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

Wednesday, June 25, 2003
11 PM, Randomly

Tuesday nights are swing dancing nights for me. I rather like the timing, as it breaks up the week a bit for me, and I get to see a great swing/jump blues band.

As I left the venue, I headed across the street to the liquor store, as I always do, to buy some chocolate milk. The owner recognized me, and we exchanged some banter.

Walking to my car, I looked across the street. Apparently, the strip club was having a photo shoot at the front entrance. Bright lights, reflective shades, the works. A group of employees posed at the front, dressed in black midriff-Ts and shorts. Bystanders gawked.

Continuing down the street a few paces, I saw one couple, dressed in outdoorsy wear, showing off their baby to another, similarly-attired couple.

Wholesome family scene on one side of the street; strippers on the other.

Just another night in North Beach.


Posted 6:27 PM by Tony


Free What?

The Washington Post has a story entitled, "China and India Reach Accord: Tibet and Dalai Lama Get Ass Raped." Well, the story does not actually have that title, but it might as well:

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee acknowledged China's sovereignty over Tibet and pledged not to allow "anti-China political activities in India," a reference to the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, led by the Dalai Lama. And China tacitly recognized India's 1975 annexation of the former mountain monarchy of Sikkim by agreeing to open a trading post along the border with the former kingdom.

"I must say, with great satisfaction, that my meetings with the leadership of China have been excellent," Vajpayee said on the third day of a six-day visit, the first by an Indian prime minister in 10 years. "They have confirmed the desire to build stable, enduring and forward-looking ties of friendships shared by the highest political levels in both countries."

Not a breath of this on SF Indymedia, of course.

Whatever happened to "Free Tibet"?


Posted 5:35 PM by Tony


"Material Breach," Anyone?

Remember Resolution 1441? (PDF here) To quote:

1. [The UN Security Council] Decides that Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, [ . . . ];

2. Decides, while acknowledging paragraph 1 above, to afford Iraq, by this resolution, a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions of the Council; and accordingly decides to set up an enhanced inspection regime with the aim of bringing to full and verified completion the disarmament process established by resolution 687 (1991) and subsequent resolutions of the Council;

3. Decides that, in order to begin to comply with its disarmament obligations, in addition to submitting the required biannual declarations, the Government of Iraq shall provide to UNMOVIC, the IAEA, and the Council, not later than 30 days from the date of this resolution, a currently accurate, full, and complete declaration of all aspects of its programmes to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and other delivery systems such as unmanned aerial vehicles and dispersal systems designed for use on aircraft, including any holdings and precise locations of such weapons, components, subcomponents, stocks of agents, and related material and equipment , the locations and work of its research, development and production facilities, as well as all other chemical, biological, and nuclear programmes, including any which it claims are for purposes not related to weapon production or material;


4. Decides that false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq’s obligations and will be reported to the Council for assessment in accordance with paragraphs 11 and 12 below;

[ . . . ]

13. Recalls, in that context, that the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its
obligations[].

[emphasis added]

Well, looky here:

The CIA has in its hands the critical parts of a key piece of Iraqi nuclear technology -- parts needed to develop a bomb program -- that were dug up in a back yard in Baghdad, CNN has learned.

The parts were unearthed by Iraqi scientist Mahdi Obeidi who had hidden them in his back yard under a rose bush 12 years ago under orders from Qusay Hussein and Saddam Hussein's then son-in-law, Hussein Kamel.

Let's see:

Equipment related to a nuclear weapons program? Check!
Not listed in the declaration? Probably, since the thing was hidden in a backyard.

"Material breach"? Again, probably.

Well, how about that.


Posted 4:48 PM by Tony


Bad Anniversaries

53 years ago, the North Koreans crossed the border, setting off one "police action," a multitude of "incidents," and causing the continuous loss of American life since. (See, e.g., Operation Paul Bunyan in 1976, the 1994 shootdown of a US Army helicopter).

Just thought I'd mention that.


Posted 2:30 PM by Tony


Psychoanalyzing Dowd

Well, Maureen Dowd's new column is up. In keeping with her use of distorting ellipses, I found a bit that may show she realizes what she's become:

What a . . . barking mad . . . caricature.

This little bit had is a bit more reflective of her attitude, I think:

As Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer write in "Strange Justice," Mr. Thomas himself complained in a 1987 speech that, to win acceptance in conservative ranks, "a black was required to become a caricature of sorts, providing sideshows of anti-black quips and attacks." (Just as blonde conservative pundettes flash long legs and sneer at feminism.)

Presumably, she's referring to Ann Coulter, but that's just a guess.

Dowd's condescending labelling of conservative female writers as "pundettes," is pretty galling. Especially when one considers that Dowd's writing cannot be called, by any stretch of the imagination, intellectually hefty. The parenthetical has little relevance to her column, which is essentially a personal attack on Justice Thomas in the guise of psychoanalysis.

The paragraph quoted above may illuminate more of Dowd's personality then she'd probably intended. Could it be that the focus on appearances ("blonde" and "long legged") is the bitter envy of a person whose salad days are long, long behind her (she graduated from college 30 years ago)?

Nah.


Posted 10:48 AM by Tony

Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Um, Welcome To America?

There's this bit from the SF Chronicle (via Best of the Web):

Claude, the emcee at the oath ceremony on Nob Hill I attended recently, beseeched my 2,000-odd compatriots and me to join him in a cheer: "Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate? INS! INS! INS!"

The request that I sing for membership reinforced a growing resentment I felt toward the United States. The American government, in pursuit of an illegal war and a post-9/11 assault on civil liberties, seemed more a police state than a democracy. Was this the America to which I would swear allegiance?

I was born in India but grew up in a proud New England town where Paul Revere was still a local hero. My childhood feelings of patriotism later gave way to more skepticism about this country. Like many American citizens, I felt entitled to criticize this country, but I also couldn't shed the vulnerability that plagues those who nervously cling to green cards. In pursuit of real security, I finally applied to become an American.

[ . . . ]

The local congressman's office, after my file was lost twice, and my application delayed for four years, implied that some of my own problems should be attributed to my ethnicity. I'm not Muslim or Arab, but in the current climate, any substitute will suffice.

[ . . . ]

I listened incredulously as the judge ignored how the civil liberties I had studied as a fifth grader were now under assault. She delivered a trite homily on the "wonderful freedoms" Americans have "to speak" and "to move." I thought of all of the Pakistani Americans who, unable to live here even in silence, are now moving in droves to Canada.

I was mulling over exercising my freedom "to move" by walking out, but then one participant in the ceremony, a native San Franciscan of Korean descent, delivered a rousing speech. He praised American democracy, but deplored its use of intimidation and violence to fight terrorism. He urged the audience not to fear, not to feel threatened, and to speak openly despite the current atmosphere. Felix and I eagerly joined the crowd in the day's first applause.

[emphasis added]

A few thoughts:

First, there's the motivation for becoming American. Not for love of country mind, or the pursuit of happiness, but rather "in pursuit of real security." Well, it's nice to see that the author's become a citizen for all the right reasons. Funny how my parents never seem to have mentioned insecurity over green card possession as a motive for becoming a US citizen.

Second, there's the bit about "vulnerability of those who have green cards." A green card is not a guarantee, but seems more akin conceptually to an enhanced visa. The holder can still be ejected, but is entitled to more rights, I would think.

Third, there's the implication that the author's files were lost at the office because of her ethnicity. Government inefficiency is hardly the stuff of a dark conspiracy. If so, then add the nine month delay in getting my DSL hooked up, after near-daily phone calls, as another datum point.

Fourth, there's the bit about Pakistanis moving to Canada. This seems pretty anecdotal to me - I, for one, certainly haven't noticed a decline in the Pakistani population in the Bay Area.

Finally, there's the criticism of the judge's "trite" speech about our freedom. The author deplores these freedoms, yet almost in the same breath, speaks of how she applauded one of the speakers in deploring current conditions. No freedom of speech, not here. It's amazing how effective the government is at crushing dissent, if she can applaud criticism of government policy.

Sounds like the author lacks a proper basis of comparison in stating that America "seemed more a police state than a democracy." Might I suggest a visit here, then? I was going to suggest here, but that regime no longer exists, thanks to our "police state."


Posted 4:47 PM by Tony

Monday, June 23, 2003
Dick's A Dork

Some astonishing idiocy from Representative Dick Gephardt, from Missouri, at Fox News, CNN, and C-SPAN (courtesy Professors Volokh and Reynolds). The CNN version reads:

On Monday, the [Supreme Court] ruled that minority applicants may be given an edge when applying for admissions to universities, but limited how much a factor race can play in the selection of students. A closely divided court upheld the University of Michigan law school program that sought a "critical mass" of minorities by a 5-4 vote. The court split 6-3 in finding the undergraduate program unconstitutional.

The case was a main topic of discussion Sunday at a candidate forum sponsored by Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

"When I'm president, we'll do executive orders to overcome any wrong thing the Supreme Court does tomorrow or any other day," said Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri.

Why is this idiotic? The Constitution is the highest law of the land, and takes precedence over all other bodies of law, including state and federal statutes and executive orders. The Court's interpretation of the Constitution can only be overruled by a later ruling of the Court, not by executive order.

Representative Gephardt's bio shows that he graduated from Michigan Law School, the same school that was the focus of the Court's decision. Looks like someone fell asleep in Constitutional Law.

Apparently, diversity's not hurting academic standards at Michigan, if this is typical.

Professor Reynolds suggests two explanations - he's either failed to learn anything about government after 27 years in Congress, or he's pandering. One's stupid; the other, dishonorable.

Update:

Well, apparently the Gephardt campaign has explained what the comment meant:

"[Referring, presumably, to Professors Volokh and Reynolds] The fact that this question comes from libertarian law professors should speak for itself," spokesman Erik Smith wrote in an e-mail. "Dick Gephardt knows the law. The president can not overturn a Supreme Court decision. That's not what he said. He was simply expressing his commitment to diversity and his willingness to use the tools of his office to promote affirmative action programs to the fullest extent possible. It's important to remember that Harry Truman used an executive order to integrate the military."

See here and here for comments. The best part, I think is this:

I guess, then, the Gephardt response translates to "Gephardt's not a constitutional ignoramus, or an incipient dictator. He's just your standard-model lying politician!"

A few points:

1. "The fact that this question comes from libertarian law professors should speak for itself." - What does that mean? Is he implying that Professors Volokh and Reynolds have an ax to grind with the Gephardt campaign? Is he implying that "libertarian law professors" have nothing worth saying?

2. "The president can not overturn a Supreme Court decision. That's not what he said." - Really. Well, how else would one reasonably interpret the comment, "When I'm president, we'll do executive orders to overcome any wrong thing the Supreme Court does tomorrow or any other day." That goes far beyond a commitment to diversity.

3. The Harry Truman analogy does not apply because the Supreme Court, up to that point, had not said segregation is required, but had basically held that the government, should it so choose, could engage in segregation. Truman's executive order, then, was not an attempt to void a Supreme Court decision.


Posted 10:06 PM by Tony

Friday, June 20, 2003
Creepy Tourism Campaigns

Now that summer travel season is upon us, public relations companies have apparently decided to test our tolerance for creepiness:

France:

The French are apparently feeling the pinch from a sufficient number of ticked off Americans, and are trying to lure back the tourists. (courtesy Den Beste).

So who do they decide on as a spokesman? Woody Allen:

"And I will not have to refer to my French fried potatoes as freedom fries and I will not have to freedom kiss my wife when all I want to do is French kiss her. So let's pull together now," he says.

Thanks for reminding us, Mr. Allen, that you're tongue-rasslin' your former girlfriend's adopted daughter. Like I really needed that mental association with France. Bleah.

Canada:

I've been hearing tourism ads for Canada on the radio lately. They generally feature some couple discussing where to go on vacation. They then call a relative, who turns out, at least in the two versions I've heard, to be a wife-beater type or a Dr. Frankenstein-type with a dungeon. The ad then suggests going to Canada for vacation, where "The Queen is on our money but your American dollar is king!"

Ick.


Posted 5:05 PM by Tony


What's Going On With The National Post?

When I first started reading Canadian news sites, I generally relied on (and still do rely on) The National Post and The Globe and Mail . Now, I have no idea what the circulation of the Post is like, and have never actually seen a print version of the paper. But, I always enjoyed their editorial pages, which made a nice contrast to some of the Globe's columnists, and just about all the columnists for the Toronto Star.

I have to wonder what's going on at the Post. Editor Ken Whyte and deputy editor Martin Newland left the paper. Then the Post stopped carrying Mark Steyn columns. Now, the Globe and Mail has announced that columnist Christie Blatchford is joining them from the Post.

Blatchford's departure, I think, is a real blow for the Post. Her columns are what got me reading the Post in the first place. Her columns make for great reading, combining acerbity, common sense, and compassion.

Her most recent column for the Post is on the dropping of charges against 2 American pilots. The pilots had been involved in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan, resulting in the deaths of several soldiers from the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry:

It was last January, when I was covering the Article 32 hearing then going on at the Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, that my brother wrote me what for my dough still stands as the smartest, and most frank, analysis of the whole sorry mess.

By that, I mean, as did my brother, the entire piece -- the original sin of the accidental bombing in Afghanistan by two American pilots that killed four sterling young Canadian soldiers and injured eight others; the way that the incident had become a sort of them-and-us issue, with the Americans portrayed as cavalier cowboys and the Canucks as hapless victims; and the raw emotional quagmire, with one set of decent families grieving and bitterly anticipating the very result that on the other side had another set of equally good people feeling fearful and betrayed, which had developed.

[ . . . ]

"But do they deserve a court martial and a jail term? Not by me. Check the command and control systems, rejig the communications. Do what needs to be done to improve the odds that this never happens again. And know in your heart that this is the deadliest game that man can play, and that this sort of thing will, nonetheless, happen again. These are fearsome toys in a confusing and hostile environment in the hands of brave, young warriors who are doing their best to do the job they have been trained to do. Shit happens. Mourn, compensate, rethink, reconfigure, re-organize and move on.

"Punishment," he concluded, "has no place here."

That's why the decision, expected to be formally announced today, that there will be no court-martial of Majors Schmidt and Umbach, is the right one. It's painful, especially for the families of Sergeant Marc Léger, Corporal Ainsworth Dyer and Privates Richard Green and Nathan Smith, and for their surviving colleagues. It's not terribly satisfactory, because there can be no satisfactory result when good young men are so cruelly killed. But it's the right one, nonetheless.

Contrast that with Heather Mallick's column relating to the same incident. (Although to be fair, the Globe has some very good columnists as well, good being defined as "not being vile spew")

I suspect Blatchford's departure may be connected to Whyte and Newland leaving, but that's just speculation. But the question remains: What's going on at the Post?


Posted 4:04 PM by Tony


Welcome To The Multipolar World

There are those who posit that no use of force is legally (and, for that matter, morally) acceptable without UN approval.

Well, for those who don't remember the effectiveness of UN peacekeepers in Bosnia, here's the following (hat tip to Gweilo Diaries):

Pleas for help, then death for U.N. workers

For six days, two terrified [and unarmed] U.N. military observers phoned their superiors - as many as four times a day - begging to be evacuated from their remote outpost in northeastern Congo.

They were receiving death threats, they said. They were alone and unarmed in Mongbwalu, a town ruled by the Lendu tribal militias, notorious for cannibalism. A U.N. helicopter from the city of Bunia could have retrieved them in 35 minutes.

But the United Nations, handcuffed by rules and bureaucracy, didn't send a chopper. On May 18, 10 days after the two peacekeepers made their first call, the United Nations finally flew armed peacekeepers to Mongbwalu.

They found the mutilated bodies of Maj. Safwat al Oran, 37, of Jordan, and Capt. Siddon Davis Banda, 29, of Malawi.

Their corpses had been tossed into a canal and covered with dirt, according to those who saw the bodies. They were shot in the eyes. Their stomachs were split open and their hearts and livers were missing. One man's brain was gone.

[ . . . ]

Col. Daniel Vollot, the U.N. Congo mission's sector commander in Bunia, said that all U.N. employees here worked in dangerous, unpredictable conditions and that the U.N. mission was not responsible for the deaths of Banda and Oran.

"We can't feel guilty," Vollot said. "Certainly, if we had arrived two or three days before, they would be alive. It's difficult, but I don't feel guilty about that."

[ . . . ]

"Everyone is to blame, starting from the guy who planned the operation," said one of the U.N. military observers.

On Wednesday, the U.N. mission in Congo held a memorial service for Oran and Banda in Kinshasa. Senior representatives of all 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, who are here on a fact-finding mission, attended the ceremony.

[emphasis added]

And that last sentence is an all too apt metaphor. All too often, all the UN can do is to grieve for the dead, and not protect the living, including their own.


Posted 3:27 PM by Tony


Graduation

It occurs to me that, although I'm an avid swing dancer, I've never written anything related to dancing. That changes today, sort of.

I have a friend, back home, who is one of the best followers I've had the privilege of dancing with. (Generally, guy=lead(er), gal=follow(er)). I've had trouble leading when I've danced with some followers, but not her.

Now, you have to understand that leading a dance is done mostly through the hands. For example, raising your follow's hand indicates a turn. Tension is important, especially at the shoulder joint. Too much resistance, and the lead has to work too hard. Too little resistance, and the lead will succeed in only moving his follow's arms around, i.e., the dreaded "spaghetti arm."

Dancing with my friend, I neither felt like I had to fight against her to lead the dance, nor did I feel that her arm was too loose. It felt natural and unforced.

I moved away for law school, but still kept in touch. It's funny - out of the almost 5 years we've known each other, most of our dancing experiences occurred in that first year. She doesn't dance much any more, which is a darned shame.

She just graduated with her master's degree last Sunday.

So, I just want to say, on the off chance that she's reading this blog, congratulations. You're a great dancer and an even better friend, and I feel privileged and honored that you're the latter.


Posted 2:48 PM by Tony

Thursday, June 19, 2003
Some Bad Ideas Keep Reappearing

When I was in high school, I attended a Catholic boarding school which was, at the time, nestled in the hills of unincorporated Orange County. The area was pristine, and the only other buildings around were a small ranch and a biker bar. On the other side of the hills lay Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, which was home to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. (trivia - Will Smith's character in Independence Day was based out of MCAS El Toro) Every single day, aircraft of all types - cargo, fighter, helicopters - would fly over our school, shaking the windows, and forcing our teachers to pause class, just for a bit. We'd listen to the jet noise, and the accompanying shaking of our classroom windows, then resume class.

Times change. The Marines moved to Miramar, displacing the Navy's Top Gun program. A housing development appeared on the hills opposite the road from my school. And people started to consider new uses for the air station.

One suggestion was an international cargo airport. I never liked the idea much, myself, because the base was hemmed in by mountains and odd crosswinds would crop up. In addition, the air station was close to only two freeways, which already suffered from heavy traffic.

The plan was ultimately voted down.

Well, it looks like some bad ideas simply refuse to die:

Los Angeles officials secretly asked the U.S. Department of Transportation in April to block the sale of part of El Toro this fall so the former base could be used to relieve congestion at Los Angeles International Airport.

[ . . . ]

"The benefit of an airport at El Toro is enormous for the entire region," said Matt Middlebrook, a spokesman for Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn.

Originally, LAX was going to absorb most of the growth by increasing its capacity to 98 million passengers annually. Then LAX's neighbors objected, and during his campaign Hahn promised to abandon those plans.

[ . . . ]

Then Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Troy Edwards and Airport Board President Ted Stein, both Hahn appointees, presented a 37-page memo to the Department of Transportation.

They urged the department to stop the sale of El Toro land, to take ownership of the base and to lease it to Los Angeles World Airports. They pointed out that Los Angeles already owns airport property outside the city's limits -- in Ontario and in Palmdale.

[ . . . ]

Los Angeles officials say it would be safe and point out that even the president's plane has landed at El Toro.

Basically, LA County officials now want to operate and control an airport in an area whose voters have already refused the idea. And those officials floated the idea, in secret, without consulting anyone in Orange County.

And I'd like to point out that simply because a large plane has landed there once doesn't mean that landings of large cargo aircraft several times a minute is feasible.

It's hard for me to believe that Congressman Rohrbacher is supporting this nonsense. But, then again, MCAS El Toro isn't in his district. He, nor the LA officials floating this idea have to live with the results.

Nor do I, since I live in the SF Bay Area now. But my family is still in the area, and the whole thing still pisses me off.


Posted 4:48 PM by Tony

Monday, June 16, 2003
More Fun With Dowd

Well, the new Maureen Dowd column is up, complaining, in a very roundabout way, that women today are becoming Stepford wives. Of course, one might expect Dowd to be a little disaffected, since young women today aren't like those 30 years ago, when she graduated college.

Using Dowd's style of strategic ellipses, one finds:

Usually I . . . breathily repeat things like, " . . . I'm . . . a haywire robot . . . who . . . produced . . . porn."

Well, good for her, though I imagine that's quite the conversation stopper at cocktail parties.

(You might wonder how long I plan on doing this. Answer: Until Dowd or the New York Times prints a correction about her misrepresentation of Bush's speech by using ellipses. That could be a very long time, I think.)

Update: I just found her article in the National Post, which was, I thought, a relatively conservative Canadian newspaper. It used to publish Mark Steyn. So, a question for any Canadians out there: has the editorial staff at the Post gone collectively insane recently, or what?


Posted 3:54 PM by Tony

Friday, June 13, 2003
John Malkovich Kicks Ass

The World Socialist Web Site has gotten itself in a froth about John Malkovich, panning his movie The Dancer Upstairs:

[Malkovich] provoked a fury last year when, while addressing students at the Cambridge Union in England, the actor casually mentioned that he would like to shoot independent journalist Robert Fisk and Glasgow Labour MP George Galloway.

Galloway, you may remember, has been accused of taking money from Saddam Hussein's intelligence service, and as for Fisk, well, his name has become synonymous with mind-staggering stupidity.

And then there's this:

Malkovich has also vilely fulminated in support of the death penalty. The Chicago Tribune quoted him as saying: “America’s left wing wants criminals coddled, and no one wants to be punished. I would have no problem pushing the switch while having dinner.”

I suppose the article wanted to cast aspersions on Malkovich by exposing quotes that few knew about. I'll admit, I didn't know he said this stuff. Now that I do, I've become a fan.

Talk about your unintended consequences.


Posted 5:03 PM by Tony


31

Well, today's my 31st birthday. It's kind of odd - this entire past year has been wrapped up in bar-related stuff.

I turned 30 studying for the bar review. During that year, I studied for and took the bar exam, waited three months for results, and found I had failed. I studied for and took the bar exam again, and again waited three months for the bar.

I finally got sworn into the California Bar on Monday.

It's a nice way to bookend my 30th year, I suppose.


Posted 8:55 AM by Tony

Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Biological Weapons Development (Sorta)

The SF Chronicle has an article about a patent that has the usual suspects quite upset:

A new rifle-launched gas grenade, invented by the U.S. Army ostensibly for nonlethal crowd control, has created a stir because the patent filed on the technology claims that it can deliver chemical and biological agents, two payloads forbidden by international treaty and U.S. law.

Greg Aharonian, editor of the Internet Patent News Service in San Francisco, helped stir the tempest last week by e-mailing selected portions of patent number 6,523,478, filed by the Army on Sept. 10, 2001, and granted by the Patent Office in February.

The patent describes how to create a "rifle-launched non-lethal" projectile to release aerosols "selected from the group consisting of smoke, crowd control agents, biological agents, chemical agents, obscurants, marking agents, dyes and inks, chaffs and flakes."

According to the article, various people are alleging that the Department of Defense may be engaging in biological weapons research in violation of various treaties and federal law:

But Edward Hammond, a bioweapons watchdog with the nonprofit Sunshine Project in Austin, Texas, said the wording of the patent represents more than a semantic error.

Hammond said the Sunshine Project Web site lists a series of government- sponsored inventions that outline ways to solve the technical challenges of delivering a gas or aerosol payload in such a way that detonation of the warhead doesn't disperse the active ingredient.

He said that while he isn't sure the new patent contains enough detail to teach a terrorist how to build a biogrenade, he said that the mere use of words like "biological and chemical agents" in the application suggests Army scientists are unaware of treaty obligations.

"What's shocking here is that the claim went through," Hammond said, asking "What does that say to you if you're the Chinese or any of a number of other countries around the world?"

While the story doesn't provide enough detail, at first glance, this story appears to be making a mountain out of a molehill. The inclusion of the word "biological" in a patent claim doesn't necessarily mean that Army scientists have been engaged in biological weapons research. An axiom of patent drafting is that claims are drafted broadly, with successive claim making successively narrower claims.

Let's take a look at the source. The patent can be found here.

Claim 1, which claims the broadest scope of protection, claims:
1. A rifle-muzzle launched payload delivering projectile, comprising:

(a) a launch tube defining an interior cavity, and having an opening at one end with an inner diameter sized to fit over the end of a muzzle of a rifle;

(b) a bullet trap fixedly located in said launch tube cavity opposite from the launch tube opening, said bullet trap adapted for safely capturing a bullet fired from said muzzle; and

(c) a payload assembly mounted on said launch tube opposite from said opening end, said payload assembly further configured for safely releasing a payload associated therewith in a controlled manner during delivery in absence of shrapnel formation or fragmentation, and wherein said payload assembly further comprises:

(i) a casing having a distal end and a proximal end, said casing defining a chamber adapted for retaining an aerosol composition;

(ii) a propellant housed in a reservoir in said casing for generating an expandable gas into said chamber upon ignition thereof;

(iii) a primer for igniting said propellant; and

(iv) a frangible portion of said casing in contact with the aerosol composition, said frangible casing portion adapted for safely rupturing in a controlled manner under pressure generated by said propellant after ignition, whereby an aerosol cloud is expelled and released into the atmosphere therefrom.

The claim that's the basis for the controversy is claim 5, which is a narrower version of claim 4, which is a narrower version of claim 1:

5. The projectile of claim 4, wherein the aerosol composition is further selected from the group consisting of smoke, crowd control agents, biological agents, chemical agents, obscurants, marking agents, dyes and inks, chaffs and flakes.

As you can see, there's essentially a laundry list of possible things that the "aerosol composition" could be made out of.

Now look at the description. The only time the word "biological" is used is in the term "biological/chemical":

Aerosols are relatively stable suspensions of liquid or solid particles in gas, especially air. Smoke, fog, and mist are typical examples of aerosols. Aerosols have been used extensively by the military for offensive and defensive purposes in order to incapacitate or confuse enemy troops and/or to protect friendly combat forces. In civilian use, aerosol dispersal is sometimes used mainly for police and firefighting purposes. Such aerosol payloads have included smoke, obscurant, fire retarding agents, crowd control agents, dye indicators, chemical/biological agents, and the like. [emphasis added]

The argument that the Army has been working on biological agents is weakened by the fact that the term "biological" is never used by itself.

Then, what's the deal with the "biological/chemical"? My guess would be that the considerations that apply in designing legal chemical weapons (such as tear gas) also apply to the design of biological weapons. Examples of this might rates or patterns of payload dispersal However, just because a design is possible does not necessary mean that the Army has been working on it (though it might raise issues specific to patent law).

I hardly think jumping to conclusions, in either direction, really helps. More information would be useful, including:

1) How much time did the patent attorney spend interviewing the inventors?
2) Do the lab research notes mention biological weapons specifically?

But I bet that we'll never see a followup to this story at all.


Posted 1:49 AM by Tony

Sunday, June 08, 2003
Elliptical Fun

On Wednesday, I mentioned how Maureen Dowd has been playing misrepresentation games with ellipses. So I thought I'd give it a try.

Today's Dowd column is here, and using her own technique, I came up with:

Maureen Dowd . . . let slip . . . a gerbil . . . Twice used . . . ,intent on . . . Love.

Of course, the difference is, I'm using the ellipses in sarcasm, as opposed to, say, a false statement of material fact.


Posted 12:38 AM by Tony

Saturday, June 07, 2003
Two More Days!

I'm getting sworn in as a member of the California bar on Monday. I can finally start practicing law without being guilty of a misdemeanor.

Thank goodness.


Posted 10:37 AM by Tony


Friends You Don't Need

The last person I'd want to have defending my credibility is Hugo Chavez:

Embattled Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa has another believer in his innocence: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Chavez, a left-handed pitcher on the diamond, said during a speech on Venezuela's oil industry Friday that he believed Sosa made an honest mistake when he used a corked bat.

[ . . . ]

"I've been looking into some of the physics behind it ... and some say it's a myth" that a corked bat adds power, Chavez said.

"In reality, the cork makes the bat lighter so you can swing it faster and increase the velocity - but the impact (on the ball) weakens," the president explained.

Chavez cited academic studies saying corked bats only increase the speed of a swing by 1 percent.

"I'm using this thesis, without knowing it in depth, to profess my faith that every one of Sammy Sosa's home runs were good ones," Chavez concluded.

The reasons for my skepticism can be found, among other places, here and here and here. There's a lot more coverage on Instapundit - do a search on "Hugo Chavez."

Kind of like having Stalin endorse your human rights opinions, I'd say.


Posted 10:22 AM by Tony

Thursday, June 05, 2003
Misanthropic Irritation

There are times when living in Northern California is really irritating.

Today's SF Chronicle has the following story about a theft of a koi at University of California, Santa Cruz:

Two frat boys could face felony fish theft and cruelty charges for koi- napping a beloved jumbo goldfish from a pond at UC Santa Cruz -- and reportedly barbecuing and eating it.

[ . . . ]

"I've heard from both students and staff a sense of violation," said David Evan Jones, provost at the university's Porter College, where Goldie was the celebrated big fish -- 18 inches -- in a small courtyard pond.

[ . . . ]

[The alleged theives expressed remorse and paid money toward a new fish] But fish fans want the pair deep-fried -- especially at Porter, home to UCSC arts programs and "arty" students who embrace an "alternative" philosophy, according to residents.

"Porter is anti-MTV and anti-frat generally," said a college resident who only identified himself as Eric. "Combine the two and then steal a fish -- of course people are going to be pissed off."

The above story is newsworthy, apparently. At the same time, this story never made the Chronicle (via Little Green Footballs:

A mass grave containing the remains of 200 Kurdish children has been discovered in the northern Iraqi province of Kirkuk.

The Kurdish newspaper Taakhi said the communal grave was found close to Debs, in Kirkuk, on May 30.

While, granted, this hasn't been collaborated by other sources (though see here), one would think the SF Chronicle would find it at least worth mentioning.

One death is a tragedy... and apparently 200 is a unnewsworthy statistic.


Posted 11:29 AM by Tony

Wednesday, June 04, 2003
Mmmmm...

A friend of mine sent me a pic recenty (cropped and resized from the original):


I'm going to go have to look for one of these near my home next time there's an Eat An Animal For PETA Day.


Posted 5:53 PM by Tony


Who Will Fact Check the Fact Checkers?

I understand that some journalists don't like blogs because bloggers are subject to the same "journalistic standards" as professoinal journalists. Never mind Jayson Blair, or CNN's deal with Hussein's government to slant coverage in exchange for access (see here and here), or Maureen Dowd's* cute little trick with the ellipses, or even the current selective quotation of Paul Wolfowitz (via Instapundit here and here).

Well, I found myself another example in today's SF Chronicle, which has an AP story on the G8 summit. The story discusses a speech French Ambassdaor Jean-David Levitte gave, describing part of it thus:

Suggesting that the United States overreacted to the events of Sept. 11, Levitte said France itself was the victim of Islamic terror in the 1980s and 1990s but that it has opted for a "low intensity" response. He said Europeans have had "some difficulties" in understanding the more muscular U.S. approach.


The story suggests that 1) Levitte thinks the US overreacted to 9/11 and 2) France reacted to terror by adopting a low intensity response.

This is just wrong. What Levitte actually said was:

The first difference is about 9/11. I was the Ambassador of France to the United Nations and I saw from my office the destruction of the Twin Towers. So I feel in my heart and for the rest of my life what the Americans felt: the huge shock of these attacks in the heart of the city which is the symbol of American success, the symbol of New York – the Twin Towers. In Europe, in France, we understand this in a more abstract way because we were not directly involved. Islamist terror for us is quite familiar. We were confronted with Islamist terror in the 80’s and the mid 90’s. In our streets, we had a lot of terrorist attacks, but it has remained a kind of low intensity war. This why we have some difficulties in France, in Europe, to understand that America is at war, at war against Islamic terror. And it’s a real war. That’s the first difference, it seems to me, between the United States and Europe.


As you can see, neither assertion in the AP story is true. First of all, Levitte did not say that America overreacted to 9/11, instead admitting that America was engaged in a real war. Second, the part about "low intensity war" does not refer to the nature of the French response. Instead, he's talking about the nature of the Islamist attacks in France, as compared to 9/11.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I'm no fan of the current French government, as I've expressed here, here, here, and here . But fair is fair, after all.

-----
* Dowd, a columnist for the NY Times, used ellipses in her May 14 column to distort something Bush said.
In her column, she wrote:

Busy chasing off Saddam, the president and vice president had told us that al-Qaida was spent. "Al-Qaida is on the run," President Bush said last week. 'That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated. . . . They're not a problem anymore.''

The way the quote appears, it seems that Bush doesn't care much about al-Qaeda. Dowd went on at great length about Bush's alleged negligence in fighting al-Qaeda.

Here's the actual quote (via Andrew Sullivan):

Al Qaeda is on the run. That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly, but surely being decimated. Right now, about half of all the top al Qaeda operatives are either jailed or dead. In either case, they're not a problem anymore. And we'll stay on the hunt. To make sure America is a secure country, the al Qaeda terrorists have got to understand it doesn't matter how long it's going to take, they will be brought to justice.
[emphasis on the portion deleted in Dowd's column.]

So either Dowd either won a Pulitzer Prize without knowing how to use ellipses, or is being dishonest.

And one more thing: Dowd pretty much coined "Rummy" for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. Not only is the term puerile and inappropriate for someone who graduated from college 30 years ago, but common prudence would suggest that someone named "Dowd" would hesitate at mocking someone by adding a "y" to the last name.


Posted 2:49 PM by Tony


Not Quite J. Edgar Hoover

The Washington Post has a pretty funny story relating to an unfunny topic, the FBI's pursuit of Internet pedophiles:

Probably the youngest instructors ever in an FBI classroom, the girls have become an invaluable help to Operation Innocent Images -- an initiative that tries to stop people from peddling child pornography or otherwise sexually exploiting children, FBI officials said. The Washington Post agreed to withhold the girls' last names to protect them from harassment on the Internet and elsewhere.

Yesterday, at their middle school graduation ceremony, the girls each received a silver-framed letter of commendation signed by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III. In the letter, Mueller thanked them for developing the lessons that have directly helped catch pedophiles, despite their "busy 8th grade schedule."


Posted 10:39 AM by Tony


Map Reading Skills

I was watching the news this morning, and learned that Hamas really isn't interested in stopping its suicide bombers*:

An official from Hamas, which uses terroristic tactics to protest the existence of an Israeli state, repeated after the press conference that it will not lay down its arms despite appeals from [Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud] Abbas for all terror groups to do so.


The so-called "road map" provides for the following timeline:

Phase I: Ending Terror And Violence, Normalizing Palestinian Life, and Building Palestinian Institutions Present to May 2003

In Phase I, the Palestinians immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence according to the steps outlined below; such action should be accompanied by supportive measures undertaken by Israel.

Nice to see that everyone's on board with this.

I think Frank J. may be on to something:

I just hope Bush takes a hard-line, standing up at the beginning and saying, "See my roadmap? Notice how all the roads lead to saturation bombing if you f**k with me."


* I understand that some people don't like the word "suicide" to describe them. What, were they planning on coming back?


Posted 10:28 AM by Tony

Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Victimhood

Rachel has an eminently readable post about watching "Conspiracy," and ties it in to her reading about the Holocaust:

[The author of a book on Treblinka] tells of stories by Jews he's interviewed, stories of young children being told by their mothers, "If they hit you, lower your head. Do not fight back or they will kill you."

Compare that with this (via Instapundit):

Then [the British police officer, speaking to American exchange students] instructed us on how to properly be a victim. If we were attacked, we were to assume a defensive posture, such as raising our hands to block an attack. The reason was (and she spelled it out in no uncertain terms) that if a witness saw the incident and we were to attempt to defend ourselves by fighting back, the witness would be unable to tell who the agressor was. However, if we rolled up in a ball, it would be quite clear who the victim was.

Seem familiar? I think that the concept of passive victimhood is anathema to the American character. Our national mythology elevates self-reliance and defiance to those who would harm us. Think of the "Don't Tread On Me" flag, the frontiersman, the Alamo, the cowboy (no, not the European interpretation, fed by a diet of spaghetti Westerns), Thomas Edison, and Bastogne. We admire the underdog, those who pull themselves up by their own will. Even Bill Gates - whatever his faults, I have an unreserved admiration for his ability to nurture an idea into a technology powerhouse.

Victimhood has no place in our self-image, period. The day that such attitudes become adopted by a significant percentage of the American people will be a sad day indeed.


Posted 11:40 AM by Tony


Resist The Temptation

Here's a hint to Japanese politicians: when it comes to Korea, keep your mouth shut.

Here's a few past examples:

Takami Eto, 1995:

"If we start calling the annexation invalid, no international accord would be valid. Korea came under colonial rule because it was weak at that time."

"[Japan, during its occupation of Korea] did some good things."
Michio Watanabe, 1995:

[The 1910 treaty under which Japan annexed Korea] "concluded amicably and not by force."

[For the full context, see this. Scroll down to the bit about Queen Min. - Tony]

Chief Cabinet Secretary Kajiyama Seiroku, 1997:

"Many of [the comfort women] went for the money."

Hosei Norota, on Japan's expansion into prior to WWII, 2001:

"Faced with oil and other embargoes from other countries, Japan had no choice but to venture out southward to secure natural resources.


And here's the most recent one, from the Chosun Ilbo:

President Roh Moo-hyun will express regret when he meets Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Saturday for the recent remark by Taro Aso, the chief policy-maker of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, which upset many Koreans. Taro said that many Koreans, during the colonial era, voluntarily assumed Japanese names.

He later apologized for his remarks. Although, it doesn't really sound like much of an apology:

"I regret that my remarks were misunderstood because of my poor communications skills while I was trying to explain the matter plainly," Taro Aso, chairman of the Japanese ruling Liberal Democratic Party's policy research council, was quoted as saying at a press conference in Tokyo.


After all these years of repeated remarks, followed by forced apologies, you'd think Japanese politicians would have learned by now.

If the Japanese government really wants to show that it understands its neighbors' sensitivities, might I suggest bulldozing the Yasukuni Shrine?

My own personal preference for bulldozing is the memorial to Unit 731. But, my American identity means that my opinion on the matter may be a bit different from native Koreans.


Posted 10:48 AM by Tony

Sunday, June 01, 2003
A/V Junkie

I'd promised myself that I'd buy myself something really cool if and when I passed the bar.

So, this past weekend, I bought myself a Sony TV, a Denon AVR-1603, and Definitive Technology home speaker system.

I may never go outside again.


Posted 7:52 PM by Tony


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

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