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  xSaturday, April 26, 2003

c00l flash toy of the day

bollywood subtitles

Great googly moogly! This promotional site for the beverage Fanta Shokata lets you create your own subtitles for snippets from various Bollywood movies! It's a hoot!

(via AccordionGuy)

  xFriday, April 25, 2003

videogame gallery of the day


Since I'm still enjoying the PS2 game Dead or Alive 2 Hardcore, here's another gallery depicting the various characters and costumes (pictured: T'ai C'hi master Lifang).

lifang and jann lee

While we're at it, here's a gallery of screen shots from the game.

kasumi sera-fuku

...and here's another gallery featuring a picture of Kasumi in her sailor suit outfit, which I unlocked the other day. Kawaii!


almost speechless with fury

White House officials have admitted to ABC News that the "WMD" argument -- the President's primary and persistent justification for the war, although even Bush now admits that we might not find any of the darn things -- was a sham.
To build its case for war with Iraq, the Bush administration argued that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but some officials now privately acknowledge the White House had another reason for war — a global show of American power and democracy.

Officials inside government and advisers outside told ABCNEWS the administration emphasized the danger of Saddam's weapons to gain the legal justification for war from the United Nations and to stress the danger at home to Americans.
"We were not lying," said one official. "But it was just a matter of emphasis." [Emphasis, ironically enough, added.]

Officials now say they may not find hundreds of tons of mustard and nerve agents and maybe not thousands of liters of anthrax and other toxins. But U.S. forces will find some, they say. On Thursday, President Bush raised the possibility for the first time that any such Iraqi weapons were destroyed before or during the war.

If weapons of mass destruction were not the primary reason for war, what was? Here's the answer officials and advisers gave ABCNEWS.

The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks changed everything, including the Bush administration's thinking about the Middle East — and not just Saddam Hussein.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Senior officials decided that unless action was taken, the Middle East would continue to be a breeding ground for terrorists. Officials feared that young Arabs, angry about their lives and without hope, would always looking for someone to hate — and that someone would always be Israel and the United States.

Europeans thought the solution was to get a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But American officials felt a Middle East peace agreement would only be part of the solution.

The Bush administration felt that a new start was needed in the Middle East and that Iraq was the place to show that it is democracy — not terrorism — that offers hope.

Sending a Message

Beyond that, the Bush administration decided it must flex muscle to show it would fight terrorism, not just here at home and not just in Afghanistan against the Taliban, but in the Middle East, where it was thriving.

Officials deny that Bush was captured by the aggressive views of neo-conservatives. But Bush did agree with some of their thinking.

"We made it very public that we thought that one consequence the president should draw from 9/11 is that it was unacceptable to sit back and let either terrorist groups or dictators developing weapons of mass destruction strike first at us," conservative commentator Bill Kristol said on ABCNEWS' Nightline in March.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

The Bush administration wanted to make a statement about its determination to fight terrorism. And officials acknowledge that Saddam had all the requirements to make him, from their standpoint, the perfect target.

Other countries have such weapons, yet the United States did not go to war with them. And though Saddam oppressed and tortured his own people, other tyrants have done the same without incurring U.S. military action. Finally, Saddam had ties to terrorists — but so have several countries that the United States did not fight.

But Saddam was guilty of all these things and he met another requirement as well — a prime location, in the heart of the Middle East, between Syria and Iran, two countries the United States wanted to send a message to.

That message: If you collaborate with terrorists, you do so at your own peril.

Officials said that even if Saddam had backed down and avoided war by admitting to having weapons of mass destruction, the world would have received the same message; Don't mess with the United States.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey said on Nightline this week that although he believed Saddam was a serious threat and had dangerous weapons, going to war to prove a point was wrong.

"I don't think you should go to war to set examples or send messages," Woolsey said. Get the transcript of the Woolsey interview.

Sept. 11, 2001

But what if Sept. 11 had never happened? Would the United States have gone to war with Iraq? Administration officials and others say no, at least not now.

The Bush administration could probably have lived with the threat of Saddam and might have gone after him eventually if, for example, the Iraqi leader had become more aggressive in pursuing a nuclear program or in sponsoring terrorism.

But again, Sept. 11 changed all that.

Listen closely, officials said, to what Bush was really saying to the American people before the war.

"I hope they understand the lesson of September the 11th," Bush said on March 6. "The lesson is, is that we're vulnerable to attack, wherever it may occur, and we must take threats which gather overseas very seriously. We don't have to deal with them all militarily, but we have to deal with them."

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Has the war done what the officials ABCNEWS talked to wanted?

It seems to have improved the behavior of the Syrians and maybe the Iranians, they said, although there is still concern that Iran will meddle in Iraq. And it may have even put some fear in the North Koreans, they added. Plus, they said it probably has helped the Middle East peace process.

But will Iraq be the model that can persuade young Arabs there is more to life than hatred? Too early to know, they said.

Their point: We are deeply worried about the Shiites. It will be a tragedy if radical, anti-American elements gain control in post-Saddam Iraq.

One official said that in the end, history and the American people will judge the United States not by whether U.S. officials find canisters of poison gas or vials of some biological agent.

History will judge the United States, the official said, by whether this war marked the beginning of the end for the terrorists who hate America.

This is simply outrageous. (I'd say read the whole thing, but that is the whole thing.) It now appears that this Administration and its henchmen are so drunk with the glory of the victory of the world's largest military over a seventh-rate power that they're even willing to admit its entire case was simply bogus. They likely judge -- alas, correctly, in my view -- that there will be no repercussions for admitting their deception.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Yes, they've "sent their message," and so now no terrorist will ever dare attack us again. Especially since even nuclear armed North Korea is now cooper...uh, never mind. Indeed, where I think history will judge Bush is whether he demonstrated so clearly that the US was willing ot take on weak armies but not nucelar-armed dictators that rogue nations increase their nuclear efforts. If we take out Saddam's weakened army, but a nuclear-armed Kim Jong Il thumbs his nose at us, I think that lesson will be clear. Once again, war skeptics raised this very valid point, only to have it dismissed out of hand by the hawks (because no option other than war was legitimate, after all). Somehow I remain unconvinced that North Korea has gone docile on us. But even that point, however apt, overlooks the unavoidable, glaring, reprehensible fact:

They lied to us.

Of course, many of us knew that, but that still doesn't make it any less of a stinkin' lie. What we have here is an Administration obviously unwilling to even attempt to sell the nation on its genuine reasons for war (including, as if it really were true, the "liberation of the Iraqi people"). And thus, we had an Administration willing to promulgate any halfway-acceptable, if wholly false, justification for the course Bush had decided on long before, as long as it had a chance of selling.

See Daily Kos, Interesting Times, and The Road to Surfdom, among many others, for more rancor; I'm confident in prediciting a resounding silence from hawkish bloggers, even those who believed in good faith in Bush's case and were deceived as much as -- indeed, more than -- we were. Meanwhile, Josh Marshall just says, "I told you so!"

If lying about one's sexual conduct is grounds for impeachment, then lying to lead the nation to an unnecessary war -- an unprovoked war of agression that violated the most fundemental precepts of the UN charter -- sure as hell is too.


new 'ghiblets' at dam

Destroy All Monsters has more coverage of Studio Ghibli today. There's a review of the third DVD Disney released April 15, Castle in the Sky, and my article on Studio Ghibli's history.

There are several other reviews out as well, but here's a roundup of the Studio Ghibi coverage, which concluded today:

Not a bad ten day's or so work, if I say so myself.


happy birthday

renee zellweger

...Renée Zellweger, who turns 34 today. (That's a year younger than me. It's really odd seeing the number of movie stars who are younger than myself; when I was growing up, of course, they were all older...) Here's a gallery of the lovely and talented Ms. Zellweger, who recently starred in the hit musical Chicago.


ends justify the means watch

In a Washington Post op-ed column in this morning, David Ignatius waxes rhapsodic over the joy of the Iraqi people in being rid of Saddam Hussein. He at least admits that the resulting Iraqi government may not be just, or stable, or even friendly to the United states.

(Make no mistake about it -- wether the US withdraws quickly or is forced into a long-term troop presence, either course has costs and risks. Of course, this is no surprise; many war skeptics argued the point, but the hawks would hear none of it, because since objections to war embraced alternatives other than war, they were simply not an option. It'd at least have been a mark of competence had the Amdinistration -- which has been pressing for war for more than a year -- also had concrete plans for a postwar Iraq. Instead, they're pretty obviously making it up as they go, with various "leaders" being touted by various factions in the Administration, and stern warnings to neighboring countries that the US is the only one with the right to meddle in Iraqi affairs.)

But in his joy over having achieved what no one would deny is a Good Thing all by itself, Ignatius goes on to make a rather shocking statement:
Personally, I don't much care if the U.S. reports about weapons of mass destruction prove to be imaginary. Toppling Hussein's regime was still right.

In other words, Ignatius is so happy that we liberated Iraq that he doesn't care that we did so under totally false pretences.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

The Administration's rationale all along has been assertions that it knew -- had solid evidence, no less -- that Iraq was positively dripping with WMDs. Not only that, but also that Iraq had ties to, not just terrorists, but al Qaeda (a silly claim; if it ever held water, as I've said, that alone is causus belli; the fact that despite, again, assertions of proof, the Administration hardly even bothered to push that case illustrates that it was solely propaganda). The veracity of both these allegations is not just in doubt; they're demonstrably false.

It doesn't matter if the Iraqis are happier without Saddam, or even if they collectively decide that it was worth the destruction and death we inflicted on them. That's their affair. From our own perspective, what matters is that the Administration's key rationales -- at least the most prominent among their shifting series -- were lies, or at the very least the products of spectacularly inept intelligence wedded to a frothing desire for war. The Administration -- so highly reputed for its focus -- could have made liberation of Iraq from Saddam its sole agenda item, as opposed to an undeniable collateral benefit. If the Administration's case had always been liberation, with no lies assertions of Iraq's so-called "threat," connections to al Qaeda, or swimming pools of anthrax, then the war could have been debated (well, no, it wouldn't have; Bush obviously brooked no debate or dissention from any course other than war, but bear with me) on those grounds, and then the hawks could crow about the joy of Iraqi freedom. No one denied that the Iraqi people would benefit from Saddam's departure; many opponents, including myself, were highly deisturbed at the Administration leading the United Sytates into an unprovoked war of aggression under false pretences.

Those pretences are being proved more patently false each day -- even if Saddam had WMDs, it's obvious by now that the US government never had the sure knowledge, let alone proof, it claimed, and the al Qaeda connection is simply laughable. Ignatius may not care that Bush lied us into war, but I and many others sure as hell do. Shame on Ignatius for not holding the Administration accountable for its claims. Shame on Ignatius for embracing a war based on lies and deception. And shame on the hawks who condone the lies that brought them their cherished war. That attitude -- that the US should adopt war at the President's pleasure, an unmistakable aspect of tyranny -- is truly unpatriotic.

  xThursday, April 24, 2003

flash game of the day

Tetris! w00t!

(via Byzantium's Shores)


bob edwards r0x0rz!

Check out this great op-ed by NPR host Bob Edwards (who, like me, calls Louisville his home town), in which he takes on media concentration and the complacency of the so-called "liberal media."
Kentucky journalism and broadcasting have changed drastically since I left here 33 years ago. Back then, you owned it. Your major newspapers, television and radio stations were owned and operated by Kentuckians. Today home ownership is pretty much confined to small-town weeklies, KET and the public radio stations. Your major daily newspapers are now provincial outposts for absentee corporate owners who expect profit margins of 20 to 30 percent. The managers of your TV stations report to bosses far away who care less about the stations' community service and journalistic exposés than they care about how those stations are contributing to the share price of corporate stock.

...It's kind of a cruel, ironic joke. The rise of cable TV and the Internet were supposed to democratize the media and give us many voices and numerous points of view. Instead, market forces and deregulation have clobbered diversity. The networks and cable channels have the same owners -- Hollywood studios, mainly -- and the most popular Web sites for news are those of news organizations firmly established before the Web was spun.

I might interject here that this sorry situation did not come about by accident, but by Congress overturning legislation aimed at preventing just such a thing, with the intense lobbying of corporate media, of course.
...[R]emember what the news looked like in the days and weeks before the war began? ...There was a lot about that woman who accidentally ran over her husband three or four times with the family car until his cheating butt was good and dead. And then there were all those interviews with the yutzes who are on those so-called "reality" TV shows. In other words, what passed for news was a lot of stuff that had no bearing on your life whatsoever. But it was titillating, and it might have kept you from reaching for the zapper and tuning in the ballgame -- which is the whole point of doing tabloid stories and celebrity gossip and calling it news.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

No one can be blamed these days for not knowing what passes for a news program or who might be a legitimate journalist. The old rules have been tossed out the window. The definitions have no meaning anymore. There used to be lines no serious journalist ever crossed. Those lines are pretty blurry these days. Television hires political operatives and makes them anchors. ...Young people don't know that there were once people who were strictly entertainers and others who were strictly reporters. I read a comment by a radio consultant who said young people believe Howard Stern does a public affairs program because he sometimes talks about stories in the news. It was nearly a career-ending moment for me when I read that.

...This President has been in office for more than two years and he's held exactly eight news conferences. At the same point in his presidency, George Bush the elder had held 58 news conferences. Of the current President's eight news conferences, only two have been in prime time. ...Another White House tradition, the follow-up question, also appears to be history.

We can fault the President and Fleischer for all that -- and I certainly do -- but they are only part of the dynamic. You can't hold a press conference without the press, yet President Bush nearly did. Where were they that night? Some of those whose names were called might have bothered to ask a decent question.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Being popular might be good for business at a time when newspapers are losing readers and TV networks are losing viewers. And the owners of today's media, who are business tycoons, not journalists, would like us to be good representatives of the corporate brands. But that is not our job. We are supposed to be surrogates for the public -- the eyes and ears of citizens who don't have the access we have. We are to hold public officials to account, and if that makes them angry at us -- well, that just goes with our job, and we have to take it. If pointed questions make public officials squirm -- well, that just goes with their job, and they're supposed to take it. That’s the price that comes with the privilege of serving the people.

...[W]e don't deserve to enjoy the cool part of the job if we're not willing to do the heavy lifting that sometimes comes with it. Public officials are measured by how well they perform in times of crisis. If they can't take the heat, they should be in another line of work. It should be the same way with journalists. We cannot take a dive just because the country is at war. Indeed, our responsibility grows in times like these. It is not unpatriotic to expect the best from our leaders. Likewise, the public should expect no less than the best from us.

Edwards' comments are spot-on; read the whole thing. A critical and skeptical press is indeed critical to the small-d democratic process. Unfortunately, much of the so-called liberal media -- whether do to laziness, ineptitude, managerial pressure or fear of still more accusations of bias -- seem perfectly willing to act as stenographers to this administration. As a result, this Administration simply asserts its scripted lines -- from think-tank pipe dreams to outright lies -- ad nauseum until the public comes to believe it's all true. Indeed, it's breathtakingly obvious how little esteem accountability holds for this Administration; Bush would much rather be the judge of what we need to know. Unfortunately, a compliant if not downright incompetent press seems to be essential for certain political leaders to disguise an agenda that often is far from what it's claimed to be, or unlikely to work even when it is.

(via a Daily Kos comment thread)

  xWednesday, April 23, 2003

quiet day

I'm trying to finish up a review and article for Destroy All Monsters, so blogging will probably be light for the rest of the day.


geek diary

With the end of Lent, my self-imposed ban on DVD buying ended. Ironically, most stores were closed that day, so it wasn't until last night that I got out to buys some DVDs from a local secondhand shop and Best Buy. The latter had Jackie Chan's First Strike (AKA Police Story 4)and The Truth About Cats and Dogs (a pleasant update of Cyrano de Bergerac, but nowhere near as brilliant as Roxanne) on the sale rack, so I grabbed those. For some reason I can't fathom, the secondhand store had a Mei Ah Chinese import of an obscure Michelle Yeoh/Tony Leung/Donnie Yen wuxia film, Butterfly & Sword. Naturally I grabbed it, and a copy of Resident Evil: Code Veronica X.

Here are my impressions from the short get-acquainted session I played last night with RE:CVX:

  • OK, this game looks pretty cool. Good buildup of sux0rz to only have a knife.

  • I see Capcom kept the door animations and sound effects around from the first game...

  • Uh oh, a zombie, and I still only have a knife

  • More zombies coming out of the ground?! Bad news!

  • Well, I'm dead.

I'm still enjoying DOA 2 Hardcore. I. Last night, by beating the story mode with no continues, I unlocked Kasumi's sera-fuku costume. w00t!

I haven't been playing Mortal Kombat Trilogy very much. I'm embarrassed to admit that although I've scraped some of the rust off my Kombat skillz, the difficulty level of this game seems to be cranked up way out of proportion. (The computer's reflexes make it nearly impossible to win after a point; it can always launch the precise countermove.) Mortal Kombat 3 was the first game I ever played on the PlayStation, and it's cool to own a copy; I just approach it like a coin-op game: play until there's no more point to continuing. (It's a testament to how much I like MKT that I'm willing to do that; I generally either focus on beating a game or don't play it at all.)

  xTuesday, April 22, 2003

anime link of the day

martian successor nadesico

Here's a review of the first Martian Successor Nadesico DVD at Stomp Tokyo's Attack of the 50 foot DVD.

(image courtesy Anime Cubed)


almost forgot...

With everyone and their uncle (well, maybe not all the warbloggers...) wondering where the heck Iraq's supposed WMDs are, I think it's important to point out that no evidence whatsoever about Saddam's alleged ties to al Qaeda has surfaced. Remember, Administration officials said they had proof!

(Opportunistic moves by al Qaeda fighters -- who were among many Islamic volunteers from all over the Arab world, including such ostensible allies as -- yes! -- Saudi Arabia -- don't count, nor does the purported Osama bin Laden statement calling on Muslims to resist the invaders. Although the latter does fairly nicely point out how much Bush's coveted war on Iraq played into bin Laden's hands. No wonder Bush never mentions him any more...)

Of course, I don't think even a lot of warbloggers, let alone members of the Bush Administration, seriously believed this one, although it certainly helped their war fever that a good chunk of the country came to believe that most of the 9/11 hijackers came from Iraq (correct answer: Saudi Arabia!). I know I certainly didn't believe the claims myself.

But not believing it doesn't make it any less of a stinkin' lie.



Cisco is building new technologies into its routers that'll make it easier for the government to conduct surveillance on Internet transmissions undetected.
Cisco Systems has created a more efficient and targeted way for police and intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on people whose Internet service provider uses their company's routers.

The company recently published a proposal that describes how it plans to embed "lawful interception" capability into its products. Among the highlights: Eavesdropping "must be undetectable," and multiple police agencies conducting simultaneous wiretaps must not learn of one another. If an Internet provider uses encryption to preserve its customers' privacy and has access to the encryption keys, it must turn over the intercepted communications to police in a descrambled form.

A spokesperson said the design of so-called "lawful interception" technology was conducted at the customer's request--the customet being the US government. The engineer said he had "moral and ethical issues" with the request but claimed it was Congress' responsibility to put a leash on overzealous law enforcement (which is true enough, however likely such an outcome may be). Still, some privacy experts feat that the borderless nature of the Internet will allow eavesdropping by nations with less stringent privacy protections.

(via BoingBoing)


ship of state fools

ship of fools by hieronymus bosch
Ship of Fools by Hieronymus Bosch

Meanwhile, back on the home front, the war of words between the State Department and the Defense Department (which obviously feels that foreign policy should be its baliwick, given Rumsfeld's golden tongue and smooth charm) is escalating; even Newt Gingrich (yes, Newt Gingrich!) is getting into the act.

(image courtesy WebMuseum)


least surprising development of the day

Washington Post: An Answer? Out of the Question
It was, perhaps, inevitable, and it happened late last week: The White House went completely incommunicado.

For two years, lawmakers, journalists and watchdog groups have complained that the Bush administration has been stingy with information on everything from energy policy to Iraq rebuilding. But the less-is-more communications approach reached its logical extreme in a pair of briefings in Texas on Thursday and Friday by deputy White House press secretary Claire Buchan. In an exchange of nearly 3,800 words, the spokeswoman managed not to answer about 75 questions.

I suppose the reflexive Bush boosters must be terribly amused by Dubya sticking it to the so-called "liberal media," and those pesky, nosy Congressional oversight groups, but this Administration's obvious attitude that its actions are not really any of the American public's darn business stikes me as somehow, ah, counter-(small-d)-democratic.


oh, yeah...

Let's also not forget that Bush pledged to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, and hasn't even mentioned his name long is it, now? (It'll be an interesting change in the months ahead not hearing Bush mouth off about Saddam every other day, if and when he fails to turn up...)

Frankly, I care less about Saddam than Osama (not to be confused with giving Saddam a free pass--although if he escaped Iraq, it's likely someone did). If Saddam is apprehended, great, but if he slinks out of Iraq to the Crimea or Syria or Argentina or wherever, he'll never rule Iraq again; I wouldn't doubt that justice would catch up to him eventually.

But Osama bin Laden is guilty of the murder of 3,000 or so American citizens; men, women, and children. While it's true that the fight against terrorism is about more than one man, that does not at all excuse the Bush Administration's conspicuous failure to apprehend this criminal. Finding bin Laden -- or his body -- is a matter of justice as much as it is security, and Bush has failed at both.

On every day of the GOP convention in which Bush seeks to derive political advantage (as in the political clout to pass the odious Patriot II act) from a terrorist act that occurred on Bush's watch due to his own sheer incompetence, in a city whose economic struggles and security efforts Bush balks at aiding, the Democrats should remind the American public that among Bush's broken promises is his failure to bring the man responsible to justice.


shameless, (adj): see bush, george w.

The GOP has pushed back its 2004 New York Presidential convention to coincide -- deliberately -- with the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
President Bush's advisers have drafted a re-election strategy built around staging the latest nominating convention in the party's history, allowing Mr. Bush to begin his formal campaign near the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and to enhance his fund-raising advantage, Republicans close to the White House say.

The unmitigated gall of this man to exploit the anniversary of 3,000 deaths that occurred on his watch because he failed to respond to specific warnings of al Qaeda planning hijackings (whether any steps he took would have proved effective is beside the point; he did nothing apparent) for political advantage is thoroughly disgusting.

Oh, by the way...for "fund-raising advantage," read "beholden to corporate interests."

If Rove is planning national security as the overwhelmingly predominant theme of Bush's re-election campaign, as opposed to making it one of several planks (not too many, to keep Bush on message), I think the GOP is in for some big trouble. First of all, no Democrat should be afraid to debate national security with Bush. As in, "If you define 'national security' as misleading the nation into war under false pretenses, shredding an international security structure that took better statesment than you -- including your own father -- 50 years to build, and incurring the distrust, if not outright enmity, of the population of the entire world, you're welcome to a monopoly on it," or in short, "what national security?"

Second of all, it's a tacit concession that Bush will have trouble running on his economic successes (as in, "what economic successes?").

And finally, the Democrats absolutely must point out the litany of Bush's broken promises, and at the same time remind voters of his pledge of integrity (as in, "what integrity?").


wmd watch

Check out this Washington Post article on the so-far fruitless hunt for Iraq's supposed weapons of mass desctruction.
With little to show after 30 days, the Bush administration is losing confidence in its prewar belief that it had strong clues pointing to the whereabouts of weapons of mass destruction concealed in Iraq, according to planners and participants in the hunt.

After testing some -- though by no means all -- of their best leads, analysts here and in Washington are increasingly doubtful that they will find what they are looking for in the places described on a five-tiered target list drawn up before fighting began. Their strategy is shifting from the rapid "exploitation" of known suspect sites to a vast survey that will rely on unexpected discoveries and leads.

Get that? After lying asserting repeatedly that they knew all about Iraq's WMDs, the Administration has found that its list of most likely sites -- its best information -- haven't panned out. It's becoming increasingly clear that the Bush Administration's impatience with the UN weapons inpectors was simply that they weren't providing Bush with a pretext for war -- worse, they were demonstrating that Iraq had little or no WMDs, no nuclear program that can't be downloaded from the Internet, and obviously posed no threat to anyone. And, of course, any policy that didn't lead to Bush's cherished war was simply not an option.

Moreover, despite its public expressions of confidence in the eventual discovery of those swimming pools of anthrax or whatever, the Bush Administration is clearly in no hurry to have the UN weapons inpectors return to independently confirm any caches that are subsequently, er, ah, discovered. While this attitude perfectly reflects the Bush Administration's arrogance and vindictiveness, it's another blunder.

Make no mistake about it: Bush sold this war on weapons of mass destruction. (Of course, he knew Operation Inigo Montoya was only about regime change, but he had to tricked the rest of us into believing there was a national security issue, however threadbare.) The US has been looking at the sites it claimed to "know" were WMD facilities, and has come up with bupkus. Some hawks are apparently satisfied with any rationale for going to war with Iraq, but for the rest of the world, US credibility -- hardly at an all-time high -- is even more at stake. The presence of UN weapons inspectors, or at least some outside party, is absolutely essential to US credibility.

Then there's this ominous note...
If such weapons or the means of making them have been removed from the centralized control of former Iraqi officials, high-ranking U.S. officials acknowledged, then the war may prove to aggravate the proliferation threat that President Bush said he fought to forestall.



you are likely to be eaten by a grue

The Interactive Fiction Archive features a vast collection of shareware and public domain text adventure games. I used to spend many hours pondering such games on the onld TRS-80s back in high school.

One day shy of a year ago, I mentioned the Java version of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy text adventure. The good people at Infocom have also made the first three versions of my personal favorite text adventure game, Zork, available for free download. w00t!

(via Long Story, Short Pier)


spirited away nominated for hugo award

I just posted this item over at Destroy All Monsters, but I wanted to mention it here as well: The magnificent Spirited Away has just been nominated for a Hugo award in the Dramatic Presentation, Long Form category. The full nominee list is:

  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

  • Minority Report

  • Spider-Man

  • Spirited Away

Personally, I don't think the film has a prayer of taking home the award--Spirited Away is much more fantasy than science fiction--but the Hugo nod is certainly an honor, and it's yet another example of the film's relatively high profile. I'd imagine much of the Hugo fan base is already aware of the film, but perhaps not. If so, the nod may introduce the film to a potentially very receptive audience.

(via Ipse Dixit)


cultural link of the day

Five words: Evel Kenieval -- The Rock Opera!

(via FARK)


milestone of the day

'Round midnight last night, the hit counter reached 25,000. Thanks for visiting!

  xMonday, April 21, 2003

airline golden parachute update

The other day, I mentioned American Airline's announcment of juicy executive retention bonuses immediately after winning concessions from its labor unions; the unions were, of course, outraged.

Jane Galt took note of the same phenomenon:
They asked the unions to make big concessions -- like 15% of salary -- while paying the top 45 executives retention bonuses worth up to twice their base pay, and taking steps to shelter the executive supplemental pension from bankruptcy. And they didn't tell the unions. Too bad for them they had to file with the SEC the same day that voting closed on the concessions deals. The unions, angry that they hadn't been told about the safety net for the executives before being asked to hand back major concessions, scuttled the deal.

Some of it seems to be legit. There were a lot of executives who were eligible for retirement who wanted to take their retirement in a lump sum and get out before the collapse -- the company needed them, and it's unlikely they could have been persuaded to risk their pensions. But the retention bonuses sound like a warm personal gift from the executives to themselves before the bankruptcy court cut their salaries to "junior fryolator operator".

And even if it were totally legit, not telling the unions gave a loaded weapon to anyone agitating against the concessions.

The executives are getting what they deserve, and will hopefully soon be out on the tarmac. The shareholders and employees, unfortunately, aren't. The unions can probably count on the bankruptcy court to cut them a fair deal. But the shareholdes are going to lose everything.

...and in the comment thread, someone linked to this Reuters story saying that American has dropped the retention bonuses (and here's a Fortune article on other excecutive compensation excesses).


(via Oliver Willis)


looting and law

Here's an interesting FindLaw article on the United State's responsibility to preseve order and protect the cultural artifacts in Iraq.
Last week, after two days of unhindered pillage, the Baghdad museum that housed these treasures was emptied. By Friday afternoon, when Rumsfeld made his dismissive remarks, looters were carting away the last spoils. According to the museum's deputy director, who blamed U.S. forces for refusing to prevent the plunder, at least 170,000 items were taken or destroyed.

The pillage of the National Museum of Iraq should have come as no surprise. And if the risks were obvious, the legal responsibilities were equally clear.

...Well prior to the outbreak of the current war, [archaeologists and scholars] warned the Pentagon of the dangers to Iraq's cultural heritage posed by postwar pillage and destruction.

Under the laws of war, the United States is obligated to ensure public order in territories that it occupies, and to prevent looting and other forms of lawlessness. More specifically, it is required to protect museums and other cultural property against damage.

The primary international treaty on this point is the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, drafted in 1954. The convention specifies that an occupying power must take necessary measures to safeguard and preserve the cultural property of the occupied country.

Because this rule codifies customary international law, it is binding even on countries such as the United States that have signed but not ratified the convention.

Looting most definitely happens when the authorities take no steps to prevent it. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that this was the case with Iraq's National Museum and its priceless collection of artifacts.

Wasn't the idea that Iraq was flouting international law one of the Rationales of the Week for this war? In any case, the loss of these irreplaceable artifacts once again illustrates the Administration's incopetence. They gambled on Saddam folding quickly when attacked by a force too small to swiftly or fully secure the country if he didn't. While the eventual military victory surprised no one, the subsequent lawlessness and disorder should have surprised no one either, but the armed forces were either unable or unwilling to do much about it. And that's a direct consequence of Rumsfeld's plans.

(via Terminus, who quite appropriately wonders why Rumsfeld doesn't even have the decency to pretend to regret the sack of Baghdad)


permalink update

CalPundit has a new home: Kevin Drum's blog -- one of my daily reads -- also has a spiffy new design, is powered by Movable Type, and even comments!

And please welcome Terminus to the blogroll.


asian photo of the day

new year's prayers in pnomh penh

Byzantium's Shores recently posted this AP photo of a woman praying during recent New Year celebrations in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, swiped from just-permalinked Die Puny Humans. Jaquandor called the pic "one of the loveliest photographs I have seen lately," and I agree.


swank videogame wallpaper gallery of the day

dead or alive 2 wallpaper

Shortly after I first fired up my new copy of the PS2 fighting game Dead Or Alive 2 Hardcore, my wife's immediate comment was, "She jiggles." Truly, part of the game's eye candy are, ah, complex algorithms for depicting female fighters' anatomy (the fighters' uniforms--a good part of the game's replayability involves unlocking extra outfits--are also realistically modeled, as lampooned in this MegaTokyo strip: "Woah, I didn't know Kasumi's skirt could do that!"). I guess know I'm getting old, or years of videogaming have cause me to simply absorb such as a given, but I'd hardly noticed--honest! But there's no question that a good slice of DoA's intended appeal are the kawaii female combatants (Actually, my personal favorite is the Jeet Kune Do guy, although Lifang, the T'ai Chi honey, is also pretty c00L). In that spirit, here's a wallpaper gallery featuring the DoA heroines in swimwear.


comments ipse dixit way

As I mentioned, I've been participating in a comment thread over at Dodd's blog, and my most recent entry was, I thought, a pretty good summary of why I reject the so-called case for Operation Inigo Montoya, so I'm reproducing it here.
What it all boils down to is whether you're seeking a compelling, irrefutable reason to attack or merely a pretext. While no one credible disputes that the removal of Saddam Hussein is a Good Thing all by itself, I also dont' doubt that if Bush had gone on TV the day after telling Condi Rice "f___ Saddam, we're taking him out" a year ago and told the American public that he was committing America's armed forces to an unprovoked war against Iraq to remove Saddam and "liberate the Iraqi people," he would have recieved little public support.

Bush and Rove no doubt knew that, so Bush spent a year making claiming that Iraq was simply oozing chemical and biological weapons, and making laughable attempts to imply that a nuclear threat existed as well. Many, myself included, questioned the evidence on which such a claim was based, and were roundly criticized here for daring to dispute the President's claim that he simply knew about it. Yes there's been no finds so far, and if our knowledge was as certain as the President and his supporters here claimed it was, there should have been. Period.

Furthermore, to whatever extent Iraq may have posessed chem or bio weapons, his neighbors in the Gulf were clearly none too concerned. Many, myself included, pointed out that saddam has been contained and deterred for a decade, and challenged the evidence that such situation had changed. (And need I add that even if such weapons existed, Saddam was deterred from using them even in extremis? He knew that had he gassed the invading forces, he'd be unwelcome in exile anywhere.) Bush hypothesized that Saddam might provide WMDs to terrorists, a prospect I considered highly doubtful indeed, and one that utterly ignores the far more active support for terrorism by Saudi Arabia and Syria, which acknowledges a chemical arsenal as a deterrent against Israel.

Not even Bush has the stones to claim that Iraq posed the "clear and present danger" that's the widely accepted standard for a preemptive defensive strike.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

...He instead claimed the authority to attack nations that the President has a hunch may pose a threat in the future. Many opponents, myself included, felt that such was a dangerously broad authority to hand the Commander in Chief, and one likely to result in *less* security as nations either adopted it themselves (India and Pakistan, anyone?) or hastened to obtained their own nukes as a deterrent.

Moreover, even *if* a threat of some sort existed that might justify a military attack, that does not *compel* one to use force and pretend no other options exist. If we're *compelled* to use force to liberate the citizens of dictatorships, we're in for years of perpetual war, and some of the targets include our so-called "allies." If we're *compelled* to go to war against nations in violation of UNSC resultions, Israel must be on that list. But if not, it's just a matter of choice, and of pretext, and that position merits little respect.

The campaign's military success and the liberation of Iraqis--never claimed as more than a collateral benefit until the eve of war--simply do not retroactively justify a war of choice initiated under incredibly dubious grounds with the populace of the world--irrespective of whatever statement we've bribed or bullied their governments to take--united *against* it. (Need I add that the enmity this action incurred itself poses a security risk to one degree or another?)

Yet for all the argument here, however passionate, there was no debate. Bush made up his mind about "regime change" a year ago, and has been unservingly on that path ever since.

It may be just fine for ya'll that Bush has based his call to war on false pretenses, and that the stated rationale for the war--WMDs--appear to be absent. (Make no mistake about it--if we knew where they were, as Powell claimed to in his statement to the UN, it's a matter of egregious ineptitude if not criminal negligence not to have secured those WMD facilities right off the bat. Now we have officials suggesting that we need to rely on Iraqi informers to tell us, and that the search may take a *year*?! Please!)

I think that pretty well covers it, but I may yet have missed some points. Updates to come if I did.


more favorites: otaku edition

In reviewing my expanded list of favorites, I realized I left out some important categories. This'll probably be the last addition to the list, but here goes:

Anime movie: Sprited Away (see below; honorable mention: Project A-Ko)

Anime OAV: Kimagure Orange Road (honorable mention: Oh! My Goddess!)

Anime TV: Cowboy Bebop (Honorable mention: Revolutionary Girl Utena)

Video Game, Atari 2600: Megamania

Video Game, Nintendo Entertainment System: Guardian Legend

Video Game, Sega Genesis: Toejam and Earl

Video Game, PlayStation: Metal Gear Solid (Honorable mention: Resident Evil, Final Fantasy VIII, Tekken 2)

Video Game, PS2: Devil May Cry (Honorable mention: Onimusha Warlords)

Retro Computer Game: Sim City 2000 (Honorable mention: Moria)

Japanese computer game: Princess Maker

Computer Game, Shooter: Quake 2

Computer Game, Non-shooter: Fallout

Jpop singer: Ayumi Hamasaki

Canto-pop singer: Faye Wong

Kpop singer: BoA

Kung-fu flick, Shaw Brothers: Five Deadly Venoms

Kung fu flick, non-Shaw Brothers: Enter the Dragon

Sonny Chiba flick: Sister Street Fighter

Kaiju flick: Destroy All Monsters

Web comic: MegaTokyo (Honorable mention: 8-bit Theater)


happy easter!

....a day late. We had an extremely pleasant weekend around Casa Swank. Saturday we visited Louisville for an Easter egg hunt at my dad's house; in addition to my own two girls, Dad's daughter (I may not have mentioned it, but I have a sister who's four-going-on-five) and my nephews, there were four or five other toddlers running around picking up eggs. Between that and dinner at my mom's, we stopped by Bowman Field (LOU) to watch the airplanes take off. We'd just intended to drive through the parking lot for a closer look at the aircraft parked on the tarmac, but Cecilia wanted an even closer look, so we got out and spent a very pleasant hour in the beautiful sunshine. We then enjoyed a delicious dinner at my mom's, which was cut short, unfortunately, by a minor accident that sent my brother to the Immediate Care Center for a couple of stitches; fortunately, it wasn't too serious and he's fine now.

Sunday morning, of course, the girls picked up eggs the Easter Bunny (*cough*me*cough*) had hidden around the family room and loaded up on sugar. After that, we put the girls in dresses my lovely and talented wife made for the occasion and we attended services at the church where my wife sings in the choir. After brunch, I got my Easter present: A copy of the PS2 fighting game Dead or Alive 2 Hardcore. (Ironically, although I could buy DVDs with the end of Lent, the electronics stores were all closed...). Despite the volumes of sugar they consumed (not too much, really, under the circumstances), the girls were incredibly good and pleasant for the most part. I made roast leg of lamb, asparagus and brown rice for dinner, and rounded out the evening with a little DOA2 session. Obviously, I wasn't online too much over the weekend, which was also nice, for a change. All in all, it was an extraordinarily pleasant weekend.

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