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  xWednesday, December 24, 2003

swanky xmas to all

Planet Swank is signing off for the Xmas holiday. My wife, daughters and I plan to enjoy Xmas morning together, and then visit my family and friends. Blogging will resume over the weekend; in the meantime, I wish everyone, especially my loyal readers (all three of you) a wonderful Yuletide and a safe and prosperous New Year.

As a holiday celebration, here's Megatokyo's 2003 Xmas strip.


right-wing pundit dishonesty watch

Kevin Drum and Mark Kleiman point out a puzzling lapse in Andrew Sullivan's knowledge of common legal terms; by an extraordinary coincidence, this memory lapse enables Sullivan to paint Wesley Clark in a bad light.


bush administration incompetence watch

The Dec. 16 edition of MisLeader pointed out that Bush denied in a recent press conference having been warned about terrorist attacks prior to Sept. 11, when the White House has already admitted it did in fact receive such warnings.
At his press conference yesterday, President Bush was asked about charges that he had received warnings prior to the September 11th attacks that a terrorist incident was imminent. He answered that even asking such a question was "an absurd insinuation." It was the same sentiment expressed by Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who said in May of 2002 that "[no one predicted] that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane."

The problem for the president and the administration is that the White House has previously admitted that the president had personally received such specific warnings. As ABC News reported in May of 2002, "White House officials acknowledge that U.S. intelligence officials informed President Bush weeks before the September 11th attacks that Osama bin Laden's terrorist network might try to hijack American planes." As Condoleezza Rice said at a hastily called press conference to spin these revelations, the President specifically received an "analytic report" on August 6th, 2001 at his Crawford mansion that "talked about Osama bin Laden's methods of operation" and "mentioned hijacking." According to Reuters, that report was congruent with "intelligence since 1998 that said followers of bin Laden were planning to strike U.S. targets, hijack U.S. planes."

Sept. 11 should be a major vulnerability for the President, especially as the investigating commission probes uncomfortably close to the truth. The Bush Administration's inability to keep its story straight -- you'll recall that Condi Rice denied that the White House received any warning at all, only to retreat to "no specific warning" when the lie was exposed -- is indication enough that something smells, and the Administration would rather we never found out exactly what it knew and when it knew it.

And no, I'm not saying that Bush let 9/11 happen out of some kind of malicious intent -- plain old-fashioned incompetence works fine for me. One doesn't need to imagine that terrorists would deliberately crash a hijacked airplane to know that hijacking is an inherently bad thing. Foreknowledge of a hijacking plot calls for preventative measures, and as far as the public knows, Bush failed to take any at all, save for having John Ashcroft cease taking commercial flights.


holiday flash app of the day

Here's a Flash-based holiday snowglobe for your Xmas enjoyment.

Especially amusing is watching the little sledders within fly all over the place when you shake up the globe.


8-bit xmas tuneage

Some geniuses make music by remixing the electronic tones produced by eight-bit video game systems such as the Nintendo Entertainment System. 8bitpeoples has released a free collection of Xmas-themed remix MP3s just in time for the holiday season. Enjoy!

(via BoingBoing; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)


new at dam

Destroy All Monsters delivers a robotic one-two punch today with my new reviews of the PS2 mecha games Robot Alchemic Drive and Robotech: Battlecry.

  xTuesday, December 23, 2003

what's going on

Obviously posting has a bit light today, for which I apologize. As I think I've mentioned, I'm involved in some ongoing training this week, in addition to normal work duties, not to mention holiday preparation.

But there's another factor: An announcment at work indicated that the company has upped its Internet monitoring, and is implementing a "zero tolerance" policy towards non-word-related Internet use. I'm not sure yet what implications this policy has towards my activities here, but I'm certainly not willing to get fired for my blog. Further updates as they occur, but in the meantime your patience is appreciated.


administration dishonesty watch

Speaking of goalpost moving in Iraq, the Washington Post's Dana Milbank catches the White House in some more Web-based revisionist history.


philosoraptor on saddam

Philosoraptor has some eloquent thoughts regarding reaction to the capture of Saddam Hussein.
So no, I'm actually not in ecstasy about Saddam's capture. It's not that I don't despise the guy, and it's not that I don't recognize how wonderful it is that he's history. It's just that America lost so much in getting here that it's hard to take excessive joy in it. And one real tragedy here is that we didn't even give up a lot to get Saddam'we simply lost things, apparently without any real consciousness that we were losing them. We didn't nobly decide to make sacrifices in order to do what is right and bring down the tyrant. Rather, we were tricked into doing it for craven reasons. Because we were stupid and uninformed, and because we were easily frightened and overly deferential to authority, we allowed ourselves to be talked into going to war. What we did will probably, on balance, have morally good consequences (unless the administration cuts and runs before the next election, that is). But we don't get credit for those consequences since we didn't go to war in order to achieve them.

What he said. The constant goalpost-shifting and retroactive redefinitions of the Administration and its supporters is perhaps even more shameful than the naked mendacity and fear-mongering used to bolster the pro-war case. This Administration is highly reluctant to publicly count the costs of this war, but the damage done to American democracy in its pursuit is, in my mind, to high a price to pay for whatever vestiges of democracy we bring to Iraq.


detained, not captured

FindLaw columnist Joanne Mariner weighs in on the recent court decision in the Jose Padilla case.
The 4th Circuit's ruling [in the Hamdfi case] was frighteningly broad. But what the government was asking the 2nd Circuit to do in the Padilla case was still more dramatic: to sanction the indefinite detention of an American citizen who was not captured on a foreign battlefield, but rather picked up in Chicago. The government was arguing, in short, that the one fact that the Hamdi court relied upon was one fact too many.

Such an argument calls into question the rule of law. Under the government's reasoning, any American could be detained anywhere in the United States for any length of time, and the courts would have no business asking why. Although the district court that heard Padilla's habeas corpus request ruled that the government should have to provide "some evidence" in support of its position that Padilla was an enemy combatant, the government disagreed. In its view, no fact, no evidence, and no legal process should be required.

...Because the Padilla case represents the Bush administration's most unprecedented and extreme instance of overreaching in fighting terrorism, the 2nd Circuit's ruling is welcome and important. Its reasoning suggests, moreover, that even while the courts may profess to accept the government's position that the "war on terror" is a war like any other, they will not accede to the more radical implications of that claim.

I'm in complete agreement with the court on this one. While Congress has been known to cede certain authority to the President in times of declared war -- something that was done during WWII, in which several German saboteurs were siezed as enemy combatants -- the Constitution has nothing granting the Chief Executive such authority, and indeed has many provisions asserting a right to due process.

When matched up against the criminal proceedings levied against John Walker Lindh, Richard Reid and even Zacarais Moussaoui, it's evident that the Executive is asserting this authority in Padilla's case because it can't provide the proof that due process demands. Even in war time, the ability to incarcerate someone forever on the mere say-so of the President is a power that must at least be granted by act of Congress, not Executive fiat.

  xMonday, December 22, 2003

an unusual disaster

A fascinating book review in Sunday's edition of the local paper acquainted me with a disaster I'd never heard of: the tragic Boston molasses flood of 1919. A massive storage tank collapse unleashed a flood of the syrup -- in January, yet! -- that killed 21 people and did massive damage along the waterfront. Stephen Puleo tells the story of the tragedy in his new book, Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919. The review provides a summary of the tragedy; although sad, it makes for fascinating reading.


lotr follow-up

Not surprisingly, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was the number-one box office attraction this weekend. Jaquandor's been devoting much space on his blog to matters Tolkien; here's his comments on the movie, a link to a gallery of groovy Tolkien-related art, and his appreciation of the superiority of Miranda (Eowyn) Otto to Britney Spears (of course). There's more, so go give him a visit.


video game victory of the month

robotech battlecry

Last night I beat Robotech: Battlecry, which I picked up around Thanksgiving. The way I play -- an hour or two a night, if that -- such isn't a bad record at all, especially considering my occasional diversion with Final Fantasy X.

The game was a lot of fun, actually. Surprisingly, the first three boss fights are much, much harder than the last three. I'll have a full review later at Destroy All Monsters.

Update: Here's the review.


i [heart] the saints

The New Orleans Saints' playoff hopes were dashed despite a last-minute, 75-yard touchdown drive when the kicker missed the extra point with only seven seconds left in the game.
The result was a 20-19 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars that dropped the Saints out of the playoff race. It will surely go down as one of the most twisted, cruel moments in the 37-year history of the star-struck franchise.

"This seems to be, as far as kickers are concerned, as bad as it gets,'' Carney said.

The Saints (7-8), coming off Joe Horn's cell phone shenanigans last week, looked like they had a play, a moment, to put that whole episode behind them. Instead, they'll have the whole offseason to wonder about what might have been.

"This is awful,'' said Saints receiver Michael Lewis, who was in on the play. "I can't explain how it feels to go from one emotion to the other.''

With six seconds left and the Saints trailing 20-13, Aaron Brooks passed to Donte' Stallworth, who flipped the ball to Lewis. He pitched back to Deuce McAllister, who lateraled to Jerome Pathon, who went the final 21 yards and dove in for the score.

"The only thing missing was the band,'' Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said, recalling the ending of the famous 1982 Stanford-Cal game, a play that looked eerily similar to this.

A long video review ensued, and after referee Gerry Austin determined all the passes were legal laterals, the teams lined up for the extra point.


Not today.

Carney, 403-for-408 on extra points over his 14-year career and 35-for-35 this season, hit a dead push, sailing the kick wide right. He stared at the ground in disbelief when it was over. Saints coach Jim Haslett squinted into the sun -- yes, that really did happen.

As I've said, I find the Saints' perpetual haplessness endearing. I know I'll never have to deal with annoying fair-weather fans jumping on the bandwagon after a championship season.


science fact of the day

A study by Brazilian scientists indicated that coffee makes one's sperm faster.

(via FARK)


kawaii xmas link of the day

hello kitty holiday pageant

Here's a Japanese language page touting Sanrio's Hello Kitty Holiday Festival at its Harmonyland theme park. Kawaii!


anime xmas wallpaper of the week

anime xmas wallpaper

This week's Xmas-themed anime desktop features a group of anime cuties, including Yurika Misumaru and Ruri Hoshino from Martian Successor Nadesico, courtesy Anime Dream.

asuka xmas wallpaper

As a bonus, here's a racy fan art desktop image of Neon Genesis Evangelion's Asuka Langley Soryu decked out in holiday attire.

  xSunday, December 21, 2003

a planet swank xmas

I finished Xmas shopping today, in a long but generally not unpleasant foray to the department store with The Girls in tow.

I've also finished my yearly Xmas compilation CD. This year's version includes:

  1. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town - Frank Sinatra

  2. White Christmas - Rosemary Clooney

  3. Jingle Bells - Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters

  4. Merry Xmas Baby - Otis Redding

  5. Santa Baby - Marilyn Monroe

  6. Joy to the World - Nat King Cole

  7. Winter Wonderland - Robert Goulet

  8. The Christmas Song - Mel Torme

  9. O Christmas Tree - Vince Guaraldi Trio

  10. Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto - James Brown

  11. Winter Wonderland - Eurythmics

  12. Punk Rock Xmas - The Ramones

  13. We Three Kings - Dave Brubeck

  14. The Kurimisu Song - Sailor Moon OST

  15. Merry Xmas Baby - Etta James

  16. White Christmas - Tony Bennett

  17. Silent Night.mp3 - The Temptations

  18. Run Run Rudolf - Chuck Berry

  19. Santa Claus Is Back In Town - The Brian Setzer Orchestra

  20. Merry Christmas Baby - Bruce Springsteen

  21. Silver Bells - Alan Jackson

  22. A Medley of Christmas Carols - The Three Tenors

  23. Do They Know It's Christmas - Band Aid

  24. Let It Snow - Dean Martin

I'm sure Jaquandor will be pleased to note that neither "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" nor "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" appear.

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