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  xFriday, April 04, 2003

amazing singer link of the day

Time Magazine has a feature story on the fabulous Lucinda Williams. I was lucky enough to catch one of her shows in Louisville some years back, and while she isn't a flamboyant performer, she sings with heart and soul in a voice like honey poured over driveway gravel--and she can jam on her guitar when she feels like it. Her work mixes country and blues influences and speak of heartbreak and hope. Personally, I'm partial to her self-titled album (audio samples available), but I like all her stuff, espeically her early blues albums. If you haven't heard Ms. Williams' work, I urge you to check it out--you're in for a rare treat.

(via TBOGG)


gallery of the day

faye valentine

In honor of today's U.S. opening the Cowboy Bebop movie, here's a gallery devoted to the series' noted hottie, Faye Valentine. SFW, of course.



I missed this the other day, but it's welcome news: Senate Republicans lose fourth attempt to break Estrada filibuster

I love it...I think I'll say it again: "Senate Republicans lose." Ah, what a marvelous feeling.


advantage: kerry

I haven't commented much on the current Democratic field of Presidential candidates--other than to note that the fact that there are so many of them indicates a perception that Bush is vulnerable. But I have to say I thought John Kerry's repsonse to the typical grousing of Republican Congressional leaders about Kerry's criticism of Bush was priceless:
In a speech Wednesday in Peterborough, N.H., Kerry said President Bush so alienated allies prior to the U.S.-led war against Iraq that only a new president can rebuild damaged relationships with other countries.

"What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States," said Kerry, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts.

Kerry backed a congressional resolution last fall giving Bush the authority to use force to oust Saddam, but he repeatedly has criticized the president for failing to give diplomacy more time.

"Clearly, Senator Kerry intended no disrespect or lack of support for our commander in chief during wartime, but the point of this campaign is, obviously, to change the administration of this government," said Kerry spokesman Robert Gibbs. "And unlike many of his Republican critics, Senator Kerry has worn the uniform, served his country, seen combat, so he'd just as soon skip their lectures about supporting our troops." [emphasis added]

Kerry is a decorated Vietnam War veteran. Hastert and DeLay did not serve in the military.

In response to Gibbs, DeLay's spokesman Jonathan Grella said, "His service to our country was admirable, but his words now are shamelessly political."

A presidential candidate being political--the horror! The horror!

As I've said, I haven't chosen a horse to back yet, but I'm so looking forward to the 2004 election.

(via Oliver Willis)


new stuff at dam

Destroy All Monsters has posted my review of a book illustrating the work of a Japanese design firm, and a quick roundup I pieced together of critical reaction to the new Cowboy Bebop movie, which opens today.

Update: One of the nice things about DAM's new design is that the front page links to many more articles and reviews. I thought I'd take this opportunity to pimp my works that are currently available from the front page:


michael kelly r.i.p.

I was saddened to learn this morning that Atlantic Monthly editor-at-large and Washington Post columnist Michael Kelly was killed in a vehicle accident while accompanying the US 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq. Kelly is the first American journalist to be killed in the war.

While I frequently disagreed with Kelly's conservative and hawkish views, his death robs the American people of a voice to be reckoned with. I join with Kelly's friends, family and colleagues in mourning his loss.

Update: Talking Points Memo has a nice appreciation.


victory condition update

The other day, I noted CalPundit's response to a David Frum column claiming that some war critics are laying out supposedly unreasonably stringent conditions for what constitutes "victory" in Iraq; Kevin Drum noted that the conditions pretty much consisted on the hawks' prewar predictions coming true.

Today's Washington Post has an article that may indicate the reason for the preemptive attack on letting anyone but the Administration define the victory conditions, even if they're simply echoes of the hawks' promises.
The Bush administration has devised a strategy to declare victory in Iraq even if Saddam Hussein or key lieutenants remain at large and fighting continues in parts of the country, officials said yesterday.

The concept of a "rolling" victory contemplates a time -- not yet determined -- when U.S. forces control significant territory and have eliminated a critical mass of Iraqi resistance. U.S. military commanders would establish a base of operations, perhaps outside Baghdad, and assert that a new era has begun. Even then, tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers would remain to help maintain order and provide humanitarian assistance.

Although President Bush spoke yesterday of accepting "nothing less than complete and final victory," administration officials do not envision a formal Iraqi capitulation in a scene akin to the German surrender to the Allies at Reims that ended World War II in Europe. Rather, they hope to recognize a moment when the military and political balance tilts decisively away from Hussein's Baath Party government.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

The timing of declaring victory is important in military and psychological terms, and would be up to the president after a recommendation from military advisers. The administration is set on intimidating Iraqi leaders and seizing power, yet it would risk its credibility by declaring itself in charge while significant resistance remains.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday that Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, would not need to be under U.S. control for the administration to establish an interim Iraqi administration. When Baghdad is isolated from the rest of the country, he said, the city is "almost irrelevant."

"Whatever remnants are left would not be in charge of anything except their own defense," Myers told reporters, "and it would be fairly small compared to the rest of the country and what's happening."

Some outside analysts suggest that Baghdad must be in U.S. control before fearful residents of southern Iraq would be convinced that Saddam Hussein and his authoritarian government are gone for good. Until then, some specialists believe, armed opposition could remain strong.

One marker explicitly rejected by the White House is the capture or confirmed death of Hussein. The administration does not want its ambitious postwar plans to be held hostage by a search for the Iraqi leader. Opinion polls have suggested that a public perception of success would be reduced if Hussein's whereabouts remain unknown.

While I would certainly welcome an end to this war, the troubling fact is that this Amdinistration has place us in a position where there are few good options and many bad ones. Given that the Bush Administraiton appears to be staking much on the push to conquer Baghdad, a failure to do so could have a number of unwelcome consequences, including fostering the international perception that Saddam Hussein, by his survival, has beaten Bush. However, I continue to hope for one positive outcome of this war: that the American public won't be as willing to follow the neocon hawks in their evident self-appointed mission to conquer pacify the entire Middle East.

Update: Digby has much more.


'bombs bring only pain and terror'

President Bush never ceases from waving the bloody shirt of 9/11 to justify his war on Iraq in the minds of a public that increasingly--but wrongly--connects the two. How interesting, then, this Washingotn Post op-ed by Joanne Grady Huskey, who along with her two young children survived the al Qaeda bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kenya and who, as a diplomat's wife, has much more experience with international relations that Bush.
After the attacks on our nation on Sept. 11, 2001, we could either have learned a lesson -- that we desperately need to work with other nations to find a way to understand each other -- or we could have taken revenge, using the same tactics that were used against us.

Our president, who himself has never lived in another country, decided that the way to stop all this terror and anger directed at our country is to bomb Iraq. Rather than expanding our diplomatic efforts, we stopped them, in favor of bombing. We resorted to bombs and military attacks in an all-out effort to stop the hatred against our people.

But I am certain that bombs only exacerbate anger and pain and confusion and terror, and it grieves me to see that we are doing to other innocent people exactly what was done to us in 1998. You are wrong, Mr. President, if you think this will heal the anger against us. You are wrong, Mr. Rumsfeld, if you think you can bomb away terror. You are wrong, Mr. Cheney, if you think this will all be over soon.

As a member of one family that survived a bomb, I can tell you from the bottom of my heart: Bombing will never be the solution. Do you think the Iraqi families you are bombing today are going to get up and thank you and want to know more about our great country? You are wrong.

To whatever extent Saddam's regime may have been a thorn in Bush's side, the national security arguments for the war focused solely on the alleged benefits of the war and eschewed the costs. Yet in reviewing the diplomatic debacles leading up to the war, the steady erosion of confidence in the US worldwide and the oughtright fury of much of the Arab world--fury only fueled by images of dead or injured Iraqi children--it's entirely likely that Bush's adventure in Iraq will have serious and long-term detrimental effects on national security.


new animatrix short available

The latest Animatrix short, Detective Story (by Cowboy Bebop director Shinichiro Watanabe), is now available. w00t! Here's an Entertainment Tonight article on the animated series. Another Animatrix short, Final Flight of the Osiris, by the Square animation team that created the Final Fantasy movie, is showing in theaters along with the horror flick Dreamcatcher.

(via Destroy All Monsters)


webcasters, recording industry reach tentative royalty deal

Here's a welcome development in the ongoing Internet radio royalty controversy: Representatives of the music industry and Webcasters have reached agreement on a proposed royalty system that could limit long and costly appeals of a fee structure Webcasters say could bankrupt them.
The Digital Media Association and the Recording Industry Association of America said they filed the proposal with the U.S. Copyright Office, which will soon publish it for public comment.

The RIAA and the Webcasting industry have been at odds in the past over how much should be paid in royalties to stream music over the Internet, with Webcasters arguing that the rates favored by the RIAA would put them out of business.

In a statement, the DMA's executive director, Jonathan Potter, said "the agreement is a temporary Band-Aid that avoids millions of dollars of legal fees associated with a broken arbitration process."

Potter was referring to the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel, the Copyright Office's process for determining disputed royalties. The so-called CARP system has been widely criticized and legislation is pending before Congress to reform it.

Under that system, an arbitration panel had set a royalty rate for Webcasts of music in February 2002, but that decision was rejected by the Librarian of Congress in May 2002.

Last summer the Librarian set the rate for Webcasts from October 28, 1998 to December 31, 2002, at 0.07 cents per performance, whether the Webcast was Internet-only or a Web rebroadcast of an over-the-air, AM or FM radio transmission.

SoundExchange, the organization designated by the Librarian of Congress to process royalties for music Webcasts, said in a statement Thursday the sides had agreed on a proposal of 0.0762 cents per performance or 1.17 cents per aggregate hour tuned in for free, advertising-supported services.

Subscription services, SoundExchange said, were also offered the option of paying a royalty of 10.9 percent of their gross revenues.

SoundExchange said the proposal did not cover rates for noncommercial Webcasters or simultaneous broadcasts of over-the-air radio transmissions.

"The deal enables SoundExchange to avoid a protracted and costly arbitration with Webcasters that would have come on the heels of last year's extraordinarily expensive arbitration," John Simson, the executive director of SoundExchange, said in a statement.

  xThursday, April 03, 2003

out of the loop

Like a commercial jingle you just can't get out of your head, the Administration continues to explain away its incompetence by pointing to different, presumably less egregious incomptence. The Charlotte Observer has this devastating analysis: Bush reportedly shielded from dire forecast
President Bush's aides did not forcefully present him with dissenting views from CIA and State and Defense Department officials who warned that U.S.-led forces could face stiff resistance in Iraq, according to three senior administration officials.

Instead, Bush embraced predictions of top administration hawks, beginning with Vice President Dick Cheney, who predicted Iraqis would joyously greet coalition troops as liberators and that the entire conflict might be over in a matter of weeks, the officials said.

Dissenting views "were not fully or energetically communicated to the president," said one top official, who, like the others, requested anonymity. "As a result, almost every assumption the plan's based on looks to be wrong."

Of course, it's been a long time since I've trusted anything this administration has claimed, but it truly bewilders me why anyone but the most fervent partisan cheerleaders give them any credibility at all. It's staggering to imagine that we're placing the future of our country's security into their hands buy trusting them not to completely screw up post-war Iraq.

(via Talking Points Memo, which also points to more good news from Sy Hersh.)


review at dam

Destroy All Monsters has posted my review of the inordinately fun PS2 videogame Onimusha Warlords. Musashi has also been carrying the ball with news posts (life-sized anime dolls? what fun!) while I finish up another review (and post things here). Thanx!


war plan update

As I obliquely noted earlier today, Josh Marshall has a post defining victory conditions in Iraq. Pandagon has a post riffing on this idea, and also indicating that Louisville's recent tournament loss was not just devastating to my own NCAA bracket. Pandagon notes that the Bushies are applying the same moving-goalposts strategy to defining victory in Iraq as they did justifications for the war, economic policy, and so on.
This is a war like Bush's tax cuts were fiscal policy. It's a war that will be won precisely because the bar can and will be moved all over creation to make it so. Rebecca Hagelin, writing the boilerplater article of the next week, kvetches endlessly against the "armchair quarterbacking" of the world's first television war. Armchair cheerleading, which is the unspoken corollary to what she's attacking, is perfectly okay. Hagelin and the pro-war crowd crow about the success of the war, stomping all over that whole "scale" whatchamajigger in declaring it possibly the greatest military victory of all time against, of course, the worst military dictator of all time.

Something largely glossed over about this war - it's a shot for Baghdad. Despite our engagement in strategic places such as Umm Qasr and Basra, we're largely skipping cities to get to Baghdad. Baghdad is the strategic center, and in many ways the only truly important military goal of the Iraq war. To say that we're getting there in fits and starts, without the force that the Army or Marines want, and with no clear method of attacking and defeating the forces in the's like celebrating fielding the team before the season's ever started.

To declare that we've rolled over largely uninhabited parts of Iraq a triumphal moment for the military is just silly. It's not an undue criticism to say that we haven't acheived our objective yet, and that it's going to take longer and perhaps require a different plan than we first assumed. There's a reason that we get individual reports of individual skirmishes on a daily basis - the main fighting has not started yet. Now we're being asked to look at what isn't even the main war as if it is. The second the main forces attack Baghdad, however, these battles, these deaths, successes, and failures, will be forgotten as we are the new triumphal soldiers liberating Baghdad. Should it take days, it will be claimed that the plan worked like it was supposed to; should it take monthes, it will be claimed that the plan worked like it was supposed to.

Many supporters of this war find themselves in a rather comfortable spot from domestic politics the past few years - all facts [fit] the political conclusion, whether they be tax cuts or war or any other program. When the war is debated, it cannot ever be debated on these terms, despite the effort to do so. It is not realistic to presume that any course of action taken in a war is the right course of action, or that the failure or reevaluation of plans is automatically positive (rather contradictory to think so, in fact). How this war is prosecuted means as much as the prosecution itself. This was never sold as a hard war, as the hard but necessary way. The inevitability of this action precluded its relative ease - why would anyone be so gung-ho, without facts or the attempt at proof, to do something unless they were absolutely sure it could be done?


bush's war (on the economy) 'on plan'

WaPo: Jobless Claims Highest Since April 2002
New claims for unemployment benefits shot up last week to their highest point in nearly a year as businesses made work forces leaner amid a muddled wartime economic climate.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that new applications jumped by a seasonally adjusted 38,000 to 445,000 for the week ending March 29. That represented the highest level of new claims since the week ending April 13, 2002.

Thursday's report highlighted the difficulties both companies and workers are facing, not only because of war but also because of a muddled economic climate.

The pace of layoffs last week was worse than economists were predicting. They were forecasting claims to rise to around 410,000.

Economists say claims above the 400,000 mark generally depict an extremely weak job market.

The more stable four-week moving average of new claims also rose last week to 426,250. The moving average has been above the 400,000 level for five straight weeks.

CNN/Money: Factory orders fall 1.5% in February
Orders for U.S. manufactured goods slumped sharply in February, the Commerce Department said Wednesday in a report hinting at increased caution among firms ahead of the start of the Iraq war.

The Commerce Department said orders fell a larger-than-expected 1.5 percent to $321.16 billion in February, following a revised 1.7 percent increase in January. Orders for durable goods -- items such as cars and appliances meant to last three or more years -- fell 1.6 percent, a bigger fall than the previously reported 1.2 percent drop.

And the CBO reports that even after acceding to pressure to use "dynamic scoring" to fudge adjust budgetary numbers, Bush's own budgets still add up to deficits as far as the eye can see. Money quote: "[I]n no case does Mr. Bush's tax cut come close to paying for itself over the next 10 years."

Anyone feel like ice cream? 'Cause I sense a double dip in store.

(via The Agonist and Brad DeLong)


now that you mention it...

The Left Coaster also wonders where Condoleeza Rice has been as the Administration's assumptions about the war have proven, ah, overly optimistic.
[R]emember less than a year ago when the magazine cover stories about Condoleezza Rice told us how much she had the President’s ear, and how her greatest accomplishment was that she made the boys around her get along? Remember when the same media kept telling us that we needed Colin Powell around to act as an adult in the frat house that was the Bush foreign policy operation?

Well, why is Condi Rice’s name never mentioned about Iraq or the grand plan? How influential can she be, and how much of the president’s ear can she really have when she has been virtually invisible and without fingerprints in the run-up to what may be a fiasco in the making? How well has she gotten the boys to get along when they are throwing mud at each other through the media? Why is her role in all of this not known, or what she’s added to the mix, and what responsibility she bears for the failed planning so far? Why has she silently sat by and watched Perle and Wolfowitz sell the president on the “liberator” mindset, without doing her job and also telling Bush the potential for Iran and Syria to come to the aid of the people of Iraq in the name of Arab nationalism, Islamic brotherhood, and rejection of western colonialism? Isn’t that what your NSA is there for? Can you imagine Kissinger, Zbig, Scowcroft, or Sandy Berger sitting idly by while nutcase advisors sell the commander in chief on lunatic schemes that only Ariel Sharon and Osama Bin Laden could love? Can you imagine someone worthy of glowing cover pieces in Time and Newsweek authorizing clandestine monitoring of the UN delegations?

...In summary, where the hell is Condi Rice, and what value exactly has she added as the NSA to this brewing debacle ? And why is Colin Powell still taking a check, since he hasn’t been in control of this nation’s foreign policy for a while and has lost all geopolitical influence? Do either of them have a clue that we are about to get sucked into a preventable holy war, while China and Russia watch us on the sidelines?

Actually, given the damage to Rumsfeld's credibility, it's probably well that Rice appears to be sitting the debate some point, the Administration's going to need to trot someone out whose credibility hasn't been ruined lately, and my guess is that Bush has picked Condi for that job.


oh dear lord

Okay, this is Robert Fisk, but still: Children killed and maimed in bomb attack on town
At least 11 civilians, nine of them children, were killed in Hilla in central Iraq yesterday, according to reporters in the town who said they appeared to be the victims of bombing.

Reporters from the Reuters news agency said they counted the bodies of 11 civilians and two Iraqi fighters in the Babylon suburb, 50 miles south of Baghdad. Nine of the dead were children, one a baby. Hospital workers said as many as 33 civilians were killed.

Terrifying film of women and children later emerged after Reuters and the Associated Press were permitted by the Iraqi authorities to take their cameras into the town. Their pictures – the first by Western news agencies from the Iraqi side of the battlefront – showed babies cut in half and children with amputation wounds, apparently caused by American shellfire and cluster bombs.

Much of the videotape was too terrible to show on television and the agencies' Baghdad editors felt able to send only a few minutes of a 21-minute tape that included a father holding out pieces of his baby and screaming "cowards, cowards'' into the camera. Two lorryloads of bodies, including women in flowered dresses, could be seen outside the Hilla hospital.

And while we're at it, it appears that the missile that hit an Iraqi market the other day was indeed ours...unless Iraq has a Raytheon factory.

I would suggest that dropping cluster bombs from the air onto civilians--something I doubt the Iraqis are capable of--is contrary to achieving our goals in Iraq. And I will declare unequivocably that Bush's war of choice is not worth the blood of a single Iraqi baby. These children have been sacrificed on the altar of Bush's ambition, and I don't intend to forget that the justification for this horror is scanty at best.

(via The Left Coaster)



I've mentioned the Web site Something Awful's humorously devastating reviews of hentai games. Oddly enough, they posted a review that netted an astonishing -18, which means the reviewer didn't hate it all that much. (The next lowest score is Sentimental Shooting's -31. That game is a Galaga-like shooter in which the player's laser beams also blast school unifotms off the anime cuties in the background. You heard me right.) The subject this recent review, "D0 Y0u Like H0rny Bunnies?", merits its astonishing score pretty much by avoiding many of the more repulsive aspects of many hentai games--there's no rape at all, and that fact alone pretty much sets it apart. The review concludes thus (edited for content):
I can honestly say that this game was a pleasant surprise and I hope it marks a turn for the better for Hentai games. I don't expect a lot. I don't expect them to actually make the gameplay component fun, transform them into something that is genuinely erotic, feature translations that aren't embarrassing to read, or have audio that doesn't consist of thirty minutes of Japanese women making really bad sucking sounds. That sort of feat would be superhuman. ...What's closest to actually being offensive to me is that they cram all of the same awful perversion into every single god***n one of the games. ...It's as predictable as sex scene in a normal porno movie, and it's lame. "D0 Y0u Like H0rny Bunnies?" avoids these tired conventions in a manner that borders on admirable.

Update: Game name altered to fox the flood of Google searches I've been getting...sheesh!


b-movie link of the day

I love serendipity: Researching another post, I stumbled across this January 2001 CNN profile of prolific low-budget film director and producer Roger Corman.
This man who made Hollywood safe for papier-mâché monsters and gave an awful lot of A-people their early careers' B-breaks is actually a symbol now of the independent filmmaking movement. He's not the "King of the B's," as some have called him. He's the prince of upstarts. To this day, he's talking about underbudgeting, outselling, bypassing and -- best of all -- embarrassing "the studios." No killer crab, giant leech or toothy piranha looks as much like a monster to Corman as one of the major film studios does.

"It feels good. I've been doing this for a long time. I take moderate pride. Not every picture has turned out quite as well as I expected. But some of them have turned out better. There was some poll on the Internet during 2000. They asked people what they considered to be the 50 best B pictures of all time. And I had five on the list, including No. 1: 'Death Race 2000.'"

..."I can sit here at the office having breakfast, reading the trade papers, get an idea, before even finishing breakfast, bring in my head of development and we'll put a rider on that idea. That gives us a huge advantage. The studios must work with a certain amount of bureaucracy. It takes them more time. They're spending so much money, they have to be a little bit more cautious."

I should apologize for this post's title; according to this article and his autobiography, Corman said he doesn't like the term "B movie" (he prefers "exploitation film"), and since Mr. Corman once once favored me with an autographed photo (c00L!), I should acknowledge that fact. That's a debatable point, of course...but B or not, Corman's movies are usually entertaining far beyond the limitations of their budget. I have several Corman movies on DVD (including hte excellent Fall of the House of Usher); I'm hankering to watch one of them tonight, if time permits.



Poor Bush. The war he elected to start has him kind of depressed, according to this USA Today puff piece. Y'see, while Bush may preject all this steely-eyed resolve on TV, Karl Rove the White House wants you to know, via the so-called "liberal media," that Bush really, really "feels our pain" about this war; that it isn't all "feels good."
The public face of President Bush at war is composed and controlled. On TV and in newspaper photos, he is sturdy and assured, usually surrounded by military personnel. But those choreographed glimpses of Bush's commander-in-chief persona don't tell the whole story. Behind the scenes, aides and friends say, the president's role is more complicated and his style more emotional.

People who know Bush well say the strain of war is palpable. He rarely jokes with staffers these days and occasionally startles them with sarcastic putdowns. He's being hard on himself; he gave up sweets [ed: Oh, the humanity!] just before the war began. He's frustrated when armchair generals or members of his own team express doubts about U.S. military strategy. At the same time, some of his usual supporters are concerned by his insistence on sticking with the original war plan.

Interviews with a dozen friends, advisers and top aides describe a man who feels he is being tested. As might be expected from loyal aides, they portray the president as steady, tough and up to the task, someone whose usual cheer has shifted to a more serious demeanor. Their observations yield a rare inside look at how the president functions in a crisis.

Friends say the conflict is consuming Bush's days and weighing heavily on him. ''He's got that steely-eyed look, but he is burdened,'' says a friend who has spent time with the president since the war began. ''You can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. I worry about him.''

Genuinely pathetic. I've been worried about Bush since Day 1, and I've been saddened to see much of my pessimism all too prescient. It breaks my heart to see the Responsibility President all petulant that the war he chose isn't quite the cakewalk it was supposed to be.

(via Daily Kos)


pfc lynch update

The stories beginning to emerge of the fierce struggle waged by PFC Jessica Lynch prior to her capture instill a profound sense of pride in our fighting forces. The 19-year-old supply clerk apparently fought until her ammunition ran out, shooting several Iraqi soldiers in the process, and continuing even after she was wounded by gunfire in the ambush.

One positive development I hope to see emerge from this war is the long-overdue shattering of the notion that women should be denied combat roles. As PFC Lynch's case makes abundantly clear, women are always, at least potentially, in a combat role when they're deployed in a military theater. (The military already tacitly acknowledges this fact, when you consider that 1) all soldiers receive basic training in riflery, and b)* even support troops behind the lines are armed. Indeed, the blitzkrieg tactics of WWII put paid to the notion that rear-echelon troops would be safe from combat.)

It's frankly impossible to tell how any individual will react to a combat situation, although thorough training definitely helps. As Private Lynch's struggle makes clear, there's no inherent reason why women aren't suited for combat. Indeed, while certain roles--like the special forces that rescued her--call for outstanding strength and endurance, I see no reason why women who meet the standards shouldn't be permitted to serve. (And having watched my lovely wife give birth twice, I can attest that women have unreckoned strength and endurance.) Given that serving in combat roles is a definite career boost, denying these roles to women has long been an unconscionable act of discrimination, and I hope to see the military adjust its policies accordingly pronto.

In the meantime, my hat is off to Private Lynch and the special forces who rescued her.

* props to Mad About You.


white house credibility watch

According to the Washington Post, the White House is having some trouble adapting its renowned message discipline from the campaign trail to the war.
White House officials struggled this week to retool a war communications blueprint that did not allow for strong Iraqi resistance and overestimated the welcome allied troops would receive.

The administration countered setbacks on the global airwaves by using classic campaign techniques such as dogged repetition of scripted messages and flat denials of dissent. When the war plan itself was under attack, officials tried to regain their footing by saying that the plan was flexible enough to accommodate any eventuality.

...Besieged on so many fronts, administration officials all but shut down communication outside formal briefings, with the White House referring many questions to the Pentagon, and the Pentagon referring some of those questions back to the White House.

Historians and political scientists said the administration's approach has the makings of a credibility gap if the Bush team's assertions from their podiums and on Sunday talk shows become too far divorced from the impression the public is getting from the battlefields in Iraq.

"They have been guilty of trying to put a positive interpretation on everything and ignoring the bad news," said Alex S. Jones, director of Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. "That's not the same thing as lying. But I think they misunderstand that acknowledging bad news strengthens your hand because it makes you believable."

I'm hardly surprised...what that article fails to mention is that "dogged repetition of scripted messages and flat denials of dissent" were also the same tactics the Administration used to sell this war. While the allied military forces have adapted superbly (for the most part) to the situation the Administration's overoptimistic planning has placed them in, the fact that this Administration has been so clumsy in its political adaptation is sobering indeed, and once again calls into serious question the comepetence of this Administration to deal with the real world--the one outside of the comfort of conservative think-tanks.

Like the first drops of rain before a storm, you can hear the Administration's credibility finally beginning to be questioned in the so-called "liberal media." One can only hope that these scattered drops herald the torrent that will ultimately wash this nation of Bush and his deceit.

  xWednesday, April 02, 2003

hearts and minds watch

If you did this to my daughters (who, coincidentally, are almost-four and almost-two, not far from two and five), I'd kill you*, or die trying.

Just sayin, yo.

Osama bin Laden smiles when stuff like this happens. True, things like this are inevitable in war, but let's not forget who put our troops in this position.

Update: *Okay, maybe I wouldn't. But I'd sure as hell want to, and in this situation that's an emotion we can ill afford.


holding the administration to its promises

...speaking of which, don't miss this USA Today analysis of the Bush administration's ah, evolving war rehetoric.
Prewar predictions coming back to bite

Armchair generals and media critics aren't the only people whose comments are giving heartburn to administration officials defending the progress of the war with Iraq. The officials also face questions about their own remarks made before the fighting began.

Then, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke optimistically in interviews and at briefings about the prospects that the war would be short, Iraqi resistance limited and Iraqi citizens welcoming.

Now, the president has pounded the podium when asked how long the war would last — "However long it takes," he replied Thursday with open annoyance — and Myers said Sunday, "Nobody should have any illusions that this is going to be a quick and easy victory."

Four weeks ago, it was Myers who spoke with reporters about "a short, short conflict" against an Iraqi force that was "much weaker" than it was in the 1991 Gulf War.

The contrast in rhetoric has put the president and his aides on the defensive and raised questions about the administration's credibility. Although the battle began just 13 days ago and has put U.S. troops within 50 miles of Baghdad, the optimistic talk that launched it has contributed to a sense that the war hasn't gone as quickly or as well as expected.

There can't be any question that credibility--on everything--is this Administration's Achilles heel. I hope that in the coming election the Democrats continue to confront Bush with instances where his rhetoric hasn't matched reality.

(via Pandagon)


calpundit explains it all

I've been slow in posting CalPundit's response to a recent David Frum commentary in National Review Online. Mr. Frum complained
I have no idea whether [the claim that that the U.S. forces had been forced to change their plans] is true. Personally I doubt it. But even if it were true – so what?

There are doomsters and defeatists out there who keep insisting that the U.S. and its allies can only claim victory if they meet an ever-lengthening list of conditions:

“The allies win ONLY IF they (1) overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime and (2) find Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and (3) do so with minimal casualties and (4) also with minimal Iraqi casualties while (5) being hailed and welcomed by the Iraqi population and (6) without upsetting Arab public opinion too much also (7) without irritating the European allies too much and now (8) without any alterations of their original plan.” In other words, allied success can be discounted if along the way the allies make any adjustment of their plans to circumstances.

Kevin Drum responds with the obvious: Most of those conditions were the ones the Administration used to sell its war.
OK, I'm willing skip point #8, but the first seven seem pretty reasonable, don't they? In fact, except for the part about not annoying Europe — where the plan actually seems to be to cause as much annoyance as possible — these conditions all seem to be pretty much part of the grand Cheney/Rumsfeld/neocon plan. I don't think we liberals had anything to do with it.

In addition, it isn't so much that the U.S. forces have been forced to change it plan--that's bound to happen--but that it's becoming increasingly obvious that the U.S. war plan was entirely dependent on Saddam's regime folding quickly; and now that it hasn't happened, the U.S. lacks the forces for a rapid follow-on. This situation, make no mistake about it, puts the lives of both allied forces and Iraqi civilians in danger. If it's going to be considered "liberal criticism" to hold this Administration to its promises, sign me up.


redhead gallery of the day

nikki cox

A gallery devoted to Ms. Nikki Cox.



The current economic times are hard on everyone, right? Not quite, according to USA Today: s
Bubble hasn't burst yet on CEO salaries despite the time

The glory days are long gone for most stockholders, but the good times still roll for many CEOs.

Corporate America has been tarnished by high-profile scandals, fraud and executive chicanery. The sputtering economy and sagging corporate profits pounded stocks for a third-consecutive year. But when it came to pain and suffering — at least pay-wise — most CEOs barely felt the downdraft last year.

CEOs running 100 of the USA's biggest companies pulled in median 2002 compensation of $33.4 million, essentially unchanged from 2001.

Here's the, er, money quote as far as I'm concerned: "CEO salaries and bonuses surged 15% in a year salaries for rank-and-file workers averaged 3.2% gains." The article is pretty damning of corporate culture run amcuk; read the whole thing.

(via Oliver Willis)


support our troops!

The Mainichi Daily News reports on a morale-boosting effort designed to put U.S. service personnel in Iraq in touch with Playboy playmates via email.
Playmates demonstrated how servicemen and women can contact them at and receive signed photos and e-mail messages in return.

Operation Playmate is free of charge, but the service is restricted to active duty military, and each e-mail must include the APO number of the person who will be contacted by the Playmates.

Austrailia's reports that the pictures will be safe for work--er, battle--er, whatever.
"Operation Playmate," the brainchild of Playboy's colourful founder Hugh Hefner, won't be sending the boys any nude pictures, spokesman Bill Farley told AFP.

"The boys will be able to send an e-mail to their favourite Playmate and she'll send them a head shot of themselves or of them wearing shirts and T-shirts," he said.

"We don't want to send any nude images that would be offensive to our Arab allies in the Middle East, but we wanted to give the guys something else to think about to get the imagination going."

Wired News reported on "Operation Playmate" back in November, 2001, during the conflict in Afghanistan; that article contained the following interesting insight:
Capt. Joseph Kloppel of Marine Corps Public Affairs in Virginia said the service has not endorsed the program... Any personnel who use government equipment, facilities or time for such activities would be in violation of Defense Department guidelines, Kloppel said.

Still, "pornography in and of itself is not prohibited for uniformed personnel as long as it is on their own equipment, on their time and at their expense," he added.



I haven't been blogging much about the war, obviously, but this news is too cool to pass up: Private First Class Jessica Lynch, 19, from Palestine, West Virginia, was rescued from a hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya by a special operations team of U.S. Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, Marines and Air Force combat pilots. The rescued soldier had been missing since the ambush of an Army maintenance company 10 days ago in southern Iraq. Several bodies were also recovered, some of which are thought to be those of American service people.

M4d props to the spec forces guys who pulled off this daring rescue, and our best wishes to PFC Lynch for a speedy recovery.

Oh, and I agree with CalPundit and Virginia Postrel: It's "Private Lynch," not "Jessica."


flash game of the day

Check out Helicopter, a simple little Flash game that challenges the player to steer a chopper through an ever-more-complex obstacle course.

(via FARK)


milestone of the (yester)day

Despite the problems with Blogger earlier in the day resulting in a scarcity of posts, some time yesterday, the hit counter passed 22,000. Thanks for visiting!


new at dam

I've written an article on the suicide of Hong Kong star Leslie Cheung for Destroy All Monsters.


a pleasant evening

Yesterday evening, my lovely wife and I attended a reception for alumni of my high school alma mater, St. Xavier, at the Skyline Club atop the One American Square building downtown. St. X President Dr. Perry Sangalli--whom I remember from my student days--was on hand to tell the gathering of the recent additions to the facilities (and the school's continuing tradtion of athletic excellence). It was a pleasant occasion; it was good to catch up with a couple of alumni who attended St. X around the time I did, and while there was (of course) a brief pitch for donations, it was done only in passing; the open bar made me more than willing to listen, and I'd already pledged to the school's annual phone fundraising campaign anyway. It's always nice to put on the fancy duds and spend some formal time in the company of adults, and my wife and I enjoyed it; we even followed up with a quick dinner at a restaurant downtown before returning to take the babysitter home.


irony of the day

Checking my email this morning, I received and unsolicited message headed "Tired of SPAM???" and touting something called Spam Remedy Pro (which I refuse to link). Great--using spam to sell anti-spam software. Whatever.

In addition to my regular duties, I've been working on a couple of items for Destroy All Monsters, so posting has obviously taken a back seat so far. My apologies; we'll be back to our usual schedule soon.

  xTuesday, April 01, 2003


Alas, this is not an April Fool's joke. Popular Hong Kong actor Leslie Cheung (A Better Tomorrow, The Bride With White Hair, Once A Thief, Farewell My Concubine) apparently committed suicide today at the age of 46.

Cheung, 46, jumped from the landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel in the central business district early in the evening and left a suicide note, the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

A police spokeswoman said a 46-year-old man with the surname Cheung plunged to his death from the hotel in the early evening, but declined to reveal the full name.

...Cheung was noted as one of the few Asian male stars to play openly gay characters, his biography on the Web site of booksellers Barnes and Noble says.

His acting career took off in 1986 when he starred opposite Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-Fat in John Woo's popular gangster movie "A Better Tomorrow."

Cheung starred in the acclaimed 1993 film "Farewell My Concubine" which scooped a series of awards including the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

I'm also sad to learn (via Musashi) that actor Michael Jeter ("Evening Shade," The Green Mile, The Fisher King) has died at 50. Jeter is best known around our household as "Mr. Noodle's Brother Mr. Noodle" on "Sesame Street."
Jeter, who revealed in 1997 that he had contracted HIV and was a longtime supporter of AIDS charities, was found dead in his Hollywood Hills home on Sunday, his publicist said. The cause of his death has not been determined. Jeter was 50.

The slight, prematurely balding actor won fame and an Emmy award in 1992 for his role as wimpy assistant coach Herman Stiles in TV's "Evening Shade" opposite Burt Reynolds.

...The Tennessee native earned a Tony award and other honors in 1990 for his Broadway performance as a dying clerk enjoying a last fling in Berlin in "Grand Hotel."


legal aid accounts upheld

P.L.A. relates the excellent news that the Supreme Court has upheld a practice of pooling small funds held in temporary trusts and using the resulting interests--which the individual accounts would never generate on their own--to fund legal aid clinics, I cited Dwight Meredith's initial post back in January. While he hails the decision, Meredith criticizes Justice Scalia's dissent, disagreeing with Sacalia's, ah, interpretation of the "takings claus."

P.L.A. also has several posts on tort reform, here and here.


blogger back up

Blogger had some trouble this morning that delayed posting. Everything appears to be in order now; further posting will resume after lunch.

I was pleased to discover that net2ftp offers a remote HTML editing function that allowed me to create a temporary post.


vegan baby update

Some time back, I mentioned the case of a pair of blithering idiots who were charged with child endangerment after their then-15-month-old daughter was discovered with severe malnutrition. The couple, who are vegans, had refused to feed their daughter either breast milk--which is not only perfectly natural and utterly acceptable to most vegans, but also contains the ideal nutritional needs of an infant--or formula, instead giving the baby ground nuts, fresh-squeezed juices, herbal tea, beans, cod liver oil and flax seed oil. Doctors said the diet placed the baby at "severe, critical risk" of death by malnutrition.

The child's mother later said that she was ignorant of the child's nutritional needs, and that if she'd have known what she later learned from hospital workers, she wouldn't have fed her little girl that way.

(contined in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Last week, the first-degree assault trial of the baby's parents, Joseph and Shella Swinton, got under way.
At 15 months, the girl weighed only 10 pounds and had no teeth. She could not sit up or talk and had a swollen abdomen.

Doctors diagnosed her with severe malnutrition and rickets, and the Queens district attorney said it was one of the worst cases of neglect he'd seen.

The Swintons, both 32, maintain they are loving parents who doted on Ice and thought the diet was best for her and her little brother, Ini, who was born after the couple's arrest.

...Both parents were suspicious of doctors and medicine, and Silva Swinton delivered Ice at home. The girl weighed three pounds, according to a bathroom scale, Swinton later told a social worker. The Swintons also refused to have their daughter immunized.

The doctor who examined Ice in November 2001, after an anonymous tip about neglect led to the intervention of children's services, testified last Wednesday that the girl, then 15 months old, looked like a newborn. He said her spindly arms and legs were bowed by rickets, her belly was distended and her skin covered in "the worst diaper rash you ever saw."

The Swintons each face a possible 25-year jail term if convicted.

When I think about my daughters at 15 months--robustly heathy, toddling, exploring their world and communicating with the people around them--it beggars my imagination to think that the parents, however well-intentioned, could tolerate their daughter's condition. Caring for an infant, while complicated, is also a universal skill that humans have been practicing for centuries. It's bewildering and sad that this couple's combination of misguided beliefs and paranoia exacted such a terrible toll on the daughter they profess to love.

(via Ipse Dixit)

  xMonday, March 31, 2003

weekend update

We had an extraordinarily busy but pleasant weekend in Louisville. Due to a variety of circumstances, we hadn't visited down there so far this year. We traveled down Friday evening and returned Sunday afternoon; in between, we were able to see most of the friends and family we'd intended to visit, including a very pleasant Sunday brunch with my brother and my friend Dodd. My lovely wife and I were also able to get out Saturday night to attend a showing of Spirited Away with some friends; it was even better the second time.

With so many activities over the weekend, we were all exhausted upon our return, so after dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant, we all more or less crashed. Having been gone all weekend, I'm behind on several of my own projects and also very busy this morning, so further posting will likely be delayed.

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