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  xFriday, September 26, 2003

flash app of the day

Bruce Sterling's MOCA.

(via BoingBoing, which calls it "cranky and eerily beautiful.")


retro gallery of the day

retro space exploration book illustration

"Dreams of Space" is a swell collection of covers and illistrations from childrens' books about space exploration from the beginning of the 20th Century to the mid 1970s.

(via BoingBoing)


anime gallery of the day


A gallery devoted to the yuri anime series Shoujo Kakumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena). Here's a fan site with a wallpaper gallery.


swank accessory of the day

the bar master

The Bar Master is a flask-shaped PDA housing a searchable database of drink recipes. c00L!

(via BoingBoing)


hoosier funnyman link of the day

Late night comic and Indiana David Letterman was forced to call for help when he discovered a big bear rummaging around in his kitchen. Letterman said that at first he thought the noises were simply someone making him breakfast.

(via FARK)

In other bear news, a hunter attacked by a grizzly used duct tape to bind his wounds before making his way to a hospital for treatment.


friday link clearance

This morning's Washington Post took a look at the specifics of Bush's Iraq funding requests, and some of the line items (A $54 million computer study for the Iraqi postal service) have even Republicans up in arms.

Atrios has been going to town on Imitate Bill O'Reilly Day. Start here and read down.

Billmon points to this sobering article by veteran war correspondent Joe Galloway. It begins:
It took the better part of 20 years to rebuild the Army from the wreckage of Vietnam. With the hard work of a generation of young officers, blooded in Vietnam and determined that the mistake would never be repeated, a new Army rose Phoenix-like from the ashes of the old, now perhaps the finest Army in history.

In just over two years, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and his civilian aides have done just about everything they could to destroy that Army.

Just another unpatriotic liberal media type giving aid and comfort to the enemy, right? Well, Galloway, as Billmon points out, won the Bronze Star as a civilian correspondent in Vietnam for saving several soldiers under fire. In short, he's not only a real journalist, he's a real hero, and Limbaugh and his pasty chickenhawk cronies aren't fit to polish Galloway's shoes.

Remember the Iraqi drones of mass destruction? It turns out that -- surprise, surprise! -- some analysts hotly disputed that they were meant as WMD dispersal units, pointing out that they had freakin' camera mounts! Anyway, it turns out that -- again, surprise, surprise! -- the drones were apparently intended for surveillance after all.

And speaking of prewar fibs, Bush and Powell are trying to explain Powell's 2001 claim that the sanctions had effectively shut down Saddam's weapons programs.

In news completely unrelated to Saddam, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, al Qaeda mastermind behind the Sept. 11, attacks, has given interrogators some indication of how they came about.

The New York Times blasts the Bush Administration for keeping the President shielded from protestors while inviting his supporters close. The Bush Co.'s lame "security" argument stinks on ice. Here's a hint, bright guys: Anyone who wanted to take a whack at Bush would simply carry a supporting banner.

The Nitpicker heaps appropriate scorn on Charles Krauthammer.

TalkLeft reports the happy news that TIA has apparently had the final nails driven into its coffin.

Mark Kleiman points out that the cherished conservative myth of Clinton being offered bin Laden by the Sudan is, well, about as factual as most cherished conservative myths.

In economic news, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer (for the second year in a row!). Want more of the same? Vote Bush in '04!

The Slacktivist has an eloquent essay comparing the faith of George Bush and Johnny Cash.

I haven't blogged enough about the problems with electroning voting machines, but Seeing The Forest is the go-to guy on that issue. Salon recently ran a good interview with the proprietor of, and the story has been getting some attention in the big media as well. Meanwhile, CalPundit recently noted that Diebold tried to shut down, not exactly the move of a company with full confidence in the (ahem) integrity of its product. My take: Electronic voting machines simply must provide a hard copy backup, period. That's so elementary a step to ensure accuracy -- especially in the case of a disputed recount -- that its absence is highly suspect. The fact remains that without a paper backup, the only way of checking the vote is to simply have the machine re-report; if the count is flawed in any way, there's no recourse. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Speaking of frauds, MSNBC has an interesting profile of some eBay scam artists.

And Al Franken relates the odd news that the man who brought Bush the Lesser into Bible study doesn't seem quite up on his New Testament...

And Bush seems to be behind on points when describing his plans.

Talking Points Memo introduces the Bush war profiteers.

Speaking of which, it turns out that the Government's own ethics office considers Cheney to still have financial ties to Halliburton.

Since you probably need a laugh by now, the Slack Shack helpfully links to a long list of Web comics.


george plimpton rip

Noted writer George Plimpton has died at the age of 76. Planet Swank is saddened indeed at this news.

(via TBOGG)


fan site of the day

Speaking of WKRP in Cincinati, I should mention in the interests of full disclosure that I had a powerful crush on the exquisite Jan Smithers, who played Bailey Quarters on the show.

jan smithers as bailey quarters

Here's a fan page that's as rabidly devoted as befits the lovely Ms. Smithers.

Update: Reader Mike T. writes that I should have pointed out that the Jan Smithers fan page has (rather loud) embedded music. Take appropriate caution.


ascap follies

This development is shameful to note the week in which WKRP in Cincinnati star Gordon Jump passed away, but it seems that even if you're lucky enough to enjoy reruns of that awesome show, you're probably hearing a redacted version. It seems that liscensing issues have cause much of the classic rock music featured on the show to be replaced with generic tuneage. I never particularly noticed back when Nick at Nite was airing reruns, but it sux0rz all the same.
[I]n the last few years, a new package of "WKRP" episodes has been distributed, and much of the music has been replaced by generic instrumental music from a music library, or by sound-alike "fake" songs. Also, some of the dialogue has been redubbed by voice impersonators, usually when the actors were speaking over the music, but sometimes to remove references to songs that have been replaced.

The simple answer is: Money. The reason WKRP was shot on videotape (unlike the other MTM sitcoms like "Bob Newhart" and "Mary Tyler Moore," which were on film) was that it was the only way they could afford to use a lot of real rock songs on the show. At the time, ASCAP had a different licensing arrangement for taped shows than for filmed shows; licensing the music for WKRP cost something like half of what it would have cost had it been filmed.

Well, the music licenses expired by the time the show was being prepared for re-distribution in the mid-'90s, and by then ASCAP no longer had a "discount" for videotaped shows. Also by then, the cost of licensing songs had skyrocketed across the board. So it would have been prohibitively expensive for the distributor to re-license all the songs used on the show. They certainly could have done a better job of replacing the songs they couldn't pay for, but it was inevitable that some of the songs would be gone due to rising costs, and that's all there is to it.

Great googly moogly! According to the Website, they even replaced all the references to the Elton John song "Tiny Dancer," including the classic capper line "Hold me closer, tiny dancer" from "The Americanization of Ivan," one of the show's best episodes ever! Yaargh!

(via The Modulator and BoingBoing, which passes along this comment: "[I]instead of getting some money, they succeed in getting no money." Indeed.)


site update

I've tweaked the style sheet to increase the font size by a point. In my opinion, doing so improves the look and makes the text easier to read. I welcome any comments.


outrageous media conduct

Man, Entertainment Weekly sux0rz. Sure, you knew that, but this is simply outrageous: The magazine conducted an interview in which the subject admitted off the record that he's gay. The reporter decided that such an admission was simply too good to honor the pledge of secrecy, and went ahead and printed it, outing both the interview subject and his partner.

This behavior by a so-called professional journalist is outrageous and simply inexcusable. There is absolutely no way to condone a reporter deliberately breaking an "off the record" pledge. The reporter involved should be fired forthwith and never be trusted with such responsibility again.

(via Byzantium's Shores)


do not call list ping-pong

The federal Do-Not-Call list is off! No, it's on again! No, it's off again! Stay tuned...

(By the way, the list's Web page is still active and appears to be taking entries at this time.)

Jaquandor has some rebuttal to a representative of the telemarketing industry heard on NPR.


bush admin fumbles in war on terror

Holy cow. According to the BBC, prosecutors have moved to drop charges against alleged "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui. The Beeb speculates that the maneuver is an end-run against the admitted al Qaeda member's attempt to call other terrorists currently in custody as witnesses.
Correspondents say the extraordinary request by prosecutors is a legal manoeuvre, designed to stop Mr Moussaoui's access to high-level al-Qaeda suspects being interrogated in secret locations by the US military.

...The BBC's Ian Pannell, in Washington, said that what government lawyers have now suggested is a clever legal move. They have called on the judge to throw the case out.

It would not mean that Moussaoui would be released from custody; instead, prosecutors would then go straight to a higher court and appeal the dismissal and crucially, the original ruling that Mr Moussaoui should get access to the al-Qaeda detainees.

But analyst Phil Carter, referring to Washington Post reportage of these developments, believes the move is a precursor to pulling Moussaoui from the civilian justice system and dump him into Guantanamo, where he won't enjoy any such legal niceties.
[T]he real question is political: does the White House have the political capital (not to mention the chutzpah) to put a person in front of a military tribunal, given the heat they have taken for these trials and other issues (e.g. the USA PATRIOT Act). I don't think the White House wants that kind of lightning rod to be planted on its front lawn at this juncture (wouldn't be prudent). In fact, I think the likely fate for Mr. Moussaoui will be that of Mr. Hamdi and Mr. Padilla. An order will be signed designating him an enemy combatant, and that will be the end of it.

If this speculation proves true, I would echo Uncle Fester's comment about this apparent debacle:
This is a horrendous policy and political failure. This was supposed to be a case where we exhibited to the world that the American justice system works even in the face of a difficult case. We have strong suspicians and a direct confirmation from the defendent that he was a member of Al-Quaeda and was engaged in a conspiracy against the United States that if it was successfully carried out would have caused deaths. However the question is the matter of was Moussaoui involved in 9/11 and on that Ashcraft and the Justice Department took what was a strong case on other charges and tried to make it a political show trial. Now it is a farce.

I take no pleasure at all in this sorry development. In many areas of the War on Terror, and this one in particular, I genuinely hope the Bush Administration would succeed. While the War on Terror certainly has a military component, it's best prosecuted by denying these thugs political legitimacy and treating them as the criminals they are -- getting the goods on them through careful intelligence, and then hauling them into court and then into jail. As Uncle Fester observe, this case was supposed to show the world that the United States could win even when it plays by the rules and the terrorists don't. A tacit admission of failure will be a tremendous blow to our efforts in the struggle against terrorism.


milestone of the day

Very early this morning, the hit counter reached 43,000. Thanks for visiting!


robert palmer r.i.p.

Well-dressed rocker Robert Palmer has died of a heart attack at the age of 54. As a member of the MTV generation -- that is, back when MTV actually played music -- I was on hand for Palmer's rise to stardom as a solo act and the frontman for The Power Station.



Three words: Doctor Who returns! w00t indeed!

Update: More from the BBC.

(via Destroy All Monsters)

  xThursday, September 25, 2003

at last: print your own money at home, legally!

This is spiffy: Hasbro offers a Web page with PDFs of various denominations of Monopoly® money, so players can print extra sets. Sw33t!

(via BoingBoing)


quote of the day

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, promoting investment in Italy:

"[T]here are much fewer communists than before...and those who still are deny it. We also have gorgeous secretaries."

(via FARK)


video game post of the day

I have two posts over at Destroy All Monsters in which I discuss aspects of the strategy revealed by some of Microsoft's recent announcements regarding its Xbox platform.


must-read post of the day

John Scalzi has a must-read post on Bush's pervasive dishonesty. It's too good to quote, but I will anyway:
The Bush administration is really the first presidential administration to wholeheartedly embrace the talk radio concept that truth should not get in the way of the larger picture of absolute victory, however that victory may be defined. Other presidential administrations have lied, of course. They all lie. And some lie really, really big -- look at Nixon. But at the very least Nixon and his cronies lied because the alternative was jail time. Members of the Bush administration appear to lie because it doesn't occur to them that they might simply tell the truth. Or to put it another way, they don't appear to affirmatively decide to lie; rather they appear to have to affirmatively decide not to lie.

...This administration is not working from the same baseline reality as I am, or which I suspect most of us are. As a consequence, not only don't I think this administration believes what its doing is best for most Americans, I sincerely doubt it cares about most Americans at all. This isn't a Republican or Democrat thing, a Liberal or Conservative thing. It is a truth or lie thing. This administration doesn't care to default to the truth. Therefore I cannot believe it is telling the truth. Therefore I cannot trust its motives or its goals.

And I hate that. I don't mind that I disagree with my government. But I hate that I don't trust it. I hate the fact that whenever I see my president (because he is my president) I immediately brace myself for a lie. I hate that whenever I see a member of my president's administration open his or her mouth, I assume what comes out is prevarication. I hate that when I see this administration promote any program or action I happen to agree with, my first inclination is to wince and wonder how its going to be twisted to benefit of a select few and a select few goals, at the expense of the rest of us. I hate that for the first time in my adult life, I believe that my government looks at me -- and too many of my fellow citizens -- with something akin to contempt, and the intimation that our job is not to be partners in the stewardship of our country but to be ruled.

But please, read the whole thing. Powerful, sorrowful and angry stuff. Scalzi's observations are spot-on in my view.

I commented on the discussion thread:
The current spiel within the Mighty Wurlitzer is that Bush's critics "hate" him, as if they take as much joy in their vitriol as those on the Right evidently do. I think you speak for me and many others when you describe how absolutely heartsick it makes one to realize that the President is not only much more of a liar than we'd supposed, but that his entire philosophy seems to be built around a sense of entitlement to rule -- a spot-on observation that I'm sure Antonin Scalia would endorse.

So there, Charles Krauthammer.

Back when I pointed out the lie in Bush's claim of an "average" US$1,000 tax cut, my friend Dodd left a comment suggesting that I "see dishonesty in every little thing he [Bush] does." I've always regretted not responding to that comment, so here goes:

I see -- and saw -- dishonesty in everything Bush does because by now it should be obvious -- and more so with each passing day -- that that's exactly the way Bush operates.

I might also add that if Bush's so-called "small government" ideas are so wonderful, he should just propose them outright and let the chips fall where they may. He has control of the White House and Congress, so if he really wants to reduce the size of government, he should just do so, without all the "subtlety" of bankrupting the country first. Of course, he couldn't, and you know well why: Because he'd have to cut those entitlement programs conservatives hate but the voting public loves. So -- as you observe -- he tries to sneak through that agenda by proposing ruinous deficits, and lying about both their costs and benefits to achieve them (a pattern repeatred in the runup to Operation Inigo Montoya, I might add).

The fact that Bush evidently has to lie to get his policies through gives me a pretty good idea of his assesment of their popularity. Bush's failure to do submit his agenda to the approval of the voters is just a mark of his political and moral cowardice. And, as Scalzi said, ample evidence that for all the conservative yammering about the "libveral elite," it's Bush and his cronies who believe that America is theirs to rule, not govern. Shameful.

(via Byzantium's Shores)


very very busy

I'm on deadline, so further posting today will likely be delayed.


movie review of the day

Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension continues its look at the deterioration of quality through a sequel franchise with this examination of Jaws 2. Ken Begg's excellent and thorough review of the original Jaws is here.

  xWednesday, September 24, 2003

referral log fun

Via my referral log, I discover that this humble blog is currently the number-one Google hit for "Charles Krauthammer credibility problem," owing to this post. c00L!


nfl post of the day

This is cool: Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander missed the opening of Sunday's game versus the St. Louis Rams for the birth of his daughter. After cutting the umbilical cord, Alexander received a police escort to the stadium, where he proceeded to rush for 29 yards on his first two carries. His strong contribution on the turf helped the Seahawks open up its passing game, and his team won 24-23.

Awesome! Congratulations to Mr. Alexander for his achievement and his lovely new daughter.

(via FARK)


news flash

Implementation of the national do-not-call list has been blocked by a Federal judge in Oklahoma. I hope the telemarketing industry enjoys its brief respite, because I foresee this ruling being overturned forthwith.

Incidentally, I love the word "forthwith."

(via FARK)


headline of the day

Runaway monkey still at large

'Nuff said.

(via FARK)


gallery of the day

Behold the celestial glory that is Salma Hayek.

Update: Jaquandor jokingly warns that the linked picture is not exactly safe for work. My apologies.


astronomy pic of the day

eagle nebula

Behold the celestial glory that is the Easgle Nebula.

(via The Sideshow)


lego post of the day

Escher's Relativity, rendered in LEGO. c00L!

(via The Sideshow)


more flash fun

Great googly moogly! Check out this absolutely mind-bending set of interactvie psychedelic Flash movies.

(via MeFi)


iraq wmd search turns up dry

From the BBC: "[A]ccording to the source, the report will say its inspectors have not even unearthed 'minute amounts of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons material.'" [Emphasis added.]

Wow. I'd always thought Iraq probably had some vestiges of its chemical weapons squirreled away somewhere -- not that they posed any threat to the US, of course -- but these findings are startling. They certainly cast a poor light on the Bush Administration's, ah, exaggerations to drum up support for its coveted war.

I guess this is why the Kay report is being suppressed...

(via Eschaton)

Update: CalPundit provides a reminder that should have been obvious:
[T]he Bush administration has a history of leaking information that makes things appear far worse than they are. Then, when things end up being merely bad, instead of horrific, the punditry breathes a sigh of relief and suggests that we got off easy.

Indeed. Let's instead view this report in light of the claims of hundreds of tons of this and thousands of gallons of that the Aministration was making to scare the nation insto supporting its cherished war.


'stumbling into war'

Foreign Affairs has an absolutely must-read critique of the Bush Administration's diplomatic blundering prior to the war in Iraq.

(via MetaFilter)


blogroll update

Please welcome Blah3, Juan Cole, Off the Kuff, Slacktivist and The 18½ Minute Gap.


schadenfreude post of the day

From USA Today: GOP insiders worry that president is vulnerable

There's no panic. There are no calls to the White House urging an overhaul of staff or strategy. But apprehension has seeped into conversations among Republicans in Washington and beyond. A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll out this week is increasing their concern. It found retired general Wesley Clark and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, two Democrats running for president, leading Bush narrowly among registered voters.

"If the economy is not good, we'll have a very close race," says Charlie Black, a veteran Republican strategist in Washington. "In a very close race, you could lose."

Ferrell Blount, chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, is bracing for "a very tough fight."

Bush and his advisers have always said publicly that they expect a close election. Those predictions help create low expectations and motivate fundraisers and other volunteers to work hard. For months, Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman has insisted that he's "assuming a very competitive race."

Privately, however, many supporters were confident Bush would coast to a second term. Now that confidence is giving way to anxiety among some of them.

So much for the "Bush is invincible" conventional wisdom. But hold on:
Few would discuss their concerns on the record, but in interviews with 20 Republican officials and strategists across the country, most said off the record that they are beginning to worry. They fear that if U.S. soldiers keep dying in Iraq and the jobless rate doesn't improve, Bush will be vulnerable to the Democratic nominee's charge that he doesn't deserve a second term.

If U.S. soldiers keep dying in Iraq and the jobless rate doesn't improve, why indeed would Bush deserve a second term? Indeed, why does he deserve one at all? There's also this key graf:
Fallout from Iraq is triggering many Republicans' concerns. The continuing deaths of U.S. troops are raising qualms about the wisdom of the war. The pace of reconstruction is prompting questions about the administration's competence. That no chemical or biological weapons have been found is causing doubts about the president's credibility. Many Bush supporters wish he could put the whole issue behind him.

Indeed. As I've been saying: Question Bush's wisdom; question Bush's competence, and question Bush's credibility. They richly deserve questioning, and the answers can't be to the GOP's liking.

More on Bush's steadily declining poll numbers here.

(via Daily Kos, who notes, as I've done, that the bloom was off the rancid Bush rose with the failure of "Operation Icing on the Cake")

By the way, the comment thread to that post provides this priceless Leno joke:
So, Wesley Clark is running for president. Pretty amazing guy. Four star general, first in his class
at West Point, supreme commander of NATO, saw combat in Vietnam, won the bronze star, silver star,
the purple heart for being wounded in battle. See, I'm no political expert, but that sounds pretty good
next to choking on a pretzel, falling off a scooter and dropping the dog.

Hilarious! And, subtly, focuses, as I've been saying, on pointing out Bush's actual accomplishments and their results. That picture just can't be pretty.

Dropping the dog, indeed.


aclu challenges so-called 'free speech zones'

"Protecting our nation's leaders from harm is important. Protecting our nation's leaders from dissent is unconstitutional."

Absolutely. The fact that Bush must be insulated from those who disagree with his reckless approximation of policy is a testament to his cowardice and unfitnees to serve. Memo to Bush: The whole country is a free speech zone.

And as the great Democrat Harry Truman said, if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.


flash game of the day

This wacky Flash game has a definite Asian flavor -- the player races the clock to fry bits of beef on a tabletop grill. When the pieces are done on both sides, the player drags them into a bowl of soy sauce and is awarded points. Careful, though -- if the bit of beef is undercooked or burnt, the diner will grumble and the player receives a penalty; goof up too many times and it's Game Over.

I've found the best strategy is to drag six pieces onto the grill one at a time. The first piece is done and ready to be flipped when the sixth piece is added, so go around and flip them. when the sixth piece is flipped, the first is ready to eat, and so on.

(cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)


missile defense fantasy sux0rz

The General Accounting Office sees real risks with Bush's missile defense pipe dream, which he has determined to deploy before the 2004 election whether it works or not:
he Bush administration's push to deploy a $22 billion missile defense system by this time next year could lead to unforeseen cost increases and technical failures that will have to be fixed before it can hope to stop enemy warheads, Congressional investigators said yesterday.

The General Accounting Office, in a 40-page report, said the Pentagon was combining 10 crucial technologies into a missile defense system without knowing if they can handle the task, often described as trying to hit a bullet with a bullet.

The report especially criticized plans to adapt an early warning radar system in Alaska to the more demanding job of tracking enemy missiles, saying it had not been adequately tested for that role.

The overall uncertainty, the investigators said, has produced "a greater likelihood that critical technologies will not work as intended in planned flight tests." If failures ensue, they added, the Pentagon "may have to spend additional funds in an attempt to identify and correct problems by September 2004 or accept a less capable system."

The idea of missile defense is certainly comforting, but it's simply ludicrous to deploy an unproven system, except as a cynical ploy to commit the nation to funding the program in perpetuity whether it works or not. I have strong doubts that a functioning system is within our technological grasp, but I'm not unalterably opposed to research that could one day make a program feasible and cost-effective.

But Bush's actions show clearly that he doesn't particuarly care about developing a missile defense systems that's actually effective, but simply to ensure fat payouts to his defense-contractor cronies. And it'll be yet another example of this Administration's mendacity if he points to the deployment as the fulfillment of a campaign pledge, when he's building a system he knows doesn't have a chance of working yet. Such a policy is always reprehensible, but the more so when Bush finds himself hard pressed to say how he plans to pay for the Iraqi occupation. The American people, much more so than defense contractors, are entitled to a return on their investment, and if such isn't forthcoming, then we should pull the plug on this ill-conceived plan.

(via The Left Coaster)


vrwc smear alert

Talking Points Memo notes that the Right's knives are out for Wesley Clark:
This isn't rocket science, people. This is how they operate. Don't think it's random. If you go over to the Fox News website, you can see their featured video clip (page down on the left) with Brit Hume repeating the ridiculous Standard-peddled phone log canard : "White House phone logs suggest Wesley Clark is telling tales once again." You've seen this before. As I say, it's how they operate. The only question is whether the legit press gets dragged into it, as they have in the past. It's a test for them.

Marshall debunks the phone-log story here, while CalPundit asks the key follow-up question that doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone in the media: "[T]the White House is apparently willing to search Karl Rove's phone logs upon request by reporters. So I've got a request of my own: will you please search Rove's phone logs to find out if Robert Novak called him on or about July 14?" I'm not holding my breath, of course.

There's a subtext here, too, that the Democrats need to catch: The White House is obviously afraid of someone with Clark's national-security cred. While Clark may indeed be the best point of comparison, the frightening reality is that Bush's so-called national security credentials are a sham, and ripe for a long-overdue discrediting.


happy birthday one of my favorite writers, F. Scott Fitzgerald. To celebrate, here's an online text version of The Great Gatsby.

Props to Slacktivist for the reminder.


no kay report

Remember that report by David Kay that was supposed to vindicate the Administration's lies claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction stockpiles programs ambitions? It seems the White House won't be releasing the report after all.

Gee, I wonder why?

Talking Points Memo broke the news yesterday with this link to a press briefing by Condoleeza Rice, in which she admitted that the report is being supressed.
I would not count on reports. I suppose there may be interim reports. I don't know when those will be, and I don't know what the public nature of them will be.

She also, of course, continued the goalpost-moving of referring to Saddam's weapons programs, not the vast stockpiles she once implied, and also the Administration's bizarre habit of citing decade-old data as if it were still current. But it isn't as if once could expect honesty or competence from Rice.

Still, she made an interesting statement in light of the Administration's refusal to acknowledge that science doesn't back its ideology on global warming:
The United States and this President, in particular, has taken a position that we have a lot of global challenges, and we have to meet them. We can't sweep them under the rug. We have to take them on.

It's a shame that this Administration is too cowardly to do so.


bush un speech panned

The Washington Post reports in this analysis that Bush's speech to the UN appears to have accomplished little in supporting the US national interests.
In his speech today to the U.N. General Assembly, President Bush tried to walk a fine line between defending a war deeply unpopular in much of the world and looking for help from reluctant countries to rebuild Iraq. The result left diplomats and lawmakers puzzled about his ultimate intentions.

Bush, in fact, sidestepped direct answers to many of the questions that have arisen since the administration said it would seek a Security Council resolution that would expand the United Nations' role in Iraq and call on countries to contribute more troops and money. How quickly would the United States grant sovereignty to the Iraqis? Would the administration grant any decision-making role to the United Nations in exchange for its imprimatur? Or does the administration simply want assistance without giving up much in return?

One reason for the vagueness is that U.S. diplomats have discovered in recent weeks that little help is likely to be forthcoming. Secretary General Kofi Annan, deeply disturbed by the bombing attacks on the U.N. mission in Baghdad, has urged a slow and careful review of the organization's role in Iraq, U.S. and U.N. officials say. The list of countries willing and able to provide troops appears to have dwindled, not increased, and even financially deep-pocketed countries such as Japan have indicated they would not be able to contribute much to the U.S. enterprise in Iraq, U.S. officials said.

Dana Milbank reports on this bit of sheer class by the bozos who are representing this nation to the world:
Just before Chirac addressed the assembly, Bush and his top aides -- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John D. Negroponte -- left the hall. Chirac sat with the French delegation during Bush's speech and politely applauded.

As Slacktivist comments, "They could have at least left Negroponte behind -- it's his job to be there, after all." Indeed.

Meanwhile, its editorial board gives Bush's speech the thumbs-down, tagging it with the F-word we're sure to hear associated with this Administration more and more: Failed.
Mr. Bush read an address that conspicuously lacked such passion, determination or vision. His defense of his decision to proceed with an invasion of Iraq without Security Council support was almost perfunctory, as was his acknowledgement that many nations opposed the war. He spoke one sentence about the so-far unsuccessful search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and provided no new information to an audience that last year heard him describe at great length the threat posed by those weapons. Most remarkable, Mr. Bush had nothing new to say about the struggle to stabilize Iraq and establish a new government; more of his speech was devoted to the problem of human trafficking than to Iraqi reconstruction. If the president's intention was to rally international support for a vital cause, the burden of which cannot and should not be borne so disproportionately by the United States, he missed an important opportunity.

It's been only two weeks since Mr. Bush acknowledged to Americans that the difficulty and cost of managing Iraq would be far greater than the administration had previously said. He promised then to mobilize greater international support through a new U.N. resolution. Yet already the White House appears to have lost its enthusiasm. Many governments, including those most likely to supply fresh troops and funds, have made clear that they will not do so unless the United Nations is granted clear authority in Iraq. But Mr. Bush has not budged from his initial position, which offered some U.N. role in preparing a new constitution and organizing elections but refused to dilute the present monopoly of American power over the occupation administration, the reconstruction program or the contracts that have been awarded almost exclusively to U.S. firms. Not surprisingly, that formula doesn't appeal to any of the governments that have been discussing possible contributions for Iraq, and one by one they have dropped out.

...Mr. Bush must at last correct the mistake he has repeatedly made on Iraq. He must be willing to break up the Pentagon's monopoly and forge a genuine international coalition. The goal of establishing a working Iraqi democracy need not change, and all are prepared to accept continuing U.S. military command. But if the United States is not to bear the burdens of Iraq nearly alone, Mr. Bush must summon the honesty, pragmatism and flexibility that were so absent from his speech yesterday.

The New York Times reports that the diplomats whose help Bush needs to seek appeared unimpressed:
[T]here was a distinct chill in the General Assembly this morning as Mr. Bush came full circle, making a plea for the United Nations to take a bigger role in Iraq despite the bitter dispute this year over his decision to topple Saddam Hussein without the United Nations' explicit approval.

If there was any doubt that the breach between Mr. Bush and United Nations remains — wider than ever, by some measures — the evidence came today when Kofi Annan, the secretary general, roundly criticized "pre-emption," a core of Mr. Bush's national security strategy.

Without naming the United States, Mr. Annan dismissed the argument that "states have the right and obligation to use force pre-emptively, even on the territory of other states and even while the weapon systems that might be used to attack them are still being developed."

and this analysis reveals that Bush's incompetence has placed the US in the unenviable position of negotiating from a position of weakness:
The audience of world leaders seemed to perceive an American president weakened by plunging approval ratings at home, facing a tough security situation in Iraq where American soldiers are dying every week, and confronted by the beginnings of a revolt against the American timetable for self-rule by several Iraqi leaders installed by the United States.

Nor did they seem eager to help. If anything, they appeared more skeptical than ever of Mr. Bush's assertions [Ed: A wise stance], including his promise to "reveal the full extent" of illegal weapons programs he says exist in Iraq, and unforthcoming, at least for now, in their response to his appeal for help with the Iraq occupation and reconstruction.

Despite good marks from many for his performance, Mr. Bush did not seem to have advanced his administration toward broadening support for a Security Council resolution to expand the United Nations role in Iraq, a step intended to get more foreign troops and more foreign money for rebuilding.
"He gave a very sincere speech, but I don't think there was anything new," said a diplomat here. "The situation in Iraq is getting more difficult every day, and so is the atmosphere at the United Nations."

Joshua Marshall's column in The Hill puts the spotlight on the White House's denial.
People disagree over how much we should involve our allies or the United Nations in our various military and diplomatic forays abroad. But we’re beyond that now. It’s no longer a matter of which approach is better. The problem is that the White House seems incapable of choosing one over the other and now oscillates back and forth between the two on an almost weekly basis.

For the past six weeks we’ve watched the same sobering pattern recur again and again.

First, some major setback occurs in Baghdad. Next, the White House reacts with a newfound desire to broaden its coalition by bringing in the United Nations and our allies.

When the crunch comes, however, the White House can’t bring itself to make the hard decisions necessary to change the dynamic in Iraq or the United Nations. So everything falls back to the status quo ante until the next bomb blows up in Baghdad.

Fred Kaplan at Slate sums it up: The president lays an egg at the U.N.

Unfortunately, the hard reality is that the US's go-it-(virtually)-alone policy has left us in an untenable position, and Bush needs help from the international community he and his crowd scorned not too many months ago. Few can spew platitudes the way Bush can, but given the obvious conflict between what Bush needs from the UN and what would be acceptable to the loony neocons that make up an important component of his base, his address was probably doomed from the start. Remarkably like his administration's make-it-up-as-we-go-along occupation plans.



Wow. Kevin Drum relays a smoking-gun memo from the EPA's recent and embarrassing omission of global warming data from its environmental report. The memo reveals that removing the climate change section was determined to be the path of least resistance, because the agency acknowledged that the White House was simply not going to accept scientific data that conflicted with its ideological posture. Kevin comments:
This, I think, displays the Bush White House at its most typical. Genuine problems simply don't matter to them. The only thing that counts is advancing their political agenda, and anything that doesn't fit that agenda is vigorously brushed under the carpet and ignored — in the apparent belief that problems genuinely don't exist if they are inconvenient to the administration's goals.

As the memo says, the only approach that could produce a "credible" climate change section was also "not feasible." That tells you everything you need to know about the Bush White House's approach to the real world.

It really can't bear repeating enough, because the exact same proclivity got us into this mess in Iraq: With this administration, predetermined policy trumps all; when facts arise that conflict with the direction of policy, it's the facts that must be discarded.

It's reassuring to see that even under Bush's mis-administration, there are those at EPA who take their jobs seriously enough to have leaked this memo.

Sadly, though, I must predict that nothing much will come of this damning revelation. Those who dislike and distrust Bush will find their inclinations confirmed, and Bush's apologists won't take advantage of this shocking wake-up call to pull their heads out of, um, the sand.


hats off

Also via Byzantium's Shores, I learn that the soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Regiment who form the honor guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery were given permission -- for the first time since the guard was established in 1930 -- to abandon their post if they were engangered by Hurricane Isabel, and refused to do so. "That's never an option for us," one soldier said. c00L!


chicken points memo

Byzantium's Shores has the latest in a hilarious series of blogger parodies based on the chicken-crossing-the-road joke. Today's spot-on entry: Josh Marshall.

  xTuesday, September 23, 2003

it seems...

i'm dino!

Which Rat Pack Member are You?


(Courtesy Modern Drunkard Magazine, via email from my pal Sparky, who turned out to be Joey Bishop.)


lovecraft/anime/kawaii link of the day

kawaii anime cthulhu

Just when you thought you'd seen everything, along comes this kawaii anime Cthulhu character. Here's a gallery of other Lovecraft creatures, anime-style.

(via 18 1/2 Minute Gap; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)


liquor link of the day

My home town paper reports on distillery Brown-Foreman's quest for the perfect cocktail.

(via FARK)


it's the economy

Wampum also has crunched some numbers indicating that the lousy economy may have a definite negative impact on Bush's election ambitions, and may even put the South into play. I completely agree that "It's an opportunity no Democratic candidate can afford to throw away."


frist bill dead

How pleasing! Wampum reports that Bill Frist's "Big Pharma Campaign Contributors Payback Bill" appears to be dead, once and for all.


retro link of the day

Behold the sheer retro insanity of the Bad Fads Museum.

(via Very Big Blog)


'the revision thing'

Harper's presents "A history of the Iraq war, told entirely in lies." (That'd be the Administration's lies, of course.) Absolutely brilliant.

(via Tristero)



I'm pleased to note that Jess, the son of Ruminate This's Lisa English, is doing better. Keep those good thoughts coming.


bush the uninformed

Daily Kos points to this bizarre admission by Bush about his insulation form reality:
Bush said he insulates himself from the "opinions" that seep into news coverage by getting his news from his own aides. He said he scans headlines, but rarely reads news stories.

"I appreciate people's opinions, but I'm more interested in news," the president said. "And the best way to get the news is from objective sources, and the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world."

As I said on the comment thread,
To me, this quote portrays Bush as an arrogant, clueless bungler, but notice the dig -- to a Fox audience, don't forget -- at the so-called "liberal media." All news -- the economy, the war in Iraq -- is "opinion," and the only source of objective truth is his own Administration.

Even so, recall that Condoleeza Rice told Bush "what was happening in the world" with regards to al Qaeda plans to hijack US aircraft, and Bush did nothing evident about it. So I hardly think that Bush's boasts are much cause for confidence.

I'm sure it's red meat for the Fox crowd, but it's also a keen insight into the way Bush's mind operates, and more good reason he's utterly untrustworthy.

No one who makes a statement like Bush's is even faintly qualified to be President of the United States, and the 9/11 attacks are a stark reminder of that fact.

I also agree with other commentators on the thread that it'll do Bush little good in the upcoming election to be portrayed as out of touch with the messes that are Iraq and the US economy.


'no number left unfudged'

We already know that the so-called "Texas Miracle" that propelled Bush's "No Child Left Behind" was about as genuine as any other Bush rhetoric, and indeed much less -- in fact, it appears to be wholly fraudulent. Sydney Shanberg in The Village Voice has the goods on all the chicanery.
Over the past year or so, getting headlines in Texas but only modest coverage elsewhere, the "Texas Miracle" has been disrobed. It was a scam, a hoax. The governor had put the fear of Bush into the school bureaucracy. You will perform, the principals and superintendents were told. You will dramatically bring down the dropout rate and dramatically raise the reading and math scores. Bonuses were promised to those who succeeded, demotions and pay-docking to those who didn't.

Suddenly, as if in the Land of Oz, kids in low-income districts who had been dropping out of high school at rates of 30 and 40 percent and higher were apparently born again, burying their faces in their books into the wee hours. And then the truth came out. They were still dropping out at the same old percentages; they just weren't being counted as dropouts. They weren't even being listed as "whereabouts unknown"—as if they might have moved to another district and forgotten to leave a forwarding address. They had simply disappeared.

Body and Soul reports on a real-world encounter with the system:
This year's speech was weird. The principal tried to explain how "No Child Left Behind" was going to affect our school. She showed us a lot of charts. And she rambled. I honestly could not figure out what in the world she was talking about, and that is something I've never said about this principal. She's very smart and very articulate, and the only conclusion I could draw was that she wasn't making any sense because she was being asked to explain something that made no sense.

...This makes me so mad. Access to a decent, free education ought to be one of the most fundamental rights in any democracy, and that's sliding through our fingers. And we're using a lot of phony language about kids' and parents' rights, and choice, and excellence to move in the direction of expensively attained mediocrity. It ought to be a scandal.

CalPundit points to Diane Patterson's contention that
The entire mission of "No Child Left Behind" is to eventually label every single school in this nation as "failing"—it's a backdoor way of forcing vouchers or privatization or whatever the hell they want this time.

Ms. Patterson also points to some unflattering attention the No Child Left Behind law got in the Washington Post:
It's hard to tell whether this law is more a product of arrogance or ignorance, but either way it's shaping up to be a spectacular train wreck of a collision between bureaucracy and reality.

...[I]n 2014 every child will score better than 40 percent of the nation today, or roughly 19 million children. We will be essentially trying to get every child in the nation to be "above average," and should probably change our name to something like the United States of Lake Wobegon.

But it gets worse. The law specifically requires that children with serious learning problems (our current special ed population) must also meet this standard. In my medium-sized school district of about 4,800 students, last year's testing found 100 percent of special-ed fourth-graders to be below "proficiency." Surprise? Apparently it is to the Department of Education.

...and once again we hear a familiar theme:
It's obvious to me that when 2014 rolls around and everyone has to hit the 100 percent standard, almost every school in the country will be labeled a "failing school." Is it possible this bill is an elaborate setup, designed by those hoping to usher in an era of vouchers, charter schools and other alternatives to public education?

Bush's handling of the nation's education system -- beginning, but hardly ending, with his reliance on widespread fraud that occurred on his watch in Texas -- is a disgrace, and one that even Democrats deserve their fair share of blame for. I for one believe in a free public education system as the hallmarks of a modern representative democracy. There are those who may disagree with that ideal, but once again, they're obviously sufficiently aware of their minority status as to implement their scurrilous agenda by sneaky, underhanded tactics than by honest debate of the so-called merits of their beliefs.

Props for the headline to Mark Kleiman.

Update: Demagogue has a juicy rant on the subject.

Update 2: Kleiman has more.


little black dress

Over at Lean Left, Dwight Meredith has a great post on Bush's "little black dress."
It is apparent that Mr. Bush will don his “little black dress” for any occasion. The question is why he insists on turning every occasion into an opportunity to talk about 9/11?

The answer, of course, is that there is nothing else in his closet.

Meredith also contributed this excellent post to Body and Soul. Go read and be outraged. Jeanne D'Arc aptly noted that the information Meredith presented was fully available to the so-called "liberal media," but that somehow they failed to detect the scent of what you'd magine would be the red meat of outrageous injustice.

(via Hullabaloo)


truth or competences

I've been meaning to link Kevin Drum's piece describing what he considered the Bush Administration's characteristic style of lying.
Paul Krugman likes to focus on the brazen lie, the kind favored by Dick Cheney this weekend that finally got the press up in arms. As Krugman points out, this is the kind of lie where Bush says (during the 2000 election) that he's going to take a trillion dollars out of Social Security and this will make the system stronger. It's completely outrageous, but if you say it loudly enough and with enough confidence, people believe it. After all, no one would make up something that crazy unless it were actually true, right?

Josh Marshall thinks Bush's specialty is "the confidently expressed, but currently undisprovable assertion." For example, the idea that his 2003 tax cut proposal would spur job growth was almost universally scorned by mainstream economists, but you couldn't prove it wouldn't work, so he got away with it.

But I think the real hallmark of the Bush administration is the technical lie, a statement that's very carefully constructed to leave an incorrect impression — but that turns out to be technically true if you parse it closely enough.

...The brazen lie and the "nondisprovable" lie are bad enough — but I guess they don't bother me as much as they should because I feel like all politicians do this. But the fact that you have to parse the Bush administration's words so ultra-finely in order to get to their meaning strikes me as something new. It's as if they listened to Bill Clinton talking about the meaning of the word "is" and suddenly got a brainstorm that this technique could be applied to everything.

And this is why the president's fans can pretend to be outraged when he's called on his lying. "It's not a lie!" they scream, and they're right in a hyper-technical sense. But in every other sense, they're dead wrong. What else do you call a deliberate — but very carefully crafted — attempt to deceive?

Swopa thinks the Democrats aren't going to get much traction by identifying the individual lies in Bush's statements, and suggests attacking Bush for his abundant incompetence instead.
For a lot of people (including many who are "swing" voters because they do not follow politics closely), their judgments of a President are based more on general impressions than specific arguments or logic. Because Bush talks in the terse, not especially articulate style that our culture associates with "honest, ordinary folks," it's going to be very hard to overcome that impression.

Ironically, though, that same persona lends itself to believing that Dubya isn't up to handling the complicated details of the job. And when he dramatically confirms that perception by making a nationally televised speech where he sticks us with an $87 billion bill for the mess in Iraq without any clear plan for how we're going to clean it up, he convinces a lot of previously neutral or supportive voters without progressives having to say anything.

I'm all for that -- I believe Bush should be forced to defend his record at every turn, because as the Washington Post pointed out this morning, he doesn't seem to be comfortable playing defense (and small wonder; it's a lot easier to accuse Bush's critics of being pro-Saddam than it is to explain how we're going to get out of the expensive, deadly mess that Bush made of Iraq -- but I also think Bush's relentless dishonesty is a significant vulnerablility. The key is not so much refuting each lie Bush tells, but pointing out that Bush simply can't be trusted. And even those "technically true" statements help, in that they reveal that whatever Bush says must be carefully parsed for weasel words.

Rather than playing a reactive game and disproving a given lie -- which doesn't happen until after it leaves the news cycle, as Bush's team well knows, and by which time Bush and crew have spewed a fresh batch of stinking Bush-wa -- Bush's critics need to use his every statement as further evidence that he can't be trusted. Indeed, as several commentors to CalPundit's post pointed out, Bush's critics could simply identify which kind of lie Bush just told, and then reiterate that he simply can't be trusted.

Such a campaign would be sweet payback for the relentless and dishonest smears of Al Gore in 2000, with the sweet added bonus of Bush actually being the liar the Democrats are calling him out as. And remember, those who oppose Bush's election in 2004 don't have to choose between Bush's dishonesty and his incompetence -- Bush is both dishonest and incompetent; indeed, the two facets are linked.


gordon jump r.i.p.

Gordon Jump, who played station manager Arthur Carlson on the classic sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, has died after a long illness at the age of 71. Jump was also well known for his role as the lonely Maytag Repairman in a long-running series of TV commercials.

Update: More details here.


lack-of-supply and demand

Wired observes that Miramax's interminable delays in releasing the awesome Stephen Chow comedy Shaolin Soccer have led to a surge in download popularity on file-sharing systems.
"It does have a cult following," said Mark Pollard, founder and webmaster of Kung Fu Cinema, a site that posts news and reviews of martial arts films. "There's been a lot of frustration with these cult fans about Miramax limiting the ability for this film to be widely released in the U.S."

Fans of the Kung Fu genre have been waiting for Shaolin Soccer for months. Miramax has postponed its release date at least three times. Originally released in Cantonese with English subtitles, the film was dubbed into English for U.S. audiences. Now, the studio intends to release the movie in the original form with English subtitles instead.

A Miramax spokesman said that the company is looking for the right time to release the film to give it the best chance of success in the market. There's no set release date at the moment.

Musashi and I discussed this phenomenon a bit with import DVD vendor Ed Dennis in a recent interview at Destroy All Monsters. Dennis noted that buzz about the next hot Asian flick spreads fast on the Internet, and fans are willing to shell out for import discs long before American studios can decide whether to add a hip-hop soundtrack in hopes of "Americanizing" the release. Fortunately, Musashi was kind enough to give me the import (bootleg?) copy he used for his review; if not, I'd be headed over to eBay to snag my own copy.

(via Destroy All Monsters)

  xMonday, September 22, 2003

retro pinup gallery of the day

delores wells

A gallery of 1960s-vintage Playboy models (pictured: Miss Delores Wells). Not safe for work, of course.

(via FARK)


credibility gap

Charles Krauthammer has long had a credibility gap of his very own, but by his own standards, as of today, Bush officially has a credibility problem too.
During an April 22nd American Enterprise Institute briefing on the war in Iraq, [vehemently pro-war columnist] Charles Krauthammer said: "Hans Blix had five months to find weapons. He found nothing. We've had five weeks. Come back to me in five months. If we haven't found any, we will have a credibility problem."

Why, oh why, this irrational hatred?

(via Eschaton via No More Mister Nice Blog)


republicanism 101

Via Atrios, this enlightening insight into the Republican mindset, courtesy the Washington Post:
Speaking of contracting out, an administration move to privatize air traffic control at 69 airports has sparked opposition from labor groups, which contend it would compromise safety.

The administration had proposed 71 airports, but House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska), who supports the effort, got someone to strike the two Alaska airports on the list.

Young, on an Alaska cable TV show a week ago, acknowledged the move generated some heat.

"Of course the criticism of myself," he said, "is that I exempted the state of Alaska." But there were ample reasons for that, he said, ticking off a number of them.

"Lastly," Young said, "my hotel room is on the top floor of the Sheraton, and the airplanes take right off towards my hotel room. Every morning I look out and there's one coming right at me. It's an interesting experience and I want to make sure everything is done right in that field."

The worthy representative tacitly admits that a privately run airport would be less safe. Of course, that doesn't stop him from pursuing a policy he acknowledges is wrong for America; he merely makes sure to exempt himself from its effects. Charming.


chicken salad

Yes, it's time for another entry into Jaquandor's chicken-crossing-the-road-joke blogger parodies. The target for today yesterday: S.L. Viehl.

Jaquandor also rhapsodizes about the onset of fall. I, too, welcome my favorite season, but I still can't quite condone Xmas decorations in October -- and even less so, Halloween decorations in late August.

And don't miss Jaquandor's excellent essay on criticism. As a critic myself, I found much to ruminate upon.


goodbye galileo

Over the weekend, NASA succeeded in its plan to intentionally crash its Galileo space probe into Jupiter. The plan was adopted to prevent possible contamination of Jovian moons by Earth microbes that might have hitched a ride aboard the craft. The probe continued sending data to the very end.

Here's a cool gallery of images taken by the Galileo probe, courtesy CNN. Personally, I plan to print out the Galileo Coloring Book for my girls this evening.


weekend update

We had a very busy and social weekend, and as a result I'm still sorta bushed. Posting today will therefore be light.

Friday night, our friends the Andersons joined us for dinner. Our girls enjoyed playing with their three kids, and Crystal and I got to visit pleasantly with Walter and Elizabeth over dinner and (a little of) The Two Towers.

Saturday night our friends Onye and Anthony joined us for dinner, because I completely blanked on the fact that we were supposed to go to her place. As a result, we both spent the afternoon cooking. They were very gracious and understanding, and we were able to combine what we'd prepared into a feast. After dinner, Anthony and I played a little Soul Calibur II -- it was a lot of fun, and my experience with its PSX predecesor Soul Blade meant that he didn't dominate quite as much as when we played DOA 2 Hardcore -- and then we took in our DVD of Iron Monkey.

As a surprise, Sunday evening we took The Girls to the final show if the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. This year's edition featured some amazing acts, including a reptile trainer, a wushu troupe, and more clowns, acrobats and daredevils than you could shake a cotton candy stick at. Cecilia loved the elephants and trapeze artists, and Naomi seemed to be fascinated by all the proceedings.

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