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  xSaturday, June 07, 2003

japanese link of the day


In Japan, many people live in small quarters with paper-thin walls (sometimes quite literally made of paper). Crowded living conditions and expensive real estate have combined to generate the phenomenon of love hotels. These rent-by-the-hour love nests are used by trysting lovers, college students and even married couples who need a bit of privacy. There are reportedly 20,000 of them across Japan.

Here's an informative essay on love hotels, complete with photos. I particularly dig the one decked out in kawaii Hello Kitty decor; for the more adventurous, there's one with a Hello Kitty S&M room (you heard me right). The article also claims that Osaka, not Tokyo, is truly the love hotel capital of Japan.

Sure, Zen gardens, sushi and the Sony Walkman are great, but the greatest Japanese invention of all time has to be the love hotel. In the concrete wasteland of the modern Japanese city, the love hotel stands out as a refreshingly off-the-wall escape from conformity, a monument to hedonism, and a libertine's paradise. It's also a godsend when you're tired of taking your girlfriend back to your gaijin apartment with its half-inch plywood walls and nosy neighbours. Nearly every foreigner in Japan has a love hotel story to tell and number of Japanese people who were conceived in one must be enormous.

The love hotel is changing though, and the news isn't all good. They've gone upscale, lost some of their sleazy associations and the decors have become more tasteful but the bad news is that in an effort to clean up their image, they got rid of a lot of the exciting theme rooms. Although they still exist, its getting harder and harder to find places with bumper cars and disco lights.

Love hotels have even changed their name. Japanese people never say “rabu hoteru” anymore and although the abbreviation “rabu-ho” is still used, the hotels themselves always refer to themselves as ‘fashion hotels’ (in Kansai) and ‘couples hotels’ or ‘boutique hotels’ (in Kanto).

The image of love hotels has changed so much that, according to Mitsuru Sugaoka, the friendly clerk from Gang Snowman who gave us a tour, a lot of times it’s the woman who invites the man to the hotel. Fashion hotels are getting written up in magazines like Kansai Weekly, and Date Pia, respectable publications that cater to young office workers, especially women. Visit a Kinokuniya and you will see a selection of “Fashion Hotel” and “Boutique Hotel” guidebooks obviously designed to appeal to the sensibilities of the Japanese female. The highly popular “Love Hotel Lovers” website (http://www2g.biglobe.ne.jp/~miyu/lhl/ in Japanese only) is a homepage that “women can access from their office without having to be embarrassed”. Even in the men’s magazines about love hotels, hotel listings are categorized by whether they will appeal to OL’s, female college students or high school girls. We were repeatedly told that people had stopped pulling their hats down over their head or staring at the ground when they walked into the lobby.

There's even a travel guide to several prominent love hotels in Japan, including one that's a replica of the liner Queen Elizabeth, and some further links to explore.

(via Geisha Asobi blog; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)




  x

shipwreck link of the day


A 77-year-old Japanese fisherman, Yoshimoto Ikari, was rescued after 15 days lost at sea, during which he survived two, count 'em, two typhoons on his small boat.

The veteran fisherman was found drifting on his 0.6-tonne, six-metre (20-foot) long boat on Thursday by another vessel off Aguni island, some 300 kilometres (186 miles) southwest of his last known position.

"He was dehydrated but was fine for a man who had been drifting about for 15 days," local coast guard spokesman Kiyoshi Kawamura said.

"We are amazed by the fact the 77-year-old man was strong enough physically and mentally to hold out this long ... as the weather was not good," he said.

"Waves were high for some 10 days or two thirds of the 15 days" due to two typhoons that passed the area, he said.

Ikari must have been "at the mercy of the waves," which rose as high as six metres (20 feet) at the worst time, the coast guard said.

Ikari reportedly had only one riceball and 10 litres (2.6 gallons) of water when he set out on his fishing trip.

He was airlifted to hospital on a stretcher late Thursday. He suffered severe sunburn on his face but is making a good recovery.

The coastguard said it was not immediately known why Ikari was unable to return to port as he had so far only said that his radio did not work.


(Via FARK; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)




  x

logo-phile


GoodLogo.com lets visitors rate the top 250 best-looking corporate and organizational logos. Currently, Apple Macintosh is #2, Atari is #3, Volkswagen is #6, NASA #15, and Batman #19.

(via Geisha Asobi blog)




  x

movie link of the day


In the comment thread to my recent post citing Jaquandor's rant about Star Wars, I opined that for all the heat Lucas has been getting from the fanboys, the Star Wars sequels have a long way to go before being as bad as The Lost World. I saw that flick in a matinee, and wanted my money back.

Ken Begg of Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension hated TLW at least as much as I did, and posted a lengthy commentary demolishing the film.

Talking about TLW left a bad taste in my mouth, which I wanted to wash out with a good Spielberg movie, so last night I watched my DVD of Jaws. Here's Roger Ebert's Great Movies essay on that film.




  x

missing weapons story has legs


There's no doubt about it: The so-called "liberal media" is beginning to wake up to Bush's prevarication in justifying his coveted war on Iraq, especially as U.S. soldiers continue to die as a result of Bush's ambition.

The AP: Ex-Official: Evidence Distorted for War
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration distorted intelligence and presented conjecture as evidence to justify a U.S. invasion of Iraq, according to a retired intelligence official who served during the months before the war.


"What disturbs me deeply is what I think are the disingenuous statements made from the very top about what the intelligence did say," said Greg Thielmann, who retired last September. "The area of distortion was greatest in the nuclear field." [Ed: Gee, ya think? With Bush claiming Saddam was six months from having a nuke -- a claim that utterly asotnished the IAEA?]

Thielmann was director of the strategic, proliferation and military issues office in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. His office was privy to classified intelligence gathered by the CIA and other agencies about Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear programs.

In Thielmann's view, Iraq could have presented an immediate threat to U.S. security in two areas: Either it was about to make a nuclear weapon, or it was forming close operational ties with al-Qaida terrorists.

Evidence was lacking for both, despite claims by President Bush and others, Thielmann said in an interview this week. Suspicions were presented as fact, contrary arguments ignored, he said.

The administration's prewar portrayal of Iraq's weapons capabilities has not been validated despite weeks of searching by military experts. Alleged stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons have not turned up, nor has significant evidence of a nuclear weapons program or links to the al-Qaida network.

It's increasingly obvious that Bush and crew had a policy -- invade Iraq -- and sought evidence to justify it. A process turned entirely on its head, and a recipe for prevarication.

Let's start with this op-ed by Steve Chapman: Why the truth about Iraq remains so elusive
What is dawning on many people now is that in making the case for war, the administration and its allies did not make a fetish of strict honesty and candor. Why? Because if the American people had gotten the truth and nothing but the truth, they might not have been willing to go along with the whole enterprise.

But the strategy worked so beautifully that it's being used for the postwar occupation as well. We were given no idea of what would happen once victory was achieved, and we have been given no idea what lies ahead. The danger for Mr. Bush is that one of these days, the public may be hit in the face with a cold dash of reality.

The chief rationale for the invasion was that we had to prevent Saddam Hussein from using his vast arsenal of unconventional weapons. Unfortunately, those munitions have yet to be found, and Mr. Rumsfeld now admits that they may never be, because the Iraqis may have destroyed them.

Why a thug regime that defied the United Nations for years would be so fastidious about eliminating all evidence of guilt at its hour of doom is a deep mystery. But the administration would rather live with this puzzle than admit that maybe Mr. Hussein didn't have the arsenal that Mr. Bush told us about.

...When it comes to the aftermath, the question is not whether Americans were misinformed: The picture painted by hawks was that the Iraqi people and their liberators would all live happily ever after, and that has turned out to be a fairy tale.

No one in the White House predicted widespread looting, the collapse of order, anti-American protests, continuing attacks on U.S. troops, or the rise of fundamentalist Shiite groups. [Ed: Many opponents, though, raised those possibilities, only to have them dismissed out of hand by the hawks. Why? Because nothing that didn't aupport the war was legitimate; the evidence was determined by the policy, not the other way 'round.] The only issue is whether the administration failed to tell us out of ignorance or out of deceit - whether the president and his aides were deliberately fooling us or inadvertently fooling themselves.

In any case, the administration now has the problem of maintaining public support for a mission that promises to be expensive, open-ended, messy and thankless. But it has given the American people only the vaguest idea what they can expect.


Not everyone is as candid; the WaPo editorial board just can't bring itself to believe it was fooled:
PRESIDENT BUSH'S claim last week that U.S. forces in Iraq already "have found the weapons of mass destruction" has made a difficult problem for the administration worse. In fact, no Iraqi chemical, biological or nuclear weapons have been located, though a couple of mobile laboratories likely constructed for producing banned biological agents have been found. It still is possible -- we'd say probable -- that weapons will be found. After all, coalition forces haven't found Saddam Hussein or his sons, either, but they or their remains surely do exist; conditions in Iraq remain chaotic, and American control over large parts of the country is still tenuous. But Mr. Bush's attempt to dismiss the WMD issue, like his equally premature description of the Iraq war as a mission accomplished, has damaged U.S. credibility abroad and raised troubling questions about the administration's intentions.

Many critics of the war have rushed to the conclusion that Iraq never had weapons of mass destruction and that the Bush administration falsified or deliberately hyped the evidence. This seems unlikely on both counts. Saddam Hussein was proven to have biological and chemical arms during the 1990s. He repeatedly refused to provide evidence that he had destroyed them, even when the survival of his regime was at stake. Not only was the Bush administration convinced that weapons and weapons programs continued: The Clinton administration publicly stated the same conclusion, as did the governments of Britain and France.

The difference being, of course, that while Clinton, the UN and others (including myself) believed Saddam had chemical or biological weapons, they didn't attempt to portray them as an imminent threat to US security requiring nothing short of invasion. Note also how they dismiss equally the notions of Bush lying and that evidence was hyped, when in the WaPo's own news pages carry stories asserting the latter:
During the weeks last fall before critical votes in Congress and the United Nations on going to war in Iraq, senior administration officials, including President Bush, expressed certainty in public that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, even though U.S. intelligence agencies were reporting they had no direct evidence that such weapons existed.

In an example of the tenor of the administration's statements at the time, the president said in the Rose Garden on Sept. 26 that "the Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons. The Iraqi regime is building the facilities necessary to make more biological and chemical weapons."

But a Defense Intelligence Agency report on chemical weapons, widely distributed to administration policymakers around the time of the president's speech, stated there was "no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing or stockpiling chemical weapons or whether Iraq has or will establish its chemical agent production facilities."

The disparities between the conviction with which administration officials portrayed the threat posed by Iraq in their public statements and documents, and the more qualified reporting on the issue by intelligence agencies in classified reports, are at the heart of a burgeoning controversy in Congress and within the intelligence community over the U.S. rationale for going to war. The failure of the United States to uncover any proscribed weapons eight weeks after the end of the war is fueling sentiment among some Democrats on Capitol Hill and some intelligence analysts that the administration may have exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq.


Once again, this wasn't about "if we invade Iraq, weapons will turn up" but about "we have evidence right now." I wonder what claims of the Bush Administration the WaPo feels have been supported by the evidence so far?

On the WaPo op-ed page, meanwhile, Richard Cohen -- who supported the war -- notes that the "threat" of Saddam's alleged chemical weapons was indeed the official justification Bush used to obtain his war powers from a compliant Congress.
Last October, Congress passed a resolution authorizing the president to use force in Iraq. It said nothing about bringing democracy to Iraq, reordering the Middle East or getting the Israelis and Palestinians to make nice -- some of the reasons now retroactively advanced to justify the war. Instead, the resolution talked about the grave threat the United States faced from Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and his links to al Qaeda. In less than a year, that resolution has gone from a stirring call to war to an outright embarrassment.

The resolution declares that "Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region." It says that Iraq "continues to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability." It says Iraq is "actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations." It says that based on those findings, the president was authorized to go to war. He did. You can look it up.

It's too soon to know if the Bush administration was lying, exaggerating or simply mistaken. But it is not too soon to say that the case it advanced concerning weapons of mass destruction was much more tenuous than the administration admitted. It somehow forgot to mention all the caveats, doubts and contrary evidence. As for the link with al Qaeda, that was just plain hogwash -- not that it was believed by anyone much in Congress. Just the American people.


Well, and the British people -- and Parliament is not happy they were duped.
LONDON, June 4-Prime Minister Tony Blair failed today to quiet a roar of criticism over his insistence that Iraq's deposed government had weapons of mass destruction, with the opposition leader declaring that "nobody believes a word now that the prime minister is saying."

In a raucous House of Commons session punctuated by catcalls and cheers, Blair defended his prewar claims that then-President Saddam Hussein was hiding a dangerous arsenal and said charges that his Labor government doctored intelligence reports were "completely and totally untrue."

Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative Party leader, accused Blair of "equivocating" and argued that "the whole credibility of his government rests on clearing up these charges." Smith dismissed as "disgraceful" claims made by senior Labor Party officials to the London newspaper the Times that "rogue elements" in the intelligence services were trying to cast doubt on Blair's case for war against Iraq.

Blair has been under fierce pressure in recent days, in part from members of his own party, since fresh doubts surfaced about his case that Hussein's government possessed weapons of mass destruction.

That was the major justification the United States and Britain cited for going to war, but almost two months after the fall of Baghdad, no such weapons have been found. The most compelling evidence the United States has presented to date is two trailers that the CIA says were probably intended as mobile labs for the production of biological weapons.

More than 70 Labor members in the House of Commons have signed a petition demanding that Blair publish his evidence [Ed: That's Blair's own party. Can you imagine the GOP having the integroity to hold Bush accountable? I can't, either.], with one, Malcolm Savidge, calling the issue "potentially more serious than Watergate."

It's beginning to look to me like Blair may be cooked over this one. And if Blair is forced out I suspect the heat will increase on Bush to answer why going to war on faulty evidence isn't a high crime or misdemeanor.

Molly Ivins has learned not to trust Bush, of course, but she's had it with Bush apologists who are try to change the subject.
Safire's recent column about "hyping the 'hoax' charge" is the most elegant of its kind: Suddenly those who ask, "So where are these weapons of mass destruction we went to war to over?" are the problem.

In Safire's parallel universe, the problem is not that we're not finding weapons of mass destruction -- which means that either we were lied to by the Bush administration or there was a massive intelligence failure.

No, that's not the problem at all. The problem is, rather, that the people asking the question are "the crowd that bitterly resents America's mission to root out the sources of terror" and are "whipping up its intelligence hoax hype."

Got that? If you ask, "Where are the weapons of mass destruction?" -- a fairly obvious question at this point -- you are the problem.

That's good, but not as good as The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. This week's "Weapons of Mass Distortion" editorial is a masterpiece. In this version, those who ask the WMD question are attempting "to damage the credibility of Mr. Blair, President Bush and other war supporters."

"But who's trying to deceive whom here?" thunders the Journal. "That Saddam had biological or chemical weapons was a probability that everyone assumed to be true, even those who were against the war."

So there! And why did everyone assume it? Either because we were lied to or because there was a massive intelligence failure.

To get off Orwell and back to the facts here, we were told that we were going to war because Iraq had 5,000 gallons of anthrax, several tons of VX nerve gas, between 100 tons and 500 tons of other toxins (including botulinin, mustard gas, ricin and Sarin), 15 to 20 Scud missiles, drones fitted with poison sprays and mobile chemical laboratories.

The ex post facto development of tender concern on the part of hawks for human rights is delightful to see.

To repeat, there was always a good case to be made for taking out Saddam Hussein on humanitarian grounds alone -- those of us who work in the human rights movement were making that case back when the Reagan administration was arming Saddam. It was not, however, the case made by the Bush administration, in part because we are still supplying weapons to other monsters.

There's an old newspaper saw: "Error runs around the world before the truth can get its boots on."


Here's one from USA Today that illustrates how, quite beyond the mess we're in in Iraq, and to whatever extent Iraq distracted Bush from the war on terror (part of the war on terror? Don't make me laugh), Bush's obsession with Saddam has serious implications for national security:

Bush's war doctrine questioned / Skepticism of intelligence on Iraq undercuts pre-emptive strike policy
A failure by the Bush administration to prove its prewar allegations could undermine the pre-emption doctrine. The next time the president comes to Capitol Hill warning of an emerging threat, one that requires military action to pre-empt and defeat, some lawmakers of both parties say they will be skeptical.

In other words, if a genuine threat happens along, the US will be in a weaker position to launch a preemptive attack should it prove necessary. Not that it's likely stop Bush; it didn't this time, after all, but if such a situation arises when we have a president with scruples -- or a Congress less eager to cede its Constitutional power to make war -- we're in trouble.

John Dean, who knows an impeachable offense when he sees one, thinks Bush may have a little trouble now that his postive assertions are proving to be, ah, a tad exaggerated.
President George W. Bush has got a very serious problem. Before asking Congress for a joint resolution authorizing the use of U.S. military forces in Iraq, he made a number of unequivocal statements about the reason the United States needed to pursue the most radical actions any nation can undertake -- acts of war against another nation.

Now it is clear that many of his statements appear to be false. In the past, Bush's White House has been very good at sweeping ugly issues like this under the carpet, and out of sight. But it is not clear that they will be able to make the question of what happened to Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) go away -- unless, perhaps, they start another war.

That seems unlikely. Until the questions surrounding the Iraqi war are answered, Congress and the public may strongly resist more of President Bush's warmaking.

Presidential statements, particularly on matters of national security, are held to an expectation of the highest standard of truthfulness. A president cannot stretch, twist or distort facts and get away with it. President Lyndon Johnson's distortions of the truth about Vietnam forced him to stand down from reelection. President Richard Nixon's false statements about Watergate forced his resignation. ...

So what are we now to conclude if Bush's statements are found, indeed, to be as grossly inaccurate as they currently appear to have been?

After all, no weapons of mass destruction have been found, and given Bush's statements, they should not have been very hard to find -- for they existed in large quantities, "thousands of tons" of chemical weapons alone. Moreover, according to the statements, telltale facilities, groups of scientists who could testify, and production equipment also existed.

So where is all that? And how can we reconcile the White House's unequivocal statements with the fact that they may not exist?

There are two main possibilities. One, that something is seriously wrong within the Bush White House's national security operations. That seems difficult to believe. The other is that the president has deliberately misled the nation, and the world.

...Perhaps most troubling, the president has failed to provide any explanation of how he could have made his very specific statements, yet now be unable to back them up with supporting evidence. Was there an Iraqi informant thought to be reliable, who turned out not to be? Were satellite photos innocently, if negligently misinterpreted? Or was his evidence not as solid as he led the world to believe?

The absence of any explanation for the gap between the statements and reality only increases the sense that the President's misstatements may actually have been intentional lies.


One final pont: Once again, stumbling across some rusty barrels of mustard gas will not, repeat not retroactively justify Bush's war. The issue is not whether Saddam had nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, but that Bush claimed to have evidence that Saddam posed a threat to US security. There's no question now that whatver "evidence" or "proof" they had was bogus, because if it were real we'd have found the stuff where we looked. Back when I was merely skeptical, I recall questioning the President's case on the grounds that it was long on assertion and short on evidence, and wondering aloud whether the President's assertion was enough to authorize war. A number of Bush supporters took umbrage at the notion that the evidence wasn't enough, or that I didn't just take Bush's word for it. Somehow, I don't think I'll be hearing an apology from any of these people, although I feel I'm entitled to one. I can't see any credibility at all in the assertion that Bush's prewar lies assertions about nuclear, chemical or biological weapons held water. (It's simple, really: Exactly which one of those statements can they produce evidence to support? If they can't, they can't claim they know it's true.) Even supporters of the war should be outraged if Bush lied to the American public and the world to support his desire to oust Saddam. And I think more and more people are becoming convinced as well.

Several bloggers have been examining these developments, but in particular, check out The Left Coaster.

As they say at Daily Kos, Bush lied. People died.




  xFriday, June 06, 2003

pick-up artist


I've really sux0rzed lately about writing stuff for Destroy All Monsters, having concentrated on the job search, freelance gigs and watching the girls (and M4d props to Musashi for his patience!)

However, Static Multimedia has picked up a couple of DVD reviews I originally wrote for DAM: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and My Neighbor Totoro. (I dunno why the latter isn't in the anime section, but there it is.)




  x

duck dodgers on the way to mars


Excellent: The mission patches for NASA's two Mars Exploration Rover Missions will depict the classic Warner Brothers characters Marvin the Martian and Daffy Duck (in his Duck Dodgers guise), according to this press release.

Marvin The Martian and Daffy Duck (as the fearless Duck Dodgers) will be showcased on official 1st Space Launch Squadron patches for two NASA Mars Exploration Rover Missions this summer. The special patches will act as the defining logo and will be worn by TEAM DELTA crews, comprising members from NASA, the United States Air Force, and Boeing. Additionally, they will be found in the mission control booth and at the Air Force 1SLS launch pad, and will be carried on mission control and launch pad crew suits, jackets and mugs. The Delta rockets will send the Mission Exploration Rover (MER) on special research operations to study the Red Planet, which the delightfully droll Marvin calls home.

"Daffy Duck and Marvin The Martian struck us as such a perfect fit, capturing the fun and adventurous spirit of these important explorations, that we were delighted to be able to include them as honorary members of the team," said Captain David Krambeck of TEAM DELTA.

Representatives from the Air Force working with Warner Bros. Consumer Products created the official patch designs for both the Mars-A and Mars-B missions, one patch featuring Marvin The Martian saluting the Mars Rover and the other, Daffy Duck as Duck Dodgers posed proudly with the American flag. The first launch is scheduled for June 8th, and the second launch will be slated for June 25th.


(via BoingBoing; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)




  x

wmd lies continue to unravel


One of the criticisms of the Warren Commission in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination was that, when presented with conflicting evidence, it tended to focus on the evidence supporting the "lone gunman" theory and ignore evidence that contradicted it.

It's becoming obvious that the same situation occurred with regard to evidence of weapons of mass destruction. There were a lot of assumptions, a lot of suspicions, and a lot of questions, and precious little in the way of hard evidence. Yet the Administration, dissatisfied with the best efforts of its intelligence community, which was not giving it the answers it wanted, had its Office of Special Plans cherry-pick the favorable nuggets from a sea of negative information. And the Administration trumpeted, over and over, that it knew Iraq had WMDs. (And no, we couldn't see the evidence, we'd just have to trust them. A L4m3 argument the Administration and its apologists are still using...) Once again, here's more from CalPundit.

As I said in the comment thread to this post, it's irrefutable that the Administration could not possibly have had the evidence they said they did. Assumptions, perhaps; hard evidence, not at all. We went to war on a hunch -- and Bush couldn't possibly bring himself to be honest about it. Instead, he said he had proof. The evidence is clear: He lied. An impeachable offense, in my opinion, and a breathtaking assertion of tyrannical authority -- to go to war on a whim, and to lie if the public won't accept the rationale -- that I'm simply flabbergasted so many conservatives whom I would have credited with some integrity are defending.

E.J. Dionne has more in today's WaPo, and I echo his point: regardless of whether the ousting of Saddam was a Good Thing, it's essential that we hold the Bush administration accountable for its justifications. It's a matter of national security.

Update: This story definitely has legs: Intelligence Historian Says CIA 'Buckled' on Iraq




  x

hey, i'm in there somewehre...


From the AP: U.S. Unemployment Rate Climbs in May
WASHINGTON - The nation's unemployment rate climbed to 6.1 percent in May, the highest level in nine years, as businesses cut 17,000 jobs in a weak economy struggling toward recovery.

The rate was up one-tenth of a percentage point from April, peaking at a level not seen since the country was emerging from the last recession, the Labor Department reported Friday.

July 1994 was the last time the jobless rate was at 6.1. It was higher only in April 1994, at 6.4 percent.

One reason for last month's increase was that more people resumed their job searches, but failed to find work. Nearly 9 million people were unemployed in May.

Payrolls fell by 17,000 in May following a revision in April, in which no jobs were lost. Those revisions are made annually, and the results showed that job losses were not nearly as steep as previously reported. The government also changed how it calculates payrolls data and expanded job categories.

The report was slightly better than what analysts had predicted — job losses of about 30,000.

I don't have figures, of course, but I suspect that even when people find work, in many cases it's lower-pay, lower-prestige jobs in the service industry. Technically not unemployed, but...

I know a lot of conservatives, like this guy, still have faith in trickle-down economics. However, from my perspective, many people I talk to recognize this time that Republican economic policies represent redistribution of wealth to the already-rich at the expense of the middle class. (In addition to redistribution of tax dollars from the high-population blue states to the low-population red ones.) also have a sense that no matter how "concerned" Rove makes Bush seem about the economic squeeze on the middle class, the so-called "lucky duckies" will recognize how the rich are making out like bandits at their expense. CalPundit has been all over this trend.

Others, like George "Gotcha, Suckers!" Will, brag now that the tax cut is less about economic prosperity for all Americans -- a dubious claim in the first place -- than about cementing Bush's re-election and achieving a back-door implementation of the twin Republican agenda of eliminating popular government programs (by bankrupting the government's ability to pay for them, which explains why Bush has evidence so little inclination to cut spending...) and instituting a regressive, not progressive, tax system. (Those "lucky duckies," again...) Will makes clear that that by running up massive defecits, Bush will force a subsequent president with integrity -- which of course excludes Bush -- to either raise taxes -- which Will definies, probably rightly, as political suicide -- or slash programs the public likes and the Republicans don't have the integrity or guts to publicly oppose. (Although Will seems to lack the courage of his convictions -- he trouts out the laughable Laffer curve, just in case -- a ridiculous notion; were there any merit to it at all, Bush's tax cut mania would not have run up such mind-boggling defecits already.)

Will also revels in the fraud of the so-called "sunset provisions" insisted on by some of the few remaining Republicans with genuine fiscal conservative integrity. He parrots the ludicrous claim that allowing a tax cut to expire amounts to a "tax increase." I would obvserve that even were that true, then the sunset provision are not only yet another fraud perpetrated by Bush -- ostensibly agreeing to fiscal restraint he had no intention of exercising -- but a "tax increase" Bush himself signed. If the Democrats had any spine, they would lambaste Bush with this -- Bush simultaneously perpetrated a ruinous fiscal fraud on the American people and, by his own definition (however dishonest), signed a tax increase. Several of them, in fact.

But all the conservative worship at the supply side altar is, I think, not lost on the American middle class this time around. During the boom 90s, the middle class finally felt as if it was catching up with the . Now the intentional failure of the Bush economic program to benefit anyone but the rich is too obvious to ignore. I believe that not matter how much Rove tries to make Bush seem to "care" about the economy, Bush's policies will also be too obvious to ignore. The economy will remain a major vulnerability for Bush come 2004.




  x

it seems...


nerdslut
Nerdslut


What's your sexual appeal?
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  xThursday, June 05, 2003

it seems...


...my attitude towards life could be described as psychopathic optimism.

a clockwork alex
You are Alex from A Clockwork Orange.
You are just a wee little schoolboy who enjoys
Beethoven and ultraviolence. Your attitude
towards life could be described as psychopathic
optimism.


Which Cool Evil Guy Are You?
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  x

quote of the day


"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power" -- Benito Mussolini.

(via Tristero via Molly Ivins)





  x

retro occult link of the day


The '80s pop star Tarot! (Ferris Bueller as The Fool, David Bowie as The Emperor, Devo as Temerance, Billy Idol as the Knight of Swords...) Not just the major arcana and court cards; every card has an appropriate '80s entity assigned. Simply brilliant!

(via Very Big Blog)




  x

music of the moment


I was just listening to the classic David Bowie song "Changes," which carries this prophetic line:
Oooh, look out, you rock-and rollers/Pretty soon now, you're going to get older.

Truer words were never spoken.




  x

gop fails to drum up votes to gut labor law


Wow, here's some good news:
WASHINGTON (AP) - House Republican leaders yanked an overtime pay bill from Thursday's schedule after failing to find enough votes for passage, a rare win for labor unions in a Congress controlled by the GOP.

Wednesday's move followed a massive lobbying effort by organized labor that targeted moderate House Republicans.

The measure would let hourly workers who log more than 40 hours in a week choose between overtime pay or compensatory time off at a later date. Private companies are barred under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act from offering comp time as an option to millions of workers covered by the law.

...Supporters say the bill provides flexibility to workers who increasingly are juggling demands of career and family. It would let workers accrue compensatory time off to attend parent-teacher conferences, school events or whatever they choose, with their employers' approval.

Labor leaders say the current overtime law acts as a protection to the 40-hour work week because companies wanting more work from their employees now must provide premium pay — and often think twice about it. They also argue that if the bill becomes law, employers will assign overtime only to workers who agree to choose comp time, even though the measure prohibits the practice.

"We're going to keep educating members of Congress and the general public about what's at stake," said Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO's legislative director. "With more time to explain what's at stake, opposition will grow."

...Labor officials hope to move their momentum from the fight to the Labor Department, where officials are drastically changing the criteria that determines which workers are eligible for overtime pay. The final regulation, which does not need approval by Congress, could be issued by fall.

Excellent. No matter what friendly-sounding name the GOP cooked up for this bill, it was widely seen as an end run around the 40-hour work week, and it thoroughly deserves defeat.

Reality check here: In my career, I've rarely encountered a work environment that wasn't already reasonable about offering some kind of flex time, apart from any overtime system. Companies should recognize that as in their best interests: Otherwise, employees simply take sick days when they need personal time. (Indeed, several companies call them "personal days" rather than "sick time," to encourage employees to be upfront and give notice of occasional absences.)

Moreover, I'm sure my friends who are so-called "exempt" (that is, salaried) employees will attest that a company that doesn't have to pay its workers overtime for extra work won't hesistate to demand more time from them if need be, especially then the desire to cut costs results in a too-small roster. I've certainly been there, and while I've never shirked extra work, there's no question at all that companies will .

At a time when CEO pay outpaces that of the average worker by a substantial and growing margin, it's outrageous that the GOP should tinker with laws that prevent unscrupulous corporations from squeezing unpaid overtime from their workers.




  x

milestone of the day


Just before midnight last night, the hit counter inched over the 30,000 mark. Thanks for visiting, and my profuse 'pologies for the paucity of posts. When my situation stabilizes, I'll be much more back in the game.




  xWednesday, June 04, 2003

credit-where-due department


This blog has been highly critical of Bush the Lesser, of course. (I have been following, unfortunately without comment so far, the steady unraveling of the WMD story -- you know, those WMDs the President and his advisers repeatedly lied assured us they had evidence about.)

However, I note with approval Bush's long-overdue but welcome efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. THere have been some encouraging signs in the past week, and I hope they prove to bear fruit in the long run.




  x

unemployment diary, day 21


First the bad news. Via Wampum, I learn that the help-wanted index, a key job indicator, fell three points last week.
The Conference Board's Help-Wanted Advertising Index – a key barometer of America's job market – declined three points in April. The Index now stands at 35, down from 38 in March. It was 47 one year ago.

In the last three months, help-wanted advertising declined in all nine regions of the U.S. Steepest declines occurred in the East South Central (-32.0), Middle Atlantic (-18.4), Pacific (-16.4%) and New England (-15.7%) regions.

Says Conference Board Economist Ken Goldstein: “April may represent a low point for the ailing labor market. After initial unemployment claims revealed a big rise in layoffs, want-ad volume significantly declined from already very depressed levels. Clearly, businesses have been busy laying off workers and scaling back already greatly reduced plans to hire. If the overall economy remains weak heading into the third quarter, a return to job growth earlier than the fourth quarter doesn’t seem likely.”

The Conference Board surveys help-wanted advertising volume in 51 major newspapers across the country every month. Because ad volume has proven to be sensitive to labor market conditions, this measure provides an important gauge of change in the local, regional and national supply of jobs.


That about matches my own perceptions -- the help wanted section of the local paper is pretty think these days. Of course, a lot of it depends on what you're looking for -- health care and restaurant work are still in demand.

The good news is, I had that job interview this morning -- the first interview for a specific position in my job search so far -- and it seemed to go well indeed. Crystal had an interview as well; if things work out exactly to our liking, we may have several choices to ponder. Updates, of course, as they occur.





  xTuesday, June 03, 2003

star wars ruminations


Byzantium's Shores has an excellent rant about the state of Star Wars fandom. Jaquandor basically says to irate George Lucas detractors, "If you don't like the Star Wars movies, quit watching them." He notes that this course is exactly what he followed when he became dissatisfied with Rick Berman's helmsmanship of the Star Trek franchise, and I agree; I did the same thing. I don't kvetch about how the recent incarnations of Star Trek sux0rz; I just don't watch them.

(I must add, however, that the Greedo-shoots-first edit to the special edition of Star Wars (A New Hope) was atrocious -- not merely shameful revisionism, but poorly done shameful revisionism.)

Jaquandor also posted a short story I plan to read when I have time.




  xMonday, June 02, 2003

unemployment diary, day 20


Although my lovely wife and I have worked out a budget through which we can scrape by on unemployment for the near term, one major bummer of this situation is telling my daughter Cecilia that she can't have things because we can't afford them. For example, she gets very excited when the ice cream truck rolls by, music playing, and normally I'd run with her to buy a popsicle. I've explained it enough times that all I have to do now is say, "you know why we can't buy that," and she'll reply, "because you don't have a job."

Today, we were having popsicles (the cheap store-bought kind) outside, and Cecilia looked at me and explained calmly, "I'm having a bad day because you don't have a job and we can't get my favorite kind of popsicle, the kind with the chocolate on the outside and the vanilla on the inside."

The interview this morning was positive; there were no immediate openings at this placement agency, but it's yet another prospect, which can't be bad. Now that the girls are done with lunch, I need to tweak my résumé a bit and send it in to the recruiter. Then, I need to finish up on some other projects, especially the jillion reviews I owe Musashi. I'll blog as time permits.

Update: I just got an email from the person who recruited me for my former position; she's with another company now, and just asked me to come in for an interview Wednesday. Keep your fingers crossed!

Update 2: Picking up some staples at the store yesterday, I noted that the ice cream bars Cecilia likes were on two-for-one sale, so I picked some up. It's downright chilly today -- 55 degrees at noon, and it's June! -- so I doubt I'll spring them on her this afternoon, but I'm looking forward to it.

And to the blogger -- you know who you are -- who sent in that wonderfully generous offer, thanks. You have my gratitude.





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