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  xFriday, October 24, 2003

hero of the day


Great googly moogly! An Icelandic fishing boat captain, Sigurdur Petursson, noticed a 650-pound shark swimming through shallow water toward his crew, which was processing fish, releasing a lot of blood into the water. Petursson proceed to wade in, drag the beast out of the sea with his bare hands and killed it with a knife. A local journalist who knows Petursson said the act was typical of the man.

(via FARK, which for some reason didn't say, "Jaws surrenders")





  x

horror toy of the day


A Vlad the Impaler action figure. It comes with a cup of blood and -- if you act now -- its very own severed head. c00L!

Vlad was given the nickname Dracul (dragon or devil), which is, of course, the origin of the handle of Bram Stoker's infamous vampire Dracula.

(via FARK)




  x

new horror review at dam


The other day, I promised to share my thoughts on the superb sorta-zombie flick 28 Days Later. Well, I've just posted my rather lengthy review over at Destroy All Monsters. Go read.




  x

more administration goalpost moving


Paul Krugman's (typically shrill, of course) column in this morning's New York Times catches the Administration in its patterns of unsupported assertions and goalpost moving.
John Snow, the Treasury secretary, told The Times of London on Monday that he expected the U.S. economy to add two million jobs before the next election — that is, almost 200,000 per month. His forecast was higher than those of most independent analysts; nothing in the data suggests that jobs are being created at that rate. (New claims for unemployment insurance are running at slightly less than 400,000 a week, the number that corresponds to zero job growth. If jobs were being created as rapidly as Mr. Snow forecasts, the new claims number would be closer to 300,000.)

Still, Mr. Snow may get lucky, and the job market may pick up. But his prediction was a huge climb-down from administration predictions earlier this year, when the White House insisted that it expected the economy to add more than five million jobs by next November.

And even if Mr. Snow's forecast comes true, that won't vindicate the administration's economic policy. In fact, while private analysts are criticizing Mr. Snow for being overly optimistic, I think the stronger criticism is that he's trying to lower the bar: to define as success a performance that, even if it materializes, should really be considered a dismal failure.

Bear in mind that the payroll employment figure right now is down 2.6 million compared with what it was when George W. Bush took office. So Mr. Snow is predicting that his boss will be the first occupant of the White House since Herbert Hoover to end a term with fewer jobs available than when he started. This is what he calls success?

I'm sure the GOP will point to it as such, but the Administration should be held accountable for both its performance and its promises, especially when the latter was used to sell a policy -- massive tax cuts targeted toward the wealthy -- that Bush really wanted.

And, of course, the question for most Americans come Election Day will be the time-honored "Are you better off than you were four years ago, or not?"




  x

shocking


The New York Times has a shocking and depressing story about the prevalence of gang rape in the slums of Paris. "In many cases, the violence of a band of young men against a girl is considered a rite of sexual initiation to prove one's manhood," said one sociologist.

It just proves that not all the monsters are in films.

Update: Fixed the link. Sorry 'bout that.




  x

jack-o-lantern link of the day


orc pumpkin

A collection of swell pumpkin carving stencils (PDF format), and a gallery of the finished results.

(via Wirehed Magazine)




  x

pickup artist


Static Multimedia has picked up my DVD reviews of the Japanese science fiction/horror film Parasite Eve and the Corey Yuen-directed action flick The Transporter. It's also carrying Musashi's review of 28 Days Later. c00L!

Update: ...and also my review of the PS2 game DOA 2 Hardocore and Initial D and Junji Ito manga.




  x

a sad passing


I pause to acknowledge with sadness the final flight of the Concorde (coverage from AP, Reuters, and CSM). Jaquandor has more reflections on the subject.




  x

horror movie wallpaper of the day


nightmare on elm street wallpaper
Today's wallpaper is a creepy desktop image from Wes Craven's landmark 1984 scarefest A Nightmare on Elm Street. This film adhered to the tradition of having a succession of increasingly L4m3 sequels (and unfortunately marked the debut of the wisecracking killer), it does buck the trend on two notable occasions: the exceptional third installment, Dream Warriors, which marked the return of Nightmare lead actress Heather Langenkamp and Craven as screenwriter, and the 1994 New Nightmare, which took the bold step of casting veteran Nightmare cast Langenkamp, action stalwart John Saxon and Robert Englund--and Craven himself--as themselves (and as Freddy Krueger, in Englund's case) battling a Freddy who threatens to emerge from the mythical reality of the films. New Nightmare is a much more satisfyingly self-referential film than 1996's Scream, and I recommend it highly.

(Courtesy Dreadful Mirrorz; originally posted, coincindentally, 10/24/2002.)




  xThursday, October 23, 2003

new kaiju eiga review at dam


I've just posted my review of the ultra-groovy kaiju eiga (Japanese giant monster) flick X From Outer Space over at Destroy All Monsters.




  x

gop election tactics preview


I've said before that the upcoming gubernatorial election in Kentucky -- which Democratic candidate Ben Chandler has framed as a referendum on President Bush -- will be a telling preview of the 2004 Presidential contest.

It looks like I was more right than I suspected.
Jefferson County Republicans intend to place Election Day challengers at 59 voting precincts in predominantly black neighborhoods, a move that NAACP leaders yesterday called blatant intimidation.

The GOP election workers, most of whom live outside the targeted precincts in western and central Louisville, Portland and Newburg, will be on hand to challenge voters who they suspect aren't eligible.

Jefferson County GOP Chairman Jack Richardson IV said the precincts were chosen at random or because the Republican Party has had trouble finding registered voters in those areas to serve as election workers. The challengers, who will receive the same training as precinct workers, could fill in if needed.

Richardson said the precincts weren't chosen because of their racial makeup or voting patterns. Using challengers is a "legal, proper and permissible" way to ensure that voters are bona fide, he said.

"It is in the best interest of everybody and the responsibility of both parties to protect the ballot integrity," Richardson said. "That is the bottom line."

Kentucky law allows political parties to each place one challenger at any precinct on Election Day to question the credentials of any voter who they have "a reason to believe" isn't legitimate.

Republicans filed a list of the challengers and precincts with the Jefferson County Board of Elections. Democrats have filed no list and say they have no plans to use challengers. [Emphasis added.]

Those challenged must sign an oath swearing they are valid voters. Anyone who refuses won't be allowed to vote unless an election officer decides the challenge is unwarranted, said Walter Cato, a Democrat and one of the four members of the Jefferson County Board of Elections.

Raoul Cunningham, former state NAACP voting-empowerment coordinator, and former state Sen. Georgia Powers called the use of GOP challengers "an assault by voter intimidation and an effort to suppress the African-American community."

Cunningham urged voters in the precincts with challengers to carry identification and to be aware that challengers will be present. Jefferson County's election board policy calls for residents to show picture identification when they sign in to vote.

DEMOCRATS called the Republican challengers an attempt to intimidate black voters in what is expected to be a close race for governor between Ernie Fletcher, a Republican, and Democrat Ben Chandler.

"(They) have only one purpose: to intimidate and suppress votes in the West End and other minority areas," Tim Longmeyer, chairman of the Jefferson County Democratic Party, said during a news conference yesterday attended by County Attorney Irv Maze; Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney David Stengel; and Louisville Metro Council members Cheri Bryant Hamilton and Mary Woolridge.

Bear in mind that these tactics are legal, and they may be more revealing than the GOP would like: Turnout in heavily Democratic Jefferson County would be damaging to Fletcher, and I view the challenge effort as an acknowledgement of the fact. It's absolutely essential that the Democrats focus on get-out-the-vote efforts and work to ensure that legitimate voters can laugh at the Republican challengers.

I wonder if that's the same Tim Longmeyer I went to high school with...

(via Tristero)




  x

horror review site of the day


They're Coming To Get You, Barbara! is a cleverly-named horror movie review site run by two sisters from California.




  x

halloween costume link of the day


halloween costume

One of the reasons I've always loved Halloween is that if one can't get one's significant other to dress as a French maid, a nurse or whatever any other night of the year, on Halloween one stands a chance.




  x

asian celebrity gallery of the day


chiaki kuriyama

chiaki kuriyama

The Internet Movie Database has a gallery of photos of Chiaki Kuriyama, who appeared in Battle Royale and the new Quentin Tarantino flick Kill Bill.

(Cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)




  x

update


The other day, I emailed my Senator urging him to oppose the GOP's latest sleazy tort reform effort. I'm pleased to note that the measure failed on a procedural vote. However, I'm disappointed that Senator Bayh voted with the Republicans on the measure. I plan to make my displeasure known presently.

(via Oliver Willis)




  x

more on bush's news management


The other day I mentioned the Bush Administration's decision to enforce existing restrictions on photographing coffins returning from Iraq.

As Newsweek points out (hat tip: Mark Kleiman), reporters are also no longer permitted unescorted visits to hospitals and morgues to assemble independent casualty figures. (If memory serves me right, the Central Command has ceased a daily tally of non-fatal attacks, and doesn't report the number of wounded, only killed.)

Yes, yes, there may be individually good reasons for each of these developments. But in sum, it places control of information about how many Americans are being killed and wounded in this war squarely in the hands of the Bush Administration, which has made no secret of its desire to stage-manage public perception of the war by means scrupulous or otherwise.

Add it up, and the picture of an Administration desparate to hide the costs of its policies from the American people is unavoidable. There's an unmistakable stench of desperation about these tactics. Perhaps public opinion would not be swayed by those casualties that so many conservatives dismiss as insignificant. Indeed, I'd have imagined that an Administration confident of the righteousness of its cause, and its ability to persuade the public on the merits of its case,

Whatever the case, recent conservative efforts to dismiss the ultimate sacrifice of our troops as insignificant are beneath contempt. They're plenty significant to their families, and those families -- along with the American people -- deserve to know that the sacrifice of their loved ones was made as a result of an open and honest policy. Why does this Administration -- many of whom conspicuously avoided their own opportunity to serve their country -- keep acting as if such were not the case?

Update: Tapped points to this Editor and Publisher piece that indicates the media is actually underreporting casualties by failing to mention the number of wounded, and the severity of thier injuries.
For months, the press has barely mentioned non-fatal casualties or the severity of their wounds.

E&P reported in July that while deaths in combat are often tallied by newspapers, the many non-combat troop deaths in Iraq are virtually ignored. It turns out that newspaper readers have also been shortchanged in getting a sense of the number of troops injured, in and out of battle.

In The New Republic, Kaplan reported on the state of many injured soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. According to Kaplan, modern medicine and rapid response techniques allow many wounded soldiers to survive injuries that would have killed them in previous wars. Many of these wounded soldiers are left with debilitating injury or loss of limb. Newspapers that only track hostile combat deaths fail to capture the human toll of thousands of troops left injured and crippled, he wrote.

"The near-invisibility of the wounded has several sources," Kaplan wrote. "The media has always treated combat deaths as the most reliable measure of battlefield progress, while for its part the administration has been reluctant to divulge the full number of wounded."

The piece also contends that accurate tallies of the wounded are now available from the military, an apparently recent development that confirms my earlier recollection but reflects a changed situation from that time.




  x

a conservative sees the light


I've been remiss in linking to this stunning review of Al Franken's new book by conservative activist Becky Miller

I read the book in one sitting. It is an amazing book, and -- if you're a decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic, true-blue conservative who listens to Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly and watches Fox News -- an earth-shattering book ...

I believe Franken is telling the truth in his book because it meshes perfectly with what I personally have observed. And I think every decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic, true-blue conservative owes it to himself to read it. Hold your nose if you must -- Franken is as foul-mouthed and crass as his reputation would lead you to believe (and quite mistakenly believes Christians love Israel because it is the center of prophecies that include the fiery deaths of all Jews) -- but read it anyway ...

The leaders we conservatives have trusted have taken advantage of our trust to line the pockets of the wealthy and powerful, and it's time we rose up and drove out these greedy liars. They've hijacked and distorted our belief system for their own gain, and in doing so are destroying our credibility.

And if we decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic, true-blue conservatives of this country neglect the duty we have to our children and grandchildren, we will never be able to work with those decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic, true-blue liberal Americans that these lying creeps have taught us to despise. We will never be safe to debate them or, when warranted, to listen to them and maybe even agree with them. We will never be safe to work out our differences or to work together. And we will never be able to build on the all-American sense of unity that burst forth following 9/11, only to disappear shortly thereafter in a cloud of lying, greedy partisan politics.

I'm still a decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic, true-blue conservative. But Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and the rest of you lying liars -- I'm through with you! (Read the book, and you'll get that one, too.)

It's nice to see that there are some principled conservatives willing to hold the more odious elements of the GOP accountable. It's truly shameful how many Republicans are willing to not only give their more venomous colleagues a pass, but take advantage of the lies to gain power. Perhaps some day some of these principled conservatives will look behind them at the lines they crossed so long ago. I just hope that it isn't too late for our country's sake.

(via The Hamster)




  x

two on taxes


I've been meaning to mention Paul Krugman's (typically shrill, of course) Oct. 17 column on Democratic strategy for rescinding Bush's tax cuts.
Almost every expert not on the administration's payroll now sees budget deficits equal to about a quarter of government spending for the next decade, and getting worse after that.

Yet the administration insists that there's no problem, that economic growth will solve everything painlessly. And that puts those who want to stop the looting — which should include anyone who wants this country to avoid a Latin-American-style fiscal crisis, somewhere down the road — in a difficult position. Faced with a what-me-worry president, how do you avoid sounding like a dour party pooper?

One answer is to explain that the administration's tax cuts are, in a fundamental sense, phony, because the government is simply borrowing to make up for the loss of revenue. In 2004, the typical family will pay about $700 less in taxes than it would have without the Bush tax cuts — but meanwhile, the government will run up about $1,500 in debt on that family's behalf.

George W. Bush is like a man who tells you that he's bought you a fancy new TV set for Christmas, but neglects to tell you that he charged it to your credit card, and that while he was at it he also used the card to buy some stuff for himself. Eventually, the bill will come due — and it will be your problem, not his.

Still, those who want to restore fiscal sanity probably need to frame their proposals in a way that neutralizes some of the administration's demagoguery. In particular, they probably shouldn't propose a rollback of all of the Bush tax cuts.

Here's why: while the central thrust of both the 2001 and the 2003 tax cuts was to cut taxes on the wealthy, the bills also included provisions that provided fairly large tax cuts to some — but only some — middle-income families. Chief among these were child tax credits and a "cutout" that reduced the tax rate on some income to 10 percent from 15 percent.

These middle-class tax cuts were designed to create a "sweet spot" that would allow the administration to point to "typical" families that received big tax cuts. If a middle-income family had two or more children 17 or younger, and an income just high enough to take full advantage of the provisions, it did get a significant tax cut. And such families played a big role in selling the overall package.

So if a Democratic candidate proposes a total rollback of the Bush tax cuts, he'll be offering an easy target: administration spokespeople will be able to provide reporters with carefully chosen examples of middle-income families who would lose $1,500 or $2,000 a year from tax-cut repeal. By leaving the child tax credits and the cutout in place while proposing to repeal the rest, contenders will recapture most of the revenue lost because of the tax cuts, while making the job of the administration propagandists that much harder.

A better suggestion comes via Greg Greene (hat tip: Jack O'Toole)
Democrats never win by waging battles for higher taxes. The party needs to stay away giving Bush a chance to raise that prospect, because it makes no sense to fight a campaign on Republican terms. By framing the debate instead around the need to make the tax code fairer, Democrats would create an opportunity to throw President Bush on the defensive, by forcing a conversation about issues — the president's perceived slavishness to friends in the business community, his lackadaisical response to the corporate scandals — that touch on doubts already in the public mind.

Democrats can talk about taxes next year, then — but they shouldn't do it in a fashion that leaves the party wide open to Republican attacks. If the party can pre-empt the hackneyed debate over making taxes low by firing a broadside against the Republicans' failure to make them fairer, the Democrats might rob the GOP of a key advantage in next year's campaign.

Krugman had anticipated this argument:
The other objection is that the tricks used to sell the Bush tax cuts have made an already messy tax system, full of special breaks for particular classes of taxpayers, even messier. Shouldn't we favor a reform that cleans it up?

In principle, the answer is yes. But an ambitious reform plan would be demagogued and portrayed as a tax increase for the middle class. My guess is that we should propose a selective rollback as the first step, with broader reform to follow.

I agree; why not both? And Krugman predicts rightly, I think, that any tax reform will be portrayed by the GOP as a tax increase. I'm all for throwing Bush onto the defensive and forcing him to justify his policies, but given the Bush fiscal crisis, I wouldn't rule out selling a rollback on taxes to the wealthy -- especially if it's sold as paying for the war, which -- and this is the beautiful part -- it would be. Let the Republicans kvetch about acknowledging the costs of the Iraq war, rather than sneak them onto the credit card.

Some drown-the-government-in-a-bathtub types might complain that fixing the deficit with tax increases gives short shrift to the concept of spending cuts. To that I say, yes indeed. The Bush Administration has had three years -- and currently, a Republican Congress -- to propose the spending cuts that could bring the budget into balance. The thing is, it knows that a substantial portion of government spending -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, defense and interest on the debt -- is untouchable (at least, the GOP isn't openly admitting wanting to do away with Social Security or Medicare -- yet). On the other hand, it's also embarked on an extraordinarily costly war that it's trying to pay for with these same tax cuts.

Such fiscal policy is criminally reckless and dishonest. Fraudulent is not too strong a term. The bottom line is, the GOP has its chance to propose the reductions in government it claims to prefer, and Bush refuses to do so. One party needs to wear the mantle of fiscal responsibility, and it's clear that the GOP has no interest in doing so. Personally, I'm proud that the Democrats are the only political party with the guts to make the hard choices and be honest about their agenda.




  x

much obliged


Welcome, visitors from Night of the Lepus! Thanks, Christine, for the nod.




  x

it seems...


You are Agent Smith-
You are Agent Smith, from "The Matrix."
No one would ever want to run into you in a
dark alley. Cold as steel, tough as a rock,
things are your way or the highway.


What Matrix Persona Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

(via A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villany)




  x

hellish humor of the day


Here's a great joke courtesy of Blah3:
While walking down the street one day, George "Dubya" Bush is shot and killed by a disgruntled NRA member. His soul arrives in heaven and he is met by St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. "Welcome to Heaven," says St. Peter. "Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem: We seldom know what to do with a Republicans in these parts, and the same goes for you. "No problem, just let me in; I'm a believer." says Dubya

"I'd like to just let you in, but I have orders from the Man Himself: He says you have to spend one day in Hell and one day in Heaven. Then you must choose where you'll live for eternity."

"But, I've already made up my mind; I want to be in Heaven."

"I'm sorry, but we have our rules." And with that Peter escorts him to an elevator and he goes down, down, down, all the way to Hell The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a lush golf course the sun is shining in a cloudless sky, the temperature perfect 72 degrees.

In the distance is a beautiful clubhouse. Standing in front of it his dad...and thousands of other Republicans who had helped him out over the years... Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Jerry Falwell.... The whole of the "Right" was there...everyone laughing...happy...casually but expensively dressed.

They run to greet him, hug him, and reminisce about the good times they had getting rich at expense of the "suckers and peasants". They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster and caviar.

The Devil himself comes up to Bush with a frosty drink, "Have a Margarita and relax, Dubya!"

"Uh, I can't drink no more, I took a pledge," says Junior, dejectedly.

"This is Hell, son: you can drink and eat all you want and not worry, and it just gets better from there!"

Dubya takes the drink and finds himself liking the Devil, who he thinks is a really very friendly guy who tells funny jokes and pulls hilarious nasty pranks, kind of like a Yale Skull and Bones brother with real horns.

They are having such a great time that, before he realizes it, it's time to go. Everyone gives him a big hug and waves as Bush steps on the elevator and heads upward.

When the elevator door reopens, he is in Heaven again and St. Peter is waiting for him. "Now it's time to visit Heaven," the old man says, opening the gate.

So for 24 hours Bush is made to hang out with a bunch of honest, good-natured people who enjoy each other's company, talk about things other than money, and treat each other decently. Not a nasty prank or frat boy joke among them; no fancy country clubs and, while the food tastes great, it's not caviar or lobster. And these people are all poor, he doesn't see anybody he knows, and he isn't even treated like someone special!

Worst of all, to Dubya, Jesus turns out to be some kind of Jewish hippie with his endless 'peace' and 'do unto others' jive.

"Whoa," he says uncomfortably to himself, "Pat Robertson never prepared me for this!"

The day done, St. Peter returns and says, "Well, then, you've spent a day in Hell and a day in Heaven. Now choose where you want to live for eternity."

With the 'Jeopardy' theme playing softly in the background,Dubya reflects for a minute, then answers: "Well, I would never have thought I'd say this -- I mean, Heaven has been delightful and all but I really think I belong in Hell with my friends.

So Saint Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down,down, all the way to Hell.

The doors of the elevator open and he is in the middle of a barren scorched earth covered with garbage and toxic industrial waste...kind of like Houston. He is horrified to see all of his friends, dressed in rags and chained together, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags. They are groaning and moaning in pain,faces and hands black with grime. The Devil come over to Dubya and puts an arm around his shoulder.

"I don't understand," stammers a shocked Dubya, "Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and a clubhouse and drank and ate caviar... I drank booze. We screwed around and had a great time.

Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and everybody looks miserable.

The Devil looks at him, smiles slyly, and purrs, "Yesterday we were campaigning; today you voted for us."





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zombie link of the day


dawn of the dead

The Zombie Farm is an excellent Web site devoted to George Romero's superb Dawn of the Dead. It's home to information, images, rants, trivia, a look at the Italian band Goblin that provided the music for this and so many other zombie flicks, links, and a host of other minutiae.

While we're at it, here are the official Web pages for DotD special F/X guru, actor and stunt man Tom Savini and Kyra Schon, who played the zombified little girl in the 1968 Night of the Living Dead.

(Image courtesy Contamination)




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permalink update


Say hello to the fun Critiques of Editorials and Random Abstract.




  x

super adhesive of the day


Say hello to nano-Velcro, a super-strong adhesive that binds faster than the strongest glues.

(via FARK)




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horror top 10 of the day


Here's a random link to the Pacific Daily News's Therese P. Howe's picks for the Top 10 Horror Scenes of All Time. Warning: Major spoilers, including a revelation of the climax of The Ring.

(via FARK)

While I'm at it, here's the horror Top 10 I posted to my now-defunct Web site. Be aware that I haven't updated it in more than a year, so the Honorable Mentions could use some refreshing, but at first glance I'd say my top 10 still stands.




  x

more timesome bush apologia


George Will's ludicrous claim that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is "still not a Washingtonian" should render his entire column too ridiculous to read, but he makes a few points worth refuting, even if it's easily done, as they're good examples of the intellectual dishonesty that's endemic among Bush supporters.
...he could have, and may have, produced memos every bit as sobering as his "long, hard slog" memo about Iraq, which surfaced this week and caused much feigned excitement among the very war critics who have hitherto complained that Rumsfeld is incapable of seeing the dark side of things.

It's hard to imagine how one of the subjects of your criticism admitting you were right all along could result in "feigned excitement," but let's leave that aside for now. Will's dishonest sleight-of-hand comes from the inaccurate and misleading characterization of the critics' complaints that "Rumsfeld is incapable of seeing the dark side of things." Many have noted the apparent disconnect between Rumsfeld's Robert MacNamara-like optimism and the evident security situation in Iraq. The revelation that Rumsfeld privately acknowledges the ominous mess we're in hardly refutes his critics' claims; rather, it's confirmation that Rumsfeld's pose of optimisim is indeed as unrealistic and misleading as his critics contend. Josh Marshall sums it up nicely:
There is something oddly refreshing about hearing the Sec Def think out loud rather than seeing him give press conferences in which he remains relentlessly on message --- especially since he’s often pressing messages at odds with what’s actually happening.

What "feigned excitement," George? I'll see your obfuscatory complaint and raise you two Talking Points Memos, pal.
The administration's critics would be more credible if they had a few doubts of their own concerning their own judgments, such as their reiterated insistence that only mendacity can explain the failure, so far, to find weapons of mass destruction.

Of course, Will offers no alternative explanation for an explanation that Occam's Razor certainly wouldn't discredit. (And the "so far" -- as if the search had only begun -- is a cute, if rampantly dishonest, touch.)

Will also falls back on the lame claim that the President never actually used the words "imminent threat." But as even conservative Daniel Drezner agrees, the Administration did indeed claim an imminent threat, if not in so many words. (Drezner has more on the Rumsfeld memo here.) And besides, the notion that Iraq was any threat at all was apparently supported more by the adamant refusal of the Bush Administration to budge from its preconceived notions than any actual intelligence.

While the President was making the completely unconvincing argument that the US should go to war -- and all but unilaterally -- in the face of a "grave and gathering threat," let's not forget that his minions were out making those grandiose and alarmist claims that surely left a different impression.

Moreover, even if Bush never used the word "imminent," his spokesman Ari Fleischer confirmed that concept in no uncertain terms, and to my knowledge was not corrected. David Corn explores the "imminent threat" argument in more detail here, and notes that even Will "has whacked Bush (in print) for not admitting it had overstated the case." Corn sums up:
Bush depicted the threat from a WMD-loaded, Al Qaeda-aiding Hussein as immediate. If what Bush said had been true—that Hussein was sitting on a gigantic arsenal of ready-to-go WMD and was in an operational alliance with Al Qaeda—there would have been a good case for swift action. But the intelligence did not support these key assertions. And if the threat was not imminent, why did Bush refuse to consider investing another five weeks or five months in more intrusive and aggressive inspections?

Will would do better to stay away from this line of argument. As I've said before, if Bush's words turn out to be sorta-kinda true in a technical sense only if you parse them within an inch of their lives -- and ignore all kinds of concurrent statements into the bargain -- it's simply concrete proof that nothing the man says can be trusted.

As I've said, it's good that Rumsfeld is asking the tough questions now, no doubt about it. But the fact that he is only doing so now only underscores the basic dishonesty and incompetence of the Administration's preward stance. And no amount of spin can Will that fact away.

Update: Pandagon has more:
After all, they say, Rumsfeld, the president and Secretary of State Colin Powell repeatedly asserted that Iraq's weapons programs posed an "imminent'' threat.

Which, by linking Saddam Hussein with terrorists, they did. We accept that terrorism is an imminent threat implicitly - by disingenously insinuating that Saddam had anything to do with a terror cell currently planning attacks on the U.S., you do build the case for an imminent threat.

Indeed. The so-called "terrorist connection" was a vital part of the Administration's efforts to pretend that Iraq posed some sort of threat. After all, it was ludicrous to imagine that Iraq itself posed any threat, Bogus-Unmanned-Drones-Of-Mass-Destruction or not. But -- aha! -- Saddam might provide the weapons to terrorists! Notwithstanding that such was pure conjecture. Notwithstanding that what links to terrorism Iraq did have were focused on Israel, not America. Notwithstanding that actual evidence of an al Qaeda connection was conspicuous by its absences. Let's not forget that the Administration persisted in the bogus al Qaeda-connection argument until only very recently, when Bush was forced to acknowledge that it wasn't true.




  x

disturbing


Visiting Australia, outside the protective bubble of his so-called "free-speech" zones, President Bush was actually forced to confront some dissent yesterday. In his speech, he offered a typically dishonest and fencepost-moving justification for his attack on Iraq:
America, Australia and other nations acted in Iraq to remove a grave and gathering danger, instead of wishing and waiting while a tragedy drew closer

...Who can possibly think that the world would be better off with Saddam Hussein still in power?

Once again, we're forced to refute the multifaceted dishonesty of this position.

Bush's "wishing and waiting" statement implies as always that the alternative to invasion was to do nothing. But as Colin Powell confirmed in 2001, the sanctions and previous inspections had successfully ruined Iraq's weapons programs and rendered Saddam's ambitions utterly impotent. Many, including myself, argued that an immediate invasion was not necessary to counter whatever threat Saddam did pose. Others harbored severe doubts that a "grave and gathering" threat was just cause to invade a soverign nation, and rightly pointed out that such a standard becoming universal could well lead to world chaos. But by insisting on no other course, Bush and his administration implied that the threat was much more immediate than the "grave and gathering" line would suggest. And now, the best evidence the Administration can muster confirms that Iraq posed no threat at all.

Bush seems to acknowledge this fact, which is why he retreats to the last refuge of the war debate scoundrel: "Who can possibly think that the world would be better off with Saddam Hussein still in power?"

Well, no one, of course. But Bush certainly didn't bring a humanitarian case to the UN Security Council or the American people -- no, Iraq was portrayed as a threat. Of course Saddam's undignified ejection from power was a Good Thing, but it was not the express rationale for Bush's war fever. Bush and his minions made numerous grandiose and alarmist claims about the so-called threat Iraq allegedly posed; claims that are now revealed to have little basis in fact -- then or now. Shrugging off the collapse of his prewar justifications by pointing to the undeniable good of Saddam's departure is a reprehensible and cowardly attempt to dodge Bush's responsibility for misleading the American people and the world about Iraq's so-called threat.

Besides, there's much to suggest that the Iraq war has reduced, not enhanced, global security. Oncence again, as radical and disturbing as Bush's doctrine of "preventative" invasion was, justifying an unprovoked invasion simply because we don't like a dictator is a sure recipe for chaos and an unbelievable repudiation of the conventions of civilized nations.

Fortunately, as far as this Administration is concerned, its rhetoric and rationale seem to be "one use only," designed to apply specifically to Saddam and no one else -- a precedent set by the infamous Bush v Gore decision and a provision this Administration and its minions seem to use to mask the stench of fraudulent decisions. Bush certainly seems to be in no hurry to bring democracy to other dictatorships, even if the vast military commitments in Iraq didn't leave him with little leeway to do so. But it's also revealing as to the extent to which "regime change" -- simply deposing Saddam -- was and remains Bush's true goal with regard to Iraq, to be achieved through fair means or foul.

Even more disturbing about Bush's remarks was his lame quip when confronted with the dissent that he prefers to ignore at a comfortable distance:
"I love free speech," Bush said to laughter.

Was the laughter at Bush's rather tired little joke, or at the ridiculous notion that he welcomes opposing opinions?

Anyway, whenever Bush says something like that, he reminds me of this guy, who said in Star Wars Episode 2:
I love democracy.

Darth Dubya?




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template tweak


I've slightly altered the template so that only four days of posts appear on the front page. Previously it was seven, but the front was just getting way too long. Of course, now my regular readers (both of you) will have to check in more than once a week. Bwa-ha-haa! It's all a diabolical plot.




  x

horror movie wallpaper of the day


28 days later wallpaper

Today's wallpaper is dedicated to the superb Danny Boyle horror flick 28 Days Later, which I watched last night. I'm saving a full review for the moment, but I can report that my lovely wife and I both enjoyed it. In particular, I enjoyed the way in which Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland lifted notions from a number of science fiction and horror films, from Dawn of the Dead to Day of the Triffids. As several have remarked before, what makes 28DL excellent is not so much its original ideas as that it presents familiar themes in a way that makes them feel new. And crucial to this novel sensation is a group of well-drawn and sympathetic characters. Indeed, the characters are so likable that the film's ending was obviously altered to satisfy test audiences. It's a credit to Boyle that the revised ending manages to be somewhat credible. (Although I had the same thought that Roger Ebert did at the end: "My imagination is just diabolical enough that when that jet fighter appears toward the end, I wish it had appeared, circled back--and opened fire.") As many times as I've seen Night of the Living Dead, such an outcome wouldn't have surprised me at all.

I'll have more to say about the film later. Meanwhile, here are two more cool wallpapers devoted to the film. Here's Roger Ebert's review of the film; he definitely gets it. And here's a review at the just-discovered but way-cool review site Monkeyhouse Lounge.

(Courtesy the 28 Days Later official site)




  xWednesday, October 22, 2003

movie rentals of the week


28 days later

I almost forgot to mention the movies I rented from my local non-Blockbuster video store last night. I've been feeling a little stressed trying to watch all four in a week; unfortunately, it almost goes without saying that I can't take in two in a single evening any more. I've also been neglecting my own collection, on the grounds that I need to return the rentals, after all. The upshot of all this is I only rented two tapes with the two-for-a-buck-and-a-half special, and a third movie on DVD using a free coupon the store gave me last time around.

Interestingly, none of the items I'd hoped to get were available. I had set out to rent Make them Die Slowly, Carrie and the PS2 game Silent Hill 2. No dice. Instead, I chose a zombie-rific selection:

  • The perennial favorite Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn

  • Night of the Creeps

  • plus, with my free rental, the DVD of 28 Days Later, which I have yet to see. w00t!


I also bought a copy of Iron Man Tetsuo the store was selling for a mere 99 cents.

I'm planning on watching the DVD of 28DL tonight. To whet the appetite, here are trailers at Apple.com, a review at Destroy All Monsters, one at Cold Fusion Video Reviews, and another at Monster Hunter.

Update: Magnificent!




  x

gallery of the day


goth girls in hearse

An entire site devoted to photos of goth girls in hearses. Excellent!

(via Geisha asobi blog)




  x

cute halloween costume of the day


Simply adorable!

This year, Cecilia is going to cosplay as Kiki the witch from Kiki's Delivery Service. Naomi is going as a pumpkin. I'll post pictures around Halloween.

(via Byzantium's Schores)




  x

halloween makeup tip of the day


"Dagon the Vampire" offers some excellent advice for creating realistic makeup effects.

(via Geisha asobi blog)




  x

speaking of which...


From the New York Times, we learn that the Bush Administration seems to like the idea of a permanent, extra-legal prison to keep enemies of the state:
The detention facility here for prisoners captured mostly in the Afghanistan war is increasingly taking on a permanent air as the authorities are building a hard-walled traditional prison alongside the corrugated metal units that have housed detainees for nearly two years.

None of the detainees sentenced to prison terms or execution could be taken into the United States to serve their sentences because upon arrival, they would immediately gain new rights and avenues to challenge their detentions. Officials chose Guantánamo as a location where United States constitutional protections would not apply, and two federal courts have agreed that the naval base here is not legally part of the United States.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden says all that needs to be said:
If you think this is nothing to worry about, that it will never affect you or those you love, the nicest thing I can think to say about you is that you are a fool.

It doesn't matter if the people currently in Guantanamo are being trated humanely, or even if the Bush Administration never sends an American citizen to its camp there. No (small-d) democratic government should be trusted with such a legal loophole.




  x

state dep't human rights report excludes u.s.-backed abuses


Holy cats: A report of progress in human rights by the State Department omits abuses sanctioned by the US Government as part of its so-called war on terror, says the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.
An instruction to embassies preparing the 2002 country reports may account for some of the problems in country coverage. “Actions by governments taken at the request of the United States or with the expressed support of the United States should not be included in the report,” explained a cable to embassy staff charged with preparing the reports last year.

Of course, the government can now point to progress in the war on terror and human rights, because the abuses of the latter in relation to the former simply go untallied. Shocking, but sadly, not surprising.

(via Body and Soul)




  x

memo: terror war progress sux0rz


A new memo offers a downbeat assessment of the war on terror:
The United States has no yardstick for measuring progress in the war on terrorism, has not "yet made truly bold moves" in fighting al-Qaeda and other terror groups, and is in for a "long, hard slog" in Iraq and Afghanistan, [according to a recent memo].

Outrageous! What Commie pinko terrorist-lovin' surrender monkey wrote such anti-Administration unpatriotic stuff?!

How about Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld?
Despite upbeat statements by the Bush administration, the memo to Rumsfeld's top staff reveals significant doubts about progress in the struggle against terrorists. Rumsfeld says that "it is not possible" to transform the Pentagon quickly enough to effectively fight the anti-terror war and that a "new institution" might be necessary to do that.

...The memo, which diverges sharply from Rumsfeld's mostly positive public comments, offers one of the most candid and sobering assessments to date of how top administration officials view the 2-year-old war on terrorism. It suggests that significant work remains and raises a number of probing questions but few detailed proposals.

Speaking of progress in the so-called war on terror, how about the fact that daily attacks on US troops in Iraq are increasing?
During a press conference, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez [the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq] said the average of 20 to 25 attacks daily had increased over the last three weeks "to a peak of 35 attacks a day.'' He did not elaborate.

As I've said before, security is everything. If the US can't secure Iraq, our policy there is doomed -- and so, not incidentally, are many of our soldiers that Bush put in harm's way.

(via Talk Left)

Update: Pandagon has it right -- first of all, the memo was evidently not leaked, as some conservative critics (forgetting their indifference to the Valerie Plame leak that actually endangered national security) are claiming. And secondly, the memo quite clearly paints a picture that's drastically different from the happy talk this Administration has been spewing in its PR offensive -- a picture that this Administration would complain about if, say, Time Magazine portrayed it.

To the extent that the memo is encouraging the Pentagon to be self-critical, Rumsfeld's words are laudable. But there's simply no way to read this memo as "let's pretend things aren't going so well." It's about "things really aren't going so well; what can we do to fix it?" Kudos to Rumsfeld for acknowledging that we're in trouble and trying to figure a way out of the mess he and the Administration of which he is a minion got us into, but let's not pretend that this memo is confirmation that everything's just ducky.

And another thing: Now is a lousy time to be wondering if attacking Iraq is leading to the creation of more terrorists than it is deterring, or to raise questions about the lopsided costs of asymmetrical warfare. Those very questions were often raised by skeptics before the Iraq war, and frankly, the blithe dismissals from Rumsfeld and his fellow hawks did little to instill confidence that the grownups were really in charge. Perhaps if Defense had paid a little more attention to the warnings from the State department, Rumsfeld would have been asking himself thse questions six months ago. Of course, once again, it's probable that acknowledging these doubts and potential costs would have quashed the lackluster support Americans showed for Bush's designated policy, and that simply wouldn't do.

It should go without saying that, if they have to figure a way out of the mess now, their actions in getting us into said mess -- a mess Rumsfeld now acknowledges -- are ripe for criticism.

Update 2: And right on cue, The Left Coaster has a point-by-point critique of the Rumsfeld memo. Once again, the thrust is clear: These question should have been asked and answered before embarking on Bush's little adventure in Iraq. And Arthur Silber presciently predicts and refutes the Administration apologists' spin, and notes that Rumsfeld's essential admission is, "We don't know what we're doing."




  x

scary, scary literary post of the day


resident evil typewriter

I'm actually kicking around the idea of participating in National Novel Writing Month, in which participants endeavor to produce "a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30." The project values "enthusiasm and perseverance over talent and craft," so it seems a good fit.

I did a quick calculation. The reviews I write for Destroy All Monsters are generally about 1,200 words long, and producing a 50,000-word novel would break down to 1,666 words a day. So writing the novel would call for a smidge more writing than one review a day, every day.

I haven't made a decision yet, but when I do you'll be sure to hear about it.

In related linkage, here's Writers.com's horror section.

(Resident Evil image courtesy IGN)




  x

more good sense from the times


The Times also gets it regarding a series of unfortunate statements by Lt. General William Boykin, deputy undersecretary of defense and head of Bush's so-called war on terrorism.
General Boykin has made a practice of speaking about his job from the pulpit while wearing his uniform. The Los Angeles Times reported last week that he had told a congregation in Oregon that he was leading a "spiritual battle" against Satan. The only way for the United States, "a Christian nation," to defeat terrorists is to "come against them in the name of Jesus," he said.

This is not a debate about General Boykin's religious views, as his conservative defenders say, or about free speech. The question of what military rule he may have violated — which is what the Pentagon inquiry may seize on — is a distraction.

General Boykin was not exercising the free speech rights of a private citizen. Speaking as he did in uniform the day after he was appointed deputy under secretary was indefensible. Not only did a high-ranking government official make remarks that espoused a single religious view and denigrated others, but he damaged the national security policy of the United States.

President Bush and all other top officials have said often, and rightly, that the United States is not engaged in a religious war. General Boykin, who is said to have asked for the inquiry, should not be undermining that policy, subjecting his country to international embarrassment and providing ammunition for those who portray the war against terror as a war against Islam. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia, who was criticized by Mr. Bush on Monday for making anti-Semitic remarks, tossed the Boykin case back at Mr. Bush yesterday, telling an interviewer that the general has a "biased view of Muslims."

There was more than a whiff of hypocrisy in Mr. Rumsfeld's comments yesterday. The secretary professed to have formed no view on the Boykin matter because he had not heard the general's remarks. But Mr. Rumsfeld did not need a personal hearing earlier this year to chastise the Army chief of staff for differing with him on the war in Iraq, and to question the patriotism of retired generals who critiqued his war strategy on television. Unlike General Boykin, they did not have the backing of conservative Christians, a key constituency for Mr. Bush's re-election.

They get it, all right -- including the bind Bush faces with the choice of doing the inarguably right thing and angering a key core constituency. Bush's actions -- or failure to act -- will be an unmistakable indication of his so-called character.

As Bush defenders are quick to point out when troops stuck in Iraq grumble about the President's failures of leadership, soldiers in uniform do not enjoy the same free speech rights as ordinary citizens. General Boykin is free to beleive whatever he wants. He is not free to make foreign policy -- and counterproductive foreign policy, at that -- by casting the US legitimate self-defense against terrorsm as a holy crusade of Christian versus Muslim infidel. Such foolhardy statements play right into the hands of bin Laden and his ilk.




  x

odious gop 'tort reform'


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

-- The First Amendment to the US Constution; emphasis added


The New York Times has a great editorial about the latest attempt by the GOP to remove a vital check on corporate power.
Under the phony banner of "tort reform," this act is a legislative gift to wealthy special interests. It would make it harder for Americans to win redress in court for corporate violations of state civil rights, health, consumer and environmental protection laws. The act's core provisions would permit big polluters and other companies to delay justice, or even escape justice entirely, by moving most class-action lawsuits from state courts to the overburdened federal courts, which are less familiar with the disputed legal and factual issues. The act would also impose new litigation hurdles and burdens on plaintiffs.

President Bush backs the bill, and the House has passed an even more egregious version, which would be applied retroactively to all pending class-action cases. The central question today is whether the lawmakers with the courage to stand up to this bill can hang onto the votes they need to sustain a filibuster in the Senate.

Much now depends on the willingness of three fence-sitting Democratic senators — Joseph Lieberman and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, and Evan Bayh of Indiana — to join in blocking the misguided assault on Americans' legal rights.

Following is the text of a letter I emailed to Senator Bayh:
Dear Senator Bayh,

I learn from this morning's New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/22/opinion/22WED3.html) that yours is a crucial swing vote to uphold Democratic efforts to block the odious so-called tort reform bill being pushed by the GOP. I quote the Times:

"Under the phony banner of "tort reform," this act is a legislative gift to wealthy special interests. It would make it harder for Americans to win redress in court for corporate violations of state civil rights, health, consumer and environmental protection laws. The act's core provisions would permit big polluters and other companies to delay justice, or even escape justice entirely, by moving most class-action lawsuits from state courts to the overburdened federal courts, which are less familiar with the disputed legal and factual issues. The act would also impose new litigation hurdles and burdens on plaintiffs.

...Much now depends on the willingness of three fence-sitting Democratic senators — Joseph Lieberman and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, and Evan Bayh of Indiana — to join in blocking the misguided assault on Americans' legal rights."

As one of your constituents and an admirer, I am writing to urge you in the strongest terms possible to help our party block this assault on the fundamental right of Americans to seek a redress of grievances. Lawsuits are one of the few remaining checks on unbridled corporate power and one of the few ways ordinary Americans can hold corporations accountable for the harm they sometimes cause. You know as well as I that talk about so-called "greedy trial lawyers" is just a sham to disguise the undermining of a fundamental American right. Opposing this bill is the right thing to do, and I urge you to support your party's efforts to do so.

I will be following your actions on this matter with great interest.

Sincerely,

Gregory Harris

No doubt, isolated cases of legal abuse do occur. However, in general the legal system does work -- frivolous cases get dismissed, and meritorious cases get their day in court. Corporations would prefer that this check on their power be removed by their lackeys in Congress. Shame on any Congressperson who supports this odious assault on the First Amendment right to seek redress of grievances.




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calendar girl


Retro-style artist Paul Tucker has a small set of seasonally themed pinups at his Web site, including a sexy Halloween witch.




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halloween top 10 list of the day


Courtesy David Letterman:

Top Ten Features Of A Really Scary Haunted House

  1. Glow-in-the-dark Yeltsin liver.

  2. Barbra Streisand music is coming from somewhere but you can't tell where.

  3. Ride consists of 12 hours in factory where you sew together Nikes for 8 Cents an hour.

  4. On wall hangs movie poster for "Bicentennial Man 2."

  5. decomposing corpse that just got engaged to Catherine Zeta-Jones.

  6. Pervasive old-man smell.

  7. They make you share a long elevator ride with a really talkative guy you only kind of know.

  8. Step-by-step demonstration of how a chicken becomes a mcnugget.

  9. A room full of mirrors and a naked John Madden.


And the number one feature of a really scary haunted house is...

Funny stuff.




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milestone of the day


Last night at about 9 p.m., thanks to a search engine referral for "fan service," the hit counter reached 47,000.

The increased search engine hits for horror-related topics (not to mention the usual hits for Japanese models and hentai games) continues, making this month one of the more high-traiffic periods this blog has seen. Thanks for visiting, and don't forget that there's lots of Halloween celebration, left-of-center commentary, and general swankiness around!




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halloween wallpaper of the day


the dead hate the living wallpaper

the dead hate the living wallpaper

Today's wallpaper two-fer (I'm using the "End is Here" version) is from the great 1999 low-budget horror flick The Dead Hate The Living. I've mentioned this fun little low-budget flick, directed by genre fan Dave Parker, several times before; it's a zombie movie for zombie movie lovers, and quite a decent flick for all its low budget. Have you checked out the reviews at Cold Fusion Video, House of Horrors (with an interview with the director), and The Bad Movie Report?

(Courtesy Dr. Eibon's TDHTL site at ZombieGirls.net)




  xTuesday, October 21, 2003

horror movies on cable tv linkage


the brain that wouldn't die

I've been remins in noting -- and viewing -- the classic horror movies playing this month on American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies.

October is Monsterfest on AMC, featuring entertaining flicks such as The Brain the Wouldn't Die, Rosemary's Baby and Army of Darkness. Halloween week is chock full of classic monster movies. The site also has a cool feature that sends e-mail reminders when a favorite movie is coming up!

TCM is also playing classic horror flicks in October, including Boris Karloff pictures on Tuesdays. Don't miss the superb original production of The Haunting this Friday, October 24, along with two bonus ghost stories. Here's a cool article at TCM on Hammer horror films.

Box of Monsters has a handy one-stop guide to horror movies playing on AMC and TCM.

(Still from The Brain that Wouldn't Die courtesy HorrorDVDs.com)




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horror portal of the day


Death and Dementia has a fine collection of horror links.




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gallery of the day


elvira

RetroCrush presents its 2003 Halloween Babes Gallery.

The site is also hosting a countdown of the 100 scariest movie scenes of all time, beginning with the chilling climax of The Wicker Man, a horror flick that's as superb -- star Christopher Lee cites it as one of his favorites -- as it is obscure.




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anime game review link of the day


Something awful is still reviewing hentai games, and has a new winner in the sux0rz-the-least category.




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blogroll update


Please welcome principled conservative Daniel Drezner, who recently monitored an online debate as to whether Bush claimed Iraq was an imminent threat.

Also say hello to lefty blogger Fester.

Update: ...and John Scalzi's Whatever.




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quick iraq linkage


Between work and concentrating on Halloween linkage, I haven't been doing much political commentary. But I wanted to take note of just a couple of more items detailing the Bush Administration's impressive record of mendacity, incompetence and failure in Iraq.

Over the weekend, it was revealed that a State Department study warned of the very problems that we're experiencing with the occupation of Iraq.
Beginning in April 2002, the State Department project assembled more than 200 Iraqi lawyers, engineers, business people and other experts into 17 working groups to study topics ranging from creating a new justice system to reorganizing the military to revamping the economy.

Their findings included a much more dire assessment of Iraq's dilapidated electrical and water systems than many Pentagon officials assumed. They warned of a society so brutalized by Saddam Hussein's rule that many Iraqis might react coolly to Americans' notion of quickly rebuilding civil society.

Several officials said that many of the findings in the $5 million study were ignored by Pentagon officials until recently, although the Pentagon said they took the findings into account. The work is now being relied on heavily as occupation forces struggle to impose stability in Iraq.

The working group studying transitional justice was eerily prescient in forecasting the widespread looting in the aftermath of the fall of Mr. Hussein's government, caused in part by thousands of criminals set free from prison, and it recommended force to prevent the chaos.

The Administration, in its studious avoidance of any information that didn't support Bush's coveted war, appears to have ignored the report. (via Daily Kos)

Speaking of which, Seymour Hersh has a must-read article in The New Yorker. It's a devastating indictment of an Administration determined to go to war and willing to grasp any shred if information, valid or not, to support that position.
One finding, the official went on, was that the intelligence reports about Iraq provided by the United Nations inspection teams and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitored Iraq’s nuclear-weapons programs, were far more accurate than the C.I.A. estimates. “Some of the old-timers in the community are appalled by how bad the analysis was,” the official said. “If you look at them side by side, C.I.A. versus United Nations, the U.N. agencies come out ahead across the board.”

...Part of the answer lies in decisions made early in the Bush Administration, before the events of September 11, 2001. In interviews with present and former intelligence officials, I was told that some senior Administration people, soon after coming to power, had bypassed the government’s customary procedures for vetting intelligence.

A retired C.I.A. officer described for me some of the questions that would normally arise in vetting: “Does dramatic information turned up by an overseas spy square with his access, or does it exceed his plausible reach? How does the agent behave? Is he on time for meetings?” The vetting process is especially important when one is dealing with foreign-agent reports—sensitive intelligence that can trigger profound policy decisions. In theory, no request for action should be taken directly to higher authorities—a process known as “stovepiping”—without the information on which it is based having been subjected to rigorous scrutiny.

The point is not that the President and his senior aides were consciously lying. What was taking place was much more systematic—and potentially just as troublesome. Kenneth Pollack, a former National Security Council expert on Iraq, whose book “The Threatening Storm” generally supported the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein, told me that what the Bush people did was “dismantle the existing filtering process that for fifty years had been preventing the policymakers from getting bad information. They created stovepipes to get the information they wanted directly to the top leadership. Their position is that the professional bureaucracy is deliberately and maliciously keeping information from them.

“They always had information to back up their public claims, but it was often very bad information,” Pollack continued. “They were forcing the intelligence community to defend its good information and good analysis so aggressively that the intelligence analysts didn’t have the time or the energy to go after the bad information.”

There's so much more. Read the whole thing. And make no mistake: The blame for the entire situation like foursquare with the Bush Administration, which clearly would accept no intelligence, no matter how suspect, that did not point to war. It's beyond a doubt now that skeptics like myself were right not to trust the Bush Administration, and it's unfathomable how prinicpled supporters of the war could condone the process by which Bush pursued his agenda.

Newsweek reports on the Bush Administration's propaganda offensive aimed at convincing the American people that the steady stream of bodies coming back from Iraq don't mean things aren't going well (via Talking Points Memo).

Speaking of the bodies of fallen American troops, the press will no longer be allowed to photograph them as they return home. While the rules prohibiting such action may have been in place already, their sudden and strict enforcement is nothing but a slimy attempt to hide the corpses of those sacrificed on the altar of the Bush Administration's incompetence from the eyes of the American people. Disgusting.




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superb


Guest-blogging over at Wampum, Dwight Meredith has an absolutely must-read post on what the Democrats must do to defeat Bush in 2004.

Update: Fester opines that we Democrats should be "slightly optimistic and extraordinarily pragmatic."




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too much coffee man


blair drinking coffee

British Primie Minister Tony Blair blamed his recent hospitalization for a heart scare on strong European coffee.

"He is saying that he drank a lot of coffee at the summit," a Blair aide told the newspaper.

"He obviously felt the need for it to keep him going. It is possible that he had too much strong, continental coffee," the aide was quoted as saying.

I can attest that drinking lousy coffee at work makes one appreciate the good stuff, but at least it isn't so weak that a cup of strong coffee will lay me low.

(Post title obviously inspired by this comic)




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comix link of the day


The hypothetical comix debate in 8-Bit Theater has concluded. Stop by to see who wins: Batman or Dr. Doom.




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zombie movie trailer of the day


dotd remake japanese teaser poster

The teaser trailer for the remake of Dawn of the Dead is now online. Although I'm not at all looking forward to this remake of one of my favorite films -- horror or otherwise -- of all time, I must admit that the trailer contained some nice bits. (For example, the images of international zombie chaos being carried on cable news rang true.) Let's just hope that they didn't put everything good in the trailer.

On the other hand, it appears that the film abandons Romero's ominous slowly shuffling zombie concept for the ultra-fast variety. I think this choice is a mistake. One of the things that make Romero's films truly scary is that the zombies are slow and individually not much of a threat, but that they're relentless, deadly in large numbers and they get you anyway. Indeed, some of the best moments in the original Dawn are where characters let their guard down just for a second and suddenly have to tangle at a disadvantage with a single slow-but-determined zombie. Add into the mix the fact that a single bite spells doom, and you have a perfect recipe for terror: a tense situation in which a single mistake can be deadly. Battling waves of super-quick zombies may make for great action in the style of Aliens, but like that superb flick, it loses some of the horror of the original.

(via All Things Zombie; Teaser poster image courtesy Ain't It Cool News)




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horror movie review site of the day


Losman's Lair of Horror presents capsule reviews of a host of horror movies, helpfully broken down into categories.




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bad horror movie of the day


Last night my lovely wife and I watched the 1993 Roger Corman-produced Carnosaur. I'd seen snippets of it on cable, but never enough to make much of an impression, other than a generally low-budget bad dinosaur flick.

Well, I've seen it, and it's bad.

Corman himself made his reputation for his astonishing ability to make a decent flick on a low budget. Sadly, this ability isn't shared by writer/director Adam Simon. One of the key indicators is that this movie clocks in at a modest 83 minutes, and yet by the end of the first hour, my wife and I were already impatient for the flick to be over. My lovely wife lost patience late in the film when the local sherrif tries to hunt down the rampaging dinosaur through the darkened streets of a Nevada town that's shrouded in fog(!?).

I generally enjoy low-budget horror flicks, and so I was willing to cut the film a certain amount of slack for its cheesy effects, such as laughably obvious dinosaur puppets. The film does carry an amusing one-liner reference to Italian zombie movies. Diane Ladd, playing the mad scientist who brings back the dinosaurs, deserves props for playing it low-key, and not ranting and raving as she did in Wild at Heart. The stock footage of poultry processing that plays under the opening credits is also fairly creepy.

But there were elements that were especially disappointing, as they had the potential to be truly effective and disturbing and completely failed. For example, there's a scene in which the rampaging dinosaur attacks a group of environmental activists who have chained themselves to various mining machinery. The climax of the scene is when it lunges for a young woman seated on the ground with her arms chained above her head. The vulnerability of this position is obvious, and there's a definite terror of helplessly watching your doom approach, to say nothing of watching it tear off your leg and eat it. But clumsy editing and obvious continuity errors (such as disappearing blood) drained the sequence of much of its punch.

The film's ending, obviously ripped off from inspired by Night of the Living Dead, also failed to please. It's generally wise if bad movies don't invoke much better films.

Here's Joe Bob Brigg's take on the film, plus reviews at Badmovies.org and Cold Fusion Video Reviews.




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horror wallpaper of the day


rendered horror wallpaper

Today's wallpaper is a spooky image of a skeleton courtesy Funtasimus, a German horror site. The site boasts a bounty of horror goodies, including 88 wallpaper images, sounds, music, Flash animations, animated GIFs and more.

I mentioned the site last year, but it has since moved to a new Web address.




  xMonday, October 20, 2003

halloween costume post of the day


Here's a Web page with easy-to-follow recipes for making homemade creature makeup, fake bruises and stage blood (yes, it's corn syrup-based).

Back in college, I took a stage makeup course as an elective. It was cool; we learned about latex appliances and all kinds of groovy effects. That Halloween, I volunteered to do the makeup at a local haunted house. It was kind of wierd making up very pretty young girls in disfiguring wounds and bruises for the torture chamber, but I was very proud of the realistic work. Alas, the chamber was lit by a red floodlight, so most of the detail was lost.




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zombie goodie of the day


biohazard commercial
As I mentioned in my review last year (!) of the Resident Evil movie, zombie fans were disappointed when horrormeister George Romero's involvement with the project didn't pan out. But you might not know that it wasn't the first time Romero has been involved in a Resident Evil project: he directed a commerical for Japanese TV for the release of sequel Biohazard 2 (known here in the States as Resident Evil 2). Although the commercial was never broadcast Stateside, it is available on the Internet (alternate versions: 1 and 2; AVI version here, but the Resident Evil/zombie fan site hosting it appears to be slow. The site also links to hentai fan art of Resident Evil heroines Jill Valentine and Claire Redfiled). Although it's only 30 seconds, you can see that Romero still knows how to make a zombie picture work.

The actor playing video game cop Leon Kennedy is none other than Brad Renfro.

Here's an interview with Romero on the making of the commercial, and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Resident Evil movie that mentions the producers' dissatisfaction with Romero's script.

(Originally posted 10/4/2002; links updated, as the originals had succumbed (rather appropriately, given the zombie context) to link rot. Beware: Some links in this post are possibly subject to bandwidth limitations.)




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john scalzi explains it all


Blogger John Scalzi has posted and linked a series of juicy rants about why those who venerate the Confederacy are wrong.

Scalzi also comments on the superb Dahlia Lithwick's "no means no" column that I mentioned the other day, and definitely speaks for me when he says:
[W]ere I ever confronted with a situation in which a sex partner* said "no," I would stop. Seductive ambiguity is all very nice, but I think "no" is the ultimate "safe word," and if you don't want me to stop, you very simply should not say no. Call me parochial and square, but I like positive reinforcement with my sexual attempts. You could say it's one of my kinks.

*Obviously this stance applied more in my single days, but I like to think that my positive attitude was instrumental at proving worthy of the affections of my wonderful wife.




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hail to the king, baby


Speaking of Bubba Ho-tep (which I really need to see), here's a cool interview with star Bruce Campbell at RetroCrush.

There's also always plenty of cool stuff at Campbell's own Web site

Update: Here's an interview with Campbell at Ain't It Cool News.




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horror movie reviews of the day


Here's Roger Ebert's take on the new Bruce Campbell flick Bubba Ho-Tep (three stars! w00t!). He also lambastes the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (zero stars, which Ebert reserves for utterly irredemable dreck).




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scariest halloween post of the week


A Halloween-themed Jack Chick tract.

(via FARK)




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happy birthday!


Belated birthday best wishes to CalPundit himself, Kevin Drum.

Update: ...and to famed daredevil and '70s icon Evel Knievel, who turned 65 October 17!




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swank anniversary of the day


Happy 40th birthday to the lava lamp.

I had no idea there was an online lava lamp fanzine.

(via FARK)




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it seems...


'80s geek


(via Brut4c)




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weekend update


It was a pleasant but unfortunately not very restful weekend. It was marked by a couple of pumpkin-rific activities.

Friday we joined our friends the Andersons for a train ride between Knightstown and Carthage, Indiana. It's a pleasant little attraction -- a family-owned train consisting of a diesel switcher engine, a couple of old passenger cars and a caboose. The train runs between the station in Knightstown to an old grain depot in Carthage about five miles away, where refreshments are available. During October, the train stops about halfway at a field where the kids can pick out a pumpkin.

After getting The Girls to bed, my lovely wife and I enjoyed our new DVD of Creepshow. I'd always basically enjoyed the film, although it's been years since I'd seen it. Ther many scary movies and EC horror comics I've consumed in the intervening period made me really appreciate how accurately Stephen King and George A. Romero capture the flavor of the old anthologies. And there's even a cameo by effects wiz Tom Savini.

Saturday we joined my family at the Huber Orchard and Winery and Huber Family Farm and Restaurant in Starlight, Indiana, about an hour and a half south of Indianapolis. They have a lot of seasonal activities there, especially hayrides to the pumpkin fields. After lunch, The Girls, their cousins, and their aunt Katie (who's five) fed the ducks and fish and whatnot. We also picked up a peck of fresh apples from the orchard.

Here's a picture I took of The Girls Sunday afternoon. Cecilia is on the left and Naomi is on the right.

the girls at the pumpkin farm

For the ride home, we decided to take the back roads, rather than the Interstate, and enjoyed the beautiful autumn scenery of rural Indiana.

This morning our four-year-old is going to yet another pumpking farm with her preschool class. I'm sure she'll have a good time.




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(survival) horror wallpaper of the day


biohazard wallpaper
In honor of finishing Resident Evil Code Veronica X last night, today's wallpaper is dedicated to Biohazard, the Japanese name for Resident Evil.

More Resident Evil goodies: Dr. Freex at The Bad Movie Report calls Resident Evil "the bad movie you play." It creates a wonderfully creepy atmosphere by providing a sure-fire forumla for dread: lots of zombies, and little ammo. Dr. Freex sums it up:
Resident Evil is a fairly standard adventure game: find keys, open doors, solve puzzles, try not to die. It's the desperate gunning down of beasties that make you feel like you're immersed in a George Romero movie, angrily cursing every missed shot, because each bullet is precious. Only a soundtrack by Goblin would have improved the overall feel.

Here's Musashi's review of RECVX at Destroy All Monsters, and a review of the GameCube's Resident Evil Zero.

Here's a pinup picture of RECVX's Claire Redfield.

Here's GameSpot's original review of the game, complete with tons of screen shots and multimedia files. Here's GameSpot's history of the Resident Evil series.

And Capcom's official Resident Evil site has a fairly pointless Shockwave game that lets you try out the various weapons in RE: Code Veronica X at a pop-up zombie target.

Unfortunately, Capcom's next Resident Evil game will be exclusive to the Nintendo GameCube.

(courtesy Resident Evil Universe; originally posted 10/4/2002)




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it ends tonight


At last! After a set if three boss fights in a row (the first of which, I learned courtesy GameFaqs.com, you can't possibly win, and must run away from), I've just finished Resident Evil Code Veronica X. In doing so, I unlocked a rather fun Battle Game that lets you run around and shoot zombies against the clock, as well as a lengthy ending animation.

I now plan to get Silent Hill 2; in the meantime, I'll likely dust off my copy of the original Silent Hill for the PSX.





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