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  xFriday, June 20, 2003

swank blog link of the day


Atomic Space Kitty boasts a design as great as the name.

(via the ultra-swank Very Big Blog)




  x

anime link of the day


project a-ko

Graviton City is an excellent site devoted to the 1986 anime movie Project A-Ko. One of my all-time favorite animes, Project A-Ko is a riotous spoof of genre conventions, from shoujo schoolgirl stories to giant robot battles. Here's a review at NeedCoffee.com, and another at Attack of the 50 Ft DVD.




  x

quote of the day


"There's a guerilla war [in Iraq]."

What scurrilous, unpatriotic, Saddam-lovin' leftie peacenik uttered this scandalous claim?

Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Oops.

But don't worry -- Administration officials are confident Americans are, as the Financial Times put it, "prepared to accept the mounting death toll."

(Maybe, but the Washington Post reports that our soldiers are starting to grumble. And some Administration officials are beginning to figure out that rising casualties may take something of the bloom off of Bush's swaggering victory declaration.)

Despite the casualties, Mr Rumsfeld said he believed the US public felt the effort was “worthwhile” and that people “recognise the difficulty of the task”.


The arrogance and gall of these imperialist glory-hounds is quite beyond comprehension. I double-dog dare Rumsfeld to look the families of our fallen soldiers in the eye and ask them to "recognize the difficulty of the task."

(via Unqualified Offerings)




  x

cool science post of the day


Glowing fish. 'Nuff said.

(via SixDifferentWays)




  x

yglesias op-ed on wmds


Matthew Yglesias has an op-ed column at Tech Central Station on why it's important to determine the veracity of Bush's prewar claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Saddam Hussein was a very bad man running a very bad regime and I'm not going to shed any tears over its departure from the scene. Nevertheless, as conservatives more than anyone ought to realize, one can't evaluate the merits of a government program by simply looking at whether or not it has accomplished anything good. Rather, one needs to consider whether or not the initiative in question accomplished more good than the available alternatives.

...Invading Iraq had some real benefits, notably in that it promises a better life for those citizens of the country who managed not to get killed by bombs and who survive the current shortage of clean drinking water and the attendant outbreaks of cholera and other diseases. But it also had costs - around two hundred coalition soldiers killed, tens of billions of dollars spent, over one hundred thousand tied down and unavailable for other missions, and an enormous amount of diplomatic capital burned. The question is not whether or not something good was achieved at the expense of these costs, but rather whether or not this was the best deployment of the country's military, financial, and diplomatic assets. The answer, especially in light of recent revelations about the weapons intelligence, is no.

...while Iraq does not have nuclear weapons, North Korea and Pakistan - two countries with appalling proliferation records - do, but the United States has already expended the political and diplomatic resources that could have been used to address the problem. Russia's nuclear arsenal, meanwhile, continues to be poorly maintained and secured and the administration has actually cut funding to programs designed to prevent this arsenal from falling into the hands of terrorists while spending billions to combat Iraq's merely hypothetical arsenal. Afghanistan, famously, is slipping back into anarchy and members of the Taliban and al Qaeda are regrouping away from the desultory Karzai government's capital in Kabul. So from the point of view of American security is it a good thing that Saddam Hussein is gone?

Go read the whole thing. CalPundit offers some additional commentary, and yours truly chimes in on the comment thread (noting, among other things, that if Saddam had chemical and biological weapons, he was deterred from using them; a point I've been making all along.

By the way, I realize the acronym "weapons of mass destruction" is hardly applicable to Iraq's capability; some have claimed that it's intended to dishonestly conflate chemical and biological weapons (which are weapons of area denial, hideously inefficient, dangerous to handle and transport, and have a short shelf life) with nuclear weapons (which are tiny in proportion to their destructive power, can lay waste to entire cities, are easily transportable by an industrialized nation and can be stored for long periods). Frankly, though, although "CBR" (chemical, biological, and radiological -- i.e., radioactive waste and the like is more accurate, also less familiar. I'm going to concede, with some grumbling, that WMD is the accepted shorthand, with the proviso that we aren't even close to talking about the Godzilla of WMDs, nuclear weapons, with regard to Iraq. That case was known to be bogus long before the war stared.

Update: South Knox Bubba has a great list of related links indicating that the so-called "liberal media" is beginning to wake up to Bush's dissembling, and comments, "This is far more serious than a third-rate burglary of a political party headquarters or a stained blue dress. The implications for the U.S. Presidency, the balance of government power, and American credibility and respect around the world are far reaching. I really hope the people of American and other free nations value their freedoms enough to demand truth and accountability from the leaders they have chosen to govern them."

Hey, that's all I'm asking here.

And Joshua Marshall points out, "[T]here really is no new debate or new scandal. It's really more that it's suddenly become acceptable to discuss what everyone knew for the last year or so: that is, that the administration was willfully misrepresenting the evidence both on WMD and a purported link to al Qaida."

For the record, many of us were pointing that out -- or at the very least demanding not to simply take Bush at his word -- for the last year at least.




  x

blogroll update


Democratic Veteran has a new home. And please welcome Busy, Busy, Busy, No More Mister Nice Blog, Not Geniuses, and Political Aims.




  x

b-movie link of the day


Well, not really, but dig this headline: Army sent to stop killer elephants

The screenplay practically writes itself!




  x

bush administration mendacity watch


White House edits global warming report
The White House directed a major rewrite of an assessment of climate change, removing references to health and environmental risks posed by rising global temperatures, according to internal draft documents made public Thursday.

Several Senate Democrats, including some running for president, accused the White House of "doctoring" the Environmental Protection Agency report to suit President Bush's skeptical views on global warming.

The report on the state of the environment has been an agency priority. It is to be released next week before the agency chief Christie Whitman departs on June 27.

According to EPA officials and internal documents obtained Thursday, most of the original section on climate change was scrapped after the White House directed significant changes and deletions that emphasized the uncertainties surrounding the climate change debate.

The changes demanded by the White House were so extensive that the climate section "no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change," according to an April 29 EPA staff memo. It characterized the revised draft as an embarrassment to the agency.

After months of negotiations with the White House, senior EPA officials decided to remove most of the climate-related language. That would allow publication of the rest of the report -- on environmental concerns from air pollution to the state of drinking water supplies -- to go forward.

Copies of the draft documents and the EPA memo were made public by the National Wildlife Federation, which obtained it through a former EPA employee. The changes initially were reported in Thursday's New York Times.

EPA spokesman Joe Martyak said the agency "didn't want to hold up the rest of the report" because of the disagreement over the climate language and because there remains no clear "consensus on the science and conclusions" on global warming. [Translation: The Administration doesn't like the scientific consensus. Let's go to the videotape:]

...According to the EPA papers, the White House deleted from a summary under the heading of "global issues" the sentence, "Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment."

A number of scientific reports have raised those concerns.

The edited version inserted that climate change "may have potentially profound consequences" but otherwise emphasized great uncertainties.

...The revised draft also:

-Removed a reference -- and a graphic -- to a 1999 study showing global temperatures had risen sharply in the past decade compared with the previous 1,000 years. Instead it cites a study, partly sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute [emphasis added], that disputed those findings. Connaughton said the second study was reputable and the most recent on the subject.

-Deleted a National Research Council finding that various studies have suggested that recent warming was unusual and likely due to human activities, although the same 2001 NRC report had been commissioned by the White House.

...Mark VanPutten, president of the National Wildlife Federation, said the matter "provides disturbing evidence of the administration's readiness to reject or spin scientific findings on crucial environmental issues that do not suit the White House's political agenda."

If the changes are accepted, the EPA staff memo said, the agency "will take severe criticism from the science and environmental communities for poorly representing the science" of climate change.

No one should be surprised about this disgrace, of course; it's perfectly in keeping with Bush's political tactics: Determine a policy based on ideology/appeal to a core consitutency/benefit to deep-pocket donors, and then close the Administration's collective eyes to any information that suggests that the chosen policy isn't absolutely necessary let alone genuinely harmful to the nation's prosperity.

Lest one think that Bush's actions are merely coincidence, Emma Goldman has a number of links detailing, once again, the President's connections to the energy industry and the generous bribes contributions they have made to Shrub's political career.

Really, the only thing more contemptible than Bush's mendacity is the cowardice of Democrats who let him get away with not only acting to harm one of their key issues -- the environment -- but also having the gall to run as someone who's "concerned" about the environment. This bait-and-switch isn't some aberration or quirk of Bush's style, he does this sort of thing all the time. Look at the way Bush ignored any intelligence that didn't support his determination to invade Iraq. Bush seems to be incapable of selling a policy honestly -- which is understandable, because his actual agenda really isn't at all popular. He's popular because people think he's honest, and people think he's honest because no one bothers to point out how dishonest he is.

For the benefit of our so-called "liberal media," here's the soundbite version:

  • EPA report cites scientific concerns about global warming

  • Bush opposes action on global warming as contrary to the interests of the energy industry, which finances him

  • The Administration removes the language in question

  • Bush puts politics over science


I'm sure even a TV anchor could mnanage that.




  x

kudos


Congratulations to Jaquandor of Byzantium's Shores on his first op-ed column in his local paper, the Buffalo News!




  x

mecha pc casemod of the day


mecha cardboard pc case
Great googly moogly! Some genius is offering a build-it-yourself cardboard PC case in the form of a fully-articulated anime-style mecha. c00L! (The translated English test is also pretty amusing.)

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




  x

pinup of the day


kate

Speaking of the Weekly World News, one of their regular tabloid-style features is running a pic of a model in a swimsuit or lingerie. I like the sulky/goth look of this week's model.




  x

photoshop tricks of the day


Supermarket check-out mag Redbook has ticked off actress Julia Roberts, who appears in a cover story titled "The Real Julia," by digitally pasting a recent image of her face onto an older one of her body for its cover photo. The month before, Redbook did the same thing to its cover photo of actress Jennifer Aniston, according to the actress' publicist.
Roberts' head was allegedly plucked from a paparazzi shot taken at the 2002 People's Choice Awards, according to a story in USA Today, while her body was borrowed from the Notting Hill movie premiere four years ago. The clipped-together photo is accompanied by a headline that blares, without a trace of irony, "The Real Julia."

The practice of airbrushing cellulite and stretch marks or tweaking an errant nipple is standard procedure at most magazines that count on their flawless cover shots to woo readers. But the practice of pasting different body parts together is drawing criticism, especially when said body parts aren't perfectly proportional.

In light of the controversy, publisher Hearst issued an apology earlier this week. "In an effort to make a cover that would pop on the newsstand, we combined two different shots of Julia Roberts. We acknowledge that we may have gone too far and hope that Ms. Roberts will accept our apology."

That will come as little consolation to Jennifer Aniston, who was the victim of a butcher job on the June cover of Redbook. Her publicist claims the photo was a composite of three different shots, which gives Aniston an oddly disjointed look, and says the Friends star is allegedly considering legal action over the cover photo.

A spokesperson for the magazine denied the allegations to USA Today, claiming only the length of Aniston's hair and color of her shirt were changed.

I'm glad the magazine acknowledges that it "may have gone too far." The Weekly World News can get away with using ridiculously Photoshopped images on its cover -- this one, in particular, is a scream -- because no one takes it seriously. Fixing up a little boo-boo is one thing, but if Redbook and its ilk can't afford a decent photographer, it should just hang it up, or stop featuring real people on its cover entirely -- from the looks of things, they're just about there anyway.

(via FARK)




  x

retro pulp book site of the week


trashy book cover

RetroCrush has a gallery of covers from the '60s-vintage sleazy pulp books.

(via FARK)




  x

fishy story of the day


A 45-year-old angler hooked and landed a Great Whte Shark while fishing from a public pier in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, Abraham Ulloa may face a fine for bagging the 6-foot, 200-pound shark, as it's a protected species.
The 45-year-old general contractor said he was unaware that the junior jaws he caught with his fishing rod on May 31 was a great white. He has not been charged.

"I am not an expert on sharks," he told the newspaper. "I cannot tell the difference between a great white and a mako (shark). It took a marine biologist with an education and more than 20 years of experience to come to that conclusion."


...Ulloa said it took four people to haul the one- to two-year-old shark up over the pier railing.

Ulloa has not been charged with a crime but Department of Fish and Game spokesperson Rebecca Hartman said she intends to file a misdemeanor charge this week. Hartman said the great white needs to be protected from anglers.

"Our laws are set up for the protection of the animals, not for us," Hartman told the Times. "If he was unsure what kind of shark it was, he should have let it go."

Marine experts say the number of great whites has decreased dramatically off the California coast in the last decade. Great whites give birth to a maximum of just two pups.

Young great whites feed on small bottom fish in coastal waters and are not considered a threat to bathers or surfers, the newspaper said. By the time they reach maturity they leave the coastal areas for deeper water.


(via FARK)




  x

sign o' the times


Interesting...according to Reuters, rentals of DVDs topped rentals of VHS tapes for the first time last week.
ENCINO, CALIFORNIA-BASED Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) said 27.7 million DVDs were rented in the week ended June 15 compared with 27.3 million VHS cassettes.

“Since the advent of video rental 25 years ago, videocassettes have been the dominant format for video rental. Just over six years since its launch, DVD has supplanted that pioneering technology in the rental market,” said VSDA President Bo Andersen.

Since their launch in 1997, DVDs — which offer crisper digital pictures, clearer sound and last longer — have steadily made gains against the older, video technology.

DVD sales have eclipsed video sales, and just this past March, the weekly revenue from DVD rentals exceeded VHS rental revenue for the first time, according to VSDA.

As faithful readers (both of you) know, I'm a total convert to DVDs. We got our first player when Cecilia was born, almost four years ago. Two features made it indispensable to a couple with a baby: She was colicky, so the ability to invoke subtitles was invaluable when trying to calm a crying baby. And the DVD player's ability to pause indefinitely was another handy plus. These days, I hardly ever watch my videotape collection, although the girls do (it's easier for them to just stick a tape in the VCR than to perform the complicated remote-control gymnastics required to activate the DVD player, even if I did let them touch it). There's no real reason not to -- I still have some excellent programming on tape that I don't yet have on DVD -- but the inherent fragility of video tape is an impediment. Mostly, though, it's that I hardly ever think of them; my tapes are on the opposite side of the room from the DVD cabinet (which, after my recent Father's Day acquisitions, is now officially incapable of holding my whole collection). When I'm in the mood for a movie (which is almost every night, although I often choose to do something else instead), I go straight for the DVD cabinet, literally turning my back on my videotapes.

Indeed, now that the local blood collection agency now has combination DVD/VHS players, I'll probably favor DVDs when I give platelets, too.

(via FARK)




  xThursday, June 19, 2003

quote of the day


"Let me put it simply, so that I will not be misunderstood: in terms of his basic underlying views and orientation, if there is anyone who "hates America," it is our current president."

Who's our mystery guest? Some lefty wingnut? A European surrender monkey? Perhaps a communist propagandist? Nope; just a principled libertarian who's had it with the Republicans.
At this point, I consider the prospect of a Democratic President far less threatening to our freedoms than Bush and his kind. If there were a Democratic President, then some Republicans would at least oppose vast expansions of government spending and government power, if only on narrow partisan grounds. It appears almost a certainty that no Republicans would oppose such programs on the basis of any principles, since they don't seem to have any, except those that are, in their view, dictated by the Bible. But as things stand now, Bush enacts everything the Democrats want (like prescription drugs for senior citizens) -- but "watered down" a little bit. I don't give a damn that such programs are watered down: Bush concedes the principle, thus conceding the entire argument -- and establishing yet another government entitlement. If this entitlement follows the pattern of every other government program, it will only grow and grow over the years, and never go away.

For all these reasons (and many more, as explained in all my writing here), I view Bush and the Republicans as a profound threat to my freedom -- and to yours. If the Democrats put forward a candidate who is even reasonably sensible, I'll vote for him -- if only to get Bush the hell out of there. And with regard to my headline: I hope Bush and the Southern Baptists are right. I hope there is a hell. And I hope they dwell in it for eternity. It is exactly what they deserve.


(via Daily Kos)




  x

bollywood fright flick fatal to fiftyish fan


A man attending a screening of the Bollywood horror film Bhoot (Ghost) at a New Delhi theater was found dead in his seat after the show. His body exhibited no signs of injury, leading authorities to speculate he died of fright.

A police official told Reuters that the theater's cleaning staff found the man -- aged around 50 -- slumped in his seat early on Tuesday morning after the end of the showing of an Indian horror movie, "Bhoot," or "Ghost."

Police said they had found no identification papers on the man or external injuries on his body.

"Nobody has come forward to claim his body. Maybe he got frightened, I don't know," said the police official.

"Bhoot" is a spooky thriller about a possessed housewife and is set in a high-rise Bombay apartment. It is running to packed houses in many parts of the country.


Like the William Castle films of the '60s, the film's director had claimed that the flick could pose a health risk to susceptible people; a message before the film warned audiences that they watched at their own risk. Spooky...

(via Die Puny Humans; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)




  x

bush vulnerability watch


Bush has officially accepted repsonsibility -- well, inasmuch as he ever does -- for the state of the economy through the 2004 election:
President Bush said Thursday the new tax cuts he supports will "put wind at our back" and boost the lagging economy that is on the minds of many would-be voters.

Democrats seeking to bump Bush from the White House hope he will be vulnerable on the economy during next year's presidential race. Even as he begins raising money for his bid for a second White House term, Thursday's speech in Minnesota was Bush's third this week devoted to the politically crucial issue of his administration's efforts on the economy.

Bush spoke the day before several of the Democratic presidential candidates appear about 20 miles down the road at the annual summer meeting of party leaders in St. Paul.

Some economic news was released Thursday that offered hope of better days, as new unemployment claims dropped for the second straight week and a key measure of future economic activity rose in May.

Bush did not propose any new tonic for the economy, but touted the huge tax cuts as beneficial to the nation.

Of course not; tax cuts are the only program he has.

By the way, this bit was interesting as well:
The president made no mention of the debate over whether weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq; their alleged presence had been his main rationale for war. Nor did he promise -- as he has on other occasions until recently -- that they will be found, only briefly claiming broad benefits of the ouster of Saddam Hussein's government.

"The regime of Saddam Hussein is no more, America is more secure, the world is more peaceful and the long-suffering people of Iraq are now free," Bush said.

When will the Democrats wake up and realize that this backpedaling means Bush knows (or his advisers do) that he's vulnerable?

And when will the Democrats wake up to Bush's lousy job at bringing prosperity to anyone who isn't alreeady rich? Regarding the economy, I expect that there will be some positive signs Bush will no doubt point to during his re-election campaign to tout his (cough) comeptent handling of the economy. The stock market will likely get a boost from Bush's continued program of corporate welfare.

I keep hearing that Bush's advisors want to avoid his father's fate by portraying him as "concerned" about the economy. I think this shows a fatal misperception of the average American (pandering corporations and the super-wealthy will do that, I suppose...)'s perception. Americans will certainly be told ad nauseum that Bush is concerned about the economy, especially as it continues to sputter under his atrocious handling. Yet the eonomy will have to undergo a truly miraculous recovery to replace the 3.72 million jobs already shed by the economy. Meanwhile, while voters are indeed likely to forgive a tax policy favoring the rich if they perceive they'll benefit as well, the disparities in Bush's tax largess will soon become appartent -- frankly, people will figure out they aren't saving all that much, while working longer hours, or at a worse job, or both.

It really couldn't be simpler: Bush's economic policies aren't remotely intended to benfit most Americans. That's why Bush needs to use misleading rhetoric about "average" tax cuts. It doesn't matter how "concerned" Bush appears to be about the economy if his Democratic opposition has the guts to challenge him on the actual results of his policies.




  x

bush 9/11 culpability watch


Keep your eyes on this situation...
The independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 terror attacks has made sweeping requests for documents from the Bush administration and White House that go beyond the information provided during Congress' review, officials disclosed Wednesday.

A spokesman for the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States said the commission expects from its early discussions with the administration that the requests it made over the last two weeks will be met without any presidential claims of executive privilege.

"We have made a substantial request for documents. We didn't issue subpoenas. We made an ordinary request. And we don't anticipate any resistance," spokesman Al Felzenberg said.

The requests included documents from the White House, which did not provide all the information that was requested last year by a joint congressional panel that investigated intelligence lapses before the attacks.

...The Bush administration has made clear in prior investigations unrelated to terrorism that it intends to protect executive privilege, the doctrine that a president is entitled to confidential advice from his aides that he can keep from congressional or judicial bodies.

I predict the Administration will be less than forthcoming. Not that it has anything to hide -- perish forbid!

(via Oliver Willis)




  x

missile defense system flunks test


From the AP:
A missile fired from a Navy cruiser missed its airborne target Wednesday in an unsuccessful test of a sea-based missile defense system, the Defense Department said.

It was the second consecutive failed missile test over the Pacific after a series of successful strikes in the past 2 1/2 years, and the first failure of a sea-based test.

An Aries target missile was launched at 1:15 p.m. from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai and a Standard Missile-3 interceptor was fired from the USS Lake Erie, deployed at an undisclosed location in the Pacific, about two minutes later, officials said.

Preliminary indications were that the SM-3 missed its target even though its guidance system was activated, Missile Defense Agency spokesman Chris Taylor said in a news release.

...and Reuters:
An interceptor missile fired from a U.S. Navy (news - web sites) cruiser on Wednesday missed its target, a mock warhead, over the Pacific Ocean, the military said.

"We did not have an intercept," said Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the Pentagon (news - web sites)'s Missile Defense Agency.

The failed test, the first miss in four attempts to shoot down an incoming short-range missile using the sea-based Aegis weapons system, was a setback for the Pentagon's largest weapons development program.

Five out of eight tests of a companion ground-based missile interceptor have successfully hit their targets in what critics have called unrealistically controlled conditions.

Preliminary indications are that the interceptor, a Raytheon Co. -built Standard Missile 3, deployed its "kill vehicle," or warhead, but failed to hit its target, Lehner said, adding it was too early to say what went wrong.

Of course, the idea of a shield to protect a fearful populace from Bush's favorite bogeyman, weapons of mass destruction (and we're talking about hte real ones here -- nuclear weapons). But Bush's billion-dollar boondoggle has several problems.

  • It doesn't work -- the American taxpayer is seeing little return on investment, although the military industrial complex sure loves it

  • A missile defense system offers no defense against terrorists, which Bush has defined as our chief threat

  • Spending on missile defense naturally takes priority over other, no doubt worthier projects, such as actually protecting America from terrorism (see the previous point)

  • The presence of a missile shield would certainly not deter nations from feeling enmity toward, or even threatened by, the US; therefore, it would likely encourage them to develop nontraditional deliviery systems for their weapons (see the previous two points)

  • An actual nuclear threat toward the United States is practically nonexistent; however, several nuclear hotspots exist (such as Korean and India/Pakistan) for which the system would provide no relief

  • Anyway, it doesn't work

  • Even if it did, a missile system would give the US the ability to wage nuclear war with impunity -- a prospect I think the rest of the world relishes about as much as it does for Iran.

  • Moreover, a perception of invulenrability might motivate an arrogant, narrow minded president to develop and deploy a new generation of nuclear weapons and threaten the global security framework, rather than patiently align national interests through diplomacy. Wait -- we already have that problem...



If Bush is the great leader his supporters say he is, maybe some day he can tackle the problem he's created of simultaneously demanding massive tax cuts and expensive, inefficient corporate welfare programs like this. At this point, I'd chastise Congressional Republicans -- presumably some of them must still be principled conservatives -- for not standing up for the good of the nation, but given the abject failure of the Democratic Party to function as an opposition party, I'm inclined to give them a pass this time.

(via Oliver Willis)

Update: In this CNN story, officials call the test, in which the interceptor missed its target, a "success."
"I wouldn't call it a failed test, because the intercept was not the primary objective," said Chris Taylor, a spokesman for the MDA. "It's still considered a success in that we gained great engineering data. We just don't know why it didn't hit."

Okay...actually, Taylor has a point; the engineers no doubt gained data on why the sucker missed, which they can hopefuly put to use in later development stages. But given the President's order to deploy the system in October 2004 -- right before the Presidential election, yo -- whether it works or not, we don't need "great engineering data," we need a system that has half a chance of hitting a single target. Another proble with the missile defense concept is that the US faces threats right now that won't wait for us to develop and deploy the system -- indeed, it's in their interests not to wait until we deploy the system. Research is swell and all, but we taxpayers are incurring great costs and seeing little benefits, no matter what the engineers think -- after all, a failed test that secures "great engineering data" simply means the project gets extended for some more months.

Put it this way: Would Raytheon think the project is such a hot idea if they were the ones taking a financial risk, developing the system on their own nickel, knowing that if they succeed, the government would buy it? I doubt it. Bush likes to invoke his so-called business acumen, but it's clear that there's no business case for taking this risk on these expenditures at this time.




  x

retro pinup wallpaper of the week


pixeldecor pinup wallpaper

Speaking of PixelDecor, here's a swank wallpaper featuring a bevy of pinup beauties. I lean towards black, blue or green for my desktop, so I don't have it applied right now, but it's pretty cool anyway. (It'd be easy enough to edit, of course, but it probably wouldn't fly at work...)




  x

tweak of the week


I changed the background of the page to something swanky from PixelDecor. What do you think?




  x

jim henley is outraged...


...and says you should be, too, about yesterday's odious appeals court ruling asserting the Administration's ability to entirely abrogate due process on a whim, if it desires to do so. Check out his excellent rant, and prepare to be outraged.
What has the appeals court authorized?

Secret detentions.

Please say those words aloud. "Secret detentions." Now use them in a sentence:

The US government engages in the practice of secret detentions.

The US government has broadly asserted its right to engage in the practice of secret detentions.

A federal appeals court has affirmed that the US government may engage in secret detentions.

Here's a more complex sentence, for the bonus section: There is nothing in the logic of Judge David Sentelle's affirming opinion that the United States government may engage in secret detentions that would limit the practice to illegal aliens, naturalized aliens or foreign visitors to our shores. And another: With its decision allowing the US government to engage in the practice of secret detentions, a federal appeals court has left citizen and non-citizen alike at the mercy of federal discretion.

Secret arrests obviously require arrestees. There is a term for these people, ready for use:

The Disappeared.

...I've said it before and I'll say it again. The question is not "Do terrorists deserve the same rights as ordinary criminals?" The question is "Are terrorist suspects terrorists?" That's exactly congruent with the question "Are criminal suspects criminals?" We have centuries of experience on what can go wrong trying to answer that question, and developed an elaborate system of rights and procedures to minimize the potential for disaster - depriving the innocent of the liberty, property and even lives. We know that politicians, bureaucrats, law enforcement agents and intelligence operatives are human and fallible - that such people have lied, bungled, covered up lies and bungling, been gripped by a fever of wrongheaded enthusiasm and arrogance. From LA to Tulia to Boston, these human actions have devastated innocent people, in the case of Tulia an entire innocent town. We can be absolutely sure that terrorism investigations will lead to similar incidents and likely already have.

...This is wrong. This is not about how many or where from. It is about whether, in an case and the answer of any decent country is no, never. And until and unless the full Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court reverse this decision, we are every one of us naked to the threat. If we endorse this - if we even stand for it - were are worse than a nation of cowards.

By the way, the two judges who ruled thus were appointed by Republicans; the deissenter, by a Democrat. Of course.

(via CalPundit, who has some thoughts on the matter as well.)




  x

comix links of the day


Jim Henley of Unqualified Offerins has a couple of excellent recent posts on comic books, including his take on the history of comicdom. I began -- and stopped -- buying comics during what Henley refers to as the "bubble age" of 1981-1993; his take on those years especially seems spot-on.




  x

cronkite to pen newspaper column


Wow...Republican policies have retired broadcaster emeritus Walter Cronkite so upset, he's going to write a weekely op-ed column to debut later this summer.
"Possibly, I'm mad," says Cronkite, who's launching a weekly newspaper opinion column the week of Aug. 3. "I'm mad in a psychological way, but also in a political sense.

"I think there are many things going on in our world today that are of great importance to the future of our democracy and world peace, and I was looking for an outlet."

Cronkite has blasted President Bush's preemptive strike against Iraq. He labels it a dangerous policy "because any little, tiny nation that has a border conflict can use it as an excuse to begin a war."


(via FARK)




  x

cosplay link of the day


japanese matrix cosplay
Japanese fans dress up as their favorite characters for a screening of The Matrix Reloaded. The zillions of Agent Smiths seems to echo one of the noted fight scenes in the film.

japanese matrix cosplay

These guys look pretty cool, too.

(via Destroy All Monsters via BoingBoing via Geisha Asobi blog)




  x

unemployment watch


The rate of new jobless claims appears to be tapering off, but new filings continued their lengthy streak of hovering above 400,000, according to Reuters.
First-time claims for state unemployment insurance benefits, a rough guide to the pace of layoffs, fell by 13,000 to 421,000 in the June 14 week from a revised 434,000 for the prior week, the Labor Department said.

While it's certainly good news that employers aren't laying people off quite as much any more, these figures still indicate a weak labor market. While it's clear that Bush's supply-side economic policies aren't intended to help the average American except incidentally, one wonders if high unemployment is indeed an unintended consequence. After all, given Republican hostility toward labor, a weak job market is yet another gift GOP politicians could give their corporate cronies, enabling the latter to cut salaries and benefits and force longer working hours -- excuse me, "increase productivity" -- keeping the profits for the "entrepreneurs" in the boardrooms.




  x

happy birthday!


naomi at two

Today is our youngest daughter Naomi's second birthday. We're planning a little family celebration tonight at dinner. I'm making one of her favorite means, Italian saugage, linguine and tomato sauce, and we'll have cupcakes afterward. This weekend, we're having a slightly larger, but still small, get-together for family and friends. (It's so tempting to run amok when planning a birthday party for your child, but a two-year-old really can't handle a big soiree.)

Omi has been a joy these past two years. She got the nickname from Cecilia, who was almost two when her sister was born; she called her "Omi," and we picked it up. (As two-year-olds will, Omi calls her sister "Cee-ya.") I chose the name Naomi because it's both a Western and a Japanese name; I may tease her later that I named her after one of the characters in Metal Gear Solid, but that isn't really true.

It's wonderful now to see her walking, talking, and exploring her world. She's different from her sister in many ways. She's much more cautious, physically, but once she gets comfortable with an activity -- like climbing the ladder to a slide and sliding down -- she'll focus and repeat it until she's happy with her skill. But like her sister, she's inheriting her dad's love of anime; she just adores My Neighbor Totoro.

Update: A very happy birthday to Jaquandor's daughter, as well!




  xWednesday, June 18, 2003

parsimonous parsing of the day


Check out this slippery statement from White House mouthpiece Ari Fleischer regarding the elusive Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (the existence and location of which, let's recall, the White House assured us they had evidence of...evidence they could not possibly have had, given their evident failure to produce any so far):
"This has been a very careful search, and a search that has turned up things that we have previously talked about applying to the weapons of mass destruction program that the Iraqis had," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

What the heck does that mean? Yes, they've turned up things; those trailers they've claimed as weapons of mass destruction -- even though they themselves aren't -- and that British intelligence has concluded have nothing to to with biological weapons, but instead are, as the Iraqis have mmaintained, a system to supply hydrogen to a balloon system the British themselves supplied. This is another example of the White House carefully phrasing a statement so it sounds like one thing -- in this case, a claim that WMDs have been found -- yet is crafted so as to avoid accountability.

Now, the recent capture of -- good show! -- of Iraq's former security chief might possibly provide insight about just what the status of Iraq's weapons program is. It's even conceivable that some old stocks of mustard gas or something might turn up. But then, relying on fresh intelligence from captured officials to lead our forces to the weapons simply proves that they have no idea where they are, and that the prewar evidence was not worth a bucket of warm spit. I've said before, it isn't about whether Iraq has chemical or biological weapons, it's about that if Bush can't prove his prewar claims now, there's no way he could have then. He lied, plain and simple. And people died. And continue to die. And no amount of obligatory regret on the part of the hawks is going to bring them back.

As Bush continues to defy the obvious by denying his exaggeration of Iraq's capabilities, reflexive Bush supporters are asking why Bush and Blair would have exaggerated the Iraqi threat when the evidence would turn up after the war. It's perfectly simple: I'm sure that Bush believed the evidence would turn up after the war. He may have misrepresented what his intelligence services were telling him, but he probably sincerely believed that weapons would be found and no one would ask questions about what Bush knew and when he knew it.

But they haven't, and people are starting to ask those questions. And all patriotic citizens, regardless of whether they supported the war, should demand answers.




  x

'the fridge' vows to eat dogs


...hot dogs, that is. Former Chicago Bears giant William "The Refrigerator" Perry will take part in Coney Island's annual July 4 hot dog eating contest, according to the AP:
Over the weekend, Perry earned a berth in the competition by winning a qualifying contest despite an unimpressive total of just 12 franks in 12 minutes.

Contest spokesman Richard Shea says Perry now has the chance to follow in the footsteps of other two-sport stars like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders.

Perry has his work cut out for him. The two-time defending champ, Takeru Kobayashi, won last year's competition with a record 50-and-a-half hot dogs in 12 minutes, establishing a new world record.

Kobayashi weighs 130 pounds; Perry, 400.




  x

wow


Simply amazing...Arthur Silber cites Ayn Rand (quoted below in italics) to point out the intellectual dishonesty of many hawks' rhetoric.
There is a certain type of argument which, in fact, is not an argument, but a means of forestalling debate and extorting an opponent's agreement with one's undiscussed notions. It is a method of bypassing logic by means of psychological pressure. Since it is particularly prevalent in today's culture...one would do well to learn to identify it and be on guard against it.

This method bears a certain resemblance to the fallacy ad hominem, and comes from the same psychological root, but is different in essential meaning. The ad hominem fallacy consists of attempting to refute an argument by impeaching the character of its proponent. Example: 'Candidate X is immoral, therefore his argument is false.'

But the psychological pressure method consists of threatening to impeach an opponent's character by means of his argument, thus impeaching his argument without debate. Example: 'Only the immoral can fail to see that Candidate X's argument is false.'

In the first case, Candidate X's immorality (real or invented) is offered as proof of the falsehood of his argument. In the second case, the falsehood of his argument is asserted arbitrarily and offered as proof of his immorality.

...The essential characteristic of the Argument from Intimidation is its appeal to moral self-doubt and its reliance on the fear, guilt or ignorance of the victim. It is used in the form of an ultimatum demanding that the victim renounce a given idea without discussion, under threat of being considered morally unworthy.

...Let me emphasize that the Argument from Intimidation does not consist of introducing moral judgment into intellectual issues, but of substituting moral judgment for intellectual argument....


For example, take the well-known accusation that anyone who opposed the war with Iraq is "objectively pro-Saddam," and was "damaging our troops" in voicing his concerns. Many people have analyzed in detail the numerous flaws in this kind of "argument," so here I will only address a few highlights. Most obviously, it is clearly not true: one can obviously view Saddam as a monster, and a ruler who deeply deserved to be removed from power -- but still have numerous questions about the best way to have gone about that, and to remove any threat he might have genuinely represented to the United States.

But this is a perfect example of the Argument from Intimidation. The meaning of the smear is simply this, following the pattern provided by Rand: "Only those who are evil, who support Saddam's continuing in power, who support the killing of children, who support torture, and who hate America, can oppose the war with Iraq." And this is explicitly what many supporters of the war said, numerous times. And here is the crucial point: as Ayn Rand has Ellsworth Toohey say in The Fountainhead, "But there's always a purpose in nonsense. Don't bother to examine a folly—ask yourself only what it accomplishes."

And what does this smear about those who opposed the war with Iraq accomplish, a smear which is all too obviously not true about many of those who opposed the war? It seeks to end the debate. [Emphasis in the original]

Impressive...and quite true. Keep these tactics in mind as Bush attempts to dodge questions about the veracity of his prewar claims with assertions of the nobility of deposing Saddam. The question isn't the condition of democracy in Iraq -- although such is obviously some time from appearing -- but the condition of democracy in the United States.

(via Ted Barlow)




  x

yes, the white house did claim iraq as an imminent threat


The Road to Surfdom has the goods on Administration statements that justified Bush's coveted attack on Iraq as vital to counter the imminent threat allegedly posed by Saddam. Tim dunlop concludes:
[T]here can be little doubt that Saddam was presented as an imminent threat. The case is not just made in specific quotes like those cited above but in the whole tenor of the rhetoric that was presented almost on a daily basis--there was no time to waste; we had to act now; we couldn't afford to wait.

The idea that this is something invented after the fact by anti-war types to make the pro-war side look bad is simply wrong.

Go read the whole thing.




  x

principal dresses down students


This is simply unbelievable. An eighth-grade principal refused to allow a group of students to participate in their graduation ceremony for being "inappropriately dressed." Their crime--was it gangsta togs, scuzzed-up punk attire or revealing oufits? Nope -- get this -- dressing too nicely.
Police had to be called to the East Lake Academy on Friday after parents became upset when principal Wendy Jung would not let some students walk across and get their diplomas.

...Commissioner Adams said, "I am sure some school officials are going to be pretty upset when they get to the bottom of this. This is embarrassing for the school system. I understand it got on CNN."

He said, "The principal should have let those students walk across the stage. We are getting very thin on good principals in the county schools."

Commissioner Adams said, "A lot of girls wear long dresses and boys wear suits and ties for their graduations.

...Police officers had to escort several parents off the campus after they protested the principal's decision.

A parent denied that the parents became unruly and said there was no need to call police.

Gabrielle Cameron, one of three girls who were told their long gowns were too dressy and who were not allowed to walk, told Channel 12, "It makes us feel bad 'cause, you know, we worked these three hard years to get up to the 8th grade and see ourselves walk across the stage and we can't do it."

Lakiesha Cannon, another girl barred from the stage, told the station, "We couldn't even get our little diploma thing. We just were sitting right there listening to them walk across the stage."

The principal told one young man that his suit made him look "like a pimp;" he was allowed to walk after removing his jacket. Let's hear what the student's mother has to say about that one:
"My child do not know what a pimp is. And also, he is making honor roll today. And his name is Walter Williams, and I'm very proud of him."

Congratulations to these youngsters on their graduation, for braving this outrage, and for taking obvious pride in their appearance. On behalf of adults everywhere, I assure you we aren't all idiots, despite occasional appearances to the contrary, like this sorry episode. I hope the adults in their community prove it by demanding -- and obtaining -- the principal's resignation. Her lame apology to some of the students just won't cut it.

(via Byzantium's Shores)




  x

a chummy post


Quaker in a Basement has noted a pattern in Bush's behavior that surfaces even when he's on one of his many vacations:
The Presidential schedule was apparently too tight to give the fish a sporting chance. The Associated Press reports "To tempt the fish, dad and son used live bait. A third man in the boat threw chopped fish into the water.

Throwing fish scraps into the water is called "chumming." The scent of the fish scraps draws hungry fish from miles around. It's like hunting deer by spreading grain across a field. It's a common practice, but it's one more example of how the Bush family doesn't like to play games that aren't rigged in their favor.

Also, I refrained from commenting on Bush's recent mishap on one of the supposedly fool-proof Segway scooters, but this morning it occurred to me: We're supposed to believe that this guy piloted a jet fighter out to his Top Gun photo-op?

I'm just being sarcastic, of course. Having flown myself, I know that it's no big trick to hold the stick while flying straight and level; the pilot in command is the one really in charge. I'm sure it was a thrill and all to get to play with the toys -- hey, I wouldn't mind a check ride in an S-3B Viking -- but let's not pretend it was an accomplishment, any more than the notion that hostilities in Iraq are actually over.




  xTuesday, June 17, 2003

bush mendacity roundup


Lots has been going on, much that I'd like to comment on, but more than I have time to. Here, however, are a couple of interestng developments in the ongoing unraveling of Bush's credibility. I'll comment more on some of these as time allows.

First, of course, is this startling article from the Washington Post about a long-time national security official who quit just before the War of Bush Aggression out of concerns that it was sucking all the oxygen from the real (well, as real as Bush policy ever gets) war on terrorism...and then volunteered for John Kerry's campaign!
"The administration wasn't matching its deeds to its words in the war on terrorism. They're making us less secure, not more secure," said Beers, who until now has remained largely silent about leaving his National Security Council job as special assistant to the president for combating terrorism. "As an insider, I saw the things that weren't being done. And the longer I sat and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out."

No single issue has defined the Bush presidency more than fighting terrorism. And no issue has both animated and intimidated Democrats. Into this tricky intersection of terrorism, policy and politics steps Beers, a lifelong bureaucrat, unassuming and tight-lipped until now. He is an unlikely insurgent. He served on the NSC under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and the current Bush. The oath of office hangs on the wall by his bed; he tears up when he watches "The West Wing." Yet Beers decided that he wanted out, and he is offering a rare glimpse in.

"Counterterrorism is like a team sport. The game is deadly. There has to be offense and defense," Beers said. "The Bush administration is primarily offense, and not into teamwork."

In a series of interviews, Beers, 60, critiqued Bush's war on terrorism. He is a man in transition, alternately reluctant about and empowered by his criticism of the government. After 35 years of issuing measured statements from inside intelligence circles, he speaks more like a public servant than a public figure. Much of what he knows is classified and cannot be discussed. Nevertheless, Beers will say that the administration is "underestimating the enemy." It has failed to address the root causes of terror, he said. "The difficult, long-term issues both at home and abroad have been avoided, neglected or shortchanged and generally underfunded."

The focus on Iraq has robbed domestic security of manpower, brainpower and money, he said. The Iraq war created fissures in the United States' counterterrorism alliances, he said, and could breed a new generation of al Qaeda recruits. Many of his government colleagues, he said, thought Iraq was an "ill-conceived and poorly executed strategy."

"I continue to be puzzled by it," said Beers, who did not oppose the war but thought it should have been fought with a broader coalition. "Why was it such a policy priority?" The official rationale was the search for weapons of mass destruction, he said, "although the evidence was pretty qualified, if you listened carefully."

He thinks the war in Afghanistan was a job begun, then abandoned. Rather than destroying al Qaeda terrorists, the fighting only dispersed them. The flow of aid has been slow and the U.S. military presence is too small, he said. "Terrorists move around the country with ease. We don't even know what's going on. Osama bin Laden could be almost anywhere in Afghanistan," he said.

...which is why Bush never mentions him any more. (Memo to Bush: while Osama bin Laden is, indeed, not the sole element in the war on terror, you promised to bring him to justice, and you should honor that promise. But what am I saying...)

Along similar lines, Matthew Yglesias has this to say:
September 11 gave a floundering administration a new political lease on life and they've been milking it for all its worth ever since. What they haven't been doing is making a serious effort to reduce the threat from terrorism. Just as the recession was seen as an opportunity to cut taxes rather than as a problem that needs to be resolved, anxiety about terrorism is exploited for political gain rather than alleviated.

I note, meanwhile, that ever since the "end" of Gulf War II I've heard strikingly little from the right about what it is exactly they propose to do about terrorism. Removing Saddam has not proven to be a magic bullet to solve all our problems, so they've just stopped talking about our problems. Instead, one hears mockery of leftists, mockery of the French, mockery of the UN, mockery of The New York Times, and lauding of Iranian dissidents. I'm all for the lauding, but if the current conservative strategy is to fight and win the war on liberals/France/the UN/Howell Raines while hoping that Iranian college students win the war on terror for us, then we've got a serious problem on our hands.


For further confirmation that we have a serious problem on our hands, we look to Bush himself (of course), claiming the notion that WMDs had anything to do with his coveted war aspirations is "revisionist history":

"Now there are some who would like to rewrite history; revisionist historians is what I like to call them," Bush said in a speech to New Jersey business leaders.

Referring to the ousted Iraqi president, Bush said, "Saddam Hussein was a threat to America and the free world in '91, in '98, in 2003. He continually ignored the demands of the free world, so the United States and friends and allies acted."

The president did not mention Iraqi unconventional weapons in his remarks, although accusations Iraq had chemical and biological weapons were central to his prewar campaign to build support for an attack. No such weapons have yet been found.

Note that, like Osama bin Laden, Bush declined to mention the chemical and biological weapons that Bush said he had proof of prior to the war -- the ones that supposedly constitured the so-called "threat." Note also that Bush made his remarks, as usual, in a friendly forum in which his dissembling is unlikely to be challenged.

Of course, Bush's revisionism has been subjected to deserved contempt throughout most reasonable blogs. But the term "revisionist history" must have polled well with the focus groups, because Bush used it again today:
"I know there's a lot of revisionist history going on. But he is no longer a threat to the free world," Bush said as he promoted his domestic agenda at a community college in a Washington suburb.

ing questions about the lack of hard evidence that such weapons existed, Bush's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, told reporters that the president still believes such weapons existed.

Asked what Bush meant by "revisionist history," Fleischer said, "the notion that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction before the war."

Memo to Bush: it isn't history, it's current events. And the issue isn't whether Saddam had chemical weapons, but that Bush said he had proof Iraq did. Proof which, regardless of what turns up in the future, simply could not have been valid.

Of course, Bush has said he has proof of Iraqi chemical or biological weapons even after the war, as Billmon helfully points out:
We recently found two mobile biological weapons facilities which were capable of producing biological agents.

George W. Bush
Speech to the Troops
June 5, 2003

(Of course, they weren't...) Billmon also thinks that the "revisionist history" line won't play in Peoria.

Tristero points to this New Yorker article on the evolution of Administration claims about Iraq's alleged weapons.
Why, exactly, are we in Iraq? Regardless of whether one supported or opposed the war, one cannot escape the impression that the weapons, some of which may yet be found, were a pretext for a campaign whose larger motives and purposes the Administration has never seen fit to articulate to the public. As the war drags on, a sense of reality is lacking in the Bush camp’s triumphalism; Americans are still killing and dying in almost every news cycle, and Iraqi resentment is mounting against an improvised occupation that has set the nation free mainly in the sense that it is ungoverned. Against this background, the charges now circulating that Bush’s war cabinet depended on false or, worse, falsified intelligence to exaggerate the threat of those weapons in the first place is much more than a technicality.

...Meanwhile, in London, Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing the fury of both sides of the aisle in Parliament over his claim before the war that he had intelligence showing that Saddam’s chemical agents were weaponized and could be deployed at just forty-five minutes’ notice. “It is about the gravest accusation that can be made in politics,” the Daily Telegraph, which strongly supported the war, wrote. “Blair stands charged, in effect, with committing British troops on the basis of a lie.” Both the Prime Minister and the President have indignantly dismissed the suggestion that they hyped—or, as the British put it, “sexed up”—the case for war, and both have said that with a bit more time the truth will out. In London, the outing will be done by Parliament, which has compelled Blair to submit to a full inquiry into the use and possible abuse of intelligence reporting in the buildup to the war. Americans should be prepared for a similar investigation, if Congress can muster the courage and the clarity to command it. Because Bush launched his reëlection campaign shortly after the marines pulled down Saddam’s statue in Baghdad, any public excavation of the Administration’s drive to war is bound to be fraught with partisan politics. But, in a country where the previous President’s lies about consensual adulterous relations were considered ground for impeachment, truthtelling about the gravest affair of state—the waging of war—must stand as a paramount value.


Speaking of which, unlike their American counterparts, the British legislature has opened a robust inquiry into whether prewar claims about Saddam's alleged threat were at all credible, or just the rational of an administration that had already decided on its course:
Former House of Commons leader Robin Cook, who quit in March to protest the government's pro-war stance, told lawmakers he feared Prime Minister Tony Blair's government had used intelligence about Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear arms programs "to justify a policy on which we had already settled."

Clare Short, who also quit as international development secretary over the Iraq war, said the government exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

...Cook said intelligence information was a bit like "alphabet soup."

"I fear on this occasion what happened is that those bits of the alphabet that supported the case were selected," he said.

"I fear the fundamental problem is that instead of using intelligence as evidence on which to base a decision about policy, we used intelligence as the basis on which to justify a policy on which we had already settled."

Cook and Short said they had been told by security sources before the war that Saddam's weapons did not pose an immediate threat.

Short said she had seen reports from the foreign intelligence service MI6 that said Iraqi scientists were still working on chemical and biological weapons programs, but did not support government claims that Saddam had weapons ready to use.

"I think that is where the falsity lies," Short said. "The exaggeration of immediacy means you cannot do things properly, and action has to be immediate."

Note the key words there -- Bush is still playing the dishonest rhetorical game of claiming that those who opposed War! Now! somehow advocated "doing nothing." To the contrary, many, myself included, simply did not see the evidence that indicated Iraq was such a dire threat as to demand nothing short of invasion, espcially with its attendent dangers of occupation and postwar chaos. In my view, subsequent events have amply supported that perception.

And while we're on the subject of legislative inquiry, Democrats are beginning to wise up to the fact that while Bush relies on the military for his perception of being strong on defense, he (gasp!) doesn't put his money where his mouth is:
Bush is held in high esteem by the military, because of his leadership of successful military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq and his unstinting defense budgets. But Bush's opponents say he has rewarded American troops' heroism by skimping on their housing benefits, their tax cuts, their health care and education for their children.

A new report by the Democratic staff on the House Appropriations Committee this week asserts that Bush, by cutting about $200 million in the program that provides assistance to public schools serving military bases, would pare education funding disproportionately for children of soldiers who fought in Iraq. That adds to several complaints the staff has assembled: Bush's signature on the latest tax cut, which failed to extend a child tax credit to nearly 200,000 low-income military personnel; a $1.5 billion reduction in his 2004 budget, to $9.2 billion from $10.7 billion, for military housing and the like; and a cut of $14.6 billion over 10 years in benefits paid through the Veterans Administration.

"They're saying they unequivocally support the military, but then they make quite clear that the check is not in the mail," said Rep. David R. Obey (Wis.), the top Democrat on House Appropriations, referring to the administration. "They're taking actions that fly in the face of the support they profess for the military."

The White House parries the charge by pointing to pay raises for the troops of more than 15 percent under Bush, privatizing of troops' housing [Ed: which, of course, benefits Bush's business cronies...], and large increases in defense spending -- all resulting in record retention rates in the military [Ed: I suspect the ongoing Iraqi occupation will reverse that trend]. Bush aides also counter that the president proposed the largest-ever increase in discretionary spending for the Veterans Administration in his 2004 budget.

...But such attempts are not new. Bush himself used a similar attack against Al Gore in the 2000 campaign, complaining to a VFW meeting in August 2000 about "soldiers who are on food stamps and soldiers who are poorly housed." He vowed then: "We will give our armed forces better pay, better treatment and better training."

This time around, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), a presidential candidate and Vietnam veteran, said he feels "very strongly" that the issue, particularly veterans' benefits, is a vulnerability for Bush. "The real test of patriotism is how you treat veterans and keep promises to people who wore the uniform," he said.

The maneuvering has already begun. Last week, Democrats tried to add $947 million for military housing to a 2004 spending bill, losing on a party-line vote in a subcommittee. They also charge that Bush would cut off about 173,000 veterans from health care under his 2004 budget request to "refocus the VA health care system" while requiring enrollment fees and higher out-of-pocket costs.

On the subject of funds paid to schools that serve children of military personnel, Bush's 2004 budget recommends cuts of $172 million, or 14 percent, in payments called "impact aid" that make up for lost local tax revenues from tax-exempt property. The analysis by Obey's staff calculates that the military portion of the program is set to fall by more than 30 percent, to $435 million from $635 million -- much of that affecting children of troops that have served in Iraq.

...The White House, while not disputing that it is cutting the impact aid, said both Republican and Democratic administrations have for years sought to cut the aid to reflect the number of military employees who live off base and pay local property taxes. Over eight years, OMB's Duffy said, the Clinton administration proposed cutting a total of $100 million in such funds.

Democrats are hoping such explanations won't be convincing when military families' children begin to feel the squeeze on their schools. Already, Obey's staff reports, Defense Department schools overseas had to end the school year a week early because of a lack of money.


Just-permalinked Skeptical Notion has an open letter to John McCain, who recently seemed to have partaken in the "everybody thought Saddam had chemical weaponsso it's okay if Bush lied about having prooof" Kool-Aid:
We didn't invade because Saddam might have these weapons. He's had them for two decades. We didn't invade because Saddam was getting to be a threat again. Everyone but George agreed that Saddam was far weaker now than he was in 1991. Everyone but George knew that the UN inspectors had destroyed the lion's share of Iraq's arsenal, and that US and British sorties had destroyed a good chunk of the rest. Everyone but Bush knew.

That's not exactly true. Bush knew too. But he lied about it. And he used every ounce of credibility as President of the US, as recipient of the best intelligence data in the world to sell that lie. To you, John. To us. To the world. He told us Saddam was more dangerous, even while the CIA and the UN contradicted that. He told us Saddam was a threat to us, even as the CIA contradicted that too. He told us Saddam worked with Osama Bin Laden, and the whole world knew that wasn't true.

And not just lies, John. He exploited our fears and biases as well. You should be familiar with that, John. You were so angry when he did that to you. And now he's doing it again. And you're helping.

He managed to convince the American public that Iraq had something to do with 9/11. Don't believe me? Check his own speeches. He never missed a chance to utter "Iraq" and "terrorism" together. Better yet, check the polls. Too many Americans believe Osama and Saddam worked together, instead of being bitter enemies. Too many Americans believe Iraqis were on those planes in September. Too many Americans believe George's lies. And you're helping him.

You're trying to rationalize the lies. You're trying to help George justify the dead Americans, the dead Iraqis. Yes, Saddam was a nasty person. But you know what? So are a lot of leaders. One of our putative allies tends to boil dissidents. I don't see George trying to invade him.

Yes, Saddam was a nasty man. But we didn't invade to free Iraq, or to rid them of an evil dictator. If we had, John, we'd have been prepared to actually help them. Instead, they're dying in numbers over there. Their biggest city, home to millions and millions, still lacks power and water. Their hospitals are looted, their cultural history gone. 3500 of them, minimum, are dead from our bombs.

And we kill more everyday. Not evildoers, John. Civilians. The innocent. Guilty of nothing. And all the remorse in the world isn't going to bring them back. And all the justifications in the world aren't going to change the fact that helping these people was the last thing on George's mind.

Our soldiers are dying, John. They're going to continue to die over there. We're not helping the Iraqi people either. They don't have water, or power, or decent medical care anymore. They're living in anarchy and chaos,shot at by US troops chasing rebels, and sitting on the brink of civil war.

What are you going to do, John, about fundamentalists Shia clerics pushing for an Islamic state? Is your idea of "helping" the Iraqi people mean helping them into a fundamentalist state where at least half the population is going to lose most of their rights?

George lied to you, John. He lied to all of us. And his lies are killing Americans every day. And as long as you're helping him, so are you.

Whatever good reasons existed to invade Iraq and dispose Saddam, George Bush didn't have them. Look at Iraq and tell me George Bush cared at all about the plight of the Iraqi people. Because he lied to us, we were robbed of our chance to insist that any invasion be done for the right reasons. We were robbed of our chance to actually help Iraq.

He lied to you, John. Just like he lied in 1999. Just like he's lying to you now. When are you going to stand up to him? When are you going to demand the truth?

I can only echo: The virtue of expelling Saddam need not be defended. The virtue of the President deceiving the American public, Congress, and attempting (unsuccessfully) to deceive the United Nations in order to launch his coveted war -- which may or may not have been motivated by notions of liberating the Iraqi people -- demands justification.

The truly criminal thing about this entire enterprise is that while half the US Army is tied up occupying a surly Iraq, sustaining casualties at a slow but steady rate, there's little evidence that we're any safer from terrorism -- the CIA thinks al Qaeda will hit the US with a real weapon of mass destruction some time soon. It's perplexing to speculate how a victory by the uncontested strongest military in the world over a third-rate non-contender was supposed to make the US any more secure, but there's little demonstrable evidence that it has, and good reason to believe that Bush's conduct -- and that of his Administration -- have made the world a much more hostile place toward US interests. Thanks a lot, guys.




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new to the blogroll


Please welcome Quaker in a Basement and Skeptical Notion.




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hesiod explains it all


Counterspin Central has some excellent advice for Democrats in general and lefty bloggers in particular:
Sadly, I think too many Democrats fear George W.. Bush. They shouldn't. If you fear him, you are half way to defeat. Everyone is trying to position themselves politically, instead of just emphasizing core Democratic principles, values and policies, and then TAKING IT TO Bush. Force Bush to fight on OUR turf, and to defend HIS crappy record. Do it with humor, repetition, coordination, aggressiveness and aplomb. But, most of all, do it with confidence and without fear.

To quote Frank Herbert: "Fear is the mind killer."

Bush is very beatable. Trust me. A third of people polled recently think we found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. 22% think Saddam actually USED wmd's during the war. With massive gaps like that between people's perceptions, and the facts, Bush is very vulnerable. If we all work together, fight hard, and take the GOP to the hole, we'll win this thing next year.

I quite agree. Like most bullies, Bush rules by fear and can't stand up to a fight -- why else would he feel the need to deliver his Bush-wa only in speeches in front of friendly audiences or in scripted press conferences? Democrats need to wake up to the gap between Bush's personal popularity and the public's perception of his effectiveness. A little reality check, and Bush goes down in flames. He can't defend his record, his competence, or his integrity -- only his ability to deliver favors for the rich. It's as simple as that.




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blog status update


My permalinks seem to have been bloggered lately. I've regenerated the last few months' worth of archives, so they should be accessible now. Unfortunately, selecting "republish all" results in an error message, and I don't have the time right now to track down which week has the problem. I'll hunt it down as soon as I can; in the meantime, I do apologize for the inconvenience.




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employment watch


I continue to be relieved and grateful that my time unemployed was so short, and today's news from the AP simply reinforces that inclination: Job Market Worst Since Early 1990s
Three out of four employers expect to cut jobs or hold off on hiring this summer, contributing to the worst employment market since the early 1990s, a new survey said Tuesday.


About two-thirds of employers said they don't expect to hire any additional workers and 9 percent plan to eliminate jobs during the July-to-September quarter, according to the survey by Manpower Inc.

"Let's try not to get anyone too depressed, but the facts are the facts," said Jeffrey Joerres, chairman and chief executive officer of Manpower, which surveys 16,000 businesses for its quarterly survey.

Although 20 percent of employers in the survey said they plan to add jobs, competition for work is expected to be high. Six percent are uncertain about their employment plans.

Now, when are Bush's economic policies supposed to benefit America? Oh, right...they aren't.

Of course, the news isn't entirely bad...
But better-than-expected economic data released Tuesday offered some encouragement that the economy is trying to rebound. Consumer prices were flat in May as falling costs for energy products and clothing offset rising prices for medical care and lodging, surprising analysts who predicted prices would dip. Industrial production, meanwhile, posted its first increase since February.

Another report showed good news from one of the economy's few sources of power, housing construction, which jumped by 6.1 percent in May from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.73 million new units.

...but the inexorable law of supply and demand results in a fairly bleak picture for most American families: Productivity remains above the demand curve, so there's simply no reason for business to hire no many how many tax cuts Bush gives the investor class. The right policy would be to put money in consumers' pockets and help them in their dutiful efforts to keep the economy afloat, but Bush and his supply-side cultists won't hear of it. I certainly hope the American public will realize, as they did in 1990, the damage Republican economic policies do to the nation's standard of living.




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inspiring


"I'm filled with admiration. Admiration, and pride -- that I should belong to a species capable of producing such a courageous soul."

Kudos to Billmon for this inspiring and moving post.







  xMonday, June 16, 2003

tim dunlop explains it all


Kudos to The Road to Surfdom on one of the best posts I've yet seen on why Bush's lies about the Iraqi threat matter:
The idea that there were solid--what Jack calls realist--reasons for fighting this war and for Australia's involvement in it may well be true. The trouble is, they weren't made.

Instead we were told that Saddam had a weapons' stash so great and so powerful that it was imminent threat not just to the region but to the continental United States, indeed to the entire stability of the world. No scenario was too scary to invoke to let us know what Iraq was capable of with these weapons at their disposal.

All of that would probably hold if the premise also held, namely, if Iraq actually did have WMD as described pre-war.

Some months on from the end of the war and that claim is looking somewhere between a little far-fetched and the biggest lie told by a democratic government in living memory.

Now Jack's idea seems to be that we were stupid to believe it in the first place and he may well be right. But even that is not the point.

The point is that we were told it.

That twice-cooked good Christian man, George W. Bush; his less flamboyantly but equally willing-to-assume-the-moral-highground Australian equivalent, John Howard; and that robust Christian who prevails cherub-like in Westminster, Prime Minister Tony Blair, all stood hand-on-heart in front of the people they work for and told us it was so and sent the troops off to die on the strength of it.

Jack would like us to forget all that and just get on the hard and dirty task of...what? Well, making the world safe for democracy.

Democracy, you will remember, is that form of self-government that large, diverse states like the US, Britain and Australia necessarily use in its representative form.

Representative democracy is where the majority elect a group to do the day-to-day heavy-lifting of running the state in their name.

In their name means that those so elected are not a bunch of self-employed CEOs of 'Democracy Inc.' but individuals entrusted with protecting our interests.

Trust is something we, qute rightly, husband cautiously, and in order to do that we require our representatives to work through transparent institutions.

Transparent means the elected few have to come before us regularly and answer honestly any bloody question we might want to ask them, making themselves accountable for what they say and do.

Acountable means they have to be able to show us openly and often that they told us the truth.

Truth in this sense means there has to be a match between what they said was the case and what was actually the case.

Representative, accountable democratic government, therefore, comes down to the fact that elected individuals have to tell the truth about what they are doing in our name and if they don't, they either cease being our representatives or get their lying arses into jail, depending on the seriousness of the deception.

These conditions are non-negotiable. They are not something to be bent like a pipe-cleaner to fit the crevices of the latest political miscalculation. They are the thing through which we judge how well those who work for us are doing their job.

At this stage, we don't know if they lied, if they just got it wrong, or if something else happened. The reason we don't know is because they won't tell us. Until such time as they do, the only people burying their head in the sand are the ones who won't ask the questions in the first place.

Tim brings up a good point -- in the runup for the war, hawkish bloggers offered legions of reasons for the war. Even Bush and his minions tried any number of rationales in order to gain public support for the policy they'd obviously decided on long before. But none of that matters -- when you get right down to it, the legality of the war, aside from "the US is strong enough to do whatever it likes" -- was predicated on the idea of self defense against the threat Saddam allegedly posed. It's obvious now that Bush could not prove most of his statements today, when our forces more of less have the run of the country. It's reasonable to assume that he couldn't have had the proof he alleged back then. As Dunlop eloquently pointed out, it matters for democracy in this country and others that our leaders were honest and forthright in their publicly stated reasons for their coveted war. There will be those who are simply satisfied that we've ousted Saddam and by implication condone any amount of mendacity before the war. But their protests ring hollow -- they may claim to oppose the dictator Saddam, but they cede the cheif executive the powers of a tyrant. Such an argument is simply unconcionable.




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lots on my plate(lets)


I woke up super early this morning to visit the Indiana Blood Center to donate platelets. This time, I got to use their brand-new donation facility on the first floor. It's pretty sweet. For one thing, instead of television sets up on the wall for several couches to share (which leads to unpleasant situations like being stuck watching insipid morning news programs for two hours because some other guy called it first -- aaaaargh!), each couch has a little individual TV set on an articulated arm for maximum viewing comfort. I remarked to the phlebotomist that the proximity of the screen meant that I could bring in my subtitled vbideotapes (many of the tapes I still have are fansubbed anime and subtitled John Woo flicks), and she pointed out that they now have dual VHS/DVD players! w00t! That opens up the possibilities tremendously; next time I go I could take in an Italian zombie flick (doubtful, actually, as the idea is to stave off boredom...), a chop socky movie, a kaiju flick, my new George Romero DVD, or any of my other fave DVDs. I'm looking forward to my next donation already!

This time, instead of a movie, I brought the tape I'd made of Cartoon Network's Giant Robot Week back in February. I took in two episodes of Martian Successor Nadesico and the second installment of Neon Genesis Evenagelion, one of the episodes I have on DVD. I can attest that the colks at Cartoon Network snipped it to shreds (there's a lot of fan service of sexy officer Misato Katsuragi in that one...).

My lovely wife, meanwhile, went to donate blood on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, her iron was low (a common occurrence among women of childbearing years). Fortunately, the Indiana Blood Center has a program that provides iron supplements in order to increase the likelihood of getting donations, and she signed up for it.

As always, I urge you to contact your local donation facility to arrange an appointment. You could save a life.




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justice served after five-year delay


Here's a sorry story of a an accused man who waited five years for his trial, at which the judge declared there was no case against him withing 15 minutes.
Bill White spent five years in Cook County Jail awaiting trial for murder. But it took a judge only 15 minutes to rule the state's key witness "worthless" and set White free.

One week later, White's co-defendants, Otis English, 32, and Roland Gray, 50, walked out of the jail when the state dropped their cases, too.

The men--who call themselves the "Wrigleyville Three" because they were charged with the murder of a young couple near the Cubs' ballpark in 1997--were caught in a legal system that moves far too slowly, Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan said.

"In a murder case, a reasonable time in jail would be 1-1/2 or two years," he said. "Anything over two years is ludicrous."

The Wrigleyville Three walked free in May. But another 29 men and women held for at least five years in Cook County Jail remain behind bars; most have never had their day in court. And 66 more inmates have been held in the jail longer than four years.

Such long delays can deny justice for the inmates, contribute to dangerous crowding in the jail and waste millions of taxpayer dollars.

Delays also can add to the emotional suffering of the victims of crime and their families.

"We definitely saw time wasted, money wasted," said an aunt of Che Messner, one of the Wrigleyville murder victims. "It was frustrating."

To say the least! I support punishing the guilty as much as the next person, but it's vitally important to remember that not everyone who goes on trial is, in fact, guilty. Zealousness on the part of prosecutors is laudable,

And this case pretty much gets to the heart of my reservations about the death penalty. I'm glad the system worked in this case -- and I certainly hope the state of Illinois is going about compensating this person and his co-defendants for the five years of their lives they spent in jail awaiting trial -- but that's just it: When someone goes to jail, if they're innocent, they can be released and compensated. If an innocent person is executed, well, oops. If death penalty proponents can guarantee that'll never happen, well and good. But when many of the same crowd are also so supportive of limiting appeals, it doesn't give me a lot of confidence.

(via FARK)




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astronomy link of the day


hubble star
The star pictured here recently became the brightest star in the galaxy due to a massive eruption. The Hubble Telescope was there to capture the celestial light show. c00L!

(via FARK)




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happy birthday


A very happy birthday today to my excellent brother Jeff! Please stop by his place and wish him many happy returns.




  xSunday, June 15, 2003

happy father's day


Today has been an excellent Father's Day, all things considered. The Girls were actually a little difficult today; they'd bounce back and forth between being utterly charming and going ballistic if denied any whim. Oh, well. It got on our nerves, but we dealt with it, as wel always do, and on the balance they were more nice than not.

My wonderful wife let me sleep until nine this morning, and had coffee ready for me when I awoke. Later in the afternoon, we took The Girls to the YMCA pool for a swim -- Cecilia and Naomi gave me a pair of bathing trunks. Cecilia picked them out; they're blue with a floral pattern and bright orange flowers on them. I really like them, actually. So we're at the pool; Cecilia swims like a little fish. She just loves the water. Naomi is much more cautious than her sister, and generally likes to cling to someone, even when she's wearing water wings.

Today I took her and bounced with her in the shallow water, then slowly worked my way to the deeper end where I could stand up (even in the water, squatting down holding a toddler gets tiring on the old quads). I began pulling her thru the water at arm's length; Naomi enjoyed that, so I eventually got her to where she was only holding on to one finger on each hand. From there, I got her to let go, and she weas delighted to find herself swimming (with floaties and all, but still...) all by herself. She had me take her over to her mother and said "look at me! look at me!" in her cute, high-pitched Omi voice. That was a pretty good Father'd Day event. For dinner, I grilled hamburgers, and that was also pretty satisfying.

So the girls got me the swim trunks (a good thing, too, because I only owned one other bathing suit, and I could never find it when I was packing to go somewhere...). Crystal got me a copy of the Animatrix DVD (w00t!) and a really swank set of ceramic coasters with Latin dance steps printed on them. My in-laws sent me a check that I spent on a bunch of cool stuff:

  • A DVD of The Warriors, which is pretty freakin' cool all by itself, but...

  • ...even better, George Romero's insanely great The Crazies on DVD! w00t! I had no idea it had been released on DVD, and I was all prepared to buy it on videocassette, which I never do. But a cult DVD company I'd never heard of before called Blue Underground (warning: link possibly not safe for work) has just released it; I can hardly wait to check it out!

  • ...and the PS2 game Grand Theft Auto III.


...and I also picked up a used DVD of Dazed and Confused for eight bucks of my own money (now that I have disposable income again...), and one of the Land Before Time DVDs for The Girls, because Cecilia loves those animated dinosaurs. Even so, I saw a lot of tempting stuff; it was difficult not so simply run amok. Nevertheless, I was a good boy.

Now, enough of that. If y'all will 'scuse me, it's time to 'jack some rides in GTA III.

Update: Via FARK, here's RetroCrush's look at great TV dads.





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