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  xFriday, March 28, 2003

offline for the weekend

My family and I are visiting my home town of Louisville this weekend, so posting will likely be light to nonexistent. We're looking forward to spending time with our family and friends, many of whom we haven't seen in months.


yes, they did promise us a cakewalk

One thing abundantly clear from the first week or so of the war is that the Administration's assumption that Saddam's regime would collapse when assaulted by light forces and overwhelming air power has not panned out. While few doubt the war's ultimate outcome, it's clear that the war's going to be a lot more difficult than the sales pictches would have had us believe. The failure of that gamble is certain to have serious consequences for an uncountable number of people--quite simply, the longer the war goes on, the more people are going to die.

Just for the record, Salon (premium content, click thru ads to read) provides a handy list of hawks who predicted that the Gulf War II would be--some in so many words--a cakewalk. This illustrious list includes not only civilian advisers like Richard Perle, but also Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Knowing all along that the public would not support a long, difficult war with mounting casualties, the Administration barely acknowledged the possibility--before the shooting started--that anything other than a swift and decisive victory was possible. That matters because now we're commited, and our forces are likely to be faced with an unpalatable choice: continue to put themselves at risk to avoid civilian casualties, or accept the deaths and the outcry they're bound to spur. That choice may be inevitable under the circumstances, but let's not ever forget who placed our forces in that position.

(via the watch)


simian post of the day

On April Fool's Day, Cartoon Network plans a full day of primate-oriented programming.
April Fools' Day Monkey Marathon

Tuesday, April 1, 8 a.m.-11 p.m. (e/p)

Any monkey can run a TV network, right? This April Fools' Day, tune in and see for yourself as Cartoon Network's new president picks cartoons for a 15-hour marathon starting at 8 a.m. (e/p). No foolin'!



a spirited essay

I usually pimp my own writing over at Destroy All Monsters, but I also want to mention a great article by editor-in-chief Musashi examining the landmark success of the anime movie Spirited Away and what it bodes for the future of anime in the U.S.
[W]ith this victory, Japanese animation has been thrust into the limelight like never before. Indeed, shortly after the Oscar win, Disney announced that Spirited Away would return to American cinemas for a limited run, no doubt to capitalize on the film's success. But is Spirited Away ushering in a wave of appreciation in America for Japanese animation, or is it merely riding the crest of a wave built by years of smaller successes?

Anyone who's been paying attention will know that anime has been enjoying success in the United States for some time. At least four decades of American children have enjoyed Japanese animation; in the 60's it was Gigantor and Astro Boy. The 70's brought Speed Racer and Battle of the Planets (aka Gatchaman). The 80's made Robotech and Voltron household words. And finally, the 90's (and now the early 21st century) have made Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh the bane of parents all across the country.

Last Sunday's Oscar win means more than mere popularity, however. It is only in the last few years that animation as a whole has attained a degree of legitimacy among the film industry, as can be seen by the relatively new Academy Award category for Animated films, which is only in its second year. This acclaim is somewhat problematic, however. One look at the films nominated in the 'Best Animated Film' category will reveal the film industry's tried-and-true bias towards 'kid-friendly' animated fare.

...While I would like to hail the success of Spirited Away as a watershed in anime history (and make no mistake, it is a significant achievement), I believe that anime has a long way to go before it achieves the same kind of mainstream acceptance in the U.S. as it enjoys at home, and to be honest, it probably never will reach that plateau.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Musashi makes the legitimate point that anime still faces the challenge of animation's perception as "kid stuff." While Japan produces anime aimed at a variety of demographics, much of the product offered to American audiences seems aimed squarely at kids (check out the list above). It's refreshing to see cable channels like Cartoon Network offer more divers programming like the wonderful Cowboy Bebop, but by and large anime in the U.S. is still aimed at children.

Still, my own appreciation for anime dates back to my exposure to Speed Racer and Battle of the Planets when I was young. (Indeed, as those two are hardly shining examples of the excellence the genre is capable of, I was surprised and delighted when exposed to superb anime like Kimagure Orange Road, Vampire Princess Miyu and Bubblegum Crisis, and their quality only made me hunger for more.) Exposure to adolescent anime action may only reinforce the notion that cartoons are for kids, but hopefully some children will have their horizons expanded enough to demand more of the diverse types of stories anime offers.


hunter thompson post of the day

South Knox Bubba links to this ESPN article by Hunter S. Thompson, who, like me, grew up in Louisville.


judicious condemnation

CalPundit and Cooped Up point to a superbly written article on recent arguments before the Supreme Court with regard to a Texas sodomy law. Some of my favorite passages:
"It's conceded by the state of Texas that married couples can't be regulated in their private sexual decisions," says [plaintiff's attorney] Smith. To which Scalia rejoins, "They may have conceded it, but I haven't."

...Smith argues that there are neutral justifications for bigamy laws—but none for homosexual sodomy laws. And Rehnquist, in an odd little celebration of the narrow-minded and the judgmental, offers, "Almost all laws are based on disapproval of some people or some conduct. That's why people regulate."

In response to a question from Justice Anthony Kennedy as to whether Bowers is still good law, [district attorney] Rosenthal replies that mores have changed and that "physical homosexual intimacy is now more acceptable." Since he suddenly seems to be arguing the wrong side of the case, an astonished Scalia steps in to say, "You think there is public approval of homosexuality?"

Rosenthal catches his pass, then runs the wrong way down the field: "There is approval of homosexuality. But not of homosexual activity." Scalia wonders how there can be such widespread "approval" if Congress still refuses to add homosexuals to classes of citizens protected by the civil rights laws. "You're saying there's no disapproval of homosexual acts. But you can't ... say that," he sputters.

The writer summarizes this astonishing premise, and the surreal exchange that follows, thus:
So--to sum up--any homosexuals out there who have renounced the actual having-of-sex, and are just gay for the privilege of being stigmatized: Know that you are not only loved in Texas, you may well be its next governor.

CalPundit Kevin Drum comments, "[T]here's nothing -- nothing -- in the Democratic party that comes close to matching swill like this that regularly comes out of the Republican party. Until the Republican leadership repudiates insane bigotry like this, they shouldn't even be accepted in polite society, let alone be allowed to run the country."


lipstick lesbian post of the day

ayumi hamasaki and ayumi hamasaki

The other day, I linked to a photo gallery of jpop diva Ayumi Hamasaki (and, while I'm at it, here's another, and a profile).

Today at Destroy All Monsters, I noted a Mainichi Daily News story describing tradition-minded Japan's increasing acceptance of a certain presentation of sapphic imagery (with an emphasis on femininity and traditional beauty, of course). The story noted that Hamasaki's latest album--apparently a compendium of ballads--features images of the singer Photoshopped to appear as if she's embracing herself romantically. The story comments, "Even a few years ago, the composite photo that makes it appear as though Japan's current queen of pop Ayumi Hamasaki is kissing herself would have been a career-ending move -- now it's helping guarantee another hit."

ayumi hamasaki and ayumi hamasaki

In a comment appended to my last post on Russian pseudo-lesbian pop duo Tatu (which the MDN story mentions in passing), my friend Dodd wondered why I didn't talk more about the duo's music. (Short answer: in a much earlier post, I agreed with an assessment of them as "chirpy Europop," and I don't get paid enough to listen to them more.) However, I have a small amount of Ayumi Hamasaki music among my jpop collection, and I can say that she's pretty typical of the genre--a pleasant voice, generally upbeat, danceable songs, a few ballads, a fairly heavy reliance on synths (Japanese musical influences seem to have stopped in the 1980s).


spirited away returns to theaters

w00t! I just learned (via a listserv run by Anime News Service) that the Oscar-winning anime Spirited Away is enjoying another theatrical release here in the US, including an engagement here in Indianapolis beginning today! In fact, it's appearing at a big multiplex this time, instead of the (rather pleasant, actually) little art-house theater where it appeared last time.

Ironically, we'll be traveling to Louisville this evening for a long-overdue visit, and in Kentucky, Spirited Away is only playing in Lexington.

Update: Nope, I checked, and it's playing in Louisville's art-house theater too. Hmmm...


turkey update

This morning's Washington Post has a recap of the Turkey situation (Missteps With Turkey Prove Costly/Diplomatic Debacle Denied U.S. a Strong Northern Thrust in Iraq); its analysis is a lot closer to Josh Marshall ("incompetence") to Michael Ledeen ("Those darn French!"). Interestingly, the article specifically contradicts Ledeen's contention that the parliamentary rejection came as a surprise to either the Turkish or American governments.
One week into the war, the administration's inability to win Turkey's approval has emerged as an important turning point in the U.S. confrontation with Iraq that senior U.S. officials now acknowledge may ultimately prolong the length of the conflict. It is a story of clumsy diplomacy and mutual misunderstanding, U.S. and Turkish officials said. It also illustrates how the administration undercut its own efforts to broaden international support for war by allowing its war plan to dictate the pace of its diplomacy, diplomats and other experts in U.S.-Turkish relations said.

Turkey's rejection was especially surprising to administration officials because Turkey has loyally backed U.S. military actions since the Korean War a half-century ago. In retrospect, U.S. officials say, they made unrealistic demands on the new government of Turkey, which was installed only in November, insisting on a vote on whether it would accept as many as 90,000 U.S. troops even as President Bush was still publicly claiming he had made no decision to attack Iraq. U.S. officials repeatedly set deadlines for action, but then took no action when the deadlines passed, costing the administration credibility and inflating Turkey's sense of importance.

There's much more; read the whole thing. But the point bears repeating: Bush's undeniable failure to secure Turkish cooperation for a northern front--and its inability at the 11th hour to compensate by bolstering the southern troop force (don't forget, the 4thID sat in their ships for days in hopes the Turks would change their minds) and unwillingness to change their timetable for war to allow for the reinforcement is arguably having a direct and detrimental effect on the war's progress. In other words, as many war skeptics predicted, Bush's diplomatic incompetence lends little reason for confidence in his Administration's initial predictions for a quick war.


jpop image of the day

rika escalator

I was working the search engines doing research for an upcoming post, and stumbled across this photo. I don't know who the model is, but it's pretty cool anyway.

  xThursday, March 27, 2003

second least surprising revelation of the day

Time: 9-11 Commission Funding Woes; Questions arise concerning the administration's funding of the congressional investigation into the September 11th attacks
Sources tell TIME that the White House brushed off a request quietly made last week by the 9-11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean, the Republican former governor of New Jersey, to boost his budget by $11 million. Kean had sought the funding as part of the $75 billion supplemental spending bill that the president just requested to pay for war with Iraq. Bush's recent move has miffed some members of the 9-11 panel.

...The request has been endorsed by the entire bipartisan commission at a recent meeting. In denying the request, the White House irritated many of the members of the commission. "This is very counterproductive if the White House's intention is to prevent the commission from being politicized, because it will look like they have something to hide," said a Republican member of the commission.

...The latest effort to curtail funding has angered victims of the attacks. Stephen Push, a leader of the 9/11 victims' families, who are closely monitoring the commission, said the White House decision was another in a long line of efforts to water down or shrink the panel's role. "I think the fact that they didn't include it—didn't warn Gov. Kean that they weren't going to include it, didn't return my phone call—suggests to me that they see this as a convenient way for allowing the commission to fail," said Push. "They've never wanted the commission and I feel the White House has always been looking for a way to kill it without having their finger on the murder weapon." Push said the White House has ignored his phone calls and emails for weeks.

It's looking more and more like Bush is trying to hide something here. I've never bought into conspiracy theories that he "allowed" 9/11 to happen out of some Machiavellian scheme; no, Occam's Razor suggests good old-fashioned incompetence. It always struikes me as ironic every time Bush says something to the effect that he won't let another 9/11 happen, that no one calls him on the fact that he failed to prevent it the first time.

(via Oliver Willis)


new to the blogroll

Please welcome To The Point and Flit.


least surprising revelation of the day

At a press conference, Gen. Tommy Franks added a great deal of weight to the the increasingly obvious conclusion that the decision to attack Iraq is hardly a recent development:
And the fact of the matter is that for a period of about a year, a great deal of intense planning and a great deal of what-iffing by all of us has gone into this so that we prepare ourselves and prepare our subordinates in a way that we minimize the number of surprises.

As I've said before, the Bush Administration has played for chumps myself and anyone who's debated inspections, UN resolutions and the like. Bush directed the Pentagon to begin preparations on Sept. 17, 2001, according to the Washington Post. Maybe that's why they're still dishonetly conflating Saddam and 9/11--even today:
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Thursday urged quick congressional approval of President Bush's request for $74.7 billion to cover the emerging costs of war with Iraq (news - web sites) and other anti-terrorism efforts.

Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Rumsfeld said this "great deal of money" was needed to assure the removal of Saddam Hussein and protect the nation from another terrorist attack

"Whatever it ends up costing, it will be small compared to the cost in lives and treasure of another attack like we experienced on Sept. 11," he said. [Emphasis added]

There is not one tiny shred of evidence that Saddam poses anything resembling such a threat. The addiction of this Administration to this egregious, however widely accepted, lie undermines even more plausible rationales for the war. Regardless of rationale, length or cost, Bush has his war, and I agree that it now needs to be seen through to the bitter end. However, it's clear that the deaths of Iraqis and allies alike represent nothing but bloody sacrifices on an altar of lies.

(via a comment thread at Daily Kos)


slow blogging ahead

I have a meeting today and several projects on my to-do list, so blogging will likely be slow until this afternoon at least.


daniel patrick moynihan, r.i.p.

Planet Swank would like to pause to note the passing of former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who died Wednesday at 74. Our condolences go out to the former Seantor's family and friends.

  xWednesday, March 26, 2003

talking turkey

CalPundit points to this Josh Marshall column in The Hill that outlines not only the Administration's stunning incompetence in dealing with Turkey but the disturbing ferocity of his supporters im blaming the Turks, not Bush, for a diplomatic screw-up of truly mammoth proportion. Josh sums up Bush's conduct with a pretty apt analogy:
The Bush administration acted toward Turkey like the stereotypical rogue from a 1950s B-Movie. First we told Turkey what we wanted. When she balked, we got a little rough. When even that didn’t do the trick, we pulled out our wallet, saying in essence, “Fine, how much do you want?” When even cash failed, we told her to get out of the car and walk home.

Kevin Drum adds, "That's the price of democracy, W. You actually have to persuade people instead of simply bullying them, and that's a lesson you seem loathe to learn."


pnac primer of the day

This Atlanta Journal-Constitution column provides a pretty good summary of the goals outlined by the Project for the New American Century, which it describes as "a group of conservative interventionists outraged by the thought that the United States might be forfeiting its chance at a global empire." Bret points to a copy of the report this article cites.

(via SixDifferentWays)


flash game of the day

Mini Hockey...air hockey played with British Mini cars. Awesome!

(via SixDifferentWays)


jpop gallery of the day

ayumi hamasaki

A photo gallery dedicated to jpop singer Ayumi Hamasaki (official site). Here's a Time Asia profile of Ms. Hamasaki complete with photo gallery, and a fan gallery of various jpop idols, including Ayumi Hamasaki.


new at dam

I've been shamefully lax in writing for Destroy All Monsters the past week, but today there's a brief interview with Chinese-Canadian novelist Terry Woo, as well as my usual sporadic news posts.



Mark Kleiman asks a couple of questions wondering if the disposition of US forces was based on over-optimistic projections of the Iraqi response; blogger Phil Carter at Intel Dump earns a spot on the blogroll for his response (in sum: it's clear some assumptions have turned out not to be correct, but that doesn't really matter, as our forces are trained to adapt to the situation and are doing so). Carter's analysis paints an encouraging picture of the situation--for example, I agree with his assessment that a reported Republican Guard counterattack may represent more of an opportunity for American forces--but he does present this sobering reminder:
Stalin was undoubtedly a more evil tyrant than Saddam Hussein, but the Soviet people fought for him anyway. Why? Largely because World War II was a war of national survival for the Russian people. This kind of war mobilizes people to fight in a way like no other. America believed after Pearl Harbor that it was fighting WWII as such a war, and thus no cost was too high. We did not feel the same way in Vietnam; our enemies did. Israel's performance in the Golan Heights in 1973 provides another instructive example of how armies fight in wars of national survival when their back is against the wall. Soldiers and civilians fight hard when they believe in their hearts and minds that their nation, their family, and their way of life is at risk. Whatever atrocities Saddam has inflicted, he has managed to convince his people that they are fighting a war of national survival. With the American Army at Baghdad's doorstep, it's not hard to see why the Iraqis believe they are fighting for their survival.

Update: Daily Kos agrees that the Iraqi forces are making a mistake.



I'd read an eloquent letter to the editor in the Washington Post the other day, by one George Kennan:
I am extremely concerned about the shameful, almost total passivity of Congress during the period of preparations for our military attack on Iraq. (I recognize as exceptions Sen. Robert C. Byrd's noble statement in the Senate and the belated but vigorous statements of Sen. Thomas A. Daschle.)

Congress's inaction is a dangerous precedent in executive-legislative relations. In light of this precedent, future presidents will be tempted to seize virtually dictatorial powers under the title of commander in chief, and nothing in our history rules out the possibility of their yielding to that temptation. This seems to be the meaning of the recent crisis.


Princeton, N.J.

...well, I must have forgotten some of my Political Science classes, because Keiran Healey points out why I should have recognized the name:
Kennan is, amongst other things, one of the twentieth century’s most important diplomats. He formulated the idea of “containment” which defined U.S. policy towards the U.S.S.R during the Cold War. I believe he is almost a hundred years old.

Here's an biographical sketch from a 1996 CNN interview:
George F. Kennan was the chief architect of the policy of containment and one of the most influential figures of the Cold War. Trained as a diplomat, Kennan began his career in Moscow in 1933. He served there off and on for the next three decades. In Moscow in 1946, he drafted his famous "Long Telegram," a document that sounded the alarm over Soviet expansionism and became a prescient warning about the coming Cold War.


historical irony of the day

A number of bloggers have noted the Administration's evident ire over the Iraqi use of nonconventional tactics, and compared it to the British being terribly vexed that it wasn't quite cricket for Colonial forces to attack from cover instead of marching out into the fields to be slaughtered by their professional armies like gentlemen.

I can't say I like the notion of the US playing the role of the British in this scenario, especially since it highlights the fact that Saddam or no Saddam, it appears that many Iraqis are more inclined to defend their homeland than the hawks promised.


milestone of the day

Earlier today, the hit counter passed 21,000. Thanks for visiting!


least surprising development of the day

Haliburton wins no-bid contract.

(via Eschaton)


bandwidth agony

The Agonist has been blogging the war almost non-stop, and as a result the site's bandwidth has been creaking under the strain of so many hits. I've added a set of mirror sites to the blogroll; please use one of these three links when seeing what Sean-Paul has posted lately.


uranium forgery update

Sy Hersh has a lengthy analysis in the New Yorker about the forged Nigerian uranium papers ("Who Lied to Whom?"). In an echo of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq labeling American tips about possible WMD sites "garbage," one IAEA expressed shock over the fact that the CIA appeared to have been taken in by such an inept forgery:
One senior I.A.E.A. official went further. He told me, “These documents are so bad that I cannot imagine that they came from a serious intelligence agency. It depresses me, given the low quality of the documents, that it was not stopped. At the level it reached, I would have expected more checking.”

...and that's about the kindest comment in the story. Go read.

(via a comment thread at Daily Kos)


not good

The fallout from Bush's reckless policy of "preventative war" has begun...

CNN: China readies for future U.S. fight
The Iraqi war has convinced the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership that some form of confrontation with the U.S. could come earlier than expected.

Beijing has also begun to fine-tune its domestic and security policies to counter the perceived threat of U.S. "neo-imperialism."

It only gets better:
As more emphasis is being put on boosting national strength and cohesiveness, a big blow could be dealt to both economic and political reform.

...Chinese strategists think particularly if the U.S. can score a relatively quick victory over Baghdad, it will soon turn to Asia -- and begin efforts to "tame" China.

It is understood [China's Leading Group on National Security] believes the U.S. will take on North Korea -- still deemed a "lips-and-teeth" ally of China's -- as early as this summer.

These developments have prompted China to change its long-standing geopolitical strategy, which still held true as late as the 16th CCP Congress last November.

Until late last year, Beijing believed a confrontation with the U.S. could be delayed -- and China could through hewing to the late Deng Xiaoping's "keep a low profile" theory afford to concentrate almost exclusively on economic development.

"Now, many cadres and think-tank members think Beijing should adopt a more pro-active if not aggressive policy to thwart U.S. aggression," said a Chinese source close to the diplomatic establishment.

I would suggest that these developments are not in the U.S.'s long-term security interests.



Local blogger Jeff Cooper points to an article in today's Indianapolis Star about an Afghanistan-born proprietor of a Middle Eastern restaurant who was apparently assaulted by two men, doused with gasoline, and set afire. Abdullah Naderi, 37, survived the attack with severe burns over 60% of his body. Officials said it was possible that Mr. Naderi's ethnic background may have motivated the crime, but didn't rule out other possibilites.

Even if Mr. Naderi was the victim of a hate crime, it's important to remember at times like these that shameful incidents of this sort are isolated occurrences of twisted individuals. Frankly, I couldn't care less what motivated these creeps; there's simply no excuse for such a sadistic crime. Planet Swank expresses its wishes for Mr. Naderi's speedy recovery and hopes that the cretins who commited this crime are swiftly apprehended and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Investigators ask anyone with information on the fire to call 1-317-231-8477 or 1-317-780-1700, Ext. 19.


frist revives thimerosal provision

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is apparently following up on his pledge to revisit legislation exempting pharmaceutical companies for liability from a mercury-based preservative suspected of causing autims in some children; see Wampum for details.

Update: Digby has some speculation on Frist's motivation.


more blogs in the news

Congratulations to annatopia for the notice in USA Today! Meanwhile, here's a recent Howard Kurtz article on warblogging from the Washington Post.


it's the economy...

There's an interesting article in the WaPo suggesting that the war isn't going to make many Americans' concerns about the economy go away:
Frank Miller drives a truck for a living, moving cargo from the port, paid by the trip. Work is slow and getting slower. "I think I'm your typical American," Miller said. "All we talk about is the war. But all I think about is my paycheck."

As the country prepared for war last week, something else was bothering many Americans as much if not more: the economy. The stock market is jumpy. Consumer confidence, which drives spending, is flaccid. Jobs are harder to find. People who are laid off are more likely to stay that way longer. States are raising taxes and fees. The long-awaited recovery seems to keep receding into the future, delayed to next month or next quarter or next year.

Now, the article makes clear that the public doesn't hold Bush solely responsible for the economy, but it's certainly fair to suggest that voters are prepared to evaluate Bush's economic policies on their perception of their own benefit. Bush is indeed certain to spend the post-war, pre-election months "talking about the economy non-stop," but I think people aren't so much interested as to whether they perceive Bush as caring about the economy--which, of course, however sincere it may be (pause for derisive snort), is also inextricably bound to his chances for re-election--as his efficacy in reviving the sluggish economy.



My good friend--and former college roommate--Ken Hardin paid me the honor of posting some comments to a couple of my previous posts. I've responded to them here and here. Thanks, Ken; please visit again soon.


now just a darn minute

Obviously, I haven't been blogging much about the day-to-day conduct of the war. I certainly had no intention of pouncing on every little setback--they're bound to occur in wartime--as evidence that the war is "failing." I have little doubt that the US will prevail militarily. But this morning's WaPo, George Will's column goes a long way toward explaining my persistent skepticism.
[B]ecause this is a war of choice -- a wise choice, but a choice -- those who were eager for the choice to be made had an incentive to minimize expectations of inevitable unpleasantness.

...The president has put the country on a necessary but problematic path favored by conservatives. Now conservatives should explain why conservatism, with its wariness about uncontrollable contingencies and unintended consequences, suggests that the coming triumphs will be more difficult and less complete than we wish.

This war has, as I've said repeatedly, been sold from day one with a series of shifting rationales, dubious assertions and, ah, misinformation that swiftly convinced many who were predisposed to agree with Bush but left a number of skeptics--and much of the world--with profound doubts. But nearly as consistent as the assertions that Iraq posed some sort of threat was the implication--however contradictory--that the military action would inexorably adhere to the best-case scenarios. Hardly surprising--Bush has been inordinately releuctant to discuss the possible costs, even and especially financial, of his obsession, although once the shooting started--and more importantly, Congressional support of his tax cut seemed assured--he was able to come up with an estimate quickly enough.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Our military is the finest in the world, and I'm enourmously proud of our fighting men and women. But it's increasingly clear that the best-case scenario is not unfolding. Belated assertions by the Administration that the war may be long, difficult and costly yet again spotlight the Administration's mendacity in selling the war. (That mendacity continues in placating citizens' concerns about unilateral action by exaggerating coalition support.) Worse, by constantly insisting on the best-case scenario, the Administration and its supporters has given Saddam a potent political weapon and placed our military in a difficult position.

Another risk is that, while public support for the war remains high even in the face of recent casualties, a considerable segment of the American public has long qualified its essential support of Bush's war plan; the Administration's spin on coalition numbers is evidence it recognizes that fact. Another reservation the public expressed was concerns about American, and Iraqi civilian, casualties. The Administration's dismissal of these concerns while selling its war plans risks support for the war that is broad but not deep.

Of course the outcome of the war, as the Administration keeps insisting, is never in doubt. But that certain outcome can come at a high price, and not just in American and Iraqi lives. Will is quite right to point out that conservatives should by nature make clear that war is always an uncertain and costly effort. What a pity that they're only belatedly embracing that principle when it becomes necessary to explain a war that isn't quite going according to plan.

  xTuesday, March 25, 2003

poem of the day

Dulce Et Decorum Est
by Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned out backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!--An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori

("It is sweet and dignified to die for the Fatherland.")

(via the just-permalinked Blog of the Moderate Left)


sera-fuku post of the day

japanese sch00lgirl

A rare SFW site depicting Japanese school uniforms. Some are photos of actual schoolgirls in summer and winter uniforms (with their respective schools identified); other galleries depict models in sailor suit and athletic uniforms scanned from various Japanese magazines (yes, there are Japanese magazines devoted to pictures of girls in--and out of--school uniforms). See this summary at the site and this Destroy All Monsters article for the skinny on Japanese sailor-suit school uniforms.

(via Destroy All Monsters forums)


slow blogging ahead

I have several things to clear off my plate this morning, so blogging will be slow until after lunch.

  xMonday, March 24, 2003


Regarding the following post, Mark Kleiman points out a WaPo story in a similar vein that I'd missed, along with a Slate article offering an interpretation of the CIA statements, and asks the following questions:
How much does it weaken our operational capacity in dealing with al-Qaeda if intelligence analysts aren't free to speak the truth about what we know, and don't know?

How much does it weaken the cacacity of our government to persuade Americans and others to support its actions if the President makes public statements based on documents known to be of dubious provenance?

Weren't the actual reasons for going to war with Iraq strong enough, without inventing reasons?

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

I've asked the same questions myself, of course, but in a different way: If the case for invading Iraq is so compelling, why did the Administration contantly toss out so many flimsy justifications and dubious evidence?

Seriously, one of the things that's annoyed and distressed me all along about this Adminstration's tendency to spin any circumstance, argument or development into just another reason to launch a war on Iraq is that the multiplicity of arguments a) tends to weaken the others and 2)* tends to confuse even those who might otherwise have agreed. If the Administration had spent the past year making clear that its intent was the liberation of the Iraqi people--with no moonshine about al Qaeda, aluminum tubes or duct-taped model airplanes--it'd probably not only enjoy more domestic and international support, but also likely have secured UN authorization to boot.

Indeed, I've long argued that the Administration's various security justifications--Saddam is a threat, he's six months away from having the Bomb, might give WMDs to al Qaeda, yadda yadda yadda--never did stand up to scrutiny. And recent developments suggest that if anything, invading Iraq motivates other nations to get their own nuclear weapons as a deterrent to us invading them (think North Korea).

But if Bush had focused his obsession to invade as a constant call to free the Iraqi people, complete with a credible blueprint for a free Iraq, he could well have brought many more people on board, both domestically and internationally, and avoided the suspicion so much of the world holds right now of American hegemony.

In other words, the French (or whomever) might well be comfortable with vetoing a resolution authorizing force to disarm Iraq of WMDs, but might well be cajoled into supporting--or at least not opposing--a resolve to liberate the people of Iraq, if that were the clear, consistent statement of American intent. But the Administration's rationale-of-the-week approach left it in the position where nations like France or Russia could choose which justification to oppose, knowing that whatever it's talking about the Bush Administration really just intends to invade. The Bush Administration's approach has indeed weakened the US internationally, and at a time when we can ill afford it.

*props to Mad About You.



The NYT has a follow-up to a disturbing story we've heard before: C.I.A. Aides Feel Pressure in Preparing Iraqi Reports
The recent disclosure that reports claiming Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger were based partly on forged documents has renewed complaints among analysts at the C.I.A. about the way intelligence related to Iraq has been handled, several intelligence officials said.

Analysts at the agency said they had felt pressured to make their intelligence reports on Iraq conform to Bush administration policies.

For months, a few C.I.A. analysts have privately expressed concerns to colleagues and Congressional officials that they have faced pressure in writing intelligence reports to emphasize links between Saddam Hussein's government and Al Qaeda.

As the White House contended that links between Mr. Hussein and Al Qaeda justified military action against Iraq, these analysts complained that reports on Iraq have attracted unusually intense scrutiny from senior policy makers within the Bush administration.

"A lot of analysts have been upset about the way the Iraq-Al Qaeda case has been handled," said one intelligence official familiar with the debate.

That debate was renewed after the disclosure two weeks ago by Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, that the claim that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger was based partly on forged documents. The claim had been cited publicly by President Bush.

"The forgery heightened people's feelings that they were being embarrassed by the way Iraqi intelligence has been handled," said one government official who has talked with C.I.A. analysts about the issue.

The forged documents were not created by the C.I.A. or any other United States government agency, and C.I.A. officials were always suspicious of the documents, American intelligence officials said.

But the information still ended up being used in public by Mr. Bush. Intelligence officials said there was other information, which was deemed to be credible, that raised concerns about a possible uranium connection between Niger and Iraq.

(via Nathan Newman, who comments: "[T]o sell his "big lie", Bush is corrupting and politicizing intelligence just when honest intelligence is needed most to save our lives.")


poem of the day

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

(via Tacitus)


oh dear lord

Unless you have a strong stomach, don't look at this.

My heart breaks over this. As should go without saying, I also grieve for our own casualties and those of allied forces. They have families and loved one too, and I can't imagine their anguish, but they're professional soldiers all, and volunteers. The child in that picture is someone's daughter too. I pray she survives her wounds. I pray that our mission to fight terrorism disarm Iraq get rid of Saddam liberate the people of Iraq achieves a swift victory so the region can enjoy all those magnificent benefits of conquest the neocon hawks have been promising us. Perhaps then this girl's suffering may be justified.

One of my reservations about Bush all along has been my perception that he's intended to make war against Iraq all along. For my own part, I've discussed some of the basis of my philosophy about war, but what little I've seen of the US media's cheerleading coverage (the TVs at work that normally broadcast a company bulletin board are now tuned to CNN) makes me think of another formative element: The Star Trek eposode A Taste of Armageddon. In that episode, the crew of the Enterprise encounters two planets that have been fighting a 500-year-long computer-controlled war. Kirk, in his inimitable fashion, blows up the computers and forces the two planets to confront the real thing, with all its attendant horror and destruction. That's the point, Kirk says: War is supposed to be terrible, so you don't engage in it. And it's interesting to note that Starfleet's solution to the dilemma was--diplomatic negotiation.

(via Testify!)


who does clean up after clifford?

As the father of two adorable toddlers, I'm currently exposed to at least as much public television as I was when I was growing up, not to mention Nick Jr. and the like. That's why I was amused by Easily Distracted's commentary on various TV childrens' programs.


cantopop gallery of the day

gig leung

A collection of photos of Hong Kong actress Gigi Leung (official fan site).


more from the sclm

The so-called "liberal media" strikes again, via this totally objective (sarcasm tag off) headline: Pro-U.S., antiwar demonstrators march

Props to Pontificator for the link; the comment there says it all: "Earth to CNN: the Anti-war demonstrators are pro-U.S., too! The warmongers do not have a monopoly on patriotism!"


new to the blogroll

I've added the meta-blog The Hoosier Review to the recommended links section. Thanks to Jeff Cooper's recent post, I've also discovered The Blog of Chloë and Pete.

Update: I've added, a co-operative blog that's a pretty decent complilation of posts from several bloggers I've been consulting for war coverage, including Daily Kos, Tacitus, and The Agonist (M4d props to Sean-Paul, who's blogging the war almost around the clock--wow!). My friend Dodd contributes to The Command Post (check here in case of DNS woes), another fine group blog for war news.


media update part 3

The Hoosier Review has noted the recent article on bloggers in the local paper, along with the subsequent comments of Jeff Cooper and myself who were mentioned in the article.

Jeff recently posted this follow-up, in which he notes that the Louisville Courier-Journal picked up the story for its Sunday edition, and expands upon my updated commentary on the article.
[O]f the four bloggers mentioned in the original article, three--Mickey Kaus, Andrew Sullivan, and Josh Marshall--are conventional journalists who simply expanded their activities into a new forum (the sole exception is law professor Glenn Reynolds). Blogs certainly give them more expressive freedom than they previously had, and probably expand their audience, but these writers already had public outlets available in which to express themselves. More typical, and in many ways more interesting, are the non-journalists who, by way of blogs, have found a new way to make their voices heard.

[T]he four blogs in the original article are among the most popular in the blogosphere, with tens of thousands (and sometimes over a hundred thousand) visits per day. They're important blogs, to be sure, but they're not exactly representative of what blogging is these days.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

There are thousands upon thousands of blogs out there, some worth reading, others less so, but all part of an ongoing exchange of ideas that would not have been possible just a few years ago. Blogs encourage individual voices in ways that internet bulletin boards don’t--bulletin boards tend to be dominated by the loudest and most forceful voices, while blogs encourage a single writer to develop ideas and arguments in a more considered manner than is possible on bulletin boards, while simultaneously encouraging dialog with readers and other bloggers. Marshall, Sullivan, and Kaus represent the blogosphere's surface; they rarely note the numerous conversations that are bubbling below them (Reynolds's Instapundit, again, is an exception--he links to bloggers big and small). Individually, blogs like mine may not be important, but collectively I think they do make a difference in the way a small but significant portion of the population sees and thinks about the world.

Here's a quick link roundup:

Original story in the Star
My initial, critical reaction
My notation of the Star's follow-up
Jeff Cooper's original post on the article
My follow-up noting the source article the Star updated and skippy's criticism of same
Mention in The Hoosier Review
Jeff Cooper's recent follow-up
The Courier-Journal version

Update: Dodd takes notice and a justified swipe at the C-J for not bothering to Google Louisville bloggers.


manga post of the day

I just posted a news item over at Destroy All Monsters citing an article in the English-language Japan Times that provides a pretty good beginner's primer on manga--Japanese comic books, which enjoy a much more widespread readership than their American counterparts.
What's inside? The answers are as diverse as the manga themselves, from the wacky pirate adventures of the boys' manga "One Piece," to comics for women featuring beautiful youths falling in love with each other. What is striking, especially to outlanders used to the formulaic superheroes of American comics, is the unbuttoned, unhinged quality of so many manga -- even ones for schoolkids. The hero of Eiichiro Oda's "One Piece," for example, is a boy who runs off to seek fame and fortune as a pirate -- and happens to have a rubber-like body from ingesting a magical plant. Imagine a stretchy Spider-Man, minus the latex suit.

The article doesn't mention that in some shoujo manga--the ones aimed at a femaile audience that feature ""--the youths involved are sometimes of the same gender.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

[A]ll of the cartoon shows currently in the ratings top 10 for their category had their beginnings in manga. The longest-running and best-loved is "Sazae-san," which has been on the air since 1969 and is rarely out of the No. 1 spot. A gentle-spirited sitcom about a three-generation family living in suburban Tokyo, the show is based on a manga by Machiko Hasegawa that, since it began in 1946, has become a national institution.

Meanwhile, of the 10 top-grossing Japanese films in 2002, four started as manga. Though one of the exceptions, "Pokemon the Movie," may have begun as a game, the Pokemon brand is well-represented in the comic racks. In nearly every Japanese pop-culture franchise, manga is a crucial cog -- if not the main engine.

...Manga used to be what comics still largely are in the West -- cheap entertainment for kids that was not allowed at the grownups' table of the publishing business. In the postwar years, however, a young star arose who would change the face not only of manga, but of publishing in Japan. His name was Osamu Tezuka, and his manga, beginning with his 1947 hit "Shin Takarajima (New Treasure Island)," were explosively popular.

An avid movie fan, Tezuka incorporated cinematic techniques into his work, including closeups and long shots, with the aim of adding dynamism and impact to every panel. His early manga -- such as the "Tetsuwan Atom (Atom Boy)" series about a superpowered boy robot -- were mostly adventure yarns for kids, but in the 1960s, as he graduated to industry-icon status, Tezuka turned to heavier, more complex themes, including the life of Buddha and the political struggles of Japan's feudal clans.

In short, Tezuka and his disciples not only made manga an enduring obsession with Japan's Baby Boomers, who boosted sales of fat weekly and biweekly comics to the millions in the 1960s and '70s, but produced manga that adults could enjoy without embarrassment (though men might hesitate to take some racier ones home).

Personally, I'm much more into anime than manga, simply because the former is easier to find Stateside, and I don't read Japanese (or speak it, for that matter). I do have a few untranslated manga, and Dark Horse Comics has been doing a pretty good job of publishing translated manga ever since Akira, which I was reading back in the '80s.


lucky guy

brody kisses berry

Actor Adrien Brody lays a big kiss on presenter Halle Berry at Sunday night's Oscar ceremony. Oh, yeah, and he won the Best Actor Oscar, too (for his performance in The Pianist). Brody followed up by kissing Best Actress winner Nichole Kidman backstage. More Oscar night photos are here.


Spirited Away wins Best Animated Feature Oscar

spirited away still

w00t! The awesome Spirited Away came through on Oscar Night, snagging the statuette for Best Animated Feature. Here's the summary I just posted at Destroy All Monsters:

Congratulations to acclaimed animator Hayao Miysazaki and the Studio Ghibli crew, whose superb anime Spirited Away won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Sunday night.

The musical Chicago [one of the few Oscar contenders I've seent this year] took home the Best Picture Oscar; Roman Polanski was a surprise pick for Best Director. The Road to Perdition, a film based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins, won for Best Cinematography, while The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers surprised no one by picking up several Oscars in technical categories.

Speaking of honors, here's the result of the Internet Movie Database's poll for the worst of 2002.

  xSunday, March 23, 2003

hoops report

I'd like to congratulate the Butler Bulldogs for their 79-71 NCAA tournament victory over my home team, the University of Louisville Cardinals. Butler played a tight game down the stretch, sinking a number of crucial three-pointers and showing impressive grace under pressure.

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