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

Monday, February 28, 2005
My One And Only Academy Awards Post

No, I didn't watch the awards ceremony last night - thoes things generally strike me as a waste of time. The only time I've ever sat through the Academy Awards is when a friend of mine threw a party at her place, and there, it was more of an excuse to get smashed / watch my friends mutual acquantainces make passes at each other.

Tim Goodman of the SF Chronicle watched it, though, and gets in a couple of good shots:

-- Rock on the fact that "Fahrenheit 9/11" wasn't nominated: "Right now Michael Moore is saying, 'I should have just made "Super Size Me." I've done the research.' "

Yes, a cheap shot, but funny as hell nonetheless.

Posted 7:56 AM by Tony

Friday, February 25, 2005
Organ Markets

There's a well-known urban legend relating to people who wake up to find their kidneys missing (via Snopes). While false, one of the more interesting aspects was the horror at the idea of a black market in organ transplants.

While not a black market, this comes pretty close (via SF Chronicle):

Nearly every adult in Sultan Pur More, a picturesque hamlet in northern Punjab, has sold a kidney. The village is one of dozens that provide the human stock for Pakistan's burgeoning cash-for-kidneys trade.

It all started with one resident who worked in Rawalpindi, explained Sikander Hayad, who says 39 of his relatives have made the kidney pilgrimage. "The man had the operation and came home to spread the word," said the 33-year- old bicycle repairman. "Then everybody went."

The organ sales business -- outlawed in all but a handful of countries -- is legal in Pakistan. The gold standard is the kidney.

"Transplant tourists" from Europe, the United States and particularly the Middle East who are frustrated by yearslong waiting lists are flocking to private Pakistani hospitals for operations that can be arranged in days and at a fraction of the cost of those at home.

Since a ban on the controversial trade in India a decade ago, a booming industry has sprung up around Rawalpindi and Lahore, Pakistan's second-largest city. Private hospitals advertise their services on the Internet. Newspapers carry small ads for donors. And middlemen scour the countryside, looking for fresh peasant laborers to entice with the promise of instant riches.

[ . . . ]

Retired army surgeons run the two major transplant centres in Rawalpindi where, according to [Muhammad] Iqbal [who sold a kidney], penniless donors are constantly streaming through the door.

I'm of mixed mind about the whole thing. It's exploitative, but these people's options seem pretty limited.

Posted 11:32 AM by Tony

Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Ahh, Berkeley!

I mentioned these people last week.

Digger's Realm has a picture of Pearcy's Boxster S (via Annika). A flyer on the back window of his car reads:

Fuck Bush
Fuck The Police
Fuck The U.S. Government
Fuck Israel
Fuck SUVs
Burn American Flags!

I realize this constitutes an ad hominem attack, but seriously, what a jackass.

"Fuck SUVs"? I would point out that the mileage on the Boxster S (17-18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, via Car and Driver) is hardly serves as a platform for moral superiority. This is especially so considering that most driving in the Bay Area is closer to city rather than highway conditions.

Anyone else find it amusing that Pearcy advocates burning a symbol of a country that provides him sufficient opportunity to buy a $50,000+ gas hog?

Posted 8:54 AM by Tony

Monday, February 21, 2005
A Head-Smacking Moment

So, the USS Jimmy Carter (groan) was commissioned on Saturday (via LA Times):

Carter said he expected the crew to use the submarine's "extraordinary capabilities — many top secret — to preserve peace, to protect our country and to keep high the banner of human rights around the world."

He wants the crew "to keep high the banner of human rights around the world." I'm a bit curious how they're going to do that, what with being, you know, a submarine crew.

Posted 5:16 PM by Tony

Now, That's Something

Back in high school, I started reading up on terrorism. This was back in the mid-80s, when we Americans were confronted with episodes like the Marine Barracks bombing, Pan Am Flight 103, and the murders of Robert Stethem and Leon Klinghoffer. While educating myself on terrorism, I couldn't help but read about the IRA. I was surprised to read about things such as American fundraising for IRA activities, and by continued denials by Sinn Fein concerning its connection to the IRA.

It looks like this may be symptomatic of the decline of sympathy to Sinn Fein and the IRA in Ireland (via SF Chronicle, more here and here):

Political passions are reaching a boiling point in Ireland over the IRA's alleged $50 million robbery of a Belfast bank _ the biggest heist in history _ and an unfolding investigation into wider IRA money laundering. The Irish government says Sinn Fein leaders are involved in both.

Over the past decade of Northern Ireland peacemaking, leaders of successive Irish and British governments have privately considered [Sinn Fein party leader Gerry] Adams and Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's deputy leader, to be members of the seven-member IRA command, called the "army council." To maintain good relations with Sinn Fein, neither government has confronted them about this in public.

But during a live debate on a national radio station, Justice Minister Michael McDowell identified Adams, McGuinness and Martin Ferris as IRA army council members. McDowell condemned what he called their "deep, deep dishonesty."

[ . . . ]

Ferris is one of Sinn Fein's five lawmakers in the 166-member Irish parliament. In 1984, he was caught trying to smuggle weapons into Northern Ireland on a ship from Boston and spent eight years in prison. The Irish goverment has already identified him as an IRA army council member.

All I can say is, it's about time.

Posted 4:06 PM by Tony

Gratuitous D&D Reference Of The Day

I mentioned D&D a few months ago, relating to Vin Diesel as a gamer.

While going through the Web, I found this bit from IMDB, dated a couple months ago:

Boogie Nights star Heather Graham has taken on a new action role - as the voice of a computer-animated heroine. Graham was approached to play Antonia Bayle, the ruler of fictitious Qeynos, in new videogame Everquest II and she admits she's hooked. She says, "I didn't even know the game when they approached me, but then I played the first one, and it was amazing. I'd always wished I had the chance to play Dungeons & Dragons as a kid, but I never had friends who were into it. Now I've got friends who are super-obsessed with EverQuest, and they fear for me once I start getting into the sequel."

You know, it's funny how I never met any women while playing RPGs...

Posted 3:56 PM by Tony

Thursday, February 17, 2005
Pointless Diversion Of The Day

Well, this was pretty hilarious for some reason (via BrainDump).

Posted 5:20 PM by Tony

Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Korean Imports

... but not in the way you think.

I lived in Korea for a year, a bit over a decade ago (geez, has it been that long?). The only non-Korean cars I ever saw back then were US Army HMMWVs, which looked positively gargantuan in the parking lot that was Seoul traffic. Even on more recent visits, the last one being in 2002, I don't remember having seen a single non-Korean manufactured automobile (again, excepting those owned by US personnel).

I was left with the feeling that Korea was a closed market to imported cars. Part of that could be the large number of domestic manufacturers.

Also, part of it could be tariffs. For purposes of analysis, I'm assuming that this KAIDA breakdown of costs is correct. Consider the CIF (cost, insurance, freight), which is the base cost to ship the automobile to Korea. The tariff is 8%, and other taxes are calculated on the basis of CIF + tariff and other costs. So, the extra cost attributable to a 2000 cc displacement import (assuming 0% importer's margin - sure it's an unrealistic assumption, but work with me) is almost 13.5% of the cost of the car.

Yet it looks like there's going to be a bigger push to increae the number of imported cars on the road (via Korea Herald):

Foreign carmakers are increasingly looking at Korea as a growth market.

Aggressive model introductions will translate to 48 new cars on the road here this year and the makers are drawing up diverse marketing strategies to attract local buyers.

[ . . . ]

This year's import market will usher in several diesel models, more sport utility and multi-purpose vehicles. Several companies are banking that customers will be attracted to diesel models due to the fuel's cost advantage, even though the government has announced higher prices of diesel and LPG to take effect in 2007. However, even after the adjustment, diesel will still have an economic advantage of 15 percent compared to gasoline.

Of course, the targets are pretty modest - even with the introduction of the Mini Cooper, BMW is setting its level to 15 percent higher than last year's 5500 units. And Nissan is going to be importing Infiniti, which I find interesting not only for the obvious reason, but also because I figure Nissan wouldn't bother having a separate brand when selling to a market in such close geographical proximity (note: the Infiniti brand does not exist in Japan).

This portion of the article also caught my eye:

DaimlerChrysler Korea will also offer a unique "new car exchange program," where an owner will receive a new car in case of an accident within one year after registration if the person is the victim (less than half at fault) and if the damage caused by the accident is more than 20 percent of the car price.

I just find that interesting, given the number of auto accidents in Korea ((PDF)).

Posted 6:19 PM by Tony

Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Blog Pointer Of The Day

Not much really to blog about lately, so I thought I'd point to a blog.

This That Pepsi Girl blogger probably could use this card. (via The American Scene, by way of The Corner*) According to adrants, the blog is for real. Scary.

Update: Also check out Rory's site. He offers what might be the best advice out there concerning what not to do after handling chiles.
* Yes, Ramesh should be executed, if he's never seen Harold and Kumar.

Posted 5:21 PM by Tony

First Refuge

Samuel Johnson once noted that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." I submit that, some 230 years later, a revision is in order.

Now, the First Amendment is the first refuge of fringe leftists.

Annika notes that a particularly tasteless exercise in free speech by Stephen and Virginia Pearcy, both attorneys (picture via KCRA):

The Pearcys, engaging in the high-minded political discourse for which Northern California is known, also had this lovely message (via KCRA):

After the first effigy was torn down, a new one was put up, with a sign saying "Bush Lied, I Died."

I'm not denying that they can't express themselves in the way they chose.* "Can" and "should" are two very different things, though.

And I choose to express myself by saying that Pearcy's manifestation of their opinion is pretty damned pathetic.
* Yes, I know, the First Amendment restricts action by the government; however I'm talking about the concept of free expression that underlies, or animates, the First Amendment. I suspect Pearcy was using the First Amendment as an erroneous shorthand when he commented,"There will always be people who are offended by free speech. The First Amendment is meaningless unless dissent is allowed."

Posted 5:14 PM by Tony

Monday, February 14, 2005
Why Yes, I Am Cynical

Let me be up front: Valentine's Day pisses me off. Which is why I found this cartoon so frickin' hilarious (via Toothpaste for Dinner):

Posted 4:23 PM by Tony

Friday, February 11, 2005

I'm sure that people have thought their primary and secondary school years as somewhat being akin to prison. This just sort of takes it to the next step (via SF Chronicle; also CNN*):

The only grade school in this rural town is requiring students to wear radio frequency identification badges that can track their every move. Some parents are outraged, fearing it will take away their children's privacy.

The badges introduced at Brittan Elementary School on Jan. 18 rely on the same radio frequency and scanner technology that companies use to track livestock and product inventory. Similar devices have recently been used to monitor youngsters in some parts of Japan.

[ . . . ]

Each student is required to wear identification cards around their necks with their picture, name and grade and a wireless transmitter that beams their ID number to a teacher's handheld computer when the child passes under an antenna posted above a classroom door.

This seems pretty intrusive, though it's unclear to me whether the tags rise to the level of an unconstitutional violation of the children's privacy rights.

In any event, interesting idea, but horrible implementation.
* Incidentally, CNN finally has a story on comments by its news director, Eason Jordan, who allegedly claimed that journalists in Iraq had been targeted by US forces.

Jordan makes for an interesting study in contrasts. He admitted that, under his watch, CNN squelched stories about Saddam Hussein's regime, yet, in a January 2003 article co-authored with CNN's Walter Isaacson demanded unfettered access to US forces about to enter combat, wrote:

Good journalists know how to keep their independence by reporting honestly, and bad ones don't.


Jordan also claimed that CNN journalists had been targeted by Iraqi intelligence. Must suck, being targeted by both sides.

Update: Jordan resigned. Sheesh.

Posted 6:14 PM by Tony

Thursday, February 10, 2005
A Whale Of An Afterlife

I've heard of elephant graveyards, but now we know what happens to whales when they die - they provide a home for numerous organisms (via Nature, no registration required for article):

The Alvin team had happened upon what have since become known as 'whale falls' — communities of creatures that thrive among the sulphur-laden ooze of decaying whales. Just as windfalls deliver a sudden bounty of ripened fruit, whale falls see the death of a whale bring a host of nutrients to the sea floor. The falls are few and far between, and difficult to track and study, but researchers are learning ever more — sometimes through extreme measures — about the new species to be found among the remains. Some 39 of the species discovered so far are thought to be especially suited or even unique to this environment.

[ . . . ]

Scientists now estimate that a whale-fall community can survive for up to a century by sucking the fats and sulphides from these bones. The bacteria that make their home on whale falls are so good at degrading fat in cold waters that the biotechnology company Diversa in San Diego, California, is looking to see whether their enzymes might prove useful in cold-water detergents.

[ . . . ]

Such research has unveiled a number of strange creatures. Perhaps the prize find so far is a newly described worm genus, Osedax — Latin for 'bone-devourer' — which has a clever metabolic strategy. With no mouth, stomach or eyes, Osedax has evolved a root system to excavate the fat out of whale bones. The worms tunnel into the bones with their green, fleshy roots and turn them into "Swiss cheese", says [University of Hawaii researcher Craig] Smith. The worms then rely on bacteria within their tissues to digest fats and oils from the bone marrow. Although the bacteria are similar to those found in oil slicks, this sort of microbe has never been found in a symbiotic partnership with another creature before.

So far, researchers have found five species of Osedax — four in the Pacific and, most recently, one in the Atlantic, implying that the worms have a worldwide distribution. Two of the species have a matriarchal society of sorts, in which all of the female members are about the length of an index finger, and the males are mere microscopic threads that live inside the females' oviducts. A single female can hold up to 111 males.

Check it out - it's one, um, whale of a fascinating read.

Posted 7:18 AM by Tony

Tuesday, February 08, 2005
A Quick Thought

Professor Cole's rant makes me wonder why, if he's representative of the faculty, the University of Michigan is considered an "elite" university.

I offer a short chronology, for your convenience.

1. Goldberg offers the following critique of Cole in the Jewish World Review:

All of the sophisticates and cynics insisted that having elections would be a bloody fool's errand. Bush was being too rigid by holding firm on the January elections. Surely a more reasonable man would postpone them since everyone knows they'll be a bloodbath. And then, once they took place, the goalposts were moved again. Consider Juan Cole. You probably haven't heard of him, but he's the dashboard saint of lefty Middle East experts. President-elect of the Middle East Studies Association, Cole has made a new career for himself in finding the dark lining of every silver cloud. After the Iraqi elections he harrumphed on his Web site that he was "appalled" by the media's cheerleading of the election. He absurdly declared that the 1997 Iranian elections were much more democratic (Iranian candidates had to be approved by the mullahs). He whined that Bush did not originally intend to have elections of this sort and only agreed when Ayatollah Sistani insisted. Suddenly, Bush the rigid ideologue is too flexible.

Most telling, Cole offered a world-weary sigh that "This thing was more like a referendum than an election."

This observation requires us to reopen the "Well, duh!" list for a new contender. Of course it was more like a referendum. That's the point.

2. Cole reacts.

3.Goldberg responds.

4. Cole updates his original post.

5. Goldberg shoots back.

6. Cole responds with, in part:*

Although I do not believe that everyone who advocates a war must go and fight it, I do believe that young men who advocate a war must go and fight it. Goldberg was in his early 30s in 2002, and the army would have taken him. An older colleague who was at Harvard in 1941 told me about how the freshman class rushed to enlist. That was the characteristic of the Greatest Generation-- they put their money where their mouths were. Goldberg's response was insulting to all the soldiers fighting in Iraq who have suffered economically and who are remote from their families.

7. Goldberg offers Cole a bet:

Anyway, I do think my judgment is superior to his when it comes to the big picture. So, I have an idea: Since he doesn't want to debate anything except his own brilliance, let's make a bet. I predict that Iraq won't have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it. I'll bet $1,000 (which I can hardly spare right now). This way neither of us can hide behind clever word play or CV reading. If there's another reasonable wager Cole wants to offer which would measure our judgment, I'm all ears. Money where your mouth is, doc.

8. Cole is horrified:

I cannot tell you how this paragraph hit me in the gut. I was nearly immobilized by disgust and grief. This man really does see Iraqis as playthings. He is proposing a wager on the backs of Iraqis. Millions of Iraqis are going through winter with insufficient heating oil. They are jobless. The innocent 250,000 Fallujans are homeless. Imagine what $1000 means to them. And here we have an prominent American media star, a man who sets opinion on the Sunday afternoon talking heads shows, betting on them as though they are greyhounds in a race. They are not human beings to him, but political playthings on which to be wagered.

O-kay. That's definitely a weird reaction. By the same token, selling off stock in a corporation is a wager proposed on the backs of that corporation's employees.

I don't know where Cole comes from, but where I'm from, "I'll bet you" is equivalent to "put up or shut up," i.e., an offer to test the sincerity or accuracy of a position. That's hardly the same as "proposing a wager on the backs of Iraqis." And, more to the point, Goldberg only wins if things improve for Iraqis. If he'd said something like, "Betcha the insurgents are going to kill lots more people," then Cole might have a point. Maybe.

For example, let's take the famous bet that economist Julian Simon had with biologist and biologist Paul Ehrlich. Ehrlich had stated that overpopulation would cause major catastrophes, and "a minimum of ten million people, most of them children, will starve to death during each year of the 1970s. But this is a mere handful compared to the numbers that will be starving before the end of the century." Simon bet Ehrlich that the market price of any five metals of Ehrlich's choice would go down, using changes in demand (and thus price) as a proxy for population. Ehrlich lost. **

Does this mean that Ehrlich and Simon were wagering on the misery of billions, and the end of all life on Earth? No. The bet was a way to test their respective positions.

Such is the case here - Goldberg's proffered bet is a way to test the accuracy of his and Cole's respective judgments with respect to Iraq. Frankly, I'm a bit surprised that an educated individual like Professor Cole would miss the point so badly.
* This is one of the dumber arguments I've seen, i.e., that volunteering is a predicate to the advocacy of an affirmative action. Example: 27 people died during construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. Does that mean that one must volunteer to build the bridge to argue that such a bridge is desirable or needed?

** Ehrlich later made 16 predictions relating to the period 1994-2004. I wonder how many of them came to pass.

Posted 8:08 PM by Tony

The San Francisco Chronicle Gets It Wrong Again

Those of you who read this know that I find the SF Chronicle's editorial pages to be largely incoherent, but I've limited myself to criticism of its columnists.

Yesterdsay, the SF Chronicle's editorial simply got it wrong (via Corsair the Rational Pirate):

"It's a hell of a hoot," he said at a forum on terrorism-fighting tactics in San Diego. "It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up front with you. I like brawling."

It was stomach-turning to think those words came from a Marine general who led 65,000 troops into Baghdad in the early days of the war, led the onslaught on the rebel stronghold of Fallujah and commanded forces in Afghanistan as well as the Persian Gulf War.

[ . . . ]

Perhaps we shouldn't be shocked that an administration that went to war with arrogant disregard for its allies' views -- and carved itself a double standard on detainment and torture of prisoners -- would fail to fully grasp the damage of Mattis' flippant remarks.

They are an insult to the memory of more than 1,400 Americans who died in this conflict and the untold thousands of Iraqi noncombatants who died from the missiles and bullets that flew in the rage of combat.

A certain desensitization about the value of human life may be necessary to cope in the stress of performing a job that requires killing, a cold mentality that must be kept on the battlefield.

There is something repulsive about a U.S. general gleefully justifying the slaughter of others because "they ain't got no manhood left anyway."

The Chronicle's (as well as AlterNet's*) fundamental errors are that it takes the remarks out of context, and assumes that one comment summarizes the measure of a man.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find a transcript. However, the context is clear, as shown in the LA Times (via Blackfive; see also Government Computer News; AFCEA; video of remarks at NBCSanDiego; DOD transcript of Pace remarks):

Mattis, 53, has a reputation among the troops he commands as a jaunty, volatile figure fiercely committed to the Marine Corps and to the people he leads.

As the lead commander of Task Force 58, he pushed hundreds of miles into the Afghan desert to establish bases a few weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. Marines under Mattis aided anti-Taliban forces, secured the strategic Kandahar airport and cut off escape routes for Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters.

As commanding general of the 1st Marine Division based at Camp Pendleton, Mattis led that force in their advance on Baghdad in 2003, the longest, fastest move of a division-sized unit in Marine Corps history.

Mattis, who is unmarried, has served nine tours of duty in the Mideast.

Mattis' comments came in the context of how to transform the armed forces to fight terrorism beyond Iraq. He questioned future spending on new forms of air and sea warfare. "Our very dominance of certain forms of warfare have driven the enemy into historic forms of warfare that we have not mastered," he said.

He also said it was "almost embarrassing intellectually" that commanders looked to unspecified future wars and enemies to reshape the military, rather than to the insurgents it faced in Iraq.

"Don't patronize this enemy," he said of guerrillas. "They mean business. They mean every word they say. Don't imagine an enemy somewhere in the future and you're going to transform so you can fight him.

"They're killing us now. Their will is not broken. They mean it. If they have their way, there'll be no science or math in school. There'll be no women in school," he said.

Mattis added that it was important to recruit and select the right people and to give them training and language skills so they understood whom they were fighting.

"As much emotional … satisfaction as you get from really whacking somebody [who abused women], the main effort, ladies and gentlemen, is to diminish the conditions that drive people to sign up for these kinds of insurgencies," Mattis said.

[emphasis added]

The text highlighted above serves as a counterpoint to the remarks the Chronicle chose to focus on - that is, while shooting the Taliban may give rise to a certain visceral satisfaction (I know it would for me), that satisfaction should not distract focus from the multidimensional nature of a counterinsurgency war. And the remarks arose in the context of a conference panel discussion on transforming the military in light of our experience in Iraq.

The audience understood this. The Chronicle does not. Nor does Juan Cole, who, in his (in my opinion) misleadingly-named "Informed Comment," accuses Mattis by implication of being a sadist. As Ralph Peters, who was at that same conference, notes in the New York Post:

We've come to a sad state when a Marine who has risked his life repeatedly to keep our country safe can't speak his mind, while any professor who wants to blame America for 9/11 [an apparent reference to Ward Churchill, who compared 9/11 victims to Adolf Eichmann] is defended by legions of free-speech advocates. If a man like Mattis hasn't earned the right to say what he really believes, who has?

Had Gen. Mattis collapsed in tears and begged for pity for the torments war inflicted on him, the media would have adored him. Instead, he spoke as Marines and soldiers do in the headquarters tent or the barracks, on the battlefield or among comrades. And young journalists who never faced anything more dangerous than a drunken night in Tijuana tried to create a scandal.

There are those who complain (via LA Times):

"We do not need generals who treat the grim business of war as a sporting event," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "These disturbing remarks are indicative of an apparent indifference to the value of human life."

Is Awad and the SF Chronicle correct in asserting that Mattis is indifferent to the value of human life?

The same LA Times story points out:
Last year, on his second tour in Iraq, Mattis said he embraced a "hearts and minds" posture, lecturing troops to make friends with Iraqis. He laid down strict rules for when troops could fire and required commanders to seek his permission before using artillery.

Soon after the fall of Baghdad, Mattis called for a criminal investigation into how some Marines were treating prisoners, and that led to several courts-martial.

He also led an overhaul of procedures for handling prisoners to avoid mistreatment.

So much for Awad's "apparent indifference to the value of human life."** I would also point out the letter General Mattis sent in response to Spirit of America's drive to provide humanitarian supplies to Iraq.

And there's General Mattis' March 2003 letter to the First Marine Division on the eve of the war (via StrategyPage, by way of Vodkapundit):

When I give you the word, toegether we will cross the Line of Departure, close with those forces that choose to fight, and destroy them. Our fight is not with the Iraqi people, nor is it with members of the Iraqi army who choose to surrender. While we will move swiftly and aggresively against those who resist, we will treat all others with decency, demonstrating chivalry and soldierly compassion for people who have endured a lifetime under Saddam's oppression.

Finally, I point to this passage from page 113 of The Iraq War: A Military History:

However, the rationale for the conflict would become crystal clear to 1st Marine Division's commander, Marine General James Mattis, after the war. In May 2003 an Iraqi came up to him and thanked him for the efforts the marines had made to free Iraq. It was too late for him, he said. During the time of the Baath, he had found the broken body of his twelve-year-old daughter on his doorstep, along with a videotape depicting her last two hours of life, as Saddam's thugs raped, tortured, and eventually killed her. But the Americans had saved others from a similar fate, he said, his eyes welling with tears.

Again, not really the sign of a person with an "apparent indifference to the value of human life."

I would suggest that the Chronicle should have actually engaged in substantive investigation before making remarks injurious to General Mattis' reputation. However, given the quality of the Chronicle, I suspect I'd just be wasting my breath.
* AlterNet also is factually in error, stating, "Gen. Mattis is stationed in Quantico, where he is in charge of training Marines to be combat-ready. God help us all." Actually, no. General Mattis is not in charge of training - he's the head of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, which develops warfighting doctrine. As for AlterNet's objection regarding his suitability for the post, I'm curious as to who would be better suited for developing doctrine than someone who led a division in combat over large distances. As stated on page 116 of The Iraq War: A Military History, "The distance the marines covered in three weeks of military operations from Kuwait to Tikrit was equivalent to the distance from San Diego to San Francisco."

** As commentator Daniel Pipes has noted, CAIR isn't exactly a "Muslim NAACP." CAIR has been named in a recent complaint relating to 9/11 (PDF, see paragraphs 86-88).

Posted 8:15 AM by Tony

Thursday, February 03, 2005
Am I The Only One To Think This Odd?

In Nancy Pelosi's rebuttal to the President's State of the Union speech, she points out (via MSNBC, via Free Will, via Instapundit):

As House Democratic Leader, I want to speak with you this evening about an issue of grave concern — the national security of our country.

Any discussion of our national security must begin with recognition and respect for our men and women in uniform. Whether they are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, or delivering humanitarian aid to the victims of the tsunami in Asia, our troops have the gratitude of every American for their courage, their patriotism, and the sacrifice they are willing to make for our country.

I have seen that sacrifice up close. I've met with our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I've visited our wounded in military hospitals here and overseas. Our troops not only defend us, they inspire us. They remind us of our responsibility to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.

[emphasis added]

I suppose it would be churlish of me to point out that Representative Pelosi was so inspired that, like Senator Boxer, she voted against supplemental appropriations to fund the operations of those troops in Iraq and Afghanistan she was so inspired by.

Although, to be fair, Pelosi did disagree Ted Kennedy's rather stupid calendar-based (as opposed to objective-based) timetable for troop withdrawal.

Posted 8:43 AM by Tony

Wednesday, February 02, 2005
If You're Feeling Poetic . . .

Go enter Annika's KISS haiku contest. That's right, haikus about KISS. The cumulative poetic talent of the blogosphere will leave you amazed.

Or something.

Posted 6:11 PM by Tony

Territorial Limits Ad Absurdum

A commenter at the Marmot's Hole points out the case of Okinotori, which anchors, if you'll forgive the pun, Japanese claims of an Economic Exclusivity Zone far south of the main islands.

I'm not sure this even passes the straight face test (via Financial Times; see also pictures here,):

A sign that the territorial issue is creeping up the political agenda came this week, when Shintaro Ishihara, governor of Tokyo, said Chinese survey ships were encroaching on Japan's exclusive economic zone near Okinotori island, 1,740km south of Tokyo but officially under its jurisdiction.

Mr Ishihara told Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister, that he would like to build a power station on the deserted island, designated as a mere "rock" by China, as a way of underlining Japan's presence in the area.

A power station that transmits power to no one (presumably) - what a marvelous idea. Mr. Ishihara's name is familiar to me, in light of comments he made in 2003, blaming Korea for its occupation by Japan. As a result, his comments carry with them a presumption of lunacy, at least to me.

I'm a tad skeptical about these territorial claims, in light of the following description of Okinotori (via Japan Today, from Dec. 8, 2004):

One of the two islands is called Higashi Kojima, which is a tiny island, a six-centimeter spur above the surface of sea at high tide. Another island is called, Kita Kojima, which rises only 16 centimeters above the ocean.

[ . . . ] In the coral reef near Okinotori Islands, there is an old weather observation station floating, which was built in 1987 for constructing safety facilities on the islands. Currently, the station has no one stationed inside.

The Okinotori Islands are located on the course often taken by typhoons and they are frequently hit by these storms. The Japanese government built a protective wall around the islands and covered the tops of the islands with caps made of a titanium alloy.

I was particularly amused by this part:

Chinese ships have invaded Japanese territorial water near Okinotori Islands 12 times so far this year and the frequency is increasing. Professor Shigeo Hiramatsu of Kyorin University said, "It is believed that the Chinese government is sending its ships to check the waterbed of the area for placing mines. Once the Chinese military forces move toward consolidating the Taiwanese forces into their forces, U.S. forces on Guam will take military action. However, the mines in the sea near Okinotori Islands will become an obstacle for the U.S. to take military action."

Okay, raise your hands if you think the US would take military action to protect claims to an island "which rises only 16 centimeters above the ocean."

Posted 6:08 PM by Tony

Do The Geneva Conventions Require Rethinking

There's an aphorism when it comes to interpreting statutory law: if the language of the statute is unambiguous, there is no need to look at anything outside of that language. Only when the text of the statute is unclear should a court look at the circumstances behind its enactment, i.e., the legislative history.

Such ambiguity I suppose, might apply to the question of captured terrrorists/insurgents/non-state actors, who must, among other things "hav[e] a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance" to qualify as prisoners of war protected by the 1949 Convention. The Convention presupposes or assumes the existence of some sort of state involvement, which may not be the case in current conflicts.

Robert Delahunty and John Yoo (who's most known for their memo on the topic, but this one is also of interest) have a column in the LA Times relating to non-state actors (such as terrorists) and the Geneva Convention, in the context of the nomination of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general:

"Human rights" advocates have resorted to hyperbole and distortion to attack the administration's policy. One writer on this page even went so far as to compare it to Nazi atrocities. Such absurd claims betray the real weaknesses in the position taken by Gonzales' critics. They obscure a basic and immediate question facing the United States: how to adapt to the decline of nation-states as the primary enemy in war.

The Geneva Convention is not obsolete — nor, despite his critics, did Gonzales say it was. It protects innocent civilians by restricting the use of violence to combatants, and in turn give soldiers protections for obeying the rules of war. Although enemy combatants may have killed soldiers or destroyed property, they are not treated as accused criminals. Instead, nations may detain POWs until the end of hostilities to prevent them from returning to combat.

[ . . . ]

Unfortunately, multinational terrorist groups have joined nations on the stage of war. They operate without regard to borders and observe no distinction between combatants and civilians. Our weapons for controlling hostile states don't work well against decentralized networks of suicidal operatives, with no citizens or borders to defend.

The problem of terrorist groups has been compounded by the emergence of pseudo-states. Pseudo-states often have neither the will nor the means to obey the Geneva Convention. Somalia and Afghanistan were arguably pseudo-states; Iraq under Saddam Hussein was another.

Pseudo-states control areas and populations subject to personal, clan or tribal rule. A leader supported by a small clique (like Hussein and his associates from Tikrit) or a tribal faction (like the Pashtuns in Afghanistan) rule. Political institutions are weak or nonexistent. Loyalties depend on personal relationships with tribal chiefs, sheiks or warlords, rather than allegiance to the nation.

Quasi-political bodies such as the Iraqi Baathist Party, the Taliban or even the Saudi royal family [heh] exercise government power. Defeat of the "national" leader or clique typically results in the complete disintegration of the regime.

Delahunty and Yoo point out that the basic premise of the Convention is one of reciprocity, i.e., I don't take the gloves off because if I do, you'll take yours off. As a result, should the Conventions apply where the principle of reciprocity does not apply?

Posted 6:02 PM by Tony

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

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