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  xSaturday, July 05, 2003

barry white r.i.p.

barry white

Planet Swank is grieved to note the passing of thunder-voiced soul singer Barry White, who succumbed yesterday to a long battle with kidney diease. The Maestro of Love was 58.

I'm a long-time fan of White's music. When my lovely wife Crystal and I were married, we walked back up the aisle to White's instrumental hit "Love's Theme."

  xThursday, July 03, 2003

happy fourth of july

us flag courtesy south knox bubba

We'll be out of town visiting Louisville over the Fourth of July weekend. We'll attend a birthday/pool party for my good friend Joe, and we'll take The Girls to Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom, their first-ever amusement park.

Tonight, we're making dinner for our friend Onye and her fiancee Anthony. It should be a pleasant occasion; I particularly look forward to a few rounds of DOA2 Hardcore with Anthony. He introduced me to the game several months ago, and I liked it so much, I bought it. It'll be interesting to see if I've developed enough skillz to make me a contender.

Finally, happy birthday in advance to Dwight Meredith!

Happy Fourth, everyone.


bush belligerence update

It's certainly refreshing to see Bush being held accountable for his rhetoric for a change: Bush Taking Heat for 'Bring Them On' Remark
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush has used colorful language before to great effect, but he is taking some heat for his "Bring them on" challenge to Iraqi militants attacking U.S. forces, who he said were tough enough to take it.

Even some aides winced at Bush's words, which Democrats pounced on as an invitation to Iraqi militants to fire on U.S. troops already the subject of hit-and-run attacks by Saddam Hussein loyalists and others.

"These men and women are risking their lives every day, and the president who sent them on this mission showed tremendous insensitivity to the dangers they face," said Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.

Another Democratic presidential candidate, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, said condemned the comment, saying, "The deteriorating situation in Iraq requires less swagger and more thoughtfulness and statesmanship."

...University of Texas political scientist Bruce Buchanan, a longtime Bush watcher, said Bush uses such language when under strain, and that he is likely feeling the heat of criticism about the lagging post-war effort in Iraq.

He called the remark an unfortunate choice of words because it sounded belligerent.

"I think that when he feels up against it, as he did at the time of the 9/11 attacks, or when he does when coming under criticism now, he has a tendency to strike back verbally, and I think that's what you're seeing there. He's not choosing his words diplomatically at those moments because he's not feeling particularly diplomatic," Buchanan said.

...Brookings Institution presidential scholar Stephen Hess said many Americans like what they hear from the president, calling his words reminiscent of his defiant stance against the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks when he stood in the rubble of the World Trade Center towers and vowed to fight back.

The obvious difference being, of course, that in the aftermath of the terror attacks that occurred on his watch, Bush promised we'd prevail, but didn't dare the terrorists to strike again. Hess may feel it's "more than a stretch" to say that Bush was inviting another attack, but he's mistaken; that's what Bush said, and it's "more than a stretch" to parse some other kind of meaning into it.


jpop gallery of the day

A gallery devoted to the lovely, Korean-born jpop singer BoA.

boa wallpaper
As a bonus, here's a wallpaper gallery devoted to the singer.


i'm having a big iraq attack!

Here's an interesting analysis suggesting that Iraq, which Bush no doubt expected would be the centerpiece of his reelection campaign, may well become his Achilles heel instead: Iraq Attacks Pose Political Challenge for Bush
By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With each U.S. death in Iraq, President Bush faces the potential of a growing political threat at home as Americans become more unsettled by continued violence, analysts say.

Bush, whose 2004 re-election strategy relies heavily on casting himself as a strong leader in a time of grave threats, could see that image damaged by the steady death toll or prolonged attacks on U.S. troops.

"There is public recognition that things aren't going well in Iraq," said Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup poll. He added that public opinion is "moving in a direction that, if it continues, would begin to be very significant for the Bush administration and their re-election strategy."

A Gallup poll this week showed the number of Americans who thought things were going badly in Iraq jumped to 42 percent from 29 percent a month ago. Fifty-six percent said the war was worth it, down from 73 percent when major military action ended in mid-April.

A University of Maryland poll this week found a majority now believes Bush "stretched the truth" on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and links to al Qaeda, although two-thirds still say Bush was right to go to war.

The public will accept U.S. casualties if they believe the cause is just, "but eventually there is a tip-over point where the perception changes, and no one knows when that comes," Newport said.

Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean, who has strongly criticized the president's Iraq policy, has jumped to the head of the pack of Bush's 2004 challengers. Democrats say growing doubts about Bush's judgment on Iraq open up new avenues to question his leadership and ability to handle foreign policy.

"It raises doubts about Bush's core message -- that I make you safer and I won the war," said Democratic consultant Jenny Backus.

Administration officials say U.S. troops in Iraq are not facing a Vietnam-like quagmire. The military has launched numerous raids in recent days to halt Iraqi attacks.

Bush has ruled out an early exit from Iraq of 150,000 U.S. troops and challenged Iraqi militants on Wednesday with a defiant call of "Bring them on." At least 23 American servicemen have been killed by hostile fire since Bush declared the end of major combat operations on May 1.

Bush said there were people in Iraq who wanted to drive out U.S. troops and "create the conditions where we get nervous and decide to leave. We're not going to get nervous."

Republicans say there is plenty of good news for Bush in recent polls. His public approval ratings still linger above 60 percent, and the Gallup poll found three-quarters of Americans believe U.S. deaths in Iraq are expected. Seven in 10 believe keeping troops there is worth it.

"As much as America would like the war to end quickly, there is a general understanding that this is a long process -- it's a big, complicated job and everybody gets that," said Republican pollster David Winston. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he said, "There is a greater understanding of the long view."

Democrats say the issue is Bush's failure to secure a stable post-war environment in Iraq and broad international support.

"I don't think there was ever a question we would win the war," said Jim Jordan, campaign manager for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, one of nine Democrats vying to challenge Bush. "The question was always could the administration win the peace."

As I mentioned in one of the comment threads I was following yesterday, Bush's bellicosity is red meat for his hardcore supporters, but no amount of malfeasance or incompetence on Bush's part will pry their votes loose from him. As always, the election will be decided by the moderate, uncommitted swing voters. For them, the message is simple:

Bush's policies make you less secure, not more; decrease your prosperity, not increase it.

Democrats -- and I'd say the media, but the thought of the so-called "liberal media" holding Bush accountable is laughable -- should be constantly in Bush's face demanding that he defend his execrable record. They should demand Bush justify why he deserves four more years with evidence, not assertions, and the latter should be challenged at every turn. And as a sweet bonus, it'll demonstrate how lousy Bush truly is under pressure, after four years of being shielded from anything resembling dissent.

It's really quite simple: Under the circumstances, why on Earth would anyone want to support Bush?


welcome visitors from Avedon Carol's site. Please feel free to look around and leave a comment if you so desire.


article aptly analyzes animatrix

Check out this interesting essay on the plot of The Animatrix.

(via Anime News Service; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)


monster movie link of the day

RetroCrush celebrates King Kong's 70th birthday. c00L!

(via FARK)


i'm glad i'm not in there any more

Holy cats: Unemployment Rate Surges to 9-Year High
The Associated Press

The nation's unemployment rate shot up to 6.4 percent in June, the highest level in more than nine years, in an economic slump that has cost nearly a million jobs in the last three months [Emphasis added].

Businesses slashed 30,000 jobs just last month, with cuts heavily concentrated on factory assembly lines, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The 0.3 percentage point increase from May's 6.1 percent rate was the largest month-to-month rise since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. That surprised analysts who predicted a smaller rise, to 6.2 percent. The last time the overall rate was higher was in March 1994.

While recent economic indicators point to an economy struggling toward recovery, the latest report demonstrated that America's job market was still very much in a state of recession last month.

Since March, unemployment has increased by 913,000. Two million people were unemployed for 27 weeks or more last month, an increase of 410,000 since the start of the year.

Another factor behind the increase in the overall civilian unemployment rate was the increase in the number of people seeking work in June. Optimism about an economy rebound led over 600,000 people to resume their search for work.

Because the government calculates the overall unemployment rate based on a survey of American households, and because the lackluster economy wasn't producing enough jobs to accommodate an increasing number of job-seekers, that rate increased significantly.

Manufacturing led in payroll cuts last month, with 56,000 jobs lost. Since July 2000, the nation's factories have cut 2.6 million jobs.

That sector has been the weakest link in the economy's ability to get back to full speed. Slack demand at home and abroad and competition from a flood of imports have throttled back production.

Construction jobs helped offset manufacturing losses somewhat last month, with the fourth straight gain in hiring. Construction has added 101,000 jobs since February, reflecting strength in residential building.

The mortgage boom, stoked by record low rates, has been the bright spot in the dismal economy. People are buying new homes and refinancing their old mortgages. The extra cash from refinancing combined with solid home-value appreciation have kept consumer spending afloat.

Other hiring gains last month were in health care, leisure and hospitality and temporary employment services.

In a separate report, new claims for jobless benefits rose last week to 430,000, an increase of a seasonally adjusted 21,000 from the previous week's revised 409,000 claims.

The more stable, four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out weekly fluctuations, dropped to 425,000. That was the lowest level since April 5.

CNN/Money story with graphic here.

The new-claims figure had been trending downward over the last few weeks, so I halfway expected it to dip a bit below the 400,000 mark that traditionally indicates a weak job market. No such luck.

Let's also not forget that, even if the increase is due in part to more active job seekers, that isn't necessarilty good news. Increased competition for jobs can allow potential employers to be less generous with pay, benefits, and even raises for current employees. Job seekers may settle for a lower-paying job than they previously held. These are pocketbook issues that directly affect the vast majority of Americans not expected to benefit from Bush's policy of redistributing income to the rich.

Of course, with an upward trend in productivity (Definition: Working longer hours for the same pay), corporate profits seem to be stabalizing, and the stock market seems to be finding its feet. While an optimistic market is certainly better than the alternative, it's vital to remember that the Dow Jones and NASDAQ do not equal the US economy. Indeed, it's vital for Democrats to remind the public in the coming year that while Wall Street seems to be doing okay, average Americans are not. When Bush's handlers try to make him appear "concerned" over the economy in the next year, Democrats should retort that he darn well ought to be concerned, but that he isn't nearly as concerned as the American families struggling to pay their bills or find a job. And they need to emphasize the jobs lost under Bush's watch, and -- even if the unemployment rate levels off -- hold Bush accountable for any jobless recovery. In a demand-side recession, there's no incentive at all to increase output when supply capacity exceeds demand, and no amount of supply-side windfalls will change that.

And why not? Bush's economic policies were never intended to benefit anything other than his wealthy corporate cronies. He has no choice but to use deceptive rhetoric to gain support; Democrats need to call Bush out when the rhetoric fails to meet the reality. (Shouldn't the boost from the President's first round of tax cuts have kicked in by now?) Even Reagan promised "trickle down" economics: Sure, our policies favor the rich, but eventually you'll get yours.

Bush, by contrast, implies that average Americans benefit directly from his policies; that's the only way he can sell them. But they don't, and were never intended to. Shine a light on that, my friends, shine a light.

Almost a million jobs gone in three months. Amazing.

For further reading, Wampum has been keeping excellent watch on the economic numbers. Brad De Long is also a must-read.

Update: I may not be among the unemployed any more, but blogger Ted Barlow has taken my place. Sincere best wishes for good luck in the job hunt, Ted!


bush taunt provokes widespread response

Bush's macho moment yesterday sparked much commentary in the blogosphere. That occurrence was to be expected; Bush's taunts, though, provoked more than the usual level of outrage. And why not? Bush's daring Iraqi irregulars to attack -- which is what he did, despite Ari Fleischer's denials -- were more than usually outrageous.

Here are the responses from some of my favorite bloggers:

annatopia (nice new design, by the way!)
Daily Kos
New-to-me blog Fanatical Apathy has some satire (via Eschaton)
Interesting Times notes that even some Freepers found Bush pinning targets to the backs of our troops hard to swallow...
Oliver Willis
Political Aims
SixDifferentWays points to this MeFi comment thread
Skeptical Notion
South Knox Bubba
Ted Barlow shames me by remembering, as I should have, this quote from Shrek: "Some of you may die. But that's a sacrifice I am willing to make."
The Left Coaster
The Road to Surfdom
The Sideshow (and thanks for the props!)
The Watch
Unqualified Offerings

New Jersey Senator Frank R. Lautenberg had this reaction:
"I am shaking my head in disbelief. When I served in the army in Europe during World War II, I never heard any military commander – let alone the Commander in Chief – invite enemies to attack U.S. troops," said Lautenberg.

I left comments at a few of them, and in those comments I voiced ideas I hadn't mentioned in my own rant. In the Daily Kos thread, I opined that Bush has handed the Iraqi insurgency a powerful weapon: From now on, attacks on US forces won't be portrayed as isolated incidents in a general unrest, but as direct repudiation of Bush and his conquest of Iraq. And sure enough, today's headlines bear that out: Iraqis Defy Bush, Wound Seven U.S. Soldiers in Attacks
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Seven American soldiers were wounded in two separate attacks on occupation forces in Iraq on Thursday, a day after President Bush said there were enough U.S. troops in Iraq to deal with the militants.

In a sign the guerrilla-style attacks were growing increasingly bold, assailants fired a rocket-propelled grenade on a U.S. Humvee vehicle on a major street in central Baghdad shortly after 10 a.m. (0600 GMT), witnesses said.

In case you're curious about what Bush might have said if he weren't so blindly belligerent, check out yesterday's comments from British foreign secretary Jack Straw:
"This action against the coalition won't succeed and will be dealt with," Straw said Wednesday after talks with US overseer Paul Bremer, during a surprise visit to Baghdad.

Memo to Bush: It's perfectly possible to express optimism -- however unfounded it may seem -- without inviting attacks on one's own troops.

And by the way -- Straw said that while in Baghdad, not 6,000 miles away and surrounded by a security apparatus that's among the best in the world. Bush talked big, but he doesn't have any skin in this game -- it's American forces whose skins are at risk. Bush's mouth is writing a check he knows someone else's butt will have to cash. That makes Bush's bellicosity the mark of a coward, not a combatant.

  xWednesday, July 02, 2003

welcome... visitors from Bret's site, Daily Kos, and Eschaton. Feel free to look around, and please leave a comment if you so desire.


bush administration rhetorical dishonesty watch

Ah, now I see why we aren't facing a guerilla war in Iraq. They're terrorists.

Seriously, I am sick to death of these people. Attacking civilians is terrorism. Attacking soldiers -- ones occupying your country, no less -- is guerilla warfare. This outcome was predictable -- indeed, was predicted -- way before 9/11 made terrorism Dubya's favorite hot-button (because goodness knows it wasn't prior to then).

And calling it terrorism doesn't make our soldiers any less dead, nor does it magically provide BushCo with a clue about how to deal with it.

From the same press conference, notice Bush backtracking once again about his prewar weapons claims:
"Saddam Hussein had a weapons program," Bush said. "Remember he used them — he used chemical weapons on his own people."

No one disputes either of those points. Prior to the war, though, it was Bush who went much further, insisting that Saddam's existing, massive stocks of chemical, biological, and perhaps even nuclear weapons presented such a grave threat to the US that no option other than invasion right now was possible.

Even the media seems to have noticed:
Bush made no mention of the failure of U.S. teams to find evidence of weapons of mass destruction, but said, "We're bringing some order to the country and we're beginning to learn the truth."

Bush did not explicitly promise, as he has in the past, that weapons or evidence of a weapons program will be found. But, he said, "It's just a matter of time, a matter of time."

Matter of time indeed: November 2004, buddy.


belated, but... birthday wishes to Jeff Cooper!


bush dares iraqis to kill more soldiers

Let's face it -- part of Bush's appeal is his so-called "decisiveness," the notion that he's combative, or that he's somehow uniquely willing to fight. Whether this carefully presented image jibes with Bush's record is a matter of debate.

But Bush's recent challenge to the forces that have been attacking and killing our fighting forces in Iraq is a disgusting display dwarfed in the dimension of despicableness only by its degree of deludedness.
"There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring'em on!," he said. "We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation."

"There are some who feel like that if they attack us that we may decide to leave prematurely. They don't understand what they're talking about, if that's the case," he said in firm, almost angry tones.

"We've got plenty tough force there right now to make sure the situation is secure," he said, brushing aside critics who say the Pentagon underestimated the number of troops needed to rebuild Iraq and set it on track for a prosperous and democratic future.

Bush's belligerence has all the earmarks of a drunken bully who, upon picking a fight in a bar and getting smacked down, dazedly double-dares his opponent to do it again. And the next stage in this sorry screenplay is the bully looking around for backup, only to find that his friends have long since slunk away in embarrassment at the miscreant's appalling antics.

Bush would have a right to gloat if any rational observer could conclude that the present US force is, indeed, sufficient to stabilize Iraq, but current events suggest otherwise. There are indeed "some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there," feel perfectly willing to "bring it on,", and our soldiers and Marines continue to pay the price. And the Administration's response is to deny that the Pentagon's own official definition of "guerilla war" applies -- a ludicrous display enchoed today by Bush's own reality-challenged bluster.

If Bush wants to play the strutting tough guy with macho rhetoric on a personal level, fine. But how dare he explicitly invite attacks on our military -- many of whom have already paid the ultimate price for Bush's grand adventure, and many more of whom are at risk and demoralized due to his Administration's abject incompetence in planning for a postwar Iraq.

As the Washington Post noted, since the situation in Iraq appears to be getting worse, not better, it behhoves the US to adopt a more humble stance and seek the outside help that many observers feel is necessary to bolster the present coalition force, currently stretched thin and growing weary. Yet the President offers not humilty, but hubris; not reconciliation, but recklessness -- all the while knowing he's personally safe, should the Iraqi resistance answer his challenge to "bring it on."

Ironically, I happen to agree -- indeed, I've felt all along -- that the occupation of Iraq will be a long and costly process that the US simply can't afford to abandon. That likelihood -- predicted by many in the first Gulf War -- was one of my reasons to oppose the war. But now that we're stuck there and our people are getting blown up in the Iraqi summer heat, we should demand more from our leaders than chest-pounding rabble-rousing. Regardless of one's stance on the war, Americans should all demand reason to believe that this Administration is following a coherent plan to safeguard the security of all Americans, and not just making it up as they go along.

As a candidate, Bush sought the vote of moderates by professing support for a humble foreign policy. Now, presiding over a crisis situation that did as much damage to the United States's international credibility and support as it did to Saddam's regime, Bush waves the red cape of bluter that's sure to prove red meat to his aggression-addled base but is equally likely to prove counterporductive to the US's prestige, once again.

Perhaps Bush wishes to encourage the perception -- despite all evidence to the contrary -- that the US is in control of events in Iraq. Yet it beggars belief that Bush would put American fighting men and women at risk with his reprehensible taunting. In the runup to the war, it was often suggested that not supporting Bush's political motives or dishonest rhetoric was tantamount to not supporting the troops.

I submit that the concept of "supporting the troops" in no way embraces offering them up as live bait to well-armed, well-prepared resistance forces that have proved adept at striking hard and fading away. Bush's chest-thumping bellicosity will be little comfort to the families of the service members who fall victim to those who will be only too happy to accept Bush's feeble, yet outrageous, challenge.


public perception of bush deception taking hold

A recent poll finds that a majority of Americans now believe the President at least "stretched the truth" to urge support for his war on Iraq.
WASHINGTON (AFP) - For the first time since the beginning of the war in Iraq, a solid majority of Americans believe the Bush administration either "stretched the truth" about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction or told outright lies, according to a new opinion survey.

The poll by the University of Maryland found that 52 percent of respondents said they believed President George W. Bush and his aides were "stretching the truth, but not making false statements" about Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's chemical, biological and nuclear programs.

Another 10 percent said US officials were presenting Congress, the American public and the international community "evidence they knew was false," indicated the survey which was made public Tuesday.

...Similarly, 56 percent of those polled believed the US government stretched the truth or made outright false statements about Hussein's ties to al-Qaeda.

Well, duh.

Only 32 percent still cling to the notion that the government was being "fully truthful" about Iraqi weapons. (If memory serves me right, this figure roughly corresponds to the proportion of hardcore Republican voters.)

I suspect this trend will change is some feeble discovery proves, for once, to have merit. Perhaps the President's repeated hyping of other discoveries ("We've found them") will prompte appropriate public skepticism, but it's vital that patriotic Americans not allow war supporters to define the question as "if any weapons are found, Bush was telling the truth." The question is, did Bush have the proof he said he did when he was urging the nation toward war. The question is, can he provide evidence, right now, for all of his statments. Considering that we've already looked where we thought we'd find them and come up empty, the answer, of course, is no.

(via Daily Kos)


liu ticked, rightly, over criticism

lucy liu
"Tell me again I should only play Chinese women, sucka!

Musashi has an interesting post over at Destroy All Monsters noting actress Lucy Liu's ire over people reportedly dissing her for playing a Japanese assassin in the upcoming Quentin Tarantino flick Kill Bill.
The pretty Charlie's Angels star fumes, "It's insane. Obviously I can't play a WASP girl or a Catholic or an Italian. And now I'm being criticised by some inside and outside the Asian community for putting on a kimono and playing a Japanese woman.

"Am I only supposed to play Chinese-American women? Absolutely not. So I just tell myself to keep moving forward and not be held back by those kinds of attitudes."

Irate Lucy adds, "I'm an actress, this is the way I look, so do you think I can handle the role or not? That's what matters."

Liu's irritation is well justified. Musashi follows up with a spot-on comment: "I am completely unable to understand why anyone would have a problem with Ms. Liu's role in Kill Bill. This is no different from a Caucasian actor of Irish descent playing, say, a German. Seems pretty obvious to me..."

And to me too. As I mention in the comment thread to that post, Chinese actors have been known to play Japanese roles in movies made in Hong Kong; a quick IMDb check of just one -- Bruce Lee's awesome Fist of Fury/The Chinese Connection -- includes both the redoubtable Lam Ching-Ying (Mr. Vampire) and a young (and uncredited) Jackie Chan as Japanese fighters, and at least one Chinese actor in a Japanese role, although the film's main Japanese baddies are indeed played by Japanese actors.

As Musashi noted, it's as ridiculous to suggest Ms. Liu shouldn't play a Japanese woman as to imagine that Marlon Brando -- whom I assume isn't Polish -- shouldn't have played Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.

  xTuesday, July 01, 2003

cantopop gallery of the day

francoise yip
francoise yip
francoise yip

Here's a small gallery devoted to the ultra-hot actress Francoise Yip (Rumble in the Bronx, Black Mask).

There's another gallery here; a profile of the actress here; a filmography at; and a few more pics here).

Here are some images from her appearance on Earth: Final Contact. And here's a cool little site that shows you how to write her name in Chinese ideograms!


epa, again, suppresses politically unfavorable data

Remember the recent flap involving the EPA excising from a report information about global warming that undercuts the President's policies? Hot on its heels comes this tale of the agency attempting to put a lid on its own analysis showing that a Senate air-pollution proposal would be more effective in curbing pollutants than the President's "Clear Skies" initiative.
The Environmental Protection Agency for months has withheld key findings of its analysis showing that a Senate plan to combat air pollution would be more effective in reducing harmful pollutants -- and only marginally more expensive -- than would President Bush's Clear Skies initiative for power plant emissions.

The Clear Skies proposal is designed to reduce power plant emissions over the next 20 years. A centerpiece of Bush's environmental policy, its passage could burnish his 2004 reelection credentials. But the president's plan does not address carbon dioxide emissions, which many scientists consider an important greenhouse gas that may contribute to the Earth's warming.

Bush's stand has drawn sharp criticism on several fronts, and a bipartisan group of senators has proposed an alternative bill that would limit carbon dioxide emissions. Unreleased information from an EPA internal analysis concludes that the competing bill would provide health benefits substantially superior to those envisioned under Clear Skies.

Because leaked copies of the analysis have circulated among interest groups, some environmentalists have criticized the EPA for not releasing all of it. Withholding some of the findings is "a real outrage," said David G. Hawkins, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate Center and a former assistant EPA administrator. "They're playing dodge ball with Congress to push the [Clear Skies] bill."

EPA Associate Administrator Edward D. Krenik, however, said the agency has released pertinent information [Ed: "Pertinent information"?] where it was needed. Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), author of the competing bill, has been given "all the information that we garnered from his bill" regarding carbon dioxide and three other pollutants, Krenik said. "He has all the information."

A PowerPoint presentation on Carper's bill prepared last fall by the EPA for Jeffrey R. Holmstead, assistant administrator for air and radiation, had more information than Carper was given months later. The Washington Post examined a leaked copy of the presentation.

EPA gave Carper information showing that his bill would cut power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury earlier and by larger amounts than would the president's bill. Not provided to Carper, however, was the conclusion that these cuts could be achieved while increasing electricity prices by two-tenths of a cent per kilowatt hour more than the Clear Skies initiative would require. [Ed: Emphasis added. "Pertinent information," indeed!]

...The administration and its industry allies are lobbying aggressively on behalf of Clear Skies, and today EPA plans to release an updated estimate of its costs and benefits. The administration has lined up support from a range of government and labor groups, but manufacturers and the utility industry are far from united. James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said Clear Skies "is very important for the president, and you will see a very strong push."

The administration has refused to consider signing a power plant emissions bill with carbon dioxide caps, and therefore opposes Carper's bill and a version championed by Sen. James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.).

But, darn it, the Senate proposal doesn't advance the President's agenda of friendliness to the energy industry! And so, the Administration attempts to squelch information so that Bush can once again follow his pattern of advancing an appealingly named program that does little it's ostensibly intended for while benefiting Bush's political cronies. Nice.

By the way, ol' straight-shooter Bush strikes again:
Bush disavowed a campaign pledge to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, saying such regulations would hurt the economy and consumers by proving too costly to the power industry.

Campaign 2004 ought to be a cakewalk; simply compare what Bush said to what he did. "Credibility gap" doesn't begin to cover it.


bush mendacity watch

WaPo reporter Dana Milbank catches Bush in a couple of whoppers, including a recent claim that the current economic doldrums are all Clinton's fault.
"Two-and-a-half years ago, we inherited an economy in recession," he told donors at a Bush-Cheney '04 reception yesterday in Miami. He has raised the same accusation in fundraising appearances since mid-June in Washington, Georgia, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

It's a good applause line for a crowd of red-meat political supporters. The trouble is it's a case of what the president has called, in another context, revisionist history. The recession officially began in March of 2001 -- two months after Bush was sworn in -- according to the universally acknowledged arbiter of such things, the National Bureau of Economic Research. And the president, at other times, has said so himself.

The bad news came on Nov. 26, 2001. The NBER, led by an informal economic adviser to Bush, Martin Feldstein, pronounced that economic activity peaked in March 2001, "a determination that the expansion that began in March 1991 ended in March 2001 and a recession began."

At the time, Bush accepted the verdict with perfect accuracy. "This week, the official announcement came that our economy has been in recession since March," he said in his radio address the next weekend. "And unfortunately, to a lot of Americans, that news comes as no surprise. Many have lost jobs or seen their hours cut. Many have seen friends or family laid off. The long economic expansion that started 10 years ago, in 1991, began to slow last year. Many economists warned me when I took office that a recession was beginning, so we took quick action."

Until the NBER's official pronouncement, Bush had avoided the "R" word. He spoke earlier in 2001 of an "economic slowdown" as administration officials noted, correctly, that the pace of economic growth began to slow (but not contract) in 2000, under Clinton's watch. "In terms of how you call it, what the numbers look like, we've got statisticians who will be crunching the numbers and let us know exactly where we stand," Bush said in October 2001. "But we don't need numbers to tell us people are hurting."

Then, last summer, Bush revised his history of when the recession began. Beginning in August 2002, he began to say that "we did, in fact, inherit an economic recession." Addressing Republican governors in September, he declared: "I want you all to remember that when Dick Cheney and I got sworn in, the country was in a recession." In May of this year, Bush even gave the recession an official starting date three weeks before he took office, saying "our nation went into a recession, starting January 1 of 2001."

The source of this revision apparently was a July 2002 report by Bush's Commerce Department that the economy had contracted in the first quarter of 2001 by 0.6 percent. But that was a quarterly figure that gave no indication when in the quarter the economy turned south. Still, Bush used that to revise the NBER definition so that the economy was in recession "the minute I got sworn in" on Jan. 20.

Feldstein's NBER, which earlier said it gives "relatively little weight" to the quarterly growth figures from Commerce, is not joining in the revision. Two weeks ago, it issued an updated report sticking by its assessment that the recession began in March 2001.

Of course, taking responsibility for the economic doldrums occurring on his watch might lead to a perception that Bush's magic-bullet tax cuts aren't working their promised wonders.

Meanwhile, Milbank catches for the principled Mr. Bush backing away from earlier public comments on the gay rights issue, which is likely to prove a wedge with his GOP base:
Speaking of moving targets, the White House executed some fancy footwork when the Supreme Court last week issued rulings striking down a Texas law forbidding sodomy and upholding the University of Michigan law school's affirmative action program.

On the sodomy case, Bush's press secretary, Ari Fleischer, has labored to distance the administration from the Texas case. "The administration did not file a brief in this case, unlike in the Michigan case, and this is now a state matter," Fleischer said when asked for Bush's opinion on whether gay men have the legal right to sexual relations in private. When Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) caused a furor by speaking out on the sodomy case in April, Fleischer had said, "We also have no comment on anything that involves any one person's interpretation of the legalities of an issue that may be considered before the Court."

In fact, Bush has expressed a firm opinion on the Texas sodomy law that the court ruled unconstitutional. He supported it. Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights group, dug up an article from the Austin American-Statesman of Jan. 22, 1994, titled "Bush promises to veto attempts to remove sodomy law." The newspaper reported:

"Gubernatorial candidate George W. Bush on Friday promised he would veto any attempt by the Texas Legislature to remove from the state penal code a controversial statute outlawing homosexual sodomy. Bush, a Republican, was asked about the sodomy statute shortly after speaking to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Ladies Auxiliary.

" 'I think it's a symbolic gesture of traditional values,' he said."

I don't see why the principled Mr Bush isn't willing to display that straghtforward forthrightness he's supposed to have. Oh, wait, yes I do: Karl Rove.


rumsfeld: iraq not a guerilla war

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld denied yesterday that the occupation forces were facing a guerilla war in Iraq. Unfortunately, one of the reporters present quoted the Pentagon's own definition at him:
Q: According to the Pentagon's own definition --

Rumsfeld: I could die that I didn't look it up!

Q: -- military and paramilitary operations conducted in enemy- held or hostile territory by a regular -- (Inaudible.) -- indigenous forces. This seems to fit a lot of what's going on in Iraq.

Rumsfeld: It really doesn't. (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld didn't elaborate on exactly how the situation in Iraq "really doesn't" look like a guerilla war, however.

But a recent poll shows that while Rumsfeld is in "Five O'Clock Follies" mode, the public is starting to figure out that the Administration's prosises about a quick and easy dust-up in Iraq were about as good as any of the Administration's other promises -- sweet sounding but somewhat, ah, divorced from reality.
Only 56 percent of Americans think current U.S.-coalition efforts as going well, according to a new CNN/USA Today Gallup poll. That is much lower than the 70 percent in late May and the 86 percent in early May who thought things were going well.

The poll of 1,003 adult Americans, which was conducted last week, has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.

U.S. troops in Iraq have been conducting raids north of Baghdad since Sunday in a sweep known as "Operation Sidewinder." The raids are the latest effort to stop hit-and-run attacks that have killed 23 Americans and six British soldiers since President Bush declared the end of major combat May 1.

Forty-nine percent of respondents are not confident that the United States can stop such attacks on U.S. forces, but three-quarters believe the number of combat deaths since April were to be expected given the dangers in Iraq.

The article has some interesting graphic that suggests the continued intractability of the Iraqi situation, and the continuing casualties among our fighting forces are leading the public to no longer share Rumsfeld's optimism.


chop socky flick post of the day

...well, once again, not really, but a headline for which the screenplay simply writes itself: Black Belt Priest to Watch Indian Shrine
NEW DELHI, India - Armed guards are forbidden inside one of India's most revered religious shrines. So authorities want to assign its security to a trusted insider: a Hindu priest with a black belt in karate.

K. Seshadri, 42, has been asked by officials at the Venkateswara temple in the southern city of Tirupati to teach younger priests to defend themselves and the temple from terrorists and other attackers, The Hindustan Times reported Tuesday.

The temple, located in Andhra Pradesh state, is visited each day by some 30,000 devotees who worship the Hindu god Venkateswara.

The state government's security adviser asked Seshadri to train the young priests, who will form an inner ring of protection around the idol, Seshadri said.

"Since regular security guards can't enter" the inner sanctum, then priests "trained in karate would be ideal substitutes," Seshadri was quoted as saying. "They will be in a better position to prevent any intruders from gaining access to the idol or its proximity."

The Venkateswara temple is reputed to be the world's richest Hindu temple. It gets so many donations that workers use a conveyor belt to transfer the cash, jewels and other offerings to a separate storage building.

Security has been raised at Hindu temples after a terrorist attack at the Swaminarayan Temple in the western Gujarat state last September by suspected Islamic militants, in which 32 people were killed.

Seshadri, a first dan black belt, plans a five-day training session every month. However, the Tirupati administration hasn't promised him a permanent job if he leaves his current job as a priest at another temple in southern India.

Seshadri practices each day, aiming for the second degree black belt, and is training his son and daughter as well.

(cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)


dvd delight

I added six more DVDs to my collection in the past couple of days. Over the weekend, I bought three flicks at a yard sale -- unopened, yet! -- for three clams each: The pleasing graphic novel adaptation The Rocketeer, and cheapo editions of the classic screwball comedy My Man Godfrey and Beneath the 12-Mile Reef, a film I haven't seen.

Yesterday I received my first paychecks from the new job (w00t), and after depositing them, treated myself to a little celebration. I picked up a DVD of the first 11 Speed Racer episodes, The Full Monty, and the insanely great 1980 Peter O'Toole flick The Stunt Man.

Last night, I sat down to watch some Speed Racer for the first time since I was much, much younger...and proved it by falling asleep on the couch during the second episode. Sigh. I'll have a review at Destroy All Monsters soon, but a couple of quick first impressions: I remember Speed Racer cartoons as being somewhat poorly animated, but I had no idea. It's barely above Hanna-Barbera standards (bear in mind that I stll adore many of H-B's shows, like Jonny Quest). Of course, the cheesy animation is part of its charm, as far as I'm concerned. The show also seems to have set a long-lasting mode for dubbing style; the cadences the actors use to match the animation of various speakers -- and the generally rapid-fire pace of dialog needed to squeeze as much plot as possible into 20-plus minutes -- gives even the English dub a distinctly Japanese flavor. Finally, the DVD bonuses are a rich source of information and trivia; there's even a neat feature that lets viewers play the theme song and have its lyrics displayed on the TV screen.


national do-not-call list swells to 10 million

The national do-not-call list, designed to prevent unwanted telemarketing calls, that went online last week has grown to include more than 10 million names.

Actually, I haven't signed up yet, and I doubt I will after all, simply because Indiana's own do-not-call list has been so effective. Still, I applaud this welcome step to protect Americans from intrusive and unwanted sales pitches.


buddy hackett r.i.p.

Planet Swank is saddened to note the passing of veteran comedian Buddy Hackett. The comic starred in such favorite films as It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World and The Love Bug.

  xMonday, June 30, 2003

wmd watch

I know lots of other bloggers have noted the astonishing lede of this Time article, but it's too noteworthy not to mention here as well.
Meeting last month at a sweltering U.S. base outside Doha, Qatar, with his top Iraq commanders, President Bush skipped quickly past the niceties and went straight to his chief political obsession: Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Turning to his Baghdad proconsul, Paul Bremer, Bush asked, "Are you in charge of finding WMD?" Bremer said no, he was not. Bush then put the same question to his military commander, General Tommy Franks. But Franks said it wasn't his job either. A little exasperated, Bush asked, So who is in charge of finding WMD? After aides conferred for a moment, someone volunteered the name of Stephen Cambone, a little-known deputy to Donald Rumsfeld, back in Washington. Pause. "Who?" Bush asked.

Time has some questions of its own. Go read the whole thing.



My friend Musashi gave me some great news via email several days ago, and now that he's made it public, I want to offer my warmest congratulations to Musashi and his wife on the anticipated arrival of their first child!


summer link of the day

We're making plans to take The Girls to their first amusement park over the July 4 weekend (Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom in my home town of Louisville). We'll also attend the Indiana State Fair in August; we've taken The Girls to that and they enjoy all the sights and rides.

I usually steer away from this sort of thing, but if you're so inclined, RetroCrush offers some helpful advice on how to beat those carnie games you find at amusement parks and fair midways.


it seems...

#19 Mimura
"It's time we started our own struggle."
- #19 Mimura

Which Battle Royale Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

I watched Battle Royale again over the weekend; my couple of mentions last week gave me a hankering to see it again. I'm pleased how well the film holds up under repeated viewing; driector Kinji Fukasaku has made an excellent, if somewhat harrowing, film.


busy day

In addition to my normal duties, I have several other projects going on today, so posting may be light today and possibly tomorrow. There's still a lot of stuff from last week, so browse away.

  xSunday, June 29, 2003

zombie movie update

This CBS News story helpfully informs us that zombie movies -- such as the recently released 28 Days Later, and, oh, maybe Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead -- have political/sociological undertones. Thanks for the insight, guys!

(via FARK)


two on the war

CalPundit and Tacitus seem to agree that the situation in Iraq doesn't look entirely favorable to the US at this point in time.


katherine hepburn r.i.p

At the close of a very pleasant weekend, I get online to catch up on a little blogging. How sad to note first of all the passing of a great actress. Katherine Hepburn died today at the age of 96 (full coverage and links to more obits here). I have long enjoyed her work in films from The Philadelphia Story to The Desk Set to The African Queen to Rooster Cogburn. For a long time, I had a black and white postcard of a young and very leggy Hepburn pinned on the wall next to my desk. She was an amazingly talented and classy lady, and she'll be missed.

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