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

Friday, May 30, 2003
Okay, Now This Is Just Incorrect

Here's a bit from a story in the New York Times about Bush's visit to the G8 meeting:

Jean-David Levitte, the French ambassador to the United States, said on Thursday that Mr. Bush and Mr. Chirac had a "positive, relaxed" 10-minute phone conversation this month in preparation for Évian, and that they "want to go beyond the bitterness of the past."

Mr. Levitte said that France did not see its role as serving as a check on American power in the world.

"Our problem is that there is not enough European military capacity," he said. "It has nothing to do with the supposed desire of France to limit American power."

It's a nice sound bite, but it's not really accurate. During the runup to the war, European military capacity was never at issue. Instead, it was about France/Belgium/Germany/Russia's intent to vote against any UN resolution authorizing force, no matter what. Approval of an undertaking is not the same as active participation.

I think a more accurate view was provided by Francois Mitterand, who was supposed to have said, "We are at war with America."

France has no desire to limit American power. Right. And San Francisco has no gay people.


Posted 11:10 AM by Tony

Thursday, May 29, 2003
Quote Of The Day

From James Lileks today:

But no one cares about the LA Times. The NYT, the WaPo and the WSJ set the the agenda and shape the discussion. The very phrase “The Los Angeles Times reports . . .” has the same impact as “Cheryl Crow remarked.”

Of course, I pretty much feel the same way about the San Francisco Chronicle (though admittedly, the LA Times wins the prize for its annoyingly intrusive registration process to access web content).


Posted 5:19 PM by Tony


Dodged A Bullet

Yes, I'll admit it. I like Maxim magazine. And it's with great relief that I found out that Heather Mallick of the Toronto Globe and Mail declined to submit an article to the magazine:

Maxim magazine called me recently and asked me to write for them. They liked something I'd written, finding it "humorous." This puzzled me. I supposed they meant "unintentionally." I had the vague notion that Maxim featured women casually splaying their genitals, but the editor was polite and funny, so I said I'd consider it.

I don't think I could have stomached seeing any of her work in a magazine I pay good money for.

After all, this is a person who pretty much oozes hatred for America. Her column of September 11, 1999 would probably subject her to prosecution under Canadian hate-crime law if you replace "American" or "Southerner" with "Jew":

Americans have even made themselves physically ridiculous. When you walk around Paris, the memory you bring home with you is not of the Seine or that embarrassing dog problem, it's les fesses enormes,the huge buttocks of the American tourists. They go one way, their owners go another. These people look like they're being stalked by something horrible, and to what purpose? It's not as if they enjoyed the process.

If you ever want evidence that Americans are the most ineducable people on Earth, read the amazon.com Web site that purports to sell books and offers "reviews" written by actual readers. It's terrifying. Most of them are complaints that they were forced to read this damn book by some hated authority figure like a teacher, or Oprah, and it doesn't have a plot they can follow, so watch out.

I just don't get the ending, one wrote angrily, and I wanted to cry. He was talking about The Great Gatsby. "Gradually, I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes -- a fresh, green breast of the new world."

I think of the bounty Americans had, an Edenic landscape clogged with visionaries, some with a notion that the freedom of slaves was worth a fight to the death.

And then I think how the U.S. Postal Service just issued a Barbie stamp.

Americans themselves call it dumbing down, but I think it's more a matter of catering to Southerners. My theory is that the United States was ruined by air conditioning. That's what made possible the industrial rise of the South and finally allowed what was basically a swamp populated by yokels to be taken semi-seriously.

And complains in her January 4, 2003 column that the American military relies on National Guard pilots, is too mechanized and doesn't have enough stupid people whose only qualfication is to take a bullet:

Do the Americans even use soldiers any more? I am not aware that any significant number died in the last war with Iraq. Plus it is hard to worry about people dying when they have applied for a job where a willingness to die is the main qualification. Now that soldiers aren't expected to snuff it, I don't know what defines a good soldier anymore.

[ . . . ]

Read it before the Brad Pitt movie comes out with a love interest added and the salient point removed -- that it gradually becomes apparent that Muldrow [protagonist of James Dickey's To The White Sea] is a sick man. He is psychotic and ultimately not even human.

But he is a very good soldier.

Visit the website of Major Harry Schmidt, the man who is being dishonourably discharged for dropping the bomb that killed four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan last year and who is collecting money for his legal defence. He was a jet fighter pilot part-time. This is mystifying. I suspect The Globe would frown on me working as an assassin for CSIS on public holidays.

[ . . . ]

In Vietnam, a good American soldier there was defined by his countrymen as a stupid monster, and in many cases he probably was. Friendly fire deaths were rampant and the only time a soldier looked glamorous was when he was calling in an air strike, often on the wrong target. Technology was on the rise and the soldier was sinking.

[emphasis added]


I would suppose, ratios being what they are, that she feels the same way about most of the people here.

So editors of Maxim, in the highly unlikely event you're reading this, please don't ever do anything that stupid again. I'd rather use the money to have myself a nice burger that's just been sneezed on by a Torontonian (?).


Posted 4:48 PM by Tony


Still Not Getting It

The New York Times has again managed to take a few disguised swipes at the Bush administration in the guise of a straight news story about the upcoming G8 summit in Evian:

"It could be a kumbaya-like get-together with everyone holding hands and committed to forgetting about the past," said Ivo H. Daalder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who was a director of European Affairs on the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton. "But more likely, it will be a schoolyard with bullies on opposite sides glaring at each other and still angry about the fight they just had."

[ . . . ]

Scholars note, however, that Poland and some other Eastern European nations of Mr. Bush's "new" Europe date further back than nations like Germany, which Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld infamously derided as part of the "old" Europe, along with France.

"They're all old — Europe is old," Mr. Daalder, the Brookings fellow, said. "In that sense, it's nonsensical. There are countries that are now members of the `new' Europe that predate countries of the `old' Europe. Germany was unified and became a single state long after Poland was an independent country."

Here's another example of someone just not getting it. "Old Europe" and "new Europe" have nothing to do with physical existence. It's a matter of attitude. In a real sense, present day Poland is a much newer entity than Germany. Eastern Europe and France/Germany have had dramatically different historical differences in the last 50 years, which is reflected in their differing approaches to world events.

So yes, there is an "old Europe" and a "new Europe" in fact, even though the labels may not be accurate in the most literal of senses. But then again, "old Europe" is surely preferable to "Anti-American Backstabbers," is it not?


Posted 4:06 PM by Tony


I Knew There Was A Benefit

It's always nice when media stories appear that do not connect your hobbies to desensitization to violence/sexism/Satan worship.

You've undoubtedly heard this already, but the current issue of Nature has an article showing that video game enhance visual skills.

The article can be found at Nature 423, 534-537 (2003), and the abstract is available online:

As video-game playing has become a ubiquitous activity in today's society, it is worth considering its potential consequences on perceptual and motor skills. It is well known that exposing an organism to an altered visual environment often results in modification of the visual system of the organism. The field of perceptual learning provides many examples of training-induced increases in performance. But perceptual learning, when it occurs, tends to be specific to the trained task; that is, generalization to new tasks is rarely found. Here we show, by contrast, that action-video-game playing is capable of altering a range of visual skills. Four experiments establish changes in different aspects of visual attention in habitual video-game players as compared with non-video-game players. In a fifth experiment, non-players trained on an action video game show marked improvement from their pre-training abilities, thereby establishing the role of playing in this effect. [emphasis added]

Note that the improvement came with action games, as an accompanying article indicates:

Ten hours of the block-rotating game Tetris failed to improve test scores.

Improvements came with "the least socially desirable games", [vision researcher Jeremy] Wolfe [of Harvard Medical School (oooh!)] points out - those in which shooting and killing is commonplace. The fact that you are defending your own life in these games may be what makes their lessons stick, Wolfe speculates.

The New York Times story on this study:*

A fifth experiment trained nonplayers, including some women, for 10 consecutive days on one of two video games — either Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, a first-person-shooter game that simulates World War II combat situations, or the slower-moving puzzle game Tetris. Only the shooter game improved visual attention, Dr. Bavelier said, and it did so in both sexes. Among novices, the effects waned within a couple of months, but superior visual attention skills seemed firmly rooted in game addicts. .


Sure, I might be a couch potato, but I've got sweet visual attention skills. Or, as the gamer in me would say, "Ph34r my 1337 skilz."

* Yeah, I know that the New York Times publishes anything regardless of truth is having certain credibility problems. In this case, though the story is easily verifiable by picking up a copy of Nature; so there's no problem. - Tony


Posted 3:53 PM by Tony

Monday, May 26, 2003
Memorial

This seemed appropriate today, though it was originally posted a couple weeks ago.


Posted 8:20 AM by Tony

Saturday, May 24, 2003
THANK YOU, GOD!!!!!

February 2003
California Bar Examination Pass List

[Tony] ********* ***
Application Number *****
Registration Number *********
The name above appears on the pass list for the February 2003 California Bar Examination.

The nightmare is finally over. And no, I don't think I'm melodramatic when I say this.


Posted 7:19 AM by Tony

Thursday, May 22, 2003
Reformation

"Streamlined" is not a word one associates with the Defense Department. However, a new draft bill aims to do just that.

Representative Ike Skelton, the ranking Democrat member of the House Armed Services Committee, is against it:

Last month, as Congress was departing for a two-week recess, the Defense Department submitted a 200-page draft "transformation" bill that requests extensive new authorities. It is not an understatement to say that this bill, taken as a whole, is the most sweeping defense reform legislation proposed since the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, which changed both the structure and the policies governing our military. The only thing that is obvious and consistent throughout the 50 provisions included in this bill is the aggregation of power sought for the Department of Defense, removing the legal restrictions and congressional oversight that should safeguard against any abuses, however unintentional. This approach is a rush to judgment that will affect vast numbers of people and, in many cases, will enshrine bad policy in law.

[ . . . ]

The proposed legislation makes sweeping changes to both military and civilian personnel systems. On the civilian side, the Defense Department wants unfettered freedom to hire and fire its nearly 700,000 employees. Congress had a long, contentious debate over similar personnel proposals when creating the Department of Homeland Security. That legislation is barely being implemented now, and there has been no opportunity to evaluate its results. The Defense Department wants changes that are even more dramatic, including, just as one example, the repeal of laws preventing nepotism. What justification based on our national security or sound management principles can justify that? What message does this send to the hundreds of thousands who have dedicated their careers to the service of this nation? And why do such changes need to be rushed through now, when a successful military campaign has shown that the existing system works?

The department also is requesting extensive exemptions from a host of environmental laws that have helped safeguard the long-term health of our communities and of the global environment. As a solidly pro-military member of Congress, I believe the readiness and exceptional training of our troops are of paramount importance and should be taken into account in our environmental laws. But the Defense Department has not yet made use of the legal remedies that already exist to accommodate military readiness. Operations in Iraq showed the exquisite capability of the U.S. military trained under the current system. Changing the law at this point has not been shown to be needed for military readiness, but it will certainly undermine the legal structure that ensures the nation's environmental health.

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who is hardly a shrinking violet type, fires back, claiming that the bill is needed to add the agility the military needs to face 21st century threats:

Today we do not have that kind of agility. In an age -- the information age -- when terrorists move information at the speed of an e-mail, money at the speed of a wire transfer and people at the speed of a commercial jetliner, the Defense Department is still bogged down in the bureaucratic processes of the industrial age.

[ . . . ]

We are working to fix problems that we have the freedom to fix. We have reduced management and headquarters staffs by 11 percent, streamlined the acquisition process by eliminating hundreds of pages of unnecessary rules and red tape, and begun implementing a new business management structure. But we also need legislative relief. That is why we are asking for:

• Measures for transforming our system of personnel management, so that we can gain more flexibility and agility in the way we manage the more than 700,000 civilians in the department. And let me be clear: The provisions we have proposed explicitly bar nepotism.

• Expanded authority for competitive outsourcing so that we can get military personnel out of nonmilitary tasks and back into the field.

• Measures to protect our military training ranges so that our men and women in uniform will be able to train as they fight, while honoring our steadfast commitment to protecting the environment.

It is true, as Rep. Skelton notes, that the Goldwater-Nichols Act took four years for Congress to pass. But we do not have four years to wait before we transform -- the new threats are here now. If anything, our experience in the global war on terror has made the case for transformation even more urgent. Because our enemies are watching us -- studying how we were successfully attacked, how we are responding and how we might be vulnerable again. In distant caves and bunkers, they are busy developing new ways to harm our people -- methods of attack that could kill not 3,000 people, but 30,000 or 300,000 -- or more. And they are not struggling with bureaucratic red tape fashioned in the last century as they do so.

This should be interesting.


Posted 10:19 AM by Tony


Standing Up To Dictators

. . . or not. Via Instapundit, there's this lovely story about how the Catholic Church in England reacted to a visit by an anti-Mugabe archbishop from Zimbabwe:

When the Zimbabwe Democracy Trust, the vigorous US-based group which fights for freedom and human rights in Zimbabwe, proposed that [Archbishop] Pius Ncube should visit London, the news was greeted with dismay. The Catholic bishops did not show delight and gratification at the chance to give moral support to a fellow Christian in his lonely battle against terror. Incredibly, it seems that Ncube was asked to reconsider his plan. At the time of the Bishops’ Conference, during Low Week after Easter, the Catholic establishment looked set to block the Ncube visit. It is still unclear why Westminster Cathedral felt so uneasy about Ncube, though sources say that David Konstant, the Bishop of Leeds who has responsibility for international affairs, came under pressure from the Roman Catholic Church in Zimbabwe. There are also intriguing suggestions that No. 10 Downing Street, which has close links with Westminster Cathedral, was putting steady pressure on the Catholic Church to play down the event. Moves to block the visit altogether were stymied at a party given by the Bishops’ Conference on 29 April, when the shadow foreign secretary, Michael Ancram, a prominent Catholic, made it known that he would cause a public fuss if Ncube was stopped.

First, the sexual abuse scandal, and, then, a Pope who has forgotten that war is sometimes the only alternative to accomodating tyrants. And the beatification of another Pope whose worthiness to the title of saint may be questionable. (See also here. But see here for an opposing view). Now this. Sometimes, the hierarchy of my Church really infuriates me. Feh.

You'd think those Maryknoll types would be all over this. But, maybe not - Mugabe's not a US ally, after all.


Posted 9:18 AM by Tony

Monday, May 19, 2003
Warning Signs

I saw a buddy of mine from law school who I hadn't seen in a long time. Settling in a lawn chairs with some well-cooked hot dogs and some cold beers, we chatted.

"So what's X doing?" I asked, referring to a classmate who was a close friend of his.

"X's working for Ted Kennedy," he replied. I was surprised, but more at the choice of field rather than the specific employer.

So, X, this sign is for you (found here, along with some other very funny signs):


Let's be careful out there.


Posted 5:24 PM by Tony


But Do They Really All Look The Same?

One of my friends from college was from West Virginia. We used to, and still do make fun of each other based on cultural and ethnic differences. One of those, naturally, was "Them Asians sure do look alike!" Of course, I imagine he's changed his tune since he got married to a Chinese woman, but it's still good fun.

I always thought I could tell Chinese from Japanese from Korean pretty well. Then, Nina pointed out a web page that tested my skills in distinguishing the three nationalities. I ended up scoring 10 out of 18 right. Darn.

Could my hillbilly friend from the hollers of Wheeling (!) have a point after all?

Probably not - I figure that he'd do much worse at "Guess The Whitey."


Posted 4:34 PM by Tony


A Variation On A Theme

Continuing on with the theme from the last post, here's another.

During the recent war, the BBC's bias became noticeably perceptible. Eventually, the sailors of the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal requested that its BBC feed be shut off.

Via Instapundit, here's another instance of the BBC's 'magical' thinking, in which the BBC alleges that the rescue of Private Lynch was a hoax:

Witnesses told us that the special forces knew that the Iraqi military had fled a day before they swooped on the hospital.

"We were surprised. Why do this? There was no military, there were no soldiers in the hospital," said Dr Anmar Uday, who worked at the hospital.

"It was like a Hollywood film. They cried 'go, go, go', with guns and blanks without bullets, blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show for the American attack on the hospital - action movies like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan."

There was one more twist. Two days before the snatch squad arrived, Harith had arranged to deliver Jessica to the Americans in an ambulance.

But as the ambulance, with Private Lynch inside, approached a checkpoint American troops opened fire, forcing it to flee back to the hospital. The Americans had almost killed their prize catch.

[ . . . ]

The American strategy was to ensure the right television footage by using embedded reporters and images from their own cameras, editing the film themselves.

The Pentagon had been influenced by Hollywood producers of reality TV and action movies, notably the man behind Black Hawk Down, Jerry Bruckheimer.

Bruckheimer advised the Pentagon on the primetime television series "Profiles from the Front Line", that followed US forces in Afghanistan in 2001. That approached was taken on and developed on the field of battle in Iraq.

Now, tell me, what in the world does Jerry Bruckheimer have to do with this? The article implies that he had played some role in the alleged hoax. The phrasing of the article smacks of guilt by association, I'd say.

It seems to me that government-funded broadcast organizations, such as NPR and BBC, stretch so far to show their independence from their government backing that they end up taking positions that few reasonable people would find credible.

If PBS or NPR broadcast stuff like this, as an American taxpayer, I'd be righteously ticked off.


Posted 8:19 AM by Tony

Sunday, May 18, 2003
Another Reason To Read Blogs

Bill Whittle has another new essay up. I was going to put up a quote, but the whole thing is just so damned good that putting up a fraction would be an injustice.

In the same vein, see this (linked from the essay), and Michele's thought on a similar topic, here.

I truly hope my writing can reach that level, but in the meantime, click those links!


Posted 11:19 PM by Tony

Friday, May 16, 2003
Sucks To Be You

A buddy of mine has an amazing ability. He can identify aircraft by listening to their engine noise. I saw a demonstration of this once, when we were hanging out at Fisherman's Wharf. Identifying the plane overhead as an Airbus, he told me that it is often joked that you can tell an Airbus by its engine, which whines like a Frenchman.

Well, here's some more whining on display:

The French government believes it is the victim of an "organized campaign of disinformation" from within the Bush administration, designed to discredit it with allegations of complicity with the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein.

In a letter [signed by French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte and] prepared for delivery today [Thursday] to administration officials and members of Congress, France details what it says are false news stories, with anonymous administration officials as sources, that appeared in the U.S. media over the past nine months. A two-page list attached to the letter includes reports of alleged French weapons sales to Iraq and culminates in a report last week that French officials in Syria issued French passports to escaping Iraqis being sought by the U.S. military.

The stories, all of which Paris has heatedly denied, are part of an "ugly campaign to destroy the image of France," a French official said. Officials said they have no doubt that the stories were spread by factions in the administration itself -- hard-line civilians within and close to the Pentagon are their primary suspects -- and that there was no visible effort by the White House or other departments to discipline those involved or even find out who they are.

Why am I reminded of the Clintons' claims they were the subject of a "vast right-wing conspiracy"?

I've mentioned these allegations before [Blogspot links not working, posts of May 6 and 9]. They're worthy of investigation. By all means, let's find out whether these claims of French assistance to the old Iraqi regime are true.

Let's see what happens.

Update: The letter from Ambassador Levitte can be found here. (tip of the hat to Professor Volokh) Most of the complaint seems to center on the various media organizations failing to comply with France's wishes, it seems. Just want to point out that 1) simply because France denies the allegations doesn't mean they are necessarily false, and 2) the news media can pretty much publish what they like, regardless of France's wishes on the matter.

Update 2: Steven den Beste weighs in:

[A French Embassy spokeswoman protested against the stories: The impression given, she said, was that France had "protected a tyrant and a bloody dictator" and was "hostile to the United States."]

Maybe the reason a lot of us have that impression is because France is hostile to the US and did try to protect a bloody, dictatorial tyrant. Wasn't it the French President himself who bluntly announced that France would veto any UN resolution which actually authorized war against Iraq? And wasn't it French policy all along that the "world's" policy towards Iraq should concentrate on disarmament and specifically eschew "regime change"?

As Instapundit might say, "heh."


Posted 6:49 AM by Tony


When Oreos Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Eat Oreos

But, at least, not for now, and not in California.

Last week, an attorney filed suit against Nabisco in Marin County, known for its hot tubs and Taliban:

The lawsuit, filed last week in Marin County superior court, seeks a ban on the black and white cookies, arguing the trans fats that make the filling creamy and the cookie crisp are too dangerous for children to eat.

Stephen Joseph filed the suit against Nabisco, the maker of Oreos, in Marin County Superior Court last week after reading articles about the health threat posed by the artificial fat that is contained in most packaged foods but isn't listed with other the nutritional information.

Now he's dropped the suit, saying that the whole point of the lawsuit was publicity:

The San Francisco attorney who made news earlier this week for suing Kraft Inc. to stop the sale of Oreos to California children because the cookies are high in trans fat plans to drop the suit today [Thursday].

The reason? He's drawn so much media attention that he says he's accomplished what he set out to do -- raise awareness about trans fat, a hidden but dangerous substance in processed food.

I'm not sure if there's a California version of Rule 11, but this kind of conduct certainly seems worthy of some sort of sanctions.

Sheesh.


Posted 6:31 AM by Tony

Thursday, May 15, 2003
Care Or Cash?

Danielle Steel has a column up in today's SF Chronicle. And, boy, is she pissed!

Proposition N, which passed last year, changes the way San Francisco treats homeless people. For those of you outside the Bay Area, I'd like to point out that this proposition was the subject of a lot of fussin' and feudin', since San Francisco prides itself on its generosity to the homeless.

Here's what caught my eye:

The reality is that in this city we do next to nothing to help the homeless.

I found it especially ironic that a person who lives in Pacific Heights and makes her living writing romance novels is opining about reality.

But I digress.

I really have no strong opinion on the matter, since I moved out of San Francisco. I did live near UN Plaza, on the border of the Tenderloin, from 1999-2002. And I'll say this - the reason SF has so many homeless people, making it "look like Calcutta," to use Ms. Steel's words, is because the city provided the most money to the homeless, compared to most of the rest of California. And, I have to say, the SF Department of Public Works did a good job with UN Plaza. I hated walking by the fountain, since it was being used as an open air urinal, and the atomized particles of water would travel a loooong way. Let's just leave it at that.

Sure, the homeless deserve a hand. But the previous policy, which smacked of simply throwing more money at the problem without accountability, hardly merited praise.

Quite frankly, if Ms. Steel wishes to give her fellow humans a helping hand, she might start with her 26 parking permits (as of 2002).


Posted 6:47 PM by Tony

Monday, May 12, 2003
Glass Houses

Harley Sorensen, after (somewhat gratuitously, I think) bashing Bill Bennett for gambling, decides that Ann Coulter would make the perfect replacement for Joe McCarthy.

Characterizing Coulter's most recent column as an example of "what spews from her poisonous pen on a regular basis," Sorensen goes on:

She's viperous, unprincipled, holier-than-thou, paranoid, whiny and blessed with a perpetual smirk.

Funny, that's almost exactly how I view Sorensen.

Viperous...

After all, Houston is in Texas. And we know how Texans deal with their problems. - February 11, 2003 column

Unprincipled...

"Class warfare"! It has a nasty ring. It sounds thoroughly undemocratic, the sort of thing we don't tolerate in America. [. . .] Okay, you santimonious creeps, we accept your accusation. - February 13, 2003 column


Holier-than-thou...

The suckers bought it, hook, line and sinker. [. . .] Considering [Bush's] shaky military record, it was the height of chutzpah for Bush to make his dramatic landing on the Abraham Lincoln, but, standing tall and saluting smartly, he got away with it. - May 5, 2003 column

Paranoid...

Whenever George W. Bush says something I like, I get suspicious. - April 28, 2003 column

Whiny...

Also, over the past year, I've been appalled by the number of normally pacifist American Jews in public life who suddenly turned pro-war, favoring a war against Iraq, a war that, incidentally, was thought to be greatly in Israel's interest. - April 21, 2003 column


And blessed with a perpetual smirk...
Okay, got me there. The picture on his page is too darned small to tell.

Spew from a poisonous pen, anyone?


Posted 6:09 PM by Tony


Korean Pr0n

Today's Chosun Ilbo has two rather contradictory articles.

Here's the first one:

The Ministry of Information and Communication (MOIC) announced Monday that it has decided to expand its list of [Korean language pornographic] websites run from countries that have been banned from gaining access to the Korean Internet market in Korea. About 190 new porn websites will be put on the list from the current 50 sites, bringing up the total number of banned sites to 240, the ministry said.

But, on the other hand:

Korea will get its first sex museum later this month when the Asia Eros Museum opens in the northeast Seoul neighborhood of Samcheong-dong. The facility will exhibit more than 300 objects - some from Korea and many collected from the curator's travels overseas.

Included in the collection are Joseon Dynasty coins engraved with various positions for sexual intercourse - mothers of that era used to give them to their daughters. Also of note is a 2,200-year-old wooden phallus from China.

Seems a little contradictory to me.

I remember watching Korean programs in which young people arguing against the restrictive attitudes of their elders would protest, "This isn't the Chosun [Joseon] Dynasty era!" That phrase may need some reworking, I think.


Posted 10:16 AM by Tony

Friday, May 09, 2003
More "Pragmatism"

I've already written about the allegations that French officials in Syria may have supplied the Iraqi regime with French passports.

Well, here's more, from Fox News:

Senior Defense Department officials told Fox News Friday that documents found inside Baghdad are pointing to Iraq's diplomatic communications with France and show detailed discussions about pending U.S. actions — up to and after the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Add this stuff to the allegations that the French assisted the Iraqis in fooling UN weapons inspectors, and that the French helped arm Iraq in defiance of the various UN embargoes. If any of it is true, well, then the diplomatic gloves should come off.

All the way off.


Posted 4:47 PM by Tony


Welcome To The Ninth Circuit . . .

. . . where, apparently, the Bill of Rights contains only nine Amendments.

I finally got a chance to read the opinions relating to the denial of rehearing en banc in Silveira v. Lockyer.

The previous panel opinion was written by Judge Reinhardt, who is, I am embarrassed to say, a fellow Sagehen. In that opinion, the three-judge panel upheld a California statute regulating weapons possession. (9th Circuit PDF, FindLaw PDF) The opinion went on to hold that the 2nd Amendment confers a collective and not individual right. In other words, you don't have the right to bear arms; instead the state is the rightholder.

A curious oversight in the original opinion was any lack of reference to the 14th Amendment. The Bill of Rights, as written, does not apply of its own force to the states; rather, application of those rights against the states requires the 14th Amendment as a vehicle. Instead, the opinion uses linguistic analysis and the cicrumstances surrounding the formation of the 2nd Amendment to reach its conclusion.

The Ninth Circuit declined to rehear the case en banc. (9th Circuit PDF, FindLaw PDF) If it had decided to do so, then all of the judges in the Ninth Circuit, and not just a three-judge panel, would have gathered to consider the case.

The dissents by Judges Kleinfeld and Kosinski are particularly worth reading. I suspect Judge Kosinski has similar sentiments to Bill Whittle on this topic.

While Judge Kosinski's dissent is light on legal citation (leaving that to Judge Kleinfeld), but heavy in common sense and empirical fact. The whole thing is eminently readable. For those not wanting to wade through a PDF, I include Judge Kosinski's dissent in its entirety, below:

Judges know very well how to read the Constitution broadly when they are sympathetic to the right being asserted. We have held, without much ado, that “speech, or . . . the press” also means the Internet, see Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844 (1997), and that “persons, houses, papers, and effects” also means public telephone booths, see Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967). When a particular right comports especially well with our notions of good social policy, we build magnificent legal edifices on elliptical constitutional phrases—or even the white spaces between lines of constitutional text. See, e.g., Compassion in Dying v. Washington, 79 F.3d 790 (9th Cir. 1996) (en banc), rev’d sub nom. Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702 (1997). But, as the panel amply demonstrates, when we’re none too keen on a particular constitutional guarantee, we can be equally ingenious in burying language that is incontrovertibly there.

It is wrong to use some constitutional provisions as springboards for major social change while treating others like senile relatives to be cooped up in a nursing home until they quit annoying us. As guardians of the Constitution, we must be consistent in interpreting its provisions. If we adopt a jurisprudence sympathetic to individual rights, we must give broad compass to all constitutional provisions that protect individuals from tyranny. If we take a more statist approach, we must give all such provisions narrow scope. Expanding some to gargantuan proportions while discarding others like a crumpled gum wrapper is not faithfully applying the Constitution; it’s using our power as federal judges to constitutionalize our personal preferences.

The able judges of the panel majority are usually very sympathetic to individual rights, but they have succumbed to the temptation to pick and choose. Had they brought the same generous approach to the Second Amendment that they routinely bring to the First, Fourth and selected portions of the Fifth, they would have had no trouble finding an individual right to bear arms. Indeed, to conclude otherwise, they had to ignore binding precedent. United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939), did not hold that the defendants lacked standing to raise a Second Amendment defense, even though the government argued the collective rights theory in its brief. See Kleinfeld Dissent at 6011-12; see also Brannon P. Denning & Glenn H. Reynolds, Telling Miller’s Tale: A Reply to David Yassky, 65 Law & Contemp. Probs. 113, 117-18 (2002). The Supreme Court reached the Second Amendment claim and rejected it on the merits after finding no evidence that Miller’s weapon—a sawed-off shotgun—was reasonably susceptible to militia use. See Miller, 307 U.S. at 178. We are bound not only by the outcome of Miller but also by its rationale. If Miller’s claim was dead on arrival because it was raised by a person rather than a state, why would the Court have bothered discussing whether a sawed-off shotgun was suitable for militia use? The panel majority not only ignores Miller’s test; it renders most of the opinion wholly superfluous. As an inferior court, we may not tell the Supreme Court it was out to lunch when it last visited a constitutional provision.

The majority falls prey to the delusion—popular in some circles—that ordinary people are too careless and stupid to own guns, and we would be far better off leaving all weapons in the hands of professionals on the government payroll. But the simple truth—born of experience—is that tyranny thrives best where government need not fear the wrath of an armed people. Our own sorry history bears this out: Disarmament was the tool of choice for subjugating both slaves and free blacks in the South. In Florida, patrols searched blacks’ homes for weapons, confiscated those found and punished their owners without judicial process. See Robert J. Cottrol & Raymond T. Diamond, The Second Amendment: Toward an Afro-Americanist Reconsideration, 80 Geo. L.J. 309, 338 (1991). In the North, by contrast, blacks exercised their right to bear arms to defend against racial mob violence. Id. at 341-42. As Chief Justice Taney well appreciated, the institution of slavery required a class of people who lacked the means to resist. See Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393, 417 (1857) (finding black citizenship unthinkable because it would give blacks the right to “keep and carry arms wherever they went”). A revolt by Nat Turner and a few dozen other armed blacks could be put down without much difficulty; one by four million armed blacks would have meant big trouble. All too many of the other great tragedies of history—Stalin’s atrocities, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Holocaust, to name but a few—were perpetrated by armed troops against unarmed populations. Many could well have been avoided or mitigated, had the perpetrators known their intended victims were equipped with a rifle and twenty bullets apiece, as the Militia Act required here. See Kleinfeld Dissent at 5997-99. If a few hundred Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto could hold off the Wehrmacht for almost a month with only a handful of weapons, six million Jews armed with rifles could not so easily have been herded into cattle cars.

My excellent colleagues have forgotten these bitter lessons of history. The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed—where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.

Fortunately, the Framers were wise enough to entrench the right of the people to keep and bear arms within our constitutional structure. The purpose and importance of that right was still fresh in their minds, and they spelled it out clearly so it would not be forgotten. Despite the panel’s mighty struggle to erase these words, they remain, and the people themselves can read what they say plainly enough:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The sheer ponderousness of the panel’s opinion—the mountain of verbiage it must deploy to explain away these fourteen short words of constitutional text—refutes its thesis far more convincingly than anything I might say. The panel’s labored effort to smother the Second Amendment by sheer body weight has all the grace of a sumo wrestler trying to kill a rattlesnake by sitting on it—and is just as likely to succeed.


Posted 9:52 AM by Tony

Tuesday, May 06, 2003
More Inane Tests

Which OS are You?
Which OS are You?


Posted 11:51 AM by Tony


Operation Athena

The National Post reports that nearly 2,000 soldiers of the Canadian Forces will be joining a NATO-led security force in Afghanistan.

That sounded a bit iffy to me, so I did a little checking. An examination of the Canadian Land Forces web site depicts an organization of 12 brigade groups comprising both regular and reserve formations. Despite the "Regiment" designation of some of these units, I suspect most of them are battalions (1/3 to 1/4 the size of a regiment. (See, e.g. the West Nova Scotia Regiment). The organization seems very impressive.

Yet.

How deployable are they? In the last year, Canadian newspapers have been filled with stories reflecting Canada's troubles maintaining its military. The multiple Sea King accidents, and delays in deploying naval units due to lack of available manpower come to mind. While Canadian forces, especially the snipers, played an important role in the Afghanistan campaign, it should be remembered that they had to rely on American transport to get there.

And it's just not me being cynical, either:

However, [retired] Col. Pellerin [director of the Conference of Defence Associations] said Canada will not really be in command because years of government cuts have stripped the Canadian Forces of most of the personnel, skills and equipment it needs to run the Kabul-based force.

"It's going to be a NATO operation," he said. "Canada will provide the largest contingent, but we won't get the high profile because we aren't in a position to command, which is kind of sad."

As well, the Canadian troops will be sent to the turbulent Asian nation with little in the way of armour to protect them. Some armoured vehicles are to be shipped to Afghanistan by sea, but one officer said there will be only a handful of Coyote reconnaissance vehicles or LAV III armoured personnel carriers to protect the Canadian infantrymen.

The Canadian Forces currently have over 2700 personnel deployed overseas. Adding 2000 more may break the camel's back, as far as Canada's ability to support its troops goes.

Though I wish them the best of luck, I suspect that Chretien's written a check that the Canadian Forces may be unable to cash.


Posted 10:45 AM by Tony


By Any Other Name...

For obvious reasons, I've maintained an interest in the American presence in South Korea (see here, here, here, and here). According to today's Chosun Ilbo, the South Korean government's planning a euphemism change in describing the role of the 2nd Infantry Division:

The government said Tuesday that it would stop using the word "tripwire" to refer to the stationing of U.S. forces near the Demilitarized Zone, and would instead use the term "frontline partnership."
Americans strongly dislike "tripwire," saying it is a negative concept and degrades the value of the soldiers' lives, an official at the prime minister's office said. The government will use the new term beginning Friday, when Prime Minister Goh Kun visits the headquarters of the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division.

The official said that the government had considered a few other expressions to refer to the forward-deployed U.S. troops, such as "frontline together." The "frontline partnership" term will be used during all talks related to the USFK.

Last month, Leon J. LaPorte, the commander of the USFK, appeared on the television program MBC Document and said that the word "tripwire" was disgraceful to the soldiers of the division and was also an obsolete concept.

Which raises a question: if "tripwire" is an obsolete concept, then why are American troops still jammed up against the border?


Posted 10:10 AM by Tony


This Is "Pragmatic"?

I've written a bit about the French in the last couple months (here, here, and here). I've been pretty negative about France, for good reason, I think. I was skeptical when Chirac telephoned President Bush in an attempt to repair relations, saying France would be "pragmatic" in its approach to postwar Iraq.

Seems my skepticism may be well founded, as this item from Fox News shows:

U.S. intelligence officials told the [Washington] Times that an unknown number of Iraqi regime members were given French passports by French officials in Syria.

The report could not be independently confirmed.

French passport holders are able to enter any European Union country without a visa, and are usually granted tourist visas upon entry to many other countries, including the United States.

[ . . . ]

Nathalie Loiseau, a spokeswoman for the French Embassy in Washington, told the Times that French authorities had not issued any visas or passports to Iraqi regime officials since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"France formally denies this type of allegation, which is not only contrary to reality but is intended to discredit our nation," she said. "It is certainly time for rumors of this type — totally unfounded and a dishonor to those who spread them — to stop."

The reports add fuel to the fire over allegations that Paris had been colluding with Baghdad before and during the coalition invasion of Iraq.

One report said a French company covertly sold military spare parts to Iraq in the weeks before the war. Another indicated that a French oil company had been working with a Russian oil firm to clinch a deal with Saddam's government at the same time.

Keep in mind that none of these, as far as I know, are substantiated. However, if true, then there can no longer be any illusion that France can be considered an ally.

While I might not buy into the "with us or against us" dichotomy, if these allegations are true, then I think we all know where the "dishonor" lies.


Posted 9:12 AM by Tony

Monday, May 05, 2003
Name That Disease!

Jim Treacher has a new poll up. (Results here)

God only knows that Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome is a crappy name for a disease. Go vote!


Posted 12:46 PM by Tony


Defining Terrorism

West Australian Governor and former army chief of staff John Sanderson seems to think that America is responsible for terrorism by acting outside the structure of the United Nations. His address to the UN Youth Association strikes a tone similar to Susan Sontag's New Yorker piece on the events of September 11, 2001.

A partial analysis of his speech seems to be in order:

1. "[T]he UN has been under considerable scrutiny due to its unwillingness or inability to generate Security Council resolutions that align with the strategic requirements of the United States of America."

Actually, no. The American public's scrutiny of the UN isn't due to its failure to align itself with America. Rather, the scrutiny is due to the American public's heightened concern over national security in the last year and a half. As a result, the UN's active obstruction in matters affecting American national security has made us question the relevance of a democratic organization that includes, in large part, petty regimes ruled by dictators. Failure to comply with American interests is a far different matter from obstruction.

2. "My assessment of this development would be that the probability of the support for and the resort to terrorism has been enhanced as a direct result."

I seriously doubt that the going outside of UN channels has increased the use of terrorism. Put it this way - all things being equal, if the United States had gone through the UN, and gotten approval to enter Iraq, would reaction have changed? Frankly, no - the UN would have been derided as a US puppet, and the same results would have occurred.

It used to be that going after Americans was one of the safer things an international terrorist could do. The American public could point to no Entebbe, no Mogadishu, no Iranian Embassy. Instead, we got the Achille Lauro, Robert Stethem (though Delta Force did rescue several of the passengers), and the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut. America has tried passivity. If more active measures are the only way, then so be it.

Also, here's a question: when has the United Nations ever taken any effective action against terrorist activity? Nothing comes to mind. But then, again, high aspirations seem unreasonable for an organization that loots itself.

3. "I thought I should begin by taking some time to define the meaning and the nature of terrorism. The Concise Oxford dictionary defines terror as extreme fear. It defines a terrorist as someone who favours or uses terror-inspiring methods of governing, or of coercing government or community."
"It is a good definition because it makes the point that terrorists are not just non-government outlaws running around in the back blocks of Afghanistan or the Gaza Strip."


Actually, it's a pretty bad definition. The dictionary definition suffers from overbreadth. It embraces both the hijacking of airplanes and World War II. The objective of any war is coercion, that is, imposing one's will on an adversary, and any form of violence qualifies as "terror-inspiring."

A more focused, discriminating definition is in order. The United States Code has its own definition, which works for a legal tribunal, but doesn't help as much in this discussion. Off the top of my head, how about this:

Terrorism = the use of force or threat of force against persons not directly affiliated with a government, with the intent to coerce or influence the conduct of the government or population.

Such a definition would distinguish, say, 9/11 from the advance on Germany in 1945. While others could probably come up with a better definition, the point is the dictionary definition is hardly an appropriate launching point for discussing terrorism.

Which leaves me wondering: how did this person ever become the Australian army's chief of staff?

I must be missing something.


Posted 12:16 PM by Tony


German-American Relations

There's an opinion piece in the Korean Herald by Michael Mertes, detailing how Germany managed to screw itself by following France:

Every part of Germany's international position has been wounded by the Iraq war. The country can no longer play the role of transatlantic mediator between France and America. It can forget about U.S. support in its campaign to gain a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Instead of forging a "third way" for Europe's left with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder needs Blair to plead his case with President George W. Bush, who feels personally betrayed by the Chancellor's conduct in the run-up to the war.

In post-communist Eastern Europe, Germany is no longer perceived as an absolutely dependable advocate of the region's needs. Multilateral institutions that served as pillars of German foreign policy for almost half a century have been weakened: the European Union's hopes for common foreign, security, and defense policies have been gravely jeopardized.

[ . . . ]

German-American relations suffered a devastating blow when Schroeder stoked the country's overwhelmingly pacifist attitudes. By doing so, he drowned out the concerns about low growth and high unemployment that were threatening his reelection prospects. But that political strategy left President Bush believing that Schroeder had stabbed him in the back. As with people, so too with states: Trust, once lost, is extremely difficult to regain.

Germany's opposition parties and much of its foreign policy establishment warned that the country risked diplomatic isolation, so Schroeder joined an ad hoc coalition of the unwilling, along with France and Russia. This compounded the error by adding to it a public relations disaster. Much of the world press dubbed this "gang of three" an "axis," a word with sinister echoes of the German-Italian-Japanese World War II axis. Not surprisingly, Poland - like other Central and East European countries - sought reassurance from the U.S. and Britain when their colossal neighbors, Germany and Russia, embarked on their anti-American flirtation.

[ . . . ]

That French President Jacques Chirac is even less popular in the U.S. than Schroeder gives German diplomats slight consolation. But opposition to U.S. policy from France never comes as a shock. Indeed, Chirac's tone and tactics conform to textbook Gaullist patterns. By contrast, German assertiveness vis-the U.S. was stunning - perhaps because, as it is said, you have to be fully behind someone who you stab him in the back. [emphasis added]

Previously, Tony Blair had been accused of being Bush's "poodle." Well, if the analogy holds, then Schroeder might be considered Chirac's lapdog. In light of Schroeder's pre-war words and actions, the prospect of his resignation doesn't really bother me. Same thing with the shift of American forces out of Germany to further east.


Posted 10:51 AM by Tony


Pulling Back The Troops

The Korean Prime Minister and Defense Minister are planning on visiting the US 2nd Infantry Division today, according to the Chosun Ilbo:

Prime Minister Goh Kun and Defense Minister Cho Yung-kil will visit the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division on Friday, just days before President Roh Moo-hyun leaves for his visit to the United States. Goh will express the government's concern about the controversial plan to relocate the division, now centered in the Gyeonggi province city of Uijeongbu, south of the Han River. Goh is expected to request that discussions about the plan be postponed until the North Korean nuclear crisis is resolved.

The prime minister's senior press officer, Kim Duk-bong, said Monday that Goh would meet high U.S. military officials and convey Seoul's stance that the relocation of the division should not yet be discussed. Goh will also affirm that the Korean government officially supports the continued stationing of the division in its current location, Kim said.

The trip will mark the first time in Korean history that a prime minister has visited a U.S. army camp. Goh's visit is designed to alleviate the uncomfortable sentiment that has prevailed since the incident last June when two middle school girls were killed by a U.S. army vehicle from the Gyeonggi province base, insiders said.

Goh will hear out the U.S. forces to get a reading on the difficulties they face, Kim said, and promise to provide support for a stable stationing of the U.S. Army in Korea by moving training camps and expanding roads.

Personally, I'm in favor of moving the 2nd Infantry back. As I've mentioned before, the terrain near the border is very mountainous and restrictive, and doesn't allow the division to take full use of its mobility advantage. Moreover, as Seoul's urban sprawl creeps northward, the division will likely face increasingly greater difficulties in finding places to train, and, in the worst case scenario, will be forced to fight in an urban environment.

A clarification on the article. The vehicle accident mentioned in the article would imply that the accident was akin to a passenger automobile hitting a pedestrian. I think the incident was a little more complex. (Army LINK articles here, here, and here.) The acquittal of the two soldiers, to me, didn't seem totally unreasonable, given the space (30 meters) and the type of vehicle (essentially an M60 tank chassis) involved.

"Uncomfortable sentiment," indeed. There's a pretty good FAQ here. Manifestations of that sentiment after the acquittals included an attempt to storm the UN / US Forces Korea headquarters in Seoul, the kidnapping of American soldiers, and a Seoul restaurant announcing that it would not serve Americans.

At the same time, however, the South Korean government insists that the Americans should maintain its troops right up against the DMZ as a "tripwire policy," which translates to "die in place, so that America will send troops over to fight for us."

It's going to take more than one visit, I think.


Posted 10:04 AM by Tony

Thursday, May 01, 2003
Inbreeding

More news from Saudi Arabia:
Saudi Arabia Awakes to the Perils of Inbreeding

[ . . . ]

Spinal muscular atrophy and the gene that causes it, along with several other serious genetic disorders, are common in Saudi Arabia, where women have an average of six children and where in some regions more than half of the marriages are between close relatives.

Across the Arab world today an average of 45 percent of married couples are related, according to Dr. Nadia Sakati, a pediatrician and senior consultant for the genetics research center at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh.

In some parts of Saudi Arabia, particularly in the south, where Mrs. Hefthi was raised, the rate of marriage among blood relatives ranges from 55 to 70 percent, among the highest rates in the world, according to the Saudi government.

That's just messed up.


Posted 12:22 PM by Tony


Getting On The Bandwagon

Heh, those Germans. The SF Chronicle is pointing out earlier German predictions about the war:

German warnings not borne out by Iraq war; Dire predictions look like anti-U.S. feeding frenzy in hindsight

Not so long ago, prominent German politicians were outdoing each other forecasting worst-case scenarios for the Iraq conflict. The predictions ranged from "millions of victims of U.S. rockets" to "millions of Iraqi refugees desperately fleeing the country."

While few are willing yet to eat their words publicly, the media is having a field day with the wildly inaccurate pronouncements.

"They were all wrong with their horror scenarios," snorted the Bildzeitung, Germany's largest nationally distributed newspaper. Under the heading "The embarrassing predictions on the war by our politicians," the paper recently listed some of the most erroneous ones.

[ . . . ]

On March 28, a nationwide poll by ZDF indicated that 84 percent blamed the conflict wholly on the United States and President Bush, and only 26 percent held Saddam Hussein responsible. Another poll conducted April 3 for the Stern magazine showed 89 percent of Germans do not regard America as a role model.

The deputy editor in chief of Stern, Hans-Ulrich Joerges, asserted in a recent issue that many Germans greeted early U.S. military missteps in Iraq with "clammy joy" and "perverse partisanship."

A study commissioned by the respected Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper pinned part of the blame on German television networks, which it said constantly criticized the U.S.-led military action as an illegitimate attack in which innocent civilians were the primary victims.

"Saddam's terror was no topic for the German TV media, but criticism of America was," the study concluded. "If Americans would have watched German television during the war, and Germans would have viewed U.S. programs, their respective moods . . . would have been reversed."

The article lists a few good ones:

"Millions of people in Baghdad will be victims of bombs and rockets." - Wolfgang Thierse, Social Democrat parliamentary president
"The German government possesses various studies expecting up to 200,000 victims of military operations in Iraq. And it is feared that another 200,000 persons will die from indirect results of the war." - Juergen Trittin, Green Party, Environmental Minister
"U.S. aggression in Iraq will result in the explosion of the Near and Middle East." - Angelike Beer, Green Party co-chair
"3 million Iraqi refugees will be flooding neighboring countries." - Heidemarie Wielczorek-Zeul, Social Democrat, Development Minister
"[N]ot even 500,000 U.S. soldiers fighting in Vietnam could prevent the debacle there." - Peter Scholl-Latour, regarded as Germany's top Mideast expert

The way I figure, if even the SF Chronicle is mocking your antiwar stance, then you must have really been clueless.

BURN!!


Posted 8:57 AM by Tony


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

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