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  xSaturday, October 02, 2004

the home team wins


As I mentioned yesterday, I took The Girls to their first football game today with some college friends of mine. We saw my alma mater trounce the visiting East Carolina Pirates 59-7.
Louisville (4-0, 2-0 Conference USA) piled up 549 yards overall on the nation's second-worst defense and reached 40 points for the seventh time in 17 games under Petrino, who's in his second season.

The Cardinals, third in the nation in scoring defense, forced five turnovers and converted three into touchdowns in their last tuneup before an Oct. 14 date with fourth-ranked Miami.

Petrino was already thinking about the Hurricanes after Saturday's victory, asking reporters if they knew the outcome of Miami's game with Georgia Tech.

``We're excited about playing them,'' Petrino said. ``I came here to coach in games like this and our players came here to play in games like this.''

James Pinkney went 13-of-23 for 126 yards with two interceptions for the Pirates (0-4, 0-1), who have lost nine straight games and 17 of their last 18.

``As long as you keep trying, you're not a failure. That's the only thing you can say,'' said second-year East Carolina coach John Thompson. ``You can put numbers and records on it, but that doesn't talk about your soul or what kind of a man you are.''

Shelton asserted himself against the country's most porous rushing defense midway through the first quarter. On the second play of Louisville's second possession, Shelton found a hole up the middle and outran East Carolina's secondary for a 67-yard touchdown.

``It was a simple zone play,'' Shelton said. ``I broke one or two tackles and then I just took off.''

The high score kept The Girls interested in the game. Althought the Cardinals dominated, I have to tip my hat to the Pirates, who showed plenty of fortitude and good sportsmanship in what must have been a tough game.





  xFriday, October 01, 2004

weekend preview


Posting over the weekend will likely be sporadic, as I have a busy weekend planned. Tonight I took my Five-Year-Old to the fall festival at Our Lady of Lourdes church, which is close enough to our neighborhood that she's seen the Ferris wheel for the past week. She played games and rode rides, and we rode the Tilt-A-Whirl together. It was fun.

Tomorrow I'm taking The Girls to the St. James Art Fair in my home town of Louisvile, and then we're going with some of my college friends to see my alma mater play a football game against East Carolina.

Sunday we plan to attend the fall festival at our local Y.

It promises to be a busy weekend. For the present, I'm going to pour a cup of coffee and see what horror movie I feel like watching (Update: I chose my DVD of George A. Romero's unjustly overlooked 1973 flick The Crazies. Now it's off to play Silent Hill 2!).





  x

halloween post of the day


halloween costume satire

I-Mockery carries an amusing satirical look at classic Halloween costumes.

(via FARK)





  x

cosplay post of the day


aeris cosplayer

Nerve.com carries an amusing feature article offering the top sex tips from cosplayers.
How do you get a cosplayer to come home with you?
Be in costume. That's really the in. Cosplay is predominantly female, which is interesting because a lot of the girls are single. Cosplayers are very trusting around each other. We all stay in the same hotel rooms and basically eat, live and sleep together. If you're a guy cosplayer, you're going to see every girl in your social group naked at some point. There's a lot of costume changes.

A man in his late twenties hasn't had a lot of sexual experience and it's starting to cause performance anxiety. Should he bring it up with his partner?
It's not uncommon. A lot of guys over twenty or even thirty can be virgins. That's a common thing I see.


The comment thread, which mostly involves a debate over whether cosplay chixx0rz are hot, offers up the following evidence for the affirmative:

cosplayer cosplayer

cosplayer

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





  x

bush cowardice watch


Bush didn't do so well against Kerry last night, but back on the campaign trail where his lies statements are unlikely to be challenged, Bush tried again.

Bush accused Kerry of withholding support for American troops and offering to turn over decisions about the nation's security to other countries. He said, "The use of troops to defend America must never be subject to a veto from countries like France."

[digression]
Of course, the point Bush hopes to obscure here is that the use of troops to defend the United States is, of course, not subject to Security Council veto, but the use of troops in an elective war certainly is, according to the UN charter, which is, as a duly ratified treaty, the law of the land.

I might also add that if Bush had not cowardly backed off of submitting his war resolution to the Security Council, his case for invading Iraq as a defensive measure was in such tatters that it was widely predicted to fail to gain even a symbolic majority, forget about any potential veto.
[/digression]
The president spoke to a friendly crowd at a rally in Allentown, while Kerry was making a campaign stop in Tampa, Fla., the day after the debate at the University of Miami. [emphasis added]

I understand that the post-debate excuse for Bush's subpar performance was that he was fatigued from visiting hurricane victims (and no, I'm not linking Drudge). I suspect the reality is that Bush is so insulated from dissent that he simply doesn't handle it very well. If Bush can't defend his positions in a cordial debate, how can we count on him to defend America as Commander in Chief?

Update: TAPPED has more on Bush's discomfort outside his cocoon of yes-men (and women).





  x

zing!


Kevin Drum passes along this zinger by Andrew Sullivan on a comment Bush made during the debate:
KERRY: Well, first of all, I appreciate enormously the personal comments the president just made. And I share them with him. I think only if you're doing this -- and he's done it more than I have in terms of the presidency -- can you begin to get a sense of what it means to your families. And it's tough. And so I acknowledge that his daughters -- I've watched them.

I've chuckled a few times at some of their comments.

(LAUGHTER)

And...

BUSH: I'm trying to put a leash on them.

(LAUGHTER)

KERRY: Well, I know. I've learned not to do that.

(LAUGHTER)

Sullivan retorts:
No president who has presided over Abu Ghraib should ever say he wants to put anyone on a leash. That's all.

Indeed.





  x

bush offers no excuse for failure at tora bora


Matthew Yglesias hopes that the Kerry campaign will pick on a tacit admission from Bush last night: That he can offer no excuse for his failure to nail bin Laden at Tora Bora.
I've never heard any of Bush's allies offer a convincing defense of this decision, and it's a critique Kerry's been leveling on-and-off ever since the day it happened. Tonight, Bush didn't even try. A tacit admission, perhaps, that Kerry was right. I think that means Kerry ought to press the assault forward and start bringing this up more often. Force the president to either admit he was wrong and puncture his self-cultivated mystique of infallibility or else offer some kind of defense. I don't see what he could possibly have to say for himself.

I find it sadly ironic that a President who supposedly let bin Laden slip out of fear of sustaining American casualties -- albeit in a cause that I, and I'm sure the vast majority of Americans, would have roundly supported -- insists on "staying the course" in Iraq despite steadily mounting American casualties.

Speaking of casualties, NPR carried a story yesterday about an American officer in charge of evacuating wounded or ill soldiers from Iraq, who points out that the total number of evacuees is nearly three times higher than the numbers reported as casualties, mostly because many are not defined as wounds received "in action."





  x

'faces of frustration'


The Democratic Party hosts an online video compilation of Bush's grimaces during the debate. Beautiful!

Update: Here's an interesting graf from an AP follow-up story:
Bush knew he would be on camera during the entire debate and was aware that the networks had not agreed to show only the candidate who was speaking, Bush campaign spokeswoman Nicolle Devenish said. Regarding Bush's facial reactions, Devenish said: "The president reacted honestly. It showed the president really believes in his convictions."

Whatever, Nicole. As Kerry said, it's one thing to be certain, but you can be certain and be wrong.





  x

zombie site of the day


I've mentioned this site before, but in honor of the Halloween season, the horror site All Things Zombie deserves another link. It's a nifty site containing a horror film database, movie reviews, articles, interviews and other goodies.





  x

horror wallpaper of the day


28 days later wallpaper

It's October 1, which means it's time for Planet Swank's month-long Halloween celebration to begin! I've been anticipating my favorite holdiay season with much relish.

Today's wallpaper is from the superb 2002 Danny Boyle flick 28 Days Later, courtesy the film's official site. Here's reviews by Musashi and myself over at Destroy All Monsters, and Cold Fusion Video's take.

Tonight, I plan to begin my traditional celebration of the season by taking in a horror movie. I haven't decided on which, yet, but 28DL might be a good choice. Then again, I may opt for an older film. This year's film festival will be crimped somewhat by the fact that the local non-Blockbuster video rental place has been purging its shelves of VHS, and another branch that boasted a rather remarkable horror videotape collection has closed. Fortunately, I now have plenty of horror DVDs to see me through.

Now I need to go back and assemble last year's Halloween posts into a single roundup. I hope to accomplish this task soon.





  xThursday, September 30, 2004

aw, no


This is so sad. Thank you, George W. Bush. Thank you, warbloggers. The saddest thing of all is this heartbreaking tragedy probably won't weigh at all on their conciences. No, that wouldn't be "resolute."





  x

post-debate post


presidential debate

Due to taking The Girls to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's, I didn't get to watch all of the debate, but I did catch the last 45 minutes or so.

Of course, Kerry won.

Seriously, I'd have to say that neither candidate scored a huge victory, but given that foreign policy is supposed to be Bush's strong suit, I'd have to give the advantage to Kerry for making such a strong showing. I thought Bush looked tired and confused toward the end; a few of his answers were genuinely inarticulate. I also didn't think that his arguments about "consistency" were as forceful as they could have been, given Kerry's rebuttals. Kerry was also concise and forceful in his statements.

That said, there were a few openings I wish Kerry had exploited; specifically, after Bush's noted that North Korea had developed a uranium weapon program, he should have re-emphasized that North Korea dusted off its much more dangerous and advanced plutonium program under Bush's watch. When Bush mentioned Kerry's opposition to the missile defense boondoggle, Kerry didn't challenge the president to prove it worked. And Kerry didn't characterize, that I heard, Bush's optimism in the face of the facts on the ground as unrealistic wishful thinking. But overall, I thought Kerry's performance was good -- concise and accessible, while Bush did his usual smirk-and-fumble tap dance. I loved this bit of political jiujitsu from Kerry: "I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. The President made a mistake in invading Iraq."

Again, since this debate was about Bush's supposed strength, I don't think a tie, as the New Tork Times' David Brooks proclaimed it on PBS, is enough. Bush now faces potentially tough questions in a town hall style debate, and Kerry will be poised to finish Bush off in the final debate by forcing him to defend his miserable failure of a domestic party.

Now, we'll have to see if the inevitable GOP spin proclaiming Bush the victor takes hold.

Update: Mark Kleiman live-blogs the whole debate, and provides these interesting post-debate statistics:
CBS instapolling from 200 uncommitted voters on "Who won?"

44% Kerry
26% Bush
30% tie

Who has a clear plan for Iraq?

Kerry 51%
Bush 38%

Kerry did better than Bush, especially among women. More than half were more willing to vote for him after the debate, only one in seven less willing.

Well, we'll see. The spinning is just beginning. But this looks to have been a very good night for Big John. My advice to Democratic spinners: stress how many times Bush scowled. Keep comparing it to Gore's famous sighing.

Good idea.

And here's Kevin Drum's liveblogging. Daily Kos comments that Bush looks angry at having his performance criticized. Democratic commentator Paul Begala agrees that Kerry took the offensive in this debate. (I haven't decided if I'm going to read Novakula's comments yet.)

Update 2: This info comes from the Democratic Party's blog citing online polls, so take it with a grain of salt if you please, but dig it!
We're scouring the Net for online polls, and so far, we haven't found a single poll that says Bush did a better job in this debate. It isn't even close. John Kerry was the clear winner tonight.

Here's a sample of what we're seeing:

Philly.com: Kerry 87%, Bush 10%

MSNBC: Kerry 70%, Bush 30%

Houston Chronicle: Kerry 87%, Bush 11%

Wall Street Journal: Kerry 60%, Bush 33%

Florida Sun-Sentinel: Kerry 71%, Bush 16%

LA Times: Kerry:89% Kerry, Bush 8%

CNN: Kerry 79%, Bush 18%

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Kerry 62%, Bush 30%

Again, as Bob Sommersby would remind us, viewers also realized that Gore won the first debate; it was only afterward that the GOP spin artists managed to wring a victory from the jaws of defeat. We'll have to see.

Update 3: This Friday morning AP story states that "Three post-debate polls suggested voters who watched the policy-driven confrontation Thursday night were impressed by Kerry. Most of those surveyed said he did better than Bush." However, it provides no statistics. The story also notes Bush's petulant reactions: "Bush appeared irritated when Kerry leveled some of his charges, scowling at times and looking away in apparent disgust at others." The GOP spin machine obviously has its work cut out for it.





  x

cheney flip-flop watch


dick

After the 1991 Gulf War, then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney made the following statements defending the decision to leave Saddam in power:
"...[T]he question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth?" Cheney said then in response to a question.

"And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq."

Needless to say, this rhetoric stands in, ah, marked contrast to the Vice President's current stance on Iraq, if only in its embrace of reality.

Here are more Bush Administration flip-flops.

(via Daily Kos)





  x

the gop: the pro-torture party


There no longer can be any doubt.
The Bush administration is supporting a provision in the House leadership's intelligence reform bill that would allow U.S. authorities to deport certain foreigners to countries where they are likely to be tortured or abused, an action prohibited by the international laws against torture the United States signed 20 years ago.

The provision, part of the massive bill introduced Friday by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), would apply to non-U.S. citizens who are suspected of having links to terrorist organizations but have not been tried on or convicted of any charges. Democrats tried to strike the provision in a daylong House Judiciary Committee meeting, but it survived on a party-line vote.

The provision, human rights advocates said, contradicts pledges President Bush made after the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal erupted this spring that the United States would stand behind the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Hastert spokesman John Feehery said the Justice Department "really wants and supports" the provision. (emphasis added)

Disgusting. It's beyond belief how reasonable conservatives can support this bunch.





  x

cosplay post of the day


tgs cosplayer

The Mainichi Shinbun presents several galleries of cosplayers from the 2004 Tokyo Game Show.

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





  x

iraq fubar post of the day


Of course, one of the favorite warblogger claims is that the situation in Iraq is hunky-dory, but that the traitorous liberal media focuses on the bad news to the exclusion of the good.

Today Joshua Marshall and BoingBoing point to a personal letter from a Wall Street Journal reporter -- not intended for publication -- that, if anything, describes the situation as worse than the media reports. That letter's authenticity has apparently been confirmed (Warning: Site contains loud Flash ad). The letter reads in part:
Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons. I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling. And can't and can't.

There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a reporter second.

It's hard to pinpoint when the turning point exactly began. Was it April when the Fallujah fell out of the grasp of the Americans? Was it when Moqtada and Jish Mahdi declared war on the U.S. military? Was it when Sadr City, home to ten percent of Iraq's population, became a nightly battlefield for the Americans? Or was it when the insurgency began spreading from isolated pockets in the Sunni triangle to include most of Iraq? Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a potential threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to imminent and active threat, a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come.

Iraqis like to call this mess the situation. When asked how are things? they reply: the situation is very bad.

What they mean by situation is this: the Iraqi government doesn't control most Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs going off each day around the country killing and injuring scores of innocent people, the country's roads are becoming impassable and littered by hundreds of landmines and explosive devices aimed to kill American soldiers, there are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings. The situation, basically, means a raging barbaric guerilla war.

Marshall comments:
I haven't written as much lately as I usually do about Iraq because it is, quite simply, hard to know quite what else to say.

Anyone who can't now see the Lebanonization of Iraq for what it is will never see it, is incapable of seeing it.

The issue isn't the number of US military deaths or even the number of Iraqi civilians getting killed -- at least not in and of themselves. It is the evident reality -- observable by every measure available -- that we are on the downward side of a slippery slope, that the insurgency is spreading rapidly both in its geographical scope and and its diffusion into the population, horizontally and vertically, you might say. That spread is a sign that if the majority of the population does not quite support the insurgents specifically, they also do not support the occupation, or, in other words, us. And without the support of the population, the cause is more or less lost.

...What strikes me about the stir this letter has caused is not so much what's contained, as its backstory. What's in the letter is not we're reading in the daily reportage. And why the cleavage? It almost as if a mighty membrane has been built up -- largely because of the election calendar -- to keep out the full force of the reality of what's happening in Iraq. But here in this letter you can see the membrane springing leaks -- and some of the reality bursting through.

And speaking of that membrane, the Post today has another example of the Orwellian moment we're passing through. On Monday the Post ran a story about the sheer scope and spread of the insurgency in Iraq based on data from USAID compiled by the security contractor Kroll Security International.

The response, according to today's Post, is that USAID will stop making the data public.

That's their solution. Just think about for a second. That's their response.

I understand what Marshall is saying here. I'm decreasingly interested in debating the warbloggers. Pretty much all of their initial rationales for the war have been shot, but they dutifully spout the rationale-du-jour and wishful thinking, with a seasoning for disdaing for anyone who question Bush's competence. Meanwhile, real people are dying over in Iraq. I never thought I'd fully understand how my parents felt about Vietnam, but increasingly, I do. I hope the nation survives Bush's Iraq debacle with fewer scars, but I suspect the opposite will prove the case.





  x

pre-debate post


I've noticed an interesting phenomenon in the days and hours leading to the debate: Most of the focus seemsto be not so much on the debate itself -- which is, after all, so tightly controlled as to be hardly a debate at all -- but in the post-debate spin. Of course, immediately after the debate, the right-wing bloggers -- and, more importantly, the right-wing pundits that permeate the media -- will hail it as a triumph even if Bush is caught on camera picking his nose. (Of course, lefty bloggers will no doubt like what they see in Kerry, but will lack the Mighty Wurlitzer to echo the spin; in light of this, the ouster of GOP flack Frank Luntz' "focus group" following the debate is, while satisfying, not fully comforting. Joshua Marshall cited a Tuesday Paul Krugman column making this exact point. Krugman:
Interviews with focus groups just after the first 2000 debate showed Al Gore with a slight edge. Post-debate analysis should have widened that edge. After all, during the debate, Mr. Bush told one whopper after another - about his budget plans, about his prescription drug proposal and more. The fact-checking in the next day's papers should have been devastating.

But as Adam Clymer pointed out yesterday on the Op-Ed page of The Times, front-page coverage of the 2000 debates emphasized not what the candidates said but their "body language." After the debate, the lead stories said a lot about Mr. Gore's sighs, but nothing about Mr. Bush's lies. And even the fact-checking pieces "buried inside the newspaper" were, as Mr. Clymer delicately puts it, "constrained by an effort to balance one candidate's big mistakes" - that is, Mr. Bush's lies - "against the other's minor errors."

The result of this emphasis on the candidates' acting skills rather than their substance was that after a few days, Mr. Bush's defeat in the debate had been spun into a victory.

For a little historical perspective on the post-debate spin, see the invaluable Daily Howler, which notes that Bush's first debate win was manufactured by the media in contradiction to the initial poll results that showed Gore a clear winner. (Oh, but Gore had the temerity to sigh when Bush kept misrepresenting his positions! The horror!)

Speaking of which, Wired reports on the parties' preparations to flood the electronic ether with post-debate spin. Unfortunately, the organizational advantage appears to be, once again, with the Republicans.

Personally, I intend to watch the debates tonight but I'm not 100% sure I will (especially since, here in Indianapolis, they'll come on just as I'm putting The Girls to bed). I may post later tonight declaring Kewrry the victor -- whether I watch the debate or not. After all, it seems the modern thing to do.






  x

techno-geek post of the day


missile guidance wall hanging

NPR's Morning Edition today contained a fascinating feature on a Silicon Valley engineer's fascination with the internal workings of modern technology. s
Animal lovers who walk through pet stores sometimes have to fight the urge to adopt every cat and dog. Other people have the same feeling when they see abandoned pieces of electronics. NPR's David Kestenbaum spends a day with Jim Williams, an electrical engineer who lives in Silicon Valley. Like many engineers, Williams cherishes what many of us choose to ignore -- the inner workings of modern machines.

Williams browses through secondhand stores for oscillators and other electronic equipment as obsessively as I shop for DVDs. His home contains several sculptures made of castoff high-tech components and containing high-precision thermometers. He even made a wall hanging (pictured) out of the internal guidance system for a scrapped Minuteman ICBM.





  x

foggy day


As I've mentioned, I work in a 17-story office tower (at least for the rest of the week; I expect to be onsite beginning next week). This morning, patchy dense fog settled over the Indianapolis area. Particularly striking was the fact that the office building where I work -- normally conspicuously visible from the Interstate -- was completely shrouded by fog. Up in the office, the view from the windows was solid grey, as if from an airliner in the clouds. The fog is burning off now, but it was an unusual and remarkable sight while it lasted, especially as it completely concealed a massive office building a few scant blocks distant.





  xWednesday, September 29, 2004

asian culture link of the day


I've linked to it before, some time ago, but now seems an appropriate time to link to Sun Tzu's ancient but treatise on The Art of War.
III. ATTACK BY STRATAGEM


1. Sun Tzu said: In the practical art of war, the best
thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact;
to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is
better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it,
to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire
than to destroy them.

2. Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles
is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists
in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

3. Thus the highest form of generalship is to
balk the enemy's plans; the next best is to prevent
the junction of the enemy's forces; the next in
order is to attack the enemy's army in the field;
and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

I wish some of this Administration's leaders were better acquainted with this book.





  x

astronomy post of the day


mars rover tracks

The tracks of the Mars Rover spacecraft are visible from orbit. c00L!
A spacecraft orbiting Mars photographed one of NASA's rovers and its tracks on the surface, the space agency said Monday.

The image made by a camera aboard the Mars Global Surveyor shows a dark dot identified as the rover Spirit next to giant Bonneville Crater and the thin dark line of its tracks leading back to its lander.

The picture was made by rolling the entire spacecraft, adjusting its rotation rate to match the ground speed under the camera, a process that produces sharper images.

The maneuver "is tricky and the spacecraft does not always hit its target. However, when it does, the results can be spectacular," said Ken Edgett, staff scientist for Malin Space Science Systems of San Diego, which built and operates the Mars Orbiter Camera.





  x

'gallup-ing to the right'


MyDD and Donkey Rising take note of a swell new MoveOn ad decrying Gallup for its Republican-tilted results. Ruy Teixeira describes it:
The numbers in the ad, which are quite eye-opening, are rock-solid. The ad says Gallup's average LV lead for Bush this month has been 10 points, while the average of all other LV polls has been 4 (they're clearly referring to 3-way LV results--which are by far the most numerous LV results--based on other data in the ad). That's correct. Even taking into account data released since 9/26 (the end-date for the ad's analysis), Gallup this month has averaged a 10 point lead for Bush among LVs in 3-way trial heats, while the other 27 3-way LV trial heats taken this month have averaged a 4 point Bush lead.

Similarly, the ad says polls released since 9/12 (that is, two weeks before the end-date of the ad's analysis), excluding Gallup, have averaged a 3 point lead for Bush in 3-way LV trial heats. Correct again, even adding in polls released since 9/26. In the 17 3-way trial heats released since 9/12 by polling organizations whose names are not "Gallup", Bush is averaging just a 3 point lead.

Speaking of rightward-tilted polling, I note with pleasure that MSNBC has decided to can Republican operative Frank Luntz from providing post-debate spin analysis.

And if it's true that Gallup's polling is tilted in favor of Republicans, then these results from Ohio must be worrisome to Bush and Company.
President Bush held an edge over Democratic nominee John Kerry in the battleground state of Ohio with a two-point-lead in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of likely voters released on Wednesday.

That compared with an eight-point lead for Bush in the poll early this September.

The survey of likely voters showed 49 percent would vote for Bush and 47 percent for Kerry. A similar poll conducted from Sept. 4-7 showed Bush with 52 percent compared to Kerry with 44 percent.

However, among registered voters Kerry held a three-point lead over Bush with 49 percent support compared to 46 percent backing the president. In the poll published on Sept. 8, Bush lead Kerry by one point, 48 percent to 47 percent.

I don't especially trust Gallup, but the registered vote numbers in particular are sw33t news for Kerry in this must-win state for Bush.





  x

bush incompetence watch


Well, we can take comfort in the fact that Bush didn't start blowing off National Intelligence Estimates last week.

No, he was ignorning them before the war, too.
The same intelligence unit that produced a gloomy report in July about the prospect of growing instability in Iraq warned the Bush administration about the potential costly consequences of an American-led invasion two months before the war began, government officials said Monday.

The estimate came in two classified reports prepared for President Bush in January 2003 by the National Intelligence Council, an independent group that advises the director of central intelligence. The assessments predicted that an American-led invasion of Iraq would increase support for political Islam and would result in a deeply divided Iraqi society prone to violent internal conflict.

One of the reports also warned of a possible insurgency against the new Iraqi government or American-led forces, saying that rogue elements from Saddam Hussein's government could work with existing terrorist groups or act independently to wage guerrilla warfare, the officials said. The assessments also said a war would increase sympathy across the Islamic world for some terrorist objectives, at least in the short run, the officials said.

The contents of the two assessments had not been previously disclosed. They were described by the officials after two weeks in which the White House had tried to minimize the council's latest report, which was prepared this summer and read by senior officials early this month.

Last week, Mr. Bush dismissed the latest intelligence reports, saying its authors were "just guessing'' about the future, though he corrected himself later, calling it an "estimate.''

The assessments, meant to address the regional implications and internal challenges that Iraq would face after Mr. Hussein's ouster, said it was unlikely that Iraq would split apart after an American invasion, the officials said. But they said there was a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent internal conflict with one another unless an occupying force prevented them from doing so.

Senior White House officials, including Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, have contended that some of the early predictions provided to the White House by outside experts of what could go wrong in Iraq, including secular strife, have not come to pass. But President Bush has acknowledged a "miscalculation'' about the virulency of the insurgency that would rise against the American occupation, though he insisted that it was simply an outgrowth of the speed of the initial military victory in 2003.

When it comes to "miscalculations," Bush's attitude seems to be "bring 'em on."





  x

the onion explains it all


Once again, The Onion proves that satire can be the best political commentary: Documents Reveal Gaps In Bush's Service As President
Freshly unearthed public documents, ranging from newspapers to cabinet-meeting minutes, seem to indicate large gaps in George W. Bush's service as president, a spokesman for the watchdog group Citizens for an Informed Society announced Monday.

"We originally invoked the Freedom Of Information Act to request material relating to Bush's spotty record while in office," CIS director Catherine Rocklin said. "But then we realized that the information was readily available at the corner newsstand, on the Internet, and from our friends and neighbors who pay attention to the news."

According to Rocklin, the most damning documents were generated at roughly one-day intervals during a period beginning in January 2001 and ending this week. The document's sources include, but are not limited to, the U.S. newspaper The New York Times, the London-based Economist magazine, and the well-known international business and finance record, The Wall Street Journal.

"Factual data presented in these publications indicates that Bush took little or no action on issues as widely varied as the stalled economy, increasing violence in post-war Iraq, and the lagging public education system," Rocklin said. "The newsprint documents also reveal huge disparities between the ways Bush claimed to have served Medicare patients, and what he actually did."

Speaking of "freshly unearthed public documents," the White House has found still more unreleased Bush service records.





  xTuesday, September 28, 2004

online game of the day


Here's cool Flash-based online version of the classic (and insanely difficult) Infocom Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy computer adventure game, courtesy the BBC. And here's a collection of walkthroughs courtesy GameFaqs.com. You're welcome.

(via BoingBoing)





  x

bush campaign discomfort watch


Slate's Chris Suellentrop opines that recent grandiose victory predictions indicate that the Bush camp is working overtime to create an "air of inevitablility" -- perhaps because they feel victory not so inevitable after all.
Sunday's Washington Post made me suspect that the Bush campaign really does think things are going poorly right now. Why? Because Republicans are starting to make preposterously overconfident predictions of a Bush landslide.

National polls show that the presidential race has gotten closer since the Republican Convention. A Bloomberg News report Monday noted that five national polls have Bush up by 4 points or less. The Republican reaction to this tightening was to announce to the Post that Bush is thinking about campaigning in Washington state and New Jersey—states that any winning Democrat should carry handily—to "expand a potential victory well beyond the states he won in 2000."

It's well-known that Karl Rove believes that swing voters like to vote for the winner. Therefore, one of the central political strategies for Bush has been to create an "aura of inevitability" that, theoretically, will bring people to his side. If everyone believes you're a political juggernaut, the theory goes, then you will become a political juggernaut.

The worse things get for Bush, the more likely his aides are to declare that he is invincible. The Bushies are starting to sound like Baghdad Bob, trumpeting a decisive victory for Saddam Hussein as the American military zooms into Iraq's capital city.

Of course, given that recent polls may not be as favorable to Bush as they seem, perhaps some discomfort in the Bush camp is called for.





  x

lego post of the day


magnificent seven lego poster

An awesome collection of movie poster replicas done with LEGO!

(via The Presurfer; hat tip for pointing out this fine site to The Modulator)





  x

blogger to mainstream watch


Congratulations to Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas, whose weekly column for the Guardian began today.





  x

kerry endorsement of the day


John Kerry has collected the endorsement of George W. Bush's hometown the Crawfordsville, Texas weekly newspaper.
The weekly Lone Star Iconoclast criticized Bush's handling of the war in Iraq and for turning budget surpluses into record deficits. The editorial also criticized Bush's proposals on Social Security and Medicare.

"The publishers of The Iconoclast endorsed Bush four years ago, based on the things he promised, not on this smoke-screened agenda," the newspaper said in its editorial. "Today, we are endorsing his opponent, John Kerry."

It urged "Texans not to rate the candidate by his hometown or even his political party, but instead by where he intends to take the country."

Heh.

(via Martini Republic)





  x

eminently awful


Kevin Drum points to a superb post by Dwight Meredith on the disturbing trend of cities using their powers of eminent domain "to take property from one citizen for the benefit of a preferred person or company." In his usual thorough style, Meredith indicates that the problem is hardly a local phenomenon, and in the cases he cites, the property rights of the middle class are inevitably overruled for the profit of the well-connected.

This is one issue that well-meaning individuals on both ends of the political spectrum should be able to agree on. Cities abusing their eminent domain power to transfer their citizens' property to private interests in sweetheart deals is simply wrong. It's the kind of scurrilous plot gangster movies are based on.






  x

economy watch


Three cheery headlines about the economy under Bush's watch:

Health Insurance Costs Rise Faster Than Wages
Health insurance premiums for workers are rising around three times faster than their wages, and health costs eat up a quarter of earnings for more than 14 million Americans, according to a survey on Tuesday.

While benefits are being cut, health insurance premiums are rising, the report from the nonprofit Families USA found.

"Working families were squeezed by runaway health care costs over the past four years," said Families USA executive director Ron Pollack.

"As a result, workers are paying much more in premiums but are receiving less health coverage, wages are being depressed; and millions of people have lost health coverage entirely."

The cost of health insurance premiums rose by nearly 36 percent on average from 2000 to 2004 in 35 states, said the group, which bills itself as a nonpartisan watchdog on health care issues. Average earnings rose just 12 percent over the same time.

Nigeria Threat Pushes Oil Over $50 Bbl
Oil prices raced to new record highs above $50 on Tuesday as rebel threats against Nigerian oil facilities threatened to inflict further strain on global supplies.

Consumer Confidence Drops Again in Sept.
U.S. consumer confidence edged lower again in September after falling in August, as persistent worries about the job market weighed on sentiment, a report on Tuesday said.

The Conference Board, a private forecasting group, said its index of the mood of U.S. consumers fell to 96.8 from a revised 98.7 in August. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a rise to 99.0.

Consumer worries about the labor market have clouded the outlook for consumer spending, which powers two-thirds of the U.S. economy. Soaring oil prices, which crimped spending in the second quarter, pose another threat to economic growth.

"Confidence in the state of the economy is diminished and within that, confidence on job prospects is the biggest factor," said Richard DeKaser, chief economist at National City Corp. "I would guess that the impact of higher oil prices is feeding through as well. The problem with energy prices is that when they rise, there's nowhere to run."

The percentage of consumers surveyed who said jobs were hard to get rose to 28.3 percent from 26.0 percent, which will stir concerns that the September payrolls report on Oct. 8 may also prove softer than expected. Those seeing jobs as plentiful fell to 16.8 percent from 18.4 percent.

Thanks, George!

Of course, as Kerry says, if you're satisfied with conditions, by all means vote for the incumbent. And if you aren't, don't.





  x

you maniacs! you bluew it uuuuuuup!


ruined buildings

Here's an awesome gallery of modern buildings Photoshopped to appear as they might in a ruined state. Anyone who grew up with post-apocalyptic science fiction stories and films ought to dig it.

(via BoingBoing)





  x

'the big fix'


Digby links to an ominous prediction that the "no precedent" clause of the Supreme Court's stinker of a decision will be ignored as close races are appealed to the courts, and a fascinating pair of articles on the 2000 Florida election debacle that led to Bush's, ah, highly unusual victory.
Desperate for legal advice, [Gore adviser] Klain reached out to prominent firms in the capital of Tallahassee. He found little help. "All the establishment firms knew they couldn't cross Governor Bush and do business in Florida," recalls Klain. And so he improvised, pulling together a team headed by former secretary of state Warren Christopher, now a Los Angeles-based lawyer in private practice. Christopher, Gore felt,would imbue the team with an image of decorous, law-abiding, above-the-fray respectability.

[...]

Unlike Christopher and company, Baker spoke to the press loudly and often, and his message was Bush had won on November 7. Any further inspection would result only in "mischief." Privately, however, he knew that at the start he was on shaky political ground. "We're getting killed on "count all the votes," he told his team. "Who the hell could be against that?"

Republicans, of course. Duh!
Baker saw his chance that Thursday, November 9, when the Gore team made a formal request for a manual recount in four counties: Volusia, Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade. Asking for a recount in these large, Democrat-dominated counties left the Gore team fatally vulnerable to the charge that they wanted not all votes counted, as Gore kept claiming in his stentorian tones, but only all Gore votes. Yet the Bush team knew full well that Gore could not have asked for a statewide recount, because there was no provision for it in Florida law. A losing candidate had 72 hours to request a manual recount on a county-by-county basis or wait until the election was certifed to pursue a statewide recount. The requests had to be based on perceived errors, not just the candidate's wish to see recounts done. Certainly, Gore chose counties that seemed likely to yield Gore votes. But he chose them because that's where the problems were.

Proper as this was by Florida election law, the Democrats' strategy gave Baker the sound bite he'd been seeking...


About Florida, Digby comments:
Gore and his team knew that the Republicans would fight with everything they had, but they still maintained some faith in the legal system to require basic fairness in something this important. And, even the most cynical of us thought that the egos of the Supreme Court justices would never allow them to make a purely partisan decision because history would remember them as whores.

If I had any political idealism left it died on the day that Antonin Scalia stopped judges from counting votes in Florida.

This article shows that fix was in from the beginning. Had Gore audaciously requested a statewide recount he would have been accused of not following the strict laws that required him to show problems in each precinct. It was always headed to the Supremes and once they took the case, the interviews with the Supreme court clerks show that there was never any question about who would win. It was always a decision in search of a rationale.

Conservatives like to scoff at anyone who remembers that the Florida elections were settled in a highly irregular fashion. (They conveniently ignore the fact that the Constitution already contained a provision for settling disputed state contests -- a provision that would have almost certainly resulted in a legitimate Bush victory -- and the very telling fact that Bush's lawsuit sought to prevent the votes from being counted. And of course, the notion that right-wingers who still fume at the Senate having the temerity to use its advise and consent function to not rubber-stamp Bush pere's nomination of Robert Bork would have let bygones be bygones had the decision gone the other way is simply laughable.) But with ongoing GOP efforts to disenfranchise voters, Democrats must not forget what happened, lest history repeat itself.





  xMonday, September 27, 2004

flash game of the day




Can you escape The Blue Room?

Here's a hint (highlight text to read): The game is Japanese, and presumes every player would have a cell phone handy to look at the keypad and its associated letters.

(via #!-usr-bin-girl)





  x

iraq link roundup


Last week, Kerry gave another great speech about the disaster Bush's policies have become, and the Kerry campaign followed up with a killer ad mocking Bush's constant happy talk about the chaos in Iraq.

The GOP response? Accuse Kerry of helping the terrorists. Of course.

Unfortunately, Kerry is hardly alone in his assessment that Bush's optimistic assessments bear little resemblance to reality. Colin Powell, for example, appears to be off message.
Secretary of State Colin Powell sees the situation in Iraq "getting worse" as planned elections approach, and the top U.S. military commander for Iraq says he expects more violence ahead.

Their comments Sunday followed a week in which President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi spoke optimistically about the situation despite the beheadings of two more Americans and the deaths of dozens of people in car bombings.

In its latest report, the military said four Marines died in separate incidents Friday, adding to a toll that has topped 1,000 since the U.S.-led invasion.

Powell said the insurgency is only becoming more violent as planned January elections near.

"It's getting worse," he said on ABC's "This Week." "They are determined to disrupt the election. They do not want the Iraqi people to vote for their own leaders in a free, democratic election."

Military strategist Mike Turner writes that Iraq is rapidly evolving from SNAFU to FUBAR, and derides Bush's constant call to "stay the course."
One of the great mysteries of this election is the inability of John Kerry to challenge George W. Bush on his national-security credentials and to hold his administration accountable for its monumental failure in Iraq. These two issues remain the soft underbelly of the Bush campaign. That the Kerry campaign hasn't effectively exploited them is disheartening. That he's allowed Bush to actually spin them into strengths is mind-boggling. Since the American people seem to be buying the GOP's reality-TV version of events in Iraq, let's take a hard look at the military realities.

From a purely military standpoint, the war in Iraq is an unmitigated disaster. This administration failed to make even a cursory effort at adequately defining the political end state they sought to achieve by removing Saddam Hussein, making it impossible to precisely define long-term military success. That, in turn, makes it impossible to lay out a rational exit strategy for U.S. troops. Like Vietnam, the military is again being asked to clean up the detritus of a failed foreign policy. We are nose-deep in a protracted insurgency, an occupying Christian power in an oil-rich, Arab country. That country is not now and has never been a single nation. A single, unified, democratic Iraq comprised of Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis is a willfully ignorant illusion at best.

Two thirds of America's combat brigades are now tied down in this war which, under present conditions, is categorically unwinnable. Having alienated virtually every major ally who might help, our troops are simply targets. If Bush is re-elected, there are only two possible outcomes in Iraq:
  • Four years from now, America will have 5,000 dead servicemen and women and an untold number of dead Iraqis at a cost of about $1 trillion, yet still be no closer to success than we are right now, or

  • The U.S. will be gone, and we will witness the birth of a violent breeding ground for Shiite terrorists posing a far greater threat to Americans than a contained Saddam.

To discern the truth about Iraq, Americans must simply look beyond the spin. This war is not some noble endeavor, some great struggle of good against evil as the Bush administration would have us believe. We in the military have heard these grand pronouncements many times before by men who have neither served nor sacrificed. This war is an exercise in colossal stupidity and hubris which has now cost more than 1,000 American military lives, which has empowered Al Qaeda beyond anything those butchers might have engineered on their own and which has diverted America's attention and precious resources from the real threat at the worst possible time. And now, in a supreme act of truly breathtaking gall, this administration insists the only way to fix Iraq is to leave in power the very ones who created the nightmare.

Even the so-called "liberal media" is starting to catch on that Bush's "resolute" speech might better be described as "clueless":
In a soaring, eloquent, upbeat speech from the marble podium at the United Nations, President Bush yesterday put forth the purest distillation yet of his foreign policy views.

And depending on your own world view, I'm betting you either loved it or hated it.

Was he strong, resolute, unyielding, unapologetic? Undeniably so. And in the view of his supporters, enough said.

But viewed in the context of how things have worked out, particularly in Iraq, his critics -- including many in the audience of world leaders yesterday -- found him misguided, simplistic, imperious and trigger-happy.

If the whole speech was a litmus test, this one sentence was the clincher:

"We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace," Bush said.

Some people see irony there. Others don't.

I, for one, do.





  x

gop fud


Technology geeks who follow the attempts of established companies like IBM and Microsoft to dissuade interest in upstart competitors by trying to establish "fear, uncertainty and doubt."

There's no doubt that the Bush campaign has adopted similar tactics. In one particularly vile instance, voters in Arkansas received a flier implying that "liberals" intend to ban the Bible. And far from being a product of some shrill fringe group, the Republican National Committee has admitted producing the flier.
The mailings include images of the Bible labeled "banned" and of a gay marriage proposal labeled "allowed." A mailing to Arkansas residents warns: "This will be Arkansas if you don't vote." A similar mailing was sent to West Virginians.

A liberal religious group, the Interfaith Alliance, circulated a copy of the Arkansas mailing to reporters yesterday to publicize it. "What they are doing is despicable,'' said Don Parker, a spokesman for the alliance. "They are playing on people's fears and emotions."

In an e-mail message, Christine Iverson, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, confirmed that the party had sent the mailings.

...The mailing is the latest evidence of the emphasis Republicans are putting on motivating conservative Christian voters to vote this fall. But as the appeals become public, they also risk alienating moderate and swing voters.

An editorial on Sept. 22 in The Charleston Gazette in West Virginia, for example, asked, "Holy Moley! Who concocts this gibberish?"

"Most Americans see morality more complexly," the editorial said. "Many think a higher morality is found in Christ's command to help the needy, prevent war and pursue other humanitarian goals. Churchgoers of this sort aren't likely to believe childish allegations that Democrats want to ban the Bible."


I've said before that I find the gross mischaracterizations of Democratic positions by Republicans to be heartening, if only in their tacit admission that the GOP cannot win an honest debate on the issues. But these fearmongering tactics may be effective, especially in close races for which turnout is the key. One can only hope that The Charleston Gazette's assessment is correct and such vile fearmongering backfires on Republicans.

(via Mark Kleiman, who comments: "Yes, they did it, and no, they're not sorry for it. Hate and fear. Hate and fear. It's really a simple choice: vote for it, or vote against it." Indeed.)





  x

happy birthday jaquandor


A belated (by one day) happy birthday to my pal Jaquandor! Many happy returns, and best wishes for many more.





  xSunday, September 26, 2004

hong kong flick of the day


city hunter

We went out shopping for a new printer this afternoon. At Best Buy I exhibited heroic restraint in not buying any new DVDs (although I did pick up a freebie containing the preview to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which looks like a triumph of production design if nothing else -- indeed, it'll join Down With Love as one of the few films I decide to see on the basis of production design alone).

A little later, though, I did pick up a DVD of the 1993 Wong Jing/Jackie Chan flick City Hunter for a mere six bucks, and we spun the disc tonight. Although the box emphasizes the film's action -- and there are some impressive martial arts tussles as well as abundant gunplay -- it doesn't mention that the flick is a flat-out comedy. If the Marx Brothers had ever made a chop socky flick, they might well have come up with something like this (only with the radiant Joey Wong and Chingmy Yau in place of the late Thelma Todd). My lovely wife and I very much enjoyed the film.

Here's a review at Attack of the 50 Foot DVD, which describes it as "probably the silliest film Jackie Chan has ever made." From what I've seen of Chan's work, I'll second that estimation.





  x

swank albums of the day


three catsthree suns

I spent much of this morning browsing through another groovy MP3 site that features retro, punk, electronica and other unusual music. Through one of its links pages, I stumbled across a swell pair of albums from obscure old Japanese pop groups. The Three Cats are a female singing trio, while The Three Suns are a male intrumental trio. Both offer smooth and swanky pop sounds reminscent of the late 1950s or early 1960s.

The music is hosted on a rotating basis, so run, don't walk, to grab it if you dig that sort of thing.

(via BoingBoing)





  x

a swanky evening


peter cincotti

Last night, my wife and I got a rare opportunity to get dressed up and go out on a date. We were given tickets to the Indianapolis Symphony's debut performance of their pops season. It was a musical program created as if to appeal to my own tastes. It opened with a selection of standards, including a Cole Porter medley and a number of Henri Mancini tunes. The featured performer in the second half was a talented young musician named Peter Cincotti.

After the show, my wife and I passed a Border's on the way to the parking garage, and on an impulse we dropped in to see if they carried Cincotti's just-released CD. Sure enough, they did, and on sale for ten bucks, yet! I've already spun the CD a time or two, and it's impressive work, especially for such a young artist. It features a mix of standards and original compositions, with Cincotti performing vocals and piano along with a killer band.






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