The parties are advised to chill.
Mattel, Inc. v. MCA Records, Inc., 296 F.3d 894, 908 (9th Cir. 2002)

Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Blogger Personality Tests

Found this via Nina's blog, and my results come as a complete surprise:

You are an ESFJ!

As an ESFJ, you are Extraverted, Sensing, Feeling, and Judging.
This makes your primary focus on Extraverted Feeling with Introverted Sensing.

This is defined as a SJ personality, which is part of Carl Jung's Guardian (Security Seeking) type, and more specifically the Provider or Caregiver.

As a weblogger, your spirit of making others feel good will make people reciprocate and you will feel loved. Because you have a detail oriented spirit, you will be more likely to post frequently. You appreciate validation - espcially when someone agrees with you on something you say. Because of your sensativity, you must be careful not to be hurt when other webloggers are having contraversies - you want everyone to be happy.

Riiiiight. Mr. Sensitive, that's me.


Posted 3:51 PM by Tony


Those Wacky Germans

Apparently, some Germans are pissed:

"The International Short Film Festival Oberhausen denounces the aggressive policies espoused by the governments of Great Britain, Italy, Spain and the USA, which have led them to disregard international law and condone the deaths of thousands of innocent human beings," the festival said in a statement.

"In the almost 50 years of its existence, the oldest short film festival in the world has discovered and promoted many artists from all over the world. Our work, as that of any other international festival, is geared towards a better understanding between different nations.

"We have therefore decided not to tolerate the presence of any official representatives of the Aznar, Berlusconi, Blair and Bush administrations at our festival." [emphasis added - Tony]

The last two sentences just don't make sense. "Therefore" in a sentence indicates that the sentence is a logical result of the previous sentence. Apparently, the film festival is excluding representatives of several nations in order to promote "better understanding between different nations."

Perhaps I'm missing something in translation?

And I'd also note that if disregarding international law results in stopping stuff like this, then the concept of international law, at least as it relates to matters of war and peace, may need some rethinking.

If I might quote Mr. Burns: Oooh, the Germans are mad at me. I'm so scared! Oooh, the Germans!


Posted 10:44 AM by Tony


Confirmations

Here's a piece from today's Washington Post, about the nomination of Priscilla Owen to fill a vacancy in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

I'm enormously irritated that the Senate is holding up the nominations process like this. True, the confirmation process is subject to the vagaries of politics. But at this point, the obstinacy with which Senate Democrats are attempting to block judicial confirmations borders on the obscene.

First, the magnitude of the problem. As of today, there are 50 vacancies in the federal judiciary, at the district court and Circuit Court of Appeals levels combined. Several positions have been left unoccupied for an extended period of time. For example, one position in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has been vacant since July 31, 1994. While the number of vacancies has gone down, a large number of holes still exist at the appellate level, with at least three vacancies each in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Ninth, and DC Circuits.

However, the confirmation rate for the current administration is absurdly low. Every president since 1960 has seen a greater than 90% confirmation rate for judicial nominees selected during the first two years of office. Looking at the Court of Appeals nominees during the first two years of office, at least 86% made it to a floor vote. In contrast, the current administration has seen less than 30% of its nominees make it to a floor vote.

Comparison of the first 11 Court of Appeals nominees for the Clinton and Bush administrations show that, on average, the Clinton nominees waited 115 days for the Senate to vote, at a 100% confirmation rate. In contrast, Bush's nominees have waited an average of more than 400 days, at a confirmation rate of 27%.

While mindful of Benjamin Disraeli's quote concerning statistics, I find the trend to be rather alarming. In all fairness, the oldest nomination still in the pipeline dates to January 7, 2003, but it has still been over 3 months.

In the meantime, I found this tidbit from the WaPo piece to be rather interesting:

White House officials said the nominations flow from Bush's commitment to expanding gender and racial diversity on the federal bench. "The diversity thing is a constant with him," one official said.

Legal sources said the White House is so focused on finding minority nominees that after officials have exhausted their personal networks in particular geographic areas, they have scoured the directories of federal and state judges, and even the rosters of major law firms, in the quest for qualified minorities they may have overlooked.

Nan Aron, president of the liberal Alliance for Justice, said advocates for women and minorities have not fallen for the White House strategy. "While some of his nominees have been diverse in terms of sex and race, they are cut from the same ideological cloth," she said.

A couple points:
1) who says Republicans are always anti-diversity?
2) Ms. Aron seems to be surprised that the President is nominating people "from the same ideological cloth." What was she expecting? Of course presidents are going to select nominees that are share the same ideological ground. I, for one, can't remember Clinton nominating a conservative to a judicial vacancy.

This is getting simply ridiculous.


Posted 10:10 AM by Tony

Monday, April 28, 2003
Canada = California?

Last week, an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail discussed the rise of a de facto one-party state in Canada. Apparently, during the early 90s, the conservative voice in Canada fractured into two separate parties. The Liberal party, by default, gained control of the government, and have retained that control for over ten years:

One-party rule, or at least a facsimile of it, has been with Canadians ever since the election of 1993. Since that time, the Liberals -- no matter what they do -- have maintained an extraordinary 20- to 35-percentage-point lead in the polls. And there is no sign of a letup. The system is almost locked shut against change. One-party rule could be the rule for a generation to come.

[ . . . ]

Westerners had broad representation in a national party, the Conservatives. They traded in that for a big regional rump. Under Brian Mulroney, the West didn't get what it wanted, but it fared better than it has under the Liberals. Mr. Mulroney dismantled the national energy program and the Foreign Investment Review Agency. He championed deregulation and privatization, brought in free trade that Westerners welcomed and, in constitutional negotiations, put many of their demands on the table.

It wasn't enough for Mr. Manning, who launched his rear-guard rebellion, dividing the right, then had the chutzpah -- complaining that the right could never win while split -- to launch a drive to reunite it. Small wonder most Tories don't want any part of a reunification plan.

I started thinking about possible similarities with California in light of a piece in the Economist (last week's print issue), which discussed why California, traditionally a bellwether for national trends, has been out of step with the rest of the country since 9/11. It got me to thinking.

The comparison, at least on the political level, is not as far-fetched as it might seem:

1. The governments in both Canada and California are controlled by parties that tilt toward the left end of the political spectrum. The Canadian Liberal Party and California Democratic Party seem to share similar core values, when one disregards differences caused by regional peculiarities.

2. The heads of both governments are politicians widely distrusted by the people they represent. A cursory reading of Canadian newspaper Web sites seems to indicate that Chretien is hardly admired, or even liked, in vast swaths of western Canada, and his following seems mostly confined to Ontario and Quebec, at least from my outsider perspective. Here in California, it’s pretty darned difficult to find people that actually like Governor Gray Davis. Many people, regardless of political orientation, dislike him. He has attempted to gain support among the wider populace by referring to his service in Vietnam and allegedly promoting a “no parole” policy. However, rather than gaining conservative support, he’s succeeded in only irritating his supporters in the Democratic Party. Co-option of the other side worked for Clinton; Davis’s attempt to do the same isn’t working quite as well.

3. The opposition in both regions have managed to pretty much implode. Lawrence Martin summarizes the history on the Canadian side in his Globe and Mail piece, excerpted above. In California, to my regret, the California Republican Party appears to have sacrificed electability for ideological purity. The Republican machine appears to be dominated by those emphasizing a certain agenda, which for the sake of brevity, might be referred to as “family values.” The last gubernatorial election is a case in point. During the primaries, we Republicans were able to choose between Bill Simon and Dick Riordan as our candidate. Simon was very much a product of the “family values” wing of the party; in contrast, Riordan was considered much more of a moderate, and unlike Simon, had significant political experience as the mayor of Los Angeles. However, given the ability of the “family values” wing to mobilize the intraparty vote, Simon became the torchbearer of Republican hopes. Personally, I was unsurprised that Davis won, given the alternative.

The surprise was the relatively thin margin of victory. The California GOP may have interpreted this as a sign of Simon's appeal as a "family values" candidate. I think the more accurate conclusion is that the results do not reflect Simon's popularity, but rather Davis' unpopularity.

Unlike Stud Lee (post of April 22, 2003 - permalinks not working; will add when functional), I'm unsure that the Canadian Alliance is Canada's only shot at repairing relations with the US. I say that because the Canadian Alliance's shot at gaining control on its own seem unlikely. Moreover, given Stephen Harper's personality, as reflected by his remarks, I have my doubts that the Alliance can sustain a political coalition. Harper, to me, has been sounding increasingly shrill as of late, which to me seems more symptomatic of a permanent minority rather than one with a realistic shot at gaining control of the government.

In any event, in both cases, California and Canada, this "one party plus" system cannot be anything but damaging to the democratic process. Perhaps I'm being overly concerned, but if the last 10 years in Canadian politics are any indication, I fear for my state.


Posted 4:14 PM by Tony


French Toast Ambush

I was at a Denny's yesterday with my friend and his wife, having breakfast. Suddenly, we heard a spate of yelling coming from the other side of the restaurant. I couldn't make out what was going on, but it seemed to have something to do with racial epithets between customers. (On a side note, doesn't it seem that Denny's seems to get more than its fair share of racial incidents?)

My friend's wife put down her fork, and told us that all the commotion had killed her appetite.

I regarded her plate. An untouched piece of French toast remained.

"Mind if I have some of that?"

"Help yourself."

I sawed off a piece, and chewed. What the hell?

There was an unexpected vinegary bite to the toast, which went a ways to clearing my sinuses. I looked at the French toast. It lay unoffensively on the plate, covered with powdered sugary goodness and dripping syrup. Everything seemed normal. Yet, somehow, I'd fallen into a culinary booby trap.

As it turned out, the French toast had absorbed some of the Tabasco sauce she had used on her scrambled eggs.

Tabasco sauce and French toast - I think we can pretty much scratch that off the list of possible food combinations.


Posted 12:10 PM by Tony

Thursday, April 24, 2003
More News From Canada

Lately, I've been fascinated by Canada. I really don't know why. The closest I can come up with is that we share a huge common border, yet it's a country we really know nothing about. Until recently, I had not appreciated the fact that Canada's Prime Minister is not chosen by direct election. And apparently, the cod fisheries are in trouble. (Oh yeah, darn my friend for getting me hooked, so to speak, on cod stories.)

Lately, several cases of SARS have popped up in Canada, primarily in the Toronto area. As a result, the UN's World Health Organization has issued a travel advisory warning against traveling to Toronto, together with several areas in China:

As a result of ongoing assessments as to the nature of outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Beijing and Shanxi Province, China, and in Toronto, Canada, WHO is now recommending, as a measure of precaution, that persons planning to travel to these destinations consider postponing all but essential travel. This temporary advice, which is an extension of travel advice previously issued for Guangdong Province and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China will be reassessed in three weeks time.

Needless to say, the Canadian government is mightily pissed at being lumped together with the Chinese:

Canada’s desire to have the World Health Organization rescind a travel advisory warning people not to come to Toronto may have hit a roadblock.

Sergio Marchi, a Canadian diplomat based in Geneva, is meeting Thursday with WHO experts to ask them to remove the SARS advisory, but a spokeswoman for the organization insisted that it will remain in place for three weeks and perhaps even longer.

[ . . . ]

Toronto’s mayor, Mel Lastman, was livid Wednesday after the warning was issued and scores of countries including Germany, France and Britain told their citizens not to travel to the city unless it was “essential.”

"I’ve never been so angry in my life,” Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman said.


Canadian blogger Colby Cosh has the best take on this:
Funny how Canadians love squishy institutions of global governance until one of them acts the least bit peremptory towards them.

I feel compelled to point out: Whatever happened to giving the UN inspectors more time to work?


Posted 10:29 AM by Tony


Little Steps

Via Opinion Journal (the Wall Street Journal's editorial site), there's this (endnotes deleted):

In March 2003, Al-Azhar University's Institute for Islamic Research issued a recommendation not to describe contemporary Jews as "apes and pigs." The meeting during which the recommendation was drafted was headed by Sunni Islam's highest-ranking cleric, the sheikh of Al-Azhar, Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi.

Calling Jews "apes and pigs" is very common in the antisemitic discourse of the Arab world, particularly in Islamist circles. For the most part, the term is used as a synonym for Jews, or in strings of epithets originating in the Koran and Muslim tradition regarding Jews. Sheikh Tantawi himself, in an April 2002 sermon, called Jews "the enemies of Allah, the sons of apes and pigs."

According to reports on Al-Bawaba and in Al-Watan, Al-Azhar's discussion on calling Jews "apes and pigs" followed a request to the Islamic Research Institute from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to examine the matter. This request came after the Egyptian Embassy in Washington D.C. reported that there was anger in American society over Muslim preachers and clerics calling Jews these names.

Also, as noted above, three months before, Osama Al-Baz criticized calling Jews "apes and pigs" in his series of articles in Al-Ahram.

That's progress of a sort, I suppose. The cynic in me, however, can't help but point out that this recommendation isn't due to a change of heart, but rather the realization that Americans are taking offense.


Posted 10:06 AM by Tony


Asbestos Trusts

The New York Times has an article today about an attempt to cut the Gordian knot of asbestos litigation:

Companies, insurers, unions and Democratic and Republican senators are nearing an agreement in principle to end all asbestos lawsuits and instead pay people with asbestos-related diseases from a national privately financed trust, according to people from all sides who have participated in the talks.

The trust, which would be subject to approval by Congress and President Bush, would pay more than $100 billion to hundreds of thousands of asbestos victims over the next 30 years. It would stop the flood of asbestos lawsuits, 200,000 in the last two years alone, that have strained businesses and the court system.

It sounds a little odd at first look. Why would legislators be involved in the establishment of a privately financed trust? The article was frustratingly vague.

I suspect that Congress's part in all this would probably be in passing legislation directing all present and future claimants to the trust and, more importantly, making the trust the sole recourse for asbestos claimants, or at least requiring claimants from to go through all the relevant claims procedures established by the trust.

I would expect this latter to be the sore point. Without this provision, litigation remains a primary option, which would defeat the whole point of the trust, at least from the corporate POV.

On the other hand, the provision would dramatically restrict access to the courts for people claiming asbestos injuries. I would think that there's a potential Constitutional problem there.

But there's no denying the magnitude of the problem, for both sides:

Already, lawsuits have forced into bankruptcy almost 70 companies, some of which were only peripherally connected to asbestos. Most American companies stopped using asbestos decades ago, but the number of lawsuits continues to rise. About 700,000 claims have been filed, including 200,000 in the last two years.

[ . . . ]

Under the current system of lawsuits, some people who are sick or dying from asbestos exposure receive little money if their exposure happens to have come from companies that are already in bankruptcy. Others, including some who are not sick, get millions of dollars from sympathetic juries. [emphasis added - Tony]

[ . . . ]

While more than half the money paid in the current system goes to plaintiff and defense lawyers, the trust under discussion would pay nearly all its money to victims if they are new claimants. But lawyers who represent people who have already filed claims would receive their standard fees of up to 40 percent of any settlement, meaning those claimants would cost the fund more.

Now, asbestos-related law is not my area, so I have no insight on how this trust would work, and my thoughts are just based off of reading one article. For all I know, everything could be hunky-dory, legally-speaking. But there are some interesting legal issues at play here.

On a non-legal note, I was amused at the casual swipe at the Bush administration:

Another potential complication is that one of the biggest beneficiaries of any such settlement could be Halliburton, the oil services company, which faces asbestos suits that have depressed its stock price. Because Vice President Dick Cheney was chairman of the company, any settlement that benefits Halliburton may be criticized by Democrats.


How is this relevant? The article would imply that Cheney is manipulating events for the benefit of a company he formerly had a role in. From the text of the article, however, the White House has had no role in negotating the trust, and its role would appear to be limited to approving or not approving of whatever legislation Congress comes up with.

The implication of the last sentence appears to be, "Well, if a person I disapprove of used to be involved with a company that would benefit, then I'm against it." That says a lot more about those Democrats than it does about Halliburton or Cheney.

But I'm not sure that there will be much Democratic criticism of the deal on the grounds that its beneficiaries are politically connected, in light of yesterday's story in the San Francisco Chronicle:

A planning and engineering firm co-owned by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's husband has been awarded a five-year Pentagon contract that could be worth up to $600 million.

[ . . . ]

Feinstein's husband, Richard Blum, serves on the company's board of directors and controls about 24 percent of its stock.

The new contract is the latest lucrative defense job to be won by URS, which also works with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration among other federal departments. The firm was awarded an Army engineering and logistics contract in February that could be worth $3.1 billion over the next eight years. [emphasis added - Tony]


Just thought I'd point that out.


Posted 9:44 AM by Tony

Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Neat!

I've always loved Rube Goldberg drawings. The "machines" depicted in the drawings mixed the intricate with the sublimely ridiculous. When I was younger, I loved tracing the chain of events from one end to another, feeling the same sense of accomplishment that I felt in finishing a maze. See this, for example.

Well, Gretchen's found an updated version of that, in a commercial for the Honda Accord.

Cool.


Posted 11:27 AM by Tony


Shuffling Things Up

Joe Queenan, one of my favorite writers, has a piece up in today's Opinion Journal. After discussing how Jay Leno and Katie Couric will be switching shows for a day on May 12, he goes on to suggest other possible pairings:

Public television's Jim Lehrer hasn't been able to get a straight answer out of anyone in the State Department in years, so my vote for a one-night replacement is Tom Arnold from Fox Sports Network's "The Best Damn Sports Show, Period." Always ready to say the first thing that comes into his head, and not afraid to approach the limits of good taste, Tom's in-your-face approach might finally intimidate Doris Kearns Goodwin, Joe Biden or Tom Ridge into telling us something we don't already know. How Mr. Lehrer fares with the likes of Charles Barkley and David Wells on Mr. Arnold's show is anybody's guess; these guys both claim to have been misquoted in their own autobiographies. On the other hand, Mr. Lehrer did spend eight years talking to people in the Clinton administration, so it's not like he's a complete stranger to mind-boggling deceit.
[emphasis added - Tony]

I think I just hurt myself laughing.


Posted 11:11 AM by Tony

Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Succinct Case Law Summary

Ran across this article on American Insurance Association v. Garamendi. At issue is a California law that requires insurers doing business within the state to disclose details of policies sold in Europe from 1920 to 1945.

The article discusses a previous case, Zschernig v. Miller, 389 U.S. 429 (1968):

The Court held, in essence, that Oregon could not make an official habit of antagonizing the communist world, since, if the U.S.S.R. were to attack, that would have very bad consequences for the other 49 states.

I doubt that this is an accurate summation, but I'll admit that it's pretty amusing.


Posted 3:29 PM by Tony


Funniest Quote of the Day

It's still early in the day, but I doubt anything will top this:

"I think it might be wise for them to get independent verification because it has high credibility," [UN weapons inspector Hans Blix] said when asked about the reported discovery by U.S. teams of ingredients and equipment in Iraq that could be used to make a chemical weapon.

Yep, Blix's boys sure did a bang-up job the first time around. "High credibility," indeed.


Posted 8:32 AM by Tony

Monday, April 21, 2003
That Moron Chretien

In addition to the Axis of Weasels, one effect of the Iraq War has been to sour American relations with Canada.

Today's Hill Times reports that Liberal MPs are accusing the opposition Canadian Alliance of worsening Canadian-American relations by collecting newspapers and other materials that emphasize both the Liberal government's opposition to the war and anti-American comments by Liberal MPs, which were then sent to American politicians:

Liberal MP Sarkis Assadourian (Brampton Centre, Ont.) said he learned about the situation during a recent trip to Washington, D.C., as part of the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group when one of his American counterparts, Republican Congressman Don Manzullo, showed him the documents.

Mr. Assadourian said the incident cast a pall over the meetings, which took place during the war, and that he was stuck doing damage control.

"When I was there I was shown letters and speeches and newspaper articles that Liberal Party Members of the House of Commons had spoken up against the Americans regarding the war in Iraq," he said.

"It doesn't help the situation. It doesn't help trade. It doesn't help the border issue. The best thing is for people to show leadership and look forward."

"The point I'm making is that no Member of Parliament should travel outside our country and knock down our own country," he said, adding that he also wasn't impressed when Alliance Leader Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) and his party's foreign affairs critic, Stockwell Day (Okanagan-Coquihalla, B.C.) co-wrote an article in The Washington Post which was critical of the federal government's war stance.

I have to agree that criticizing one's own government in a foreign forum smacks of disloyalty, as I've said before.

However, I don't think the Liberal Party should feel any surprise that it's currently being snubbed by Washington. And it's not due to some sort of personal pique, as this column would imply. Instead, there appears to be a growing perception down here, whether true or not, that the Liberal party is rife with anti-Americanism of near-endemic proportions.

A quick review:

1. Francoise Duros, Chretien's director of communications, refers to President Bush as a "moron" during a NATO meeting in Prague in November 2002. Though Ducros later resigned over the incident, Chretien never, as far as I've seen, expressed a clear repudiation of his staffer's remarks.

2. Bonnie Brown, Liberal MP from Oakville, compared any American attack on Hussein as equivalent to Pearl Harbor in October 2002.

3. Parliamentary secretary and Brampton West-Mississauga Liberal MP Colleen Beaumier visits Baghdad, chums it up with Tariq Aziz, and extolled pre-1991 Iraq as a progressive, secular nation in the Commons. I think (though I can't remember for sure) that she also compared Hussein favorably to Bush, drawing the inevitable Hitler/Nazi comparison.

4. Carolyn Parrish, Liberal MP from Mississauga Centre, during a Liberal party caucus, remarks, "Damn Americans. I hate those bastards." Though she later apologized, she then went on a talk show, not sounding particularly repentant for her comments. She notes that Chretien didn't reprimand her for the remarks, or even sound particularly cross.

5. Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal in late March referred to Bush as a "failed statesman." He claimed that his statement was misconstrued, though it seems unclear how such comments could be construed as anything other than America-bashing.

6. In early April, news reports reveal that Canadian naval forces operating with U.S. forces in the Gulf are under orders to not turn over any Iraqis it may capture.

During all this, I never noticed Chretien reining in any of the remarks by his party. I figure Chretien would have more power to impose party discipline, in light of Canada's parliamentary system. But, he has chosen not to exercise it.

Far as I'm concerned, Canadian-American relations can pretty much run on autopilot until next February, when Chretien retires.


Posted 7:59 PM by Tony


Rice May Need To Rethink

Condoleeza Rice is reported as saying that our postwar strategy to our erstwhile "allies" should be: "punish France, ignore Germany, and forgive Russia."

That policy may need some rethinking, if this is true:

During the meeting, on January 29, 2002, Lt Gen Haboosh says that the Iraqis are keen to have a relationship with Germany's intelligence agency "under diplomatic cover", adding that he hopes to develop that relationship through Mr Hoffner.

The German replies: "My organisation wants to develop its relationship with your organisation."

In return, the Iraqis offered to give lucrative contracts to German companies if the Berlin government helped prevent an American invasion of the country.

The revelations come a week after The Telegraph reported that Russia had spied for the Iraqis, passing them intelligence about a meeting between Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister. Both the British and Italian governments have launched investigations.

The meeting between the Iraqi and German agents took place some six months before Chancellor Schröder's Social Democrat-led government began its policy of direct opposition to the idea of an American/British-led war against Iraq. The policy was adopted in the heat of last year's German general election campaign, at a time when the Social Democrats were widely predicted to lose the contest. Mr Schröder was re-elected as Chancellor last September, largely because of the popularity of his government's outspoken opposition to the war against Iraq. The apparently verbatim account of the meeting between Lt Gen Haboosh and Mr Hoffner was among documents recovered by The Telegraph in the rubble of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad, which was heavily bombed.


Kinda makes a mockery of Schroeder's attempts to backpedal, as well as German Foreign Minster Joschka Fischer's claim, "We don't have any direct economic interests. We can act in a more balancing way."

Update:
The same Iraqi intelligence files are also implicating antiwar British Labour MP George Galloway. According to the files, he was to have been paid 375,000 pounds per year (around 585,000 US dollars). If this is true, then I have to wonder - how far did Saddam's fingers reach?


Posted 9:02 AM by Tony


Giving Inspections Time To Work

Well, here's an interesting bit from today's NY Times:

A scientist who claims to have worked in Iraq's chemical weapons program for more than a decade has told an American military team that Iraq destroyed chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment only days before the war began, members of the team said.

They said the scientist led Americans to a supply of material that proved to be the building blocks of illegal weapons, which he claimed to have buried as evidence of Iraq's illicit weapons programs.

The scientist also told American weapons experts that Iraq had secretly sent unconventional weapons and technology to Syria, starting in the mid-1990's, and that more recently Iraq was cooperating with Al Qaeda, the military officials said.

The Americans said the scientist told them that President Saddam Hussein's government had destroyed some stockpiles of deadly agents as early as the mid-1990's, transferred others to Syria, and had recently focused its efforts instead on research and development projects that are virtually impervious to detection by international inspectors, and even American forces on the ground combing through Iraq's giant weapons plants.

An American military team hunting for unconventional weapons in Iraq, the Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, or MET Alpha, which found the scientist, declined to identify him, saying they feared he might be subject to reprisals. But they said that they considered him credible and that the material unearthed over the last three days at sites to which he led them had proved to be precursors for a toxic agent that is banned by chemical weapons treaties.

Granted, it's just one datum point concerning the two issues of WMD and Iraq's links with al-Qaeda. However, it does weigh heavily against the arguments that Iraq had no such weapons in development. Well, that and the suspected mobile labs.

However, I suspect that the Times either made a mistake or is passing on some disinformation:

MET Alpha is one of several teams created earlier this year to hunt for unconventional weapons in Iraq. Supported by the 75th Exploitation Task Force, a field artillery brigade based in Fort Sill, Okla., the teams were charged with visiting some 150 top sites that intelligence agencies have identified as suspect.

How does a field artillery unit support a unconventional weapons search team? I suppose I can see the argument that field artillery has experience with unconventional weapons, in the sense that such weapons can be fired by artillery. It seems to me, though, that other units in the area would be better able to provide the necessary expertise.

It's a puzzle.


Posted 8:29 AM by Tony

Sunday, April 20, 2003
Think Globally, Litter Locally

Well, looks like some Earth Day events are happening today. I don't know what it is, but the thought of all these earnest people amped up about a cause really, really brings out the cynical side of my personality. And it's not just Earth Day, believe me - the whole Promise Keepers rallies brought out the same reaction.

Last year, there was a huge Earth Day event in front of San Francisco City Hall. I walked by it while it was going on, and there were booths everywhere, addressing the needs of the planet, blaming Republicans, the usual thing. While I didn't exactly identify with the crowd, I decided to stop by because I lived a block away and I enjoy people watching.

I walked by right after it had ended, and all the people had gone home to practice a green-conscious lifestyle. What remained was a debris-strewn field, wrappers, cups, and assorted detritus, almost evenly coating the entire surface of the field. The only thing more prevalent than the litter was, perhaps, the lingering layer of irony.

Sarcasm aside, I was shocked at the carelessness with which people with avowed sympathies to conservation had disposed of their waste.

I wonder how much litter this year's events are going to generate?

I'm really regretting not having a digital camera right now.


Posted 9:13 AM by Tony

Friday, April 18, 2003
Getting Your Groove On

Stacy has a great post on a new, um, audio technology.

Here's a blurb from their web site:

Audi-Oh™ is a revolution in stimulation technology for men or women. Sound is converted into infinitely variable pulses of pleasure.

Why can't I stop laughing?


Posted 12:45 PM by Tony

Thursday, April 17, 2003
Top Ten

The 3rd Infantry Division, which, until recently, was the only heavy U.S. division in Iraq, puts out a daily briefing, avaiable here. The one for today features a Top Ten list. I'm not sure if it's from the Late Show with David Letterman, since the list isn't up on the show's web site.

But I was quite amused by it:

The Top 10 Signs Your Resistance to US Invasion Isn't Going Well



10> As you inspect your elite platoon, you notice a white flag stuck into every belt.

9> Good news: Your troops are practicing their battle plans.
Bad news: They're looking at the coalition-dropped pamphlets for instructions.

8> Before the battle, your CO hands out "What Would the French Do?" bracelets.

7> You overhear your senior military strategists discussing their vaunted "These are not the droids you're looking for" plan.

6> Your palace is now the 3rd Infantry Division Officer's Club. [emphasis in source - Tony]

5> You finally understand that "Don't Mess With Texas" bumper sticker.

4> Your troops aren't just surrendering to American troops, they're surrendering to the talking clown head at the local Jack-in-the-Box.

3> US Psychological Warfare Operations troops break into your Minister of Information's press conference to flash the message: "All your base are belong to us!"

2> The US didn't send the 3rd Infantry Division or the Special Forces.
They sent a local Society for Creative Anachronism chapter (war re-enacting groups)...which promptly routed your army.

and the Number 1 Sign Your Resistance to US Invasion isn't Going Well...

1> Go to work on Monday by taking Supreme Dictator Avenue, past Supreme Dictator Street, and turn right onto Supreme Dictator Lane. Go to work on Tuesday by taking Washington Avenue, past Lincoln Street, and turn right onto GW Bush Lane.

I like Number 3, myself. Guess the author of the list is also a computer gamer.


Posted 3:21 PM by Tony


Gotta Catch 'Em All

According to today's Washington Post, looks like we captured Saddam's half-brother:

The capture of Barzan al-Tikriti--the name indicates he comes from Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's former stronghold north of Baghdad--could be an intelligence bonanza for U.S. investigators seeking to unearth the former government's secrets.

In the early 1980s, he was Saddam Hussein's chief of intelligence. He was forced out of the government after a dispute with his half brother, but he returned to public life in 1988 as Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva. In that position was responsible for the Iraqi government's finances abroad, and thus he could be expected to know where the country's rulers stashed funds that they might have kept outside Iraq.

He has held no public office since another internal family dispute in the late 1990s. By some accounts he has been under virtual house arrest for more than a year. Brooks, however, described him as "an adviser to the former regime leader with extensive knowledge of the regime's inner working."

Barzan al-Tikriti was the five of clubs in the deck of playing cards depicting the former regime's 55 most-wanted officials that U.S. military authorities distributed last week. He is the third person on the list known to be in U.S. custody, following the capture earlier this week of another of Saddam Hussein's half-brothers, Watban, and the surrender of Hussein's senior scientific adviser, Amer Saadi. The whereabouts and condition of Saddam Hussein himself are unknown.


Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti
from Iraqi Most Wanted Playing Cards,distributed by U.S. Central Command
(entire set as PDF here)


It's almost like a bizarre Pokemon game, writ large.


Posted 2:28 PM by Tony

Wednesday, April 16, 2003
Reader Mail

One of my friends wrote to me in response to a post I made about the Pope on war.

Here is part of the letter:

QUOTATION:
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one,
and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and
despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

ATTRIBUTION:
Bible: New Testament Jesus, in Matthew, 6:24.
From the Sermon on the Mount.

I was once a medieval historian. I studied Christian doctrine. This quote was one of the original explanations why Christians could not be soldiers. As another theologian explained, "you cannot serve God and Caesar."

Also, war goes against the doctrine of Christian love - love thy neighbor, love thine enemy. It seems deeply contradictory to say, love thy neighbor, even as you slaughter him. I'm sorry, that just isn't possible.

In your quote from the conference of military chaplains, it seems to me the pope is saying, "Work for peace and pray for peace." He says nothing about a just war.

[following just war doctrine discussion deleted]

Well, I lack my friend's academic expertise, so I can only argue on the basis of my own reasoning.

1. Just war doctrine
To get it out of the way, I never asked that the Pope declare the war in Iraq as a just war. I am simply disappointed that his statements come across as a somewhat simplistic (in my view) "war is evil." To me, the Pope seems to refuse to recognize that sometimes war is necessary. Not good, not just, but necessary. Of course, the tricky part, as we're seeing is taking care of the aftermath.

2. Does Christian doctrine categorically condemns war?
My friend argues that the whole concept of war is inconsistent with Christianity, i.e., one must categorically reject war under circumstances.

The Bible quote my friend proffers, first of all, seems to speak more about greed rather than war. The Mammon is a reference to the greedy desire for wealth, and is not particularly relevant to a discussion of conflict. The verse speaks instead to the need to avoid exalting the pursuit of wealth over fidelity to the Lord. So while the armed conflict in the name of greed conceivably falls under the this verse, not all wars are prosecuted in the name of greed. I think we can agree on this as an abstract matter, regardless of your opinions on the Iraq War.

Second, focus on the New Testament does not give the full picture, I think. The Old Testament is full of tales rife with conflict, and while peace is illustrated as a good thing, the need to take up arms is also demonstrated. The New does not invalidate the Old, and both must be considered together.

As for the God and Caesar quote, I would just point out that, as a logical matter, everyone who professes loyalty to any nation, or even any earthly body, is guilty of violating this injunction, including all government employees. The admonition against not serving God and Caesar, to me, illustrates that one's loyalty cannot be equally divided. However, religious faith is not necessarily incompatible with loyalty to one's nation. Faith guides one's service, but loyalty to an earthly institution does not mean one has no faith.

As for loving one's enemy, "love" is different from "tolerate," "refuse to acknowledge," or "do nothing about." An enemy, almost by definition, is doing something inimical to one's own interests. Waging war, in the absence of any reasonable, viable alternative, is justifiable. The "loving thine enemy" part comes afterwards. Intense war, generous peace.

Finally, I'd point out that "never wage war" is not a very good bright-line rule, i.e., a rule of universal application. On the retail level, as it were, consider "never fight." Does that mean one should never fight or strike, under any circumstances? What if someone threatens you with a weapon? Do you do nothing? I should hope not! Instead, fighting back, or waging war, is an option - not the first option, but an available option, depending on the circumstances.

Working and praying for peace is one thing.

Opposing this particular war is quite another, especially in light of what we knew about Hussein before it started.

Professor Volokh says it more eloquently:
If someone decides that it's better to die, or be enslaved, raped, or tortured than to have someone else kill on his behalf -- well, that's certainly not my approach, but if that's his own personal decision, then that's fine. But deciding that it's better for one's son or daughter to be killed, enslaved, raped, or tortured than to have someone else kill on the child's behalf is a deeply immoral form of pacifism.


Posted 6:37 PM by Tony


The Evil Empire

This just cracks me up:

The 53-nation Human Rights Commission postponed a vote on the resolution for one day following two hours of politically charged debate over Cuba’s latest crackdown on dissidents.

[...]

The commission regularly criticizes Cuba, but this year’s proposal, put forward by Costa Rica, Peru and Uruguay, had been weaker than previous versions, simply calling on Cuba to accept a visit by a UN human rights monitor.

On Wednesday, however, Costa Rica proposed an amendment, saying it was responding to the conviction and sentencing of a large number of political dissidents in Cuba in the past week.

The amendment urged the government of Cuba to “release immediately all these persons.”

Cuba said the resolution was sponsored by the "vile lackeys of the Empire, in this case, by the governments of Peru, Uruguay and Costa Rica."

[emphasis added]

So would the President then be Darth Vader? (Although, I have to say that Strom Thurmond's resemblance to the Emperor is downright eerie.) I'm not going to believe that until he can do the Force-choking thing on Chirac.

Not holding my breath on that one.


Posted 9:31 AM by Tony

Monday, April 14, 2003
Silicon Valley Concert

[Disclaimer - this one is not news-related in any way. Also, no links. I know, it's the Cardinal Sin of Blogging, but too bad. - Tony]

The envelope lay on the dining room table.

I picked it up, opened it, and looked inside.

"April 11. San Jose Performing Arts Center." Sweet!

My roommate walked in, smiling. "What is it?" he asked.

"Tickets to go see Tori Amos in concert," I replied, grinning.

His smile didn't change at all, but I could sense the zinger coming on.

"Dude," he demanded, "what happened to your balls? That music's for chicks!"

I raised my hand up, to fend off the verbal jab. "Hey, it's good music!" I protested. I glanced down involuntarily, then stopped myself. Yup, still there. What was I expecting?

So off I went, with a work buddy of mine, down to San Jose. Unlike the claustrophobic, one-way confines of downtown San Francisco, downtown San Jose is characterized by broad avenues, and relatively low, spaced-apart buildings. In the early twilight, the streets were surprisingly empty. San Jose on a Friday night. Go figure.

Arriving at the Performing Arts Center, booths and vans from two competing radio stations were parked next to each other. Not many people approached the booths, leaving them to stand in somewhat forlorn isolation.

The demographics of the crowd surprised me. There were the usual, slightly depressed-looking alt-rock types, of course. But the crowd also ranged from high school students to yuppies in polo shirts to people in late middle-age. Piercings and tattoos abounded. In addition, there were quite a few people sporting mohawks, at a higher per capita distribution than I normally see. Well, outside of Haight-Ashbury and Berkeley, natch.

Rhett Miller came on first. He moved in a disjointed sort of way, as if his limbs were independently controlled. Very entertaining. At one point, his lower arm rotated about the elbow in perfect circles, while playing the guitar.

Then, the main event. The set was rather simple. A cutout of a mountain range formed the lower background. Behind it, an off-white sheet extended upwards. There was a large design on it, that was difficult to make out, almost as if a watermark had been imprinted into the sheet. The design turned out to be a heart-shaped face, with accents suggesting a harlequin. Slender, leafy branches took the place of hair. The overall effect was like some anthropomorphic sun, smiling benignly down at the performers.

Tori Amos walked onstage, to tremendous applause. The concert consisted of just her, a bass player, and a drummer. A concert piano had been set for her at front center stage. Behind her was something that looked, in the semi-darkness, like a side view of a large gas grill. It turned out to be an electronic keyboard setup. Oops.

The performance, needless to say, was fantastic. Her voice was clear, strong, and hit high notes effortlessly, carrying the audience along. Behind me, one mohawk-sporting gal kept me vastly entertained by shouting out at various times:

"You're f*cking beautiful!"

"I love you"

"You're a perfect fairy and I want to marry you!"

After a while, I didn't hear any exclamations from Mohawk Girl. I looked back. Her seat was empty. Kicked out? Overcome by emotion? I don't know, but her absence left a soundless void in that area. Or so it seemed.

She didn't really talk to the audience, with the exception of an anecdote about her daughter and a candy necklace.

That was all right; the music was more than enough.


Posted 4:49 PM by Tony

Thursday, April 10, 2003
Flag Follies

Sometimes, there's just no pleasing people.

I've been looking through the al-Jazeera web page, as I find the parallax view of events interesting. When the Hussein statue went down yesterday, it did so with the help of some Marines. One of them, Corporal Edward Chin, intially covered Hussein's face with an American flag, later replacing it with an Iraqi flag:


Corporal Edward Chin, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, from New York
(from NY Times/AP)


Al-Jazeera got a little worked up, interpreting the gesture as a symbol of American domination:

One obvious question: During live coverage, viewers saw a US soldier drape over the face of Hussein a US flag, which was quickly removed and replaced with an Iraqi flag.

Commanders know that the displaying the US flag suggests occupation and domination, not liberation. NBC's Tom Brokaw reported that the Arab network Al Jazeera was "making a big deal" out of the incident with the American flag, implying that US television would -- and should -- downplay that part of the scene. Which choice tells the more complete truth?

Oddly enough, the piece was written by Robert Jensen, a University of Texas journalism professor.

Jensen may be reading a little too much into the incident. Moreover, that particular flag stood for something other than American occupation:
It was, by any measure, an astonishing coincidence. As the biggest statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad was pulled down "spontaneously" in front of the world's media, the Stars and Stripes which flew on the Pentagon on 11 September was at hand to be draped over its face.

The US army denied that the toppling of the 20ft edifice by a tank tower was stage-managed. It was a coincidence, they said, that Lt Tim McLaughlin, the keeper of that flag, happened to be present.

And, it has to be noted, the commander of the US marines who completed the capture of Baghdad did express concern at the time that the use of the Stars and Stripes smacked of triumphalism. It was later changed to an Iraqi flag. But not before acres of TV footage had been shot.

Yesterday, the US army banned any display of the flag on vehicles, buildings, statues and command posts, halting its display almost everywhere but the US embassy in Baghdad.

See also, here.

I really doubt I'll see that in the Chronicle's coverage, though.


Posted 7:12 PM by Tony


Why Not?

I thought this was interesting:



Samantha Sheppard, British 2d Light Tank Regiment, Basra, April 8, 2003
(via Reuters/Yahoo)


So why not have women in ground combat arms? InstaPundit points out instances of women serving as combat pilots, and the convoy ambush and the Jessica Lynch episodes demonstrate that women are still at risk while serving in combat support branches.

I think the concept deserves at least a test run. Let's see what happens.

Update:
I was looking for this article on A-10 pilot Kim Campbell (via Susanna at Cut On The Bias), and the photos of her shot up A-10 can be found here.
I'm thinking that the slogan for the war ought to be: You Got Your Ass Kicked By Giiirrrrrls! Let's see how that plays on the Arab Street.


Posted 11:30 AM by Tony


Well, Okay Then

Here's a bit from the Washington Post (via The Volokh Conspiracy):

"No, no, no," yelled Shaaban Mohamad, watching television at a Cairo bookstore. "If the U.S. really wanted democracy, they would have taken out just about every Arab leader we have. This is very suspect. The U.S. just wants to protect Israel and wants the riches in the region."
[emphasis added]

Well, I'm game. Next stop, Riyadh!



Posted 8:16 AM by Tony

Wednesday, April 09, 2003
Human Shields, 0; United States Marine Corps, 1

This bit from the SF Chronicle pretty much makes my day:

For the most part, the Marines [entering Baghdad's center] were treated as conquering heroes. Young Iraqis put flowers in the pockets of their body armor. Kids begged for money.

There was a lot of smiling and laughing. One Iraqi gave out high-fives to passing Marines and reporters.

There were some American and European "human shields'' at the rally, people who had come to put themselves in harm's way in hopes of stopping the shooting. They chastised the Marines for attacking Iraq and promoting war.

That angered some of the men. "I didn't bury two of my fellow Marines just so someone like that could call us murderers,'' said one Marine, angry and teary, referring to an Iraqi artillery attack that killed two of his colleagues on Monday. "They died for this country.''

Meanwhile, two Iraqis held up a sheet bearing the message: "Go home Human Shields, you U.S. Wankers.'' [emphasis added]

Would it be too much if I had myself a little chuckle over that?

Update:
Via InstaPundit, here's this:

From Kuwait, which was occupied by Saddam's forces before the 1991 Gulf War, came one of the few statements of unadulterated support. Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, Kuwait's deputy prime minister and foreign minister, said, "Joy fills our hearts as we see our Iraqi brothers ... express their jubilation at victory."

[...]

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud, looking upset at a news conference, called for a quick end to Iraq's "occupation." In a rare departure from diplomacy, Saud responded to a question about Arab anger toward the United States with: "I don't want to talk about anger if you don't mind today."

Our friends, the Saudis. *snort*

Update 2:
More on the human shield encounter:

When one of the few remaining "human shields" in Baghdad, Uzma Bashir, from Rickmansworth, baited the troops with shouts of "Yankee murderers", Cpl Ibrahim Rahim exploded: "I scooped up the brains of two young marines ... They died fighting to liberate Iraq. And you stand here insulting them with this shit." He added: "I am a Muslim ... and I know this region. That woman is seriously abusing her right of speech."

That, I think, goes beyond merely "chastising" the Marines.


Posted 3:15 PM by Tony


A Short Message

This one is for International ANSWER, the World Workers Party, Maureen Dowd and other assorted pundits, the human shields, everybody who held screwed up traffic in downtown San Francisco, and people that called me a warmonger:


Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad's main square just before being torn down
(photo NY Times/AP, Laurent Rebours)


It's funny, how "we're making war on the people of Iraq."


Posted 8:11 AM by Tony

Tuesday, April 08, 2003
Warrior Ethos

As a general principle, I dislike the San Francisco Chronicle. The written quality of its articles rivals that of my junior high school newspaper. The paper actually pays people like Mark Morford and Harley Sorensen to produce venomous spew, the vile of which somehow seems to get transmitted through the display and leaves me wanting to wash my hands. I find it hard to believe that this is the only major newspaper that San Franciscans seem to support.

Why do I keep going back? Because the paper's web site carries a decent AP feed, and not all of its stories are of the servicemen-as-automaton variety:

In one of many small-scale engagements in and around Baghdad on Tuesday, two Marine snipers on a rooftop and others in tanks and Humvees topped with machine guns killed approaching Iraqis one by one throughout the morning, often from hundreds of yards away.

[...]

At one point, a man in a black ski mask with a rifle in the bed of a truck pulled up behind a group of civilians. The snipers said they aimed high to scatter the civilians, then shot him.

As Hamblin and Cpl. Owen Mulder, 21, of Wilmont, Minn., continued to scan under the elevated highway, Marines in Humvees kept watch for suicide bombers.

About 7 a.m., a truck with a machine gun mount -- but no machine gun attached to it -- raced down the highway, and the Marines started firing, using machine guns, grenade launchers and their rifles.

The truck flew into reverse, racing back about 100 yards before stopping. One man opened the a door and fell out. Then another, apparently missing an arm, ran down the highway. Some Marines prepared to shoot, but their commanders stopped them.

"He's wounded, he's no threat to us. Why do you want to kill someone who's wounded?" Kelley asked.

A few minutes later, ambulances arrived to tend to the injured.

A couple of points.

First, training tells.

Second, the story illustrates the comparative restraint with which American forces are prosecuting this war.

And here's an explanation why, again from the Chronicle:

[W]hat distinguishes warriors from murderers is that warriors accept a set of rules governing when and how they kill. They must learn to take only certain lives in certain ways, at certain times and for certain reasons. Otherwise, they become indistinguishable from murderers. Individuals can fight for an objectively bad cause or a corrupt regime and still be warriors. But there can be no honor in any conflict for those who believe they have no moral obligation to restrain their behavior in any way.

Much as I'm reluctant to say it, the Chron is not always Chrap.


Posted 3:05 PM by Tony


Breaking China

My buddy Dawn has taken some flak for being ticked at the ChiCom's response to the SARS crisis.

So if I may, I'd like to say:

I know it's not appropriate for me as an American Oriental person to say that I don't like another "type" of person, but the Chinese government pisses me off.

Thank you, and good night! (Long live rock!)


Posted 2:43 PM by Tony


Trading Yokes?

My high school was founded by priests who fled Hungary during the Soviet crackdown in 1956. I always figured that, as a consequence, they knew what tyranny was about, as did most Eastern Europeans.

The InstaPundit points out an EU Observer article:

One and a half weeks ahead of the EU poll the Hungarian police removed posters portraying a swastika, a red star and the EU emblem. Leaders of the Hungarian EU-critical movement who are believed to have disseminated the placards left their headquarter detained by police.


Far as I'm concerned, InstaPundit left out the best, ironic, part, the title:

Hungarian Police Remove Symbols Of Tyranny



Posted 9:11 AM by Tony


Buffalo Soldiers

I was watching Fox News Channel before going to work. As usual, the war coverage had been going nonstop, and Geraldo was on the air, the dark blue of the darkening desert sky merging into the horizon.

Geraldo was speaking with soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division. I was surprised, because the 4th Infantry Division had been sent to war only recently. Even more surprising was the unit he was with, the 1st Squadron, 10th United States Cavalry.

The 10th Cavalry was one of the all-black regiments formed after the Civil War, and sent west to fight, in turn, the Cheyenne, the Comanche, and the Apaches.

So the Buffalo Soldiers are now on the ground. The number of Dreadlock Rastas among them is, however, unknown.


Posted 8:34 AM by Tony

Monday, April 07, 2003
The Pope On War

The Pope is praying for a quick end to the war.

Don't worry, Your Holiness, our guys are on it.


101st Airborne Division soldiers, Kuwait
(taken March 20, 2003, source ?)


In all seriousness, though, it feels decidedly odd to be directly at odds with the head of one's church. I believe, that in this instance, with this dictator, the Pope chose wrongly.

The Pope has made clear his categorical rejection of war. Addressing a recent conference of military chaplains, he said:

By now, it should be clear to all that the use of war as a means of resolving disputes between States was rejected, even before the UN Charter, by the consciences of the majority of humanity, except in the case of legitimate defence against an aggressor. The vast contemporary movement in favour of peace - which, according to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, is more than "the simple absence of war" (Gaudium et spes, n. 78) - demonstrates this conviction of people of every continent and culture.

However, I think his argument is weakened by a speech he made in 1992 to the Third International and Interdenominational Conference of Chief Military Chaplains of Europe and North America:

There is another point I wish to make. Peace is a precious and fragile gift which God entrusts to man, to his conscience and to his reason. For you, two equally necessary duties derive from this. The first is the duty to work through the formation of consciences in order to foster an authentic desire for peace. The second duty is to pray constantly for peace, that God will grant this gift to the people of our times. On innumerable occasions I have prayed publicly for peace and appealed for prayers for peace, most recently during the Gulf War and the conflict in Yugoslavia. "With God nothing will be impossible". When human efforts seem doomed to failure, the power of God's Spirit can work deep within people's hearts, to quench hatred and kindle love.

As a doctrinal matter, I'd point out that God works through earthly instruments. As callous as it may sound, prayer sometimes needs a helping hand. Prayer, by itself, did not get Saddam out of Kuwait, nor did it stop the butchery in Yugoslavia; military force did.

I'm incredibly saddened that the Pope has taken the position he has. He has recognized the evil of Auschwitz without acknowledging how its end was brought about.

The Pope may be right that "war is in fact . . . as much a tragedy for the victors as for the vanquished." Sometimes, however, there are no good choices, boiling down to acceptance of one tragedy to forestall a greater tragedy.


Posted 6:03 PM by Tony


Korean Press Regulations

For someone who made a name as a civil rights lawyer, I find it ironic that South Korean President Moo-hyun Roh is attempting to impose new regulations on the press:

Last Thursday, chief spokespersons from all government branches convened and decided to introduce a new media policy, requiring that reporters appeal to relevant authorities for authorization to interview government officials.

The president focused his criticism on certain newspaper companies and their incessant attacks on his predecessor, former President Kim Dae-jung, which have since been redirected at him.

In response to Roh's speech, Rep. Rhee Q-taek, floor leader of the Grand National Party (GNP) denounced the President's view of the media.

"I personally get the impression he is trying to intimidate the press," Rhee said. "That's why the president's remarks triggered boos from the lawmakers with the GNP."

The GNP earlier criticized Roh's administration for putting a gag on the press by curbing reporters' meetings with government officials and only releasing information with a pro-government bias.

After finishing his official speech, Roh revealed that he intends to withdraw his appointment of former aide Seo Dong-ku as the new president of the state-run Korea Broadcasting System (KBS).

Seo's appointment ignited anger from the opposition parties and labor unions. They said the president is attempting to undermine fair broadcasting and impose his views on the press. Seo is reported to have tendered his resignation yesterday.

Roh's partisans have had an acrimonious relationship with several newspapers, and, to Americans, some of the fallout would border on the ridiculous:
The main opposition Grand National Party said Monday that it would take active measures against a new civic group set up to campaign against the major newspapers. The Grand Nationals said the group, People's Power, which plans a movement to discourage people from marrying people who write for the Chosun Ilbo or their relatives, was engaging in action that endangers democracy.

So far, I've been profoundly unimpressed at Roh's presidency so far:
1. the campaign, in which he suggested that the South might remain neutral in any dispute between the US and the North,
2. the troop dispatch bill, which I've mentioned before, and
3. this.


Posted 3:41 PM by Tony


New Templates!

You may have noticed that there's a new template in place. Props to HTML Babes Robyn Pullman and Stacy Tabb over at Sekimori for such a great job!


Posted 1:17 PM by Tony


Mortgaging The Future

There's a scene from Blackhawk Down that really stuck in my memory. The trucks having left them behind, the Rangers are trying to get back to their base. They are engaged in a running firefight with Somalis all the way back. One soldier crouches, and aims his M-16 at a mob of Somalis, who are mostly running away. One woman speculatively eyes an AK-47, lying on the ground nearby. The soldier has her in his sights, and keeps whispering, "Don't do it! Don't do it!" His whispered plea? prayer? comes to naught, as the Somali woman picks up the rifle, and starts to aim it at the Americans. The Ranger fires, and the woman falls to the street.

That soldier made the right call. Once a person picks up a weapon and points it at American troops, the natural disinclination to fire on civilians is subsumed by the necessity of personal survival.

Presumably, the Iraqis also know this, as I've pointed out before.

Which is why I find this so horrifying:


An Iraqi Baath militia officer giving guns to his children.
(from NY Times/Agence France-Presse, Patrick Baz)


To be honest, I don't know if the officer was letting his kids temporarily play with his own equipment or permanently giving it to them. Either way, the sight of children holding real guns is appalling.

The protection of children is one of the stronger biological imperatives. Parents, I figure, are supposed to defend their children from threats - that's part of the job. My blog pal Dawn is a pretty good example. What kind of government, then, would fly in the face of this imperative and make use of child soldiers a public policy?

Is it one whose overthrow is worth protesting?

During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, Iran made use of child soldiers:

No estimates are available on the number of children who participated in the Iran-Iraq war, but Hojjatoleslam Hashemi Rafsanjani, later president, stated in 1982 that Iran's armed forces had been supplemented by 400,000 volunteers. An exiled source claims that since military service was compulsory from the age of 18, most of these "volunteers" were likely to be younger. Gulf war statistics about prisoners, casualties and their ages are unreliable, but according to the International Committee of the Red Cross at least 10 per cent of Iranian prisoners were under 18. Iranian officers captured by the Iraqis claimed that nine out of ten Iranian child soldiers were killed. According to one journalist, most recruits had between one and three months of military training before being sent to the front, but some had no training at all. Boys as young as nine were reportedly used in human wave attacks and to serve as mine sweepers in the war with Iraq. Many child soldiers were captured by the Iraqis and transferred to a special Prisoner of War camp for children. Some 300, most believed to be 15 or younger were held by Iraq in a special, separated compound at Al-Ramadi, about 60 miles west of Baghdad, where they were exploited by the Iraqi authorities for propaganda purposes.
[footnotes deleted, emphasis added - Tony]


It's often said that the children are the future. In this war, I fear that Hussein may be mortgaging Iraq's future.


Posted 12:45 PM by Tony


Computer Games and War, Again

I'm a big fan of computer gaming. I've previously pointed out a news story in which this war and computer gaming have been discussed together.

James Lileks raises the computer gaming reference in his most recent piece:

During Gulf War One people called the conflict a “video game war,” and this always made me grind my teeth, because the sort of person most likely to use the term was least likely to have played a video game. When you saw that nosecone footage of a cruise missile dropping down, homing in and entering a dryer vent - someone said “it’s just like a video game!” you recalled the herkyjerky pixel-jumble on your PC and thought, I wish.

Fast forward ten years. I’ve played three games in the last ten months, each a first person shooter with all the usual flaws and uncomfortable moral dilemmas. I had no moral qualms with Return to Castle Wolfenstein - frankly, Nazis who are attempting to build an army of cyberzombies are just asking for some of that sweet, sweet lovin’ you only get from a Tesla-coil powered energy weapon. With Wolfenstein, Dark Forces 3 and Soldier of Fortune, there’s the same curious insta-decomp feature: clear out a room, leave your foes heaped in a pile, leave the room, return -

. . . and the bodies are gone.

Every day I watch the news, hours and hours of news, and I’ve yet to see one dead Iraqi soldier.

Now it’s a video game war.

Last night I saw some footage from a bunker some Marines had discovered - ammo, rockets, mines, all sorts of goodies. A secret area!

Now it’s a video game war.


3rd Infantry Division captain holding an AK-47 retrieved from a bunker in Baghdad
(from CNN/AP)


Dang, I wish I could write like this.


Posted 10:01 AM by Tony


Inside Sources

Looks like we've taken one of Saddam's presidential palaces. (How many does he have anyway? Sure seems like a lot.)

If you want to see what the inside of these places looks like, check out Moxie's page. Darn her for having such great journalism connections!


3rd Infantry Division soldiers at one of Saddam's palaces, Baghdad
(from CNN/AP)



Posted 9:10 AM by Tony


Demographic Changes

Think back to college for a minute. I graduated from college in 1992. One of the big protests back then involved American involvement in El Salvador and Nicaragua. One incident remains vivid in my memory. A group of students had built a ramschackle shantytown across from Smiley Hall as a gesture of solidarity with, I think it was the FMLN. Or perhaps it was some other alphabet soup guerilla organization. Regardless, the array of shacks was occupied with students allocating equal time to chants in support of the guerillas and against U.S. policy.

Another big protest was during the First Gulf War. Needless to say, I didn't really sympathize with the protestors in either case. Instead, I reserved my teen angst for more important causes, such as the adminstration's crackdown on student beer-drinking.

Today's New York Times indicates that the times may be a' changin', at least on campus:

Here at Amherst College, many students were vocally annoyed this semester when 40 professors paraded into the dining hall with antiwar signs. One student confronted a protesting professor and shoved him.

Some students here accuse professors of behaving inappropriately, of not knowing their place.

"It seems the professors are more vehement than the students," Jack Morgan, a sophomore, said. "There comes a point when you wonder are you fostering a discussion or are you promoting an opinion you want students to embrace or even parrot?"

Across the country, the war is disclosing role reversals, between professors shaped by Vietnam protests and a more conservative student body traumatized by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Prowar groups have sprung up at Brandeis and Yale and on other campuses. One group at Columbia, where last week an antiwar professor rhetorically called for "a million Mogadishus," is campaigning for the return of R.O.T.C. to Morningside Heights.

Even in antiwar bastions like Cambridge, Berkeley and Madison, the protests have been more town than gown. At Berkeley, where Vietnam protesters shouted, "Shut it down!" under clouds of tear gas, Sproul Plaza these days features mostly solo operators who hand out black armbands. The shutdown was in San Francisco, and the crowd was grayer.

Interesting stuff.


Posted 9:02 AM by Tony

Friday, April 04, 2003
Evolving Relationships

As allied forces clean up in Basra and approach Baghdad's city limits, it's time to consider what happens afterwards. One of those things, I think, is a re-assessment of our relations with other countries and international institutions.

Since this crisis began, I think we've all been surprised at the actions of our putative allies. It's really hard for me to not be bitter about all this:

France, Belgium, and Germany formed a nay-saying bloc, insisting on more ineffective UN resolutions, and inspectors who seemed to be willfully blind. Moreover, they attempted to block American attempts to allow for NATO deployment of Patriot missiles to protect Turkey from missile and air attack. And to what point? The inspectors were played for suckers by Saddam, and coalition forces now face the prospect of fighting battles in chemical gear in 90 degree weather.

Canada chose, at the last minute, to deny military or moral support to this undertaking. In addition, Prime Minister Chretien's government has brought Canadian-American relations to a new low as a result of its actions over the past year. (For another post)

Turkey denied passage to US troops, preventing Central Command from opening up a second, northern avenue of attack. Ships holding the 4th Infantry Division's equipment waited offshore for two weeks for Turkey's parliament to vote no, then had to be rerouted to Kuwait. As a result, the 4th Infantry, the most advanced and deadly formation the US Army fields, has yet to be deployed, and will likely arrive too late to be of much use. Granted, Rumsfeld perhaps should have sent more troops earlier. However, the result remains that, no advance from the north, or credible threat thereof, occurred, giving Saddam's forces the chance to concentrate against our forces coming from the south. Then, citing the need for its own security, it went ahead and moved troops into northern Iraq. Then on April 2, it finally allowed a supply convoy to reach 1200 paratroopers who had dropped into northern Iraq, but whether further shipments will be allowed is unclear. In all likelihood, the delay, and the effects associated with it, caused otherwise avoidable coalition casualties.

Same thing with Saudi Arabia, except there was never any doubt that it would deny entry to allied ground forces. The effect was to keep everybody in Kuwait, limiting our options and making our plans discernible to everyone.

And now the European Triple Alliance has indicated, that, now, they want the coalition to succeed:

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder for the first time called for the removal of Saddam Hussein in a speech to parliament on Thursday, dropping his objection to regime change as a goal of war.
[...]
Schroeder has condemned regime change as a war aim -- but Germany avoided the French predicament of having to declare that it hoped the U.S.-led coalition would win the war after remarks interpreted as rallying for an American loss.

Only as long as the United Nations is in charge and French companies get a shot at reconstructing Iraq, of course.

Excuse me? Things are not going to return to the status quo ante, despite what some countries may wish. The coalition has paid the cost incurred due to those countries' actions, in both political goodwill and casualties. Now they seek to reap the benefit from the costs they have imposed on us, and turn Iraq over to an impotent international body? Now, that's chutzpah, and such antics should hardly be rewarded.

I confess, writing these words comes as a surprise. I used to consider myself a very Eisenhower type of Republican. You know, free markets, commerce solves everything type. A person who had great faith in multilateral institutions, particularly security arrangements such as NATO. A Hamiltonian, to use Walter Russell Mead's terminology. Even after seeing the ineffective posturing of the UN in Bosnia, I still felt that it, NATO, and other multinational institutions had value. Not any more. The events of the last 19 months have changed my perspective a great deal and wrecked my faith in multinational polities and organizations, I fear.

These governments are all democracies (Saudi Arabia excepted), and have the right to make their own decisions. Fine. Vox populi. I would just point out that the United States also has the right to make its own decisions in response.

I'll grant that a large percentage of Americans share the view of these nations concerning the war, or for that matter, decisive action against Saddam. But I suspect that many Americans, like me, have been angered by the actions of those we saw as friends.

Victor Davis Hanson may be on to something. I don't agree with everything he advocates, but he does raise some very interesting points, and with respect to Saudi Arabia and Europe, I think he's spot on. (Incidentally, I have now become a huge fan of alternative fuel research.)

Do these governments really know what they have wrought in many Americans' attitudes?
I suspect not:


(from StrategyPage)



Posted 6:32 PM by Tony


Civilian Casualties

After the war started, I watched coverage of the major anti-war demonstrations happening in San Francisco. One major complaint apparently was that the American military did not care about civilian casualties.

Let's compare:

Fox News has an article over an incident that occurred today:

A car exploded at a special operations checkpoint in western Iraq, killing three coalition soldiers, a pregnant woman and the car's driver, the U.S. Central Command said Friday.
[...]
"A pregnant female stepped out of the vehicle and began screaming in fear," a Central Command statement said. "At this point the civilian vehicle exploded, killing three coalition force members who were approaching the vehicle and wounding two others." The statement said the woman and the driver also were killed.
[...]
The Iraqi government has said suicide bombings will be a "routine military policy" and has promised more attacks.

And contrast:

A March 31 article in the New York Times, on the fighting in Hindiyah:

On the contested bridge in Hindiya, the captured town south of Baghdad, an American company commander, Capt. Chris Carter of Watkinsville, Ga., dashed to a wounded Iraqi woman in a black chador lying exposed to fire in the center of the span. Captain Carter crouched with his M-16 rifle to cover her position until medics could evacuate her by stretcher, according to journalists traveling with the unit.


Third Infantry Division, near Hindiyah, Iraq, March 31, 2003
(photo NY Times/AP)



I suspect that protestors who are simply waiting for another My Lai are bound to be sorely disappointed.


Posted 8:38 AM by Tony


Shouldn't I Get Workers' Comp For This?

The Department of Labor classifies my occupation as "sedentary."

However, my work is not without its risks. I've just fallen victim to an occupational hazard.

Paper cuts.

Ouch.


Posted 7:52 AM by Tony

Thursday, April 03, 2003
Getting Off Light

Yesterday, I wrote about a Marine reservist who suddenly decided he was a conscientious objector on what I thought was the verge of his unit's deployment.

Then I found this, which changes my opinion of this guy quite a bit:

Funk turned himself in to the Marines on Tuesday after being absent without leave since mid-February, when his support battalion was sent to Camp Pendleton near San Diego. He has been assigned desk duty in San Jose while his case proceeds.

Note the chain of events: Funk's unit deploys. Funk does not report until six weeks after the unit left for San Diego.

He's getting off pretty darned lightly, and should be grateful he isn't facing the prospect of a general court-martial.

I did a quick search on the relevant offenses, and found several offenses Funk could get charged with under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Article 85 - Desertion
Defined
(a) Any member of the armed forces who--
(1) without authority goes or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to remain away therefrom permanently;
(2) quits his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to avoid hazardous duty or to shirk important service; or
(3) without being regularly separated from one of the armed forces enlists or accepts an appointment in the same or another on of the armed forces without fully disclosing the fact that he has not been regularly separated, or enters any foreign armed service except when authorized by the United States;
is guilty of desertion.
[...]
(c) Any person found guilty of desertion or attempt to desert shall be punished, if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct, but if the desertion or attempt to desert occurs at any other time, by such punishment, other than death, as a court-martial may direct.

Maximum punishment
Completed or attempted desertion with intent to avoid hazardous duty (emphasis added) or to shirk important service: dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 5 years.
Other cases of completed or attempted desertion: only difference is length of confinement
In time of war: death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct.

Article 86 - Absence without leave
Defined
Any member of the armed forces who, without authority--
(1) fails to go to his appointed place of duty at the time prescribed;
(2) goes from that place; or
(3) absents himself or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty at which he is required to be at the time prescribed;
shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

Maximum punishment
Note: unauthorized absence for more than 30 days duration is an aggravated unauthorized absence
Absence from unit, organization, or other place of duty; for more than 30 days: dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 1 year.

Article 87 - Missing Movement
Defined
Any person subject to this chapter who through neglect or design misses the movement of a ship, aircraft, or unit with which he is required in the course of duty to move shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

Maximum punishment
By design: dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 2 years.
By neglect: bad-conduct dischrage, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 1 year.

(taken from Manual for Courts-Martial, 2000, available as PDF here)

It's not about whether Funk is a conscientious objector or gay, as he now claims. It's all about timing.

Like I said, so far, he's getting off pretty lightly.


Posted 6:49 PM by Tony


An Orange County native trapped in the SF Bay Area. Email at orblog-at-yahoo.com.

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