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

Thursday, July 31, 2003
Perspective

I happened across a recent decision from a district court in DC, Acree v. Iraq (available as PDF here, which sheds some light into treatment of POWs during the first Gulf War.

Here's one, taken at random, at pages 34-37 of the slip opinion:

Sergeant David Lockett was taken prisoner when his truck convoy ended up in the middle of the Iraqi Army. During his capture, he suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen, with
shards of metal lodged in his wound as well as in his chest and legs. Immediately after his capture, he was driven from camp to camp blindfolded and with his arms tied behind his back. At each camp, the soldiers would take turns hitting him on the knees with their weapons while spitting on him and laughing. When the soldiers noticed he had a gunshot wound in his abdomen, they punched him there with their fists and the butts of their weapons, making the bleeding more intense.

During his first interrogation, he was hit in his face when he did not provide requested military information. He was then tied to a chair while a number of Iraqis took turns
hitting him with their fists and hitting his knees with their rifles and pistols.

Once while being transported to a new location, Sergeant Lockett grabbed one of the guards to prevent him from assaulting a female POW. The guard drew his pistol and pointed it at his head while another guard hit him on the knees with his rifle. He was threatened with death if he did not stop this effort to assist his fellow POW. When Sergeant Lockett released his grip on the guard, the guards smashed his knees with their rifle butts and tied his hands even tighter. During his transportation from Basra to Baghdad, the guards hit him every time he appeared to be falling asleep. Some
slapped his face and head, some pounded his knees with their rifles, and some punched him in the open wound in his stomach.

In Baghdad, he was placed in a dirty cell with nothing to
protect him from the cold. The next morning, guards held him down while they attempted to remove the bullet in his abdomen without anesthesia. The pain was so intense that he thought
he would pass out. Unable to remove the bullet, the guards hit him in the abdomen and tossed him a bandage.

During interrogations, guards used the butts of their weapons to beat Sergeant Lockett's knees. His interrogators sought information about his family and, when they learned he was married and had children, they asked him for his home address. They threatened that if he did not reveal his home address, he would never see his wife and children again.

He requested unsuccessfully that the ICRC be permitted to inspect the POWs' conditions. He wanted someone to notify his family, including his mother and his children. He was particularly concerned that his mother would be devastated if she were forced to wonder what happened to him.

He was forced to make a videotape to denounce the war effort. He was told that if he did not cooperate, he would be put in a building due to be hit by coalition forces.


During his captivity in Baghdad, he was fed a starvation diet of soup and bread. He lost 39 pounds during the thirtythree days he was held as a POW by Iraq. He developed severe diarrhea but was never allowed to clean himself.

Following his release, he had surgery to remove the bullet in his abdomen and the remaining metal scraps from his chest. He continues to experience joint pain, especially knee pains from the numerous beatings and damage the Iraqi soldiers inflicted with their rifle butts. He continues to suffer pain in his shoulders and lower back. He tires easily. He has been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism linked to his starvation in Iraq. While his normal weight is 190 pounds, this medical condition kept him from achieving a weight over 155 pounds for at least eight years after his captivity.

Could someone remind me again why I should care that the army took out the Hussein brothers?


Posted 6:26 PM by Tony


There's A Suprise

Now that the congressional findings on 9-11 are out (available as PDF here), more or less, fun stuff keeps popping up:

Investigators have traced the funding for the Sept. 11 attacks to al-Qaida accounts in Pakistan, a top FBI counterterrorism official told a Senate panel Thursday. Officials did little to clarify the Saudi role in the funding.

John S. Pistole, deputy assistant director of the FBI's counterterrorism division, said that investigators have "traced the origin of the funding of 9/11 back to financial accounts in Pakistan, where high-ranking and well-known al-Qaida operatives played a major role in moving the money forward, eventually into the hands of the hijackers located in the U.S."

Anyone else not surprised by this?


Posted 6:08 PM by Tony

Tuesday, July 29, 2003
Law Geek Trick Of The Day

Federal judicial districts are organized by counties. A tool to find the proper district for any given county can be found here.

Yeah, I know, it's a cheap trick to update my blog. But, at least it's something.


Posted 4:14 PM by Tony

Thursday, July 24, 2003
A Thousand Words

The US has just released pictures of the dead Hussein brothers, to counter skepticism that the two actually are dead. Both CNN and the Washington Post have pictures. Follow the links in the news articles. Of course, discretion is advised.

And this article in the Washington Post has more on Uday.

Seven years ago, a Baghdad man's pretty 17-year-old daughter vanished and was rumored to be held inside the Iraq Olympic Committee compound run by Uday. After 10 days, the frantic father asked his attorney to inquire about the girl. The attorney presented himself at the committee and was eventually taken before Uday.

According to the file of the attorney's testimony, Uday "was looking at the papers I had filled out. He said, 'I was going to break both your legs so you can never come back here, but I see your left leg was wounded in the Iran-Iraq war, so I am only going to break your right leg.' "

A henchman shot the lawyer's right foot, leaving him unable to walk, and he recalled being dumped near a hospital. The girl was eventually sent home, having been repeatedly raped, and her family was told not to move. But they fled in terror to Poland, where they had relatives. Several years later, gunmen working for Uday tracked them down there and killed the girl and her father, according to the lawyer.

"This is just a sample," Adnan Jabbar Saadi said today at the Human Rights Organization of Iraq, where several weeks ago he listened to the attorney tell his story. "Hitler was mild compared to Uday."

The end of the article is quite fitting:

Esam Saadi, a human rights lawyer, said the killings were both a political victory for the United States and an example of divine justice. After the U.S. invasion, he said, "people were afraid Saddam would come back, but now they have less to fear. The evil crow's two wings have been cut off. He can still cry, but he cannot fly anymore."


Posted 10:18 AM by Tony


New Targets

An article by Richard Halloran in the Korea Herald:

The Japanese navy is preparing to build two small aircraft carriers, the first in more than 60 years, according to Japanese and U.S. officials. The plan for the warships is further evidence that Japan is gradually shedding the pacifist cocoon in which it has wrapped itself since its devastating defeat in World War II.

The two warships will be capable of carrying STOVL (short takeoff, vertical landing) aircraft, sometimes called "jump jets," that can fly as fighters or bombers, plus armed helicopters. The ships will displace 13,500 tons, and about 16,000 tons when fully loaded, and will sail at speeds above 30 knots.

That will make them comparable to Spain's 16,700-ton Principe De Asturias, which carries 17 planes, but larger than Thailand's 11,500-ton Chakri Nareubet with its 12 planes. The Japanese carriers, however, will not come close to the newly commissioned United States' leviathan, the 98,000-ton Ronald Reagan with its 80 warplanes.

The Japanese carriers can be deployed as command ships in a task force to give the Maritime Self-Defense Force, as the Japanese navy is called, a modest ability to project power into the sea-lanes that are vital to Japan's trading economy.

That capability is likely to draw protests from China, North Korea and South Korea, all of which experienced Japanese invasion before and during World War II. Beijing, Pyongyang and Seoul routinely criticize any Japanese attempt to enhance their security. [emphasis added]

Note that these ships give the Japanese navy a power projection role, i.e., the ability to exert significant military power far from home. Personally, I prefer a Japan that is still wrapped in a "pacifist cocoon" for at least the next 60 years.

I'm thinking that once these ships are constructed, they'll become Numbers 1 and 2 on the priority target list of every single nation in East Asia.


Posted 9:52 AM by Tony

Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Well, How About That?

Here's a portion of atranscript to the yesterday's Larry King Live show, in which former President Clinton called to wish Bob Dole a happy 80th birthday:

KING: President, maybe I can get an area where you may disagree. Do you join, President Clinton, your fellow Democrats, in complaining about the portion of the State of the Union address that dealt with nuclear weaponry in Africa?

CLINTON: Well, I have a little different take on it, I think, than either side.

First of all, the White House said -- Mr. Fleischer said -- that on balance they probably shouldn't have put that comment in the speech. What happened, often happens. There was a disagreement between British intelligence and American intelligence. The president said it was British intelligence that said it. And then they said, well, maybe they shouldn't have put it in.

Let me tell you what I know. When I left office, there was a substantial amount of biological and chemical material unaccounted for. That is, at the end of the first Gulf War, we knew what he had. We knew what was destroyed in all the inspection processes and that was a lot. And then we bombed with the British for four days in 1998. We might have gotten it all; we might have gotten half of it; we might have gotten none of it. But we didn't know. So I thought it was prudent for the president to go to the U.N. and for the U.N. to say you got to let these inspectors in, and this time if you don't cooperate the penalty could be regime change, not just continued sanctions.

I mean, we're all more sensitive to any possible stocks of chemical and biological weapons. So there's a difference between British -- British intelligence still maintains that they think the nuclear story was true. I don't know what was true, what was false. I thought the White House did the right thing in just saying, Well, we probably shouldn't have said that. And I think we ought to focus on where we are and what the right thing to do for Iraq is now. That's what I think.


Posted 11:33 AM by Tony


Not Even Crocodile Tears

Looks like Saddam Hussein's two sons are dead.

I was listening to the radio this morning, and the DJ remarked that she was surprised at her initial reaction: joy. I didn't find that so odd, given the reaction in Baghdad. However, one of the callers thought the reaction hypocritical because of American reaction to people in certain Arab nations rejoicing over 9/11. A quick rundown of the two Hussein brothers would indicate that they have nothing in common with the World Trade Center victims, other than death.

Uday (or Odai) was the head of the Fedayeen Saddam. You know, the unit that publicly beheaded Iraqi women and fired on US troops while pretending to surrender.

As for Uday himself:

Odai's temper was violent and uncontrollable. He beat a servant to death, killed an army officer for refusing to let him dance with his wife and in 1988 murdered his father's favorite bodyguard and food-taster, an act that soured Hussein on his elder son and putative heir.

Then there's Qusay:

Although it was less well known, he could be as cruel as his brother, and one American analyst called him a "vicious killer." He reportedly ordered prison populations reduced by mass executions and supervised the killing of some inmates by an especially hideous method: putting them through shredding machines.

And the brothers had made their mark on Baghdad:

The city of Baghdad cowered in the shadow of Hussein's sons, most especially Uday. People knew, more or less, how to avoid Saddam Hussein's wrath. But there was no predicting the fits of pique that might seize the filial boogeyman.

Everybody knew that Uday, a party animal, would help himself to another man's wife -- usually just for a night or two -- if he felt like it, and share her with his entourage, if he felt like it. Sometimes he took the bride on her wedding night, in her gown. Sometimes the groom would be found dead later, a suicide. Sometimes the bride would be found dead later, too.

Everybody knew that if someone got on Qusay's nerves, he would send a signed death warrant to his brother, who would carry it out without question. It wasn't that Qusay minded bloodying his hands, he didn't. He liked to shoot suspected traitors in the head.

Life is intrinsically valuable. That's a lesson we all learn from a young age.

I'm not taking any particular glee in the Hussein brothers' deaths. But I'm not even going to pretend that this particular loss is a great tragedy, either.


Posted 11:03 AM by Tony

Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Digging Holes For Oneself

We've all seen newspapers run retractions. Which is reasonable - as more information becomes available, what was first published may be found erroneous, as the whole Jayson Blair scandal as shown.

However, the BBC probably won't follow this common practice, even if the following is true:

One of the BBC's reporters, Andrew Gilligan, allegedly misrepresented facts in a story that asserted that the British government "sexed up," i.e., lied about the evidence against Iraq. (Timeline here). This Buzz Machine post provides lots of linky goodness for background. (Found via Instapundit). Another New York Times in the making? Perhaps.

The BBC has been refusing to apologize or retract the story. And this article provides some insight on why:

Opposition MPs have queued up to accuse the BBC of irresponsibility, of being partisan, of being obsessive in its defence of a questionable story - and there have been calls for the resignation of senior figures up to and including the chairman of the BBC governors, Gavyn Davies.

For an organisation which sets great store by its reputation for accuracy and impartiality this is potentially immensely damaging.

It helps to explain why, ever since Andrew Gilligan's controversial report was broadcast on the Today programme on 29 May, the BBC has so steadfastly resisted government pressure to retract or apologise.

There is simply too much at stake.

Lord Hutton's judicial inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Dr Kelly's death is likely to ask a series of pointed questions about the corporation's role.

Here's what I find interesting. The BBC has had a reputation for impartiality, whether or not that repuation was truly justified. Yet, this particular incident shows that the BBC may have other values that rank higher in its consciousness.

Even if it's shown beyond any reasonable doubt that Gilligan indulged in misrepresentation, the BBC will never run the retraction. Instead, like Slim Pickens, the BBC seems intent on riding this particular story all the way down.

Good luck with that.


Posted 9:14 AM by Tony


The Flight Of The Idiotarian

Much like the way swallows return to Capistrano, Canada seems to attract certain types of Americans:

Mollie Ingebrand, 34, said she has felt an affinity for Canada for many years, fueled partly by respect for its health care system. Her doubts about the United States go back even further, to a childhood spent with liberal parents in a relatively conservative part of Ohio.

(via SharkBlog)

So I just want to apologize to Colby and other Canadians for the loons you are about to receive.


Posted 8:42 AM by Tony

Monday, July 21, 2003
My Blog Ego On Display

Just found out that I got linked on Moxie's site. I'm very flattered by that, since a) she's a babe, and b) she's a pretty good writer.

So, I just wanted to say, thanks!


Posted 12:43 PM by Tony

Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Log Cabins

I was talking politics with a gay friend of mine, who pointed out that the main problem that many gays have with Republicans is that they perceive the entire party as being hostile to their existence.

"Look," I pointed out, "you'll never have 100 percent congruence between a party and its members. Anyone who would agree with every single thing in a party platform would have to be a mindless automaton."

Most people, I continued, regard the Republican Party as consisting entirely of religious conservatives, which just isn't the case. As examples, one might look to the Log Cabin Republicans, or the Republican Unity Coalition. I pointed out that, on economic, foreign policy, and other issues, many gay people would find themselves in agreement with the Republican party.

It's just that the religious conservatives get all the press, and the Democrats end up as the white hats.

He wasn't convinced.

And it certainly doesn't help to read that Bill Frist supports a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman.

If the article is correct in its implication that Frist had previously supported the Log Cabin Republicans, his switch is not simply bad policy. It's dishonorable.

And that ticks me off.


Posted 11:20 AM by Tony

Monday, July 14, 2003
Taking Anti-Americanism A Little Far, Ain'cha?

I've come to the firm conclusion that Heather Mallick needs a good swift kick to the head. Or some powerful medication.

Now, this isn't a conclusion I've come to lightly, or on the basis of no evidence. I would refer you to this, this, this, this, this, this, and this. Her columns reflect a sneering condescension of the United States, that views intelligent Americans as an aberration.

Her "America-Can-Do-No-Good" attitude causes her to opine in a rather outrageously stupid manner.

For instance, she writes:

U.S. commanders say they are now seeing guerrilla warfare, the kind that Americans were famously not good at in Vietnam.

While ignoring that while, ultimately, Vietnam was a loss, rather notable exceptions existed, in which the Americans proved themselves capable of taking on guerillas.

Moreover, her only point of reference is Vietnam, and she either, out of ignorance or willfully, ignores that America has a great deal of experience dealing with guerilla warfare, dating back to the Civil War and beyond. The 1940 edition of the United States Marine Corps Small Wars Manual points out:

The ordinary expedition of the Marine Corps which does not involve a major effort in regular warfare against a first-rate power may be termed a small war. It is this type of routine active foreign duty of the Marine Corps in which this manual is primarily interested. Small wars represent the normal and frequent operations of the Marine Corps. During about 85 of the last 100 years, the Marine Corps has been engaged in small wars in different parts of the world. The Marine Corps has landed troops 180 times in 37 countries from 1800 to 1934. Every year during the past 36 years since the Spanish-American War, the Marine Corps has been engaged in active operations in the field. In 1929 the Marine Corps had twothirds of its personnel employed on expeditionary or other foreign or sea duty outside of the continental limits of the United States. [emphasis added]

For specifics, I would refer you to the Phillipines, Boxer Rebellion, Haiti, and Nicaragua as instances of American experience in fighting guerillas.

Mallick's latest sneer at the United States can be found here. In it, she opines:

Smart people have become a cult in the U.S. When the next Waco comes, it won't be Branch Davidians they're after, it will be the intelligent, literate Americans, the kind who speak in whole sentences with clauses, who run libraries and write heartfelt letters to Salon.com. The American writer Bill Bryson, unwilling to tolerate the awful schools and a president he calls an imbecile, has announced he is moving back to Britain, and not a moment too soon. For I watched mid-American TV for an afternoon last weekend and I'm still whimpering.

I find myself amused that she seems to equate letters to Salon.com with intelligence. I would imagine that Ms. Mallick's world view views intelligence as a function of CBC/PBS/BBC viewing, believe all the "right" things, and mouth the "correct" platitudes. What a sad, narrow vision that must be.

Of course, Ms. Mallick's as one of those smart, intelligent people, would never engage in gross, inaccurate generalities, right? Of course not:

Americans themselves call it dumbing down, but I think it's more a matter of catering to Southerners. My theory is that the United States was ruined by air conditioning. That's what made possible the industrial rise of the South and finally allowed what was basically a swamp populated by yokels to be taken semi-seriously.

American reporter David Drehle, in the course of a very depressed book on Florida's death row, has a simpler explanation. He says America occasionally gives itself a shake and the scum settles to the bottom. My impression is that tiny bubbles rise, too, isolated outbreaks of intelligence that thrive in the colder climates of the Eastern Seaboard, Seattle, and parts of the Midwest. This explains Harper's Magazine, some fine, subversive rock 'n' roll, and a Web site known as The Onion.

Might I suggest that Ms. Mallick would be better served by sticking to columns about bracelets? Her attempts to demonstrate her "intelligence" by writing about politics does nothing except to showcase an astonishing level of slack-jawed stupidity, which hardly serves the purposes of the Globe and Mail.


Posted 7:08 PM by Tony

Thursday, July 10, 2003
Newspeak

This story suggests that the language of political correctness is the language of "Orwell's dystopian world" of Oceania in 1984.

For example:

Eliminating "wrong" words and, thus, wrong ideas. In 1984, all literature was being rewritten in Newspeak so that authors such as Shakespeare either disappeared or were re-interpreted to serve Ingsoc's purposes. Today, a school textbook review process is being conducted on a national level to eliminate non-PC words and ideas. Accuracy is a secondary consideration. Allegedly improper gender terms like "Founding Fathers" are changed to proper ones like "Framers." American Indians no longer are described as wearing braids, although many tribes did. Inconvenient people become "unpersons" in Orwell's world; inconvenient history becomes "unideas" in ours.

(via den Beste)

See also Michele's and Russell's comments.

I've seen this particular form of idiocy in action. I refer you, specifically, to "I'm an Asian, not an Oriental. 'Oriental' is a carpet, not a person!" school of thought.

This isn't to say that changes in terminology aren't sometimes justified. However, such changes should really be few and far between.

In the meantime, our modern doubleplusgood duckspeakers can feel free to kiss my yellow Oriental redneck behind.


Posted 2:24 PM by Tony


Filters

"Unbiased journalism" is a common example of an oxymoron, despite the protestations of practitioners in the field. Why? The problem lies in the fact that people will always interpret events through a particular set of mental filters. People may try, in good faith, and to the utmost of their ability, to analyze facts objectively. Ultimately though, we remain all too human, and our mental filters unconsciously affect how we interpret and analyze information.

Take the 1973 Yom Kippur War.* The combined Egyptian-Syrian attack took Israel almost completely by surprise. Investigating the causes of the war, the Agranat Commission found that all the crucial pieces of intelligence had been in front of the analysts. However, those analysts failed to assemble all of those pieces into a coherent whole. For example, the increasing urbanization of Egypt during led to a greater proportion Egyptian army personnel that had familiarity with technology. Which led to an increased capability to understand and operate surface-to-air missile systems. Which Israeli pilots found out about, the hard way.

The reason - mental filters. The analysts failed to pay sufficient attention to those pieces of information because they were used to a track record of victory of ineffectual Arab armies.

That's different from the intentional misrepresentation.

Ralph Peters writes on a similar topic, how mental filters may have affected the Bush administrations decision to go to war:

President Bush is accused unfairly of falsifying intelligence. He didn't do it. That's not the way the system works.
On the other hand, I have no doubt that the president and his deputies read intelligence reports selectively and talked themselves into believing what they wanted to believe.

That is the way the system works. For all presidents.

In fact, President Bush is far from the worst, as I can attest from personal experience. I spent most of my military career in intelligence work. During the Clinton years, I served in the Pentagon and on detail to the Executive Office of the President. The experience was discouraging, to say the least.

Since the early nineties, a number of us had been warning, both in classified forums and in the open press, about the threat from asymmetrical warfare, from terrorists, from warriors unconstrained by any laws and from religion-obsessed madmen.

The evidence mounted. Terrorists attacked us in New York - the first attack on the World Trade Center - and around the world. But, contrary to the revisionist history churned out by its loyalists, the Clinton administration just wanted the problem to go away, to pretend as long as possible that terrorism by Islamic zealots was a passing issue and to avoid the politically painful costs of mounting a serious effort to counter such threats.

The fundamental difference between the Clinton and Bush administrations' use of intelligence is that Clinton consistently refused to acknowledge the threats we faced, while Bush sometimes sees threats as more immediate than they may be.

The Clinton approach led directly to 9/11. The Bush approach led to Baghdad. Guess which one makes more sense for a nation under threat of deadly attack?

[ . . . ]

Of course, the issue hasn't caught fire with the American people - and it never will. Except for a few Columbia professors, we all know that Saddam truly was evil and that getting rid of his regime was a virtuous act, whether or not he had WMD downstairs in his home workshop. Splitting hairs about who knew what when just doesn't resonate.

Nor should it. In their pathetic disarray, the Democrats are betraying a greater trust. Making the political reconstruction of Iraq a success - to the extent possible - is in America's interest, in the interest of the Middle East, and in the world's interest. This petty sniping and the insistence, day after day, that the sky is falling is conduct unbecoming. It truly does provide aid and comfort to our enemies. [emphasis added]

At the end of the day, it all boils down to knowing what the mental filters that may be at play, and the effect those filters will have on decisionmaking processes.

While not infallible, the current administration has proved itself a lot better at strategic issues than the previous one.

*My knowledge on this stems from a research paper I did in college a decade ago, so the details are a tad fuzzy. Feel free to correct me.


Posted 1:43 PM by Tony


Defenders Of Democracy

The post-handover government of Hong Kong is tightening the screws with a new proposed security legislation:

Pro-democracy lawmakers called on Tung at a session of the Legislative Council on Friday to withdraw the bill or resign. Previously pro-government lawmakers were lukewarm about the legislation, either saying that they were undecided or that significant changes to the bill were needed, and said nothing to defend Tung. Tung issued a terse written statement on Tuesday night, saying that he would listen to people's concerns. He emerged briefly from meetings Friday to hold his first press conference since the rally, but left without taking questions after reading a brief statement in which he said that he was "weighing carefully all the views that have been presented to me." The rally Tuesday, attended by as many as 500,000 people in a city of 6.8 million, has sparked the territory's biggest political crisis since Britain handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997. The rally was mainly against the legislation, although organizers also tapped into public anxiety here about unemployment, falling home prices and the government's slow response to severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. The security legislation calls for long jail sentences in cases of sedition, secession and treason; allows the police to conduct searches and seizures without a warrant during urgent national security investigations; and allows the government to ban groups here with links to groups on the mainland that have been banned for reasons of national security. [emphasis added]

Conrad at the Gweilo Diaries accuses the American Chamber of Commerce of sucking up to the Chicoms local government by supporting the proposed law.

On the one hand, Lucille Barale of the American Chamber of Commerce is quoted in CNN's story as saying that anything that restricts the free flow of information is bad for business.

And there's this quote from the eTaiwan News:

The government's allies have charged that the mass demonstration on Tuesday, the sixth anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China, could spook investors. But international business leaders disagreed.

"Hong Kong is still the great place it's always been," said James Thompson, head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.

And this, from comments by Senator Brownback, from July 1:

The South China Morning Post reported: "In a letter to all legislators, chamber chairman James Thompson said the bill contained worrying provisions, such as that seeking to ban organisations. These would jeopardise Hong Kong's distinctive features, in particular its transparent legal system and free flow of information."

And, there's this.

But, I find troubling this article by the People's Daily (the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece) on the head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, which amounts to a puff piece:

A happy-go-luck type of man, Thompson is fully confident about Hong Kong, saying the Hong Kong people themselves should be more confident about Hong Kong's future, encouraging those who possess funds to aid in Hong Kong's recovery by increasing consumption and investment.

Commenting on Hong Kong's business environment, he said Hong Kong's highly acclaimed solid financial system, the intact rule of law, low taxation, reliable transport infrastructure and freedom of the press have all remained unchanged about six years after Hong Kong's return to the motherland.

Thompson, who started his earliest company in Tokyo with 1,000 US dollars, moved to Hong Kong in 1978, where invested 50,000 US dollars to establish his current business in Hong Kong. Now the company manages the warehousing of 5 million boxes of document. In the past 25 years, his business has grown in size, as has the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. Currently the chamber boasts a membership of 2,200.

Commenting on the Hong Kong government's plan of legislating on Article 23 of the Basic Law to protect national security, Thompson said he does not think such legislation will affect foreign businesses in Hong Kong in any way.

And there's also that all I have is a snapshot of what's happening now, and have not been following this, unlike Conrad.

But, if true, I find it troubling that AmCham is sucking up to the Communists like this. Of course, the organization promotes business, hence "Commerce." However, I'd like to think that the "American" in the name should mean more than a geographic location.

If Conrad's claim is true, and AmCham's comments about being troubled by Article 23 is a recent turnabout, then his comment is spot on:

Next year I'll spend that money on whores in Wan Chi -- they've got higher standards and I'll get a hell of a lot better return.


Posted 12:53 PM by Tony

Monday, July 07, 2003
Handoffs

I'd written earlier about the American troops in South Korea, and how the United States wants to move those troops a further south of the border.

Well, it seems that things may be accelerating:

Ten essential responsibilities performed by the USFK's 2nd Infantry Division, including guarding the Joint Security Area at the truce village of Panmunjom, will be transferred to the South Korean Army within three years instead of the four to five originally planned, USFK officials told the Chosun Ilbo on Monday.

[ . . . ]

Among the 10 missions suggested by the USFK, the expected areas to be shifted include the transfer of anti-artillery operations, which would neutralize North Korea's long-range weapons along the Demilitarized Zone, and AH-64 Apache helicopter missions, which would deter North Korean special forces from infiltrating the South via sea routes, as well as the transfer of JSA control.

[ . . . ]

To date, the defense of the JSA was provided by a battalion of 250 Americans and 350 South Koreans under the United Nations command. Those troops were the forward-most that played the role of the tripwire. The South Korean government had cautioned the Americans that the early shifting of the JSA responsibility may cause public insecurity or anxiety, and insisted that it be done cautiously and gradually.

The anti-artillery operations that would be transferred have been handled mainly by two battalions of multiple launcher rocket systems in the 2nd Infantry Division, and two battalions of self-propelled guns, M109A6s, or Paladins. The transfer of these duties to South Koreans is construed as a clear U.S. intention to move its core combat units to south of the Han earlier than had been understood.

[ . . . ]

U.S. forces have been using more than 70 AH-64 Apache helicopters to guard against infiltration via sea by the North's special forces. The South Korean Army plans to introduce the latest attack helicopter beginning in 2005, in its AHX project. The most probable candidate was Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow, but recently a controversy has arisen about the choice, as a move is afoot to develop a homegrown project, the KMH, or Korean-type Multipurpose Helicopter.

It's about time, I'd say.


Posted 2:58 PM by Tony


Denim, Desert, And (Slightly) Dentred Rental Cars (Part 2)

An hour after landing in Portland, I'd already dented the rim on my rental car and had gotten a speeding ticket for 175 dollars. Needless to say, I was apprehensive about the upcoming safety zones. After all, who wants to pay double the normal fine?

U.S. 26 is the primary highway leading from Portland to central Oregon. The highway initially goes through rolling farmland, with a mixture of suburbia thrown in. Eventually, the farmland gave way to forest. Tall trees hemmed in the highway, and extended as far as the eye could see.

Suprisingly, Mount Hood was still covered in snow. Even more suprisingly, I spotted several snowboarders as I stopped at the main rest stop just below Mount Hood.


Posted 11:22 AM by Tony

Wednesday, July 02, 2003
Denim, Desert, And (Slightly) Dented Rental Cars (Part 1)

[This is an attempt at travel writing, so if that bores you, feel free to click on the links to the groin-grabbingly transcendent blogs to the right.]

I'd never worn jeans before.

Somehow, in 31 years, I'd managed to avoid trying on jeans. Yet, last Friday, I found myself puzzling over different brands of jeans in a central Oregon Wal-Mart. Levi's or Wranglers? Dark blue or light blue? Regular or relaxed fit? (Actually, with the last, there was no question - relaxed fit, of course!)

How'd I end up here?

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine called me up. A college classmate, we've known each other for almost a decade and a half.

She informed me that, sadly, her hometown's July 4th fireworks had been canceled. I had looked forward to going to that for a while, ever since she explained to me that the annual fireworks on the hill was always followed by the annual post-fireworks hill burning.

"How do you feel about going to the rodeo?" she asked.

Sounded good to me. Ordinarily, I'm not much for horses, but this sounded like fun.

My flight left at 7:30 on Friday. I'd taken the precaution of setting my alarm for 4:30, giving myself plenty of time. At least, that's what I thought.

I woke up at 6:30, with the light streaming into my room. Apparently, I had set the time for the alarm, but had forgotten to turn the alarm on. Darn.

As it turned out, I made it to the airplane right before the door closed.

Renting a car, I started the drive. Now, Portland is a lovely town. Very green, and the Mount Hood, still covered in snow, loomed in the distance. However, I found myself getting confused by a couple of one way streets, took a turn too late, and ended up hitting the curb. Examining the damage, I found that the tire rim had dented a bit. In retrospect, it was a good thing I elected for the collision liability waiver.

Heading east on Interstate 84, I found myself entranced by the landscape. I started singing along to the country music on my MP3 player, and the scenery zipped along.

Too fast, as it turns out.

I had gotten off the freeway, to take the surface street that connects to US 26, which leads to central Oregon. Lights flashed behind me from a green and white SUV in police livery. I pulled into a nearby parking lot and awaited the inevitable.

82 miles an hour. Oops.

The police officer was very courteous and professional. We chatted, and he told me to be careful on the drive to central Oregon, as several portions of the highway are designated "safety zones," in which traffic fines double. (So does that make the nondesignated areas "unsafe zones"?) I can say from personal experience that if you get pulled over for a traffic violation, there's worse places to do it than Portland.

I scrutinized the ticket. 175 dollars. The price of a connecting flight from Portland to Bend, in central Oregon. Ironically, I had rejected that option, figuring that renting a car would be cheaper.

A dented rim and a speeding ticket.

All within an hour after landing in Portland.

(to be continued)


Posted 1:21 PM by Tony


Link Notice

Dawn's moved domains, again. Go say hi to her on her new home, here. (also listed on the blogroll to the right)

And, Dawn, if you're reading, quit moving so much - it makes my head spin. :)


Posted 12:28 PM by Tony


Bearing Witness

Bigwig at Siflay Hraka has posted up pictures from Ohrdruf, a satellite of Buchenwald concentration camp and the first to be liberated by the American military. The story behind the discovery of these photos is quite astonishing - they were found in a old filing cabinet sold as war surplus.

Note - Discretion is advised.

(Found via Res Ipsa Loquitur)


Posted 11:18 AM by Tony

Tuesday, July 01, 2003
Guerilla Protests

A friend of mine sent me a recent picture of what I assume was a golf-related protest. She's the same friend who sent me the moose picture (post of June 4, 2003, Blogspot archives are messed up). I've resized the picture a bit, and it really appeals to the cynical side of my nature:


Hint: look for the orange sign.

I especially like the sign that says "Law School: $124,000." And that's why public law schools kick ass.

Heh.


Posted 7:12 PM by Tony


Bad Logic

Emil Guillermo has written an impassioned, though largely irrational, column in defense of affirmative action in today's San Francisco Chronicle. I mean "irrational" in the sense that the column is illogical and internally incconsistent, not that Emil Guillermo is a kook. At least, not on the basis of this column alone.

Guillermo examines preferential treatment in the university admissions process, comparing affirmative action, in which race affects one's chances at admssion, to legacy admission, in which universities give preference to the children of alumni.

He argues that the increased number of legacy admissions who are minorities cuts in favor of continued affirmative action:

I mentioned this to a civil rights lawyer, but all he could say is that legacy candidates are just a small percentage of minority admissions. But that fact only shows there should have been a lot more affirmative action in the past -- with even more minority students admitted.

That way, we'd have more minority legacy admissions, and maybe the goal of diversity could have been reached in a generation.

Instead, we have this new reaffirmation of affirmative action, and Sandra Day O'Connor's new goal. "We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today," O'Connor wrote.

Unless there are much bolder moves in affirmative action now, as well as improved primary and secondary education for all students, the goal could take a lot longer than that.

The underlying assumption here is that legacy admissions are good. While I don't really have an opinion on whether legacy admissions are a good or bad thing, it's important to recognize the implicit underpinnings of Guillermo's argument.

Then, there's the "goal of diversity" - what kind of "diversity" are we looking for? More on that in a bit.

The main argument here is that minority legacy admissions have gone up as a result of affirmative action; therefore, the increase justifies continued affirmative action. The problem here is that this rule sets up a sort of positive feedback loop, in which an end to affirmative action would never be justfied.

Think about it for a bit. Start off with a school that is 100% white (or in California, has students claiming Chinese/Japanese/Korean heritage, so let's call it "majority"). Start implementing affirmative action. Let's assume, for the sake of simplicity, that affirmative action results in a constant percentage of minorities being admitted into university. Let's call that percentage, whatever it may be, x. As a result:

Percentage of "majority" = 100 - x
Percentage of minorities = x

Now, skip to the next generation. At this point, minority legacy admissions will kick in. The minorities let in through legacy admissions will be a function of the percentage of minorities in the previous generation admitted by affirmative action. We end up with:

Percentage of "majority" = 100 - x - y
Percentage of minorities = x + y

Here's the problem: y is not a constant, but will increase over time. Children of minority legacy admissions will also benefit from legacy admissions policies, as will children of those admitted under affirmative action policies. Then add in those directly benefiting from affirmative action programs. Eventually, x + y will equal 100 percent.

This is a very simplistic model, I know, because, among other things, it assumes that a minority applicant can benefit from either legacy admissions, or affirmative action, but not both. However, even if both are at play, I doubt there is complete overlap between the two. Nevertheless, the example illustrates that Guillermo errs in asserting that increased minority legacy admissions reaffirms the need for continued affirmative action. If anything, the trend goes the other way.

Guillermo continues:

Most people don't mind seeing a poor person get preference, no matter what their color. They don't mind giving an advantage to poor blacks, Latinos and American Indians, because poor whites from Appalachia also get a break.


I used to fall prey to the class argument. But then I saw how it fails to truly provide for the kind of equality we're fighting for.

In one generation, affirmative action has taken me, a fry cook's son, out of the Mission and into the suburbs. But I'm hardly rich or privileged. We were, however, able to move to the East Bay so we could enroll our kids in one of the best public schools in this education-poor state.

What I found by doing so is that affirmative action can take you somewhere, but it doesn't erase all the derogatory attitudes toward people with my kind of name, nor with my skin color.

In my suburb, which is 80 percent white, one of my kids was called "brownie" in the schoolyard.

You can bring diversity to the suburbs, but equality doesn't always follow.

That's why class fails as a standard.

As the court correctly recognized, in America, it's still all about race.

My problem with Guillermo's argument is that he rejects class-based preferences, because it doesn't "provide for the kind of equality we're fighting for." Guillermo apparently envisions a result in which no one ever practices racial discrimination. A laudable result.

However, his statements pretty much defeat the whole justification for affirmative action. First of all, he admits that affirmative action doesn't affect people's private mental attitudes. Second, he states that diversity does not necessarily lead to equality. The implication here is that diversity is not very worthwhile. However, the whole legal justification for affirmative action is that the states have a compelling interest in racial diversity. If diversity doesn't matter, then why should affirmative action?

Which brings us to the last sentence. Guillermo asserts that "in America, it's still all about race." Exactly. Which is why affirmative action is unjustifiable.

Affirmative action is hard to justify on racial reasons alone. The problem is affirmative action done simply to achieve some considered ideal balance of races simply perpetuates a world view in which skin color or appearance matter.

Alternatively, one might justify the use of race in admissions on the grounds that since minorities are generally disadvantaged, by giving preference to minorities, one is helping the disadvantaged. Guillermo scoffs at the idea, but it's worth examining. This is the so-called "proxy" theory, in which race is being used as a substitute for something else.

To see this in action, consider the notorious phenomenon of "Driving While Black," in which black drivers get pulled over more frequently by police officers. I used to be a teaching assistant at Cal State Long Beach, and the black students in my class were emphatic that "DWB" was a real thing. I don't have any empirical data on the phenomenon, but let's assume that's true.

Let's assume that many of the police officers doing this are not overtly biased. Instead, what's happening is that the police officers are using race as a proxy for criminal propensity. That is, police officers want to pursue criminals, which is a blameless goal. However, to accomplish that goal, the police are acting under the assumption that race has some correlation to criminal behavior.

So how's this apply to affirmative action? Race, in this case, is being used as a proxy for economic or social disadvantage. But is it a perfect fit? Is every minority disadvantaged? The answer is, of course not. There are some minorities (admittedly, including myself) who are not disadvantaged; conversely, there are white people who do come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Granted, there may be a great deal of overlap between race and disadvantage. But it's not a perfect fit, helping those who may not need it, and excluding those who might.

In the end, it comes down to what you think "equality" is. I would submit that enforcing Guillermo's vision of "equality," in which no one ever got called "brownie," would entail the creation of Thought Crimes. However, people are allowed to be unpleasant assholes. I prefer an "equality" which removes obstacles to social and economic mobility, no matter what your skin may look like.


Posted 6:59 PM by Tony


Not Going Off The Handle

Ralph Peters has a column today that provides some perspective on recent events in Iraq. He points out that there's cause for hope in all this:

And this administration won't run. It will take months, but our troops will root out the killers. A year from now, we'll still see occasional acts of terror. But we won, the terror regime lost - and the whining of the Democratic leadership won't change it.

We should be cheering for our troops, not insulting their performance.

Of course, the beleaguered Democrats, for whom incompetence is an art form, make the Bush administration's weak planning for postwar Iraq look insignificant. Last week, Sen. Joe Biden, one of the key trigger men in the Democratic Party's circular firing squad, disparaged the progress our troops are making in Iraq. He bought into the cheapest headlines, instead of examining the evidence.

Sen. Biden, who has been wrong on nearly every foreign-policy issue of our time, made the lunatic suggestion that we should beg Paris for French troops to help us out.

Leaving aside any rancor we may feel toward the French for betraying our alliance, human rights and the fundamental values of Western Civilization, and allowing that Biden might be happier sipping a third-rate Bordeaux on a Parisian boulevard than drinking from the bitter cup of reality in Washington, the fact is that any French involvement would be disastrous. You don't put a rattlesnake in the baby's cradle.

First, the French can't fight worth a damn. Oh, the Foreign Legion's OK, if you don't mind extreme human-rights abuses. And their paratroopers have a history of refined torture techniques, massacre and mutiny. But the average French soldier is as worthless as the average French intellectual. And the French would have no incentive, whatsoever, to engage in serious efforts to bring Saddam's loyalists to justice.

Paris is still on Saddam's side, for God's sake. Oh, they don't say it openly. But Chirac & Co. want us to fail in Iraq. And they want their oil contracts back.

Someone should keep track of mouthings on both side of the aisle. Next year, we can compare notes.

Care to take bets?


Posted 6:53 AM by Tony


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

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