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

Friday, October 31, 2003
Alternative Dispute Resolution

According to this article in the SF Chronicle, a man shot his court-appointed attorney. Apparently, he was upset this attorney was to be paid from the man's trust fund.

Here's a hint: don't shoot your lawyer. Especially when the case is against a trustee who says thou threatened to kill her.

Oh yeah - he's so going to win.


Posted 10:05 PM by Tony


Photo Forensics

Some of you may have seen this article (via SF Gate):

An environmental group claimed Wednesday that Japanese fishermen use unnecessarily brutal methods to hunt dolphins, releasing a videotape that shows the mammals being forced into a cove to be killed, with the water turning red from the blood.

Oddly enough, the Sea Shepherd Society does not appear to have any of the video released on its web site. Instead, the group posted pictures of the incident, and the waters of the cove are a shocking red color.

Let's put the ethical debate aside. In the interests of full disclosure, I'll just say that a) it's not my taste, but I don't see a problem with dolphin eating, and b) the protest seems a tad ethnocentric to me.

I'd like to focus on the pictures themselves.

Colby and Michele have their doubts on the veracity of these pictures, and raise some very good points.

I'd like to add another inconsistency.

First, take a look at the pictures, and pay attention to the water. I've added the original captions off the Sea Shepherd web page.


A couple hours later, the scenic cove is painted red with blood of dead and dying dolphins.



Japanese fishermen work in concert to load butchered dolphins into one of the catch boats.



A Japanese fisherman sits proudly atop his catch of dead dolphins as the boat searches for more.



A Japanese fisherman sits proudly atop his catch of dead dolphins as the boat searches for more.


So let's see where the chain of reasoning leads:

1. Blood contains blood cells.
2. Blood cells contain hemoglobin
3. Hemoglobin is what imparts the red color to blood
4. Both blood and water are liquids.
5. Under the principle of diffusion, particles move from an area of higher concentration to an area of lesser concentration.
6. Therefore, over time, any blood (and the red color) should spread out over time.

Let's assume that all these pictures were taken in the same general area, the cove. Let's also assume that the pictures on the web site were arranged sequentially, with the second two pictures being taken later than the first two. These two assumptions seem reasonable, in the context of the presentation on the web site.

If the first two pictures are an accurate representation, then shouldn't the water in the second two pictures also be red?

Absent any explanation by the Sea Shepherd people, this inconsistency tends to make me doubt the authenticity of the first two pictures, which show bright-red water.

Correction: Silly me, the video is on their page. However, it just shows a brief section, and appears to be set in the same time and location as the first two pictures, above. The video still doesn't put my doubts to rest, though.


Posted 9:47 AM by Tony


Weather Relief

Well, there's a break in the weather, so hopefully, the fires down in So. Cal. will abate a bit.

And for those wondering what the deal is with the Santa Ana winds, here's a nice explanatory graphic, via the OC Register.


Posted 8:08 AM by Tony

Thursday, October 30, 2003
Barking Jap Moonbats

Ishihara Shintaro's comments goes right into the Loony Japanese Politician file (via Mainichi Shinbun):

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara has made another controversial gaffe, saying Japan's colonization of Korea in 1910 was the choice of Korean people, it has been learned.

Ishihara dropped the bombshell when speaking on modern Japanese history in a speech he delivered during a Tuesday meeting sponsored by a group designed to help Japanese nationals believed abducted by North Korean agents.

"Korea was not invaded by force," Ishihara reportedly told the meeting. "It (colonization) was instigated at their own will because they wanted the help of modernized Japanese people, who are of the same color, at a time when the Korean Peninsula was in confusion and people there needed to choose between Russia, China and Japan (for help)."

Ishihara admitted that Japan's colonization was humiliating to Korean people and he didn't intend to justify it.

But he added, "Their (Korean people) ancestors were responsible."

(see also the Chosun Ilbo)

Funny how Queen Min practically asked to be assasinated, right?

Similarly, the nuking and occupation of Japan "was instigated at [the Japanese people's] own will . . . at a time when the [Japanese islands were] in confusion and people there needed to choose between Russia, China, and [the United States.]"

Right?


Posted 3:28 PM by Tony


Maureen Dowd Has Contextual Problems

Professor Volokh recently pointed out the importance of context in assessing what people say.

Maureen Dowd's column today, "Eyes Wide Shut," is a case in point. In her typically disjointed style, Dowd compares so-called "Iraqification" to Vietnamization.

Incidentally, the Iraq-Vietnam comparison is way off. See Friedman's NYT column for today ("The first thing is to understand who these people are. There is this notion being peddled by Europeans, the Arab press and the antiwar left that "Iraq" is just Arabic for Vietnam, and we should expect these kinds of attacks from Iraqis wanting to "liberate" their country from "U.S. occupation." These attackers are the Iraqi Vietcong. Hogwash."). I'd also recommend that Ms. Dowd educate herself a little more before making stupid comparisons. Iraq may be better characterized as a larger version of American involvement in Nicaragua, Haiti, and Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic) in the period between WWI and WWII. See The Savage Wars of Peace, by Max Boot (the history of America's "small wars"); United States Marine Corps Small Wars Manual. That is, if any comparison is apt at all.

The following passage from Dowd's column seemed ripe for fact-checking:

After admitting recently that Saddam had no connection to 9/11, the president pounded his finger on his lectern on Tuesday, while vowing to stay in Iraq, and said, "We must never forget the lessons of Sept. 11."

The implication here is that the President is simultaneously saying that 1) Saddam had no connection to 9/11, and 2) 9/11 justified entering Iraq, i.e., Saddam did have a connection to 9/11.

Let's take a look at the transcript:

Q: And, secondly, on Iraq, do you feel that the attacks that have happened recently will discourage some countries to contribute troops or manpower?

THE PRESIDENT: Good question. I hope not. That's what the terrorists want. They want countries to say, oh, gosh, well, we better not send anybody there because somebody might get hurt. That's precisely what they're trying to do. And that's why it's important for this nation and our other coalition partners to stand our ground, to improve our intelligence, to move quickly when we find good intelligence and to bring people to justice.

The terrorists rely on the death of innocent people to create the conditions of fear that, therefore, will cause people to lose their will. That's their strategy. And it's a pretty clear strategy to me. And this country will stay the course. We'll do our job. And it's to our interest that we do our job. It's in our interest we do our job for a free world. A free Iraq is essential to creating conditions of peace. See, that's what this is all about. This is, how do we achieve a peaceful tomorrow; how do we do our duty for our children and our grandchildren?

We must never forget the lessons of September the 11th. The terrorists will strike, and they will kill innocent life, not only in front of a Red Cross headquarters, they will strike and kill in America, too. We are at war. I said right after September the 11th, this would be a different kind of war; sometimes you'd see action and sometimes you wouldn't. It's a different kind of war than what we're used to. And Iraq is a front on the war on terror. And we will win this particular battle on the war on terror.

And it's dangerous, and it's tough. And at the same time that we're confronting the danger, we're also helping rebuild a society. We put in a new currency in place. For the financial types who are here, you'll understand how difficult that assignment is. And yet it seems to be going well. It's an achievement that is a very important achievement for the future of Iraq. A stable currency, a new currency, a currency without the picture of the dictator or the tyrant or the torturer, however you want to define him, is important for the future. And that's taking place. There's a market developing. There are women-owned small businesses now beginning to flourish in Iraq. And there's positive things happening in the midst of the danger.

[emphasis added]

In context, it's pretty clear that the President was saying that the lessons of September 11th were that terrorists know no bounds in their target selection, not that Saddam had a connection to the attacks.

And as far as the Rumsfeld memo, since when did Bush say that the war on terrorism was going to be short?

Here?

"You will be asked for your patience; for, the conflict will not be short."

Here?

"I ask . . . for your patience in what will be a long struggle."

How about here?

"We're a nation who has got a long-term view; a nation that's come to realize that in order to make freedom prevail, the evildoers will be forced to run, and will eventually be brought to justice."

Hmm, how about here?

"As Americans did 60 years ago, we have entered a struggle of uncertain duration."

Here?

"We are at the beginning of our efforts in Afghanistan, and Afghanistan is only the beginning of our efforts in the world."

Okay, how about here?

"The terrorists have a strategic goal. They want America to leave Iraq before our work is done. You see, they believe their attacks on our people and on innocent people will shake the will of the United States and the civilized world. They believe America will run from a challenge."

Wait, how about here?
"Our work in Iraq has been long, it's hard, and it's not finished. We will stay the course. We will complete our job. And beyond Iraq, the war on terror continues"

Eyes wide shut, indeed.


Posted 8:56 AM by Tony

Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Blast From The Past

After the recent blast of the Red Cross headquarters in Baghdad, Red Cross spokeswoman Nada Doumani delivered the following statement, breathtaking in its naivete:

Red Cross spokeswoman Nada Doumani said the attack on the ICRC compound was a shock.

"Maybe it was an illusion to think people would understand after 23 years that we are unbiased. I can't understand why we've been targeted," Doumani said. The ICRC has been providing humanitarian assistance in Iraq since 1980.

Michael Totten responds, as does Clifford May at the National Review.

Now, this statement brings up an issue I'd like to address.

Back in August, when the UN headquarters in Baghdad was bombed, Ms. Doumani stated that the Red Cross would take appropriate measures concerning security (via Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty):

Other international aid agencies, too, are wrestling with how to respond to the threat of attacks. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced over the weekend it is withdrawing an unspecified number of its foreign staff due to what it said was specific information it might be hit. ICRC spokeswoman Nada Doumani told reporters in Baghdad yesterday that the threats left staff with no choice but to take "appropriate measures."

"We've received some information that we are taking seriously, that we may be the target of an attack," she said. "And at this stage, given the volatile environment in which we are working and the level of violence that is prevailing still in the capital, we cannot but take the appropriate measures."

The ICRC spokeswoman refused to characterize the agency's response as an "evacuation" of staff. Instead she said that some people were being "redeployed" while others are staying in Iraq. "We are not evacuating Iraq. We are really committed to staying in Iraq. What is happening now is that we are redeploying some of our expatriate staff outside of Baghdad, in the north and in the neighboring countries," she said.

Doumani did not say what the ICRC's future plans in Iraq will be, other than to say the agency will work on "ways to continue to operate in a different way." The ICRC is also reported to be making a thorough review of its security arrangements.

[emphasis added]

Which begs the question: what was the Red Cross doing to increase its security during these past two months? The only mention I could find was this:

[Red Cross spokesman Florian] Westphal said the ICRC never requested protection from coalition forces, but had taken discreet steps to control direct access to its offices.

What kind of 'discreet steps'?

I think we can figure out who wasn't paying attention to Ms. Doumani's March 27 comments:

It's a basic principle of international humanitarian law, of the Geneva Convention, of internationally maintained law, even customary law, that civilians must be spared. And we have called for that already before the beginning of this war and we still insist on the need to spare civilian lives.


Posted 2:30 PM by Tony

Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Guess I'm Not The Only One

I mentioned yesterday the deafening silence from South Korea concerning the systematic abuses of human rights in North Korea.

Apparently, I'm not the only one to notice. In the Wall Street Journal's editorial section, Melanie Kirkpatrick writes:

One would think that the one place in the world where the campaign to free the North Korean people would be taken most seriously would be South Korea, where [North Korean defector] Mr. Hwang lived under virtual house arrest until recently. Think again.

Most Koreans are well informed about the brutal realities of life in the North but prefer to look the other way. It's much pleasanter to contemplate reunification fantasies such as the one portrayed in a recent hit movie about a cross-border romance between a South Korean woman and a North Korean soldier. Last week's chilling report on the North Korean gulags made it into some South Korean papers but wasn't front-page news. Students demonstrated against Mr. Hwang's U.S. visit last week, protesting his anti-North Korea message.

If the South Korean people seem indifferent to the plight of their brothers and sisters in the North, it's in large part because their political leaders remain silent. President Roh Moo Hyun was a human-rights lawyer before taking office earlier this year but human rights north of the DMZ is way down on his priority list. To his credit, Mr. Roh is allowing Mr. Hwang to visit the U.S.--something his predecessor, Kim Dae Jung (another human-rights activist who lost his voice when it came to the human-rights horrors in the North) refused to permit for fear of angering Kim Jong Il.

The official refusal to speak out about the human-rights abuses of Kim Jong Il's regime was on full display last week during an interview with the South's minister of unification, whom I met on the day the gulag report was released. For North Koreans, Minister Jeong Se Hyun said, "political freedom is a luxury, like pearls for a pig. The improvement of economic conditions for the North Korean people is the most important issue right now."

"Once the economic situation is improved," he said, then North Korea can focus on human rights. As for linking any deal with the North to progress on human rights: "I don't think it would be wise or effective if we try to negotiate the human rights condition or to pursue our policies with human rights as a condition," Mr. Jeong said. In other words: Whatever you do, don't annoy Kim Jong Il.

Of course, the South's unification minister isn't alone in such thoughts. Certain elements of the Korean-American community are just as bad:

The Rev. Sang-Eui Kim, associate pastor of Grace First Presbyterian Church in Long Beach, said, 'The achievement of peace in the Korean peninsula is what the six-nation conference should aim at. You cannot, of course, separate peace from human rights, but if you are forced to choose one, I think you should take peace over human rights.'

It's always reassuring to see self-proclaimed spokespeople for the Korean-American community to lead the way when it comes to moral rectitude.


Posted 2:03 PM by Tony


Aesthetic Citations

I just finished reading The Substance of Style, by Virginia Postrel. It seems to me that there are two sorts of breakthroughs: 1) a discovery of something completely new; and 2) an explanation of something that we've already seen, but never put into a larger framework. This book fits into the latter.

Substance (so to speak) aside, I found the author's approach on citations rather clever. Citations are always a problematic. On the one hand, citations are necessary to provide support for an assertion and show that it is not simply being conjured out of thin air. On the other, citations interrupt the flow of text, and thus impede the effectiveness of the author's argument or explanation.

I've seen several different approaches to citations, prior to reading The Substance of Style:

1. Citations in the main body of text - the citation is immediately available, at the cost of maximum interference with flow.
2. Endnotes without corresponding numbering in the main body of text - no interruption to the flow of reading, at the expense of having to search through the endnotes for a corresponding citation.
3. Numbered footnotes - a compromise between the first two. The citation is immediately available at the bottom of the page. The numbers in the text and the footnote text at the bottom of the page are still a distraction, albeit less so than having citations within the main text.

The Substance of Style uses endnotes, but uses a format I'd never seen before. The endnotes are numbered by page and not by order of appearance. In addition, the main body of text does not contain any endnote markers; the reader instead is clued in by the endnote, which contains the corresponding main body text in italics.

It's an interesting compromise.

The big advantage is that the main text is clean and uncluttered. As a result, the reader gets a more satisfying visual experience, I think. At the same time the reader can still find the correct citation relatively easily.

I don't think this would work in all situations, but depends on the target audience.

However, the technique is an example of aesthetic judgment in action.


Posted 1:33 PM by Tony


Computer Games And Politicians Just Don't Mix

I've previously posted about computer gaming (here, here, here, and here). One of my pet peeves relating to computer gaming is the use computer gaming as a convenient source of blame relating to societal problems.

Last week, controversy arose in Canada over Sony's upcoming release of Syphon Filter 4, which includes an attack on a Toronto subway by separatists:

Syphon Filter: the Omega Strain, is the fourth in a popular Sony PlayStation series that has sold millions of units around the world. In the game, players have to find out who has unleashed a deadly mystery virus in different cities and combat evil terrorists from around the world.

But what has raised eyebrows is the decision to include among the terrorists members of the 'separatist' Quebec Liberation Front, reminiscent of the real life Front de Liberation du Québec (FLQ) which kidnapped British diplomat James Cross and killed Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte in 1970. In the game, Quebec separatists have taken control of one of Toronto's underground subway tunnels and the object is to mow down as many of them as possible.

The game has also caused a stir among Ontario politicians. Among the places the mysterious terrorist virus is unleashed is Toronto, which is still trying to recover from the battering its reputation took during the SARS crisis earlier this year.

Canadian MP Christiane Gagnon of the Bloc Quebecois demanded that Sony not release the game (via the Toronto Star):

"This video approaches hate propaganda," said Bloc MP Christiane Gagnon. "The people of Quebec are pacifists. The game, instead of helping to being a better understanding between two peoples, sows doubt on the legitimacy of the democratic process that could lead Quebec to its independence."

The separatism issue aside, this comment strikes me very much as a tempest in a teapot. Does she really suppose that people are now going to think of all separatists as violence-prone terrorists? Gagnon's error is in conflating fantasy with reality. By the same "logic," one might suppose that people will think that all Germans are still Nazis, solely on the basis of Day of Defeat.

Unfortunately, Gagnon did not appear to be alone in her reaction.

Liberal MP Liza Frulla:

"It's scandalous. ... One thing certain is that we absolutely have to prevent the distribution of that game and we should ask Quebec and Canadian consumers to put pressure on Sony."

NDP leader Jack Layton:

"This is kicking Toronto in the head when it's down, it's whipping up old false stereotypes (of sovereignists). Sony should just take this game off the market, period. Say they're sorry they ever thought of it and go find something else to play with."

Colby Cosh has a column up in Canada's National Post, exploring this topic. He starts out:

Some would say our Parliament is no longer capable of inspiring awe, but it certainly got Sony's attention last Thursday when BQ MP Christiane Gagnon stood during member's statements to denounce the company's forthcoming video game Syphon Filter 4: The Omega Strain. The opening scenario of the shoot-'em-up had been set in a contemporary digital Toronto, where radical Quebec separatists patterned after the old FLQ had seized a subway tunnel. But not anymore. Ms. Gagnon's description of SF4 as "very close to hate propaganda" terrified Sony, within hours, into announcing that it would edit the Toronto stage out of the game.

I'm not Canadian, nor am I up to speed on Canadian law. It seems to me, though, that Gagnon's use of the loaded term "hate propaganda" implies that the release of this game would run afoul of Canadian "hate speech" law. In turn, the potential violation of hate speech laws has some pretty major implications relating to the potential chilling of free expression.

Would a writer describing such a scene in a novel be subject to the same sort of treatment? I suspect not, even though the operative principles are the same. The difference, I think, lies in that written forms of expression are more traditional, and historically intertwined with free speech. In contrast, computer games are more recent forms, and lack the same historical patina; as a result, computer games are more easily attacked.

Sony may have decided to cave into Gagnon's half-baked allegations as a matter of avoiding bad PR. However, Sony's capitulation sets a bad precedent for the computer gaming industry, and for that matter, workers in other non-traditional art forms.


Posted 11:25 AM by Tony

Monday, October 27, 2003
Janice Rogers Brown, Continued

I'd previously mentioned Justice Janice Rogers Brown of the California Supreme Court, here.

Well, the New York Times has weighed in, and they sure aren't happy about her:

Of the many unworthy judicial nominees President Bush has put forward, Janice Rogers Brown is among the very worst. As an archconservative justice on the California Supreme Court, she has declared war on the mainstream legal values that most Americans hold dear. And she has let ideology be her guide in deciding cases. At her confirmation hearing this week, Justice Brown only ratified her critics' worst fears. Both Republican and Democratic senators should oppose her confirmation.

[ . . . ]

The Bush administration has packaged Justice Brown, an African-American born in segregated Alabama, as an American success story. The 39-member Congressional Black Caucus, however, has come out against her confirmation.

[emphasis added]

David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy does a good job at deconstructing the factual bases of this editorial.

I found the contrast to the Congressional Black Caucus interesting. The implication would appear to be that African-Americans can only have a narrow range of permissible views.

Sheesh.


Posted 4:36 PM by Tony


Brotherhood In Action

Here's a thought experiment for you:

Suppose a report came out, detailing the treatment of Americans at the hands of some governmental entity, either United States or foreign. Let's further suppose that the report contained the following allegations:

Imprisonment of 150,000 to 200,000 Americans.
Entire families being incarcerated, in which three generations of family members are sent to the camps.
The imprisoned Americans are forced to perform heavy labor while given rations at below subsistence level.
Public executions for escape attempts.
Dead prisoners being dumped in the wilderness without burial.
Pregnant prisoners facing forced third-trimester abortions or infanticide if they had become pregnant by non-Americans.
A sick prisoner being compelled to do stand up/sit down repetitions until she died.

What do you suppose the reaction would be? At the very least, one would reasonably expect wide coverage of such a report in the news media, and some sort of outcry, right?

Now, replace the word "Americans" with "North Koreans." These allegations are contained in a report issued last week by the US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. (PDF here) The report is based on numerous eyewitness accounts, and the compilation of such accounts in one place would be newsworthy, by any reasonable standard.

The reaction by the South Korean media? Silence, for the most part.

With the exception of a single article in the Chosun Ilbo, the report appears to have been met with a nigh-deafening silence. A search of Yonhap, the Chosun Ilbo, the Joongang Ilbo, the Korea Times, and the Korea Herald shows no mention of the report, with the single exception cited above.

To the extent that the news media reflects the interests of their audience, it would seem that South Koreans just don't care, subordinating the reality to some romantic vision of a reunified Korea. (see here, here, and here).

I'd love to be proved wrong on this, though.

Update: To be fair, it's not like the American media pays attention to stuff like this.


Posted 11:00 AM by Tony

Friday, October 24, 2003
Harassment Fire

According to the SF Chronicle, Governor-elect Schwarzenegger (that still sounds weird) is under fire for not taking sexual harassment classes:

Unlike lawmakers and most state employees, statewide elected officials such as the governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state are not required to take the training. But both Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi have volunteered for a course.

[ . . . ]

Schwarzenegger faced a firestorm of controversy after allegations of improper behavior surfaced from 16 women. The charges, 15 of which were reported by the Los Angeles Times, ranged from grabbing a woman's breast in a Venice Beach gym in 1975 to spanking a woman several times in a West Los Angeles sound studio in 2000.

[ . . . ]

Schwarzenegger also offered a general apology, saying: "I have done things that were not right, which I thought then was playful.''

That remark still has many seething. "I think he's demonstrated that he needs training,'' said Irma Herrera, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates of San Francisco, a nonprofit legal group that advocates for women's rights. "We hear that a lot. That isn't fun and games. The fact is these are people's workplaces.''

[ . . . ]

Gov. Gray Davis did not take any sexual harassment prevention training while in office, press secretary Steve Maviglio said.

Remember the outcry from women's groups when President Clinton didn't take sexual harassment training?

Yeah, me neither.


Posted 7:36 AM by Tony

Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Demographic Hell!

Nina decided to depress me with this:

Bachelors Abound in Orange County, Vegas

Go West young woman, especially if you're single and looking for love.

And if you're serious about seeking a male mate, go to Orange County or Silicon Valley — two areas with cities where, in an unusual twist, single men outnumber single women.

[ . . . ]

That held for most of California, where there were 6.1 million single women and 5.6 million single men, according to Census 2000. But California's ratio of 92 single men to every 100 single women was closer to parity than the national average of 86 single men for every 100 single women.

And California had half of the nation's top 10 places with more than 100,000 people where single men outnumbered single women, according to the census.

[emphasis added]

As a Bay Area resident from Orange County, I guess I'm doubly screwed.

Thank God I've got my personality to... oh, crap!


Posted 5:51 PM by Tony


Burger Bribery

Now, this just seems a tad silly (via SF Chronicle):

An animal rights group has asked a region of the San Francisco Bay area called Rodeo to change its name in exchange for $20,000 worth of high-protein, lowfat veggie burgers.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter Monday to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, urging them to give up the name because it evokes the violent sport of rodeo, which harms animals, PETA officials said. Rodeo is an unincorporated region about 30 miles northeast of San Francisco.

PETA said it would donate $20,000 worth of veggie burgers to local schools if the county changes the area's name to "Unity" -- after the Union Oil Company and its role in saving the area from bankruptcy in the late 19th century.

"We're suggesting the name 'Unity' because it has a nice feel of cooperation and fellowship, and it doesn't bring up these connotations of an animal circus," PETA spokesman Bob Chorus said.

This just seems a tad inconsistent. I'll admit I'm generalizing, but I would think that most animal rights types are not big fans of oil companies. Yet, PETA prefers naming a town after the Union Oil Company instead of "Rodeo"?

And a word of advice: if you're going to make an offensive offer to a local government, at least make the stakes worthwhile. 20,000 dollars worth of a food product with limited mass appeal isn't going to do it.


Posted 5:36 PM by Tony


Must . . . Resist . . . Sarcasm!

So the Arab-American Institute had a conference in Dearborn, as this New York Sun article points out (via Best Of The Web):

[The conference] also saw a former Jesse Jackson aide, Robert Borosage, appear on a panel and say, “one of the reasons that we have been unable to talk sense about the Middle East is that we had a very organized Jewish community that made it known to legislators that if you stray, we are going to punish you.”

Lack of dialogue because of an ethnic community that punishes diversity of opinion?

Let's see (via Sacramento Bee:

The Congressional Black Caucus denounced White House judicial nominee [and California Supreme Court Justice] Janice Rogers Brown of California on Friday, with one member saying she was "cut from the same cloth as Clarence Thomas" and should be kept off a federal appellate court.

[ . . . ]

The black Democrats said Brown's conservative credentials make her unfit for the D.C. judgeship. Brown, who is black, is considered among the California high court's most conservative justices.

Hmmm.


Posted 2:22 PM by Tony

Saturday, October 18, 2003
Happy Endings

I just got back from the wedding of my friends X and Y, who I knew from swing dancing when they lived in the Bay Area.

They're great people, and I'm really happy that they ended up with each other. They just fit well together.

I feel especially happy for Y. I remember an incident from a couple years ago when he, enthusiastic dancer that he was, asked a girl to dance. The girl, who was kind of skanky, blew him off rather impolitely. Trust me on this when I say that X is sa lot prettier and one heck of a lot nicer.

Sometimes, nice guys do finish first.


Posted 11:17 PM by Tony

Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Random Korean News Roundup

I don't follow Korean news as closely as those bloggers living there, like IA and the Marmot, but I do try to keep up the best I can.

So here's some interesting stuff that I've come across that, hopefully, hasn't already been covered ad nauseam by others:

1. The ROK Marine Corps just received its first female NCOs, according to the Korea Herald:

The Marine Corps of Korea enlisted 10 young women yesterday as non-commissioned officers, marking the first time in its history.

Over the last 14 weeks, they have endured the demanding regimen of training with their 44 male counterparts and were awarded the staff sergeant rank in a completion ceremony held at a training ground in Pohang.

With their impressive physiques and unflinching focus, these women are quickly emerging as rivals to their male counterparts in one of the toughest branches of the Korean military.

Intriguingly, the ROK may be ahead of the US, if the article is accurate:

Their gender does not seem to have deterred them from fulfilling their vision. The ten women have been assigned to all areas of duty ranging from infantry, provost, and communications to logistics.

[emphasis added]


2. The president of South Korea, who I think is a jackass for various reasons, proposed a referendum on his term. The Marmot posted on possible constitutional problems involved with such a referendum, and according to the Korea Times, it looks like litigation is being contemplated:

The 72nd article of the Constitution stipulates the head of state shall refer only important policies relating to diplomacy, national defense, unification and other matters relating to the national destiny to a public vote, prompting many scholars to stress Roh may need to revise the current Constitution if he wants to press ahead with the proposed referendum.

Under present constitutional law a national referendum may only be called on questions of policy thus making it impossible to issue a legally binding public ballot on a matter of confidence in an administration.

Under the 130th article, the president shall be able to revise the Constitution only when the amendment obtains more than two-thirds of the support of the National Assembly. Roh faces the prospect of a majority of dissenting lawmakers as he is currently guaranteed the support of only 44 minority party members who have publicly sided with him.

[ . . . ]

Former House Speaker Rep. Lee Man-sup of the MDP and a group of lawmakers yesterday threatened they would take the matter to the constitutional court if Roh continues to press for a confidence referendum.

``It is coercing the people to approve the confidence motion by taking the national administration as hostage,’’ Lee said. He went on to call on the Constitutional Court to determine the constitutionality of the case as soon as possible.

Somehow, it's reassuring to know that the US isn't the only country to have constitutional litigation.

Is it just me, or is Roh determined to commit political suicide? Despite a reputation as a civil rights type, he lashes out at the press for unfavorable coverage. Then his aides get involved in scandals.

Roh then leaves the MDP, the party under whose name he was elected. In the process, several Roh suckups supporters bolt the same party to form their own pro-Roh organization. This leaves the MDP and the majority GNP in opposition to Roh.

I guess Roh is a unifier, after all.

3. First of all, a caveat - I dislike the Korea Herald's editorials (and the column written by editor Lee Kyong-hee), at least relating to international issues. They tend to be poorly-reasoned, though how much of that is due to language issues, I don't know. Substantively, I find that they reflect a certain myopia - let's leave it at that.

But sometimes, even the Korea Herald gets it right. Apparently, President Roh is contemplating the introduction of language to limit property rights, in order to limit property speculation.

The Korea Herald points out:

That is a very dangerous idea, given the historical fact that individual liberty has progressed in parallel with the protection of property rights. It also runs against the principle of a market-oriented economy. A case in point is North Korea, where the communist state permits few individual freedoms while owning all property under its jurisdiction.

Damn right.

When I was in law school, I had a Property professor who expressed skepticism about the concept of individual property rights. This professor cited various examples in which communities as a whole controlled property. The argument in favor of such a system was that, since the disposition of resources was not subject to the individual's selfish desires, a community rights system allowed those resources to be utilized more efficiently and sustainably.

Of course, every single example the professor gave involved small populations. The obvious objection to the professor's argument is that such a system may work in a small community because consensus is relatively easy to achieve, but not in a nation of many, many individuals.

But more compelling, is that a free society is impossible to achieve without respect for individual property rights. If you can find one, I'd be interested in knowing about it.


Posted 9:24 AM by Tony

Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Quotes Of The Day

I found these two today, and since I couldn't pick one, I'm putting both up.

1. Incestuous Amplification comments on plans to open a chain of Hooters in Korea:

If Hooters has to rely on the local talent for large breastage, they may have to change the name of the restaurant to "Hummingbirds." Cleavage in Korea is about as rare as a Canadian without a flag on his backpack.

2. Allah explains the purpose of his blog:

The point of Allah's blog is not to make gratuitous ethnic slurs; the point of Allah's blog is to make ethnic slurs in a carefully constructed narrative framework.


Posted 6:19 PM by Tony

Friday, October 10, 2003
Source Code Hacking

I've been fascinated with computer gaming since the Atari 2600. We all know from personal experience how the quality of computer imaging has grown exponentiaily in the last several years, even if one is not a computer gamer.

The most interesting thing for me about today's computer games is not the graphics, even though today's games look startlingly realistic. Compare the screenshots from the upcoming Max Payne 2 with this. (I know, extreme comparison)

Instead, what fascinates me are mods. Allow me to present some basic background. A computer game generally tell a story, be it one concerning large battle machines, military operations, or immersing the player into a movie universe. The player experiences the story, or the theme, of the game, through the game engine, a program that controls the basic game functions, for example, gravity, lighting,and game controls.

Mods are sets of files that interact with the game engine to present a different story to the player. As a result, a story of, say, an escape from an overrun base becomes one of terrorist vs. counter-terrorist (though, to my knowledge, a Spy vs. Spy mod has never been made, pity).

The best part of all this is that most mods are made by players who create these on their own time and distribute them for free. Customizing one's gaming experience through mods seems yet another reflection of the aesthetic imperative. Admittedly, most expressions of the aesthetic imperative probably don't involve virtual gunplay. Nevertheless, let's call it a Postrel Moment.

(Judge Kozinski discussed the "computer game as story" here. It's pretty readable, and entertaining.)

One software company notable for accomodating modders is Valve. Valve makes a portion of its source code to modders, allowing them to create files that will interact with, in this case, Half-Life's game engine. The release of this code, the Half-Life SDK, has resulted in a huge number of mods being released.

Of course, there always have to be people out there screwing up a perfectly good thing. According to Gabe Newell at Valve, a hacker entered Valve's system and took the source code for Half-Life 2, which is still in development. (more here)

I don't know what the full ramifications are, but I'm seriously hoping that this doesn't impact future gamers from having their own Postrel Moments.


Posted 4:17 PM by Tony


Harshin' On The Hobbies

There's an article in The Wave that lists what it considers the Top 10 Geekiest Hobbies.

They are:

10. Comic books
9. Role playing games
8. Scrapbooking
7. Star Wars
6. Vampirism
5. Collectible card games
4. Everquest
3. Star Trek
2. Furries/Plushies
1. Live action role playing

Well, I've got numbers 9 and 10, though that's pretty much it. I've also got the black AC/DC T-shirt, so I think I'm set.

While I do think Buffy kickes ass, and did watch Underworld, I don't think I'm into vampires.

For one thing, I wear Hawaiian shirts.

It's not like I can say:

I'm a blood-sucking fiend. Look at my outfit!

Curiously, when I first got into Japanese animation, I knew people who looked like those in categories 2 and 3.

*shudder*


Posted 3:08 PM by Tony


ASCII Fun

Check this out.

Sweeeet.


Posted 2:56 PM by Tony

Thursday, October 09, 2003
The Donkey's Achilles Heel

Armed Liberal has a post talking about the difference between liberals and conservatives:

I've had a few other interactions with the more-liberal part of my team, and one characteristic I've noted is a certain...arrogance.

The conservatives are arrogant too, but they simply think that we liberals 're delusional or traitorous. They give liberals the respect of being people responsible for their own actions The Democrats have this kind of sad, kindly, 'we know better than you and we're gonna make you do the right thing' attitude.

I've run into that up here in the Bay Area, the sense that "if you disagree with me, you must not be able to think." Granted, considering that I'm out of lockstep with the majority here, perhaps I'm being a tad sensitve.

Here's another datum point, courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle, which interviewed Bay Area residents for their reactions:

"The Bay Area is the most liberal and most forward-thinking of California," Arbil said. "I'm really proud of being from the Bay Area, that we voted no on the recall."

[ . . . ]

"I e-mailed my friends that I have post-election stress disorder," Mahon said. "The thing I see about native Californians is that they can never separate illusion from reality. We're in a hell of a fix."

[ . . . ]

But Sydney Webster, 36, of Oakland, said she was upset by the election results.

"I think it's a joke," said the self-described "hair color diva." "My family on the East Coast is laughing at us."

Webster said the anti-recall Bay Area was "smarter" than the rest of the state, which she believes fell for the governor-elect's Hollywood image.

"I think we're more up on the issues," said Webster, who closely followed the campaigns. "(Schwarzenegger) wasn't aware of what was going on. He wouldn't do the debates. He's going to surround himself, I'm sure, with really good people, but the heat is on."

Ron Brown, 52, of San Francisco was among the many area residents who shared Webster's opinion that the Bay Area was more informed than elsewhere in California.

"Because of its diversity, we get a lot of different viewpoints," Brown said. "I think it reflects positively on the Bay Area because we didn't fall for the sham."

Perry Gallardo, 28, of San Francisco, agreed.

"It's just that, in the Bay Area, we're always the rambunctious ones, the protesters," Gallardo said. "Really, we're more conscious about the issues."

[emphasis added]


Admittedly, I've been accused of arrogance myself. But lat least I can say I've never referred to those who disagree with me as "sheeple."


Posted 4:39 PM by Tony


Quote(s) Of The Day

Ralph Peters goes off about the Bush administration's decision to accept 10,000 Turkish soldiers for duty in Iraq.

Turkey has one enduring aim: the suppression of Kurdish freedom anywhere in the region. That will be Ankara's immutable goal in Iraq.

The administration tells us, coyly, that the Turkish contingent will be stationed in the Sunni Arab area of central Iraq, far from the Kurds. But the Turks intend to play a waiting game, confident that American patience will fail and that we will look for any excuse to bail out - leaving the Turks in place to broker power.

Introducing Turkish troops into the Sunni Arab region, the sole area of Iraq even partly hospitable to dead-enders from Saddam's regime and to international terrorists, is as short-sighted as it now appears expedient.

The Turks will quietly rebuild ties with the Ba'athists and rejectionists, shielding them from justice. Ankara was comfortable with Saddam (who shared the neighborhood taste for killing Kurds), and Turkey's preferred government for a future Iraq would return the Sunni Arab minority to power.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with rebuilding a working relationship between the United States and Turkey. But Iraq is the wrong place to do it.

No troops from neighboring states should be allowed to meddle in Iraq, but we would be better off with Iranian troops than with Turkish forces.

[emphasis in original]

I personally think this was a stupid thing for the administration to do.

Turkey benefits from having opposed the war while being given the opportunity to shape post-war Iraq in the guise of "repairing relations with the US."

The US got rejected by Turkey when the latter country refused to assist in any way before and during the war, and that refusal damaged the US. Now, with Turkish troops being sent Iraq, all the ill-will directed at the Turks will also be directed to the US.

Whose bright idea was this?


Posted 11:20 AM by Tony

Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Heh

I was in San Francisco last night when I heard the results.

Although I didn't vote for Schwarzenegger, it was worth it just to see what seemed like every single person in San Francisco froth at the mouth.


Posted 7:29 AM by Tony

Monday, October 06, 2003
Blinders of Reunification

I've noticed a tendency among certain native Koreans towards romanticism when it comes to North Korea and reunification. By this, I mean certain opinions relating to North Korea which have little basis in reality.

For instance, a news story appeared last year discussing whether ordinary South Koreans were concerned about the North's possible production of a nuclear weapon.

I found this rather telling:

When Lee Jin-ju pauses to think about the nuclear crisis brewing over the Korean peninsula, she knows exactly whom she fears. "George Bush," replies the 22-year-old accounting student without missing a beat. "He's a war maniac."

Ms Lee doesn't like North Korean President Kim Jong-il much either. "But we're not afraid of him. He's a Korean like us. Even if he does get the bomb, he's not going to use it against us."

This is a sentiment echoed by many South Koreans - even some conservatives - and it is complicating US efforts to forge a consensus on North Korea among its allies. There is a tendency, particularly among the young, to shrug off the nuclear showdown as the creation of a hysterical White House. Many South Koreans see their estranged countrymen to the north more as subjects of pity than fear and the Americans less as saviours who defended them against communism than troublemakers.

The news that North Korea was removing surveillance cameras from its nuclear facilities got smaller headlines in South Korea than in the US. The stock market actually went up in mid-October when it was revealed that North Korea was violating its international agreements on its nuclear program. Only in the past two days have the markets shown any jitters and those can be mostly attributed to the potential war on Iraq.

Despite North Korea's actions since October to restart its nuclear program, there is no sense of impending crisis in Seoul. "We don't seriously fear there will be a war, and if there will be, the Americans will start it," said Hyun Ho-sang, a 19-year-old student.

[emphasis added]

This thinking still occurs despite over 50 years of unrest at the border, particularly at the DMZ The most recent incident I'm aware of is the June 29, 2002 battle between the North Korean and ROK navies. Yet, somehow, this belief still lingers.

And I doubt even stories like this will change perceptions.

I found this ironic:

"It's not easy for us to live here," said Han, [a Communist Party official] who fled when his radio was found. "South Koreans don't understand the hardships. They don't care, and they don't understand. We are treated as foreigners here. A lot of defectors go on to Canada or the United States."

[emphasis added]

I've talked about similar thinking in the Korean-American community here. I'm still astounded at how people can divorce their thinking from any sort of critical historical analysis when it comes to these things.


Posted 7:05 PM by Tony

Wednesday, October 01, 2003
Co-option

Arianna Huffington just bowed out of the recall race, to help Governor Davis. Let's just say I find it . . . ironic that after arguing that special interests are distorting the democratic system, she decides to help out Davis:

KING: But if you vote against recall, you want Gray Davis to remain as governor?

HUFFINGTON: Well, that's what it means. And you know what? I haven't really said a lot of nice things about Gray Davis.

KING: No, you haven't.

HUFFINGTON: But that's not the point right now. Right now...

KING: You mean it's more important that he remain as governor?

HUFFINGTON: It's more important that he remains as governor. He's learned a lot of lessons, and most important, the next time there's an election, we can actually put center stage these issues of money in politics. I already have filed an initiative to clean elections in California, clean money initiative. People can go to vote, Arianna.com. We'll change the name tomorrow, and be able to get involved in collecting the signatures and putting it on the ballot. There is a lot we can do, but we won't be able to do any of that if the Republicans use this recall to come back in power and do in Sacramento what they have done in Washington.

You can find the transcript of the interview here.


Posted 8:27 AM by Tony


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

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