Halloween night I took The Girls trick-or-treating. My lovely wife made costumes for both of them. She had made a pumpkin costume for Naomi, but at the last minute she didn't want to wear it. Instead, she wore a cowboy hat and cowboy boots of her sister's.
Today's Internet Movie Database poll asks "Which of these classic horror movies would you be your pick for prime Halloween viewing?" I chose Night of the Living Dead, having already seen Halloween this month. Here are the results as of this time, subject to change of course, along with my comments. Overall, the list suffers from way too much padding with films that are thrillers, not horror movies. It's disappointing that the IMDb succumbed to such confusion.
Halloween – duh! 332 (22.1%) "Duh" is right -- the obvous choice, and a fine motion picture. The Shining 198 (13.2%) The Exorcist 196 (13.1%) Another film that retains the power to scare even on multiple viewings. Alien 110 (7.3%) A horror film in science fiction trappings -- excellent choice. Psycho 94 (6.3%) Night of the Living Dead 89 (5.9%) My personal pick -- a superb and frightening Halloween movie The Silence of the Lambs 65 (4.3%) The Sixth Sense 63 (4.2%) Poltergeist 54 (3.6%) The Omen 45 (3.0%) Dracula 41 (2.7%) What better time to revisit Universal's classics? Rosemary's Baby 36 (2.4%) Frankenstein 30 (2.0%) Carrie 26 (1.7%) I looked for, but couldn't find, this flick at the rental store, in fact Jaws 24 (1.6%) Vertigo 13 (0.9%) Vertigo, while a fine film, is not a horror film at all, but rather a thriller. It would not be on my list. Unfortunately, a trend begins here... The Night of the Hunter 13 (0.9%) By contrast, this superb and underrated flick is a horror film masquerading as a thriller. Blood Simple 12 (0.8%) Again, great movie, but doesn't belong on the list. Invasion of the Body Snatchers 12 (0.8%) A superb science fiction horror film. Watching it recently, I was startled as how effective the film is at generating an atmosphere of fear and paranoia. The Birds 11 (0.7%) Alfred Hitchcok's two overt horror films definitely belong on the list... Rear Window 10 (0.7%) ...but he only made two of them. Rear Window, again, is a superb thriller but by no means a horror film. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 10 (0.7%) Another offbeat but appropriate horror choice. Wait Until Dark 6 (0.4%) Cape Fear 5 (0.3%) Dial M for Murder 2 (0.1%) For pity's sake, this is getting ridiculous... Fatal Attraction 2 (0.1%) What's scary about this film is how morally reprehensible it is. Michael Douglas' character is given a complete pass for his actions, while Glenn Close is turned, in the film's last reel, into a parody of the indestructible killer from slasher films. A stinker, and unworthy of the list. Marathon Man 1 (0.1%) The presence of a good torture scene does not a horror film make.
Once again, this list is pretty lame. It'd be better served by cutting, so to speak, the final five entries altogether, and trimming some of the other non-horror movies as well. There's also nary a Hammer film to be seen, nor such much more obvious choices as The Haunting (the original, natch), A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Evil Dead, or even An American Werewolf in London.
Go pick a real horror movie, and leave your choice in the comments.
Update: In a pleasing development, by the time the poll has concluded, The Exorcist had edged out The Shining. Here are the final top six results:
Halloween – duh! 1196 (21.2%) The Exorcist 749 (13.3%) The Shining 745 (13.2%) Alien 385 (6.8%) Psycho 383 (6.8%) Night of the Living Dead 360 (6.4%)
October continues to be Planet Swank's highest traffic month ever; the hit counter passed 49,000, thanks to more than 5,200 hits this month.
Thanks for visiting, and don't forget that there's lots of Halloween celebration, left-of-center commentary, and general swankiness around! And for all visitors -- especially new ones arriving via search engines -- remember that comments are welcome.
Many of the U.S. firms doing billions of dollars of work in Iraq and Afghanistan have been big donors to President Bush and his Republican Party and fill their boards with political and military heavyweights, a report on Thursday said.
The report by the watchdog group, the Center for Public Integrity, said most of the 70 firms and individuals getting up to $8 billion in contracts for post-war Iraq and Afghanistan donated more to Bush's presidential campaign -- a little over $500,000 -- than any other candidate in the past decade.
"There is a stench of political favoritism and cronyism surrounding the contracting process in both Iraq and Afghanistan," said Charles Lewis, executive director of the group, which investigates public service and ethics issues.
Cronyism is certainly not unheard-of in any Administration, but seems to be endemic of this one. Was this sort of thing what Bush had in mind when he promised to run the nation in his own MBA style?
My copy of the Japanese rock-n-roll zombie flick Wild Zero (Japanese site) arrived today. I took advantage of Naomi's nap time to watch it. It's a massively good-hearted and entertaining film that resembles a mixture of Dawn of the Dead, Rock and Roll High School and Repo Man. I'll have a review at Destroy All Monsters presently. In the meantime, here are reviews at Snowblood Apple and Teleport City.
Today's wallpaper is from the 1979 Lucio Fulci horror picture Zombie, which I picked up for ten bucks at Best Buy last year, but haven't gotten 'round to watching this Halloween season. Still, it's a good combination of gore and chills, and remarkably coherent for a Fulci flick. (Reviews at Teleport City--which hosts reviews of several other gory Italian zombie flicks, as if there were any other kind--Stomp Tokyo, and Badmovies.org .)
We're dealing with a sick child today. Our two-year-old, Naomi, woke up about four in the morning throwing up. We've just returned from the doctor, and she seems to be okay now, just very tired. I'm going to to try to put her down for a nap after lunch, and then I'll attend to things here. In the meantime, peruse the previous postings or check out the fine sites listed at left.
“Honestly, it’s a little tougher than I thought it was going to be,” Lott said. In a sign of frustration, he offered an unorthodox military solution: “If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens. You’re dealing with insane suicide bombers who are killing our people, and we need to be very aggressive in taking them out.” [Emphasis added.]
I'm sure glad the grown-ups are in charge. Sheesh.
It's time to play "what loony lefty Commie terrorist-lovin' hater of Democracy said the following?":
Trying to eliminate Saddam...would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible.... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq....there was no viable "exit strategy" we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.
Why, none other than George Bush senior, in his memoir A World Transformed. I might add that, if memory serves me right, arguments of this sort were also made by then-General Colin Powell in justifying what I now view as a correct decision not to invade Baghdad.
The extraordinary risks and inevitable costs of invading Iraq were well known. Justifying the invasion required an extraordinary rationale -- indeed, a truly imminent threat. "It seemed like a good idea at the time" doesn't come close to overcoming this very rational -- and now, self-evidently correct -- objection. Bush and the rest of the war hawks never got close to answering this objection. The best they could do was "cakewalk," remember?
Jaquandor also reminds me of a story I'd intended to link to earlier: A discovery that may help explain the disapperances of ships in apparently calm seas. It seems giant bubbles of methane gas collect on the ocean floor, where they're solidified due to the low temperature and high pressure. If they break away, they revert to a massive bubble of gas that could swamp any ship directly over the spot where they erupt.
I've long suspected that the only place we're likely to see footage of Bush's infamous carrier visit will be in Democratic campagin ads pointing out what a miserable failure his Iraq policy has become. Now Bush himself seems to confirm that speculation. During his press conference yesterday, before I tuned in, Bush tried to disavow responsibility for the "Mission Accomplished" banner:
The "Mission Accomplished" sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed some how to some ingenious advance man from my staff -- they weren't that ingenious, by the way.
Of course, of course, Bush's apologists will note that, once again, his statement was probably technically true, while ignoring that it's substantively misleading. It's likely that the sailors did physically put the sign up. But who was responsible? As the New York Times reported in May:
Media strategists noted afterward that Mr. Sforza and his aides had choreographed every aspect of the event, even down to the members of the Lincoln crew arrayed in coordinated shirt colors over Mr. Bush's right shoulder and the "Mission Accomplished" banner placed to perfectly capture the president and the celebratory two words in a single shot.
"Today was another banner day in George Bush's quest to bring honor and integrity to the White House," Lieberman said. "If he wanted to prove he has trouble leveling with the American people, mission accomplished."
This particular episode has to be one of the most pathetic examples of slimy weaseling away from responsibility of any president in recent memory. Yo, conservatives, aren't you proud of your boy?
Update: According to CNN, the Navy asked for it, but the White House made it. The story also points out that Bush's spin began "after being asked whether his speech declaring an end to major combat in Iraq under the "Mission Accomplished" banner was premature, given that U.S. casualties in Iraq since then have surpassed those before it." That's an important fact to keep in mind.
Update 2: Tristero notes something even more deplorable:
Despite being reminded by the reporter that over 1000 US soldiers had been wounded, that many were amputees and that 217 had been killed in action since “Mission Accomplished”, Bush utters not a word, not a single word, of sympathy or condolence for the American casualties, let alone innocent Iraqis. Not even in passing does he mention “the brave sacrifices of our soliders.”
It probably wasn't on the 3x5 cards his handlers prepared.
This morning's New York Times contains a perceptive analysis of the public perception problem that prompted Bush to hold his underperforming press conference yesterday, despite his obvious distate for them. The problem is that he must maintain public support for our presence in Iraq, or an even worse international debacle is inevitable. But by doing so, he perpetuates the nasty situation his incompetence created, and focuses public opinion on the high cost in lives and treasure of his miserable failure in foreign policy, and also the deception with which he drummed up support for his march to war. Bush's flat refusal to entertain a question about troop levels in Iraq a year hence is a clear indication of this conflict.
The decision reflects how urgent it is for the White House to keep public opinion about Iraq from deteriorating to the point that it could limit the president's policy choices and threaten his chances for re-election.
With Election Day just over a year away, Mr. Bush will come under increasing pressure to start showing results in Iraq and bringing troops home. But, faced with an evolving threat that will require military flexibility, he also may be counting on an electorate patient enough to deal with what Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld now calls a "long, hard slog" in Iraq and Afghanistan.
...And despite his efforts to remain above the partisan fray [Ed: Baloney!], he will inevitably have to begin responding to the increasingly unified Democratic attacks on his handling of postwar Iraq.
...Mr. Bush, who returned on Friday from a grueling weeklong trip through Asia, seemed tired throughout the 48-minute question and answer session in the Rose Garden, and his responses often sounded more dutiful than passionate. He stumbled over his lines at times, and his usual good-natured jousting with reporters occasionally turned snippy.
Despite his longstanding attempts to cast his foreign policy as conducted without regard to polls or domestic politics, he was drawn into rare comments about the electoral implications of a drawn-out conflict in Iraq.
Mr. Bush said he expected the American people to be patient because they were "able to differentiate between politics and reality," suggesting that he would cast criticism of his leadership as partisan and unfounded.
On Monday, Mr. Bush suggested that the latest violence in Iraq was a sign of progress, saying that "the more successful we are on the ground, the more these killers will react."
That formulation left even some Republicans wincing, and he recalibrated it on Tuesday, saying terrorists "are targeting the very success and freedom we're providing to the Iraqi people."
But the president made it clear that he saw his strategy as slowly but surely proving successful, and said he was looking forward to defending it "right in the mix" of election-year politics.
"I'll say that the world is more peaceful and more free under my leadership, and America is more secure," Mr. Bush said, describing how he will run on his record. "That will be how I'll begin describing our foreign policy."
[T]he attacks intensified the officials' determination to pursue the two-part "Iraqification" approach they have emphasized since midsummer: Rely increasingly on Iraqi police and soldiers to provide security; and move U.S. troops more to the background, where they can be poised to conduct raids and other concentrated attacks on resistance fighters.
"The strategy remains the same," President Bush told reporters yesterday.
What the president did not say is that this is really the only approach open to the U.S.-led coalition right now. The two major alternatives to this plan essentially have been considered and rejected.
One would be to deploy thousands of U.S. troops on top of the 130,000 already there. But there really are not many available, because most active-duty divisions in the Army have completed tours of combat duty in Afghanistan or Iraq over the past two years.
The other would be to persuade more foreign nations to contribute forces, but few have been willing to send more than a token contribution. The big battalions of Pakistani or Moroccan troops that could ease pressure on U.S. forces by taking up some guard duty work, or by conducting patrols with troops who can speak Arabic with locals, have not been forthcoming.
That means the U.S. exit strategy rests squarely on getting Iraqis to provide security.
Having a single card to play is an unenviable strategic situation. (It's also perhaps useful to recall that a similar policy implemented to serve a Republican President's short-term political benefit didn't enhance the US's long-term strategic interests in Vietnam.) And it's a direct result of Bush's unilateralist strategy. He insisted on going to war alone, and now he's reaping the results of that decision.
The irony of the situation is, Bush and his minions could have -- and should have -- prepared the American people for a "long, hard slog" in Iraq before hostilities commenced. To do so, however, they would have had to abandon their talk of a "cakewalk" and been much more honest about their decision making process.
Not only would such a stance have been completely contrary to Bush's preferred disingenuous mode, but it would also have ensured the public would have never supported Bush's coveted war. Bush and his minions knew that well. It speaks volumes that although there were legitimate rationales that supported the war -- and BushCo even voiced them from time to time -- the overall thrust of the sales pitch was a patently dishonest combination of exaggerating the Iraqi threat and de-emphasizing the cost in American lives and treasure.
That's just the way Bush works. When you boil it down, he knows his policies -- as implements, not as advertised -- aren't at all popular with the American people, so he has no choice but deception to gain support. Now we're stuck in Iraq, and have little choice but to reduce the damage Bush and Company have done there and domenstically. But a real cure will not come as long as Bush occupies the White House.
As the costs of Iraq -- and the rest of Bush's flawed policies -- become clear, the deceptiveness with which they were sold will become a factor in the American people's rejection of them, and hopefully their author as well.
I chose Night of the Living Dead (1968), and found myself in the solid majority. The results (subject to change), and my comments, are below.
Night of the Living Dead 306 (23.0%) Two words: Of course! 28 Days Later 253 (19.0%) A decent flick, but I think it's prominent more from being recent than scarier than anything else. Michael Jackson's Thriller video 148 (11.1%) Yeah, Jacko's pretty scary. Actually a very entertaining video. The Evil Dead 129 (9.7%) Good choice -- definitely the scariest of the three. Pet Sematary 110 (8.3%) Dawn of the Dead 96 (7.2%) I'd have ranked this classic much higher. Other 79 (5.9%) Plan Nine From Outer Space 34 (2.6%) Scary only in how utterly Wood failed to make a good movie. The Fog 31 (2.3%) It's been ages since I've seen it, but The Fog is a nice, underrated little thriller Army of Darkness 27 (2.0%) What is this doing ranked scarier than Evil Dead 2? It's a great movie, but focuses much more on comedy than horror. Prince of Darkness 26 (2.0%) Good choice -- I love this film. Evil Dead 2 21 (1.6%) Scarier than Army of Darkness, not so much as ED1. The perfect mix of comedy and horror. Dead Alive 16 (1.2%) Another perfect mix of comedy and horror, but leaning more toward comedy than ED2. House of 1,000 Corpses 15 (1.1%) Never seen it, don't care. Carnival of Souls 13 (1.0%) Oh yeah! A totally creepy experience. But not the scariest ever, sorry. Re-Animator 12 (0.9%) Very entertaining; I don't know about scary, though. Night of the Comet 7 (0.5%) I haven't seen this one sicne the days of watching "Fright Night" on TV as a boy. I've been looking for it, though. I Walked With a Zombie 6 (0.5%) C.H.U.D. 4 (0.3%)
I would have at least added Lucio Fulci's The Beyond and Zombie to the list; they're probably why "Other" ranks so high.
Back in May, I kvetched about a lousy idea of the Disney company: Disposable DVDs that become useless after two days. The idea, it seems, was to provide something akin to rentals without the onus of having to return them. Of course, not only does creating yet another nonbiodegradable disposable product seem like a Bad Idea , but returning rentals provide another opportunity to rent, so they'd represent a wasted business opportunity.
Well, according to Wired, I'm not the only one who thinks the disposable DVDs are a bad idea -- they aren't exactly flying off the shelves.
a survey of stores that sell the new product reveals that the EZ-Ds are not appealing to many customers.
"They haven't sold very well yet," said Tom Mullen, the store manager for Cub Foods in Peoria, Illinois. "We've got them up front in a prime location right by the check-out lanes."
In more than one month's time, the store has sold around 15 to 20 of the EZ-Ds, he said.
"I think the biggest reason is the price. It's a tad bit too high," he said.
Cub Foods sells the EZ-Ds for $7 and offers about 10 titles, including Sweet Home Alabama, The Hot Chick and Shanghai Knights.
"Too expensive," said Tom Tow, who manages the Cub Foods 40 miles away in Bloomington. "That's the most echoed comment I've heard."
Customers aren't interested in paying more than $6 for a limited-play DVD when they can pay $2 at the video store. Even with a $2 late fee, it's cheaper than buying a disposable DVD, Tow said.
"I don't think they like the idea that it self-destructs in 48 hours," he said. "I think a lot of them are worried about the quality of the DVD for that price. Seeing as how it self-destructs, can it really be that good?"
Tow said the cardboard display is still full of EZ-Ds, and that less than an eighth of the movies in stock have been sold.
In a hilarious comment, the manager of a Winn-Dixie store said he hadn't sold one, although a few had been shoplifted. Of course, one the malefactor opens the case, the DVD's information starts to vaporize, and he or she is left with a useless hunk of plastic.
I also learn that the discs are apparently recyclable, for what that's worth. But if the target market is a group that is perceived as being unmotivated to return rentals, I strongly doubt that they'd be conscientious about recycling.
Today's horror wallpaper shows zombies roaming a shopping mall in a scene from 1978's Dawn of the Dead, George A. Romero's superlative sequel to the 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead. A deft blend of horror, comedy, gore (supplied my special effects master Tom Savini, who also makes a couple of cameo appearances) and social commentary, Dawn surpasses its excellent predecessor and stands as perhaps the definitive zombie movie. Indeed, its success in Europe spawned the legion of Italian zombie movies we know and love. Dawn was released in Italy as Zombi; prompting Lucio Fulci's 1979 not-exactly sequel to be released as Zombi 2, arriving in the US called simply Zombie. As the guys from Teleport City point out, the situation is reminiscent of the whole Big Boss/Chinese Connection/Fist of Fury naming debacle that affected Bruce Lee movies.
"We are doing everything in our power to see that the scapegoat is found and held accountable," President Bush said. "We will not stop until he—or she—is located. Believe me, nobody wants to see the blame placed squarely on the shoulders of a single person, and photos of that individual in every newspaper in the country, more than I do."
As the White House's search for the scapegoat continues, the Justice Department's investigative team is also working around the clock to find the ostensibly guilty party.
"We're doing everything we can," Attorney General John Ashcroft said. "I have assured the president that I will let him know the second we find either the leak or a decent scapegoat. It will happen. He's out there somewhere."
Bush has ordered his staff to cooperate fully with the Justice Department's investigation, which has already included interviews with dozens of White House officials.
"The team is hard at work, but the process of finding the perfect scapegoat is very time-consuming," Bush said. "While we can assume that this person will not be a member of my senior staff, we have few other concrete ideas about his identity. Why, the scapegoat may turn out to be someone who knew absolutely nothing about the leak. You can see how difficult the job is."
During his press conference today, Bush certainly chose the path of stonewalling vice disclosure. No surprises there.
CalPundit points to a great graph illustrating the insane imbalance of CEO compensation expressed as a proportion of profits. Not surprisingly, the line goes up, up, up after 1995 or so. Kevin Drum comments:
As the chart shows, during the 80s CEO pay nearly doubled for a given level of corporate profitability, and during the 90s it increased again almost 4x. Overall, a CEO who generates $10 million in net profits today is paid about 7x what a CEO who generated exactly the same amount was paid in 1980.
Why? Because they can. When you cut through all the BS, there's not much more to it than that.
Kevin Drum also points to Political Aims' firsthand account of the sheer lunacy of the so-called 'No Child Left Behind" act. The more information one hears about this law, the most charitable interpretation is that it's so poorly enacted as to be doomed to failure. The tinfoil hat version, of course, is that it was a deliberate attempt by Republicans to scuttle public education. Stories like Amy Sullivan's truly make one wonder which version is true. (Of course, with the Bush Administration, there's no call not to consider both incompetence and bad faith as its modus operandi.)
I tuned in via Internet radio about halfway through. Jeez, he's babbling about schools in Iraq. "I think the people of Iraq appreciate what it taking place inside the country."
And he just claimed that military action was a "last resort," citing "innumerable" Security Council resolutions -- not noting that the US never called a vote on the one actually authorizing force in the face of its certain defeat -- and saying that the US was "reluctant" to use force. All while failing to answer the reporter's question, of course.
He was just asked if he would promise to draw down the number of troops in Iraq within a year, and called it a "trick question" and refused to answer it. Of course; it isn't yet a year to Election Day.
Jeez, and he called Condi Rice an "unsticker."
Now he's being asked why he won't ask his staff who blew Valerie Plame's cover, and passed the buck to the Justice Department -- once again, while failing to answer the reporter's question.
He just said -- yes! -- "We must never forget the lessons of September 11." He also explicitly called Iraq a front on the war on terror. And he seemed to predict that terrorists would strike in America again.
He appears to be calling on reporters from a predetermined list, but I am listening to the audio feed and can't confirm.
He just said "I will defend my record at the appropriate time. Look forward to it." So do I, pal.
He also claimed that the world is more peaceful and more free under his tenure. A pity the same can't be said for the nation he leads.
Asked about Saddam's weapons -- actual weapons -- Bush fell back on "programs," "material breach of 1441," and "he was a gathering danger, and the world is safer as a result of us removing him from power." He's also confirming that the intelligence he used was the same used by his predecesor -- i.e., old, and yet still calling it "good solid intelligence." He called his invasion "the right thing to do," and is throwing around terms like "causus belli" and "material breach." In short, an incoherent rehash of the same goalpost-moving talking posts, and a thoroughly unimpressive performance. It completely escapes me what Bush's admirers see in this man, save for the possible notion that his stumbling performance reassures voters that he's "just folks" (news flash: he's President, and being professional is his job). Now I'm just waiting for Bush's syncophants to start jabbering about how he got it "exactly right."
It is important for me to protect national security. You're talking about the presidential daily brief.
It's important for the writers of the presidential daily brief to feel comfortable that the documents will never be politicized and/or unnecessarily exposed for public purview.
And so, therefore, kind of, the first statements out of this administration were very protective of the presidential prerogatives of the past and to protect the right for other presidents -- future presidents to have a good presidential daily brief.
Now having said that, I am -- we want to work with Chairman Kean and Vice Chairman Hamilton, and I believe we can reach a proper accord to protect the integrity of the daily brief process and at the same time allow them a chance to take a look and see what was in the certain daily briefs that they would like to see.
...I think they will be mindful of the need to gather evidence and at the same time protect the capacity for presidents to get unfettered, real, good intelligence.
That last point is laughable. We're already seen that Bush had no intention on relying on "real, good intelligence" when it didn't support his war. And even the best intelligence depends on the competence of the Administration it's provided to; it's a matter of record that, when warned of al Qaeda plans to hijack American aircraft, Bush did nothing.
In their march to Baghdad on April 8, U.S. Marines charged past a row of eucalyptus trees that lined the boneyard of Iraq's thwarted nuclear dream. Sixty acres of warehouses behind the tree line, held under United Nations seal at Ash Shaykhili, stored machine tools, consoles and instruments from the nuclear weapons program cut short by the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Thirty miles to the north and west, Army troops were rolling through the precincts of the Nasr munitions plant. Inside, stacked in oblong wooden crates, were thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes.
That equipment, and Iraq's effort to buy more of it overseas, were central to the Bush administration's charge that President Saddam Hussein had resumed long-dormant efforts to build a nuclear weapon. The lead combat units had more urgent priorities that day, but they were not alone in passing the stockpiles by. Participants in the subsequent hunt for illegal arms said months elapsed without a visit to Nasr and many other sites of activity that President Bush had called "a grave and gathering danger."
According to records made available to The Washington Post and interviews with arms investigators from the United States, Britain and Australia, it did not require a comprehensive survey to find the central assertions of the Bush administration's prewar nuclear case to be insubstantial or untrue. Although Hussein did not relinquish his nuclear ambitions or technical records, investigators said, it is now clear he had no active program to build a weapon, produce its key materials or obtain the technology he needed for either.
Among the closely held internal judgments of the Iraq Survey Group, overseen by David Kay as special representative of CIA Director George J. Tenet, are that Iraq's nuclear weapons scientists did no significant arms-related work after 1991, that facilities with suspicious new construction proved benign, and that equipment of potential use to a nuclear program remained under seal or in civilian industrial use.
Most notably, investigators have judged the aluminum tubes to be "innocuous," according to Australian Brig. Gen. Stephen D. Meekin, who commands the Joint Captured Enemy Materiel Exploitation Center, the largest of a half-dozen units that report to Kay. That finding is pivotal, because the Bush administration built its case on the proposition that Iraq aimed to use those tubes as centrifuge rotors to enrich uranium for the core of a nuclear warhead.
Let's face it: whatever chemical or biological weapons Saddam may have had were no threat to the United States, now or in the future. But the Bomb -- now there's a threat no reasonable person could ignore, and would frighten the bejeezus out of many. Unfortunately, the Administration's intelligence services strongly doubted the existence of said threat, leading the Administration on a wild goose chase for unverified but tantalizing scraps of information in order to sell the invasion they'd determined to launch
The constant invocation of a nuclear threat from Iraq -- a threat this Administration's to bolster a case its own intelligence services were telling it wasn't true -- is unforgivable.
Columnist Richard Cohen lays blame for deception at Dick Cheney's feet But I see no reason to give Bush a pass on this issue. Frankly, I'm sick of the "he-was-out-of-the-loop" excuse waved so often by the same crowd that touts the inhenrent superiority of a corporate CEO-style president. Superior at ducking responsibility, maybe. But in this case, Bush piled on plenty of prevarication himself in the 2003 State of the Union. Recall that the now-debunked "16 words" were only part of a paragraph planned to push the ominous notion of a nuclear-armed Iraq, and were followed immediately by a reference to -- yes! -- the bogus aluminum tubes.
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.
Now, Bush apologists will be quick to point out that these statements are only "lies" in terms of being functionally misleading. Parsed individually, they can be viewed as "true" (and anyway, we can't prove that Bush knew he was lying, and yadda yadda yadda). There are the usual disclaimers about the reference to the British, and Africa, about the uranium angle that the Administration knew was false. The statement about the aluminum tubes can be read as attributing their "suitability" -- a suitability no one not intent on selling the war believed in -- to intelligence and not Bush himself. And the fact that Saddam abandoned his nuclear program in 1991 makes the "confirmed in the 1990s" statement technically true as well, even though that inasmuch as it is true it refers to a program abandoned for a decade, instead of the more sinister possibile interpreation of "active as recently as 1999." Hey, it's not Bush's fault if you didn't get that right, hmm?
But it's undeniable that this statement, among others, was intended to, and did indeed, present a distorted picture of the "threat" Saddam posed. If anyone came away believing that Saddam posed any nuclear threat at all, they were misled by an Administration that had reason to know better.
Worse, the costs of the policy Bush sold with this mendacity -- an increasingly a perilous situation in Iraq, increased terrorism, a huge price tag and a constant stream of bodies that Bush doesn't want the public to see -- are now all too apparent. Bush fully deserves responsibility for this dishonest and costly policy, among his many others. His mendacity and incompetence on Iraq alone disqualifies him from deserving re-election.
As I mentioned yesterday, I've identified a clear pattern in the miserable failure that is the administration of George Bush: They've clearly calculated that stonewalling is less politically costly than disclosure.
That fact alone ought to speak volumes about the Bush Administration's malfeasance, cynicism, and contempt for the "honor and integrity" promise that it rode to office. Given the willingness of its hardcore supporters to take cognitive dissonance to unprecedented levels -- as long as there's no "proof" -- the choice is probably rational, if reprehensible.
The chairman, Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, also said in an interview on Friday that he believed the bipartisan 10-member commission would soon be forced to issue subpoenas to other executive branch agencies because of continuing delays by the Bush administration in providing documents and other evidence needed by the panel.
"Any document that has to do with this investigation cannot be beyond our reach," Mr. Kean said on Friday in his first explicit public warning to the White House that it risked a subpoena and a politically damaging courtroom showdown with the commission over access to the documents, including Oval Office intelligence reports that reached President Bush's desk in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks.
"I will not stand for it,"
...Mr. Kean suggested that he understood the concerns of the White House about the sensitivity of the documents at issue, saying that they were the sort of Oval Office intelligence reports that were so sensitive and highly classified that they had never been provided to Congress or to other outside investigators.
"These are documents that only two or three people would normally have access to," he said. "To make those available to an outside group is something that no other president has done in our history.
"But I've argued very strongly with the White House that we are unique, that we are not the Congress, that these arguments about presidential privilege do not apply in the case of our commission," he said.
"Anything that has to do with 9/11, we have to see it — anything. There are a lot of theories about 9/11, and as long as there is any document out there that bears on any of those theories, we're going to leave questions unanswered. And we cannot leave questions unanswered."
While Mr. Kean said he was barred by an agreement with the White House from describing the Oval Office documents at issue in any detail — he said the White House was "quite nervous" about any public hint at their contents — other commission officials said they included the detailed daily intelligence reports that were provided to Mr. Bush in the weeks leading up to Sept. 11. The reports are known within the White House as the Presidential Daily Briefing.
Bush's manifest reulctance to cooperate with the commission should be a source of outrage to both the left and the right, as indeed his unmistakable aversion to creating the darn thing in the first place should have been. There's little possible conclusion other than that Bush doesn't want the particulars of his unblemished pre-9/11 record of ignoring the terrorist threat examined.
Of course, whenever criticism of Bush arises, you can count on Bush (or one of his cronies) to make an unsupported assertion, and he certainly didn't disappoint.
President Bush said Monday his staff is cooperating with an independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, but he stopped short of saying whether the White House would hand over top-level papers that may be subpoenaed.
"Those are very sensitive documents," Bush said, adding that White House counsel Alberto Gonzales was working with Thomas Kean, chairman of the commission, on this issue.
...The president's comments were underscored later by White House press secretary Scott McClellan, who also stopped short of saying the White House will turn over certain papers, such as transcripts of the president's daily terrorism briefings.
"There's a lot of ways to provide information to the commission," McClellan said. "And we will continue working with them in a cooperative way to make sure that they have the information they need to complete their work and meet the deadline that Congress created."
Of course, an unsupported assertion is only as good as the credibility of the speaker. The irony of this limited disclosure by an Administration that faulted the same from Saddam Hussein is overwhelming. And yes, I'm saying that Bush has hardly more credibility than Saddam in this instance, thank you very much. The evidence suggests that Bush, like Saddam, is being far from forthcoming.
It's also unmistakable that the Administration is banking on one of two outcomes -- both caclulated to benefit Bush politically, at the expense of the nation's security. Either the commission releases an incomplete report in May, or it gets a deadline extension to after the November 2004 Presidential election.
Bush supporters seem postively eager to swallow feces and proclaim it fudge, but Bush's long track record of prevarication points to the inescapable conclusion that he longer deserves the benefit of the doubt. Bush has no credibility nor claim to honor or integrity.
The records are there, and Bush doesn't want us -- the American people -- to see them. They can use the tattered fig leaf of "sensitive documents" vital to "national security" all they like -- more "fudge" for the Bush apologists -- but the fact remains. As I'm sure Attorney General John Ashcroft would agree, if they have nothing to hide, they should have nothing to fear. Well, then.
Update: MisLeader has more, including a tantalizing promise of a report "detailing a full chronology of the Bush Administration's extended pattern of secrecy." I can hardly wait!
...visitors from The Sideshow. The Night of the Living Dead wallpaper is here; the Bush Dishonesty Watch is here, and there's lots more Halloween wallpaper, citations of Bush mendacity and/or incompetence, horror linkage and general swankiness both here and in the archives, so enjoy! And, of course, comments are always welcome.
Last night my lovely wife and I watched the import VCD I bought before Ringu's Stateside DVD release. It's a splendidly creepy film that manages to frighten without ever resorting to gore. There's no blood at all in the film, but some highly distrubing images of death, madness and terror. And all Nakata Hideo. and screenwriter Takahashi Hiroshi needed to create this chilling atmosphere was a good script, fine acting, and creative camerawork. There's hardly any special effects at all, but they're all the more effective in their restrained use. The audience's imagination does most of the work, and the resulting sense of dread is even more delicious. American horror filmmakers would do well to learn from Nakata's example.
am exhibit designer for the Detroit Science Center. We lucky enough to have KUKA Robotics donate a robot and some training to our center. Last year my co-worker Andy and I decided to have some fun with the thing.
We have made some changes to the system, but we are hoping to have it up and running again by our “Spooky Sunday” event on 10/26. Last Halloween we could only run the robot at about 30% because it would tear itself out of the floor. Consequently it took about 6 minutes to carve a pumpkin. This year I hope it will make it in under 2.
As each piece is completed, the robot spears it in the center, then wipes it off by passing the saw through a fork located above the orange bucket.
The article is hosted by ExtremePumpkins.com, an hitherto unknown but way-cool site devoted to the Zen of carving jack-o-lanterns. It includes a recipe for one of my favorite Halloween treats, baked pumpkin seeds.
The increased search engine hits for horror-related topics continues, bringing in the largest amount of traffic this blog has ever seen. Thanks for visiting, and don't forget that there's lots of Halloween celebration, left-of-center commentary, and general swankiness around!
And for all visitors -- especially new ones arriving via search engines -- remember that comments are welcome.
It's easy enough to understand the reasoning if you look at past White House actions. Earlier this year, the White House revised pages on its website claiming that "combat" was over in Iraq, changing them to say "major combat."
One of the reasons some alert readers noticed the change — and were able to prove it — was that Google had archived the pages before the change occurred. Now that all of the White House pages about Iraq are no longer archived by Google, such historical revisionism will be harder to catch.
Most citizens, of course, are not likely to notice the changes at all. But the information the White House seems to want to hide is not classified intelligence, but public domain documents created and posted at taxpayer expense. Sure, it's a hindrance to Bush goalpost moving to have their previous statements readily accessible. It's shameful that Bush's answer to that is not to stop moving goalposts -- much less take responisbility for the lousy outcome of his policies -- but a 1984-style maneuver intended to help them pretend the goalposts were always where they moved them.
It's mystifying why so many conservatives still champion Bush and his minions. The other day, I observed on a comment thread at CalPundit that
One of the patterns that has struck me about this Administration is its proclivity for stonewalling, and the willingness of its adherents to let them get away with it.
Look back upon all of the comment threads here -- about the Valerie Plame story, especially, but about what Bush knew before 9/11 (and let's not forget, ladies and gentlemen, that they first claimed there was *no* warning and then, er, modified that stance to say there was no *specific* warning -- how rude of the terrorists not to send Bush an engraved invitation!) -- and the refrain you keep hearing is "there's no proof." Indeed, while it seems to be overwhelmingly obvious that BushCo *misled* the American public, you have those who deny Bush lied because we can't *prove* what he did or didn't know about the veracity of his statements.
I don't know what the Administration's apologists would accept as proof, but in my mind it's more about a preponderance of evidence. And the preponderance of evidence suggests to me that this Administration has calculated the political risks involved in disclosure versus stonewalling, and picks stonewalling every time. That alone suggests something, and shame on Bush's apologists for letting him get away with it.
This latest sleazy move, of course, proves nothing except that BushCo doesn't want the public record of its own statements about Iraq -- once again, public domain material that's the property of the taxpayers who footed the bill -- readily accessible. But when you take this move as part of the larger pattern of Bush's relentless war on accountability, it's clear that the last thing Bush wants is for the proof to emerge. He's obviously decided that his base will continue in denial as long as it's even remotely feasible.
But at the very least, conservatives should recognize that these same tactics could -- and, yes, likely would -- be used by a Democratic president now that the precedent has been set. Should that occur, conservatives will have no standing whatever to complain. Whatever one's political stance, it's essential to recognize that excessive government secrecy has no place at all in the small-d democratic process.
These actions are not the behaviors of an Administration confident in the rightness of its actions, and that fact alone -- while it "proves" nothing -- speaks volumes.
I've been utterly remiss in listening to Radio Paradise. In my previous job, the streaming audio wouldn't play through the company's firewall, and so I simply lost the habit. Happily, there are no problems here -- yet another reason to like this job better.
I tuned in this morning, and what joy! For example, it just played back to back Johnny Cash's version of "Your Own Personal Jesus" and Dolly Parton's cover of "Shine." Great stuff.
The US must establish security over all of Iraq -- including, nay, especially, the so-called Sunni Triangle. And no amount of school openings can obscure the evident failure of the US occupation to do so.
Update: Hey, didn't Bush say "bring 'em on"? Where's Bush's reckless, clueless, childish, thoroughly despicable pseudo-tough-guy rhetoric now that the Iraqis have proven all too willing to do just that?
Planet Swank's Halloween celebration wouldn't be complete without a link to the grue aficionado periodical Fangoria, so here goes. The current issue features an interview with legendary horror director George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, The Crazies, Creepshow). It includes some tantalizing hints about Romero's fourth zombie flick, tentatively titles Land of the Dead.
My family and I spent a pleasant weekend during which I was, obviously, offline most of the time.
Friday night, after putting The Girls to bed, my lovely wife and I watched my new DVD of Dead Alive, Peter Jackson's completely insane love story/zombie flick. It was the first of a set of DVDs I'd ordered for Halloween to arrive, and I'd been looking forward to the chance to catch it again.
Best. Movie. Ever
(Although, like Teleport City's Kieth Allison, I don't limit myself to just one pick.) Trivia: I own a copy of the same Tarot deck the old woman uses in the movie.
Saturday, I took The Girls to the Irvington Halloween Festival, a pleasant little street fair with booths, costumes, and a bounty of candy for the kids.
Saturday night, we had friends over for a little horror movie film festival.
And for the finale, The Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn; it was groovy.
(For some random horror film linkage, here's a fan site devoted to the Evil Dead trilogy.)
The gathering gave me an excuse opportunity to indulge in one of my favorite fall traditions: cooking up a big pot of chili. I also made buffalo wings from Jaquandor's recipe. I was very pleased with the way they turned out.