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  xFriday, November 19, 2004

new at dam

My review of the low-budget Japanese gangster flick Tokyo Mafia: Yakuza Wars is now posted at Destroy All Monsters.


delay rule razzed

To its credit, the rightward-leaning local paper ran an editorial condemning the GOP's vote to rescind ethics rules in order to protect Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
Whether DeLay will wind up indicted remains to be seen, but his political action is a no-doubter. The fiercely disputed redistricting plan he engineered in his home state got four veteran Democrats knocked off by his colleagues, and Wednesday was payback time.

DeLay dismisses the probe by a Democratic prosecutor as plain old politics. That seems oversimplified; but then, he's the expert. Too bad his victorious party could not seize an opportunity to teach him, and remind the rest of us, that government has a higher purpose than advancement of one team's fortunes.

I must admit, I'm a little confused over the editorial board's citation of the Wednesday vote as "payback time;" it seems more intended to insulate DeLay from any prosucetorial payback, but even that concept gives undue credence to the notion that the GOP is pushing (via Atrios) to portray District Attorney Ronnie Earle as a crackpot prosecutor with an axe to grind. Newt Gingrich wrote this loathsome playbook more than a decade ago; it's sad to see the GOP still using it.

As a predominantly Reublican organ, the local paper must of course feign surprise as it expresses outrage over the GOP's corruption, but given the recent GOP track record, such expression of shock is more reminiscent of Claude Rains' famous line from Casablanca. It's richly ironic that one of the clearest symptoms yet of how quickly the GOP has adopted the hubris of organized corruption involves repealing a sensible measure adopted to point out a genuine past example from the opposition party. Still, kudos to the editorial board and those of other "red state" rags for condemning this reprehesible act of institutional hypocrisy.

Update: Via Kevin Drum, Mark Kleiman wonders aloud whether anyone in the law enforcement community has Earle's back against this latest instance of the GOP's odious slime-and-defend strategy.


hidden kitchens of the '30s

NPR has been running a series called "Hidden Kitchens," in which it strives to chronicle local and traditional food cultures, mom-and-pop restaurants and other culinary Americana. This morning's segment was devoted to a fascinating New Deal program that undetook the same task. Fascinating!

  xThursday, November 18, 2004

anime gallery of the day

arcadia of my youth

I watched my new DVD copy of Leiji Matsumoto's superb Captain Harlock movie Arcadia of my Youth this evening. It was simply magnificent. Here's a small image gallery devoted to the film. I'm planning on reviewing it for Destroy all Monsters, but in the meantime you can check out Teleport City's favorable take.


galleries of the day

laura san giacomolaura san giacomo

A gallery devoted to the amazing Laura San Giacomo. My lovely wife and I watched sex, lies and videotape last night (here's Roger Ebert's review). I hadn't seen the film since college, and I'd all but forgotten how radiantly sexy San Giacomo is in this flick. Hubba hubba!

This other fan gallery devoted to Ms. San Giacomo appears to be a clone of the first.

Update: Jaquandor provides another photo.


please stand by

test pattern

Tired. Must sleep. Posting to resume tomorrow. Thanks for your patience!

  xWednesday, November 17, 2004

coffee post of the day

ceramic paper cup

BoingBoing points to a ceramic coffee cup modeled to resemble a deli's to-go paper cup. c00L!


senate poised to kill fair use

It seems as if the intellectual property lobby is already calling in its markers on this lame-duck Congressional session, and pushing legislation that would eliminate the "fair use" copyright exemption. The bill would also prevent vuewers from using digital video recorder technology to skip commercials.
Several lobbying camps from different industries and ideologies are joining forces to fight an overhaul of copyright law, which they say would radically shift in favor of Hollywood and the record companies and which Congress might try to push through during a lame-duck session that begins this week.

The Senate might vote on HR2391 (.pdf), the Intellectual Property Protection Act, a comprehensive bill that opponents charge could make many users of peer-to-peer networks, digital-music players and other products criminally liable for copyright infringement. The bill would also undo centuries of "fair use" -- the principle that gives Americans the right to use small samples of the works of others without having to ask permission or pay.

...The entertainment industry has been lobbying hard for quick Senate passage during the lame-duck session, with opponents gearing up for a tough fight.

Hollywood's involvement has even irked the American Conservative Union, which holds considerable sway with conservative Republicans in Congress. The ACU plans a major print ad campaign this week to oppose the bill, mainly because some provisions would require the Justice Department to file civil copyright lawsuits on behalf of the entertainment industry.

"It's just plain wrong to make the Department of Justice Hollywood's law firm," said Stacie Rumenap, ACU's deputy director.

Y'all heard it here first: On that score, I agree with the ACU. While intellectual property such as movies and music certainly deserves copyright protection, Congress has already extended the period before material enters the public domain, and is now taking aim at fair use. Shame on the Democratic and Republican Senators who are lining up once again to take away the intellectual heritage of all Americans and place them in the hands of corporations.


warblogger pr0n

Digby serves up some warblogger pr0n, including a photo of a two-year-old resident of Fallujah who has been liberated -- of his left leg. (There's more here, but with no pictures.) I hope they -- and the so-called "moral values" crowd who sent the ones responsible for the Iraqi meat grinder back to the White House -- take pride in their accomplishment.


gop hypocrisy watch

Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican Party:
Moving to protect Majority Leader Tom DeLay, House Republicans want to change party rules to ensure that DeLay retains his post if a Texas grand jury indicts him as it did with three of his political associates.

The House Republican Conference, composed of all GOP members in the chamber, was to vote Wednesday to modify a requirement that would force DeLay to step aside if charged with a felony requiring at least a two-year prison term.

Party rules require leaders to relinquish their posts after a felony indictment, but the change would eliminate the requirement for non-federal indictments.

A grand jury in Travis County, Texas, is investigating alleged irregularities in 2002 state legislative races. Republican victories in those contests enabled DeLay ultimately to win support for a congressional redistricting plan that resulted in the GOP's gain of five House seats in Texas in this month's elections.

Kos reminds us of where the rule originated:
House Republicans in 1993 -- trying to underscore the ethics problems of Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.), then-chairman of the Ways and Means Committee -- adopted the rule that requires a party leader to surrender his or her post if indicted by any grand jury, federal or state.

Disgusting -- but not surprising. If the Democrats don't take advantage of behavior like this (and this) to run as the party of reform against the GOP's widespread corruption, they deserve not to hold office. It's just a shame that the American people must suffer the effects of Republican rule as a result.

Mark Kleiman nails it: "If they keep playing football and we keep playing croquet, guess who's going to keep winning?"

Update: Holy cow...even Kevin Drum sees this example of Republican overreach as an indication that there's no point in playing nice any more. For starters, I endorse VinnyD's idea in the comments that no Democrat should vote for the upcoming increase in the debt ceiling. GOP policies created this debt; it's high time for them to take responsibility for it.


happy birthday...

...belatedly, to Devra! Many happy returns of the day, and best wishes for many more.

  xTuesday, November 16, 2004

swank pulp novel post of the day


Professor Meyers points to this groovy collection of old pulp novel cover and B-movie poster scans (warning: There are som pr0n books as well, and the collection is not entirely work-safe). Like the good Doctor, I too have made some great finds whilst browsing used bookstores; I once discovered a stack of five Japanese swordplay manga in a box of pr0n books at a used bookstore here in Indy. Best of all, the guy gave me the manga for free, along with a single shoujo title that was there as well. Of course, I can't read it, but it's still cool.

(Pictured: The cover to William S. Burroughs' Junkie, which I have in a much later edition. I do have a refrigerator magnet with this cover, though.)


loyalty over competence, part ii

Newly installed CIA chief Porter Goss is purging the Agency of those perceived not to support Bush's agenda.
The White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President George W. Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to knowledgeable sources.

"The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House," said a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to both the agency and to the White House. "Goss was given instructions ... to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president's agenda."

One of the first casualties appears to be Stephen R. Kappes, deputy director of clandestine services, the CIA's most powerful division. The Washington Post reported yesterday that Kappes had tendered his resignation after a confrontation with Goss' chief of staff, Patrick Murray, but at the behest of the White House had agreed to delay his decision till tomorrow.

Check that again:
The White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President George W. Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to knowledgeable sources.

Sounds more worthy of the Soviet-era Kremlin, doesn't it?

Josh Marshall comments:
On every significant point of conflict between the Bush administration and the country's cadre of intelligence professionals, the Bush political appointees turned out to be wrong. Often very wrong, and with disastrous consequences. Sometimes the intel folks were wrong too; but when that was so, the appointees were always more wrong.

This is not argumentative or hyperbole or even up for much serious dispute.

And the upshot of all that we've seen, the result of all those struggles over the last three years is that the 'appointees' are purging the 'professionals'. Another way to put it is that the folks who were always wrong and often catastrophically wrong are rooting out the folks who were often right and sometimes somewhat wrong. The answer to politicized intelligence, it turns out, is a more thorough politicization of intelligence and the elimination of those who resisted political pressure.

If you think this is just a Washington squabble or political debating point you'd be mistaken. Because your lives, and those of your families and friends, may very well be on the line.

That point deserves repeating: Bush and his minions are placing American lives at risk -- yet again -- in order to cement their hold on power.


another al qaeda recruitment video

Oh, swell...a US Marine in Fallujah shot and killed an unarmed, wounded prisoner, and was videotaped doing a mosque, yet. And our troops are defending the guy who did it.

Yet the ones truly responsible for this war crime are those in the Administration whose policies placed this young man at that place and at that time. Avoiding that responsibility was, of course, what the whole Swift Boat Liar controversy was all about.


bush: loyalty over competence

So, Bush flips the civilized world the bird by picking Condoleeza Rice for Secretary of State. Several bloggers have pointed to this Daily Howler post demonstrating Rice's evasions before the 9/11 commission, but it's her own admissions there -- that she wished there were someone responsible for coordinating the nation's intelligence services (someone, say, like the National Security Advisor) -- that was the most damaging admission of incompetence. I pray that the United States doesn't suffer too severe consequences as the result of this bad descision, and I hope that Senate Democrats use the (admittedly inevitable) confirmation process to focus on her mendacity and incompetence.

Jesse Taylor sums up: "[B]ad at relaying information to the people she serves and bad at mediating conflict. America's chief diplomat seems like the obvious spot for her" Yup. See Matthew Yglesias and Josh Marshall for more.


more blogs in the news

The local paper ran a story on blogs this morning. ("Look! People write about daily events and opinions and post them on that newfangled Internet thingie!" For pity's sake, the article's third graf refers to the blogosphere as "audacious new world." New?! I've been doing this blog for two and a half years, and I was far from an early adopter. For pity's sake, this same paper ran an article on blogs more than a year ago. But I digress...)

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the contretemps that resulted over my being misquoted in the article last year, the local paper didn't contact me for this version. I'm a little surprised, though, that Professor Cooper wasn't mentioned, let alone quoted.

The recent article does well in noting both that political blogs represent many points of view -- faithful readers may recall my criticism of the wire story on which last year's article was based, in that the prominent bloggers mentioned were all right-leaning, and that the local paper's update, by interviewing Professor Cooper and myself, provided balance, however inadvertently -- and by noting that people blog about many subjects besides politics.

I'm a little incredulous that the writer accepts at face value the claim the blogger he quotes in the lede that she blogs a fully day's posts before work, but who knows? It could be true.

I also disagree with the article's contention that blogs "broke" some major news stories. If memory serves me right, at least two of the three examples -- the revelation that Republicans were backing Ralph Nader's presidential campaign and the the praise by (the still-serving) Senator Trent Lott for former segregationist Strom Thurmond in 2002 -- were broken by the traditional media; they were just flogged by the blogosphere. I certainly beleive that, were it not for the relentless focus on Lott's loathsome nostalgia for the good old days of segregation by bloggers like Josh Marshall, the story would have faded into obscurity.

Still, the article provides a fairly decent, and, I suspect, typical summary of the blog phenomenon for readers of a daily paper. The article is also more far-ranging than last year's version, which focused on the blogosphere debate during the runup to the Iraq war. I'm pleased to note that the current article mentions the case of Ellen Simonetti, a Delta Air lines flight attendant who was fired recently because of posts on her blog that inadvertently identified her employer. The article's pretense that blogging is a new phenomenon definitely grates, but is doubtless a product of the journalistic imperative of timeliness.

Update: Professor Cooper takes note of the story as well.

  xMonday, November 15, 2004

new movies of the day

arcadia of my youthmujhse shaadi karogi

A couple of DVDs I ordered from eBay arrived today: The superb Leiji Matsumoto anime movie Arcadia of My Youth and the recent Bollywood film Mujhse Shaadi Karogi. c00L! I'm looking forward to watching them.

(Image from Mujhse Shaadi Karogi courtesy this review.)


online movies of the day

If I've ever cited The Hire, the fun series of downloadable short films sponsored by BMW, I haven't done so in a while, and it's long overdue for another mention. Among the latest is the Tony Scott-directed Beat the Devil, in which ace stunt driver Clive Owen helps legendary soul singer James Brown get out of a contract with the Devil, played by Gary Oldman. Sw33t!

Musashi took a look at The Hostage, directed by John Woo, over at Destroy All Monsters.


matthew yglesias explains it all

"Big Media Matt" scolds those who believe that Senator Harry Reid -- or anyone else -- is somehow "too likeable" for GOP smears to work:
This "immunization fallacy" needs to be combatted in all its manifestations. People thought after the 2000 election that it wouldn't be possible to demonize Tom Daschle, the soft-spoken veteran moderate Senator from very red South Dakota, but it was. People thought during the 2004 primary that it wouldn't be possible to demonize John Kerry, the war hero, as weak on national security (Kerry himself repeatedly asserted this), but it was. It's not impossible to demonize anyone, especially when the accuracy of your charges is entirely unrelated to your willingness to make them or to the media's willingness to cover them in a damaging manner.

Indeed...and until the Democrats assemble a propaganda machine to counter the Right's Mighty Wurlitzer -- since it's a given that the so-called "liberal media" will serve as an only-too-willing conduit to the Republicans' lies -- we can look for more of the same. Rove's tactics have been vindicated, and smears and distortions are going to be major components of hte GOP playbook, now more than ever.


jaquandor explains it all

Jaquandor has penned a superb pair of posts deconstruction the "it's only a theory!" line creationists use to try to discredit evolution. Dr. Meyers applauds Jaquandor's post and chimes in with a well-deserved scolding for the Intelligent Design crows.

As I commented at Byzantium's Shores, I've always pitied those who insist that the Bible must be literally true as lacking in faith -- their stance implies that, were the Bible not literally true, its value would be diminished if not destroyed.

But does that mean that, when Jesus spoke of the Good Samaritan, that there was literally this dude who got mugged? I doubt it -- but the moral lesson conveyed by this parable is crystal clear regardless. It's richly ironic that these so-called Christians manage to so spectacularly miss the point of the very method Jesus used to teach.


red state 'moral values'

The local paper has a fascinating article this morning noting that Indiana -- a solid red state and a bastion of the so-called "moral values" vote -- is above the national average in out-of-wedlock births.
The state rate of 37 percent in 2002 was slightly above the national average of 34 percent. It also represented a 13 percent jump from 1996 -- and continued the steady increase in out-of-wedlock births in Indiana from just 9 percent of births in 1970.

Of course, I have no moral objection to out-of-wedlock births (although the disadvantages the children face -- examples of which, such as an increased likelihood if living in poverty the article cites -- are certainly discomfiting. It's just ironic that one of those so-called "moral values" red states should be leading the nation in an area many of these holier-than-thou voters would doubtless consider "immoral." Although I don't know how the rate of increase compares with the national average, the steady rise in the out-of-wedlock birth rate indicates both that years of having Republicans as president failed to stem the tide and that the pious posturings of red-state voters do not necessarily translate into moral actions (I'm shocked, of course).

Update: Via Oliver Willis, more evidence that "the people who keep their values to themselves, instead of the other ones who hit you over the head with their bibles, do a better job of living up to family values:"
The lowest divorce rates are largely in the blue states: the Northeast and the upper Midwest. And the state with the lowest divorce rate was Massachusetts, home to John Kerry, the Kennedys and same-sex marriage.

In 2003, the rate in Massachusetts was 5.7 divorces per 1,000 married people, compared with 10.8 in Kentucky, 11.1 in Mississippi and 12.7 in Arkansas.

...The Barna Group, a California organization that studies evangelical Christian trends, has produced two studies about divorce that found that born-again Christians were just as likely to divorce as those who are not born-again Christians.

All snark aside, the recent election demonstrated that -- as Jesus knew -- self-righteousness and holier-than-thou posturing is a poor substitute for genuine faith and conviction. It's easier, quicker, more seductive, but not more powerful.

  xSunday, November 14, 2004

swank gallery of the day

faster, pussycat! kill! kill!

Java's Bachelor Pad -- which I really should cite more often -- has a nifty page and gallery devoted to Russ Meyer's exploitation classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!.


quote of the day

Professor Cooper hopes for the best:
There's been so much venom expended in the last year, it's been easy to forget that most people on both sides are people of goodwill--they genuinely want what's best for the country. That's not true of everyone, to be sure (Tom DeLay, for example, is practically a cartoon villain made flesh), but it is true far more often than not. And it's that reality that gives me hope that, should the government lead the country even further off track than it already is, reasonable people will come together to reduce and even undo the damage. That's not what I'd hoped to look forward to for the next four years. But for the moment, it will do.

Although I'm disappointed and disgusted with the vidnication of Karl Rove's electoral tactics, I too remain hopeful. The fact that President Bush has delayed much of his agenda -- from the destruction privatization of Social Security to the assault on Fallujah -- until after his election, and ensured that the full effects of legislation such as his Medicare plan and the so-called No Child Left Behind act would not be felt for some time, speaks volumes about the GOP's own judgement of public perception of its policies.

Like Proefessor Cooper, I never intended this blog to become as political as it had. I, too, plan to refocus on documenting thisngs I find pleasing, and noting the mendacity of this Administration is not high on that list. However, I will post on politics whenever I feel like ranting, and I'm sure that Bush and his minions will provide plenty of inspiration.

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