between what the Bush Administration's economic officials tell the public, the Congress, and reporters and what they tell economists, financiers, and business men widens."


jmm on the gop

Joshua Marshall has a brand-new column with the Washington weekly The Hill, and kicks things off by examining whether the GOP has discarded the reliance on certain, ah, less progressive elements that is embraced with its odious Southern Strategy. Marshall finds that the GOP is the party of tolerance...for illiberal beliefs:
Critics on the left often wrongly claim that the Republican Party is some hotbed of crypto-racism, when, in fact, most Republicans are nothing of the sort. Many want to build a racially inclusive party. The problem is that too many Republican officeholders still believe it’s important to keep the GOP a congenial home for all manner of unreconstructed yahoos and even downright racists.

It’s about nothing so wishy-washy as “sensitivity.” They’re just too tolerant of intolerance. The truth hurts. But that’s what it is. Republicans can’t be the party of black opportunity and anti-black resentment no matter how hard they try.


p.l.a. redux

P.L.A. has an excellent, lengthy post about a possible legal outrage that hinges on the decision of the SCOTUS. In this case, it's a legal challenge by a conservative advocacy group against a program that, from Dwight Meredith's description, seems eminently reasonable (full discloure: I am not a lawyer, so I rely on Meredith's interpretation and that of the sources he links to).

Basically, the deal is, lawyers routinely hold money in trust for clients. Back in the '70s, someone hit upon the idea that if all that money--which normally does not earn interest, as the sums are either too small or banked for too short a duration--were pooled, the interest the combined sums earned could be used to fund legal aid services to the poor.

Dwight Meredith fears that the SCOTUS will reverse a summary judgment against the plaintiff and hold that the interest pool is an unlawful "taking" under the Fifth Amendment, despite the fact that, as Meredith points out, the original sum placed in trust is never touched and, were it banked privately, would be unlikely to accumulate any interest at all. This op-ed points out that the plaintiffs seek not reimbursement (which literally amounts to a couple of bucks) but an injunction against the program. [Aside: Given the Fifth Amendment's provision for "just compensation," I wonder if a provision to apply for reimbursement--less banking fees, of course--might not suffice?]

In other words, the only reason there's any interest to "take" is because all the trust money is pooled. The true purpose of the suit, as Meredith sees it, seems to be to destroy the source of funding for indigent legal services.


(via Ted Barlow)


worst president update

The People's Republic of Seabrook comments on the quote by veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas (Bush II: "worst President ever") I mentioned last week. There's commentary going on with regards to my earlier post, and in addition to that, Northstar raises an excellent point with regard to those who would dismiss Thomas's comments as those of just another liberal:
Helen Thomas has been covering the White House since 1961. Over those 42 years, she has seen Presidents come and go, and she's got a pretty good idea of what makes a good one. Sadly, Shrub, at least in her estimation, doesn't brgin to measure up. Far from it, in fact.

Yes, Thomas may be a proud, unabashed liberal, but she has also had a perspective on the quality of leadership in this country that is available to few of us. When the klieg lights go dark, and the microphones go dead, leaders can often be their unvarnished selves. Thomas has glimpsed that side of Presidents for 42 years now. It's not always a pretty picture- particularly these days.

Presidential leadership in this day and age is less about the force of a leader's personality and ideas than it is about polls, focus groups, spin doctors, and advisers. No one personifies that more than Shrub, whose "Compassionate Conservatism" has evolved into pure Reaganomics. Instead of formulating a vision of his own and then trying to sell it to the American public, Shrub has become the playtoy of Big Business and the Religious Right. Perhaps at some point he will find his stride and display his own unique brand of leadership, but then this is the same man who couldn't win the 2000 Presidential election on his own. Low expectations should probably be the order of the day.

I'll also reiterate that Thomas made her comments during a personal conversation, not in the context of one of her news articles. I'd be the last to deny that Bush talks a good game, but I--and, I believe, an increasing number of Americans--are seeing a disconnect between his rhetoric and the reality of his policies.


just a thought

This morning, in the reaction to the SotU speech carried by NPR, one of the Republican Congressmen waxing rhapsodic over Bush's speech said something to the effect of "At last, Bush has had a chance to take his case for war with Iraq straight to the American people."

Baloney. Bush has had two years to sell the policy that he and his advisors almost certainly entered office with. Bush has an opportunity every single day to talk to the press, and chooses not to do so to such an extent that the mere occurrence of a Presidential press conference is a newsworthy event (of course, in doing so, he'd have to take questions...). The President could also request network TV air time whenever he pleases. No, this was an opportunity to sell the the same lame rhetoric he always engages in, and before an audience of mostly supportive Congresscritters who dutifully applaud the

One more thing--I'm sick of hearing unsupported allegations that "evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications and statements by people now in custody, reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda." If there is indeed credible evidence of Iraqi support for al Qaeda, the while inspection/disarmament issue is moot--the resolution passed in the aftermath of 9/11 already authorizes the President to take action (although, of course, the American people and their representatives in Congress are entitled to see and evaluate the evidence) against those involved with, or supporting, al Qaeda.

Make no mistake about it: If the President has evidence that Iraq does indeed support al Qaeda, that's all the causus belli he needs; furthermore, NATO has already agreed to assist in such action. Bush must know this, and yet while his administration repeatedly claims to have evidence, it repeatedly fails to provide it.

Bush says he has evidence. Now let him provide it. Until he does, I'll regard the claim as another lie.

Show me the money.


lucha libre!

el swanko

The WB apparently has a cartoon show about the antics of a group of masked wrestlers. The site also has a cool toy that lets you design your own lucha libre character. Please give it up for: El Swanko!

(via Very Big Blog)


blogger back

I had some difficulties with Blogger this morning, but everything seems to be copacetic now.

Movable Type migration update: The software is unzipped on my hard drive. If memory serves me right, my host, is a bit twitchy with regards to CGI scripting, so I'm working that out. (In fact, a call to their tech support department confirmed that Web sites in their members domain have no CGI access at this time. The tech support rep I spoke to said, however, that they're planning on implementing it in a couple of months. So no MT for the near future, but I can get all the migration groundwork laid down.)

Anyway, on with the show...

  xTuesday, January 28, 2003

sotu thoughts

I won't be watching the State of the Union speech tonight. Actually, my lovely wife and I are attending parenting classes on Tuesday nights, and so we'll miss it.

Daily Kos points out that recent presidents have traditionally included a phrase to the effect that "The state of the union has never been better." Bush himself said something similar last year, but doubt there's much call for such an assessment this year. Kos has several other SOTU-related posts as well.

It's also nice to see prominent Democrats asking the uncomfortable questions Bush would no doubt rather gloss over:
President Bush says a lot of the right things, and he says them well. But a speech doesn’t equal a solution, and a sound bite is no substitute for a strategy.

...I’d like to hear the President explain why we can’t afford $5 billion for homeland security because we need $674 billion for a tax cut. If we’re given the choice between cutting taxes for the wealthy and ensuring our security, Democrats have a four-word answer: fund homeland security first.

...Last year, President Bush told the nation in his State of the Union address that his economic plan could be summarized in a single word: jobs. Unfortunately, his record could be summed up in one phrase: loss of jobs. Since President Bush took office two years ago, a total of 2.3 million private-sector jobs have been lost -- the worst record of job creation for any President since the end of World War II.

...Most importantly, the American people deserve to hear why the President believes that massive new tax breaks for wealthiest Americans are more important than funding urgent needs on job creation, homeland security, education, and health care.

...There’s a name for all this: it’s called a credibility gap. Unfortunately, it’s nothing new in Washington. History is full of politicians whose rhetoric is out of step with reality, who promise something and then fail to deliver. But the Bush Administration offers a credibility gap with a new twist: this is a White House that promises one thing knowing full well it is delivering another.


affirmative action, bush style

I thought I'd go ahead and become the latest blogger to link to this (actual) Time agazine article:
If our President had the slightest sense of irony, he might have paused to ask himself, "Wait a minute. How did I get into Yale?" It wasn't because of any academic achievement: his high school record was ordinary. It wasn't because of his life experience — prosperous family, fancy prep school — which was all too familiar at Yale. It wasn't his SAT scores: 566 verbal and 640 math.

...Bush clearly got in because of affirmative action. Affirmative action for the son and grandson of alumni. Affirmative action for a member of a politically influential family. ...These forms of affirmative action still go on. ...And this kind of affirmative action makes the student body less diverse, not more so.

George W. Bush, in fact, may be the most spectacular affirmative-action success story of all time. Until 1994, when he was 48 years old and got elected Governor of Texas, his life was almost empty of accomplishments. Yet bloodlines and connections had put him into Andover, Yale and Harvard Business School, and even finally provided him with a fortune after years of business disappointments. Intelligence, hard work and the other qualities associated with the concept of merit had almost nothing to do with Bush's life and success up to that point. And yet seven years later he was President of the U.S.

...So ask yourself: Would you rather have a gift of 20 points out of 150 to use at the college of your choice? Or would you rather have the more amorphous advantages President Bush has enjoyed at every stage of his life? If the answer to that isn't obvious to you, even 20 extra points are probably not enough to get you into the University of Michigan.


p.l.a. it again, sam

The always-excellent P.L.A. has a pair of superb posts. One deals with the recent flap in the blogosphere about the citation of a Time magazine story--which proved incorrect--alleging that President Bush renewed a tradition of sending a wreath to the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Many bloggers linked to it; the ones that I did, myself included, retracted that citation upon learning it was incorrect. As Dwight Meredith points out, acknowledging that the one incident should not be used to establish a pattern of Bush currying favor with illiberal elements of the GOP by no means supports the conclusion that no such pattern exists.

There's also a devastating critique of the "affirmative access" program champoined by then-Governor Bush in light of his opposition to the University of Michigan's affirmative action program. As Dwight Meredith points out, the Bush plan for Texas schools--which automatically admits the top 10% of public school students--has a number of flaw, many of which are at least equal to, if not worse than, Bush's complaints about the UM program:

  • The affirmative access provision of Texas law was specifically designed to increase racial and ethnic diversity at the university.

  • It automatically admits students that are less qualified on the basis of grades and test scores than students who are not automatically admitted (indeed, unlike the Michigan plan, SAT scores are not counted at all

  • The program relies on the inherent segregation of the Texas public school system

  • Unlike the Michigam plan, the Texas statute specifically recognizes that some students admitted under the “top 10%” law are unqualified and not ready for college work, and yet once again gives them preference over qualified students

  • It provides a disincentive for parents to remove their children from failing schools

Hm, bad public policy and rhetoric in stark contrast to actions Bush...quelle suprise!


before I forget

It's perfectly clear by now that--while Bush may have relectantly and belatedly agreed to an investigation of the incompetence on his watch that enabled the 9/11 attacks, he has no intention of enabling the panel's success. His actions speak volumes.


schwarzkopf: 'show me the money'

A quick note...Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf--no dove he--told the Washington Post that he doesn't quite buy the rationalizations rationale for Gulf War Part Deux:
The general who commanded U.S. forces in the 1991 Gulf War says he hasn't seen enough evidence to convince him that his old comrades Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and Paul Wolfowitz are correct in moving toward a new war now. ..."[B]efore I can just stand up and say, 'Beyond a shadow of a doubt, we need to invade Iraq,' I guess I would like to have better information." ..."Candidly, I have gotten somewhat nervous at some of the pronouncements Rumsfeld has made," says Schwarzkopf. ..."It's scary, okay?" he says. "Let's face it: There are guys at the Pentagon who have been involved in operational planning for their entire lives, okay? . . . And for this wisdom, acquired during many operations, wars, schools, for that just to be ignored, and in its place have somebody who doesn't have any of that training, is of concern."

Meanwhile, the US has said it will--finally!--release some of the information it keeps claiming it has. If the information helps the weapons inspectors disarm Iraq, well and good (but why the wait?). Of course I acknowledge that this administration might be privy to information it hasn't shared that justifies its inexorable march to war (hands up, anyone who beleives Bush hasn't made up his mind?). But it has no credibility with me that justifies an unprovoked war merely on Bush's say-so. I welcome the announced release, and will certainly scrutinize it, but my instinct tells me that if the Administration really had damning evidence, they'd have found a way to release it by now.


cool web app of the day

Great googly moogly! You Are Where You Live lets you enter your ZIP code and then provides the predominant marketing profiles for that area. These marketing profiles (also known as "clusters" or "segments") are used to determine the flow of all sorts of goods and services; for example, whether cheapo DVDs are available at one's local supermarket--or not. Fascinating and frightening.

(via Riba Rambles)


slow blogging ahead

Due to the present situation, blogging will be slow this week as I wrap up several projects and focus my energies elsewhere. Of course, events don't stop occurring just because I don't comment on them, and I'm piling up a huge stash of links already. I'll post on them as I can, but in the meantime please do visit the fine sites on the blogroll to the left.

  xMonday, January 27, 2003

cool javascript of the day

Check out this groovy Javascript clock!

(via Alas, A Blog)


obscure holiday of the week

Today, January 27th, is Bubble Wrap® Appreciation Day. *Pop*!

(via MeFi)

  xSunday, January 26, 2003

tatu update


I exchanged a couple of cordial and informative emails with Kip Manley, proprietor of Long Story, Short Pier, regarding his citation of the Russian pseudo-lesbian pop duo Tatu, which I mentioned the other day. He made some interesting comments, which he generously gave permission to quote.
[O]bjectification is a fact of life, and for me, it's more important how readers read the whatever-it-is than what the leering svengali might have intended, wink-wink. We will always have junk in pop culture, and it will always be used for good ends as well as bad. ...It's funny: I'm read as pro-Tatu by people who find them appalling, and anti- by people who don't. I guess I succeeded in communicating my ambiguity...

With Tatu--it's a weirdly impressive example of eating your cake and having it, too. Being so open about sexuality as a pose, a stunt, a role you put on and take off, is breathtakingly daring and guaranteed to piss off people left and right; between the objectification and exploitation (on the one hand), and the celebration of the raw (if faked) emotion and the marginalized (if commodified) rebellion on the other, they've got a powerful combination to catch a whole lot of different attentions and hold them. When I first heard about them back last summer, and started to do a little digging, I figured they were going to hit it huge. It looks like they are in the process of doing just that. Which is as good as it is bad.

I downloaded some of Tatu's music from their official site, and I agree with Kip's assessment in his blog post: "Chirpy Europop."


cultural milestone of the day

national geographic swimsuit issue

National Geographic magazine has published a swimsuit issue. Sports Illustrated surrenders.*

(via just-permalinked Long Story, Short Pier)

*with props to FARK


springsteen news of the weekend

bruce springsteen

Bruce Springsteen's breakthrough album "Born to Run" has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Led Zeppelin's "Stairay to Heaven" was also inducted in the ceremony this weekend.


it's over

I didn't watch the Super Bowl at all, but I'd like to congratulate the victorious Tampa Bay Buccaneers on their 48-21 victory over the Oakland Raiders.

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