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  xSaturday, July 26, 2003

blogging from the con

I'm at GenCon with Musashi, tossing up a quick post from the press room (press passes r0x0rz!). For a taste of what we've seen since yesterday, including check out Musashi's posts at Destroy All Monsters.

At the very least, check out these cosplayers.

  xFriday, July 25, 2003

cool flash animations of the day

Here's a grab bag of cool Japanese Flash animations. The site is in Japanese, so take your pick and see what you get!

(via MetaFilter, cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)


milestone of the day

Late last night, the hit counter passed 36,000. Thanks for visiting!


happy birthday barry

Baseball hero Barry Bonds celebrated his 39th birthday last night by making a run-saving throw in the top of the ninth inning, and then smacking in his 33rd homer of the season in the bottom of the ninth to lead the San Francisco Giants to a 3-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. He followed up his seventh career game-ending homer by rishing off to visit his ailing father in the hospital. Whatta guy!

(via FARK)


redhead gallery of the day

annette o'toole

A small gallery devoted to the lovely and talented actress Annette O'Toole (bio).

annette o'toole
Here's another good photo.


blogging around friday edition

I'm busy today with several things, and I'll be joining Musashi at GenCon later, so here's a brief rundown on some noticable items that caught my eye today and throughout the past week.

From the Washington Post: White House, CIA Kept Key Portions of Report Classified
President Bush was warned in a more specific way than previously known about intelligence suggesting that al Qaeda terrorists were seeking to attack the United States, a report on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks indicated yesterday. Separately, the report cited one CIA memo that concluded there was "incontrovertible evidence" that Saudi individuals provided financial assistance to al Qaeda operatives in the United States.

These revelations are not the subject of the congressional report's narratives or findings, but are among the nuggets embedded in a story focused largely on the mid-level workings of the CIA, FBI and U.S. military.

Two intriguing -- and politically volatile -- questions surrounding the Sept. 11 plot have been how personally engaged Bush and his predecessor were in counterterrorism before the attacks, and what role some Saudi officials may have played in sustaining the 19 terrorists who commandeered four airplanes and flew three of them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

To varying degrees, the answers remain a mystery, despite an unprecedented seven-month effort by a joint House and Senate panel to fully understand how a group of Arab terrorists could have pulled off such a scheme. The CIA refused to permit publication of information potentially implicating Saudi officials on national security grounds, arguing that disclosure could upset relations with a key U.S. ally. Lawmakers complained it was merely to avoid embarrassment.

The White House, meanwhile, resisted efforts to pin down Bush's knowledge of al Qaeda threats and to catalogue the executive's pre-Sept. 11 strategy to fight terrorists. It was justified largely on legal grounds, but Democrats said the secrecy was meant to protect Bush from criticism.

Given the Administration's penchant for parsing its words into "technically true" but misleading statements, it's time to look at Administration claims that they had no specific warning -- that they didn't know the time or the place the 9/11 hijackers would strike (which is hardly an excuse, of course, but rather an admission of incompetence).

Speaking of which, in yet another revelation of intelligence that contradicted the Administration's case for war, Walter Pincus writes in the WaPo that the CIA estimated Saddam would pose a threat to the US only if the US launched an attack to oust him.
[D]eclassified portions of a still-secret National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released Friday by the White House show that at the time of the president's speech the U.S. intelligence community judged that possibility to be unlikely. In fact, the NIE, which began circulating Oct. 2, shows the intelligence services were much more worried that Hussein might give weapons to al Qaeda terrorists if he were facing death or capture and his government was collapsing after a military attack by the United States.

"Saddam, if sufficiently desperate, might decide that only an organization such as al Qaeda, . . . already engaged in a life-or-death struggle against the United States, could perpetrate the type of terrorist attack that he would hope to conduct," one key judgment of the estimate said.

It went on to say that Hussein might decide to take the "extreme step" of assisting al Qaeda in a terrorist attack against the United States if it "would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him."

The declassified sections of the NIE were offered by the White House to rebut allegations that the administration had twisted prewar intelligence on Iraq's nuclear weapons program. The result, however, could be to raise more questions about whether the administration misrepresented the judgments of the intelligence services on another basis for going to war: the threat posed by Hussein as a source of weapons for terrorists.

The NIE's findings also raise concerns about the dangers posed by Hussein, who is believed to be in hiding, and the failure to find any of his alleged stocks of chemical and biological weapons. If such stocks exist, a hotly debated proposition, this is precisely the kind of dangerous situation the CIA and other intelligence services warned about last fall, administration officials said.

Remember the 2002 Congressional elections, when Bush's political opponents were tarred as just itching to give Saddam biological weapons to provide to terrorists? Well, the Republican Senate just rejected a Democratic proposal to boost Homeland Security funding, in particular to "first responders." One wonders if the fact that major cities like New York and LA -- presumably prime terrorist targets -- are in "blue" states had anything to do with the decision. The GOP place partisan politics over the nation's security? Perish forbid!

Editor and Publisher reminds us that in general, media reports low-ball the number of US casualties in Iraq, especially since Bush's strutting "Mission Accomplished" speech, by only relaying reports of deaths in combat, and not accidents, suicides, or deaths of questionable cause. Reader responses indicated they wanted to know the full extent of casualties.

The Likely Story carries White House press flack Scott McClellan's lame response to accusations that two senior White House officials blew a CIA agent's cover as part of a political vendetta.

As I said yesterday, the fact that he doesn't seem interested in knowing just what happened is telling indeed. Needlenose pegs it with the perfect metaphor.

Via CalPundit, here's Jane Galt's excellent defense of the national telemarketing no-call list from the libertarian perspective. Personally, I don't see any need to defend it; the list is a Good Thing, and if you have to perform intricate mental gymnastics to reconcile a practical good in the real world with your philosophy, then maybe it's your philosophy that needs an overhaul, not the world. 'Nuff said.

CalPundit is also following the unfolding missing WMD and Valerie Plame scandals.

Daily Kos fact-checks Dick Cheney. Josh Marshall says that "in this administration, all roads lead to Cheney," and notes that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's recent admission that Administration plans for postwar Iraq were, ah, overly optimistic doesn't come close to covering it.

Talking Points Memo also catches Condi Rice in a lie. (Admit it, you aren't that surprised.)

Huster S. Thompson weighs in on the Administration's troubles (via The Sideshow).

Update: Although trying not to "to morph into a political blog," Byzantium's Shores has a thoughtful and well-reasoned post on why it was not okay for the Administration to sell some bogus WMD rationale because the public would never have bought the real reason (Aziz Poonawalla rightly points out, "People who argued along similar lines during the Clinton era were called 'apologists.'"). I have absolutely nothing to add to what Jaquandor said; go read it.

I also forgot to mention CalPundit's enlightening post on malrpactice tort reform: When people testifying before the Florida legislature on the high costs of frivolous lawsuits were brought back to speak under oath, all of a sudden their stories changed dramatically.

"The president of the state's largest malpractice-insurance company said no, insurers didn't need a cap on jury awards to be profitable. A state regulator said no, there hasn't been an explosion of frivolous lawsuits."

Quelle suprise!

  xThursday, July 24, 2003

mucho musashi

After dinner tonight, I'm heading to Cincinnati to pick up Destroy All Monsters editor-in-chief (and now good freind) Musashi. Musashi's bunking at Casa Swank over the weekend while he and I attend the GenCon gaming/sci-fi/anime convention. It's being held for the first time here in Indy; here's an article on the con from Sunday's edition of the local paper.

It's been more than a decade since I've attended a con (RiverCon in Louisville, to be precise); I expect we'll have fun and hopefully scoop up some great material for the site, not to mention other miscellaneous goodies. I'll link to any material we post on DAM over the weekend. As a bonus, the event represents a chance to meet Musashi in person for the first time. Maybe I'll even dust off my old copies of BattleTech and bring 'em along...


gallery of the day

A small portfoilo of Italian model Gretha Cavazzoni.


further thoughts on bush's lack of credibility

Many of Bush's defenders point out his torturously parsed prose that, by some interpretations, is technically true. ("The British have learned...") I'm sure we'll see more of the same with the revelation of the lack of evidence of connections between Iraq and al Qaeda.

But they miss the point, and hand Democrats the opportunity to shake the public from their misapprehension that Bush is a trustworthy man. If Bush's statements have to be carefully parsed to reveal a technical truth that does not, in fact, support the point the President appears to be making (Saddam is behind 9/11! Saddam is building a bomb! Americans get an average thousand dollar tax cut! ad nausuem), it means that the President's word can't be trusted.

Let's say that again.

The President's word can't be trusted.

'Nuff said.


bush (non-)credibility watch

The Washington Post's Dan Balz and Walter Pincus have an excellent analysys on why the Bush Administration's feeble defense of its credibility isn't working: as I've pointed out myself, they keep changing their story.
If President Bush's White House is known for anything, it is competence at delivering a disciplined message and deftness in dealing with bad news. That reputation has been badly damaged by the administration's clumsy efforts to explain how a statement based on disputed intelligence ended up in the president's State of the Union address.

How did the White House stumble so badly? There are a host of explanations, from White House officials, their allies outside the government and their opponents in the broader debate about whether the administration sought to manipulate evidence while building its case to go to war against Iraq.

But the dominant forces appear to have been the determination by White House officials to protect the president for using 16 questionable words about Iraq's attempts to buy uranium in Africa and a fierce effort by the Central Intelligence Agency to protect its reputation through bureaucratic infighting that has forced the president's advisers to repeatedly alter their initial version of events.

At several turns, when Bush might have taken responsibility for the language in his Jan. 28 address to the country, he and his top advisers resisted, claiming others -- particularly those in the intelligence community -- were responsible.

Asked again yesterday whether Bush should ultimately be held accountable for what he says, White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters, "Let's talk about what's most important. That's the war on terrorism, winning the war on terrorism. And the best way you do that is to go after the threats where they gather, not to let them come to our shore before it's too late." if Iraq had anything to do with al Qaeda.
White House finger-pointing in turn prompted the CIA's allies to fire back by offering evidence that ran counter to official White House explanations of events and by helping to reveal a chronology of events that forced the White House to change its story.

...Beyond the memos, one area of potential risk for the administration is an October telephone call from Tenet to Hadley to make certain the offending language had been removed from Bush's Oct. 7 speech. Hadley said he cannot recall whether that issue was discussed with Tenet on Oct. 5, Oct. 6 or Oct. 7, but a senior administration official familiar with the events said it was "most likely" on Oct. 7, the day of Bush's speech. Going to Hadley directly indicated Tenet's fear that his underlings had not been successful.

Another potential problem for the White House is the sharp disagreement between testimony given the committee last Thursday by CIA senior analyst Alan Foley about his conversation with Robert Joseph, a National Security Council staff member, about what was to go into the State of the Union address and how Bartlett described it to reporters Tuesday.

For all the purported discipline and unity within the Bush administration, disputes among members of the national security team have been common, particularly in the run-up to the war with Iraq. Those disputes, however, generally pitted the State and Defense departments against one another, but once Bush made a decision, the combatants generally accepted that and moved on.

What is unusual about this episode is that the combatants are officials at the White House and the CIA -- and that the White House has tried without success to resolve the controversy. The biggest lesson learned so far, said one administration official, is that "you don't pick a bureaucratic fight with the CIA." To which a White House official replied, "That wasn't our intention, but that certainly has been the perception."

White House allies outside the government have expressed surprise at the administration's repeated missteps over the past two weeks, using phrases such as "stumbled," "caught flat-footed" and "can't get their story straight." Said one senior administration official, "These stories get legs when they're mishandled and this story has been badly mishandled."

...Mary Matalin, a former Bush White House adviser, said, "It's impossible to have a consistent message when the facts keep changing. We forsook consistency for honesty, in an effort to be as forthcoming as possible in putting out new facts as they became available."

Sorry, Mary, but all the contradictions make it appear that the Administration forsook both consistency and honesty.
...There are plenty of what-ifs about this dispute, the biggest being, what if Bush, while traveling in Africa, had simply taken responsibility for using a disputed claim in his speech, called it a mistake and argued that there was plenty of other evidence to support his determination to remove Hussein from power. Administration officials say that would not have changed things. "[The press] would have asked, how did it get in there," said a White House official involved in the dispute. "This was a process story and [having Bush take responsibility] didn't answer the process questions."

...While in Africa, Bush and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice publicly pinned the blame on the CIA, a decision that in retrospect was clearly a mistake. Tenet, who had spoken to Rice that morning, issued a planned statement in which he took responsibility.

His statement was wrongly interpreted as his acceptance of sole responsibility. But a careful reading of the three-page statement showed that he only took responsibility for his agency's failure to be more diligent in making sure the language was kept out of the president's speech, and he pointed to National Security Council officials who wanted to keep the language despite the agency's protests.

By the time Bush returned from Africa, a new controversy had erupted after revelations that the White House and the CIA had battled last fall over removing similar language from the Oct. 7 speech.

When the White House attempted last Friday to portray Tenet's intervention in that episode as solely a technical matter involving intelligence sourcing, the CIA responded by letting it be known that Tenet had objected to exactly the same language that was in the State of the Union address.

The fact that it was backed up by memos forced the White House to go through the embarrassment of having Hadley publicly acknowledge he was at fault for not remembering in January that the White House had removed the same language just three months earlier.

I am absolutely stunned that Bush would have had the hubris to get into a pissing match with the CIA. It reminds me of the prewar joke of why the US was supposed to know about Saddam's chemical weapons (they kept the receipts). Bush ought to know the CIA kept copies of all the memos detailing what the Administration knew and when they were briefed on it.

And I, for one, am getting impatient for the Responsibility President to hold one of his top advisers accountable for this fiasco. This situation hasn't reflected well on Condoleeza Rice from the beginning, and given that -- as with Bush -- the defense for her perfidy is her incompetence (she didn't read the whole 90-page intelligence estimate?!), she's a prime candidate to get the boot, and pronto.

Not that that'd satisfy me, but it'd be a start, and I can wait until November 2004 to get rid of Bush himself.


unemployment update

I'm pleased to note that the level of new jobless claims is at its lowest point in five months. For the first time since February, new unemployment claims were slightly below the 400,000 mark signaling a weak job market. And even this story noted that the news isn't all good.

Which simply means, of course, that businesses are no longer laying pople off as fast as they were several weeks ago, and that the job market isn't quite as weak as it was last week. There's little to indicate, as the story points out, that US businesses are poised to go on the unprecedented orgy of hiring needed to wipe out the 3.5 million job net loss on Bush's watch.
For the work week ending July 19, new applications for unemployment insurance dropped by a seasonally adjusted 29,000 to 386,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. It marked the second week in a row that claims went down and represented the first time since the week ending Feb. 8 that claims dipped below 400,000, a level associated with a weak job market.

The claims figures were better than economists were expecting; they were forecasting claims to rise slightly.

Although claims tend to swing widely in July, distorted by temporary plant closings, other figures in the report also suggested that the pace of layoffs is stabilizing.

The more stable, four-week moving average of jobless claims, which smoothes out weekly fluctuations, fell by a solid 5,500 last week to 419,250, the lowest level since the work week ending March 8.

And the number of unemployed Americans collecting jobless benefits for more than a week declined by 24,000 to a three-month low of 3.6 million for the work week ending July 12, the most recent period for which that information is available.

While the most recent snapshot of the labor market was encouraging, economists say that even if companies slow the speed at which they lay off workers, they probably won't be in a mood to go on a hiring spree.

Companies — wanting profits to improve — are still reluctant to make big capital spending investments and increase their work forces, the biggest factors restraining the economy's ability to get back to full throttle.

...Even if the economy picks up momentum in the second half of this year, the nation's jobless rate, now at a nine-year high of 6.4 percent, could hover in that range or creep higher in coming months, economists say. Job growth probably won't be strong enough to accommodate all the additional job seekers who would enter the market, attracted by an improved climate.

Consumers are the main force keeping the economy going.

Throughout the economic slump, low mortgage rates, a refinancing frenzy and solid appreciation in home values over the past few years have spurred consumer spending, helping to offset the potentially negative force of a stagnant job market.

However, in recent weeks, mortgage rates have climbed, slowing refinancing activity a bit. A steady upward swing in mortgage rates could dampen — but not derail — the recovery, say economists who are keeping a close eye on the matter.

Unfortunately, the unemployment rate isn't the only thing at a new low is consumer confidence.
Overall consumer confidence in the United States leveled off last week, but remains on pace for its worst annual performance in a decade, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The ABC News/Money Magazine consumer poll found that 28 percent of respondents expressed confidence in the economy, up from 27 percent the week before.

But 52 percent of those polled said their own finances were in good standing, down from 54 percent in the prior week. In assessing respondents' willingness to spend money, 39 percent said it was good, up from 37 percent a week earlier.

Compared with a week earlier, the consumer comfort index, which combines all three responses, held steady at negative-21 points for the week ended July 20.

How much more obvious does it need to be that Bush's crackpot supply-side policies are exactly the wrong thing for the American economy? The productivity gains caused by massive downsizing are way above economic growth, as Brad De Long points out, so companies have no incentive at all to hire -- demand still is nowhere close to their present ability to supply. The weak labor market resulting from Bush's lame economic policies a gold mine for his corporate cronies, but it's no exaggeration to say that the American worker -- including most of the middle class -- gets the shaft.


your one-stop plame shop

Blogger Mark Kleiman has been doing an excellent job of covering the story of a CIA operative whose cover was blown to columnist Robert Novak by two Administration officials. (And he's as puzzled as I why only Time and NBC, but not the NY Times or the WaPo, has picked up the story yet...)

One of his latest posts notes that the fact that the White House doesn't seem to be all that upset that someone blew a CIA agent's cover ("McClellan isn't even pretending that the Administration is upset that someone burned one of our spies.") is "utterly damning."


9/11 report bombshell

The just-released Congressional report on intelligence failures prior to the 9/11 attacks contains, if this UPI story is true, some incredibly damaging information for the Bush Administration:
The report of the joint congressional inquiry into the suicide hijackings on Sept. 11, 2001, to be published Thursday, reveals U.S. intelligence had no evidence that the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks, or that it had supported al-Qaida, United Press International has learned.

"The report shows there is no link between Iraq and al-Qaida," said a government official who has seen the report.

Former Democratic Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, who was a member of the joint congressional committee that produced the report, confirmed the official's statement.

Asked whether he believed the report will reveal that there was no connection between al-Qaida and Iraq, Cleland replied: "I do ... There's no connection, and that's been confirmed by some of (al-Qaida leader Osama) bin Laden's terrorist followers."

The revelation is likely to embarrass the Bush administration, which made links between Saddam's support for bin Laden -- and the attendant possibility that Iraq might supply al-Qaida with weapons of mass destruction -- a major plank of its case for war.

"The administration sold the connection (between Iraq and al-Qaida) to scare the pants off the American people and justify the war," said Cleland. "What you've seen here is the manipulation of intelligence for political ends."

The inquiry, by members of both the House and Senate intelligence committees, was launched in February last year amid growing concerns that failures by U.S. intelligence had allowed the 19 al-Qaida terrorists to enter the United States, hijack four airliners, and kill almost 3,000 people.

Although the committee completed its work at the end of last year, publication of the report has been delayed by interminable wrangles between the committees and the administration over which parts of it could be declassified. [Emphasis added]

Cleland accused the administration of deliberately delaying the report's release to avoid having its case for war undercut.

"The reason this report was delayed for so long -- deliberately opposed at first, then slow-walked after it was created -- is that the administration wanted to get the war in Iraq in and over ... before (it) came out," he said.

"Had this report come out in January like it should have done, we would have known these things before the war in Iraq, which would not have suited the administration."

I've often commented that -- while an actual connection between al Qaeda and Saddam would be ample causus belli -- the Administration's repeated claims of such -- their conspicuous claims of "bulletproof" evidence followed by conspicuous failure to provide any convincing evidence -- was one of the weakest links in a case marked composed more of speculation and ominous hints than a sober and rational assesment of actual intelligence. It now appears as if the Bush Administration -- including Bush himself, who never missed an opportunity to dishonestly conflate 9/11 and Iraq, although the two have never been shown to have the remotest connection -- not only masqueraded purely unfounded speculation as established fact, but actually made those claims knowing their own intelligence contradicted it.

It also certainly appears as if the Administration manipulated the report's release date in order to prevent information that undercut one of its key rationales for the war -- information, once again, it was well aweare of -- from surfacing.

If true, this is more solid evidence of Bush's deception before the war. Regardless of the valid rationales for confronting Iraq, taking the nation into a war of aggression based on lies is simply inexcusable, and I'm simply disgusted at formerly respectable conservatives who refuse to condemn their precious President for his prevarications.

Talking Points Memo has more.

(via CalPundit)

Update: Matthew Yglesias has read the article and the report, and says the latter does not support the former. Stay tuned.


house nixes fcc media consoldiation rules

Yow! The House has voted to overturn a recent FCC decision to relax restriction on media consolidation. In doing so, the Republican-controlled House defied the Bush White House (gasp!) and prompted a veto threat from the President.
A bipartisan coalition pushed through the measure by attaching it to an appropriations bill to fund the Commerce, State and Justice departments and several agencies, including the FCC. The spending bill was approved by a vote of 400 to 21, despite a veto threat from the Bush administration and objections from the Republican House leadership.

The legislation would prohibit the FCC from spending any money to carry out its decision last month to allow individual companies to own television stations that reach as much as 45 percent of the national audience. The House measure would keep the limit at 35 percent.

If the House language becomes law, it could have significant repercussions for the corporate parents of the CBS and Fox broadcast networks, which own stations that reach more than 35 percent of the country. Those companies could be forced to sell stations in some of the nation's largest and most lucrative markets. NBC owns stations that reach 34 percent of the country. ABC, which has stations that reach 24 percent of the national audience, has room to grow under a 35 percent ownership cap.

The major networks say they need revenue from the cash-rich stations to pay for expensive programming.

Boo hoo. It seems to me that in a free market, expensive programming, if it were any good, would pay for itself with advertising revenue. And anyway, aren't networks running more and more sitcoms and reality shows, which are dirt cheap relative to hour-long dramas?

Update: Via Daily Kos, I note that the NY Times (reg. req.) apparently cited the Olympics and the Super Bowl as the "expensive" programming networks need to subsidize. Kos' comment that those events are subject to bidding ,and that the networks choose to pay -- or overpay -- to air them, and therefore it's their problem, not ours, is spot-on.

Several industry lobbyists said yesterday that they expect the Senate to take a similar approach to the House in amending an appropriations bill to roll back the ownership cap. The lobbyists said they would work to strip the language from the legislation when conferees sit down to reconcile differences between the two bills.

...The House vote would stop the FCC from spending money on its new rule for only one fiscal year. The support the measure attracted may embolden critics of the 45 percent ownership cap to seek a permanent change to the rule.

Opponents of the FCC's action included conservative and liberal public interest groups worried that further consolidation among media companies would lead to more-homogenized programming and make it harder for unpopular viewpoints to be heard. Many also worried that stations would lose their local identities as they became part of huge media companies.

As the House considered the spending bill yesterday, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on the effect the FCC's rule would have on local ownership of television stations. L. Brent Bozell III, president of the Parents Television Council, a conservative group that opposes the FCC's action, testified that his members are overwhelmed by the "raw sewage, ultra-violence, graphic sex and raunchy language that is flooding into our living rooms night and day by giant media corporations with no concern whatsoever for community standards."

Yesterday's vote was a setback for FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell. He has argued that the media business has gone through a dramatic transformation in the past 10 years, making it possible for the agency to relax its limits on corporate ownership.

"Our Democracy is strong," Powell said in a prepared statement. "It would be irresponsible to ignore the diversity of viewpoints provided by cable, satellite and the Internet."

Small and medium-size broadcasting companies opposed the FCC's decision to allow the major networks to own more stations. They claim that the networks are able to force them to carry shows they don't want at the expense of local and regional programming.

Let's get this straight -- no one aside from giant media corporations and their lackeys in the Bush Administration wants this ruling. Bush is simply foolish to threaten a veto to preserve a bureaucratic ruling that most of the nation holding any opinion opposes. I predict that he won't, after all, veto it, and that'll give future veto threats about as much credibility as anything else Bush says -- bupkus.

Not that I'd mind that, of course.


it seems...

...and this comes as no surprise at all...

morally deficient
Threat rating: Medium. Your total lack of decent
family values makes you dangerous, but we can
count on some right wing nutter blowing you up
if you become too high profile.

What threat to the Bush administration are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

(via Alas, A Blog et al)


idiot criminal of the day

According to The Associated Press, police apprehended a bank robber after he failed to retrieve the holdup note -- which was written on the back of his résumé.

  xWednesday, July 23, 2003

starfleet loses a fine designer

Walter "Matt" Jefferies, the designer who created the unmistakable look of Star Trek's USS Enterprise, and for whom the ship's famous "Jeffries Tubes" (engineering access tunnels) were named, has died. Planet Swank notes his passing with sadness.

(via Byzantium's Shores)


blogging around

Congrats to Oliver Willis on his front-page mention in the Boston Globe!

P.L.A. has an excellent post on frivolous lawsuits...not the kind you may think.

Talking Points Memo has an excellent essay on why the emerging story of Bush's WMD deceptions matters. (A commentator at CalPundit provides the following excellent summary: "Josh Marshall hits the nail on the head when he says WMD was never intended to be anything more than the disposable wrapper on Operation Iraqi Freedom — that's why they didn't bother to build an airtight case. The actual Big Mac was rearranging the Middle East strategic map. The special sauce that was supoosed to make it palatable to the public was throngs of grateful, cheering Iraqis.

Unfortunately for the Bushies, the meat — the abstract, complex "theory of the war"as Marshall calls it — was tainted (I'll add that it's probably because they let that slimy bastard Chalabi in the kitchen). "

Mark Kleiman thinks it's time for a special prosecutor to investigate the outing of a CIA agent to the press by Administration officials. I agree, and so do Chris Andersen and Digby. Make no mistake about it; it appears of this Administration have committed a crime. CalPundit has a good summary of developments.

Kleiman also links to a Time column positing that Bush isn't so much lying as delusional. (Money quote: "The President seems to believe that wishing will make it so — and he is so stupendously incurious that he rarely makes an effort to find the truth of the matter. He misleads not only the nation but himself.")

Mr. Oni reveals how he found the link to my definition of fan service; he's one of the folks who find my blog searching for this.

Jaquandor has an interesting survey of reactions among lefty bloggers to the death of Saddam's sons; I'm proud to be among the "solid, proud liberal"s he cited.


schadenfreude post of the day

From the AP: GOP Frets About Bush Re-Election Chances
For the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, rank-and-file Republicans say they are worried about President Bush's re-election chances based on the feeble economy, the rising death toll in Iraq and questions about his credibility.

Excuse! Anyway...

"Of course it alarms me to see his poll figures below the safe margins," said Ruth Griffin, co-chair of Bush's 2000 campaign steering committee in New Hampshire. "If he isn't concerned, and we strong believers in the Bush administration aren't concerned, we must have blinders on."

The worries emerged as Griffin and nearly two dozen other GOP stalwarts were interviewed by The Associated Press in advance of the Republican National Committee's meeting this week in New York, site of the 2004 GOP presidential convention and the starting point of Bush's wartime surge in popularity.

Bush's poll ratings skyrocketed after the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center as he led the nation in mourning and then to war with blunt talk and a confidence that soothed an anxious nation. Polls show that about six of every 10 Americans still approve of the way he's doing his job, a solid rating that buoys Republican hopes that Bush will overcome his current problems and breeze to re-election.

But the president has seen a drop in other early warning indicators, including the number of people expressing confidence in his credibility and leadership along with his handling of the economy and postwar Iraq.

"We've got nine Democrats out there beating up on him. That's the problem," said Joyce Terhes of Maryland, a member of the 165-person RNC.

"The economy is touch and go," said Dick Taylor, another RNC member from Maryland. "I've got to believe it recovers really fast. If not, obviously we'll be in some trouble."

Republicans said there will be trouble for Bush if postwar Iraq continues to claim the lives of American troops. Another U.S. solider was killed Tuesday, bringing the total killed in action to 153 — six more than during the 1991 Gulf War.

"This guerrilla warfare is disturbing," said former Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt, an RNC member from Arkansas.

A recent CNN-Time poll found that 47 percent view Bush as a leader they can trust, down from 56 percent in March. A thin majority of voters said they harbor doubts about his leadership.

Some Republicans say they fear the drop is the result of Democrats harping on 16 words in Bush's Jan. 28 State of the Union address in which he cited a British report suggesting that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa for a nuclear weapons program.

The claim has been challenged by U.S. intelligence officials. As the White House moved to shelter Bush from criticism, CIA director George Tenet and deputy national security adviser Steven Hadley apologized for the snafu.

Bush has refused to shoulder any blame himself, drawing criticism from some GOP officials who fear he may damage his image as a straight-shooting, buck-stops-here leader. [Emphasis added]

"For the first time he's waffled a little bit on the Niger-uranium story," Hammerschmidt said. "They didn't confront that totally. They let Tenet take the bullet."

"I'm not sure they've totally gotten their act together," said the Arkansan.

Other Republicans said the polls reflected voter concerns with Bush's staff, not the president himself.

"I really think it's a concern about the people he has around him, and not really about him and his character," said Christine Olson, an oil and gas drilling contractor and RNC member from Pennsylvania.

There was unanimity among the Republicans that Bush's word is still golden with them, and they dutifully predicted he will overcome challenges on the economy, postwar Iraq and his handling of intelligence.

"The Democrats have hung their hopes on one sentence," said former Connecticut GOP chair Chris DePino. "The nation would be better off hanging its hopes on George Bush."

Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman said, "It's also important to point out that many of today's loudest critics agreed that Saddam Hussein threatened our national security just a few months ago. A lot of what we hear today is Democrat primary politics."

Bush's main justification for war was the assertion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but none has been found.

The administration also has not located terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden nor Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, though a U.S. raid Tuesday killed Saddam's sons.

Hammerschmidt, the former Arkansas congressman, said that if given a chance he would tell Bush there's a simple way to regain ground lost in polls.

"Talk very frankly and candidly to the American people," he said. "That has been your strength."

...except he can't talk "frankly and candidly" about his policies and their costs to the American people; if he could, he would have done so already. The emerging story of Bush's deceptiveness over Iraq is an unmistakable example; as some have pointed out, there was a credible case to be made for the war, but Bush chose not to go there.

And I suspect there's a perception afoot in the White House that the uranium flap resulted from Ari Fleischer's admission that the White House was wrong to have made the claim -- a clear violation of this administration's policy of never admitting doubt, let alone error. Make no mistake about it, there's plenty more wrong with the SotU than just that one sentence (the following sentence on aluminum tubes reinforced the impression Saddam was seeking nukes, but no one knowledgable outside the Administration took that claim seriously); more scrutiny is coming, now less, particuarly as the Administration keeps changing its story.

Frankly, I suspect that if Bush had taken responsibility, it might have quieted things down (perhaps her really does know how bogus it all was?). But he specifically declined an opportunity to do so, launching into a bunch of obfuscation and non sequitir instead.

I've never believed this nonsense about Bush's so-called "invincibility;" I've regarded that claim, as so many others about the man ("compassionate conservative," "reformer with results," "strong on terror," integrity and honor," etc.) to be all hat and no cattle. Bush has any number of potential flaws, most of them having to do with his inability to honestly defend his terrible policy results from any sort of concerted attack.

But I think this story is potentially huge.

Bush's credibility -- or more accurately, the lack of it -- is exactly where the Democrats should attack, and what's more, it gives them the upper hand on nearly every issue, including Bush's so-called strong suit, national security. People's mistaken perception of Bush as trustworthy is all he has; once that's gone, it won't come back, and he's finished.


latest uranium cover story

One of the reasons we know the unranium story is important -- despite assurances from everyone from the President down through his lesser supporters that we should just forget about it and move on -- is that the Administration keeps changing its story. The latest: deputy national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley has acknowledged that the CIA informed him of doubts about the veracity of the claim back in October 2002, long before the State of the Union speech in 2003, and simply forgot about it.
The CIA sent two memos to the White House in October voicing strong doubts about a claim President Bush made three months later in the State of the Union address that Iraq was trying to buy nuclear material in Africa, White House officials said yesterday.

The officials made the disclosure hours after they were alerted by the CIA to the existence of a memo sent to Bush's deputy national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, on Oct. 6. The White House said Bush's chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson, on Friday night discovered another memo from the CIA, dated Oct. 5, also expressing doubts about the Africa claims.

The information, provided in a briefing by Hadley and Bush communications director Dan Bartlett, significantly alters the explanation previously offered by the White House. The acknowledgment of the memos, which were sent on the eve of a major presidential speech in Cincinnati about Iraq, comes four days after the White House said the CIA objected only to technical specifics of the Africa charge, not its general accuracy.

In fact, the officials acknowledged yesterday, the CIA warned the White House early on that the charge, based on an allegation that Iraq sought 500 tons of uranium in Niger, relied on weak evidence, was not particularly significant and assumed Iraq was pursuing an acquisition that was arguably not possible and of questionable value because Iraq had its own supplies.

Yesterday's disclosures indicate top White House officials knew that the CIA seriously disputed the claim that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium in Africa long before the claim was included in Bush's January address to the nation. The claim was a major part of the case made by the Bush administration before the Iraq war that Hussein represented a serious threat because of his nuclear ambitions; other pieces of evidence have also been challenged.

Hadley, who also received a phone call from CIA Director George J. Tenet before the president's Oct. 7 speech asking that the Africa allegation be removed, took the blame for allowing the charge to be revived in the State of the Union address. "I should have recalled . . . that there was controversy associated with the uranium issue," he said. He said Bush and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice were counting on his dependability, and "it is now clear to me that I failed." Hadley said Rice was not made aware of the doubts but "feels personal responsibility as well."

...It remains unclear why the Africa uranium claim continued to bubble up in key presidential speeches. White House officials insist they did not push hard for the accusation to be included, and the intelligence community largely dismissed the significance of the matter. [Emphasis added]

The intelligence reports about Iraq seeking uranium from Niger, Somalia and Congo represented only four paragraphs in the Oct. 2 National Intelligence Estimate, the definitive collection of U.S. intelligence's views on Iraq's weapons programs. Iraq's alleged attempt to obtain uranium was not among the "key judgments" used in the report to support the idea that Hussein was reconstituting his nuclear program. Yet the White House twice sought to include it in a presidential speech.

Yesterday, Bartlett insisted that its inclusion in the State of the Union address was "not at the specific request of anyone" [Emphasis added] and said that one of the speechwriters had come up with the information after reviewing the Oct. 2 intelligence estimate.

The new information amounted to an on-the-record mea culpa for a White House that had pointed fingers at the CIA for vetting the speech, prompting an earlier acceptance of responsibility by Tenet. But that abruptly changed yesterday after the CIA furnished evidence that it had fought the inclusion of the charge.

The disclosures punctured claims made by Rice and others in the past two weeks. [Emphasis added] Rice and other officials had asserted that nobody in the White House knew of CIA objections, and that the CIA supported the Africa accusation generally, making only technical objections about location and quantity. On Friday, a White House official mischaracterized the CIA's objections, saying repeatedly that Tenet opposed the inclusion in Bush's Oct. 7 speech "because it was single source, not because it was flawed."

...The second memo, dated Oct. 6 and sent to Hadley and Rice [Emphasis added; remember, Rice had denied senior officials were alerted to the CIA's concerns], was brought to the White House's attention yesterday by the CIA, the officials said. In response to another draft of the speech that had already deleted the uranium reference, the memo included fresh CIA objections to the charge, saying there was "weakness in the evidence" and that the attempted purchase "was not particularly significant," Hadley said.

The new information disclosed by the White House provides additional material for Democrats who have been criticizing Bush's handling of Iraq intelligence. Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), a former intelligence committee chairman and now a presidential candidate, said the admission "raises sharp new questions as to who at the White House engaged in a coverup." Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), who has been pressing the administration on the matter for months, said, "Congress needs to investigate this with immediate public hearings."

But strategists in both political parties said the lifespan of the criticism, and the possibility of congressional hearings in the fall, largely depends on whether the occupation of Iraq continues to be as violent and chaotic as it has been.

This issue is not one of mere partisanship. The questions raised by Bush's preward claims, and the conflicting explanations put forward to justify them, go the the very heart of the integrity of our Constitutional process. Some Republicans indeed may see a benefit in having this issue fade, but by ignoring it, they call their own integrity into serious question.

Speaking of which, here's the response from the responsibility president:
Bush aides said the president was upset by Hadley's failure to come forward with the CIA objections, but turned down what amounted to an offer by Hadley to resign. Bush "has full confidence" in his national security team, including Hadley and CIA Director George Tenet, White House communications director Dan Bartlett said.

"The process failed," Bartlett said.

Quite the contrary, I'd imagine that for Bush the process worked perfectly. As I see it, Bush had decided on attacking Saddam long before; what he wanted from his intelligence services was less objective information on which to base an appropriate repsonse than anything that would justify the decision he'd alreay made to the public. The question to focus on is, therefore, with the CIA apparently adamant that they couldn't support the uranium claim, who kept putting it in? The Post's Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus seem to be aware of the importance of this question, as the highlighted sections show. It appears as if Rice's credibility is in serious question at this point; expect further revelations -- and more Adminsitration obfuscation -- later on.


wacky spam of the day

I've seen all kinds of spam -- although less since my ISP imposed a new filter -- but I really can't figure this one out:

I'm a time traveler stuck here in 2003. Since nobody here seems to be able to get me what I need (safely here to me), I will have to build a simple time travel circut to get where I need myself. I am going to need an easy to follow picture diagram for a simple time travel circut, which can be built out of (readily available) parts here in 2003. Please email me any schematics you have. I will pay good money for anything you send me I can use Or if you have the rechargeable AMD dimensional warp generator wrist watch unit available, and are 100% certain you have a (secure) means of delivering it to me please also reply. Send a separate email to me at:

Do not reply back directly to this email as it will only be bounced back to you.

Thank You

Oddly, the URL appears to be dead as well, so go fig...

  xTuesday, July 22, 2003

cantopop gallery of the day

faye wong

faye wong in chungking express

I realize that I'm overdue to post a non-Asian gallery, but last night my lovely wife and I watched Wong Kar-Wei's excellent Chungking Express (gallery), which starred the lovely and talented cantopop singer Faye Wong (she also performs an awesome cover of The Cranberries' "Dreams" in Cantonese), so I just have to link to this gallery, this other gallery, this fan site, this other fan site, a bio, and this collection of wallpaper, one of which graces my desktop this week. Enjoy!


saddam's sons apparently killed in raid

Here's some welcome positive news for the US occupation of Iraq: elements of the 10st Airborne Division has apparently killed the sons of Saddam Hussein, Usay and Qusay, during a raid.
Saddam Hussein's sons Odai and Qusai were believed to have been killed Tuesday in a raid by U.S. forces who surrounded the home of a cousin, a senior U.S. official said. Two other Iraqis also were killed.

The official, a member of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad who spoke on condition of anonymity, said investigators were "awaiting positive DNA testing" to confirm the identities.

The raid triggered a gunbattle at the house in the northern city of Mosul, where residents told an Associated Press Television News cameraman that American soldiers had come looking for Saddam's elder sons.

The United States has offered a $25 million reward for information leading to Saddam's capture and $15 million each for his sons, who were top leaders in their father's regime.

Fighting broke out after members of the 101st Airborne Division surrounded the stone, columned villa, which belonged to one of Saddam's cousins, a key tribal leader in the region.

The building was left charred and smoldering, its high facade riddled with gaping holes from bullets and heavy weaponry. Kiowa helicopters roamed the sky.

Some Mosul civilians appeared to have been caught in the crossfire. It was not known how many people were injured, but several were taken to a hospital.

In Washington, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld briefed President Bush about the raid during an Oval Office meeting Tuesday morning.

This information has yet to be officially confirmed, but it appears as if Uday and Qusay died while resisting capture; the world is certainly no poorer without them.

Here's news from the Washington Post and CNN.


blogroll update

Please welcome Crooked Timber and Sadly, No!


lego link of the day

The Star Wars Alphabet Project -- a Rebel fighter, built from LEGO, for every other letter of the alphabet. c00L!

(via #!/usr/bin/girl)


st. jude r.i.p.

I'm sorry to learn via BoingBoing that former Mondo 2000 editor St. Jude Milhon died of cancer Saturday. I used to read M2K many years ago, and I enjoyed St. Jude's prose.


robotics link of the day

A robot designed by a British university to monitor people's reactions to robots has been judged too scary for children under 18. An R-rated

Looks like The Matrix is still quite a ways off...

(via BoingBoing)


shipwreck link of the day

Commercial fisherman Robert Graham, 62, survived 18 hours of treading water in the Gulf of Mexico after he was lost overboard from his fishing vessel. When rescued by another fishing boat, he was hypothermic but was reported in stable condition by a hospital. Graham, who was not wearing a flotation device, stuffed his clothing with seaweed in an effort to remain buoyant, a move the Coast Guard credits with saving his life.

"He was actually pretty smart about it," said an admiring Coast Guard Petty Officer Phillip Wilson, adding that Wilson is expected to recover fully.

(via FARK)


white house smear update

CalPundit and Mark Kleiman have been following the developments in the case of the White house apparently outing a covert CIA agent in response to her husband's pointing out that the Niger uranium contention was known to be bogus.

Newsday reports that the "intelligece officals" have confirmed that Valerie Plame, wife of retired Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was indeed a covert CIA operative when Administration officials outed her to columnist Robert Novak.

This unprecedented action is simply outrageous. Make no mistake about it: If Administration officials indeed blew the cover of a covert CIA agent to a journalist, they not only committed an odious act of the sort of destructive politics Bush pledged to eschew, but also committed a serious crime.

The article also quotes Ambassador Wilson as seeing the big picture behind the Administration's reprehensible action:
Wilson, while refusing to confirm his wife's employment, said the release to the press of her relationship to him and even her maiden name was an attempt to intimidate others like him from talking about Bush administration intelligence failures.

"It's a shot across the bow to these people, that if you talk we'll take your family and drag them through the mud as well," he said in an interview.

Aside from the dubious wisdom of engaging in a pissing match with theCIA, the Bush Administration's actions are not only egregiously loathsome, but categorically illegal. The two officials who blew Plame's cover should face criminal charges tout de suite -- a prosecution serious enough to motivate them to reveal who, if anyone, put them up to this action (and come on, I can see one official acting on his or her own, but two? One doesn't need a tinfoil hat to posit a pattern there...).

Update: Jeff Cooper comments.


a reasoned exchange

CalPundit has an excellent comment on a phenomenon I've noticed among pro-war bloggers when they deign to notice the fact that Bush's prewar contentions are unraveling faster than a sweater in a basket full of kittens. They dismiss the importance of the President's fear-mongering about the alleged threat Iraq posed, claiming that that wasn't their reason for supporting the war.

Maybe not. But like it or not, it was the primary reason the President and his advisers took to an American public hardly enthusiastic -- and rightly so -- about this bastion of democracy launching a war of aggression. It wasn't, the President insisted; Iraq's so-called threat demanded a defensive response, and moreover the threat was so immediate that no delay could be tolerated.

(For example, here's Bush implying that Iraq might already have a nuclear weapon, when he knew darn well that absolutely no intelligence supported that conclusion, via CalPundit again.)

Richard Cohen has an op-ed in this morning's Washington Post pointing out that Bush steadfastly maintains -- in the face of all evidence -- his belief that Iraq had weapons, yadda yadda yadda. It's the Deanna Troi defense -- if he truly believed it, he isn't lying. Maybe so, but I've insisted all along that war is simply too grave of a matter to launch on a hunch. And the Founders wisely designed the Constitution so that theoretically our armed forces couldn't be deployed at the Executive's whim.

Bush's contempt for the small-d democratic process has been obvious throughout this sorry episode. I take heart, though, that by their insistence that the President's case wasn't their reasons, the hawks are tacitly conceding the weakness of the case many of them supported so vociferously in the months before the war.

  xMonday, July 21, 2003

bruce lee anniversary

bruce lee

Yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of kung-fu film star Bruce Lee's death. I'm grateful to Musashi for taking note of the event at Destroy All Monsters; the local paper ran a feature article noting that the iconic martial arts legend is still popular around the world. Other news stories describe his widespread admiration among martial arts fans, describing tribute at the late star's grave, and a new exhibit devoted to him in his home town of Seattle. For a good take on what made his films special, see Teleport City's take on the superb Return of the Dragon.

Lee was also the subject of the decent biopic Dragon; while I don't know how accurately it portrayed Lee's life, it was fairly entertaining, and it gave me an opportunity to look at Lauren Holly a lot, so it's all good.


weekend holdover

Some dandy thunderstorms rolled through Indianapolis this morning, resulting in snarled traffic and general delays.

Actually, We weren't very much affected by the storms, but due to several items on my plate this Monday morning, posting won't begin in earnest until this afternoon. I left some comments on several interesting posts over at CalPundit; check it out.

  xSunday, July 20, 2003

you know you're a parent when... write household notes to yourself in crayon because they're the most prevalent writing implements.

Update: My lovely wife and Jaquandor spearately pointed out this funny Dave Barry column on fatherhood:
Daddy wishes there were an early morning kids' TV show called: Let's Go Back To Bed. The licensed characters would yawn a lot and say: ''I'm tired! Let's all lie down and be very quiet until at least 7:45 a.m.!'' Wouldn't that be great? Daddy would send money to that show.

So would I.

(Although to be honest, our four-year-old has taken to going downstairs and turning on the TV all by herself, so as long as we remember to leave it on PBS before we go to bed, she doesn't wake us up right away.)

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