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  xFriday, April 18, 2003

new to the blogroll

Please welcome uggabugga and Roger "Not The Mouthpiece For The White House" Ailes.


signs of hope

Jaquandor relates reason for anime geeks to take heart: A clerk at Target who knows quality when he sees it.
I did not buy Spirited Away, because I am under orders not to buy it so that my wife can pick it up for me at a gift-giving occasion. ...Scary thing was, I actually had to explain this to the checkout guy, who saw that I was buying Kiki's Delivery Service and Castle in the Sky and was stunned that I wasn't getting Spirited Away as well.

Enjoy the DVDs, Jaquandor; I'm sure you'll agree they're excellent.


kawaii occult link of the day

(one doesn't get to write a tag line like that every day!)

hello kitty tarot

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Hello Kitty Tarot!

(via AccordionGuy)


need-to-know basis

The Better Rhetor takes a close look at Dubya telling us what we need to know.
I think these performances reveal more than a comical disregard for the language or a second-rate intelligence. I think they reveal something innate about George Bush, something intrinsic to his personality and view of the world.

In the Bush lingo, "What you need to know" functions a way to cut off questions, end discussion, and discourage thought. It is a profoundly authoritarian phrase, one that speaks to Bush’s patrician background and privileged upbringing. He knows what we need to know, and he will make no bones about telling us. More, the use of this phrase is deeply anti-democratic, a command that the people follow and not question. It is the speaker’s way of letting you know who’s in charge, who has power, who has the right to speak. It absolves listeners of responsibility and encourages them to place all troublesome thoughts in the hands of the Dear Leader, the Grand Inquisitor, the God-king, or whatever title the dictator-of-the-day has bestowed upon himself. (And It’s almost always a "He," isn’t it?)

Bush is no dictator, not legally, but he is an authoritarian, one who seems to resent intensely the questions or criticisms of others, no matter how mild. From the start, his presidency has been spectacularly anti-democratic, whether in its quest to expand executive powers, its obsessive pursuit of secrecy, its contempt for the U.N., its incessant propagandizing, or, at the most basic level, its theft of the democratic process in Florida. "What you need to know" captures the authoritarian nature of the Bush regime, letting all of us know that we are no longer required to question, to think, to act. Bush will do these for us. That's what we need to know.

What we need to know is that this country can ill afford another four years of Bush rule. The first thing the Democratic Party needs to do is grow a spine and refuse to go along with any part of the Bush agenda; fortunately, that seems to be beginning. But only slightly less important is to realize that the man's support is, as Daily Kos has noted, "a mile wide and six inches deep." Let the Republicans get overconfident about Bush's so-called popularity, and simply point out that voting for Bush has resulted in little clear benefit, but rather a massive loss of jobs and a much less secure nation, beginning with the 9/11 debacle and improving hardly a whit since.


belated, but...

A very happy birthday, anna!

Update: And a timely Happy Birthday to northstar as well!


least surprising development of the day

Check it out:

  1. Airline suffers from 9/11, sluggish economy, and bad business model

  2. Airline demands concessions from its unions, threatens bankruptcy

  3. Airline wins concessions from said usions

  4. Airline then reveals generous bonus packages for "talented" executives--the ones responsible for the aforementioned bad business model"--sparking outrage among the unions who feel they've been hoodwinked

Read about it at USA Today: American's exec pay enrages labor. This stinks on ice.

(via Pandagon)


writing there, not here

I've been involved in a comment thread regarding this post at Ipse Dixit. Dodd approvingly cited an article in which the author proudly accepts moral responsibility for the positive outcomes of the war on Iraq (Saddam was bad, Saddam is gone, yay) while, in my view, giving short shrift to the war's innocent victims. (And no consideration at all to the fact that Iraq is hardly "free" right now, nor to the potential blowback this war is likely, in my view, to cause, nor to the fact that "the oil wealth of Iraq has been saved for the Iraqi people" is far from a done deal, nor to the loss of irreplaceable cultural treasures as a direct result of invasion.)

If memory serves me right, an impetus for the "Not in Our Name" movement arose from survivors of 9/11 victims appalled by Bush's relentless waving of the bloody shirt to justify his attack on Iraq--which, of course, had nothing whatever to do with that attack

I think I've said pretty much what I've had to say over there, so I'll be focused here from now on. Still, I urge ya'll to check out the comment thread. The plumage of the hawks is on full display.


tag, i'm it (favorites update)

Byzantium's Shores takes note of this morning's favorites list and responds with a much more reflective list. In the spirit of follow-the-leader, here are my own enties, where appropriate (I'm dispensing with the table format, not only because it produces the baffling leading space, but because I'm too lazy to code it.)

Movie, all-time: The Godfather (Jaquandor's pick, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is definitely in my top 5).

Movie, Disney: The Rescuers.

Movie, Anime: Spirited Away.

Movie, Musical: Singin' in the Rain.

Movie, James Bond: Goldfinger (I dig the underrated On Her Majesty's Secret Service too; I hope Jaquandor has read this appreciation at Teleport City).

Movie, Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn.

Movie, Bogart: Casablanca (of course).

Movie, Harrison Ford: Yeah, I'll go with Witness too.

Movie, Errol Flynn: The Mark of Zorro.

Movie, Ah-nuld: Predator.

Movie, Gene Kelly: Singin' In The Rain (Honorable mention to An American in Paris).

Movie, Monty Python: Me too: MP and the Holy Grail.

TV Show, Drama: The West Wing (Honorary mention here, really; we don't really watch any TV shows regularly, but TWW was the last one we made a point of watching).

TV Show, Comedy: The Simpsons.

TV Show, Reality: Nary a one

TV Show, News magazine: See above.

TV Show, Kid's: Zoom.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Episode, Star Trek TOS: I agree: "The City on the Edge of Forever".

Episode, Star Trek TNG: "I, Borg".

Episode, The West Wing: No entry.

Episode, Friends: No entry.

Episode, The X-Files: "Clyde Bruckmans' Final Repose"

Episode, ER: The one where Dr. Ross saves that kid from the drainage culvert. (Yeah, good one. I especially liked how they showed Dr. Ross tokin' up.)

Episode, The Simpsons: "Life on the Fast Lane," Honorable mention: the first six Halloween specials.

Comedy Sketch, Monty Python: "Dead Parrot".

Comedy Sketch, SNL: "Samurai Bakery"

Comedy Sketch, David Letterman: No entry (It's been too long since I've been a regualr viewer.)

Character, The West Wing: Josh Lyman.

Character, ER: Dr. John Carter.

Character, Friends: No entry.

Character, CSI: No entry.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Book, Fantasy, GGK: N/A.

Book, Fantasy, non-GGK: The Lord of the Rings, JRRT.

Book, Fantasy, neither of these guys: Fool on the Hill, Matt Ruff.

Book, Arthurian: Le Morte d'Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory.

Book, SF: Dune, Frank Herbert

Book, Horror: The Call of Cthulhu, H. P. Lovecraft (Honorable mention: The Stand, Steven King).

Book, Humor: Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Book, History: Boss, by Mike Royko.

Book, Science: Yes, Cosmos, by Carl Sagan.

Graphic Novel: Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

Manga: Golgo 13 by Saito Takao.

Graphic "Non-fiction": N/A.

Classical Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven.

Work by Hector Berlioz Beethoven: The glorious Ninth, oh my droogies

Film Composer, living: Yup, John Williams.

John Williams Filmscore: Three-way tie: Star Wars Episode IV / Raiders of the Lost Ark / Jaws.

Film Composer, dead: Bernard Herrman.

Korngold Hermann Filmscore: Taxi Driver (Honorable mention: Psycho).

Classical Conductor: The Louisville Orchestra's Lawrence Leighton Smith (full disclosure: I used to work in the box office).

Classical Recording, all-time: N/A.

Rock Band: The Beatles.

Pink Floyd Album: Dark Side of the Moon.

Van Halen Album: Van Halen I.

Led Zeppelin Album: II and IV.

Chieftains Album: N/A.

Rock Album, all-time: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles.

Song, Pink Floyd: "Time."

Song, Van Halen: "Runnin' With the Devil."

(Song, Elvis: Tie: "Marie's The Name (His Latest Flame) / "Burnin' Love")

(Song, Bob Dylan: "Shelter from the Storm."

Song, John Denver: OK, I'll cop: "Take Me Home Country Roads."

Beatle: John.

"Golden Oldie": "Good Vibrations", The Beach Boys.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Food, healthy: The house salad at Louisville's The Bristol.

Food, non-heathy, savory: A grilled steak.

Food, non-healthy, sweet: Krispy Kreme originals, served hot. (Especially lemon- and custard-filled.)

Pizza Topping: Italian Sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, black olives.

Salad Dressing: My own vinaigrette.

Ice Cream: Chocolate--no chips, cookies, mint, or anything else inside.

Candy, Bar: Zero

Candy, Munching: Lemon Heads.

Beverage, NA, Cold: Water.

Beverage, NA, Hot: Coffee, black

Beverage, Alcohol: Tie: Maker's Mark / gin & tonic.

Beverage, Alcohol, non-liquor: B33r.

Color: Black.

Animal, wild: Tiger.

Animal, domesticated: Dog.

Cat, breed: Mixed.

Color, Persian cat: black (Our cat Elvis is a long-haired black cat; in fact, he got his name when as a kitten he ran and hid under the stove, and so had long, black, greasy hair).

Light source: 100 watt bulb.

Bookstore, chain:

Bookstore, indy: Louisville's Hawley-Cooke

City other than Buffalo Louisville or Indy: New Orleans.

US President, all-time: Yeah, I'll go FDR.

English Monarch, all-time: Elizabeth II.

Spaceship, Fictional, Good Guys: The original Enterprise.

Spaceship, Fictional, Bad Guys: Imperial Star Destroyer.

Spaceship, Real: Aquarius/Odyssey. (Apollo 13)

Shipwreck, Domestic: Empress of Ireland (1,025 lost) (Honorable mention: the Andrea Doria).

Shipwreck, World: Titanic.

Natural Disaster, all-time: The 1902 eruption of Mt. Pelée, Martinique (Honorable mention: the Black Death)

Football Team: New Orleans Saints.

Buffalo Bill player, active: N/A.

Buffalo Bill player, all-time Johnny Unitas.

Baseball Team: The Cubbies!


very sad

One of my good friends emailed me with the sad news that our former co-worker Mark Kimbell died Wednesday.

I worked with Mark for several years. He was a good guy; although I haven't seen him since we moved to Indy, I'm saddened to hear of his passing. My condolences to his family on this sad occasion.


blogging survey

Researcher Rebecca Reynolds is compiling information about project on blogs, journalism and civic participation. If you run a Web log, or read them regularly (hint hint), drop her an email and introduce yourself.

(via The Road to Surfdom)


current favorites

One thing I did not wind up sticking with is providing regular updates to my favorites list; the last one was back last August. Here's a look at how they stand today.

current favorites (4/18/03):
Movie:Spirited Away
Kung fu Movie:Iron Monkey
Zombie Movie:Dawn of the Dead (That one's perpetual, folks.)
Anime:Revolutionary Girl Utena
TV Show:Iron Chef
Video game:Devil May Cry
Kaiju:Godzilla, of course
Video game character:Rinoa Heartilly
Anime Character:Misato Katsuragi, Neon Genesis Evangelion
'70s movie:Shaft
John Woo movie:Once a Thief
Science fiction movie:A Clockwork Orange
Golan-Globus movie:American Ninja
Comic book:Batman: Year One (Frank Miller/David Mazzucchelli)
Record:Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde
Jpop singer:Ayumi Hamasaki
Canto-pop singer:Faye Wong
Writer:Jim Thompson
Muppet:Fozzie Bear
Donut:Krispy Kreme lemon-filled (Custard-filled a close second)
Candy bar:Zero (good luck finding them in Indy)
Non-alcoholic beverage:black coffee
Alcoholic beverage:B33r, Gin and tonic, Maker's Mark


planet swank: year two

Happy blog-aversary to me
Happy blog-aversary to me
Happy blog-aversary to me-heeeeee
Happy blog-aversary to me!

Yes, boys and girls, one year ago today, Planet Swank made its debut.
Greetings all. Welcome to this collection of thoughts and musings that the Marvel Comics villain Mephisto would refer to as "the smouldering labyrinth that is my brain." Although I've let my regular Web site go without some desperately needed updates for far too long, I wanted to cultivate a space where I could toss out cool links I come across in my exploration of the Web, ponder the nuances of life in this modern world, and grouse about life in general.

Watch the, I mean, watch this space for frequent (I hope) posts and updates. I also plan to add a short bio page within the week. In the meantime, feel free to give me a shout.

I did add the bio page, although it could stand to be updated. But in general, Planet Swank has stayed pretty true to the mission I described in my initial post. It's been an interesting year, what with the war, a job scare, and my increasing participation with Destroy All Monsters. Today, in addition to regular posting, I hope to take a look back at the past year. Thanks to everyone who's visited and commented over the past year!

Update: My thanks to Musashi, Dodd , susanna, and page for the props. You have my gratitude!

  xThursday, April 17, 2003

must-read post of the day

Check out Teresa Nielsen Hayden's eloquent summary of the outrage many opponents of the war feel over the ongoing situation in Iraq, especially in light of the increasingly obvious conclusion that the Administration's rationales were generally a tissue of lies meant to conceal the fact that they basically just wanted to. (Which we knew, of course, but that still doesn't excuse it.)
The big lie is that the looting and general disorder was a necessary tradeoff for freedom. The blowhards are out in force: You must not care about all those Iraqi babies Saddam was eating for dinner! I care more about the Iraqi people than about a few trinkets, huh huh huh!

...Anyway, it's complete balderdash. This failure to maintain public order, and the consequent catastrophic looting (which has not been limited to museums), is happening because our leaders screwed up. Our troops are stretched so thin that they couldn't afford to move a squad and a Bradley three hundred yards down the street to keep a major institution from getting trashed. Days after the outcry over the museums, they couldn't keep the National Library from being burnt.

...And why are our troops stretched so thin? Because when the war was in its planning stages, Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly dismissed and overruled the experienced military planners who told him how much force would be needed to invade Iraq. We have the troops. We have the equipment. Our annual military budget could practically have bought the country. More conventionally, we could have gone in with massive force and done everything in an orderly fashion, the way all our military doctrine says we should do it. But Rumsfeld said no.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Let's be perfectly clear about this: It was Rumsfeld's decision, not some fuzzy misunderstanding shared between twenty officials in three different organizations. It's documented. Rumsfeld repeatedly, personally, decisively, insisted on cutting troop allocations to a fraction of what was needed. He has his own cronies and advisers, and they're at fault too; and of course George Bush okayed it so he's responsible in the end; but this mess is as clearly Rumsfeld’s fault as anything in the history of military folly.

Indeed...the obvious inability, if not unwillingness, of the occupying forces to keep order once again make clear the flaws in Rumsfeld's assumptions: It was all about Saddam cutting and running right off the bat (and while he's indeed nowhere to be found, Iraqis certainly put up more of a fight than predicted). Like the war itself, the way it was fought is a matter of deliberate choice on the part of this Administration, and thus every dead child and every burnt, irreplaceable artifact is their responsibility. Somehow, I doubt that when Bush is campaigning on his war record (of course he's going to bathe his re-election campaign in the blood of dead Iraqi civilians; domestic politics--"Emboldened by the rapid military success, the president plans to use his new popularity to fight for his undiluted agenda ..."--is among the few of Bush's motivations that have made consistent sense), I don't think he'll be pointing to the (fully foreseen) torching of Iraq's libraries and museums as one of his so-called "triumphs."

There's oh so much the whole thing. I've corrected an egregious oversight and added Ms. Hayden to the blogroll; I've made a few other changes while I was at it.

(via Byzantium's Shores)


japanese gallery of the day


Check out this gallery of Japan's Hibiya Park in spring at Photokyo, which has lots of other great pics of the Land of the Rising Sun, including Featured People galleries (portraits of random folk).


tatu update

It looks like just coyly pretending to be underage lesbians isn't enough to keep people interested in the schoolgirl-drag-wearin' Russian pop duo Tatu. Sky News reports that the pair plan to pose n00d on their next album cover, and are asking schoolgirls as young as 14 to join them in the buff for the photo shoot.
A Tatu spokesman said: "We are looking for the most beautiful, coolest, cleverest and youngest girls."

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children branded the move an "irresponsible publicity stunt".

The age of consent in Russia is 14, but the presence of girls that young in the altogether would prevent the use of the cover in the American market under child pr0n laws.

Credibility watch: Sky News was also the source of the (apparently false, thank all that's holy) Casablanca remake rumor, so make of this story what you will.

Note: Certain words deliberately misspelled to fox the inevitable "n_de sch__lgirl" Google searches...

(via FARK)



My lovely wife just adores Marshmallow Peeps, and since they're abundant on store shelves during the Easter season, I make a point of picking some up whenever I shop. The Boston Globe has an interesting article on the evolution of the sugar-coated confection from its hand-made origins to its present mass-produced incarnation.

(via FARK)


where are iraq's wmds?

With the conquest of Iraq successful--well, major combat operations concluded, anyway--the world eagerly awaits evidence of those mountains of chemical weapons and swimming pools full of anthrax the Bush Administration kept lying about alluding to. After all, Administration officials repeatedly claimed they had proof (although if they had anything convincing to someone not already convinced, they declined to share it), and claimed to know exactly where it all was.

Now, I came to understand not long before the war that so-called weapons of mass destruction (an ominous sounding term, to be sure, but peanuts when nuclear weapons are out of the picture) was merely a pretext for Bush's true desire of regime change--excuse me, "liberation of the people of Iraq." Still, as the war on Iraq wound down, I kept wondering where all the WMDs were--why initial reports kept turning out negative.

CalPundit, like myself, basically assumed that Iraq had some chemical or biological weapons, somewhere. My argument (not CalPundit's) has been that whatever there might have been hardly constituted a threat to the US, a perception obviously shared by Iraq's neighbors and amply vindicated in the war itself as Saddam never used them even in defense of Baghdad. No CalPundit senses, like myself, that evidence of their existence (and in quantity, thank you) is long overdue:
[S]o far there's nothing. No sign of nuclear development, which is very hard to hide, and not even any sign of chem or bio weapons yet. Since our case for war was predicated on the notion that Iraq posed an imminent danger, one that required immediate action instead of allowing the inspectors more time to work, surely there ought to be enough of this stuff around that we should be finding it by now. After all, we don't want it to fall into the wrong hands, so locating it and securing it ought to be a top military priority.

If we don't find it quickly, this indicates that our intelligence operations were wildly ineffective. If we don't find it at all, it means we were lying through our teeth. Neither one is an appealing prospect.

Update: Just for the record, merely finding the weapons will not be retroactive justification for the war, any more than the military victory was. There's no such thing as "retroactive justification;" where war is concerned, justification demonstrably exists in advance, or not at all.

  xWednesday, April 16, 2003

review at dam

As part of Destroy All Monsters' Studio Ghibli week, here's my sneak preview of the DVD release of the charming Kiki's Delivery Service.


cantopop gallery of the day

carrie ng

A gallery devoted to lovely Hong Kong actress Carrie Ng.


pfc lynch update

Well, this is sad. It seems that stories about the struggle waged by PFC Jessica Lynch, recently rescued by a midnight Special Forces raid on an Iraqi headquarters hospital, are, ah, no longer operative. The staff of the Iraqi hospital from which Lynch was extracted claim no military forces were on hand to offer resistance; further, Private Lynch's own family says that her wounds were sustained when her vehicle crashed; she was not, evidently, shot while resisting capture.
Her father, Greg Lynch Sr., told reporters she had no penetration wounds.

"It was a road traffic accident," [an Iraqi physician who treated Lynch] said. "There was not a drop of blood. . . . There were no bullets or shrapnel or anything like that." At the hospital, he said, "She was given special care, more than the Iraqi patients."

Nothing in this post is intended to take anything away from Private Lynch's ordeal, or the bravery of the team that rescued her. No matter how you slice it, PFC Lynch was wonded in combat (if not by gunfire), captured, and later rescued. Props to her, the soldiers who extracted her, and the Iraqi doctors and nurses who tended her wounds.

(via the watch and CalPundit, who comments, "[O]nce again I'm left perplexed by the desire of people in power to make up a better story when the real one is actually quite good enough. What's the point?")


saved by the blog update

AccordionGuy has been posting updates to the "New Girl" saga ("Saved by the Blog"). One interesting development is that several LiveJournal members have stepped forward with their own "New Girl" experiences, and "Whistle Blower" started her (?) own LiveJournal in order to present her (?) side of the story, including the original email alerting AccordionGuy that all was not well.


re-code update

Musashi emailed me a link to this MSNBC article on the controversy. It seems that the site has repsonded to legal threats by reducing, but not eliminating, visitors' ability to obtain fraudulent UPC symbols from the site.'s operators responded by disabling the link on their Web site that allowed users to print sheets with a selection of bar code labels that could be slapped on store items.

"We were advised by our lawyers it would make sense to remove those for now," said one of the activists, who identified himself only as Nathan Hactivist and responded by telephone to an e-mail request for an interview. still provides a database of bar codes that can be copied and pasted into printing applications. It suggests, for instance, that users stick a label for Nerf balls over the bar code on a box of rifle ammunition.

The interview obviously presents "Hactivist's" claim that the site is done solely for satirical purposes, but if memory serves me right, "satirical intent" isn't a mitigating factor in a criminal prosecution. I wonder if, by forcing users to cut and paste the bogus UPCs instead of providing printable sheets, the site is trying to claim that any abuse is the visitors' responsibility, not their own. I doubt such a claim will fly, no matter how many discalimers the site posts.


video game parody of the day

blogger videogame parody

'Nuff said.

(via Ted Barlow via Something Awful)



Yow! Check out the American Prospect's "The Most Dangerous President Ever: How and why George W. Bush undermines American security." Any President -- with a vice president looming over his shoulder who clearly wishes the Executive Branch was an autocracy -- that can make TAP long for the days of Ronald Reagan should inspire fear and loathing.
At heart, the current Bush is a warrior for a region, a faction, a part of America. No national calamity has tempered his zeal for his factional agenda. His determination to reward the "investor class" (that is, still, the rich), to appoint socially reactionary judges, to favor his business cronies has not waned in wartime. His desire to make Americans reliant on the market, rather than social savings, has not been deterred by the worst decline in the markets since the Great Depression.

...[B]y strategy, inclination and conviction, George W. Bush has been pursuing a reckless, even ridiculous, but always right-wing agenda -- shredding a global-security structure at a time requiring unprecedented international integration, shredding a domestic safety net at a time when the private sector provides radically less security than it did a generation ago. No American president has ever played quite so fast and loose with the well-being of the American people.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

...As with his foreign policy, no level of factual refutation seems to make a dent in Bush's economic policies. His programs not only shift the burden of Americans' economic security to an increasingly deregulated private economy, they do so at a time when the deregulated private economy is singularly unable to provide economic security. Given how the market has performed over the past two years, you might think that that would slow the course of the administration's economic agenda. But, as with foreign policy, that would understate the role of blind faith within George W. Bush's White House.

There's lots more; read the whole thing. More than any single source I've seen, this article points out in one neat and utterly irrefutable package the radicalism of Bush's agenda. I've said repeatedly that Bush's 2000 electoral success--such as it was--owed a great deal to his being a superficially likable unknown quantity. The Democrats must get the American public to realize that Bush isn't a conservative, he's a radical whose policies are inherently harmful to more than 80% of the population, no matter how he candy-coats them. Hopefully, moderate Republicans -- such principled conservatives as still exist -- will also realize it's in their interest to rid themselves of Bush and his neocon cabal before they sink along with his imperial ship.

Democrats would do well to adopt the piece's concluding sentence as their 2004 election motto: "[O]btaining Bush's defeat is an urgent matter of national security -- and national honor."

(via To The Barricades)

  xTuesday, April 15, 2003

liar, liar

Great piece in The American Prospect on Bush's, er, mendacity. Aw, heck, lying is an essential component of Bush's politics; it seems like he doesn't even want to sell any of his policies honestly, even if it were possible.
George W. Bush is in a class by himself when it comes to prevarication. It is no exaggeration to say that lying has become Bush's signature as president.

The pattern is now well established. Soothing rhetoric -- about compassionate conservatism, about how much money the "average" American worker will get through the White House tax program, about prescription-drug benefits -- is simply at odds with what Bush's policies actually do. Last month Bush promised to enhance Medicaid; his actual policy would effectively end it as a federal entitlement program.

More distressing even than the president's lies, though, is the public's apparent passivity. Bush just seems to get away with it. The post-September 11 effect and the Iraq war distract attention, but there's more to it. Are we finally paying the price for three decades of steadily eroding democracy? Is Bush benefiting from the echo chamber of a right-wing press that repeats the White House line until it starts sounding like the truth? Or does the complicity of the press help to lull the public and reinforce the president's lies?

One thing is clear: If a Democrat, say, Bill Clinton, engaged in Bush-scale dishonesty, the press would be all over him.

It goes on with a devastating comparison Bush's rhetoric with the actual result of his the whole thing.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Speaking of lies, here are another couple of whoppers from Bush's recent Rose Garden appearance:
“Economic and job growth (occur) when consumers buy more goods and services from businesses such as your own,” [Bush said.] “And the best and fairest way to make sure Americans can do that is to grant them immediate tax relief so they have more of their own money to spend or save.”

“In two years’ time, this nation has experienced war, a recession, and a national emergency, which has caused our government to run a deficit,” he said. “The best way to reduce the deficit is with more growth in our economy, which means more revenues to our treasury and less spending in Washington, D.C.”

Lovely rhetoric and all, but it doesn't even vaguely resembe reality:

  • Much of the tax relief in his plan isn't "immediate," it's spead out over ten years

  • Much of the tax relief is aimed at the wealthy, who are less likely to spend it; it certainly doesn't put a lot of money in middle-class consumers' pockets, misleading claims about "average" tax cuts notwithstanding

  • Even using the dubious "dynamic scoring" method to postulate a boost to the economy from the tax cut, Bush's cut still produces nothing but defecits

  • The war--cost of which Bush famously refused to estimate until the shooting started--was Bush's own choice, and he simply plans to pay for it with a tax cut

  • And finally, the quote deliberately obscures the plainly obvious reason for the recession, which Bush blames on "recession" and "emergency"--this from the man who promised in 2000 that we could have both his tax cut and the surplus. The deficit is caused by Bush cutting taxes and increasing spending, period. In short, his own economic incompetence are causing it; the audacity of Bush seeking to use it as an excuse for more tax cuts is nothing short of breathtaking.

Make no mistake about it: This isn't just Bush spinning or painting an optimistic picture. This is a man deliberately misrepresenting his policies in an effort to gain support for them. Bush's lies--especially when contrasted with reality--could be his fatal vulnerability oin the 2004 election, if only the Democrats are smart enough to point them out as often as he tells them.

(via Seeing the Forest)


house committee nixes ethics rules

I rarely have reason to praise Republicans, but it's credit-where-due time: The House Ethics Committee has issued guidelines that restrict lawmakers' ability to accept bribes gifts of food and travel from lobbyists. Back in January, GOP leaders had loosened ethics rules--originally imposed by Republicans, no less--so Congresscritters and their staffs could accept gifts of food and travel from lobbyists, even ones with pending legislation being considered.
The letter...warns that there are "a number of considerations" lawmakers and aides must take into account before accepting gifts under the new rules. Food, for example, "must be refused entirely if the person offering it has a direct interest in the particular legislation or other official business on which the staff is working at the time."

As for charity events, members and staff can attend for up to two nights, and all of the event's net proceeds must go to the charity. Invitations must come from the charity itself, not from an event participant or donor that might want to influence legislation in Congress.

When Republicans gained the House majority in 1995, they cracked down on congressional perks, prohibiting lawmakers and aides from accepting gifts worth more than $50 from a single source at one time, with a cap of $100 a year. These standards became relaxed over time, and in January, House leaders created what they called the "pizza rule." It allowed the value of any catered meal to be divided by the number of people consuming it.

That practice allowed lobbyists representing the pharmaceutical industry, for example, to deliver dinner to the staff of Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) the night the House was voting on prescription drug legislation. It also enabled trade lobbyists to send pizza to the office of Rep. Calvin M. Dooley (D-Calif.) the night they were huddling with members of Dooley's staff regarding trade legislation. Neither of these meals would be permissible under the ethics committee's new rules.

Ethics committee chairman Joel Hefley (R-Colo.), who was reportedly outraged by the loopholes, joined ranking Democrat Alan B. Mollohan (W.Va.) in issuing the restrictions. Good on him--it's glad to see that the unabashed pandering to lobbyists and corporate interests of the GOP leadership isn't shared by the entire party.


dionne explains it all

E. J. Dionne raises an excellent point in today's Washington Post: conservative cranks who like to blast Uncle Sam's "rapaciousness" around tax time fail to give government the credit it's due. If you think government can't do anything good, look at the anarchy that siezed Iraq in the wake of the Ba'ath Party's collapse.
What these groups never talk about, because it would wreck their story line, is the extent to which our personal and collective prosperity as a property-owning, enterprising people depends on strong and effective government. No government, no property. No government, no security from looting, theft or violence. No government, no national defense. No government, no social stability. No government, no securities law. No government, no food inspections, no consumer and environmental protection, no safeguards for workplace rights, no social insurance.

(I'll demur that, of that list, conservatives seem to have no problem with spending more on the military than every other nation on Earth combines.)

Everyone remebers Jefferson's famous citation of the inalienable rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." It's often overlooked that the very next sentence describing another "self-evident truth" is "That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." No government, no rights.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Dionne continues:

[T]here is an even more basic point: Our legal and social orders disproportionately benefit the well-off. That makes it reasonable for them to pick up a larger share of the social costs. Both the police and the courts safeguard their holdings. Our system is designed to protect and preserve the current distribution of property and wealth.

Amen, brother. Capitalists love to crow about how their inventiveness and moxie was the formula to success, but without our stable society, how far could they go? Look at it this way: How many powerhouse businesses flourish in nations with weak governments? Think of the G7, and you're looking at liberal democracies, right down the line.

Anti-tax partisans like to moan about how taxes destroy the incentive to start businesses and engage in commerce, yadda yadda yadda. Yet the United States, even with its supposedly oppressive taxes, has created the largest economy in the world--and Japan, no tax haven, is number two.

Make no mistake about it: with conservatives, it isn't so much the taxes, as where they go. They have long ago lost the argument about the popularity of many government programs, so they do their best to see them de-funded (which is why Bush's deficit spree represents bonanzas for corporate welfare and little for social programs). It's an effective tactic, but not one that really stands up to scrutiny.


tax time

Today's the day...income taxes are due no later than midnight tonight. Actually, my lovely wife and I completed our taxes and filed electronically over the weekend; with direct deposit available for any refund, one no longer needs to leave the home at all during the entire process.

It's fashionable to kvetch about taxes, of course, but some conservatives have taken it to extremes in recent years. But while some conservatives seem to believe that the only legitimate use of tax revenue is military spending (which doesn't explain Bush trying to pay for his war with a tax cut), the American public doesn't see it that way. Of course people will generally favor lowered taxes when surveyed, but when those tax cuts are tied to cuts in programs they favor, they oppose them. And a recent poll--from Fox, yet--showed that 60% of the respondents felt that between the war and Bush's massive deficits, now is not the time for new tax cuts.

Everyone's for getting rid of "waste, fraud and abuse," but such is a tiny percentage of overall government spending...unless the term is a code word for social programs. Check out the Balanced Budget simulation, and you'll see that fiddling around with bureaucrats' budgets does almost nothing to offset the big budgetary line items:

  • Military spending

  • Social Security

  • Health care (Medicare and non-medicare)

  • Interest on the national debt (which is money redistributed from the taxpayers to banks, don't forget)

Of course, one thing the Bush presidency has made clear is that his inflexible commitment to tax cuts--in wartime, yet--is not matched by spending discipline. No, Bush is just another credit-card conservative, and I suspect people sense that.

Kevin Drum has an interesting couple of posts on how the mortgage tax deduction (which certainly made a difference on our own return) doesn't significantly save homeowners money. In sum, by subsidizing the mortgage, it increases the amount of money homeowners are willing to pay, thus driving up prices; without it, taxes would be higher but home prices (and mortgage opayments) lower. Interesting the whole thing.

  xMonday, April 14, 2003

swank spy novel of the day

casino royale cover

Yesterday, April 13, was the 50th anniversary of the publication of the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. c00L!

(via FARK)

Update 03/28: A review of the book at kuro5hin, via BoingBoing.


the decline of western civilization

From Sky News: "Hollywood couple J.Lo and Ben Affleck have secured a deal to remake the classic movie Casablanca, according to reports."

No....oh, dear Lord, just no! Please tell me this is a hoax, or a mistake, or someone's twisted idea of a joke.


repeat refrain

April 12: Suspected Iraqi chemical weapons found!

April 13: ...or not.

Of course, we know that the Bush Administration was never really serious about was always and ever about getting rid of Saddam. WMDs were merely the pretext to create the necessary fear for supporting Bush's war. But isn't it obvious by now that the Administration's claims that Iraq was positively oozing with nerve gas were--to put it generously--exaggerated?

Heck, why put it generously. Bush agitated for the war by painting Iraq as some kind of threat, and recent events have clearly proven that he was mistaken, or simply lying. Iraq was never a threat to US security. Not then, anyway.


old-skool anime link of the day

bubblegum crisis

One of the first anime series I followed upon my rediscovery of the genre was the cyberpunk adventure Bubblegum Crisis. Set, like it seems every third anime series is, in a post-cataclysmic rebuilt Tokyo, BGC chronicles the efforts of the powered-armor-clad Knight Sabers to combat rogue cyborgs called "Boomers" unleashed by the suinister Genom Corporation. A later series, Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040, is a sequel-cum-remake in the style of the second Evil Dead movie.

bubblegum crisis

In its review of the latter series, the Web site Purple Planet Media takes a retrospective look at the original and takes note of the elements that made BGC such a cool anime.
I consider the cyberpunk-tinged Bubblegum Crisis to be the first OAV series to successfully apply the music video aesthetic to anime, with quick-cutting visuals and every dramatic or action scene accompanied by a rock/pop/electronic score or song. It's a formula that is now familiar to anyone who catches summer films at the local cineplex, but watching Priss's "Hurricane" performance intercut with action-packed scenes on the streets of a futuristic Tokyo back in 1987 was something to experience.

For my own part, BGC was one of the formative elements in my current love of Japanese pop music. (Now you know who to blame...)

(via Destroy All Monsters; images courtesy the Bubblegum Crisis Image Index)



A certain Web site demonstrates once again that there's no purient interest someone on the Web won't cater to. In this case, lets visitors print UPC symbols (bar codes) to affix to packages at the grocery store or whatnot. By substituting, for instance, a name-brand product's UPC for a generic (or otherwise cheaper) competitor--and assuming the cashier doesn't notice the discrepancy--the thief shopper gets the desired name-brand quality at a bargain price. This practice is simply foul.

It's one thing to shop carefully and make considered value judgements when at the store. And there's nothing wrong with naming one's own price when the seller agrees to the practice, as is the case with certain bargain travel and auction sites. It's quite another to "re-code" packaging to dishonestly substitute a genuine price tag wiht a bogus one. claims in the following disclaimer to be satire: We in no way endorse the theft of products or services. was created as satire. We intend only to make aware the prevelance of barcodes and begin a critical discussion about what their pervasiveness means. This is not a product designed to be used in any malicious or illegal manner. Any such use is strictly prohibited. You should not use any of the barcodes available from this site for any illegal activity. They are here for your amusement only.

This press release, however, confirms the site's intent: To help unscrupulous consumers fraudulently game the UPC system. Even with the fig leaf of supposed satire, it's difficult to imagine how this sleazy site can pass legal muster, and I look forward to the relevant authorities taking interest promptly.

(via Ipse Dixit, which sums it up best: "There's a word for what helps people do. That word is 'stealing'.")

Update: A article on the site, via BoingBoing


milestone of the (yester)day

Just before midnight last night, the hit counter reached 24,000. Thanks for visiting!


review at dam

As part of Destroy All Monsters' Studio Ghibli week, here's my sneak preview of the DVD release of the wonderful Spirited Away.

My wife and I had reservations about letting our girls see this film, as there are some scary moments. Cecilia saw the DVD case, though, and asked to watch it, and she was completely enthralled. Yes, she was frightened a couple of times, but I think she was more taken by the film's beauty and the relationship between the young girl Chihiro and the mysterious dragon-boy Haku. She got to stay up a bit late last night to watch the end of the film, and wanted it again first thing this morning.


back to it

My apologies for the delay in posting this morning; I had a deadline to make. That accomplished, I'm just about to begin with blogging proper.

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