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  xFriday, March 07, 2003

i just love cecilia


My oldest girl, Cecilia, has picked up a habit from me: She sometimes prefaces statements with, "If memory serves me right..."

God help her, she's becoming a geek just like her old man. And I love her for it.




  x

swank retro link of the day


swank exotica record cover

Glamorlux is a cool site spotlighting many things retro, from movie posters to pulp detective periodicals to vintage paperbacks to groovy album covers to a couple of SFW pinup galleries and more.

swank paperback coverswank pinup




  x

anime gallery of the day


misato katsuragi

A large gallery devoted to the classic anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion, with categories devoted to the various characters, the EVAs, fan art, etc. (Pictured: Misato Katsuragi) Here's another gallery just for laughs.




  x

brother, can you spare a korea policy?


Bush was obviously not very eager last night to dilute his meassage about the "threat" Saddam Hussein's Iraq poses with much discussion about Norht Korea. Josh Marshall believes he knows why:
the message was clear: we have no policy. [Emphasis in the original.] The president wants help from the Chinese, South Koreans, Russians, Japanese, etc. etc. etc. Can anybody help? Does anyone have a policy we can borrow? Does anyone have another question? Next question.

Here's the quote of the day from today's Nelson Report ...

It would be difficult to exaggerate the growing mixture of anger, despair, disgust, and fear actuating the foreign policy community in Washington as the attack on Iraq moves closer, and the North Korea crisis festers with no coherent U.S. policy. We get the phone calls and e-mails from all over this Administration, Capitol Hill, the think tanks, and even fellow scribblers. We've never seen anything like it, and we've been here since 1966.


This is a bad situation, getting worse. And the unavoidable truth is that we don't have a policy and because of that we're letting it hang.

Update: The Agonist dissents: "I think there is a policy with Korea. There is some evidence pointing to it now (here, here and here.) Of course, Bush can't say there is a policy for domestic reasons. Mostly because the policy is a hybrid of Clinton's: appeasement (I mean negotiations) and quid pro quos."




  x

they're at it again...


The Better Rhetor identifies some familiar--but no less outrageous--tactics from the Bush team:
Faced with the reality that the majority of Americans oppose war without U.N. support, that millions of people are marching for peace worldwide, that Turkey cannot be bribed, that the Vatican is calling for peace, and that governments around the world oppose U.S. military action, the Bush people have decided to declare victory and go home.

...Rather than continuing to argue for the merits of their position—an argument they have concluded they cannot win—they now want to shift the terms of the debate. They don’t want to talk anymore, in other words, about whether we should invade Iraq. We are supposed to accept the fiction that this has been already settled, and we are now in the "next phase" of discussing what to do in post-war Iraq. That way they can shift the discussion, aided by our feckless media, away from their losing hand and onto another topic—one that presumes the Bushies won the original debate.

We saw the same strategy during the election debacle in Florida. As the debate was raging in the courts and on the streets, Karl Rove and Karen Hughes went about staging a series of events designed to create the perception that the issue had already been settled and that Bush had already won. And so there was a "transition team" created, leaks about who would be the next secretary of state, photo-ops designed to make Bush look "presidential." (He actually looked like a deer in the headlights, but that’s another issue.)

The strategy is the same here. The Bush people are losing the argument about Iraq. Indeed, it's been a fiasco for the administration. One the one side, you have the Pope, Nelson Mandela, and millions of people in the streets calling for peace. On the other side, you have, well, Richard Perle and an increasingly discredited Colin Powell.

...Bush is losing this debate. Let's not let him walk away from the table pretending that he won.


(via skippy the bush kangaroo)




  x

flash animation craziness


I just posted this at Destroy All Monsters, but it's too cool not to mention here:

Check out Beer-Chan, a kawaii Flash animation courtesy of San-X.

(via SixDifferentWays)




  x

retro gaming link of the day


tdr-5s thunderbolt

For some reason, I've been thinking back to my gaming days. The other day, I was in the basement feeding my cats, and I noticed all my old BattleTech sets on a shelf. I leafed through the first-edition rulebook for old times' sake. And in this Destroy All Monsters comment thread, Musashi and I mention our love for the game (his pen name, in fact, is derived from his B-tech call sign).

For those not familiar with this geeky esoteric topic, BattleTech was a game simulating giant-robot combat in the style of Japanese mecha anime such as Macross. (Indeed, some of the original 'Mechs were so similar to those in Macross and other series that the publisher agreed to drop the art from future versions of the game, although those 'Mechs are still legal to play.)

I really enjoyed BattleTech, and my personal favorite 'Mech quickly became one of the first I ever played: the TDR-5S Thunderbolt. The T-bolt, I found, had an excellently balanced set of stats. It was heavily armored, packed a nice balance of short- and long-range weapons, and had enough "heat sinks" to be able to fire them often ('Mechs that overheat lose efficiency and can, at worst, even explode). Its main drawback was that, like most heavy 'Mechs, it was pretty darn slow, but its long-range missile launcher gave it a decent reach.

tdr-5s thunderbolt

Here's a cool color pic of the Thunderbolt...

tdr-5s thunderbolt

...here's a cool miniature painted in a desert-camo scheme (my T-bolt miniature is olive drab)...

tdr-5s thunderbolt

...and here's a scan of the cardboard Thunderbolt counter from, if memory serves me right, the Battletech Reinforcements set. The T-bolt's game stats can be found here. You can download a Battletech record sheet PDF from this site.

mechwarrior 2

Update: After posting this, playing a couple of rounds of MechWarrior 2 on the PlayStation seemed like only the natural thing to do...I was pleased that the ol' 'Mech piloting skillz aren't too rusty. (My secret strategy for that game: shoot at the legs.) I also combined this formerly two-post entry into one.

mechwarrior

Update 2: Since I was thinking about BattleTech, the next logical step was to dig out my copy of the classic computer game MechWarrior, which has now been more or less relegated to abandonware status. Fortunately, I have an old Pentium 90 computer on which I keep a bunch of old DOS games, so I was able to take it for a spin. (Alas, although MechWarrior lets you take the controls of a bunch of classic BattleTech 'mechs, the T-bolt isn't one of them...)




  x

newman on estrada


Nathan Newman takes note of the GOP's, ah, evolving standards when it comes to rubber-stamping approving Republican judicial nominees:
[T]he GOP didn't want to allow discussion of character in the case of Clarence Thomas, and they don't want discussion of legal philosophy in the case of Estrada. So basically, they don't want discussion of any Republican nominees' credentials at all.

Which is why they aren't getting a vote either.





  x

support the troops


It should go without saying--alas, it doesn't, but it should--that opposing Bush's ambition to make war on Iraq by no means reflects on America's fine servicemen and-women. Supporting the troops is by no means the eclusive claim of those who support the war.

Here's a great opportunity to prove it. Security restrictions have restricted the earlier practice of sending care packages addressed to "any service member," but for a US$25 donation, the USO will do it for you.

Regardless of one's position on the war, it should go without saying that Americans support their troops in the field. One may disagree with politicians and policies, but our soldiers are responsible for neither. I urge anyone who can afford it to shell out the 25 clams and send a little reminder of home to our troops in the field--especially as I fear they may be facing greater risks and a longer commitment that our Administration is willing to discuss.

(via Ipse Dixit)




  x

let's hear a (tentative) w00t!


Unconfirmed at this hour, but spectacular news if true: U.S. cannot confirm report bin Laden's sons arrested (CNN)
Sanaullah Zehri, Pakistan's home minister in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, told CNN an exchange of fire across the border in Afghanistan resulted in casualties and some arrests, but he did not know if any of those held were relatives of bin Laden.

Earlier, The Associated Press and Reuters news services quoted Zehri as saying that two men, believed to be bin Laden's sons, were arrested in the Rabat area, where the borders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran meet.


Capturing or killing Osama bin Laden happens to be one goal I wholeheartedly share with the Bush Administration, and if this development proves true, it's a major step forward, and a testament to the fact that in the antiterrorism game, nothing succeeds like success.

(via Ipse Dixit)




  x

ouch!


Interesting Times comments on the recurring theme of Bush's incompetence and dishonesty (which, however often the former is used to excuse the latter, are by no means mutually exclusive).
This administration is both incompetent and corrupt (being corrupt involves more than just committing crimes). Which is why it will easily rank as one of the worst in U.S. history. But, when you add in the ideological sense of "we're right and you're wrong and we will screw the pooch if it is necessary in order to prove it", then you reach a level of awfulness that no administration, to my knowledge, has ever reached.

Mind you, he's including such luminaries Warren G. Harding in this list. Ouch!




  x

will i get to be mr. black this time?


Here's a quote from a story I just posted over at Destroy All Monsters:

UK publisher SCi Games has announced plans to develop a video game based on Quentin Tarantino's directorial debut Reservoir Dogs. The game will appear on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox platforms.

A company press release said, "The game design will remain faithful to the original movie with gamers able to play all the key characters, including the infamous Mr Blonde. There will be the opportunity to take on the role of key policemen, plus take part in large multi-player games. As well as significant amount of combat action involved in the heist itself, which is described in the movie as a 'bullet festival,' the game will also include a number of highly charged driving escape sequences."

c00L!




  x

test your malpractice knowlege


P.L.A. also has a swell medical malpractice tort reform quiz! It's easy and fun! Go ahead and test your knowledge...the answers may surprise you.




  x

stop the presses!


P.L.A. reports that Ari Fleischer (inadvertently, no doubt) actually said something true the other day! The topic: North Korea. P.L.A. quotes Flescher saying, "North Korea would like nothing more than to make this a crisis, because the more they can make this a crisis, the more they think they will get things in return."

Dwight Meredith's response: "Well, duh!
Like the stopped clock or blind pig, Fleischer is exactly correct. North Korea wants to make the current situation a crisis. Kim Jung Il believes that if he can generate a crisis, he can achieve direct bilateral negotiations with the United States. North Korea may be interested in using those bilateral negotiations to secure its sovereignty, obtain a non-aggression pact and/or secure economic aid in return for its halting its nuclear weapons program.

...North Korea has taken a number of provocative steps to generate a crisis in which to negotiate. ...At each step, the administration has declared that no crisis exists.

Would it not be smarter to acknowledge that a crisis exists and begin negotiations to solve the crisis before North Korea sells a nuclear weapon to Al Qaeda? If Kim Jung Il wants us to acknowledge that a crisis exists before negotiations begin (as Ari Fleischer suggests), it makes more sense to do so before irreparable harm occurs.

After all, calling the situation a crisis does not change the nature of the situation.

I might add, Bush's refusal to acknowledge the situation as a crisis doesn't mean it isn't.




  x

calpundit takes on college sports


Don't miss this CalPundit post spotlighting some realities no one seems to want to acknowledge when discussing collegiate athletics.
As things stand, major collegiate sports are simply free farm teams for the pros. Universities like it because it generates revenues and keeps the alumni happy, and professional sports teams like it because it saves them the trouble of running minor league teams. The only ones who get screwed are the athletes themselves, most of whom never become pros, never get a diploma, and never get a dollar out of the whole thing.

The more you think about how these kids are treated, the harder it is not to feel faintly disgusted.





  x

press conference roundup


I attended the board meeting for my daughter's preschool last night, and thus missed Bush's eigth formal press conference (AP account here; WaPo stories here and here; transcript here). Bush doesn't like press conferences, preferring other formats, like speeches, in which his assertions are less likely to be challenged he can better control his message. However, a quick dip into the blog pool reveals several reactions, not all favorable.

uggabugga has a lengthy post on the subject, rebutting Bush's claims in handy table format.

CalPundit provides "live" commentary here: "Pathetic. The only toss-up is whose performance was worse, Bush or the press."

Even Andrew Sullivan was less than impressed: "The spin is that he was trying to look calm and reassuring. I just thought he looked wiped. There were moments when he almost seemed catatonic with fatigue. ...All in all, though, this press conference struck me as a mistake. He looked drained, wan, exhausted from this interminable diplomatic process. He seemed defeated to me."

Here's WaPo critic Tom Shales: "[T]he occasion found Bush declaring this to be "an important moment" for America and the world, yet he spoke with little urgency and no perceptible passion....by his tone and his demeanor, he certainly didn't inspire a great burst of hopeful confidence."

For my part, I don't deny that there are valid arguments in favor of confronting Iraq, but every time Bush dishonestly links Iraq and 9/11, every time he says not invading is "doing nothing," he excuses anyone from taking his arguments seriously.

It's quite simple: if this were truly the right thing to do, he wouldn't have to lie about it. And even if it's the right thing to do, Bush's ongoing mendacity completely rules out supporting his war plans.




  x

music link of the day


Props to Devra for reminding me "just how good the Gin Blossoms [official site] were."

I must admit, I haven't given their first CD a spin in a while. I'll have to dig it out.




  x

unemployment up in february


AP: Unemployment Rate Rises to 5.8 Percent
WASHINGTON - The nation's unemployment rate increased to 5.8 percent in February and companies across the economy slashed 308,000 jobs -- the steepest one-month slide since hiring hit a slump in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

With the country now on the verge of war with Iraq, the overall civilian jobless rate climbed a tenth of a percentage point from the 5.7 percent figure recorded in January, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Economists had predicted the modest rise, but they did not expect the hemorrhaging of jobs that wiped out large hiring gains the month before. Analysts actually had forecast job gains of 20,000.

Instead, employers last month shed the most jobs since November 2001, when they purged 327,000 from their payrolls following the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Here's the Washington Post's edition of the same story.

If unemployment is a "lagging indicator" of a recovery, it's clearly lagging in the wrong direction. I'm fortunate not to be included in this distressing statistic, but it hardly bodes well for the ability of consumer spending to keep propping up this economy.

Update: Wampum Blog reports that the picture would be even worse except for some "fuzzy math" courtesy of the Bushies.




  x

oddity of the day


A 36-year-old Australian man is to undergo extensive facial reconstruction surgery after a freak kangaroo accident. The kangaroo was struck by a car and ricocheted into the bicycle the man was riding in the opposite lane, destroying the cycle and catapulting the man face-first onto the street. The kangaroo was killed on impact. No injuries were sustained by the occupants of the car.

(via FARK)




  xThursday, March 06, 2003

estrada vote fails


This just in from the AP: Bush Dealt Setback on Judicial Nominee
WASHINGTON - Democrats dealt a severe setback to President Bush (news - web sites)'s nomination of a Hispanic lawyer to a major federal appeals court Thursday as Republicans failed to break a blockade in the Senate. It was the GOP's first major defeat since winning control of Congress last November. [That's a little misleading, as it leaves out the long holiday recess.]


Bush called the vote a "disgrace," and Senate Republicans promised to force additional votes. [And he's welcome to: The clock is running on his time.]

"I will stand by Miguel Estrada's side until he is sworn in as a judge." Bush said in a statement. "I call on the Senate Democratic leadership to stop playing politics, and permit a vote on Miguel Estrada's nomination. Let each senator vote as he or she thinks best, but give the man a vote." [But the Senators just did vote--let's go to the videotape:

The 55-44 vote after four weeks of ethnic-tinged debate was five votes short of the 60 needed to end what had evolved into a Democratic filibuster against Estrada.


Here's the WaPo's account.

(via Daily Kos)




  x

the return of raving lunacy


It's back from the grave and ready to bust up your party! Kip Manley has the scoop on the CLEAN-UP Act (do our legisators really have nothing better to do than to make up silly acronyms, like some third-rate marketing firm*?) a provision tucked insite disturbingly similar to the much-ridiculed RAVE Act shot down last year:
Turn with me to Section 305, which would add Section 416A to the Controlled Substances Act:

Whoever, for a commercial purpose, knowingly promotes any rave, dance, music, or other entertainment event, that takes place under circumstances where the promoter knows or reasonably ought to know that a controlled substance will be used or distributed in violation of Federal law or the law of the place where the event is held, shall be fined under title 18, United States Code, or imprisoned for not more than 9 years, or both.


We don’t even need for a crime to have been committed. Or even alleged. If you promote an entertainment event where you reasonably ought to know that drugs could be used or distributed, you’re busted.

Kip links to a handy fax form you can use to notify your Congresscritter what you think of this idiocy. You know what to do!

*My apologies to any marketers offended by comparison to Congress.

(via Alas, A Blog)




  x

jpop gallery of the day


megumi hayashibara

Several galleries devoted to popular Japanese seiyuu (voice actress) Megumi Hayashibara, who's the voice of Rei Ayanami in the Neon Genesis Evangelion series, and has lent her vocal talents to such well-known anime productions as Cowboy Bebop, Pokémon, Love Hina and Ranma 1/2. As I noted today at Destroy All Monsters, she's also a registered nurse (her parents wanted her to have a career in case the seiyuu thing didn't work out).




  x

review at dam


Destroy All Monsters has posted my review of Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth. I'm rather proud of this one...well, even more than usual.




  x

robot finger has the touch


Scientists have developed a robotic finger that can sense touch. The device can detect the weight of an object it picks up and adjust its power use accordingly, the way humans use a light touch to pick up delicate objects. The robot's developers used a "smart polymer" that conducts electricity differently under varying pressure conditions.

In other touch news, the Nature site also reports the result of a study that indicates that soft touches, like carresses, stmulate a section of the brain connected with love and emotion, suggesting why people find them so pleasant.

(via BoingBoing)




  x

anime wallpaper site of the week


evangelion wallpaper

Several galleries of desktop wallpapers inspired by the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion at AnimeWallpapers.com.




  xWednesday, March 05, 2003

iraq update


Body and Soul links to this article suggesting that Bush's advisors, confronted with the Adminstration's profound failure to sway the UNSC ("You will lose, Mr. President," Powell told Bush. "You will lose badly and the United States will be humiliated on the world stage."), may be looking for an exit strategy, and this WaPo op-ed in which William Raspberry quotes Washington lobbyist Nick Ashmore making some of the same points I've been making:
"It seems to me that somebody should be pointing out that we have Iraq pretty much right where we want them -- under constant observation. Under those circumstances, Saddam won't move against us or move to aid Osama bin Laden or anything else that constitutes a clear and present danger to us. And if he does, not even the French could argue against massive retaliation."

On the other hand, Ashmore says, a war launched in the name of preventing terrorism could have the effect of increasing it.

...Ashmore thinks it is as important to understand the likely consequences of the war as to grasp the justification for war in the first place. If we could make that dilemma our focus, he suggests, we might even help our president find a way out -- or else unify the rest of the world behind him.





  x

new animatrix short available


W00t! The second Animatrix short--anime-themed online films that explore the history of the world depicted in the hit film The Matrix--is now available for download!

(via Destroy All Monsters)




  x

iraq roundup


Not much time to comment, but I did want to note these developments:

France, Russia Vow No Iraq War Approval

and

U.S. Plans Heavy Bombing Campaign in Iraq


...which seems to support earlier reports of the so-called "Shock and Awe" bombardment. I have serious reservations about htis strategy, especially if undertaken as part of an invasion that lacks UNSC sanction. However accurate the ordnance or well-intentioned the targeting by the US military, it seems self-evident that a massive airstrike on Baghdad has the potential to inflict heavy civilian casualties.

Almost every day, I look at my precious daughters and imagine that somewhere in Baghdad, there's some poor schmuck who has a couple of kids he loves as much as I do mine, and that somewhere there's an American bomb with their name on it. I can't even imagine what losing my house and my girls to a bomb would do to me. Now, it's one thing if the US is forced to defend itself--tragic, regrettable, but necessary. But I see absolutely no reason whatever to believe that Bush has considered any path other than invasion even for a moment. I deeply resent the fact that Bush's policies are going to make this nation a murderer of children, when alternatives exist. Robust--even expanded--inspections are one possible example, or even limited airstrikes against any target the Iraqis refuse to allow inspectors access to. And the beauty of those alternatives is that neither precludes a more large-scale attack at a later time, should one prove necessary.

We must confront, contain, and deter Iraq--indeed, however imperfectly, the world has been doing so. I refuse to condone the sacrifice of Iraqi children on the altar of Bush's war fever, given that there's little evidence that leaving them alone poses much of a threat to our own children (and indeed, it's quite likely that attacking Iraq will spawn terrorism and nuclear proliferation, not deter it).

Update: From Reuters: Blix: Iraq Actively Cooperating in Past Month, and today's howler, Powell: Saddam Trying to Divide U.N. Uh, Colin, it's pronounced "Bush."




  x

snack food tribute of the day


Today is the 150th anniversary of the potato chip. Yum!

(via FARK)




  xTuesday, March 04, 2003

news at dam


I've posted a couple of news items over at Destroy All Monsters, including a note that DreamWorks is releasing the original Japanese version of The Ring on DVD the same day as its American remake (today, in fact).

Now that DAM's news posts are Blogger-powered, I've been reconsidering whether I'll mention them here. Previously, I could consider Musashi posting things I sent him a sort of editorial imprimatur, even though he's been extremely generous about using almost everything I send him. Since he's extended that generosity to granting me access to the DAM Blogger feed, though, I think I may just reserve mention for full-length reviews and articles, or the occasional noteworthy post.




  x

google: latest h4x0rz tool?


Wired News: Google: Net Hacker Tool du Jour
"Google, properly leveraged, has more intrusion potential than any hacking tool," said hacker Adrian Lamo, who recently sounded the alarm.

The hacks are made possible by Web-enabled databases. Because database-management tools use canned templates to present data on the Web, typing specific phrases into Internet search tools often leads a user directly to those templated pages. For example, typing the phrase "Select a database to view" -- a common phrase in the FileMaker Pro database interface -- into Google recently yielded about 200 links, almost all of which lead to FileMaker databases accessible online.

In a few cases, the databases contained sensitive information. One held the addresses, phone numbers and detailed biographies of several hundred teachers affiliated with Apple Computer. It also included each teacher's user name and password. The database was not protected by any form of security.

...A Google spokesman said the company was aware of the situation, and that it provides tools that let webmasters remove inadvertently published information from Google's index within about 24 hours. Tools that allow for even speedier removal are in the works.

As Keanu Reeves said in The Matrix, "Whoa!"




  x

'liberal media' watch


The So-Called Liberal Media strikes again! This time, it's a two-fer from CNN:

Pledge ban set for March 10 in nine states

(As Pandagon comments: "Can we get something straight? The Pledge of Allegiance is not banned. The words "under God" in the Pledge [added, I might chime in, during the 1950s] are banned. You can still say this in schools:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one Nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The meaning with regards to America is not changed AT ALL. All it does is stop referring to America as a theocracy. Which, as far as I can tell, shouldn't be that objectionable even to conservative strict constructionists.")

And:

Jury selection begins for anti-abortion activist's trial

(As TBOGG points out, "Larry Kramer is an activist, Eve Ensler is an activist, Morris Dees is an activist, and Ellen Malcolm is an activist. James Charles Kopp is an accused murderer. You would think CNN would know that.")

Update: How about this from worldgonewrong: "Using the Nexus news database, one can learn a lot about news coverage of the 2000 election. ...There were exactly 704 stories in the campaign about Gore "inventing the Internet," but only 13 stories about Bush failing to show up for his National Guard duty for a year...There were 347 about Al Gore switching from basic blue to earth tones, but only 10 about the fact that Dick Cheney did business with Iran and Iraq and Libya? I would like the press to explain why it was a good thing for it to take sides in a presidential election, and whether the next one will be any fairer."




  x

no comment


Newsweek: Saudis: No ‘Particular Concern’
[T]he Bush administration has decided to reject the recommendation of a special government commission to place Saudi Arabia on an American blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom.

...Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected to shortly release an annual list of “countries of particular concern”—a formal branding of nations the U.S. government concludes engage in “systemic, ongoing and egregious” violations of the rights of religious minorities. After a contentious internal battle, the Saudis won’t be on it—despite the conclusion by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom that, with the demise of the Taliban, the Islamic nation is probably the worst oppressor of religious rights in the world. “I’m appalled and disappointed,” says Felice D. Gaer, the commission chair, about the decision. “But I’m not surprised.”

Well, okay, one comment: In Bush's recent speech to the American Enterprise Institute, Bush predicted that "The passing of Saddam Hussein's regime will deprive terrorist networks of a wealthy patron that pays for terrorist training and offers rewards to families of suicide bombers. And other regimes will be given a clear warning that support for terror will not be tolerated." Now, "pays for terrorist training and offers rewards to families of suicide bombers" sounds to me like a pretty good description of the Saudis, which is probably why the reference to "other regimes" was tossed in. But why not send that message to "other regimes" (*cough*Saudi Arabia*cough*) right now, directly, instead of offering it up as yet another rationalization for Bush's march to war?

(via Electrolite)




  x

boingboinged


Here are a couple of wonderful things from BoingBoing:

The world's first corneal transplant recipient reports the donated corneas, now 130 years old, are doing fine

An interview with R. U. Sirius, one of the founders of the cyberpunk magazine Mondo 2000 .




  x

laissez les bon temps roulet!


mardi gras

Happy Mardi Gras!




  x

anime primer of the day


This sidebar to a Honolulu Advertiser story on the growing popularity of manga (Japanese comic books, which are popular among readers of all ages and both genders in the Land of the Rising Sun) has a pretty good couple of definitions for those new to the anime/manga scene:
What is manga? Manga is the Japanese word for a comic book. Most manga are published weekly, with serial storylines. To Western eyes, manga illustrations can take some getting used to. The genre is characterized by visual ironies and playful contradictions between art and text. Often, the grotesque and the cartoonish co-exist. External chaos is reflected in steely, stoic eyes. Internal tension explodes outwardly with motion lines, flying sweat and mouths misshapen by rage, joy or confusion. The manga format has been traced back as far as the year 900, to Buddhist scrolls depicting life after death. Sizes and formats vary from pocket-sized novels and weekly, magazine sized publications to massive anthologies thick as telephone books. Manga books cost $3 to $20, or more.

What is anime? Anime is an umbrella term for Japanese animation, though people from Japan will typically refer to any animation as anime. Like manga, the genre encompasses many themes and styles.


...Anime programming has enjoyed sporadic popularity in the United States, from Astro-Boy in the 1960s to the Transformers in the 1980s. But it's hit mainstream in a big way over the past few years with offerings as diverse as Pokemon, Cowboy Bebop and Gundam Wing.

The article also notes that in Japan, manga is a $4 billion business that accounts for about 40 percent of all printed material.

(via Destroy All Monsters)




  x

japan prepares for astro-birthday


astro boy

The Daily Yomiuri noted that Japanese train stations will soon be playing a different tune: the theme song to the landmark anime series Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy). The musical tribute is part of nationwide preparations to commemorate the animated robot boy's April 7 birthday.
The idea is just one of many thought up by a local organization promoting the shopping district in western Takadanobaba to celebrate the robot boy's upcoming birth date of April 7, 2003. According to the story of Astro Boy, created by the late manga artist and animator Osamu Tezuka, the robot was constructed in a fictional science ministry in Takadanobaba.

...The organization has done a lot of work in the past promoting the worlds and characters created by Tezuka. They have set up lampposts with a space motif along a road running by the station and have hung metal plates from them portraying some of Tezuka's characters. More noticeably, in 1998, the organization turned a dark, dirty wall beneath the elevated train tracks next to the station into a sprawling mural featuring many of Tezuka's creations.


(via Destroy All Monsters; image courtesy AstroBoy's Homepage)




  x

blogging in the news


Check out this Reuters article on Weblogs: Blog Publishers Stealing Web Limelight
"One of the things that got clobbered in the money-hungry Internet boom of late 1990s was the role of the individual," said John Lawlor, an independent marketing consultant and devoted blogger at http://www.blogs4business.com.

"Blogs are a friction-free way to communicate" that restores power to individuals with something to say, Lawlor said.

Blogs are simple Web-page publishing tools that hundreds of thousands of Internet users regularly use to write annotated guides to the best of the woolly world of the Web.

They do so with a freshness and passion that has drawn the attention of major Internet media companies, as highlighted by last week's purchase by Web search powerhouse Google of Pyra Labs, the tiny band of San Francisco programmers behind Blogger, the most popular software tool for creating Web logs.

...The phenomenon is changing the basic metaphors for how the Web works. Bloggers don't so much surf as clip excerpts from the Internet, then share these choice tidbits with friends, colleagues, and passers-by from other blogs. ...Dave Winer, a pioneering Silicon Valley-based software programmer who is widely credited with spearheading the self-publishing movement, sees blogging following a well-worn path into the mainstream.

"At first the geeks go for a new information technology. It is required for that to happen. Then you have the lawyers and the librarians. Following very closely after that comes education and business," he said.

Interestingly, the story notes toward the end how AOL totally missed the boat:
A spokeswoman for AOL, the largest Internet services company, says they won't be far behind. "We do have blogs under development. It's something that members will see later this year," she told Reuters.






  xMonday, March 03, 2003

letter rip


The Better Rhetor points to a resignation letter recently handed in by career US diplomat John Brady Kiesling:
It is inevitable that during twenty years with the State Department I would become more sophisticated and cynical about the narrow and selfish bureaucratic motives that sometimes shaped our policies. Human nature is what it is, and I was rewarded and promoted for understanding human nature. But until this Administration it had been possible to believe that by upholding the policies of my president I was also upholding the interests of the American people and the world. I believe it no longer.

The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America’s most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security.

...Loyalty should be reciprocal. Why does our President condone the swaggering and contemptuous approach to our friends and allies this Administration is fostering, including among its most senior officials.

When our friends are afraid of us rather than for us, it is time to worry. And now they are afraid. Who will tell them convincingly that the United States is as it was, a beacon of liberty, security, and justice for the planet?

At a time when this government desperately needs people of principle, the loss of men like Mr. Kiesling is yet another uncounted cost of Bush's obsession with Iraq.




  x

arresting developments


Ted Barlow points out why the recent arrest senior al Qaeda figure Khalid Sheik Mohammed does indeed have a bearing on Bush's obsession with Iraq:
To me, the lesson of this is that there is simply no such thing as a unilateral war on terrorism. This capture would not have happened if Pakistan had not been enthusiastically prosecuting a war on terror. Similarly, the conviction of the 9/11 plotter in Germany, and so on. Most of the bad guys are in other countries. Their continued good will will save a lot of lives. If for no other reason, this is why diplomacy is important. As we lose the good will of our allies, triumphs like this become less likely.

Incidentally, if Pakistan falls to an anti-American government, we're in a world of [bleep!] (Sorry, Ted...)


And Interesting Times speculates on whether Mohammed was separated at birth. Really, the resemblance is uncanny...

Update: Patio Pundit thinks it's a shame that Ron Jeremy is being compared to an al Qaeda scumbag. Good point, really...

(Great googly moogly! I didn't know the IMDb listed pr0n films among an actor's credits. My man Ron has appeared in an astonishing 753 films of all sorts, including an uncredited role in Jesus Christ Superstar.)




  x

that is not dead which can with bcc lie

yet with the coming of strange respondents even spam may die


This is priceless! Someone sent some phony responses to a Nigerian spammer in the style of H.P. Lovecraft! From the spammer's response:
I must commend your discovery. It goes to show that there are still a lot of hidden mysteries in the existence of mankind. After the completion of this deal I will like to be a part of your team both financially and materially, to uncover the truth about this CTHULHA. I know this will be very interesting and educative. And a lot of travelling to different countries will be involved and this is the best form of education.


(via Electrolite)




  x

i can't wait


The Washington Post:
President Bush has postponed his reelection campaign until after a war with Iraq, but White House and Republican Party strategists have begun planning for a contest in which they envision raising as much as $250 million to wage a battle designed to break the political stalemate of the 1990s and make the GOP the country's majority party.

Notice how this article implies that Bush seems to be counting on a post-war bounce in popularity. Hmmm.

I for one say, bring it on! Although much could change in two years, Bush's approval numbers have been sliding, and his re-elect numbers are currently encouragingly soft. It's also worth keeping mind that Bush lost the popular vote in 2000, and this time he won't be able to run as an unknown quantity, getting by on his smirk personality. The questions for the electorate are going to be the same as always: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" Even if the economy begins turning around right now--a process that depends largely on consumer spending, and far from a sure bet--the answer for many is going to be "no." It remains to be seen how this phenomenon will translate into votes, of course. And no doubt, a number of partisan Republicans are going to vote for Bush no matter what. But a sizable number of swing voters may well wonder exactly why George Deficit Bush deserves another term in office.




  x

must-read post of the day


Don't miss Jim Henley's remarkable analysis of Ken Pollack's presumption that Saddam can't be deterred.

It does an injustice to this fine article to pull out a mere quote or two, but Henley makes points remarkably similar to some I've voiced in the past, and they bear repeating here:
[T]his is what Pollack does over and over again in his article: adduce, as evidence that Saddam can not be deterred, instances where Saddam was deterred. [Emphasis in the original]

and
It ain't deterrence if there's no reward for being deterred.


Absent credible evidence that, after more than a decade of containment and deterrence, these policies have suddenly lost their effect with Saddam, the burden is on the hawks--as I've consistently maintain--to demonstrate that Iraq poses a sufficient threat to warrant an invasion. No "alternate plan" is really necessary (although, I promise, I'm still considering a post discussing my ideas).

But really, all of this is moot. By my willingness to discuss notions like "deterrence" or "disarmament," Bush has played me for a chump. Worse, he's played for chumps his defenders who gamely supported whatever the Administration's rationale-of-the-moment was. Worse yet, he's played the UN, which actually seems to take seriously the notion of disarming Iraq, for chumps. It's increasingly clear that deterrence has never been seriously considered as a policy toward Iraq, and that regardless of the way the Bush Administration phrases its rationale for invading Iraq, Bush is indeed set on one course and one course only: Deposing the leader--however vile--of a sovereign nation by means of an unprovoked invasion.

Update: Tom Spencer spells out three criteria that would for a convincing argument supporting an attack on Iraq, and argues that this Administration has failed to meet even one. Spencer's first point is something else that's been bothering me that I haven't devoted much time ot discussing:
First, you have to convince me that the war will be worth the awful cost in lives of Iraqi civilians -- ultimately probably in the tens of thousands. That's quite a price to remove Hussein.

No doubt many Iraqis would prefer to see Saddam gone. But Saddam's removal won't benefit the dead. Deciding on behalf of Iraq's citizens that they're better off dead than ruled by Saddam is quite a show of arrogance.




  x

in brief


Here are a couple of developments I want to mention, even if I don't have time to fully blog about them:

Bush blames the Republican Congress for funding shortfalls in programs to guard against terrorism, with commentary by CalPundit , Cooped Up ("I continue to be amazed by the extent to which the administration continually departs from the principles on which candidate Bush ran.") and P.L.A. ("Mr. Bush knows how to talk about responsibility. It is accepting responsibility that he finds difficult.").

The NSA appareantly bugged UN Security Council members considering the US resolution on Iraq (choice quote: "The memo is directed at senior NSA officials and advises them that the agency is 'mounting a surge' aimed at gleaning information not only on how delegations on the Security Council will vote on any second resolution on Iraq, but also 'policies', 'negotiating positions', 'alliances' and 'dependencies' - the 'whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favourable to US goals or to head off surprises'." [emphasis added]), with commentary and more links at Body and Soul ("Are you as sick of this garbage as I am?"), Daily Kos (which quips, "Who says the Bush administration doesn't listen to the UN?"), (Update!) and Nathan Newman.

More to come...




  x

william gibson on 'beat' takeshi


I recently mentioned one of my favorite Bad Movies, Johnny Mnemonic, which featured cult Japanese actor 'Beat" Takeshi Kitano in a prominent role as a villanous but honorable businessman. Here's a Time Asia article on the stoic Japanese actor by none other than famed cyberpunk author (and Johnny Menemonic screenwriter) William Gibson.
Where, I now wonder, did I find this character, this hard, immaculate man with his hidden inner wound? I had not, at that time, seen any yakuza films, although I was aware of the genre by some species of pop-culture osmosis. And I had sensed that the roots of that genre would somehow be tangled in a rich mulch of American westerns and gangster films. I was somehow aware of the character as a re-importation. As a friend likes to say, there's often something in a good translation that can't quite be captured in the original. But where did my tough and tragic yakuza boss come from?

He came, somehow, from the films of Takeshi Kitano, which I had not yet seen. He arrived as the crystalline, free-floating essence of an idea or stance. He owed everything to "Beat" Takeshi, a Japanese pop figure of such unstintingly multitalented eclecticism that the West has no equivalent, nobody even close. ("They only want you to be the one thing," Mick Jagger once told me, speaking of his own acting career.) Writer, producer, director, actor, television personality, comedian—but I knew nothing of that as I wrote. Nor could I know that Takeshi, whose gravitas would one day tug at the film with the pull of a black hole, was said to be both a very great actor and the most famous man in Japan. Both of which, now I know, were and are true.

Toughness has been rather out of fashion as a masculine virtue, but Takeshi simultaneously radiates it and suggests its wounded core. There can, in fact, be no depiction of genuine toughness (not brutality but a sort of excess of substance, of soul-stuff) without this concomitant indication of that wound, else the piece become simply the [pr0nography] of fascism.

Takeshi is simultaneously tougher and more wounded than you or I will ever be. Given the ever deeper and more precise reach of the spectral hand of marketing, I suspect that he's tougher and more wounded than any Hollywood star is ever likely to be allowed to be.


(via Destroy All Monsters)




  x

disney plans miyazaki trifecta


w00t! Byzantium's Shores conveys the excellent news that Disney plans to release no fewer than three Miyazaki anime movies on April 15: Castle In the Sky, Kiki's Delivery Service (a favorite of my daughters and myself), and the magnificent Spirited Away.




  x

milestone of the day


Just a few moments ago, the hit counter passed 18,000. Thanks for visiting!




  x

rogers recap


I noticed something while roving around my blogroll these last couple of days: the passing of children's TV legend Fred Rogers was noted and mourned on a number of the left-leaning sites, and didn't seem to register much with right-leaning bloggers (notable exception: The Last Page). Here's a recap of the Rogers appreciations I've noticed on lefty sites (several of whom link to other eulogies):

Blue Streak
Body and Soul
Byzantium's Shores
Cooped Up
Counterspin Central
Destroy All Blogs
Oliver Willis
skippy the bush kangaroo
Ted Barlow
The Better Rhetor
The People's Republic of Seabrook
The Talking Dog
Very Big Blog
War Liberal
My own

Now, my blogroll is obviously tilted to the left and hardly represents the full range of right-wing opinion, so admittedly my sample is far from scientific. And certainly, Roger's death was not noted on every left-wing blog. Nonetheless, I think the phenomenon I perceive of Roger's passing being mourned--or at least acknowledged--predominantly by the Left is significant. I'm proud to adhere to a political philosophy that celebrates Rogers' life and values. If anyone is can point me to a citation of this sad event on other right-leaning blogs (or if I somehow overlooked one from my blogroll), I'd appreciate it if you let me know either in the comment thread or via email.

I don't consider it among the "politically left" sites I've mentioned, but I do want to point out that Friday's edition of MegaTokyo contained a nice rememberance by writer/artist Fred "Piro" Gallagher.

Update: The comment system appears to be boinked, so while I can see someone left a comment, I can't access it. If that kind soul would please repeat what he or she said, I'd appreciate it.

Comments are back, and my friend Dodd points out some right-leaning sites that observed Mr. Rogers' passing. Thanks for the info, Dodd!




  x

webcomic link of the day


Publisher's Weekly recently ran an article about the success of the Web comic MegaTokyo's print edition (the first print run sold out; a second printing is in the works, and writer/artist Fred "Piro" Gallaher is working on the next volume even now.) Congratulations to Piro and the MegaTokyo crew!




  x

sw33t


In today's high-tech, Web-driven society we tend to take technology for granted, but the incredible access to information the Internet allows still amazes me. I'm listening to Saturday's U of L-East Carolina game (which the 11th-ranked Cards won 82-76) courtesy of Yahoo Sports' Cardinals page. That site--which is, of course, one among many--recaps the past several games, provided Cardinal-related headlines, displays conference standings, and links to other hoops news. It even lets me add game times to a customized calendar so I can remember to tune in via Internet radio for free (the broadcasts carry commercials, but that's cool).

Ten years ago, really, all of this was possible, but it's become so much more convenient. For example, I could have videotaped a game (assuming it was broadcast, and I made the proper arrangments), but I could only watch the game on TV if I had the cassette handy. Now I can listen in at my convenience from just about any computer with an Internet connection. Similarly, all the stats and news were available on paper a decade ago, but the fact that the information is accessible with a simple click--as opposed to rooting through archives at the library, say--greatly encourages access to that information. And while the Cards' presence in the top 20 (w00t!) pretty much ensures coverage in the local paper, the Web lets me follow the home team even though I don't live in Louisville any more.

Amazing, really.




  xSunday, March 02, 2003

w00t!


Destroy All Monsters has launched its extensive redesign--a day ahead of schedule, yet! Check it out!

...and in the process, he posted my review of the Gunsmith Cats DVD. There are aslo several fresh, Blogger-powered news posts by yours truly (as Mazinga).




  x

...and many more!


lou reed

Happy 61st (!) birthday, Lou Reed!




  x

it's official update


I haven't said much about the Iraqi Al Samoud 2 missile controversy, largely because it's seemed to be just a repetition of the same old song and dance: no matter what the Iraqis say or do, the Administration cites it as another justification for attack. But this development reveals the US government as utterly indifferent to whatever steps the Iraqis take to disarm, belies the claim that Saddam can prevent the war, and depicts Bush as totally focused on attacking regardless of circumstances: Iraq has actually begun the destruction of the missiles, destroying several of them with a bulldozer. And once again, the White House reads from the "deception and lies" script. "President Bush has always predicted that Iraq would destroy Al Samoud 2 missiles as part of their games of deception," a spokesperson said. That kind of doublespeak truly bends the mind, as it reveals the Administration's bent on conquest no matter what Iraq does. How mangling the missiles--which I'm sure Saddam must have been loath to part with--with a bulldozed constitutes a "deception" is utterly beyond me. Do they plan to tow them to a body shop? Was it all a hologram? What's the deal here?

I wonder, would it hurt to acknowledge that Iraq is actually taking steps to disarm? Actually, yes, it would; the vexing problem for the Administration is that, while Iraq is probably not cooperating 100% fully, it is taking steps, and that doesn't fit into the Administration's script. Would it hurt to welcome the devlopment as an example of what Saddam must do to disarm? Actually, yes, it would, because, tellingly, White House spokesperson Ari Fleisher has moved the goalposts: He was cited in the Indianapolis Star story as declaring that that to avoid a war, Iraq needed not only to disarm, but also to change its leadership.

There you have it, folks: It isn't about disarmament. It has never been about disarmament. It's about--always has been about--regime change. The Bush Administration is intent on launching an unprovoked war to depose the government of a sovereign nation--however loathsome that regime may be--while utterly failing to demonstrate that nation either poses an imminent threat or has a solid connection to al Qaeda.

(Spare me the "this guy got medical treatment" or "that cell operates in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq" claims--for starters, as I've said, if this case really held water, Bush has all the causus belli he needs, with no UN or even Congressional resolution necessary. The mere fact that he hasn't pressed it the hardest amongst his galaxy of pretexts suggests there's no there there. And even if these vague insinuations were true, the standard they set, if applied universally, would force the US to attack not only a number of Muslim countries but much of Europe as well. Indeed, the double standard they reveal once again simply tarnishes the US's international credibility and reveals the Bush Administration's desire to sieze any pretext to justify its pretrermined policy.)

Update: The original citation of Fleischer's quote in the local paper suffered from link rot already, but I found another in the Chicago Tribune, which also has this key follow-up:
Fleischer said that to escape military action, Iraq must "completely and totally" disarm and Hussein and his top leaders must agree to "go into exile."

That combination of events, he said, looked highly unlikely.

Pressed on the point, Fleischer said that both would be necessary conditions because disarmament was the UN's goal and changing Iraq's government was the president's. [Emphasis added]

The Adminsitration seems to be publicly backing off this position since the weekend, but that basically leaves the question of deciding which position more accurately reflects the Administration's intentions.




  x

w00t!


In a welcome blow against the al Qaeda terrorist netword that, unlike Iraq, was actually responsible for the 9/11 attacks, US and Pakistani agents have nabbed senior al Qaeda figure Khalid Sheik Mohammed in Pakistan, who is said to have orchestrated that attack and others, including the bombing of the USS Cole and the kidnapping and murder of journalist Daniel Pearl among others.

Khalid Sheik Mohammed is believed to have detailed knowledge of al Qaeda operations and apparently is undergoing interrogation in US custody at an undisclosed location outside Pakistan. A computer and written records were also siezed in the raid. His capture could lead to the identification and disruption of al Qaeda operations in the United States and elsewhere.

Here's CNN's coverage, and the story in the local paper.

I've been critical of the War on Terror, especially as I believe--as I still do--that attention focused on Iraq would serve our security interests better by nailing bin Laden, bringing democracy to Afghanistan and destroying Taliban and al Qaeda elements along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border once and for all. However, I certainly want to give credit where it's due, and this development is undeniably a major step forward, especially as it's speculated that Mohammend may have information as to bin Laden's fate or whereabouts. I applaud the US and Pakistani intelligence and defense forces that made this arrest possible, and congratulate the Bush Administration on a significant victory in the War on Terror.






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