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

Friday, January 30, 2004
Thanks, Village Elders

Well, I just got my dose of horror for the day. Christie Blatchford, formerly of the National Post and now of the Globe and Mail, writes about start of the trial of Muhammad Khan, who allegedly killed his 6-year old daughter Farah and then dismembered her.

According to [prosecutor] Mr. [David] Fisher, as Mr. Khan's story of what happened shifted in the weeks and months after the couple's arrest, several central themes remained the same: One, that Farah was a bastard child, and not his; two, that he always used the "most vile and disgusting language" when talking about her, and third, that he reserved his tears and his pleas for mercy for himself. The little girl was the product of Mr. Khan's first marriage, an arranged one, the couple met on their wedding day, that lasted only about four months. He denied he was Farah's father, Mr. Fisher said, but was nonetheless awarded custody of her by "village elders" in Pakistan when the couple divorced.

Now, family law courts may feature some clownish judges, as Venomous Kate can attest to, but it still has to better than custody grants by village elders.

Somewhat ironically, the paper also has a story on a Supreme Court of Canada approval of corporal punishment.

Posted 10:30 AM by Tony

RIP Pete Bucher

Apparently, today's theme is the Korean conflict. The commander of the USS Pueblo just passed away.

And what's the big deal about the Pueblo? Well, here's a brief background, from the San Francisco Chronicle story:

The lightly armed Pueblo was monitoring communist ship movements and intercepting messages in international waters near the North Korean coast when it was attacked by torpedo boats Jan. 23, 1968. One sailor was killed and 82 were taken prisoner. Some of them, including Bucher, were wounded.

After 11 months, the crew was released two days before Christmas, some of them crippled or nearly blind because of the brutality and malnourishment they endured. The ship remained behind in North Korea, where it became a tourist attraction. [see pic at the Marmot's]

[ . . . ]

During their captivity, crew members said, they were beaten, burned on radiators and had their teeth kicked out by North Korean soldiers. Bucher was beaten and tortured into signing a confession.

Check out the USS Pueblo Veteran's Association for more.

Requiescat in pacem, Commander.

Posted 9:44 AM by Tony

Korean War On Film

I normally don't keep up with Korean movies. However, I have noticed, in the last few years, that Korean movies have been getting more polished, and having more of a big-budget feel to them.

Recently, I noticed that a new Korean-made movie on the Korean War is coming out. It's probably old news to bloggers in Korea like the Marmot , Goldbrick, and the Flying Yangban, but it just showed up on the radar screen to me. And see this post at California Sojourn.

The movie, Taegukgi Hwinalrimyeo, or "The Korean Flag Waves", is opening next week, and looks set to open big (via Chosun Ilbo):

Showbox, in charge of the film’s distribution, is looking to set a record for most screen showings during a film’s opening week. The current Korean record holder, “Shilmido,” was shown on 325 screens nationwide during its opening week. Showbox plans to shatter that record by putting the film on roughly 400 screens in the first seven days of its release.

[ . . . ]

The marketing costs of “The Korean Flag Waves” have come out to about W2 billion. Kookmin Bank and other corporations, however, have provided another W2 billion in support, so the marketing bill for the film is reckoned to be about W4 billion [about 3.4 million dollars]: far above the production costs of most Korean films.

The movie is supposed to show the Korean War in a large-scale sort of way, as the production costs show (via Chosun Ilbo):
Taegukgi Hwinalrimyeo is a tragedy about two brothers, Jin-tae (Jang Dong-kun) Jin-seok (Won Bin), set during the Korean War. It is a spectacular blockbuster. One can easily imagine the scale of the movie: the net production cost exceeded W14.6 billion, 25,000 extras were mobilized using 19,000 military uniforms, two kilometers of defensive positions were built on the Nakdong River, and was filmed in 140 shoots. On average, three actors per day had to go to the hospital because of injuries sustained during the shooting.

The Naktong River, you may recall, formed a part of the Pusan Perimeter (it's the north-south line marked in blue on this map; see also here).

I'm hoping that this movie does well, at least enough so that they'll release it in the US.

from Chosun Ilbo

Update: Courtesy the Marmot, here's a link to the movie's official web site.

Posted 9:32 AM by Tony

Thursday, January 29, 2004
Place I've Been

Via Teresa, here's a map of states I've been in, marked in red:

create your own visited states map
or write about it on the open travel guide

Posted 5:33 PM by Tony

So Who's Ripping Off Who?

According to the JoongAng Ilbo, the North Koreans plan to share missile technology with Nigeria.

Details of the transfer were unclear, but Onukaba Ojo, the spokesman for the Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar, said, "We have committed to a program of cooperation that includes missile technology." If the deal were to come off, Nigeria, along with other nations such as Libya and Pakistan, would be among those that have received North Korea's help in establishing a missile program.

Sounds like a sort of diplomatic version of an old game.

So who's suckering whom?

Posted 5:14 PM by Tony

Right Answer, Wrong Question?

I wrote this last March:

I guess oil was the right answer. We were just asking the wrong question.

Perhaps, the question should be more properly phrased as, "Why were opponents of the war helping Saddam?"

Recently, the Baghdad newspaper al-Mada published a name of 270 groups and individuals who received oil vouchers from the Hussein regime (via SF Chronicle):

Arabs and Westerners accused by Iraqis of receiving Iraqi oil proceeds in exchange for supporting Saddam Hussein denied Tuesday they had accepted bribes or participated in illicit deals.

The accusations surfaced this week in a report by one of the dozens of new newspapers that have begun publishing in Iraq since Saddam was ousted last March. Since, members of the new provisional Iraqi government and Saddam opponents have distributed a list of the accused, based on documents from the Iraqi Oil Ministry.

About 270 former Cabinet officials, legislators, political activists and journalists from 46 countries are on the list, suspected of profiting from Iraqi oil sales that Saddam had allegedly offered them in exchange for cultivating political and popular support in their countries.

Remember, these are vouchers, not actual oil shipments. Presumably, the recipients could have chosen to redeem those vouchers for an equivalent amount in cash, when the time arose.

The Middle Eastern Media Research Insititute ("MEMRI"), which, among other things, translates articles from Middle Eastern newspapers, has an English version of the list (found via Best of the Web).

It's important to remember that these are not, to the best of my knowledge, substantiated, but it's eye-opening nonetheless. Here's some of them, and I've added other media links, where I could find them:

Arthur Millholland - president, Oilexco Company

United States:
Samir Vincent

George Galloway - Labor MP, and allegedly in the pay of Iraqi intelligence (though Christian Science Monitor later recanted)

(names also taken from Le Monde)
French-Arab Friendship Association
Charles Pasqua - former Interior Minister, and currently on the budget commission of the European Parliament
Pautrick Maugein - of Trafigura [which deals in commodities, including oil]; president of the oil firm SoCo International, and reputedly close to French President Chirac
Bernard Merimee - former ambassador to Rome and the UN
Michel Grimard - founder of the French-Iraq Export Club

Ali Ballout - Lebanese journalist with 30 years of contacts with Hussein (see piece here).

Khaled Gamal Abd Al-Nasser - son of the former Egyptian president

Palestine Liberation Organization
Abu al-Abbas - leader of the Palestine Liberation Front, planner of the Achiile Lauro hijacking, captured in Baghdad [I suppose that his interrogators will have something new to talk about with him.]
PFLP - Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist group [noticing a pattern?]; recently had a bad day

Megawati Sukarnoputri - president of Indonesia; referred to as World's Stupidest Head Of State

the Russian state
Vladimir Zhirinovsky - ultranationalist party leader
Russian Communist Party
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Association for Solidarity with Iraq
Lukoil - before the war, had a multi-billion dollar oil development contract
Soyuzneftgaz - Russian energy company, signed deal with Iraq just prior to war
Rusneft - Russian oil company
Gazprom - Russian energy company
Moscow Oil Company - appears to be owned by the Moscow city government, at least as of Nov. 2002
Onako Company - Russian energy company, acquired in 2000 by a Euro-TEC, an affiliate of Tyumen Oil Company
Sidanco Company - Russian oil company
Russneft Gazexport - [this one seems off, appears to be Gazprom subsidiary]
Transneft - Russian oil company
[For general overview of Russian oil companies and Iraq, see this article by Florence Fee]

Again, I emphasize that these are, as of yet, unsubstantiated allegations. But could it be that it was all about the oil, after all?

Update: ABC News has a more complete breakout of alleged donees by country (via Vodkapundit)

Posted 4:52 PM by Tony

Wednesday, January 28, 2004
9/11 Calls

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States played a call by Betty Ong. She was a flight attended on the American Airlines 11 which crashed into the World Trade Center. There's a transcript of the call here and here:

ONG: And the cockpit is not answering their phone. There's somebody stabbed in business class, and we can't breathe in business. Um, I think there is some Mace or something. We can't breathe. I don't know, but I think we're getting hijacked.

[ . . . ]

OPERATIONS: Can anybody get up to the cockpit? Can anyone get up to the cockpit?

ONG: We can't even get into the cockpit. We don't know who's up there.

(Dial tone)

This Fox News story has a link to the audio, but, frankly, I didn't have the heart to listen to it. (also here)

At this point, it's very, very hard for me to identify with those getting worked up about the condition of al-Qaeda detainees at Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay.

Update: Well, I just listened to the audio. Words fail me.

Posted 10:03 AM by Tony

Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Jane Fonda's Choice Of Words

Conrad comments on Jane Fonda describing her son (via SF Chronicle):

Troy Garity, Fonda's actor son (from her marriage to Tom Hayden), also has been at numerous V-Days. "He is a vagina-friendly young man. When people say, 'Imagine a world where there was no violence against women,' I always say, 'Men would be like my son.' ''

[emphasis added]

Of course, Jane Fonda is well-known for her poor choice of words. Such as this gem, from 1972:

I cherish the memory of the blushing militia girls on the roof of their factory, encouraging one of their sisters as she sang a song praising the blue sky of Vietnam--these women, who are so gentle and poetic, whose voices are so beautiful, but who, when American planes are bombing their city, become such good fighters. [see also here]

Posted 5:18 PM by Tony

More Crushing of Dissent

And I mean that literally.

In the New York Post, via LGF

Wise-cracking funnyman Al Franken yesterday body-slammed a demonstrator to the ground after the man [a supporter of Lyndon Larouche] tried to shout down Gov. Howard Dean.

[ . . . ]

I'm neutral in this race but I'm for freedom of speech, which means people should be able to assemble and speak without being shouted down."

[ . . . ]

Franken emerged from the crowd and charged one male protester, grabbing him with a bear hug from behind and slamming him onto the floor.

"I was a wrestler so I used a wrestling move," Franken said.

Heh, he supports freedom of speech by assaulting people that exercise theirs? Cute.

I have one quibble with the story, the description of Franken as a "funnyman" - when was the last time Franken was intentionally funny?

Update: Cold Fury pictures what professional wrestler Franken might look like. One can only wonder how Franken 3:16 would be phrased.

Posted 8:46 AM by Tony

All News Is Local

Sometimes, when I read Korean news sites, it sure seems that anything in the news that relates to Koreans is given a lot more attention than it deserves.

Take this Korea Herald story about Lee Sa-bi visiting Hugh Hefner's place. Ordinarily, the "hot chick goes to Hef's place" sort of story isn't a really big deal, but check out the Herald's coverage:

Some say Lee Sa-bi's appearance has the best of both worlds; her oval face and almond eyes, typical Asian features, are paired with long legs that are associated with Western runway models. It is a combination that helped this 25-year-old become the first Korean model officially selected for a lead gallery in the Asia editions of Playboy.

And it goes from there. It all just amuses me so.

What surprises me the most is that I seem to have beat the Marmot, who's normally all over the Lee Sa-bi stories.

Update: The Marmot responds.

Posted 8:35 AM by Tony

Monday, January 26, 2004
Comments Back On

Don't know how it happened, but it looks like the template code got messed up. It's fixed, so enjoy!

Posted 8:24 AM by Tony

Friday, January 23, 2004
Ninja Teacher

This comic, about an English teacher in Korea, is pretty darned funny.

On a related note, check out Prisoner of Wonderland, about an English teaching experience in Korea gone bad.

Posted 3:00 PM by Tony

Dean's Phat Beats

I previously mentioned Howard Dean and his yelling, obliquely. Personally, I think the yelling thing is a non-issue - I was more disturbed by the subsesquent spin control. (transcript of interview with Diane Sawyer here). "I lead with my heart" - I'd rather someone who leads with his head, but that's a personal preference.

Dawn points out a site showing the many remixes made up featuring the yell. Check it out.

I'm with Dawn - still think the Lileks version is the best.

Posted 2:34 PM by Tony

Videogame Music

I first started playing computer games on my Apple IIe. There was a game, Karateka that involved a karate master fighting a legion of enemies to rescue a princess (who would, incidentally, drop you with one kick if you approached her in fighting stance). The start of the game featured the player getting to the top of the cliff, and this dinky MIDI music would play.

I was thinking about that recently while reading this GameSpy article on Battlefield Vietnam (I'm waiting more for Full Spectrum Warrior, myself; video file of demo at FilePlanet). On the right side of the screen is a list of some of the music featured in the game, including:

CCR - "Fortunate Son"
The Troggs - "Wild Thing"
The Trashmen - "Surfin' Bird"
Edwin Starr - "War"
Deep Purple - "Hush"
Jefferson Airplane - "Somebody to Love"
Canned Heat - "On the Road Again"
Bobby Fuller Four - "I Fought the Law"
Joe Cocker - "The Letter"
Martha and the Vandellas - "Nowhere to Run"

It's always amazes me how far gaming has progressed, to the point where it features original video (Enter the Matrix), but also great music (for example, this volume of the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City soundtrack).

Oh yeah, and having hot girls in the game doesn't hurt none, either.

Posted 2:20 PM by Tony

The UN On Terror

The New York Times published a letter from Shashi Tharoor, UN Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information. After I finished laughing, I decided to take a stab at analysis.

In "The Big Test for the Contenders" (Op-Ed, Jan. 21), David Frum and Richard Perle assert that "the United Nations is more likely to restrain us than help us in our war against terrorism." That is not true.

Show me where the UN has reduced the threat of terrorism. I can't think of any examples. And by "show me," I refer to results, not rhetoric or UN resolutions on paper. So far, there's a conclusion, but nothing to support it.

In their opinion piece, Frum and Perle make two specific points regarding the UN:

1. The UN condemns terrorism, but hasn't even gotten around to defining the term, despite the fact that terrorism has been a global problem for decades (remember Munich?). If you can't say what the problem is, how do you fight it?

2. Perle and Frum point out that UN has a structural problem. The UN was designed to address a prospect of The Next Big War, or, as they put it, "it was set up to organize a collective response to aggression across national borders." The UN has little, if any, competence to handle acts by non-state actors. It's worth noting that the United Nations did not even set up its Counter-Terrorism Committee until after 9/11, despite the long-standing nature of the problem.

Perle and Frum don't even mention that the United Nations also includes countries that harbor and support terrorism.

When the horror of 9/11 hit the United States, the Security Council passed two vital resolutions that provided the international legal framework for the fight against terrorism.

Mr. Tharoor mentions one, Resolution 1373. Where's the other? Oops.

Presumably, he's referring to Resolution 1377 (PDF here). It doesn't really require any country to do anything, except in the vaguest of ways, for example "[c]alls on all States to intensify their efforts to eliminate the scourge of international terrorism."

How is either of these "vital"? The burden of persuasion still lies with Mr. Tharoor.

Resolution 1373 required countries to interdict arms flows, freeze financial transfers to suspected terror groups, report on the movements of terrorists and update national antiterror legislation.

Take a look at Resultion 1373 for a second (PDF here; text also at US State Department). So what happens if a country that harbors and assists terrorists (some of whom, I might add are UN members) doesn't comply with Resolution 1373? Absolutely nothing.

Under Resolution 1373, the UN finally established a Counter-Terrorism Committee. And what does it do? You can check out the Committee's web site, and a PDF of its last work programme submitted to the Security Council. The Committee appears to function as an information clearinghouse and advisor. As this page makes clear: "The CTC itself is not an assistance provider."

Without the legal authority of such a resolution — binding on all United Nations members — the United States would have been hard pressed to obtain such cooperation "retail" from 191 individual countries. And it would have taken decades to negotiate and ratify treaties and conventions imposing the same prohibitions.

This is just plain speculative - "would have." As the saying goes, "and if your aunt had balls, she'd be your uncle." Again, I'd point out that Resolution 1373 contains no consequences for noncompliance, which makes these resolutions different from most treaties and conventions. And the binding effect of Security Council resolutions seems a bit laughable to me. For example, Resolution 82, passed in 1950, "[c]alls upon all Member States to render every assistance to the United Nations in the execution of this resolution and to refrain from giving assistance to the North Korean authorities." Remember how Mao's China complied with this one?

Or Resolution 660, passed after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which "[d]emands that Iraq withdraw immedately and unconditionally all its forces to the positions in which they were located in 1 August 1990." Remember how Iraq voluntarily withdrew? Neither do I. (See this 2nd ACR web page)

The United Nations has proved to be indispensable in the global war against terror.

This is a conclusion, and nowhere in the letter is there any support that the UN has been "indispensable" in the war on terror.

Posted 1:22 PM by Tony

Wednesday, January 21, 2004
North Korean Howlers

There's a New York Times editorial by Jack Pritchard of the Brookings Institution describing his visit to a North Korean nuclear facility, at the invitation of North Korean officials.

It's entitled "What I Saw In North Korea." This is the kind of title one expects to find in an elementary school essay: "What I Did Last Summer."

There's a something I want to point out in Pritchard's esssay:

On Jan. 8, North Korean officials gave an unofficial American delegation, of which I was a member, access to the building in Yongbyon where about 8,000 spent fuel rods had once been safeguarded. We discovered that all 8,000 rods had been removed.

Whether they have been reprocessed for weapons-grade plutonium, as Pyongyang claims, is almost irrelevant. American intelligence believed that most if not all the rods remained in storage, giving policymakers a false sense that time was on their side as they rebuffed North Korean requests for serious dialogue and worked laboriously to devise a multilateral approach to solving the rapidly escalating crisis.

But events of the last several years show that this approach is not working. In December 2002 North Korea was suspected of having one or two nuclear weapons that it had acquired before agreeing in 1994 to freeze its known nuclear program and to allow it to be monitored.

Look at the timing. Pritchard doesn't indicate when those rods were removed. The implication is that the North Koreans were abiding by the 1994 agreement until Bush's "amateurish" policy caused them to renege.

First, it bears noting that Pritchard, a former Clinton Administration official, is hardly an unbiased observer. And the fact of the invitation sort of speaks for itself. Second, even though Pritchard advocates continued dialogue, this sort of activity seems a prelude to reprocessing, which the Clinton Administration identified as a "red line" that would provoke a military response. (See this Washington Post piece by former Clinton SecDef William Perry; Global Security). Third, the North Koreans pretty much reneged on the 1994 agreement almost as soon as the ink was dry.

Claudia Rosen criticizes Pritchard's visit, and her Opinion Journal piece has the most concise summary of the 1994 agreement that I've seen so far.

But unless Kim threw in a true surprise--say, Osama bin Laden making his own tourist video by the Yongbyon cooling ponds--North Korea's arsenal is hardly news. Even back in the 1990s, U.S. intelligence was already estimating that Kim had a bomb or two, or at least the makings thereof. That was during the Clinton era, in which Jimmy Carter pioneered the practice of unofficial trips to arrange nuclear "peace" deals with Pyongyang, and came prancing home as father of the 1994 Agreed Framework. The way that worked was, the U.S. and its allies paid nuclear extortion in the form of food and fuel for Pyongyang, propped up Kim's regime, and began building him $4.6 billion worth of nuclear reactors. [note - these nuclear reactors would have been unable to produce plutonium]

In return, Kim lied and cheated on his promise to give up nuclear weapons; launched a program to enrich uranium for more bomb fuel; built, tested and sold missiles; and along the way starved to death some two million of his fellow North Koreans. When confronted by the Bush administration in late 2002 about his nuclear cheating, Kim's regime bragged about it, pulled out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, announced it would go into overtime producing yet more bombs, and for good measure had a spokesman proclaim last March that "North Korean missiles can reach any part of the United States of America." Now, with the same verve that brings back your neighborhood Mafia extortionist on his regular route, Kim wants another "peace" deal in which he'd get paid yet again for giving up weapons he already got paid for promising not to make in the first place.

Update: Check out Conrad's take on the North Koreans, over at the Gweilo Diaries.

Posted 9:35 AM by Tony

Dean And A South

There's a story in the SF Chronicle about the Dean Scream, as I'm calling it. The story has a link so you can see and hear it for yourself.

The comparisons have been pretty funny. Colby compares it to the Wilhelm, and a local radio show has likened it to Timmy from South Park (sound file at South Park Sound Archive).

Whether or not this hurts or helps remains to be seen. I don't know, but thought this part was amusing:

"You've heard of mad cow disease? This was mad candidate disease,'' said an astounded Democratic political strategist Garry South, an adviser to Sen. Joe Lieberman, a competitor of Dean's in the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"I sat there in total disbelief. It was beyond anything I'd ever seen,'' South said. "If I were (Dean campaign manager Joe) Trippi and (pollster Paul) Maslin, I would have been having a heart attack.''

[emphasis added]

You may recall that Garry South was Gray Davis' top political aide. You may also recall that Gray Davis is no longer governor of California, courtesy of last year's recall election.

Which suggests that you take what his evaluation with a grain of salt.

Posted 8:31 AM by Tony

Tuesday, January 20, 2004
If You Think Your Traffic Is Bad...

Via Korea Times:

See also the picture over at the Marmot's.

Granted, it's a holiday season. However, traffic in many parts of Seoul isn't appreciably different from this.

Posted 7:40 PM by Tony

A Salesman For America?

As people might guess, I'm not really a fan of Bill Clinton - I always thought his foreign and domestic policies, well, sucked. While my opinion of his presidency is unlikely to change, I suppose I may have to rethink his post-presidential tenure.

Last week, the ex-president gave a speech to the US-Islamic World Forum in Qatar. At first blush, Clinton seemed to stay true to form (via Atlanta Journal-Constitution):

"Too many Americans know too little about the Islamic world, and much of what they know they learned after Sept. 11 through the narrow lens of terror,'' Clinton told the forum, organized by the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

"What people do out of anger, pain and fear both darkens and distorts reality,'' said Clinton.

Much of the criticism at the conference from Muslim scholars, religious leaders and politicians has been directed at the United States for what they say is unconditional support of Israel against the Palestinians.

"Sometimes I feel that our country is judged by many Muslims based on how they think the Mideast peace process is going, and whether they think we are doing enough to try and give the Palestinians a state and a decent future. That is not the only standard,'' Clinton said.

The story makes Clinton sound defensive, overly apologetic, and, dare I say, weaselly. Certainly, that was the take over at Little Green Footballs.

However, Ralph Peters, who was there, is not generally a Clinton fan, and whose opinion on Middle East issues is generally on point, had a different take (via New York Post):

He didn't pander. He made America's case and made it well. Beginning with a sometimes-rueful look at the progress his administration had failed to make and noting that the wars that plague the world are begun by men his own age or older, but paid for in blood by the young, he refused to direct one syllable of blame at the Bush administration. Accepted as a citizen of the world, he spoke as a convinced American.

[ . . . ]

Pulling no punches, he made it clear that Yasser Arafat was responsible for the failure to secure a Palestinian state. He refused to trash Israel. While admitting - calculatedly - that the United States remains imperfect, he used rational self-criticism as a starting point to tell his Middle Eastern listeners they needed to look more critically at themselves.

With art and ardor, he scolded the crowd that blaming others for their own failings was useless and destructive - warning that even when others truly are at fault for our misfortunes, wallowing in blame only paralyzes us. Actions, not accusations, change the world.

That may sound simple enough, but it's an essential message for the entire Middle East. I know of no one else who could have delivered it so convincingly.

[ . . . ]

It was the famous Clinton magic. It failed us in the White House, but may have found its proper stage in the world beyond our shores.

[emphasis added]

And Peters notes something that differentiates Clinton from, say, the Dixie Chicks:

Queried about his position on Iraq, he stated that any disagreements he might have would be most appropriately expressed at home in the U.S., not before a foreign audience.

Thank you, Mr. Clinton.

As they say in the blogosphere, read the whole thing. I was particularly amused by Peters' reference to certain participants referring to their holy book like "a document to be used as selectively as the phone book," which shows this sort of thing is universal.

While I still haven't quite made up my mind, in the absence of any available transcript, it might seem that Clinton has finally found his niche.

Posted 6:57 PM by Tony

Night Of The Tourism Ghouls

As some of you might be aware, Scott Peterson is on trial for the alleged murder of his pregnant wife Laci and unborn son. The case was being tried in Modesto, but the judge moved the case to the Bay Area (via Fox News; see also ABC News):

Judge Al Girolami ruled earlier this month that the trial had to be moved out of Modesto to make sure Peterson got a fair trial in the slaying of his wife, Laci, and unborn son.

Four counties [San Mateo, Alameda, Santa Clara, and Orange] had offered to host the trial, and the judge picked San Mateo County, situated south of San Francisco [specifically, Redwood City]. Girolami had said he wanted a county close enough to Modesto that witnesses could drive there.

[emphasis added]

Now, one might be wondering, why would four counties be vying to host the trial? Perhaps my cynicism hasn't fully taken over, because I sure wasn't expecting this, later in the same story:

Seeing a potential economic windfall, San Mateo County's tourism bureau had sent a letter to the judge offering to host the trial, which is expected to last nearly six months.

Anne LeClair, president and chief executive of the San Mateo County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said her office was "screaming with great excitement" upon hearing the news.

Restaurants, hotels, car rental services and other businesses could see an influx of $8 million to $16 million as dozens of media members arrive, she said.

"They'll be staying for three, four or five months," she said. "The economic impact is tremendous."

[emphasis added]

And in case that particular quote wasn't bad enough, here's another (via SFGate):

Price and other merchants had anxiously awaited a decision on the change of venue. Cheers went up at the San Mateo County Convention and Visitors Bureau as the news arrived.

"It's the opportunity of a lifetime in terms of exposure for our county," said the bureau's chief executive and president, Anne LeClair. "People will be able to see what a beautiful county this is and hopefully more people will come to visit after the trial."

LeClair estimates the trial will generate $8 million to $16 million in revenue for the region.

[emphasis and link added]

Un-freaking-believable. I can see the new tourism slogan now:

Come for the murder trial - stay for the scenery!

I live and work in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I'm all for promoting tourism. But this is simply disgusting.

I wonder if the San Mateo County Convention and Visitors Bureau will see fit to clarify its remarks?

Update: Ken over at CrimLaw beat me to the punch. However, I daresay that "tacky" hardly begins to describe it.

Posted 6:20 PM by Tony

Monday, January 19, 2004
Happy MLK Day

Unless you're in some parts of the South, in which case it's the Holiday Formerly Known as Jackson-Lee-King Day, or just Lee-King Day.

Not being from the South, I didn't find that out until today.


Posted 1:41 PM by Tony

Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Quote Of The Day

From Conrad, on the pop duo Tatu:

"It's not fun playing lesbians anymore", how many evenings have I had ruined by that depressing phrase?

Posted 5:38 PM by Tony

The Count

There's a picture of Wesley Clark buying a sweater in a New York Times article about the different clothing styles of the Democratic primary candidates.

Is it just me, or does he kind of look like Dracula?

Maybe it's just me.

Update: Well, maybe a, er, metrosexual Dracula.

Posted 8:33 AM by Tony

Back At The Table?

According to the Globe and Mail, Canadian companies are now being allowed to bid on Iraq reconstruction contracts (as opposed to subcontracts), which are being funded out of the the United States budget (see previous post):

In a breakfast meeting with Prime Minister Paul Martin, Mr. Bush said he had told Mr. Martin of the shift in policy. Mr. Martin "understands the stakes" in rebuilding a free and peaceful Iraq, Mr. Bush said. He offered no details of what the contracts would be worth.

The question in my mind is, "why?"

The only thing that's changed is the Prime Minister. That change, as far as the Iraq contracts are concerned, seems meaningless - Paul Martin, like Chretien before him, opposed the war in Iraq.

So what's changed? That Martin "understands the stakes" hardly seems like sufficient justification. In my opinion, President Bush has done pretty well on the foreign policy front (domestic policy is another matter). However, this seems a curious misstep, as the story is unclear as to what the US gets in return for its concession.

Posted 8:14 AM by Tony

Monday, January 12, 2004
The Next Pope

Roberto Pazzi has an editorial in the International Herald Tribune, arguing, based on a faulty premise, that the next pope should be Italian:

The origins of this question [of whether the next Pope should be Italian] go back in time and deserve examination. I was watching on that unforgettable Roman evening of Oct. 16, 1978, when, on the state television network, RAI, which was still broadcasting in black and white, the newly elected pope appeared: a foreigner, Polish. I confess that, once I'd gotten over my surprise, like many of my fellow Italians I felt a certain bitterness, because my country had lost its last universal sign of power. Although today Romano Prodi, as president of the European Commission, in part makes up for that loss, it's not the same. The archetype from which the pope descends is that of the imperial Caesar, while Prodi's charge covers a merely political body that is still being defined and is, besides, limited to Europe.

Not since 1522, when a Dutch theologian was elected Pope Adrian VI, had a non-Italian attained the role of Vicar of Christ. Adrian VI died in 1523. He had time, however, to order the destruction of Michelangelo's marvelous nudes in the Sistine Chapel: he was scandalized by them, impelled by the same anti-Renaissance moral fervor of Martin Luther, a German, who couldn't understand the typically Latin cult of beauty. Fortunately, there were some at the Vatican who knew how to obstruct Pope Adrian's order. Thus for 500 years, while for the most part Italy wasn't even a unified state - unlike France, Spain, England, Russia - that unique supreme Christian authority, purely Italian, nevertheless continued to represent the universality descended from the emperors.

It is not paradoxical to say that in Italy the monarchy has continued to exist despite the expulsion of the royal House of Savoy, because the monarchical authority of the pontiff has a charisma and a national power of attraction that no president of the republic has ever been able to claim. This is why on that October night in 1978, when Karol Wojtyla introduced himself to the world, speaking a stilted Italian, and stumbling into a delightful grammatical error while he was asking to be corrected, the inheritance of the Roman Empire seemed to us to have been lost.

[ . . . ]

While retaining one's respect and admiration for the great pope who is John Paul II, one might still ask what it means to have had a Polish bishop of Rome for 25 years. Beyond the many authoritative observations of the Vatican specialists - reporters like Marco Politi of La Repubblica; periodicals like Limes; scholars like Alberto Milloni, to name just a few - it is not only an obvious matter of national pride that makes many of us Italians dream of the election of a fellow countryman. One often gets the distinct impression that the bishop of Rome believes he is still sitting in Krakow and not in the Vatican, and that the weight of the anguished history of Poland lies heavy on his shoulders.

To be bishop of Rome - that is, of the world - is not like being bishop of Krakow. We Italians are an ancient and tested bridge between past and future, and supported by 2,000 years of consummate political tradition. The popes knew how to bring into the melting pot of Christianity first Roman civilization, then barbarian cultures, and finally the many conquerors who came to Italy and were seduced by the imperial myth of the Rome of the emperors. Italy is also a secular school of political and religious mediation, run by the Catholic Church.

Even in modern times the highest Italian political class, the one most capable of a European breadth, the Christian Democrats of Alcide De Gasperi and Aldo Moro, was reared by the Catholic Church. And this church has been a master of mediation between historical contingency and the eternal - the child, often, of Machiavelli as well as of the Gospel.

John Paul II's rigidity seems alien to this more farsighted and elastic Italian tradition. In general, at least in the past 100 years, an Italian pope, precisely because he has been trained in a proud political school like the Vatican, guarantees a more nuanced distance from politics and a warmer pastoral mission. These are qualities that the pope who died after only 34 days, John Paul I, appeared to possess: he who left the memory of himself in his name and in the suggestive declaration that "God is the Father but is also the Mother."

Pazzi's opinion appears to be that only Italians are suited to the pontificate. After my initial reaction to that as a non-Italian Catholic, i.e., towering rage, I felt I had to respond to the numerous erors in this piece.

A few thoughts.

1. The Caesars are not the "archetype from which the pope descends." Instead, the pontificate claims its authority from Saint Peter (a non-Italian, I should point out), as every Catholic schoolchild knows. The archetype that the Popes ideally strive for is not the arrogance of imperial Rome, but rather the humility of the early Church. Pazzi confuses the trappings of the modern papacy with its leadership and service functions.

2. Pazzi takes the title of "Bishop of Rome" as a definition, not a description. Pazzi's logic appears to be as follows:
The Church is headed by the pope.
The pope, in turn, is the Bishop of Rome.
Rome is in Italy.
Therefore, the Church should be led by an Italian.

The logical fallacy here is the confusion between the duties of a bishop and a pope. The pope may be the bishop of Rome, but his local obligations hardly encompass the pope's global responsibilities. The pope's responsibilities to Rome are a small subset of his duties, and equating the two roles seems pretty unreasonable.

Moreover, the assertion that there is something special about "being trained in a proud political school like the Vatican" would appear to limit the candidates for the papacy to those within Rome's environs, excluding the rest of Italy.

3. The assertion that Italy is run by the Catholic Church. I was under the impression that there was a separation of church and state in Italy, but I may have missed the memo.

4. The comparison between John Pauls I and II. The piece compares the Italian JP I to the Polish JP II, making the latter come across relatively unfavorably. The comparison between the 34-day papacy of JP I and the 25-year papacy of JP II seems a little, well, far-fetched is the most charitable word I can use.

The Catholic Church does not have its origin in Rome, nor is its character limited to Rome. A claim that only Italians can be popes is pretty ridiculous in an era where the Church is not limited to the European continent, and is defined as "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic."

The attitude reflected in this piece are, if anything, support the argument that the next Pope should not be Italian.

Posted 8:46 PM by Tony

Uniform Modifications

Blackfive has thoughtfully provided us with a sneak peek of the US Army's new "policy" concerning flags on uniforms.


Posted 3:23 PM by Tony

Thursday, January 08, 2004
Buffalo Soldiers, Revisited

Blackfive links to a CNN interview with Lt. Col. Reginald Allen, commander of 1-10 Cavalry (part of the 4th Infantry Division) in Iraq.

CNN may be a tad late, as I remember seeing the 10th in the news as early as last April.

Posted 11:22 PM by Tony

On The Campaign Trail

Allah's has been providing a pictorial history of the current Democratic primaries:

Dec. 11
Dec. 12
Dec. 17
Dec. 23
Dec. 31
Jan. 7

Friggin' hilarious.

Posted 7:29 PM by Tony

More Gun Registry Follies

There's nothing that's harder to kill than a government program, especially one that's pointless and intrusive (via Globe and Mail):

Former prime minister Jean Chretien's $1-billion gun registry is under review by the new Paul Martin government and likely will be significantly altered in a move that would appeal to Western Canada.

Among the changes being considered, sources say, is reallocation of some of the resources used to finance the registry to beef up other areas, such as policing or security at borders where illegal guns make their way into Canada from the United States.

A senior government official said yesterday the gun-registry legislation is not "a meaningful law." Most provinces and territories, including Alberta and British Columbia, have refused to comply with the legislation, which came into force last year.

Only one person has been convicted under the new law of failing to register a gun; there are estimates that more than one million guns are not registered.

However, the official said yesterday the review is not expected to recommend killing the registry.

[ . . . ]

Last year, the Liberal caucus erupted over the registry after a report by Auditor- General Sheila Fraser, tabled in December of 2002, said that implementing the program will cost more than $1-billion by 2005. When the program was first introduced in 1995, Canadians were told it would cost $2-million after the fees from licences and registration were recovered.

Martin gives away the real reason for reform, at the bottom:

"But the basic point that's being made is that in fact we've got to make sure that money is available for health care. It's the number one priority."

The more uncharitably inclined, such as myself, might think that Martin isn't really interested in substantive reform more than in making sure one socialist dream program doesn't drain money from another.

Admittedly, though, it's still a bit too early in Martin's administration to tell.

Posted 7:30 AM by Tony

Wednesday, January 07, 2004
Another University Facility

Now you don't see this often - a group of university professors who want a nuclear waste facility on campus (via Korea Herald):

Seoul National University could have a nuclear waste dump on campus if more than 60 professors get their way.

The 63 professors made the proposal yesterday in a bid to end the seven-month dispute between the government and residents over the planned construction of such a facility in the southwestern county of Buan.

"We suggest that the university president consider allowing a nuclear waste disposal site into our school based on the firm belief that the nuclear facility poses no threat to the security of people," they said at a news conference.

"We have to take the lead in the important government project to build a nuclear waste dump, which has been drifting over the past 18 years and thus led to the squandering of national energy."

I can imagine the campus tours: "Here's the Arts building, and next to it is our brand new Nuclear Waste Facility, and next to that is the Student Union..."

Posted 8:10 AM by Tony

Tuesday, January 06, 2004
Your Senate At Work

Ran across this randomly: Senate Resolution 158, introduced June 3, 2003 (PDF).


Posted 9:48 PM by Tony

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

Unlike other NGOs relating to Iraq, here's one that doesn't involve the sending of human shields to Iraq, or otherwise protecting Baathists.

The Spirit of America is collecting donations to assist the 1st Marine Division in obtaining medical, school, and sports equipment for Iraqi civilians. The division, as you may recall, participated in combat operations in Iraq last year, helping to capture Baghdad.

Just think of it as an off-season Toys for Tots program.

Posted 5:08 PM by Tony

Monday, January 05, 2004
Random Thought

You know, one reason for some of the pessimism in Iraq is that the country is composed of three disparate parts - Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites.

The tripartite nature of Iraq reminded me of the first sentence of Julius Caesar's Commentaries, which states:

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli appellantur.

(English version at University of Virgina Electronic Text Center)

Granted, ancient Gaul has been split up, but that region's current peacefulness gives hope that things will eventually turn out well in Iraq.

Posted 9:39 AM by Tony

Nazi Comparisons, The Extended Version

Michele points out that the Hitler comparisons are tired out, and that those who use them should really MoveOn (so to speak).

Ralph Peters illustrates how one might move away from the Hitler comparisons. In his New York Post column, he accuses Howard Dean of using Goebbel's tactic of "The Big Lie" (though, as the source points out, Goebbels may not have been the original source):

Then there are Dean's endless "Big Lies": Liberating 25 million Iraqis was "wrong." Saddam's capture doesn't make any difference. Osama bin Laden should be presumed innocent, despite his own admission of responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. Bush knew in advance about the 9/11 attacks. The Global War on Terror is a failure. The economy's a disaster. And the administration is hiding terrible secrets.

Paranoids and conspiracy theorists rejoice! You finally have a candidate of your own.

Of course, when Dean seals his gubernatorial records so Americans can't examine his own back-room deals, that's perfectly legitimate.

In Dean's alternate reality, everything the Bush administration has done and might do is a failure, no matter the facts. The president's even responsible for Mad Cow Disease. It's Goebbels again: Just keep repeating the lies until the lies assume the force of truth.

Peters has been a pretty good commentator on military/terrorism issues. While this column is a bit of a departure, it's definitely worth reading.

Posted 9:14 AM by Tony

Friday, January 02, 2004
Yasukuni, Revisited

What's with Japanese Prime Ministers and Yasukuni Shrine? First Nakasone, then Hashimoto, then Koizumi. Koizumi made his 4th (!) annual visit to Yasukuni yesterday, again igniting protests (via Straits Times).

To provide a bit of background, Yasukuni Shrine is a Shinto shrine that commemorates Japan's war dead. The problem is that among the 2.5 million names enshrined there are fourteen "Class-A" criminals, including wartime prime minister Tojo and General Iwane Matsui, associated with the Rape of Nanking*. (See Stephen Stratford's site for more on the post-war trials.) As a result, visits by Japanese politicians to the site are perceived as symptomatic of Japan's failure to confront its past.

The Marmot and Flying Yangban are of mixed opinion about this. I'm afraid I'll have to disagree with them on this one. Stopping the visits won't cause the criticisms to end, true. However, it's a step in the right direction, and there is, I think a difference between taking a baby step and no step at all.

While the Flying Yangban compares the Yasukuni visit to the President visiting Arlington National Cemetery, I'm not convinced that the analogy is appropriate. Consider the following paragraph, taken from the Q&A section of the Yasukuni web site:

Moreover, there were those who gave up their lives after the end of the Great East Asian War, taking upon themselves the responsibility for the war. There were also 1,068 "Martyrs of Showa" who were cruelly and unjustly tried as war criminals by a sham-like tribunal of the Allied forces (United States, England, the Netherlands, China and others). These martyrs are also the Kami of Yasukuni Jinja.

[emphasis added]

To me, the comparison to a presidential visit to Arlington would perhaps be more apt if Nathan Bedford Forrest were buried there and not in Memphis, and was listed on the cemetery's web site as a "martyr of the Confederacy." Which is not the case.

Sure, it's a small minority of the 2.5 million, but the characterization of the war criminals and the war crimes tribunals on the web site reflects the views of the Shinto organization administering the site. Koizumi's visit, in his official capacity as prime minister, lends an aura of respectability and support to those views.

Update: I am still trying to find the names of all fourteen class-As, but so far all I know is that the number includes the seven hung as a result of the trials.

This article alleges that Koizumi was a member of the "Shinto Political League," which could explain the repeated visits. However, I consider the source unreliable. Another article states that the full membership list can be found in the May 26, 2000 issue of Shukan Kinyobi, but since I don't know Japanese, this as far as I can get.

* Young and Shi argue that Emperor Hirohito's uncle Prince Asaka was far more culpable. I'm totally unqualified to judge the accuracy of that, though it is an interesting tidbit.

Posted 6:16 PM by Tony

Happy 2004!

Just wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year. So far, things are starting off just right.

Posted 7:37 AM by Tony

An Orange County native trapped in the SF Bay Area. Email at

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