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  xSaturday, May 03, 2003

holy rube goldberg, batman!

Best. car. commercial. ever!*

*I don't count John Woo's 10-minute BMW promotional film The Hostage.

(via Byzantium's Shores, who reports it took 600 takes to shoot. Wow!)

Update: Via Alas, A Blog, here's a couple of articles on the making of the commercial.



The debate of the century, from Comedy Central's The Daily Show: Bush vs Bush! (RealPlayer required)


how disappointing

Last night, I was all prepared for an evening of geekish entertainment, starting with a Sonny Chiba samurai movie, to be followed by a session with the PS2. I started the DVD player, settled down on the couch...

...and promptly fell asleep. At, like, 9 p.m.

I hate dozing off like that. Oh, well, at least I feel rested this morning. I'll have to try again tonight.

  xFriday, May 02, 2003

retro gaming link of the day

atari joystick game

I saw one of these in FuncoLand the other day when I was buying my copy of DOA 2 Hardcore: The Atari 10 in 1 Joystick. It's a replica of the Atari 2600's joystick that boasts a self-contained game unit and 10 classic Atari games: Asteroids, Centipede, Pong, Breakout, Yars Revenge, Adventure, Missile Command, Gravitar, Real Sports Volleyball, and Circus Atari. With a sticker price of less than 25 bucks, it's definitely on my wish list.

Here's RetroCrush's review of the system, and a look by (just-permalinked) 8bit Joystick.



tatu update

It looks like the 15 minutes of Russian pseudo-lesbian pop duo Tatu are about over: Sky News reports that they've pledged to get married if they win an upcoming music contest.
Tatu claim they will get married if they win the Eurovision Song Contest later this month.

The lesbian duo say they are still in love and want to move in together.

But Lena, who will represent Russia alongside Julia at the contest on May 24, said they will never be faithful to each other.

"If we win Eurovision we even want to get married - preferably in Germany." she told a German newspaper.

"We were never faithful to each other. We also had lots of sex with boys."

But she added: "We don't have time for sex any more."

Julia said: "We still live with our parents but we want to move in together now - into a former brothel."

(via FARK)


days of future past

Brad DeLong cites a comment by a scientist who realized he was living in the future, "in an era in which undergraduates routinely make batches of high-temperature superconductors as laboratory exercises."
"What're you looking for?" I asked, as if I have any idea where things are in the stockroom after only two years here.

"I've got some students cooking up a batch of high-Tc superconductor in lab, and I just realized we don't have any of those neodymium magnets to levitate. Do you guys have any we can borrow?"

Every now and then, I get smacked in the head with the fact that, flying cars or no, we're living in the future. I remember when this stuff first burst on the scene, and won a Nobel Prize. Now it's an undergraduate lab.

On the other hand, Oliver Willis links to this story, and AccordionGuy to this version, about students in Georgia planning a whites-only prom. Really.


economic news of the day

CNN/Money: Unemployment jumps to 6%
Unemployment rose from 5.8 percent in March, the Labor Department said, matching its December 2002 peak, which was the highest level since August 1994. Unemployed workers now total 8.8 million, up from 8.4 million in March.

Payrolls shrank by 48,000 outside the farm sector after falling by a revised 124,000 jobs in March. In the past three months, 523,000 jobs have been cut, the worst such stretch since the months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"'3-peats' never happen outside of recessions," said Merrill Lynch chief U.S. economist David Rosenberg. "We now have such a case."

(via Brad DeLong)

Reuters: Unemployment Rate Jumps to 6 Percent

(via Daily Kos, which notes that new jobless claims have been over 400,000 for 11 straight weeks.)


comix link of the day

detective comics cover

The 25 all-time greatest comic book covers.

(via Byzantum's Shores)

Update: Don't forget tomorrow, May 3, is free comic book day! w00t!


anime link of the day

In the rant below today's episode of MegaTokyo, Piro has an interesting discussion of fansubs.
Now, Fansub ethics is pretty straight forward, at least for old school fansubber types like myself. Anime is *not* a free hobby, fansubs are NOT a cheap alternative to getting the real thing. The idea behind fansubbing was to translate and subtitle a series so fans could promote awareness of it and have access to shows that were unavailable outside of Japan. Once the rights to a series are purchased, you are supposed to stop distribution and delete or destroy the subs. In it's purest form, you were supposed to buy the american release when it came out as well, if you watched it.

Real life has few true black and whites, most things have various shades of grey. The fansub debate has been so horribly beat to death that it's almost a joke. Fansubbing's current form, Digisubbing, is tolerated by anime companies as long as it stays a lighter shade of grey.

I took a hard look at some of my favorite fansubs which were now out on DVD and decided it was time that they had to go. Technically, i haven't broken any fansub codes because i haven't WATCHED any of the damn things in years. I kept the tapes more out of habit, in case i felt like watching them again. After all, replacing all of these with DVDs would be expensive. Of course, I haven't exactly been in a position where i could just go out and do that. The 'i don't have enough money, its too expensive!' excuse, right? Old as the hills. Heard it a zillion times. Doesn't make it right.

Honestly, the old fansubbing days are truly gone. Most anime that is decent at all WILL come out domestically these days (like Haibane Renmei, which Pioneer announced recently - be good little boys and girls and buy the dvds when they come out, people ^_^), and in most cases the DVDs are well done and well produced. What most of you don't realise is just how incredibly fsking cool it is that so much is available these days. Back when I started watching anime, it was just one rack of tapes at the local Suncoast. There were so many shows that I would have bought on the spot, but the only way to get them was find the fansubs. Anime fans don't have that problem anymore. Fansubbing and the fansub community did its job, and did it well. Anime is more popular than ever, and enough so that even many obscure anime series are available on DVD. It's what we all wanted years ago.

There's the whole thing.



In the comments to yesterday's post on prosecutor's use of a DNA-backed John Doe warrant passing appelate court muster, my friend Dodd, a lawyer, opined that from his read the appeals court was correct:
I admit that, even though my knee-jerk reaction is to try and find a reason to be against this, the court seems to have got it right. A DNA-tagged warrant is, as they said, far more specific than one tied to a description.

I also admit that my initial reaction was less than favorable; the headline at FARK read "Court rules prosecutors can get around statute of limitations laws by charging "John Doe" with crime, adding actual name when they finally solve case," which I don't feel accurately reflects the actual story. The key difference is tagging the John Doe warrant to the perp's DNA, which the court agreed was at least as accurate an identifier as a name or description. (Couldn't a DA issue a John Doe indictment for an unidentified perp if, say, his face was clearly captured by a surveillance camera?)

As I was heading home yesterday, I was thinking: Sexual assault/rape is a difficult crime to prosecute for a number of reasons, not the least of which is difficulty in identifying and charging the perpetrator. Since this tactic at least initially appears to pass muster, I wondered if prosecutors couldn't collect a DNA sample from a rape kit and issue a John Doe warrant for the person matching that sample; subsequent DNA tests on arrestees would have a better chance of a "hit" if the DNA is linked to a larger number of crimes. If a hit occurred, prosecutors would have an automatic indictment ready to go.

This process wouldn't help utterly unreported assaults, but if memory serves me right, some women do get hospital treatment even if they don't actively seek prosecution. And since reluctance to come forward is a problem, this system may help there too: A woman's testimony would not be required for probable cause, although it probably would be at trial to establish the sample was obtained as a result of non-consensual activity. Still, it might make things easier for the victim: They would not have to come forward to bring charges; the perp's own DNA would do that. And since the prosecutors would already have a match, it might encourage women to testify -- they'd know the creep was facing charges already, and that their appearance in court would be the decisive factor in putting him away.

Just some musings...if you have any thoughts, please leave a comment.


soul, man

A museum devoted to the great Stax soul studio opened today on the studio's former site in Memphis, Tennessee, and NPR's Morning Edition had a great story (scroll to the end) on it that featured comments by Stax co-founder Estelle Axton and songwriters Isaac Hayes and David Porter.

Interesting bit of trivia from the report: I didn't know that ace session musicians Steve Cropper (guitar) and Donald "Duck" Dunn (bass) were friends of Axton's son, and got their start by hanging around the record store and jamming with the musicians who came to record.

  xThursday, May 01, 2003

bush to world: drop dead

CalPundit points to an interesting editorial in the (pro-war, don't forget) Washington Post expressing some reservations about Bush's punish-anyone-who-didn't-support-the-war policy.
ONE REASON the Bush administration attracted less diplomatic support than it should have for the war in Iraq was the perception in many nations that President Bush had conducted foreign policy with an arrogance and unilateralism that made the United States appear threatening. After not just strategic adversaries, such as Russia and France, but also dependable friends, such as Chile and Mexico, failed to back the American position at the U.N. Security Council, the administration might have drawn a lesson that it should seek to repair its international relations after the war. Instead, there are signs that the White House has adopted the opposite approach: Rather than swallowing a dose of the humility that Mr. Bush once promised in foreign affairs, the administration is making a show of punishing countries that opposed the war. ...This mean-spirited payback will only compound the damage to America's standing in the world.

...and comments
George Bush has been playing high-stakes politics ever since he became president, seemingly convinced that the way to win is to cow your enemies into submission by attacking at all times and never, ever backing down. The problem is that unless you truly have the power of a Chicago mob boss — and all appearances aside, we don't — this doesn't work in the long run. On the contrary, it just makes your enemies madder.

Many other nations evidently decided that Bush's WMD case didn't hold water -- a position that, regardless of what might be found later, has been completely vindicated. Others heeded the anti-war desires of their citizens; much of the population of the world, including majorities in our own allies, opposed Bush's march to war. Nations are free, supposedly, to decide what actions are in their own national interest. Bush failed to convince even many friends that its war was justified, and now it plans revenge against those who said that the Emperor had no clothes. I suggest that this action, satisfying as it may be to the dittoheads, is hardly in the US national interest. And it amazes me that many conservatives, who are supposed to be leery of Big Government telling them what to do, support Bush's imperial ambitions.


legal development of the day

Here's an interesting case...a Federal appeals court has ruled that prosecutors can issue a "John Doe" warrant for a suspect when the only means of identification they have is a DNA sample. The court upheld the conviction of a man prosecuted for sexual assault after the statue of limitations had expired; the DA had issued the "John Doe" warrant for the DNA match prior to the expiration date, and brought the man to court when he proved a match.
A DNA profile by itself gives prosecutors enough evidence to charge an unidentified suspect, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday in a sexual assault case.

The First District Court of Appeals handed down the decision in the case of Bobby Richard Dabney Jr., convicted last year of assaulting a Milwaukee teenager in 1994.

Dabney appealed his conviction, arguing that prosecutors must name or describe a suspect before issuing an arrest warrant and criminal complaint. He was picked up in 2001 on documents that named him but had originally identified the attacker solely by his DNA.

The appeals court said DNA is the best means of identification available, better even than a physical description or a name.

"It's another recognition of the power of DNA profiling," said Norman Gahn, the Milwaukee County prosecutor who issued the warrant in Dabney's case. Dabney's attorney, Lynn Ellen Hackbarth, declined comment.

In Dabney's case, prosecutors issued "John Doe" papers to prevent the state's six-year statute of limitations for assault cases from running out. Dabney was identified by his DNA through a sample obtained while he was in prison for a 1996 armed robbery conviction.

Dabney also argued that his right to due process had been violated because of the long delay between the assault and his prosecution.

The appeals court ruled that the prosecutors had acted before the statute of limitations expired; even if they hadn't, the opinion stated, sexual assault prosecutions are important enough to allow them to proceed after the statute expires if the state has an unidentified offender's DNA.

(via FARK)


astronomy news of the day

c00L! The International Astronomical Union has named an asteroid for Mr. Rogers, who died Feb. 27.
"I doubt that there are many who have not been touched in some way by the life and work of Fred Rogers," said John G. Radzilowicz, director of the Henry Buhl Jr. Planetarium & Observatory at the science center.

The asteroid in question [formerly known as Number 26858] was discovered in 1993 by E.F. Helin at Palomar Observatory in California.

There are about 30,000 known asteroids orbiting the sun, and about 9,000 of them have names. They are named for everyone from famous scientists, like "Newtonia" and "Sagan," to personalities in other fields, including "Johnny" (in honor of TV host Johnny Carson), "Cronkite" and "Jesseowens."

"Misterrogers" can be found between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and is about 218 million miles from the Sun, which it takes about 3½ years to orbit.

(via FARK)


pickup line

I just noticed that, as part of a content-sharing deal with Destroy All Monsters, the pop culture Web site Static Multimedia has picked up my reviews of Gunsmith Cats and Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death and Rebirth, as well as the Ah! My Goddess! movie they'd posted earlier.

Looking over the other DAM-originated content, I especially recommend Musashi's review of Shaolin Soccer. He was kind enough to give me the HK import DVD when he was thru with it, and it's an enormously entertaining film.


least surprising news of the day

One of the components of the discussion going on over at Ipse Dixit involves the issue of Bush's culpability for 9/11. I contend that it should be beyond question that Bush failed in his duty to defend the nation on that terrible day, and I observe that no one has managed to cite any indications that Bush did anything at all about the August briefing at his Crawford ranch in which Condoleeza Rice told Bush that al Qaeda was looking to hijack an airliner.

(Let me dispense once and for all with the Bush administration excuse that "they didn't know the airliners would be turned into missles." Whether Mohammed Atta and his crew of murders intended to ram them into buildings, take them to Cuba, or auction them on eBay, the idea is you don't let them hijack the planes in the first place.)

Well, just as an indicator of how much stock the Bush Administration places in the idea that they will find vindication in full disclosure, here's an MSNBC story on the Administration's not only reneging on pledges to declassify a bipartisan Congressional report on the failures that led to the attacks, but also re-classify testimony that's already a matter of public record.
AT THE CENTER of the dispute is a more-than-800-page secret report prepared by a joint congressional inquiry detailing the intelligence and law-enforcement failures that preceded the attacks—including provocative, if unheeded warnings, given President Bush and his top advisers during the summer of 2001.

The report was completed last December; only a bare-bones list of “findings” with virtually no details was made public. But nearly six months later, a “working group” of Bush administration intelligence officials assigned to review the document has taken a hard line against further public disclosure. By refusing to declassify many of its most significant conclusions, the administration has essentially thwarted congressional plans to release the report by the end of this month, congressional and administration sources tell NEWSWEEK.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

In some cases, these sources say, the administration has even sought to “reclassify” some material that was already discussed in public testimony—a move one Senate staffer described as “ludicrous.” The administration’s stand has infuriated the two members of Congress who oversaw the report—Democratic Sen. Bob Graham and Republican Rep. Porter Goss. The two are now preparing a letter of complaint to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Lotsa luck, guys.
The administration’s tough stand, some sources say, doesn’t augur well for the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks—which is conducting its own investigation into the events of 9-11. Already, flaps have developed on that front, as well. When one commissioner, former congressman Tim Roemer, last week sought to review transcripts of some of the joint inquiry’s closed-door hearings, he was denied access—because the commission staff had agreed to a White House request to allow its lawyers to first review the material to determine if the president wants to invoke executive privilege to keep the material out of the panel’s hands.

As Bush travels to New York to exploit 9/11 for his re-election bid, never forget that he doesn't want you to know what he knew, when he knew it, and what, if anything, he did to prevent it.

(via Democratic Veteran)

  xWednesday, April 30, 2003


Awesome! Portland Trailblazers coach Maurice Cheeks just had one of the proudest moments of his career, and it had nothing to do with plays or scoring:
There she stood at center court, this little girl with the big, big voice, poised for the moment of a lifetime, the house lights dimmed, 20,000 people waiting expectantly for her, 20,000 people ready to hear her sing . . .

. . . and the words wouldn't come.

They lodged in her throat and couldn't be budged, no matter how mightily she strained. It was the song she knew by heart, the one she had heard a million times, the one she had sung over and over and over, the very one that she had rehearsed in a dressing room perfectly - every single run-through dead solid perfect - only minutes before, for heaven's sake. But now the words all tumbled over each other, crazy-quilted in a jumbling, confusing mish-mash:

"rocket's last gleaming ... twilight's red glare ... flag's not there ... oh say can you see ... yet wave . . .

She wanted to disappear, of course. She wanted the floor to open up and swallow her. Or a spaceship to beam her up and carry her off. Natalie Gilbert, a 13-year-old eighth grader, was living the nightmare each of us, in moments of morbid, fearful imagining, has conjured.

And then, suddenly, silent as a shadow, he was there, standing beside her, his left arm protectively, comfortingly around her, and he was whispering the forgotten words and she began to nod her head - "yes, yes, I remember now - and she began to mouth the words, and then he started to sing them, softly, and she joined in, hesitantly at first, but with a growing confidence, and soon they were a duet, and he was urging the crowd on with his right hand, and soon the duet had 20,000 back-ups, 20,000 people singing partly out of relief, partly out of compassion, partly out of pride, and rarely has the national anthem of the United States of America been rendered with such heartfelt gusto.

It was a glorious, redemptive moment.

Surely, you thought, sport has never been grander.

In fact, it says here that, for all the acrobatic, aeronautic, pyrotechnic, cruise-o-matic moments that the NBA playoffs have presented to us thus far this spring, all pale in comparison to the night of April 25, in the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore., shortly before the Trail Blazers met the Dallas Mavericks in the third game of their series.

That is when Maurice Cheeks, once the quintessential point guard, selfless and without ego and pretense, for many meritorious seasons a 76er, and most recently the coach of the Blazers, came to the rescue of Natalie Gilbert.

"I don't know why I did it," he said. "It wasn't something I thought about. It's one of those things you just do."

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Except, of course, no one else thought to do it.

Everybody else did precisely what most of us would do in such a situation - study the ceiling, develop a sudden interest in our shoes, shift from side to side, paralyzed, frozen to the spot, embarrassed for the little girl, empathizing furiously, wishing desperately it would all end: "Please, let her remember the words. Please. Somebody do something.''

Maurice Cheeks, himself a father, did what all fathers, and grandfathers, too, in moments of heroic reverie, dream they would do. He tried to make the world go away.

Seeing as how his team was one loss away from elimination, he might have been expected to have other things on his mind than a junior high school girl who had won a contest to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before tip-off of the most crucial game of the year.

And yet, there he was, not sure how exactly, walking to center court. And once there, this thought stabbed him:

"I wasn't sure whether I knew the words myself," he said, laughing.

"I just didn't want her to be out there all alone."

Bravo, sir. And bravo to young Ms. Gilbert, who endured an experience most people have nightmares abouts and -- with an assist by her coach -- triumphed.

(via P.L.A.)


media watch

Here's a quick rundown of the latest follies of the so-called "liberal media":

  1. Obnoxious conservative commentator [insert your own redundancy joke here] trashes MSNBC in general and reporter Ashleigh Banfield in particular

  2. MSNBC hires said obnoxious commentator

  3. Commentator -- now an MSNBC empployee, yet -- refers to his now-colleague as a "slut" on the air

  4. Banfield takes commentator, MSNBC and the media in general to task for its standards

  5. MSNBC issues statement promising disciplinary action for -- yes! -- Banfield

What a sordid episode, and an absolutely pathetic display of cowardice on MSNBC's part! Read all about it in this excellent Boston Phoenix column.
Unfortunately, what's going on is very simple. Banfield is absolutely right about the war coverage, and besides, she's simply defending herself from someone who has attacked her twice in grotesquely sexist terms. But MSNBC's past attempts to turn her into its hot-babe marquee ratings star failed, so she's not allowed to speak out.

She'll be gone -- soon. So will Savage, after it becomes clear that his hate-filled, lower-than-public-access-quality talk show is a ratings loser. And MSNBC will continue its long, unwatched march into oblivion.

Which should be fine; we already have one Fox News, and that's more than enough.

(via just-permalinked DisgustedLiberal)



Last October, I mentioned the legal controversy surrounding an Alabama law that bans sex toys. The law had been struck down as unconstitutional by a Federal judge.

In recent developments, the Alabama legislature declined to remove the vibrator clause, to the dismay of the bill's sponsor, who had requested that the provision be, er, yanked in order to have the law pass Constitutional muster.
A federal district judge in Birmingham has twice ruled that the ban is unconstitutional. The first ruling was overturned by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the second ruling has been appealed to the appeals court.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said because of the court ruling, the obscenity law is unenforceable as long as it contains the ban on sex toys.

"All this does is make our obscenity law constitutional," Rogers said.

With little serious discussion, the House voted 37-28 to leave the sex toys ban in state law, leaving Rogers standing at the microphone shaking his head.

"What you just did is make our obscenity law illegal. You voted for obscenity," Rogers shouted at lawmakers.

(via FARK)


comments at ipse dixit

I'd been meaning to discuss the recent discovery of a so-called link between Iraq and al Qaeda and the (inevitable) follow-up report that the find is not the smoking gun it might seem. I still hope to comment at greater length, but for the moment, I'm discussing the matter in a comment thread to a post at Ipse Dixit.

Update: The comment thread is lively indeed; by all means check it out, and join in if you please.


milestone of the day

Just now, thanks to someone in Finland, the hit counter reached 26,000, and happily, on a day where I've actually managed to post a thing or two! Thanks for visiting!


coinkydink watch

Something odd just happened. Years ago I write a short article about autograph collecting for My email address is included, and I get inquiries every now and then.

The article appears to be a prominent prominent result of the Google search "autograph collecting," which may explain why I received two emails from the article today. How strange.

I don't really collect autographs any more, although there's no reason why I shouldn't. I have a couple of really cool ones, too -- directors Roger Corman, John Carpenter and John Woo, Ernest Borgnine, Claudia Christian (in Babylon 5 uniform), Barry White, Christopher Lee, Kim Cattrall, Bob Newhart, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Gilligan's Island creator Sherwood Schwartz and Eartha Kitt among others. In fact, perhaps I'll open up my spreadsheet database and send off a few requests. If I do, and have any success, I'll let y'all know.



To swipe a joke from Charles Dodgson, Saddam's comical information minister Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf can't even get arrested these days. He reportedly desires to surrender to US forces, who wont' take custody because he doesn't appear on the list of 55 former officials whose images were famously emblazoned on packs of playing cards.

What a laugh!


more gop perfidy

Molly Ivins on the GOP proposal to do away with overtime pay.

As a contractor, I'm technically entitled to overtime if the company for which I consult authorizes it, and right now I get to choose whether that overtime is . I don't know exactly how this bill is likely to affect me, but even if it doesn't one iota, it still stinks on ice.

(via To The Point)


wmd watch: 'operation desert snipe'

Props to Jim Henley for reminding me of Cogent Provocateur's awesome post "Operation Desert Snipe."
Too early to call it a night. It's a big desert, our last candle hasn't flickered out, and the mocking call of the snipe still echoes hauntingly in the distance, but ... the original standard WMD thesis is strictly defunct. [emphasis in the original.]

...Six weeks ago, it was beyond the pale to suggest otherwise. Today the man in the street doesn't exactly care much about WMD's ... but he's curious. The men in the hawk's nest -- and some of their media enablers -- care a lot. Alternative explanations are being spun out so rapidly, they're not even kept on the same page.

...Come what may later on, Blair's dossiers, Powell's "solid intelligence", and Rumsfeld's "bulletproof evidence" are dead letters.

...No WMD, no War Powers Resolution. No WMD, no UN Res. 1441. No WMD, no Coalition of the Willing. No WMD, no Azores ultimatum. Everything hinged on Iraq's possession of WMD, and her intransigent refusal to give them up. Scratch the surface of any auxiliary casus belli, and chances are you'll find a circular argument: "Saddam is evil and dangerous. How do we know? Because he has WMDs. How can we be so sure he has WMDs? Because he's evil and dangerous."

...On yesterday's Nightline, Ted Koppel spotted what may be a more promising explanatory trial balloon -- "all's fair in love and war". By this thesis, we were never serious about WMD. WMD was never anything more than a necessary selling tool for war. War was necessary and salutary as an "object lesson" to lesser beings, reminding them (for their own good) that the US is big and tough. Why now? "9/11 changed everything". Why Iraq? No special reason ... Iraq presented itself as an adversary of convenience. Koppel gathered unabashed supporting testimony from B-list neocon hawks, including former CIA Director Woolsey.

So no WMDs -- and no apologies! You've been had, John Q. Public, and it's for your own good!

Selective quotes don't do it all means, read the whole thing.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Notice, by the way, the increasingly prevalent meme of the hawks (I paraphrase): "So what if the WMD argument (which I strenuously advocated, back then) was a lie? There were other good reasons to launch an unprovoked, unilateral invasion go after Saddam -- Bush trotted out a new one each week, after all -- and I'm glad we did!" One of my arguments all along -- so strenuously denounced by the hawks -- was that the Administration should be held to some kind of strict standard before launching a war, the more so if it's based upon this dubious concept of "I have a hunch" prevention. The hawks didn't like it then, and they not only reject it, but also positively embrace Bush's deception, now.

The problem is that attitude is nothing short of a wholehearted embrace of tyrrany. Indeed, when you consider how doubtful it is that this credulous crew would have accepted so many unsupported assertions and half-baked rationales from a Democrat, their support edges into longing for autocracy. Whatever other reasons the hawks may have embraced, or private motivations the Administration knew they couldn't seel to the American public, the Administration's case to the American public and the UN was WMDs. If Bush took us to war on false pretenses, he's guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors indeed. Shame on the hawks for their embrace of this deception.

And if Bush and crew used violence against civilians solely to achieve a desired political end, that makes them by any reasonable definition of the word terrorists, and in all likelihood, war criminals. I predict that, like fellow hawk Henry Kissinger, Bush won't be doing a lot of traveling abroad after his term ends in January 2005. The difference is that Bush won't have a Nobel Peace Prize, either.


300, and counting...

The Observer offers 300 reasons why we love The Simpsons. Selections:
8 Their proof to TV executives that dumbing up, rather than down, has nothing to recommend it except awards integrity, ratings, laughter and profits.

39 The sweet irony that the most profitable and arguably the greatest TV series ever came about because of the greed of copyright lawyers. Creator Matt Groening planned to recycle characters from a newspaper strip but was told this would involve mortgaging his soul to the studio. Forced to invent some instant unknowns, he drew a new family on a pad.

41 The deliberate mystery over which state Springfield is in. Always, just before we see a name, someone stands in front of the map. Interestingly, Portland, Oregon, where Groening grew up, has streets called Flanders and Lovejoy.

59 Homer: 'Donut?' Lisa: 'No, thanks. Do you have any fruit?' Homer: [offers some of the donut he's eating] 'This has purple stuff inside. Purple is a fruit.'

78 Marge: 'Homer, is this the way you pictured married life?' Homer: 'Pretty much. Except we drove around in a van solving mysteries.'

99 Getting away with the clip shows by making fun of clip shows.

210-211 Krusty's Brand Goods, and what they say about corporate America. Krusty's Non-Toxic Kologne ('use in well-ventilated areas'); Krusty's home pregnancy kit ('may cause birth defects').

233-272 Number of decimal points (40) to which Apu can recite pi. (Homer, naturally, greets the news with the phrase 'Mmmm... pie.').

(via Very Big Blog)


free ice cream!

According to Baskin-Robbins' Web site, today is free ice cream cone day. Just stop by any participating Baskin-Robbins store today from 6 to 10 p.m. and get a 2.5 oz scoop of ice cream, in any flavor, gratis.

Jeff Cooper pointed out that yesterday was free cone day at Ben & Jerry's ...


it seems...

you are king arthur
Well, u-- um, can we come up and have a look?

What Monty Python Character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

(via Brut4c and Cooped Up)


pass the catsup

..catch-up, get it? Ahem.

ghosts of the abyss still
James Cameron (L) and Bill Paxton explore the Titanic.

Several weeks ago, my lovely wife and I got to see a preview screening of James Cameron's new 3-D IMAX movie, Ghosts of the Abyss. In the film, Cameron returns to the wreck of the fabled Titanic, whose sinking he depicted in his blockbuster film. Cameron brings a long a team of scientists, a set of ultrasophisticated remote operated vehicles (ROVs), which were built by his brother, and actor Bill Paxton, who played the underwater explorer in the movie.

ghosts of the abyss still
The remains of the First-Class promenade

I'm something of a Titanic buff, so I really enjoyed the film, of course. The new technology -- the ROVs, and a special high-intensity light "chandelier" -- let the crew film more of the ship than ever before. The ROVs "Jake" and "Elwood" -- each the size of a microwave oven, and trailing a slender fiber-optic cable -- were able to explore much of the ship's interior.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

The crew discovered that the leaded glass in the First Class dining room was amazingly intact; director Cameron had the clever idea of maneuvering his sub outside the ship so the ROV could pick up its lights through the glass from the inside. The composite image below shows the First Class dining room before the wreck, and as it is today.

ghosts of the abyss still
The First-Class dining room then and now.

The crew made other surprising discoveries, such as a wooden wash stand with a decanter and glass not only intact, but still upright where they were set some 80 years ago. They also conducted extensive explorations of the shattered stern section, which did not appear in the dramatic film (Unlike the reasonably intact bow, the stern's a mess; a tangle of twisted metal).

The gigantic IMAX presentation is impressive. Less so is the 3-D effect; it's pretty cool when Cameron just lets it happen, instead of doing the obligatory thrust-something-out-at-the-audience trick. The illusion of a 3-D ocean was well done, and the effect -- combined with the high-intensity lighting that allowed a depth of field never before achieved -- gave a marvelous sense of presence to the wreck. However, the film could have stood on its own without the 3-D effect, as I expect it will upon its DVD release.

Overall I was pleased with Ghosts of the Abyss and recommend you check it out if it comes to an IMAX theater near you. For a second opinion, here's an MSNBC article on the filming, and reviews at MSNBC and the Chicago Sun-Times.


senate dems show spine again

w00t! From the WaPo: Senate Democrats Plan Filibuster to Stop Selection of Owen

One word: Good.

And, of course, Bush has still failed to break the filibuster of Miguel Estrada. The news is not entirely good; the Senate did confirm, on a mostly party-line 51 to 42 vote, former Ohio solicitor general Jeffrey Sutton to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

But this fight is ultimately about the Supreme Court, and sends an entirely appropriate message to Bush that a President with his slim -- indeed, nonexistent -- electoral mandate should not be permitted ot pack the courts with ideologues, and that any Supreme Court nomination -- if he gets to make one at all -- would be met withprofound scrutiny.

As a poster to a Daily Kos comment thread put it, "In no way should members of the high court be allowed to arrange for their own succession. They inserted themselves in the outcome of the election with their partisan and unprincipled decision to halt the vote count in Florida.

Allowing Bush to fill any vacancies in the high court would tantamount to complicity in their coup: An act that strikes at the separation of powers, a cornerstone of our republic."

And speaking of separation of powers, "qualification" is a pathetic argument used by those who, conciously or not, wish the Senate to be simply a rubber-stamp for judicial picks by (and only by) a President of their ideological bent. The Senate's role is to advise and consent. Obtaining the Senate's consent means more than exploiting a razor-thin margin; it's about nominating judges that even the loyal opposition can live with. Of course, to the radicals currently running the GOP, "loyal" and "opposition" are mutually exclusive concepts. I believe that their brand of politics will ultimately be more damaging for their side.


new to the blogroll

Please welcome economic meta-blog It's Still The Economy, Stupid, an invaluable resource on Bush's economic incompetence, and Billmon's Whiskey Bar. I've also trimmed the blogroll of a few inactive blogs; if one's yours, please notify me when you resume posting.

Planet Swank position paper: It's been suggested by some intellectually dishonest conservatives that Democrats hope the economy will get worse, in order to aid their 2004 Presidential campaign. Planet Swank asserts the following:

  • Democrats do not "hope" the economy gets worse; to the contrary, they want the economy to get better.

  • Democrats have little confidence in Bush's economic plan -- tax cuts and more tax cuts -- as effective in helping American consumers worried about their jobs and health care.

  • That skepticism is amply justified because Bush's economic plan is clearly not doing enough to improve the economy. Yet another experiment in supply-side economics has failed to produce the claimed benefits -- prosperity for all -- while delivering on the obvious but little-acknowledge purpose of enriching the wealthy.

  • There's no need for the economy to get worse in order to portray Bush's economic plan as a failure. Remember, we've already had a massive tax cut, with little tangible benefit for many. And ironically, as the Republicans have been saying the conclusion of the Iraq war would improve the economy somewhat, slight gains in the future can't be claimed to be a result of their policies, but rather the end of one.

  • Moreover, the GOP now controls both the White House and Congress, so a lagging economy is their responsibility.

  • Democrats should take careful note of the bogus rationales Bush has used to sell his policies -- economic and otherwise -- and the marked contrast with their actual results.

  • In sum: Democrats want the economy to improve, and they know that Bush's corporate-cronyism policies aren't the ticket. As Harry Truman said, if you want to live like a Republican, vote Democrat.


the real patriots

Mike Finley has an excellent essay on patriotism and courage in America, noting that patriotism is measured by deeds beyond wearing a flag lapel pin. (I'm reminded of the great John Prine's "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore.") Finley compares society to a three-layer cake, and notes that in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Republicans' two facorite layers, corporations and government*, didn't show much courage as institutions, while the Democrats' layer, the people, have been brave indeed.
The top layer of this cake were the business and investment class -- rich folks. My guess is that 70-80% or more of these people were Republicans, because that who Republicans are, demographically.

These people bolted like nobody's business, letting employees go wholesale just when America most needed to band together. For every individual who leaped from the WTC, ten thousand more were pushed out of their jobs and careers in 2002. The pushing continues into 2003.

Next down is government. What measures did the federal government take to hold onto people's jobs and save American families, and thus restore health to the economy? The answer is enormous tax cuts, which depleted our treasury and our ability to act as a nation – tax cuts which primarily went to the upper class of Americans.

These upper class Americans may be stellar people as a group. But giving them money in hard times does not boost the economy – especially when the cuts are staged and deferred, as these are. Rich folks aren't going to invest in a bear market. No irrational optimism there. They'll stash their savings away as bond investments – useless to the task of recession recovery.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Businesses who refused to invest in their people, despite the lowest interest rates in 50 years [acted out of fear]. For all the talk of loyalty and the new employment contract and the value of knowledge, we let our people fall.

Government was no help. It panicked, shedding itself of responsibilities it no longer wanted anyway, for ideological reasons. It passed costs of programs down to state levels. The states, with no federal money and their own regional economies in a shambles, pared programs down to the bone to cut budgets an average of 12% per state.

Who won in these brutal budget battles? Those who rely least on government aid, but benefit hugely from government preference – the wealthiest 5% of the population.


Who did not cut and run was consumers. For 18 months after the attack, consumers kept buying stuff, even as layoffs and uncertainty abounded. Home-buying and building were especially stellar during this period. They kept the economy from vanishing entirely. The little folks held.

The people who cut and run may have saved themselves. But only those who stayed and fought for everyone can call themselves Americans.

There's much ammunition here for the Democrats. While I haven't chosen a candidate yet, I believe the Democratic Party needs to return to its populist roots -- temperately, to be sure, but definitely reassert that they, and certainly not the GOP, is the party of the people.

*Yes, I said government. Republicans may love to run on an anti-government platform, but it's Bush who created the biggest -- and potentially most intrusive -- bureaucracy oin history. I might also add that despite controlling the White House and Congress, the GOP isn't doing much to reduce the size of government. A few cranks like Grover Norquist might pine for a weak, Articles of the Confederation-style Fed, but when push comes to shove most people and politicians, Republicans included, don't really want that.


cosplay link of the day


Destroy All Monsters has posted my review of a book on cosplay -- the practice of dressing up like anime or video game characters at various gatherings. Roughly two-thirds of Japan's cosplayers are women, and the book offers a series of kawaii pictures of young Japanese women in costumes, as well as text exploring the phenomenon.

In honor of the occasion, here's a cosplay gallery (not related to the book) apparently devoted to the collection of a cameko -- one of the photographers who devotes himself to capturing cosplay girls on film.

  xTuesday, April 29, 2003

mad scientist link of the day

A Juneau, Alaska man has filled his home with all manner of electronic gadgets, including a 750,000-watt Tesla coil. c00L!

(via FARK)


another blogging survey

A couple of days ago, I mentioned a university survey about blogging in which I am participating. Well, here comes another, anbd this time you can do it online. If you run a Web log, click here for the survey, which they say should take about 15 minutes.

(via FARK)


santorum stuff

I've been meaning to comment on the flap over Rick Santorum's recent interview in which he appeared to equate homosexual acts with inc_st, be_stiality, and sexual abuse of minors by priests (words altered to fox sicko Google searches), but this Washington Post editorial has a pretty good summary of the reasons I'm disgusted by him.

Here's more from USA Today. And of course Daily Kos has been all over it.

Santorum's quite a piece. On the one hand, he made comments throughout the interview that, in my opinion, belied any notion of tolerance for homosexual people (well, maybe, as long as they remain celibate). I believe most Americans are uncomfortable with the intolerance behind his opinions, even if they're also uncomfortable with homosexuality themselves. For my libertarian friends, Santorum expressed his opinion that the government has a positive right to police its citizens' private bedroom practices, under standards defined by Santorum and clique.

And Santorum isn't some yahoo Congresscritter from Nowhere, USA; he's the Senate GOP's third-ranking leader. Meanwhile, the GOP's head man, Bush, issues a tepid non-statement that clearly reveals his reluctance to cheese off the party's fundamentalist base. That's the kind of leader Bush is, and the kind of narrow-minded, fundamentalist-driven politics they practice. Some may choose to hold their nose at the Republican leadership's tolerance of bigotry if they'll just keep cutting taxes, but I believe many crucial swing voters will not.

As CalPundit put it, "Until the Republican leadership repudiates insane bigotry like this, they shouldn't even be accepted in polite society, let alone be allowed to run the country."


cheapo inexpensive dvd watch

(Playing catch-up from my recent dearth of postings.)

Last week, like a good citizen, I trooped out to spend part of my tax refund. I swung by Best Buy and browsed the DVD racks, coming home with a number of excellent movies, none of which was more than US$15:

So for less than 75 bucks, I go home with six movies on five DVDs, plus the Tekken game (which is lots of fun so far). I could have spent my dough on a couple of more expensive titles, and I probably will in the future, but I dig collecting a lot of fine flicks for relatively little dough. Coupled with my recent post-Easter DVD binge, I'm set for a while. (We'll get the new Harry Potter DVD, but that'll be it.)

Update: We got the Babylon 5 Season Two DVD set today, as well.


schoolgirl link of the day

No, not that kind...a DHTML page that lets you play dress-up with a Catholic schoolgirl "paper doll." Having gone to Catholic high school myself, I found it amusing.

"Virtual paper dolls" -- known as kisekae -- were actually fairly popular in Japan in the '90s.

(via SixDifferentWays)


great news

Kos of Daily Kos had some good news today: He and his wife are expecting a baby! He's journaling the experience at his alternative blog, Fishyshark.

Planet Swank wishes the happy couple the very best of luck in their adventure!


silent planet

Due to a three-hour work-related event in the middle of the day today, posting has been temporarily interrupted. Please check out the fine sites on the blogroll to the left, and come back later this afternoon, when I promise I'll have fresh content.

  xMonday, April 28, 2003


These two sites offer scale comparisons of spacecraft from various science fiction TV shows and movies, from Star Trek and Star Wars to Babylon 5 and Macross. c00L!

(via Byzantium's Shores via MetaFilter; also BoingBoing)



There's much that I plan to address in the coming week, but one event I wanted to be sure to commemorate today is the beginning of MegaTokyo Chapter 4.


please stand by

I'm catching up after a long and pleasant weekend, part of which was spent out of town. Blogging will resume in the afternoon.

Update: I've decided to write today off and start fresh tomorrow. My apologies.

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