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  xSaturday, April 30, 2005

movie of the evening


mad max

Last night we visited our friend Walter and Elizabeth for dinner. For the post-dinner entertainment, I brought several DVDs, and among them we selected the copy of Mad Max I'd borrowed from the local library. It had a little something for everyone: Insane car stunt action for me; a very young Mel Gibson for my lovely wife. Here are reviews at Cold Fusion Video Reviews, And You Call yourself a Scientist!, and Dante's Inferno.





  xFriday, April 29, 2005

indiana to join 21st 20th century


The local paper reports that a measure to adopt Daylight Savings Time has finally -- after three decades -- passed the Indiana Legislature.
Daylight-saving time is coming to all of Indiana for the first time in more than 30 years.

In a history-making drama, the Indiana House voted 51-46 late Thursday to pass the controversial issue, which has dominated the legislature, coffee shops and kitchen tables for four months.

Gov. Mitch Daniels, who made passage of the time change one of his top economic priorities, will sign the bill soon so that on April 2, 2006, Hoosiers will join people in 47 other states in turning their clocks ahead one hour.

The climactic vote at 11:36 p.m. came after a half-hour of emotional testimony, in which lawmakers on both sides of the debate brushed away tears. They had fought about the issue all session. Some argued the changes are needed to boost Indiana in a global economy and erase the state's backward image. Others called it an unnecessary intrusion in Hoosiers' lives.

Lawmakers had been deadlocked in the House all day.

The bill -- Senate Bill 127 -- had come within two votes of being killed earlier Thursday, when the House voted 49-48 against the time change.

But after 12 hours of behind-the-scenes pleading -- supporters called it persuasion; opponents called it arm-twisting -- backers believed they finally had locked up the requisite 51 votes.

"Now is the time," said House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. "Today is the day. Let's do it."

At last!





  x

bush orwellian rhetoric watch


ThinkProgress catches Bush moving the goalposts:
[T]o sell his tax cuts, Bush implied that anything under $100,000 was “low income.” Now, to sell his Social Security package, anything over $20,000 is “better off.”

(via Atrios)





  x

gothiloli gallery of the day


asian goth

I mentioned this gallery of Asian goth girls sporting the "Gothic Lolita/GothiLoli" look nearly two years ago, but what the hey -- here it is again.





  x

here comes the science


Scientists have discovered the exact neurochemistry that makes caffiene effective. c00L!
"We knew that coffee kept us awake. Now we know why," says researcher Robert Greene, MD, PhD, in a news release.

...Caffeine blocks a brain chemical called adenosine, which prompts feelings of drowsiness, Greene reports in the April 21 issue of Neuron.

Ordinarily, brain cells release adenosine when they're overworked. Brain cells have a demanding job. They have to run the body, process information, and communicate with other brain cells constantly. Sooner or later, they need a break. That's when the brain starts pumping out more adenosine.

"More and more adenosine is released and feeds back onto the cells to quiet them down," says Greene. "It's like telling them, 'You guys have worked too hard. Take it easy; refresh yourselves.'"

When caffeine thwarts adenosine, go-to-sleep signals get derailed until caffeine's effects wear off.

For someone whose early-to-rise schedule makes for some unwelcome drowsiness in the evenings, this news is fascinating.





  x

your kung fu is flash skillz are strong


bruce lee remix

I've posted this awesome app that lets you remix music with sound clips and images from Bruce Lee movies before, but it's so darn cool I thought it worth a repeat.





  x

most disturbing


Yesterday the L.A. Times ran a spooky story on police who try to trace sexually abused children by examining for clues digital photos traded among pedophiles. Even more disturbing for me than the comment by one of the officers that most of the pedophiles they've nabbed have been Star Trek fans (wha...?) is the revelation that the same children have appeared in a series of photos over time, while the unit has tried desperately to narrow down their location.

(via MetaFilter)





  x

strauss waltz


See Billmon's long post on the retrograde philosophy of the neocons, and Digby's thoughtful rejoinder ("They want to repeal the enlightenment").





  x

snark of the day


Tbogg puts a hilarious smackdown on a recent announcement by right-wing bloggers that they're planning to form their own, I kid you not, "news service."
Yes. This would be a "news service" if by "news service" you mean a loosely confederated group of individuals who don't necessarily go out and cover events so much as read the traditional news sources about them and then they...retype it. God knows you can't find that on the internets.

Word.





  x

welcome back


I've been remiss in welcoming Jaquandor back from his recent hiatus; he's now blogging up a storm, and recently posted an extremely swanky album cover.





  x

boss post of the day


springsteen

Bruce Springsteen kicks off solo US tour. c00L!
It was as if Bruce Springsteen invited 5,100 of his closest friends over for a while to listen to a few tunes he had put together in his spare time. But the setting was a packed concert hall at the downtown Fox Theatre.

Springsteen performed 27 songs Monday night, including most of the 12 new songs from his latest release "Devils and Dust," which was recorded without the E Street Band.

...Springsteen, dressed in a black shirt with rolled-up sleeves and jeans, had a harmonica around his neck, a couple of microphones, a guitar, a piano, speaker monitors, a dimly lit beaded lamp on a table and an old-style chandelier. A stagehand brought him several guitars over the course of the night.

The 2 1/2-hour concert marked the first in a 13-city North American acoustic tour. Springsteen will perform in theaters and in arenas scaled down to a theater format. This is his first solo act since the "Ghost of Tom Joad" tour in 1996-97.

Several years ago, I was fortunate to catch Springsteen at the Louisville Palace on the Ghost of Tom Joad tour -- just Bruce, his acoustic guitar, and a harmonica.

Wednesday morning, NPR ran a swell interview with the Boss.





  xThursday, April 28, 2005

i ddid it!


cutie chaser

One of the first songs I started playing after getting my copy of Dance Dance Revolution last June was a track called "Cutie Chaser" -- its image of a puppy-like anime character in a policewomans's uniform was just too kawaii to ignore. Yet even as I began to develop some marginal competence at other, more difficult songs, the coveted "A" rating -- indicating a maximum combo with nothing less than a "Great" or "Perfect" -- eluded me. Time and again, a slight misstep would result in a single "Good," reducing the A to a B.

Until tonight, that is. After blowing it with one -- one! -- "Good" twice in a row, I finally mastered the step pattern on the third try, and earned my A. w00t!





  x

anime post of the day


fruits basket cast

Last night, I didn't get much opportunity to watch a movie, as I was hastening to post my Hitchhiker's Guide review. As is often the case when I don't have that kind of time, I popped in something short and episodic, and that usually means anime. Last night, I put in my Volume 1 DVD of Fruits Basket and let episodes 4 through 6 play as I typed. My lovely wife was watching, and I was touched to see that she teared up a bit during Episode 6. Her sentimentality is one of the many things I love about her.





  xWednesday, April 27, 2005

new at dam


So what did I really think of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I saw last night? My review just posted at Destroy All Monsters tells all.





  x

aviation post of the day


airbus a380

Say hello to the new, mammoth Airbus A380, which made its maiden flight today.
Cheered by tens of thousands of onlookers, the world's largest jetliner touched down Wednesday with puffs of smoke from its 22 outsize wheels, ending the historic maiden flight for a plane that Airbus hopes will carry it to market dominance.


The A380's four-hour sortie past the snowcapped Pyrenees removed any doubt that the behemoth capable of carrying as many as 840 passengers is airworthy. But it did little to convince skeptics, led by U.S. rival Boeing Co., that the plane will prove profitable.


About 30,000 people watched the takeoff and landing, police said, many from just outside the airport perimeter, where whole families spent the night awaiting European aviation's biggest spectacle since the supersonic Concorde's first flight in 1969.


Applause reverberated across the airfield and adjacent Airbus headquarters in this town outside the southwestern city of Toulouse as test pilots Claude Lelaie and Jacques Rosay emerged from the big white plane with a blue tail, waving happily, with their four fellow crew members.

Sw33t!





  x

bush administration incompetence watch


From the Washington post: U.S. Figures Show Sharp Global Rise In Terrorism; subhead, State Dept. Will Not Put Data in Report.
The number of serious international terrorist incidents more than tripled last year, according to U.S. government figures, a sharp upswing in deadly attacks that the State Department has decided not to make public in its annual report on terrorism due to Congress this week.

Overall, the number of what the U.S. government considers "significant" attacks grew to about 655 last year, up from the record of around 175 in 2003, according to congressional aides who were briefed on statistics covering incidents including the bloody school seizure in Russia and violence related to the disputed Indian territory of Kashmir.

Terrorist incidents in Iraq also dramatically increased, from 22 attacks to 198, or nine times the previous year's total -- a sensitive subset of the tally, given the Bush administration's assertion that the situation there had stabilized significantly after the U.S. handover of political authority to an interim Iraqi government last summer.

The State Department announced last week that it was breaking with tradition in withholding the statistics on terrorist attacks from its congressionally mandated annual report. Critics said the move was designed to shield the government from questions about the success of its effort to combat terrorism by eliminating what amounted to the only year-to-year benchmark of progress.

Although the State Department said the data would still be made public by the new National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which prepares the information, officials at the center said no decision to publish the statistics has been made.

The controversy comes a year after the State Department retracted its annual terrorism report and admitted that its initial version vastly understated the number of incidents. That became an election-year issue, as Democrats said the Bush administration tried to inflate its success in curbing global terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Gee, wherever could they have gotten that idea?





  x

party of responsibility


Phil Carter is less than impressed with the recent whitewash investigations into who is responsible for the outrages at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.
In the Army's leadership schools for officers and sergeants, the doctrinal manual preaches quite a different result from the outcome of this investigation. Bottom line: commanders (and NCOs) are responsible for everything their unit(s) do or fail to do, period. A commander, especially a general officer, is not just responsible for those things he/she ordered, but for those things that he/she knew about — or should have known about. This is the essence of the mantle of command...

...Today's news represents both an abandonment of this principle and the abdication of responsibility by the Defense Department and the Army. The question is not whether these officers actually directed the abuses or participated in them; rather, the question is how they acted as generals and leaders to facilitate the abuses, fail to prevent them, or fail to stop them. That is the standard to which commanders are held, and that is the standard which is not being enforced here today. I dare say that this story sends a staggeringly bad message to the soldiers and junior leaders now on the front lines: we will hold you, your sergeants and your lieutenants responsible for their actions, but we will not hold your colonels and generals responsible for theirs. It is hard to see how that message can possibly support the "good order and discipline" which is so essential for maintaining an effective fighting force.

I share Carter's outrage, and wonder how much this egregious abdication of responsibility will degrade the capacity of the United States armed forces. That the widespread abuse of prisoners occurred at all is a black mark on the military's honor. That the military seeks to pin the responsibility on lowly troop and NCOs only compounds its shame and dishonor.





  x

say hello


...to the excellent movie review site 1000 Misspent Hours And Counting.





  x

movie of the evening morning


shinjuku triad society dvd

This morning I donated platelets at the Indiana Blood Center. As always, I brought my own DVD to watch during the procedure. Today I selected wildman director Takashi Miike's 1995 crime flick Shinjuku Triad Society, one of the director's early works that got him noticed, and the first entry in his Black Society trilogy. Here's a review at Monsters at Play.





  xTuesday, April 26, 2005

what i ddid before the movie


me playing ddr

Before the movie this evening, I stopped by the arcade next to the theater and played -- for the first time -- the arcade version of Dance Dance Revolution. I did the songs "Luv To Me" and "Make a Jam." I enjoyed it, although I didn't do anything fancy (like the guys next to me were doing).

One major difference from my earlir experiences hanging out in video arcades was that the machines didn't take quarters. Instead, you pre-pay for a paper card that you insert into the machine for credit. Since I have four more bucks invested in the card, I'll probably slide downtown one weekend and burn the rest of it up with some more DDR.





  x

movie of the evening


hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy teaser poster

My lovely wife and I just saw a preview of THe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It was fairly amusing.





  x

bush administration mendacity watch


The CIA has concluded that Iraq had no significant WMD capability.
In his final word, the CIA’s top weapons inspector in Iraq said Monday that the hunt for weapons of mass destruction has “gone as far as feasible” and has found nothing, closing an investigation into the purported programs of Saddam Hussein that were used to justify the 2003 invasion.

“After more than 18 months, the WMD investigation and debriefing of the WMD-related detainees has been exhausted,” wrote Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, in an addendum to the final report he issued last fall.

“As matters now stand, the WMD investigation has gone as far as feasible.”

In 92 pages posted online Monday evening, Duelfer provides a final look at an investigation that occupied over 1,000 military and civilian translators, weapons specialists and other experts at its peak. His latest addenda conclude a roughly 1,500-page report released last fall.

And no, they didn't sneak the stockpiles to Syria, either.
Although Syria helped Iraq evade U.N.-imposed sanctions by shipping military and other products across its borders, the investigators "found no senior policy, program, or intelligence officials who admitted any direct knowledge of such movement of WMD." Because of the insular nature of Saddam Hussein's government, however, the investigators were "unable to rule out unofficial movement of limited WMD-related materials."

The Iraq Survey Group's main findings -- that Hussein's Iraq did not possess chemical and biological weapons and had only aspirations for a nuclear program -- were made public in October in an interim report covering nearly 1,000 pages. Yesterday's final report, published on the Government Printing Office's Web site ( http://www.gpo.gov ), incorporated those pages with minor editing and included 92 pages of addenda that tied up loose ends on Syria and other topics.

U.S. officials have held out the possibility that Syria worked in tandem with Hussein's government to hide weapons before the U.S.-led invasion. The survey group said it followed up on reports that a Syrian security officer had discussed collaboration with Iraq on weapons, but it was unable to complete that investigation. But Iraqi officials whom the group was able to interview "uniformly denied any knowledge of residual WMD that could have been secreted to Syria," the report said.

The report, which refuted many of the administration's principal arguments for going to war in Iraq, marked the official end of a two-year weapons hunt led most recently by former U.N. weapons inspector Charles A. Duelfer. The team found that the 1991 Persian Gulf War and subsequent U.N. sanctions had destroyed Iraq's illicit weapons capabilities and that, for the most part, Hussein had not tried to rebuild them. Iraq's ability to produce nuclear arms, which the administration asserted was a grave and gathering threat that required an immediate military response, had "progressively decayed" since 1991. Investigators found no evidence of "concerted efforts to restart the program."

Administration officials have emphasized that, while the survey group uncovered no banned arms, it concluded that Hussein had not given up the goal of someday acquiring them.

One can only imagine what would have happened if Bush had tried to sell his war ambitions with the line "Saddam doesn't have weapons now, but he hopes to acquire them some day, so we must invade.

No, no -- it's beyond clear that Bush wanted to invade Iraq, period, and that in the aftermath of 9/11, hyping Iraq's so-called threat was the way to seel the American public. Unfortunately, given that polls at the time showed that support for the war would drop if Iraq had no such weapons or ties to al-Qaeda, or if casualties would exceed 1,000, one hardly needs risible theorizing about the so-called "liberal media" stabbing the President in the back to explain Bush's sagging poll numbers.

Speaking of which, there's much amusing wingnut denial in this Political Animal comment thread. Kevin Drum's conclusion, however, is spot-on:
For the rest of us, though, the story is over. Saddam was just a sorry and deluded tinpot tyrant. He posed a major threat to his own people, but never to us.

Many of the war boosters will no doubt assert that -- no matter how much they boosted the President's claims at the time, and scoffed at his critics -- Iraq's so-called weapons threat wasn't the primary reason they supported the war. But it's dishonest to pretend that WMDs weren't a key reason Bush and his minions used on their march to war, and that the rationale now lies in tatters. Small wonder that the American public is now, at last, beginning to realize that Bush misled them.





  x

quote of the day


Kos proposes an excellent slogan for the Democratic Party:
Ask any person on the street what a Republican stands for, and you'll get a single answer -- smaller government and lower taxes, family values, and a strong national defense. We can quibble about the GOP's real commitment to those values, but at the end of the day, they form a strong brand around which the GOP's entire agenda can be framed.

...The GOP has been brilliant in distilling their brand into three points, and I have been arguing that Democrats need to follow. Except that in a stroke of inspiration, I was able to distill the Democratic brand into a single short sentence:

Democrats are the party for people who work for a living

Word.

Update: More thoughts from Digby.





  x

new at dam


lone wolf and cub

Although a busy weekend prevented me from achieving my seven reviews in seven days goal, I have completed a review of another entry in the Lone Wolf and Cub series -- Baby Cart to Hades, which I borrowed from the local library -- for Destroy all Monsters.





  xMonday, April 25, 2005

paul krugman explains it all


Paul Krugman throws some cold water on GOP apologists' laughable claims of a so-called "Bush Boom."
Yet two-thirds of Americans polled by Gallup say that the economy is "only fair" or "poor." And only 33 percent of those polled believe the economy is improving, while 59 percent think it's getting worse.

Is the administration's obliviousness to the public's economic anxiety just partisanship? I don't think so: President Bush and other Republican leaders honestly think that we're living in the best of times. After all, everyone they talk to says so.

Since November's election, the victors have managed to be on the wrong side of public opinion on one issue after another: the economy, Social Security privatization, Terri Schiavo, Tom DeLay. By large margins, Americans say that the country is headed in the wrong direction, and Mr. Bush is the least popular second-term president on record.

What's going on? Actually, it's quite simple: Mr. Bush and his party talk only to their base - corporate interests and the religious right - and are oblivious to everyone else's concerns.

The administration's upbeat view of the economy is a case in point. Corporate interests are doing very well. As a recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, over the last three years profits grew at an annual rate of 14.5 percent after inflation, the fastest growth since World War II.

The story is very different for the great majority of Americans, who live off their wages, not dividends or capital gains, and aren't doing well at all. Over the past three years, wage and salary income grew less than in any other postwar recovery - less than a tenth as fast as profits. But wage-earning Americans aren't part of the base.

The same obliviousness explains Mr. Bush's decision to make Social Security privatization his main policy priority. He doesn't talk to anyone outside the base, so he didn't realize what he was getting into.

In retrospect, it was a terrible political blunder: the privatization campaign has quickly degenerated from juggernaut to joke. According to CBS, only 25 percent of the public have confidence in Mr. Bush's ability to make the right decisions about Social Security; 70 percent are "uneasy."

The point is that people sense, correctly, that Mr. Bush doesn't understand their concerns. He was sold on privatization by people who have made their careers in the self-referential, corporate-sponsored world of conservative think tanks. And he himself has no personal experience with the risks that working families face. He's probably never imagined what it would be like to be destitute in his old age, with no guaranteed income.

The same syndrome has been visible on cultural issues. Republican leaders in Congress, who talk only to the religious right, were shocked at the public backlash over their meddling in the Schiavo case. Did I mention that Rick Santorum is 14 points behind his likely challenger?

It all makes you wonder how these people ever ended up running the country in the first place. But remember that in 2000, Mr. Bush pretended to be a moderate, and that in the next two elections he used the Iraq war as a wedge to divide and perplex the Democrats.

In that context, it's worth noting two more poll results: in one taken before the recent resurgence of violence in Iraq, and the administration's announcement that it needs yet another $80 billion, 53 percent of Americans said that the Iraq war wasn't worth it. And 50 percent say that "the administration deliberately misled the public about whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction."

Democracy Corps, the Democratic pollsters, say that there is a "crisis of confidence in the Republican direction for the country." As they're careful to point out, this won't necessarily translate into a surge of support for Democrats.

But Americans are feeling a sense of dread: they're worried about a weak job market, soaring health care costs, rising oil prices and a war that seems to have no end. And they're starting to notice that nobody in power is even trying to deal with these problems, because the people in charge are too busy catering to a base that has other priorities.

Although it's somewhat unusual to see Krugman acknowledge honesty from the Bush camp (even if it's an honestly misguided belief), he's substantially correct. It remains to be seen how much longer the GOP can use social issues as a wedge tactic to keep Americans from voting in their own economic interest. But I doubt it'll be for much longer.





  x

sclm watch


MediaMatters catalogues how several prominent menbers of the so-called "liberal media" have been bamboozled into reporting the poorly-polling term "nuclear option" as of Democratic origin.
As several weblogs have noted, the term "nuclear option" -- referring to the Republican-proposed Senate rule change that would prohibit filibusters of judicial nominations -- was coined by one of its leading advocates, Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS). But since Republican strategists judged the term "nuclear option" to be a liability, they have urged Senate Republicans to adopt the term "constitutional option." Many in the media have complied with the Senate Republicans' shift in terminology and repeated their attribution of the term "nuclear option" to the Democrats.

Lott himself provided an example of the Republicans' deliberate rhetorical shift on the April 17 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, which featured Lott and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) discussing the proposed rule change:

SCHUMER: It goes against the checks and balances.

LOTT: That's why I call it the constitutional option. I went back this very morning and re-read the constitution.

SCHUMER: You once called it the nuclear option.

LOTT: Well, I am given credit for that.

SCHUMER: You are.

LOTT: I'm not sure I want it. I prefer to call it the constitutional option.

Some in the media have noted Lott's creation of the term. NPR legal correspondent Nina Totenberg reported on April 21: "The judicial filibusters have infuriated the White House, leading to the birth of an idea dubbed the nuclear option by former Senate GOP leader Trent Lott, nuclear because it would blow up the Senate." An article in the March 7 New Yorker reported: "It was understood at once that such a change would be explosive; Senator Trent Lott, the former Majority Leader, came up with 'nuclear option,' and the term stuck." The Hill quoted Lott using the term in a May 21, 2003, article: "'I'm for the nuclear option,' said Lott. 'The filibuster of federal judges cannot stand.'" And a June 25, 2003, Roll Call article quoted Lott saying of the nuclear option: "I am an advocate of that ... The Democrats are going to stop this or we are going to have to go nuclear."

...In spite of these facts, however, various media outlets have recently miscast "nuclear option" as solely a Democratic term, including some cited above who originally attributed it correctly:

DAVID WELNA (NPR congressional correspondent): Democrats call a simple majority rules change banning judicial filibuster the "nuclear option," due to the toxic effect they say it would have on Senate relations. [NPR's Morning Edition, 4/25/05]

Shame on NPR.

(via Talking Points Memo)

Update: As TPM notes, I heard NPR this morning relay the situation correctly -- that the Republicans were the early adopters of the "nuclear option" term, but that the Democrats gleefully picked up the baton the GOP dropped because it didn't poll well.





  xSunday, April 24, 2005

movie of the evening


spirited away

We had company over for dinner yesterday evening (I made broiled salmon, brown rice and asparagus; my lovely wife made a salad and our guests provided dessert). After dinner, I wanted to pick for the evening's entertainment something that reflected my fascination with Asian culture, but was reasonably accessible (No Audition or Naked Killer tonight, thanks). I considered Chungking Express and Porco Rosso, but decided on Spirited Away. We were all delighted at the choice -- it's been some time since I've watched Miyazaki's masterpiece, but it remains delightful as ever, and our guests were fascinated as well.

(image courtesy this fascinating movie blog.)






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