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cosplay post of the day (cecilia at ikasucon)
halloween 2003 roundup (coming soon)
halloween 2002 roundup
the future of online gaming
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reviews: hentai games sux0rz
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20 favorite movies since 1980
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  xSaturday, October 04, 2003

out o' town


The family and I are traveling to Louisville for the St. James Court Art Fair. We expect to have our usual good time and see family and friends. Blogging will likely be light to nonexistent over the weekend, but it usually is anyway.




  x

late night horror update


I just watched Jaws 2and the classic Universal picture House of Frankenstein. I concur with Ken Begg's review; Jaws 2 is a decent flick, but of course nowhere near as good as the original. Still there are some nice moments, as in an early shot in which Mayor Vaughn and the Evil Capitalist Developer (who really isn't all that evil) are framed in a shot by a bunch of currency. Heh. House of Frankenstein was pretty cool. It must have been interesting for Boris Karloff to appear in a Frankenstein picture opposite the Creature. John Carradine is in and out of the flick in like 15 minutes as Dracula. And the ever-reliable Lon Chaney Jr. does his usual solid turn as the Wolf Man (the only one of the classic Universal monsters to reprise his role for this 1944 flick). There's even a hunchback-falls-in-love-with-gypsy subplot.

After the films, I spent about an hour eluding zombies in Resident Evil Code Veronica X. It was appropriately creepy, especially when the ammo for my handgun -- of which I'd built up a decent stockpile, more than 100 rounds -- started to run low again due to a plethora of the living dead. Unfortunately, after an insanely torturous path to secure a certain key object, I discovered I needed yet another key object to proceed, and so instead decided to hang it up for the night.




  xFriday, October 03, 2003

brace yourself


Jeff Cooper looks at Bush's sagging poll numbers, sums up a very bad week for his administration, and reminds us that the "Bush political team's instinct when under fire is to fight dirty." Beware.




  x

horror-themed anime gallery of the day


vampire princess miyu

A small gallery of images at Anime Cubed devoted to the creepy anime Kyuuketsuki Miyu (Vampire Princess Miyu). Here's a review of the TV series at DVD Vision Japan.




  x

survival horror game review of the day


Here's an Associated Press review of the latest installment in Konami's ultra-creepy Silent Hill survival horror series. This screen capture shows that the posessed manequins from Silent Hill 2 apparently make a comeback.

This game, the third in Konami's venerable "Silent Hill" franchise, puts you in the role of Heather Morris, a disaffected 15-year-old.

After meeting with a sleazy private detective, she bounces between the real world and a freakish nightmare where walls are lined with pulsating flesh, streets are littered with the remains of men in pink bunny outfits and blood-and-rust coated metal is the style of the year.

The "Silent Hill" series has always been most effective at atmosphere, and the latest installment continues to rely on the old horror trope of finding terror in mundane and wholesome places like a lakeside town, an amusement park and a shopping mall.

The series' characteristic dense fog is back, masking hideous monsters - but not the clacking and scraping sounds they make - until they're up close. There are plenty of long, dark corridors with something lurking at the end, and as with most good horror, you are usually without company.

Its most brilliant touch is a play on the jokey spookiness of a Disney-style benign haunted mansion, with faux frightening tour guide on the loud speakers. The tour turns into an unnerving exploration of a place that, despite its jocular tone, really is out to kill you after all.

...Still, the game delights for reasons computer gamers can't take for granted: palpable sense of mood, strong characters and even suggestions that it's actually trying to say something. Its dominant theme is tried and true: Suffering may be painful, yet it is crucial to life.

...But the focus here is the great terror the game manages to impart. It's not surprising that the rating is for mature gamers only, as the most effective way of killing a monster is to drop it with gunshots and finish it off with a few good kicks while it's screaming in pain.


Here's GameSpot's take on the game.

Silent Hill is a truly amazing and terrifying experience. I wrote about it in some detail last Halloween season:
The gamer plays Harry Mason, a writer who somehow gets lost on his way to vacation in the town of Silent Hill. Awakening after a car accident, he finds his daughter Cheryl missing and the town…changed. Snow is falling in the middle of summer, and fog enshrouds the streets. (The fog effect was developed to avoid overloading the PSX’s graphics capability with the level of detail the designers wanted, but it proved so effectively spooky that the designers included it in the PlayStation 2 sequel, even though the PS2’s higher graphics power made it unnecessary.) Some of the city street end abruptly in yawning chasms, as if the very town were somehow torn away from reality as we know it.

silent hill screen shot
Pick up the ammo by that abandoned police car, Harry...you'll need it!

Even more frightening, almost all the town’s inhabitants have vanished, and monsters—from fiendish winged creatures to zombified dogs—prowl the streets. Although Harry has a handgun, ammunition is limited and worse, Harry’s a pretty lousy shot. One of the effective horror elements in the game are the weapons Harry collects. In addition to the standard shotgun—for which ammo is even more rare—and the useless but somehow comforting kitchen knife, Harry finds a variety of blunt instruments, from a steel pipe to a sledgehammer. Harry can conserve ammo by bashing in a few zombie skulls—but the clubs are slow and clumsy, and missing is bad news indeed.

Fortunately, Harry doesn’t have to fight every monster thanks to an outstanding innovation: Harry’s pocket radio no longer works in Silent Hill, but the presence of monsters cause it to emit a steadily louder burst of static. This excellent system means the player hears monsters long before they’re visible, and the static’s increasing volume ratchets up the tension as the player attempts to avoid or confront the thing.

silent hill screen shot
Harry finds himself in a twisted, nightmarish parody of the town of Silent Hill.

Another enhancement to the atmosphere of horror is a frequent change of setting. As Harry explores the deserted Silent Hill in search of his daughter, the town changes to a nightmarish parody of itself, a dark and twisted wasteland of rust and blood that’s positively creepsville. The eerie and bizarre setting of Silent Hill renders the various puzzles Harry must solve a logical part of the nightmare, instead of a frustrating and incongruous obstacle.

Numerous other nice touches abound. When Harry runs for an extended distance, he pants when the player stops running. The soundtrack is also a definite plus—the music alternates between sinister and melancholy, and the game abounds with subtle background noises, from the creatures' moans to to the faint air-raid siren in the alternate reality to Harry's echoing footsteps and the radio's warning static. References to other horror writers and their work are scattered throughout the town, from the street names to details hidden among the town’s scenery. The game creates an unrelenting atmosphere of dread that doesn’t rely on frequent combat; when fights are unavoidable, Harry’s limited prowess with a weapon lends a realistic touch to the game. The creepy atmosphere makes Silent Hill a fiendishly entertaining place to revisit, enhanced by the fact that the game’s multiple endings present obscure and mutually contradictory hints about how the evil gripped the small town.

I still haven't cracked open its predecesor, Silent Hill 2, but I definitely plan to do so this month. Once finished, I'm sure SH3 will definitely be on the menu.

The Silent Hill series is also getting the feature film treatment. Let's hope the result is better than the mediocre Resident Evil.

(cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)




  x

horror pinups of the day


vampirella cover

A c00L collection of Vampirella cover galleries.

vampirella fan art
And here's a gallery of Vampirella images from the same site.




  x

halloween flash site of the day


A c00L collection of horror-themed Flash movies and games. My favorite: This zombie movie trailer.




  x

cheapie tech toy of the day


Can't afford an iPod? Make one out of paper with this handy kit!

(via BoingBoing)




  x

wow


CalPundit and Daily Kos point to a rather startling study regarding the misperceptions about Iraq held by patrons of various news sources. The study found that
A majority of Americans have held at least one of three mistaken impressions about the U.S.-led war in Iraq ... and those misperceptions contributed to much of the popular support for the war.

The three common mistaken impressions are that:

  • U.S. forces found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

  • There's clear evidence that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein worked closely with the Sept. 11 terrorists.

  • People in foreign countries generally either backed the U.S.-led war or were evenly split between supporting and opposing it.


Overall, 60 percent of Americans held at least one of those views in polls reported between January and September by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, based at the University of Maryland in College Park, and the polling firm, Knowledge Networks based in Menlo Park, Calif.

"While we cannot assert that these misperceptions created the support for going to war with Iraq, it does appear likely that support for the war would be substantially lower if fewer members of the public had these misperceptions," said Steven Kull, who directs Maryland's program.

In fact, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. U.S. intelligence has found no clear evidence that Saddam was working closely with al-Qaida or was involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Gallup polls found large majorities opposed to the war in most countries.

PIPA's seven polls, which included 9,611 respondents, had a margin of error from 2 to 3.5 percent.

...The reasons for the misperceptions are numerous, Kull and other analysts said.

They noted that the Bush administration had misstated or exaggerated some of the intelligence findings, with Bush himself saying in May: "We found the weapons of mass destruction … and we'll find more as time goes by."

The Bush administration has also been a factor in persistent confusion.

Last month, for example, Bush said there was no evidence that Saddam was involved in the Sept. 11 attack after Vice President Dick Cheney suggested a link. Cheney, in a "Meet the Press" interview, had described Iraq as "the geographic base of the terrorists who had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9-11."

Why some news audiences had more accurate impressions than others was less clear.

Kull cited instances in which TV and newspapers gave prominent coverage to reports that banned weapons might have been found in Iraq, but only modest coverage when those reports turned out to be wrong.

Susan Moeller, a University of Maryland professor, said that much reporting had consisted of "stenographic coverage of government statements," with less attention to whether the government's statements were accurate.

The study found that belief in inaccurate information often persisted, and that misconceptions were much more likely among backers of the war. Last month, as in June, for example, nearly a quarter of those polled thought banned weapons had been found in Iraq. Nearly half thought in September that there was clear evidence that Saddam had worked closely with al-Qaida.

Among those with one of the three misconceptions, 53 percent supported the war. Among those with two, 78 percent supported it. Among those with three, 86 percent backed it. By contrast, less than a quarter of those polled who had none of the misconceptions backed the war.

CalPundit sums it up with a disturbing chart noting the variation of misperception among the various news outlet. The big winner, with a whopping 80% of misinformed viewers? Guess.

CalPundit also notes that those getting their news from network TV ranked at the top of the misinformed, ahead of print, NPR and PBS. I'm pleased to note that listeners of NPR came away with the fewest misperceptions, at a mere 23%.




  x

discussion at ipse dixit


My friend Dodd and I have been refraining, by mutual accord, from commenting on each other's blogs. But I had to respond to Dodd's take on the recent interim report on the Administration's, ah, less than fruitful search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The resulting discussion got a bit heated at times, but never over the top, and I think good points were made by all.

There's some further amplification of the topic over at Daily Kos.

Of course, Dodd, you're always welcome to comment here if you choose. That goes for everyone, so have at it! Ganbatte!




  x

plame scandal update


The New York Times weighs in this morning with an analysis of the patters of anonymous leaks. From its analysis, patriots who oppose the abuse of national security for political game would conclude that they need to keep attention focused on the particularly reprehensible nature of this crime.
Periodically, the city is consumed, as it has been this week, by a question like the one about whether someone at the White House divulged an intelligence officer's identity. In such firestorms, events often follow a predictable pattern.

First, someone with information that is not public tells a reporter about it, with the understanding that the source's name will not be used. The reporter prints or broadcasts the news. People who feel injured demand to know the source. The reporter refuses to say who it was. Someone in authority expresses outrage and promises to get to the bottom of the situation. An investigation ensues. The source is not found.

Sooner or later, the storm usually blows over.

The latest episode has not run its course. It is still possible that the source of the leak will be found, that prominent officials will be removed from office and even that people will be indicted and convicted of a felony.

The case is arguably more toxic than the typical uproar because it involves exposing an intelligence officer, ostensibly for political reasons. Instead of being forgotten, this leak could turn out to be a serious embarrassment to President Bush.

Paul Krugman -- who notes that he ought to know -- comments on the "slime and defend" strategy:
The right-wing media slime machine, which tries to assassinate the character of anyone who opposes the right's goals — hey, I know all about it — has already swung into action. For example, The Wall Street Journal's editorial page calls Mr. Wilson an "open opponent of the U.S. war on terror." We've grown accustomed to this sort of slur — and they accuse liberals of lacking civility? — but let's take a minute to walk through it.

Mr. Wilson never opposed the "war on terror" — he opposed the war in Iraq precisely because it had no obvious relevance to the campaign against terror. He feared that invading a country with no role in 9/11, and no meaningful Al Qaeda links, would divert resources from the pursuit of those who actually attacked America. Many patriots in the military and the intelligence community agreed with him then; even more agree now.

Unlike the self-described patriots now running America, Mr. Wilson has taken personal risks for the sake of his country. In the months before the first gulf war, he stayed on in Baghdad, helping to rescue hundreds of Americans who might otherwise have been held as hostages. The first President Bush lauded him as a "truly inspiring diplomat" who exhibited "courageous leadership."

In any case, Mr. Wilson's views and character are irrelevant. Someone high in the administration committed a felony and, in the view of the elder Mr. Bush, treason. End of story.

The hypocrisy here is breathtaking. Republicans have repeatedly impugned their opponents' patriotism. Last year Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, said Democrats "don't want to protect the American people. . . . They will do anything, spend all the time and resources they can, to avoid confronting evil."

But the true test of patriotism isn't whether you are willing to wave the flag, or agree with whatever the president says. It's whether you are willing to take risks and make sacrifices, including political sacrifices, for the sake of your country. This episode is a test for Mr. Bush and his inner circle: a true patriot wouldn't hesitate about doing the right thing in the Plame affair, whatever the political costs.

Mr. Bush is failing that test.

Atrios (warning: harsh language ahead!) points out that Bush is still unclear on the concept:
"I'm against leaks," Bush said, to laughter.

...The current issue isn't about "leaks," it's about REVEALING THE NAME OF A DEEP UNDERCOVER CIA OPERATIVE.


CalPundit offers some "rank speculation" into the origins of the Plame scandal, points out that yes, this is a big deal, and reminds us that the whole thing is really not so complicated.
That's also the goal of people who pretend that the whole thing is just "too complicated." Make it look like a "he said, she said" story and eventually everyone nods off because they can't keep up.

But the story is actually pretty simple. Top White officials blew the identity of an undercover CIA agent, potentially endangering both lives and intelligence operations, solely to gain political payback against a guy who had risen to the top of their enemies list.
.
CalPundit is also the go-to guy for establishing that yes, Plame was indeed a covert agent, contrary to Novak's recent backtracking, and why blowing her cover really was bad.

Here's more on Plame's covert status via Jim Henley.
NOCs (the word rhymes with "rocks") are the most covert CIA operatives. They typically work abroad without diplomatic protection (often they pretend to work for some commercial enterprise). If these spies are caught, there's no guarantee that the United States would admit their true identities. When using official cover could put a spy's life and work at risk, NOC is the only alternative.

Why is it such a big deal that someone outed Valerie Plame? For starters, it's a felony. And Plame was also reportedly a NOC with years of experience investigating weapons of mass destruction. If this is true, her discovery could compromise intelligence operations she was involved with around the world, which would explain why she maintained her nonofficial cover even when she was back in the United States. "Hard target" countries like China and North Korea often keep records of every known meeting between Americans and their scientists and officials. Almost certainly, those lists would have been frantically reviewed when Plame's identity was revealed, and any sources she recruited could have been exposed.

Please, can we stop with the wishful thinking that Plame was only an "analyst"?

Daily Kos considers the Plame scandal as "a symptom of continuing warfare between the White House, the Pentagon and the CIA." Joshua Marshall points out that the Wall Street Journal evidently agrees, and has his own thoughts on the matter.
[G]etting into this bigger war won't help because it will only show that they pulled these sorts of shenanigans against their own intelligence agency because of the latter's inability to prove a White House hypothesis that turned out to be completely wrong. So rather than crime without context you have crime in the service of ideological zeal and self-deception.

One of the failings of ideologues is their inability to see that everyone else isn't necessarily an ideologue like them. So when the analysts at Langley didn't find evidence to support the White House's brainstorms, the folks at the White House assumed that the analysts were just Saddam-hugging ideologues rather than trained professionals --- albeit with their own very real biases and assumptions --- who were in most cases acting on their own inability to find any evidence to substantiate what the White House was so desperate to prove.

Breaking the law in one thing. But delving deeper is liable to show that the administration took the public's support for a war on terror, pocketed it, and then went to war against its own intelligence agencies and, in some cases, reality.

Talking Points Memo also comments on Republican Chuck Hegel's recent glance towards the Vice President's office, and reaches into the mailbag of denial.
Mark Kleiman continues to be all over the Plame story, both at his blog and at Open Source Politics.

I wondered earlier when some of the principled conservatives whose opinions I generally respect would acknowledge the Plame scandal. This week, Susanna at Cut on the Bias offered her take on the scandal:
It seems to me that this is a Dem tempest in a teapot. But it is a serious matter, it raises some useful issues we need to consider about both security and journalistic ethics, so the dialogue is good. I just hope the average American hears the information with skepticism.

I would certainly disagree with her characterization of the scandal as "a Dem tempest in a teapot;" after all, it was a Bush Administration official who told the Washington Post that the outing of Plamne was "wrong and a huge miscalculation." No, outrage over the outing of a covert CIA agent -- a rare occurrence that could hardly be described as a "tempest in a teapot" -- spans the entire political spectrum. But Susanna is to be commended for aclnowledging it as a "serious mater" and pointing her readers to furhter information. Still, I would hope that we won't need to rely solely on the prodding of Democrats to discover the culprits and bring them to justice.

Speaking of which, TrueMajority has an online petition that lets you let your Congressional delegation know you support an independent investigation.




  x

geek comic of the week


FoxTrot is really funny today.




  x

horror wallpaper of the day


auditionigari

Today's wallpaper is devoted to the disturbing Takashi Miike thriller Audition. This twisted little film -- what else would you expect from wildman director Miike (Dead or Alive)? -- weaves a tale of sadism and madness around a lonely widower's quest for a new wife. Like many a good horror film, though, there's some scathing social commentary lurking beneath the bloody surface. Here's my review at Destroy All Monsters.

Wallpaper courtesy the Asian horror film review site Snowblood Apple. Here's its review of Audition.

Update: According to the referral logs, someone found this site by searching for "gory bloody wallpaper for halloween." None of that yet, but who knows? Stay tuned!




  xThursday, October 02, 2003

milestone of the day


A few minutes ago, thanks in part to a number of referrals from skippy, the hit counter reached 44,000. Thanks for visiting, and don't forget that there's lots of left-of-center commentary, Halloween celebration and general swankiness around, so enjoy!




  x

'torturing him with kindness'


Tristero has a must-read post about avoiding schadenfreude over news of Rush Limbaugh's reported drug addiction.
The cognitive dissonance Limbaugh and his followers will experience - that we were right all along and they were wrong all along - will be excruciating. But it will only work if it is consistent with our deeply held values.

...As liberals, we can do our cause no better service than to treat Limbaugh's addiction with the understanding which he smugly denies to others, including ourselves. If ever there was an example where turning the other cheek could be the most effective strategy to implement changes, Limbaugh's addiction is it.

In short, in reacting to Limbaugh's addiction, don't play his game. Don't play by his rules. Let's play by our rules. If we do, we stand a chance to destroy his influence for good (for real good, as we all know). In addition, we convincingly demonstrate both the immorality of his values and the virtues of our own.

Testify! Go read the whole thing.

I will indulge in one snarky quote courtesy Atrios, who's been all over the story:
It appears that Limbaugh is a part of a drug investigation, but they're targetting the suppliers and not the buyers.

Sure is nice being a rich white illegal drug user.


Update: Welcome visitors from skippy! Please give props to Tristero, whose comments about Rush I'm quoting approvingly.




  x

lego horror link of the day


lego cthulhu

LEGO® Cthulhu. 'Nuff said.




  x

latest developments from le cirque de moussaoui


From the WaPo: Judge Deals Blow to Moussaoui Prosecution / Bars Death Penalty for Moussaoui
A federal judge today ruled that alleged Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui will not be eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted, and barred prosecutors from presenting any evidence that he was involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, which is expected to be appealed by prosecutors, came as a surprise to both sides. Defense lawyers and prosecutors had expected Brinkema to dismiss the charges against Moussaoui pending a government appeal.

But Brinkema chose instead to strike the death penalty sought by prosecutors, and to eliminate the events of Sept. 11, 2001, from the case, as a way of punishing the government for defying her orders to produce three top al Qaeda witnesses for depositions by Moussaoui's defense.

The judge ruled that evidence from the witnesses established that Moussaoui was not involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, but that he could still be tried on charges of participating in a broad al Qaeda conspiracy to attack the United States.

"Considering the broad nature of the charged conspiracies," Brinkema wrote, "it simply cannot be the case that Moussaoui, a remote or minor participant in 'al Qaeda's war against the United States,' can lawfully be sentenced to death for the actions of other members of al Qaeda, who perpetrated the Sept. 11 attacks, without any evidence that the defendant himself had any direct involvement in, or knowledge of, the planning and or execution of those attacks."

Wow. Once again, this case was supposed to be the one that showed the United States could win against terrorism while playing by the rules. The bizarre circus this case has become is certainly a disappointment.

I don't really have a problem with ruling out the death penalty -- having him rot behind bars forever is fine with me -- but perhaps these developments could wind up being positive after all. After all, if there was indeed doubt that Moussaoui was a member of the 9/11 plot, then it could do no harm to the United States' case to focus on his admitted membership in al Qaeda. I'm sure a conviction on conspiracy grounds ought to be a snap.

Of course, the legal maneuvering is far from over, so stay tuned. For more, see How Appealing.




  x

that's the way the cookie crumbles


Speaking of crumbling, scientist in England have determined why consumers often find broken cookies when they open a fresh package. Apparently, they develop "fault lines" as they cool, rendering them weak enough to crumble when handled.

The research paper with these findings was called A novel application of speckle interferometry for the measurement of strain distributions in semi-sweet biscuits.

As FARK would say, still no cure for cancer.




  x

rift between the miltary, gop?


Writing in Salon, Eric Boehlert explores possible fault lines that seem to be appearing between the military rank and file and the Republican party. Here's a good quote:
[A]t his Naval Institute address, Zinni, who served in uniform for 39 years, compared Iraq to Vietnam. Speaking of his contemporaries in the room, he said: "Our feelings and our sensitivities were forged on the battlefields of Vietnam, where we heard the garbage and the lies, and we saw the sacrifice. We swore never again would we allow it to happen. And I ask you, Is it happening again? And you're going to have to answer that question, just like the American people are. And remember, every one of those young men and women that come back [a casualty] is not a personal tragedy, it's a national tragedy."

The officer corps may yet lean heavily Republican -- by a ratio of 8 to 1 -- but the Bush Administration's mendacity and incompetence, coupled with its truly inexplicable failure to put its money where its mouth is in terms of soldier support -- seems to be too obvious for the reank and file to ignore, and the result seems to be increasing anger.

Ket in the upcoming election will be for the Democrats to explode the myth that Bush is even faintly competent on matters of national security. In his bestselling book, Al Franken provides a truly infuriating brief of what he calls Operation Ignore, the Bush Administration's failure to address terrorism as a threat until after 9/11. That's the start, and the clear failure to prepare for the Iraqi occupation as anything other than a business opportunity for Administration cronies is the other -- and there's plenty of rancid failure in between.




  x

just swell


From the New York Times: North Korea Says It Is Using Plutonium to Make A-Bombs
With nuclear talks expected in weeks, North Korea said today that it had completed reprocessing 8,000 spent fuel rods and is using the plutonium to make atomic bombs.

But with an eye to a "red line" unofficially drawn by the Bush Administration, a North Korean diplomat said in New York that his impoverished nation would not export its bombs or its bomb-making capacity to other countries.
"We have no intention of transferring any means of that nuclear deterrence to other countries," Choe Su Hon, North Korea's vice foreign minister, told reporters at North Korea's mission to the United Nations in New York, the New China News Agency reported today.

The rods had been sealed for almost a decade by an international agreement until last winter, when North Korea expelled United Nations inspectors and started reprocessing. Mr. Choe also told the reporters on Wednesday that the North had now completed reprocessing all the stored rods, an assertion that was repeated today in a dispatch by the Korean Central News Agency.


Here's the WaPo's story.

I'm reassured from my conversations with several conservatives, though, that this alarming development isn't at all Bush's fault. Bush, it seems, is only responsible for postive developments; for anything else, the excuse explanation is that Bush can't control what Kim Jong Il does.

Maybe not. But regardless, this development is hardly the crowning jewel of Bush's diplomatic success, nor is it a positive development. And for all the inadequacyof the Agreed Framework, the record is clear: Under Clinton's watch, North Korea mothballed its plutonium program (although it cheated by launching a much less dangerous uranium scheme), and under Bush's watch, North Korea has returned the plutonium program to full swing. And now we're in the position of taking North Korea's word -- anathema to Bush supporters, I'm sure -- that it won't export nukes to anyone with a million or two dollars.




  x

bush administration drops ball in war on terror...again


Mark Kleiman sums up this Washington Post story:
One of the Saudi paymasters for Wahhabbist missionary work in the U.S. just happened to sleep in the same hotel as three of the 9-11 hijackers the night before the attack. When the FBI tried to interview him, he faked a seizure to get out of it. An FBI agent's recommendation that he not be allowed to leave the country was mysteriously not acted on, and he flew back to Saudi Arabia September 19. Five months later the Saudi government put him in charge of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque, which means he helps run the kingdom's charities. Strange world, isn't it?

Holy cow.





  x

wmd report: 'no smoking gun'


Remember the Kay report, the one that was going to vindicate the Administration's hyperbole about Saddam's alleged weapons stockpiles?

No such luck.
Two months after the head of the CIA's search for Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction said "solid progress" was being made, officials say he will tell members of Congress on Thursday that his team has not found any banned weapons.

David Kay, a former U.N. weapons inspector, is expected to report that Iraq had civilian technology that could have been converted to weapons programs on short notice, and an extensive effort to conceal that capability, the officials say.

Members of House and Senate intelligence committees are expected to ask him some hard questions about the Pentagon's 1,500-member Iraq Survey Group during two closed-door hearings.

"My first question is, 'What have you found and if you haven't found very much what were the problems with our intelligence leading up to the war in Iraq?'" Rep. Jane Harman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, said it is "simply going to take a long time" to determine what happened to the weapons programs the Bush administration said required a U.S.-led invasion that deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in April.

"I don't expect any smoking gun today, but this is another interim report in the process," Chambliss said.

But remember, the Bush Administration wasn't talking about capability, or dual-use technology. They said -- yes, they did! -- that Saddam had massive stockpiles he was just itchin' to use.

This morning's New York Times reports that the Administration wants US$600 million more to fund the hunt for banned weapons, on top of the US$300 million it's already spent. So the Administration's postwar weapons wild-goose chase will cost a grand total of [cue Dr. Evil voice]: One billion dollars!

Update: My friend Dodd believes that "The WMD aspects of the Administration's case for war are, in fact, amply supported by Kay's report," located here. In the comment thread, I disagree.




  x

more misleader: bush underfunds homeland security


MisLeader finds that -- surprise, surprise! -- when it comes to national security, Bush talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk.
The Bush Administration apparently is willing to shortchange the police, firefighters and emergency personnel who would be the first to arrive on the scene of a terrorist attack on American soil.

An independent task force headed by former Republican Senator Warren Rudman concluded that the $4.2 billion appropriation signed by the President on Wednesday may be "only one-third of what is required to adequately provide for America's emergency responders."

After September 11th the President promised to take "every possible measure" to guarantee the security of the homeland, but now Bush's Homeland Security officials are mocking the concerns of the Rudman task force. "I think the [task force] would like to install gold-plated telephones," said one official.

At the same time the Bush Administration wants to spend $6,000 apiece for 600 overpriced hand-held radios and satellite phones in Iraq.

Sources are on the MisLeader site.




  x

jobless claims rise


New jobless claims for last week rose to 399,000, just shy of the 400,000 mark economists consider a weak job market.

But let's face it -- being only 1,000 shy isn't exactly good news, is it?

For more perspective, MisLeader compares Bush's rhetoric to his policy outcomes -- never good news for the President.
Instead of creating 510,000 jobs in 2003, as President Bush predicted, the Republican-led economy has suffered a net loss of 473,000 jobs so far this year.

Those figures don't include this week's report.

Update: Slacktivist points to Charles Peters in this month's Washington Monthly:
Remember how Wall Street's Charles Schwab urged Bush to cut or eliminate taxes on dividends, saying this would be a sure prod to jobs and growth. Bush followed his advice. A year or so later, The Wall Street Journal reported that Charles Schwab had saved $5.4 million in taxes himself because of the dividend tax cut. Not long after that, Charles Schwab Inc. announced that it is laying off more than 800 employees. Now you know how Bush economics works. But don't tell anyone. That would be class warfare.





  x

freeway blogging


Some wag has been posting signs criticial of Bush's Iraq pilicies along the freeways of Southern California, and now some genius has started a blog to document them.

(via Off the Kuff)




  x

w00t


Democrats Block Vote on EPA Nominee Leavitt
Senate Democrats blocked a vote on President Bush's nomination of Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, saying he needed to fully explain his positions.

Republicans fired back with accusations that Democrats were injecting the 2004 White House campaign politics into the Senate confirmation process. They also argued that Leavitt had already adequately stated his views about the environment, and deserved a vote.

"This is about the presidential election," said Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican. "This is ugly partisan politics."

Democrats, who have accused Bush of rolling back environmental protection, boycotted the committee meeting, thereby preventing the scheduled vote on Leavitt. The vote on whether to send his nomination to the full Senate for consideration was rescheduled for Oct. 15.

By then, Democrats hope to have obtained more answers from Leavitt on a number of issues -- from asbestos contamination to ozone standards.

Under committee rules, the Republican-led panel cannot conduct business unless two members of the minority are in attendance -- and only one, Sen. Jim Jeffords, a Vermont independent, showed up in order to explain the boycott.

Jeffords said he want answers not only from Leavitt, but also from the administration.

"The Bush administration is weakening the Clean Air Act, and it is not cleaning up Superfund sites," Jeffords said. "We have a right to know why."

Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, a committee member and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, said in a statement, "Protecting our environment is too important -- and the damage done by this administration too great -- to permit the EPA administrator to duck the serious questions."

Inhofe said Leavitt responded to all questions posed to him at his confirmation hearing last week. But his answers did not always satisfy Democrats, who also submitted to him more than 400 written questions.

At his confirmation hearing Leavitt told the panel he was a "problem solver," and said, "Solutions are found in the productive middle ... Rarely are they found at the extremes."

Good. The way the story had been reported on NPR just the other dat, Leavitt's confirmation seemed like a done deal, so I'm glad the Democrats have stood up for their envirnmental principles. I suspect that Leavitt will eventually be confirmed, but it's good that the Democrats are on record with their opposition.

Of course, for a change, the GOP actually comes through, albeit inadvertently, with some valid advice for the Democrats: The environment is likely a dandy issue to attack Bush on during the 2004 campaign. Thanks, guys!




  x

valerie plame update


The FBI has begun its investigation of the apparent deliberate blowing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame's cover by Administration officials.
The FBI's first task in the investigation of a leak that disclosed the name of a CIA officer is to narrow the list of government officials who may have known her identity, a number that could be in the hundreds.

Meanwhile, an ABC-Washington Post poll found 69 percent of Americans, including 52 percent of Republicans, believe a special counsel should be appointed. A substantial majority, 72 percent, said it's likely that someone in the White House leaked the classified information, but only 34 percent think it's likely Bush knew about the leak beforehand.

The FBI spent Wednesday assembling a team of experienced agents to handle the investigation, which probably will include interviews with senior members of President Bush's staff.

CalPundit takes note of the fact that a substantial number of both Democrats and Republicans consider the matter to be serious.

(Update 3 [the first two are further down]: Billmon thinks these poll numbers could persage the beginning of the end of Bush's perception as a straight shooter. It's about time.)

Democrats are calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor. The New York Times ran this article today noting Attorney General John Ashcroft's close ties with several of the subjects of the investigation.

For those still in denial over Plame's covert status, the Times also noted that she not only was covert, but also worked under "nonofficial cover," meaning that she could not conceal her role within a government job.
That cover story, standard for American operatives who pretend to be diplomats or other federal employees, was not an option for Ms. Plame, people who knew her said on Wednesday. As a covert operative who specialized in nonconventional weapons and sometimes worked abroad, she passed herself off as a private energy expert, what the agency calls nonofficial cover.

But that changed over the summer, when her identity as a C.I.A. officer was reported in a syndicated column by Robert Novak.

... her business, people get very good about sticking to their story," said Mr. Wilson, who has told friends that when they were dating Ms. Plame told him about her true vocation only because he, too, had a high-level secrecy clearance, as a political adviser to the American general who was commanding United States forces in Europe.

With that story in tatters, Mr. Wilson said, "we were at a reception the other night, and all people wanted to talk about was her clandestine career."

"Basically," he said, "her comment was, `That's not something I discuss, even at work.' But it's been difficult. You have to go back and say to people that, `Well, all those years that you thought of me as an energy analyst, I was really something else.' You have to build back the trust."


(Update: Juan Cole notes that "The professionals clearly think this incident very serious." Go read.)

And here's the Times' take on White House damage control efforts:
The White House encouraged Republicans to portray the former diplomat at the center of the case, Joseph C. Wilson IV, as a partisan Democrat with an agenda and the Democratic Party as scandalmongering. At the same time, the administration and the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill worked to ensure that no Republicans in Congress break ranks and call for an independent inquiry outside the direct control of the Justice Department.

"It's slime and defend," said one Republican aide on Capitol Hill, describing the White House's effort to raise questions about Mr. Wilson's motivations and its simultaneous effort to shore up support in the Republican ranks.

"So far so good," the aide said. "There's nervousness on the part of the party leadership, but no defections in the sense of calling for an independent counsel."

The evident reluctance of the White House to see an independent investigations couldn't help but raise suspicions among those not inclined to give the Bush Administration the benefit of the doubt. CalPundit and Joshua Marshall are keeping an eye on the progress of the "slime and defend" campaign.

And the Times also points out that the whole Plame scandal is but a subset of the larger scandal involving the Administration's deceptions about Iraq.
The struggle pits intelligence professionals, especially analysts and operations officers at the C.I.A. who say they believe that information about the Iraqi weapons programs was deliberately hyped and distorted by the Bush administration in the months before the war, against officials at the White House and Pentagon who have long been dismissive of what they see as an overly cautious culture at the agency.

For the intelligence analysts and officers, the conflict revolves around principles that they consider central to their work, including the need to produce independent assessments of foreign threats that are uncontaminated by the policy views of top officials at the White House, State Department and Pentagon.

"I think what is going on is that the career intelligence officers, the operators and the analysts, are fighting to preserve their special status as professional nonpartisan intelligence officers," a former senior C.I.A. official said. "I think a lot of them are very angry at the way the Pentagon has tried to bully them and pressure them into reaching certain conclusions on Iraq. This leak case is symptomatic. It is another episode in this cultural war."

It can't be stressed enough that by apparently blowing the cover of an undecrcover operative to discredit Wilson, whose revelations ultimately forced the White House to acknowledge that its African uranium scare tactics were all but groundless, the Administration has fired a broadside in this war, and shown that it considers national security of secondary importance to its own plitical power.

Joshua Marshall provides this transcript of a Scott McClellan press conference indicating that the complacent press corps seems to have woken up and are asking tough questions:
QUESTION: Why did the President sit on his hands two-and-a-half-months ago and not ask his staff?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, I answered this question very clearly at the time that it came up, and you need to go back and look at what I said then.

QUESTION: But where was the outrage?

QUESTION: The President often says he gets his news not from reading the papers or watching TV, but from aides because he's very busy. Do you know if this was brought to his attention? Was he aware of this on July 14th or 15th, or in that time frame, either by reading it himself, or was it brought to his attention? I'm not asking you whether he said anything should do anything about it, but was he aware of this in a timely window --

MR. McCLELLAN: On July 14th?

QUESTION: When the Novak column came out, which I believe was July 14th. It was within that time frame.

MR. McCLELLAN: Call my predecessor. No --

QUESTION: Within a couple of days of that.

MR. McCLELLAN: John, I haven't even asked that question.

QUESTION: Scott, it seems like a good question to ask.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: That would be a good one if you can take it.

QUESTION: It's probably worth following up on.

QUESTION: When did he become aware of this?

QUESTION: Right.

MR. McCLELLAN: Sorry?

QUESTION: When did he become aware that --

MR. McCLELLAN: That there was an allegation that someone leaked classified information? When was that first --

QUESTION: No, no, that an undercover official of the United States government had been outed. When did the President of the United States know that? When was he informed of that? And what was his reaction? Where's the outrage, I think, was the question that was asked.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the outrage has always been made known. If someone leaks classified information -- are you -- when did --

QUESTION: When did the President know it, and what did he do about it?

MR. McCLELLAN: When did someone make the allegation that this -- that someone had leaked classified information?

QUESTION: On July 14th or 15th, it was clear that --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll look back at the timing and post the information --

QUESTION: -- that the American taxpayer had invested a lot of money in the undercover status of a woman who had been outed in the newspaper. What did the President know that and what did he do about it?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll look back at some of this and try to get some information for you.

Wow.

&c astutely observes that the Justice Department is asking that documents be preserved dating to February 2002, indicating that the White House's feeble claims that it didn't know about Wilson's Niger report may come under scrutiny.
Whoever in the White House leaked Valerie Plame's name probably broke out into a cold sweat when Counsel Alberto Gonzalez's second memo on compliance with the Justice Department investigation crossed their desks yesterday. The blowback from the potentially felonious leak just got exponentially more destructive for President Bush.
Let us explain. Here are the two key paragraphs from the memo:

[F]or the time period February 1, 2002 to the present, all documents, including without limitation all electronic records, telephone records of any kind (including but not limited to any records that memorialize telephone calls having been made), correspondence, computer records, storage devices, notes, memoranda, and diary and calendar entries, that relate in any way to:

1. Former U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, his trip to Niger in February 2002, and/or his wife's purported relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency...

Now, alert readers will remember that Robert Novak published Plame's name in his column of July 2003. The White House counsel is telling the staff to save records about Joseph Wilson (Plame's husband, whom the leak was designed to discredit) dating back to February 2002. That is when the CIA sends Wilson to Niger, and he in turn reports back to the CIA that intelligence reports indicating an attempted uranium purchase from Iraq were highly dubious. And, you'll further recall, that very discredited accusation made it into the president's State of the Union address. When news of Wilson's trip hit the front pages in July, the White House vociferously denied that anyone working there knew at the time about Wilson's trip. As Ari Fleischer said on July 9, "It's known now what was not known by the White House prior to the speech." The CIA responded by saying it communicated its doubts precisely to the Oval Office--which stands to reason, since it was a question from Vice President Dick Cheney about the uranium sale that prompted Wilson's Niger excursion in the first place.

Now this White House we-had-no-idea line may be about to fall apart. The Justice Department will be collecting all records of White House knowledge of Wilson and his trip starting in February 2002--a year before the State of the Union. (Presumably the counsel's office wouldn't list this very early date unless instructed by Justice.) Documents elucidating whatever the White House knew about the unreliability of the uranium claim are about to leave the West Wing. So now the issue returns to the very questions that prompted the White House smear on Wilson (and his wife) in the first place: When did the White House know about the shakiness of the claim that Iraq was seeking Nigerien uranium? Just as importantly, who knew it?


Regarding Bush's mendacious attempts change the subject to leaks of classified information in general, it's important to bear in mind several things. First, information is classified for many reasons -- sometimes for vital mattersof national security, sometimes out of sheer routine, and sometimes because it could prove politically damaging. The public in many cases has a right to know information of the latter sort.

But outing a covert CIA agent is a deffernet matter entirely. Columnist Richard Cohen called it "a particularly pernicious kind," and he's quite right. That's why Bush the Elder saw to it that a law making outing a covert agent its own special category of crime was passed. Leaks of classified information may or may not damage national security, and may or may not be justified by the public's right to know. But deliberately blowing the cover of a covert agent is just wrong, wrong, wrong. Ther'es no excuse or justification for this foul deed, and the fact that it was apparently done for naked partisan advantage makes it even more reprehensible. Let's not let Bush try to redefine this crime as no big deal -- it's a particularly big deal, and the casual attitude toward this heinous act is deeply disturbing.

Mark Kleiman has more along these lines (and another summary at Open Source Politics).
When Bush says there are too many leaks, he means that too many reporters have access to evidence that makes him look bad. That is not, I submit, a problem that the nation needs to worry about. It would be horribly ironic if the result of this particular White House dirty trick were to tighten the administration's grip over what the citizens are, and are not, allowed to know.

No, this isn't about leaking. It's about exposing the name of an intelligence officer. That's a specific crime, covered by a specific statute. Let's not let Bush and his minions change the subject.

And as Kleiman notes, Joshua Marshall made a similar point:
They're trying to move the subject on to much more comfortable ground and push the whole controversy over into the long and muddled history of leaks of classified information.

The law which seems to have been violated, of course, is a different one. And this allows the president to sidestep entirely the issue of his staffers retaliating against a critic by ruining his wife's career.

All of which is to say that the president is still looking for a way to get around discussing the seriousness of what actually happened.

Again, the fact that Bush seems to want to change the subject illustrates his vulnerability. After all, if he really objected to this heinous deed, he's had some 11 weeks to act on it already.

The Washington press corps seems to be asking the right question: What did the President know, and what did he do about it?

Update 2: Salon.com's Eric Boehlert says Novak's spin raises more questions than it answers (via Nitpicker).

Update 4: Uggabugga has a great chart of excuses by Bush apologists.




  x

zombie movie link of the day


Musashi at Destroy All Monsters linked to a Japanese Web site devoted to next year's remake of George Romero's superb zombie flick Dawn of the Dead (reviews at Cold Fusion Video Reviews, House of Horrors, Badmovies.org, Mutant Reviewers from Hell, and Zombiegirls.net). Here's a Web page with information on the remake, and another that links to some photos from the set. Ain't It Cool News' Harry Knowles didn't think much of the original screenplay. This guy's take on the screenplay notes that "Studios just don't seem to get what zombie films are all about," and cites as evidence the L4m3 Resident Evil flick -- a good point, that.

I'm dubious about this project. Dawn of the Dead is pretty near perfect, so I don't see what value a remake could possible add. But although the original was unrated to to "excessive gore" at its release, it'd probably net an R these days, so why not just re-release the original? I'd definitely go to the theater to see it. On the other hand, since the remake is apparently being rated PG-13 (what?!?!), the producers obviously have a younger audience in mind.

My friend Sparky has visited the Monroeville Mall in Pennsylvania, where much of Dawn was filmed, and told me that it's hardly changed at all.




  x

very pleasant


My friend Dodd is in town for a conference, and dropped by last night for coffee and conversartion. He had never visited our Indianapolis digs before, and it was a very pleasant visit.




  x

horror wallpaper of the day


the cabinet of dr. caligari

Today's wallpaper is devoted to the spooky 1920 German silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which many consider to be the first horror film ever made. I played my DVD of the film last night.

Trivia: Conrad Veidt, who played the Somnambulist, would go on to play Major Strasser in the classic film Casablanca.




  x

blaxploitation/chop socky link of the day


Ain't It Cool News' Harry Knowles recently chatted up legendary '70s martial arts star Jim Kelly (Enter the Dragon, Black Belt Jones) in a Houston bar. Although Kelly hasn't appeared in movies for a while -- due to the poor quality of the scripts he's sent, he said -- he's happy with several successful businesses, and continuing his study of martial arts. The interview and plenty of photos are here.





  xWednesday, October 01, 2003

horror movie news of the day


jennifer connelly

Academy Award-winning actress (and general all-around babe) Jennifer Connely has agreed to star in the latest US adaptation of a Japanese horror film, Dark Water.

The Walt Disney Co. feature revolves around a mother and her daughter moving into a new apartment where they are haunted by the ghost of a young girl whose family used to live in the building. A January start date is planned.

It will mark the English-language directing debut of Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles ("Central Station").

The original Japanese version of "Dark Water" was released last year, and directed by "Ringu" helmer Hideo Nakata.

Connelly, who most recently starred in Universal Pictures' "The Hulk," earned a supporting actress Academy Award last year for her work in "A Beautiful Mind." She next stars in the drama "House of Sand and Fog," which is scheduled for an Oscar-qualifying Dec. 26 release via DreamWorks.

Salles recently directed the Spanish-language film "The Motorcycle Diaries," based on the diaries of Ernesto "Che" Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado, chronicling their epic journey across Latin America in 1952. The film, now in the final stages of postproduction, and stars Gael Garcia Bernal.


(Cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)




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gallery of the day


helen hunt

The lovely and talanted Helen Hunt. Imagine, Paul Reiser got paid for doing this.

(Stolen from Inspired by Byzantium's Shores. By the way, Jaquandor, any more chicken-crossing-the-road parodies coming up?)




  x

horror movie reviews of the day


Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension has completed its look at the devolution of quality through a series of sequels, following the descent from delight to decency to dreck of the four Jaws movies: Jaws, Jaws 2, Jaws 3-D, and Jaws: The Revenge.

As a bonus, this month's Video Cheese selection looks at the bad shark movie Tinoterera.

And the B-Masters Cabal has devoted its roundtable to reviews of Jaws rip-off flicks.




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horror movie rentals of the week


I barely remembered yesterday that on Tuesdays, the local non-Blockbuster video chain rents two VHS tapes for a buck and a half, and that I'd resolved to take advantage of the fact to rent a bunch of horror movies this month.

Visiting the store, I was surprised and somewhat disappointed to discover that it's phasing out video in favor of DVDs. While I love DVDs, they must be displayed face forward, taking up the space of three or four end-on VHS tapes on the shelves. As a result, of course, the store has reduced its stock of tapes. While there was, surprisingly, a bit more anime on the shelves (memo to self: Gotta rent a couple of the more obscure titles before they go bye-bye), the horror selection was pretty L4m3. Even so, I managed to pick out four.

  • Jaws 2 (inspired by Jabootu's review)

  • The Howling

  • An obscure Stephen King-inspired flick called The Night Flyer

  • House of Frankenstein


Next week, I may visit another location that last year had a better horror selection. I'll let y'all know how it turns out.




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pseudo-spooky cartoon link of the day


Great googly moogly! The classic cartoon channel Boomerang (which our cable service doesn't offer...grrr...) is planning a series of weekend marathons of Scooby Doo, Where Are You? Unfortunately, the marathon will also inflict on viewers some of the later incarnations, including The Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show. Beware!
Scooby-Doo, the world's most beloved canine super sleuth, will celebrate his first 21 years (1969-90) of spine-tingling television adventures in October as Boomerang, Cartoon Network's 24-hour commercial-free classic animation cable/satellite network, becomes "Scooberang," scaring up four extended weekends (Friday - Sunday) of ghost-chasing capers spanning 10 different series created by the legendary Hanna-Barbera Studios. "Scooberang" will devote 368 uninterrupted hours to showcase Scooby-Doo and his crime-solving co-stars as they venture around the world in their psychedelic van, uncovering spooky mysteries and unexplained apparitions.

The 12-day tribute, to air every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in October (Friday, 8 a.m. - Monday, 8 a.m. ET), will spotlight Scooby-Doo in hundreds of adventures across eight different series, proving he truly is the "Iron Mutt of Animation."

The press release also notes that, ay 21, Scooby and the gang are now old enough to drink...but I don't think Scoob and Shaggy were exactly into booze.

At the risk of incurring Jaquandor's wrath, I'd like to mention that Casey Kasem was kind enough to send me an autographed photo, and he included a signed photocopy of a picture of Shaggy and Scooby. I also have a Scooby gang publicity still signed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.

(via FARK)




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amusing


Byzantium's Shores points to an e-mail joke making the rounds: a satirical guide to those intending to become Republicans.

And in a similar vein, Brad DeLong provides a plethora of reasons not to be a Republican.




  x

the language of hope


I haven't picked a Democratic contender to back in the primaries; of course, I'm planning to vote against Bush no matter who secures the nomination, on the grounds that when you find yourself in a hole, you should stop digging.

But this morning's Washington Post had an interesting article on the rhetoric that Howard Dean uses to fire up so many Democrats:
as Dean finished his stump speech, Pierce stood up, joining the crowd in a hooting ovation. The Democratic presidential hopeful had moved her, she said, made her feel like recruiting friends to vote for him. As she reached for Dean's hand, her eyes lit up. "He inspired me," she said.

The question is: How? What did Dean do to enchant Pierce, and to stir up thousands of avid supporters? Despite the buzz surrounding retired Gen. Wesley Clark's late entry into the campaign, and mounting attacks from some of his other eight rivals, Dean has raised the most money and leads the polls in New Hampshire and Iowa. Conventional wisdom credits Dean's Bush-bashing and his stoking of Democratic anger. But to follow Dean on the stump is to see something more subtle at work.

While the other candidates focus on their humble roots or heroic feats, Dean inverts the telescope: He talks about the voters. He tells them they're okay. Instead of trying to get them to love him, he tells them to love themselves. A doctor by training, he injects psychology into politics.

"I liked it when he said the election wasn't about him, it was about us," said Pierce. "He's empowering me."

This is the intended effect, the candidate said in an interview. "People feel horribly disempowered by George Bush," he said. "I'm about trying to give them control back."

Just as the eventual Democratic nominee absolutely must adopt Edwards' rhetoric about Bush's distorted economic priorities, the Democrats need to use this rhetoric as well, for two reasons.

One is that the Bush campaign is going to spew Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt, and counteracting it with something positive is essential, and

Two, the language of hope is truly what separates the Democratic Party from the Bush gang that has hijacked the Republicans. America is and ought to be about equal opportunity for all, not taxpayer-subzidized handouts to big corporate contributers, enabling of crony capitalism, and using the language of fear and laws eroding basic American civil rights to mask basic incompetence in dealing with terrorism. Americans need to be offered a clear choice in 2004, and I for one believe that if they are, they'll reject Bush, just as a majority of voters did in 2000.




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interesting


Well, it's officially October, which means that the long-awaited Kay report -- you know, the one that was going to vindicate Bush's claims of Iraqi weapons -- didn't get released in September as promised. Instead, todfay we get this: Hussein's Weapons May Have Been Bluff
With no chemical or biological weapons yet found in Iraq, the U.S. official in charge of the search for Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction is pursuing the possibility that the Iraqi leader was bluffing, pretending he had distributed them to his most loyal commanders to deter the United States from invading.

Such a possibility is one element in the interim report that David Kay, who heads the 1,200-person, CIA-led team in Iraq, will describe before the House and Senate intelligence committees on Thursday, according to people familiar with his planned testimony.

In particular, Kay has examined prewar Iraqi communications collected by U.S. intelligence agencies indicating that Iraqi commanders -- including Ali Hassan Majeed, also known as "Chemical Ali" -- were given the authority to launch weapons of mass destruction against U.S. troops as they advanced north from Kuwait.

The intelligence prompted President Bush to say shortly before the war began last March, "We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons, the very weapons the dictator tells the world he does not have."

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a former United Nations weapons inspector who has been in contact with Iraqi scientists since the war, said: "The idea of deployment and the authority to launch was very solid. But it's now being looked at as possibly misinformation or that they were playing with us."

This week, the officials expect Kay to say that Hussein never abandoned his ability to develop chemical and biological weapons, and remained prepared to reconstitute his nuclear program once U.N. sanctions were lifted. Data now being collected will confirm that after U.N. inspectors left Iraq in 1998, the Iraqi leader continued to buy commercial equipment that could also be used to develop the prohibited weapons.

"It is risky to say that he was doing nothing," Albright said. "Saddam was scheming once we took the boot of economic sanctions and monitoring of his facilities off his neck."

All that may be true, but let's remember that -- contrary to Bush's odious characterizations of opposition to the war being tantamount to "doing nothing -- few, if any -- and certainly not me -- advocated leaving Saddam alone and giving him a free pass. Rather, it was the Bush Administration that hyped Saddam's so-called weapons with lots of scare talk before the war. It's becoming increasingly clear that they didn't have the proof they claimed -- repeatedly -- that they did. And it's more and more obvious that the long-proven policies of containment and deterrence that kept the Soviet Union at bay for 50 years were doing just fine with Iraq, too. There was no imminent threat -- indeed, hardly any threat at all -- that justified Bush's rush to war. His insistence that diplomacy and inspections were too risky is now proven to be a sham, and the costs of that deceptive policy are now all too evident. In short, Bush blew it.




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plame scandal update


Driving home yesterday, I heard Bush's reaction to the unfolding Valerie Plame scandal on NPR. Joshua Marshall provides the transcript:
Let me just say something about leaks in Washington. There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. There's leaks at the executive branch; there's leaks in the legislative branch. There's just too many leaks. And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of.

And so I welcome the investigation. I -- I'm absolutely confident that the Justice Department will do a very good job. There's a special division of career Justice Department officials who are tasked with doing this kind of work; they have done this kind of work before in Washington this year. I have told our administration, people in my administration to be fully cooperative.

I want to know the truth. If anybody has got any information inside our administration or outside our administration, it would be helpful if they came forward with the information so we can find out whether or not these allegations are true and get on about the business.

So after a few days of fumbling, the White House has decided on the spin: downplay the outing of a covert CIA agent -- an act that's its own category of crime -- as just another "leak of classified information."

Baloney. Classified information comes in all flavors, including much whose exposure would result in nothing more than political embarrassment to the White Houese. Deliberately blowing the cover of a secret agent can endanger live, and in this case it's quite possibile that this odious act ruined an ongoing operation and possibly exposed an entire network of agents. That's why Bush's father described such conduct with withering contempt.

Notice also the persistent "that person should come forward" comment, echoing Scott McClellan's words of the other day. I wonder if this isn't a shot across the bow of the other journalists who were supposedly contacted by the two Administration officials -- saying, "you know who they are, so if you don't come forward you're just as guilty." How disingenuous, if so; as I've been remarking to Morat in the comments over at his place, exposing a source promised confidentiality really isn't an option for a professional journalist.

Not to mention that if Bush really wanted the leak investigated, he's had since July to do so, and until now has done bupkus.

The New York Tmes has an analysis of the political damage this scandal may do to Bush.
Tuesday's directive was an unsettling novelty for the staff of a president who won office vowing to restore "honor and integrity" to the Oval Office, who railed against leaks that threatened lives and who has so far largely weathered controversies without a hint of criminal inquiry.

No one can yet say where the F.B.I.'s investigation will lead (most leak investigations lead nowhere), or whether it will produce any evidence of wrongdoing. But in this case, the accusation itself does political damage, at a minimum giving new life to last summer's investigation into whether the White House cherry-picked evidence about Saddam Hussein's unconventional weapons and buried dissenting views.

It could hardly come at a worse time. Just when President Bush's job approval ratings are slipping, when his would-be Democratic rivals are stepping up their criticism of his rationale for war in Iraq and his handling of the aftermath, and when Mr. Bush would prefer to focus on winning support for rebuilding Iraq — and a second term in office.

Already, the matter has prompted rare intramural sniping from anonymous administration officials and at least tentative expressions of concern from Republicans on Capitol Hill. "It reopens all the old tensions, between the White House and the C.I.A., between the foreign policy types and the political types, between the different parts of the Administration that saw the Iraqi threat differently," one senior administration official said. "That's why it poses the threat of making a real mess."


The Washington Post follows up on the launch of the Justice Department investigation, and provides a handy FAQ on the scandal. To its credit, the first question addressed is why the matter didn't get more media attention back in July.

The Washington Post editorial board weighed in this morning, declaring that it isn't fooled by the this-is-just-another-classified-leak gambit, and noting something even more telling: That this disgusting episode was too much for someone in Bush's own notoriously disciplined organization to take.
What sets this case apart is that it was a Bush administration official who turned (anonymously) on other Bush administration comrades. We know this because on Sunday Post writers Mike Allen and Dana Priest reported that "a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife." The senior Bush administration official told The Post, "Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge." Asked about the motive for disclosing the behavior of other administration officials, the purported whistleblower said the leaks were "wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility."

...But it seems to us that President Bush ought to be interested on another level too. The use by an administration insider of classified information for political or vindictive purposes would be, if true, an egregious abuse of the public trust. After initially handling all inquiries about the matter dismissively, the White House now says that the president regards the disclosure of a CIA operative's name as "a very serious matter" and that he has vowed to fire anybody responsible for such actions. Leak investigations seldom bear fruit, but in this case the president may have an opportunity to show whether he means what he says.

Also in the WaPo, Howard Kurtz continued to make me wonder why he draws a salary with this, um, profound observation in his lede:
Wilsongate is not Watergate. But at the moment, if you're breathing the autumnal air inside the Beltway, it sure feels like it.

The mystery of who in the Bush administration outed Joe Wilson's wife as a CIA operative has the White House in full damage control mode, the Democrats in full outrage mode and the press in full investigative mode (at least those reporters who didn't get the potentially illegal leaks).

That statement is bizarre on so many levels I hardly know where to begin. For one thing, even Watergate wasn't Watergate at first, until the pattern of Administration corruption behind the "third-rate burglary" was exposed. As Daniel Drezner commented:
If it is nevertheless true, however -- an important "if" -- then a Pandora's box gets opened by asking this question: if the White House was willing to commit an overtly illegal act in dealing with such a piddling matter, what lines have they crossed on not-so-piddling matters? In other words, if this turns out to be true, then suddenly do all of the crazy conspiracy theories acquire a thin veneer of surface plausibility?

And Drezner's comment reveals something else Kurtz seems to miss: Much of the outrage isn't just posturing over the latest salacious scandal, but genuine shock and horror over the apparent abuse of national security in the name of petty politics. The fact that several principled conservatives, like Drezner (the comments on his blog show a steadily growing outrage), want to see the guilty parties subjected to the full weight of the law indicates that this is not a partisan issue.

But don't take my word for it. Let's go to former counter-terrorism official Larry Johnson (via Atrios via Drezner and CalPundit):
I say this as a registered Republican. I am on record giving contributions to the George Bush campaign. This is not about partisan politics. This is about a betrayal, a political smear, of an individual who had no relevance to the story. Publishing her name in that story added nothing to it because the entire intent was, correctly as Ambassador Wilson noted, to intimidate, to suggest that there was some impropriety that somehow his wife was in a decision-making position to influence his ability to go over and savage a stupid policy, an erroneous policy, and frankly what was a false policy of suggesting that there was nuclear material in Iraq that required this war. This was about a political attack. To pretend it was something else, to get into this parsing of words.

I tell you, it sickens me to be a Republican to see this.


Reading the persistent denial of many -- but not all -- Bush supporters over the past few days, something important occurred to me. Many are saying we should "wait and see" until the "facts are in." A decent enough request, but let's keep in mind that while this is the first time the scandal has attained such a high profile, it's hardly new. The scandal was new back in July, when the Administration began a robust policy of ignoring the leak. The scandal erupted as confirmation of the nefarious deed began to emerge. I understand that many conservatives are playing catch-up, but it's time to recognize that this scandal occurred back in July, and the facts are coming out right now -- including, I might add, a generally lame response by the Bush Administration -- the President could "get to the bottom" of this whole thing, as he claims to want, with a few direct questions to his staff -- and the facts don't look so good. That's probably why Novak is trying desperately to spin his previous column to cover the Administration. Joshua Marshall notes that Novak's changing stories don't seem to add up, and anyway: regardless of who called who, or how strongly the CIA urged Novak not to print Plame's name, the crime was committed when the officials revealed her name to Novak, not when he printed it. Period.

Other apologists continue to question whether Plame was actually covert, or if so, if she was "really" covert, noting that Embassy personnel -- including spouses, it would seem -- are routinely assumed to be prime cover for espionage. Really, I can't blame them; the only way this scandal could turn out to be OK is if either no one in the Administration really outed her (unlikely in the extreme, as it would mean that basically every journalist reporting on this story, beginning with Novak, would have had to make the whole thing up), or that 2) Plame isn't really covert. Sorry, but no. I debunk this particular notion in a comment thread at Jeff Cooper's blog:
Now, one might also surmise that an American monitoring weapons proliferation might report back to the CIA (and in the case of the Iraqi weapons inspectors circa 1998, they'd be right). In addition, to whatever extent her position may have carried risk of suspicion, CIA may well have decided that the potential benefits were worth it. After all, the fact that many diplomatic personnel are *suspected* of being spies doesn't deter some of them from actually being so.

But whether someone *figures out on their own* Plame was covert op is irrelevant. The only questions here are 1) was she -- and there seems to be little reason to question that she was, given that the CIA appears to have confirmed as much -- and 2), did Administration officials blow that cover. Even if it was a flimsy cover, blowing it was still illegal.

...and Morat has more.

Tim Dunlop has a must-read refutation of Bush apologist claims that Wilson is some sort of partisan extremist.
Well, Glenn, and other patriots, Wilson was appointed by that hotbed of leftwing insurgency, the office of the Vice President. Was it done by Cheney personally? He says not, but let's just say his trackrecord in the whole-truth-and-nothing-but-the-truth department isn't unblemished.

So I guess it was just the hero track record in Gulf War I and the high regard he was held in by an earlier President Bush that got him the gig. Something like that.

The mistake that seems to have been made, Glenn, is that in hiring Wilson the VP's office interpretted Wilson's fine service to Bush I as evidence of partisanship rather than as what it was, evidence of integrity.

Wilson undeniably has an axe to grind, but let's not forget the thread that ties all this mess together: Wilson's shock and disappointment that Bush misled the nation about Iraq's seeking urnaium for its alleged -- and apparently practically nonexistent -- nuclear program.

Mark Kleiman has a new summary today at Open Source Politics, and believes the Republicans think they can get away with it.

As the scandal unfolds, CalPundit reminds us to keep our eyes on the ball:
The fact that administration officials took it upon themselves to expose a CIA agent shows appalling judgment. They didn't know whether or not that endangered any CIA operations, which is why you just don't do this. And the fact that they did it for such base (and trivial) reasons says a lot about the kind of people they are.

But beyond that, of course the fundamental issue here is that — especially in a post-9/11 world — you don't play games with national security. Regardless of whether blowing Plame's network caused any serious problems, this is the reason the CIA is fighting back so hard on this: because they want to make sure no one ever does it again. Next time it might get a city full of people killed.

So: this affair exposes bad character and high school freshman levels of poor judgment among allegedly senior officials. But it also betrays a lack of seriousness about national security at a time when national security should be the most important thing they're thinking about.


Update: Atrios points to a Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial that lambastes the Bush administration -- and credits bloggers for keeping the story alive after the mainstream media took a pass back in July.
This scandal should have unfolded in July, but the mainstream media weren't interested. The story was kept alive because of dogged work by a few online bloggers, most especially Josh Marshall of "TalkingPointsMemo" (you can find him in the blogs section of www.startribune.com/2cents ). The bloggers will never get the attention and the high praise they deserve for keeping attention focused on this. So let it be noted here at least.

It finally hit the mainstream last weekend, when NBC reported that CIA Director George Tenet had requested a Justice Department investigation of the case.

The story has gotten tangled like a rat's nest in the spinning that has gone on since. Bush spokesman Scott McClellan has tried to back and fill every way he could. But for once the White House press corps has refused to act like a bunch of whipped puppies.

On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that an "administration official" told its reporters "two White House officials leaked the information [on Plame] to selected journalists to discredit Wilson." The Post also said that, according to "White House aides," Bush had no intention of asking his senior staff about the leak.

So now you have both Novak and the Washington Post saying that two senior administration officials were the leakers and Bush refusing to take it seriously.

The Justice Department has responded affirmatively to Tenet's request for an investigation. But get this: When Justice informed the White House of the investigation Monday evening, it said it would be all right if the staff was notified Tuesday morning to safeguard all material that related to the case. The staff had all night to get rid of anything incriminating.

That incredible tidbit supports calls by Democrats and a slew of others for Attorney General John Ashcroft to appoint a special counsel to investigate this case. They're right: Ashcroft has no credibility in this, and neither does the White House, given its habitual effort to spin information, mislead the American people and smear anyone who disagrees with it.

And a post in the comment thread points to this scathing editorial in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
If the version of events recounted in the Post is true, this was not a rogue mid-level employee acting in a moment of bad judgment. This was a project --- an organized, calculated effort by top people in the administration to exact petty political revenge no matter what the impact to national security.

People who would do that have no place in positions of grave responsibility. Their place is in prison.

Indeed, and the sooner the better.

Update 2: For the benefit of those who still don't get it, Brad DeLong has compiled a helpful precis of the Plame scandal, and notes once again that the Bush Administration has been aware of the commission of this crime for nearly 100 days, and so far has done exactly nothing to "get to the bottom of it," save to direct its staff, recently, to cooperate with the investigation the CIA forced after the Justice Department dragged its feet for two freakin' months.

Update 3: Don't miss Arthur Silber's demolition of Novak's feeble defense:
Sorry, Bob, but the train carrying your "integrity and credibility" left the station some time ago. When you change your version of crucial aspects of your own story, nothing you say about this can be believed any longer, unless every other Disciple swears to it, as well. And if at least one of them isn't a Republican.

...[W]e are reminded that both Wilson and his wife have literally put their lives on the line in defense of Americans. Those people who treat this scandal as of no importance, who trivialize it, and who smear Wilson and his wife into the bargain should be deeply ashamed of themselves -- especially when they run no such risks themselves in any comparable way.

...Novak has been a reporter for over 40 years, and has talked to people in the intelligence community countless times, probably numbering in the thousands. What on earth did he think this CIA official meant when he said Plame might have "difficulties"? That customs might question her a little more closely than others? That a hotel wouldn't keep her reservation? That an airline might lose her luggage on purpose? This defies belief. Novak apparently wants us to think that a CIA official asking a reporter "not to use" an agent's name -- not to blow her cover -- was of absolutely no real significance, that revealing the name of an undercover agent might be only a minor inconvenience. By this ploy, Novak has forever removed himself from serious consideration on any subject in my view. He may as well retire now, and stop writing altogether. This is close to unforgivable. I repeat what I said earlier: this is about people's lives. Novak obviously cannot grasp that simple fact.

Once again, it doesn't matter if Novak thinks the CIA "confirmed" her status (by asking him not to print her name?) or didn't try to dissuade him strongly enough for him to take it seriously. The crime was committed when the Administration officials told Novak about Plame.

In an interesting development, The Left Coaster points to a Guardian article identifying Rove as the tipster -- but saying he ID'ed plame as "Wilson's wife," not by name. If perchance that degree of vagueness lets Rove (or whomever) elude criminal charges, the fact would remain that he deliberately jeopardized national security for political purposes. Indeed, the moral degree of outrage far outweighs any criminal penalty in my view.




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zombie link of the day


I've mentioned this site before, but be sure to check out this spiffy Zombie Infection Simulator!




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horror wallpaper of the day


haunted graveyard

Welcome to Planet Swank's month-long celebration of horror! In honor of my favorite holiday -- Halloween -- the site is sporting a new background (courtesy of 4Degrees), and I'll be posting lots of horror-related links, including cool sites, movie reviews, and a daily dose of horror-themed wallpaper. Today's entry, also from 4Degrees, sets the mood with a spooky haunted graveyard.

Update 10/09/2004: Evidently 4Degrees has taken its wallpaper offline.




  xTuesday, September 30, 2003

awesome


Planet Swank's Cool Site of the Day:
Yes, we really ARE monks! We really DO pray and help others. Hundreds of years ago, monks survived by baking bread, making wine, or copying manuscripts. We survive by selling Ink and Toner Supplies online, at HUGE discounts

.....and YOU benefit!

Lasermonks was founded in 2001 by a team of enterprising monks, and follows in the tradition of monastic business endeavors, uniquely blending philanthropy, spirituality, and enterprise to support a life of prayer and charitable service.

...but is it a conflict of interest if they sell Brother products>

(via The 18½ Minute Gap)




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quote of the day


"I'd like to thank the Academy for my lifetime achievement award I will eventually get."

-- Donald O'Connor's reported last words.

(via Skippy)




  x

gallery of the day


sabrina lloyd

sabrina lloyd

A gallery devoted to the lovely Sabrina Lloyd (Sports Night, Sliders). Here's another; beware possibly NSFW banner ads.




  x

blogroll update


Say hello to MonkeyWatch. Because someone has to keep on top of monkey-related news!




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rice intel claims disputed


A prominent on the House Intelligence Committee has disputed Condoleeza Rice's claims that there was new intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
"We don't see the support for that," said Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, whose staff has spent four months scrutinizing 19 volumes of intelligence underlying the intelligence community's prewar judgments about Iraq.

"As we moved to war, did the claims the policymakers made, were those claims supported by the intelligence?" Harman asked. "My conclusion is no."

Last week, Harman and committee Chairman Porter Goss (R-Fla.) sent a letter to CIA Director George J. Tenet outlining their preliminary view of the material used to compile a classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq in October 2002. The 90-page NIE, parts of which were declassified at Congress's request, was the key document used by members of Congress and other policymakers to decide whether to go to war in Iraq.

In the letter, the two committee members criticized the intelligence community for using information that was outdated, circumstantial and fragmentary to come to the conclusion that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons and had links to al Qaeda.

Most of the information was collected before 1998, when U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq because the United States had made it clear it was about to strike the country, the two members noted.

Rice told "Fox News Sunday" that "there was an enrichment of the intelligence from 1998 over the period leading up to the war" and that Saddam Hussein had "very good programs in weapons of mass destruction. . . . It was a gathering danger."

Rice said the intelligence included new information about Iraq's procurement efforts and attempts to "reconstitute groups of scientists that had worked" for Hussein.

"Yes, I think I would call it new information, and it was certainly enriching the case in the same direction that this is somebody who had had weapons of mass destruction, had used them, and was continuing to pursue them," she said. "There were many, many dots about what was going on in the Iraqi programs after 1998."

Harman said the letter to Tenet was meant to elicit a response from him about why the NIE made assertions that appear not to be supported by the underlying evidence. "We want an explanation from him," she said.

"I'm concerned that the proper process of vetting information . . . has been seriously neglected," she said, "and that what we end up with is a chorus of, 'We too,' which is not very helpful."


(via Oliver Willis)




  x

technology link of the day


Bruce Sterling nominates ten technologies that deserve to die. I agree on land mines but beg to differ about manned space flight.

And I love DVDs, but I do agree that the "the fiendish spam hard-burned into DVDs" needs to die an undignified death.

(via FARK)




  x

it's trailer-rific!


A new trailer for the upcoming third installment of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy has been released! w00t!

There are hints that I'll get to see something I've long hoped would be included in the final movie (spoiler alert for those who haven't read the book): Eowyn and Merry teaming up to whack the Lord of the Nazgul.

In other LotR linkage, here's the story in 1,000 words -- an impressive achievement of brevity.

(via Ain't It Cool News; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)




  x

health insurance coverage rate drops


The number of Americans without health insurance coverage increased in 2002, according to the Census Bureau.
The number of Americans who lack health insurance climbed by 5.7 percent in 2002, to 43.6 million, the largest single increase in a decade, according to figures to be released today by the Census Bureau.

Overall, 15.2 percent of Americans were uninsured last year, up from 14.6 percent in 2001. The largest jump came among people who had received health benefits through their jobs, as some firms laid off workers and others reduced coverage. Young adults and Latinos once again were the least likely to have medical coverage. Primarily because of government-run health programs, children and the elderly have the highest rates of coverage.

Coupled with a report last week showing a similar rise in poverty, the health insurance data help illuminate the human toll of the nation's stalled economy.

Since President Bush took office, the United States has lost 2.7 million jobs and household incomes have fallen for three years in a row. Administration officials suggest those trends have begun to turn around, but Democrats have seized on economic issues in their quest to defeat Bush in next year's presidential election.

The state with the highest percentage of uninsured? Ta-da! Texas!

This situation sux0rz. It's high time we recognized that for all the insurance industry's Republican's opposition to reforming our health care system, I don't see that the current system is superior. Sure, it's great if you can pay for it, but too many go entirely without, and there are very real costs there in economic terms, not to mention human suffering. In addition, the fact that employers bear a significant burden of health care costs comes with its own set of economic costs. And many uninsured get treatment through emergency rooms, which winds up costing much more. The United States needs to join the other industrialized nations in providing a rational level of health care coverage to everyone. Conservatives may point with scorn to anecdotes about England or Canada, but I'm tired of having a health care system that's inferior to the rest of the industrialized world. The United States should be leading the way, and instead it's failing dramatically.




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bin laden hunt 'resisted'


Here's a sobering AP story on the obstacles presented to the hunt for Osama bin Laden by the natives of the mountainous Afghanistan/Pakistan border region where the al Qaeda leader is believed to be hiding.




  x

valerie plame update


The Washington Post continues its coverage ownership of the Valerie Plame affair by noting that the Justice Department has launched an official investigation into which Administration official disclosed the identiy of a covert CIA agent to columnist Robert Novak and at least five other journalists who declined to run the story. White House counsel Alberto Gonzales has circulated a memo advising White House personnel to preserve all relevant documents; first on the Post's list, coincidentally or not, are phone logs.

Bush has promised swift action if the culprits are discovered, but that action does not apparently extend to asking anyone who they are. And "swift action" does not appear to have characterized the White House political appointees; the CIA apparently returned its findings requesting an investigation to the Justice Department weeks ago.

Here's the New York Times story on the emerging scandal.

The WaPo may be surfing the crest of this wave at present, but it was David Corn who broke the story, and here's what he has to say.

In another major development, in an interview on yesterday's edition of National Public Radio's Day to Day, Ambassador Joseph Wilson backed off of his previous implication of White House senior political advisor Kark Rove, calling it an excessively exuberant metaphor for the entire White House operation. He did say, however, that he believes Rove must have at least condoned the leak after the fact. (I happened to be out in the car at the time and heard the program.)

Meanwhile, Joshua Marshall points out that the "we-don't-know-if-Plame-was-really-covert" defense appears to be -- by the Administration's own admission -- no longer operative.

CalPundit has been on a definite roll regarding the developments with a series of thoughtful posts. In his most recent, he looks at the curiously feeble defenses of some Bush apologists.

Mark Kleiman is also an essential source for all things Plame, having kept the watch fires burning since July.

Brad DeLong weighs in, opining that the CIA would not have gone to Justice unless it had the goods.

And Jeff Cooper wonders why the Bush Administration, famous for its antipathy toward leaks, is being so passive now.

Daily Kos notes Condi Rice's memory problem, and takes to task those who're attacking Novak for protecting his Administration sources. I agree completely; the ability to cultivate sources who only go on the record anonymously is essential for journalism's watchdog function. Indeed, the relevant statute is aimed at government officials, not journalists. And after all, the Post's breakthrough story was also anonymously sourced. Novak's evident willingness to participate in what was likely a Republican smear operation may be suspect, but he should -- indeed, must -- protect his sources, and by my take on the law, he bears no criminal responsibility for Ms. Plame's outing.

And The Poor Man has a hilarious take on the right's cognitive dissonance.

That said, kudos to those principled conservatives who are prepared to hold the Bush Administration responsible for its evident wrongdoing. (Once again, let's recap: back in July, Robert Novak indicated that White House officials outed Plame. That action -- unless Novak made the whole thing up -- is likely a crime.) I'm still waiting to see any acknowledgement of the matter from a couple of others.

Update: Brad DeLong has some help for those Bush defenders still "unclear on the concept." And CalPundit continues his roll by noting that the preponderance of evidence indicates that Plame was, in fact, a covert agent.

Update 2: Don't miss Mark Kleiman's fine summary at Open Source Politics.

Update 3: Jim Henley offers this interesting bit of insight:
Come to think of it, a fun Washington fact I learned years ago from my buddy Toiler, who really is an analyst for the CIA. If someone asks him where he works, he has to tell them he works for the CIA. He is not to lie or dodge the question. Why? So he won't ruin it for the people that do have to lie or dodge the question.

This is about the millionth reason to believe that Valerie Plame really was employed in the Agency's clandestine services division: in all the times that Wilson, who surely knows the rules, and spokesmen for the White House and CIA have been asked about Plame's employment, they have not said, "She's an analyst." But if she were indeed an analyst, that's what they would say. So, can we please retire the Administration apologist defense "we don't know whether Plame was really a 'covert' employee or not"?

And let's wrap up with this from Juan Cole's must-read post:
Ms. Plame, who really was working to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, has been ruined by persons who only pretended to do so for political gain, and whose invasion of Iraq did nothing to make the US one whit safer.

Indeed.




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template tweaking


I'm making a few adjustments to the template in hopes that it'll make the page load more quickly. Posting will begin shortly.




  xMonday, September 29, 2003

matrix trailer encore


I posted a link to the international trailer for Matrix: Revolutions last month, but just for laughs, here it is again.




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retro video game post of the day


guardian legend ending

The Videogame Museum has a cool collection of endings from various classic games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super NES, PlayStation and other video game consoles.

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




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cheney's favorite lie?


The Washington Post fingers Dick Cheney as being behind the Administration's lies connecting Iraq with 9/11. Indeed, as Cheney's recent Meet The Press performance pointed out, he can hardly let go of the story no matter how much it's debunked.




  x

plame updates


The Washington Post continues leading the way on the Valerie Plame story. Today's article should put to rest any speculation on the part of Bush apologists that perhaps Plame's role at the CIA was not covert.
She is a case officer in the CIA's clandestine service and works as an analyst on weapons of mass destruction. Novak published her maiden name, Plame, which she had used overseas and has not been using publicly. Intelligence sources said top officials at the agency were very concerned about the disclosure because it could allow foreign intelligence services to track down some of her former contacts and lead to the exposure of agents.

...But even that confirmation should not be necessary. On Friday the CIA confirmed, by asking Justice to investigate, that Plame's cover was indeed blown. If she wasn't covert, identifying her would not be a crime. Speaking of crime, the Post goes on to say that more than one charge may be valid:
The disclosure could have broken more than one law. In addition to the federal law prohibiting the identification of a covert officer, officials with high-level national security clearance sign nondisclosure agreements, with penalties for revealing classified information.


And let's also not have any tortured rationalization that no crime might have been committed. The proof of the crime was Novak's column back in July, unless Nowak was lying about getting Plame's identity from Administration sources. Since Andrea Mitchell has confirmed that the White House was shopping the story around, such a prospect seems unlikely in the extreme.

Speculation about "whodunit" continues to swirl around Karl Rove. Joshua Marshall found this interesting bit of history:
Sources close to the former president [George H.W. Bush] say Rove was fired from the 1992 Bush presidential campaign after he planted a negative story with columnist Robert Novak about dissatisfaction with campaign fundraising chief and Bush loyalist Robert Mosbacher Jr. It was smoked out, and he was summarily ousted.

But the White House has apparently gone on record -- for what it's worth -- denying that Rove was involved.

(Update: As Sean-Paul points out from the transcript, McClellan's denials on Rove's behalf do not appear come as a result of actually speaking to him about it. And as Billmon notes, for Bush to know Rove didn't di it, he'd have to know who did.)

Meanwhile, who said this:
I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors.

Some America-hating liberal or Democrat gone 'round the bend with Bush hatred? No, Dubya's own father.

As the WaPo story reveals, the Administration is evidently hunkering down and hoping the story will going away.

That lack of initiative is truly scandalous. Bush, who campaigned for President by promising to bring honor and integrity to the office, could have the names of the miscreants by lunchtime, their resignations on his desk by dinnertime, and Federal agents waiting to take them into custody at the White House door. But no, it would seem. The White House can spew all the platitudes about this sordid conduct being unacceptable to Bush, but there's no denying now that it happened anyway. Buhs's obvious unwillingness to uphold the standards his flacks trumpet so loudly belies any claim to honor. For shame.

But as Atrios points out,
[B]y making on the record denials - Condi, Rove, Bush - the White House has made this a completely valid line of questioning. Every White House official who gets up in front of a camera should be asked about a list of people, including themselves. They've already broken through the 'no comment' wall.

This story definitely has legs now. I predict that it won't go away until two White House officials are up on charges. Meanwhile, Bush would do well to remember that it's always the cover-up that does the most damage.

Marshall has more about Bush's see no evil, hear no evil approach. Marshall and CalPundit have both noted that the Administration is apparently willing to check its phone logs for other matters, so why not now?

Hesiod noted a peculiar silence emanating from the right. Well, as Claude Rains said in Casablanca, maybe not so strange...

Update 2: Brad DeLong reminds us:
Whether or not he knew about it beforehand, for two and a half months--ever since two senior White House officials called six reporters and got Robert Novak to take the bait in his July 14 column--George W. Bush has "condoned this type of White House activity." No heads have rolled. No sanctions have been applied. The White House's posture has one of hunkering down: that this is no big deal, that this will pass, that nothing internal has to change, and that this is a tempest in a teapot.

Whether or not George W. Bush knew beforehand, his reactions since July 14 put him well over the line of "condoning." We don't need to write, "If George Bush knew about or condoned..." We need instead to write, "Since George Bush condoned..."

Indeed. Once again, what's driving this story now is not the leak -- the crime is a matter of the permanent record -- but that the identies of the culprits, for all the White House stonewalling, appears to be close to becoming so as well.




  x

ironic


U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham, who struck down the national Do Not Call registry on First Amendment grounds, is on the list himself.




  xSunday, September 28, 2003

congrats


Before I turn in, I wanted to congratulate Dodd on completing major work on the renovations of his new house. I attended his very pleasant housewarming party (n Louisville, of course) last night, and having caught a glimpse of the place while work was ongoing, the transformation is truly remarkable.




  x

plame story breaks wide open


The big news this weekend, of course, was a major breakthrough in the Valerie Plame affair. First on Friday came the word that the CIA, based on its own inquiry, had asked the Justice Department to investigate, confirming two aspects of the story: 1) that Plame was indeed a covert agent and 2) that the CIA, which has no domestic law enforcement power, believes that the law forbidding a government official to expose a covert operative had indeed been violated.

Then today came a stunning broadside from the Washington Post, in the form of a page-one story by Mike Allen and Dana Priest, in which a top Administration official confirms that the
Yesterday, a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife. Wilson had just revealed that the CIA had sent him to Niger last year to look into the uranium claim and that he had found no evidence to back up the charge. Wilson's account touched off a political fracas over Bush's use of intelligence as he made the case for attacking Iraq.

"Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge," the senior official said of the alleged leak.

Sources familiar with the conversations said the leakers were seeking to undercut Wilson's credibility. They alleged that Wilson, who was not a CIA employee, was selected for the Niger mission partly because his wife had recommended him. Wilson said in an interview yesterday that a reporter had told him that the leaker said, "The real issue is Wilson and his wife."

A source said reporters quoted a leaker as describing Wilson's wife as "fair game."

The official would not name the leakers for the record and would not name the journalists. The official said there was no indication that Bush knew about the calls.

It is rare for one Bush administration official to turn on another. Asked about the motive for describing the leaks, the senior official said the leaks were "wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility."

Got that? The official would not name the leakers for the record; the sentence implies the source did so off the record. And not only do Allen and Priest likely know whodunit, but the six journalists the felonious leakers originally contacted do as well. There's no way their identities can remain secret for long -- nor should they.

Be sure to check out White House press secretary Scott McClellan's non-denaial denails:
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said yesterday that he knows of no leaks about Wilson's wife. "That is not the way this White House operates [Ed: Sure it is! Sorry, couldn't resist.], and no one would be authorized to do such a thing," McClellan said. "I don't have any information beyond an anonymous source in a media report to suggest there is anything to this. If someone has information of this nature, then he or she should report it to the Department of Justice."

Or, as has been pointed out before, Bush himself should simply pick up the phone and demand to know who did it -- if he doesn't already. The Administration's stonewalling on this matter would be even more suspicious were it not for its well-known obsession with secrecy and reluctance to disclose any information that might hold it accountable.

Of course, the blogosphere has been going nuts, with speculation abounding as to the identity of the two leakers (as the term senior administration official applies only to a select few).

CalPundit has been all over developments, in a slew of excellent and impassioned posts from here to here.

Mark Kleiman, Jeff Cooper, and Joshua Marshall have also been following developments closely, which isn't surprising, as they have been keeping an eye on this sordid episode all along.

Pandagon cites the relevant law, in addition to many other comments.

Even Bush supporter Daniel Drezner appears to have had it with the criminal malfeasance shown by this sleazy episode, although cognitive dissonance still prevails among several of his commentors. I look forward to more round condemnation from principled conservatives.

I have to admit, I'm pretty excited by these developments. I have little love for this Administration, and I would relish the sight of two senior Bush Administration officials being led off to jail for a crime there's little doubt they committed. This action -- as I've said before -- was completely inexcusable.

Moreover, there's ample opportunity to enjoy schadenfreude here as the Administration is hoist on its own sleazy petard. It's truly the liberals' dilemma in that while many of us disagree with Bush policies -- on the Iraq war and the economy, just to pull two out of a hat -- and don't trust Bush's motives or competence, the fact remains that we patriotic liberals don't want the nation to fail -- quite the contrary. We don't want to see the economy tank and unemployment run rampant, we just sadly accept it as an inevitable result of Bush's ludicrous supply-side economics crony capitalism.

But in this situation, the damage done is fully attributable to the Administration, which compromised vital intelligence assets in the name of stifling dissent. I'm furious that this Administration, which touts its so-called strength in national security, played such odious political games with the nation's intelligence apparatus. The two officials responsible for blowing Plame's cover should be shown the door -- the jail door, specifically -- forthwith. If Bush has an ounce of integrity -- not to mention political sense -- he'll have their resignations on his desk pronto and Federal agents waiting to escort them to the slammer.




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white house: we did too have intelligence


A Congressional study concludes that the intelligence the White House based its prewar rhetoric upon was -- surprise, surprise! -- weak and inconclusive. In response, Administration talking head Condoleezza Rice claimed on a Sunday talk show that they had, er, other intelligence. Yeah, that's it! No, of course she was not specific.

Left unexplained was where, if said intelligence was worth a plugged nickel, Iraq's weapons of mass destruction went. (And yes, the Administration has still not released the Kay Report it claimed would vindicate those assertions.) At more than five months after major combat ceased with nary a vial of mustard gas to show, the best case scenario is that the weapons simply aren't there, because if they do exist, the Bush Administration can't account for them, and that's an unacceptable security risk that it created.




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memo to wal-mart: mop-up in aisle three, please


Jaquandor airs his gripes with Wal-Mart, and they have nothing to do with the chain's lousy labor practices.




  x

donald o'connor r.i.p.


donald o'connor

Donald O'Connor, the film star legendary for his performance in Singin' in the Rain, died Saturday at the age of 78.

(Image swiped from Byzantium's Shores.)

And prominent writer/director Elia Kazan, known for such films as On the Waterfront and A Face in the Crowd, died today ay 94.





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