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

Thursday, December 30, 2004
Sore Loser

I was out skiing, and missed this gem from Kos, on the Washington gubernatorial elections, deriding GOP candidate Dino Rossi for suggesting that a new election be held*:

No one likes a sore loser.

Compare that with his post from November 4th, on President Bush's re-election:

Don't let them get away with calling this narrow victory any sort of mandate for their agenda.

Sore loser, indeed.

Ranks right up there with his reaction to the Fallujah lychings, a reaction that at least several Marines disagree with.
-----
* Frankly, I'm of the opinion that a new election is unnecessary. To the best of my knowledge, the Washington state courts weren't playing games with state election laws.


Posted 10:49 AM by Tony

Thursday, December 23, 2004
SFPD Pistlo Trivia

GD, this one's for you.

According to the June 22, 2004 San Francisco Examiner, the San Francisco Police Department switched from Beretta to SIG-Sauer .40, and is buying them in lots of 200 at a time.


Posted 3:49 PM by Tony


A GM Recall For The Holidays

A quote from Fight Club:

A new car built by my company leave somewhere traveling at 60 miles per hour. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field (A) multiply it by the probable rate of failure (B) then multiply the result by the average out of court settlement (C). A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of the recall, we don't do one.

From the SF Chronicle:

General Motors Corp. is recalling 717,302 minivans because passengers could injure their wrists or arms on the power sliding door, the automaker and federal government said Thursday.

The vehicles affected are 1997-2005 model Chevrolet Venture, 1997-1999 Pontiac Transport/Montana, 2000-2005 Pontiac Montana and 1997-2004 Oldsmobile Silhouette.

No real reason for this post, other than giving me an opportunity to quote from Fight Club.


Posted 8:58 AM by Tony

Wednesday, December 22, 2004
The seX Files

The SF Chronicle has had articles on an irregular basis on San Francisco's seamier side. Here's one for the holidays, making for some amusing reading:

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Power Exchange house, all the creatures were stirring, one doffing her blouse.

The stockings were hung some by garter belts with care, in hopes that attention would soon be directed there.

[ . . . ]

Just then, the woman there for the first time came into the dungeon with her boyfriend, another woman and a small red flogger. She was there to check out everything the Power Exchange had to offer.

"Can I use this on you?" she asked, holding up the flogger.

"No thanks," I said. "I think it's better to give than to receive."

Heh, and to all a good night!


Posted 8:20 AM by Tony

Tuesday, December 21, 2004
What Would We Do Without Experts?

Since Best of the Web is on hiatus, I thought I'd offer this bit from the International Herald Tribune/New York Times, relating to the murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, whose unborn child was carved out from her uterus:

Murder suggests deeper psychological trouble, as illustrated by several cases in which women have killed expectant mothers and taken infants. In 1987, an Oregon woman named Darci Pierce killed a pregnant woman and performed a Caesarean section on her with a car key.

"Murder suggests deeper psychological trouble[]."

No kidding.


Posted 6:21 PM by Tony


Finding The Right Historical Analogy

Whenever one reads about the reconstruction of Iraq, analogies to Vietnam abound.*
As an example, Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia stated in April:

Now, after a year of continued strife in Iraq, comes word that the commander of forces in the region is seeking options to increase the number of U.S. troops on the ground if necessary. Surely I am not the only one who hears echoes of Vietnam in this development.

In Sunday's SF Chronicle, author Cynthia Bass suggests that the more apt analogy is post-Civil War Reconstruction:

Much of the population sees the United States as an occupier. A violent insurgency develops, undermining the new institutions. The United States is unable to win over the hearts and minds of the people, or crush the insurgency. Finally, after more than a decade, with both Washington and the nation losing interest, the effort is abandoned. Troops are withdrawn, the new institutions collapse, and an evil, repressive regime emerges in its place.

A vision of Iraq's future? No. Not yet.

It's a short history of a previous U.S. effort to introduce democracy to a defeated but restive population in the American South, after the Civil War.[ ]

[ . . . ]

Iraq wasn't a slave society, but clearly Sunni Arabs, who benefited from Saddam Hussein's repression of the Kurds and Shiite Arabs, are the most resistant to the U.S. presence and the interim government. And finally, although the Iraq insurgency is far more violent, the insurgents are quite similar to the well-organized, militant, hate-filled ideologues of the post- Civil War South: the Ku Klux Klan, the Sons of Midnight, the Knights of the White Camellia. Like today's insurgents, these groups sought to disrupt daily life through acts of terror. And one of their favorites was kidnapping and murdering -- occasionally even beheading -- ex-slaves and whites who cooperated with the U.S.-imposed state governments.

In their violent, anti-democratic nature, Southern night riders and today's radical Muslim terrorists in Iraq have much in common. Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate general who founded the Klan, and Abu Musab al- Zarqawi are virtual twins in their fanaticism, hatred of the United States and love of brutality.

What was the outcome of 11 years of nation building in the South? It failed.

I doubt that Senator Byrd will ever use this historical comparison, however, given his own former status as a KKK Kleagle and the "white nigger" comment back in 2001.
-----
* As an incidential note, Walter Cronkite would be well-advised to keep his mouth shut in comparing Vietnam to Iraq, given his overwhelmingly erroneous interpretation of the Tet Offensive.


Posted 9:07 AM by Tony

Friday, December 17, 2004
Well, I Guess That's One Way Of Doing It

Headline from the Joongang Ilbo:

Pot sales start long road to unify Koreas

Sounds like a Half-Baked idea to me.


Posted 2:00 PM by Tony


San Francisco's Mrs. Lovejoy?

Those of you who watch The Simpsons are likely familiar with the character of Mrs. Lovejoy, whose tagline is:

Won't somebody please think about the children?

This line was used to justify a disproportionate government response to a problem, i.e., the institution of a jet-equipped "Bear Patrol" in response to one bear encounter.

I'm starting to think that Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier may be San Francisco's answer to Mrs. Lovejoy.

Back in September, she proposed a total ban on "inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying any lighted smoking equipment for tobacco or any other weed or plant" in any outdoor recreation area operated by the city. Her justification:

"It's just disgusting -- our parks are covered with cigarette butts," Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier told her colleagues in introducing the legislation at their weekly meeting.

"Not to mention the fact that children are subject to secondhand smoke when they take a water break while playing micro-soccer," an initiation into the sport for 5- and 6-year-olds.

She proffers a similar justification for the proposed ballot measure which would essentially eliminate all private firearm ownership in San Francisco, which I mentioned yesterday (via SF Chronicle):

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, one of five supervisors who signed off on placing the proposed law on the next ballot, said it was concern about guns' falling into the wrong hands that motivated her.

"You have to keep guns away from kids," said Alioto-Pier, the mother of young children. "We're not taking away people's constitutional rights. This is about ensuring the safety of people who live here."

[emphasis added]

Again, there's the use of children as justification for an overly broad measure, without any supporting evidence as to the number of children affected. And as to her assertion that "[w]e're not taking away people's constitutional rights," that's simply wrong, though perhaps in line with Ninth Circuit law.

Admittedly, guns are not cigarettes, and two incidents do not establish a modus operandi. However, it is worth noting.


Posted 7:44 AM by Tony


Friday Amusements

For those of you wondering what Grand Theft Auto would be like when done Lego-style, you can check it out over at FilePlanet -.

Enjoy!


Posted 7:40 AM by Tony

Thursday, December 16, 2004
Only In San Francisco

I resigned myself to Bay Area political nuttiness when I moved up here. But this is just ridiculous (via SF Chronicle):

San Francisco supervisors want voters to approve a sweeping handgun ban that would prohibit almost everyone except law enforcement officers, security guards and military members from possessing firearms in the city.

The measure, which will appear on the municipal ballot next year, would bar residents from keeping guns in their homes or businesses, Bill Barnes, an aide to Supervisor Chris Daly, said Wednesday. It would also prohibit the sale, manufacturing and distribution of handguns and ammunition in San Francisco, as well as the transfer of gun licenses.

Barnes said the initiative is a response to San Francisco's skyrocketing homicide rate, as well as other social ills. There have been 86 murders in the city so far this year compared to 70 in all of 2003.

"The hope is twofold, that officers will have an opportunity to interact with folks and if they have a handgun, that will be reason enough to confiscate it," he said. "Second, we know that for even law-abiding folks who own guns, the rates of suicide and mortality are substantially higher. So while just perceived to be a crime thing, we think there is a wide benefit to limiting the number of guns in the city."

[ . . . ]

Washington, D.C. is the only major American city that currently bans handgun possession by private citizens. Andrew Arulanandam, director of public affairs for the National Rifle Association, said San Francisco officials are remiss to use the District of Columbia's experience as a model.

"If gun control worked, Washington, D.C. would be the beacon. However, it's the murder capital of the United States," Arulanandam said.

The public safety justification is even thinner here than it is in other gun control laws - note the comment with respect to "law-abiding folks." I realize, that in light of Ninth Circuit rulings, the Second Amendment is not considered an individual right. The rulings are, in my opinion, erroneous and inconsistent with the trend of interpreting other constitutional amendments as private and not public rights. However, they still stand, and so, absent any conflict with state law, this would probably stand.

Nonetheless, it's still pretty damned unconscionable.


Posted 8:51 AM by Tony

Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Innocents Abroad*

The Korean news site OhMyNews published an interview with a speaker at the North Korean Human Rights Symposium. As you may guess, the speaker's comments practically beg for a critique:

"Between 8 and 10 percent of North Korea's population is dying of hunger, but the whole world is just sitting and watching," [Christine Ahn of Food First] said, adding, "Where was the international human rights movement when North Korea was begging the international community for humanitarian assistance and development aid?"

Let's examine that. Back in 2000, the Heritage Foundation referred to refugee reports that the Communists were diverting food aid to its military and political leadership. The UN's World Food Program claimed otherwise, but opinions differ. Granted, this is outside my realm of expertise, but the implication that the world did nothing seems rather unsupported.

I don't have enough time to get into the whole thing. I note in passing Ms. Ahn's conspiracy theory-like references to "hawkish conservatives," "Christian fundamentalists" and "conservative NGOs."

Also, I want to point out the following, which, to me, is the most egregious statement in the whole interview:

[OhMyNews:] How is the discourse on North Korean human rights formed in the United States? Could you explain about the process?

[Ahn:] "At the center are conservative NGOs. I think the U.S. and Korean understanding of North Korean human rights is problematic. One must view political repression and starvation separately. Only 20 percent of North Korea's land is good for farming. That's how barren it is. Americans farm for profit, but not North Koreans. There is a fundamental difference in understanding."

[emphasis added]


That's simply erroneous. Let's ignore the equation of food availablility to available farmland, which excludes per unit area productivity. Instead, let's examine the assertion that political repression and famine are severable.

Economist Amartya Sen examined the connection between politics and famine, and his work in welfare economics won him a Nobel prize in 1998.

I refer to his 1990 Arturo Tanco Memorial Lecture:

While there is no great practical difficulty in organizing effective measures for famine prevention, provided the problems are correctly diagnosed and addressed, one reason why this does not occur adequately - or at all - in many parts of the world is that the penalty of the famines are borne only by the suffering public and not by the ruling government. If the government were to be accountable to the public, through elections, free news reporting and uncensored public criticism, then the government too would have good reasons - to avoid condemnation and ultimately rejection - to do its best to eradicate famines.

It is not, in fact, surprising that in the terrible history of famines in the world, there is hardly any case in which a famine has occurred in a country that is independent and democratic with an uncensored press. This absence of famines applies not only to the rich economies, but also to poor but relatively democratic countries, such as post-independence India, or Botswana, or Zimbabwe.

[ . . . ]

The issue relates also to the Chinese famines of 1958-61 in which, as was mentioned earlier, possibly up to 30 million people died. The Chinese government, despite being politically very committed to eliminating hunger in general, did not substantially revise its disastrous policies associated with the failed "great leap forward", during the three famine years. The lack of a free system of news distribution misled the government itself, fed by its own propaganda and by rosy reports of local party officials competing for credit in Beijing. Indeed, there is evidence that just as the famine was moving towards its peak, the Chinese authorities mistakenly believed that they had 100 million more metric tons of grain than they actually did.

No less importantly, the lack of a free news media and the absence of opposition parties entailed that the government was not subjected to adversarial critique for its disastrous failure to save its population from starvation and famine. During that terrible calamity the government faced no pressure from newspapers, which were controlled, or from opposition parties, which were absent. Perhaps the most important reform that can contribute to the elimination of famines, in Africa as well as in Asia, is the enhancement of democratic practice, unfettered newspapers and - more generally - adversarial politics.

Political repression and famine are not separate and distinct; rather the latter flows from the former.

Ms. Ahn's organization, Food First, claims that "[its] work highlights root causes and value-based solutions to hunger and poverty around the world, with a commitment to establishing food as a fundamental human right." To claim that the political repression issue is separable from the famine issue seems disingenuous, at best.
-----
* With apologies to Mark Twain.


Posted 6:38 PM by Tony


Surf's Up!

If you go to the unimaginatively denominated Ocean Beach in San Francisco, you'll see surfers challenging the waves. To me, there's always been more than a touch masochistic given 1) the water's pretty cold, what with the current coming from Alaska, and 2) some of the waves are pretty high, fast, and chaotic.

Obviously, though, standards differ (via SF Chronicle):

Giant waves crashed along the North Shore of Oahu Wednesday, leaving sand and debris on roadways and prompting officials to close beaches as waves reached 40 feet and higher.

But amid the debris, world-class surfers gathered for a rare big-wave surfing competition that occurs only when such enormous waves sweep the island's coast.

[ . . . ]

The competition is held only when the waves reach giant proportions -- only six times in the last 19 years.

Wave heights were reported to peak Wednesday morning between 30 and 40 feet at Waimea Bay. Forecasters had earlier predicted 50 foot faces.

[ . . . ]

Capt. George Ku of the Sunset Beach fire station said his crew had not been called out on a single surf-related emergency as of 8 a.m., two hours after the peak.

What I want to know is, how in the world does one respond to a surf-related emergency if the waves are 40 feet high?


Posted 5:15 PM by Tony

Monday, December 13, 2004
A Surprising Admission

Phil Bronstein, editor of the SF Chronicle, defends the paper's publication of (by definition, secret) grand jury testimony regarding the BALCO case:

Here is how we decided to publish secret testimony: We don't believe that it's our responsibility to enforce federal secrecy provisions surrounding grand jury proceedings.

That's fair enough. However, this shouldn't be a one-way ratchet: in the event of an investigation regarding any such leaks, the paper should not be allowed to refuse to cooperate, on the grounds of some journalistic privilege.

Continuing:

However, government -- any government, at any level -- tends to prefer to work in secret. Sometimes that secrecy is intended to hide abuse by public officials -- Watergate being perhaps the most famous example, though hardly the only one -- and sometimes not. But the press sees its role this way: We are the institution through which people can get the most transparent view of what its government is doing in the name of the people it's supposed to serve.

[ . . . ]

And, again, with all its flaws and excesses, the press is part of the system of checks and balances on powerful institutions. Is it important to know that some highly paid, elite athletes are taking illegal steroids? While reader Grindahl was happy that newspapers in 1971 published the Pentagon Papers, a secret government report on the Vietnam War that officials said was leaked, he believes steroid use by an athlete "simply does not rise to that level."

The goal of transparent government is all well and good. But the passage raises a question: who checks and balances the press, which is inarguably a powerful institution? After all, the press can hardly claim to function in a transparent manner, as the Memogate investigation reflects. Nor is the press a pen-wielding avatar of truth, as CNN's pre-war cooperation with Saddam's regime indicates.

This is where blogs prove valuable, Brian Williams' comments notwithstanding. For example, I would point to Powerline, INDC Journal, and LGF, which were responsible, in large part, exposing the 60 Minutes Memogate affair. Or, for that matter, the role of blogs in Trent Lott's downfall.

This next bit, though hidden deep within the piece, was an astonishing admission:

The press, at its best, looks for some reality, if not some truth. Our job is different from the government's and the courts'. It's not about hostility or taking cheap shots. There are times, however, when doing our job will mean having adversarial relationships with elected officials and public and private institutions. Or with someone's interpretation of the law and how and where it applies.

But none of this is to say we have a corner on wisdom. We're fallible; just check out our corrections every day on page A2. The press needs to pay attention to being honest and straightforward ourselves -- a notion that hasn't seemed all that easy amid the media disgraces and scandals of the past few years. And we have to guard against the sins of the press in our modern era: sanctimony, self-righteousness and arrogance.

[emphasis added]

First of all, I just want to point out the amusing contention that the press' job is "not about hostility or taking cheap shots," in contrast to the government or the courts. Since when do courts (as a systemic matter, individual exceptions aside) engage in hostility and cheap shots as part of the job?

Second is the cautionary note about guarding against "sanctimony, self-righteousness and arrogance." It's a public admission one doesn't often see in the mainstream press. Let's hope that the Chronicle and the rest of the press heed this particular bit of advice.*
-----
* Let's distinguish between factual reporting and opinion pieces. Goodness knows I find the Chronicle's opinion pages, as a general rule, to be an incoherent mess - just read Morford's columns, and you'll get the idea. As far as actual reporting, however, the Chronicle is no better or no worse, and sometimes, does quite well.


Posted 7:19 PM by Tony


Pimpin'

A friend of mine was very much into Trading Spaces, in which rooms are made over, to the surprise of the homeowners. I never quite understood the fascination with the show.

I do now.

I was watching TV, and came across Pimp My Ride, in which seriously dilapidated cars are transformed into mouth-wateringly gorgeous rides. The episode I watched involved a 240 SX that had no passenger seat. In addition, there was no working speedometer; rather, a sticky note on the dash listed engine rpms and the equivalent speed. The "after" result was amazing, with the car modeled after one from Need For Speed Underground 2.

I can only wonder what they could do with my ride...


Posted 9:50 AM by Tony


Taming A Scourge

When it comes to the world of parasites, those of us in the United States are remarkably lucky. The truly nasty and disgusting parasite species are absent from these environs, primarily due to the lack of suitable intermediate hosts, which many parasites require for part of their life cycle. As a result, we don't really consider the serious implications of these small organisms.

Malaria, of course, is the big one, in terms of worldwide effect .

Which makes this news quite welcome indeed (via SF Chronicle):

A Berkeley scientist, an Albany biotechnology startup and a unique San Francisco nonprofit drug company will announce today they have received a $43 million grant to develop a cheaper version of a Chinese herbal drug that is considered the most effective cure for malaria [by using genetically engineered E. coli bacteria].

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation of Seattle will provide the money to speed the development of a genetically engineered form of artemisinin, an herbal medicine derived from the dried leaves of the wormwood plant.

Artemisinin, which has been used in China to treat fevers since A.D. 150, came into vogue as a modern malaria treatment after studies in Vietnam showed it reduced deaths from the illness by 97 percent.

A parasitic blood disease responsible for 1.5 million deaths each year, malaria strikes up to 500 million annually and has grown increasingly resistant to a variety of medicines that have been used to control it. The World Health Organization now recognizes that drugs combining antibiotics with the herbal extract provide the most rapid defense against malaria and are the only ones to which the parasite has not developed resistance.

A three-day course of drugs containing artemisinin can cure malaria for about $2.40 -- inexpensive by Western standards, but out of reach in many of the Asian and African nations where the disease is taking its biggest toll.

[ . . . ]

Currently, artemisinin production relies on a network of farmers in Vietnam and China who raise wormwood during an eight-month crop cycle. Shortages of the plant help keep the price of the drug high.

This is certainly welcome news.


Posted 8:18 AM by Tony

Friday, December 10, 2004
A Cringe-Inducing Moment

I figure that I was inured to the New York Times's lack of judgment, as shown by Howell Raines, various distortions, the whole Jayson Blair affair, and its continued publication of the incoherent rantings of Maureen Dowd and former Enron adviser Paul Krugman. Or heck, go back to Walter Duranty.

But this editorial, about Treasury Secretary John Snow, really establishes a new floor:

As the search for someone to replace Treasury Secretary John Snow dragged on, Republicans close to the White House openly dissed him. Then, on Wednesday, the president reappointed Mr. Snow. To justify the surprise decision, a senior administration official said, "This was no time to send a signal of uncertainty."

[emphasis added]

"Dissed"? For crying out loud, it's not like John Snow is Jay-Z. That pretty much tells me all I need to know about the New York Times Manual of Style and Usage.

I suppose the Times will start referring to the female members of the president's cabinet as "Bush's biotches," and his Secret Service detail as his "pistol-totin' homeys."


Posted 6:44 PM by Tony


Proximate Causes

Every single first-year law student learns about the Palsgraf case. And I mean every.

Professor Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy points out the rather unfortunate subsequent history of the Palsgraf family (via New York Law Journal):

In the eight decades since the New York Court of Appeals in Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad outlined the two competing theories of proximate cause, a branch of the Palsgraf family has been beset by bad luck, serious injuries and losing lawsuits, just like their matriarch, Helen Palsgraf.

"It's a curse, I'm telling you. It's a Palsgraf Curse," Barbara Palsgraf [who lost a left thumb in an accident], the wife of Helen's grandson William Jr. [who permanently suffered reduced arm function due to an accident with an allegedly defective ladder], said by phone from her home in Deerfield Beach, Fla. "Everyone I know in the family has had an accident and didn't get what they deserved."

[ . . . ]

William Jr.'s sister, Carol, 65, a retired office manager who lives in Woodhaven, said she does not believe in a curse. She does, however, get hounded by attorneys and judges about her name.

"Every time I go to jury duty I get this nonsense," she said in an interview.


Posted 5:53 PM by Tony


Hark, The PC Heralds Complain

Jill Stewart writes in the SF Chronicle on the annual spectacle of stamping out "Christmas":

A discussion of Santa [by Maria Shriver, whose husband, Governor Schwarzenegger, changed former Gov.'s Gray Davis's "holiday tree" to "Christmas tree"] ensued in a public school? Obviously, the Schwarzenegger-Shriver clan is blissfully unaware of the raging effort each December to rid schools and public spots of people exactly like them.

In recent years, various California schools have banned the hideous "Silent Night" (in Sacramento's San Juan School District), banned "Jingle Bells" because of offensive religiousness (in Fresno, where outraged parents quickly overturned the ban) and removed red-and-green lights that were seen as a "provocation" (in a Newport Beach school). One pundit questioned whether upscale Newport Beach should also take down traffic signals.

Most parents don't realize Christmas is being banned at their school because the media don't really give a rip.

Yet blacklisting of angels and stars of Bethlehem and Christmas trees is not required by any law, anywhere. I am a secular humanist with no religion. But I wince each year as my intolerant secular humanist brethren increasingly shame teachers into stamping out Christmas.

The courts say the U.S. Constitution's establishment clause can't be used to promote hostility to a religion, such as Christianity, in schools. Religious expression is allowed if there's a legitimate secular purpose -- such as, oh I don't know, perhaps explaining to children the most widespread cultural holiday in America, observed even by many nonbelievers?

Yet, somehow, educating children about Ramadan in public schools is all right? How, um, inconsistent.

And I'd like someone to explain why"Jingle Bells" should be banned. It's the reference to sleighs and snow, right?


Posted 8:56 AM by Tony

Thursday, December 09, 2004
All They Want For Christmas

. . . is some air support, apparently.

Santa comes early to Osan Air Base* (caption taken from and larger version at Air Force Link):


Santa Claus arrives here aboard an A-10 Thunderbolt II recently. He arrived just in time to join a home-style feast with more than 200 Airmen of the 25th Fighter Squadron and 51st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Stacie Shafran)
Santa's next stop, judging from his ride, is probably in the Middle East.
-----
* I understand that it's "Osan Air Base," and not "Osan Air Force Base" due to local sensitivities, but I could be in error about that.


Posted 6:40 PM by Tony


Families Of The Fallen

Back in September, Tennessean.com:

Later in the day, he was scheduled to meet with 115 members of families of 47 division soldiers who have fallen in Iraq since the invasion. [General David] Petraeus [commanding 101st Airborne Division] said Bush had twice extended — to 2 hors [sic] — the amount of time he planned to spend in private with survivors of the fallen soldiers.

And there was the recent visit to Camp Pendleton:

After the speech, Bush met for nearly two hours with families of soldiers who had died in Iraq.

That one sentence, in the middle of a several paragraph story, doesn't really convey much. Blackfive has more details from an officer who was there:

The second [reason for the visit] - and I believe far more important - was to meet privately with 170 family members who had lost a loved one. He forbade the press corps from viewing or photographing any of it.

The Plt Sgt Mitchell Paige Fieldhouse (a brand new $12.5m facility) has two basketball courts. One was curtained off and decks covered where he met with them together. Then, he met with the family members of each fallen Marine in the other gym individually. Having had the duty of a Casualty Assistance and Notification Officer many times in the past, I know how emotionally draining it is to talk to even one family at a time. When we put the President back on Marine One some three hours later, he was as somber and drained as I've ever seen him. It took an emotional toll on everyone involved.

I'll let you decide which one is more meaningful and indicative of the president's attitude - public attendance at a funeral, or private one-on-one meetings with the survivors.

I know my choice, but then, I'm of the opinion that not everything is a political photo op.


Posted 5:38 PM by Tony


More Proof That 'Objective Journalism' Is An Oxymoron

Much (metaphorical) ink has been spilled lately concerning blogs, and in a defense of journalistic practices. Though I have to say, a network that publishes article deriding blogs as political tools while at the same time attempting to recruit bloggers on the sly to boost a discredted story seems incongruous, at best. The thrust of the current attacks on blogs in the media is that bloggers do not adhere to the same standards of accuracy and objectivity as the mainstream journalists.

Do tell.

Here's an article in the SF Chronicle, taken from the New York Times, on the Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's visit to Kuwait. I'm including the title to illustrate how the visit was conveyed:

Troops confront Rumsfeld, ask for better battle gear

Challenges from National Guardsmen bound for combat unnerve Pentagon chief

Camp Buehring, Kuwait -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld came here Wednesday to lead a morale-lifting town hall discussion with Iraq-bound troops. Instead, he found himself on the defensive, fielding pointed questions from soldiers complaining about aging vehicles that lacked armor for protection against roadside bombs.

Rumsfeld, seemingly caught off guard by the sharp questioning, responded that the military was producing extra armor for humvees and trucks as quickly as possible but that the soldiers would have to cope with equipment shortages. "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time," he said.


Now, compare that to the transcript version of the exchange (via The Corner):

Q [note: from Spec. Thomas Wilson, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment (official site), Tennessee Army National Guard]: Yes, Mr. Secretary. My question is more logistical. We’ve had troops in Iraq for coming up on three years and we’ve always staged here out of Kuwait. Now why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromise ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles and why don’t we have those resources readily available to us? [Applause]

SEC. RUMSFELD: I missed the first part of your question. And could you repeat it for me?

Q: Yes, Mr. Secretary. Our soldiers have been fighting in Iraq for coming up on three years. A lot of us are getting ready to move north relatively soon. Our vehicles are not armored. We’re digging pieces of rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass that’s already been shot up, dropped, busted, picking the best out of this scrap to put on our vehicles to take into combat. We do not have proper armament vehicles to carry with us north.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I talked to the General coming out here about the pace at which the vehicles are being armored. They have been brought from all over the world, wherever they’re not needed, to a place here where they are needed. I’m told that they are being – the Army is – I think it’s something like 400 a month are being done. And it’s essentially a matter of physics. It isn’t a matter of money. It isn’t a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It’s a matter of production and capability of doing it.

As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time. Since the Iraq conflict began, the Army has been pressing ahead to produce the armor necessary at a rate that they believe – it’s a greatly expanded rate from what existed previously, but a rate that they believe is the rate that is all that can be accomplished at this moment.

I can assure you that General Schoomaker and the leadership in the Army and certainly General Whitcomb are sensitive to the fact that not every vehicle has the degree of armor that would be desirable for it to have, but that they’re working at it at a good clip. It’s interesting, I’ve talked a great deal about this with a team of people who’ve been working on it hard at the Pentagon. And if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up. And you can go down and, the vehicle, the goal we have is to have as many of those vehicles as is humanly possible with the appropriate level of armor available for the troops. And that is what the Army has been working on.

And General Whitcomb, is there anything you’d want to add to that?

GEN. WHITCOMB: Nothing. [Laughter] Mr. Secretary, I’d be happy to. That is a focus on what we do here in Kuwait and what is done up in the theater, both in Iraq and also in Afghanistan. As the secretary has said, it’s not a matter of money or desire; it is a matter of the logistics of being able to produce it. The 699th, the team that we’ve got here in Kuwait has done [Cheers] a tremendous effort to take that steel that they have and cut it, prefab it and put it on vehicles. But there is nobody from the president on down that is not aware that this is a challenge for us and this is a desire for us to accomplish.

SEC. RUMSFELD: The other day, after there was a big threat alert in Washington, D.C. in connection with the elections, as I recall, I looked outside the Pentagon and there were six or eight up-armored humvees. They’re not there anymore. [Cheers] [Applause] They’re en route out here, I can assure you. Next. Way in the back. Yes.

And as far as the characterization that the meeting "unnerved" Rumsfeld or put him "on the defensive," let's again go to the transcript:

Q: Chaplain Malone (sp), the 642nd Aviation Support Battalion. Mr. Secretary, my job is to support the spiritual fitness of the soldiers that you see in the room today. I am also here to support the morale of these soldiers. And the soldiers that you see here today have asked me to ask you this question on their behalf. Would you be kind enough, sir, to put us on your aircraft today and take us to Disneyland? [Cheers]

SEC. RUMSFELD: [Laughter] Oh, Chaplain, you did it. [Laughter] You asked it, you knocked it right out of the park and the answer is sorry. [Laughter] We’ve got more important things for you to do [Laughter] and we appreciate it. We’ve got time for a couple more questions right here.

Q: Yes, Mr. Secretary, Specialist McCullough (sp), Alpha Company 1st of the 112th Infantry. There’s a lot of soldiers here from Western Pennsylvania and we were wondering if we were going to be given the opportunity to watch the Steelers win the Super Bowl this year? [Cheers] [Applause] [Note: Steelers are 11-1. That's right, 11-1!]

SEC. RUMSFELD: I can’t answer the question about outcomes [Laughter], but General, they’re going to have access to the…

GEN. WHITCOMB: Absolutely, sir.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes, you’ll have access to the television, but you’re going to have to figure out a way to encourage that to happen. [Laughter] Yes.

Hardly the reaction of someone "on the defensive."

Now, a fair criticism may be made that a transcript, or for that matter, a news article, hardly conveys the mood of what was going on at the time.

So why not ask someone who was there? (via Instapundit; see the Drudge comment that is also mentioned in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog):

One more thing I would like to add is this, not one soldier present asked questions about why we were here, or expressed the sort of anti-war sentiment that Michael Moore led some to believe was prevalent in the military. Rather, the concern was about ensuring we would be supplied with all necessary equipment to accomplish the mission and return home safely. Let there be no doubt, this was not a hostile crowd eager to catch the Secretary of Defense off guard by grilling him with questions he has never had to answer. This was a group of truly admirable American's and patriots, receiving confirmation from the man who controls the Department of Defense, that we have the full fledged moral, financial and logistical support, to accomplish the mission.

Now, perhaps it seems that I'm being unfair, since it is the Chronicle.

Let's take a look at other news sources:

BBC - "caught off guard"
Reuters - "bombarded with criticism"
Chicago Sun-Times - characterizing the quetioners as "disgruntled soldiers"
Miami Herald editorial - "a morale-boosting appearance turned into an interrogation"
ABC, Australia: - characterizing the questions as "some of his toughest critics" and the session as an "extraordinary airing of discontent by US troops"
LA Times - "a number of the troops took him to task"
Kansas City Star - the "pointed conversation" seen as "a sign of increasing frustrations and dipping morale among the troops in the field"
CTV, Canada - headline states "Angry U.S. troops ask Rumsfeld tough questions"

Journalistic standards. Sure.


Posted 2:16 PM by Tony

Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Scumbag Quote Of The Day

Well, of two days ago, anyway.

Christopher Hitchens, on Dayside with Linda Vester (via TacJammer, by way of INDC Journal):

Hitchens: Michael Moore openly says that he regards the murderers and torturers and beheaders in Iraq as the moral equivalent of America's founding fathers.

Vester: Which a number of people in this room take a dim view of.

Hitchens: I should hope.

Vester: Why do you in particular... I mean, you're tough on Michael Moore in your book. Why?

Hitchens: Well, because he's a scumbag.

For those who need a reminder, here's part of why the characterization is accurate.


Posted 6:08 PM by Tony


Korean Product Naming

I've always been interested in product naming. It's not a professional interest - more like a a personal curiosity.

Which is why this Korea Herald article caught me eye. Well, that and the headline, which reminded me of a quote from the Elephant Man:

'I'm not a prophylactic'

The replacement of the word "condom" with a Korean one has collapsed, with several people complaining that the new moniker was identical or similar to their own names.

The Korean Anti-AIDS Federation unveiled "aepil" last month in a campaign aimed at increasing condom use among Koreans [currently about 10 percent]. The word, which was chosen among 19,000 other submissions in a contest held by the KAAF, is derived from the Chinese characters for love and necessary.

"It turns out that there are people who are actually named 'aepil,'" said Kim Yoon-su, a spokesperson for KAAF said yesterday. "They were understandably very upset considering the sensitive nature of this subject. They thought it would have a negative impact on their lives and on the lives of their parents or children."

"I was asked, 'How would you feel if your mother was named condom?'" said Kim.

The federation checked with the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, which holds a registry of Korean names, and found 10 people named "aepil."

Why a different term is necessary, I don't know. I, for one, doubt that people in Korea are going to alter their prophylactic habits with a name change.


Posted 8:03 AM by Tony

Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Savor The Irony

A month after the election, does anyone else find it amusing that Berkeley again gets crushed by Texans? I don't follow sports at all, but I find it rather funny.

And I'm not the only one (via SF Chronicle):

Cal fan needs to stop acting like he/she has some kind of divine right to the Rose Bowl. Last time I checked, the traditional matchup was between the Pac-10 and Big Ten champions, and Cal was neither. How ironic is it that the same system that even gave Cal a chance to be in Pasadena in the first place, is the same one that ends up screwing them? Win your conference once every 50 years if you want to go to the Rose Bowl so damn bad.


Posted 3:04 PM by Tony


Spacey The Knife

A friend from swing dancing absolutely loves Bobby Darin's music. If we're at a dance venue and a Darin song comes on, she is constitutionally incapable of sitting out the song, and insists on getting out on the floor.

It's a shame she wasn't able to check this out (via SF Chronicle):

Appearing at Bimbo's 365 Club on Sunday, human dynamo [Kevin] Spacey is doing a whirlwind, 10-city tour in time to whip up enthusiasm for his film, "Beyond the Sea," which opens in theaters Dec. 29.

No one knew exactly what to expect, but tickets to the show were snapped up as soon as they went on sale and, outside the club on Sunday, people were offering hundreds of dollars for a pair.

[ . . . ]

In a virtually flawless performance, Spacey miraculously channeled the sound, the spirit, the style of Bobby Darin, the neglected pop singing great who died at age 37 in 1973 after his heart, severely damaged by rheumatic fever as a child, finally gave out in the middle of an eight-hour surgery.

[ . . . ]

This extraordinary encomium is practically without precedent in Hollywood. The two-time Oscar-winning Spacey is a big enough star to make his Bobby Darin movie happen. But he could have easily stayed home afterward, done a few phone interviews and checked the grosses in Variety like every other movie star would have.

That he wanted to put himself through the grueling, taxing challenge of going out in the nightclubs -- Darin's reality -- and actually doing Darin's act is an amazing testament to his beautiful obsession. That he did it so completely, totally and lovingly makes it all the more beautiful. This guy Spacey is one for the books.

I'm just kicking myself for having missed it.


Posted 11:40 AM by Tony

Monday, December 06, 2004
Pat Tillman News Pointer

Just a short note:

The Washington Post has a 2-part series on the circumstances of Pat Tillman's death. The series states that Tillman was killed by friendly fire, which is the first time I'd heard of this.

Part 1
Part 2

A snippet:

On patrol in Taliban-infested sectors of Afghanistan's Paktia province, Tillman's "Black Sheep" platoon, formally known as 2nd Platoon, A Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, became bogged down because of a broken Humvee. Lt. David Uthlaut, the platoon leader, recommended that his unit stay together, deliver the truck to a nearby road, then complete his mission. He was overruled by a superior officer monitoring his operations from distant Bagram, near Kabul, who ordered Uthlaut to split his platoon, with one section taking care of the Humvee and the other proceeding to a village, where the platoon was to search for enemy guerrillas.

Steep terrain and high canyon walls prevented the two platoon sections from communicating with each other at crucial moments. When one section unexpectedly changed its route and ran into an apparent Taliban ambush while trapped in a deep canyon, the other section from a nearby ridge began firing in support at the ambushers. As the ambushed group broke free from the canyon, machine guns blazing, one heavily armed vehicle mistook an allied Afghan militiaman for the enemy and poured hundreds of rounds at positions occupied by fellow Rangers, killing Pat Tillman and the Afghan.


Posted 8:15 AM by Tony

Friday, December 03, 2004
So That's Where They Went

This one's for Dan, who'll soon be in the area.

Remember 2 Live Crew?

The band was famous for its lega entanglements. I lost track of them after all the 90s hoopla.

Well, they're baaaack (via SF Chronicle):

It quickly became clear to the undercover agents in the crowd at Little Switzerland that there was more forbidden fruit than lederhosen at the German-style beer hall in Sonoma.

Just the fact that the rap group 2 Live Crew was performing instead of the club's regular polka band was suspicious. The scantily clad girls dancing suggestively on stage to raunchy lyrics might have been enough to trigger some kind of enforcement, even without the partial nudity.

Then the bananas came out.

[ . . . ]

Only vaguely familiar with the group's reputation for vulgar lyrics, Alina Garcia agreed to book a special event with them as the featured attraction. It was special in more ways than one, according to [Scott] Warnock [of the California Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control], whose agents were there to watch for underage drinking at the request of the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department.

[ . . . ]

"I only saw part of the beginning, then I was down at the bar helping with cover charge and security," [Alina Garcia, who is a co-owner with her husband] said, adding, with a sheepish pause, "There was a banana peel left on the stage when the band left."

Warnock said he would probably recommend a temporary suspension of Little Switzerland's liquor license, a ruling that is subject to appeal. In the meantime, the Garcias are trying to cope with a remarkable new interest in their once innocent little beer hall.

"It certainly has gotten us a lot of publicity, more than we ever imagined," Alina Garcia said. "I've been getting bananas as gifts. One of the jazz bands recently left a banana peel on stage. A lot of our customers are over 50 years of age, and some of them feel like they've missed out on something here."

[emphasis added]

Geez, and all I thought was up there were wineries.


Posted 9:09 AM by Tony

Thursday, December 02, 2004
Pranks

My undergraduate school liked to pride itself as "the Harvard of the West." I always thought it a rather poor slogan, myself, as it smacks of a certain inferiority complex. And, as a West Coaster, I found it really hard to care about East Coast schools.

The administration may want to rethink that slogan, in light of what happened at the Yale-Harvard game (via discourse.net, via The Volokh Conspiracy):




Posted 7:02 PM by Tony


Blog Pointers For The Day

Just spotted a few that amused the heck out of me:

1) At Protein Wisdom, you can see the value of a Northwestern University education, where a student researching a paper on Jon Stweart (yeah, I can't believe it either) accuses a guy named Goldstein of anti-Semitism.

2) At Gleeson, the Scooby gang takes on Dan Rather's retirement.

3) Conrad shows that Justice Stevens is a bit confused on economics.

4) The folks at DU discuss cars. Sure, they're taking themselves seriously, but that doesn't mean you have to.

Enjoy.


Posted 8:53 AM by Tony

Wednesday, December 01, 2004
The "Base"

I have a friend who was a big Howard Dean supporter. I couldn't quite figure out why, since he (Dean, not my friend), struck me as primarily being about anger. But he did run a darned effective campaign.

Joe Trippi, Dean's campaign manager, writes in the Opinion Journal about what the Democratic party can do (also showing that the Wall Street Journal's opinion pages are not open only to conservatives):

The staggering defeat of the Democratic Party and its ever-accelerating death spiral weren't obvious from the election results. Two factors masked the extent of the party's trouble. Without the innovation of Internet-driven small-donor fund-raising and a corresponding surge in support from the youngest voters, John Kerry would have suffered a dramatically larger defeat. And the true magnitude of the Democrats' abject failure at the polls in 2004 would have been more clearly revealed.

[ . . . ]

Democrats must reconnect with the energy of our grass roots. One of the failures of the DLC was that its ideas never helped us build a grass-roots donor base. As a result, Democrats held a lead over Republicans in only one fundraising category before this election cycle: contributions over one million dollars. That shows how far the party had strayed from grassroots fundraising before the Dean campaign. We must build a base of at least seven million small donors by 2006. With the Internet it's possible. But it can't just be about the money, it also has to be about ideas.

[ . . . ]

The Democratic Party has to be the vehicle that empowers the American people to change our failed political system. We all know the damn thing is broken. Democrats should lead the way by placing stricter money restrictions on candidates than the toothless Federal Election Commission does. A party funded by contributions from the people can do this. A corrupted and corroded party cannot. The Democratic Party shouldn't wait for campaign-finance reform--it should be campaign-finance reform.

Finally, what is the purpose the party strives for today? What are our goals for the nation? You couldn't tell from the election. Very few good ideas come from the middle, and they tend to be mediocre. Consultants have become adept at keeping candidates in that safe zone. But the time has come to develop bold ideas and challenge people to sacrifice for the common good. Experts will tell you that you can't ask the American people to sacrifice individually for the common good. Those experts are wrong--it's just been so long since anyone has asked them.

I doubt that the Democratic Party will listen. But I hope they do, because a party can't be viable simply be being against something, and a ideologically bankrupt Democratic Party is bad for democracy.


Posted 9:10 AM by Tony


Where's Triumph When You Need Him?

Instapundit points to a Brian Williams quote, characterizing bloggers as "on an equal footing with someone in a bathroom with a modem."

Now I'm not going to complain, even if bloggers did play a large role in bringing down Trent Lott and first raising the issue of CBS's questionable memo concerning President Bush's service.

The metaphor is okay, when you consider that journalistic quality has pretty much gone down the crapper.

Ahh, broadcast journalism - feel free to insert a Triumph the Insult Comic Dog joke here.


Posted 8:40 AM by Tony


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

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