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

Tuesday, August 31, 2004
The Governor Steps Up

Governor Schwarzengger, on being Republican (via CBS, Fox Reno, boston.com):

Now, many of you out there tonight are "Republican" like me in your hearts and in your beliefs. Maybe you're from Guatemala. Maybe you're from the Philippines. Maybe Europe or the Ivory Coast. Maybe you live in Ohio, Pennsylvania or New Mexico. And maybe just maybe you don't agree with this party on every single issue. I say to you tonight I believe that's not only okay, that's what's great about this country. Here we can respectfully disagree and still be patriotic still be American and still be good Republicans.

My fellow immigrants, my fellow Americans, how do you know if you are a Republican? I'll tell you how.

If you believe that government should be accountable to the people, not the people to the government...then you are a Republican! If you believe a person should be treated as an individual, not as a member of an interest group... then you are a Republican! If you believe your family knows how to spend your money better than the government does... then you are a Republican! If you believe our educational system should be held accountable for the progress of our children ... then you are a Republican! If you believe this country, not the United Nations, is the best hope of democracy in the world ... then you are a Republican! And, ladies and gentlemen ...if you believe we must be fierce and relentless and terminate terrorism ... then you are a Republican!

There is another way you can tell you're a Republican. You have faith in free enterprise, faith in the resourcefulness of the American people ... and faith in the U.S. economy. To those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say: "Don't be economic girlie men!"

Nitpick - Governor Arnold said:

They come because their hearts say to them, as mine did, "If only I can get to America." Someone once wrote — "There are those who say that freedom is nothing but a dream." They are right. It's the American dream.

The actual quote, by Archibald MacLeish, reads even better.


Posted 7:33 PM by Tony


Smacking Down Medea Benjamin

Michelle Malkin takes on professional agitator Medea Benjamin. Benjamin is clearly enamored of thuggish Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Medea Benjamin, August 14, 2004:

Hugo Chavez could teach US leaders a thing or two about winning votes [title of the article]

[ . . . ]

The opposition managed to collect enough signatures to trigger this Sunday’s referendum on the president’s mandate. Chavez supporters, bolstered by almost every poll, expect to win.

AFP/Yahoo!, August 16, 2004:

A woman was killed and at least four others wounded as backers of President Hugo Chavez fired on opposition protesters of vote results that will allow Chavez to finish his term.

[ . . . ]

[] Martiza Ron, 61, was killed Monday after gunmen on motorcycles and cars opened fire on a group of anti-Chavez protesters, according to neighborhood police chief Leonardo Peruta. Four wounded were treated at El Avila clinic near the scene, one of them legislator Ernesto Alvarenga, who had been shot in the chest, doctor Luis Chirinos said.


Posted 7:01 PM by Tony


Bandage, Anyone?

I'm not sure whether Kerry's M-79 wound (as alleged in Unfit for Command) counts as self-inflicted, but I figure the Purple Heart establishes a presumption that the wound met the appropriate criteria.

Nevertheless, this is just too darned funny (via SF Chronicle):

Democrats on Tuesday accused the GOP leadership of organizing a demonstration against candidate John Kerry's war record, calling "purple heart bandages" handed out by a convention delegate a slap at all veterans who have won the decoration.

"They insulted the United States of America, even though the president belatedly supported the combat record of John Kerry," said Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, a military veteran himself.

Republican Chairman Ed Gillespie asked delegate Morton Blackwell of Arlington, Va., to quit handing out the bandages, which carried the message: "It was just a self-inflicted scratch, but you see I got a Purple Heart for it."

As for Rangel's criticism, that's fair enough.

But then again, I think it's a slap at all veterans when a person testifies that, on a "day-to-day basis," one's fellow servicemen "personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, tape wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side." Especially, when one has to yet to apologize for it 33 years later.


Posted 2:49 PM by Tony


Not Only No...

... but hell, no!

I've always taken a dim view toward the unification policies and the Unification Ministry under President Roh. (See previous posts, in reverse chron order here, here, here for a selection of previous Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun's greatest hits, here, here, here; see generally the Marmot's old site)

Now, the new Unification Minister wants to start exporting high-technology to North Korea. This is one of those times where I have to remind myself that the Unification Minister is from South Korea (via Korea Times):

Unification Minister Chung Dong-young will Wednesday seek U.S. approval to allow the export of currently banned high-tech equipment to the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea _ the final obstacle in the road to local companies moving into the inter-Korean business zone.

Currently visiting the United States to discuss the North Korean nuclear standoff and various bilateral issues, Chung is scheduled to meet with Kenneth Juster, U.S. under secretary of commerce for industry and security, to discuss Washington’s concerns over the Kaesong project, according to Unification Ministry officials.

[ . . . ]

Chung is expected to ask the U.S. to make an exception for Kaesong-bound firms, allowing them to take equipment into the North that is restricted under the Wassenaar Arrangement. The arrangement, signed by 33 nations including South Korea, aims to block the flow of "strategic products" into countries listed as supporting terrorism, such as North Korea.

While the ban focuses on commercial weapons [huh? - ed.], it also covers "dual use" goods such as computers and telecommunications equipment. A number of the 15 firms scheduled to move into the industrial complex as part of a pilot program starting later this year have complained that the restriction will severely limit their commercial operations in the North.

[ . . . ]

The Kaesong Industrial Complex, located 8 kilometers north of the Demilitarized Zone, is one of three significant inter-Korean economic projects to emerge since Seoul’s adoption of a "sunshine" policy towards Pyongyang.

Now, I realize that my antipathy towards North Korea, the Unification Ministry, and the Roh government is almost reflexive at this point. Nonetheless, to the extent that the South Korean government wants to export technology that is covered by the Wassenaar Agreement, this seems like a very bad idea. Check out the list of controlled technology out for yourself.

Update: And arguing that the North already has technology it arguably shouldn't have really doesn't help (via Asia Times):

The South Korean companies said they must be permitted to bring computers with at least Pentium IV chips, which are essential for normal office work, citing earlier unconfirmed reports that the North already began to produce those kinds of computers.

"North Korea has produced computers with Pentium IV processors since 2002, which I saw during my visit to an electric appliance factory in Pyongyang," Olga PMaltseva, a Vladivostok-based journalist, said in her new book about the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il.

The Korean translation of the book, titled "A Waltz with Kim Jong Il" was published here on Monday.

"Seven hundred workers and technicians made 14,000 Pentium IV computers in 2002," she said.


Posted 8:34 AM by Tony


Does This Mean The Apocalypse Is Coming?

I sometimes thought if the SF Chronicle ever carried a column sympathetic to conservatives, that was a sign that the world was coming to an end. That's hyperbole of course - the Chron does carry the occasional conservative-friendly piece, but it's always a surprise, especially given the nature of the pieces by, among others, Morford and Sorensen.

Debra Saunders, who previously wrote about her first-hand experience with Kerry's flip-flops, discusses the Republican National Convention in New York:

In fact, the Rs are so unfazed at being the objects of hate that they are returning the glitzy city's scorn with goodwill and community service. The Republicans are doing more than turning the other cheek. They are giving New Yorkers their very blood: The RNC is sponsoring a blood drive for New York.

[ . . . ]

In fact, [New York City Mayor] Bloomberg says, all the anti-GOP protesters are welcome, as long as they are peaceful. Differences are fine, as long as activists don't trample the right of others to express their opinions.

I can't imagine San Francisco's illustrious leaders saying the same if hundreds of thousands of war supporters came to town to protest. And even if they could say it, I certainly can't imagine them meaning it.

Only one way to find out - I propose SF for the 2008 Republican National Convention. Awwww, yeah.


Posted 7:57 AM by Tony

Monday, August 30, 2004
What's Good For The Goose...

So the ACLU is representing lefties who posted personal information about Republican National Convention delegates on Indymedia (via SF Chronicle):

The American Civil Liberties Union, whose lawyers are representing the Web site's administrators, gave the Secret Service the e-mail addresses of the administrators in a letter Monday. But the ACLU said the group is not responsible for postings of lists of GOP delegates because the site guarantees anonymity to anyone who wants it.

"This type of investigation is really a form of intimidation and a message to activists that they will pay a price for speaking out," said Ann Beeson, the ACLU's associate legal counsel. "The posting of publicly available information about people who are in the news should not trigger an investigation."

[ . . . ]

There are several lists of Republican convention delegates posted on the Indymedia site; one lists more than 2,000 of them. Included are names, home addresses, e-mail addresses and the New York-area hotels where many are staying.

"The delegates should know not only what people think of the platform they will ratify, but that they are not welcome in New York City," said one posting, first reported Monday by The New York Times.

Now, why does this sound familiar?

The ACLU of Oregon's amicus curiae brief in the district court that case is here and is rather instructive. The ACLU in that case had argued that putting up the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of abortion providers was a threat, not free speech.

The ACLU had argued that the web site was outside the First Amendment, should be punished. The organization offered the following test:

1. Considering the alleged threat in light of its relevant factual context, would a reasonable listener (or recipient of the communication) interpret the statement as communicating a serious expression of an intent to inflict or cause serious harm to the listener, i.e. would a reasonable person perceive the statement as a threat? (This is the objective test.)

2. Did the speaker intend that the communication be taken as a threat to inflict or cause serious harm to the listener, thereby intending to place the listener in fear for his or her safety, regardless of whether the speaker actually intended to carry out the threat? (This is the subjective test.)

Judge Kozinski ultimately rejected that test on appeal, as violating the protections of the First Amendment.

I find it pretty inconsistent that the ACLU is now arguing that Indymedia's post deserve the protection of the First Amendment, while the factually similar abortion case does not. Free speech for me, not thee?

It's not quite hypocrisy, but it's pretty darned amusing.
-----
For the record, I think the abortion web site and Indymedia cases are both deplorable, but protected forms of speech.


Posted 8:35 PM by Tony


Monday Morning Cynicism

John Edwards, Democratic vice-presidential candidate, on nukes and Iran (via Reuters):

If elected U.S. president, Sen. John Kerry would offer Iran a deal allowing it to keep its nuclear power plants if it gave up the right to retain bomb-making nuclear fuel, said Kerry's vice presidential running mate in an interview [in Washington Post, here] published on Monday.

Sen. John Edwards told The Washington Post if Iran did not accept this "great bargain," this would confirm the Islamic state was building nuclear weapons under cover of a nuclear power initiative.

Let's leave aside Iran's position on the issue, from several weeks ago.

What caught my eye was the headline of the Reuters article:
Kerry Would Offer Special Iran Deal, Says Edwards

I kept thinking of Edwards as a late-night TV huckster: "If you act now, we'll throw in our acquiescence to sharia, at no cost to you!" (via Telegraph by way of IMAO; see also Cox and Forkum):

Atefeh [Rajabi]'s typical teenage behaviour [engaging in sex with a single man] meant that she was charged and found guilty of "acts incompatible with chastity". The judge in the Islamic court ruled that the appropriate penalty was death. That's right: death. Her sentence was confirmed by Iran's Supreme Court.

Two weeks ago, on August 15, the 16-year-old girl was hung from a crane in the main square of Neka, in full public view, in order to keep "society safe from acts against public morality". [the man, in contrast, got 100 lashes]

Remind me again why we're offering those people such a "great bargain"?


Posted 8:36 AM by Tony

Friday, August 27, 2004
The Aftermath Of Najaf

There's a WaPo article in MSNBC talking about the aftermath of Najaf. Let's get the silly parts of the article out of the way first:

1. The article notes: "Pinpoint fire and tight restrictions on munitions assure that the gold-domed Imam Ali shrine remained all but unscathed."

At the same time, the article implies that the damage to other buildings is the result of Americans gone wild: "The damage to Najaf is the consequence of an urban setting for battle, a woefully overmatched enemy and an American military doctrine that unites terrifying firepower with almost zero tolerance for casualties in its own ranks."

This seems a bit inconsistent to me, expecially since the article later on discusses the selective targeting of enemy strongpoints. If one is using "pinpoint fire and tight restrictions on munitions" to avoid the mosque, then those same constraints suggest that the damages buildings were likely hit for a reason.

2. The sympathy for the people shooting at Americans: "woefully overmatched," "terrifying firepower." This isn't a matter of sporting entertainment. Does the reporter suggest less firepower as a way of making things more even?

A couple of notable incidents:

1. Beware the donkey:

At one point this week, soldiers from a 1st Cavalry Division battalion led by M1-A1 Abrams tanks and heavily armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles watched in bemused wonder as their opponent sent a donkey with a rocket-propelled grenade strapped to its side onto the field of battle. The remote triggering device was a string running toward the building corner from which the animal had emerged.


2. Note that 2/7 Cav, mentioned in the article, "has fought almost nonstop for two weeks without losing a single soldier."

3. Again, don't mess with the Samoans:

Perhaps the closest call came this week, when a grenade exploded in a basement room where Sgt. Varitogi Taetulli was wrestling an insurgent. The fight was a miniature version of the larger battle: Taetulli, from American Samoa, weighs 230 pounds. The militiaman weighed perhaps half as much.

But the crucial advantage was that Taetulli was wearing an armored vest. He escaped the grenade explosion alive and hollering to get back in the fight. The militiaman died immediately.

"It's the best feeling in the world," Karcher said of the armor, technology and munitions that safeguard the U.S. force. "We've been given the best tools in the world for waging war."


Posted 5:54 PM by Tony

Thursday, August 26, 2004
Korean Trials

When I was once informed that the Korean legal system did not use juries, even for criminal trials. The judge determines both liability and sentencing. I was tremendously surprised. I had not studied comparative law, and was unfamiliar with other legal systems. Moreover, the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of the right to jury trial in criminal and civil cases was so familiar as to be part of my background assumptions on how the law should work.

Things may be changing, as the Korean judiciary reform committee experiments with citizen participation in the adjudication process (via Korea Times; see also Korea Herald):

The judiciary reform committee, which is calling for an overhaul of the current judge-centered system on Thursday held mock trials as a first step toward the introduction of a U.S.-style jury system or German-style citizens' participation as judges.

In the mock trials held by the committee at the Seoul Central District Court, thorough comparisons were made between the current system which gives omnipotent power to judges, and the American type of jury system [jury determines guilt and judge determines sentence] or German citizen judge system [in which 2 citizens join 3 judges on a panel].

First US-style law schools, now this. This has got to be a bit of a tumultuous time for Korean lawyers.


Posted 3:10 PM by Tony


That Olde Time Radio

When I moved to the Bay Area several years ago, I was told that the radio stations was one of the better things about living up here. I should have asked for a better breakdown. Aside from the prominence given to public radio, my own opinion is that the diversity on the FM band is just about the same, perhaps even a bit less. Compare for yourself (via @LA and SF Chronicle).

Finally, a bit fed up, I bought a Sirius satellite radio recently. I've been really pleased at the selection, especially for techno / electronica (which is why I went with Sirius over XM, but it was a really close decision). Basically, the whole thing really kicks ass.

Which is why I read this article in Forbes with some dismay:

In 1945 many AM incumbents, ostensibly concerned that interference related to sunspots might endanger their rivals in FM, encouraged the feds to uproot the FM dial and move it to a higher frequency band. This rendered half a million FM radios useless and forced the nation's FM stations to start over. A congressional investigation in 1948 found that the interference fears were bogus and that a Federal Communications Commission report had been conveniently altered to disguise that fact. Too late--the shift helped inferior AM technology remain dominant for the next 25 years. The coda: In 1954 the inventor of FM radio, Edwin Armstrong, frustrated by repeated setbacks and all but bankrupt, penned a suicide note to his wife and leapt out the window of his 13th-floor apartment.

Fifty years later radio's old guard has been as effective at thwarting the digital threat. Existing stations thrive on an array of perks won by radio operators, including free use of the airwaves (XM and Sirius, by contrast, had to pay almost $200 million combined for their spectrum) and an exclusive exemption from paying royalties to performers. But the NAB's real forte has been in the modes of attack and delay, persuading regulators and Congress to impose daunting restraints on the satellite rivals and stalling their debut for the better part of a decade.

[ . . . ]

In 1995 lawmakers slapped down digital newcomers by passing a law backed by the NAB and the Recording Industry Association of America. Traditional radio has never had to pay royalties to performers, on the rationale that the airplay helps those same performers sell records. The Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995 maintained that exemption but barred almost every form of digital radio from getting the same break. The sole type of digital broadcast that Congress kept royalty free: the NAB's baby, HD radio.

[ . . . ]

By the time the FCC approved the entry of XM and Sirius in 1995, victory was illusory. Regulators burdened them with an array of restraints that strengthened old radio's grip on advertisers and viewers. The FCC's license forbade free, advertising-supported satellite stations, instead requiring firms to sign up paying subscribers. It reduced the number of players from four to two and cut the number of channels the satellite industry could carry in half by shrinking its airspace from 50 to 25 megahertz.

[XM and Sirius have doubled their subscribers in the last year, from 1,000,000 and 250,000, respectively. XM shares are now $28, up from $1.75 in 2002. Sirius shares are up to $2, from 41 cents in March 2003]

In January Panero riled radio yet again, this time by offering local radio content in an effort to accelerate his growth even further. Despite assuring the FCC in 1995 that it would be a national radio service, XM began offering local traffic and weather channels tailored to 20 different markets. It did so by exploiting a loophole. XM and Sirius systems require a network of ground-based antennas in cities with tall buildings to boost satellite signals that otherwise would have trouble seeping in. At the NAB's behest the FCC forbade XM to use those transmitters to originate and broadcast local content.

It never occurred to the NAB lobbyists that XM engineers would figure out a way to squeeze local traffic and weather channels into supersmall streams and simply send 20 new localized feeds via satellite to the entire country. Panero readily admits that flooding the entire nation with a traffic channel that's of interest only to drivers in a single city is a grossly inefficient use of XM's capacity. The FCC rules leave him no choice, he says. Sirius Satellite has launched a similar service.

[ ] The FCC is now considering an NAB petition that could result in a ban on the local programming. In Congress, meanwhile, the NAB is plying another argument for halting XM's local push: The traffic and weather channels put national security at risk. The NAB says that by undermining the viability of local radio stations, listeners could lose access to regular radio's emergency broadcasts in a disaster. It worked for the NAB's many fans in Congress. In March a bipartisan group, led by Republican Charles Pickering of Mississippi and Democrat Gene Green of Texas, introduced the Local Emergency Radio Service Preservation Act. It would ban all "locally differentiated" satellite programming outright. The bill, with 43 eager cosponsors, is pending before the House Committee on Energy & Commerce

More info on Armstrong, the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995, and Local Emergency Radio Service Preservation Act (H.R. 4026). To my relief, none of the Representatives from my state are involved in this last piece of idiocy. But that's cold comfort, given the number of cosponsors.

To me, the closest analog would appear to be television. DirecTV, a satellite broadcaster, carries local channels, which differentiate the service in one local area from another. Yet, somehow, broadcast TV stations survive. Why wouldn't the same hold true for radio stations?

The justification also seems a little thin. My understanding is that the satellite radio checks the receiver ID to see if it matches a valid subscription. If one were truly concerned about ensuring communications during emergencies, satellite stations could simply allow signal reception on all receivers without such checks (compare the FCC cell phone rules concerning 911; also FCC Order 97-402).

Yes, I know all about "rent-seeking," but this seems a particular weaselly example of using regulation to keep down competition.


Posted 9:30 AM by Tony

Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Random TV Watching

Before going to work this morning, I was watching music videos for the first time in a long while. So the first one that came on was Breaking the Habit, by Linkin Park.

I liked the video, but found it a bit disturbing.


Posted 4:25 PM by Tony


Not Just The Swift Vets Anymore

Rich Lowry at the National Review posts a letter from several Vietnam veterans (as opposed to "Vietnam-era veteran") to John Kerry:

That's why so many veterans are troubled by your vote AGAINST funding for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, after you voted FOR sending them into battle. And that's why we are so concerned about the comments you made AFTER you came home from Vietnam. You accused your fellow veterans of terrible atrocities and, to this day, you have never apologized. Even last night, you claimed to be proud of your post-war condemnation of our actions.

We're proud of our service in Vietnam. We served honorably in Vietnam and we were deeply hurt and offended by your comments when you came home.

You can't have it both ways. You can't build your convention and much of your campaign around your service in Vietnam, and then try to say that only those veterans who agree with you have a right to speak up. There is no double standard for our right to free speech. We all earned it.

[ . . . ]

We urge you to condemn the double standard that you and your campaign have enforced regarding a veteran's right to openly express their feelings about your activities on return from Vietnam.

A look at several of the signatories shows that they really can't be brushed off:

Duke Cunningham: Navy, F-4 pilot, first fighter ace of the Vietnam War, Navy Cross, 2 Silver Stars, Purple Heart

Sam Johnson: Air Force, F-4 pilot, prisoner of war 1966-1973, decorations include 2 Silver Stars, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star with Valor

Robert O'Malley: Marines, Medal of Honor recipient

James Fleming: Air Force, helicopter pilot, Medal of Honor recipient

In addition to the above, Jen Martinez has a letter written by Bud Day, Air Force pilot, Medal of Honor recipient, and from 1967 to 1973, POW. And then there's other POWs who were confronted with Kerry's activities, courtesy of their captors:

Paul Galanti, a former Navy pilot who spent 2,432 days in captivity and worked on the 2000 primary campaign of fellow former POW Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., also remembers the broadcasts.

"It was propaganda. They stopped torturing us after Ho Chi Minh died pretty much, but all that stuff we got banged on -- they wanted us to say and to confess to war crimes and killing babies and all this other stuff," he said. "They kept talking about Vietnam Veterans Against the War, they had seen the right way and blah, blah, blah, and they were on our side, they had crossed over to the peoples' side and all that stuff."

Galanti said he didn't know Kerry's name then, although he had seen a newspaper photograph while in captivity that showed someone who looked like Lurch (a character in "The Addams Family" television show in the mid-'60s). Like others, they had only heard newscasts about a former Navy lieutenant and the anti-war movement. "I figured out who it was later," he said.

This should get interesting.
-----
Personally, I'd just as soon that Vietnam not be the focus of the electoral season. But, Kerry sowed the wind, by claiming "I defended this country as a young man" and his "band of brothers". He'd best be prepared to reap the whirlwind, as it were.


Posted 1:23 PM by Tony


Deflating A Myth

Sunil Ram goes after the Canadian self-perception Canada-as-peacekeeper in the Globe and Mail:

The myth of Canada as the great peacekeeper is one of the more fanciful delusions under which Canadians live. It's time to let the myth die.

Peacekeeping, for Canadians, is indelibly linked with Lester Pearson, who as secretary of state for external affairs won the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize for his concept of armed peacekeeping - specifically, the United Nations Emergency Force, which was deployed to end the Suez crisis. As Pearsonism permeated the psyche of average Canadians, a national myth was born: Canada as compassionate, middle-power peacekeeper.

[ . . . ]

The myth runs counter to the actual history of Canadian military operations since the end of the Cold War: the 1991 Persian Gulf war; the 1993 battle of the Medek pocket in Croatia; the 1999 invasion of Kosovo; and Afghanistan in 2003.

[ . . . ]

As of June of 2004 - thanks to our short-term commitment in Haiti - 726 Canadian personnel were on UN missions. In that same time, Brazil had committed 1,351 troops, Germany 3,306, India 2,928, South Africa 2,365 and Uruguay 1,908.

[ . . . ]

The most recent folly related to the peacekeeping myth is the Liberal government's announcement that it would create a 5,000-person "UN peacekeeping brigade." The only way this can be achieved without more funding, or raising the manning levels of the Canadian Forces, would be to strip the navy and the air force of personnel. Even then, it is doubtful that more than 1,000 to 2,000 troops of dubious peacekeeping quality could be committed.

Ram also argues that the Canadian contribution has had little effect on international perception of Canada.

I'll admit, I'd bought into the idea of Canada as peacekeeping global citizen. Frankly, I should have known better, considering the difficulties the Canadian Forces have had, e.g., the Sea Kings, a helicopter base being shut down for safety problems, manpower difficulties relating to ship deployment, and the like.


Posted 9:51 AM by Tony

Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Virtual Training

I picked up Full Spectrum Warrior for the Xbox recently. Suffice to say, I think it rocks. The game revolves around the command of two fire teams of four soldiers each, in an urban environment. There have been complaints about the inability to control individual soldiers, but the whole point of the game is command. The New York Times has an article on the use of virtual training tools that is worth reading:

For the past three years, the military has been entertaining the surprising idea that video games, even those that you play on a commerical system like Microsoft's Xbox, can be an effective way to train soldiers. In fact, the Army is now one of the industry's most innovative creators, hiring high-end programmers and designers from Silicon Valley and Hollywood to devise and refine its games. Some of these games are action-packed, like Full Spectrum Warrior [originally developed by the Institute for Creative Technologies at USC]. Others, like one that the military's Special Operations Command is currently designing to help recruits practice their Arabic, are less so. All the games, however, speak to the military's urgent need to train recruits for the new challenges of peacekeeping efforts in places like Iraq. [ . . . ]

Modern military simulations have existed since the Second World War, when projected films of planes were used to train gunners to identify aircraft and mocked-up cockpits were physically rocked side to side to replicate the feeling of a dogfight. The military began to create highly sophisticated simulators in the 80's, taking the electronic instrument panels of helicopters, ships and tanks and wiring them to computers that could display virtual targets. With these installations, still regarded as the most accurate training technology available for learning complex battle maneuvers, hundreds of soldiers could fight together as if on one battlefield, practicing moves that they had previously been able to discuss only theoretically.

In the early 90's, however, the military lost some of its dominance in the field of computer simulations as the video-game industry began to take off. Groundbreaking games like Quake and Counterstrike -- so-called first-person shooters [also known as "FPS"], because the players view the action from a first-person perspective -- were pioneers of a style of graphics that depicted combat from an individual's perspective. Computer-game designers in the 80's looked enviously at the state-of-the-art graphics available to the military. Now military experts could walk into a Wal-Mart and buy games off the shelf that had crisper visuals and smarter artificial intelligence than some of their own tools. Michael Zyda, director of the Navy Modeling, Virtual Environments and Simulation Institute, remembers the moment when that shift occurred. "We'd show our stuff to generals," he said, "and they'd say, 'Well, my son is playing something that looks better than that, and it only cost $50.'"

The military's simulators, of course, were still elite tools. But they were prohibitively expensive (a single military flight simulator can cost up to $30 million), and they were products of the cold-war era, designed for combat in which large armies face one another head-on. In the eyes of someone like Neale Cosby, director of the simulation center of the Institute for Defense Analyses, a private group that advises the Pentagon, the old technology was outdated. "We do not have good simulations for combatants who walk to work," he said. "Tanks, Bradley vehicles, that's all cold-war stuff." For the needs of today's lighter, more flexible Army and its urban campaigns, in which soldiers walk door to door, video games that made you stroll through dungeons looking to slay shrieking monsters suddenly seemed relevant.

Before long, military experts began to approach private-sector game designers, looking for opportunities to collaborate. Video games have even been used as a form of outreach, the military's public face to American youth. More than 10 million people have downloaded a first-person shooter game called America's Army that the Army gives away as a recruiting tool. It now ranks as one of the most popular games ever. (In a recent poll by I to I Research, 30 percent of a group of young people with a favorable view of the military said they had developed that view from playing America's Army.)

Not only did the military seek out game designers, but after Sept. 11 there were instances of game designers reaching out to the military to offer their services. ''It was the reversal of the cultural flow,'' Zyda said. He remembers fielding phone calls from people saying, ''Well, I've been doing entertainment for years, but now I want to do something for the country.'' One of the designers who got involved was Robert Gehorsam, the C.E.O. of the games company Forterra Systems, who as a Sony executive oversaw the development of the wildly popular online video game EverQuest [Forterra's game, There, is being used to train soldiers being deployed to Iraq.

[links added]

Check out the whole thing - it makes for interesting reading.

The Marine Corps has also been involved in this sort of virtual simulation, back with the Marine Doom project (see also Government Computer News from 1997). A more current simulation is coming out this year as Close Combat: First to Fight, from Destineer and Atomic Games (see also developer comments here and here).


Posted 10:25 AM by Tony

Monday, August 23, 2004
Stupid Comparisons

From Kurt Vonnegut, who really should know better (via LGF):

Our president is a Christian? So was Adolf Hitler.

I'm sure that in subsequent publications, Vonnegut will treat us to a veritable buffet of Bush=Hitler quotes:

Our president has a Y chromosome? So did Adolf Hitler.

Our president is a Homo sapiens? So was Adolf Hitler.

Our president has a dog? So did Adolf Hitler.

So does that make PETA a bunch of fascists?


Posted 2:11 PM by Tony


Kerry, Character, And Vietnam

I'm not going to question whether Kerry did or did not earn his medals, or whether he did or did not act appropriately while under fire. What truly bothers me about his service there (not to be confused with his characterization and use of that service, or for that matter, his post war actions, including his 1971 Winter Soldier testimony before Congress and its effeffects, which does bother me), is the following:

1. Buried in this Boston Globe article on Kerry's Cambodian Christmas:

Kerry said in a 2003 interview that after the Christmas Eve 1968 engagement, he asked his crew to write a caustic telegram to the chief of naval forces in Vietnam, Elmo Zumwalt Jr., to wish him "Merry Christmas from the troops that weren't in Cambodia, which was us. We were."

Am I the only one who's bothered by the prospect of a commanding officer encouraging his subordinates to publicly exhibit disrespect to those in command? I've never been in the military, but that seems a bit prejudicial to discipline to me, as well as an intentional undermining of the chain of command.

2. John Hillen points out the timing issue - leaving his command after 4 months.

This is a person who would be Commander-in-Chief. Interesting
-----
PS - If Kerry is going to link Bush to the Swift Boat Vets on the basis of common supporters, can Bush link Kerry to Indymedia, the loathsome Ted Rall, MoveOn (critiqued here, the Mob, and people like this. Seems like a fair trade to me.


Posted 1:34 PM by Tony

Friday, August 20, 2004
Interesting Reading

Gamespy has had a week's worth of coverage relating to the history of Dungeons and Dragons. Interesting stuff, starting from the first paragraph of the first article:

You are entering a darkened dungeon…"

It's a scene familiar to many across the world. A small group of people sitting around a table littered with strangely shaped dice, thick books, and pieces of paper filled with arcane statistics. It's a Dungeons & Dragons game, and while the rules may have changed a bit since it was first published, the social interactions between the players haven't. That makes it impossible to tell if this is a group of gamers from 1974 or 2004. Impossible, that is, until you take a look at the faces of the players and realize that one of them is Dame Judi Dench, a doyenne of British cinema and an accomplished actress, (she's best known in America for her role as "M" in the Pierce Brosnan James Bond films). The place is the set of the big-budget summer blockbuster The Chronicles of Riddick, and the Dungeon Master is none other than Vin Diesel -- action star, leading man, and 25-year veteran of Dungeons & Dragons campaigns.

It's not all about media sensationalism.


Posted 1:21 PM by Tony


A Second Ohno?

Just lovely. I guess we're going to have a summer version of the Kim/Ohno incident. (via Korea Times; see Cathartidae re Ohno):

South Korea's Olympic delegation has filed an official protest with the FIG (International Federation of Gymnastics) regarding bronze medallist Yang Tae-young's score in the parallel bars during the men's individual all-around final, the Korea Gymnastic Association (KGA) said Friday.

Following a report by International Gymnast Magazine on Thursday, the KGA confirmed the filing but added that it doesn't expect the decision will be repealed. Even though it was the last routine of the high bar that decided the color of Yang's medal, the protest concerned the scoring for his parallel bars routine, his fifth.

The Korean delegation sent the FIG a formal written inquiry on Yang's parallel bars start value, arguing that the routine should have been rated a 10.0 and that it was wrongly set at 9.9 by the judges. If correct, gold medallist Paul Hamm of the United States would have needed at least a 9.889 to beat Yang. Yang did the same composition as in earlier qualifications but they started from 10.0 points at that time.

Yang was in first place after five events with a combined score of 48.336, 0.35 point ahead of Hamm. In the last event of the high bar, however, Hamm scored a 9.837 while Yang earned a 9.475 after making a mistake.

The result dropped Yang to third while Hamm beat out South Korea's Kim Dae-eun by 0.012, the narrowest margin for the gold in Olympic gymnastics history.

You can see where this is going, don't you?

"We consider this case hard to accept and also contrary to the spirit of the clean Olympics, heavily stressed by Jacque Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee. That's why we decided to file the protest," said Shin Bak-jae, manager of the South Korean Olympic team.

I just want to point out to sure-to-be-outraged Korean "netizens" (defined as "'tards with computers" at the now-defunct IA) that they should just suck it up and deal with it. If they need pointers, I'm sure they can ask Roy Jones Jr.

Update: The International Gymnastics Federation is reviewing the scoring. The score and the medal standing will not change, but the judges might be sanctioned. At least Yang is more-or-less okay with it (via SF Chronicle):

"What's done is done," he said. "I got this result because of my own mistake, so I should not complain. I must accept the outcome."


Posted 8:08 AM by Tony

Thursday, August 19, 2004
PETA Watch

This is interesting (via Brand Republic; see also Vogue UK):

According to a report on Vogue.com, Crawford is to advertise American fur label Blackglama, following in the footsteps of stars such as Lauren Bacall and Bette Davis.

Animal rights group Peta is likely to kick up a storm on hearing the news, as Crawford once posed with fellow models Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Elle Macpherson and Christy Turlington in the famous 1994 "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" campaign.

Edward Brennan, the chief executive of American Legend, which markets the Blackglama brand, said Crawford only appeared in the Peta campaign by mistake because she had posed in a fake fur hat for the designer Todd Oldham.

Brennan told the fashion title Women's Wear Daily that the photographer was an animal rights activist and the Peta logo had been added to the picture afterwards.

Now, Schiffer, Campbell and Moss subsequently went back to modeling fur clothing. Whether this is the true explanation or simply backpeddling, I don't know.

I do find the reporter's conclusion a bit odd, though, if the rationale for going back to fur is disputable:

Crawford is not the first model to swap her principles for a fur coat. Campbell has also worn fur after appearing in the 1994 ad.

After all, how is she swapping her principles if she never subscribed to them in the first place?


Posted 3:51 PM by Tony


Mmm, Bear... I Mean, Beeer

This is just one of those ridiculous stories that I just can't pass up (via CNN):

"We noticed a [black] bear sleeping on the common lawn and wondered what was going on until we discovered that there were a lot of beer cans lying around," said Lisa Broxson, a worker at the Baker Lake Resort, 80 miles (129 kilometers) northeast of Seattle.

[ . . . ]

It turns out the bear was a bit of a beer sophisticate. He tried a mass-market Busch beer, but switched to Rainier Beer, a local ale, and stuck with it for his drinking binge.

[ . . . ]

[Wildlife agents] set a trap using as bait some doughnuts, honey and two cans of Rainier Beer. It worked, and the bear was captured for relocation.

That'd pretty much get me, too.


Posted 8:06 AM by Tony

Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Does This Count As A Flip Flop?

2004, speech to Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Convention, by John Kerry (via U.S. Newswire, paid for by Kerry-Edwards 2004):

Thank you. I am proud to be a lifetime member of this organization and grateful for your continued deep commitment to veterans and to the defense and security of our nation. For more than 100 years now, you have had many distinguished veterans come before you - some Republican, some Democrat, some presidents. But as a fellow veteran, I can proudly say that there is one title that is more important than all, and that is patriot. You have all earned that title and I am proud to stand with you today. [emphasis added]

1971, Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) fund raising letter, titled "Men of Peace", by John Kerry (via Washington Times):

[The American Legion and VFW] were partly responsible for the military attitudes in this country though their unlimited lobbying power — somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million. . . . That kind of influence must be confronted and dealt with.

[VVAW] could support counteractions that will allow men to exist without the threat of nuclear annihilation or constant military ones.

[The American Legion and VFW] have not been able, at the national level in the past five years, to recruit successfully among the younger veterans. These younger veterans are obviously not content with a paramilitary, pro-war organization representing them. We are their answer.

1971, "The New Soldier", by John Kerry (via same Washington Times article; see also Weekly Standard; photo of cover at Southern Appeal):

We will not quickly join those who march on Veterans Day waving small flags, calling to memory those thousands who died for the 'greater glory of the United States.' ... We will not readily join the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Ahh, Nuance!
-----
Yes, I realize it's unfair to mock Kerry for actions 33 years ago. I think former Senator Alan Simpson spoke cuttingly of the irrelevance of bringing up youthful indiscretions, but I haven't been able to nail down the quote. Nonetheless, it's consistent with other Kerry behavior that's less separated by time.


Posted 7:03 PM by Tony


A Fabulist Life

First the 1968 Christmas holiday in the hostile waters of Cambodia, now this (via SF Chronicle):

John Kerry, Bob Kerrey. It's easy to get confused.

At least that's how the Kerry campaign is explaining claims that Kerry -- the Democratic presidential candidate -- served as vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Oops. Make that Bob Kerrey -- the former Democratic senator from Nebraska who did serve as the panel's vice chairman.

In news releases and postings on Kerry's campaign Web site as recently as last Friday, the Massachusetts senator is touted as the panel's former vice chairman. However, according to the Senate Historical Office, Kerry never had the seniority to hold a leadership position on the committee -- though he was a member from 1993 until 2001.

"John Kerry, Bob Kerrey -- similar names," said Kerry campaign spokesman Michael Meehan, adding that any reference to Kerry as vice chairman was an error.

What's that say about your campaign when your own people can't remember who you are or what you did? Oh well, at least the Kerry campaign isn't claiming that Kerry was a former SEAL who was awarded the Medal of Honor. (Admittedly, Kerrey's behavior on the 9/11 Commission is a bit of a counterbalance.)

It's almost as if the candidate and the campaign are affected with some weird political version of Munchhausen syndrome.


Posted 11:00 AM by Tony

Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Thinking Outside The Mosque

Ralph Peters has an opinion piece in the New York Post, commenting on the fact that we're fighting Sadr's people again because we lacked the resolve to finish things the first time around. He also makes a suggestion concerning the Imam Ali shrine (see Global Security for background):

A point may come soon when it just won't be worth risking the lives of our troops any longer. If we cannot fight to win, we're foolish to spend our soldiers' blood for nothing. If Iraq lacks the will to save itself, our troops won't be able to save it. And then there is the bogus issue of mosques, which our leaders approach with superstition, not sense. While Najaf's Imam Ali shrine truly is a sacred place, the fact is that there are mosques and there are mosques.

Our unwillingness to target even a derelict neighborhood mosque packed with ammunition, weapons and terrorists is not only militarily foolish — it's based upon the assumption that Muslims are so stupid that they don't know the rules of their own religion. That's nonsense. They know that mosques aren't supposed to be used as bunkers. But they're not going to shout it from the rooftops to help us out.

Were we to destroy a series of local mosques used by terrorists throughout Iraq, there would be an initial outcry — which the media would exaggerate. But it would blow over with remarkable speed. The only lasting effect would be to put the terrorists on notice that we won't let them make the rules any longer.

Make no mistake: It's our folly and moral cowardice that encouraged our enemies to make widespread use of mosques. We created this monster, as surely as our timidity inflated Sadr. Prime Minister Allawi may yet summon the courage lacked by President Bush (and certainly by that human weathervane, John Kerry). But if Allawi folds and lets Sadr walk again, it means our troops are merely pawns in a game we're determined to lose. Our troops deserve better. We need to let them win.

During World War II, the Pope successfully prevailed on all parties to avoid using the Vatican for military purposes. Had the Axis taken over the Vatican, the Allies, in all likelihood, would have bombed it. The Sistine Chapel, gone. The Pieta, in fragments. St. Peter's, pockmarked with shrapnel marks. And that decision still would have been the right one.


Posted 8:49 AM by Tony

Monday, August 16, 2004
One Step Closer To Three More Years

I mentioned earlier that Korea was contemplating setting up a US-style law school system, in which one would get an undergraduate degree, then get a law degree as a graduate degree.

Looks like this plan is one step closer to fruition (via Korea Times):

The ruling and opposition parties have agreed to push for the introduction of a U.S.-style law school system by around 2007, despite strong opposition from the legal community.

Reps. Lee Eun-young of the Uri Party and Park Se-il of the Grand National Party said Monday they plan to introduce a bill to the National Assembly next month requiring prospective lawyers to attend a three-year graduate law school before sitting the bar exam.

Currently students can become lawyers without even studying law at undergraduate level if they are able to pass the bar exam.

Park, a first-term lawmaker and presidential aide during the Kim Young-sam administration, said the reform is urgently needed to prepare for the opening of the domestic legal market. "Legal education should be more specialized. Now lawyers are only educated on basic legal concepts," he said.

[ . . . ]

However, many practicing lawyers have expressed opposition to the proposal, arguing that the legal environment here is different to that of the U.S. and that the move would have a negative impact on the legal sector. The Seoul Bar Association said 65 percent of its members do not want the U.S. system adopted.

A couple things are notable in this:

First, the bipartisan nature of the bill. The Uri Party and GNP are the majority and minority parties, respectively, with a lot of bad blood between them. Frankly, I'm amazed at the cooperation, given that the Korean Assembly reguarly features episodes of physical assaults. [Disclaimer - I dislike the Uri Party, finding them to have the emotional and intellectual maturity of a group of Teletubbies.]

Second, the reaction of much of the legal community. It strikes me as a very guild-type, closed-shop mentality. The next few years of market readjustment ought to be interesting.


Posted 7:43 PM by Tony

Saturday, August 14, 2004
Chirpiness Gone Horribly Wrong

I understand the need to fill air time, but seriously, Katie Couric's utterances at the Olympic ceremonies were just absurd:

The Iraqi Olympic team certainly has a tortured history...literally.
(via Legal XXX

Allah goes has an even better Couric exchange, concerning the Saudis.

Yet, somehow, the New York Times states:

There should be no complaints that Costas and his co-host, Katie Couric, said anything offensive about the countries as their athletes marched in.

What planet are they living on?


Posted 11:56 AM by Tony

Friday, August 13, 2004
Friday Picture Pointers

No pictures here today, but I point out the following:

One of Conrad's readers shows off.

bunny mcintosh gets bored at work.

Enjoy your weekend!


Posted 5:12 PM by Tony


Just Say No To Preparedness

Baldilocks points out an executive order that John Kerry allegedly drafted, in his capacity as Lieutenant Governor, for then-Governor Michael Dukakis (or as we refer to him around here, Michael the M-1). She wanted to find a corroborating source.

Well, ask and ye shall receive (via Massachusetts Trial Court Libraries, slightly reformatted):

THE COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON 02133

By His Excellency
MICHAEL S. DUKAKIS
Governor

EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 242

WHEREAS, every community across the Commonwealth is exposed to multiple hazards, all of which have the potential to disrupt the community, damage property and cause loss of life; and

WHEREAS, such emergencies come in many categories: technological and man-made hazards caused by the production, transportation, use and disposal of chemicals, radioactive materials and fuels; urban fires; nuclear power plant accidents; natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, drought, blizzards, extreme cold, and sea surges; internal disturbances such as riots, demonstrations, prison breaks, strikes leading to violence or lack of human services, acts of terrorism; energy and material shortages from weather, strikes, price wars, labor problems and resource scarcity; and finally, the ultimate emergency, attack by a hostile power, whether nuclear, conventional, terrorist, chemical or an attack accomplished through biological warfare; and

WHEREAS, from time to time circumstances require that we reevaluate the direction and goals of agency programs, including close examination of the nature of evacuation plans being developed under Executive Order 31 and dealing solely with the threat of nuclear war; and

WHEREAS, the decreased warning time of nuclear attack makes evacuation impracticable; and

WHEREAS, evidence and analyses establish that there are no safe havens from a potential nuclear attack, since rural areas could be hit by design or by error, and even so-called "limited attacks" confined to military or economic targets could contaminate vast areas of the country with hazardous levels of radiation; and

WHEREAS, nuclear weapons do exist and until they are eliminated could affect the population of the Commonwealth in the form of limited or full scale enemy attack, terrorist activities, accidental launch or detonation; and

WHEREAS, the existing and potential strength of nuclear weapons is such that nuclear war can neither be won nor survived, it can only be prevented; and

WHEREAS, the only effective defense against the horrors of nuclear weapons lies in their elimination and in the prevention of nuclear war or attacks; and

WHEREAS, emergency planning should concentrate on broad ranges of hazards, with particular emphasis on those catastrophes for which planning can provide realistic opportunity for mitigating impact.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, MICHAEL S. DUKAKIS, Governor of the Commonwealth acting in the authority of Acts of 1950, Chapter 639, as amended, and in particular Sections 4, 6, 7, 8, 16, and 20 thereof, and all other authority vested in me by law, hereby rescind Executive Order No. 31 of 1956 and order as follows:

1. Henceforth, the Commonwealth will continue to develop the concept of Comprehensive Emergency Management to deal with major disasters or emergencies in the Commonwealth, with the qualification that the Commonwealth shall not engage in crisis relocation planning in preparation for nuclear war.

2. The purpose of Comprehensive Emergency Management is to develop a comprehensive emergency management program which seeks to mitigate the effects of a hazard, to prepare for measures to be taken which will preserve life and minimize damage, to respond during emergencies and reduce the impact of the emergency, and to establish a recovery system to channel financing and other resources in order to restore the governance and other essential functions of the community.

3. A Comprehensive Emergency Management Program will identify public and private resources and direct and encourage the application of such resources in the most productive manner, in order to coordinate disaster activities.

4. The Commonwealth shall seek to ensure the safety of its citizens by pursuit of policies reflecting a serious commitment to prevention of nuclear war. Such policies shall include education of citizens concerning the real nature of nuclear war and efforts to influence national policy towards negotiation of an end to the nuclear arms race

5. No funds shall be expended by the Commonwealth for crisis relocation planning for nuclear war.

Given at the Executive Chamber in Boston this 28th day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and eighty-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America two hundred and nine.

MICHAEL S. DUKAKIS
GOVERNOR
Commonwealth of Massachusetts

MICHAEL JOSEPH CONNOLLY
SECRETARY
Commonwealth of Massachusetts

GOD SAVE THE COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS

God help the Commonwealth, more like.

So what's the most dangerous threat to Americans today? Arguably, it's terrorism. The same arguments put forward in this Executive Order may also arguably to a Kerry approach to the war on terrorism: evacuation being impracticable, lack of safe havens and the potential for huge collateral damage, possibility of effect on Massachusetts residents, terrorism being something that can never be won, but rather "prevented."

Now, I'm aware of the dangers of extrapolating something written 20 years ago to the current time. However, the reasoning behind the order does provide some insight into how a President Kerry would approach the war on terrorism.


Posted 2:07 PM by Tony

Thursday, August 12, 2004
Gay Marriage Mishaps

The California Supreme Court just invalidated all those marriages that happened earlier this year in San Francisco (via SF Chronicle:

The California Supreme Court [in Lockyer v. City of San Francisco on Thursday voided the nearly 4,000 same-sex marriages sanctioned in San Francisco this year and ruled unanimously that the mayor overstepped his authority by issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

Oops.

It's important to note, however, what the decision does not cover (p. 5 of the opinion, PDF):

To avoid any misunderstanding, we emphasize that the substantive question of the constitutional validity of California’s statutory provisions limiting marriage to a union between a man and a woman is not before our court in this proceeding,
and our decision in this case is not intended, and should not be interpreted, to reflect any view on that issue. We hold only that in the absence of a judicial determination that such statutory provisions are unconstitutional, local executive officials lacked authority to issue marriage licenses to, solemnize marriages of, or register certificates of marriage for same-sex couples, and marriages conducted between same-sex couples in violation of the applicable statutes are void and of no legal effect. Should the applicable statutes be judicially determined to be unconstitutional in the future, same-sex couples then would be free to obtain valid marriage licenses and enter into valid marriages.

Essentially, Mayor Newsom exceeded his authority by ignoring the California statutes governing marriage, which limit marriage to unions between a man and a woman. Since those statutes have yet to be declared unconstitutional, the mayor was obliged to abide by them.

-----
Disclaimer: I have no objection to same-sex marriages as a personal (as opposed to legal) matter. I just find all this rather noteworthy.


Posted 11:07 AM by Tony


A Cultural Disconnect

It always astounds me that people can earn a very good living in Korea as a professional video game player. It's hard for me to imagine that kind of phenomenon occurring in the United States, where there's a certain taint of antisocial behavior that is (unfairly, in my mind) associated with gaming.

But this article in the Joongang Ilbo shows that it's not just Korea:

Professional Korean gamers visiting China for a tournament were welcomed by fans who treated them as top celebrities. At the Korea-China national match in the World E-sports Games, held in Beijing on Saturday, about 1,500 fans packed into the recording hall of Beijing Television Station. As there were only 1,000 seats, those who could not sit stood in the back to watch players compete in four games: Starcraft, Counter Strike, Warcraft and FIFA 2004.

[ . . . ]

Chinese game fans cheered even at the slightest hand movements of Korean pro-game legends Lim Yo-hwan and Hong Jin-ho. "I saw all the games that Lim Yo-hwan played through the Internet at least once," said 18-year-old Wang Yi-qun. He was referring to Chinese portal Web sites such as Sina.com and Sohu.com, which replayed Korean players' games. Mr. Wang added that he had traveled 12 hours by train just to see Mr. Lim play in person.

[ . . . ]

Chinese government recently designated computer games as official sports. "Although Korean players are far more advanced in skill at present, in about three years we will catch up," said Di Chen, an official of the Chinese professional gaming team.

In preparation for the world tournament, 128 players were selected from eight of China's provinces in June. The players were given a certificate that acknowledged them as professional gamers; as for Olympic athletes in the country, the state will pay their wages and manage them.

"In one or two years, the government will select e-sports as a national sport," said Wu Shou Zhang, vice president of China's national sports bureau.

[emphasis added]

That's pretty hardcore. Although, I have to wonder at the selection of Starcraft and Counterstrike - both of those games have been out for several years.


Posted 8:06 AM by Tony

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Might As Well Post A Sign

You know, the mullahs may as well put signs on themselves that say, "Bomb Me, I Need The Martyrdom," given the following.

First, Iran test fires a new ballistic missile (via SF Chronicle):

Iran on Wednesday test fired a new version of its ballistic Shahab-3 missile, which was already capable of reaching U.S. forces in the Middle East and has since been upgraded in response to Israeli missile development.

The Shahab-3, which Iran last successfully tested in 2002 before providing it to the elite Revolutionary Guards, is the country's longest-range ballistic missile, with a range of about 810 miles.

It has since been modified to improve its range and accuracy. Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said last week that the modifications were in response to efforts by Israel to improve its own missiles.


Second, the mullahs hit up the EU-3 (UK, Germany, France) for nuclear technology with military applications (via Telegraph, found via LGF):

The "EU-3" were trying to convince Iranian officials to honour an earlier deal to suspend its controversial uranium enrichment programme, which is ostensibly designed to make fuel for nuclear power stations but could also be used to make fissile material for nuclear bombs.

Iranian officials refused point-blank to comply, saying they had every right under international law to pursue "peaceful" nuclear technology.

They then stunned the Europeans by presenting a letter setting out their own demands.

Iran said the EU-3 should support Iran's quest for "advanced (nuclear) technology, including those with dual use" - a reference to equipment that has both civilian and military applications.

The Europeans should "remove impediments" preventing Iran from having such technology, and stick to these commitments even if faced with "legal (or) political . . . limitations", an allusion to American pressure or even future international sanctions against Iran.

This should get interesting.


Posted 8:53 AM by Tony

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
A Reading Exercise

Let's try a bit of a thought experiment, shall we? Here's a bit of a newspaper article, edited slightly:

When Visionz urban clothing opened its doors at Iverson Mall in January, the line looked a lot like the other 30 or so D.C.-based sportswear brands commanding upwards of $100 a T-shirt, with the same quality and workmanship, only it cost a lot less.

[ . . . ]

What buyers didn't know was that the real force behind the line -- the vision behind Visionz -- was a black entrepreneur who had been manufacturing most of the white-owned companies' clothes out of his factory in Springfield for years.

At the rate Visionz was going, the area's white designers figured it was only a matter of time before X put them all out of business.

"We got two things in this town, [in terms of design]," says Steven Briscoe, owner of Xtra Ordinary Clothes on St. Barnabas Road. "This is our culture, this is our identity."

Caucasian Clothing Association was hastily formed, and it immediately set about "educating" the public about Visionz's true ownership through a flood of fliers [ ], a testament to racial sensitivities in established white neighborhoods where black business owners are sometimes viewed as intruders.

The association spent thousands for [in campaigining against Visionz], and gave out hundreds of T-shirts with the words "Visionz: Black Wear," inside a red circle and slash, and entreated the public to "support your local white business," helpfully listing nearly two dozen white-owned companies.

Now think about your reaction to this.

Sounds pretty outrageous, doesn't it? An established group ganging up on a minority interloper, right? One might even use the term... racist.

Now, here's the actual article from the Washington Post, with the parts I changed put back in bold:

When Visionz urban clothing opened its doors at Iverson Mall in January, the line looked a lot like the other 30 or so D.C.-based sportswear brands commanding upwards of $100 a T-shirt, with the same quality and workmanship, only it cost a lot less.

[ . . . ]

What buyers didn't know was that the real force behind the line -- the vision behind Visionz -- was a Korean-born entrepreneur who had been manufacturing most of the black-owned companies' clothes out of his factory in Springfield for years.

At the rate Visionz was going, the area's black T-shirt designers figured it was only a matter of time before Kang put them all out of business.

"We got two things in this town, urban wear and go-go," says Steven Briscoe, owner of Xtra Ordinary Clothes on St. Barnabas Road. "This is our culture, this is our identity."

Unity Clothing Association was hastily formed, and it immediately set about "educating" the public about Visionz's true ownership through a flood of fliers at clubs, basketball courts and at Iverson Mall, a testament to racial sensitivities in established black neighborhoods where Asian business owners are sometimes viewed as intruders.

The association spent thousands for a community picnic outside a club in Capitol Heights, and broadcast its message through community bullhorns like the go-go talkers and the street basketball commentators, and gave out hundreds of T-shirts with the words "Visionz: Asian Wear," inside a red circle and slash, and entreated the public to "support your local black business," helpfully listing nearly two dozen black-owned companies.

"But wait!" one might object, "that's different!"

Perhaps. But, remember your first reaction when the labels were changed. The Post, in it's headline, calls it "activism." So, anyone feel angry yet?


Posted 8:19 AM by Tony

Monday, August 09, 2004
Have You Stopped Beating Your Wife Yet?

The title, above, is normally considered a loaded question. Although, in certain places, it might not be. (via MEMRI, found via Allah)

Egyptian Sheik Muhammad Al-Massir of Al-Azhar University also explained the circumstances in which a husband is allowed to beat his wife. If a woman is disobedient, he explained on the Saudi-based channel Iqra TV, " a woman for whom marital life is important suffers when she is left alone in the bed. If we get to a point where abandonment [in bed] does not pain her and words do not deter her, we may have come to the stage of beatings."

That's just lovely.


Posted 3:42 PM by Tony

Thursday, August 05, 2004
Documentary Season

A Cuban broadcast of an allegedly pirated version of Fahrenheit 9/11 isn't in violation of Oscar eligibility rules (via the BBC):

[Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences spokesman John Pavlik] said the Academy had not investigated the film's prime-time broadcast in Cuba last Thursday.

[ . . . ]

Producers of Moore's film have until 1 September to submit the movie for the best documentary Oscar category.

The Academy rule regarding internet and TV broadcasts only applies to documentaries. Producers could also decide to enter Fahrenheit 9/11 for best picture, best director or best original screenplay.

Actually, I have no problem with that, as unauthorized broadcasts are, by definition, outside the owner's control. I do have a problem with Moore's film being defined as a documentary, however.

Rule 12, Part I, section 1 of the 77th Academy Award Rules:

An eligible documentary film is defined as a theatrically released non-fiction motion picture dealing creatively with cultural, artistic, historical, social, scientific, economic or other subjects. It may be photographed in actual occurrence, or may employ partial re-enactment, stock footage, stills, animation, stop-motion or other techniques, as long as the emphasis is on fact and not on fiction.

[emphasis added]

I refer you to Dave Kopel, who has catalogued a litany of deceit contained within the film.


Posted 8:33 PM by Tony


Again With The Carrier Landings

This article in the Philadelphia Inquirer discusses American Soldier, the memoirs of Tommy Franks, who was the general in command of American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq until last year. A couple interesting tidbits:

Franks, in the book, admits he was the one who asked President Bush in May 2003 to declare an end to major combat operations. Bush did so, dramatically, from the deck of an aircraft carrier. Franks thought it would boost troop morale, but as civil unrest escalated into heavy fighting, the declaration backfired for Bush politically.

[ . . . ]

Franks saves a rare sharp blow for Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism official at the National Security Council who, in a book of his own, blasts Bush for failing to heed 9/11 warnings.

Franks says that if Clarke knew so much about al-Qaeda, how come he never gave him one iota of useful intelligence - something to let him launch a missile or send a bomber against a terrorist target?

"What I didn't like was... this great fanfare of condemnation of everyone around him, as if only he knew the way of truth and light."




Posted 2:33 PM by Tony


Four More Years Of Hell

John Kerry, in Milwaukee (via Yahoo!/AFP):

"Wasn't Teresa great?" candidate Kerry said when he took the microphone.

"She speaks her mind and she speaks the truth.

"She will make a spectacular first lady."

A spectacular first lady, indeed (via Yahoo!, by way of Bill):


Teresa Kerry, July 27, Democratic National Convention


Posted 9:48 AM by Tony

Wednesday, August 04, 2004
1000 Words Worth Of Argument

I've been in several discussions with people who compare President Bush unfavorably with President Clinton. The argument that I get confronted with most often is that "Clinton improved the economy, while under Bush, the US was hit with a recession." And it's pretty frigging irritating, considering that one major cause of the recession was the dot-com bust, which had been based on unrealistic assumptions.

George Schulz has argues in the New York Times that, in light of the economic trends, President Clinton inherited and maintained prosperity, but handed President Bush an economy already trending downwards. In contrast, President Bush inherited an ailing economy, which has since turned around.*

The picture tells the story:


Frankly, I don't believe that the credit or blame for the economy can really be assigned only to the president. But the charts are a good rebuttal to those who do subscribe to such beliefs, and would have you believe that the economy suffered under the Bush presidency.
-----
* In all fairness, it's worth noting that the first President Bush inherited an ailing economy from President Reagan, using Shultz's argument


Posted 11:25 AM by Tony


Who's Up For Grapes?

Nicholas Kristof has a New York Times piece that indicates that the rewards for Islamic martyrdom are less than they seem:

It has long been a staple of Islam that Muslim martyrs will go to paradise and marry 72 black-eyed virgins. But a growing body of rigorous scholarship on the Koran points to a less sensual paradise - and, more important, may offer a step away from fundamentalism and toward a reawakening of the Islamic world.

Some Islamic theologians protest that the point was companionship, never heavenly sex. Others have interpreted the pleasures quite explicitly; one, al-Suyuti, wrote that sex in paradise is pretty much continual and so glorious that "were you to experience it in this world you would faint."

But now the same tools that historians, linguists and archaeologists have applied to the Bible for about 150 years are beginning to be applied to the Koran. The results are explosive.

The Koran is beautifully written, but often obscure. One reason is that the Arabic language was born as a written language with the Koran, and there's growing evidence that many of the words were Syriac or Aramaic.

For example, the Koran says martyrs going to heaven will get "hur," and the word was taken by early commentators to mean "virgins," hence those 72 consorts. But in Aramaic, hur meant "white" and was commonly used to mean "white grapes."

Another portion subject to reinterpretation relates to women and veils. Rather than requiring veils, the Koran may actually require women to "buckle their belts around their hips."

Interesting


Posted 10:30 AM by Tony

Tuesday, August 03, 2004
Minjok Shrugged

Kevin's right - the jokes pretty much write themselves, at least in this case.

This Korea Times article pretty much encapsulates the absurdity that is inter-Korean relations:

The South Korean government will not confront Pyongyang over claims by a North Korean scientist that he used chemical weapons to experiment on political prisoners before defecting to the South, a senior official at the Unification Ministry has said.

"It's hard to check the authenticity of the North Korean defector's allegation,'' the official told The Korea Times on condition of anonymity. "But unless the claims can be clarified, we will not take up the issue with North Korea.''

[ . . . ]

In the BBC report, headlined "Human Guinea Pigs,'' the North Korean defector claimed he conducted the gassing tests in glass cubicles, monitoring the prisoners until they died.

"The purpose of this experiment was to determine how long it takes for a human being to die,'' Dr. Kim told the BBC. "We wanted to determine how much gas was necessary to annihilate the whole city of Seoul.''

[link added]

And here's the money paragraph, buried in the middle of the story:

Responding to the latest report, the Unification Ministry official said while the international community may blame Seoul for failing to address human rights issues with Pyongyang, the government believes raising the claims would hurt progress in inter-Korean relations. "South Korea fully understands the seriousness of the North Korean humanitarian issue, but we are taking a different approach to that of the international community,'' he said.

Which is why the international community doesn't really take South Korea seriously on this issue. And, which is why my by-now-instinctive reaction is to sneer at anything coming out of the Unification Ministry, which doesn't like to think about negative scenarios, was previously headed by clownish buffon Jeong Se-hyun. Especially where this issue has been floating arounds since at least February (via Marmot; Seeing Eye Blog).

Not that the Korean-American community can claim better, given quotes like "I think you should take peace over human rights," by Rev. Sang-Eui Kim.

But hey, who cares about this when it's all being done by fellow Koreans, right?


Posted 4:25 PM by Tony


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

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