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  xSaturday, June 14, 2003

awesome techie toy of the day

A downloadable desktop theramin. The theramin, one of the first electronic instruments, and notable as the only musical instrument one plays without making any physical contact, was used by a couple of my favorite bands -- the Beach Boys and Led Zeppelin -- as well as in numerous science fiction pictures, most notably Forbidden Planet. c00L!

(via The Sideshow)


video game link of the day

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a video gamer. Well, maybe not, but Electronic Gaming Monthly asked Henry Hill -- the gangster whose career was told in the book Wiseguy and the Martin Scorsese film GoodFellas -- to rate crime-wave video games such as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Hitman 2. Hill's 14-year-old son Justin was along to help out his dad. The online edition features a general Q&A with the elder Hill that didn't appear in the magazine.

HH: Show me where the money is. I'll get the money. Oh, I'm in South Beach!

JH: They got money, Henry. Hit 'em! Go up and punch 'em!

HH: Wait, the girl on the roller skates, I want her! Where'd she go?

JH: Don't worry about that--hit the guy. Use the gun! Press Circle.

[Henry shoots some Vice City denizens before the cops arrive and make the collar.]

JH: Busted!

HH: Yeah? You just lost your college fund, Julian.


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

  xFriday, June 13, 2003

milestone of the day

A short time ago, while we were having dinner at our favorite neighborhood Chinese restaurant, the hit counter inched over the 31,000 mark. Not bad, considering the recent paucity of posts; its good to be more back in the game. Thanks for visiting.


geek of the week

Some genius has a Web site describing how to build a robot out of an old floppy disk drive. "The floppy drive has
all of the motors and electronics you need to get started." c00L!

(via BoingBoing)

Update: For the less L33t, here's a site of print-and-build paper robots. Have fun!

(via SixDifferentWays)


baseball link of the day

ESPN columnist Tim Kurkjian takes a look at the history of the no-hitter. Yesterday, six Houston Astros pitchers participated in a no-hitter against the New York Yankees. Congratulations, guys!


oh, by the way...

Happy Friday the 13th.

I really ought to sit down and watch the's been years since I've watched it, and while I don't like slasher films in general or Ft13th in particular, it's actually not a terrible example of the genre, and of course Tom Savini's gore effects are top-notch. If I rent it, I'll post my thoughts.

(via FARK)

Update: I didn't; instead, I watched the Jet Li flick The Enforcer.


a reunion of sorts

One of the things I've always loved about the Internet is its incredible usefulness as a communication tool. Ever since I prowled Louisville's bulletin board systems (BBSs) over my old 2400 bps modem, I've been fascinated by the ability of computers to link people and ideas. I have chatted on America Online (although I don't recommend it) and thru services like ICQ (which I hardly ever use any more) and Yahoo! Instant Messenger (which I do, sometimes). Now, blogging is the latest incarnation of that for me, and it's both put me in touch with many wonderful people (anna, Bret, Jaquandor, Jeff Cooper, susanna, and others), and given me a further insight on people I already knew (Dodd, Musashi, and Patty, for example).

It's always amazed me how, through computers and the Internet, people can get to know each other and form friendships even though they've never met. Just as one example, over the past year or so I've written for Destroy All Monsters, Musashi and I have become pretty good firends; he's an extremely cool guy, and, as we both grew up with kung fu and kaiju flicks, enjoyed games like Battletech, and discovered punk in the '80s, we've found a lot in common to groove on.

I was thinking about this because in the last month, I've been contacted by two friends that I used to chat with a lot, but had lost touch with over the years. My friend Sunny from Taiwan emailed me several weeks ago, and we've been catching up since. And last week, I got a message from Heidi, a young woman from Canada I'd become very close to while chatting. I hadn't heard form her in a year (and ironically enough, had just dropped the Canadian calling area from my long-distance plan because I'd figured I wouldn't hear from her again...), but as soon as her message appeared, we were catching up and digging our firendship just like before. She just emailed me that she has started a blog of her own, too.

In fact, even when we moved from Louisville five years ago, I kept the email address at the ISP I was using (the one that hosts this blog; it's located in southern Indiana, actually...) so I'd be easy to find if someone wanted to. (I was also gratified to see that Planet Swank is now Google's number-one search result for Gregory Harris. c00L!)

One of the things about Internet friendships is that they can and do vanish like data from a computer that's switched off. But more than once I've been surprised by an old friend turning up, either an Ineternet friend or a real-time friend who use the 'net to look me up. The Internet is a wonderful too, but it's the people it's put me in touch with that's made it especially valuable to me.

Update: My lovely wife informs me that our ISP's address is now in Louisville, not Jeffersonville. Of course, goodness knows where the actual servers are, but you get the idea.


bush administration 9/11 evasions infuriate survivors

Families of some of the vistims of the 9/11 attacks are far from satisfied with the updates the Bush Administration has provided on the investigations of events leading up to the attacks -- which, let's not forget, occurred on Bush's watch after he failed to take any action in response to warnings that al Qaeda wanted to hijack a US airliner and which, let's not forget, Bush lied about, claiming the attacks game with no warning at all.
In a long-awaited, closed-door meeting, FBI director Robert Mueller ran into a buzz saw of criticism this week from irate family members of September 11 victims over the bureau’s handling of a range of matters relating to the terror attacks.

family members who attended the meeting at the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington told NEWSWEEK the meeting quickly grew contentious as soon as bureau officials finished the inevitable PowerPoint presentation on the status of the 9-11 probe. Many of those present were visibly annoyed with Mueller’s responses—especially over his refusal to commit to holding any bureau officials accountable for intelligence failures that preceded the attacks.

“A lot of family members were angry, and there was a lot of shouting out of turn,” said Steve Push, the leader of one of the 9-11 victims’-family groups. “There was a lot of unhappiness with quite a few of the responses.”

Much of the stiffest criticism came from “the Jersey Girls”—a group of feisty young widows from northern New Jersey whose husbands died in the World Trade Center and who have become increasingly radicalized by what they view as the U.S. government’s failure to provide them with answers to many key questions about the attacks.

The women from New Jersey got especially frustrated when Mueller and other top bureau officials at the meeting repeatedly brushed aside their questions, saying they couldn’t respond because the answers might jeopardize the Justice Department’s pending case against Zacarias Moussaoui, the accused Al Qaeda terrorist who is facing charges that he was a co-conspirator in the 9-11 attacks.

“I don’t give a rat’s a— about Moussaoui!” said Patty Casazza, a 38-year-old New Jersey resident whose husband, John, died in the World Trade Center’s north tower. “Send him to Guantanamo Bay and … get what you can from him there.”

Another key issue for the Jersey widows—who peppered Mueller with questions throughout the session and sometimes interrupted his responses—is accountability. Kristin Breitweiser, 32, pressed to know why bureau officials had not put together information from the so-called Phoenix memo—a July 2001 communiqué from a Phoenix-based FBI agent reporting that a suspiciously large number of Middle Eastern men were enrolling in U.S. flight schools—with information from the FBI’s Minneapolis office the following month about the detention of one flight-school student in particular, Moussaoui.

More broadly, family members say they are sickened by the fact that nearly two years after the attacks, no one in the U.S. government—neither at the FBI, CIA nor anywhere else—has been dismissed or otherwise disciplined for the multiple mistakes and intelligence foul-ups that preceded the attacks.

Remember when Bush insisted it was critical to national security that he have the ability to disregard civil service protections in his massive new homeland security bureaucracy? Obviously, he isn't interested in cleaning up prior failures. Or could it be that, much like the CIA is declining to take the fall for Bush's Iraq exaggerations, that disciplined security agents might reveal how much they reported? Regardless, it's obvious that Bush doesn't want the American public -- including the survivors of 9/11 victims -- from learning what he knew and when he knew it. This may just be a manifestation of Bush's anti-(small-d)democratic obsession with secrecy; then again, it may be a desire to cover something up. If so, Bush may learn that it isn't the scandal that gets you; it's the cover-up. Either way would do for me, of course.
I've said before (permalinks are temporarily bloggered) that 9/11 can -- and should -- prove to be Bush's Achilles heel. Long before establishing a record of dishonesty over Iraq -- but after demonstrating his willingness to use mendacity to achieve policy aims, such as his first tax cut -- Bush lied to the nation about what he knew prior to the 9/11 attacks -- and no wonder, since he didn't do anything about the warnings. Bush enjoyed the benefit of having his opponent's reputation smeared with allegations of "little lies" -- many of which were not lies at all. It's long past time for the spotlight to shine on Bush's lies, little and large, and it's absolutely essential for the Democrats to have the courage -- and the courage of their principles -- to do so. To do anything lest would be not only to condone Bush's dishonesty, and the damage that his policies cause, but to become a willing participant. The Democrats should leave that dishonor to the conservative pundits.

(via the same open thread at Daily Kos)



This op-ed by the Cato Institute's Gene Healy was on the Fox News Web site, of all places. It's spot-on in its observation that the argument is not whether Iraq has any chemical or biological weapons at all -- it's about whether Bush had the evidence he claimed to back up his prewar assertions. This article is, frankly, astonishing, but it's reassuring to discover that there are still principled conservatives out there (definition, for the purposes of this post: that a president is not justified in going to war on false pretenses -- a premise that should be universal, and is rather almost universally rejected by many conservatives, at least in the blogosphere).
Some war critics can barely contain their glee about the missing Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. But they may be setting themselves up for a fall. As the Bush administration constantly reminds us, Iraq is a big country, and the weapons may yet turn up. If they do, does that mean the administration is vindicated?

Hardly. The focus on missing weapons threatens to obscure the larger point: that with or without chemical and biological weapons, Iraq was never a national security threat to the United States.

The proposition that Saddam Hussein was willing to hand over weapons of mass destruction to terrorists appears to have been based on sheer speculation, and implausible speculation at that. Despite over 20 years of supporting terror against Israel, Saddam never turned over chemical or biological weapons to Palestinian terror groups, reasoning, correctly, that such action would provoke massive retaliation. Still less was he likely to hand over such weapons to Al Qaeda, a group that has long opposed his "socialist infidel" rule and could not be trusted to keep the deal secret.

Moreover, Al Qaeda's behavior suggests that they never expected Saddam to give them chemical or biological weapons. Computer hard drives and paper documents seized in the March 1 capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, a top-level Al Qaeda operative, reveal that the terror group had extensive plans to produce chemical and biological agents on its own.

As the Washington Post reported on March 23, the documents show that Al Qaeda had recruited competent scientists and extensively mapped out its plans for anthrax production. If access to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was a real possibility, why would Al Qaeda go to such lengths to produce its own?

And even if one believed the administration's assertions that Saddam might risk destroying his regime by giving Al Qaeda weapons of mass destruction, it was obvious that a war aimed at overthrowing Saddam would greatly increase the chances of those weapons ending up in Al Qaeda's hands.

What possible disincentive could the Iraqi dictator have to transferring his arsenal to terrorists, once regime change was underway and he had nothing left to lose? How could the administration ensure that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction would not be "privatized" and sold to the highest bidder in the chaos accompanying the collapse of the Baathist regime?

In fact, components for a "dirty bomb" may already be in the wrong hands. A large nuclear-material storage facility at Al Tuwaitha, south of Baghdad, was looted in the days following the war, and International Atomic Energy Agency officials fear that terrorists could make radiological bombs with the isotopes that have gone missing. What other dangerous materials or proscribed weapons have we lost track of in a "country the size of California"?

Sometime in the coming months, U.S. forces may well happen upon some VX canisters or anthrax stockpiles, and the administration will breathe a sigh of relief. Such a discovery may change the media's focus, but it can't change the facts: This war did not avert a serious threat to the United States. Instead, it may have created new ones.

Note, for starters, that Healy rejects the Administration's speculations that Saddam might give al Qaeda some nerve gas or biotoxins. Of course, his article seems to assume that Iraq had the capability Bush claimed. If it did, it's alarming indeed that whatever weapons Saddam may have had haven't been found -- if Bush's coveted war, touted as essential to keep deadly weapons from terrorists, instead enabled them to obtain some, it's a truly mind-bending level of malfeasance.

But the central point remains: Belated discoveries of some rusty barrels of mustard gas will not retroactively vindicate Bush, and it's important to be prepared for claims that it does -- "see, we were right, Iraq did have WMDs!" Bush never proposed going to war to see if Iraq had WMDs; he insisted going to war immediately, despite the resumption of inspections, was essential to protect national security from the imminent threat of weapons he said he had proof of.

It's quite simple...we went to war on the basis of Bush's assertions on occasions like this year's State of the Union that Iraq posed a threat. I've already pointed out that Bush is often careful not to make statements that are provably false. But the question is, can Bush prove, now that we've conquered Iraq -- at the cost of American lives and treasure, not to mention the lives of Iraqi civilians, including children -- can Bush prove right now that his statements were justified? Obviously, he can't -- and by parsing his statements, he's proved that he knows it.

Bush lied. And people died.

(via an open thread at Daily Kos)


class warfare post of the day

There's another rhetorical tactic the miscreants in this Administration are fond of using -- preemptive strikes. Consider, for example, the furious spinning by Administration officials over the increasing obviousness that Bush never had the proof he claimed that Iraq posed a threat. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice called the notion that Bush described threats and capabilites that have manifestly failed to appear "revisionist history." It'd be funny if it weren't so outrageous: The retroactive parsing of Bush's statements -- including by Bush himself -- is revisionism of the most odious kind. Yet by his preemptive strike, at the very least Powell lays the groundwork for the compliant so-called "liberal media" to adopt a he-said, she-said storyline:
Administration critics charge that if Bush can't prove his charges against Iraq now that US forces have free run of the country, he simply couldn't have had the proof he claimed to have before the war to justify an unprovoked invasion. Administration officials, however, said any attempt to hold the Administration accountable for its earlier bogus statements amounts to "historical revisionism." This reporter, meanwhile, is either too lazy to check on what the Administration said earlier or too unprincipled to perform the essential function of performing as a vigilant check on the government, so what're you gonna do?

Of course, we should have been prepared for this tactic -- consider the inevitable charge of "class warfare" whenever one points out how Republicans favor a policy of income redistribution from the poor and middle class to the rich. Slate's Michael Kinsley points out that Bush and his cronies are practicing class warfare, and warfare that benefits a select few at the expense of national prosperity.
Democracy presumes and enshrines equality. Capitalism not only presumes but requires and produces inequality. How can you have a society based on equality and inequality at the same time? The classic answer is that democracy and capitalism should reign in their own separate "spheres" (philosopher Michael Walzer's term). As citizens, we are all equal. As players in the economy, we enjoy differing rewards depending on our efforts, talents, or luck.

But how do you prevent power in one from leeching into the other? In various ways, we try to police the border. Capitalism is protected from democracy, to some extent, by provisions of the Constitution that guard individuals against tyranny of the majority—for example, by forbidding the government to take your property without due process of law. Protecting democracy from capitalism is the noble intention, at least, of campaign finance laws that get enacted every couple of decades.

Separation of the spheres also depends on an unspoken deal, a nonaggression pact, between democracy's political majority and capitalism's affluent minority. The majority acknowledge that capitalism benefits all of us, even if some benefit a lot more than others. The majority also take comfort in the belief that everyone has at least a shot at scoring big. The affluent minority, meanwhile, acknowledge that their good fortune is at least in part the luck of the draw. They recognize that domestic tranquility, protection from foreign enemies, and other government functions are worth more to people with more at stake. And they retain a tiny yet prudent fear of what beast might be awakened if the fortunate folks get too greedy about protecting and enlarging their good fortune.

That was the deal. Under George W. Bush, though, the deal is breaking down. With Republicans in control of the White House and both Houses of Congress, the winners of the economic sphere are ratting on their side of the bargain and colonizing the sphere next door. Campaign contributions are only the crudest way power is transferred from the economic sphere to the political one. In addition, there are well-financed lobbying organizations, including some masquerading as research institutes. There is the inherent complexity and boredom of tax and regulatory issues, which repel people who don't have a major financial stake. There is the social milieu of the president and most members of Congress. They may not all come from the worlds of posh aristocracy or self-satisfied business success (Bush remarkably straddles both), but these are the worlds they are plunged into as they rise to congressional leadership. And, in the back of their minds, these are the worlds they may hope to find a place in when they lay down the weary burdens of power.

The recently enacted tax bill is such a shocking and brazen gift for the wealthy that it is hard to describe in anything short of these cartoon-Marxist terms.

In other words, Republicans attack their critics for practicing class warfare as part of a deliberate stratrgy to enable themselves to practice class warfare.

(via Blog Left)


spinsanity explains it all

There's an excellent piece in Spinsanity analyzing Bush's habitual use of misleading rhetoric. As I've observed in the past, for example, Bush hardly seemed to miss an opportunity to mention the 9/11 attacks when justifying his war ambitions with Iraq, dishonestly conflating the two without directly blaming Saddam for the attacks. Passed on by an uncritical so-called "liberal media," the American people got the message -- with nearly half adopting the mistaken belief that Saddam was personally responsible for the atrocity (of course, he's responsible for other atrocities; there's just no evidence he was in on that one).
Bush has become a master of making statements that are factually true but misleading, while escaping criticism for doing so from the press corps. This is partly a result of the deference generally granted to the president. Bush's reputation for imprecise speech may also make reporters reluctant to criticize his words so closely. And because his claims are often phrased in complicated and confusing ways, they are difficult for the press to directly refute. Nonetheless, the implications of the President's strategically ambiguous statements must be addressed.

By the way, this piece ought to lay to rest the idea that Bush is an idiot. Bush seems to me to be narrow minded and stubborn -- certainly two hallmarks of idiocy -- but there's also a certain ruthless cunning in the methods he uses to get what he wants. That's exactly why Bush should be held accountable for his statements.

  xThursday, June 12, 2003

asian pic of the day

japanese bakery girl

Researching the previous post, I happened across this Reuters photo of a kawaii Japanese girl slicing bread in a bakery.
Mika Onodera, 28, cuts bread at a bakery -- her fifth job in as many years -- in downtown Tokyo June 3, 2003. A growing number of young Japanese are opting to become 'freeters' -- workers who shun traditional life-time employment, often work part-time and happily flit from job to job.


unemployment update

I'm fortunate to be among the employed once again. Let's not forget, however, that lots of people are not so lucky.
The number of Americans lining up to claim unemployment benefits fell in the latest week, the government said on Thursday in the second sign in less than a week that job losses may be slowing.

First-time claims for state unemployment benefits fell 17,000 to 430,000 in the June 7 week, the Labor Department said. Analysts were expecting claims of 424,000.

The latest week's decline almost offsets a 22,000 increase in claims for the week ended May 31, which was partly due to seasonal adjustment factors for the Memorial Day holiday.

The four-week moving average, a more reliable indicator of job market health because it irons out weekly fluctuations, rose to 433,750 from 431,500 in the prior week.

Analysts were encouraged by a Labor Department report last Friday showing companies cut fewer workers than feared in May.

In another outrageous distoryion of the so-called "liberal media," the article neglets to mention anywhere -- as many of its predecessors have, week after week -- that new jobless claims over 400,000 are widely regarded as indicative of a weak labor market. We aren't out of the woods yet, folks, as this Dow Jones story -- which does report that jobless claims have been above 400,000 for 17 weeks in a row -- indicates (it also points out that whatever recovery the economy is experiencing is far from nationwide):
Initial jobless claims dropped by 17,000 to 430,000 in the week that ended June 7, the Labor Department said Thursday. But other numbers highlighted what Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (news - web sites) has called an "exceptionally weak" jobs market: the four-week average of claims, which smoothes out weekly fluctuations, rose to a three-week high of 433,750.

Moreover, the number of workers drawing unemployment benefits for more than a week surged to a 20-year high in the week that ended May 31, the latest period for which those statistics are available. Continuing claims rose by 120,000 to 3.8 million. The unemployment rate for workers with unemployment insurance climbed to 3%, the highest level since November 2001.

The increase in initial claims matched Wall Street's expectations precisely. But a Labor Department statistician said the numbers should be viewed with caution because of typical "volatility" that affects initial-claims data around holidays. He said the previous week's numbers also may have been skewed by the Memorial Day holiday.

For 17 consecutive weeks, the volume of initial claims for unemployment benefits has remained above 400,000 -- a level that economists associate with a shrinking jobs market.

In all, 26 states and territories reported an increase in unadjusted initial claims for the week of May 31 while 29 reported a decrease. North Carolina reported the biggest increase, a gain of 5,819 that it attributed to layoffs in the textile and construction industries. California reported the biggest decrease, saying claims declined by 5,663 because of fewer layoffs in the construction and service industries, and in agriculture.

By the way, I may have benefited from the fact that IT unemployment is beginning to subside.
The IT job market is perking up despite a rise in overall joblessness. IT unemployment fell to 5.3% in May from 5.7% a year earlier and 6.0% in April, the Labor Department reported Friday. Overall unemployment rose 0.1% to a nine-year high of 6.1% last month, up from 5.8% a year earlier.

...Since the end of the dot-com boom, when IT unemployment bottomed out at 1.7% in June 2000, joblessness among IT pros has soared, reaching a high of 6.5% in March. May's number suggests a recovery is under way.

But what I'd really like to know is, exactly when are Bush's economic policies supposed to start benefiting average Americans?


aviation link of the day

Great googly moogly! Some genius is building a 737 cockpit simulator in his garage!

Several years ago, I wrote a magazine about Microsoft Flight Simulator. I attended Microsoft's launch party for the Windows 95 version of the product, and as part of the event I got to fly a full-motion 737 sim (and I'm here to tell you, I parked that sucker, too -- ph34r my L33t pilot skillz!). Better still, I got to take a ride over Bill Gates' house in a Learjet. It was sw33t!

(via BoingBoing)



One of the nice things about the new location is that I can put up honkin' huge posts like the previous one without having to split them up, as I had to do formerly.


wmd story roundup

I've been in training yesterday and today, and so time to post has been limited. During this time, though, Bush's bogus citations of the alleged threat from weapons of mass destruction have been increasingly coming under fire. As someone who maintained all along that Bush's case was long on assertion and short on proof, I take considerable satisfaction in joining in.

Some stipulations first -- even if tons of the stuff turn up tomorrow, Bush's case will still have been bogus, because it's crystal clear that for all of his assertions of proof, he clearly did not know exactly what Iraq had or where it was. The fact that the US has failed to locate any so far is ample proof of this fact, as undeniable as the fact that Iraq definitely did not deploy chemical weapons to its troops even in defense of Baghdad (and I remind my conservative friends that if Iraq had them, the fact that they held them back even in expremis proves that yes, Saddam was deterrable). Certainly the US military didn't consider securing Iraqi sites a priority.

The GOP itself took a big step in acknowledging how smelly the whole affair is by declining to hold public hearings on what Bush knew and when he knew it. I'm staggered, however, that the story does not reveal what I believe to be a key factor in GOP fears of full disclosure -- public hearings would involve key people speaking under oath.

But by far the most outrageous statements came from Bush himself. He as much as acknowledged his earlier, ah, statements were bogus in this recent rectrenchment:
"Iraq had a weapons program," Bush said yesterday after a meeting of his Cabinet, the first time the body had met since the war started. "Intelligence throughout the decade showed they had a weapons program. I am absolutely convinced with time we'll find out that they did have a weapons program."

Excuse me, Mr. President, but before the war you didn't say "weapons program." You claimed tons of nerve gas and swimming pools of anthrax, and it's on that basis you led the country to war -- once again, refusing to countenance any alternative on the grounds of the threat you cites.

Couple this statment with Bush's earlier desperation ploy to portray a pathetic pair of trailers -- likely unsuitable for biological weapons production -- as weapons of mass destruction themselves, and a clear picture emerges of a President who no longer has confidence in his own lies assertions.

Make no mistake about it: proponents of the war had a variety of justifications for their fervor. But with Bush, invading Iraq seemed, like many of his cherished goals, to be a policy in search of a justification -- it was what he wanted to do, and he'd latch onto any plausible reason to sell his predetermined plan. The difference between Bush's assertions, and the suppositions of many -- including myself -- that Iraq had some remaining chemical weapons capacity, is that Bush used his assertions to claim that the US was justified in attacking Iraq on self defense grounds. Many, including myself, doubted that position from the beginning, especially the portrayal of Iraq as some sort of threat.

And now Bush's recent actions, and what they reveal about the shaky justification for his claims of an imminent threat from Iraq, are absolutely outrageous. American soldiers died -- and continue to die -- because this man claimed that we had to go to war immediately -- that no other course was even considerable.

Columnist Jules Whitcover obviously detects the odor of mendacity from Bush's recent backpedaling.
Nobody argues, though, with Saddam Hussein having had such weapons in the early 1990s, that he used them against rebellious Kurds and that U.N. inspectors found and directed the destruction of weapons components before they withdrew from Iraq in 1998.

So the pertinent question has always been whether, as the Bush administration insisted in launching the invasion, those weapons were in hand and so ready for use as to constitute a clear and present danger requiring immediate military action.

Mr. Bush's latest expressions of conviction that the Iraqis had a "weapons program" seemed a distinction and a hedge from his earlier statement on Polish television that "we found the weapons of mass destruction." His reference was to the two mobile facilities suspected of being capable of producing deadly chemical or biological agents.

With reporters parsing his words as if he were Bill Clinton playing semantic games over his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer found it necessary to say that Mr. Bush, "in saying programs, also applies to weapons," and "that includes everything knowable up to the opening shots of the war."

In the absence of the discovery of such weapons, however, the president is now actively engaged in low-balling the WMD rationale for the war. In saying that history will conclude he made the "absolute right decision" in invading Iraq, he is substituting Iraqi "liberation" as his justification, itself a somewhat premature self-congratulation in light of the continued turmoil in the conquered country, including more U.S. military casualties.

Although Mr. Bush did emphasize the goal of "regime change" as the invasion approached, the "imminent threat" of weapons of mass destruction was the driving force in the administration's argument that more time could not be afforded U.N. inspectors in their quest for them.

Understating the importance of the existence or absence of WMD at the time of the invasion won't settle the critical question of whether administration officials hyped government intelligence about the threat to win congressional support for launching pre-emptive war. Without WMD, what was being pre-empted?

Unlike his Republican counterparts, Rep. Henry Waxman wants some answers about the Administration's contradictory statements, and recently sent a letter to National Security Advidor Condoleeza Rice wanting to know the following:
[Y]our answers on the Sunday talk shows conflict with other reports and raise many new issues. To help address these issues, I request answers to the following questions:

1. On Meet the Press, you said that "maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency" that the evidence cited by the President about Iraq's attempts to obtain uranium from Africa was suspect. Please identify the individual or individuals in the Administration who, prior to the President's State of the Union address, had expressed doubts about the validity of the evidence or the credibility of the claim.

2. Please identify any individuals in the Administration who, prior to the President's State of the Union address, were briefed or otherwise made aware that an individual or individuals in the Administration had expressed doubts about the validity of the evidence or the credibility of the claim.

3. On This Week, you said there was other evidence besides the forged evidence that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium from Africa. Please provide this other evidence.

4. When you were asked about reports that Vice President Cheney sent a former ambassador to Niger to investigate the evidence, you stated "the Vice President's office may have asked for that report." In light of this comment, please address:

(a) Whether Vice President Cheney or his office requested an investigation into claims that Iraq may have attempted to obtain nuclear material from Africa, and when any such request was made;

(b) Whether a current or former U.S. ambassador to Africa, or any other current or former government official or agent, traveled to Niger or otherwise investigated claims that Iraq may have attempted to obtain nuclear material from Niger; and

(c) What conclusions or findings, if any, were reported to the Vice President, his office, or other U.S. officials as a result of the investigation, and when any such conclusions or findings were reported.

On Sunday, you stated that "there is now a lot of revisionism that says, there was disagreement on this data point, or disagreement on that data point." I disagree strongly with this characterization. I am not raising questions about the validity of an isolated "data point," and the issue is not whether the war in Iraq was justified or not.

What I want to know is the answer to a simple question: Why did the President use forged evidence in the State of the Union address? This is a question that bears directly on the credibility of the United States, and it should be answered in a prompt and forthright manner, with full disclosure of all the relevant facts.

I just love it that the Administration's spin is finally being compared to its earlier statments and the startling contradictions noted at last.

New York Magazine political correspondent Michael Tomasky believes that holding Bush and his minions accountable is crucial to the (small-d) democratic process:
We're living in times that I don't even know how to describe. It's pretty hard to understand what's happening in this society when the majority leader of the House of Representatives makes use of a presidential agency for the nakedly political purpose of hunting down some home-state legislators. And when that agency complies with the request. And when it's a little two-day story, not a scandal at all. One doesn't even have to ask, in this case, the hypothetical that liberals are prone to present -- to wit, imagine if the Clinton administration had been involved in something similar. No; this would have been a scandal, and properly so, if it involved a federal agency under any administration from Bill Clinton to Dwight Eisenhower. But not now.

Under most normal circumstances, too, the Iraq War would have been a scandal. There are many reasons historically why war for a democracy should be a last resort. One of those reasons is precisely that the democratic commander in chief must answer to the people who elected him, and those people include the soldiers he is sending off to die (and their spouses and their mothers). Read any study of Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson, or any American president contemplating war and you will see that after the strategic and political calculations were run through at staff meetings, in the end it was the president, alone with his conscience, deciding whether he would be able to look a grieving mother in the eye and tell her that her son's death was essentially unavoidable.

That's a very human consideration for war, and it's a very democratic one as well. It reminds the leader that his power is derived not from divine right or genealogical caprice or imperial ukase but from the governed.

As E.J. Dionne recently said in this op-ed, even principled supporters of the war should be highly concerned over the tactics Bush used to sell his war policy.
[T]he president's defenders have it exactly backward. The people who should worry most about the credibility gap are those who support Bush's foreign policy.

If no weapons are found, and if the administration does not come clean about why it said what it said before the war, America's ability to rally the rest of the world against future threats will be greatly weakened. So will the president's ability to rally his own nation.

Citizens in a democracy accept deceiving an enemy during war. What is not acceptable is for a free government to mislead its own people to bring them around to supporting a war.

It's time for the hawks to ask themselves if they really support democracy and oppose tyrrany, as they so loftily claimed during the prewar debate. If Bush achieved his aims by deceit, he is unworthy to be the leader and commander-in-chief of this nation. At the very least, if Bush was truly misled by the "grownups" -- the ones we were all assured in 2000 would guide him in foreignb policy -- then he needs to atone by throwing the rascals out -- Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowicz, Rice, Powell, the whole crew. If the American public is to forgive Bush's deception by attributing it to his delegatory managerial style -- and once again, Bush's incompetence is used to excuse his mendacity -- then the authors of that deceit can no longer hold positions of power in the White House.


two obits

Today marks the passing of two well-known figures: Academy Award-winning actor Gregory Peck, at 87, and veteran broadcaster David Brinkley, at 82.

  xWednesday, June 11, 2003

employment diary, day 1

Here I am. Eyes: bright; tail: bushy. More later.

  xTuesday, June 10, 2003

kpop gallery of the day

park ji yoon

park ji yoon

Here's another gallery of the kpop songstress Park Ji Yoon. I found it when I was linking the other gallery last week, but hesitated to link this one as it's pop-up-rific. I've linked the two pictures above locally, but if you're willing to put up with the pop-ups, there are plenty more pics of the lovely and talented Park Ji Yoon at the site.


video game link of the day

IndyDDR is, as you might guess, a Web community for a group of Indianapolis residents who enjoy the dance-sim video game Dance Dance Revolution. It includes photos, profiles of the local members, links and a FAQ.


appy polly loggies

Blogging has been slow today, obviously; since I start work tomorrow (w00t!) I have been running around taking care of business (including buying some fresh clothes for the snappy business casual look). I have much to say about Bush's recent backpedaling from his prewar lies assertions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that constituted such an imminent threat to the Unites States that it required an immediate invasion. But for now, The Left Coaster has been on top of things.

Today, however, I'm just going to blog a couple of links I've collected in the past couple of weeks. Blogging will likely be sparse for the next few days as I settle into my routine. Updates will occur as I can manage.

Huge thanks to everyone who's been so supportive over the last few weeks. And special M4d props to my family, both immediate and extended, with laurel wreaths to my wonderful wife Crystal. They've all been great.

  xMonday, June 09, 2003

bruce lee flick of the day

return of the dragon

This evening, I watched my DVD of the awesome Bruce Lee flick (written and directed by as well as starring) Return of the Dragon. In honor of the occasion, here's a gallery of stills from this fine film, and Teleport City's review.


good news

w00t!!! I got hired today. I start my new job Wednesday morning. All right!

[does a little dance]

Also, the present from the Anonymous Blogger arrived today. It was a couple of kawaii Hello Kitty books for the girls -- a reusable sticker book for Cecilia and a couple of board books for Omi. Here they are:





Once again, Anonymous Blogger, you have my gratitude.

Update: Obviously, my job interview went a lot better than this guy's:
OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - A note to all job seekers: you know that your employment interview did not go well when your prospective boss calls the police in to arrest you.

Anthony Kaleb Phillips, 20 was hauled away from an interview for a job with a construction company in Stillwater, Oklahoma last week after employees recognised the job applicant as the person seen on a surveillance videotape robbing the same business just one day before, police said on Monday.

Phillips is expected to be arraigned this week on burglary charges for stealing a $100 tool (63 pounds) from the construction company and about $1,000 worth of items from an employee's car parked at the office, court officials said.

"When he went out there to apply for the job, there was no one there. So he just helped himself to some items and left," said Payne County Undersheriff Kenneth Willerton. "However, he was caught on videotape."

A day after the robbery, Phillips applied for a job with the construction company, and was arrested. Needless to say, he didn't get the job.

Advice to all job seekers: Follow-up call good, call to cops bad.



I'm taking The Girls to the Indianapolis Zoo this morning. (We're members, so it won't cost anything but gas.) Posting will, of course, be delayed until after we return.

Update: We're back! Here are some pix from the outing:

the girls at the zoo

the girls at the zoo

the girls at the zoo

the girls at the zoo

the girls at the zoo

the girls at the zoo

the girls at the zoo

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