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

Friday, November 28, 2003
Stuff To Do In SF

In case you are strapped for ideas, here's something. Pancake breakfast to follow. :-)


Posted 7:24 PM by Tony


Science Opportunities

Conrad's recruiting volunteers for a scientific experiment. I'm not positive, but I'm thinking "Must Be Willing To Travel To HK" is an implicit criterion.

Alternatively, I suppose one might volunteer for this (via Electric Venom).

Do it for science.


Posted 7:06 PM by Tony


Flag Redesign

Red Letter Day suggests a redesign of the Saudi flag (via Shark Blog).

Given the inbreeding rate in Saudi Arabia, the redesign seems quite appropo.


Posted 6:56 PM by Tony


Here We Go Again?

To quote Yogi Berra, it's deja vu all over again (via Joongang Ilbo):

A U.S. Army sergeant was charged yesterday in a hit-and-run accident that left one South Korean dead and four others hurt near the Osan Air Base south of Seoul.

South Korean police and the U.S. military said Sergeant Jerry Olken, assigned to 1-43 Air Defense Artillery Battalion, fled the scene of the collision and later was arrested in his room on an unidentified base by U.S. military police. He was handed over to South Korean authorities.

Police said that shortly after midnight, Sergeant Olken's Sonata hit a compact car driven by Lee Jeong-seung at an intersection near the Osan base in Gyeonggi province. Osan is 45 kilometers, or 28 miles, south of Seoul.

Kee Kyeong-sun, a 22-year-old female passenger in Mr. Lee's vehicle, was killed and the four other Koreans in the car were injured.

As ambulances arrived at the scene, Sergeant Olken abandoned his car and ran away with two other U.S. servicemen who were with him, Korean police said. The sergeant was taken into custody five hours later. At the time of arrest, he was reportedly sleeping.
After Sergeant Olken was handed over to the Hwaseong Police Precinct, a blood sample was taken to test for alcohol. Major Lee Packnett, a U.S. 8th Army public affairs officer, said the results were not yet available.
Under the Status of Forces Agreement, the legal framework governing the U.S. military in South Korea, the primary jurisdiction in a fatal hit-and-run accident involving U.S. military personnel is in South Korea, according to police and the Foreign Ministry.

I've got a bad feeling that this has the possibility to turn into what happened the last time around. The Joongang does not fail to raise this connection:

Accidents and crimes involving U.S. servicemen have been a source of resentment against the U.S. military presence in Korea.

Two 13-year-old schoolgirls were hit and killed in June of last year by a U.S. military armored vehicle during a training exercise north of Seoul. Two U.S. soldiers driving the vehicle were acquitted by a U.S. military court, prompting angry demonstrations around the country.

I shudder to think of the disastrous potential the combination this would have had with the short track competition, if Ohno and the US team had decided to go.

Update: Apparently, the soldier's name is actually "Onken.". Leave it to Reuters to throw in an irrelevant anti-American swipe, in mentioning the previous year's accident:

In central Seoul, about 400 people gathered on Saturday, holding candles and singing songs to mourn the two girls.


Posted 6:33 PM by Tony


Word Problems

Bill Whittle poses a math problem:

Here’s a math quiz for you:

During the 30-odd years he was in power, Saddam Hussein murdered at least 300,000 of his own people. These are the ones we are finding in mass graves in Iraq. Another 300,000 – at least – were killed in his war with Iran and his two conflicts with the US. Those are bare-bones, undeniable, non-speculative, minimums.

That darling arithmetic works out to no less than 20,000 people a year killed by that lunatic, or about 1,700 people a month.

So how many innocent people have not died as a result of the Iraq war?

I get about 13,000 so far.

Thirteen thousand is about the size of a good basketball game. Perhaps we can convince the Lakers to play a charity game against the Spurs, say. Then we can put 13,000 Iraqi men, women and children into the Staples Center, and make Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, George Clooney, The Dixie Chicks, Janeane Garofalo, end every single person who signed the Not in Our Name petition kill those people in cold blood – electrodes, acid baths or shredders, to get the full effect, although the weak-stomached should be allowed to merely shoot them in the back of the head.

Because that is exactly what would have happened if these people had gotten their way.

Something to think about.

The calculation of average kill rates may seem a little speculative, but no more so than those bandied about for civilian casualty numbers in the Iraq war.


Posted 1:49 PM by Tony

Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Espionage

I think this article from CNN could use a bit more clarification:

A noted Chinese-born human rights activist, who had been convicted by China of spying for Taiwan, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to helping export sensitive U.S. technology to China.

The case carries an unusual twist, because Gao Zhan, is known for her work opposing human rights violations in China.

Days after her spying conviction in July 2001, she was allowed to leave China for the United States, where she became a faculty research fellow at American University in Washington.

In a plea agreement struck with U.S. prosecutors, Gao admitted obtaining microprocessors that could be used for missile technology. Federal prosecutors say some of that technology reached Chinese military officials.

Gao, 43, also pleaded guilty to tax fraud. She could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison on the charges.

She admitted in court to receiving $540,000 in wire transfers from China in 2000 for the technology.

Investigators say Gao tried from 1998 through 2002 to provide technology materials to entities of the Chinese military that specialize in aircraft and radar. Sources say she used aliases, posing as a professor from other institutions when calling private U.S. military contractors. Gao claimed she wanted information on the technology for scholarly research.

One suspicious contractor checked her credentials at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, where Gao claimed she was working, and discovered she was not employed there. The unnamed company then called investigators.

Sources say Gao was under U.S. investigation for trying to illegally obtain technology during the same period she was accused by Beijing of spying for Taiwan. It is unclear why the Chinese government charged her with espionage at the same time she allegedly was helping the Chinese military.

Prosecutors said Gao is likely to serve some prison time, but is unlikely to be deported.

Which begs the question: why not?

There has to be a lot more going on here.


Posted 2:13 PM by Tony


The Crying Game

Good Lord.
(Be sure to follow all the links!)


Posted 1:12 PM by Tony


Weird Korean Tax Stuff

According to the Chosun Ilbo,

Korean consumers will be able to benefit from a tax deduction is they spend W5,000 [less than 5 US dollars] or more in cash at one time for merchandise or services, if the transaction is filed with the tax office through the store’s computer network.

What's the point? The threshhold amount seems way too small to enter into the consumer's decisionmaking process. It's hard for me to imagine such a low deduction will encourage spending. Who thinks, "Oh, yeah, the deduction - I think I will spend that 5 dollars"?

If someone could explain how this would encourage consumers to spend more, I'm game.


Posted 12:53 PM by Tony


Another Antitrust Exemption?

(via Instapundit) Senator Hatch introduced Senate bill S.1933, cosponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.), on November 22. I've posted the text of Senator Hatch's remarks introducing the bill, below (available at Senator Hatch's web page, and Congressional Record Vol. 149 S15573-74):

Mr. President, I rise to introduce the Enhancing Federal Obscenity Reporting and Copyright Enforcement Act of 2003 (the EnFORCE Act). This bill makes three sets of narrow, but important, changes that will build greater flexibility and accountability into our system of intellectual property laws.

First, the EnFORCE Act will expand an existing antitrust exemption to conform the law to market realities. Today, an antitrust exemption in the Copyright Act gives record companies and music publishers the flexibility they need to negotiate mechanical royalty rates in the rapidly evolving market for legal music downloading. These parties now need the same flexibility to ensure that they can negotiate royalties associated with innovative forms of physical phonorecords, like enhanced compact disks and DVD audio disks.

Mr. President, the music industry has sometimes been criticized for being too slow to adapt its business models to new technologies. The industry is now responding to such concerns by developing new products and new distribution channels. The EnFORCE Act will ensure that federal law allows the music industry to provide consumers with these innovative products and services.

Second, the EnFORCE Act will also resolve two narrow issues relating to statutory damages in copyright infringement litigation. Some accused infringers have tried to avoid liability for statutory damages by challenging the accuracy of the information in copyright registrations; this bill clarifies that courts should resolve such challenges by applying the existing judicial doctrine of fraud-on-the-Copyright-Office. In other cases, disputes have arisen about how many “works” have been infringed for purposes of computing statutory damages. These disputes are important for the music industry, which has received inconsistent adjudications about whether an album consisting of ten songs counts as one or ten works for statutory-damages computation. The bill gives courts discretion to conform the law of statutory damages to changing market realities.

Third, and finally, the EnFORCE Act will also enhance both the enforcement and oversight of federal intellectual property law. The bill authorizes appropriations to ensure that all Department of Justice units that investigate intellectual property crimes have the support of at least one agent specifically trained in the investigation of such crimes. The bill also requires the Department of Justice to report to Congress detailed information about the scope of its efforts to investigate and prosecute crimes involving the sexual exploitation of minors or intellectual property.

Mr. President, for the above reasons, I urge my colleagues to support the Enhancing Federal Obscenity Reporting and Copyright Enforcement Act of 2003. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate and the affected public to ensure that this bill achieves its important objectives.

To track the status of this bill, and other information, go here, select Hatch/Sponsored/Bills, and follow the links to S.1933; alternatively, go here and type "S.1933" in the search field.

Disclaimer - For information purposes only. I am not expressing an opinion on this bill, nor is the above any sort of legal analysis.

Update: The text of the bill is up. The portion related to the antitrust exemption is section 4, "Mechanical License Negotiations for Physical Product Configurations."


Posted 12:24 PM by Tony

Tuesday, November 25, 2003
Apparently Not Newsworthy Enough

A while back, I linked to a Joongang Ilbo article in which a North Korean defector Kim Yong alleged that POWs from the Korean War were still alive and imprisoned:

In recent years, a group of Westerners, believed to be U.S. and British prisoners captured during the Korean War, were held in a notorious North Korean prison, a North Korean army defector has told reporters at a press conference in Washington.

Wire services reported that Kim Yong, 53, who was once a lieutenant colonel of the North’s national security and defense agency, defected in 1998 after five years in detention in the North’s political prison No. 18. Mr. Kim escaped the country and fled to South Korea by way of China and Mongolia.

The U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea published a report on Mr. Kim’s accounts earlier this week.

Speaking at a press conference at the National Press Club, Mr. Kim said he had seen seven westerners in 1996 at a road construction site where he and other men were working as forced laborers, Yonhap News Agency reported. The men appeared to be between 70 and 75 years old, the report quoted him as saying.

“A fellow inmate told me that the men were U.S. and British soldiers captured at the Chosin Reservoir battle during the Korean War,” Mr. Kim said. He said North Korean leader Kim Il Sung ordered the men held at the prison, adding that they were so thin that they seemed to be only skin and bones.

Approximately 1,000 Americans are estimated to have been lost in fighting that took place 60 miles north of Pyeongyang from Nov. 27 to Dec. 9, 1950, according to the Pentagon. More than 8,100 American servicemen are listed as missing in action from the 1950-53 Korean War.

[emphasis added]

The American media do not appear to have picked up this story, which I thought would have been extraordinarily newsworthy.

Simply incredible.


Posted 5:25 PM by Tony

Monday, November 24, 2003
Knocking On Plate

I've noticed Tom Plate's column in the Korea Times every now and again. I can't help but shake the feeling that his affinity for Asian cultures causes some errors in his strategic thinking.

An example of this can be found in his latest column.

I'd like to focus on the latter half of his column, concerning the recent Security Consultative Meeting. Part of the meeting concerned the relocation of US forces away from the DMZ:

The majority of American combat power in Korea, the 2nd Infantry Division, is scattered among 17 bases in the northern part of the country. The first phase will consolidate these forces into a more amalgamated footprint in the north. The second phase will involve the move of all U.S. forces in the country to the southern region.

See also here.

Plate's interpretation:

Take the just-concluded visit of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to the Republic of Korea. It wasn't a disaster by any means, but with a little more care, it might have gone more smoothly.

South Korea, after all, is one of our foremost allies _ and faces down a grimly armed North Korea across the border every day. Our defense secretary had two goals. One was to persuade the government in Seoul to send troops to Iraq, as he wants the Japanese to do, too. The Korea Times, a major newspaper in Seoul, reports the government is thinking of dispatching something like 3,000 or so next year.

His second goal was to persuade our Korean allies that U.S. troops could be re-stationed farther south, away from the heavily fortified border with the North, without undermining South Korean security.

In other words, from the South Korean perspective, the United States would like the nation to reduce its military forces by sending some to Iraq (though 3,000 is not enough for Washington, sources say), at the same time U.S. forces are to retreat southward out of harm's way.

Even allowing for the best of U.S. intentions and clearest strategic thinking, Rumsfeld left the South Korean government with a tough selling job at home.

The Korean people are dubious about the Iraq engagement and are worried about al-Qaida retaliation inside their own country. Moreover, from the beginning, our Korean friends were more irritated than persuaded when President George W. Bush lumped North Korea in with Iraq and Iran as part of the infamous ``axis of evil.''

That certainly was viewed by Koreans as exacerbating the peninsular problem.

As scary as the North Korean government may be, North Korea is a potential sister country, home to many relatives of South Koreans _ not al-Qaida clones by any means.

[emphasis added]

Plate interprets the relocation plan south as a form of retreat. His interpretation of the relocation is misses the mark, as relocation makes a great deal of sense.

Consider the terrain.

Take a look at a topographic map of Korea. What you'll find is that the entire country is unreasonably mountainous, with the exception of a narrow (relatively) flat area in the west that extends south from the border, to Seoul. Relatively is the operative word here. The terrain doesn't really flatten out until one gets south of Seoul.

Seoul, in turn, is a densely populated urban metropolis, and its suburbs extend north for quite a ways. Remember, Seoul is only 65 kilometers from the DMZ, and any potential fighting would occur among densely packed 15 story-plus apartment buildings. (See here for an example of the skyline. In any invasion scenario, then, the 2nd Infantry Division would have to fight in mountainous, built-up terrain, scattered in a number of disparate, isolated locations.

Relocation south of Seoul, it seems to me, would pose several advantages by concentrating the division in an area where it can exploit its advantages in combining mobility with firepower. Granted, I'm no military expert. But I have lived in the area, and everything above is readily apparent to anyone who's been there.

While Plate did frame the "retreat" as the South Korean perspective, I can't help but think that the perspective is actually Plate's. In light of the increasing anti-American sentiment in South Korea, I don't think many South Koreans would object to the US Army being moved out of the country's largest metropolis - out of sight, out of mind, and all.

Plate's failure to consider the rationale of relocation, as well as his underplaying of the nature of the North Korean regime makes me question the competency of any of his commentary relating to Korean issues.


Posted 6:59 PM by Tony


Maintain Momentum... Please!

The Steelers beat Cleveland yesterday. Here's hoping that the Steelers' standings go up a bit. 4-7, sigh.


Posted 2:08 PM by Tony

Friday, November 21, 2003
Wearing Out A Welcome

The leftist British paper The Guardian invited several people to submit comments relating to President Bush's trip to England. One of those people was Iraqi blogger Salam Pax, who wrote:

Dear George,

I hate to wake you up from that dream you are having, the one in which you are a superhero bringing democracy and freedom to underdeveloped, oppressed countries. But you really need to check things out in one of the countries you have recently bombed to freedom. Georgie, I am kind of worried that things are going a bit bad in Iraq and you don't seem to care that much. You might want it to appear as if things are going well and sign Iraq off as a job well done, but I am afraid this is not the case.

Listen, habibi, it is not over yet. Let me explain this in simple terms. You have spilled a glass full of tomato juice on an already dirty carpet and now you have to clean up the whole room. Not all of the mess is your fault but you volunteered to clean it up. I bet if someone had explained it to you like that you would have been less hasty going on our Rambo-in-Baghdad trip.

To tell you the truth, I am glad that someone is doing the cleaning up, and thank you for getting rid of that scary guy with the hideous moustache that we had for president. But I have to say that the advertisements you were dropping from your B52s before the bombs fell promised a much more efficient and speedy service. We are a bit disappointed. So would you please, pretty please, with sugar on top, get your act together and stop telling people you have Iraq all figured out when you are giving us the trial-and-error approach?

Anyway, I hope this doesn't disturb you too much. Have a nice stay in London, wave hello to the demonstrators, and give my regards to your spin doctors. I bet they are having a hell of a job making you look good.

Regards,

Salam Pax

The Baghdad Blogger

Lileks is on it, giving the letter the best response I've seen yet:

Hey, Salam? Fuck you. I know you’re the famous giggly blogger who gave us all a riveting view of the inner circle before the war, and thus know more about the situation than I do. Granted. But there’s a picture on the front page of my local paper today: third Minnesotan killed in Iraq. He died doing what you never had the stones to do: pick up a rifle and face the Ba’athists. You owe him.

As an antidote to Pax's idiocy, Frederick Forsyth's letter does the trick:

Dear Mr President,

Today you arrive in my country for the first state visit by an American president for many decades, and I bid you welcome.

You will find yourself assailed on every hand by some pretty pretentious characters collectively known as the British left. They traditionally believe they have a monopoly on morality and that your recent actions preclude you from the club. You opposed and destroyed the world's most blood-encrusted dictator. This is quite unforgivable.

I beg you to take no notice. The British left intermittently erupts like a pustule upon the buttock of a rather good country. Seventy years ago it opposed mobilisation against Adolf Hitler and worshipped the other genocide, Josef Stalin.

It has marched for Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Andropov. It has slobbered over Ceausescu and Mugabe. It has demonstrated against everything and everyone American for a century. Broadly speaking, it hates your country first, mine second.

Eleven years ago something dreadful happened. Maggie was ousted, Ronald retired, the Berlin wall fell and Gorby abolished communism. All the left's idols fell and its demons retired. For a decade there was nothing really to hate. But thank the Lord for his limitless mercy. Now they can applaud Saddam, Bin Laden, Kim Jong-Il... and hate a God-fearing Texan. So hallelujah and have a good time.

Frederick Forsyth

Novelist

Heh, I love the simile: "like a pustule upon the buttock of a rather good country." For examples of American pustules, see here and here, if you have the stomach for it.


Posted 5:22 PM by Tony


Protecting One's Own, Take 2

Somewhat to my surprise, the South Korean government is taking some action in the case of Jeon Yongil (via Korea Herald)

The government has asked Beijing to send an apparent South Korean prisoner of war and his wife, who defected from North Korea, to the South, a Foreign Ministry official in Seoul said yesterday.

Chung Sang-ki, director general of the ministry's Asia-Pacific Affairs Bureau, said he asked Chinese Amb. to Seoul Li Bin on Wednesday to ensure the safety of Jeon Yong-il, 72, and his wife, but said the government had received no response so far.

The couple escaped from the North in June this year and were arrested by the Chinese authorities while trying to take a South Korea-bound flight early this week, the ministry official said.

"We requested cooperation from China on the issue. I don't think Jeon will be repatriated to North Korea because we informed China that he is an ex-POW," Chung said.

However, the South Korean government hasn't exactly showered itself with glory, either (via Chosun Ilbo):

Kwon Young-joon, the director of personnel and welfare at the Ministry of Defense (MOD), said in a press briefing Friday, “At the request on Sept. 24 from the Korean Embassy in China to check if Jeon was a war prisoner, we checked the list of 500 war prisoners, but we couldn’t find his name on it, so we notified the embassy of the result on Sept. 26.” Since then, the ministry has done nothing about Jeon. Yet after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs repeated the request on Nov. 18, MOD found Jeon’s name on a list of war dead. "

See also Joongang Ilbo.

Seems to me that a review of the notification process is in order.


Posted 11:07 AM by Tony


San Francisco Is Number One!

. . . in per capita syphilis rates in the United States.

Let's be careful out there.


Posted 10:07 AM by Tony


Good Luck!

Just wanted to wish "good luck" to all those who took this summer's California bar exam. They find out their results today.


Posted 9:47 AM by Tony


Signals

I was looking at the text of President Bush's speech in London. I just thought I'd mention a couple implications that the BBC's "summary" didn't mention. (note to BBC - a "summary" isn't, if it's almost as long as the original)

1. The President's references to the League of Nations may have been intended as a warning to the UN:

At Wilson's high point of idealism, however, Europe was one short generation from Munich and Auschwitz and the Blitz.

Looking back, we see the reasons why. The League of Nations, lacking both credibility and will, collapsed at the first challenge of the dictators.

[ . . . ]

The United Nations has no more compelling advocate than your prime minister, who at every turn has championed its ideals and appealed to its authority. He understands as well that the credibility of the U.N. depends on a willingness to keep its word and to act when action is required.

America and Great Britain have done, and will do, all in their power to prevent the United Nations from solemnly choosing its own irrelevance and inviting the fate of the League of Nations.

It's not enough to meet the dangers of the world with resolutions; we must meet those dangers with resolve.

Even Churchill knew when jaw-jaw wasn't sufficient.

2. Possible warning to the Saudis - shape up or ship out?

People from the Middle East share a high civilization, a religion of personal responsibility and a need for freedom as deep as our own.

It is not realism to suppose that one-fifth of humanity is unsuited to liberty. It is pessimism and condescension, and we should have none of it.

We must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East. Your nation and mine in the past have been willing to make a bargain to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Longstanding ties often led us to overlook the faults of local elites.

Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold.

Granted, I may be reading a bit too much into the speech, but I thought the possible implications were interesting.


Posted 8:28 AM by Tony

Thursday, November 20, 2003
Eye Candy

Seeing Eye Blog has a good pic of model Angela Harry up. (see also here) Very cool.

The only annoying thing is that the article he links to has chosen to be PC about the spelling. People, it's spelled K-O-R-E-A.


Posted 1:01 PM by Tony


Protecting One's Own

It would seem to me that one important function of a government is in safeguarding its citizens abroad. With respect to the United States government, I think, is a bit mixed.

The case of Jeon Yongil, as described in the Chosun Ilbo, may be a test the South Korea's ability to look after its own:

A defector from North Korea originally held as a prisoner of war from the South has been caught by Chinese police, and is about to be forcibly returned to the North. Yet it's hard to find any active effort on the part of the Korean government to save him.

It has been confirmed that Jeon Yongil, now 72, was arrested on Monday while trying to make it to a third country from Hangzhou Airport in China's Zhejiang Province, and that by Tuesday, he had been sent to a holding center in the city of Tumen, located on the North Korean border. Urgent government action is needed, as it's almost assured he'll be handed over to the North if nothing is done.

[ . . . ]

More than a thousand defectors a year are now making their way to the South, and the Korean embassy in Beijing has a constant number of Northerners engaged in a sit-in asking to be allowed to go, so of course the embassy there is going to find it hard to pay attention to every Northern defector. But this is someone who is fully a citizen of the Republic of Korea, a prisoner of war who as such suffered the most can in war. No government excuse is going to work if he wound up in this predicament without the embassy's help.

Who believes the government when it says it's going to work for resolution to the issue of our prisoners of war still in North Korea, when it ignores calls for help from one among them who escaped the North on his own? Even if you count only the POWs the Ministry of National Defense has confirmed are still alive, there are as many as 500, and yet the government remains unable to bring up the issue with the North. This comes in contrast to the way the North readily welcomes prisoners held in the South for decades without renouncing their allegiance to North's system.

For the sake of discussion, let's assume that everything in the article is true. The operative facts, then are:

1. A citizen of South Korea,
2. captured as a POW over 50 years ago,
3. who departed North Korea (which reflects an unwillingness to stay), and
4. given his age, will almost certainly die if sent back to North Korea.

So the question, then, is whether the Roh government is willing to do what it should for a South Korean citizen. I hope so, but, if the Unification Minister is any indication, I'm not optimistic.


Posted 9:32 AM by Tony


Good Riddance To Bad Rubbish

Jean Chretien is stepping down soon as Prime Minister of Canada, and I, for one, couldn't be happer about it. One of the things that irritated me most was his Janus-like policy on Iraq. This article from the National Post is illustrative:

A Canadian general will become one of the most senior officers early next year of the coalition force fighting in Iraq, despite Ottawa's insistence Canada is staying out of the conflict.

Brigadier-General Walt Natynczyk is deputy commander of the U.S. Army's Three Corps, which is to take command in Iraq next year, and he has already been given approval to engage in "military operations up to and including participation in hostilities" under a recently declassified order from the head of the Canadian Forces.

Brig.-Gen. Natynczyk, a Canadian exchange officer, will take the posting even though Canada has pointedly avoided contributing to the U.S.-led coalition.

"I've got the approval from my chain of command," he said yesterday in an interview with the National Post. "I will deploy with them early in the new year -- we don't have fixed dates yet."

Brig.-Gen. Natynczyk could be named second-in-command of the more than 130,000 U.S. and allied forces in Iraq, but said yesterday the mission's command structure has not been finalized.

"At this time the exact disposition of staff within that headquarters is not firm ... what actual function I fulfill in Iraq is uncertain as of today."

Defence analysts and opposition critics said the general's appointment is a continuation of a bizarre and contradictory government policy on Iraq.

In his farewell speech last weekend to the Liberal convention that confirmed Paul Martin as his successor, Mr. Chrétien earned a standing ovation when he boasted about keeping Canada out of the war in Iraq. "It was because [of] our deep belief as Canadians in the values of multilateralism and the United Nations that we did not go to war in Iraq," he said.

In fact, about 30 Canadian exchange officers participated in the invasion of Iraq, serving with U.S. and British units involved in the conflict. As well, Canadian warships in the Persian Gulf were escorting U.S. supply vessels carrying equipment and ammunition for the war.

Mr. Chrétien suggested the soldiers served only in support roles, but news reports indicated many of the Canadians were on the front lines. Almost a month after open hostilities ended, one Canadian exchange officer with the U.S. Army was wounded near the Baghdad airport by a grenade explosion.

I.m curious about how Canadian forces serving in Iraq feel, knowing that they're put into harm's way without any support from their government. This is not simply a "contradictory" policy - it's hypocritical.


Posted 8:41 AM by Tony

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Yeah, I Don't Think That'll Happen

A buddy of mine is a *gasp* Democrat. We generally tend to discuss politics in a friendly way, and the ideology thing has never gotten in the way of our friendship. Otherwise, given where I live, I'd have no friends at all. :-)

He's become a huge Howard Dean fan, and every so often, tries to talk me into voting for Dean. His argument is that Dean is actually a conservative when it comes to economic issues, but socially liberal, which should appeal to me.

My friend almost had me, until I saw this (via Postrel):

After years of government deregulation of energy markets, telecommunications, the airlines and other major industries, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean is proposing a significant reversal: a comprehensive "re-regulation" of U.S. businesses.

The former Vermont governor said he would reverse the trend toward deregulation pursued by recent presidents -- including, in some respects, Bill Clinton -- to help restore faith in scandal-plagued U.S. corporations and better protect U.S. workers.

In an interview around midnight Monday on his campaign plane with a small group of reporters, Dean listed likely targets for what he dubbed as his "re-regulation" campaign: utilities, large media companies and any business that offers stock options. Dean did not rule out "re-regulating" the telecommunications industry, too.

[ . . . ]

"California is proving it does not work," he said. "I think the reason the grid failed is because of utility deregulation."

If memory serves, the electricity crisis was, to a large degree, a self-inflicted wound having little relationship to deregulation, due to the state's desire to take advantage of market conditions under the assumption those conditions would last. Put another way, California screwed up the process of deregulation. See here for more background material. Of special interest is a pair of articles, one by former Enron advisor" (as Best Of The Web points out) Paul Krugman, and the other a response by Jerry Taylor of the Cato Institute.

So I'm supposed to want to vote for a person who is in favor of increased economic regulation? Don't think so. Oh well, at least, unlike Bush, Dean makes sure of his definitions when he opens his mouth.

And, in the meantime, there's Dennis Kucinich, whose response to 9/11 apparently would have been to do nothing:

Democratic presidential candidate Dennis J. Kucinich said yesterday that U.S. military action against Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was not justified and has proved to be a "disaster" and a "nightmare."

[ . . . ]

On Afghanistan, Kucinich said the bombing of that country after the terrorist attacks on U.S. targets was "counterproductive."

"We needed to take advantage of the moment and go to the world community and say, 'Work with us collectively to track down these terrorists.' Now, if a state resists, then that's up to the community of nations. . . . When a nation or a government refuses, and the people who are directly responsible for an attack on this nation, then we have an obligation to go through the United Nations to work at providing an effective response," he said.

"The government of Afghanistan itself didn't attack us. That's the thinking. That is a major point here in terms of the community of nations."

Let me see if I have the implications straight. So if the Taliban had killed 3000 people, that would justify a unilateral military response. On the other hand, providing safe haven and otherwise aiding and abetting those who did the killing doesn't justify a unilateral response, if necessary? Kucinich's approach to national security seems, to me, best labelled as the "Mother May I?" school of diplomacy.

Left hanging, of course, is what he thinks an "effective response" is, as military action is apparently "counterproductive."

So far this week, we have: Dean's re-regulation, Kucinich's rollover approach to security issues, and Clark's nutty ideas on how to hunt al-Qaeda.

And people ask me why I don't take the Democratic candidates for president all that seriously.

(Or for that matter, the of Democratic ex-president who agreed to a 1994 agreement that the North admitted to reneging on almost from the start. History's greatest monster, as one might expect, also had a hand in this, exhibiting not the least amount of surprise for being suckered. But that's a post for another day.)


Posted 11:23 PM by Tony

Tuesday, November 18, 2003
The Invisible Hand Of Demographics

You know, between female suicide bombers, and honor killings, demographics may do what gunships could not.

Check out the following (via Gweilo Diaries):

Rofayda Qaoud - raped by her brothers and impregnated - refused to commit suicide, her mother recalls, even after she bought the unwed teenager a razor with which to slit her wrists. So Amira Abu Hanhan Qaoud says she did what she believes any good Palestinian parent would: restored her family's "honor" through murder.

Armed with a plastic bag, razor and wooden stick, Qaoud entered her sleeping daughter's room last Jan. 27. "Tonight you die, Rofayda," she told the girl, before wrapping the bag tightly around her head. Next, Qaoud sliced Rofayda's wrists, ignoring her muffled pleas of "No, mother, no!" After her daughter went limp, Qaoud struck her in the head with the stick.

Killing her sixth-born child took 20 minutes, Qaoud tells a visitor through a stream of tears and cigarettes that she smokes in rapid succession. "She killed me before I killed her," says the 43-year-old mother of nine. "I had to protect my children. This is the only way I could protect my family's honor."

[ . . . ]

Palestinian police reported 31 cases in 2002 - up from five during the first half of 1999 - the last time such incidents were counted before the current Palestinian uprising began, according to the center's study.

But the number of killings is likely higher, given that Palestinian police investigate only crimes that have been reported, said Yousef Tarifi, the Ramallah prosecutor assigned to Qaoud's case. Shalhoub-Kevorkian says her past research showed the likely number to be 15 times higher than the number of reported cases.

Legal authority on the West Bank has been weakened by Israel's military crackdown, and the growing influence of militant Islamic factions has led clans to dole out their own justice. "In this chaotic situation, every man who thinks he knows a little bit of the Quran thinks honor issues are supposed to be resolved by killing," says Shalhoub-Kevorkian, who adds that leading Muslim clerics in Jerusalem and Jordan have denounced such killings.

I thought that the Palestinian Authority would be concerned about long-term demographic consequences, but the PA is apparently busy encouraging children to blow themselves up.


Posted 11:51 AM by Tony

Monday, November 17, 2003
Letter To The Editor From Iraq

Observers elsewhere have noted that the news from Iraq isn't always "fair and balanced," to coin a phrase.

Here's another piece of evidence. I found a letter to the editor in an Oregon newspaper from Spc. Amy Lynn, B/52nd Engineers, Oregon National Guard.

With her permission, I'm reprinting the entire letter here. She's requested that her email address not be included, as it is her only method of communicating with her family. To protect her privacy, and to the extent that it actually helps, I've also redacted the newspaper to which this letter was addressed.

God bless and thank you for your service.

[published] November 11, 2003

As a soldier serving in Iraq, you can imagine my excitement when I receive news from home. You can understand, then, how happy I was when I got a [newspaper title redacted] in a care package.

Then perhaps you can understand my great dismay and disgust as I read the paper and came to realize there were absolutely no articles about Oregon’s (or any American) soldiers serving in Iraq. In fact, the only two articles about Iraq were decisively anti-American.

The national wire service articles discussing the ex-Iraqi soldiers and their stipend and the closed POW camp were really shocking and disappointing. You bashed American soldiers in the first and ignored our plight in the second.

Of course, perhaps you don’t understand the dangers and nerve-racking fear that come with not knowing who is going to shoot at you next. That may be why you used the exceptionally negative words “pushing” and “shoving” to indicate how “peaceful” Iraqi demonstrators were moved around. Given that I have been dealing with local Iraqi crowds of people day in and day out for months, I would venture to say you really had no idea what you were talking about.

You also bashed American soldiers — for what? Not knowing Arabic? I certainly understand the frustrations of our language barrier, but certainly you cannot expect every American soldier to now be fluent in Arabic. Whenever possible, interpreters are used, but they are rather hard to come by in a country where many of the highly intelligent and educated people have fled during the past 25 years.

As for the POW camp and the “poor” Iraqi soldiers being held there “crammed” into tents in the intense heat, perhaps you did not know that from April until late August (when we finally received additional tents), soldiers in our unit also were “crammed” into tents (where we each had a 4- by-8-foot area for all of our gear, our cots and ourselves) during the 130-plus-degree weather.

The POW camp across the street from our company has enclosed pole buildings (built by Army engineers), with roofs over their heads, shower facilities, latrines and even privacy and security provided by large berms. Meanwhile, our soldiers still live in tents. Tents that trap the heat, catch the wind and fall on your head in the middle of the night during Iraq’s sudden storms.

I am appalled that the [newspaper name redacted] would put such a negative spin on the actions of America’s soldiers, your own soldiers, who are serving in an inhospitable, hostile and dangerous area of the world.

Yes, the troubles facing the Iraqis are immense, and at times seem insurmountable. Yes, many of the living conditions here are appalling; yes, it is going to be a long, hard road to a semblance of normality in this war- and dictator-torn country.

We are working on it. We are giving our lives to that cause every day. So don’t you dare tell our loved ones and the people of America anything different.


Posted 4:23 PM by Tony

Saturday, November 15, 2003
Last Part Of The Series

The SF Chronicle has the last part of a series by John Koopman, detailing his experiences as a embedded journalist with the Third Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment during the Iraq War.

The individual parts are at the following links:

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

This last piece is interesting for a few reasons.

First, 3/4 was the unit on the scene when the Hussein statute came down (see previous post here and original Chroncle article here:

I go to McCoy's humvee. He's on the radio with Ripper 6.

"Ripper 6, this is Darkside 6. I got a whole crowd of Iraqis over here who want help bringing the statue down. Request permission to give them a hand, over."

McCoy talks more with the regiment and then signs off. He calls the tank commander and says simply: "Do it."

Tanks break down and they need maintenance to keep going. They go everywhere with a monstrous tracked vehicle called the M-88 tank retriever. It has a 1,300 horsepower engine, a crane and tools. Everything you need to topple a statue.

Second is this part, which shows that homecomings can be mixed blessings:

Some guys get off the buses and no one is there for them. They go to the barracks and drop off their gear, then head to town. They want to get roaring drunk for the first time in 2003, and maybe get lucky with the local women.

One man came back early with the advance party. He met his wife at the parking lot. They went home and she handed him divorce papers.

Finally, there's this:

Artillery rumbles in the distance. A moment later, shots ring out on the edge of the plaza. A Marine has spotted an Iraqi with a gun and fires off a couple of rounds. The crowd ducks and scatters, then comes back.

Not everyone is pleased by the spectacle. A handful of peace activists, human shields, argue against the war to anyone who will listen. One woman walks up to a group of Marines and calls them murderers.

Most guys ignore her. Or laugh. But it gets to some.

"I didn't bury two of my fellow Marines just so someone like that could call us murderers," says one Marine corporal who helped remove the bodies of those killed in the Amtrac. "They died for this country."

Going though my archives, it turns out this woman was Uzma Bashir. There's a piece in the Asia Times that takes an admiring tone:

The US Marines who patrol the east bank of the Tigris River still talk about the candlelight vigil that Uzma organized around a tank. The tank had parked itself outside the Palestine Hotel, and Uzma persuaded about 30 fellow activists to surround it in the dark while holding candles and singing Kumbaya-type campfire songs.

"And now we'll observe five minutes of silence for all the civilian casualties," Uzma announced to the crowd, and when the soldier in the tank spoke out of turn, she followed it up with: "And now we'll observe another five minutes of silence for all the civilian casualties of this war." And this time the soldier kept quiet.

Seemingly every soldier has heard of her. On hearing her name mentioned in passing, one US Marine told me: "Yeah, we drove over to the the hospital in Saddam City to provide security the other day, and she was standing out front yelling, 'What, did you come to finish them off'!?"

As this Marine - who was just a young kid himself, no more than 19 - was telling me this story, he didn't seem to know whether to grin, curse or cry. So he just ended up shaking his head in bewildered wonderment.

I feel kinda compelled to point out that before the war, she went to Iraq, ostensibly to protect civilians. Curiously, though, there appears to be no record of her commenting on postwar civilian casualties caused by "insurgents." Ms. Bashir, selective humanitarian.


Posted 11:00 PM by Tony


Great Lines

Just saw Master and Commander: The Far Side Of The World. Pretty great movie.

The best lines in the movie, for me, was:

Aubrey: Do you want that raggedy Napoleon to be your king?
Crew: No!

Aubrey: Do you want your children to sing the Marsellaise?
Crew: No!

Heh.


Posted 5:22 PM by Tony

Friday, November 14, 2003
Low Tech Bullet Time

Japanese Matrix-style Ping Pong.

Max Payne, eat your heart out!

(via Ruminations In Korea


Posted 5:16 PM by Tony


Remember, 15/19

General Wesley Clark is proposing that the United States form a joint commando force with the Saudis to go after al Qaeda in Afghanistan. (NY Times, via Postrel):

In an address to students at Dartmouth College here, General Clark, who is retired from the Army, also proposed moving American military intelligence forces now hunting for unconventional weapons in Iraq to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to help hunt for Qaeda leaders and expanding efforts to include other nations in the search.

Even as he was asking for the assistance of Saudi forces, General Clark was highly critical of the Saudi monarchy, saying it has fostered terrorism and fueled the atmosphere that has resulted in attacks not only against Americans but also against Arabs and foreigners living in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

'The Saudi regime is at least as responsible as anyone for the rise of Al Qaeda,' he said. 'And now the Saudis are paying the price with innocent lives for the hatred and the funding that the Saudi extremists did so much to export originally. It's time for real action from the Saudis.

'It's not enough for Saudi Arabia to pursue terrorists within its own borders. The Saudis need to join us in a worldwide campaign, and especially in that harsh region on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.'"

Oh, brother.


Posted 11:27 AM by Tony


Fooled Him Twice

There's a saying, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." Apparently, ex-president Clinton is suggesting that the United States sign a nonaggression pact with North Korea (via The Globe and Mail):

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton urged the Bush administration Friday to sign a nonaggression pact with North Korea to help end a year-long standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear program.

Addressing a crowd of South Korean politicians and celebrities, Mr. Clinton expressed hope that six-nation talks on the nuclear crisis — which China is trying to put together, possibly for December — would produce a “verifiable” agreement in which impoverished North Korea would give up its nuclear and missile ambitions in return for food, energy and other economic aid.

“And I would include an agreement between the United States and North Korea on nonaggression, because I don't think our country will ever be aggressive against anyone who did not violate an agreement first,” Mr. Clinton said.

“I don't think that we'd lose much by giving them an agreement that requires good conduct on their behalf as well as ours. That is what I hope and believe can be done.”

U.S. President George W. Bush has ruled out a nonaggression treaty with Pyongyang, but he has offered to provide written security assurances in return for the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear-weapons program.

While Mr. Clinton was in office, the United States and North Korea signed an agreement in which Pyongyang promised to freeze its nuclear activities in exchange for better ties and economic aid. The 1994 accord collapsed last year when U.S. officials said Pyongyang admitted running a secret weapons program.

Washington and its allies later cut off shipments of free oil. North Korea then announced that it was extracting plutonium from spent nuclear fuel rods to build more bombs.

In addition to its weapons program, the North continued to act in a manner inconsistent with the 1994 agreement. See the DMZ incident timeline at Global Security, 2002-2003 timeline at the BBC, BBC article on a 2002 naval battle between the North and South (other maritime incidents listed in sidebar).

Let me see if I get this straight: The Clinton administration negotiated an agreement with the Norks, which they then proceeded to violate. Yet, Clinton believes the Bush administration should offer a similar agreement, despite the demonstrable lack of good faith on the part of the North.

This is why voters believe, by a large margin, that Democrats are not serious about security issues.

Curiously, there doesn't appear to be any coverage of this issue by the Korean press. I would think that Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun would be all over this, as his romantic view of Korean unification blinds him to reality. See the Marmot's coverage for more info.

Update: Ran across this in Frank J.'s archives from last November, and it seems much more of an effective idea that Clinton's:

South Korea and Japan don't want the shipments to be stopped because they want to appease North Korea and not make them mad. Man, it's like all nations other that the U.S. are either violent and evil or whiny little pansy. What America really needs to do to keep its standing in the world is bomb the crap out of a nation that is usually considered an ally. This will drive home the point that, as scary as some nations are out there, we're much scarier and we will hurt you. Don't appease them; appease us.


Update 2: The Marmot has a more detailed analysis.


Posted 9:13 AM by Tony

Thursday, November 13, 2003
Random IP Thought

Normally, I don't write about intellectual property issues, but this struck me as an interesting mental exercise:

Assume that a policy justification for extending copyright terms beyond the life of the author is to allow the author's children to reap the benefits of the copyright.

Assume also that life expectancies have gotten progressively longer in the last 200 years.

As a matter of policy, then, is increasing the copyright term to author's life + 70 years reasonable, in light of the children's increased life expectancies?

I have no idea, myself.


Posted 5:37 PM by Tony


Silent Senators

Remember the leaked draft memo?

Today's Washington Post has a piece by Senator Pat Roberts of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. In it, he emphasizes that the committee was investigating the accuracy of prewar intelligence, not its subsequent use by the administration.

To avoid the perils of selective quotation, I'm quoting the whole thing in full:

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is conducting a comprehensive review of prewar intelligence on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs and his ties to terrorist groups. We are evaluating the quantity and quality of intelligence as well as the reasonableness of the judgments reached by the intelligence community.

We are also focusing on whether anyone was pressured to tailor or change his or her analysis to conform to a specific policy goal. Finally, we intend to conclude whether the intelligence community's judgments were correct, after David Kay completes his search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Committee staff members have reviewed thousands of pages of documents and interviewed more than 100 analysts and experts. It is probably the most comprehensive review of intelligence since the creation of the committee in 1976. Notwithstanding this monumental effort, Democrats have been calling for an expansion of the committee's review to include the "use" of intelligence by Bush administration policymakers.

While this sounds reasonable on the surface, it conceals a more nefarious intent. A memo written by the committee's Democratic staff, revealed in the press last week, makes clear that the minority's goal is to prejudge and use the committee's review and what the memo describes as "vague notions regarding the use of intelligence" to "castigate" the Republican members of the committee and conduct a partisan attack on the president. I will not allow this to happen.

As chairman, I must ensure that the intelligence committee conducts its oversight in a responsible, nonpartisan manner. While the committee was set up to be as immune from political pressures as possible, it requires member discipline to preserve that heritage. If we give in to the temptation to exploit our good offices for political gain, we cannot expect our intelligence professionals to entrust us with our nation's most sensitive information. You can be sure that foreign intelligence services will stop cooperating with our intelligence agencies the first time they see their secrets appear in our media.

Despite the strong request of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), to date not one Democrat, save Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, has publicly repudiated the attack plan laid out in the memorandum. I can reach only one conclusion from this silence: that they have decided to put partisanship ahead of our nation's security in this matter.

What if there had not been such a memo? Should the committee then be looking at the administration's "use" of intelligence? The threshold question for the committee should be whether our intelligence agencies produced reasonable and accurate analysis, not how that intelligence was used by policymakers.

There is no doubt how the intelligence was used. It was used by President Bill Clinton to insist on weapons inspections and to launch Operation Desert Fox when inspectors were compelled to leave because Hussein refused to cooperate. It was used by President Clinton and President Bush to keep Hussein in a box by enforcing the northern and southern "no-fly" zones. It was used by the United Nations to pass resolution after resolution insisting that Hussein disarm. Ultimately it was used by this administration and this Congress to present a case to the world that Hussein had to be disarmed once and for all.

There are no secrets here -- nothing to review. Intelligence information was used publicly, and it will not take a Senate committee to evaluate whether that information was accurately portrayed by public officials.

The committee's review is examining whether the intelligence community's assessments were accurate and justified based on the intelligence available at the time. When our review is complete, we will present our judgments to Congress and the public, which can then decide for themselves whether the intelligence was accurately represented by government officials.

My predecessors had the wisdom and foresight to create a committee intended to be above partisan politics so it could be an effective and credible watchdog. It is now apparent that the Democrats planned to undermine the integrity of the committee by conducting a partisan attack, which threatens to destroy the credibility of an institution that has served the U.S. Senate and the nation well for nearly 30 years. I oppose them and for this I make no apologies.

I was wondering when Senator Feinstein, who represents my state and sits on that particular committee would comment, one way or the other. It's been several days, and still no mention of the incident in her press releases. I'm guessing that we'll never find out what she thinks of this, which is a darned shame in light of the seriousness of the incident.


Posted 3:54 PM by Tony

Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Videogame Litigation

More on a theme:

Found out, via Angelweave and Blackfive, about a lawsuit claiming $246 million in damages relating to Grand Theft Auto III.

From the Oct. 23, 2003 SF Chronicle:

A $246 million lawsuit has been filed against the maker of the popular video game Grand Theft Auto III, Sony Computer Entertainment of America and Wal-Mart, alleging that the game inspired two boys to fatally shoot one man and seriously wound a woman, an attorney who filed the suit said Wednesday.

Stepbrothers William Buckner, 16, and Joshua Buckner, 14, of Newport, in eastern Tennessee, already pleaded guilty in juvenile court to criminal charges of reckless homicide, endangerment and assault. They were sentenced in August to an indefinite term in state custody.

The boys told authorities that after playing the video game, they pulled out rifles from a locked room in their home and decided to randomly shoot at tractor trailers, just like in the game.

David Levine, a law professor at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco [woo, Hastings represent!], thinks it's a difficult case to prove.

"Just because it becomes a model for somebody's behavior, that doesn't prove liability," he said. "You have to show intent to lead somebody to do this, that you're instructing someone to do this crime. ... Negligence that someone might do the same thing is not enough."

But the complaint alleges the defendants should have known the ramifications of producing and selling such a game.

"The defendants knew or should have known that copycat violence would be caused by (Grand Theft Auto III)," according to the complaint signed by Talley and Jack Thompson, a Miami lawyer who has made similar claims in the past.

Thompson filed a $33 million lawsuit against video gamemakers after a 14- year-old's shooting spree at a school near Paducah, Ky., in 1997. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ultimately ruled against Thompson last year.

From the Nov. 10, 2003 SF Chronicle:

The creators of the video game series "Grand Theft Auto" want a federal judge to dismiss a $246 million lawsuit filed by the families of two people shot by teenagers.

Rockstar Games and its New York City-based parent, Take-Two Interactive Software, said the victims' families were trying to hold them liable "based on the expressive content of the video game."

[ . . . ]

Responding Oct. 29 in U.S. District Court, Rockstar and Take-Two contend that such ideas and concepts as well as the "purported psychological effects" on the Buckners are protected by the First Amendment's free-speech clause.

A lawyer who represents the victims dismissed the claim, saying he would seek to move the case back into state court for consideration under Tennessee's consumer protection act.


I've said this before: I think this sort of lawsuit is a result of computer games being a relatively new form of expression (though, admittedly, this is just speculation). Replace "video game" with "book" - would such a lawsuit against the author, publisher and retailer survive a First Amendment challenge?

And here's another thought - if the First Amendment is a valid defense to the current lawsuit, won't it also be a valid defense to any contemplated consumer protection claim?

Unfortunately, computer games are an easy target for this sort of thing (see here). The particular expression of a violent impulse may be affected by a computer game, book, or what have you. The violent impulse or inclination, however, is unlikely attributable to video games, and might more properly be due to other underlying factors. In other words, those kids were messed up, even without gaming.

I'm playing Grand Theft Auto now. (The soundtrack on this is solid, by the way) The only effect I'm feeling so far is a certain . . . twitchiness if I get behind the wheel immediately afterwards.

More on Jack Thompson, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, in the Philadephia Weekly:

Jack Thompson has been called many things: moral crusader, right-wing crackpot, media whore, shameless opportunist. He may also be called the keeper of the keys to acquittal for Matthew Lovett, the ringleader of the so-called Matrix teens, the Oaklyn, N.J., youths arrested in July just moments before, police allege, they were to embark on a planned killing spree.

[describing Thompson's assertion of video game use as exculpatory evidence]

In 1999 he filed a lawsuit on behalf of the families of three students shot by a classmate in Paducah, Ky. The suit named the makers of Doom, Quake and Resident Evil, as well as those behind the film The Basketball Diaries and some violent Internet porn sites. Eight days later Columbine happened.

Thompson's Paducah lawsuit was dismissed in 2000. The judges wrote: "We find that it is simply too far a leap from shooting characters on a video screen (an activity undertaken by millions) to shooting people in a classroom (an activity undertaken by a handful, at most) ... " Thompson believes the outcome would have been different if a jury--not a judge--had heard the evidence, as will be the case when he files suit next month in the Tennessee highway shooting.

In addition to the Matrix teens, Thompson is now working with a father from suburban Cleveland whose 17-year-old daughter was stabbed and bludgeoned to death by a 15-year-old said to be obsessed with Grand Theft Auto. With the blessing of the victim's father, Thompson hopes to defend the murder suspect using a video game defense.

"They call me nuts for helping the killer of my daughter," Mickey Mishne says. "That's bullshit. I'm trying to help other parents understand all of this. Nothing is going to bring my murdered daughter back. I'm just trying to make something good come out of this."

Thompson is also serving as co-counsel in the defense of a 14-year-old who stabbed his aunt to death shortly after playing the video game Diablo.

It remains to be seen whether Thompson can convince a judge or a jury that the video game industry is culpable in these crimes. Recent scientific studies seem to connect game play to antisocial behavior, but a direct link has yet to be established. Thompson believes it's just a matter of time.

"What I'm trying to do is pin the tail on the video game industry," he says. "The video game industry will rue the day they didn't listen to me, because when the next Columbine happens Congress is going to ban the games altogether. All I'm trying to do is get them to restrict the sale of these games to adults."

My own opinion on this is: Congress is not your mother. Suppose you argue that Congress, not parents, bears the onus of preventing children's access to video games. Extending the same rationale, then what's to prevent Congress from interfering with parental autonomy in other areas?

The video game defense sounds a lot like the Twinkie defense to me.


Posted 10:38 PM by Tony


"A Loathsome Human Being"

Ted Rall's apologia for those killing his fellow Americans pretty much says it all (via Instapundit). The piece, "Why We Fight" is written as a hypothetical letter to a "resistance fighter":

In recent months we have opened a second front, against such non-governmental organizations as the United Nations and Red Crescent. A typical response of the Bush junta to these actions was issued by National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice: "It is unfortunate in the extreme that the terrorists decided to go after innocent aid workers and people who were just trying to help the Iraqi people." Do not listen to her. True, many aid workers are well intentioned. However, their presence under American military occupation tacitly endorses the invasion and subsequent colonization of Iraq. Their efforts to restore "normalcy" deceives weak-willed Iraqi civilians and international observers into the mistaken belief that the Americans are popular here. There can be no normalcy, or peace, until the invader is driven from our land. From the psychological warfare standpoint, the NGOs represent an even more insidious threat to fight for sovereignty than the U.S. army.

In this vein we must also take action against our own Iraqi citizens who choose to collaborate with the enemy. Bush wants to put an "Iraqi face" on the occupation. If we allow the Americans to corrupt our friends and neighbors by turning them into puppet policemen and sellouts, our independence will be lost forever. If someone you know is considering taking a job with the Americans, tell him that he is engaging in treason and encourage him to seek honest work instead. If he refuses, you must kill him as a warning to other weak-minded individuals.

The title comes from a series of movies created by Frank Capra and commissioned by the United States government. The implication in Rall's choice of title is that, in 2003, the United States are the moral equivalent of the Axis and that those killing our soldiers are the good guys.

And to cap it all off, Rall's piece was published on Veteran's Day.

He really is a loathsome human being.

Update: Commentary at A Small Victory, which has kept track of Rall's ravings longer than most.

Update 2: Mr. Green has his own inspirational letter for Rall. (via Blackfive).

Update 3: If you think I'm exaggerating about the loathesomeness part, see here, where Rall lampoons the widows of terrorism victims. Example: "I keep waiting for Kevin to come home, but I know he never will. Fortunately, the #3.2 million I collected from the Red Cross keeps me warm at night."


Posted 7:02 PM by Tony


Asian Governors

This Saturday, voters in Lousiana are voting for governor in a runoff election.
Admittedly, I know next to nothing about this particular race. But here's what I find interesting about this particular race:

1. The Republican candidate, Bobby Jindal, is the son of Indian immigrants. If he wins, that would make him, to my knowledge, the first Asian-American Republican governor. (background on Kathleen Blanco here)
2. Jindal picked up endorsements from elements in the black community, including Democrat and mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin, and the Black Organization for Leadership Development. Nagin appears to have paid the price for his endorsement of Jindal, as Nagin's advisory committee on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues resigned en masse.
3. The state Democratic Party appears to have shot itself in the foot:

The comment was taken from a mostly glowing story in 1998 in the Washington Post on Jindal, who was then executive director of a federal panel designed to save Medicare. The story touched on Jindal's tenure as secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals, including efforts to rein in Medicaid costs.

The story said this: "I was glad when he left the state," said Charles Vanchiere, president of the group representing Louisiana's pediatricians. "He had his marching orders … to get money out of Medicaid, which he did. But he did not have the life experience to understand … the effects of budgets on human misery."

The Democratic flier sent to voters last weekend uses this part of the Vanchiere quote: "I was glad when he left the state. … He did not have the life experience to understand … the effects of budgets on human misery."

Charles Vanchiere, a pediatrician, died in 2000.

"My objection if you read the (flier) is that the Blanco campaign took a 5-year-old comment and injected it into the current situation," Donna Vanchiere said.

She added, "Let me just say this: It is not wise to ever quote a person who is deceased." She said that, while she does not think there was any malice behind the flier, Blanco should have known about it.

Vanchiere said she has not been contacted by Blanco's campaign or state Democratic Party officials since the issue surfaced. She said Jindal called her Monday to see if she objected to his raising the issue during the debate. Asked if she backs his bid for governor, Vanchiere said, "Absolutely."

I can't wait to see how this turns out.


Posted 6:29 PM by Tony


More Reading

As I mentioned before, John Koopman's series this week in the SF Chronicle are definitely worth reading. A couple portions of today's piece never got much media attention:

Worse yet, for the Marines, was the report that Iraqis had used a fake surrender ploy. Everyone had seen the Iraqis giving up in Basra, and so the idea that some of them might fake it was on everyone's mind. The way the story went: A Marine unit spotted a group of Iraqis holding a white flag and went to disarm them and take them prisoner. When the Marines got close, the Iraqis pulled out AK-47s and RPGs and lit them up. We heard nine dead, maybe 30. It doesn't matter. That sets the tone for future operations.

Late the next night, the operations officer, Maj. Martin Wetterauer, gathers the battalion staff around for a briefing. At the end, he tells them what he knows about the fake surrender. He reminds the officers that the proper procedure is to keep rifles and machine guns trained on potential prisoners and to have them come to the Marines.

But some prisoners of war approach with their rifles held high. He said the Marines should order them to drop their weapons. If for any reason they don't, fire a couple of rounds in the dirt at their feet.

"What do you do if he still doesn't drop the weapon?" the major asks.

From the rear of the group comes a voice: "You light him up."

[ . . . ]

Staff Sgt. Moreno goes to the top of a small jail to scope out the area through his sniper rifle. He spots a man who looks like militia. He looks as if he's carrying something under his jacket.

Moreno puts pressure on the trigger. One round could fly straight and true and take the man's head off. But is he a legitimate target?

Moreno backs off and sighs.

"I'm sure it's a gun," he says. "I probably should have shot him, but I couldn't know for sure. I was thinking, 'What if he's carrying home a present for his kid or something?' "

Might I suggest that those who alleged that the actions of American forces in Iraq were comparable to My Lai are far off the mark?


Posted 9:23 AM by Tony

Tuesday, November 11, 2003
Veteran's/Remembrance Day Mini-Roundup

Well, today is Veteran's Day (Remembrance Day in Canada). So here's some interesting news stuff that seems appropriate for the day:

1. The NY Times has an article about the challenges facing Americans in Falluja:

The American commander's adviser on tribal and religious affairs is a young Arab-American medic in his unit [82nd Airborne Division], Pfc. Khaled Dudin, a Californian who spent part of his childhood among the Bedouin tribes of Saudi Arabia.

Private Dudin has taken to warning local Sunni clerics that they will have "blood responsibility" under Islamic law if they incite their followers to attack American forces.

"I am a paratrooper and an American Muslim," the soldier declared, "and I can quote Koran as well as anybody."

2. Ralph Peters has a NY Post piece on the cost of a military career:

And the NCO is still my candidate for the most underpaid professional in any walk of life.

Oh, the enlisted soldier always has politicians ready to pat him - or her - on the back and pose for a photo op. The rhetoric gushed over our troops would make an advertising copywriter blush. As elections loom, no congressman rations the attaboys.

But there's little substance behind the ringing words. The truth is that soldiers have few friends on Capitol Hill. They aren't big campaign contributors or powerful lobbyists. When it comes down to the crunch, the money-men win and the veterans make do.

Elected officials lavish praise on our troops, but lavish money on their revolving-door pals in the defense industry. Indeed, Operation Iraqi Freedom was supposed to prove that the old-fashioned soldier isn't even a major player on today's battlefields, that technology trumps all.

Yet the road to Baghdad was opened by soldiers and Marines fighting in close-quarters combat. And the dangerous work of building peace doesn't lend itself to technological solutions. Conflict is, above all, a human problem - and human problems require human solutions.

The thanks of a grateful nation? A proposal to add a mere 10,000 troops to our overstretched Army died a rapid death. Instead, we're buying nearly useless F-22 fighters at $150 million each. While our soldiers in Iraq don't have enough body armor. There isn't much profit in equipping infantrymen, you see.

3. And those serving part-time also face challenges, if the allegations in this Washington Post article are true:

In a private lawsuit filed in federal court in New York, Anthony Smith, 42, a Long Island Army Reservist, alleges he was fired in September 2001 after he told his employer, Pert Andreassi Construction Management, that he had been mobilized because of the World Trade Center attacks.

He was unable to find another job, and he and his family suffered financial hardship, according to his attorney, Nora Constance Marino, of Great Neck, N.Y. To support his family, he volunteered for duty again and served for nine months, including a tour of duty in Iraq, she said. Officials at Pert Andreassi did not return calls seeking comment.


4. Finally, Paul Metivier, a Canadian veteran of World War I who enlisted at age 16, shares his memories:

Frequently we would have to go for several weeks without taking a bath. Everyone had lice. As for the mud, at first we did use horses to move the guns and ammunition. Six animals pulled each load. But they didn't last long. They had to be replaced by mules, which fared a bit better in the muck. You should have seen Vimy Ridge. (I wasn't in the battle, but I heard it from the English coast. The noise of the guns woke me while I was sleeping in my tent.) I saw the battlefield a few months later. From the top of the ridge I could see the front below. There wasn't one blade of grass, bush, shrub or tree in sight. It was a sea of mud.

I was lucky, I was never wounded. But I can still hear wounded men yelling for help. I couldn't go over to them -- you could only do your job and someone else had the job of helping them. You had to focus on what you were supposed to be doing and block everything else out.

Once one of our guys was in an observation balloon that was shot down by a German airplane. He escaped by parachute but they shot at him. There was no mercy.

It was like torpedoing a submarine, then shooting the escapers on their rescue boat.

[ . . . ]

I enjoy keeping up with current events. But it saddens me to see so much fighting all over the world, year after year. War is a most unpleasant business, whether it's the war I was in over 85 years ago, or the Korean War or the war on terrorism. On November 11, and always, we should think about the sacrifices made by those young Canadians who have served and especially those who have given their lives for us. Remember, they gave their all for their country.


Posted 4:18 PM by Tony


"Allies"

Found this story in the New York Times today. The story is about Saudi reaction to an al Qaeda bombing in Saudi Arabia apparently directed at Arabs:

In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, there were reports of a certain celebratory air in some Saudi neighborhoods, of congratulatory messages sent back and forth on mobile phones. In that and subsequent violence, the attackers seemed to be succeeding in reaching a constituency that among other things wants to remove a ruling family it sees as American stooges.

But that mood, fueled by the sense that behind it all was some sort of religious endorsement, is diminished, replaced by confusion and the uneasy feeling that the bombings this year are just the opening salvos in a very long fight.

It's amazing how the Saudis are suddenly concerned about al Qaeda and Islamist terrorism when it's just not Americans dead. (Compare, for instance, the Saudi stonewalling of American investigators after the Khobar Towers bombing).


Posted 8:58 AM by Tony


Recommended Reading

Every so often, there's something in the SF Chronicle to remind me that the paper isn't full of arrogant, semi-coherent, smug hacks.

The paper is currently running a weeklong series on one reporter's experience as an embedded reporter with the Third Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment. The first part is here:

Back at the Three-Four tents, Kilo has a morning formation. Then [company commander] Norton calls his men around him and gives a pep talk. He talks about motivation, training, preparedness and war.

"All it takes is one guy over there in a foxhole with a machine gun who decides to make a stand," he says. "One motivated individual can hurt you if you're not prepared, if you're not thinking, all the time."

Later, at an Iraqi city known as Al Kut, that lesson will be learned the hard way.




Posted 7:50 AM by Tony

Monday, November 10, 2003
Getting Your Money's Worth

The Vman has a post indicating how effective Canada's billion dollar gun registry is.

Nice to know Canada's getting it's money's worth, even if it is going to cost 500 times more than originally thought. (report here)


Posted 5:39 PM by Tony


228

Just wanted to mark a date:

The United States Marine Corps was founded on this day in 1775, at Tun Taven, Philadelphia.


Posted 2:41 PM by Tony

Thursday, November 06, 2003
Quote Of The Day

Ralph Peters questions whether the Germans have really moved beyond the Nazi era:

Gen. Reinhard Guenzel, the head of Germany's Special Forces Command (KSK), got the hobnailed boot on Tuesday. His mistake? He expressed a bit too publicly the sort of Jew-hating sentiment tens of millions of Germans harbor privately.

In a letter to a vicious right-wing extremist who sits in Germany's parliament, the general praised the claim that Jews bear at least as much blame for the bloodshed of the Russian Revolution as Germans do for the Holocaust.

Next, we'll hear from Berlin how Jews planned the Holocaust all along. Just as we hear that Israel is the only terrorist state in the Middle East and that Palestinian suicide bombers who butcher women and children are freedom fighters.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's flacks have begun their damage-control effort, insisting that the general's views are rare and isolated. Bull. I lived in Germany for 10 years while serving in the U.S. Army. I speak German. My family's bloodlines are half German. And because of all that, the Germans among whom I lived assumed I shared their bigotry and, eventually, spilled their guts.

It wasn't pretty.

Of course, there are good Germans. Plenty of them. But they live in Philadelphia, not Frankfurt. They or their ancestors all left Germany by 1938. Those who stayed didn't just support Hitler - they loved him and fought for him to the bitter end.

The whopping difference between the Allied occupation of Germany and our occupation of Iraq is that the overwhelming majority of Iraqis welcomed their liberation. We had to force freedom and democracy on the Germans at gunpoint.

They'll never forgive us - no more than they'll forgive Jews for surviving the Holocaust, making a success of Israel against all odds and enriching the United States in virtually every field of human endeavor.

And Germany? In the 19th and early 20th century, German-speaking countries led the world in culture and science. Then they killed or drove away their Jews. The result? Germany's greatest contributions to world culture since 1945 have been Milli Vanilli and Gummi Bears.

[ . . . ]

And let's not forget that the Third Reich was supposed to last a thousand years. There's no reason why German guilt shouldn't last 500. That's a 50 percent discount.

Oh, sure, making anti-Semitic remarks is a crime in today's Germany. But anti-Israeli remarks are just fine. You've merely got to choose your words carefully. Don't say the J-word. Talk about "Zionists" instead.


Posted 7:52 AM by Tony

Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Zell Mell

I previously mentioned Zell Miller, Democratic Senator from Georgia, here.

Looks like he's mighty ticked off today:

“I have often said that the process in Washington is so politicized and polarized that it can’t even be put aside when we’re at war. Never has that been proved more true than the highly partisan and perhaps treasonous memo prepared for the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee.

“Of all the committees, this is the one single committee that should unquestionably be above partisan politics. The information it deals with should never, never be distorted, compromised or politicized in any shape, form or fashion. For it involves the lives of our soldiers and our citizens. Its actions should always be above reproach; its words never politicized.

“If what has happened here is not treason, it is its first cousin. The ones responsible - be they staff or elected or both should be dealt with quickly and severely sending a lesson to all that this kind of action will not be tolerated, ignored or excused.

“Heads should roll!”


The target of his ire is a draft memo prepared by the staff for the Democratic portion of the Senate Select Committe On Intelligence.

I think it kind of undermines the "Bush twisted intelligence for political purposes" argument if the timing of the argument is controlled by political considerations.

I've copied the text of the memo, found here, below, and emphasized the more amusing parts in bold, and comments in brackets:

We have carefully reviewed our options under the rules and believe we have identified the best approach. Our plan is as follows:

1) Pull the majority along as far as we can on issues that may lead to major new disclosures regarding improper or questionable conduct by administration officials. We are having some success in that regard. For example, in addition to the president's State of the Union speech, the chairman has agreed to look at the activities of the Office of the Secretary of Defense as well as Secretary Bolton's office at the State Department. The fact that the chairman [Republican Senator Pat Roberts supports our investigations into these offices and co-signs our requests for information is helpful and potentially crucial. We don't know what we will find but our prospects for getting the access we seek is far greater when we have the backing of the majority. (Note: we can verbally mention some of the intriguing leads we are pursuing.)

2) Assiduously prepare Democratic "additional views" to attach to any interim or final reports the committee may release. Committee rules provide this opportunity and we intend to take full advantage of it. In that regard, we have already compiled all the public statements on Iraq made by senior administration officials. We will identify the most exaggerated claims and contrast them with the intelligence estimates that have since been declassified. Our additional views will also, among other things, castigate the majority [while simultaneously "pull[ing] the majority along"] for seeking to limit the scope of the inquiry. The Democrats will then be in a strong position to reopen the question of establishing an independent commission (i.e. the Corzine amendment).

3) Prepare to launch an independent investigation when it becomes clear we have exhausted the opportunity to usefully collaborate with the majority. We can pull the trigger on an independent investigation at any time-- but we can only do so once. The best time to do so will probably be next year either:

A) After we have already released our additional views on an interim report -- thereby providing as many as three opportunities to make our case to the public: 1) additional views on the interim report; 2) announcement of our independent investigation; and 3) additional views on the final investigation; or

B) Once we identify solid leads the majority does not want to pursue. We could attract more coverage and have greater credibility in that context than one in which we simply launch an independent investigation based on principled but vague notions regarding the "use" of intelligence.

In the meantime, even without a specifically authorized independent investigation, we continue to act independently when we encounter foot-dragging on the part of the majority. For example, the FBI Niger investigation was done solely at the request of the vice chairman; we have independently submitted written questions to DoD; and we are preparing further independent requests for information.

Summary

Intelligence issues are clearly secondary to the public's concern regarding the insurgency in Iraq. Yet, we have an important role to play in the revealing the misleading -- if not flagrantly dishonest methods and motives [insert ironic comment here about misleading and dishonest methods] -- of the senior administration officials who made the case for a unilateral, preemptive war. The approach outline above seems to offer the best prospect for exposing the administration's dubious motives and methods.

One of my Senators (though I hasten to point out I didn't vote for her), Dianne Feinstein, is a Democratic member of the Intelligence Committee. So far, not a single comment by her on this. I'm mighty interested to see how she plays this.


Posted 4:57 PM by Tony


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

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