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  xSaturday, July 12, 2003

uranium fib update

As has been noted elsewhere, CIA director George Tenet has accepted responsibility for the President making certain false claims in the State of the Union Address; Bush now considers the matter closed, while continuing to express confidence in the Tenet.

So let's recap here -- Tenet accepts responsibility for an egregious blunder that created a false impression about Iraq's threat, but Bush won't hold him accountable for it. Of course, the "blunder" helped sell the American people into accepting Bush's fishy justifications...

Look at this spin right there in the lede:
President Bush said Saturday he had confidence in CIA Director George Tenet despite his agency's failure to warn Bush against making allegations about Iraq's nuclear weapons program later found false. [emphasis added]

What terrible reportage. As has been noted exhaustively, the problem isn't that Bush made claims in the SOTU that were later found false -- well, it is, but after all, those would be most of his claims about Iraq -- but rather that the Niger uranium claim was known by the Administration at the time to be false. It'd be nice if the so-called "liberal media" would get that bit right.

CalPundit believes that this particular issue -- but not the wider question of Bush's mendacity -- is dead now, and unfortunately I tend to agree. Josh Marshall and Eschaton (scroll up from there) rightly point out that Tenet's admission raises more questions than it answers. Pandagon skewers the "it was just one sentence" defense. Mary at The Left Coaster has a timeline of the story that shows how Tenet taking the bullet doesn't quite cover Bush. And even if this one matter is cleared up, it doesn't disrupt Bush's pattern of deception leading up to the war.

Still, I think the crucial development was the Bush Administration's being forced by a for-once alert press into admitting that its claims were bogus. There's lots more there, and the first chink in Bush's armor has appeared. And the voters appear to be noticing thay the reality of Bush's policies is not quite what he promises. It remains to be seen whether others -- Democrats, the press, and the few remaining principled conservatives -- are willing to hold the Integrity President accountable.

  xFriday, July 11, 2003

classic sneaker link of the day

chuck taylor all-stars

The announced buyout of Converse by Nike inspired a MetaFilter thread devoted to my all-time favorite sneaker, the Chuck Taylor All-Star, complete with plenty of nifty links.


cosplay link of the day

gothic lolita cosplay

PhotoJapan hosts a gallery of cosplay girls sporting the Gothic Lolita style I mentioned the other day.


jpop gallery of the day

megumi asakura
megumi asakura

My referral logs indicate that, once again, someone found this site searching for images of jpop model Megumi Asakura. Here's a SFW gallery of Ms. Asakura modeling swimsuites and sera-fuku school uniforms. Kawaii!


iraq uranium falsehood roundup seems that despite its efforts to minimize notice by releasing its admission that the Iraq/Niger/uranium claim in the State of the Union address was bogus on the eve of Bush's departure to Africa, the first-ever admission is proving the thin edge of the wedge, and the realization that Bush was less than truthful in his selling of his coveted war on Iraq had definitely developed legs.

I'm busy today, so here are some vital links.

The Washington Post has the Bush Administration and the CIA pointing fingers at each other.

Calpundit comments extensively on the sjubject; start here and scroll down.

An alert reader of Oliver Willis catches Condi Rice in a lie.

Pandagon has a pretty good summary of events, is less than impressed with Republican damage-control spin, and has much more commentary as well.

Talking Points Memo has been all over this story too; start here and...oh, heck, read it all.

In the Washington Post, E. J. Dionne notes that Bush is now playing defense on more than just Iraq.

Let's be serious. Can anyone realistically claim that there is, or was, evidence to support the notion that Iraq posed such an imminent threat to the US that it needed to be attacked immediately, before Bush's re-election campaign Saddam gave weapons to al Qaeda? Please.

And I, for one, have lost patience with governments claiming. Both Bush and Blair need to realize that they have little credibility, and less as events unfold.


playground post of the day

Byzantium's Shores has an excellent rant dissenting from a CBS News story that says modern playgrounds are too safety-oriented to be any fun.

I echo Jaquandor's rejection of that premise. Growing up near Central Park in Louisville, Kentucky, my brother, sister, friends and myself played on a large wooden playground set, complete with tire swing (since dismantled), monkey bars and rusting, exposed bolts. The big wooden playset -- it's still there -- made an excellent play fort, and we had loads of fun, but it was hardly the safest structure in the world. (We were also forunate in that kids got more-or-less free run of the Shakespeare in the Park set during the off-season; with its multiple levels, balconies, and rough plywood construction, it's a miracle none of us broke a limb playing on that sucker).

Today, near the old wooden playground, there's one of those modern, plastic-and-steel structures. Also, the nearby University of Louisville has an enormous public playground with several massive structures, and of course, we live near a couple of parks offering more of the same. Frankly, The Girls and I just love them. They're actually very well designed -- they give plenty of opportunities for climbing, sliding, crawling through tunnels, and exercising gross motor skills. And since they're modular, they offer lots of different spaces for kids to carry their short attention spans around.

What I found interesting about the article is that, apparently, despite advances in design and the replacement of asphalt with rubber surfaces made, if memory serves me right, from recycled tires, injuries have not really subsided all that much. But that isn't too surprising, after all -- on the one hand, playgrounds are intended for kids to practice their motor skills, which means mishaps will happen, and their very nature means that if kids want to figure a way to fall off of it, they will.

By the way, Jaquandor reports a dearth of freelance income at present. I owe Jaquandor an email with some tips, which I'll send along later today; if either of my readers know of any freelance writing or editing opportunities, please send word over there as well.


astronomy link of the day

Scientists have discovered an ancient, gigantic planet orbiting a white dwarf star. The revelation of the planet, much older than any thought to have existed, may cause scientists to revise their theories of cosmic evolution.
About 800 times more massive than Earth, the planet was born around a yellow, sun-like star about 13 billion years ago. That is about 9 billion years earlier than any planet previously detected and a mere billion years after the big bang that spawned all space and time -- a time, most astronomers believe, when the universe had yet to create the raw material needed to make planets, according to researchers who revealed their findings yesterday.

The discovery could change theories about how easily nature makes planets from even the skimpiest of raw materials, and about the abundance of planets -- including some that might harbor life -- thriving unexpectedly in odd corners of the cosmos, astronomers said.

"What we think we've found is an example of the first generation of planets formed in the universe," said Steinn Sigurdsson of Pennsylvania State University, a member of the observing team. "We think this planet formed with its star 12.713 billion years ago, when the [Milky Way] galaxy was . . . just in the process of forming."

For a decade, the identity of this object had been an astronomical mystery. The observing team solved it by combining the sharp vision of the Hubble Space Telescope with other instruments and techniques, plus many years of inventive detective work. The results were announced at a NASA headquarters news conference yesterday and in today's issue of the journal Science.

Confirmation that the object is a planet "is a stunning revelation," said Alan P. Boss of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, an expert on the formation of planetary systems who is not a member of the observing team. "This means that 13 billion years ago, life could have arisen and then died out," he said. "This has immense implications."

...Less than a decade ago, astronomers were still struggling to confirm the first planet detected beyond the family of the sun. Now, the population of known extrasolar planets exceeds 100. But the latest addition breaks the mold in several ways, Boss said.

Today, the planet orbits an odd couple made up of a cold, collapsed star called a white dwarf and an even more bizarre companion known as a pulsar, which spins on its axis almost 100 times a second. The newfound planet is the only one known to orbit such a double star system.

This eccentric trio resides at the core of the ancient globular star cluster M4, about 5,600 light-years from Earth in the direction of the summer constellation Scorpius. That cluster is visible in binoculars as a fuzzy white smudge very near the bright star Antares.

The planet's habitat is as noteworthy as its longevity, astronomers said. The cluster was the site of a furious firestorm of star birth in its early history, and the young planet must have survived blistering ultraviolet radiation, the shockwaves of stellar cataclysms known as supernovas and other mayhem.



anime link of the day

kare kano

I just discovered Anime News Network, a handy resource for news, reviews, and information about Japanese animation, through a sponsored link at MegaTokyo.

Random anime image (from the opening of Kare Kano/His And Her Circumstances) courtesy Google's image search function.


bush action not so bad after all

Late last year, I noted with some umbrage the Bush Administration's reinstatement of a policy of giving bonuses to political appointees; a practice suspended by the Clinton Administration over ethical concerns (irony just drips like honey from that sentence, doesn't it?).

I'm pleased to learn in this morning's Washington Post that the figures are in, and predictions of large-scale politcal patronage payoffs seem not to have materialized this time.
The Bush administration doled out $1.44 million in bonuses to 470 political appointees last year, according to an Office of Personnel Management report.

The White House's decision last year to end an eight-year ban on such cash awards imposed by the Clinton administration touched off a fury of criticism in December from Democrats, unions and some policy experts who said the move slighted ordinary federal employees and encouraged political favoritism.

The administration defended the practice as a just means of rewarding exceptional performance, noting that career federal employees have long been eligible for similar bonuses. Officials earlier described the awards as a "drop in the bucket" within an overall federal civilian payroll of $100 billion.

...The cash awards went to about 19 percent of the 2,478 political appointees who ranked below those confirmed by the Senate and therefore were eligible for the bonuses. The average award of $3,064 represented a little more than 3 percent of the average salary of $99,583 earned by eligible appointees.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) obtained the bonus report from OPM Director Kay Coles James after an eight-month wait, and provided a copy yesterday to The Washington Post. The report did not name the appointees who received the bonuses.

Not everyone is happy with the policy, of course; the possibility of ethical abuses is still very real, for example. And there's this interesting tidbit.
The 2002 bonuses have come at a time when the government's 2 million civilian employees have been reeling from administration moves to limit pay increases, open up more government jobs to bidding from private contractors and rewrite personnel rules at the Defense and Homeland Security departments.

"It's typical of the Bush administration to reward the elite and ignore working Americans," said Diane Witiak, a spokeswoman for the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union. "This is reflected in his tax cuts and his privatization policies that favor his big corporate friends, and in his treatment of government workers. He says he cares about federal employees, he respects them and they're doing a good job. But then he slams them every time."

Realizations that Bush says one thing while ppursuing policies that have an opposite effect are, of course, becoming increasingly common. But frankly, as long as matters remain at this level, I'm inclined to give the Bush Administration a pass on this one. This Administration's fiscal mismanagement is too vast to be affected by a million bucks or two. Besides, there are bigger fish to catch.

While this iteration of the policy seems relatively benign, however, the fact that it was reinstated on the Q.T. instills little confidence in the Bush Administration's good intentions. And then there's that eight-month wait... This Administration's obsession with secrecy and avoidance of accontability makes it hard for skeptics to assume that Bush and company are acting in the nation's best interests. I'll be following developments with interest.

  xThursday, July 10, 2003

no wonder they want it suppressed

The Bush administration's resistance to the 9/11 commission is beginning to make more sense. This Miami Herald story indicates the report will contain "explosive" revelations, including more details of the warnings the Bush Administration received prior to the attacks.
The report will show that top Bush administration officials were warned in the summer of 2001 that the al Qaeda terrorist network had plans to hijack aircraft and launch a ``spectacular attack.''

Hill would not discuss details of the report, but said it will contain ''new information'' about revelations made last year, when the joint House-Senate investigation held nine public hearings and 13 closed sessions.

The final report was completed in December. Since then a working group of Bush administration intelligence officials has ''scrubbed'' the report, objecting to additional public disclosures.

I've long been irked at conservatives' resistance to acknowledging Bush's spectacularly obvious failure to protect the nation on 9/11. It's long been public knowledge that Condoleeza Rice warned Bush scarcely a month before that al Qaeda planned a hijacking of a US airecraft, and yet Bush did nothing apparent. (The defense is usually, "What could he have done?" to which my basic response is, "It's his job, not mine, to figure that out.") And most of the Administration's defense has been a variation on the misleading statement "we didn't know the planes would be used as missiles!" (Memo to the geniuses in the Administration: skyjacking is bad and should be prevented no matter what, even if the terrorists are so unkind as to not send an engraved invitation with the date and time.) But if these indactions are correct, Bush's incompetence is much worse than even I'd amagined, and blows the Administration's feeble excuses right out of the water.

So now the question is, will the American public -- let alone conservatives -- hold Bush accountable for his failure in his duty to defend this nation?

At the very freakin' least, isn't it high time we put to rest this faith in a President's willingness to "delegate"? It's abundantly clear by now that this hands-off management style simultaneously creates foul-up after foul-up while insulating the President from responsibility.

Oh, wait, never mind...I can see now why the GOP likes it. Contemptible.

(via Eschaton, where one of the comments points out that these revelations are in the redacted version of the report, no less.)


asian cell phone mischief roundup

Over at Destroy All Monsters, Musashi and I have taken note of mischief making by miscreants using cell phones, from stalking schoolgirls to sneaking upskirt photos to sharing photos of outfits and hairdos in fashion magazines. This morning, I posted there a link to an AP article that gives a pretty good roundup of the situation to an American audience as camera-equipped phones are beginning to make their debut.
It may have been inevitable. Now that cell phones with little digital cameras have spread throughout Asia, so have new brands of misbehavior.

..."The problem with a new technology is that society has yet to come up with a common understanding about appropriate behavior," said Mizuko Ito, an expert on mobile phone culture at Keio University in Tokyo. "No matter what the technology, there'll always be people who don't mind their manners."

While camera phones have been broadly available for only a few months in the United States, more than 25 million of the devices are out on the streets of Japan, which leads the world in fancy mobile phones.

In nearby South Korea, where more than 3 million cell phones equipped with cameras are believed to be in circulation, Samsung Electronics is banning their use in its semiconductor and research facilities, hoping to stave off industrial espionage.

Samsung, a leading maker of cell phones, is taking a low-tech approach - requiring employees and visitors to stick tape over the handset's camera lens.

"Digital shoplifting" is another concern.

Japan's magazine publishers association is mailing out 34,000 posters to bookstores asking patrons not to use camera phone to shoot pages from periodicals in lieu of buying them.

Simply taking pictures of magazines on store shelves generally does not constitute copyright violation under Japanese law if it's only for individual consumption and not distributed to others.

But bookstores say it is devastating sales.

"Times are tough already. And this kind of problem has to come falling from the sky," says Makoto Niikura, owner of the Yakumodo book store in Tokyo, which has put up a poster that says: "Magazine lovers watch their manners."

...A camera phone starts from virtually free for those rendering blurry photos to $300 models that offer digital-camera-quality images, albeit at tiny sizes.

It's still impossible to read an entire magazine page in a picture shot from a phone, even if the image is relayed to a personal computer. But photographing a restaurant address, information about job openings, a recipe or pop star's photo are well within the technology's range.

...Most people use the camera-phones for harmless things like jazzing up e-mail with snapshots. But perverse uses are cropping up.

Around Asia, fears are rising about photos being surreptitiously taken in swimming pools and locker rooms. Cell phones have already been declared off-limits by Japanese public bath houses.

Japanese police say they have apprehended people using camera phones to take photos up the skirts of unsuspecting women in crowded trains and stores. One culprit was fined $4,200.

In China, a teen-ager was raped by a man who photographed her nude with a camera-phone and threatened to disseminate the pictures, police said. One woman was sued for allegedly taking camera-phone pictures of another woman while she was in the bathroom and transmitting them to acquaintances.

Japan's camera phones are designed to set off an electronic ring when the shutter is pressed, warning everyone nearby that a photograph is being taken. But the alarm can be muffled by placing a hand or piece of cloth over the speakers, police say.

Then again, camera phones can enhance the safety of people in trouble.

In Yokohama, Japan, an 18-year-old female store clerk used her camera phone to take a photo of a 38-year-old man who was fondling her on a commuter train. She called police during the train ride and presented her phone shots as evidence. The man was arrested at the next stop.

I think it's telling that in Japan, shopkeepers counter customers sharing photos of magazines with an appeal to courtesy, not a threat of legal action.


sci-fi movie gallery of the day

science fiction movie poster

Check out this c00L gallery of science fiction movie posters from several nations. (Pictured: A poster for the Italian sci-fi film War of the Robots, the DVD of which I picked up the other day.)

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


unpemployment rises again

Economists were surprised at this week's rise in the unemployment rate.
More American workers signed up for unemployment benefits last week, fresh evidence that businesses are keeping work forces lean and playing it safe until the economy shows clear signs of improvement.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that for the work week ending July 5, new claims filed for unemployment insurance rose by a seasonally adjusted 5,000 to 439,000, the highest level since the week ending May 31.

The increase surprised economists who were forecasting a decline in jobless claims.

For 21 weeks in a row, the level of claims has been above the 400,000 mark, a level associated with a sluggish job market.

The more stable-four week moving average of claims, which smooths out weekly fluctuations, edged up by 1,000 to 426,750 last week, representing the highest level since June 21.

The number of out-of-work Americans continuing to draw jobless benefits jumped by 87,000 to 3.8 million for the work week ending June 28, the most recent period for which that information is available. That represented the highest level since Feb. 26, 1983, and suggested that not a lot of hiring is taking place.

Last week the government reported that the nation's unemployment rate climbed to 6.4 percent in June, a nine-year high, raising new questions about whether the economy would stage a material revival in the second half of this year as many economists hope.

Businesses, wanting profits to improve and facing lackluster customer demand, have been reluctant to crank up capital spending and hiring, the main factors hampering the economy's ability to get back to full economic speed. [Emphasis added]

To help nudge the economic recovery along, the Federal Reserve cut a key short-term interest rate on June 25 by one-quarter percentage point to 1 percent, a 45-year low. The hope is that lower borrowing costs will motivate consumers and businesses to boost spending and investment, which would strengthen economic growth.

Many economists believe the Fed will leave rates at that low level through the rest of the year, unless the economy were to take an unexpected turn for the worse. Under that remote scenario, another rate cut would probably be ordered by the Fed, analysts say.

While last week's disappointing unemployment news may have dimmed some economists' calls for a second half rebound, it didn't derail such forecasts.

With a fresh round of federal tax cuts now beginning to kick in, some economists are still hopeful that the economy will see stronger growth rates in the current quarter and the fourth quarter of this year. Those economists are forecasting economic growth in the second half of this year in the range of a 3.5 percent to 4 percent rate.

Economists say that the economy, which grew at a tepid 1.4 percent in the first three months of this year, needs to shift into a higher rate of at least 3 percent for companies to really begin to step up hiring.

I'm curious as to how even the most ardent of Bush's supporters can explain how that prospect is at all likely under his so-called "leadership."

Notice, by the way, that the line citing unemployment's stobborn persistence over the 400,000 mark is back. 21 weeks in a row of a sluggish job market under Bush's watch. Wow. Notice, too, the emphasis that this is a demand-side recession for which supply side economics are even more useless than usual, and the implication that the monetary policy remedy is just about spent. Swell.

(via Eschaton)

Update: Check out this excellent post at P.L.A. in which Dwight Meredith defends his analysis that job growth has been higher under every Democratic President than under any Republican (Bush II, of course, is in the negative). Key quote: "It is the job of Presidents to overcome external problems, not use them as excuses for poor performance."

Under Bush, we get both poor perfromance and excuses.


irony watch

Actually, Bush deserves props for his Africa visit, well-deserved criticism over his other policies notwithstanding. However, it's juicy that the day Bush delivers a speech condemning slavery, many of the island's residents were rounded up and herded off to a sport stadium.
N'diaye and other residents of Goree, site of a famous slave trading station, said they had been taken to a football ground on the other side of the quaint island at 6 a.m. and told to wait there until Bush had departed, around midday.

Bush came to Goree to tour the red-brick Slave House, where Africans were kept in shackles before being shipped across a perilous sea to a lifetime of servitude.

He then gave an eloquent speech about the horrors of slavery, standing at a podium under a sizzling sun near a red-stone museum, topped by cannon pointing out to the sea.

The cooped-up residents were not impressed.

"It's slavery all over again," fumed one father-of-four, who did not want to give his name. "It's humiliating. The island was deserted."

White House officials said the decision to remove the locals was taken by Senegalese authorities. But there was no doubt who the residents blamed.

"We never want to see him come here again," said N'diaye, hiking her loose gown onto her shoulders with a frown.

As the sun rose over Goree before Bush's arrival, the only people to be seen on the main beach were U.S. officials and secret service agents. Frogmen swam through the shallows and hoisted themselves up to peer into brightly painted pirogues.

..."We understand that you have to have security measures, since September 11, but to dump us in another place...? We had to leave at 6 a.m. I didn't have time to bathe, and the bread did not arrive," the father-of-four said.

"We were shut up like sheep," said 15-year-old Mamadou.

Many residents compared Bush's hour-long visit unfavorably to the island tour by former President Bill Clinton in 1998.

"When Clinton came, he shook hands, people danced," said former Mayor Urbain Alexandre Diagne.

(via Eschaton)


rumsfeld admits iraq evidence hype

This is simply astonishing...Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday told a Senate committee that the Bush Administration had no new evidence of Saddam's weapons programs, but simply dusted off five-year-old intelligence from before Operation Desert Fox and passed it off as representative of Iraq's current capability.
On Capitol Hill today, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sought to diminish the importance of the debate over the intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs. "The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq's pursuit" of weapons of mass destruction, he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "We acted because we saw the evidence in a dramatic new light -- through the prism of our experience on 9-11."

Rumsfeld was repeatedly questioned about the administration's handling of the uranium-purchase claim, saying at one point that "I can't give you a good answer" as to why he was not told about intelligence analysts' doubts about the report.

"This is a significant piece of intelligence; it was relied on at the highest level, very publicly, very visibly, by the president and by you within two days of each other, right before the war; a very significant statement about seeking uranium in Africa," Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said. "At the same time, the intelligence community knew . . . in the depths of their agency that this was not true, it seems to me is absolutely startling."

In an extremely telling indication of our CEO president's managerial incompetence, Bush's spokesman said he doesn't plan to hold anyone accountable for the "error."
Bush's aides said today that the president was not angry to learn that the allegation about Iraq's efforts to buy uranium in Niger turned out to be false. They said he has accepted their account of how the line had come to be included in his State of the Union speech, and plans no recriminations.

"He understands intelligence and that as new information becomes available, we're going to continually update," Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, said. "He wanted an explanation and we told him how the process works and he accepted it.

And why not? After all, bogus or not, the quote helped Bush get his coveted war on.

Meanwhile, even as the Repsonsibility President dodges questions about his evidence for war, Bush asserted that he had "no doubt" about his decision to launch an unprecedented, unprovoked war (quotes from the WaPo story cited previously):
The president avoided directly answering questions about whether he regretted the inclusion of the claim and whether he still believed the charge -- that Iraq had sought a form of uranium from Niger -- to be true despite the acknowledgement from White House aides this week that the allegation was wrong and should not have been in the speech.

Bush dismissed the matter as "attempts to rewrite history." [Ed: That line must have played well with the focus groups, but it's a contemptable and brazen lie.]

"There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the world peace," Bush said at a news conference with South African President Thabo Mbeki on the second day of his five-day African tour. "And there's no doubt in my mind that the United States, along with allies and friends, did the right thing in removing him from power. And there's no doubt in my mind, when it's all said and done, the facts will show the world the truth."

There is no doubt in my mind that Bush had determined to oustr Saddam long ago, and simply sought whatever justifications he felt would sell the war. It isn't a question as to whether Bush had a "doubt in his mind;" it's a question of whether the Chief Executive took the nation to war on the basis of sound evidence or wishful thinking coupled with a strong desire to do so. There's no doubt in my mind that the latter was the case. But with Bush last point, at least, I agree.

Update: Amy Sullivan at Political Aims analyzes Bush's comments and finds -- quelle suprise! -- a pattern of deception.

  xWednesday, July 09, 2003

3rd id to pull out

Excellent news...the 3rd Infantry Division is to be withdrawn from Iraq by September. They've been slugging it out since the beginning and they've definitely earned a rest.

Update: Tacitus wonders, quite aptly, who's going to replace them?


gallery of the day

asian goth

Two words: Asian goth. Many of these partygoers appear to be sporting the Gothic Lolita style currently popular in Japan.


9/11 coverup watch

Not even the Wall Street Journal can swallow the Bush Administration's stonewalling of the 9/11 commission.
For the White House, there is little obvious benefit to handing over documents to a panel determined to look for vulnerabilities in the country's defenses. White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett says that the administration isn't reluctant to turn over documents, but he points out that some of the memos at issue are highly classified. "The president believes that the commission should carefully investigate the evidence and follow all the facts wherever they should lead," he says. "What the investigation or public record would show is that we took terrorism very seriously."

...and yet, the Bush Administration resists letting even the official commission investigate the record.
President Bush successfully opposed the creation of the commission for more than a year. He said publicly that an independent investigation would distract leaders from his newly-declared war on terrorism. After a joint House and Senate intelligence committee inquiry found that some information related to the Sept. 11 hijackers had been mishandled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency, Congressional support for a commission mushroomed. The White House then reversed itself and on Sept. 20, 2002, announced its "strong support" for a commission.

A fight then ensued over the bill creating the commission. Sen. McCain pushed for a 24-month deadline for the investigation. The White House demanded that the commission complete work in 12 months, and won a compromise for 18 months, according to Senate staffers.

Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey who serves as chairman of the commission, says that he intends to meet the deadline next May, although it will be difficult. He has ruled out asking for an extension because, he says, "the White House has made it known they don't want it to go into the election period." [Emphasis added]

There you go: National security -- supposedly an unassailable Republican strength -- is the Bush Administration's Achilles heel, and they know it. If they didn't feel the eventual report would be damaging, they would -- and should -- insist on its full and public airing.

National security, of course, is a legitimate concern, but so is accountability in government. Principled conservatives should join all loyal Americans in outrage over the Bush Administration's obsession with secrecy in general and failure to account for the failings surrounding 9/11 in particular.

Update: Via Oliver Willis, more on the Administration's hampering here and here.


meanwhile, in iraq...

The Washington Post reminds us today that, while fatal attacks on US troops in Iraq are not a daily occurrence, harrassment and interdiction attacks that don't necessarily result in casualties -- and therefore are not reported by the Pentagon -- are "routine."
Because the blast did not result in a death or serious injury, it was not mentioned to reporters by the U.S. military's public information office. But military officials acknowledged that such non-fatal attacks are more widespread than daily casualty figures reflect.

"It's becoming routine," a U.S. military official said. "It's no longer a few isolated incidents."

Such incidents are of growing concern to military commanders, who express fear that assailants will learn from their failures and improve their tactics. Military officials also are worried that a barrage of non-fatal attacks -- estimated by officials at more than a dozen a day in Baghdad -- will sap troop morale and cause people to reevaluate official pronouncements that armed resistance to the U.S. occupation is small and militarily insignificant.

It's extremely unlikely that these attacks will cease of their own accord. Therefore, one of two scenarios is likely: the American leadership succeeds with policies that are effective in reducing the attacks, or they fail, and the attacks continue and perhaps even escalate. From the evidence of the last two months, I am not confident in the ability of the Bush Administration to deal with this long-foreseen problem, and therefore I fear for our soldiers.

And as the Christian Science Monitor points out, the atmosphere of hostility and fear takes its toll on our soldiers even if they manage to avoid getting shot.
On his first weekend home from Iraq, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Gilmartin was driving down a sunny highway in Kissimee, Fla., when something suddenly felt very wrong.

In a panic, Sergeant Gilmartin stepped on the brakes of his black Dodge Dakota pickup, jumped out in the middle of the six-lane road and started searching around the truck. Then it registered: He was looking for his M-16 rifle.

"I had basically an anxiety attack," Gilmartin recalled. "I was missing something and needed to do something." A policeman who had served in Vietnam approached Gilmartin and took him to the side of the road to sit for a while.

M4d props to the police officer who helped Sgt. Gilmartin; such a situation could easily have escalated and resulted in violence, an arrest, or both. Once again, the trauma experienced by our forces was entirely predictable. I certainly hope this Administration supports the troops enough to take care of them once they come home. I wish I felt more confident in its ability, or even willingness, to do so.

(CSM link via Eschaton)

Update: Via South Knox Bubba, we learn that the Pentagon said Iraq's infrastructure woes are not the result of poor US planning, but those pesky saboteurs. Which, of course, begs the question of why the US doesn't seem to have a plan to deal with the saboteurs.


iraq op-ed two-fer

Here are a couple of comments on Bush's dishonesty pushing his coveted war on Iraq. The first is by David Corn in The Nation, who points out that demanding acocuntability from this Administration leads to the inescapable conclusion that Bush and crew misled the nation on the eve of war.
Before the war, there was little doubt that Hussein had a fancy for mass-killing weapons and was defying UN disarmament resolutions in part to maintain programs to develop such awful devices. Yet a desire for WMDs and a development program are not as threatening as the real things, and Bush and his colleagues said the intelligence showed--without question--Hussein was armed with biological and chemical weapons, was close to building a nuclear bomb, and was in league with Osama bin Laden. Kerr's comments offer further proof none of this was true.

...Perhaps Kerr is right and that US intelligence analysts had good cause--if not good evidence--to conclude that Hussein was still on the prowl for WMDs. A cynic, though, might wonder whether this former senior CIA official (who was a longtime analyst for the agency) is being overly kind to his alma mater. Nevertheless, the issue at hand is what Bush and his administration told the public. Kerr's remarks add to the case against Bush. They are another signal that thorough investigations could end up establishing that the accusation that Bush lied needs no qualifiers or caveats.

(via TalkLeft)

The second is by Doug Bandow, a fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, writing in the Christian Science Monitor to chide conservatives for violating their principles through their unquestioning support of Bush.
[T]he longer we go without any discoveries, the more questionable the prewar claims appear to have been. The allies have checked all of the sites originally targeted for inspection, arrested leading Baath Party members, and offered substantial rewards for information. Even in Hussein's centralized regime, more than a few people must have known where any WMD stocks were hidden or transferred and would be able to help now.

Which means it is entirely fair to ask the administration, where are the WMD? The answer matters for the simplest practical reasons. Possible intelligence failures need to be corrected. Washington's loss of credibility should be addressed; saying "trust me" will be much harder for this president in the future or a future president.

Stonewalling poses an even greater threat to our principles of government. It matters whether the president lied to the American people. Political fibs are common, not just about with whom presidents have had sex, but also to advance foreign-policy goals. Remember the Tonkin Gulf incident, inaccurate claims of Iraqi troop movements against Saudi Arabia before the first Gulf war, and repetition of false atrocity claims from ethnic Albanian guerrillas during the Kosovo war.

Perhaps the administration manipulated the evidence, choosing information that backed its view, turning assumptions into certainties, and hyping equivocal materials. That, too, would hardly be unusual. But no president should take the US into war under false pretenses. There is no more important decision: The American people deserve to hear official doubts as well as certitudes.

The point is not that the administration is necessarily guilty of misbehavior, but that it should be forced to defend its decisionmaking process.

Pointing to substitute justifications for the war just won't do. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz notes that the alleged Al Qaeda connection divided the administration internally, and humanitarian concerns did not warrant risking American lives. Only fear over Iraqi possession of WMD unified the administration, won the support of allies, particularly Britain, and served as the centerpiece of the administration's case. If the WMD didn't exist, or were ineffective, Washington's professed case for war collapses.

Conservatives' lack of interest in the WMD question takes an even more ominous turn when combined with general support for presidential warmaking. Republicans - think President Eisenhower, for instance - once took seriously the requirement that Congress declare war. These days, however, Republican presidents and legislators, backed by conservative intellectuals, routinely argue that the chief executive can unilaterally take America into war.

Thus, in their view, once someone is elected president, he or she faces no legal or political constraint. The president doesn't need congressional authority; Washington doesn't need UN authority. Allied support is irrelevant. The president needn't offer the public a justification for going to war that holds up after the conflict ends. The president may not even be questioned about the legitimacy of his professed justification. Accept his word and let him do whatever he wants, irrespective of circumstances.

This is not the government created by the Founders. This is not the government that any believer in liberty should favor.

(via Eschaton)

Interesting stuff. As I said repeatedly during the "debate" in the run-up to the war (I use quotes because I have no doubt it was entirely an academic exercise; I am convinced Bush intended to attack Iraq no matter what), going to war is a situation of such gravity as to demand the utmost candor. Hingeing one's desire to attack on some radical theory of "prevention" demands the absolute gold standard in both intelligence and the forthright presentation.

Some conservatives and war supporters I know view the war as a fait accompli and thus couldn't care less how Bush maneuvered the country into this predicament. They got what they wanted, and it was a Good Thing, and the ends, therefore, justified the means.

But it's obvious that Bush simply could not have had the evidence to back up the repeated assertions of himself and his minions. That matters, both as a matter of principle and as a direct influence on US national security. Shame on the reflexive Bush supporters who condone the President's mendacity that continues to cost American lives and treasure.


not so fast, senator

Check out the Republican spin on the recent embrarrasing White House retreat on Bush's State of the Union nuclear scaremongering:
Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), chairman of the Republican Conference, praised the administration for being forthright. "I think they had the best information that they thought, and it was reliable at the time that the president said it," Santorum told reporters. "It has since turned out to be, at least according to the reports that have been just released, not true," he said. [Emphasis added] "The president stepped forward and said so," he continued. "I think that's all you can expect."

Reality check: The problem isn't so much that the uranium story -- like so many of Bush's prewar claims -- has since turned out to be a combination of hyperbole, wishful thinking, and floundering for a causus belli the public would support. No, the deal with the uranium story is that it was known by this Administration at the time to be totally bogus.

And please, let's not play the "Bush was out of the loop" game again. If Bush was misled by bad intelligence, let him -- like a competent CEO is supposed to -- lay a little disciplinary action on those who misled him. Untill and unless Bush the Delegator holds someone responsible for this falsehood, it's perfectly appropreate to hold him responsible.

Talking Post Memo has been following developments closely.


severe weather rattles indy

Last night I did something unusual: I took Cecilia to the grocery store. I've made a habit of going at night, after The Girls are in bed; it's quicker and easier that way. But last night she was telling me what kind of popsicles to get, and I had no idea what she was talking about or if they really exist. So I decided to go right then and bring her along; that way, she'd see what they had and not kick up a fuss if I brought home the wrong thing (in fact, she could pick them out herself...).

As we were leaving around 7:30, a wall of ominous black clouds was bearing down from the West. Although it's just a few blocks from home, a downpour was just beginning as we pulled up, and hte radio was issuing a tornado warning, so into the basement we went.

Although the tornado seems to have been uncomfirmed, severe thunderstorms did indeed roll through the city last night, downing tree limbs and swelling the local creeks rivers. For us, though, the mose immediate effect was it delayed The Girls' bedtime about a half-hour or so.

  xTuesday, July 08, 2003

anime gallery of the day

revolutionary girl utena

A gallery devoted to the shoujo anime Shoujo Kakumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena).


race queen gallery of the day

race queen model

Here's a gallery of models at an auto show.

Speaking of race queens, as a bonus, here's a gallery devoted to my own favorite race queen, Fumika Suzuki.


punk rock link of the day

cramps poster

A gallery of posters from the old-school punk band The Cramps.

(via MetaFilter)


computer game of the day

Keyboard Sumo is simple....two players press a key with a finger, and then attempt to dislodge the other player's finger from the chosen key.

(via MetaFilter)


screenplay link(s) of the day

Zannah reminded me of Drew's Script-O-Rama, and pointed out a new screenplay resource: the Daily Script.


video game post of the day

Yesterday I was sorting through some ROMs for my Nintendo Entertainment System emulator, and in the process discovered this handy guide to game file extensions at the abandonware site Home of the Underdogs.


flash game of the day

Bummed by the lackluster performance of the British at Wimbledon, the BBC presents Tardis Tennis, in which famous Brits from history -- Shakespeare, Queen Victoria and John Lennon -- compete on the court.
(via Very Big Blog)


edwards bashes bush's 'war on jobs'

I haven't picked a Democratic presidential candidate yet -- whoever runs against Bush will have my vote -- but whoever wins the nomination should use the key points of this speech by John Edwards.
The President and I agree on one thing: this campaign should be a debate about values. We need to have that debate, because the values of this president and this administration are not the values of mainstream America, the values all of us grew up with – opportunity, responsibility, hard work.

There’s a fundamental difference between his vision and mine. I believe America should value work. He only values wealth. He wants the people who own the most to get more. I want to make sure everybody has the chance to be an owner. [Emphasis added]

For a man who made responsibility the theme of his campaign, this president sure doesn’t seem to value it much in office. We’ve lost 3.1 million private sector jobs. Over $3 trillion in stock market value lost. A $5.6 trillion budget surplus gone, and nearly $5 trillion of red ink in its place. Bill Clinton spent 8 years turning around 12 years of his predecessors’ deficits. George Bush erased it in two years, and this year will break the all-time record.

Yet even with all those zeroes, the true cost of the administration’s approach isn’t what they’ve done with our money, it’s what they want to do to our way of life. Their economic vision has one goal: to get rid of taxes on unearned income and shift the tax burden onto people who work. This crowd wants a world where the only people who have to pay taxes are the ones who do the work. [Emphasis added]

Make no mistake: this is the most radical and dangerous economic theory to hit our shores since socialism a century ago. Like socialism, it corrupts the very nature of our democracy and our free enterprise tradition. It is not a plan to grow the American economy. It is a plan to corrupt the American economy and shrink the winners’ circle.

This is a question of values, not taxes. We should cut taxes, but we shouldn’t cut and run from our values when we do. John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan argued for tax cuts as an incentive for people to work harder: Americans work hard, and the government shouldn’t punish them when they do.

This crowd is making a radically different argument. They don’t believe work matters most. They don’t believe in helping working people build wealth. They genuinely believe that the wealth of the wealthy matters most. They are determined to cut taxes on that wealth, year after year, and heap more and more of the burden on people who work.

How do we know this? Because they don’t even try to hide it. The Bush budget proposed tax-free tax shelters for millionaires that are bigger than most Americans’ paychecks for an entire year. And just last week, Bush’s tax guru, Grover Norquist, said their goal is to abolish the capital gains tax, abolish the dividend tax, and let the wealthiest shelter as much as they want tax-free.

Look at the choices they make: They have driven up the share of the tax burden for most working people, and driven down the burden on the richest few. They got rid of even the smallest tax on even the largest inheritances on earth. This past month, in a $350 billion bonanza of tax cuts on wealth, they couldn’t find $3.5 billion to give the child tax credit to poor people who work. Listen to this: They refused to cut taxes for the children of 250,000 American soldiers who are risking their lives for us in Iraq, so they could cut dividend and capital gains taxes for millionaires who were selling stocks short until the war was over.

The president keeps promising his plan will create jobs – but it hasn’t, it won’t, and that’s not why he did it. He said he wanted to end the double taxation of dividends. Then he turned around and signed a bill that lets people shelter dividends from companies that don’t pay taxes at all, including companies that evade taxes by setting up headquarters in Bermuda.

This President says he can’t afford to fund No Child Left Behind, but his tax bill ought to be called No Tax Shelter Left Behind.

It is wrong to reward those who don’t have to work at the expense of those who do. If we want America to be a growing, thriving democracy, with the greatest work ethic and the strongest middle class on earth, we must choose a different path.

As President, I will put the government, the economy, and the tax code back in line with our values. No more tax breaks for corporations that move their headquarters overseas or buy life insurance on janitors and make themselves the beneficiaries. No more tax breaks for CEOs who give themselves millions in top-hat pensions while giving no pensions at all to ordinary workers. No more playing games with the budget and driving up deficits. And no more of the Bush administration’s war on work.

Strong stuff, and strong stuff is what the Democrats need. No more me-too, Bush-lite stuff; voters want an alternative to Bush's odious policies. The Democratic candidate needs to challenge Bush on each of his so-called strong points -- integrity, security, and the economy -- and show the American people how desperately this nation needs an alternative to Bush's failures.

(via Brad De Long via Doc Searls)


bush mendacity watch

The Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board takes it to the hoop agains Bush once again: Policy as arcade game: When science crosses Bush agenda, it takes a beating.
President Bush is playing Whack-a-Mole with scientific reports that he doesn't like:

Uncomfortable facts about global warming pop up in an environmental report card. Whack!

Yellowstone National Park staffers tell a world treasures watchdog that the park is in trouble. Whack!

The Environmental Protection Agency discovers a senator's clean air bill is more effective than the President's. Whack!

But the moles are popping up faster than the Bush team can beat them back. Information is leaking out. A pattern of deception is emerging.

Despite their constant talk about "sound science," Bush administration officials keep manipulating or suppressing scientific information for political reasons. This censorship limits the ability of Congress and the American people to make informed public-policy choices. It needs to stop.

The latest flap involves the EPA's withholding of a key comparison of air pollution bills. The report shows that a bill to regulate power plants sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper (D., Del.) would reduce more pollutants, provide superior health benefits, and cost only marginally more than the centerpiece of Bush's environmental policy, his Clear Skies Initiative.

Bush touted Clear Skies in his January State of the Union address, and counts on passing it this summer to bolster his domestic record before his 2004 reelection campaign.

EPA is acting as little more than the White House's propaganda puppet, churning out Clear Skies press releases. Before debating power-plant cleanup, the Senate will need to turn elsewhere for factual analysis of pending bills. A third power plant bill, sponsored by Sen. Jim Jeffords (I., Vt.), should be included in any comparison.

The Jeffords and Carper bills rightly regulate carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that causes global warming - a topic too hot for Bush to handle.

Two weeks ago, the EPA had to omit the entire global-warming section from its "Draft Report on the Environment," a 30-year statistical snapshot of the U.S. environment, after the administration tried to replace solid findings with "pabulum," according to outgoing EPA administrator Christie Whitman. As a partial substitute, the White House wanted to insert a reference to a study partly financed by the petroleum industry. Whitman rightly said no. But the administration has edited global warming out of numerous other reports. That's ignorant.

Meanwhile, the Interior Department, which oversees national parks and other public lands, is busy sugarcoating any "bad" scientific findings.

In April, an Interior official toned down concerns expressed by Yellowstone's staff to the United Nations World Heritage Committee, which was contemplating whether to keep Yellowstone on its list of endangered sites. The staff had noted continuing threats to the park's streams, wildlife and visitor experience. The whitewash worked. Last week, Yellowstone was delisted.

In 2001, the Interior Department told the U.S. Geological Survey to "try again" when it found that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was likely to hurt musk oxen and Porcupine caribou. Scientists were given 10 days to "simulate scenarios" that showed lesser environmental impact.

More than once the President has ordered new scientific studies only to have them confirm earlier findings he disliked. The most vexing for him was the arsenic standard for drinking water in 2001. Whitman contended that the rule had been hastily crafted late in the Clinton administration without adequate study or consideration of the costs to small communities. Studies proved otherwise. Under intense public pressure, Whitman had no choice but to uphold the tough standard.

In another instance - snowmobiling in Yellowstone - the administration blatantly disregarded its own scientists' repeated warnings and sided with the machines, and the people who make and ride them.

President Bush talks a good deal about "sound science." Apparently, his definition of the term is: science that supports his political agenda.

Memo to Democrats: connect the dots:

Pattern of deception.

Science that supports his political agenda.

Bush can't be trusted. Simple, really. And obvious.

(via Eschaton)


cool whip inventor dies at 86

This is sad...the man who introduced America to Cool Whip died this week right here in Indianapolis.
Estel Wood "Ed" Kelley, co-chairman of The Steak 'n Shake Co. and a food industry executive credited with introducing Americans to brands such as Tang, Grey Poupon mustard and Cool Whip, has died. He was 86.

Kelley died Friday at Indiana University Medical Center after battling prostate cancer for several years.

"He was a motivating leader, a visionary businessman and a great friend," said Alan B. Gilman, the company's chairman and chief executive.

Kelley was a successful entrepreneur and former executive of Standard Brands, R. H. Macy, General Foods, Heublein, Consolidated Cigar, Gulf and Western, and Fairmont Foods. He participated in the development or domestic introduction of products such as Tang, Cool Whip, Grey Poupon Mustard, Smirnoff vodka, Klondike ice cream bars and A-1 Steak Sauce.

After his tenure as CEO of Fairmont Foods, Kelley founded a group of investors called Kelley & Partners, which bought underperforming companies and sought to repair them.

Kelley, who grew up on an Indiana farm and attended a one-room schoolhouse, had continued as co-chairman of the Indianapolis-based company even after his cancer returned in early 2002.

Planet Swank salutes the memory of Mr. Kelley and the legacy of well-known food products he left behind.

(via Tbogg)


iraq watch

The White House has admitted that phony intelligence data about Iraq's alleged attempts to obtain uranium from Africa -- used by Bush in a State of the Union speech to raise the ominous specter of a nuclear-armed Iraq -- should not have been included in the address.
The statement was prompted by publication of a British parliamentary commission report, which raised serious questions about the reliability of British intelligence that was cited by Bush as part of his effort to convince Congress and the American people that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program were a threat to U.S. security.

The British panel said it was unclear why the British government asserted as a "bald claim" that there was intelligence that Iraq had sought to buy significant amounts of uranium in Africa. It noted that the CIA had already debunked this intelligence, and questioned why an official British government intelligence dossier published four months before Bush's speech included the allegation as part of an effort to make the case for going to war against Iraq.

The findings by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee undercut one of the Bush administration's main defenses for including the allegation in the president's speech -- namely that despite the CIA's questions about the assertion, British intelligence was still maintaining that Iraq had indeed sought to buy uranium in Africa.

Asked about the British report, the administration released a statement that, after weeks of questions about the president's uranium-purchase assertion, effectively conceded that intelligence underlying the president's statement was wrong.

"Knowing all that we know now, the reference to Iraq's attempt to acquire uranium from Africa should not have been included in the State of the Union speech," a senior Bush administration official said last night in a statement authorized by the White House.

The administration's statement capped months of turmoil over the uranium episode during which senior officials have been forced to defend the president's remarks in the face of growing reports that they were based on faulty intelligence.

As part of his case against Iraq, Bush said in his State of the Union speech on Jan. 28 that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

The International Atomic Energy Agency told the U.N. Security Council in March that the uranium story -- which centered on documents alleging Iraqi efforts to buy the material from Niger -- was based on forged documents. Although the administration did not dispute the IAEA's conclusion, it launched the war against Iraq later that month.

It subsequently emerged that the CIA the previous year had dispatched a respected former senior diplomat, Joseph C. Wilson, to Niger to investigate the allegation and that Wilson had reported back that officials in Niger denied the story. The administration never made Wilson's mission public, and questions have been raised over the past month over how the CIA characterized his conclusion in its classified intelligence reports inside the administration.

The first-of-its-kind admission, of course, raises the question of what other evidence the Administration fudged to support its insistance that no course other than war -- and right now -- was tolerable in Iraq. Given that many of the Administration's claims have spectacularly failed to pan out, the answer should be obvious.

Here's the AP story via CNN.

Meanwhile, Talking Points Memo points to some desperate spinning by Ari Fleischer as he tries -- and ultimately fails -- to explain why Bush's uranium claim, and later claims that that claim was based on addtional evidence -- wasn't something of a whopper.

The Washington Post also reports that, contrary to Bush's bellicose brag that guerillas who attack US forces will pay a price, Baghdad's urban setting has allowed attacks to increase, and attackers to strike with seeming impugnity. This situation is making the hawkish WaPo editorial board somewhat nervous...after all, as Bush's Iraq policy proves to be the debacle many predicted, it should be remembered that the Post was all for supporting it and not so much for asking the tough questions it now feels Bush should address.

Bad policy undertaken for bad reasons leads to bad results. And this time, Bush's bad policy -- and the mendacious way in which he and his minions advanced it -- continues to exact a real toll in American lives and treasure and security.

Update: Talking Points Memo notices that even this admission has its load of spin:
let's look at what the White House is saying. In essence, they're saying that the Niger documents were forgeries. But then, we already knew that. Indeed, the White House has conceded this for months. Sometimes publicly; sometimes privately. Here's what they're saying now, according to the Post: "Knowing all that we know now the reference to Iraq's attempt to acquire uranium from Africa should not have been included in the State of the Union speech."

But, of course, the real issue is that there is at least very strong circumstantial evidence that knowing what they knew then [emphasis in the original], the Uranium hocum never should have been put into the speech either. This is a classic case of trying to jump out ahead of a story by conceding a point that no one is actually disputing in the first place.

Update 2: Jeff Cooper weighs in with this spot-on comment:
In the runup to the war, the president and other administration officials repeatedly laid out the case for war based on the imminent threat posed by Iraq's WMD program. Those, both at home and abroad, who looked at the evidence and did not leap to support the administration's position were labeled either fools or knaves--or both. So when it turns out that central components of the administration's case were gravely flawed--so gravely flawed that reliance on them must have been the result of either incompetence, willful blindness, or outright malice--those who found themselves on the receiving end of the administration's pre-war criticism will inevitably come to the conclusion that the administration is composed of knaves or fools--or both. And that's not what we need from a President of the United States.


conjoined twins die during surgery

Planet Swank is sad to note that a bid to separate two 29-year-old Iranian women who were born joined at the head has ended in their deaths due to circulatory failure.

The procedure was known to be risky -- too much so for some hospitals to make the attempt -- but the twins said they were willing to risk death in their bid for separation.


review at dam

Destroy All Monsters has posted my review of the Speed Racer collector's edition DVD.

  xMonday, July 07, 2003

asian goth pic of the day

asian goth girl

(via Random Abstact, who would like to know if this picture is part of a series. So would I, for that matter.)


anime gallery of the day

misato katsuragi

A gallery devoted to Neon Genesis Evangelion's Misato Katsuragi.


milestone of the...never mind

Some time on Saturday, the hit counter passed 34,000; it currently stands at 34,230. Thanks for visiting!


liberal incompetent media watch

Slacktivist shines a light on one of my pet peeves -- media reports of polls that report public perception without so much as a hint of a reality check.
What the article does not do -- and doesn't even seem to consider possible, interesting or noteworthy -- is report on how these carefully enumerated perceptions match up to the actual question at hand: How safe are SUVs?

Rumor has it that some agency somewhere actually studies and measures such things. The question of safety for various makes and models of cars is not merely a matter of subjective and uninformed random opinion. It's based on concrete, real-world facts about how well the brakes work, what happens during various impacts at various speeds, and the measurable likelihood of a vehicle rolling over during sharp turns.

This is not a rant against SUVs. This is a rant against lazy, irrelevant journalism that is more than happy to reinforce public ignorance by reporting only perception and ignoring reality.

(via The Road to Surfdom)


bush mendacity watch part 4,897

Orcinus has the goods on Bush's love affair with dishonest rhetoric.
The long and short of it is that Bush not only is a liar, he is both a prodigious and a brazen one. He is so skilled at it, indeed, that his supposed honesty and integrity is often cited as one of his endearing traits by his many acolytes, even in the face of repeated evidence to the contrary.

Saying that Bush is a liar doesn't always mean that he has traded in outright falsehood. Distorted characterizations and mangled "facts" are every bit as misleading, and ultimately every bit as dishonest, particularly when it comes to dealing with the public. As it happens, Bush's record is rife with both.

Read the whole thing.

(via Eschaton)


inquirer gives "bring 'em on" the thumbs-down

The Philadelphia Inquirer was less than impressed with Bush's swaggering "bring 'em on" rhetoric.
U.S. soldiers are dying and dodging guerrilla bullets in a hot and hostile country and their commander-in-chief says, "Bring 'em on"?

Mr. President, do you live in a play house or the White House?

No matter how Ari Fleischer tries to spin it, childish taunts such as that are not the calibrated words demanded of the United States president at this turn of history's wheel.

Calibrated does not mean sterile or soft. But a president's words have global impact. And these words have people here and abroad scratching their heads about this war that's supposedly over, but clearly continues.

The President's macho quip rankles in particular because American troops have been put at greater risk by the awful U.S. planning for Iraq post-Saddam. From the moment U.S. forces so ably captured the Iraqi capital, it was the United States' legal and moral obligation to act as provider and protector of the Iraqi citizens with whom the President always said we had no quarrel.

Instead, there's been as much chaos as calm, as much pillaging as progress. As of Thursday afternoon, combat deaths since the May 1 "end" of the war stood at 25 American and 14 British soldiers.

The tumult has led the U.S. reconstruction chief in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, to request more troops and civilian personnel.

That recommendation slammed headlong into a familiar problem: the unwillingness of top administration officials to let reality intrude on their hubris. In fact, the President's quip came as he ridiculed those who suggest more troops are needed to stabilize Iraq.

Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz assured America before the war that Iraqis would gladly welcome U.S. troops. They assumed Iraqis would gratefully accept the Iraqi exiles the Bush team had handpicked as Saddam's replacements. They predicted a smooth transition to democracy requiring no help from individual nations or the United Nations, and little investment of American dollars, thanks to Iraqi oil riches.

The reality evolving on the ground is vastly different from that gauzy picture. Yet those officials still seem loathe to admit any mistakes.

So here are a few items, call it a get-real list, to get the Bush team's head out of the clouds and into the hot and hostile reality where U.S. soldiers bravely toil on:

Get real about the number of U.S. troops needed to establish and maintain order for months to come. Retiring Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki estimates that as many as 300,000 soldiers might be needed. (Current troop size is about 158,000.)

Get real about the full scope of reconstructing Iraq - its cost and duration. Repeating a sound bite - "As long as it takes, and not a moment longer" - is no answer. It's political camouflage. Americans don't expect exact promises, just reasonable estimates. The U.N. Development Program says reconstruction could cost $30 billion over two-and-a-half years (not including the tab for U.S. troops). The Council on Foreign Relations projected $20 billion a year for at least 10 years. Is that true? If so, then...

Get real about cutting taxes. The incumbent is the only president in the nation's history to cut taxes in the middle of a hot war. Now, the only thing soaring higher than presidential rhetoric about freedom is the country's deficit. And those tardy Iraqi oil revenues have been spent several times over by U.S. planners. So...

Get real about spurning the value of the United Nations. Responses from U.S. pleas for help from other nations have been skimpy. Officials in India reportedly want a "better understanding" of U.S. plans for Iraqi civil order and democracy before committing. Who can blame them?

Get real about the democratic aspirations you unwisely inflated among the long-oppressed, divided Iraqi population. Sure, it would have been smarter to get electricity flowing, the streets safe, courts and banks operating before launching into risky elections. But now America has made promises. Reneging on them only puts its troops at greater peril.

The trick here is to persuade people without jobs, water or phones to be patient. One hint: Don't use he-man colloquialisms that suggest you see the situation as Americans vs. Iraqis.

Finally, get real about admitting mistakes, about reliance on wildly optimistic scenarios. That's the only path to effective remedies.

So much rides on this gamble. Not just the future of Iraq, though that alone is vital. American credibility. Middle East peace. The war on terror.

Despite the White House's hype and flim-flammery, there were decent arguments to fight this war. The initial battle was swiftly won. But America may now stand on the edge of blunders of colossal scope.

At such moments, an American president needs to do better, much better, than: "Bring 'em on."

Some of Bush's defenders point out that the President wasn't literally inviting guerillas -- not terrorists, thank you very much -- to attack US forces, but such feeble posturing entirely misses the point. As the Inquirer notes, Bush's bellicosity shows a staggering disconnect with the apparent situation in Iraq, and for that matter, it's a thoroughly lame example of Presidential posturing anyway.

Moreover, as I've said before, it's one thing for a President to express confidence in our military and in America ultimately prevailing. It's quite another thing for Bush to issue a trash-talkin' personal challenge to express his apparent lack of fear from Iraqi insurgents he doesn't have to face. While the Iraqi insurgents aren't exactly leaving calling cards with that phrase on the bodies of the US forces they kill -- there's no question that the guerillas are all too willing to take Bush up in his challenge. And why not? Empty threats are a sign of weakness, not strength, and even if Bush's comments didn't directly provoke any of the ongoing attacks -- Bush's defenders, thinking they're helping, point out that Iraq's insurgency hardly needs another reason to resust the US occupation -- it's difficuly to imagine that they deterred any, either.

No matter how you spin it, Bush let his mouth write a check someone else's butt is going to have to cash. That isn't bravery, it's cowardice.

(via Oliver Willis)


astronomy toy of the day

view from space over indy

Speaking of astronomy, here's a cool site that lets you view computer renderings of the Earth and Moon from any angle, including the perspectives of various satellites. The image shown is the view from space directly above Indianapolis. Spiffy!


astronomy news of the day

I made note of this link Thursday, but am now late in noting that scientists have discovered what they believe could be a planetary system resembling our own.
Astronomers say they have found a Jupiter-like body circling a distant star in a planetary system like ours, an intriguing discovery that raises the prospect of someday finding a planet resembling Earth.

Hugh Jones of Liverpool John Moores University said his team had discovered the system, illuminated by a star dubbed HD 70642, some 94 light years from Earth. Jones was presenting the finding at a conference at the Paris Astrophysics Institute here Thursday.

The star is similar to the Sun in structure and brightness and appears to be about the same age, Jones said. The planet is traveling around the star in an orbital path similar in shape and distance to the one that Jupiter follows around our Sun.

Those similarities have led the planet-hunters in Jones' team of British, Australian and American scientists to conclude they have tumbled upon something exciting — the possibility of finding another Earth in the Milky Way galaxy.

"We are honing in on the search for planets like the Earth," said Alan Penny of Rutherford Appleton Laboratory west of London.

Nearly 110 extrasolar planets — planets orbiting stars other than the Sun — have been found within the past decade, but none really resembled our solar system until now, Penny said.

"This is the first one that is really like our own solar system of the 110 that we've found," Penny said in a telephone interview. "We think it's a substantial step on the way to finding another Earth."

No large planets have been found between the Jupiter-like planet and the star, leading scientists to conclude that an Earth-sized planet could be nestled in between. If a large planet were present, its gravitational pull would throw anything the size of Earth out of the system, Penny said.

The discovery was found by measuring the star's wobble caused by the gravity of the planet. The technique measures the very slight wobble of a central star and then uses the magnitude of this motion to determine the presence of orbiting planets, the size and shape of their orbits and their mass. The technique works only for larger planets and cannot detect those much smaller.

The technique was developed by Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and Geoffrey Marcy of the University of California at Berkeley. Butler and Marcy are in the midst of a long-term project to search each sun-like star in the Milky Way up to a distance of 150 light years.

A light year is the distance light travels in a year in a vacuum, about 5.8 trillion miles. The Milky Way is the home galaxy of our solar system and contains about 200 billion stars.

The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters under lead author Brad Carter of the University of Southern Queensland, Australia.

Before extrasolar planets were discovered, researchers assumed other solar systems would be similar to ours. However, only a handful of the planets discovered so far follows the nearly circular orbit of our solar system. Most extrasolar planets had elliptical orbits, and many orbit too close to their host star for the planetary system to be similar to our own.

Humberto Campins, a professor of astronomy and physics at University of Central Florida in Orlando, said the finding, if true, indicates that techniques for detecting planetary systems similar to our own are improving.

"We've been trying to find a planetary system like our solar system for a long time. If these people have found a Jupiter, then I'm delighted. Ideally, in the future we want to find planets like Earth capable of supporting life."

c00L! The article also links to this nifty primer on astronomical jargon.


a wonderful weekend

We had a wonderful time this long holiday weekend. Friday we drove down to Louisville for my friend Joe's birthday party. It was at his in-laws' place, which has a pool; Cecilia swam for something like three hours. We enjoyed a nice cookout, and I got to visit with a lot of my Louisville circle of friends, some of whom I haven't seen all year!

Saturday we, along with my friend Hardin -- Cecilia's godfather -- took The Girls to Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. We had a blast! We arrived just after opening time, and the crowds were pleasantly thin -- so much so that Hardin worried aloud about the park's prospects (the crowds picked up in the afternoon, fortunately). After a brief tour of the kiddie rides -- which, I remembered, we'd visited earlier while attending the Kentucky State Fair -- we ventured into the big kids' side of the park and rode the Ferris wheel.

Cecilia rode her first roller coaster -- the junior-sized Roller Skater -- and liked it so much she rode it three times in a row. To cap off the day, Hardin and I took her on the Mile High Falls log ride. That's one of my favorite attractions in the park -- it isn't fancy; just a ride up and a drop down. But it kicks up a tremendous bow wave and absolutely drenches the riders -- very refreshing on a hot day. In a clever bit of design, the exit ramp leads to a bridge over the spash pool, and visitors can stand in front of the spash to get even more wet. Cecilia rode that one twice and got soaked to the skin. Fortunately, the park has cleverly salted some kiddie-style rides in among the bigger attractions, so Naomi was also entertained.

Hardin and I also rode the dual coaster Twisted Twins. It was a lot of fun; I hadn't ridden a roller coaster in years, and hadn't ridden one that was new to me in I don't remember when. It's sort of quirky -- a wooden track built onto a metal frame. It was a lot of fun, though; I'm a big fan of wooden coasters, and Twisted Twins had that rattletrap appeal.

After visiting my dad, we headed home -- a good move, as it gave us much of Sunday to recuperate.

We continued our DVD buying binge this weekend. While shopping for birthday presents for Joe and my brother Jeff, I picked up a DVD of the 1965 anime Kimba the White Lion for the girls, and for myself, I got a swank-looking two-pack of Italian science fiction movies from Retromedia: War of the Planets and War of the Robots. It's double-barrelled B-movie fun in a clever package.

Sunday we got Naomi's two-year birthday portraits made. While waiting for our sitting appointment, we took advantage of a DVD sale to pick up a copy of Disney's Hercules and The Aristocats, plus a copy of The Fugitive, which we watched last night. While we were in the store, I also grabbed Onimusha 2, as it was only ten bucks. (I've learned that if I don't get games at that point, they go off the shelves and become hard to find.) Of course, I'm still deep in the middle of GTA3, so I just watched the incredibly impressive opening CGI animation. On first impression, it looks pretty cool, but there's one major disappointment -- no Japanese language track this time. The original Japanese soundtrack (with subtitles of course) was a major part of the original game's cool factor.

I'm still pretty tired, but not as much as I would be had we stayed in Louisville through Sunday. I'm still catching up on some email and other matters, but plan to have some more posting later today. I hope everyone had a delightful holdiay weekend.

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