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L33t/l33+: elite
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  xSaturday, October 11, 2003

horror comic links of the day

ec horror comic

Here's a short history of the superb EC horror comics from the 1950s.

And here's a small gallery of covers from EC titles like The Vault of Horror and The Crypt of Terror.

I own a number of reprints of these fine magazine, and they're excellently entertaining reading.


horror wallpaper of the day

dracula prince of darkness
Today's wallpaper is from the 1966 Christopher Lee flick Dracula, Prince of Darkness, the sequel to the awesome Hammer flick The Horror of Dracula. This one did not star Peter Cushing as Dracula's nemesis, but did feature Hammer honey Barbara Shelley.

(courtesy Movie; originally posted 10/3/2002)

  xFriday, October 10, 2003

swank site of the day

Behold the awesome glory of Nipsey Russell's Funky Palace! w00t!

(via MetaFilter)


halloween costume link of the day

retro halloween costume

RetroCrush presents this homage to the costumes of yesteryear. This Ultraman costume is the coolest ever! Here's its look at the worst Hallween costumes of all time.


flash game of the day

Celebrity showdown: Kirk vs. Picard! c00L!

(via FARK)


gallery of the day

gina gershon

Ms. Gina Gershon (Bound, Showgirls, Face/Off). Here's more.

Love those boots!


scary halloween sounds

Here are some downloadable Halloween sound effects in WAV format.

(via FARK)


cosplay gallery of the day

computex booth model

Here's a collection of photos of booth models from the recent 2003 Computex exhibition in Taiwan.

(via Wirehed News, which appears to be offline at the moment; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)


billions and billions

Here's some perspective on the US$87 billion check that Bush has stuck US taxpayers with to pay for his adventure in Iraq.

(via Sadly, No!)


texas republican update

CalPundit offers further reflection on his lenghty diatribe about the Texas Republican platform.

Unfortunately, due to some technical problems, the permalinks on CalPundit's site had to be reconstructed, and so previous links here will lilely be off. I'll correct what I can as I discover them.


plame scandal update

Joshua Marshall scores big with a definitive takedown of Bob Novak's recent claims that
Clearly, Novak knows the meaning of the phrase 'CIA operative' and he uses it advisedly. In the last decade he’s never used the phrase to mean anything but clandestine agents.

Let’s cut the mumbo-jumbo: past evidence suggests that Novak only uses this phrase to refer to clandestine agents. In this case, when he has every reason to run away from that meaning of the phrase, he suddenly runs away from that meaning. Especially with all the other evidence at hand, that just defies credibility. Everything points to the conclusion that Novak did know. That would mean, necessarily, that his sources knew too.

The ‘we didn’t know’ cover story just doesn’t wash.

Let's recap: There's no question that Valerie Plame was an undercover operative. There's no question that someone in the Administration revealed that information, at the very least, to Novak. There's every reason to beleive that Novak wants to spin this embarrassment criminal behavior as best he can, to the point of calling his earlier work into question. But as Marshall points out, there's little reason to take his revisionism seriously.

Marshall also responds to a reader who finds it hard to believe that Plame was actively working as a covert agent as the mother of two-year-old twins. But
it doesn't matter if Plame had come in from the field. It isn't just about protecting her, but also the integrity of sources and methods -- funny, I seem to recall lots of concern about those expressed by this Administration in the past -- of possibly ongoing operations Plame had been involved with. Even if Plame was no longer an active agent, her relationship with the CIA was a vital secret to protect those individuals she gathered inteeligence from, whether they cooperated with her knowingly or not. That's why the statute contains a five-year limit.

MoveOn provides an opportunity to be helpful to the President: Sign an affidavit attesting that you weren't the one to blow Plamne's cover. Eventually Bush should be able to narrow it down...

CalPundit links to an amusing cartoon noting that Bush has trouble finding things he should, and offers his thoughts on the "it was stupid, not criminal" excuse that's really becoming shopworn with this Adminstation.

Mark Kleiman has more on why a coerced waiver of journalistic privilege won't work.

Blah3 links to a letter to Karl Rove from Rep. John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, calling for Rove's resignation on the grounds that pushing Plame's identity may have been a felony even after someone in the White House blew her cover through Novak.

Update: Joshua Marshall adds more weight to the theory that the White House's sepcific denials about three of its members not being involved in "leaking classified information" might not be all that it seems.


paul krugman explains it all

Paul Krugman delivers an impressive rebuke to those who think pointing out the Administration's deceptiveness amounts to wild-eyed incivility.
Some say that the right, having engaged in name-calling and smear tactics when Bill Clinton was president, now wants to change the rules so such behavior is no longer allowed. In fact, the right is still calling names and smearing; it wants to prohibit rude behavior only by liberals.

But there's more going on than a simple attempt to impose a double standard. All this fuss about the rudeness of the Bush administration's critics is an attempt to preclude serious discussion of that administration's policies. For there is no way to be both honest and polite about what has happened in these past three years.

On the fiscal front, this administration has used deceptive accounting to ram through repeated long-run tax cuts in the face of mounting deficits. And it continues to push for more tax cuts, when even the most sober observers now talk starkly about the risk to our solvency. It's impolite to say that George W. Bush is the most fiscally irresponsible president in American history, but it would be dishonest to pretend otherwise.

On the foreign policy front, this administration hyped the threat from Iraq, ignoring warnings from military professionals that a prolonged postwar occupation would tie down much of our Army and undermine our military readiness. (Joseph Galloway, co-author of "We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young," says that "we have perhaps the finest Army in history," but that "Donald H. Rumsfeld and his civilian aides have done just about everything they could to destroy that Army.") It's impolite to say that Mr. Bush has damaged our national security with his military adventurism, but it would be dishonest to pretend otherwise.

Still, some would say that criticism should focus only on Mr. Bush's policies, not on his person. But no administration in memory has made paeans to the president's character — his "honor and integrity" — so central to its political strategy. Nor has any previous administration been so determined to portray the president as a hero, going so far as to pose him in line with the heads on Mount Rushmore, or arrange that landing on the aircraft carrier. Surely, then, Mr. Bush's critics have the right to point out that the life story of the man inside the flight suit isn't particularly heroic — that he has never taken a risk or made a sacrifice for the sake of his country, and that his business career is a story of murky deals and insider privilege.

In the months after 9/11, a shocked nation wanted to believe the best of its leader, and Mr. Bush was treated with reverence. But he abused the trust placed in him, pushing a partisan agenda that has left the nation weakened and divided. Yes, I know that's a rude thing to say. But it's also the truth.

Brad DeLong has more, using a concrete example [what, just one? --ed.] of Administration mendacity:
So what is the right response? Is it to stick to making only "C" arguments, and to pretend to take Larry seriously as he momentarily throws off all his analytical commitments and beliefs and channels the mercantilist arguments of early Ira Magaziner? Or is the right response to make the "C" arguments, but also make the "M" argument that Larry is being a sock puppet for Karl Rove because he wants to keep his White House mess privileges?

It's a hard question. But there are clearly times--and I think this steel tariff example is one of them--when sticking to the "C" arguments alone is a way of misleading your readers [emphasis added]. All the substantive economic policy guys in the Bush administration were horrified by the steel tariff. And to pretend that they weren't horrified--that they believed what they said in their sock puppet role, and that there was a serious debate between two serious schools of analysis--is so close to lying to your readers that I cannot see the difference.

And Slacktivist piles on:
"Civility" becomes the last bastion of those who cannot appeal to justice or the truth to make their case. If King David had behaved this way, he would never have repented of the murder of Uriah -- he would just have told the prophet Nathan that it isn't polite to point.

CalPundit has more, and a good comment thread.

These observations are spot-on. For starters, many in the GOP stopped being civil some time ago (If they want to get back to the old ways, I'd suggest some tried-and-true methods of demonstrating their sincerity, like a public apology and acts of contrition...and listen to those crickets chirp.)

It keeps coming down to certain themes. Bush -- and many of his supporters -- are cowards and bullies who are afraid of a fair fight. I'm sure it's dismaying to the Crawford crowd, who defines "bipartisanship" as "shut up and do it my way," to have Democrats willing to demand accountability from this Administration (it's abundantly clear that many Republicans are unwilling to do their duty). Sure, many Democrats -- and not a few principled conservatives -- are angry at the mess Bush has made of this great county, and the sleazy tactics they use.

But the Democrats are far from unhinged. To the contrary, more and more, it looks like they have Bush's number. Bush is simply not trustworthy, and there's absolutely no percentage in taking him at his word.

And it occurs to me that if the Republicans had anything to back their claims up, they wouldn't have all that big a problem with it. Con men, it has been observed far and wide, rely on the courtesy and trust of their marks, and usually bloviate impressively when the suckers raise any doubts. Parallels with the current bunch in Washington are left for the readrs to draw.


yes, more training

This has obviously been a veyr busy week, but in general I'm managing to sneak the postings in anyway. More later.


nightly horror update

howling poster

Last night I watched the pleasing 1981 Joe Dante werewolf movie The Howling (information and capsule review at Carfax Abbey; review at And You Call Yourself A Scientist!). The plot concerns a stressed-out TV reporter sent by her shrink to one of those groovy California retreat/resort colonies, only to discover that it's a haven for werewolves. It's rife with in-jokes and homages -- right after a character gets bittin, dooming him with the werewolf curse, the film cuts to a couple watching The Wolf Man on TV, and Claude Rains says the famous rhyme, and the cast includes horror icons John Carradine and Kevin McCarthy, and the film includes cameos by Dick Miller and Roger Corman. The movie also stars a very young -- and very hairy -- Robert Picardo, who would go on to play the irascible holographic doctor on Star Trek Voyager

I also made significant progress in Resident Evil: Code Veronica. I succeeded in getting Claire and Steve to escape the Antarctic base. Doing so begins the third part of the game, in which the player controls Claire's brother Chris. I plan to replay Claire's final boss fight, though -- I used a little too much ammo to bring it down, and something tells me I'll regret it if I point her pistol at an approaching zombie and hear the "click" of an emptry chamber.


halloween wallpaper of the day

october calendar wallpaper

Today's wallpaper is an October calendar courtesy of PixelDecor.

Unfortunately, PixelDecor has been hit by automated linking spiders that have been sucking bandwidth, so this year there's an easy password system. To download the wallpaper:

  xThursday, October 09, 2003

ghoulish guises

ghoulia mask

Cemetery Gate Productions is a cool production shop offering a great set of masks -- from retro Halloween favorites to creepy living dead -- props, and other creations.

Unfortunately, the deadline for ordering costumes or props by Halloween has already passed.


milestone of the day

Earlier today, the hit counter reached 45,000. I'm enjoying a fairly high-traffic month, due at least in part to increased search engine hits for horror-related topics. Thanks for visiting, and don't forget that there's lots of left-of-center commentary, Halloween celebration and general swankiness around, so enjoy!



Holy cow...I just got the following spam email (from this address), in HTML format complete with form:
Important notice

We have just charged your credit card for money laundry service in amount of $234.65 (because you are either child [p__graphy] webmaster or deal with dirty money, which require us to layndry them and then send to your checking account).
If you feel this transaction was made by our mistake, please press "No".
If you confirm this transaction, please press "Yes" and fill in the form below.

Enter your credit card number here:

Enter your credit card expiration date:

If anyone falls for this one, they deserve to have their credit number in the hands of a silly script kiddie.


horror movie rentals of the week

Speaking of horror films, I forgot to make note of this week's set of horror flicks I rented Tuesday night. Unfortunately, being out of town last weekend prevented me from finishing last weeks' batch, so I re-rented two (which I must watch this week). Here they are:

I've also dragged out my VHS copy of Forever Evil, and plan to spin it when I get the time.


horror movie links of the day

Tim over at Lemme 'splain is watching low-budget horror movies in preparation for writing his own screenplay (I'm watching a bunch too, but just for fun), and just added The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to the list. He sums it up thus:
It creeped the hell out of me. If you don't like horror movies, this is the movie for you. Why? Because it's effective and there's actually not a whole lot of gore, just creep-outs to no end.

Tim's assessment is spot-on. There's surprisingly little blood. Tobe Hooper, like many great horror directors, is a genius at making the audience think it sees more than it does. And the film is a non-stop creep-fest.

In the documentary accompanying the great low-budget zombie flick/homage The Dead Hate the Living, it's noted that director Dave Parker hosted zombie movie marathons for his cast to give them an idea what he was going for. (Since several of his characters are supposed to be zombie movie buffs, the tactic paid off.) So I'm sure Tim is on to something.

I'd definitely recommend he read, if he hasn't already, Dr. Freex' account of writing and making his own bad horror film: Forever Evil, which I bought on videotape for a lark -- and a mere buck -- some weeks ago.

Tim also links to this Flash-based site for a low-budget zombie film I'd never heard of, Sexy Zombies. Looks interesting...


plame scandal update

The indispensible Mark Kleiman looks at one of the latest theories put forward to explain the outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame: It was all a colossal, stupid blunder, but not a deliberate -- read criminal -- act.
Well, anything's possible. Two insanely monstrous blunders -- one by Libby and a player to be named later in identifying Plame as CIA without knowing she was covert, and a second by Allen's "senior Administration official" in somehow moving a group of six phone calls back a crucial week in time, and inventing "revenge" as the motive for an act never actually committed -- seem hard to believe.

...So on balance I find the "pure accident" theory hard to swallow. But it might turn out to be true. That wouldn't leave the Administration with clean hands: if it's true, heads should have rolled eleven weeks ago, and the President should have apologized to Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson.

Still, unlike Talleyrand, I don't regard blunders as worse than crimes. I'd rather be ruled by the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight than by Don Vito Corleone and family. And that seems, right now, to exhaust the set of interpretations consistent with the facts.

Arthur Silber weighs in on this one as well
A couple of things should be noted about this. First, this is a classic strategy: confuse the issues, change the direction, switch the focus -- in short, try to make things complicated enough so that people get so confused that they simply give up trying to understand any of it.

But one issue is not complicated at all, and it should not be lost sight of, despite all the apparent attempts to bury it: since Novak's original column appeared -- now, what, 12 weeks ago? -- the White House has known that someone told Novak of Plame's undercover status. Perhaps, on the basis of some technicality, it wasn't criminal. But someone blew her cover.

And the White House did nothing about it, until the recent Washington Post story and the ensuing controversy forced them to. That's all you need to know. The rest is window-dressing, a distraction, an attempt to confuse the issues. Don't let them get away with it.

Even Daniel Drezner points out that the Administration once again using incompetence to excuse malfeasance is hardly reassuring:
Does this excuse Bush's lackluster statements about pursuing the leak? Yes and no. If the Maguire theory holds and Bush knows this as true, then it may explain why he's not exercised about the issue -- he knows that there was no criminal intent. However, as Maguire and I have pointed out repeatedly, Plame's NOC status means that even if there was no criminal action, this was a serious breach of ethical boundaries, not to mention a threat to intelligence operations. For someone who's supposed to bring honor and integrity back into the White House, Bush's approach remains cavalier.

...[T]he Newsweek theory of events rests crucially on the notion that the official who leaked the story to the Post made an important mistake. If you still accept the Post story as 100% correct, outrage is still justified. Second, Bush's lackadaisical response to the damage that has emanated from the leak has opened him up to justifiable criticisms -- proving once again that the response to the scandal is always more damaging than the scandal itself.

I'm not buying either, and here's why: if blowing a covert agent was basically an accident, then the responsible parties should have stepped forward and basically thrown themselves on the mercy of the court. The fact that no one so far has done so -- and in the process seem willing to let the Administration endure the scandal of an apparent criminal act and actions that are easily perceived as foot-dragging if not an outright cover-up -- makes this theory unlikely at best, and certainly inconsistent with the known facts.

Joshua Marshall has thoughts along similar lines.
I think there are at least a few clues pointing to the conclusion that Novak and his sources knew precisely what her status was. Again, not proof, but clues.

Let me walk you through them.

First, in his original column Novak referred to Plame as an “operative.” In recent interviews Novak has tried to pass this off as an oversight, explaining that he meant it in the colloquial sense in which one might refer to a political hack, an operative, etc.

...Frankly, no one buys this. As we’ve seen in the last couple weeks there are various phrasings which get used to describe CIA employees whom we would, in colloquial language, call ‘undercover agents.’ But ‘operative’ is pretty much always used to distinguish people from ‘analysts.’ It’s hard to believe that someone like Novak, who’s been doing this for almost half a century, would make such a silly mistake. Really hard to believe.

...A week after Novak wrote his column, Newsday reporters Timothy M. Phelps and Knut Royce wrote the first newspaper article about Novak’s disclosure. The whole point of the Phelps/Royce piece was that the article had disclosed the identity of a clandestine employee of the CIA. The authors interviewed Novak for the article. Yet the article gives not a clue that Novak ever disputed this point or mentioned that there was any confusion about Plame’s status. His response, according to the article, was: “I didn't dig it out, it was given to me. They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it.”

Novak only started telling people there was any confusion about Plame's status after the Justice Department got involved and things began to heat up dramatically.

Marshall also thinks that recent White House denials about the involvement of certain senior officials don't hold water when parsed.

And even if you grant that their action was not actually criminal -- by the language about "knowing" outing a covert operative -- the two Administration officials who blew Plame's cover have demonstrated their manifest unfitness to hold high public office, from which they should be ejected forthwith. And actual -- if technical -- innocence would make Bush's cowardly refusal to address this situation, save in vague, offhand remarks and cliched assertions -- all the more shameful.

The bottom line -- and a fact that should give even those who consider this theory a huge relief -- is that we, the American people, just don't know what happened, and this Administration hardly seems forthcoming in telling us. Until and unless this Administration comes clean, convoluted theories under which it's just stupid, not evil, are so much whistling past the graveyard.

To his credit, Tom Maguire does concede that if the number of reporters contacted by the Bush Administration turns out to be two and not at least six, it'd be easier for him to believe ill doings on the White House's part, on the grounds that a large conspiracy is so difficult to keep hidden. Whatever works for you, Tom, but the crucial point is that someone (or ones) blew Plame's cover, and the American people, whose security was diminished by the actions, are entitled to a full accounting that does not seem to be forthcoming from this Administration.

Kleiman also clarifies his outrage over the White House staff turning over relevant documents to the White House Counsel, not the Justice Deparetment:
as far as I can see the President, too, was entirely within his legal rights in proceeding as he has done. They're his employees, and he can give them, within reason, any orders he likes. Information that they produce on his demand can properly be reviewed by his lawyer to determine how much of that information should be turned over to third parties, even other parts of the Executive Branch.

But his exercise of that authority can legitimately be criticized by others, especially when his behavior seems to belie his words: in this case, his stated desire "to get to the bottom of this." [His expressed skepticism that the result he claims to want will in fact be achieved [*] doesn't help his credibility in that regard. In the mouth of such a famously optimistic fellow, a prediction is half a wish.]

...But if it is his position that a serious crime has (probably) been committed, and that it is in his interest and the country's to "get to the bottom of it," then he ought to act accordingly. Moreover, he ought to act in a way that reduces, rather than increasing, suspicion about his own guilt: if not the guilt of having ordered the release of the information or known about in advance, at least the guilt of whose actions, or culpable failures to act, helped protect those who actually made the phone calls that "burned" Valerie Plame.

As Jeff Cooper pointed out, Bush should realize that the American people look to him to avoid the appearance of impropriety. That he seems to trust that his Administration will ultimately not be held accountable if he drags his feet is hardly encouraging.

Update: Brad DeLong tallies up the number of "senior administration officials" and reports that the number is about 200 at the outside, not the 2,000 the Justice Department is supposedly seeking for its wild goose chase investigation and certainly not the "tens of thousands" imagined by the Weekly Standard.


must-read post of the day

Kevin Drum looks at the Texas Republican Party platform and is, quite frankly, frightened by what he sees. He notes that, for example, it calls for:

  • The abolition of the Supreme Court's power to rule on matters pertaining to the Bill of Rights

  • The abolition of separation of Church and State

  • The criminalization of consensual sex between people of the same gender

  • The teaching of Biblical creationism in science class

  • the abolition of Social Security, the Federal income tax, and the minimum wage

  • The military reconquest of the Panama Canal

Kevin comments:
These are not the words of sane people. This is not "reform," this is not "common sense," and this is not "restraining government growth." This is plain and simple madness and the people behind it have real influence.

...If this were just a lunatic fringe we could all have a good laugh over their manifesto and then go out for a beer. But you can't dismiss it so easily. Texas-style conservatism has already put George Bush, Tom DeLay, and Karl Rove in charge of the country, and it is very much the future of the Republican party. And for all the conservatives reading this: I know this doesn't necessarily represent what you believe. But whether you like it or not, this kind of thinking does represent a very strong, very fast growing segment of the leadership of your party, and this is why liberals think the Republican party is just plain scary these days. We know that this is their agenda, we know that they really truly want to do this stuff, and we know that they are steadily gaining influence.

And to liberals: this is what we're fighting. Republicans may be smart enough to make soothing noises and put friendly faces like George Bush's in front of their agenda, but behind the facade this is what they want and they won't rest until they get it. It's our job to make sure everyone knows this.

Kevin provides a point-by-point analysis backing up the bullet points I cited and more, and it's all pretty scary stuff.

And there's no question that at least some Texas Republicans of national prominence -- Tom DeLay, anyone? -- presumably embrace this platform.

So the question is, does Bush actually believe all this stuff, or doesn't he? And whatever the answer, isn't it time the American people found out?

Update: Due to technical problems at Kevin's site, the permalinks have been reconstructed -- I've fixed the link here -- and the discussion thread -- on which I'd left several comments -- was wiped out too. Fortunately, some kind soul preserved the text here.


training day

More training going on today, so once again, posting will be relatively light.


happy birthday Jackson Browne, who's 55.

Also today, Robert Wuhl (Bull Durham) is 52, Tony Shalhoub (Big Night, Spy Kids) is 50, Scott Bakula (Quantam Leap) is 49, Kurt Neumann of The BoDeans is 42, and Sean Lennon is 28.

Today also marks the anniversary of the first woman to travel cross country by airplane -- none other than Laura Ingalls, in 1930.


pachyderm post of the day

I love this headline: Expert Answers Questions About Elephants


horror wallpaper of the day

horror wallpaper

Today's wallpaper is a modified version of a generic scary image provided by the pop-up-rific

I've never understood Windows wallpaper in which the image is predominantly on the left side, where the numerous desktop icons reside by default. And, of course, I'm constantly collecting links, so there's a forest of icons on my desktop. So I quickly photo-edited the original image and flipped it so the monster's face is peering out from behind them; I like the effect.

  xWednesday, October 08, 2003

blogroll update

Mark Kleiman has a new home:


horror link of the day

Cinema Wasteland is a site devoted to rare, out-of-print, and hard to find “Drive-In” era horror and exploitation films, memorabilia, toys, autographs, posters and other collectibles. The site recently concluded its annual Cinema Wasteland Movie and Memorabilia Expo.



administration mendacity watch

The Administration is rolling out a PR blitz to put the best possible spin on the David Kay report. Today Condi-lies-a Rice weighed in:
Condoleezza Rice told a foreign policy forum in Chicago that the team led by chief U.S. weapons hunter David Kay "is finding proof that Iraq never disarmed and never complied with U.N. inspectors."

Proof, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. The Kay report could certainyl be read as confirmation that Iraq had little but Saddam's ambitions. Cetainly proof in the form of, you know, actual weapons remain elusive. The kind of actual weapons that the Administration made such grandiose and alarmist claims about.
In fact, she suggested, if the U.N. Security Council knew last winter what Kay's group has uncovered now, it never would have rejected the U.S. call for war.

It's too bad, isn't it, that because of Bush's botched diplomacy and deplorable intelligence, the Security Council was so sick of his Administration's overblown alarmism that the US didn't even dare ask for a vote it would have likely lost -- veto or no veto.

Indeed, let's recall that the more was learned about the shabby, pathetic state of Saddam's vaunted programs, the less inclined the UNSC was to believe Bush's insistence that Saddam posed such a dire threat that it needed to be invaded right away.
"Right up until the end, Saddam lied to the Security Council. And let there be no mistake, right up to the end, Saddam Hussein continued to harbor ambitions to threaten the world with weapons of mass destruction and to hide his illegal weapons activity," she told the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.

I'm unaware, of course, where Resolution 1441 addresses Saddam's ambitions. It seemed to address, you know, actual weapons.
Rice's speech was part of the administration's effort to combat suggestions by critics that Kay's group had essentially come up empty-handed despite three months of looking for illegal weapons. Kay's team found no actual weapons, although he reported to Congress last week that there was evidence that Saddam still intended to produce such weapons and had retained the capability to do so.

Rice said the weapons inspectors had found strong evidence of materials and equipment that could have been used to produce weapons of mass destruction, and also that Saddam had continued to use lethal weapons against his own people.

..."We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks," Rice said. Still, she added, the possibility that the Iraqi leader could be behind another attack "beyond the scale of 9-11 ... could not be put aside."

More shifting of the goalposts -- intentions, dual-use material that could possibly produce weapons (as opposed to, you know, actual weapons), and of course the old "Saddam was evil! Eeee-vil!" saw. If the Administration's wcase was so hot, these obfuscations wouldn't be necessary. And of course we have no evidence that Saddam and 9/11 were linked, but Rice can't seem to resist bringing that canard up again, and invoking an ominous scenario that has little evidence to back it up.
Bush at times will reach beyond the Washington media to try to drive his point home with regional and local press corps, the officials said.

Meaning, of course, that Bush and Company tacitly admit the inability of their case to stand up to serious scrutiny, and therefore cowardly avoid any semblance of accountability. Pathetic.

Indeed, the shabby state of the Administration's present case quite effectively undermines its arguments for war. Note the reference to ambitions, potential, and what Saddam might have done if sacntions and inspections ended.

Yes, they're as much as admitting -- and indeed Powell did in February 2001 -- that the sanctions and inspections were in fact effective in thwarting Saddam's lust for weapons. This position became abundantly clear to the latest round of inspectors and the Security Council, and contrasted with the Bush Administration's laughable so-called "intelligence," made clear that the Administration never did have the juice to back its claims -- just like today.

Speaking of this Administration's bumbling diplomacy at the UN, Bush's failures at the Security Council prior to his invasion are being echoed once again.
The Bush administration has run into such stiff opposition at the United Nations Security Council to its plan for the future government of Iraq that it has pulled back from seeking a quick vote endorsing the proposal and may shelve it altogether, administration officials said Tuesday.

And, once again, Bush's failures reduce America's national security profile and place us deeper into an untenable situation.

The fact is, the Kay report simply does not support the grandiose and alarmist claims made by the Bush Administration in the runup to war. That may not stop the Administration from claiming vindication -- and supporters from taking their word for it -- but there's nothing there at all for skeptical eyes.

(via Daily Kos)

Update: Billmon dissects the Kay report, and finds "unsupported assertions, deceptive qualifiers, logical fallacies and rhetorical tricks so cheap they would make a trial lawyer blush."

Update 2: Joshua Marshall says, "I cannot remember any administration or even any administration official that so routinely says things that are the polar opposite of reality --- when the facts to the contrary are sitting right out there in the open."

Me either.


gallery of the day

maura tierney

A photo gallery devoted to the smokin' actress Maura Tierney.

(Swiped from Inspired by Byzantium's Shores)


lego horror site of the day


Block Death (formerly known as LEGODEATH) is a spiffy yet demented Flash-enabled gallery of various morbid scenes created with LEGO blocks. Categories include a torture chamber, methods of execution throughout the ages, and sceens of horror from the home and workplace.

(via FARK; originally posted 10/21/2002)


plame scandal update

This morning's Washington Post has a fascinating profile of outed spy Valerie Plame. The article paints a picture of a patriotic, intelligent young woman who went to work as a covert agent at 22.
Her activities during her years overseas remain classified, but she became the creme de la creme of spies: a "noc," an officer with "nonofficial cover." Nocs have cover jobs that have nothing to do with the U.S. government. They work in business, in social clubs, as scientists or secretaries (they are prohibited from posing as journalists), and if detected or arrested by a foreign government, they do not have diplomatic protection and rights. They are on their own. Even their fellow operatives don't know who they are, and only the strongest and smartest are picked for these assignments.

...For the past several years, she has served as an operations officer working as a weapons proliferation analyst. She told neighbors, friends and even some of her CIA colleagues that she was an "energy consultant." She lived behind a facade even after she returned from abroad. It included a Boston front company named Brewster-Jennings & Associates, which she listed as her employer on a 1999 form in Federal Election Commission records for her $1,000 contribution to Al Gore's presidential primary campaign.

Administration officials confirmed that Brewster-Jennings was a front. The disclosure of its existence, which came about because it was listed in the FEC records, magnifies the potential damage related to the leak of Valerie Wilson's identity: It may give anyone who dealt with the firm clues to her CIA work. In addition, anyone who ever had contact with the company, and any foreign person who ever met with Valerie Plame, innocently or not, might now be suspected of working with the agency.

The article provides ample reminder that by bowing the cover of this agent, the Bush Administration committed not only a crime, but an outrage against national security, all in the name of politics. It's no longer a question that Plame was indeed covert. There's simply no excuse for having exposed her -- and, therefore, goodness knows how many other agents, networks, and operations -- in the name of political revenge against someone who merely reported uncomfortable facts. That any so-called prinicpled conservative can condone -- even tolerate -- this abuse of natural security is itself scandalous and shameful.

The Post also has more on Bush's statements yesterday.
President Bush said yesterday that he has "no idea" whether the administration officials who exposed the identity of an undercover CIA agent will be identified, as the White House counsel's office sorted through responses from Bush aides to the Justice Department's request for phone records and other documents.

"I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official," the president said in response to a reporter's question. "Now, this is a large administration, and there's a lot of senior officials. I don't have any idea."

Bush said he is eager to discover the identity of those who disclosed the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame, who is married to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a prominent administration critic on Iraq. Her identity was first published in a July 14 column by Robert D. Novak.

Bush said that "everything we know the investigators will find out," but told reporters: "I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is -- partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers."

...McClellan and Bush did not rebut reports that White House officials were spreading damaging information about Wilson and his wife. Wilson has said that was done to retaliate against him for continuing to publicize his conclusion, after a 2002 mission for the CIA, that there was little evidence Iraq had sought uranium in Africa to develop nuclear weapons.

It points out, once again, that yesterday's deadline for Aministration staff to turn in records refers to the White House counsel, who will apparently vet the documents, not the Justice Deparetment, which is supposed to be investigating the crime. And it makes clear that Bush is perfectly willing to tolerate -- even condone -- the leak by his steadfast refusal to ask the obvious questions of the obvious suspects.

And commentor Kynn raises the intriguing speculation (in strong language) in this CalPundit comment thread that by referring to the leaker -- singular -- instead of leakers -- plural, as in the two who disclosed Plame's identity to the CIA -- Bush may be "eager" to learn who gave the Post the information that made the scandal front-page news and ruined a previously successful Administration scandal of ignoring (and tacitly condoning) the outing of an undercover intelligence asset in the field of weapons proliferation.

Mark Kleiman is tired of Administration apologists trying to pretend there's some doubt over whether Plame was covert. He also passes on a reader's suggestion noting that there's much Bush could do to get to the bottom of it all, if he simply chose to act.
The President should require every official in his administration at Executive Level II or higher (that's cabinet secretaries and their immediate deputies, plus others of equivalent rank) to submit, within 48 hours, either a sworn statement that he or she had no discussion mentioning Joseph Wilson's wife with any reporter in the period before July 14, 2003 (the date of the first Novak column) and has no knowledge of anyone who did have such discussions, or a sworn statement listing any such discussions as that person did have or any knowledge that person has regarding such discussions by other persons.

The President has, of course, no power to compel compliance with that order. He does, however, since all of the officials involved except the Director of the FBI and the Director of Central Intelligence serve at his pleasure, have the power to dismiss anyone who refuses to submit such a statement, or who submits a statement claiming the privilege against self-incrimination.

That's an intriguing idea. Once again, it's beyond question that the Administration ignored this crime until it became impossible to do so, and is now dragging its feet. In the meantime, two felons are likely sitting around the briefing desk with Bush every morning, and at the very least continue to work at the White House or Executive Office Building, drawing a taxpayer salary, simply because Bush is too much of a coward, moral hypocrite, and national security poseur to be the leader he promised he was.

Joshua Marshall has a couple of posts on the Administration's desire to have the White House counsel "review" documents before turning them over to the Justice Department. He thinks that it's fishy, and notes that the Washington press corps apparently does too.

I'll update this post as opportunity permits.

Update: Jack O'Toole defends an earlier CalPundit comment.

Update 2: Via Mark Kleiman, Daniel Drezner takes bush to task for yesterday's "I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is" statement:
Bush should be making clear what his preferences are on this issue. And yesterday's statement indicates that he's not all that worked up about it. Shame on him.

Good on you, sir.

And Joshua Marshall provides a "run-down run-down on the context and repercussions of the Plame disclosure from a former undercover CIA case officer, Jim Marcinkowski."


training day

I'm training some new employees today, so posting will be light until at least later this afternoon.


halloween wallpaper of the day

suspiria wallpaper
Today's wallpaper is from the ultra-creepy 1977 Dario Argento movie Suspiria, which starred the lovely Jessica Harper as an American student investigating evil wierdness at a European dance academy. Like many Italian horror films, it derives much of its sense of dread from its nightmarish surrealism. (Reviews at Teleport City, ZombieGirls, ZombieKeeper, and The Mutant Reviewers from Hell)

(Originally posted 10/9/2002; the original source of this wallpaper,, has apparently gone defunct, so I'm hosting this image locally.)

  xTuesday, October 07, 2003

minor tweak

I changed the background to a different skull-themed image.

Update: And again, from this: this:


horror pinup of the day

jamie donahue

jamie donahue

The lovely and talented Jamie Donahue (The Dead Hate the Living), courtesy Katie Chainsaw's Gallery of Screams. The second image reminds me of the interview with Donahue for the documentary on the Dead Hate the Living DVD, which I mentioned last August. The interview was obviously shot after one of Donahue's scenes, and the young actress chats cheerfully about her role while splashed from head to toe with scarlet stage blood. (As director Dave Parker is such an obvious aficionado, I can only assume he used the classic corn syrup formula.)


kawaii image of the day

kawaii model

Tracking down a recent Web search ("kawaii, asian model") via my referral logs, I stumbled across this site that apparently conducts interviews with models. Here's the interview that apparently triggered the search hit.


techie link of the day

The Straight Dope delves into the mystery behind Scroll Lock, SysReq, and those other now-useless keyboard keys, and refers to lesbian pr0n in the process.

(via FARK)


c00l flash app of the day

I've mentioned this Flash-powered online clock before; Zannah recently linked to it, and noted another interesting variation at the same site.


iraq op-ed two-fer

This morning's Washington Post contained a pair of op-eds concerning the war on Iraq.

First is the latest exercise in goalpost moving by Colin Powell:
Kay's interim findings offer detailed evidence of Hussein's efforts to defy the international community to the last. The report describes a host of activities related to weapons of mass destruction that "should have been declared to the U.N." It reaffirms that Iraq's forbidden programs spanned more than two decades, involving thousands of people and billions of dollars.

"Spanned two decades," of course, could be construed to include the 1980s and 1990s, decades in which we knew Saddam did have such weapons, but would appear to exclude the 2000s...
What the world knew last November about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs was enough to justify the threat of serious consequences under Resolution 1441. What we now know as a result of David Kay's efforts confirms that Hussein had every intention of continuing his work on banned weapons despite the U.N. inspectors...

Yes, what the world knew was enough to provide international support for more inspectors and the threat of serious consequences, but the Security Council didn't just decline to go any further, the US ultimately didn't even ask it to. And regardless of his intention, Saddam has not been shown to have any capability to produce such weapons, let alone the stockpiles the Administration kept claiming he had.
The Kay Report also addresses the issue of suspected mobile biological agent laboratories: "Investigation into the origin of and intended use for the two trailers found in northern Iraq in April has yielded a number of explanations, including hydrogen, missile propellant and BW [biological warfare] production, but technical limitations would prevent any of these processes from being ideally suited to these trailers. That said, nothing . . . rules out their potential use in BW production." Here Kay's findings are inconclusive. He is continuing to work this issue.

Here's another case of one of the Administration's favorite tactics of mendacity: Pretending there's doubt, when there really isn't. In this case, the British have concluded that the so-called Trailers of Mass Destruction really are designed to produce hydrogen for an observation balloon system the British themselves sold to Saddam. And no one credible thinks the canvas sided trailers are at all suited for biological weapons.

Then there's this:
One year ago, when President Bush brought his concerns about Iraq to the United Nations, he made it plain that his principal concern in a post-Sept. 11 world was not just that a rogue regime such as Saddam Hussein's had WMD programs, but that such horrific weapons could find their way out of Iraq into the arms of terrorists who would have even fewer compunctions about using them against innocent people across the globe.

And of course, by its failure to secure and account for any weapons that Saddam might have had, this Administration has, far from putting "an end to that harrowing possibility," rather ensured its continued existence.

As I've been pointing out, though, the problem is that the Administration frequently made grandiose and alarmist -- and, I couldn't help but notice, conspicuously unsupported -- claims about the weapons Saddam supposedly actually had. Not programs, not ambitions, actual weapons, and in quantity. And they said they had proof. Proof that right now is obviously not forthcoming.

Tim Dunlop has Powell's number:
The intention is here is very clear: Powell is laying the groundwork to prepare us for Kay's final report. If that final report also turns up no actual weapons, as the interim report has done, it will, they hope, at least do so in an environment where the cover story has been changed from "he has weapons of mass destruction and is an imminent threat" to "he fully intended to get weapons if he could."

Once we accept that piece of revisionist, post-war justification, it just about doesn't matter what Kay turns up; the bar will have been lowered so far from where they originally set it that people with very short legs will be able to step over it.

So we will watch with interest to see if the the quotes keep coming from the Administration about how the interim Kay report proves Saddam's intention (as opposed to his capabaility).

This was a war of pre-emption based on the notion of imminent threat. There is only an imminent threat if he actually had WMD. So far, David Kay hasn't found any.

So the pro-war apologists should practice what they preach, wait for the final report and in the meantime, stop trying to change the justification. It only makes them look craven.

And Powell does the Administration no service in citing "material breach" of Resolution 1441. He well knows that the Administration agreed to a second resolution being required before the Security Council would authorize the attack -- a vote the US declined to even call. Speculation at the time held that the US would likely fail to achieve even a symbolic majority, despite veto threats that would have given nations like Mexico political cover. The fact is that according to the picture that was emerging from Iraq at the time, the Administration's claims of a dire security threat emanating from Iraq were held in little higher regard than its intelligence that was supposed to direct the inspectors toward Saddam's stockpiles and failed -- lo and behold! -- time and again to do so.

Powell's column is pathetic. If that's the best they can do -- and it is -- this Administration's credibility is in even worse trouble than I'd have ever imagined. And it's truly sad to see a once-admirable figure like Powell hitch his own fading credibility to the misguided ship of Bush Administration policy, and condone a war whose outcome he once predicted and resisted.

Meanwhile, E. J. Dionne takes it to the hoop in criticizing Bush's dreadful botching of worldwide support for the war on (actual) terrorism.
President Bush should be searching his soul over how he took a legitimate war against terrorism and systematically undermined the support he needed to wage it.

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, Bush's domestic opponents and much of the world joined him in supporting tough action against terror and agreeing on the urgent need to advance the values of democracy, free expression and tolerance.

That sense of shared purpose has evaporated. It was destroyed less because of what our enemies and wayward friends did than by the administration's almost casual disregard for the link between facts and arguments. The president used the tactics of a political campaign to sell the war in Iraq. Now comes the fallout.

It's increasingly obvious that the administration was willing to say whatever was necessary to get the Iraq war done on its schedule. It made the war a partisan electoral issue in 2002 and turned off potential allies abroad. The president lost the high ground that he and the United States occupied when our forces waged war on al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The administration's primary after-the-fact case for the war against Saddam Hussein is that Iraqis are much better off without him. But it didn't have enough confidence in the humanitarian argument to make it the primary basis for war before the shooting started. And it was not candid in advance about the high costs of the enterprise.

...A war supported by straightforward arguments and based on a broad alliance, patiently constructed, could have united our nation and much of the world on behalf of democratic ideals. Instead, the administration is stuck with a pile of exaggerations and half-truths, and the consensus brought into being by 9/11 has been shattered.

There were decent arguments for the war, but in my view, the Administration's continued dishonesty rendered them, sadly, moot. If the Administration's case was so compelling, no exaggeration should have been necessary, and by exagerrating, the Administration has absolved itself of being taken seriously, even in those cases where it put forth a legitimate point. The nations of the world saw through Bush's hysterics, and as a result we bear the cost of occupying Iraq -- in lives, treasure, and a reduced strategic capability -- practically alone. The Bush Administration has no one to blame but itself. It's long overdue for principled conservatives who are indeed serious to begin an Agonizing Reappraisal of this Administration's competence to defend this nation -- the lack of which competence was made all too clear on the morning of September 11th.



Say hello to Fantastic Planet!


essential horror web portal

Behold the sheer twisted terror of


horror illustration of the day

A panel by the legendary horror comics artist Bernie Wrightson. c00L! The signed panel was offered for sale here, and evidently sold for more than US$4,000. Here's a Wrightson cover illustration for the mid-'70s Marvel horror comic Werewolf by Night.


plame scandal update

Well, hopefully this will be the final nail in the coffin of the "maybe-outing-Valerie-Plame-wasn't-really-a-crime" speculation: President Bush has confirmed that it was.
President Bush said on Monday that the unauthorized disclosure of an undercover C.I.A. officer's identity was a "very serious matter" and "a criminal action" as the White House announced that at least 500 of its 2,000 employees had responded to a Justice Department demand for documents as part of an investigation into the source of the leak.

But Mark Kleiman observes that the White House cooperation with the investigation isn't as robust as the Times' headline ("Bush Toughens His Support of Investigation Into Leak") would have you believe (that darn liberal media!).
You can imagine, then, how annoyed I am to find out that the so-and-sos have double-crossed me: the decent thing I thought they were doing was in fact an unspeakably sleazy trick that makes sense only as part of a cover-up.

All those documents concerning the Wilson trip and conversations about it that White House staff has been ordered to come up with by tomorrow at 5 p.m. will not be going to the Justice Department. No, they're going to White House Counsel -- that is, to the lawyers for the President, who must be considered a likely suspect, at least as a co-conspirator or accessory.

Every staffer who turns something over knows that it will be made available to the President, who will be under no legal obligation not to share it with, let's say, Karl Rove. (A lawyer has no obligation, and in general no right, to keep information from his client, unless it has been sealed by a court, and a client has no obligation to keep confidential anything he learns from his lawyer.)

So the Bush team plans to give itself two weeks to plan its cover-up, having as a starting basis a full set of the relevant documents, so that they can make sure that any lies they tell can't be easily disproven. Note the headline: "Decision...riles Democrats," as if no one but a Democrat could object to giving the criminals the first look at all the evidence.

CalPundit weighs in on the issue as well.

Bear in mind that the list of individuals who could have leaked Plame's covert status to Novak is not at all 2,000 names long, and that Bush has had weeks if not months to simply demand that the guilty party step forward. There's no question any longer that two top members of his Administration committed a heinous crime, and Bush's continued tolerance of them on the White House grounds is an affront to justice, national security, and common decency.

But casting a wide net does more than obfuscate -- Bush also hopes to reap the political gain of limiting embarrassing leaks in the future. Once again, it bears repeating: Leaking classified information -- especially information more damaging to an Administration's political reputation than national security -- is an essential part of the watchdog fucntion of the press. Leaking the names of covert operatives, on the other hand, is inexcusable, which is why Bush's own father championed a law that made the act its own category of crime. Let's not let Bush obscure the issue and pretend it was a routine matter. He himself admits it's serious, and the American people have a right to expect Bush to make good on his promise to restore Integrity to the White House. He's failing miserably right now, and in the most in-your-face way possible: positively refusing to hold anyone accountable hismelf, and instead playing "catch-me-if-you-can" with the Justice Department (after his lawyers have carefully vetted the records, of course).

(Update: Brad DeLong points out that the "maybe it isn't really a crime" line isn't the only one to fall by the wayside: "All those statements about how the investigation was in the hands of the Justice Department and that's where it should be are now inoperative too, aren't they? For the next two week the "investigation" is in the hands of the White House." Indeed.

And Billmon posits that "their tracking polls told them the "slime and defend" strategy just wasn't cutting it."

And Slacktivist has the metaphor of the day: "The simple fact is that two high-level officials in the White House have betrayed their country and broken the law. Apologists for this treason, inside and outside the Bush administration, have adopted the strategy of the (failed) defenders of Baghdad. They have lit thousands of small oil fires, trying to fill the air with black smoke and confusion."

Slacktivist also notes that Bush's statement of opposition sends a clear signal indeed: "[L]eakers who violate national security will be protected by stonewalling and foot-dragging. Whistle-blowers who expose the administration's lies will be prosecuted with extreme prejudice.")

Once again, here's TrueMajority's online petiiton to demand of your Congressional delegation that they support an independent investigation.

All is not lost, of course; Blah3 points out that the Wilsons are apparently considering a civil suit, and the GOP has already established a precedent that a sitting President can be forced to testify under oath in a civil trial. And, of course, that should the President choose to mislead under oath, it's difinitely an impeachable offense. Right, Republicans?

Since the White House is clearly trying to run out the clock, I doubt I'll continue with daily Plame Scandal updates. I will, of course, continute making note of major developments until the two criminals currently drawing a taxcpayer salary at the White House are led off to trial.

Update 2: Via CalPundit, this quote from Bush, who apparently doubts the leaker will be caught:
Bush turned the questions on reporters at the end of a Cabinet meeting. "You tell me: how many sources have you had that's leaked information, that you've exposed or had been exposed? Probably none."

"I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official," Bush said. "I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to know the truth."

But, Bush said, "This is a large administration and there's a lot of senior officials."

Simply amazing. In practically the same breath, Bush admits that as far as he's concerned, the two Administration officials who outed a CIA agent could remain as elusive as Osama bin Laden, and then implies that it'sreporters' fault for not violating their ethics, not his for not honoring his promise to bring integrity to the White House.


wired: electronic voting sux0rz

I haven't been following the problems with electronic voting machines very closely (Seeing the Forest is definitely the go-to guy for information on the subject), but this article in yesterday's edition of Wired paints a disturbing picture: A system rife with easily exploitable security flaws, and municipalities and the manufacturer apparently dead set on using the machines anyway.
Election officials around the country have been switching to new computerized polling machines with the hope of avoiding a repeat of the Florida debacle over punch-card voting that marred the 2000 presidential election.

But a training session for poll workers in Alameda County suggests problems other than hanging chads could surface this time around.

Alameda County uses 4,000 touch-screen voting machines manufactured by Diebold Election Systems. But last month, officials in Maryland released a report saying that the Diebold machines were "at high risk of compromise" due to security flaws in the software. Despite this, officials in Alameda County said their policies and procedures for using the machines will secure them against voting fraud.

However, information obtained by Wired News at a training session for Alameda County poll workers indicates that security lapses in the use of the equipment and poor worker training could expose the election to serious tampering.

Voting-machine experts say the lapses could allow a poll worker or an outsider to change votes in machines without being detected. And because other problems inherent in the software won’t be fixed before the recall, experts say sophisticated intruders can intercept and change vote tallies as officials transmit them electronically.

The training session revealed the following:

  • Officials leave voting machines at polling stations days before the election. The machines contain memory cards with ballots already loaded on them. This means before the election, someone could alter the ballot file in such a way that voters would cast votes for the wrong candidate without knowing it.

  • The memory card rests behind a locked door on the side of the voting machine. But supervisors receive a key to the compartment the weekend before the election. The same key fits every machine at a polling station.

  • Poll supervisors are selected with no background checks and are given keys to buildings where they can access the machines several days before the election.

  • The machines, worth around $3,000 each, are locked on a trolley at polling stations with only a bicycle lock. The combination, which anyone could crack in a couple of tries, is the same for every polling station in the county and is given to poll supervisors during their training.

  • Although the machines have two blue tamper-resistant ties threaded through holes in their carrying cases, the ties can easily be purchased on the Internet. Supervisors open at least one case the night before the election to charge the machine inside, which means the case remains unsealed overnight.

While leaving equipment unattended overnight might be fine if the county were using punch-card machines, experts say electronic machines raise the security risks tenfold because minor changes to the machines can result in changes to millions of votes.

David Dill, a computer science professor at Stanford University and critic of electronic voting machines that don't provide a verifiable paper trail, calls the information about the county's security "jaw-dropping."

And how! By all means, read the whole thing. Of course, just because the system could be tampered with doesn't necessarily mean that someone will, but I'm not willing to blindly trust in aboveboard behavior from all concerned if tampering can go undetected. The security of the systems should be beyond question -- even the suggestion of rigging can spoil the legitimacy of an election, whether it occurred or not.

And the security flaws listed in this areticle are amateurish in the extreme. Moreover, Diebold's resistance to installing a simple hard copy backup is completely mystifying. But no system that doesn't produce a verifiable tally of the vote is acceptable, period. The agencies who've been suckered into spending taxpayer money on these worthless systems should demand a competent retrofit at the very least, or abandon the flawed machines entirely. They're clearly not ready for having the democratic process entrusted to them.

Seeing the Forest reports that the Democratic National Committee has gone on record demanding that a paper audit trail be in place absolutely no later than the November 2004 election. Good -- and this issue shouldn't be partisan. With the Republicans' support of a transparent and verifiable process, I'm sure the will of the voters will be accurately expressed in 2004.

Update: Body and Soul links to the second part of a detailed analysis of Diebold machines at The Agonist (here's the first).

Update 2: An alert anonymous reader in the comment thread reminds us to support the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003 (H.R. 2239). has more.

And Jack O'Toole comments: "In a mature democracy like ours, elections have to be like Caesar's wife; the perception that they're clean is every bit as important as the underlying reality. And until Diebold accepts that basic truth and begins to act on it, opposition to their machines will only continue to grow."


horror video game of the day

house of the dead

Speaking of the 1996 Sega game House of the Dead, I took a little HotD break last night. Shooting zombies in the head is always a fun and relaxing way to spend 15 minutes. If you'd like in on the action, you can download the free 16MB House of the Dead demo (alternate site). Here's a collection of FAQs at


horror movie/game wallpaper of the day

house of the dead

Today's wallpaper is from the film adaptation of the fun Sega zombie shooter archade game House of the Dead. I didn't even know they were making a movie of the game, but it's apparently getting released this October. Here's the Yahoo! Movies preview, a report on the premiere from, a link to the trailer, and a (scorchingly negative) review of the film at Creature Corner.

  xMonday, October 06, 2003

better living through chemistry

Ananova: Italy creates pizza-scented bubble bath
An Italian cosmetics manufacturer has created a new range of bathroom products that smell of pizza.

Creator Ducio Cresci from Florence believes the traditional Italian dish should indulge all the senses, not just the stomach, and so created the luxury bubble bath, soap and body lotion.

The products are made from natural ingredients and contain tomato extract, essential oils of basil and oregano.

Cresci said: "The bubble bath smells especially strong when you are bathing in it, but once out of the water it leaves an irresistible trace of scent on your skin."

Hmmm...Xmas is right around the corner...I wonder what my lovely wife would think?

Halloween related thought: I imagine this stuff would be a total zombie magnet, should the living dead ever actually rise. Remember, boys and girls, if you stumble across one of the gates of Hell, for pity's sake leave it closed!

(via The 18½ Minute Gap)


it seems...

You are a Romero Zombie.You walk the earth because
there is no more room in hell. You feed on
living flesh - anything you can get your
decaying hands on. You can be killed by damage
to your rotting brain.

What kind of Zombie are you?
brought to you by Quizilla


Be aware, if you know your zombie canon, it's really easy to pick what kind of zombie you want to be.


horror movie reviews of the day

Last year, blogger Ryan McMichael undertook to post 31 capsule movie reviews in the 31 days of October. He made it, looking at films like Suspiria, The Frighteners, The Fog, and The Beyond. Here's the full archive. Planet Swank congratulates McMichael on his achievement.


retro miniature video game post of the day

The world's smallest Pac-Man game. With sound, so turn your volume down or use earphones, if you're at work.

(via #!/usr/bin/girl/)


way-cool kiwi matrix fan film

The Fanimatrix is a way-cool project by a talented group of New Zealand actors, stunt players, filmmakers and effectys technicians. They've produced a short fan fil, Run Program, set in the Matrix universe. The film's Web site contains lots of production photos, cast and crew bios, and information on the shooting.

Here are some production notes from the fimmaker's site:

"The Fanimatrix" is a fan-made, zero-budget short film set within the Matrix universe, specifically shortly before the discovery of "The One" (i.e. the first "Matrix" feature film). It tells the story of two rebels - Dante and Medusa - and of their fateful mission onto the virtual reality prison world that is The Matrix.

The film was shot on the Sony Mini-Digital Video format and edited on a PC editing suite utilizing Adobe Premiere, After FX and AlamDV Special FX. The entire production was completed over nine nights, ranging from six to over fifteen hour shoots, not including rehearsal and blocking-tape-shooting sessions. Most of the props, sets and lighting equipment was borrowed and locations were either hired or shot guerilla style. Although the film was a "zero budget" production, the final cost of the movie (combining personal expenses of cast and crew such as investment into costumes, transport costs, food etc) has reached upto approximately $1000 NZ (or $400-$600 US). The movie was shot entirely within Auckland City, New Zealand (our home).

You can via the trailer or download the (170 MB!) full version at this page.

(via #!/usr/bin/girl/; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters.)


plame scandal update

Having been out of town -- and away from the computer -- all weekend, I needed some catching up on the Valerie Plame scandal. As always, CalPundit, Mark Kleiman, and Joshua Marshall have proved invaluable.

Early Saturday morning, I learned via CalPundit that Novak, in his continue attempts to discredit Plame and Wilson, has also blown the cover of the front company Plame worked for. That's just swell. While it's true that an enemy agent could have gleaned that information for him- or herself, the fact doesn't excuse Novak trumpeting it on TV.

Kevin Drum also sums up why the "real scandal" isn't, as some conservatives would have one believe, Wilson's credentials. No, it's that two members of the Administration leaked the name of a covert CIA operative to the press. It's not just a scandal, it's a crime.

(Update: Daily Kos boils it down to three bullet points.)

In his latest post, CalPundit sums up what he believes the Plame scandal reveals about Bush's character.
I suspect that the president's character isn't quite what Tom thinks it is, but at least we're in broad agreement that this episode gives us a chance to find out. If Bush were to get aggressive about finding out who leaked Valerie Plame's name — even at this late date — I would give him credit for having more character than I suspected. If he doesn't, people like Tom are in for a rude shock.

There's lots more in between, and plenty of good commentary to boot. Personally, I wouldn't hold my breath about Bush becoming aggressive about exposing the leakers and bringing them to justice, though. All indications seem to be the White House settling down to seige mode.

Glenn Reynolds helpfully chimes in with some tips for deflecting attention from the scandal:
[T]he White House has a lot to gain by subpoenaing reporters who know about the Plame leaks. Doing that serves several useful purposes. First, once the press clams up and starts going on about protecting sources, it becomes extremely hard for it to claim that the White House is covering things up. "Who's stonewalling now?" can be the response.

Second, the press's complaints will look like special pleading (which they are). "If you leak this you're a traitor, but if we publish it, we're being great Americans," won't wash.

Third, subpoenaing reporters will likely reduce the number of leaks in the future. And that's a good thing, right? We keep hearing that these leaks were disastrous for national security. If that's true, we certainly want people to think twice before leaking in this fashion again, or publishing the results of such leaks.

Mark Kleiman takes Reynolds thoroughly to task for this post.

Jesse at Pandagon has more abundantly appropriate derision for Reynolds.

For my own part, I've long since ceased respecting Reynolds, but this comment is completely reprehensible. For a lawyer -- a law professor, no less -- to give unsolicited advice on how to stymie a criminal investigation (and one with serious national security implications, yet) because of the unspoken assumption that a real investigation will prove politically damaging to the President -- hmmm, maybe the situation isn't as complicated as Reynolds pretends to find it -- is completely reprehensible.

Reynonds' response to this perception (a "rather bizarre claim," he calls it) is here, and contains one interesting suggestion sent in by a reader:
There is something Bush could do that would be more effective than Bush himself denouncing any confidentiality agreement with anyone in his administration concerning Ms. Plame. He could--and should--order all his White House staff to execute a letter releasing any reporter from any confidentiality agreement with any such employee. Failure to execute such a letter would result in dismissal.

I'm more confident than Reynolds that this strategy would work in the short term -- if a source absolves the reporter of the confidentiality agreement, then the reporter is free to disclose. But in a larger sense, it's a dangerous precedent. Despite the unbrage of the Bush Administration and sympathizers like Reynolds over the very existence of "leaks," they're actually a vital component of the press' watchdog function. If a President could, at any time, order his staff to waive confidentiality, it'd cast a chilling effect on principled members of this or future administrations from coming forward with damaging information.

As far as Reynolds' last point in his original post is concerned ("We keep hearing that these leaks were disastrous for national security. If that's true, we certainly want people to think twice before leaking in this fashion again."), let's not let Reynolds help the White House shift the attention from leaks in general and into the practically unprecedented blowing of a covert agent's cover. We do indeed want people to think twice before leaking in this fashion again -- it's a pity those two Administration figures didn't think twice before this particularly odious leak in the first place -- but I submit that the best deterrent is exposing the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.

I'm far from statisfied that Reynolds' strategy is designed to accomplish that aim. Indeed, it says nothing about the perpetrators at all. His pleas that he had no intention of aiding the cover-up strike me as a rather bizarre claim indeed.

Mark Kleiman takes a stab at establishing when Bush can be reasonably assumed to have known about the Plame leak -- in other words, when Bush began his robust policy of ignoring the scandal and hoping it'd go away.

One final comment. I realize a number of principled conservatives are having a hard time wrapping their heads around the possbility that the White House is not only as corrupt as its detractors say it is, but also that it's so arrogant as to be this blatant. The facts of this case are hardly in dispute -- yes, Plame was covert and yes -- by Novak's own admission -- two Administration officials leaked her name (Memo to Novak: It doesn't matter who called who. When they told you, they committed a felony). It must be difficult to come to this realization, I understand, but the clear implication is that national security -- an issue with which the GOP has long cultivated a myth of competence -- is not nearly so important as political position.

As Joshua Marshall reminds us, the situation is simple:
For the last ten days we've known that two senior administration officials blew the cover of an undercover CIA employee for some mix of retribution and political gamesmanship.

It's next to certain that the president --- like the rest of those who read Novak's original column or heard about it --- knew this in mid-July. But it's absolutely certain he's known about it since September 27th.

And what has he done about it? Nothing.

All mumbo-jumbo to the contrary, the universe of possible culprits is quite small. I suspect the identity of the two is already well-known in the White House. But even if that's not the case, the president could quickly figure out who they are --- probably by demanding that they come forward, and certainly by reviewing phone logs and emails. Yet he has done neither.

We now have the farcical spectacle of the Justice Department initiating a massive investigation --- with the net thrown almost comically wide --- in order to find out what the president could find out in a few hours, tops.

That's the whole story right there.

The president has said he wants to get to the bottom of this. Yet he has done nothing to get to the bottom of it. The only credible explanation is the obvious one: that he doesn't want to get to the bottom of it.

Whether the Justice Department can find the culprits on its own is an interesting legal chess game. But no more.

The president's lieutenants did this. Rather than trying to punish them, he's trying to protect them. The only thing the White House has been aggressive about is attacking the victims of its own bad-acts: Wilson and Plame.

These simple --- and I think indisputable --- facts tell you all you need to know about what's happening here.

None of those facts are in serious dispute. Only the identity of the leakers -- not their existence -- remains a mystery, largely due to Bush's studious unwillingness to learn it. And no element of the situation Marshall describes is in any way acceptable.

This Administration stands ready to sacrifice national security for its own political power. Bush has had ample opportunity to see the guilty party brought to justice, and refuses. By his inaction, the President condones the leak. If you're looking to this Administration for national security cred, you're looking in the wrong place, period -- and they're the ones who've made it clear.


chicken a la king

Jaquandor continues his chicken-crossing-the-road joke blogger parodies. In the sights this time: Rachel Lucas.


horror wallpaper of the day

resident evil wallpaper

Today's wallpaper is from the creepy PlayStation game series Resident Evil (known in Japan as Biohazard). I recently dusted off my copy of the PS2 version of Resident Evil: Code Veronica X, and last night very nearly reached the point where my character escapes from the zombie-infested island, ending the first section. (Actually, I did escape, but died fighting a boss monster in the cargo hold of the airplane flying her out of there, and it was too late at night for me to bother replaying). I've been enjoying the game so far because it has the classic elements of Resident Evil-style survival horror: lots of zombies, and not much ammo.

In fact, the game sports a number of nicely-done creepy sequences. In one I recently played through, the character, Claire Redfield, discovers a clinic while exploring the zombie-infested island prison in which she's trapped. There's a bloody, dissected body and a corpse zipped up in a body bag. When she goes through the door on the far side of the room, there's a cut scene in which the body bag begins reminded me of the opening of the Fulci movie Zombie.

The next room is a combination torture chamber/crematorium that's infested with, yes, zombies. After fighting them off and returning to the clinic, the camera zooms in on the doorknob during the door opening animation, and a heartbeat beging pounding on the soundtrack (and is felt through the force feedback controller.) The clear implication is, you'll regret having opened the door, despite having little choice.

And indeed, there's a mini-boss in the next room. Claire discovers the zombified anatomist risen and chowing down on the dissected corpse. He notices Claire and begins approaching her, just as the body on the table begins to rise too. There isn't much room to fight, but it's just possible to waste the two zombies with pistol shots before they clamp their bloody jaws on Claire's neck.

Here's a review at Destroy All Monsters, and another at GameSpot. And here's a fan site devoted to the Resident Evil series.

Update: w00t! Last night I offed the second Tyrant. It's a difficult battle; the first incarnation is something of a pushover if Claire can just pump grenade rounds into it before it advances very far. The Tyrant then stows away in the cargo hold of the airplane Claire and Steve use to escape the island. Claire must fight it in the narrow cargo hold, which offers little room to run and avoid the Tyrant's more powerful attacks. She had to shoot it enough times to weaken it, and then run back to the front bulkhead of the cargo hold and release the cargo catapult, which propels the mutant out of the open doorway with a create of high explosives as a going-away present. (That's good, because the sucker would probably survive a fall, and it'd be really rude to drop it on an unsuspecting city...)

Claire is now trapped at Umbrella's (zombie-infested, of course) Antarctic base. As Musashi said in his review, the setting doesn't offer the horror potential of an island/prison, but at first glance appears to be zombie-rific enough to offer a few tense moments.


bush administration goalpost moving of the day

From a story in today's Washington Post regarding the Valerie Plame scandal (about which I'll comment later):
Kay's discovery of one vial of a reference strain of botulinum toxin that an Iraqi scientist had stored in his refrigerator in 1993 at his government's request was described by Bush on Friday as a piece of evidence that Iraq was prepared to have prohibited biological weapons. [Emphasis added]

I don't think it could be clearer that Kay's report does not in fact support the grandiose and alarmist claims of the Bush Administration during its efforts to scare the nation into supporting its Iraq adventure. Claims like these:
Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons. (George W. Bush; emphasis added)

The Iraqi regime . . . possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. (Bush again; emphasis added again)

The Administration wasn't warning us that Iraq was prepared to restart biological weapons programs, that it desired nuclear weapons that were far beyond its capability, or that it had the capability to produce chemical weapons in the future once inspections ended. They were talking about existing, ongoing programs and stockpiles, and in quantity. How those statements can now be construed as the "truth" quite escapes me.


bush admin calls for new plan in iraq, afghanistan

The White House appears to have recognized that it's time for Plan B (or is it C?) in its occupation of Iraq and efforts in Afghanistan. But look who they put in charge of it:
The new effort includes the creation of an "Iraq Stabilization Group," which will be run by the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice. The decision to create the new group, five months after Mr. Bush declared the end of active combat in Iraq, appears part of an effort to assert more direct White House control over how Washington coordinates its efforts to fight terrorism, develop political structures and encourage economic development in the two countries.

...Asked about the memorandum on Sunday, Ms. Rice called it "a recognition by everyone that we are in a different phase now" that Congress is considering Mr. Bush's request for $20 billion for reconstruction and $67 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. She said it was devised by herself, Vice President Dick Cheney, Mr. Powell and Mr. Rumsfeld in response to discussions she held with Mr. Bush at his ranch in late August.

Oh, swell. Unfortunately, Rice's statements before the war and her subsequent handling of the bnogus Niger uranium story and other missteps call into question both her integrity and her competence. (The fact that she, the National Security Advisor, presided over the White House's stalwart refusal to recognize a terrorist threat between its inauguration and 9/11 is als ohardly comforting.)

The Times also puts this news in context:
The creation of the group, according to several administration officials, grew out of Mr. Bush's frustration at the setbacks in Iraq and the absence of more visible progress in Afghanistan, at a moment when remnants of the Taliban appear to be newly active. It is the closest the White House has come to an admission that its plans for reconstruction in those countries have proved insufficient, and that it was unprepared for the guerrilla-style attacks that have become more frequent in Iraq. There have been more American deaths in Iraq since the end of active combat than during the six weeks it took to take control of the country.

"The president knows his legacy, and maybe his re-election, depends on getting this right," another administration official said. "This is as close as anyone will come to acknowledging that it's not working."

Bush administration loyalists can pretend all they like that these developments are just confirmation that everything's hunky-dory. And Bush himself can go on refusing to admit the poor job his team has done so far. But the clear fact remains that if the Administration's efforts were working, a new plan like this would not be necessary. The Administration's recognition -- at last -- that things aren't going very well in these two vital areas of national security is refreshing. It's just a pity that it's being run by the same group of reality-challenged politicos that created the messes in the first place.

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