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  xFriday, August 01, 2003

gallery of the day

carla bruni

A gallery devoted to well-read Italian model Carla Bruni.

carla bruni

Here's a short article on Bruni launching a singing career, from Britian's Hello! magazine (a familiar name to any Absolutely Fabulous fan).


wapo keeps an eye on bush's iraq rhetoric

The Washington Post has been paying close attention to Bush's rhetoric and the moving goalposts shifting justifications for the war.

Dan Balz had a page-one story yesterday noting that Bush's optimistic rhetoric downplays the real risks of his policy on Iraq and the economy, to mention only two.
His poll ratings are down, his administration's credibility on Iraq has been challenged and the economy continues to limp along, but everywhere he looked yesterday, President Bush saw reasons for optimism.

Whatever the issue, whatever the question that came his way in his first formal news conference since the start of the war in Iraq, the president had essentially the same answer: "We're making progress." But threaded through that display of self-confidence was another, more sobering message that his advisers hope Americans will accept: "This is going to take time."

His upbeat appraisal across a wide range of problems belied the challenges that have confronted his administration in the past month and the political toll they have begun to take on his presidency. If confidence alone produced results, there might be less for him to worry about.

For the first time in months, there are glimmers of optimism among Democrats, based on their sense that Bush may be vulnerable in his bid for reelection. The energy with which Bush's political team has been attacking the Democrats as too far left to be trusted to run the country suggests they understand that the longer the problems in Iraq and at home fester, the more likely it is that Bush will face a genuine fight to win a second term.

Bush pointed to the deaths of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's sons last week and to the advances he said have been made in dismantling the al Qaeda terrorist network as evidence of progress, but with U.S. casualties continuing to mount in Iraq, he knows he will need to show more soon or risk losing the public's confidence. The same holds with the economy.

Yesterday's news conference, coming three days before Bush leaves for a month of vacation and political travel from his Texas ranch, was designed to buy him time.

Bush had little new to offer [Ed: Does he ever?] on why bringing stability to postwar Iraq has been so difficult or why his tax cuts have not done more to turn around an economy that has been losing jobs since the beginning of his presidency. Nor did he have new initiatives, policies or proposals. He spoke for nearly an hour in the White House Rose Garden, and for the most part, it was a pep talk designed to tamp down criticism from his opponents.

...Bush tried to defuse the continuing controversy over his address, but left unanswered why, if that intelligence was as sound as he said, it has been so difficult for U.S. forces to locate weapons of mass destruction or clearer evidence of an ongoing weapons program in Iraq.

Today, in another page-one analysis, Dana Milbank and Mike Allen catch Bush backpedaling even more in his rationale for his invasion of Iraq:
President Bush, who has mostly stopped talking about Iraq's weapons, said at a news conference Wednesday that "the rise of a free and peaceful Iraq is critical to the stability of the Middle East, and a stable Middle East is critical to the security of the American people."

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that "the battle to secure the peace in Iraq is now the central battle in the global war on terror, and those sacrifices are going to make not just the Middle East more stable, but our country safer."

And Vice President Cheney, in a speech last week, said Iraq "will stand as an example to the entire Middle East" and thus "contribute directly to the security of America and our friends."

In an interview yesterday, a senior administration official expanded on that theme, saying the United States has embarked on a "generational commitment" to Iraq similar to its efforts to transform Germany in the decades after World War II.

The Bush aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, outlined a long-term strategy in which the United States would spread its values through Iraq and the Middle East much as it transformed Europe in the second half of the 20th century. As outlined, the U.S. commitment to Iraq and the Middle East would be far more expansive than the administration had described to the public and the world before the Iraq war.

...The vision described by the official represents a change in the administration's emphasis in describing the U.S. purpose in Iraq. Before the war, Bush at times stressed the limits of the mission, promising to "remain in Iraq as long as necessary and not a day more." At that time, Bush justified the conflict largely by asserting the need to strip Hussein of chemical and biological weapons and disrupt his nuclear ambitions.

...The newly emphasized rationale is not as clear as the emphasis on the threat Hussein represented. Though the United States seeks to transform the Middle East, some key allies in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, have resisted democracy.

The Bush adviser spoke of an open-ended commitment to Iraq as the United States helps to build its economy and its infrastructure. "When we're talking about resources, this is something that isn't going to be firm for years out into the future," the aide said.

...In a crucial departure from the analogy, the official did not envision a decades-long military presence in Iraq such as the half-century presence in Germany necessitated by the Cold War.

All that's well and good, of course, and may even have a point, but the obvious question remains: That argument wasn't the one Bush advanced to justify his decision to go to war. He certainly didn't embrace a "decades-long military presence," although skeptics warned just such an action might prove necessary. Had he been making that case back in January 2003, without all the ominous talk of mushroom clouds spouted by Bush and his advisors, it's doubtful that Bush's march to war would have enjoyed the support it did.

And with new warnings about al Qaeda terror plots, there's reason to suggest that the Iraq war may have distracted allied attention from the real war against terror and actually spurred al Qaeda recruitment. So much for the "flypaper" theory.

And now, Iraqi scientists maintain that Saddam didn't have the weapons Bush kept claiming he did.

It's all about the same stuff -- perhaps there was an honest case to be made for invading Iraq as part of our long-term strategic goals. But for one reason or another, Bushs didn't make that argument; instead, he conjured an immediate threat apparently out of thin air. Now that the invasion is over and we're committed, Bush tries to pretend that the reasons he gave don't matter, and deigns to reveal what his real reasons were all along.

Even if you agree with the strategic rationale, though, shame on you if you condone Bush's mendacity in selling the war to a doubtful public. It's their sons and daughters who are dying, and they deserve an upfront assesment of the costs and benefits. Yet while Bush likes to crow about the benefits, his administration is still reluctant to come clean about the costs, to the annoyance of even Republican senators.

Before the war, Bush liked to cite Saddam's pattern of deception. Well, there's a pattern here, all right. A truly despicable one.


zombie post of the day

One of the cool games Musashi and I saw at GenCon last weekend was Zombies!!! by Twilight Creations. It's a tile-based game in which players race to be the first to escape a zombie-infested city, avoiding or fighting the flesh-hungry ghouls and grabbing goodies like extra ammo along the way.

In a pleasing coincidence, the game's artist, Dave Aikins, and I recognized each other from our RiverCon days back in Louisvilel some ten years ago. Dave was on hand to promote the game and sell original zombie-themed art that looked pretty cool. Alas, he split before I had a chance to swing back by Twilight Creation's booth Sunday to pick up some of his art. Oh, well, maybe next year...

Meanwhile, over at Destroy All Monsters, Musashi mentions another cook came we checked out at GenCon, Giant Monster Rampage.


fast food post of the day

Just when you thought the employment picture couldn't get any worse: McDonald's is experimenting with automatic freezer-to-grill burger-cooking systems and ATM-based self-ordering kiosks.

(via BoingBoing)

Update: Here's more.


life imitates art post of the day

Under a Blackened Sky compares the Bush Administration with the events of Babylon 5.

(via The Sideshow)


bush and the language of fear

Orcinus points to an interesting op-ed in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, written by a clinical psychologist, that analyzes Bush's rhetoric.
George W. Bush is generally regarded as a mangler of the English language.

What is overlooked is his mastery of emotional language -- especially negatively charged emotional language -- as a political tool. Take a closer look at his speeches and public utterances and his political success turns out to be no surprise. It is the predictable result of the intentional use of language to dominate others.

Bush, like many dominant personality types, uses dependency-creating language. He employs language of contempt and intimidation to shame others into submission and desperate admiration.

...Bush uses several dominating linguistic techniques to induce surrender to his will. The first is empty language. This term refers to broad statements that are so abstract and mean so little that they are virtually impossible to oppose. Empty language is the emotional equivalent of empty calories.

Just as we seldom question the content of potato chips while enjoying their pleasurable taste, recipients of empty language are usually distracted from examining the content of what they are hearing. Dominators use empty language to conceal faulty generalizations; to ridicule viable alternatives; to attribute negative motivations to others, thus making them appear contemptible; and to rename and "reframe" opposing viewpoints.

Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech contained 39 examples of empty language. He used it to reduce complex problems to images that left the listener relieved that George W. Bush was in charge. Rather than explaining the relationship between malpractice insurance and skyrocketing health care costs, Bush summed up: "No one has ever been healed by a frivolous lawsuit." The multiple fiscal and monetary policy tools that can be used to stimulate an economy were downsized to: "The best and fairest way to make sure Americans have that money is not to tax it away in the first place." The controversial plan to wage another war on Iraq was simplified to: "We will answer every danger and every enemy that threatens the American people." In an earlier study, I found that in the 2000 presidential debates Bush used at least four times as many phrases containing empty language as Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush Senior or Gore had used in their debates.

Another of Bush's dominant-language techniques is personalization. By personalization I mean localizing the attention of the listener on the speaker's personality. Bush projects himself as the only person capable of producing results. In his post-9/11 speech to Congress he said, "I will not forget this wound to our country or those who inflicted it. I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people." He substitutes his determination for that of the nation's. In the 2003 State of the Union speech he vowed, "I will defend the freedom and security of the American people." Contrast Bush's "I will not yield" etc. with John F. Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

The word "you" rarely appears in Bush's speeches. Instead, there are numerous statements referring to himself or his personal characteristics of folksiness, confidence, righteous anger or determination as the answer to the problems of the country. Even when Bush uses "we," as he did many times in the State of the Union speech, he does it in a way that focuses attention on himself. For example, he stated: "Once again, we are called to defend the safety of our people, and the hopes of all mankind. And we accept this responsibility."

...Poll after poll demonstrates that Bush's political agenda is out of step with most Americans' core beliefs. Yet the public, their electoral resistance broken down by empty language and persuaded by personalization, is susceptible to Bush's most frequently used linguistic technique: negative framework. A negative framework is a pessimistic image of the world. Bush creates and maintains negative frameworks in his listeners' minds with a number of linguistic techniques borrowed from advertising and hypnosis to instill the image of a dark and evil world around us.

Catastrophic words and phrases are repeatedly drilled into the listener's head until the opposition feels such a high level of anxiety that it appears pointless to do anything other than cower.

...Bush is a master at inducing learned helplessness in the electorate. He uses pessimistic language that creates fear and disables people from feeling they can solve their problems. In his Sept. 20, 2001, speech to Congress on the 9/11 attacks, he chose to increase people's sense of vulnerability: "Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. ... I ask you to live your lives, and hug your children. I know many citizens have fears tonight. ... Be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat." (Subsequent terror alerts by the FBI, CIA and Department of Homeland Security have maintained and expanded this fear of unknown, sinister enemies.)

Contrast this rhetoric with Franklin Roosevelt's speech delivered the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He said: "No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. ... There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces with the unbounding determination of our people we will gain the inevitable triumph so help us God." Roosevelt focuses on an optimistic future rather than an ongoing threat to Americans' personal survival.

...To create a dependency dynamic between him and the electorate, Bush describes the nation as being in a perpetual state of crisis and then attempts to convince the electorate that it is powerless and that he is the only one with the strength to deal with it. He attempts to persuade people they must transfer power to him, thus crushing the power of the citizen, the Congress, the Democratic Party, even constitutional liberties, to concentrate all power in the imperial presidency and the Republican Party.

Bush's political opponents are caught in a fantasy that they can win against him simply by proving the superiority of their ideas. However, people do not support Bush for the power of his ideas, but out of the despair and desperation in their hearts. Whenever people are in the grip of a desperate dependency, they won't respond to rational criticisms of the people they are dependent on. They will respond to plausible and forceful statements and alternatives that put the American electorate back in touch with their core optimism. Bush's opponents must combat his dark imagery with hope and restore American vigor and optimism in the coming years. They should heed the example of Reagan, who used optimism against Carter and the "national malaise"; Franklin Roosevelt, who used it against Hoover and the pessimism induced by the Depression ("the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"); and Clinton (the "Man from Hope"), who used positive language against the senior Bush's lack of vision. This is the linguistic prescription for those who wish to retire Bush in 2004.

In order to succeed, the Democrats must realize that the American people agree with their agenda, not that of the Republicans and certainly not of the gang of radicals in the Bush White house. More importantly, they need to convince the American people that they're willing to fight for that agenda.


exactly right

Digby hits the nail on the head, identifying what must be the key strategy for the Democrats in 2004: Showing Bush to be the phony he is.
This is an ongoing problem for Democrats. We are earnest and sincere but every time we open our mouths it's about our 10 point "program" and why is it better. Even my eyes glaze over.

We'd better figure out how to take this personality driven politics to the Republicans.

Besides, Bush IS a phony--- he's a phony Texan, a phony businessman, a phony politician, a phony flyboy, a phony compassionate conservative, and a phony regular guy. He's actually a phony president.

...The only thing authentic about him is his nasty temper and loyalty to big business.

One of the ramifications of this, of course, is to not listen to the constant carping of conservatives who complain that "the Democrats need to offer an alternative plan." Baloney. Taking that bait, first of all, is a tacit assumption that Bush's policies have any merit to them at all, and forces the Democrats onto the defensive. The burden of proof needs to be on the GOP to defend their terrible policies, and in the light that Bush's promises consistently fail to generate their highly touted benefits.


geek of the week

spirited away baththouse model

Some genius has constructed a paper model of Yubaba's bathhouse from the acclaimed Hayao Miyazaki anime movie Spirited Away. More images here and here, showing that the sucker even lights up! Yow!

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


good news/bad news

Some good economic news from yesterday: The Gross Domestic Product grew at a surprisingly strong 2.4% in the second quarter, and new unemployment claims were below the 400,000 mark for the second week in a row.

Unfortunately, as CalPundit and others have pointed out, the GDP figure takes into account the massive outlay of deficit spending to fund the second Gulf War, and thus is a one-time boost (unless Bush has any more wars up his sleeve...). And it turns out that while the unemployment rate is indeed dropping, it's because of job seekers giving up the search, not because companies are actually hiring. After all, the recent dip in new claims just means companies aren't laying people off quite as much -- not exactly something that'll boost consumer confidence. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Meanwhile, Matthew Yglesias has an excellent chart showing how the growth in tax revenue due to tax cuts never seems to materialize.
The fact that a large number of people were willing to fall for the supply-side con in the 1980s is disheartening, but until the thing had been tried I suppose it's understandable that many would succumb to wishful thinking. Given the fact that this policy has already been implemented and demonstrably failed, however, I find the continued adherence of some to this superstition to be quite puzzling.

Actually, it's easy enough to understand: The adherents of tax cuts for the rich don't really expect the results they promise in order to sell them, they just know they can't sell them without making those promises. Even Bush has acknowledged that his tax cuts are at least partly responsible for the defecit.) And as always, Brad De Long is a great source for economic perspective.


astronomy post of the day

The planet Mars will be closer to Earth this August than it has in thousands of years, providing stargazers with an excellent viewing opportunity.

(via Brut4c)


springsteen post of the day

bruce springsteen

Bruce Springsteen is scheduled to perform the debut concert at Rentschler Field, the new $90 million, 40,000-seat stadium built for the University of Connecticut football teamat in East Hartford, Connecticut, on Sept. 16. But he'll have to abide by local noise control restrictions, as the town refused to grant the rocker a waiver.
The Boss is coming to town, but he'll have to follow the rules.

Mayor Timothy Larson has told concert promoters for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band that the town won't grant a waiver of its noise ordinance, The Hartford Courant reported Thursday.

...According to the noise law, the sound outside the stadium parking lot can't rise more than 5 decibels — a fraction of the volume of a ticking watch.

"Bruce's sound is very directional, and he will make sure that the sound doesn't break the law," says Jim Koplik, who booked the show for Clear Channel Entertainment.

By the way, courtesy of the Boss' official Web site, here's a great quote Springsteen recently made onstage at Giants Stadium:
There have been a lot of questions raised recently about the forthrightness of our government. This playing with the truth has been a part of both the Republican and Democratic administrations in the past and it is always wrong, never more so than when real lives are at stake. The question of whether we were mislead into the war in Iraq isn't a liberal or conservative or Republican or Democratic question, it's an American one. Protecting the democracy that we ask our sons and daughters to die for is our responsibility and our trust. Demanding accountability from our leaders is our job as citizens. It's the American way. So may the truth will out.

Right on.

  xThursday, July 31, 2003

jaquandor explains it all

Byzantium's Shores has the definitve response to the odious theme of Bush's apologists that Bush's policies aren't exactly having the spectacular success they were sold on are somehow hoping for bad things to happen so it'll make Bush look bad:
This is stupid, asinine, and obnoxious hogwash.

'Nuff said.


anna kournikova post of the month

anna kournikova

Victory-challenged but photogenic Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova may be forced to retire due to injury at age 22.
IN THE LATEST ISSUE of French sports daily L’Equipe, agent Phil De Picciotto admitted that the 22-year-old ravishing Russian may be forced to dramatically cut back her playing schedule — if she is able to return to action.

Kournikova has had a miserable run of results over the past couple of seasons and did not play at the French Open or Wimbledon due to injury. She has played just five events this year and recently withdrew from the entire summer hardcourt season, including the U.S. Open.

“Considering the state of her back, Anna is unable to to feature in tournaments regularly,” De Picciotto told L’Equipe. “The past six months have proved that she has a real desire to play, but even if she feels better, she is not fit enough to play as much as she used to.”

The pin-up girl of tennis, Kournikova has never won a singles title on the WTA Tour, with most of her riches predominantly coming from sponsorship deals. She tried to resurrect her career in May by playing on the Challenger circuit, but had to pull out due to her back ailment.

Her best performance in seven years as a professional came when she reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 1997. She reached a career-high eighth in the world rankings in December 2000.

"Ravishing Russian"?

(via FARK)


north korea update

I just heard on NPR that North Korea has apparently agreed to multilateral arms talks, with the US joining China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia.

Regardless of one's views of the Bush administration's competence in dealing with Korea, or the glaringly obvious differences in the threat it apparently pereceived from the non-nuclear (and apparently even non-chemical and biological-) armed Iraq, this is a positive development.

Given that since Bush took office, North Korea has withdrwan from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, kicked out nuclear overseers and monitoring devices, dusted off its (much more dangerous) plutonium bomb program and perhaps acquired enough plutonium for several nuclear weapons to use against the South (or sell to terrorists), the Bush Administration has much ground to recover simply to return to the relatively unstable status quo when Bush took office. However, Bush and Company have an opportunity to undo some of the damage they have done. Let's hope they don't foul it up.

Update: My friend Dodd took issue with this post:
North Korea chose to abandon the "Agreed Framework" they signed with Bill Clinton (actually, they never abided by it, the only thing that's changed is that they finally chose to admit that fact), removed themselves from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and started rattling the nuclear sabre in an effort, as all and sundry agree, to wheedle still more concessions and bail-outs from the United States.

They did all this entirely of their own free will* and have been persistently demanding that the US enter "talks" to deal with the crisis they created for months. But the Bush Administration has consistently maintained that the US would only sit down with them if the talks were truly multilateral. They have now agreed to those terms. And that proves that Bush' NK policy is incompetent?!?

Sorry, but that doesn't compute. Matthew Yglesias is rather a bit closer to correct on this one than my old pal Greg.

I attempted to set him straight in the comments, thus:
First of all, please note that I didn't use the word "incompetent" anywhere in my post. Indeed, like Matthew Yglesias, I credited Bush for the positive development.

I merely pointed out that what you characterize as "rattling the nuclear sabre" could be viewed by some as a dangerous series of escalations. Let's go to the tape:

Given that since Bush took office, North Korea has withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, kicked out nuclear overseers and monitoring devices, dusted off its (much more dangerous) plutonium bomb program and perhaps acquired enough plutonium for several nuclear weapons to use against the South (or sell to terrorists), the Bush Administration has much ground to recover simply to return to the relatively unstable status quo when Bush took office. However, Bush and Company have an opportunity to undo some of the damage they have done. Let's hope they don't foul it up.

So, did any of those events not occur? In what way is that an inaccurate depiction of the situation? It seems to me that you're the one tagging Bush with the "incompetent" label; I simply pointed out everything he's "accomplished." Of course, if the shoe fits...

Finally, while the multilateral talks are indeed a positive sign and a symbolic victory for Bush, it remains to be seen a) if anything concrete will be accomplished, b) if Bush will be foreced to offer any appeasement concessions (let's face it, we don't have many options for resorting to a stick), and c) if North Korea will be any more inclined to abide by any agreement than it has been in the past.

I think I'm within my rights to be cautiously optimistic, yet point out that Bush has some damage to undo, hmm?

Of course, North Korea agreeing to talks isn't an indication of Bushs' incompetence. The events leading up to that agreement, though, are fair game. The fact that Bush has obtained his goal of multilateral talks hardly means that he's reached an actual solution to the crisis that has escalated while he took aim at Iraq. So yes, if one wanted to question Bush's competence, I think there's ample reason to. And definitely good reason to hope he doesn't screw it up.


the dlc flap

Here's another recent development I'm a little late in expressing my umbrage over. As part of their apparent quest to ensure a permanent Republican majority, the so-called Democratic Leadership Committee informed all and sundry that in order to enjoy electoral success, Democrats must become Republicans.

(Of course, even Democrats-turned-Republicans would be more moderate than the gang of radicals running the White House, but I digress...)

I'm sure this dust-up delights many on the Right, but: Horse manure.

The problems aren't with the Democrats' policies, but with the public's perception of them. And conceding that the other side is right won't do anything to dispel that perception.

For Ford's sake, the DLC practically conceded that Bush is better at nation security, a premise I don't believe for a picosecond. Yes, the Democratic candidate needs to be strong on defense. No, Bush's dangerous combination of arrogance and trigger-happiness doesn't make us a whit safer.

Digby's (somewhat profane) response is spot-on:

I'd point out at this point that by perceiving the disconnect between Bush's rhetoric and the reality, public perception seems to be changing without much help from the Democrats. Quick quiz: Which tactic would increase that Democratic advantage, pointing out that Bush's policies are bad or agreeing with them? Sheesh!
...This is a terrible misconception and one that will indeed “hang the party” because these guys are not only out of touch with their own party, they are obviously delusional about the opposition. They don’t recognize that the political landscape has completely changed since 1985 when the DLC was created and 1992 when it reached its zenith of power. In 2004 it is losing its relevance to many Democrats, not because of a difference in policy but because it has failed to recognize that while they have not changed, the Republican Party has undergone a complete metamorphosis. They do not seem to understand that when the competition completely changes strategy, you must be prepared to change strategy as well.

The fact is that it does not matter if our candidate actually supported the war in Iraq or not. If John Kerry is the nominee rather than Howard Dean, do they actually believe that the Republicans will not find a way to portray him as soft on national security? Please.

It. Does. Not. Matter. What. We. Actually. Do.

We could sign on to a 0% tax rate for millionaires, repeal of Social Security, prison terms for homosexuality and oil rigs in the middle of San Francisco Bay and they would still say we are liberal, tax and spend, tree hugging, treasonous pacifists because it is in their interest to do so. Until we stop tugging our forelocks and sniveling around like beaten dogs, thereby validating their lies, they will be believed by a fair number of Americans. People who turn the other cheek when they are being unfairly and relentlessly attacked are either saints or p[_]ssies ... and the DLC aren’t saints.

The way to change the Republican propaganda-created perception that the Democratic Party is a bunch of namby pamby, liberal, pacifist big spenders is to FIGHT BACK.

We should attack the other side with righteous indignation and illuminate for the American people the fact that George W. Bush’s GOP is radical and out of touch with America’s values. (This also has the virtue of being true.) In the hands of a skilled politician this can be done without sounding “shrill” or “hysterical”, but rather strong, reassuring and commonsensical.

Many Americans have a feeling that something is going badly wrong. The media is confusing and sensational. It’s difficult to cut through the muddy and garbled ever-changing story to get a clear sense of what exactly is causing this discomfort. The Republicans are very effective at offering a comforting narrative of strength and tradition.

But, it is the job of the Democrats to rightly identify the source of this existential unease as emanating directly from the White House and the man whom everybody knows, deep in their heart, was not qualified for the job. The Dems need to be unequivocal in their opposition to this presidency, because there is not even one small identifiable aspect of it that is in keeping with traditional Democratic values (despite Evan Bayh’s evident nostalgia for the ever so successful foreign policy of Lyndon Johnson). The working, taxpaying, regular folk of the “far left,” notwithstanding, if the Democrat can articulate this case with passion and authority, he might be able to show a few of the mushy middle that the real crazies these days are on the right --- which is the truth.

Most importantly, they need to articulate the difference between the parties, not the similarities. By attacking the Bush administration’s radical and mendacious agenda, while promoting the Democratic policies of engaged multilateralism and support for international institutions, as well as common sense tax and social spending policies and respect for civil liberties, I think it’s entirely possible that many Americans will see things our way.

Politicians, after all, are not only supposed to figure out what the people want and give it to them. They are supposed to convince the people that they want what the politicians have to give.

The Republicans have managed to persuade large numbers of middle class people that the rich not only have no obligation to ensure the continuation of the stable, decent society that enables their wealth, but that the average working stiff does. If they can do that, then surely we Democrats can educate Americans to the fact that allowing Bush and his ivory tower, think-tank radicals to turn this country into an Imperial banana republic is likely to result in a reduction in their standard of living.

The DLC has lost touch with the zeitgeist. They are as irrelevant today as the SDS.

To The Barricades! reminds us that regardless of which candidates we favor, the goal of Democrats (and anyone not caught up in the radical PNAC/Grover Norquist/Tom Delay insanity that seems to grip the radical Republicans) should be to ensure that Bush becomes the only President who was never elected. And via TTB!, we find excellent analysis (and further linkage) at Liberal Oasis. Daily Kos, Eschaton, Interesting Times, Not Geniuses, and Matthew Yglesias opine as well.


bush takes responsibility (gasp!)

I'm catching up on several developments from yesterday, when I was offline for most of the day.

Yesterday bore two surprises: President Bush not only held an actual press conference, but also accepted (at last!) responsibility for making a claim designed to give a misleading impression of Saddam's nuclear program.
Bush's aides have been struggling since July 7 to explain why he declared in his Jan. 28 address to Congress that Hussein "recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" despite earlier CIA warnings to avoid the claim. Bush since then had deflected questions about whether he took responsibility for the claim, which administration officials have alternately described as wrong and unsubstantiated.

The president amended his answer yesterday. "I take personal responsibility for everything I say, of course," Bush said. He then shifted to the broader defense of the war he had previously made. "I also take responsibility for making decisions on war and peace," he said. "I analyzed a thorough body of intelligence, good, solid, sound intelligence that led me to come to the conclusion that it was necessary to remove Saddam Hussein from power."

The thing that struck me at once when I read this quote was that, while Bush tried hard to make it seem like "of course" he always takes repsonsibility, he has in fact had multiple opportunities to accept responsibility -- including at least one occasion when he was invited to do so point-blank, and dodged the question. He's also permitted at least two of his underlings to try to take the bullet for him. Interestingly, I think this move is designed to shield national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. Her changing story about the uranium flap leave little room for any other possibility than that she's lying, incompetent, or both. Of course, Bush expressing his full confidence in her speaks volumes (after all, Rice's actions helped give Bush the was he so obviously coveted).

The other thing, of course, is the notion that Bush "analyzed" the intelligence in the speech. Memo to Bush: Jack Ryan, you ain't. Wanna be, maybe, but ain't.

Moreover, it's becoming increasingly obvious that there's no way intelligence about Saddam's weapons programs could have been "good, solid, sound intelligence;" if it was, we would have found something by now.

Bush's acceptance of responsibility is welcome, but if he thinks doing so will make the issue of his mendacity in selling the war -- about the uranium claim and so many other questionable statements -- go away, he's badly mistaken.


sam phillips r.i.p.

Sam Phillips, the Memphis record store and Sun Records owner who discovered Elvis, has died at the age of 80.

From the AP story:
"When I first heard Elvis, the essence of what I heard in his voice was such that I knew there might be a number of areas that we could go into," Phillips once said.

Phillips, the record producer who helped usher in the rock 'n' roll revolution, died Wednesday of respiratory failure at St. Francis Hospital, his son Knox Phillips said. He said his father had been in declining health for a year.

The elder Phillips founded Sun Records in 1952 and helped launch the career of Presley, then a young singer who had moved from Tupelo, Miss.

In the summer of 1953, Presley went to the Sun studio to record two songs for his mother's birthday. Phillips noticed him and offered Presley a recording contract.

Phillips produced Presley's first record, the 1954 single that featured "That's All Right, Mama" and "Blue Moon of Kentucky," and nine more.

"God only knows that we didn't know it would have the response that it would have," Phillips said in an interview in 1997. "But I always knew that the rebellion of young people, which is as natural as breathing, would be a part of that breakthrough."

Presley was good with ballads, Phillips recalled, but there was no need to challenge the established balladeers like Perry Como (news), Frankie Laine and Bing Crosby.

"What there was a need for was a rhythm that had a very pronounced beat, a joyous sound and a quality that young people in particular could identify with," he said.

By 1956, when Phillips sold Presley's contract to RCA for $35,000, the rock 'n' roll craze had become a cultural phenomenon and a multimillion-dollar industry.

Phillips was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. In 2000, the A&E cable network ran a two-hour biography called "Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock and Roll."

Phillips began in music as a radio station engineer and later as a disc jockey. He started Sun Records so he could record both rhythm & blues singers and country performers.

His plan was to let artists who had no formal training play their music as they felt it, raw and full of life. The Sun motto was "We Record Anything, Anywhere, Anytime."

In the early days, before Presley, Phillips worked mostly with black musicians, including B.B. King and Rufus Thomas.

After the success of Presley on Sun, others who recorded for the label under Phillips included Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Conway Twitty and Charlie Rich.

He got out of the recording business in 1962 and sold Sun Records in 1969 to producer Shelby Singleton of Nashville. The Sun studio on Union Avenue in Memphis is now a tourist attraction.

From Reuters' obituary:
Widely regarded as one of the most important figures in 20th century popular music, Phillips played a major role in bringing the electric blues of black artists to a wider audience and in pioneering the development of rock 'n' roll.

With performers such as Presley and Perkins, Phillips fused the best of rhythm and blues with country and western, creating a style known as "rockabilly" and giving birth to a raucous new musical genre that transformed America's recording scene in the 1950s.

In an era when the Deep South remained racially segregated, Phillips, who was white, crossed the color barrier by opening his studio to black and white musicians alike.

Born January 5, 1923, in Florence, Alabama, Phillips became involved in radio, and by 1945 he was working as a disc jockey for a Memphis station. Five years later he opened his first studio business, the Memphis Recording Service, where he recorded weddings and other private events to make ends meet.

He soon became immersed in the Memphis blues scene, recording local R&B artists in a venture that would help change the course of American music. Working with fresh, as-yet little-known talent, Phillips often discouraged the musicians from polishing their sounds and captured the raw energy of their performances.

Among the artists he produced early recordings for and leased to independently owned labels of others were bluesmen B.B. King and Howlin' Wolf. He also recorded Jackie Brenston's landmark single "Rocket 88," often cited as the prototypic rock 'n' roll record.

Phillips launched his own eponymous label in 1950 that folded after just one release. But he started a new label two years later called Sun Records, which achieved its first national R&B hit in 1953 with Rufus Thomas' "Bear Cat."

The following year, reportedly seeking a white singer with a black feel, Phillips struck pay dirt when he recorded Presley's first single, a cover of the blues tune "That's All Right Mama."

The young native of Tupelo, Mississippi, went on to record four more classic singles at Sun Records before Phillips, in need of capital to expand his label, sold Presley's contract to RCA for $35,000 in 1955. It was at RCA that Elvis later built his career as a superstar.

Back at Sun, Phillips soon scored his first national pop hit, and million-selling single, with Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes." For the rest of the decade, Phillips focused on developing his roster of rockabilly talent, though it was at Sun that Cash, who hewed closer to country, developed his distinctive "boom chicka boom" sound. Country singer Charlie Rich also began his career there.

As a big fan of Elvis and early '50s rock and roll and country music, I'm deeply saddened at the loss of this important musical icon.

  xWednesday, July 30, 2003

bruce campbell ok after car crash

Great googly moogly! Actor Bruce Campbell received minor injuries over the weekend after his Jeep was struck by a drink driver. Thankfully, the 45-year-old actor was not badly hurt; he was treated and released from a hospital.
RUCH, Ore. - Bruce Campbell, an actor whose credits include "Evil Dead," "Hercules," "Xena, Warrior Princess" and "Spider-Man" suffered minor injuries in a weekend accident.

Campbell, 45, of Jacksonville, was driving late Saturday when his car was struck by a Jeep driven by 36-year-old Steven Michael Sellers of Medford.

Sellars, who was ejected from his vehicle and struck the windshield of the Explorer, was listed in critical condition Sunday with head injuries.

Campbell, who has a cult following among horror film buffs, was treated and released from a local hospital.

Sellars was cited by the Jackson County Sheriff's Department for driving under the influence of intoxicants, assault, failing to maintain lane of travel, driving while suspended and for outstanding traffic tickets.

I guess doing all those stunts for the Evil Dead films, in which his character Ash takes incredible abuse, must have given Mr. Campbell some extra good luck. I'm relieved and grateful that he wasn't badly hurt.

(via Wirehed)


fear and loathing in indianapolis

...or, as Musashi described it to me in an email, "a savage journey into the heart of the American geek."

Anyway, Musashi has posted the first installment of what promises to be an epic saga of our experiences at GenCon over the weekend. After reading the introductory chapter, I can hardly wait for more! (And yes, I'm overdue with my own summary...)

Musashi also links to Japan's version of Am I Hot or Not? Kawaii!


training day

I'm teaching a training class today, so posting will be light.

Update: The class went excellently. I'm done for the day, and will try to toss in a few quick posts before I have to leave.

  xTuesday, July 29, 2003

whipping post

A front-page story in Sunday's Washington Post took National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to task for her handling of intelligence used to justify Bush's decision to attack Iraq. The article raises serios questions about Rice's honesty, competence, or both.
She has been made to appear out of the loop by colleagues' claims that she did not read or recall vital pieces of intelligence. And she has made statements about U.S. intelligence on Iraq that have been contradicted by facts that later emerged.

The remarks by Rice and her associates raise two uncomfortable possibilities for the national security adviser. Either she missed or overlooked numerous warnings from intelligence agencies seeking to put caveats on claims about Iraq's nuclear weapons program, or she made public claims that she knew to be false. [Emphasis added]

Go read the whole thing.

(via The Left Coaster)


flash game of the day

Here's a Flash version of the classic (ahem) naval strategy game Battleship.

(via FARK)


article at dam

Musashi and I collaborated last week on a feature article for Destroy All Monsters describing Asian movies we'd like to see made into video games. The GenCon conference delayed its posting last week, but it's up now. One hint: I picked the dating sim.

Update: Wirehed Magazine took note of the article. Thanks for the props, guys!


slight delay

I'm working on a roundup of my experiences at GenCon; as a result, posting will be delayed until after lunchtime today.

  xMonday, July 28, 2003

a thousand times no

This is just wrong.
Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note: "If you want your family released, turn yourself in." Such tactics are justified, he said, because, "It's an intelligence operation with detainees, and these people have info." They would have been released in due course, he added later.

The tactic worked. On Friday, Hogg said, the lieutenant general appeared at the front gate of the U.S. base and surrendered.

That's right...US forces in Iraq have resorted to taking hostages.

Remind me...who's supposed to be the good guys?

(via Eschaton)

Update: CalPundit, Daily Kos, Eschaton, Mark Kleiman, Jim Henley, and Matthew Yglesias, among others, rightly deplore the situation. Tacitus does his best to make the case that "there is something less to this than the outraged parties allege," but his reasoning is less than satisfactory. If the US forces took non-combatants (and no where is it alleged they were otherwise) prisoner, and left a note saying that they would come to harm if certain conditions weren't met, then they were hostages regardless of our secret intention. Claiming that we didn't really intend to harm them or keep them prisoner indefinitely does not magically wish the crime away. The fact that our forces took them prisoner, and deliberately took steps to create the impression that they would come to harm if conditions weren't met, makes them hostages. I can't fathom that, if a hostage situation involving Islamist terrorists was foiled, any defense that they never intended to hurt the hostages, and planned to let them go anyway, would wash.

At least Tacitus' post implies a disapproval if the US did indeed resport to hostage-taking -- in other words, a desperate attempt to rationalize the occurence so that somehow it isn't. Other conservatives either wholeheartedly approve of the evident violation of international and US military law (and the latter, at least, is indeed binding), or give it their tacit consent by their silence. Regardless of the practical objections to such a policy -- that the long-term harm outweighs any short-term benefit -- the moral bankruptcy of many hawks' end-justifies-the-means, might-makes-right attitude is simply disgusting.


calpundit explains it all

Kevin Drum has an excellent analysis of Bush's poor management style.
[A] hallmark of good managers is that they are willing to look at real-world data honestly and eventually adjust their thinking if the data requires it, even if it's painful or embarrassing to do so — which it usually is. In my business, that means cancelling a product that was your idea in the first place, or admitting that sales was right about that trade show you made them go to. If you're the president of the United States, it might mean reconsidering the notion that bankrupting the country is a good idea.

Bad managers are either unwilling or afraid to do this. They either insulate themselves, or ignore the data when it's given to them, or deliberately choose to interpret the data in perverse ways. This is how George Bush strikes me. He simply doesn't care about whether things really work or not, or what the true effect of his plans is going to be, or what the data says. He just charges ahead because he's absolutely sure that his instincts are all he needs.

But there's more to the article Brad De Long's cited post links to -- not only is accurate information appearently unwelcome if it contradicts the Bush' perceptions, but even more disturbing, there's apparently little consequence for "misinforming" the President as long as it's what Bush wants to hear anyway. It's more telling that Condi Rice still has her job than that Zinni doesn't.

Bush speaks with great conviction, and the appearance of sincerity lends him credibility he doesn't deserve. That's why, as Steve Soto has suggested, the Democrats need to hammer Bush on his growing disconnect with reality.


bob hope r.i.p.

Legendary comedian Bob Hope has died at the age of 100.

  xSunday, July 27, 2003

GenCon cosplay noted in local press

The local paper has a feature article in this Sunday's edition spotlighting the cosplayers at GenCon, including a photo of a young woman from Dayton, Ohio, in an award-winning costume inspired by the Vampire: The Masquerade role-playing game (incorrectly identified as a video game in the caption). The article also notes that the con is expected to bring about 25,000 people and $11.6 million to the city. But judging by the size of the crowds Musashi and I saw at the registration table yesterday, the 25,000 figure is probably low.

(Cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)

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