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

Monday, July 31, 2006
Our Janus-Faced "Ally"

The Saudi embassy in DC, on Lebanon:

"The people of Lebanon and Palestine are in dire need of assistance as they face this ordeal," said Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Turki Al-Faisal.

"Saudi Arabia continues to support the people of these nations and to strive for a rapid end to this crisis. We are currently working with members of the global community, including the United States and the United Nations, to restore peace."

I suppose someone should have asked what he meant by "rapid end" in light of this statement by the Saudi royal family (via the Corner):

Therefore, the Kingdom addresses an appeal and a warning to the international community in its entirety, as represented by the UN and in particular the US.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia calls on all to act in accordance with honest, conscious and international moral and humanitarian laws. It also warns all that if the peace option fails due to the Israeli arrogance then only the war option remains and no one knows the repercussions befalling the region, including wars and conflict that will spare no one, including those whose military power is now tempting them to play with fire.

So remind me again why we're selling them Apache upgrades, M-1 upgrades, armored vehicle maintenance, Black Hawks, LAVs, communication systems, and nightvision equipment?

Ah, yes:

This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.

Oh, right. I forget about that sometimes.

Posted 7:21 PM by Tony

Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Now That's Just Painful

A friend of mine if on a Jewish dating site, and she has entertained me with stories of bad J-dates. However, those pale in comparison to this (via the Corner).


Posted 7:39 PM by Tony

The "Chicken Hawk" Canard

Jeff Jacoby takes on the "chicken hawk" canard so often employed by left-wingers:

"Chicken hawk" isn't an argument. It is a slur -- a dishonest and incoherent slur. It is dishonest because those who invoke it don't really mean what they imply -- that only those with combat experience have the moral authority or the necessary understanding to advocate military force. After all, US foreign policy would be more hawkish, not less, if decisions about war and peace were left up to members of the armed forces. Soldiers tend to be politically conservative, hard-nosed about national security, and confident that American arms make the world safer and freer. On the question of Iraq -- stay-the-course or bring-the-troops-home? -- I would be willing to trust their judgment. Would Cindy Sheehan and Howard Dean?

The cry of "chicken hawk" is dishonest for another reason: It is never aimed at those who oppose military action. But there is no difference, in terms of the background and judgment required, between deciding to go to war and deciding not to. If only those who served in uniform during wartime have the moral standing and experience to back a war, then only they have the moral standing and experience to oppose a war. Those who mock the views of "chicken hawks" ought to be just as dismissive of "chicken doves."

[ . . . ]

The founders of the American republic were unambiguous in rejecting any hint of military supremacy. Under the Constitution, military leaders take their orders from civilian leaders, who are subject in turn to the judgment of ordinary voters. Those who wear the uniform in wartime are entitled to their countrymen's esteem and lasting gratitude. But for well over two centuries, Americans have insisted that when it comes to security and defense policy, soldiers and veterans get no more of a say than anyone else.

You don't need medical training to express an opinion on healthcare. You don't have to be on the police force to comment on matters of law and order. You don't have to be a parent or a teacher or a graduate to be heard on the educational controversies of the day. You don't have to be a journalist to comment on this or any other column.

And whether you have fought for your country or never had that honor, you have every right to weigh in on questions of war and peace. Those who cackle "Chicken hawk!" are not making an argument. They are merely trying to stifle one, and deserve to be ignored.

Posted 6:00 AM by Tony

Friday, July 21, 2006
I Dunno, Sounds Tame To Me

Nissan is pulling a New Zealand commercial with Kim Cattrall for the Tiida, due to complaints (via the SF Chronicle):

Cattrall, who plays sex-obsessed, promiscuous Samantha Jones in the hugely successful U.S. series, appears in the ad purring with excitement about Nissan's new sedan.

"Why didn't you tell me it was so big, I just wasn't prepared for it?" she gushes. "The all-new Nissan Tiida makes you feel really, really, really good inside."

She tells a salesman: "Ah! That was amazing. Absolutely fabulous! I mean the great body and the way you moved it."

Oh, please. Given all the other ads we see on TV, even here, this doesn't sound like anything to get exercised about.

I couldn't find that ad, but I found an Australian version, which I suppose is slightly tamer:

And, in a similar vein, here's one on Nissan's independent suspension:

Posted 12:08 AM by Tony

Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Nothing Like Empirical Evidence

I'm opposed to universal health care, primarily because although it sounds nice and warm and fuzzy, it's unclear how this could be paid for without crippling effects on the economy.

I guess we'll find out (via SF Chronicle):

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to make the city the nation's first to provide all residents with health care, approving a plan that would give adults access to medical services regardless of their immigration or employment status.

Financed by local government, mandatory contributions from employers and income-adjusted premiums, the universal care plan would cover the cost of everything from checkups, prescription drugs and X-rays to ambulance rides, blood tests and operations.

[ . . . ]

To offset the estimated annual price tag of $200 million, firms with 20 or more workers would be required to spend $1.06 for each hour worked by an employee, and those with more than 100 workers would have to pay $1.60 per hour up to a monthly maximum of $180 per worker. Companies that already offer health coverage would still have to pay if their insurance contributions did not meet the city's funding levels.

[ . . . ]

"One would think that someone [referring to Mayor Gavin Newsom] who has owned and opened restaurants would be pretty clear on what the profit margin is, and how hard it is to get them open. A $5,000 licensing fee is difficult. A new $60,000 (health care) fee is disabling," [Michael O'Connor, nightclub owner and member of the SF Small Business Commission] said.

Before the board vote, Newsom defended the proposal as a creative solution to the problem of securing decent health care for uninsured residents, noting that businesses would not be alone in defraying the costs. Of the $200 million, the city would provide $104 million and participants would contribute about $56 million.

Of course, I have to wonder where that $104 million provided by the city is going to come from. This should be interesting.

Posted 8:35 PM by Tony

Now That's Entertainment

Guys named Tony are just cool. Example number 1,613,623,834: White House press secretary Tony Snow takes down "reporter" Helen Thomas a few hundred notches (transcript; video):

[Tony Snow:] Helen.

Q The United States is not that helpless. It could have stopped the bombardment of Lebanon. We have that much control with the Israelis.

MR. SNOW: I don't think so, Helen.

Q We have gone for collective punishment against all of Lebanon and Palestine.

MR. SNOW: What's interesting, Helen --

Q And this is what's happening, and that's the perception of the United States.

MR. SNOW: Well, thank you for the Hezbollah view, but I would encourage you --

Q Nobody is accepting your explanation. What is restraint, a call for restraint?

MR. SNOW: Well, I'll tell you, what's interesting, Helen, is people have. The G8 was completely united on this. And as you know, when it comes to issues of --

Q And we stopped a cease-fire -- why?

MR. SNOW: We didn't stop a cease-fire. I'll tell you what --

Q We vetoed --

MR. SNOW: We didn't even veto. Please get your facts right. What happened was that the G8 countries made a pretty clear determination that the guilty party here was Hezbollah. You cannot have a cease-fire when you've got the leader of Hezbollah going on his television saying that he perceives total war -- he's declaring total war. When they are firing rockets indiscriminately --

Q We had the United Nations --

MR. SNOW: Please let me finish. I know this is great entertainment, but I want to finish the answer. The point here is they're firing rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas. The Israelis are responding as they see fit. You will note the countries that disagree with the --

Q -- bombardment of a whole country --

MR. SNOW: -- that disagree with the government of Israel in terms of its general approach on Palestine, many of our European allies agree that Israel has the right to defend itself, that the government of Lebanon has the right to control all its territory, that Hezbollah is responsible and that those who support it also bear responsibility. There is no daylight between the United States and all the allies on this. They all agreed on it. This was not difficult --

Q At that point, why did we veto a cease-fire?

MR. SNOW: We didn't veto a cease-fire.

Q Yes, we did.

MR. SNOW: No, we didn't. There was -- there was no cease-fire. I'm sorry --

Q Wasn't there a resolution?


Q At the U.N.?

MR. SNOW: No -- no. You know what you've -- I see what you -- what happened was that there was conversation about "a cease-fire" that was picked up by some of the microphones when some colorful language made its way into the airwaves yesterday. And the President was continuing a conversation he'd had earlier with Prime Minister Tony Blair about staging. Would we like a cease-fire? You bet, absolutely. We would love to see a cease-fire. But the way you stage is that you make sure that the people who started this fight -- Hezbollah -- take their responsibility --

Q There was no veto at the U.N.?

MR. SNOW: No, there hasn't been a resolution at the VN -- U.N., whatever it is. (Laughter.) There hasn't been -- I was in Germany too long. There's been no resolution at the U.N.

Q Why aren't we proposing a truce, no matter who is to blame? At least stop the killing.

MR. SNOW: Because it wouldn't stop the killing. What it would do is it would say to the killers, you win.

Q Might save lives.

MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so. And I'm glad you raised this. You do not want to engage in a cease-fire that has a practical -- when you say to the Israelis, you guys just stop firing, when you have Hezbollah saying, we're going to wage total war, because Hezbollah would read that as vindication of its tactics, and the idea that if you get the right sort of videos on television, and you get the right things going on, you can allow them to behave with impunity. Even though they are weakening the sovereign government of Lebanon, they are acting independently; even though they have --

Q And bombarding Lebanon --

MR. SNOW: Even though they have received --

Q -- wipes out infrastructure.

MR. SNOW: All right, this is hectoring now. Go ahead [pointing to someone else].

[emphasis added]

Take a look at the video - it captures a whole lot more than the transcript does. I'm still laughing.

Posted 7:53 PM by Tony

Monday, July 10, 2006
A Letter From Peter (et al.) To The Parliamentarians

It's hard for me to take the Church of England all that seriously, both as a Catholic (albeit a not-so-serious one, and believe me, the Vatican has said stuff I vehemently disagree with) and for statements such as "[the terrorist is objectively wicked but] this does not mean that the terrorist has no serious moral goals (what about the Irgun?)." (see also here)

Via the Corner and the BBC, I note a letter in the Independent signed by the Rt. Revs. Peter Price (Bishop of Bath and Wells), Colin Betnnetts (Bishop of Coventry), Michale Hill (Bishop of Bristol), Richard Lewis (Bishop of Loncoln), Timothy Stevens (Bishop of Leicester), Jack Nicholls (Bishop of Sheffield), David James (Bishop of Bradford) and "12 Suffragen Bishops). And what could arouse the attention of so many Anglican ecclesiastical types?

Why, the evil that is British nuclear weapons policy, of course:

Sir: We write to add our voice to the public debate on the issue of the maintenance and renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons programme demanded by the House of Commons Defence Committee. We urge MPs seriously to consider our views when they come to a formal debate in the House and take part in any subsequent vote.

Why the MPs should take the bishops' views on security issues more seriously than anyone else is beyond me. Particularly where official church reports opine that the interconnection between a liberal democracy and a market economy makes it "very difficult to avoid a lowering of general standards and common decency." Ah, for the days of the planned economy!

Whatever our various views on conventional warfare, we all agree that Just War arguments rule out the use of nuclear weapons and such weapons challenge the very core of Judeo-Christian Faith where humanity is given responsibility for the stewardship of God's creation. But there are also practical, moral and economic objections to the basic concept of having a deterrent.

That's nice that they all agree that Just War arguments rule out the use of nukes and that such weapons "challenge the very core of Judeo-Christian faith." I recognize the limitations of newspaper space, but it'd be nice to have at least one sentence justifying such a sweeping statement.

Practical because a deterrent is only effective if a potential enemy knows for certain it will be used. But the use of nuclear weapons would not be an option for us, as that would be nothing less than the mass murder of thousands if not tens of thousands of innocent civilians. The resultant fall-out from a tactical or battlefield weapon could not be confined to a particular area.

The underlying premise is that we would never use nukes. This seems an untenable premise, however. True, the effect of nuclear weapons is indiscriminate. But (assuming a no-first-use policy) what if the retaliatory use of nuclear weapons forecloses further deaths? One scenario would be to use nukes targeted at the other side's nuclear arsenal, i.e., "counterforce". Sometimes, it's the choice between a greater evil and a lesser evil - London or Tehran?

So, if the underlying premise is invalid, the bishops' practicality argument falls apart.

Moral because it is morally corrupting to threaten the use of weapons of mass destruction even when there is no real intention of using them.

Again, the underlying premise is that nuclear weapons would never, ever, be used. Which is not necessarily the case. Now, let's assume that the UK has a no-first-use policy - I don't know this for sure, but let's just make that assumption. Is it morally corrupting to threaten the use of a weapon as a deterrent? For example, is it morally corrupting to threaten a home intruder with a gun? I don't think so. But I recognize that's a subjective judgment, and British attitudes may differ, as evidenced by their gun control regime and prosecution of a person who hit a couple of burglars with a brick. Make of that what you will.

Economic because the use of limited resources on WMDs diverts those resources from education, health and aid to those who are the poorest and most in need.

Or, Parliament could just choose to not spend the money. Just because the government chooses to not spend money on one thing does not mean that it must spend it on something else.

Humanity has the power to make or mar this planet. Current concern over global warming and the environment, as well as poverty and debt among the world's most vulnerable people, demonstrate the need to re-engage with the task of caring for the world and its people.

This seems a bit irrelevant to a discussion about nuclear weapons. The first sentence is a meaningless truism. The next is a laundry list of pet concerns that have little, if anything, to do with the topic of nuclear weapons.

Human dignity and freedom are foundation values for all people. Humanity has a right to live in dignity and freedom without fear. Trident and other nuclear arsenals threaten long-term and fatal damage to the global environment and its peoples. As such their end is evil and both possession and use profoundly anti-God acts.

Well, using the same rationale, all forms of resource exploitation are "profoundly anti-God acts" because they "threaten long-term and fatal damage to the global environment and its peoples." And it assumes a black and white world view that discounts verarious factors. Who possesses them? What is the likelihood that they will be used at all? How likely is the possessor to engage in unlimited nuclear warfare? How effective is the deterrent role? These are all questions that have some relevance. The bishops' statement is akin to saying "violence is bad" without considering the character of the actors or the circumstances under which it occurs.

Nuclear weapons are a direct denial of the Christian concept of peace and reconciliation, which are social and economic as well as physical and spiritual. The Christian Gospel is one of hope, enabling humanity to live in harmony with itself and nature and leading to prosperity and community life marked by joy.

The Christian Gospel is one of hope. But it doesn't require adherents to wear blinders. The goal of nuclear disarmament is an laudable aspiration. However, unilateral disarmament uncoupled to reality amounts to an abdication of one's moral responsibilities.

At the Gleneagles summit a year ago the G8 pledged to "Make Poverty History" and to end the debt burden on the world's poorest countries. The costs involved in the maintenance and replacement of Trident could be used to address pressing environmental concerns, the causes of terrorism, poverty and debt, and enable humanity and dignity to be the right of all, and would go a long way towards helping Make Poverty History.

This strikes me as a bit of an overstatement. And it reflects an attitude that throwing money is a cure for social problems. What matterrs is not how much is spent, but rather how the money is used. Moreover, some of this is just wrong. Does money "enable humanity and dignity to be the right of all"? I'll leave that for the reader to contemplate.

Posted 7:01 PM by Tony

Friday, July 07, 2006
Alternative SF Tours

Now, as someone who's lived in the Bay Area for a while, I've done all the typical tourist stuff - Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, the museums (though I haven't seen the new De Young yet), and assorted street fairs and events.

I haven't done much in the way of tours, but you always see groups of tourists around. But this one is new to me (via SF Chronicle):

Sara North reviewed her notes before she headed out to the strip clubs the other Friday night.

Carol Doda worked at the Condor, check. The "i" in hungry i is for "intelligence." And most of all, the more money you leave a stripper, the more attention you get.

"We can have a big impact on our experience, and the dancer's, by being big tippers," North told her group of 13. "So bring lots of dollar bills."

North, a former dancer and now a guide, leads monthly walking tours of North Beach strip clubs. In a city rich in sex, the stroll is the only one of its kind, according to Catherine Rose, the tour's founder and a former member of the Exotic Dancers Alliance. The tour blends sex entertainment and San Francisco history, and if it manages to heat the customer's loins, well, that's a bonus.

Shoot, that's gotta beat most of the tours out there. Sounds pretty educational - the only thing I know of was in relation to workers' unions.

Posted 5:23 PM by Tony

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

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