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  xFriday, August 15, 2003

asian culture link of the day


tale of genji

Byzantium's Shores has a lovely image from, and several good links to, the Lady Murasaki's The Tale of Genji, which is arguably the first novel ever written. Here's another site devoted to the tale. c00L!

Image courtesy the Tale of Genji Scroll Index.

Speaking of ancient Japanese culture, having finished Grand Theft Auto 3, I'm now playing Onimusha 2.




  x

drama in real life


A 5 feet 3 1/2 inches tall, 105-pound woman hiking in New Jersey's Wawayanda State Park escaped serious injury when attacked by a hungry 400-pound black bear by bashing it in the chops with her elbow.

"My biologists tell me that this was a classic predatory attack," [an official] said. "Apparently, it was planning to eat her."

"She did everything right by fighting off the animal, because she would have been severely mauled if she didn't," he said.


Call the Weekly World News!

(via FARK)




  x

'texas miracle' basically bogus bush bull


CalPundit, Tom Spencer and Mark Kleiman have the skinny on revelations that figures on Texas education performance -- figures that supported the push for Bush's so-called education bill, not to mention the nomination of Houston school superintendent Rod Paige for Secretary of Education -- were (surprise, surprise!) fudged. Once again, the only defense against Paige's mendacity is incompetence. In either case, he should be shown the door pronto.





  x

anime post of the day


Morat has some musings on the series The Big O after a casual glance.

Also, I was out shopping for a picture frame to put one Cecilia's birthday pictures on my desk at work, and picked up the second Robotech DVD for six bucks. I call that it isn't even a birthday present; it's just a cheapo DVD I happened to pick up.




  x

gop campaign creates jobs!


...in India. Cheap-labor Republicans strike again!

(via CalPundit; Kos weighs in as well.)




  x

review at dam


Destroy All Monsters has posted my review of the classic -- and ultra-violent -- Sonny Chiba flick The Street Fighter. I picked up the flick on one of my forays into buying cheapo DVDs; the edition I got is a decent widescreen print, and it's only five bucks! W00t!




  x

lights out


Wow. Just...wow.




  xThursday, August 14, 2003

bachelor update


I talked to my lovely wife today, and due to a situation arising suddenly, she and the girls are coming home on Tuesday, not Thursday. I'm happy to have them home, of course, but we're all sorry about the circumstances -- Crystal's grandmother died last night. Although I didn't know Crystal's grandmother well at all, I'm deeply sorry at her passing, and my thoughts and sympathy are with my wife and her family at this time, as always.




  x

a tough question deserves a tough answer


Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States:
Q: ... if a Democrat were President ... and were running a $455 billion deficit, as are you, all other things being equal, wouldn't you be upset about it?

THE PRESIDENT: Let me tell you something, the deficit was caused by a recession which we inherited and did something about. The deficit was caused because we spent more money on fighting a war, and the American people expect a President to do what is necessary to win a war. So I look forward to taking this debate on. I really do. We did the right thing when it came to tax relief. We inherited a tough situation.

But most importantly, the American know that I'm not afraid to lead and to make a tough decision. And I made a tough decision, a series of tough decisions. One, to make America more secure, a tough decision to make the world more peaceful, and I made tough decisions when it comes to making sure our economy grows. [Emphasis added throughout.]

In addition to that sterling example of tough rhetoric, did you noticed that -- surprise, surprise! -- Bush didn't answer the question?

How anyone can defend this man, much less admire him, is beyond me. Saying "tough" 146 times in a sentence doesn't make him so; it just makes fools of anyone who buys such a pathetic, Gingrichian stunt.

Unless they just need to believe he's tough. Well, bad news, folks; Bush is a bully, a coward, and a phony.

(via Uggabugga -- happy blogaversary! -- and see P.L.A. for an excellent take on Bush's claim that he "inherited" the recession.)

Update: Daily Kos has more on another sterling Bush moment.




  x

bush mendacity pre-watch


Talking Points Memo reminds us to be skeptical of the upcoming report on Iraq's weapons "programs" from the Bush Administration.
The point is that the people who are really worth listening to aren't making absolute or maximalist statements or predictions. The White House would like the standard to be, any chemical or biological weapons and they're vindicated. And I fear some of the White House's critics have been complicit in setting this very low standard.

At this point it seems increasingly unlikely we're going to find anything. But it could happen.

...The point is that if you want to adopt an expansive definition of 'programs' we probably already have at least some evidence that they had on-going 'programs' --- just ones that were considerably more dormant than we'd imagined before the war.

(Note that "substantial evidence of biological weapons" would seem to mean that they haven't found any actual weapons since that would presumably be conclusive evidence, not just substantial evidence.)

Third, timing. Look at Novak's words: "Kay has told his superiors he has found substantial evidence of biological weapons in Iraq, plus considerable missile development." This construction leaves the issue of chronology quite vague. And I suspect that vagueness is going to become a very important point. [Emphasis added.]

We know that the Iraqis had a biological weapons program and that there were biological weapons in the country. That's wholly undisputed. If Kay produces substantial evidence of such weapons in 1995 or 1998, that's meaningless. What we're trying to figure out is whether he had them in the period when we were considering going to war.

What many suspect is that Kay is going to pull an intel version of a classic 1990s-era document dump. In other words, come forward with a mound of documents detailing the Iraqis' extensive programs, their histories, the means used to conceal them, whom they imported parts from, and so forth. And then conveniently leave as a footnote the fact that these program had gone pretty dormant by 2002. The idea will be to make up with paper poundage what the report lacks in relevance. Hit them with twenty reams of report about the Iraqi WMD programs and then figure that the follow-on reports about how little was actually happening in 2002 are buried in the back of the papers after no one is paying attention.

All of this is to say that we're probably set for an elaborate festival of goal post moving courtesy of Mr Kay -- the widely telegraphed switch from weapons to 'programs' being the key sign. [Emphasis added.]

The point to keep in mind is that at the end of the day the standard isn't any WMD or any identifiable dormant program which might have made non-conventional weapons in the future. The standard is this: If you look at the totality of the White House's pre-war statements about Iraqi WMD, and then look at what's contained in the report, will you say: "Wow, you weren't kiddin!" or "Wow, you've gotta friggin be kiddin!"

Josh Marshall's cautions are spot-on, and remind us that we can't trust anything Bush says enough to take it at face value.




  x

a wild and crazy guy


steve martin

Happy birthday, Steve Martin!




  x

support the troops, bush style


The Bush Administration is showing typical support and concern for the troops who are carrying out his policies in Iraq: The Pentagon can't seem to find the money for promised hazardous duty and separation bonuses.
The Pentagon wants to cut the pay of its 148,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, who are already contending with guerrilla-style attacks, homesickness and 120- degree-plus heat.

Unless Congress and President Bush take quick action when Congress returns after Labor Day, the uniformed Americans in Iraq and the 9,000 in Afghanistan will lose a pay increase approved last April of $75 a month in "imminent danger pay" and $150 a month in "family separation allowances."

The Defense Department supports the cuts, saying its budget can't sustain the higher payments amid a host of other priorities. But the proposed cuts have stirred anger among military families and veterans' groups and even prompted an editorial attack in the Army Times, a weekly newspaper for military personnel and their families that is seldom so outspoken.

Congress made the April pay increases retroactive to Oct. 1, 2002, but they are set to expire when the federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30 unless Congress votes to keep them as part of its annual defense appropriations legislation.

Imminent danger pay, given to Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force members in combat zones, was raised to $225 from $150 a month. The family separation allowance, which goes to help military families pay rent, child care or other expenses while soldiers are away, was raised from $100 a month to $250.

Last month, the Pentagon sent Congress an interim budget report saying the extra $225 monthly for the two pay categories was costing about $25 million more a month, or $300 million for a full year. In its "appeals package" laying out its requests for cuts in pending congressional spending legislation, Pentagon officials recommended returning to the old, lower rates of special pay and said military experts would study the question of combat pay in coming months.

A White House spokesman referred questions about the administration's view on the pay cut to the Pentagon report.

This sutiation, while not irreparable, is still reprehensible. Let's face facts. Bush's missile defense pipedream is the budget buster. Ponying up to pay our troops approved combat and separation pay is not even an option.

I'm sure Bush will eventually do the right thing, to great applause from his apologists, but really. It's ridiculous matters even got this far. If Bush truly supported the troops -- or was even a halfway decent President -- he'd have never permitted such a thing to happen.

(via Pandagon)

Update: Props to Tacitus for his expression of outrage from the right; he's quite correct that "it is evidence of incompetence at best" (emphasis his).

Update 2: As I anticipated, the Pentagon has backed away from the idea (props to Angry Bear for the link). Good. Here's a free hint, guys: If "disclosure of the idea quickly [becomes] a political embarrassment," that's a pretty good hint you shouldn't do it.




  x

swank kaiju toys of the day


ultraman kaiju toys

Yesterday, I got a package in the mail containing a birthday present I ordered for myself -- or rather, won in an auction on eBay. It's a four-pack of Bandai Ultraman monster models. E-e-excellent!

Not only are they a hip thing to have on general principles, but they're also exactly the sort of toy the supremely fun Giant Monster Rampage rules were written for. I hope to get a copy of the rules for my birthday -- goodness knows if I'll ever playt, but my lovely wife sometimes enjoys the occasional game of Netrunner or Illuminati New World Order, and of course next time I see Musashi we'll definitely throw down kaiju-style, so who knows? Better yet, this group represents several different styles of giant monster, from robot to lizard to that funky crab-clawed creature I remember from the Ultraman TV series, so we could create any sort of monster for the game.

Of course, for now they get put away along with the other stuff I've already ordered...

godzilla toy
Cecilia doesn't know it yet, but thanks to another eBay auction, she's getting her very own Godzilla toy. I have one just like this on top of my computer, and I've been looking for another to give to her for some time.




  x

m$ to abandon outlook express


Microsoft has stopped developing its popular, simple and functional free email client Outlook Express, according to ZDNet.
"[Outlook Express] just sits where it is," said Dan Leach, lead product manager for Microsoft's information worker product management group. "The technology doesn't go away, but no new work is being done. It is consumer email in an early iteration, and our investment in the consumer space is now focused around Hotmail and MSN. That's where we're putting the emphasis in terms of new investment and new development work."

While Outlook Express has always been most popular with individual consumers, many business users have also utilised it, in part because it is part of its default Windows install. Microsoft executives are hoping those users will now switch to the full-blown Outlook client (and pay for an Office licence in the process).

"IMAP is just not a very rich protocol," Steve Conn, Exchange Server product manager, told ZDNet Australia during the company's Tech Ed conference. "The great majority of people used Outlook Express because they weren't on a LAN environment, and Outlook was just too fat for them."

This action probably won't affect us in the immediate future, even though my lovely wife uses the Outlook Express (I'm a Eudora guy myself), because I have several install CDs with the software, and we don't need any new development. If we're ever forced to, er, "upgrade" to Windows XP or its ilk, we may see some trouble. But in that case, we'll just become a two-Eudora family -- it's highly doubtful we'd simply migrate to the full version of Outlook.

(via Slashdot via Confessions of a G33k, who makes the blogroll not only because of her excellent Web log but because I dig chixx0rz who wear glasses.)




  x

bush mendacity watch


Disarmament expert Peter Zimmerman blasts Bush's deceptions to drum up support for his war on Iraq in a scathing op-ed in this morning's Washington Post.
It was not just 16 words. It was every word concerning Iraq's nuclear weapons program in George W. Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech.

The president's principal argument for going to war -- to prevent a "smoking gun that would appear as a mushroom cloud" -- was based on bad intelligence that was misused while good intelligence was ignored.

Available evidence demonstrates that Saddam Hussein, an evil man who should have been evicted in 1991, lacked a serious nuclear weapons program in 2003. And if Mr. Bush had not held out the threat of Iraqi nuclear weapons "within months," it is doubtful that Congress would have given him a blank check.

How can one conjure up a benign explanation for the president's assertions?

The claim that Niger was selling uranium was based on disputed intelligence, since retracted by the White House and CIA. The National Intelligence Estimate on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction carried prominent warnings that knowledgeable agencies and analysts dissented from its conclusions. It is hard to believe that national security adviser Condoleezza Rice or her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, missed or forgot about the red flags.

If the Bush administration had been wrong only about the Niger purchase, it would have indicated carelessness. But the references to nuclear weapons, taken as a whole, indicate dissatisfaction with the truth of the matter and a disregard for inconvenient facts.

Political leaders must not tell intelligence analysts what to write; the intelligence services cannot tell the elected decision maker what to do. The president, of course, is free to disregard intelligence, but he is not free to lie about it -- either directly, indirectly or by innuendo -- when making the case for war.

President Bush said that in the early 1990s Iraq "had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb." Not exactly.

Nuclear weapons experts serving as inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called the bomb "design" more of a parts list than a description of a buildable device. The five ways to enrich uranium really boiled down to two -- electromagnetic separation and gas centrifuges, neither working well. Iraq's crude experiments in the 1990s showed that it was a very long way from nuclear success.

President Bush said that Iraq had sought to buy "high-strength aluminum tubes" to be used in gas centrifuges to make bomb-grade uranium. The proliferation experts at the Department of Energy could not comment publicly, but they dissented privately. The inspectors of the IAEA produced clear evidence of the truth: rocket bodies, not nuclear weapons. The tubes could be used for centrifuges only after lengthy and complex reworking. The facts had been available to the White House for months, as declassified excerpts from an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate demonstrate.

The current President Bush was not the first leader to take the United States to war with Iraq using phony intelligence.

In September 1990 his father's administration claimed that Iraq had hundreds of tanks and 300,000 troops in Kuwait massed on the Saudi border. But independent analysis by me and a colleague, using extremely sharp Soviet satellite photos, showed no evidence whatever of a significant Iraqi force in Kuwait. Nonetheless, in 1990 the American people were told that an attack on Saudi Arabia was imminent.

Postwar analysis showed that the independent analysis published in this country in the St. Petersburg Times was dead accurate: There were not 300,000 but fewer than 100,000 Iraqi troops and only a few Iraqi tanks in Kuwait.

George W. Bush's backing and filling, his staff's confused explanations, revised explanations and new explanations, plus the immutable fact that most of his arguments for war in Iraq were misleading, have seriously damaged his credibility abroad and are eroding it at home.

When an American president needs to take the nation to war, Americans must be able to trust him and must believe that the case for conflict is sound. The next time Bush wants to use armed force to preempt or prevent an attack on this country, he will have to prove his case far more completely than before. Two presidents of the United States have forfeited the benefit of the doubt.

Zimmerman takes a valuable look at the big picture. While Bush's apologists may strain to find some benign explanation for this fib or that, taken as a whole it's clear that Bush's intelligence agencies were saying one thing, and Bush himself -- and his minions -- quite another.

During the runup to war, there was much debate in the blogosphere between hawks who took Bush's claims of "bulletproof" intelligence at his word and skeptics like me who noted that there was more sizzle than steak. There's no dishonor either in taking the President at word or in insisting on a higher standard of proof than assertions from the podium.

But the hawks need to realize that the intelligence they insisted was there simply wasn't. It isn't a matter of different interpretations of various factions; it's a matter of public distortions of what the Administration knew -- or should have known -- to be true. Bush might have patiently built consensus along other arguments hawks used for the war, but he chose not to. He argued about an imminent threat that must be confronted right now. It's abundantly obvious by now that such a threat did not exist. Bland dismissals about "intelligence failures" are simply not enough.

It's high time conservatives admitted that, even though the general concept of ousting Saddam was a Good Thing, the means Bush used to do so are completely unacceptable and must never, ever be allowed to happen again. Why not? They got what they wanted. We're in Iraq for good or ill, and while I have little confidence in the Administration to carry out its stated goals, I hope the situation stabilizes soon.

But there's simply no possibilty that Bush led us there honestly. As Zimmerman pointed out, it isn't about 16 words; it's about a multitude of words trumping up a scary nuclear threat that didn't exist.




  xWednesday, August 13, 2003

post office


Several letters to the Washington Post editorial board said what I wanted to tell them about their asinine editorial criticizing Gore's recent spot-on critique of Bush's Iraq prevarications
The editorial associated Mr. Gore's speech with "every conspiratorial theory of the antiwar left." But Mr. Gore was criticizing not just the administration but the Washington press corps.

The press, including until recently The Post, has failed to challenge the administration on its factually challenged approach to policy. Polls show that the public is deeply misinformed about the lack of ties between Iraq and al Qaeda (or the 9/11 attacks), and about the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Who is responsible for this?

The Post also dismissed Mr. Gore's criticism of President Bush's economic and environmental policies because "many other people support those policies." That's no response, of course, but even so Mr. Bush's approval rating has fallen to 55 percent because of those policies. And by the way, the fact that 98 senators voted for the Patriot Act doesn't mean that it's not an extreme invasion of privacy rights in the name of fighting terrorism.

Finally, The Post accused Mr. Gore of trying to "have it both ways" by "pandering to anti-Bush passion while protecting his national-security flank." But only a partisan supporter of the president would argue that criticizing Mr. Bush is inconsistent with national security.

And this:
Nowhere in Al Gore's December 1998 commentary does he suggest that the only way to deal with Saddam Hussein is to stage a preemptive strike -- or any kind of strike, for that matter.

A President Gore might have continued to maintain that Saddam Hussein was dangerous in the same way that President Bush admits that Kim Jong Il of North Korea is dangerous. It doesn't follow that he would have emptied the treasury, put American lives on the line and increased the possibility of terrorist strikes against Americans.

Al Gore's criticism laid out the fault lines of this administration's tactics in everything from foreign policy to the economy. He demonstrated how the Bush administration decides on a position and then gathers tidy bits of information to justify its action -- regardless of whether the information can stand scrutiny.

And the creme de la creme:
The Post's editorial said that Al Gore had "blurred" vision when he "breathlessly" said that the public was fooled by the Bush administration's "systematic effort to manipulate facts in service to a totalistic ideology."

Might it also be said that The Post breathlessly gushed in a Feb. 6 editorial headlined "Irrefutable" the day after Secretary of State Colin L. Powell presented the administration's case against Saddam Hussein in the United Nations? Much of that case has been refuted -- e.g., aluminum tubes for nuclear weapons, mobile biological laboratories, long-range drones. Sort of consistent with Mr. Gore's "effort to manipulate facts" argument.


(I read them this morning, but was reminded to post them via Eschaton)




  x

news flash: i'm a geek


No! Say it isn't so, Gregory! I was just in a conversation with someone, and she dropped the term PDA, and I was confused as to what Personal Digital Assistants had to do with her topic.

No....Public Displays of Affection. I'm utterly embarrassed to have made the other association first...




  x

swank link of the day


Retrolounge. Dig it.

(via Metafilter)




  x

sinister post of the day


Today is National Left Hander's Day! Ned Flanders and I say w00t!

(via FARK)





  x

happy birthday


If my lovely wife is reading this from over there in Wyoming, I'm sure she'd like to know that today is Dan Fogelberg's birthday. He's 52.

And that I miss her and The Girls very much.




  x

milestone of the day


Earlier this morning, thanks in no small part to visitors from various lists of "fair and balanced" bloggers (and welcome, y'all!), the hit counter passed 38,000. Thanks for visiting!




  x

say hello...


...to Thinking It Through, which just celebrated its one-year blogaversary.

(via Cooped Up)

Update: And a long-overdue permalink to Mr. Oni as well.




  x

video game post of the day


The Web log Tokyopia reports on a Tokyo skyscraper that has a massive game of Space Invaders porjected onto the side as part of the game's 25th anniversary celebration.

It turns out they are running Space Invaders battles on the stage in front of the 109 building and they are displaying it live on 2 of the large TVs in front of the station including the live play by play annoucing from a cute Japanese hostess.

It's a special version of Space Invaders where the screen is split similar to most puzzle games (ala Tetris) except in each half of the screen is Space Invaders. Actually it's only a quarter of the screen because the top half of each column is an upside down mirror of the bottom half of the other player's column. The goal is to shoot through your invaders and then shoot the other guy.

It's all pretty cool and between games there's this way hip techno 3d flash like Space Invaders mix thing going on.


c00L!

(via Wirehed Magazine; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)




  x

review (yikes!) at dam


Destroy All Monsters has posted my review of the excellent Shogun Assassin. This New World Pictures release combined footage from two of the Lone Wolf and Cub/Baby Cart series of films inspired by a popular manga (Japanese comic) and dubbed the result into English. Almost surprisingly, it worked.




  x

javascript obsession game of the day


Also via #!/usr/bin/girl, here's City Creator, which lets you build cities, sort of like a non-sim SimCity.

I'm a huge SimCity fan from way back, so I fear I could spend lots of time on this. Too bad it doesn't let you send a giant monster to wreck your creation...




  x

tattoo you


Zannah links to a cautionary tale about picking out a kanji character as a tattoo.

A personal note here: Just for the record, I don't have any tattoos. Or piercings, for that matter. But I agree with Zannah...if I did, "unreliable delivery service" would be pretty cool.




  x

sony announces online sports gaming service



I just posted a news item at Destroy All Monsters about Sony's recent announcement of the launch of an online sports game service for its dominant PlayStation 2 platform.

The post made me realize that in all my years of console gaming on the PSX and PS2, I've only bought one sports game -- a copy of Electronic Arts' NCAA Final Four 99, which I picked up for a couple of bucks at a yard sale. I like it well enough -- I enjoy the opportunity to play as the home team -- but it came withou the instructions, so needless to say I sux0rz at it. I'll have to see if I can find a copy for rent and photocopy the manual...

Update: I also thought to check eBay for a used copy; no such luck, but I did discover a copy of a PS2 version. The auction was almost ended with no bids so far, so I managed to snag it for a mere buck. (And by sheer coincidence, the seller is right here in Indianapolis!) So now I own two sports games...




  xTuesday, August 12, 2003

yes!


I just finished the story mode of Grand Theft Auto 3. w00t!




  x

best george bush action figure ever


...The Texas Air National Guard edition. Priceless!

(via Interesting Times)




  x

quote of the day


Regarding this phenomenon, Atrios comments: "A responsible press would stop giving Arnold coverage until he starts answering questions. But, we don't have a responsible press."




  x

sign me up


Researchers have apparently determined that men are attracted to long brunette hair.
Why? It's biological. Men are programmed to find a fertile mate, and lead researcher Dr. Kelley Kline thinks long, thick hair is a signal that a woman is strong, young, and healthy. This is the first research to look solely at hair length--and no other facial features--to measure female sex appeal.



helena christiansen

Okay, then.

(via FARK)




  x

ouch


CalPundit points to a withering critique of the Bush Administration from -- wait! -- the conservative Weekly Standard.
President Bush's compassion now impels him to give tax refunds to people who pay no taxes; free prescription drugs to Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, whose children will no longer be burdened with inheritance taxes; subsidies to already-rich farmers to produce outrageously expensive ethanol to add to gasoline; free insurance protection to utilities that own nuclear plants; tariff protection to inefficient steel companies; and subsidies to auto and coal companies to do research they would otherwise have to pay for out of their sales receipts. It almost--but not quite--makes one pine for the days of that cheapskate, Bill Clinton.

But fear not. In the Micawberesque world of Bushonomics, these are all free lunches: Taxpayers will simultaneously get these and other benefits, and tax refunds, and tax reductions to boot. Never mind that the due date on untold billions in unfunded liabilities lurks just around the corner.

Better still, we are on the verge of getting a restructured Middle East consisting of vibrant, prosperous democracies, and on the cheap. How is this latest feat of economic legerdemain to be financed? Why, with Iraqi oil, of course.

Both Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Office of Management and Budget director Josh Bolten managed straight faces when they told a congressional committee that it is impossible to estimate the cost of our nation-building adventure in Iraq.

Revenue from the sale of Iraq's oil cannot begin to finance the reconstruction of the country. Bremer, in what may be his ticket out of Baghdad and into the private sector with Lindsey, knows this: "We are going to have to spend a lot more money than we are going to get revenue, even once we get oil production back to prewar levels." Which means that Wolfowitz is either innumerate (unlikely), or is being economical with the truth when he says, "We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon."

...So there you have it: a foreign policy that promises enormous long-run benefits, but requires enormous short-term outlays, for most of which the administration has refused to budget.

...But if we are to call the tune, we have to pay the piper. The buck that stops in Baghdad will have to come from Washington. That's where the administration's foreign policy collides with its domestic policy. To retain control over the course of events in Iraq without sharing authority, the administration must trust that the American people can be persuaded that the costs of our foreign policy are worth bearing, given the likely benefits. It must then proceed to adopt a short-term program to pay for that policy, and a longer-term plan to finance that policy and its domestic initiatives.

...That done, the administration can address the financial problems created by the triumph of compassion over conservatism. For starters, whatever happened to tax reform? A truly innovative tax program--one that taxes consumption rather than work, pollution rather than output, windfalls rather than rewards for risk-taking--might indeed yield more tax revenues to finance foreign and domestic programs without adversely affecting the economy's growth rate. But if even a fundamental change cannot pay for all that the administration would like to do, it would then have to face the hard job of confronting the American people with the necessity of making choices, allowing us to decide whether we love our new entitlements enough to pay for them.

As to the last point, I, of course, am proud to pay my fair share to be a participating member of this fine society.

Bush's fiscal dishonesty -- not to mention his warped grip on reality -- is obvious even without considering this view from the right. Bush tried to pay -- no, is insisting on paying -- for a war with a tax cut. That policy has failed in the past and there's no indications it has any better prospects now. As Kevin Drum said,
George Bush, like LBJ before him, probably knows this [raising income taxes to pay for his Iraqi adventure] would never fly, so, again like LBJ, he's simply doing everything he can to put off the day of reckoning.

But how long can this last? Bush has already begun arousing suspicions even in middle America that you have to listen to his words mighty carefully to discern the truth, and this is a reputation that's hard to shake off once it takes hold. Just ask LBJ's ghost. If Bush earns the dubious distinction of being as straight a shooter as his Texas predecessor, I wonder if he'll suffer the same fate?

One can only hope.




  x

new epa head proposed


I like Matthew Yglesias' short take on the nomination of Utah Governor Mike Leavitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency:
George W. Bush decides that the big problem with his administration so far is that it hasn't done enough to despoil the environment yet. They'll do better in the future, though.





  x

matthew miller explains it all


"Truth is antidote to GOP." Sounds about right to me.
Proof of the GOP's honesty deficit comes by asking a simple question: What is the Republican position on the right size of government and how to fund it?

Start with basic but poorly understood facts. Seven programs make up 75 percent of all federal spending: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, military pensions, civil service pensions, defense and interest on the debt. That's "big government."

Republicans aren't trying to cut a dime of it but are calling for big increases in every one of these programs. According to the White House, interest on the national debt alone will soar by 66 percent over the next five years, thanks to the red ink oozing from President Bush's budget.

Those "big 7" programs come before you toss in everything from NASA to the national parks to the National Institutes of Health, not to mention homeland security, student loans and farm subsidies -- all things Republicans support, and which take up a goodly portion of the remaining quarter on the federal dollar.

Thus, if you pay heed to their votes and not their words, the Republican critique of "big government" is a pure charade.

...Since the GOP thinks income tax rates should continually be reduced, they obviously believe we should fund activities they support in one of two ways.

First, we can borrow huge amounts from our children (GOP's present plan).

Or, we can at some point raise payroll and other retirement taxes, which means funding government through taxes that impose a greater burden on lower- and middle-income citizens. The income tax, by contrast, is progressive.

Mathematically, these are the only options available, given that Republicans, rhetoric aside, aren't interested in cutting government spending.

This, then, is today's spectacle: "Family values" Republicans are sticking the kids with the bill for current spending while railing fraudulently against the "big government" they support.

Then they attack Democrats for offering the radical idea that we ought to pay for the spending we all agree we want (before we even begin fighting about other things -- like covering uninsured, or helping poor children get better teachers).

If we had a functioning press corps -- one that simply presented these facts again and again -- the fiscal and moral fraud of the GOP position would be self-evident.

Instead, today's press corps chews endlessly over the political jockeying. "Does Bush have Democrats in a bind because they have to talk about repealing his tax cuts?" they ask, rather than laying out the facts that show that Bush's positions are an obvious hoax.

So much for our "adversarial" press! And because the White House knows top editors and producers will think that repeating these tougher questions and analyses would seem too "biased," they can count on "he-said, she-said" coverage to leave citizens confused.

This confusion is the Republican goal.

Hopefully, articles like this will lay to waste the mistaken -- if not outright dishonest -- notion that the defecit can be fixed by eliminating "waste, fraud and abuse."

(via P.L.A. -- be sure to read Dwight Meredith's post, as it corrects a slight error of Miller's)




  x

obeidi, ob-la-di


Last week I mentioned Joshua Marshall's take on the strange and terrible saga of Iraqi nuclear scientist Mahdi Obeidi. Now Newsweekweighs in with more, suggesting that the Bush Administration may still be manipulating intelligence on Iraq's so-called nuclear program.
[F]or the Bush administration, things quickly began to go wrong with the Obeidi story. True, Obeidi said he’d buried the centrifuge equipment, as he’d been ordered to do in 1991 by Saddam’s son Qusay Hussein and son-in-law Hussein Kamel. But he also insisted to the CIA that, in effect, that was that: Saddam had never reconstituted his centrifuge program afterward, in large part because of the Iraqi tyrant’s fear of being discovered under the U.N. sanctions-and-inspections regime. If true, this was a terribly inconvenient fact for the Bush administration, after months in which Secretary of State Colin Powell and other senior officials had alleged that aluminum tubes imported from 11 countries were intended for just such a centrifuge program. Obeidi denied that and added that he would have known about any attempts to restart the program. He also told the CIA that, as the International Atomic Energy Agency and many technical experts have said, the aluminum tubes were intended for rockets, not uranium enrichment or a nuclear-weapons program. And he stuck by his story, despite persistent questioning by CIA investigators who still believed he was not telling the full truth.

Soon, not only was Obeidi no longer a marquee name for the Bush team, he was incommunicado. Whisked off to a safe house in Kuwait, with no access to phones or the Internet, he waited in vain for what he thought had been offered to him: asylum in the United States and green cards granting permanent residency to him and his eight-member family.

...[Former U.N. inspector David] Albright and others suggest that, with the Obeidi case, the message being sent by the Bush administration to Iraqi scientists being interrogated in Iraq is a troublesome one: if you don’t tell us what we want to hear, you won’t be rewarded. In fact, things might even get a little unpleasant for you. As Albright points out, provisional green cards can be arranged very quickly; among those so favored, for example, was the Iraqi man who tipped off the U.S. military to the whereabouts of Pfc. Jessica Lynch. “I think they’re just keeping him under wraps,” said Albright.

The treatment of Obeidi has in turn raised questions about whether even fresh intelligence from Iraq is being manipulated in advance of the report being prepared by David Kay, which is intended as the definitive account of Iraq’s WMD program. One Capitol Hill legislator told NEWSWEEK that the administration’s plan is to put out a vast compilation of data about Saddam’s decades-long effort to build weapons of mass destruction and “hope the issue will go away.” And several Democrats say they are disturbed by what Sen. Dianne Feinstein told NEWSWEEK was the “very vague and nonprecise” nature of Kay’s testimony when he appeared at closed sessions of two congressional committees last week. “Signs of a weapons program are very different than the stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons that were a certainty before the war,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “We did not go to war to disrupt Saddam’s weapons program, we went to disarm him.” President Bush himself in late July said Kay would require a long time to analyze “literally the miles of documents that we have uncovered.”

Jeez, when the press begins to act like actual journalists, the Bush Administration doesn't look too good, does it? Of course, that raises the question of why it ever did...




  x

slate: missile defense sux0rz


Fred Kaplan gives us the latest on the President's missile defense pipe dream, and it isn't pretty.
If the generals in charge of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency followed the wispiest trail of logic, they would have slashed the program and moved on to more promising pursuits long ago. This month brings yet another bit of news ... indicating not only that the program has scant chance of producing a workable missile-defense system, but that its managers know of its dim prospects. [Emphasis in the original.]

The latest flash, from the Aug. 1 edition of the trade journal Defense News, is that the agency has suspended one of the program's most crucial components on the grounds that the technology it involves is "not mature enough" to fund.

The component is called the space-based kinetic-energy boost-phase interceptor, a name that sounds too esoteric to deserve notice (and, indeed, no mainstream paper seems to have picked up on the report of its suspension), but in fact the news is a bombshell.

The missile-defense program—for which President Bush is spending $9.1 billion next year alone, with steady increases planned in future years to infinity—envisions, ultimately, a three-layered system. The boost-phase interceptors will shoot down enemy missiles in the first three or four minutes after they've been launched, as they ascend through the atmosphere into the edge of outer space. The "midcourse-defense interceptors" will fire at the missiles during the 20 minutes that they arc across the heavens. The "terminal-defense interceptors" will shoot down the missiles that survive the earlier layers in their final minutes of flight, as they plunge back down to earth toward their targets.

Of the three layers, boost-phase intercept (BPI) is the most important—and, theoretically, the easiest. An enemy missile is most vulnerable at this stage. It hasn't yet separated from the rocket booster, so it's very large. The booster's engines are still blazing, so it's a highly "visible" target to a wide variety of sensors (optical, radar, or heat-seeking). And it's moving relatively slowly.

The key limitation to BPI, even on a theoretical level, is that the anti-missile interceptor has to be fairly near—preferably, right above—the enemy's launch site. But if it can be well-positioned, this is the layer where the pickings are ripest.

In fact, many discussions of multilayered defenses assume that the later layers will be devoted mainly to mopping up the few missiles that the boost-phase interceptors missed. To put it another way, without BPI, the other layers will almost surely be oversaturated even by a relatively "small" attack.

Late last year, officials from the Missile Defense Agency told industry reps that they planned to start pursuing a space-based interceptor in 2004. It is this plan that the agency has now decided to suspend indefinitely.

The whole missile-defense program is a very high priority for President Bush and for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (who has been a major proponent of space-based defenses for a decade). Bush decided last December to start deploying anti-missile missiles next year—10 ground-based interceptors in Fort Greeley, Alaska (for midcourse defense), with another 10 fielded in 2005, and more soon after. As a prelude to that decision, he announced that the United States would no longer observe the 30-year-old Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, precisely to let him deploy those interceptors and conduct tests of other interceptors at sea and in outer space. (The ABM Treaty prohibited all these activities.)

But the question now becomes: If boost-phase intercept is grinding to a halt, what is the point of moving ahead so quickly, and expensively, on the rest of the program?

Read the whole thing. It boggles the mind that Bush continues to lavish funds on this fantasy while the deficit is skyrocketing and real homeland security remains dangerously underfunded.




  x

planet swank: fair and balanced!


That's right....we're now both fair and balanced*! Find out why at CalPundit, Daily Kos, Eschaton, and Matthew Yglesias, et al.

*Well, no, not really, but no less so than Fox News, anyway.

Update: Blah3 has the list of "fair and balanced" Web logs.




  xMonday, August 11, 2003

anime link of the day


gunsmith cats

I just discovered japanese-animation.net, which features several galleries of images from favored titles like Project A-Ko, Oh! My Goddess (read my review of the movie at Destroy All Monsters), and Gunsmith Cats (pictured; read my review at DAM), and a small music section as well.




  x

say hello...


...to Angry Bear and The Likely Story.




  x

bush mendacity watch


Well, there it is...Bush's prevarication justifying his invasion of Iraq, all laid out in a Page 1 story in yesterday's Washington Post: Depiction of Threat Outgrew Supporting Evidence.

One of the main points of this article is that Bush's lie about African uranium in the State of the Union was followed by a lie about aluminum tubes. Bush's defenders have repeatedly claimed that, while most experts scoffed at the idea of the tubes being used for nuclear purposes, there was some sort of genuine dispute as to their purpose. Well, no.

(And yes, Bush's lies are indeed notable in that they get real people killed.)

Yet, as Busy, Busy, Busy points out, the WaPo editorial board persists in not seeming to read its own paper's reportage...

I'm simply too disgusted to comment further. Fortunately, CalPundit has some excellent commentary here ("[W]hy trust an administration that so obviously doesn't care about the facts on the ground?"). Joshua Marshall has his own observations, noting that Cheney looms large in this sleazy picture. The Left Coaster joins in observing that "with Bush, ideology replaces facts."

And as Matthew Yglesias pointed out, it isn't about any one of Bush's lies. It's about the -- yes! -- pattern of deception that Bush used to sell his war to the American people. He expands on the point here.

CalPundit and Yglesias are exactly right -- Bush's defenders should be careful about accepting Bush's lies simply because they sold a policy they happened to agree with. Given that the Administraiton clearly has no compunctions against lying to achieve its aims, the next time the lies may sell a policy they don't like so much.

I'll go further. Bush's apologists should be ashamed of themselves for defending the President lying in order to support any policy, whether they agree with it or not. Shame on them. Shame on them indeed!

I'd also suggest that if a policy needs lying in order to generate support for it, it isn't that hot a policy to begin with. But we know that, don't we?

I applaud principled Republicans like Senator Dick Lugar who are beginning to criticize the poor planning of the vital postwar period. I hope that principle extends to rejecting the pernicious prevarication that put us there in the first place.




  x

please stand by...









...posting to begin shortly.






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