This evening, my friend Onye dropped by for a visit, and we took in a couple of DVDs. We began with the first installment of the intriguing horror anime series Lunar Legend Tsukihime, which I need to review soon for Destroy All Monsters.
Right now, we're watching the 1989 martial arts flick Bloodfight, which I picked up on a cheapo DVD last week. It stars a young Simon Yam (yes, Simon Yam in a martial arts flick!), along with action veterans Yasuaki Kurata and Bolo Yeung. The movie -- Japanese-produced but shot in Hong Kong -- seems to be recorded in English, not dubbed, resulting in some very stilted English and thick accents. Right now, an Angela Mao wannabe is busting up a gang of Chinese punk rockers. It's silly, lightweight and somewhat incoherent, but entertaining so far.
When we attended Anime Central this past weekend, The Five-Year-Old insisted on a turn with the disposable camera I bought after leaving my own camera back home in Indianapolis. I'm both proud (of her) and embarrassed (for myself) that the photos she shot turned out better than several of mine.
The same period of time elapsed between December 7, 1941 and V-J day.
Most comparisons between WWII and the Global War on Terror (GWOT) have been preposterous: Saddam Hussein was no Adlof Hitler; the "Axis of Evil" was no WWII Axis Powers; the far right even went so far as to compare Colin Powell to Neville Chamberlain.
But this milestone does provide the opportunity to compare the effectiveness of America's responses to both crises. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, America came together, and with determination, shared sacrifice, and the effective and focused leadership of FDR, George C. Marshall, and many others, America and her allies were victorious.
...It should not be surprising that a poorly defined mission has led to poor results. Iraq is a mess and many Americans have concluded that the invasion of Iraq was unrelated to the GWOT. The situtation in Afghanistan is not much better. Worldwide terrorism is still on the rise and America is now deeply divided.
...And the most deleterious impact may come from the growing lack of confidence in America's leadership. In the event of an international or economic crisis, I have no confidence that the Bush Administration will respond appropriately.
Word. Although to be fair, after observing Bush's cowardly reaction to September 11, I had no confidence then in his ability to react to a crisis.
Frank Gorshin, known to geeks everywhere for his performace as The Riddler in the '60s-era Batman series and for his notable guest shot in Star Trek, has died at the age of 72. A saddened Planet Swank extends its condolences to the actor and impressionist's family, friends and fans.
SEN. SCHUMER: Isn’t it correct that on March 8, 2000, my colleague [Sen. Frist] voted to uphold the filibuster of Judge Richard Paez?
Here was Frist’s response:
The president, the um, in response, uh, the Paez nomination - we’ll come back and discuss this further. … Actually I’d like to, and it really brings to what I believe - a point - and it really brings to, oddly, a point, what is the issue. The issue is we have leadership-led partisan filibusters that have, um, obstructed, not one nominee, but two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, in a routine way.
So, Frist is arguing that one filibuster is OK. His problem is that several Bush nominees have been filibustered. This position completely undercuts Frist’s argument that judicial filibusters are unconstitutional. (Which is, in turn, the justification for the nuclear option.) If judicial filibusters are unconstitutional there is no freebee.
Of course, one of the joys of my recent trip to Chicago was the opportunity to enjoy some good eating. Whenever I travel, I prefer to eat at the local joints rather than cookie-cutter chains. We stayed at my good freind Kim's apartment in Chicago's beautiful Ukranian Village neighborhood, and enjoyed sampling some of the local fare. The area featured a number of interesting-looking restaurants, nightclubs and bars, and we were able to visit a couple during our stay.
This is Peppe's Vienna hot dog stand, where The Five-Year-Old and I had lunch Saturday. Cecilia said her hot dog was one of the best she'd ever had, and I loved the double Polish sausage with hot and sweet fried peppers I ordered.
And this is Bacci Pizzeria, just a block or so down from Peppe's. They serve pizza by the (enormous) slice and a soft drink for the reasonable sum of $3.50. We picked up carry-out from here Saturday, and I was impressed that Cecilia put away half her slice of pepperoni pizza.
Scientists say the distinctive spiny plates on the backs of stegosaurus were just for show.
The plates that lined the backs of this oddly adorned dinosaur may have had no other function than to help them identify each other, like the colorful feathers on birds, scientists said today.
...A team of paleontologists has analyzed plates from the fossil record, ruling out some of the previous explanations given for this distinctive feature.
"When people see bizarre structures, they always want to give them bizarre functions," said Russell Main from Harvard University.
The bony plates, called scutes, had been thought to protect these herbivores from attacks from predators like the ravenous Allosaurus, but the fin-shaped appendages apparently would not have been strong enough for the job.
"These plates wouldn't offer much protection - they consist of a layer of dense bone surrounding a latticework of bone that would be like biting through a sandwich," said Kevin Padian of the University of California, Berkeley.
Scientists also speculate the just-for-show theory may apply to the horns of one of my personal favorite dinosaurs (along with the stegosaurus and the allosaurus), the triceratops. Say it ain't so!
The girl was located after officials found a match Thursday in one of several law enforcement databases of child pornography, state and federal officials said. The officials variously gave her age as 11 or 12.
The youngster had been placed in foster care in 2003 when a man who previously adopted her — the man believed to have taken the pictures — was arrested on charges related to trading child porn on the Internet, said Matt Irwin, a detective with the Orange County Sheriff's Office. The man began serving a federal prison sentence last year.
The suspect adopted the Russian-born girl when she was 5, Irwin said.
The child has appeared in about 200 explicit photos that have circulated on the Internet for at least three years. Earlier this year, police in Toronto released some of the photos — with the girl digitally removed — in hopes that it would help them find and possibly rescue the girl.
U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan of Pittsburgh confirmed Friday that the girl's former adoptive father is a 46-year-old former resident of Plum Borough, a suburb about 15 miles east of that city. Last year, he was sentenced to 15 years, 8 months in prison for coercing the girl to appear in pornographic photos found on a computer diskette in his house.
As I said earlier this evening, let Newsweek's reporting stand or fall on its own (though bear in mind that even at this point the Pentagon's denials seem rather technical). But do not miss the fact that the White House and the political appointees at the Pentagon are exploiting this in every way they can -- even going so far, it would seem, as to declare as a moral certainty claims that only a few days ago they professed to believe were false.
But make no mistake about it: were it not for the use of unnamed sources, we would know virtually none of what we currently know about the inner workings of our government. The same goes for almost any powerful institution in our society. And, as you might imagine, that's a result some find quite attractive.
Today I hope they see, this White House will settle for nothing but complete capitulation. (And they probably regard the retraction as a sign of weakness: you'll never see this administration own up to an error, however obvious).
Newsweek made a serious error in relying on a single source for its story, and its subsequent report may (or may not) have spurred fatal riots. The magazine subsequently apologized, then retracted the part of the story in question and vowed not to make the error again. In contrast, most of the rest of the media, in reporting the story, has continued to stumble all over itself, making the same mistakes over and over again. And unlike Newsweek, none of them are showing any signs of remorse.
Consider the central question of the story about the story: What exactly has the magazine retracted? Most reporters, particularly on television, are reporting that Newsweek has retracted the allegation that U.S. interrogators desecrated the Koran at Guantanamo Bay. But that's wrong: The magazine has said only that it no longer stands by its claim that allegations of Koran desecration appear in a forthcoming report from U.S. Southern Command. That's a very different point. There have been numerous other reports -- mostly from detainees -- suggesting that U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo did abuse the Koran. We don't know exactly what happened, but we do know that there's a significant difference between what Newsweek said -- that its source can no longer be sure that the allegations appear in an upcoming military report -- and what the press is reporting the magazine said -- that no desecration of the Koran ever took place.
But since the press has largely ceded control of the story to the White House, administration spinners have been able to twist it. Consider another central issue: whether Newsweek's premature report actually spurred the riots. Thanks to the White House spin, and the media's lazy reporting, the conventional wisdom is now that it did. But the reality is that it probably did not, at least in any significant sense. According to a statement last Thursday by General Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, after hearing from commanders on the scene in Afghanistan, the "rioting was related more to the ongoing political reconciliation process in Afghanistan than anything else." As we've noted, that makes sense, based on the Taliban's past patterns and the fact that previous reports about Koran desecration at Guantanamo spurred no such riots. But the press has repeatedly failed to make that clear.
Anti-evolutionists are trying to bring religion back into the picture with this maneuver and to free up science teachers to speak to their classes about matters involving the supernatural. But religion isn't all they may bring back. As far as I can tell, keeping an open mind about supernatural causes would also mean that when you or I investigate claims that a house might be haunted, we should be on the lookout for a ghost. Similarly, it would mean that when we look into reports of a weeping icon, we should get ready to investigate a paranormal event, rather than a mere case of pious fraud. And so on.
In reality, though, while they may leave open the theoretical possibility of a supernatural occurrence, scientists don't operate in this way -- and for good reason. Science seeks to explain natural phenomena in a way that other scientists (including those of varying religious faiths) can understand and independently evaluate. So, for at least two different reasons, scientists would not leap to a supernatural conclusion about a phenomenon like creaky floorboards and suddenly slamming doors in an old house. For one, they can construct a more simple explanation that does not require stretching beyond the reach of science. And for another, invoking supernatural causation (a ghost) ultimately doesn't work. Instead, postulating a supernatural cause effectively ends the inquiry, because we have no way of further investigating such a cause -- save more supernatural speculation. Supernatural "explanations" can't be tested, because scientific testing itself depends upon the constancy of natural laws.
For these reason, scientists since the Enlightenment have seen fit to distinguish between supernatural beliefs based on faith or metaphysics and scientific findings based on observed evidence and inferences about natural causation. Such inquiry is technically termed "methodological naturalism," more commonly known as the "scientific method." It has quite a successful track record over the years, from medicine to nuclear science.
But methodological naturalism deeply offends today's anti-evolutionists. Because the theory of evolution is perceived to have contributed to the undermining of religious belief, the intelligent design movement has taken to arguing that the theory itself betrays a deep philosophical prejudice against God and the supernatural. Hence, they seek to overturn not just evolution but methodological naturalism itself. Right alongside the ghost creaking the floorboards, they will reintroduce a "designer" who swoops in and fiddles with the history of life, apparently at will. Of course, we can't actually know anything definitive about who this designer is, why he/she/it likes to engage in such meddling, or why he/she/it couldn't get things right the first time. Or, at any rate, we won't be able to know anything about the matter through science. Turning to scripture, however, may provide some clues.
If the so-called Intelligent Design crowd wants to believe that religious creation stories are a more compelling narrative than rigorously tested, observable scientific theory, that's fine. It's just that their hokum has no place in a science class -- a fact that their attempts to redefine science ineherently proves.
I'm probably going to post a few random impressions from my recent weekend at Anime Central over the next few days, starting with this one.
On Sunday, the Five-Year-Old and I finally made it over to the game room. There were several banks of consoles, a batch of fighting games, and a few Dance Dance Revolution machines going, but the big attraction for me was finally seeing a Para Para Paradise machine in action. It's similar to DDR in that it requires players to move their bodies in synchronization to music, but rather than stepping on directional arrows, the player must break infrared beams in response to cues by an onscreen figure. In other words, the player uses his or her whole body -- especially the hands -- to dance. The player was often joined by a group of spectators copying his or her moves, with the effect of staging a small dance revue in the game room. This synchronized group dancing, apparently, is exactly what ParaPara was intended to simulate.
Cecilia, by the way, insisted on playing a video game, but she was intimidated by the skillz of the kids on her first choice, DDR (so was I, for that matter). So she decided to take a shot at the Tekken 5 game, on the grounds that she'd seen me play Tekken Tag Tournament at home on the PS2. There was a dude playing who totally pwnzed the game -- he had won six straight matches by the time Cecilia challenged him -- but she managed to win two of the five rounds, despite being unfamiliar with the game's arcade-style controls. My thanks go out to the gamer dude for his kindness.
Paul Krugman launches his typically shrill column this morning with an absolutely key rhetorical question.
Is there any point, now that November's election is behind us, in revisiting the history of the Iraq war? Yes: any path out of the quagmire will be blocked by people who call their opponents weak on national security, and portray themselves as tough guys who will keep America safe. So it's important to understand how the tough guys made America weak.
Exactly. The GOP has -- with no justification that stands up to careful scrutiny -- marketed itself as the "strong on defense" party, and conversely labeled the Democrats as surrender monkeys. Consider the yammering Zell Miller did at the GOP convention, lambasting John Kerry for voting for post-Cold War defense cuts proposed by GOP figures currently in the Bush administration. But more Americans are seeing Iraq for the mess that it is, depsite the pleas to "clap harder!" from the warmongers. Which, of course, explains their desire for censorship of all but good news. The GOP's carefully crafted marketing campaign is getting washed away by Iraq's bloody, useless, relentless tide.
Iraq could well prove the reason voters won't trust the Republicans with national security issues for a generation or more. After all, as Krugman notes,
[T]he people who got us into Iraq have done exactly what they falsely accused Bill Clinton of doing: they have stripped America of its capacity to respond to real threats.
Arthur Silber has an absolutely scorching rant about how the usual suspects on the right will use the recent Newsweek story -- wich was correct in its facts, just not its sourcing -- is being used as part of the right-wing's censorship campaign to achieve a totally submissive media.
So what is the logical result of all this? There are at least two major results, and two major goals: first, strengthening the idea that, whatever the United States does, it is always right and anyone who questions our policies is wrong, and anti-American—and if we do make any mistakes, they are trivial and barely worth mentioning, thus trying yet again to shut down all debate; and second, if the Bush supporters and warhawks had their way, censorship.
Censorship is what they’re after, and don’t let them tell you otherwise. They announced this goal unmistakably at least a year ago. (Here’s the classic, regret-filled formulation: “And here’s a question: Freedom of the press, as it exists today (and didn’t exist, really, until the 1960s) is unlikely to survive if a majority—or even a large and angry minority—of Americans comes to conclude that the press is untrustworthy and unpatriotic. How far are we from that point?”) Of course, they “regret” that censorship might be necessary. It’s a terrible shame and all that. But damn it, if magazines like Newsweek ARE GOING TO GET PEOPLE KILLED…well, what can we do? We obviously have to shut them up. They brought it on themselves. It’s their own damned fault. Of course, we’d like to have a free press, but THEY’RE GETTING PEOPLE KILLED!
...I doubt very much that the Bush administration or the hawks could achieve outright censorship at this point. The outcry (from a “large and angry minority,” although not the one Reynolds depends on) would be too great. But there is a secondary, lesser goal: intimidation. The hawks hope that, by endlessly beating up Newsweek and making mainstream journalism appear to be “irresponsible” to the point of “causing” deaths, the mainstream media will be far less likely to raise uncomfortable questions or write awkward stories about the various projects of the Bush administration, both foreign and domestic.
Make no mistake about it -- when conservatives repeat the "liberal media" mantra, they're referring to any media that isn't part of the right-wing's propaganda machine. Working the refs is one thing, but by this odious campaign the right seeks to eliminate one of the pillars of a free society in their quest for unchecked power.
Funny how they're targeting a free press, isn't it? One would almost imagine they presume their priorities and policies wouldn't stand up to public scrutiny.
This is old news to anybody who's been paying attention. The jihadists know it, those of us following the story know it and the government certainly knows it. The riots last week in Afghanistan and now around the world are orchestrated to gin up support and their followers are already pissed off enough about this stuff to get with the program quite easily.
Of course, as Silber says, this is probably going to end up being just another scalping party. And until the mainstream media cares about being played and used, the shrill shrieking harpies of the right wing noise machine will continue to treat them like the lackeys they are ... and make examples of some of them every once in a while to keep everybody in line.
And the Martini Republic finds itself needing a good, stiff drink after this latest example of right-wing blinkeredness.
The pretense that the anti-American riots spurred by reports that interrogators at Gitmo flushed the Prophet somehow occurred in a vacuum is contemptible. Those reports didn't cause the deepening hatred, mistrust and fear which set off the riots, they merely acted as a spark. The tinder was well laid by Bush's invasion of Iraq under pretexts now proven false, the detention and torture of prisoners, and a myriad of other actions...
...Pretending that the Newsweek report is responsible for the anti-American protests is stupid. The only reason the reports had any potency at all is because it was a powerful metaphor for the way many in the muslim world believe the United States perceives and treats muslims. And the persons most responsible for that belief are the right wing nut cases and the politicians they support, which may be why, in the end, these fools and liars are so intent on trying to blame Newsweek's mistake for hostility, anger, and resentment which has been simmering for the last two years.
Newsweek, at least, owns up to its mistake. The wingnut blogosphere simply amplifies its own. Blame the press is an old game — Harkins tried it in Vietnam, in the early 60s, when the general in charge of Vietnam insisted Diem was winning the war, despite the what the press and most of his own colonels, majors and captains out in the field were saying. Blame the press is an easy strategy, but it doesn't solve anything. But it appears the right would rather repeat a mistake than admit it.
Sorry for not posting word in advance, but the Five-Year-Old and I spent the weekend in Chicago attending the Anime Central convention. We had a lot of fun attending the events, mingling with the fans, shopping in the vendor room and of course watching anime.
Cecilia wore the Sailor Moon costume her mother made for her for Ikasucon last year. She looked simply adorable, once again. She constantly got stopped and asked to pose for a photo. The Anime Central staff posted this picture on the con's own cosplay gallery.
I'm working on a con report for Destroy All Monsters, and will the link when it's complete. I'd also like to thank Courtney Segota and Kate Krzak from Acen's press room, who were tremendously helpful, and who arranged for this picture to be posted.